Page images
PDF
EPUB

inflexibility. He was careful to ascertain the right course of conduct; he never acted precipitately; he reflected long, and consult ed books and wise men. But when his opinion was once settled-to adopt a remark made of him on a particular occasion, by the venerable Bishop White" nothing could move him." This rendered his conduct remarkably uniform and steady for, on all questions of importance, his opinion had been settled.

Another excellence in his character was discretion. He knew when it was proper to act or not to act, to speak or to be silent. This quality made him sometimes appear unsocial, but it rendered him most valuable in his public employments. The members of his congregation could consult him on the most delicate questions with a certainty that his prudence would let nothing escape him.

His sense of gratitude ought to be mentioned, for it was peculiarly lively. He was grateful for the smallest favours. He seemed never to have forgotten the little attentions of hospitality which he received on his first visit to South Carolina, and took every opportunity to return the kindness to the persons themselves, and to their connexions.. For, the lesser comforts of life, which are often unnoticed even by pious persons, he was in the habit of expressing his gratitude to the Almighty Giver. The healthy air, the pleasant walks, the sublime scene of Sullivan's Island, would spontaneously turn his affections to Heaven, and excite the praises of his lips in that devout hymn of thanksgiving, the "Te Deum." His character was strictly formed on Christian principles. He referred every thing to the Scriptures. He was accustomed to ask himself, "How would my Saviour have acted under such circumstances?" and in this way he resolved several questions of the most intricate nature. In the various

situations in which he was placed through life, he could always find some precept to guide, and some promise to comfort his heart. It was this complete knowledge of the Scriptures, and his skill in applying them, which rendered him so valuable a counsellor in the time of temptation and trouble. He could not be satisfied with a cold performance of duty, but wished, in the service of God and his fellow-creatures, to do all he could, and to become every day more and more capable of usefulness. He placed before himself the standard of scriptural perfection, and, in dependence on the assistance of the Spirit of God, pursued it with ardour and perseverance even unto death. To be holy was his ruling desire, and was the last wish which he expressed. It was the consciousness of his distance from this standard, which rendered him so humble and so condescending.

His death has called forth powerful emotions of regard and sorrow from all who knew his worth. Among other expressions of their respect and affection, the Vestry of his church resolved that the corpse should be buried beneath the altar, and that a monument should be erected to his memory. The standing committee of the diocese commended the church, as under a most heavy bereavement, to the prayers of all the bishops, and of Episcopalians in general. The "Society for the Relief of the Widows and Orphans of the Episcopal Clergy," the "Society for the Advancement of Christianity in South Carolina," and the "Bible Society," composed of Christians of various denominations, entered into resolutions expressive of their deep sorrow and sincere respect and regard. The three Episcopal churches in Charleston were hung with mourning, and also the place of worship of the German Lutherans, who addressed a letter of condolence to the Vestry of St. Michael's. His mortal remains were carried to

their last abode by his clergy, and the grave was filled up by the mem-bers of the Vestry and other respectable citizens.

A.

FAMILY SERMONS.-N°.CLXVIII. Acts xv. 9.-Purifying their hearts by faith.

This

IT has been usual, in order to explain the subject of faith, to speak of it under several different views. Thus there is what is called an historical faith,-a bare assent to the doctrines of Christianity, without their having any particular effect on the heart or conduct. faith most persons educated in a Christian country may be supposed to possess: for if asked whether they acknowledge the authority of the Bible, they will, without hesitation, reply in the affirmative. But this cannot be the faith mentioned in the text, because it does not necessarily "purify the heart;" for unhappily it is but too easy to find multitudes who have this educational faith, and yet are openly immoral in their lives. Again, there is what is called a faith of miracles, by which in former times certain holy men were specially enabled to perform things outof the common course of nature, in order to prove themselves sent of God, or for other ends conducive to the Divine glory. On this kind of faith it is unuecessary to enlarge; since, even if we had it, it would not avail for procuring our justification: for the Apostle expressly says, "Though I had faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity," (by which he means a holy principle of love to God, displaying itself in universal benevolence to man), “it would profit me nothing." Again, there is what is called a temporary faith-that short-lived assentwhich persons often feel while listening to a religious discourse. Their conscience is for the moment impressed; they make some devout resolutions like the stony-ground

[ocr errors]

hearers, for a time they receive the word: they have perhaps even some transient pleasure in it, but having no root they wither away. But true faith, or, as it is often called, saving or justifying faith, the faith spoken of in the text as purifying the heart" is that which alone will be found of any value on a death-bed and in the day of judgment. Now, in order to enable you to decide whether you possess this faith, I shall endeavour to answer two important questions respecting it.

1st, What is its nature?

-

2d, In what manner does it influence those who are partakers of it? 1st, What is the nature of true faith? We shall be better able to answer this question, if we consider saving faith as making use of and appropriating those truths which an historical or educational faith is contented with merely acknowledging. As it would be impracticable to go through all the declarations of God's word, in order to shew the character of faith, let us select one particular example. We are taught to call Jesus Christ our Prophet, our Priest, and our King: now saving faith makes us really accept him in each of those capacities. Try then your hearts by this test.

1. In the first place, have you looked to Christ as your Prophet? Have you sat humbly at his feet, to learn those things which by his Holy Spirit it is his office to teach. Are you really acquainted with your depravity and sinfulness, and your inability to merit heaven by your own good works? Have you faith in the declarations of Scripture respecting the eternal punishment that awaits you if you die in your sins? Have you felt your need of that repentance and change of heart which Christ so fully taught? And have you made it your great desire and effort to live according to his precepts?

2. Again, do you look to him as your Priest? as having offered himself a sacrifice-the only sacri

fice-for sin,and as now interceding at the right hand of God, on behalf of all who believe in his name? Do you trust to any other means of atonement? Do you expect to be justified otherwise than as a penitent sinner, reposing wholly in the obedience unto death of Jesus Christ? Sinful man can have no access whatever to the Throne of Heaven, but through his mediation and intercession. Our sins had separated between us and God; but it pleased the Father to make him a sacrifice for our transgressions, and through him to open a new and living way to the kingdom of heaven to us miserable sinners, who had forfeited all title to it by our disobedience.

3. Saving faith also receives Christ as a King. Have you thus accepted him? Do you obey him as your rightful Sovereign? Do you hate and avoid every thing contrary to his will? Is there any thing that you would desire above him, or any thing which you would obey in preference to his law? If pleasure, or the love of money, or of ease, or of the world, or of any evil desire or passion, tempt you, do you strive against the temptation, preferring the approbation of your Saviour to all earthly considerations? Unless you do this, or endeavour and pray to be enabled to do this, you do not receive Christ by faith as your King; but, on the contrary, are living in the habitual breach of the first and great commandment; for whatever you most love and obey, is, in Scripture language, your King and your God.

We have thus seen something of the character of that heavenly principle of which St. Peter speaks in the text. It consists in that sincere and practical belief in the testimony of God by which we are led to credit his declarations against sin; to receive the Saviour, as he is exhibited to us in the Scriptures, and to live as persons in earnest in making their calling and election This faith justifies us.

sure.

We

are saved by grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. "This is the ordinance of God," says one of the Homilies, quoting the language of St. Ambrose; "that they which believe in Christ should be saved without works-by faith onlyfreely receiving remission of their sins. Consider diligently," continues the Homily, "these words: Without works-by faith only we obtain remission of our sins." "Nevertheless," it is added, “this sentence that we be justified by faith only, is not so meant of them that the said justifying faith is alone in man, without true repentance, hope, charity, dread, and the fear of God, at any time and season. Nor when they say that we be justified freely, do they mean that we should or might afterwards be idle, and that nothing should be required on afterward; neither do they mean our part so to be justified without our good works that we should do no good works at all. But this saying that we be justified by faith onlyfreely, and without works is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works as being able to deserve our justification at God's hand, and thereby most plainly to express the weakness of man and the goodness of God; the great inferiority of ourselves, and the might and power of God; the imperfection of our own works, and the most abundant grace of our Saviour Christ; and therefore wholly to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only and his most precious bloodshedding. This faith holy Scripture teacheth us."-The practical tendency of this justifying faith may be inferred from its character as already described; but it will be seen still more evidently in considering the second point proposed for our meditation, namely; the manner in which it operates upon those who are partakers of it.

the

The text says, that it "purifies the heart." The connexion in which these words are introduced is very observable. A controversy had arisen in the church of Antioch, as to whether or not it was necessary that the Gentile converts should undergo the rite of circumcision. Accordingly, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to consult with the other apostles and elders on the subject. St. Peter, who did not consider the Jewish rites to be necessary for the new disciples, rose and declared to the assembly in what a wonderful manner God had converted the Gentiles by his ministry; and to shew that their conversion was genuine, and that they were become true Christians, and needed not any initiatory Jewish rites, he adds, " And put no difference between them and us, purifying their hearts by faith." As though be had said, "It is superfluous to contend whether or not the Gentiles can become Christians without the ceremonial rites; for I bring you a case exactly in point, of some who actually are such; who, without circumcision, are equally privileged with ourselves, God having purified their hearts by faith. It is useless, therefore, any longer to dispute whether this rite is necessary in order to make persons holy, for these Gentiles are made holy without it; and far more effectually so than they could have been by any merely eeremonial observance." Thus we see that St. Peter speaks of faith as purifying the heart; he considers this as its undoubted character; and argues that all those must be genuine Christians whose hearts are thus cleansed by its influence.

But perhaps, in applying the subject to yourselves, you may be ready to reply that you are Christians because you have been baptized. But these Gentiles also had been baptized; yet St. Peter does not urge this as an argument to shew CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 252.

that they were the real disciples of
Christ: he knew that persons might
be outwardly baptized, and yet not
prove genuine converts: he there-
different evi-
fore appeals to a very
dence their hearts were purified
by faith. This was that inward
baptism with fire by the Spirit of
God which is accomplished in all
the true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Inquire, therefore, not merely
whether you are Christians in name,
or by baptism and profession, but
whether you have that faith which
Have you be-
purifies the heart.
come holy in your affections, and
heavenly-minded in your spirit?
Do you possess a new principle at
war with sin, and with every thing
that is opposed to God? Are the
corruptions of your evil nature in
any measure subdued ; and are you
anxious for their complete subju-
gation?

A Christian education may enlighten the understanding, or an affecting discourse impress the feelings; but saving faith only can purify the heart.

St. Paul mentions another character of saving faith-that it works by love. In the passage in which he introduces this remark, he is speaking on nearly the same subject as St. Peter in the text; namely, that in Christ Jesus the rite of cirumcision availed nothing: matters of mere form and ceremony were of very inferior consideration; faith was the great point; not, however, a dead inoperative faith, but, says St. Peter, "faith that purifieth the beart;" not a mere notion without any effect upon the principles or conduct, but, says St. Paul, "faith that worketh by love." And without this practical faith, our Christian baptism is equally useless with the Jewish corresponding rite.

It is delightful to witness the operation of this principle in the life of a true Christian, elevating him in holy affection to his Maker and Redeemer and Purifier; and expanding his soul in universal be5 F

nevolence to all mankind. And is it not clear that those who do not pray to God, who do not praise him, who do not serve him, cannot have this faith which worketh by love? Is it not also equally clear, that those who indulge envy, hatred, malice, or uncharitableness towards their fellow-creatures, are uninfluenced by this heavenly principle?

We have heard the language of the Apostles Peter and Paul respecting the operations of faith; a third Apostle, St. John, adds yet another property-that it "overcometh the world." And nothing else could obtain such a conquest. "Who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Surely no one: all other persons are its willing captives. They do not desire to overcome it; on the contrary, they are grieved that they have not more of its possessions and enjoyments. They eagerly follow those pomps and vanities which they vowed in their baptism to renounce. They will not give up some favourite worldly temptation, though they are conscious that their salvation is at stake. They follow a multitude to do evil: they are in the world and of the world; and thus too plainly prove that they have not that faith whose properties have been described.

Let me then, in conclusion, address a word to persons thus circumstanced. Surely you must perceive the necessity of a principle of which as yet you are destitute. In the Scriptures you read continually of walking by faith, of being purified by faith, of being sanctified by faith; of Christians being mutually comforted by faith; of living by faith, of standing by faith, of fighting the good fight of faith, of being justified by faith, of Christ dwelling in men's hearts through faith, of having access to God by faith, and various similar expressions. Now, are all these scriptural

phrases devoid of meaning; or, is it that there is more in religion than you have hitherto experienced? Without doubt the latter is the right answer. You have a name, a form, but you are destitute of true faith. "All men," says the Apostle, "have not faith." And what, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, shall be the lot of those who are thus characterized? Our Lord affirms, "Whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but whosoever believeth not"--even though he may have been baptized-"shall be condemned." And in another place, "Whoso believeth not is condemned already." The sentence is past, and, unless averted in time, will most certainly be executed. And how is it to be averted? You can be justified only by faith in the Saviour; for there is no other name given under heaven whereby men can be saved. Come then to his cross; trust in his sacrifice: He is able and willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. Your offended Creator will mercifully receive you: he will adopt you into his family; he will guide and sanctify you by his Holy Spirit; and at length, after faith and patience have had their perfect work, will receive you up into glory. He is the bestower of faith as of every other good gift: beseech him therefore to create in you this heavenly principle, and to increase it daily unto everlasting life. Emulate that illustrious band of saints and martyrs whose triumphs are recorded by St. Paul; of whom the world was not worthy, but who obtained a good report through faith. Being compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset you, and run with patience the race that is set before you, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith. In weakness, look to Him for strength; in templation, for victory; in affliction, for sup

« PreviousContinue »