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heart-work in religion ; this is regeneration; this is the new birth.
Consistently with this opinion, the author of “ Village Sermons” assures his convert, that the “ sinner, however deeply dyed in sin, double dyed and drenched in the most enormous aggravated bloody sins, shall upon believing, be as thoroughly discharged from the guilt of them as if he had never sinned at all.” And afterwards addresses him in these congratulating terms of absolution : “ Believer, all hail! Blessed art thou whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity. Happy art thou. God gave to thee to see thy sins, to feel thy sins, to lament thy sins. God opened thine eyes to understand his gospel. God enabled thee to come with all thy sins to Christ, and believing in him thou hast passed from death unto life, and shall never come unto condemnation. Admire the love of God. Admire the blood of Christ. Admire the grace of the holy spirit.
And let your glad obedience prove,
Obedience, then, is a contingent act of the acquitted sinner, and altogether subsequent to his attainment of present pardon and of future bliss. St. Paul declares that Christ “became the author
* Village Sermons, vol. iii. p. 129, 130.
of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."* But the village preacher does not urge the “ believer” to prove his sincerity by this unquestionable test, till he has pronounced him
as thoroughly discharged from the most enormous aggravated bloody sins, as if he had never sinned at all." The culprit who had long known his master's will, and his revelation against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, though loaded with the most heinous and unrepented guilt, upon his mere belief, passes instantly from death unto life, and shall never come into condemnation. To lead his “ happy” hearers to this conclusion, the preacher had before informed them, that “ We are not to suppose some men obtain mercy because they have not sinned so much as others.”+
The text of St. John, which Mr. Burder weaves into his discourse, will be found upon examination not to strengthen the thread of his argument, nor to suit the colour of his reasoning, Our Saviour declares, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” I The “ hearing of his word,” implies not only receiving his commands with our ears, but admitting them into our hearts; the expression is cleared from all uncer
* Heb. v. ix.
+ Vill. Serm. v. üi. p. 127.
St. John, c. v. 24. tainty, by the fifty-first verse of the eighth chapter of the same evangelist, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” To keep (Tngesis to observe, to embrace, and hold it fast, to make it the governing principle of our lives. But this condition the village preacher does not condescend to notice. Our blessed Lord affirms that salvation is granted unto all men who will hear and obey his word, believing that it proceeds from God. That on these gracious terms not only the Jews are delivered from the curse of the law, but the whole world is no longer subject to that, which was entailed upon the descendants of Adam: that all are alike entitled to the promise of eternal life, through faith in Christ, if they live worthily of their holy vocation. These comfortable words are represented in quite apother light by this interpreter. He will not allow that the believer will be saved, unless he believe the doctrines of Methodism. He may have heard attentively, with an obedient and faithful mind, the saying of his divine teacher, and yet lie under the sentence of condemnation : but the moment he approves the calvinistical interpretation of it, he is hailed as one of the elect, and passes from death ynto life.
It is much to be lamented that this expositor of seripture did not carry his eye forward to the twenty-eighth and twenty-pinth verses of the same chapter, from which he has borrowed an
imperfect text. He would there have read, “ That the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth; they that have done good 'unto the resurrection of life, and they that have. done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.” A due consideration of this awful enunciation might have induced him to pause before he positively denied, “ that the tears, or prayers, or reformation of any man can merit favour at the hands of God, that all these and every thing else that looks like merit must be renounced altogether."'* in... in Now surely there is some merit in doing good, if it obtain the reward of immortal life. We do not assert that there is an intrinsic worth in any of our actions, but if there be an imputed worth; and if they commend us to the divine favour, shall we say that they have no desert ? Since, our salvation depends, through the alone absolute merit. of Christ, on the performance of good works, to what does this derogation of them lead, but to the discouragement of virtuous resolutions, and a holy life? The intention of those who promulge such doctrines may be strictly religious, but they are not the less mischievous on that account. When a vulgar, unreflecting mind, has imbibed this dogma with implicit confidence, “ That one man is pardoned rather than another, is a matter of mercy alone,” + what will be the
- * Village Sermons, vol. iii. p. 127.
f Id. Id. Id.
conclusion ? Will it not obviously be inferred, that the labour of love and of good works is vain? This is the consequence of that fatal misapprehension which confounds the preventing and assisting grace, which has placed all sinners in a state of reconciliation with God, upon their admission into the Christian covenant, with that grace which is consequent only on repentance and good works, viz. final pardon, and a heavenly recompense. And hence the guilty wretch is emboldened to rush into the presence of his maker, “ with all his crimes full blown ;" rather to rejoice in the recollection of his iniquities, which have called forth such an instance of over-ruling grace, than to bewail them with that true contrition of heart which God will not despise. Can vice and profligacy desire a more secure retreat from the anguish of remorse, and the terrors of judgment, than this assurance : that “ the most enormous, aggravated, and bloody sins are instantly and irreversibly forgiven ?” This doctrine the village preacher founds on the eighteenth verse of the first chapter of Isaiah, “ Come now and let us · reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,”—to which he rejoins, “ Lord I come at thy call; my sins are indeed as scarlet; for thy name sake make them white as snow: my crimes are red like crimson ; 0 wash me in the fountain