« ElőzőTovább »
dren, or his servants, we shall desire more. Else what is meant when we are commanded to "pray without ceasing"? And what does David mean when he says, "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God"? Or Job, when he says, "O that I knew where I might find him; that I might come even to his seat"? Now a religion that produces none of all this-that never thirsts after God, nor grieves on account of his absence-is to be suspected as radically deficient. It may serve to deceive, but will never save.
3. A good son and a faithful servant will be cheerfully obedient. A dutiful temper is indispensable in either of these stations. The son who does not cheerfully receive and execute the wishes of his father is unworthy of the name, and deserves to be disinherited. And the servant who does not exhibit the same dutiful temper is a mere slave. Let us then apply this test to that class of men who are addressed in the text. Is it their joy to obey the Lord? They will then attend well to his commands. They will read and meditate upon his law, and will make his word the man of their counsel, and will study to obey. Is this the fact? Are they employed in studying ways and means to glorify God, and make mankind happy? Do they discharge with conscientious fidelity all the duties of their respective offices and relations? Are they among the first to feed the poor, instruct the ignorant, reform the vicious? What they would that others should do to them, do they make this the rule of their own conduct? And are they uniform in their regard to duty? Do they yield God the service he requires? and exhibit that respect to his name, his word, his worship, and his Son, which he enjoins? Or, to express the whole in a few words, have they a tender conscience, which fears to do wrong, fears to neglect a duty, fears to violate an obligation, dreads the least deviation from the most perfect rectitude? Such a conscience is, of all others, the most decisive test of a holy mind. " If ye love me, keep my commandments.” By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye do whatsoever I command you." We may then safely rest the matter here; if men conscientiously regard all that God has spoken as immediately binding upon their consciences and their conduct,believe them pious; but if they say but little, and care but little, about duty, we must retain all our fears.
4. The son and the servant will each be attached to his father's or his master's family. If a child or a servant be unhappy at home, it is an omen of evil, an evidence of some unhappy alienation of affection. If we apply this test to the characters addressed in the text, what is the result? Do they attach themselves to the family of Christ? Do they love his disciples, and choose them as their inmates, and hold sweet counsel with them, and wish their society for ever? And is their attachment stronger to those who are eminently holy than to others? If we love God, we shall love those most who wear most prominently the marks of his image. With them we shall wish to be identified in a compact, strong and eternal. Hence to hope that we love the Redeemer, while we stand aloof from his family, is absurd. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Hence generally we shall find the people of God in a cluster. We may
find a few strayed from the family, but we shall find them uneasy and unhappy till they come and take their place in his house.
5. The servant and the son are very jealous of the honour of their father or their master. They will not hear him reproached; they separate themselves from his enemies, and from the place where he is not honoured. And all this God expects from those who acknowledge him as their Father or their Master. But do we discover this delicacy of feeling in that class of men who would be esteemed religious, but who have no pretensions to a change of heart? Are they grieved to hear the name, and attributes, and works of the Lord spoken lightly of? Do they retire from the sound of profaneness, and feel themselves abused, if men in their presence will not reverence Jehovah? It must be proper to bring every man's religion to this test. You would esteem no man your friend who could stay, and be content, when he heard you abused. Mere silence in him, while others abused you, would evince that his friendship was deceitful. Now God has assured us that "he is a jealous God;" of course he will watch the smallest deviations from propriety in those who would be thought to love him. The man who would smile at an oath, or carry on conversation with one who was profane, and show no disapprobation, will find it difficult to prove that he is grieved when God is dishonoured, and will forfeit his claim to piety. One has not a keener sense of the touch of fire, than of any contact with profaneness, after he has been sanctified by the grace of God.
Finally, the kind son and the dutiful servant will wish to have others acquainted with their father and their master. Their own attachment is so strong, that they conceive nothing more to be necessary, than that his character should be known, in order to his being loved and respected. Apply this test, if you please, to that class of men who have no pretensions to having been regenerated, but who still insist upon it that they love God and are friendly to his government and kingdom. Do they wish to extend the knowledge of God to others? Are they grieved that so small a portion of the human family have the sacred volume, and that those who have it know so little of its contents? Do we find them among the first to propagate the gospel? Are they deeply interested in the great work that is at present going on in the Christian world? Do they rejoice at every new translation of the scriptures? And are they ready to contribute of their wealth to propagate the truth? All this must follow a strong attachment to God. And if things be otherwise with those who hope that they love him, there is somewhere a radical mistake. If men love the God of the Bible, they will wish others to have the Bible, that they may know and love the same God. If they doubt the truth of the scriptures, and are attached merely to some being whom they style the God of nature, then indeed they may feel indifferent whether men have any other than the book of nature. But this is deism precisely, and men would be ashamed, in the present day, to advocate a system that is becoming obsolete. In fact, there is no God of nature, but the God of the Bible. He who built the hills and built the sun, inspired the book of grace, and is the only God who can save in the hour of distress. Why should we deceive ourselves with a scheme which is rotten,
or be content that others should trust their souls to some Jupiter or Moloch, that never had any existence but in the imagination of such as did not like to retain God in their knowledge?
My dear hearers, we must come to the conclusion (and the sooner the better) that there is no religion without a change of heart. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." We must have that same religion which has brought others to their knees, and borne them to the place of prayer, and cut them off from the men of the world, and rendered them men of faith and of devotion, or we must die without any, and perish in our delusions. Religion cannot be shaped to please a carnal mind-cannot be brought down to the frigid taste of unsanctified men. has remained the same in all ages, and will continue to demand a temper which unsanctified men do not feel, and a conduct which they do not exhibit.
We are the more anxious to do good to that class of men who have been brought into view, because we see many excellences in their character. They are neither intemperate, profane, nor false; they are civil, and decent, and kind, and hospitable; they are often public-spirited. Hence true religion would place them among the first on the list of useful men. We grieve to see them lack this one thing needful, because it prevents their usefulness, and mars their happiness.
But we are anxious for another reason, which must not be concealed. We think they are entirely mistaken in their hopes of future happiness. We fear their death-bed will be a scene of stupidity, or of horror. We apprehend, (and if we are deceived still we are honest,) that they are in imminent danger of being lost for ever. Their religion has too little to do with a Saviour; it nourishes too high an opinion of works; it is too frigid, too thoughtless, too prayerless; it is too much afraid of the cross; is not sufficiently humble, watchful, circumspect, heavenly-minded. We fear it is not the religion of the gospel, and will avail them nothing in the last day. We think it important that they examine their hopes, before it be too late ; and if they find that they have not a religion which will stand the test of the last day, they should bow immediately to the Lord Jesus Christ. Why should men intrench themselves in a refuge of lies, to be demolished by the hail of the last day, and leave them unsheltered in the midst of that fearful storm?
If God be a Father, honour him. Devote your life to him, and yield him your richest, best affections. Be ashamed of no duty which he requires; shrink from no sacrifice he demands; and let the world know that you are not ashamed of your Father.
If he be a Master, honour him. Make his law your study, and consider his service your freedom. Then you will at last hear him say to you," Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." It will then be your privilege and your honour to serve him in some more elevated sphere of usefulness for ever.
NEW-YORK, SEPTEMBER, 1827.
BY ELEAZAR THOMPSON FITCH, A.M..
THE REPENTANCE OF PETER.
MARK, XIV. 72.-When he thought thereon, he wept.
THE most trifling occurrences often preach the most solemn and effectual sermons. In the hands of the Spirit of God, one instrument may be as powerful as another. Through his energy, the weakest instrument has often awakened a stupid conscience, melted a hard heart, restored a thoughtless backslider, saved a perishing soul. How simple the occurrence that brought the ungrateful Peter to reflection. Thousands might have heard that morning clarion with perfect indifference; but it revealed to him a night of guilt, and overwhelmed his soul with sorrow. The shrill voice was, by the Spirit of God, made piercing as a two-edged sword; for while it vibrated on his ear, "Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice and, when he thought thereon, he wept." Awakened as from a dream, he reflected on his guilt, and was penitent.
The subject which I would introduce to your attention by these remarks is, THE RECOVERY OF THE FALLEN PETER. Your attention is particularly invited to the Method, and the Effects, of his recovery.
I. We are to consider then, in the first place, the Method in which Peter was recovered from his fall.
The fall itself shall not come particularly under our notice. I here presume on the fact, that my hearers are acquainted with the melancholy event so fully described by the inspired historians. After his mistaken zeal had expended itself in one inefficient blow of the sword, (for which he received the merited rebuke of Christ,) we see him cowardly retiring. We see him following" afar off" the ferocious band, as they conduct the captive Jesus to the palace of the high priest. On their arrival there, we find him, in the hall, and in the porch, openly denying his persecuted Lòrd; and aggravating his falsehood with angry cursing and the most impious perjury. While viewing him in this dreadful alienation from Christ and God, we make the inquiry, How was it that he ever became again a willing follower of Jesus? In what method was he restored to love and serve his forsaken Master?
To the question, the first answer which arises is, that he was restored
by divine power.
Christ had prayed to God, before his disciple had fallen into this hapless condition, that his "faith might not fail." This merciful Advocate, attentive to the minutest wants of his people, never intercedes for them God has promised that his "people shall be willing in the day of his power." The promised Spirit shall search out the friendless alien, on whom God has set his love, and bring him, an adopted child, into the family of Christ. The same Spirit shall wing, with unerring aim, the dart of conviction to the conscience of every backslider, and bring the humbled victim back to Christ for healing. That Spirit bowed the heart of Peter. Nothing but the divine power could arrest the streams of iniquity that were then flowing from his breast, and open there a living fountain of holiness springing up into everlasting life.
But our question leads us to examine the means which God used in his restoration. Divine power is not employed in the work of salvation without a wise use of means. To the question, considered in this light, our text suggests the proper answer. Peter was recovered from his fall, by means of reflection and penitence. when he thought thereon, he wept." 1. The first step, then, in restoring the fallen Peter, was exciting him to reflection.
He thought on his crime," and,
The God of nature has wisely endued us with the power of reflection, or the faculty of memory. By this, we are enabled to increase our knowledge; which must otherwise be confined exclusively to present objects. By this only we can reap benefit from past experience, and derive maxims of practical wisdom. What I saw, felt, or did, yesterday, I am enabled by memory to reflect upon to-day, and thence draw conclusions, which may be useful to me in my present and future conduct.
Reflection is the best means of ascertaining our hearts; for the object of reflection presents one unvaried aspect. When I would seek for my heart in present conduct, it is continually eluding my search. When retracing it, however, in a path which it has already taken, there can be no deception. I can decide respecting the heart in past conduct, too, impartially; for I now have opportunity to exercise different feelings, in the judgment I pass, from what I did in the action; while the feelings which prompt to present conduct, preclude me from the possibility of judging without prejudice.
God employed this power of reflection in restoring Peter. The crowing of the cock, and the expressive look which, at the same time, Christ cast on Peter, by the power of association, called memory into exercise. By this concurrence of circumstances, he was forcibly reminded of" the word which Jesus said unto him," the preceding evening. That evening Christ had been engaged in holy intercourse with the twelve. The