« AnteriorContinuar »
of the Saviour's blood, and they shall be as wool.” * . To any reader unacquainted with the context, it would naturally occur, that the prophet had promised this gracious effect of divine mercy to those who are “ washed in the fountain of the Saviour's blood.” Instead of which, the verses which immediately precede the text, assign a very different ground of hope and consolation. “ Wash you, make you clean ; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed ; judge the fatherless; plead. for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together”-and so forth. These exhortations to repentance, purity, justice, and charity, are entirely overlooked, as if they had no weight nor • place in the view of the prophet, who has been eminently and properly distinguished by the title of evangelical! His inspired language is thus perverted by a writer, who presumes to say of his own discourses, that he “ has reason to believe the Lord, the spirit, has condescended to make them extensively useful!" +
Extensively circulated they may have been, but their extensive utility is a questionable point, which a few more extracts will probably determine. . In adverting to the instantaneous effect, which
is attributed to converting grace, in transmuting . * Village Sermons, vol. iii. p. 130. + Preface to vol. v.
the hearts of the most inveterate sinners, it is impossible not to recollect the well known passage of the prophet Jeremiah :-" Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” * .
This expostulation, not less remarkable for its beauty than its truth, might suggest this obvious reflection, that habitual wickedness is not so easily relinquished; nor regeneration, as the Methodists understand the term, so immediately accomplished as they imagine. Mr. Burder, however, not only insists on the sudden transition by which a sinner becomes a saint, but enters into a minute description of the manner in which it is effected. “ Regeneration is a great change: It makes a man quite the contrary to what he was before; as contrary as east to west; north to south; light to darkness; flesh to spirit. It is such a change as if a negro should become white, or a lion become a lamb. In a word, God takes away the heart of stone, and gives a heart of flesh. It is an universal change, a new creature, a complete creature; not a monster with some human parts, and others wanting.” †
How edifying is all this! But let us proceed to the application of this doctrine. “ You must be born again: do not think that outward reformation, or morality, or religious professions, * Jeremiah xiii. 23. . . ; † Village Sermons, vol. i. p. 76.
or religious duties are sufficient. All these are short of this inward spiritual change. You must be born again. As sure as there is a God in heaven, you must be born again, or you can never go to heaven." * .
We had before been cautioned “ to avoid the common mistake, that baptism is regeneration;" | and here we are taught that it does not consist in “ living unto righteousness:" neither the sign, nor the thing signified: neither the admission into the covenant of grace, nor the leading of a godly, and a christian life, is a sufficient proof of a regenerate state. Although you may have attested your new birth, by these evidences, once deemed infallible, you are yet to be born again. For you are directed “ to fall down on your knees before God, and earnestly desire him to make you a new creature. He can do it in an instant. And as for you, who have experienced this blessed change, forget not to give God the glory, and take the comfort of it to yourselves. Are you born again? Then heaven is yours.” I Not only is sensible experience made the test of regeneration, but that having been felt, there is no possibility of relapse, the great object is infallibly secured, and « heaven is vours." Thus are the most saving truths converted into the most pernicious errors. Prayer to God for his assisting grace, to renew in us a right heart and
Id. id. p. 84.
• Village Sermons, vol. i. p. 83, 84. + Id, id. p. 83.
a right spirit; and gratitude for that inestimable blessing, without which our best endeavours would be vain; are constantly enjoined by the ministers of our church, as the dictates of true religion. But what a turn is given by the Methodists to this sound and salutary doctrine! Humility is changed into presumption, and gratitude into self-congratulation.
This vain confidence of boasting is the only security from despair in this world, and condemnation in the next. “ As sure as there is a God in heaven, you must be born again;" — born in the sense above explained, “ or you can never go to heaven"
In another of these sermons, the doctrine of St. Paul: “ Now if any man have not the spirit, of Christ, he is none of his," * is thus familiarly applied : « And, now, dear immortals, what do you think of these things? Seeing that having the spirit determines your state, how is it with you? Have you the spirit? It may be known; it ought to be known; for our all depends upon it. Heaven is ours if we have the spirit. Hell will be ours if we die' without it. And as to those who have obtained this greatest of all blessings, who have the holy spirit; what more can be said to you? Survey the wonderous gift with grateful acknowledgment. What has God, wrought? Deny not from false humility, the heavenly benefit. Have you experienced those
* Rom. vii. 9.
sacred effects of the spirit, which have been so frequently mentioned ? Here then is the broad seal of the majesty of heaven, securing your relation to Christ, and your title to mansions of glory.” *-It is difficult to do justice to these passages, and they are left to the reflection of the reader.t ..,
* Village Sermons, vol. i. p. 95, 97.
it Cromwell, in his last illness, asked Goodwin, one of his preachers, “if the doctrine were true, that the elect could never fall, or suffer a final reprobation?" -“ Nothing more certain,” replied the preacher. “Then am I safe,” said the protector, “for I am sure that once I was in a state of grace."* What a lesson does this short anecdote teach those who maintain the doctrine of indefectible grace? The arch hypocrite, after all his atrocities, consoles his dying moments with a bold and impious assurance, confirmed by the authority of his saintly confessor.:;;
The cruel slaughter at Tredah and Wexford (see vol. vii. p. 170) was obliterated from the records of his conscience by this stroke of self-deceit; the panoply of grace repelled those “compunctious visitings,” which might otherwise have awakened it to a late repentance.
The crafty delusion practised on Fairfax, who was cajoled into prayer for divine illumination, while the fatal blow was given to the unhappy Charles, which he would have endeavoured to avert, did not cost the usurper a moment's anguish: no ; nor the execution itself. Such complicated guilt will fanaticism expunge from the recollection of the criminal,
And with this sweet, oblivious antidote, terry
La Nasi yung:
* Hume's Hist. vol. vii. p. 285, last edition.