« 上一頁繼續 »
in deed and in truth, by baptizing us with the Holy Ghost, and with the mystic fire of his sanctifying love. We might then hope, soon to see the day, when war shall be made to cease; when our swords shall be beat into plough-shares, and our spears bent into pruning hooks. Phosphore, redde diem; May our loved and honoured sovereign quickly behold his empire resembling a city that is at unity with itself! until that most desirable period shall arrive, let our moderation as Christians, and our loyalty as subjects, be known unto all men, by every word of our lips, and by every action of our lives: ever mindful of this grand, scriptural maxim, that we cannot truly be said to fear God, unless we also love the brotherhood, and honour the king.
I shall only detain you a moment or two longer, by observing, that you have now an opportunity of adding another good work to those in which you have already been engaged. When Cornelius fasted and prayed, he crowned those duties with showing mercy to the poor : and an angel was sent to him from heaven, acquainting him, that his prayers and his alms-deeds were ascended, as a memorial before God. The Ethelburga Society, who are at the expence of supporting a Sunday evening lecture, and of maintaining a charity school for the education, board, clothing, and apprenticing of no fewer than fifty-two children, of both sexes, request your benevolent contribution, to assist them in the support of this noble and eminently useful institution. I beseech you, therefore, brethren, rightly to improve the present season of national humiliation, by duly considering these awful words of God, with which I shall conclude:
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge ? Behold, in the day of your fast, ye find pleasure, and exact all the things wherewith ye grieve others. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Ye shall not fast, as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day unto the Lord ?_Is not this the fast that I have chosen ; to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out, to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thy own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily.--Thou shalt call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am: if thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity. And, if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul ; . then shalt thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day. And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
ON THE CONVERSION OF MATTHEW,
Recorded in Luke v. 27, 28.
After these things, he” [i. e. Jesus] went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom : and he said unto him, Follow
And he left all, rose up, and followed him.”
Divine grace is the same thing in all ages; and when conferred in an equal degree, has the same effect in all persons. The reason of this is evident: namely, because the spiritual and moral depravity, that flows from original sin, being as great now, as it was the day Adam fell; the very same efficacy of grace is still requisite to subdue it, that was requisite from the beginning. The primary disease continuing, the primary remedy is as absolutely necessary now, as it was at first.
Besides, the blessed Spirit of God, who is the moral physician of souls, and the author of all that is heavenly and spiritual in the human heart, is the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever: and so are his ordinary operations. Sin and grace are things unalterable in their nature: the revolution of ages makes no difference. Man is as much a fallen creature at present, as he was 4 or 5000 years ago; nor can less suffice to his renewal now, than was necessary to his renewal then.
This exertion of supernatural grace upon the soul in regeneration, is what divines mean by effectual calling. All mankind without exception, God's elect as well as the rest, are by nature, dead in sin, and alienated from the love of Christ and heavenly things : nor is the human will, though free enough to sin, free to spiritual good, until the arm of the Lord, or almighty power from on high, is revealed in the soul, and regenerates it after the image of God. In the article of first conversion, man is nothing, and grace does all.
What has been hitherto observed, is a natural introduction to that concise, but comprehensive piece of sacred history, now under consideration. “ After these things,” i. e. after the Son of God had been preaching to the pharisees ; and, among other miracles, had wrought a supernatural cure on the person of a bed-rid paralytic; “ after these things, he went forth,” by the sea-side, as we learn from St. Mark; “ and saw a publican named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom :" EI TO TENWvrov, at the customhouse, or tax-office, erected for the payment and receiving of the toll, imposed by the Roman government on all that past and repast the sea, or lake of Galilee. In this place, and to receive this toll, sat Levi, or Matthew: the same who was honoured with a subsequent call to the apostleship; and who wrote the gospel, which at this day, bears his pame.
Methinks I see the busy officer, with his book of entry before him, receiving and noting down the payments of the thronging passengers: when, lo, in the midst of the hurrying employ, the Son of God comes by. Matthew, perhaps, at first, looks up ; and, mistaking the Lord of life for a common passenger, holds out his hand, expecting to receive the usual tax. But the blessed Jesus had a design in coming, which Matthew little thought. He came, to make the publican a saint and an apostle. Our Lord's going that way, was casual, and accidental, to outward appearance: but the true reason of his going, was to call and convert a sinner, whose name was in the book of life. Matthew was one of the sheep of Christ, given him by the Father, and marked out for glory; and who was therefore to be called by grace, from the darkness of unbelief, and from the servitude of sin, into the light of faith and the liberty of boliness. And now the blessed moment was come. The time of love before appointed, the season in which he was to be savingly turned to God was arrived; and the efficacious grace of the holy Spirit made its way into his heart, when Christ accosted him with that unexpected, but resistless word, “ Follow me.”
When Christ thus addresses himself to the soul of man, divine grace at the same time lays hold of the heart, and captivates the affections into a sweet and willing compliance. It is most absurd in theory, and evidently false in fact, to suppose that when God speaks internally, he may speak in vain. So far is this from being true, that no word of his shall fall to the ground nor return again empty; but assuredly accomplish the end for which it was sent. No one who entertains a becoming idea of the great God, will venture to deny the freeness, the efficacy, and the independency of his operation; and that, when he will work, in vain do the potsherds of the earth set themselves in array against him.
But though the event is thus infallibly secured ; and, when the influence of grace is savingly exerted, conversion, as the effect, must necessarily and surely follow (since it is simply impossible, that the purpose and the agency of an all-wise, and all-powerful Being, should be defeated and miscarry); yet this infers no sort of violence on the human will; since all God's dealings with his rational creatures, in a way of grace, are wisely and wonderfully suited to the faculties with which he has thought proper to endue them. In regeneration, the will of man is not forced, but renewed; it is not compelled, but amended and set right: in consequence of which,