Page images

your faith, that it be sincere, and lively, and then its operation will be efficient, and its effects genuine.

Do others say, formerly we knew something of these things; but it is not with us now, as heretofore. -A very possible case.--Perhaps the good seed sown has been choked by the cares of the world :Probably you have thought yourselves secure, and have looked too much at the world: Look less at it; and look more at Christ, till He shine upon you, till. He expel your darkness, and heal

your backslidings.

And if there be any here, who to this hour are strangers to true religion, lose not a moment more in negligence, in trifling, in vain and pernicious amusements, neither in what are equally dangerous, in worldly cares or ambitious pursuits : The Text itself is a summary of the Gospel : It comprehends all the parts of Christ's religion, and these are always in close connexion with each other, forming one consistent whole: Therefore,

May the good Spirit of God apply the precious passage of Scripture to your hearts and consciences. -As the first, by not following on, sometimes become the last, so likewise by prayer and diligence and perseverance, the last may be found the first, .

A word of application to all sorts of persons.

I have laid before you, as plainly and as clearly as I could, the only principles by which any good works can be performed in a manner acceptable to God, and with a spirit of charity, vigour and godly zeal.-If then it be a great truth, that no works deserve the name of good, except such as flow from a lively faith in Christ Jesus, will it not be the duty of every human creature to attend closely to the doctrines of the New Testament, to ponder them seriously; and to read, hear, and digest such instructions and exhortations as, through the blessing of God, may assist your understandings, and regulate your judgments, in these very weighty concerns?

Brethren, if, with a humble, docile temper of mind, and with a spirit of prayer and of waiting patiently on God, who is ever more ready to hear, than we to ask, you receive this advice, you will not only learn what may truly comfort and sanctify your own souls, but what also will be to you, an animating spring to the proper discharging of every

relative duty with cheerfulness and alacrity.

The real Gospel is not understood amongst us; and it is often despised, or at least neglected. We hear much said concerning reforms, improvements, and, in general, concerning doing good. Can we wonder that various attempts for these purposes should fail, or little come of them, while the only principles of genuine good works are kept out of sight. There is, in the art of being holy,—if the

,-if the expression may be allowed,-a mystery or a secret. I have explained this to-day in the best manner I was able. It consists in the knowledge and the application of the real Gospel of Jesus Christ.




Matthew, xiv, 28.

And Peter answered him, and said, Lord, if it be thou,

hid me come unto thee on the water.


The whole story, of which these words are a part, is related with great simplicity, and is full of instruction. The nature of faith in the Redeemer, the infirmity with which it is apt to be attended, the patience, goodness, and power of Jesus, are the important subjects, which it comprehends and teaches. Not only the leading parts of the transaction before us, but all the circumstances which accompanied it, had a very evident tendency to exercise and improve the Disciples of our Lord in the practice of real godliness : And if so, we certainly ought to look on the surprising miracle of St. Peter's walking on the water, as something more than a mere evidence of the power and authority of Christ. The narrative, considered in that view, is indeed a record of vast consequence, but, besides this, unless we think that we have nothing to do with any of the affairs which concerned the Apostles,—we should also attend diligently to the practical truths, which are inseparably connected with the facts related. : To


receive, to study, to apply these truths to our own case, will, on inquiry, be found to be our proper business, as much as it was that of the Apostles.

Indeed, in these profane days, under one idle pretence or other, the use of almost the whole Bible is quite taken away.—This is not overstated: And,

- : if those, who are continually objecting to the good old way of interpreting Scripture, considered the consequences of their bold innovations, they might see, that it was not overstated : Nay, they could not but see that their mode of proceeding leaves hardly to any part of the Holy Writ its entire weight and authority.

For example; It is very fashionable to set aside, as useless or obscure, the types and figures of the Old Testament, and most of the Jewish history: However, when men speak so, they affect perhaps, to cry up the beauties of the New Testament. Now bring them to the New Testament, and then the Epistles of St. Paul are too difficult, or too doctrinal, or they are exceedingly harsh ; and because St. Peter says there are some things in them hard to be understood, these same men would represent them as impossible to be understood, and as if that was the character of all the writings of that great Apostle. Then, in regard to the book of the Revelations,-none but a madman, it is supposed, would meddle with that.

Thus, there is not much left but the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles. And it is not unlikely, but that most of the instruction contained in the latter is supposed to be confined to the Apostles days. The great business of the Acts of the Apostles, is to display the power and the operation of the Holy Ghost, whose office of Guide, of Comforter, and of Sanctifier, is so precious to all, who truly fear God, that I want words to describe the inestimable treasures which are to be found in this part of Sacred History.

But it seems that, in our days, we have little or nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. He may occasionally assist well-disposed persons by suggesting good thoughts, and strengthening their pious resolutions ; but in a Christian country, where all men are baptized, and believe the Gospel, his operation, it is supposed, cannot be necessary for the conversion of men's souls: Neither does any person, now, it will be said, expect to be endowed with the supernatural power of working miracles.

If there be any portion of the Sacred Writings, which in particular remains respected by the higher and more polite orders of men, it is the four Gospels. Yet, even from the miracles, of which these are so full, I fear, we are forbidden to draw any powerful or comfortable advantages, lest, forsooth, we fall into some conclusions, which may be deemed, strained, and whimsical. And, further, whatever we find in them of the vital doctrines of Christianity, such as that of a NEW BIRTH, in the third chapter of St. John, or of a union with Christ, in the sixth chapter of the same Evangelist, must be explained away, and lowered, till all life and

energy be lost, and till every thing that is spiritual and peculiarly Christian, evaporates and disappears.

It is not to be denied, that there have been fanciful interpreters of Scripture, who have made an impertinent use of various parts of the Old

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »