Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

that, whilst we were yet sinners, Christ | have nothing to do with enquiring died for us." whether the Irish are, what is termed, deserving of relief. They are in want, and they are in wretchedness, and unto creatures who, like ourselves, had nothing but their want and their wretchedness to recommend them to the guardianship of the Most High, want and wretchedness should be the best passports when any of our lineage sue to us for succour.

Thus far have I laboured to set before you the clear illustration of our text, trusting that you will all along have kept in mind those bearings of the subject on the occasion of our assembling, which I indicated in the early part of this discourse. Once more I ask of you, where should we have been, where would have been the fathers, where the children, had the principle been applied to us of unworthiness intercepting benefit, and of want of desert justly shutting up the bowels of compassion? Is it true, or is it not true, that when rebellion was at its height, and corruption most inveterate, and profligacy most daring, the Son of the Eternal One came amongst us on a mission of mercy, and wrestled, and sorrowed, and agonized, and died, and all on behalf of prodigals who had wasted their substance, and of infidels who were wedded to wickedness? Is it true, or is it not true, that if God had dealt with us after our sins, and if he had rewarded us according to our iniquities, the earth beneath our feet must have been as iron, and the firmament over our heads as brass; and we who now are the sons and the daughters of beautiful hope, for whom the present is paved with loving kindness, and before whom the future expands itself in the spreading of the azure and vermilion, we must have been the heirs of a blasted inheritance, and have writhed through weary years beneath the scorpionscourge of despair, and have sunk down in death with the worm of wrath gnawing at the core of the heart? "With what measure ye mete," said Jesus himself, "it shall be measured to you again"-and we are bound to take good heed that we apply not to our fellow-creatures in temporal concerns, a principle which must have consigned us to utter perdition, had it been applied to ourselves in spiritual. We

Neither do I suppose that the present is the season for enquiring into the possible neglect or misrule of the Irish peasantry, by those who are the rightful lords of the soil. There may be, or there may not be—I presume not to decide—a want of attention to the poor on the part of those whom God hath made, in a certain sense, their natural protectors. If the charge be a just one, then the matter calls imperatively for judicial interference-but of this I am persuaded that the day of starvation is not the fit day of legislation—and that which we are bound to, as christians and as men, is to lighten the misery first, and to legislate against its recurrence afterwards.

It were but to sicken you with the horrible recitals if I entered minutely into the details of that fierce desolation which is now wasting the western districts of Ireland. Thousands, yea, tens of thousands of our fellow men are enduring the sternest privations which can fall to the lot of humanity. In the emphatic and piercing words of the Book of Lamentations," the tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst-the young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them." "They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger-for these pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field." Ye are men-ye have hearts-and these hearts are not made of the stern stuff which is wholly impervious to the

enterprize which proposes, by GoD's assistance, to upheave that tremendous mass of ignorance which hath long rested, as an incubus, upon Ireland. The distress is temporary; but the relief, with which we meet it, must be quickly administered-and it is an affecting thing to be told, as we are by an eye-witness, that the fields of the suffering districts are now blushing with the promise of a plentiful harvest, so that the peasantry lie down to die on land, which yet a few weeks longer shall yield abundantly the means of subsistence. Alas! if we aid them not during this little interval, the sun may shine, and the showers may descend upon the rising crops, but they who should have gathered the fruits will have tottered into the grave, looking wistfully at the blossom which seemed to tell them to struggle yet a little while with misfortune, and then there should be food for father, and mother, and child.

What shall I say to excite you to liberality? Eloquence would avail nothing, if the cry of the famished prove not a thrilling oratory. Pathos would be an idle weapon, if you are not moved by the thought of the old man and the suckling lying down in one common grave, and the grave itself left, it may be, open, because the deathgrasp is on others who will need

to-morrow the same quiet shelter. If I brought tears, and intenseness of entreaty, and vehemence of supplication to the advocacy which I have undertaken, could I add any thing to that wail of distress which has been borne across the waters, the wail of perishing thousands, a wail which shall enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabbaoth, and bring down a curse upon ourselves if we give no heed to its accents?

I have nothing to state but that the cause is so peculiar and pressing, that every shilling churlishly withheld may produce the death of a fellow-creature. Yes, it is the life of multitudes for which I plead, and he who gives not to the full of his ability, I dare tell him that he tampers with life, and does his part towards hurrying into eternity the souls of many of his brethren.

|

And finally, I beseech you, beloved in the Lord, by the amazing love of which ye have yourselves been the subjects-I beseech you, by the agony and bloody sweat, by the cross and passion of him who commended his love towards you in that he died for you whilst you were yet sinners-I beseech you to open wide your compassions, and thus to show your obedience to the apostolic injunction: "beloved, if GOD so loved us, we ought also to love one another."

A Sermon

DELIVERED BY THE REV. H. Mc NEILE,

AT ST. BRIDE'S CHURCH, FLEET STREET, ON BEHALF OF THE LONDON FEMALE
PENITENTIARY, JUNE 8, 1831.

Luke, xv. 2.-" And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them."

If any of you had a transaction of business with a man-a neighbourbusiness of such importance, as that it involved all your property and all

your prospects; and if the nature of your connexion with that man were such that, throughout the transaction, you were completely in his power,

either to elevate you into affluence, to | perplexing. Man is soothed into a leave you as you are, or to reduce you kindly view of the divine character to starvation, it is undeniable, my when he enjoys the bright sunshine brethren, that it would become a and the refreshing breeze; but he is matter of lively interest with you to startled and alarmed under the thunascertain, upon good authority, what der-storm, when he hears of an earthwere the feelings and dispositions of quake or pestilence. Man is soothed that man towards you; and you could into tender feelings towards the chascarcely be considered in your right racter of GOD when he enjoys health, mind if you would be content to go on peace, and prosperity, when all things without making any enquiry-if you smile around him, and his family, and could live without feeling any anxiety his friends and himself are happy; but respecting the feelings and disposi- he is alarmed again, and perplexed, and thrown into doubt about the GoD of tions of that man. nature, when a dear friend is seized with a racking disease, when a child— a healthy, happy, lovely child-is seized from his view and laid upon the bed of sickness unto death. My dear brethren, there is utter perplexity in the view that a man gets of GOD in the book of nature; no man, with only that book, ever yet loved GoD when he was suffering pain. He might have fancied that he loved what he called GOD in his hours of ease; but when a living, acting Being exercising that power and that right which he undoubtedly possesses over all his creatures, brings that man to pain, or suffering, or sorrow; no man with only the book of nature, ever had such love to God as 'could survive the in

Now there is no man in his senses that can deny that he is absolutely in the power of GOD for the transaction of a business the most important which mortal man can transact-his business for eternity; that he is completely in GoD's power, absolutely and irrevocably so, not merely as to whether he shall be raised to affluence or reduced to want in this life present, but whether he shall be exalted to the fulness of life and light in the conscious favour of a GoD of love and of holiness, or whether he shall be cast into the everlasting torments prepared for the devil and his angels. Can, therefore, any man be considered in his right mind who has no anxiety upon the subject, no desire, no constraining desire, to ascertain, upon good authority, what are the feelings and what are the dispositions of the living God towards him?

How can we ascertain what GOD feels towards us? How can we ascertain the mind of GOD towards man? My brethren, the question is no light thing. There are persons who tell us that we can learn of God from his outward works in the natural world; but what can we learn? Undoubtedly, we may learn that GoD is; but can we learn what he is? Can we learn what his feelings are towards us?

The information derived from the natural world is unsatisfactory; it is

fliction of sorrow or of suffering.

Where, then, shall we learn what GOD feels respecting us? Oh, where shall we ascertain, on good authority, the mind and the heart of our GoD towards sinful men? We read in the Scriptures, brethren, that the eternal Son of the Father-the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person—he hath declared "No man hath seen GOD at GOD. any time, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." He hath come forth from the bosom of the Father, and come into this world-he hath come into the visible creation that God's

creatures might see in him the mind of GOD towards them. In the character, in the language, in the conduct of Jesus Christ, we behold an index of the mind of GOD behind it—as it were, the dial-plate which marks the movement of the main-spring that is invisible.

The character of Jesus Christ is the outward and visible manifestation, to the world, of the heart of the living God, from whom he came. It is only here that we learn the true character of our GoD. You have heard already, that no man hath seen GOD at any time, and yet Jesus saya, when Philip asked him to shew him the Father, and said, "Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?-he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, then, shew us the Father?" At first there seems something like a contradiction in the words; but observe, my dear brethren, how it is. The light which comes directly from the throne of God is too powerful for human vision. Even the sun, the work of GoD's hands, is too powerful, in his meridian splendour, for the eye of man to gaze upon; but we can see objects all around us; here, at this time, in this house, we can see the various objects around us, and it is by the sun; but then the light of the sun is reflected upon those objects-it has fallen upon creation, in creation here it is softened and reflected from the visible objects around, so that it comes in such a way as is suited to our vision.

The light from the throne of God has come upon creation in Jesus Christ. There it has assumed a form suited to our vision; there, therefore, we are taught to look, and there to recognize the true character of the living GOD. He that hath seen Jesus―he that hath recognized the true character of Jesus

-he that hath analyzed the feelings of Jesus-he that hath traced the steps of Jesus-he that hath marked the tender sympathy of Jesus towards the afflicted mother, towards the weeping father-he that hath marked the ready reception that Jesus gave to the poor thief, to the harlot, to the publican, to every denomination of sinners that he met in the streets of Jerusalem, or in the villages of Galilee -he that hath stood upon the Mount of Olives and seen the Saviour weeping over the devoted city, and crying,

Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not"-he, my brethren, who has done this-has been tracing, analyzing, examining, recognizing, and becoming acquainted with the very heart, mind, the very soul of the living GOD towards every man. But how God should have so loved man, should be so tender, and kind, and affectionate, so willing to receive and so willing to save-how the character of Christ should, indeed, be a faithful index of the mind of God; and how the world should continue as it is, after having such a revelation of GOD made to it; here is a mystery of ungodliness. To reach the root of this, to give some explanation of this, I must direct your attention to the true nature of man's alienation from and enmity againt God.

Now, my brethren, let it be born in mind, let it be carefully observed, that there never was a man created but one. The whole human substance, composing now the whole human race, was created in one lump, and the hand of creation has never yet been extended to the production of human substance. As every tree of the field was formed in its full size, with its seed in itself, and every beast of the field in like

""

manner, so man was formed of full growth, with his seed in himself, and there never was a man created since. All we are branches of one parent root, unfoldings out of one parent bud. We are not separate creations, each standing distinct from the other, each allowed to choose for himself-to choose whether he will stand or fall, whether he will have good or evil. No, my brethren, evil was chosen in the root, in the bud; and the very first moment of our unfolding into the distinctness of personal existence is a moment of evil. We are conceived in sin, we are born in iniquity. The first breath we breathe is infected with the taint of the hospital in which our parents are, and we come at once under the full influence of the contagion. Nay, more than this, that which is born of the flesh is flesh; the branch is like the root, the unfolding is like the bud, the stream is like the fountain; as soon as we be born we go astray.

|

This statement, my brethren, lies at the root of much theological explanation. Allow me, therefore, to confirm it by referring you to two passages of holy Scripture. The first is in the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, the twelfth verse, where the Apostle Paul says, that "As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." And, in order to assist us in the interpretation of these words, "all have sinned," I refer you to a passage in the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, where the apostle is arguing concerning the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over the priesthood of Aaron. In order to confirm that statement, he quotes those passages of Scripture which declare Christ to be a priest after the order of Melchisedec. He then proves Aaron to be inferior to Melchisedec and of

course inferior to Christ; but, in proving Aaron to be inferior to Melchisedic, mark how he does it. He tells us of Abraham's meeting Melchisedec, and recognizing his superiority, receiving a blessing from him, and paying tithes to him of all his spoil, now he says, without controversy, he that receiveth the blessing is inferior to him who giveth it. But "Levi," said he, who is the head of the priesthood of Aaron, "Levi was yet in the loins of his father when Melchisedec met him." Levi's father was not born at the time, nor his grandfather, yet the apostle declares in this verse-the tenth verse of the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews-that "Levi was in the loins of his father when Malchisedec met him." The idea is the same, "Unto the fourth generation." In this statement which I have now conveyed to you concerning the whole human race, the statement in the fifth chapter of Romans is general—the idea is particularized in the seventh of Hebrews; and we maintain, on sound Scriptural authority, that we have reason for saying that the whole race sinned in Adam; so that it is not merely that we follow the example of Adam, as the Pelagians vainly think, and as our Scriptural church article condemns, but that we are all guilty in Adam's guilt, as well as involved in Adam's contagion and ruin.

See, then, my brethren, where we have come to, and in what condition we find ourselves, without any act or choice of our own-I mean without any act or choice of our own in distinct personality. It was the deliberate act, it was the choice and the wickedness of Adam in the aggregate. And now, observe, the human race is to be considered in two points of view, and as such it is addressed in the Scriptures-it is addressed as GOD made it, "Behold, it was very good"

and it is addressed as it marred

« ForrigeFortsæt »