Page images




[ocr errors]

by mutilation, as Unitarianism; by perdersion FRAGMENTARY OUTLINE

as Antinomianism; by corruption and addition, as OF AN ADDRESS, DELIVERED TO AN ASSOCIATION OF

in Popery and the Anglican Episcopacy.

To do our utmost to extirpate an unscriptural

taste in the hearers of the Gospel—the love DY JOIN PYE SMITII, D.D., F.R.S.

of being pleased, not instructed-flattered, not

alarmed-soothed, not faithfully directed to Peculiar difficulties belong to our situation. evangelical repentance, acceptance of the Holy Of them we ought to be seriously aware.

Redeemer, and universal obedience. On us are incumbent the general obligations

On all occasions, to give those interpretations of Christians and of ministers.

of Scripture which we are solidly convinced PERSONAL.-Derotion ;-the Word of God and

are the genuine intention and meaning of the prayer. Refreshing and enriching our minds by Holy Spirit. appropriate studies ;-biblical-sacred-elegant

To adduce, in opposing error and defending literature, classical and modern. Importance of truth, those arguments only which are fuir and our moving on in the course of intelicctual im- sound. provement which distinguishes the present age. To be distinct and comprehensive in explainIf we cannot be in the first rank, we must not ing the whole range of the Christian system. be far behind. If young persons discover us To explain and habitually urge the all-perto be beneath them in lotters and science, re- vading obligations of evangelical morality. Were ferring to subjects of valuable knowledge, they this generally done, we should not, it might be will be apt to doubt our competency to give hoped, have witnessed so many sad departures religious instructions, or at least to undervalue from the consistency of a holy profession, by what we so give.

gaiety and amusement, the fascination of civic DOMESTIC._In the conjugal relations.* In honours, the selfish accumulation of property, the paternal. Attention to our secular affairs : and the shameful falsehood and fraudulence Correctness of accounts-punctuality in meet. called “accommodation-paper,” commercial speing our obligations—to avoid the dishonour and culations, and all other ways of “ resolring” to be the manifold miseries of incurring debts be “ rich.” (Bouropes901,-1 Tim. vi. 9.) yond our ability to discharge.

2. To bear a large proportion of the care, MINISTERIAL.-Preparation for the pulpit: anxiety, and labour of conducting our pious Preaching Christ, simply, faithfully, and with and charitable institutions. lively energy, as much as our powers and our Besides many which are of minor, though opportunity permit. Pastoral inspection : At- real and great importance, the number is tery tended with many difficulties-yet a duty of the great of those which are of the first order in first necessity. Brotherly intercourse with other importance. We must labour in them, and Christian ministers: Prudence and confidence contribute to them, in a proportion not always must be united-a difficult conjunction. equalled by rich members of our communities.

These are our duties in common with our 3. Our brethren in the country look to us as brethren, in all places. But our local cir- in many respects the guardians of their incumstances bring us under some PECULIAR terests—to give information and advice; to : and DISTINGUISHING obligations. These neces- act on their behalf; to procure pecuniary aid sarily arise from our residing in the metropolis for ministers of very small income, and for of our country, the centre and spring of the widows and children; and for providing places great impulses of society, whether for good or of worship. for evil-eminently the heart of vitality and It is an object of duty to diminish the numpower for all the exertions in the service of our ber of ignorant and illiterate ministers, who God, which are made throughout the nation, are a discredit and injury to our cause, and we might say throughout the world. On us it to promote a more enlightened and judicious,'! is incumbent

yet not less holy and zealous, description of 1. To conduct our public ministry with a vigi- ministers. lant and faithful, yet discreet and temperate, We have heavy burdens in correspondence ; respect to the prevailing errors and temptations and in receiving personal applications, often so of our times—to fortify our hearers against Infi- | inopportune as to be most distressing, frustrating deity. Christianity deformed and dishonoured personal and family duties, rendering abortive • See Mr Abraham Booth's Pastoral Cautions, p. 18.

the plans of a whole day, or else we are thought

harsh and unkind. We must bear them with ness, communion with God, dependence on the the patience of Christ.

atonement and grace of our blessed Redeemer, 4. To watch the spirit of the times, and the and cherishing the influences of the Holy course of events, so far as affecting the interests Spirit.

1 of religion and religious liberty. Our own 5. How diligently should we cultivate the

denomination—the best interests of our country exercises of devotion-lowly, penitent, constant -foreign parts—missions. Hence action and prayer—not only at regular seasons, but in effort are often necessary, involving great per- the way of ejaculation and mental habit! sonal labour, expense, and consumption of invaluable time.

THE SIGN OF THE PROPHET JONAS. Often it is expedient to resort to the press, BY THE REV. PATRICK FAIRBAIRN, SALTON, in various ways, by contributing to the public “ An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and journals, whether friendly or unfriendly, or by

there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the pro

phet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights our own publications, for the counteracting of in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three error, and the dissemination of truth and godli- days and three nights in the heart of the earth."-MITT ness. Hence, it is incumbent on us to cultivate

xii, 39, 40.

The exact point of this saying of our Lord, and the the art of composition, that the best of causes

general instruction it is fitted to convey, are commay not suffer through our incompetency or

monly missed, from not attending to the circumour unskilfulness.

stances in which it was uttered, and not perceiving Such is our field of labour; such the de- the design with which it was spoken. It is introduced mands made upon us by our circumstances and by our Lord as a reply to certain Scribes and Phariconnections, by our consciences, and by our God. sees, who came expressing a desire to see a sign from How often we feel the deficiency of strength him. Their presenting such a request at so advanced and time! How often obliged to postpone or

a stage of his earthly ministry, after multitudes of to sacrifice some claims of duty, in order to had been publicly performed by his hands in all parts

the most astonishing wonders and miraculous cures attend to others! The dilemma thus arising of the country, implied their dissatisfaction with these is distressing, and the determination often most

as proofs of his divine commission, and intimated a difficult, even beyond our power to arrive at a wish to see something that might more properly de satisfactory solution-yet act we must.

serve the name of a sign. And as the sign sought Hence arises an overwhelming sense of dis- is elsewhere (Matt. xvi. 1; Luke xi. 16) called ** couragement- depression of spirits – despon

sign from heaven," it would seem that what they

actually desired as a condition of their believing on dency-sinking into inactivity. But let us

Christ, was some immediate, glorious manifestation apply Ps. xlii. and xliii., and 2 Cor. i.

in his favour from above—such, perhaps, as the ShechMay I suggest some considerations, with a inah of old, which they imagined would certainly be view to sustain our minds, and to lead us to granted to him, if he were indeed the Messiah, and any mitigations and remedies, against our dis- which, if given, would at once dispel their doubts and heartened feelings?

secure their belief. 1. It is no man's duty to make himself and

It was not possible that a request, proceeding from his family miserable, by the fruitless endeavour able reception from Christ. In making it, they were

such a state of mind as this, could meet with a favour to do more than he is able. Such over-stretch- disparaging the testimony raised by all the mighty ing will impair the strength that we have, and works which he had already performed; the very will probably cut it off prematurely.

works which ancient prophecy had foretold would 2. Let us apply the principle of the dirision accompany him as the sure signs of his Messiahship: of labour. A sense of fitness, greatly diversified and, indeed, at the very time that they were demand- ; the connections in which God has placed us, rid suspicion, that he was assisted in doing some, at

ing this other sign, they were giving vent to the horand the varied calls and claims of providential least, of those mighty deeds by the power of Beelzeevents laying hold on some rather than others- bub, the prince of the devils. They at once showed will furnish the principles of our selection. themselves to be labouring under the most obdurate i

3. We have all need to rely upon the candour, blindness, in slighting the signs which, in such great kindness, and aid of each other. The claim numbers, he had already produced, and were guilty of will not be made in vain. The cultivation of intolerable presumption in prescribing the kind of brotherly love, and the prudent exercise of sign which they would regard as alone sufficient to brotherly intercourse, will greatly strengthen plainly give them no countenance in their request.

entitle him to their belief. Christ, therefore, could and console us. His answer must have possessed the character of a

1 4. Let us charge ourselves to use all means rebuke—not of an encouragement; and to suppose, as for attaining to higher degrees of vital godli- is commonly done, that in his reference to Jonah har

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

ing been so long in the fish's belly, and himself going upon him the signs, not of heavenly splendour, but of to be so long in the bowels of the earth, he pointed profound humiliation. Any other sign--any sign such especially to the safe deliverance in the one case, as they expected—would have been a false one; it ' and the glorious resurrection in the other, as what would have given a wrong impression of his character night, in the fullest sense, be considered a sign from and work, and served to encourage them in the carheaven, is to give a turn to the answer quite unsuited nal views they cherished respecting the Messiah. He to the circumstances. Had such been the purport of had no want of signs, in the proper sense, to manifest our Lord's allusion and reply, it would have substan- who and what he was; but they were signs which tially granted what they sought. One sign only, in- did not so much distinguish his person as revealed his

deed, he would have promised, but that, to use the character and work; and when so many deeds of · words of Calvin, “as good as all: with this alone let miraculous working had proceeded from his hand, them be content, that as Jonas, after having escaped testifying how great, how truly divine a work of healfrom the depths of the sea, preached to the Ninevites, ing and recovery he had come to do among men, he so they also should hear the voice of a prophet raised justly charged them with hypocrisy in not being able from the dead."

to discern the signs of the times, and mocked their exIt is not, however, to Jonah's safe deliverance from pectations of a sign from heaven, by presenting them the belly of the fish, and afterwards doing the work with a counter-sign from the heart of the earth. The of a prophet, but simply to the fact of his being there perfect similarity in principle, also, between his case that our Lord alludes. Nor is it to his own resurrec- and that of Jonah-both having been made to bear tion from the dead, after having been confined for a so remarkably the signs of God's displeasure at the certain period in its mansions, and resuming his great very time they were charged with a divine commission work, that he directs their thoughts. He speaks only should the more easily have reconciled the Jews to of his descent into the lower parts of the earth, and the absence of a sign from above in the case of Christ; , thus points in the very opposite direction to that on and their belief in the mission of Jonah, and the re

which their expectations were fixed. “A sign from pentance of the Ninevites at his preaching, could only heaven! (he virtually says to them) will nothing but serve to show how utterly inexcusable it would be in that satisfy you that I am the messenger of Heaven, them, if, with so much more now to carry their conand as such entitled to your homage and regard ? victions and subdue their hearts, they should still Will you receive no Messiah, attend to no prophet, reject the call of Heaven, and perish in their sins. but one who comes to you surrounded with a blaze It requires no great discernment to see this in the of heavenly glory, and attended by ministrations of case of those Scribes and Pharisees; but the error angels? Your own Scriptures, if read aright, are into which they fell was the natural offspring of a sufficient to expose your erfor, and put to shame your carnal heart; and under a somewhat different form ncredulity. Jonah, whom you justly reverence as a is constantly repeating itself. There are two different true prophet, and who was received in that character ways especially in which it is often appearing in our even by a Heathen city, carried with him thither no day. such attestations in his favour as you expect from 1. It appears in those who, instead of looking to me; so far from it, he had but newly escaped from the message of the Gospel, and applying their hearts ! that 'belly of hell,' to which divine justice had for faithfully to the things which it sets before them, fix a season sent him, in chastisement for his sins: yet their eye upon something in the circumstances of the the Ninevites listened to his preaching, wisely looking bearers of it which is different from what they conmore to the truth of his message than to the circum-ceive it should be, and which they deem sufficient to stances of his person. And I--80 completely do ye excuse their neglect or rejection of the message itself. misunderstand the nature of my mission, and miscal- The doctrines pressed upon their acceptance may be culate regarding the circumstances that are to mark ever so well fitted to commend themselves to their the execution of it-must pass through a still deeper conscience, and the duties to which it calls them may process of humiliation than Jonah. The signs, as to my be ever so necessary and important—but they have personal condition, which are to discover themselves some fault to find with the instrument through which in me, are to grow darker, and not brighter; they are it is conveyed to them, or the manner in which it is to be derived, not from the highest heavens, but from delivered; and therefore they will give themselves no the lowest depths—from the very regions of the dead; concern about the matter. It is not enough for them vet am I not the less on that account the ambassador that divine Truth descends from heaven to present of Heaven, and possessing, as I do, credentials of a far herself to their embrace; she must come attired in higher kind than any that were to be seen in Jonah, the precise form and dress which they conceive suited be assured that if you reject me, the inhabitants of to her lofty origin, otherwise they will not so much the Heathen city, who repented at his preaching, shall as give her an audience! It is not enough that the rise up in judgment to condemn you."

call to repent, and to do things meet for repentance, This, we conceive, is the purport of our Lord's an- is heard by them, and inwardly responded to by the fwer, and the precise object of his reference to Jonah. voice of conscience, and approved by every considerlle meant to tell them that they were looking en- ation of reason and propriety-if it is not also accretirely in the wrong direction for an undoubted seal ot dited to their outward sensex by becoming signs of bis divine commission; and that the circumstances in honour and authority, they will scornfully resist its which he appeared, and the nature of the work to demands! What folly and infatuation in men of which he was bound, required that he should bear reasonable minds ! As if the shell were more than the kernel it contains or the voice of Heaven were Christ's rejection by the Jews, and the partial spread only to be listened to when it speaks in accents such of his Gospel, but new evidences of the truth of his as please and gratify the outward ear. Surely, when Word; for they are what this itself has led us to erthat voice cries, the first and grand consideration pect. should always be, what does it cry-not show, with Again, how often, when we come down to particuwhat particular tone, or with what attendant circum- lars, do many excuse themselves from receiving a stances! And whenever there is really the voice of certain doctrine, or practising a certain duty, because God, speaking in a messenger of his appointment, or it is not revealed with all the fulness, or inculcated through an instrument of his choice, no one will re- with all the plainness and frequency with which they main ignorant that it is so who deals faithfully by it. imagine it would have been if truly of God! In this "* If he will do His will, he will know of the doctrine, way men have excepted against the fundamental doo whether it be of God."

trines of grace, because they think they can somehow 2. The same error, however, still more frequently explain away the terms in which these are unfolded, appears in a rejection of the claims of the Gospel as or because they do not meet with them in some pora whole, or of some of its particular parts, from its tions of Scripture where they would have expected wanting a certain kind or amount of evidence which to find them. Or men deny, for example, the divine is pre-supposed to have been essential to it, if it authority of the Christian Sabbath, and their obligareally possessed divine authority. The Scribes and tion to set apart one day in seven for special service Pharisees would not own Christ as a heavenly mes- to the Lord, because they allege, if such were the senger, from the signs he actually showed; but they will of God, it would have stood out more distinctly professed their readiness to do so if he produced a and plainly expressed in New Testament Scripture sign of a different kind—a sign from heaven. The than it actually does. But who art thou that wouldst people at large would not believe upon him, because dictate to God how he is to disclose his will, or pro he had saved so many from mortal disease and death pose the requirements of his service? The question during the period of his active ministry; but if he for thee to consider is, not how it might have been could have saved himself from the doom of impending done so as to render all evasion impossible on the part destruction, when hanging on the cross, then they of those who seek for it, but, Is it not done so diswould have believed. So, the wayward will of man, tinctly that it may be clearly enough gathered by all in its mad controversy with the will of God, is always who are honestly desirous to ascertain his mind and ready to take exception against the means he gra- will? What humble, spiritual, child-like Christian ciously employs to overcome it, and pitches upon fails to derive from the Bible the doctrines of grace? something else, something of its own, which alone it What genuine disciple of Jesus, treading in the foot will condescend to regard as satisfactory. It has the steps and breathing the spirit of his Master, does not audacity of prescribing to its Maker, and instead of hail every returning Sabbath as it comes round, with humbly sitting down to weigh the grounds on which the words of the Psalmist: “This is the day God has he challenges its belief and obedience, it presump- made; in it will we rejoice and be glad ?” For those tuously insists upon certain terms of its own as indis- who seek excuses in regard to what they should either pensable. If Jesus of Nazareth had really been the believe or practise, there will be no difficulty in findSon of God, certain unbelievers have said, and indeed ing them;—but for those, on the other hand, who still say, then all his own countrymen would doubt would walk humbly with their God, and are content: less have believed on him — he would never have to look at the signs which he himself has furnished been rejected by the great majority of these; and his for their guidance and instruction, there is, blessed Gospel, if salvation really depended upon the recep- be his name, a sure and sufficient light to direct them. tion of its truths, would not have been confined to a “For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just small portion of mankind, but would assuredly have shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall been communicated by a merciful God to the whole therein." world. What is this but impiously to prescribe to God? to demand certain signs on his part before he | REFLECTIONS UPON THE PUBLIC EXEis entitled to receive any faith or confidence on ours?

CUTION OF TWO YOUNG MEN. It presumes to do what no one who knows the proper

11 standing of a creature will ever dream of doing-to I have just returned from witnessing the exe search the mind of the Lord, and act the part of his cution of two fellow-sinners and fellow-immorcounsellor; while it leaves unexamined the many tals, whose lives were considered forfeited to the clear and infallible signs by which he has approved laws of their country, and for whom, it was the cause and testimony of Jesus, and which have said, there could be no mercy in this world. I never failed, when calmly and seriously considered, had witnessed executions before, but under to draw forth anew the confession of the centurion: very different views and feelings; for then I “ Verily, this man was the Son of God.” It is with knew not myself as a sinner, exposed to a more these we have to do—not attempting to say what terrible sentence than I have now seen executed. should have been, or to meddle with matters too high On this occasion I was forcibly reminded of for us; but with the simplicity of little children these words of our Saviour : "Think ye that scarching the record which God has seen fit to give they were sinners above all men that dwelt at us, and to deal in earnest with the realities it un

Jerusalem ? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye Rolds. If we do this, we shall find in such facts as repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”—Luke xiii.


[blocks in formation]

4,5. There were, no doubt, many present at the pauses to recover his breath, and siglis from his awful scene I have just witnessed who pitied inmost soul, while again he pleads to flee from and sympathized with the unhappy sufferers, sin; even while the rope is adjusted and his yet could not but own the justice of the sen- arms are pinioned, and he resigns himself to the tence. But how few, while acquiescing in the inevitable sentence, as if he would say, “Let my laws of man, felt their own real situation in the sufferings warn you of the end of sin; and see sight of God, or anticipated the day when there all of you that its wages are death.” If human must be a public execution of the divine sen- justice has these terrors, what must be the tence against all who break his law and die features of the divine ? Look on this scene, without repentance! Looking at the thousands ye who trample under foot God's commandsassembled even with more concern than I looked who say, There is no eye to see—who make even at the criminals under the gibbet, that question a mock at sin, and declare that judgment will occurred to my mind : “ What went ye out for never overtake it. Look, I beseech you, on to see !" Here is a vast multitude gathered these wretched victims. Intoxicated once by together to witness the most awful and solemn the flattering pleasures of sin, infatuated by the scene that can be witnessed in this life--the idea of impunity, and fearing neither God nor infliction of death upon sinners—sin itself man, they were led on blindfold by their souls' ripened into death; or, in another view, the arch-enemy step by step, till they reached this enorenemy of man, the great tyrant, seizing bis prey, mity of crime, and promised themselves impuand going off with them to eternal torments. nity or escape in both worlds. Is not Satan, But how little of the reality is perceived or felt whom they have served, a hard master ? Is not by the spectators! How few look through the his service deadly thraldom? Does their master veil of death, or follow these immortal beings repay them thus? Is it thus Satan will reward into the eternal world ! Here I see indiffer- all his servants? Can he give them no consoence—there is rude mirth; many countenances lation? Does he even mock and deride them, | look really pleased—there is a jester making and exult in their ruin? O my soul, rejoice that : sport at death, and ever and anon I hear pro- thou hast abjured his service! O my God, give

fane oaths and blasphemies. Who that has these unhappy men to abjure it, though at the witnessed such a scene as this can hesitate to | eleventh hour ! Grant them that repentance pronounce the exbibition decidedly injurious for their sins, not only that sin for which man to the public morals? The effect produced is punishes them, but all those against thee which anything but what should be desired by our thou wilt punish if unrepented of; and let them governors. The motive may have been good feel, by the aid of thy Spirit, a firm faith in the chat directed such public punishment of crimi-efficacy of the atoning blood of Christ! 0 Thou Dals; but experience has abundantly shown that didst make bare thine arm in the salvation that the effect is anything but good upon the of the dying thief, have pity upon these murmass assembled. I said to myself, My soul, derers, have pity upon their youth, and for the stand apart from this giddy, thoughtless, im- glory of thine own name, disappoint Satan of pious crowd, and in the presence of thy Maker his wished-for prey, and make them yet monusift this melancholy scene-trace out the cause ments of mercy! of this pitiable catastrophe. Whence is it that But while I was praying thus the cord was my eyes witness, both in the sufferers and in drawn, the attendants were descending and the spectators, that which fills me with pain, leaving them to their fate; the bolt was drawn, even with horror, at the thought of what all and I saw them struggling and convulsed for a will soon experience, when death has borne few moments—then they were still the crowd them away to the reality of their eternal state? was awed-the men were launched into eterSee, the criminals stand before the multitude nity! My meditations turned upon myself. 1 of their fellow-men! How unhappy they look! thought of John Bradford's saying, when he How every one that looks at them seems to saw any one taken to execution—" There goes John reproach them! Behold, one of them has Bradford, but for the grace of God.” Now, my soul, beckoned with his hand, and wishes to speak ! I think what is thy state better than theirs ? Listen, to hear a word from the lips of a man Once thou hadst entered the path that might in full'health, who in a few moments will be have led thee even to this issue. Satan is per. in the eternal world ! Surely this is a word of haps even now deceiving thee concerning some truth spoken as from the grave, in this world cherished sin—drawing thee out by little and of deceit, sinning, and suffering! The young little, but hiding from thee the end. Start not man stands forth, and with an earnest voice and at the suggestion; for thy self-confidence may streaming eyes warns, entreats, and implores all warrant it. Remember the subtlety of thy who hear him, and who witness his sufferings, watchful foe. 'Tis true thou hast won some to walk not in the ways of wicked men. See victories by that grace which has wrought how his bosom heaves with anguish—how his mightily in thee. You have detected some of spirit writhes with an inward convulsion! What his designs and machinations, and by faith a picture he presents of that Scripture: “Sin hast overcome hitherto; but hast thou conwhen it is finished bringeth forth death!” He stantly been on thy watch-tower ? hast thou

« PreviousContinue »