« PreviousContinue »
find amusement in beholding the bloody arena; or clap his hands when he sees the vanquished die! Had there been less science in France, or had the existing quantum been more equally diffused, the guillotine might have been an edge tool never known among the people; and the sucking boat might have never been employed to carry cargoes of men to the bottom of the sea!
Lamentable have been the effects of science on manners, and morals; that is of science falsely so called. This proud Usurper has laid nations under contribution; and boasting of new discoveries, and holding forth a new, and undefinable vocabulary, under pretence of vindicating the rights of man, has turned every right into a wrong.
As books of human origin cannot give right principles to the heart, so neither will a speculative acquaintance with the scriptures accomplish the purpose. The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses seat; All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do: but do ye not after their works, for they say and do not. A person may embrace the error of the sinner, and yet speak in some things the language of the saint; just as the parrot may be instructed to talk about things of which he has no understanding.
It appears then, that man requires not only to be altered but to be wholly renewed. Are the sills of your house rotten; is the foundation giving way; do the clap-boards hang by one end; are the windows broken to pieces; can you count the stars through the roof; is the chimney falling down; in a word, does the light zephyr make the building tremble; and will you think of repairing it! Will you not rather say, rase it, rase it; and let me not be buried under its ruins!
Thirdly. Though man must be converted, and though God must convert him; yet there is ample room for the employment of human instruments, and means. God is the
author of nature, and of all its operations. Still the sun shines, and the rain descends, to bring forward vegetation; and according to the ordination of heaven, they are essential to its existence, The earth is suited to various harvests, but the husbandman must plow; sow; and reap. God nour
ishes and brings us up as children. He however supplies us with parents, so needful to our helpless years. An order of men was appointed to officiate among the Jews, as priests, though God was the actual teacher. So also when the dispensation of the gospel commenced Jesus himself baptised not, but his disciples; and though he taught much, he commissioned men to continue the work, and to spread the tidings of salvation. Paul speaks not in assuming language when he mentions his fellow laborers.
All that appears of religion in the ordinances of public worship, and in the service of those who wait at the altar, would be without a meaning, had instruments, and means, no place in the work of God. Those who have risen above ordinances, and the labors of the public teacher; and depend upon impulses, and immediate suggestions of the Spirit, may be called upon for their warrant to justify the course which they pursue.
It is granted, that there is no efficacy in man. But was there any healing quality in the waters of Jordan's stream? Was the multitude fed upon the substance inherent in the five barley loaves, and the two small fishes? The fragments of the entertainment, made a much greater quantity. Does not clay appear calculated rather to put out a man's eyes, than to restore a blind man to sight? When the man of God stretches himself upon the dead child, what connexion is there between that action and returning life? Even the staff of the prophet in the hand of Gehazi, might have brought back the departed spirit, had such been the appointed method of heaven. Is there death in the pot; it is enough to cry, circumstances being favorable, Then bring meal.
When our reasoning is coincident with facts, and founded upon them, or upon commands, it is always fair and conclusive. If men by divine assistance have wrought miracles, though there is no causality in them, there is instrumentality, and consequently use for them. If Paul had any spiritual children, and Timothy he calls by name as one, he surely had an under agency in the work of conversion.
Fourthly. Whoever is an instrument of converting another shall save a soul from death. Mark well the lan
guage. It respects not the body, for that, upon any supposition, is doomed to die; but it respects an inextinguishable principle within each one, called the soul. Conversion is
the same as salvation from death, because death is the sentence of God against every unconverted person. The sentence is not against the man, but against the character. Though the character is not an abstract thing; cannot have a separate existence, yet it is distinct, altogether, from the person. When a person becomes a convert therefore, though the sentence of death rested on his head the moment before, it is taken off never to rest upon him again.
This is not all; Jesus saves his people from their sins. When sin entered the heart of man, it struck like a paralytic shock upon all his moral faculties; nay, it was like the cold hand of death taking away that spiritual life of which he was previously possessed. We are represented as being by nature dead in trespasses, and sins.
To be sure the soul has an existence, but there is no life in it. Does any one say this is impossible. Let him take the matter into consideration. Yonder is the corpse of my friend. Shall I deny, that it is his body, because it is dead? Were the body of Jacob to be seen embalmed after the manner of Egypt, would it be less really the body of the son of Isaac, than it was when it was moving about the fields in the land of Goshen. Life is not necessary to our idea of a body. Why then may there not be a dead soul, as well as a dead body?
Conversion then appears to save a soul from death, as it sets aside condemnation; and as it removes sin, whose tendency is death; and whose very character is death. May we not here bring in an illustration? A person is doomed by a human tribunal to suffer death. Something however, new, and favorable occurs, and the doom is reversed. he now prepared to appear again in society, and to act his part once more, among men? His former sentence is now no bar in his way. But we will suppose, that he labors under a dangerous and apparently mortal distemper: indeed his case is viewed as hopeless. He must be cured of his distemper or he will die a natural death, notwithstanding the pardon which he holds in his hand.
Fifthly. In the case of conversion, a multitude of sins is said to be hidden. But from whose sight are these sins hidden? God certainly will forever see them. Being the same yesterday, to day, and forever, he loses not the sight, nor the recollection of any thing. It would be absurd to suppose, that we can hide our conduct, or the least circumstance, from God. Neither is it to be supposed, that the converted sinner, will lose the recollection of his own misdeeds, and forget what manner of person he has been. If this is not the case in this world, there is no reason to think it will be in the next. On the contrary, there is much to lead us to believe, that the powers of memory will brighten, when the intrusions of the present scene are at end. The inhabitants of heaven find much of their enjoyment, probably, in the retrospect of life and particularly, in the survey of their follies and wickedness.
It is not intended, that sin is a pleasing subject of contemplation; but the grace of God is, by which the sinner is rescued. Say ye who know; is not the case somewhat like the one which shall now be put. I approach a precipice, and excited by some glittering bauble a little below me, venture down the dangerous steep, until my feet slip; and I hang by a single twig; unable to return; and likewise unable long to delay the fatal fall. While the rocks echo my cries of distress, and my heart palpitates with awful expectation, one comes to my help, whose character I have abused, and whose interest I have sought to destroy; and at the hazard of his own life, saves mine. Should I not always look back upon my folly, in attempting the descent; upon my consequent danger: and upon my unexpected preservation; deriving from the group of circumstances, unutterable satisfaction!
If then our sins will not be hidden from God; nor from ourselves; it must be from others, from our fellow men, that they will be concealed. While the sins of the impenitent world will be proclaimed, as by a trumpet pervading every part, and every crevice of the universe, the children of God will find their sins covered over, and not one of them mentioned to their disgrace.
From a view of this subject my fathers, and brethren, in the ministry, it appears, that he who desires the office of a bishop, desires a good work, and one very great, and important. Do sinners embrace a fatal error; are there sinners of this description among the people of our charge; may we be instrumental of converting them; in so doing, shall we save their souls from death; and hide the multitude of. their sins? Then let us not sleep as do others. Does God inquire, whom shall we send, and who will go for us upon such an errand? Let us, each one, reply, Here am I; send
Such being the opening to us for usefulness, we ought to consider what method we can most successfully adopt. Our preaching; our prayers; and our practice; if right, will be mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. In our preaching even upon moral subjects, the things which we say, should be like the leaves of the tree of life. No other leaves are for the healing of the nations. Our people should see the leaves growing on the tree, or they should be told, they have been picked off from it.
To show sinners their condition, and what is absolutely necessary to their happiness; is a high duty which we have bound ourselves to perform. So long as our hearers are satisfied with their sinful courses, we should each one say I will weep in secret places for your pride. How uneasy should we be, until we had come to an explanation, if any of our people misunderstood us, in some important affair of a worldly nature? Shall we be less uneasy, if they hear us sabbath after sabbath, and still get no idea from us, that they must repent, and be converted? Shall we not labor to be more and more explicit?
In our prayers, public, and private, so far as we know the state of our people, should we not have their respective cases, as much as may be in our minds? When seasons appear unfavorable, should we not pray, that they may be saved from murmuring? When business of the world presses, should we not pray that it may not take off their attention from better things? When afflictions are sent, should we not pray, that they may get some good from them? When the sabbath comes, should we not pray, that they