Charles Lowell.

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self-communion, to prayer for the sanctifying in-
fluences of the Holy Spirit, that the approaching
service may be engaged in with becoming serious-
ness, and result in the fruits of holy living. It is
recorded of Lydia, that 'the Lord opened her
heart that she attended unto the things which were
spoken of Paul ; ' and though the age of mii-acles is
past, we have no reason to think that the Spuit of
God has ceased to operate on the hearts of men, or



308 WHAT IS NEEDFUL FOR

that He will withhold now, more than then, His
purifying influences from those who seek and
desire them.

Let me further say, that it is next to impossible
that any can engage with a proper spirit in this
service, who have not thus, by previous meditation
and prayer, adjusted their minds to the posture of
devotion. If they go to the house of God as they
go to their ordinary business, or if they go to the
house of God as they would go to a rational
amusement, I will not say that they cannot, but
I will say that there is little reason to believe they
can perform an acceptable service. It would be
almost a miracle if, in a moment, they should divest
themselves of worldly thoughts, and present a pious
offering. They may indeed, by the grace of God,
be awakened, when they least expect it, and I had
almost said, when they least deserve it, to serious
reflection, to an intense and absorbing attention to
the truths of religion, — they may even come ' to
scoff, and remain to pray,' but there is more proba-
bility that they will go away as they came,
unimpressed, unaffected, worldly, if not sensual,
with something, perhaps, of God and heaven on
their lips, but with little of them in their hearts.

And where will they go ? — Alas ! how many go
to plunge at once into the subjects of week-day in-
terest which for a time, perhaps, had been banished,
and to recall the swarm of vain and busy images
which, it may be, for a little season, had taken
their flight. How many go (in our cities at least)



THE HOUSE OF GOD. 309

from paying their homage to God, to paying their
civilities to their fellow-moi-tals, often to the annoy-
ance of those who desire to be miinterrupted, to
have a breathing-time from earthly frivolities, to
be alone with their God, or in the midst of their
families ; and often preventing the intrusion of se-
rious thought, where, without this interruption, it
might have been awakened. How many aro there,
in regard to whom we must take up the lamen-
tation of the prophet, ' The w^ays of Zion do mourn
because they come not to her solemn feasts.' How
many who tmii from ' the ways of Zion, to the tents
of wickedness ! '

Spirits of our fathers ! Ye who fled from the
world that ye might enjoy uninterrupted converse
with your God in a wilderness! Ye who spent
your Sabbaths in sweet communion with one
another, and in holy communion with your Maker !
With what emotions w^ould you contemplate so
wide a departure from your pious usages !

I call upon you, Christians, — you who love your
rehgion and its institutions, and desire then- pre-
servation ; I call upon you, citizens, patriots, you
who love your country, and desire its real welfare ;
to check by yom* remonstrances, to check by your
example, the growing violations of holy time, the
growing neglect of preparation for holy services.

I call upon you all, immortal beings, probation-
ers for eternity, to prepare yourselves for the service
of God's house, and to engage in it with seriousness
and holy reverence. Never rise to pray, or to offer



310



WHAT IS NEEDFUL FOR



praise, without remembering that you rise to address
' Him who looketh on the heart,' who cannot regard
iniquity but with abhorrence, and to whom 'the
sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination.' He who
stands and ministers at the altar is only the appoint-
ed leader in your devotions. If he were praying for
you, it would seem, when the subjects are so mo-
mentous, when your dearest interests are involved
in the success of the petitions, that you would not
be indift'erent, — nay, that you would hang, in
breathless suspense, upon his lips, lest he should fail
to ask what you most need, or to press your petition
with sufficient earnestness. But he is professedly
praying with you ; and Oh ! how thoughtless, how
awful is it, to come with feigned lips, or to tm-n away
your minds, and refuse to bear your part in the
offering !

Lord I ' Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy
people may rejoice in Thee ? ' Thou blessed Spirit
who didst erst move ' upon the face of the waters,'
and all was order, proportion, life and beauty,
breathe into us the breath of spiritual life, reanimate
our languid powers, quicken and strengthen our
graces, and rekindle the drooping flame of piety in
our breasts ! May that sacred day, hallowed and
consecrated from generation to generation by so
many prayers, and so many vows, come to us
fraught with its holiest influences, and bearing the
message of peace and reconciliation. May the
praises we offer come up as incense, the repent-
ance we exercise be a godly so?tow, and the vows we
breathe, be accepted and registered in heaven !



THE HOUSE OF GOD. 311

My hearers ! We build material temples for the
worship of God. We appropriate certain seasons
to the purposes of devotion. We come together
and unite in paying our homage to the Creator.
It is well. God is the proper object of worship.
Material temples facilitate the united peformance
of it, and union in worship may kindle, or keep
alive, and render more bright and vivid, the flame of
piety. But material ^ temples, as I have already
indicated, are not essential to the worship of God.
We may worship God like Isaac in the field, or
like Jacob by the wayside, or like Elijah in the
desert, or like David in the cavern, or like Peter
upon the house top, or like our blessed Saviour in
the mountain. For * God dwelleth not in temples
made with hands. Do not I fill the heaven and
earth, saith the Lord ? '

Nor is union in worship essential, however bene-
ficial and delightful. Isaac was alone when he
went into the field for the purposes of devotion ;
Jacob was alone when he worshipped by the way-
side; Elijah was alone when he communed with
God in the desert ; Peter was alone when he
prayed upon the house-top; and our blessed Sa-
viour, leaving even the chosen companions of his
earthly pilgrimage, ' went up into a mountain, apart,
to pray.' ' Enter into thy closet and shut thy door
and pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy
Father who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.'

Nor, further, is any time exclusively appropriated
to the worship of God. One day in seven, indeed.



312 AVHAT IS NEEDFUL FOR

has been specially set apart for this purpose, and
we are under solemn obligations sacredly to observe
it, but it would be sad indeed if we must wait the
return of the Christian Sabbath to hold communion
with our Maker. 'Every day will I bless Thee.'
' Morning, and evening, and at noon will I pray.'
Yes ! the father may pray as he labors for the fam-
ily that is dependent on his daily labor for their
daily bread, and find his labor encouraged and
sweetened by the hallowed influence of prayer.
The mother may pray as she watches the sleeping
infant that God has committed to her charge, and
feel herself prompted to closer watchfulness and
stricter care, whilst she feels and acknowledges her
obligations to Him who bestowed it. We may
' be fervent in spirit,' whilst we are ' not slothful in
business,' and be offering sacrifice, whilst we are
performing acts of kindness and mercy.

How powerful. Christians, are the motives to
habitual seriousness and devotion ! — Gratitude, —
our interest and happiness, present and future, for
time and eternity; our perishable bodies, and our
immortal minds. Look round upon the face of
nature. Behold the tints of autumn diversifying
the trees of the forest. The leaves are already
falling, and mingling with the earth. At all times
there is a voice in nature which reads a lesson of
divine wisdom, and we should attentively listen.
It comes with a deeper tone of interest when it
tells us we are mortal, when, in the scenes which it
has sketched with so much beauty, and arrayed in



THE HOUSE OF GOD. 313

the richest and most glowing colors, it presents us
with a picture of our fate.

But the thoughtless will not heed this voice, if
they hear it, and when they look upon the face
of nature, it is only with a transient glance, or per-
haps a glance of wonder, or of rapture, and not
with the steady eye of contemplation, which reads
the moral lesson it has portrayed, and reads to
learn and feel it. And it is so too much with the
votaries of business, for the hum of business has
drowned the voice of instruction, and the thick
vapor which surrounds them has obscured the
objects which might otherwise engage the attention,
and come with impression to the heart. And it is
so with those who are trifling away life, or abusing
it in vicious indulgences. A siren's voice has more
power to allure them than the voice of God. They
follow the guide which leads them along blindfold,
and turn not to the light which irradiates the path
of duty, and true happiness.

' Ah ! my friends,' says the voice of admonition,
long ago addressed to the thoughtless and irreli-
gious, — ' Ah, my friends, while we laugh and trifle,
all things are serious around us. God is serious in
calling and bearing with us. Christ is serious who
shed his blood for us. The Holy Ghost is serious
who striveth against the obstinacy of our hearts.
The Holy Scriptures bring to our ears the most
serious things in the world. The holy sacraments
represent the most awful and affecting matters.
The whole creation is zealous in serving God, and

VOL. II. 27



314 WHAT IS NEEDFUL FOR

US. All nature is full of ardent energy and exer-
tion, and is in constant labor and travail for our
happiness. All that are in heaven, or hell, are
seriously engaged. How then can we sleep and
trifle ? We — for whose sake this universal zeal is
expended ! '

The associations* which, in this place, must
come up to every mind, impel me to dwell for a
few moments, before I conclade, on another theme.
We look around upon a fair inheritance. ' The
lines have fallen to us in pleasant places.' We are
enjoying blessings such as belong not to any other
nation on earth, and these blessings, under God,
are the fruit of our fathers' labors and our fathers'
blood. The generation which has gone before us,
or is fast passing away, has a title to the veneration
and gratitude of their successors, such as we never
can furnish to those who come after us, — such
perhaps, as our descendants can never furnish to
the remotest posterity.

The eventful period of our country's history, of
which the stones from these hills shall he for a me-
morial^ was a period of solicitude and trial, of which
we can now have but a faint conception, and they
who gave their days and nights to consultations for
their country's safety and welfare, or devoted their
wealth to their country's support, or poured out
their blood upon the altar of their country's free-

* See Note at the end of this discourse.



THE HOUSE OF GOD. 315

dom, are worthy of all honor, if living, — of all
veneration, if dead. Their deeds should be en-
gi'aven on the tablets of the hearts of their country-
men, and their memories be held in perpetual
remembrance.

Let a monument be erected on the neighboring
heights ; let it bear the inscription of the valor and
devoted attachment to thek country of those who
fought and died there. Thither repair, — thither
let your children and your children's children, —
and the generations yet unborn, — repair, to learn by
how severe a struggle, and at how dear a price,
their independence was achieved, and their dearest
rights secured to them. Thither let them repair to
cherish the flame of patriotism, and render it more
glowing and ardent. But this is not all. Oh no !
it is the least for which they should go thither.
For to what purpose would have been their consul-
tations for their country's safety, if the wisdom of
God had not enlightened their councils ? or of what
avail would have been the valor which encountered
danger and death for their country's freedom, if the
arm of God had not been made bare in its defence ?
Yes I — it was He who inspired their hearts with
courage, and nerved their arm with strength, who
* taught their hands to war, and their fingers to fight.'
It was He who was ' their fortress and their high
tower, and their deliverer. If, then, we commemo-
rate the noble daring, the generous sacrifices, the
patriotic sufferings, which accomplished the great
work of our country's independence, let us not



316 WHAT IS NEEDFUL FOR THE HOUSE OF GOD.

forget to whom alone it belonged to render that
daring, and those sacrifices and sufferings, effectual.
Above aU, let us not forget to whom we owe it, that
a far greater and better redemption hath been
wrought out for us by sacrifices infinitely more val-
uable, and sufferings infinitely more severe. In
every heart let there be a monument erected which
shall reach to heaven, and endure forever, and let it
bear this inscription — Glory to God.



317



NOTE.



The church at the dedication of which this discourse was deliv-
ered, was built of stone taken from a quarry in the neighborhood,
from which the stone was taken for the monument at Bunker Hill.
It was also near the residence of John Adams. It was to these
circumstances that there was an allusion in the conclusion of the
discourse.



27*



318



ORDER OF SERVICES.



The following is the Order of Performances, with the names of
the officiating clergymen at the dedication of the Church in Milton.
1. — Anthem. — ' In sweet exalted strains,' &;c. *

2. — Introductory Prayer, by Mr. Gannett, of Boston.
3. — Selections from Scripture, by Mr. Greenwood, of Boston.
4. — Dedicatory Prayer, by Dr. Pierce, of Brookline,
5. — Dedicatory Hymn, by Dr. Harris, of Dorchester.
6. — Sermon, by Dr. Lowell.
7. — Prayer, by Dr. Harris, of Dorchester.
8 — Hymn, by Dr. Harris.

9. — Anthem, (From Handel and Haydn Collection.)
10. — Benediction, by Dr. Richardson, of Dorchester.



319



q/^ sermon xliv.



THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF GOD, AS MANIFESTED
IN THE APPOINTMENT OF MEN, AND NOT ANGELS, TO
THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.

[Preached at the Ordination of a Minister, in Lynn, and in Berlin, Mass., 1830,
and then first printed.]

Hebrews v. 2. — who can have compassion on the ignorant, and

ON THEM THAT ARE OUT OF THE WAY, FOR THAT HE HIMSELF IS
COMPASSED WITH INFIRMITY.

All the works of God are works of wisdom and
goodness. In saying this, I repeat what has been
often said, — what, indeed, must be the sentiment of
every reflecting mind, and the feeling of every de-
vout heart. But it is well that it should be often
said, as it may excite attention to the indications of
this wisdom and goodness where it has not been
awakened ; may serve to strengthen the impressions
of admiration and gratitude already excited; and
may lead to a train of thought which shall furnish
new topics of admiration, and new incentives to
love and obedience.

I shall not traverse a wide field in illustrating the



320 THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF GOD.

sentiment I have advanced. It is enough that I di-
rect your attention to that manifestation of wisdom
and goodness which bears a relation to the transac-
tions of this day, — which is displayed in the adap-
tation of the Christian ministry to the circumstances
and wants of mankind. With an opportunity for
doing this, I am furnished by the words of the text,
' Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and
on them that are out of the way, for that he himself
also is compassed with infirmity.'

These words, originally applied to the Jewish
priesthood, present us with a touching and beautiful
description of the nature of the sacred office. It is
designed to enlighten the ignorance and reform the
vices of mankind ; and it is entrusted to those who,
from their consciousness of their own need of in-
struction in knowledge and virtue, may be supposed
to have a fellow-feeling and sympathy for the igno-
rant and vicious.

I remark, then, that the Christian ministry is en-
trusted to those who are ' compassed with infirmity,'
and that we discern in this appointment the wisdom
and goodness of God. Such is the theme of my
discourse. And may He, to whom, in our ignorance
and infirmity, we are permitted to look for light and
strength, accompany the teaching of His word with
the teachings of His Spirit, that what ' is sown in
weakness,' may be ' raised in power.'

It would be absurd for me to offer arguments to
prove that the ministry is entrusted to those who
are 'm)mpassed with infirmity.' ^ I myself also am



THE AVISDOM AND GOODNESS OF GOD. 321

a man ! ' was the language of the first preacher to the
Gentile world, and the history of the church bears
abundant testimony that his successors in every age
might with emphatic propriety repeat the declaration.
A man ! — what is he ? A creature of contrarieties
and inconsistencies, — spiritual and material, intel-
lectual and sensual ; resolving, and abjuring his res-
olutions ; sinning and repenting ; to-day, soaring on
the ardent wings of hope — to-morrow, sunk in the
lowest depths of despair ; to-day, basking in the
sunshine of prosperity, — to-morrow, enveloped in
the darkest clouds of adversity. The history of the
chm-ch ! — what is it ? The history, — too often, —
of weakness and error, nay, of crime ; the history of
the excesses of human passions, of discord and
strife, of bitter and endless disputes about the end-
less dogmas of speculative theology. I would not
be misunderstood, and I therefore add, that if such
is too much the history of the church, such it must
\ e, for these things are public and prominent. It is
not the history of religion^ but of false zeal, which
is obtrusive and noisy and violent, breaking out into
wars, and overturning empires, whilst religion is
silently diffusing its blessings, secretly, but effec-
tually, working on the hui^ian heart, and, in a mul-
titude of instances, restraining those passions which
it may not eradicate. We hear the rushing of the
tempest which levels the forest, and sweeps away
the fruits of human labor, while the dews of heaven
descend unnoticed by the common eye, though, by



322 THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF GOD.

their silent influence, they crown the harvest with
plenty, and make ' the valleys to laugh and sing.'

It is to man, thus weak and fallible, as history
and experience prove him, that this ministry is com-
mitted, — and how does it manifest wisdom and
goodness ? Is it not in the mysterious and inex-
plicable Providence of God, that a treasure so
precious is entrusted to a vessel so frail ? Might it
not have been expected that, to guard against mis-
take and perversion on subjects in which our dear-
est interests are involved, God himself would
condescend to address us? "With what awful
solemnity, what entire conviction, what deep im-
pression, would not the instruction then come to the
heart ! "Who but would listen, believe, feel, obey ?
GoD[]spake to the Israelites from Mount Sinai, and
it was so dreadfuFthat they entreated that the word
should not be"' spoken to them any more. ' And
they said with Moses, Speak thou to us, and we
will hear, but let not God speak with us, lest we
die.' And what was the effect of this scene so ter-
rible ? When the awful scene had passed, and the
sound of the voice no longer vibrated on the ears, —
yes, even while Moses, at their request, was com-
muning with God on their behalf, they relapsed
into idolatry.

But, if it were not suitable that God himself
should instruct his creatures by ' a voice from
heaven,' might he not have commissioned, for this
work, those ministering spirits who surround his
tlu*one, and are employed on his errands of love



THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF GOD. 323

and mercy ? Would not the ministry of angels
have been more effectual than the ministry of
men ? Let the text reply, — ' Who can have com-
passion on the ignorant, and on them that are out
of the way, for that he himself also is compassed
with infirmity.' Elevated, as angels are, above
the level of humanity, there would be no com-
munity of feeling between angels and men. They
might bear the message of peace and reconcili-
ation, they might be convinced of its importance,
from the declaration of Him whose word is truth ;
they might speak with authority, — they might
speak with power, — they might bring conviction
to many minds ; but this would be all. The awe
inspired by the presence of a celestial messenger,
and the want of sympathy between that messen-
ger and those to whom he was sent, would, in
most instances at least, prevent the truth, which
had found a reception in the understanding, from
reaching the heart. Nor is this all. ' Man is born
to trouble.' How comparatively cold and ineffec-
tual, in his affliction, would be the consolations of
those who had never suffered ! And where could
be the example of patient endurance, teaching, more
effectually than the most soothing language of
solace, the efficacy of religion to bind up the bro-
ken heart ?

The angel who appeared to Cornelius, did not
preach the gospel to him, but directed him to send
for Peter. The theme on which he was to address
the centurion, was indeed a fitter theme for angel's



324 THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF GOD.

tongue, than for that of a mortal, but an angel
could not speak experimentally as the apostle
could, — consolations and hopes of the doctrines of
religion he promulgated.

It is here that the Son of God, who, having as-
sumed our nature, had a ' fellow-feeling of om' in-
firmities,' is most attractive and interesting, and his
example most useful to us ; it is when he descends
to exhibit himself as partaking of the sensibilities
and enduring the sorrows of humanity. Had we
known only that Jesus was the Son of the Highest,
that he had been subjected to contempt and igno-
miny, to persecution and death, and that, in the
midst of all that came upon him, he was patient
and resigned, we might say ' He has indeed been
apparently subjected to sufferings the most severe,
but who can say that they were sufferings to him ?
Had he the feelings of human nature ? Could he
suffer like as we ? If not, there is no merit in his
resignation, no instruction in his example.'

You discern abeady, my hearers, from what has
been said, the wisdom and goodness of God in
committing this ministry to men like yourselves,
conscious of infirmities and sins, surrounded by
temptations, oppressed with burdens, and having
the same need of salvation as those to whom they
minister. You discern an ability, which even
angels would not possess, of penetrating the re-
cesses of the human heart, and touching the secret
springs by which the actions of men are moved.
The study of themselves is the study of human



THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF GOD. 325

nature ; and if they know their own hearts, they
know much better than angels could, how to gain
access to the hearts of others.

Possessed of the same nature, actuated by the
same affections and passions, agitated by the same
hopes and fears, liable to the same disasters, heirs
of the same sorrows as their fellow-men, they can
better suit their addresses, than angels could, to the
various tempers, and varying humors, and changing
circumstances of mankind. Acquainted with the
capacity and province of the human understanding,
its means of acquiring knowledge, and the obstacles
to its acquisition, the best methods of communi-
cating truth, and the hindrances to its reception ; ac-
quainted, too, with the influence of the imagina-
tion, — its tendency to extravagance, — and able to
follow it in its discursive flights, they, better than
superior intelligences, can restrain and guide the
one, and inform and regulate the other. Conscious
of the existence of a moral sense in man, and
knowing something, from their own convictions, of
the power of conscience, they best can rouse it from
its slumbering, and give it a voice and utterance
which shall make the sinner tremble. Experimen-
tally familiar with the difl&culties and dangers of
the Christian life, the struggles between the flesh
and spirit, the conflict with the world and sin, the
deceitfulness of the human heart, they can best


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