Page images
PDF
EPUB

while they are still under the curse. Let them add the spirit and the substance to the form and shadow; the spirit of sincerity, of humility, of diligence; the spirit of prayer and supplication; the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength; the spirit of knowledge, of holiness, and of hope!

SERMON XVI.

THE CHRISTIAN INTERPRETATION OF SIGNAL

CALAMITIES.

LUKE XIII. 4.'

Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell,

and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay:

but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. The law, which was given by Moses to the Israelites, under the inspiration of their Almighty king and legislator, was throughout typical of better things to come: and as its purpose was, in some sense, temporary, so the rewards which it proposed, and the punishments which it denounced, were principally, if not altogether,

· This sermon was preached on the 2d of March, 1828, two days after the destruction of the Brunswick Theatre ; a catastrophe which was described, in handbills dispersed through the metropolis, as a signal manifestation of God's anger against theatrical amusements. The text is contained in the Lesson for the day.

temporal. Worldly prosperity was promised to legal obedience, and personal calamity and woe were the stated penalties of legal transgression, to be inflicted by the instruments of an offended Deity, the drought, the famine, the pestilence, and the sword. The blessing and the curse, which were set before that stiff-necked people, which were pronounced with so much solemnity upon the mounts of Ebal and Gerizim,” were, as far as their purport was then developed, a blessing and a curse of temporal good and evil. The opinion, which naturally resulted from this peculiarity of the law, had so interwoven itself into the national belief, and so tinctured the popular phraseology of the Jews, that even our blessed Saviour did not hesitate to adopt and employ it, when he was endeavouring to lead his countrymen to more spiritual apprehensions of the counsels and providence of God: Blessed are the meek ; for they shall inherit the earth.

The Jew, who remembered the plagues denounced against transgression, and those fearful displays of God's vengeance against impenitent sinners, which were recorded in Scripture, naturally considered disease, and signal calamity, and sudden death, to be the appointed punishments

? Josh. viii. 33.

of sin : a notion, which was true in an extended sense; but false, or uncertain, when applied to individual cases. When the disciples of Jesus saw a man who had been blind from his birth, they inquired of their master, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind ?So, when certain of the Jews told our Lord of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices, they probably insinuated, that the calamitous fate of those unhappy men was no more than the just reward of their misconduct. A similar connexion seems to have been discovered, by some censorious or misjudging disciples, between the sudden destruction of the persons, on whom the tower in Siloam had fallen, and their sins; for our Saviour includes both incidents in that memorable rebuke and warning, which contains the true principle of improving the calamities of others to the glory of God, and our own spiritual good. Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay : but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them; think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem ? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

3 John ix. 2.

There is nothing more certain, than that the same Almighty Power, which made the world, still continues to uphold and govern it; that the system of the universe, both physical and moral, not only in its grander and more striking features, but in all its intricate complications, and minute details, is under the control and guidance of his Providence; that without him not even a sparrow falleth to the ground. On the other hand, we instinctively believe, and are irresistibly compelled to act upon a belief, that many events are contingent upon our own actions; and that many are the effects of chance. To reconcile these seemingly opposite conclusions, is one of those difficult problems, to the complete solution of which human reason is incompetent; and its incompetency, in this respect, arises from the difference, a difference of unknown degrees and dimensions, between the nature and attributes of God, and those of his reasonable creatures. We know, of a certainty, that his judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out; and they are so, because, as the heavens are high above the earth, so are his ways higher

* Matt. x. 29.

« PreviousContinue »