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we consider how they are obliged to treat the Sacred Volume altogether,
in order to support the system they have adopted. Is it too much to
say that, instead of attempting to harmonize Scripture with Scripture,
much less referring to Antiquity to enable them to do so, they either
drop altogether, or explain away, whole portions of the Bible, and those
most sacred ones ? How does the authority of the Psalms stand with
their opinions, except at best by a forced figurative interpretation 1
And our Lord's discourses in the Gospels, especially the Serznon on the
Mount, are they not virtually considered as chiefly important to the per-

VoL. I.— 20


sons immediately addressed, and of inferior instructiveness to us now
that the Spirit (as it is profanely said) is come ? In short, is not the
rich and varied Revelation of our merciful Lord practically reduced to
a few chapters of St. Paul's Epistles, whether rightly (as they maintain)
or (as wc would say) perversely understood 1 If then the Romanists
have added to the word of God, is it not undeniable that there is a school
of religionists among us who have taken from it ?

4. I would remark, that the immediate tendency of these opinions is
to undervalue ordinances as well as doctrines. The same argument evi-
dently applies ; for, if the renewed state of heart is (as it is supposed)
attained, what matter whether Sacraments have or have not been ad-
ministered ? The notion of invisible grace and invisible privileges is,
on this supposition, altogether superseded ; that of communion with
Christ is limited to the mere exercise of the affections in prayer and
meditation, to sensible effects ; and he v/ho considers he has already
gained this one essential gift of grace (as he calls it,) may plausibly in-
quire, after the fashion of the day, why he need wait upon ordinances
which he has anticipated in his religious attainments, — which are
means to an end, which he has not to seek, even if they be not outward
forms altogether, — and whether Christ will not accept at the last day
all who believe, without inquiring if they were members of the Church,
or were confirmed, or were baptized, or received the blessing of mere
men who are " earthen vessels."

6. The foregoing remarks go to show the utterly unevangelical cha-
racter of the system in question ; unevangelic in the full sense of the
word, whether by the Gospel be meant the inspired document of it, or
the doctrines brought to light through it, or the Sacramental Institu-
tions which are the gift of it, or the theology which interprets it, or the
Covenant which is the basis of it. A few words shall now be added, to
show the inherent mischief of the system as such ; which I conceive to
lie in its necessarily involving a continual self-contemplation and refer-
ence to self in all departments of conduct. He who aims at attaining
sound doctrine or right practice, more or less looks out of himself ;
whereas, in labouring after a certain frame of mind, there is an habitual
reflex action of the mind upon itself. That this is really involved in
the modern system, is evident from the very doctrine principally insisted
on by it ; for, as if it were not enough for a man to look up simply to
Christ for salvation, it is declared to be necessary that he should be
able to recognize this in himself, that he should define his own state of
mind, confess he is justified by faith alone, and explain what is meant
by that confession. Now, the truest obedience is indisputably that
which is done from love of God, without narrowly measuring the


magnitude or nature of the sacrifice involved in it. He who has
learned to give names to his thoughts and deeds, to appraise them as if
for the market, to attach to each its due measure of commendation or
usefulness, will soon involuntarily corrupt his motives by pride or self-
ishness. A sort of sslf-approbation will insinuate itself into his mind ;
so subtle as not at once to be recognised by himself, — an habitual quiet
self-esteem, leading him to prefer his own views to those of others, and
a secret, if not avowed persuasion, that he is in a different state from
the generality of those around him. This is an incidental, though of
course not a necessary evil of religious journals ; nay, of such compo-
sitions as Ministerial duties involve. They lead those who write them,
in some respect or other, to a contemplation of self. Moreover, as to
religious journals useful as they often are, at the same time, I believe
persons find great difficulty, while recording their feelings, in banishing
the thought that one day these good feelings will be known to the world,
and are thus insensibly led to modify and prepare their language as if
for a representation. Seldom indeed is any one in the practice of con-
templating his better thoughts or doings, without proceeding to display
them to others ; and hence it is, that it is so easy to discover a con-
ceited man. When this is encouraged in the sacred province of re-
ligion, it produces a certain unnatural solemnity of manner, arising
from a wish to be, nay, to appear spiritual ; which is at once very pain-
ful to beholders, and surely quite at variance with our Saviour's rule of
anointing our head and washing our face, even when we are most self-
abased in heart. Another mischief arising from this self-contempla-
tion is the peculiar kind of selfishness (if I may use so harsh a term)
which it will be found to foster. They who make self instead of their
Maker the great object of their contemplation, will naturally exalt
themselves. Without denying that the glory of God is the great end
to which all things are to be referred, they will be led, to connect indis-
solubly His glory with their own certainty of salvation ; and this partly
accounts for its being so common to find rigid predestinarian views and
the exclusive maintenance of justification by Faith in the same persons.
And for the same reason, the Scripture doctrines relative to the Church
and its offices will be unpalatable to such religionists ; no one thing be-
ing so irreconcileable with another, as the system which makes a man's
thoughts centre in himself, with that which directs them to a fountain
of grace and truth, on which God has made him dependent.

And as self-confidence and spiritual pride are the legitimate results
of these opinions in one set of persons, so in another they lead to a
feverish anxiety about their religious state and prospects, and fears lest
they are under the reprobation of their All-merciful Saviour. It need


scarcely be said that a contemplation of self is a frequent attendant,,
and a frequent precursor of a deranged state of the mental powers.

To conclude. — It must not be supposed from the foregoing remarks,
that I am imputing all the consequences enumerated to every one who
holds the main doctrine from which they legitimately follow. Many
men zealously maintain principles which they never follow out in their
own minds, or after a time silently discard, except as far as words go ;,
but which are sure to receive a full development in the history of any
school or party of men which adopts them. Considered thus, as the
characteristics of a school, the principles in question are doubtless anti-
christian ; for they destroy all positive doctrine, all ordinances, all
good works, they foster pride, invite hypocrisy, discourage the weak^
and deceive most fatally, while they profess to be the especial antidotes
to self-deception. We have seen these effects of them two centuries
since in the history of the English Branch of the Church ; for what we
know, a more fearful triumph is still in store for them. But, however
that may be, let not the watchmen of Jerusalem fail to give timely
warning of the approaching enemy, or to acquit themselves of all cow-
ardice or compliance as regards it. Let them prefer the Old Com-
mandment, as it has been from the beginning, to any novelties of man ;
recollecting Christ's words, " Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepetli

s garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."*

* Rev. xvi. 15.



Hebrews xii. 12.
Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.

The chief points of St. Mark's history are these : — first, that he was
■sister's-son to Barnabas, and taken with him and St. Paul on their first
apostohcal journey ; ne.xt, that after a short time he deserted them, and
returned to Jerusalem ; next, that after an interval, he was St. Peter's
assistant at Rome, and composed his Gospel there principally from the
accounts which he received from that Apostle ; lastly, that he was sent
by him to Alexandria, in Egypt, where he founded one of the strictest
and most powerful churches of the primitive times.

The points of contrast in his history are as follows : — that first he
abandoned the cause of the Gospel as soon as danger appeared ; after-
wards, he proved himself, not merely an ordinary Christian, but a most
resolute and exact servant of God, founding, and ruling that strictest
Church of Alexandria.

And the 7neans of this change were, as it appears, the influence of
St. Peter, a fit restorer of a timid and backsliding disciple.

The encouragement which we derive from these circumstances in St.
Mark's history, is, that the feeblest among us may through God's grace
become strong. And the warning to be drawn from it is, to distrust
ourselves ; and again, not to despise weak brethren, or to despair of
them, but to bear their burdens and help them forward, if so be we
may restore them. Now, let us attentively consider the subject thus
brought before us.

Some men are naturally impetuous and active ; others love quiet and
readily yield. The over-earnest must be sobered, and the indolent
must be roused. The history of Moses supplies us with an instance of
a proud and rash spirit, tamed down to an extreme gentleness of de-
portment. In the greatness of the change wrouglit in him, when from
-a fierce, thougli honest, avenger of his brethren, he became the meek-

810 ST. MARK. [Serb.

est of men on tlic earth, he evidences the power of faith, the influence
of the Spirit on the heart. St. Mark's history affords a specimen of
the other, and still rarer change, from timidity to boldness. Difficult,
as it is, to suhdue the more violent passions, yet I believe it to be still
more difficult to overcome a tendency to sloth, cowardice, and despon-
dency. These evil dispositions cling about a man, and weigh him
down. They are minute chains, binding him on every side to the
earth, so that he cannot even turn himself or make an effort to rise.
It would seem as if right principles had yet to be planted in the indo-
lent mind ; whereas violent and obstinate tempers had already some-
thing of the nature of firmness and zeal in them, or rather what will
become so with care, exercise, and God's blessing. Besides, the events
of life have a powerful influence in sobering the ardent or self-confident
temper. Disappointments, pain, anxiety, advancing years, bring with
them some natural wisdom as a matter of course ; and, though such
tardy improvement bespeaks but a weak faith, yet we may believe that
the Holy Ghost often blesses these means, however slowly and imper-
ceptibly. On the other hand, these same circumstances do but in-
crease the defects of the timid and irresolute ; who are made more
indolent, selfish, and faint-hearted by advancing years, and find a sort
of sanction of their unworthy caution in their experience of the
vicissitudes of fife.

St. Mark's change, therefore, may be considered even more aston-
ishing in its nature than that of the Jewish Lawgiver. " By faith,"
he was " out of weakness made strong ;" and becomes a memorial of
the more glorious and marvellous gifts of the last and spiritual Dis-

Observe in what St. Mark's weakness lay. There is a sudden
defection, which arises from self-confidence. Such was St. Peter's.
He had trusted too much to his mere good feelings ; he was honest
and sincere, and he thought that he could do what he wished to do*
How far apart from each other are to wish and to do ! yet we are apt
to confuse them. Sometimes indeed earnest desire of an object will
by a sudden impulse surmount difficulties, and succeed without previ-
ous practice. Enthusiasm certainly does wonders in this way ; just as
men of weakly frames will sometimes from extreme excitement inflict
blows of incredible power. And sometimes eagerness sets us on be-
ginning to exert ourselves ; and, the first obstacles being thus removed,
we go on as a matter of course with comparatively small labour. All
this, being from time to time witnessed, impresses us v/ith a conviction,
unknown to ourselves, that a sanguine temper is the main condition of
success in any work. • And when, in our lonely imaginings, we fancy


ourselves taking a strenuous part in some great undertaking, or when
we really see others playing the man, so very easy does heroism seem
to be, that we cannot admit the possibility of our failing, should cir-
cumstances call us to any difficult duty. St. Peter thought that he
could preserve his integrity, because he wished to do so ; and he fell
from ignorance of the difficulty of doing what he wished.

In St. Mark's history, however, we have no evidence of self-confi-
dence ; rather, we may discern in it the state of multitudes at the
present day, who proceed through life with a certain sense of religion
on their minds, who have been brought up well and know the Truth, who
acquit themselves respectably while danger is at a distance, but dis-
grace their profession, when brought into any unexpected trial. His
mother was a woman of influence among the Christians at Jerusalem ;.
his mother's brother, Barnabas, was an eminent Apostle. Doubtless
he had received a religious education ; and, as being the friend of
Apostles and in the bosom of the purs Church of Christ, he had the
best models of sanctity before his eyes, the clearest teaching, the full-
est influence of grace. He was shielded from temptation. The time
came when his real proficiency in faith and obedience was to be tried.
Paul and Barnabas were sent forth to preach to the heathen ; and they
took Mark with them as an attendant. First they sailed to Cyprus, the
native place of Barnabas : they travelled about it, and then crossed
over to the main land. This seems to have been their first entrance
upon an unknown country. Mark was discouraged at the prospect of
danger, and returned to Jerusalem.

Now, who does not see that such a character as this, such a trial, and
such a fall, belong to other days, besides those of the Apostles ? Or
rather, to put the question to us more closely, who will deny that there
are multitudes in the Church at present, who have no evidence to them-
selves of more than that passive faith and virtue, which in Mark's case
proved so unequal even to a slight trial 1 Who has not some misgiv-
ings of heart, lest, in times such as these, when Christian firmness is
so little tried, his own loyalty to his Saviour's cause be perchance no
truer or firmer than than that of the sister's-son of a great Apostle ?
When the Church is at peace, as it has long been in this country, when
public order is preserved in the community, and the rights of person and
property secured, there is extreme danger lest we judge ourselves by
what is without us, not by what is within. We take for granted we are
Christians, because we have been taught aright, and are regular in our
attendance upon the Christian ordinances. But, great privilege and
duty as it is to use the means of grace, reading and prayer are not
enough; nor by themselves, will they ever make us real Christians,

312 ST. MARK. ISerm.

They will give us right knowledge and good feelings, hut not firm faith
and resolute obedience. Christians, such as Mark, will abound in a
prosperous Church ; and should trouble come, they will be unprepared
for it. They have so long been accustomed to external peace, that
they do not like to be persuaded, that danger is at hand. They settle
it in their imagination that they are to live and die undisturbed. They
look at the world's events, as they express it, cheerfully ; and argue
themselves into self-deception. Next, they make concessions, to fulfil
their own predictions and wishes ; and surrender the Christian cause,
that unbelievers may not commit themselves to an open attack upon it.
Some of them are men of cultivated and refined taste ; and these shrink
from the rough life of pilgrims, to which they are called, as something
strange and extravagant. They consider those, who take a simpler
view of the duties and prospects of the Church, to be enthusiastic,
rash, and intemperate, or perverse-minded. To speak plainly, a state
of persecution is not, (what is familiarly called,) their elemeM ; they
cannot breathe in it. Alas ! how diflerent from the Apostle, who had
learned in whatsoever state he was, therewith to be content, and who
was all things to all men. If then there be times when we have grown
thus torpid from long security, and are tempted to prefer the treasures
of Egypt to the reproach of Christ, what can we do, what ought we to
do, but to pray God in some way or other to try the very heart of the
Church, and to afflict us here rather than hereafter ? Dreadful as is
the prospect of Satan's temporary triumph, fierce as are the horsehoofs
of his riders, and detestible as is the cause for which they battle, yet
better such anguish should come upon' us than that the recesses of our
heritage should be the hiding-places of a self-indulgent spirit, and the
schools of lukewarmness. May God arise, and shake terribly the earth,
(though it be an awful prayer,) rather than the double-minded should
lie hid among us, and souls be lost by present ease ! Let Him arise, if
there be no alternative, and chasten us with his sweet discipline, as our
hearts may best bear it ; bringing our sins out in this world, that we be
not condemned in the day of the Lord, shaming us here, reproving us
by the mouth of His servants, then restoring us, and leading us on by
a better way to a truer and holier hope ! Let Him winnow us, till the
chaff is clean removed ! though, in thus invoking Him, we know not
what we ask, and feeling the end itself to be good, yet cannot worthily
estimate the fearfulness of that chastisement which we so freely speak
about. Doubtless we do not, cannot measure the terrors of the Lord's
judgments ; we use words cheaply. Still, it cannot be wrong to use
them, seeing they are the best offering we can make to God ; and, so
that we beg Him the while to lead us on, and give us strength to bear


the trial according as it opens upon us. So may we issue Evangelists
for timid deserters of the cause of truth ; speaking the words of Christ,
and showing forth His life and death ; rising strong from our suiferings,
and building up the Church in the strictness and zeal of those who de-
spise this life except as it leads to another.

Lastly, let us not, from an excited fancy and a vain longing after the
glories of other days, forget the advantages which we have. No need
to have the troubles of Apostles in order to attain their faith. Even in
the quietest times we may rise to high holiness, if we improve the means
given us. Trials come when we forget mercies ; to remind us of them,
and to fit us to enjoy and use them suitably.



2 Cor. xiii. 1.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

It has pleased AImight\' God in His great mercy, to give us accumu-
lated evidence of the truth of the Gospel ; to send out His Witnesses
again and again. Prophet after Prophet, Apostle after Apostle, miracle
after miracle, that reason might be brought into captivity, as well as
faith rewarded, by the fulness of His revelations. The double Festival
which we are now celebrating, reminds us of this. Our service is this
day distinguished by the commemoration of two Apostles, who are as-
sociated together in our minds in nothing except in their being Apostles,
in both of them being Witnesses, separate Witnesses of the life, death,
and resurrection of Christ. Thus this union, however originating, of
the Feast Days of Apostles, who are not especially connected in Scrip-
ture, will serve to remind us of the diversity and number of the Wit-
joesses by whom one and the same Sacred Truth has been delivered to us.


But, further than this. Even the twelve Apostles, many as they
were, form not the whole company of the Witnesses vouchsafed to us.
In order more especially to confirm to us, that the Word has really be-
come incarnate, and has sojourned among men, another distinct Wit-
ness is vouchsafed to us in the person of St. Paul. What could be
needed beyond the preaching of the Twelve ? they all were attendants
upon Christ, they had heard His words, they had imbibed His Spirit ;
and, as agreeing one and all in the matter of their testimony, they
afforded full evidence to those who required it, that, though their
Master wrote not His Gospel for us with His own finger, nevertheless
we have it whole and entire. Yet He did more than this. When the
time came for publishing it to the world at large, while He gradually
initiated their minds into the full graciousness of the New Covenant,
as reaching to Gentile as well as Jew, He raised up to Himself by
direct miracle and inspiration, a fresh and independent Witness of it
from among His persecutors ; so that from that time, the Dispensation
had (as it were) a second beginning, and went forward upon a twofold
foundation, the teaching, on the one hand, of the Apostles of the Cir-
cumcision, and of St. Paul on the other. Two schools of Christian
doctrine forthwith existed; if I may use the word "school," to denote
a difference, not of doctrine itself, but of history, between the Apostles.
Of the Gentile school, were St. Luke, St. Clement, and others, follow
ers of St. Paul. Of the School of the Circumcision, St. Peter, and
still more, St. John; St. James, and we may add, St. Phihp. St.
James is known to belong to the latter, in his history as Bishop of Je-
rusalem ; and, though little is known of St. Philip, yet what is known
of him, indicates that he too is to be ranked with St. John, whom he
followed, (as history informs us,) in observing the Jewish rule of cele-
brating the Easter Feast, and not the tradition of St. Peter and St.
Paul. I propose upon this Festival, to set before you some considera-
tions which arise out of this view of the Scripture history.

Christianity was, and was not, a new religion, when first preached
to the world ; it seemed to supersede, but it was merely the fulfilment,
the due development and maturity of the Jewish Law, which, in one
sense, vanished away, in another, was perpetuated for ever. This need
not be proved here ; I will but refer you, by way of illustration, to the
language of Prophecy, as (for instance) to the forty-ninth chapter of
the Book of Isaiah, in which the Jewish Church is comforted in her
afflictions, by the promise of her propagation and triumphs (that is, in
her Christian form) among the Gentiles. " Zion said. The Lord hath
forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget
her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of


her womb ? Yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee ....
Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold ; all these gather themselves
together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely
clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee

as a bride doth The children which thou shalt have, after thou

hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears. The place is too strait
for me, give place to me that I may dwell. Then shalt thou say in
thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my chil-
dren, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro ? ... . Be-
hold, I will lift up Mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard
to the people ; . . and kings shall be thy nursing-fathers, and their
queens thy nursing-mothers." The Jewish Church, then, was not
superseded, though the Nation was ; it merely changed into the Chris-

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 35 of 76)