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Let him remember, however, that our applause may be bestowed upon those whom Christ will at last reject; that no mental cultivation can exalt man to a moral union with his Maker; and that he, who distributes gifts as he pleases, may confer on the humble peasant that grace which may be withheld from the wise, the mighty, and the noble. Multitudes who knew only the simple truths of the Bible, have ascended to glory, leaning on the arm of their Redeemer; while thousands, from the very summit of intellectual fame, have plunged into the blackness of darkness for ever. Is birth an occasion of pride? See, how
"He pours abundant shame
On honourable blood."
Not to say, that "the boast of heraldry" is often allied to meanness and vice, which annihilate, in whomsoever they may be found, all claims to respect from men ;-not to say, how degenerate and how abject the progeny may be, of ancestors renowned in story ;-we well know, from the history of all ages, that the high-born and the noble enjoy no superiority in the kingdom of Messiah. They of the most lowly parentage, may be seen marching upward to the skies, and seizing that crown of glory, which never fades, while among the glittering throng, decked with stars and diadems, few are endued with the magnanimity to trample on terrestrial vanities, and rise, by faith in the Son of God, to the joys of his kingdom.
Do we admire the splendours of wealth and fashion? These imply no title to the peculiar privileges of God's elect. Among those, who ride in pomp and shine in the circles of gayety, would any of us expect to find very frequent examples of evangelical humility, spirituality, and that faith which overcomes the world? Who, in passing through our cities, would think of looking first among the ranks of opulence, and splendour, and fashion, for examples of meek, unpretending, and devoted service in the cause of Jesus Christ? Blessed be God, in the ranks of the rich, there are some, who, like Joseph of Arimathea, have been taught to feel that the noblest use of wealth is its consecration to the honour of Christ; and that no treasure is worthy of being coveted, except such as may survive the ruins of the last conflagration and be carried with us into eternity. But how rare is such magnanimity! "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God. Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, which he hath promised to them that love him?"
Do we aspire after rank and office? Well may our ambition be chilled, when we remember the too common character of those, who rise to the highest stations of trust and honour among men. It is not easy to unite the eager pursuit of earthly promotion, with an integrity that never yields to circumstances, and never falters; and it is far more difficult, if not impossible, to associate such a spirit with the unvarnished simplicity and meekness of the gospel. Divine grace has sometimes presented to our view a David, an Hezekiah, or an Alfred, to teach us that no station is above its reach; but to confound the pride of station, it has commonly descended, for its most signal triumphs, into those lowly regions of society, towards which imperial majesty would scarcely deign a look. It has assigned to obscure fishermen and carpenters the privilege of leading
"on to glorious war,
The sacramental host of God's elect ;"
while senators and kings despise, and wonder, and perish.
Do we applaud the popular virtues-industry, uprightness, generosity, patriotism? It is well. In their connexion with the present life, they cannot be too highly esteemed; and they will exist and flourish wherever the gospel exerts its sanctifying influence on the heart. But, as they may live and shoot forth vigorously, disjoined from the principle of evangelical obedience, so they give no promise of renovating grace; and are not seldom found in combination with that high-minded pride, which, more than any other spirit, breathes hostility to the saintly attributes, exemplified and enforced in the gospel. No wonder then, that the splendid virtue which all unite to admire, should often fail of heaven. So it is; and, on the other hand, not unfrequently men of a character originally little deserving of esteem, are impressed, created anew, and trained up for glory, by the mysterious agency of that Spirit, "who worketh all things after the council of his own will."
And what shall we say of that decent morality, seriousness, and respect for religious institutions, which it is the prayer of every good man may become universal? Do they infallibly issue in regeneration,-in real, deep and established piety? Does not the sober man often find quiet in his soberness, the formalist trust to his formality, and the superficial religionist, like multitudes of the ancient Jews, live and die ignorant of the only method by which a sinner can gain forgiveness and the favour of his Maker? The amiable ruler, impressed with the importance of the friendship of God, comes with eager haste, and, falling on his knees, as if wholly intent upon salvation, proposes to Jesus the question, of all others most interesting to man, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" He had shunned all the grosser forms of vice and profaneness; and seems to have been adorned with a thousand lovely qualities. But a single proposal for proving his sincerity betrayed the actual state of his heart-his self-indulgence-his supreme devotedness to the world. He "went away grieved.” But while men of pharisaical strictness go away and die, rejecting the Saviour; sinners of the most profligate character are, in many instances, arrested, awed, subdued, reformed, and justified, by the power of redeeming grace.
5. In the means which God employs for the salvation of sinners, it is evidently his design to abase human pride.
He has commenced a mighty system of grace, the issue of which shall be the complete redemption of a multitude that no man can number, and an inconceivable accession of knowledge, bliss and glory to the holy universe. It might be imagined that, in effecting a purpose so august, he would put in requisition, as the most indispensable means, all that we deem efficient in the ordinary events and revolutions of the moral world; and that on these, he would chiefly rely, in the grand enterprise of reclaiming an apostate race.
To the judicious administration of human government we attach an almost resistless energy; and to the operations of this mighty engine, we should naturally look as the leading power to accomplish that change in the sentiments and character of mankind, which Christianity predicts. Human laws, however, have effected little in the propagation of the pure gospel; and where they have assumed any other authority in favour of religion than that of simple protection, they have in general weakened, by their interference, the cause they were intended to support. Governments themselves must be reformed, and present such models of evangelical integrity as they
have rarely exhibited, before they will be prepared to exert any prominent, and ultimately beneficial influence, in direct aid of the gracious designs of the Redeemer. Never have the reality and frequency of his victories been more apparent than when his armies, guided and shielded by his own invincible arm, resisted all the authorities of the Roman empire. And, however we might tremble for the government that should now dare to unsheath its sword against the gospel, we could have no doubt of the ultimate success of the gospel, were it proscribed in the constitution and laws of every nation on earth.
Nor does Christianity obtain its triumphs by philosophy and eloquence. These arts, however important, can accomplish little in reforming the morals; much less in purifying the affections of men, and moulding them into conformity with the spirit of Christ. Sinners never have been, and never will be, subdued to penitence, humility, faith, and obedience, by any finespun theories of virtue, however embellished with learning and rhetoric, or by any considerations drawn from present utility, self-esteem, and earthly glory. The reasoning, the declamation, and the persuasion derived from such sources, can have no better influence than to confirm that innate pride in man, which is the grand obstacle to his obedience, while they fix his mind on pursuits, whose highest reward is the approbation of fellow
The simple doctrines of the cross, united with faith and prayer in the church, are the instruments by which, in spite of all the sneers of infidelity, the great enemy of souls is to be vanquished, and his empire subverted. These are the weapons which ever have been employed in achieving the redemption of sinners. By means of these, the apostles and primitive ministers of Jesus, going forth in the strength of the Holy Spirit, carried their conquests into the very heart of Satan's kingdom, demolishing the strongest bulwarks of prejudice, ignorance, pride, superstition, and idolatry; and bringing into captivity to Christ thousands of thousands who had sustained, unmoved, the combined assaults of the genius, and literature, and taste, and philosophy, of the world. By means of these, far more than by an exposure of the fraud, impurity, and cruelty of the man of sin, the reformers undermined his ill-gotten authority, drew forth millions of his slaves to breathe the fresh air of liberty, and imparted to Christian empires an elevation of views, and energy of principle, which will not cease to be remembered and appreciated, till time shall be no more. These despised doctrines have lost none of their efficacy. On them the devoted missionary depends, as the only means which God will bless, to rescue the wretched heathen from the bondage of pollution and shame; and on these he does not depend in vain. The Greenlander, the poor Indian of the western forest, the inhabitants of the isles, and the sable sons of Africa, lift up their voices together, and sing of the wonders accomplished in the name of Jesus, by these calumniated doctrines. In these, as in the cloud of glory, the Angel of the covenant moves on with his church, to enlighten and guide all her journeyings; and from these, as from the same cloud, he pours dismay and terror on her enemies. In every genuine revival of religion, these are the arms with which he smites and conquers; and by these, he will continue to conquer, till earth shall own him Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
6. Of the salvation of the gospel itself, humility is a prominent charaçteristic.
None can share in the benefits of Christ's redemption, till, condemn、
ing themselves, and renouncing self-righteousness, they are prepared to ascribe the whole praise of their salvation to distinguishing grace; to serve God from pure love and gratitude; and to own for ever, that, in point of personal desert, they can demand nothing better than the full infliction of the punishment denounced against transgressors. Such have been the sentiments and confessions of pious men in every age. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake." It has been their delight to solicit favour as a sovereign gift, to sink into their own nothingness, and to exalt, in their affections and songs, the worthy name of Him who is above all blessing and praise. So it is on earth; and so, more eminently and perfectly, it is in heaven. Not an ambitious thought, not one proud or contemptuous emotion, can find entrance there. Heaven indeed has its thrones and its crowns; but they are thrones which none can occupy, crowns which none can wear, save those who willingly refuse all praise to themselves, that it may be given to Jesus, and whose private interests are forgotten, absorbed in the high concerns of his holy kingdom. "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing and honour, and glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
Thus, in the great salvation of the gospel, the loftiness of man is bowed down, and the haughtiness of men is made low, and the Lord alone is exalted: "that no flesh should glory in his presence."
My brethren, do we not find in this subject convincing proof of the divine origin of the Gospel? Men are proud; and they cannot easily conceive of happiness which begins in the prostration of their pride, and rises and expands in the same proportion as they are little and worthless in their own esteem. Hence the religion they would frame, would, without doubt, propose rewards, gratifying to an ambitious, covetous, or sensual heart; and such, we know, has been the actual character of every religion on earth, save that which is taught in the Scriptures. Is it credible, that this religion, which wages war with all man's corruptions, sinks him as a guilty pensioner at the footstool of mercy, and exalts by purifying his nature, had a merely human origin? What mind of man formed so sublime a conception? Surely not one that was depraved; and an upright and pure mind must have abhorred the thought of imposing upon us, as a revelation from God, the offspring of its own fancy. Look through the world-I do not say for a parallel,-but for any thing that approaches to the simplicity, and harmony, and grandeur of design, which pervade the records of the Christian's faith, and signalize the whole history of his religion. And as to the humility of the gospel, opposed as it is to all man's sinful prejudices and hopes, it is plainly the virtue which most of all becomes him; the disposition that suits his helplessness, his guilt, and his misery; that cures his irritability, silences his murmurs, reconciles him to all the duties of benevolence, and prepares him to seek and enjoy his supreme felicity in the government and guidance of his heavenly Father. Aside, then, from miracles,
prophecy, and the concurrent records of nature and time, we behold, in the tendency of the gospel, and its mighty influence on the character and happiness of believers, the infallible marks of its divinity.
We learn moreover from this subject, the principal reason of the opposition of proud men to the gospel. It has ever been most hated and resisted by those, whose estimation of their own capacity, acquisitions, and virtues, has been the highest. To the self-righteous Jew, it was a stumbling-block; and to the philosophic Greek, it was foolishness. To men of the same character it is still an offence; and among them we find the leaders in error, the angry disputants of the age, the scoffers at all serious religion, and the cool, contemptuous, and rational despisers of Christianity in all its forms. Nor is this wonderful. How could it be otherwise, than that such men should manifest hostility to a religion, which pronounces them incapable of the attainment of happiness, without divine teaching; condemns them as sinners, deserving of eternal wrath; and places them, as dependent beings, on a level with the most ignorant and vile of the human race? To be stripped of all their factitious distinctions to be treated according to the feelings of their hearts, and their conduct towards the divine Saviour,-no wonder, that, at such a thought, the children of pride feel resentment burning within them. All this, however, proves nothing against the gospel. It only proves the inveteracy of man's moral disease; the completeness of his ruin; the necessity of an influence more than human to purify and save him.
Finally: Let the ministers of Christ, parents, and all others, who would be instrumental in saving sinners, use, for this purpose, the means which God has appointed and approves. Let your manner bear the impress of a heart, glowing with kindness and affectionate zeal. Let your doctrine drop as the rain, and your speech distil as the dew. Entreat with tears. This is well. But then the matter-let that be the unadulterated gospel, with all its dreaded, hated, humbling peculiarities, explained, proved, pressed with energy, on the conscience and the heart. Nothing else will be of any avail. You cannot flatter down the enmity of a carnal world to holiness and to God. The proud hearts of sinners must be broken, before they will receive with thankfulness the tidings of mercy through a Redeemer; and nothing will break their hearts, but the distinguishing truths of the gospel, clearly understood, and powerfully applied by the Holy Ghost. Seeming conversions, produced by any other means, will disappoint your hopes. They may be combined with strong feeling, but they will be superficial, or transient. They may blaze like a meteor lit up at midnight-to be followed by a thicker darkness. May not the apostacies, so often succeeding revivals of religion, and dishonouring these blessed seasons "of refreshing from the presence of the Lord," be traced, in many instances, to a partial, distorted, or ambiguous exhibition of those doctrines of the cross, which exalt God, and humble the pride of man? Let these then be the great theme of Christian teachers, and of the church, when they would present their mightiest force against the empire of sin, rooted as it is in the prejudices, passions, earthly interests, and multiplied corruptions of mankind. Have nothing to do with a tame, time-serving, compromising Christianity. Wield the sword of the Spirit, naked and burnished in all the dazzling brightness of its terrors, as well as of its mercy; call upon the earth to behold; invoke the heavens to your aid; press onward in the strength of God; till the impassioned inquiry, "Men and brethren, what must we do?"-mingled with the shouts of the ransomed, shall break forth from every land, and hamlet, and habitation of man.