Page images
PDF
EPUB

tude or fashion in religious doctrines, as well as in the modes of dress and external behaviour. Such a book, says the leader of the day, is Arminian, or Calvinistical, or Methodistical,' and it must be cried down by every pamphleteer or controversialist, who is aspiring at favour and preferment. But away with names, and the petty dis

Bishop Hurd is as far removed from a Methodist as possi. ble. He is a divine, a philosopher, a scholar of the first rank; yet hear him (and let his words have weight) on the evidence of the Spirit of God on the heart of man.

“ To the Spirit, enlightening our understandings, purifying our wills, and confirming our faith, we must impute all that is good in us, all that proficiency in true holiness, which qualifies us for the enjoyment of heaven; and through this discipline it is, that they who sow to the Spirit,' are, in the end, enabled of the Spirit to reap life everlasting

“ All the revelations of God's will, even to our Lord himself as the man Christ Jesus, and all the secret illuminations of the faithful, in all times, are to be regarded as so many emanations from the Spirit of God, the enlightener : all the gradual improvements of our virtue, all the graces which first descend upon our hearts, and then manifest themselves in every good word and work, are the production of the same Spirit, in his office of sanctifier: and lastly, all the firmness and resolution we possess, under every trial in the world, all the foretaste we have of future favour and acceptance, all our joy and peace in believing, are the signs and proofs of the Comforter speaking to us, and, according to our Saviour's promise, abiding in us.

" If a ray of light break in upon us; if a new degree of knowledge be imparted to us; if we see the truth of the gospel more clearly, in any respect, than before we had done; we cannot mistake in ascribing this additional information or conviction, to the illuminating spirit within us.

"If we perceive our devotions to be quickened, our hopes enlivened, our faith fortified, we shall not mistake (having the express promise of our Lord and Master) in ascribing these consolations of peace and joy to the Comforter ; we may regard them as the earnest and pledge of the Spirit in our hearts.-Eph. i. 14.

" I know,” continues he, “ that this will appear strange to natural reason. But so the Scripture has prepared us to expect they would do. For the natural man (says the apostle) receiveth

tinctions of religious party. Are you a Christian, or wish to be one, indeed, not in word only; for the sake of spiritual, not temporal purposes ? Then drop your prejudices, and seek the Spirit of Christianity; not in systems, but in the written gospel, assisted by prayer, and the pious illustrations of sincere, good men, however they may have been reviled or neglected, through prejudice, political artifice, or mistaken zeal. When you have thus found the truth, show its influence by your charity. Be united to all Christians, as well as to Christ; and beware of making distinctions, by nicknames, and thus exciting envy, wrath, malice, which are of a nature opposite to the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, and peace. Good men should join in a firm phalanx, that the evil may not triumph on their divisions. Let all who are united under the banners of Christ, hail one another as brother Christians, though they may differ on the subject of church discipline, rites, ceremonies, or even non-essential doctrine.'

not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him.- 1 Cor. ii. 14. And to the same purpose, our Master himself, speaking of the spirit of truth; whom (says he) the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him ; but ye, (addressing himself to his disciples, that is, to meri who walk by faith, and not by sight,) ye know him; for hedwelleth in you, and shall be in you." —Bp. Hurd. Serm. xviii. vol. ii. 1

16 Setting aside many circumstances, in which men may safely err, there are but few truths of Scripture of an essential nature; or, to speak more properly, there is but one, concerning which all believers (I mean those who deserve the name) are firmly agreed. This truth is the testimony of the word of God concerning Jesus Christ, that he came into the world to save sinners fully, freely, and eternally. So little room, then, in reality, does the Scripture give for the diversity of opinions, that it calls for perfect unity of sentiment; the diversity itself being

' If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort in love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, and of one mind.''

Let us consider how the hard-hearted, uncon

owing to the corruption and blindness of human nature in the worst, as well as the remains of that corruption and blindness in the best. The evidence of this truth, whence arises so full an agreement among believers, and such complete satisfaction in their own minds, is far greater than what can arise from any argumentation, in which mankind are apt to deceive both them. selves and others. It is the evidence of internal experience. I feel myself lost and miserable. I experience such a healthful change in my whole moral system : so that, upon the whole, Christianity is the true cure of scepticism; and to the seriously disposed, who submit to the teaching of the Spirit, it gives the highest internal evidence of its own truth. A man finds him. self naturally averse to all good, ignorant of God, and without either love or gratitude towards him, selfish and hard-hearted with respect to his fellow-creatures. By putting his trust in Christ, he has attained peace of conscience, love, and new views of the glory of God. He has experienced a real change in his affections and tempers. Surely he must be allowed to be a competent judge of what he has felt; he may preach too, by his life, the truth and the power of the gospel to others; and as he will find his evidences increase more and more, he may be more and more happy, from the consciousness of God within him now, (Col. i. 27; 2 Cor. xiii. 5,) and the prospect of bliss hereafter.

“ If it be asked, where are such persons to be found ? it is confessed their number is but rare. We may thank for this, the contempt of the operations of the Holy Ghost, which prevails in our days. A serious desire of knowing the real truth, and a spirit of submission to this divine teaching, are things which the truth requires of all who seek it : if you refuse this, you unreasonably refuse to Christianity her own mode and order of things; you strip her of her arms, and then complain of her feebleness and impotency. But if you submit to be the scholar of Jesus indeed, you will find, by experience, whether he will not give you to know the truth, and whether the truth will not make you free.” -Milner,

| Phil. ii. 1, 2.

verted, depraved, and worthless part of mankind exult, while Christians, agreeing in essentials, quarrel and revile each other, not on the substance of religion, but on the mere shades of difference in opinion in matters of indifference. Let not the Philistians triumph. Let the olive-bearing army of peace-makers be combined under the banners of benevolence. Theirs is an unbloody crusade; theirs is the contest of love. The victories in their warfare are over sin, misery, and death; and their crown, immortality. Let them march on to the soft harmony of Hosannahs and Hallelujahs, uninterrupted by the discordant din of angry contention. Are you a sincere believer ? a lover of God and man? I salute you from my heart as my brother in Christ, whether, in consequence of your birth and education, you formed the creed you utter, at Rome, at Geneva, or in your closet at home. The Holy Ghost is the centre of our union; and all who are joined to him, must be associated in love.

Under the illustrious champions of Christianity, who flourished, in England, during the last century, great were the triumphs of grace over human obduracy. The word of God was mighty, and cast down imaginations.'' The sword of the Spirit, a figurative sword, the only one approved by Christianity, wielded by men who, like these, fought the good fight of faith, has been irresistible. But many, since their time, have let it rust in its scabbard, and used, as a substitute for it, the wooden baton of heathen ethics and modern philosophy, in a kind of mock fight, beating the air, to the

' 2 Cor. ix. v. dialoycouovs, which we render imaginations, certainly signifies reasonings.

[merged small][ocr errors]

amusement of the indifferent or unbelieving spec-
tator. The men of the world, who laugh at reli-
gion, and the pretended philosophers who reason
against it, observing that the sword of the Spirit
was no longer used, came forth with the renewed
and increased audacity of those who love to display
their prowess, when there is but a feeble opposi-
tion. They sang the song of victory, and ventured
to suggest that Christianity, conscious of the bad-
ness of her cause, had surrendered in fact, though
she still kept up the appearance of defence, for the
sake of decency, lucre, and political deception.
Infidelity plumed herself on her fancied conquest,
and has long been endeavouring to sway her sceptre
over the most polished countries of Christendom.
In France, at last, she flatters herself she has gained
a complete victory, and silenced her opponent for
ever.

Let us mark and deplore the consequence to
mortals and society. Extreme selfishness, pride,
vanity, envy, malice, hardness of heart, fraud,
cunning, and the false varnish of external deco-
rum, hiding internal deformity, have remarkably
prevailed in recent times, in the most polished re-
gions, rendering man, as an individual, wretched
and contemptible, and society comfortless and in-
secure. The human race has degenerated, in pro-
portion as faith has diminished. The true spirit of
Christianity, which can alone dignify human na-
ture, and soften and liberalize the obdurate, con-
tracted, selfish bosom of the mere natural, animal'

[blocks in formation]

I hope the present time is not that of which the apostle speaks : . The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.'-2 Tim. iv. 13.

Men who preach against divine grace, may be said to be those

RACTORATUAREN

nations

« PreviousContinue »