Images de page

who are of the contrary part, who will be ashamed to speak evil of us, though they have not candour enough to acknowledge the good.

Oh, then, brethren, let not such a solemn enquiry so long be neglected. Oh, let it not be on the bed of death, when it shall be too late to receive an answer, that you ask for the first time the question“What shall I do to bę saved ?” Now is the time to ask-now is the time to answer, if you would have an answer of peace.--Now to God, &c.

A SERMON, BY THE Rev. W. WILKINSON, Preached at St. Mary, Aldermary, Sunday Afternoon, July 16, 1837.

“ Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them : and I will carry you away beyond Babylon."-Acts vii.-43.

Now, you perceive in the first place what the heart of man is, What is man in a state of nature ? What is there he is not capable of ? Let a parent now think of taking a child, a young child, and offering it up as a burnt offering to an idol alive, to be consumed before the idol to do it honour. Can you perceive anything beyond this that the devil may drive men to do? What is there that man is not capable of in a state of nature, if left by God and tempted of the devil? Let no one say, as it has often been said, “I know that such and such is the case, but my heart is good.” Let no man say that his heart is good. God never told any son or daughter of Adam this ; it has been told to you by your own heart, or by the devil himself, who is a liar from the beginning, and who is still a most active enemy of souls, and as powerful and malicious as ever. He is an evil angel excelling in strength. Man is altogether and completely gone-not only very far gone-but as far as possible gone from original righteousness. He has altogether lost the image of his Maker, and has stamped on him the image of his seducer, the prince of darkness. Let us believe Jehovah instead of the devil. God says, the heart of man in a state of nature is evil, "every imagination of the thought of the heart is only evil, and that continually,” that it is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.”

But then, in the second place, you will see this truth implied in the contest : God punishes sin by leaving sinners to themselves, by giving them up to the prince of darkness, that they may bring on themselves the just fruits of their transgressions. God is said to have given up the Israelites to the host of heaven--to the worship of the sun, and moon, and stars; that is, he left them to act in compliance with their own sinful nature. St. Paul, in the New Testament, says, in the first chapter of Romans, that inasmuch as the heathens did not acknowledge God whose power and divinity they saw exemplified in his works, he gave them up to the lusts of their own hearts." And God, in his addresses to

his church of old, tells his backsliding children that the evils that befel them were the consequences of their revolt from him.

But let us look more closely at this. Are we to suppose that all the camp of Israel had departed from God; that they were all engaged in the worship of Moloch? No, God had a precious seed to serve him, though most of them were given to idolatry. God never has been without a people; he never has left his church in the world. Satan has from the first endeavoured to oppose him and to destroy his church; but he never could do it, for He who is the foundation of it is the builder of it, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. The Lord declared that in a time of general defection from him he had 7000 men in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. God has always had a church on earth, and he will have it, however much Satan and the world may rage. He has a church to this very day. Look around and you will find idolatry easily in every nation, that sin which is so abominable in the sight of God. The first commandment is—“Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” the meaning of which is—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.” I say idolatry abounds in every direction, not only in heathen lands, but in christian lands. Look at the church of Rome. How extensive is its influences, how fearful are its idolatries ! It does not worship Baal or Moloch. It does not wor ship the sun, moon, or stars. But it worships a piece of consecrated bread, and says it is Christ himself. And formerly it destroyed by fire those who ventured to deny that the consecrated bread was not the real body and blood of Christ. It still holds the same idolatrous doctrine, and would, if it could, press it on the community. And even if we come to the Protestant church we shall find idolatry there. We do not fall down before stocks and stones. These are not the only idolatries. We do not, is true, bow the knee to the Popish mass. But whatever a man sets up in his heart in opposition to God as the object of his supreme desire and delight is his idol, whatever it may be. If it be the love of money, for instance, it is said expressly that ness is idolatry.” So if a man sets his heart on ambition, it is his idol. So if any other thing, whatever it may be, that a man sets up supreme object of desire in his heart; and no idolater has any inheritance in the kingdom of God. Therefore it is important to inquire “ Am I an idolater ?“ Is there anything in the theme of my heart in opposition to the great God ? am I setting my heart entirely on any creature whatever, and putting that in possession of the place of God ?” This is an important inquiry, and in answer to this, we may ask" Is Jesus precious to me? Does my heart rest in him ? Does it entirely confide in him ? Can I say—“Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire before thee ?”—Is this your experience? Do you say—“Lift thou up, dearest Lord, the light of thy countenance upon me, and that shall put joy and gladness into my heart ?" Can any covetous man in heart experience such joy when he grasps his gold? Does the light of God's countenance give you more joy than when the wine and the oil increase ? Can you say further that Jesus is the object of your entire trust and confidence?


as the

Are you looking to him and to him only and entirely for mercy and salvation ? Are the feelings of your heart very serious, and deep, and just, and correct with respect to sin and its consequences ? It is true ibal these feelings are not at all times equally experienced, but they bave a peculiar power and influence sometimes, and at such times you cleave to him as the object of your love, and hope, and faith. Do you count all things but loss that you may be found in him, not having on your own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith ?” Ör we may put the question thus—what would you give of your earthly possessions in order to know assuredly that Christ is yours and you are his? Perhaps you will say if you had ten thousand worlds you would part with all this moment for that assurance, if it were well grounded and certain. But we may say—what would you not give ? Or rather, what would you take for your good hope through grace ? Nothingnothing within the whole compass of the world. It affords you more comfort than ten thousand worlds could. A person whom I met not long since in the street, and who is now in a happy eternity, said—“ I cannot boast that I feel that perfection of assurance that some talk of, but this I say, I have hope in Christ, and I would not part with it for ten thousand worlds.” Is this your experience ? Is it precious to you? Do not say you cannot find something of idolatry in your heart. No: there is something of the old nature still left; it does not vanish entirely. But do you not wish it to be excluded ? Is this the feeling of your soul ? Then so far from being worshippers of idols, you are numbered with those whom the Lord calls his, to be his own peculiar nation, to be his special people above all people on the face of the earth. This is a strong expression, but the Lord thus describes the children of Israel—“A special people to himself above all the people on the face of the earth.” Therefore he is the Creator of all, though all belongs to him, yet he looks not with the same regard on others as on those who belong to him by special bonds that never can be broken. This is the very people that he cares for. He sees them accepted in his Son, and as he sees them to be righteous in Him, as He is righteous, He cares for them, and provides for them, and protects them. He cares for them in death : “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Sweet expression! you are of that description of persons who, when He will come on the last, solemn day, as he says in Malachi, to "make up his jewels,” whom he will gather with others of his elect from all quarters of the world. “Gather my saints," will be proclaimed as with a voice of an archangel. You have found it sweet sometimes to be in the company of saints, in whom you could confide and to whom you could open your heart freely. But there is much corruption still remaining in them. What will it be to join that “general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and the spirits of just men made perfect,” when you get among these God will acknowledge you to all eternity to be his people!

But then there is another view connected with this subject. If Jehovah is your God and precious to you, if you are making him your


" The

This pro

[ocr errors]

God and acknowledging him, then you are the people for whose chil. dren He is concerned. “ The promise is to you,

says the apostle, “and to your children,” shewing thereby that the Lord has a special respect to your children, and implying at the same time, in opposition to what we find in the text, about offering up children in sacrifice, that you have carried your children to the Lord, and have offered them up to Him. You have presented them to Him in the holy ordinance of baptism, and in your prayers. Some parents could say, if they spoke out, there never has bee a day on which, unless prevented by sickness, they have not carried their children to the Lord in the arms of faith and prayer, and committed and commended them to Him. Is it not an encouraging consideration that He has a care for all that belong to Him and to their children. So that when you come to die, you may commend them afresh to Him. Think of the example of good old Jacob, who, when dying, prayed to God to bless his children. angel that redeemed me," said he, “bless the lads !” And there you 3ee the second person of the ever blessed Trinity is clearly spoken of. He says afterwards—“ I die, but God shall be with you." mise was not peculiar to the Jews only, but it belongs to every believing parent. Many prayers the dying parent may have put up on behalf of his child, and he may not have seen any answer to them. But may he not reasonably hope that in the way of God his prayers will be answered ? May he not adopt the language of Jacob and say,hold I die, but God shall be with you?" A covenant faithful God has promised it, and he cannot but be faithful to his children whom he never has forgotten.

Then again, all this is of grace. There is a distinction made between those who feared the Lord and those who did not. St. Paul says :-“Even 30 at this present time also there is a remnant accord. ing to the election of grace.”—God's people have always been a peculiar people, a little flock. “There is a remnant," says he, a little flock, and there always was a remnant, so it is with you. While some give themselves up to worship idols, you are giving yonrselves up to God. There is no one you desire in your hearts but him. This is the consequence of everlasting love fixed on you. You would have been an idolater to the present day had he not touched your heart, and he has touched your heart because he had a favour unto you in his covenant love and mercy from all eternity. O that you could feel this! It is enough to touch every sensitive string in the heart of man, and to make him lift up the voice of praise and thanksgiving from day to day.

But, thirdly, are we such by nature ? O how dark our nature is ! How much evil is there in us, and in every one we see ! Some now in the presence of God may say that there are some evils to which they never felt the least inclination ; but do not be deceived. Do not think that you have not the seeds of these evils in your hearts, because you are not in circumstances to gratify those evil inclinations. There is every evil in the heart of man, but every evil does not always thrive in it. Who that understands the description given of man's heart by Solomon at the time of the dedication of the temple will deny this? It is a description that answers to the believer either under the Old or New Testament dispensation. The man who knows the plague of his own heart,” knows that there are innumerable evils there, but that God lays his hand on them and does not permit them to rage.

His eye is on your heart : He sees and knows everything that is passing there. He knows how often your minds are inclined to evil. What, then, should you do ? Look to Jesus. Live at the foot of the cross. His blood which flows from his pierced side can alone quiet your fears and comfort your heart on such occasions. It is from his presence you can derive the strongest motives to sanctify yourselves to his service. From him you derive the most cheerful views and hopes, and those inclinations which are opposed to the evils of your hearts. “Without me,” says he, “ye can do nothing.” And St. Paul says, in accordance with what the Lord says, “ I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” Therefore lean upon him, lean upon his atonement and you will be safe.

Then, again, as the Lord has a special people, he sees and knows every one of them; yes, from all eternity, and as he has reason to know them, we should be deeply affected under the impression of this thought. What can we render to the Lord for his great and abundant goodness ? And then consider, returning, in fact, to what we have advanced before-all this is of grace. There is nothing that you have received but is a gift of free grace. It is of the Lord himself, and of his own free will and good pleasure. It is the Lord and the Lord alone who enabled you to keep these things in your mind. What cause, then, is there for abundant thanksgiving ?

Salvation from beginning to end, and from first to last, is all of God. The very foundation is laid in grace, and the top stone shall be raised with shouts of “Grace! grace unto it!"-It must be of grace; it cannot be of works. St. Paul says,—“If by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. “ It must be of one or the other, but it cannot be of works; see how decided he is on the point. By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” He says, God hath saved us before we could call on him for mercy ;—“He hath saved and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began. If works had anything to do with the salvation of the saints, whither would it carry you? at least to the assumption of part of the glory of effecting your salvation, and Jehovah has declared that no flesh should glory in his presence. Therefore it is of grace, that boasting may be excluded, and in order that you may be deeply impressed with the great love of God wherewith he hath loved you, and determine to cleave to him, to give him a whole heart, and to set him upon the throne of your whole heart. Satan will contend with you for a while, and will endeavour to prevail on you to turn the Saviour from off the throne of your heart, but pray to him for help, and he will place your enemy completely under your feet shortly.

0, how easy then is iť to leave the church of Christ in the hand of Christ! The church of Christ has always been in a perilous situation.

« PrécédentContinuer »