G. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) Hallock.

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

. (page 11 of 45)
Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 11 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


erations of time, habit, diminished strength, and contracted insensibil-
ity to religious impressions, are overlooked ; whilst the soul yields
itself to the fascinations of delay, pledges the future to noble and
high resolves, and sees facilities for duty in some distant morrow,
which it thinks are wholly wanting " while it is called to-day." In
vain does reason urge, that, if we find it hard to put out the first spark
of sin, we shall find it harder still to extinguish the raging flame ; that,
if we cannot pluck up sin when it is a green twig, it Avill be in vain to
try when custom has given it the strength of a sturdy tree : spell-
bound and reason-proof, we resolve that it is better to " contend with
horses," than let " the footmen " weary us ; and that, though, at this
time, we faint in the land of peace, yet, only give us a convenient
season, and we will breast even " the swellings of Jordan."

In our remaining remarks, therefore, we would be considered as en-
deavoring to prove the utter improbability, both from the constitution
of the human mind, and from the lessons of human experience, that
to any person postponing the work of repentance to a more conve-

* " My conscience huth a thousand several tongues.

And every tongue brings in a several tale." — Shakspeabe.



•92 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

nlent season, such season should ever come. "We are not about to dig
for such an one an early grave, nor to introduce the contingency, that,
suddenly and unlooked-for, may the last foeman come. But, on the
contrary, even supposing him to have a special indemnity against both
these evils : that, in his right hand, were a charter, securing to him
length of days, and, in his left, a promise that he should die as grad-
ually and as slowly as the sun when sinking into his " golden rest ; "
we still affirm, that there is the highest human probabiHty that he
never will repent, if he systematically despise warnings and convic-
tions now. We all know that there are certain things which are in-
separable from a state of reconciliation and acceptance with Almighty
God ; that there are truths to be learned, enmities to be rooted up,
habits to be formed, dispositions to be cherished, and that, till all this
be done, we can neither die happily, nor rise unblameably.

Not, however, to amphfy too largely on the parts of the saintly
life, let us confine our reasonings to two obvious requisites : the illu-
mination of the mind, and the sanctification of the heart ; the
way of holiness understood, and the habit of holiness formed; the
light which shows heaven to us, and the grace which prepares us for
heaven. Now, first, what is the hope, that, in old age, (the conve-
nient season of all procrastinators,) our power of apprehending spiritr
ual truth will be as keen and vigorous as we should find it now ? That
we do not select old age as the time for learning the rudiments of a
language, nor employ its impaired faculties in acquiring new principles
of science, arises from the consciousness that our powers of intelli-
gence become weakened as the frame with which it is united becomes
enfeebled or decayed. We have reason to believe that the brain is
the material medium through which the mind acts ; that is, that cer-
tain altered states of the material substance are connected with cer-
tain altered states of the sentient mind ; and this appears to be an
ultimate fact of our nature, which, from the want of homogeneousness
in the substances affected, we consider to be incapable of further
analysis. Unexplained itself, however, this mystery may, perhaps,
explain other mysteries ; it may explain wherefore aged persons have
such difficulty in receiving new impressions, especially when, in order
to their reception, they must displace others, which they had admitted
and cherished long before : for it is at least possible, that the sub-
stance, with which the thinking mind is united, obeying the law of
other substances in the human system, may acquire, by long growth
and use, a settled habit or form, which the impaired energy of old age
renders it not easy to disturb. Hence, perhaps, in part, that practical
difficulty which ministers of the gospel so constantly meet with, when



PAUL BEFORE FELIX. 93

called to converse with an aged man, for the first time, on the things
which belong unto his peace. Thej find that opinions, which have
been the growth, perhaps, of an ordinary life, have entirely possessed
themselves of his mind ; alike indisposing him either for unlearning
what is false, or for acquiring a knowledge of that which is true : so
that, in however many lights they may place the gospel-way of salva-
tion, his mind does not readily embrace it, because already pre-engaged
with some other way. The doctrine of a sinner's acceptance through
faith in the blood of Christ, is like a new language to him ; his un-
derstanding appreciates not the necessity of such a doctrine ; and,
when taken in connection with that changed state of his moral affec-
tions required by the gospel, his heart is unwiUing to submit to it : so
that, at every pause in our exhortation to him to stay his soul on the
Savior's righteousness, some expression falls from his lips evincing a
continued dependence on his own.

But, brethren, if it be a hard thing merely to instruct the hoary head
in the way of righteousness ; if every year of delayed conversion les-
sens our capacity even to comprehend Grod's method of pardoning and
restoring sinners ; how immeasurably more difficult shall we find it to
fulfil that other requirement of heaven, the sanctification of the
heart ! to plant, in this overrun and howling waste, the seeds of that
holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord ! For, in order to
this, we have not only to expel the love of the world, to break the as-
sociated chain of past enjoyments, to undo all, as all had never been ;
but we have to form a new habit in the soul, to make every thing yield
to the power of a new affection, and to bind every disobedient and trai-
torous thought in sweet captivity to the will of God. But, would eith-
er reason or experience teach us that this can be an easy task ? Do
we not all know the moral force of habit ? that mysterious suggestive
faculty, whereby our actions, whether good or evil, reproduce and per-
petuate themselves ; till, at last, they become as integral portions of
our moral being, and lord it over our souls with the tyranny of a sec-
ond nature. Indeed, to estimate, in some degree, the difficulty of ef-
fecting a revolution such as that supposed by gospel-sanctification, it is
only needful to single out any one from the prevalent habits and dis-
positions of life, and to count the time and cost of changing it for an-
other, which should be opposite. Let the clenched hand of parsimony
learn to practise a hberal and enlarged munificence ; let the boaster
of high degree turn a contemptuous eye on all the relics of ancestral
pride ; and we may then imagine how hard it is for these habit-dyed
Ethiopians to change their skins, or these sin-marked leopards to efface
their spots !



94 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

The probabilltj, tlierefore, that a postponed repentance will ever be
an effectual or sincere repentance, may be put to an easy test. If, in
a dying hour ; if, in the day of the mind's feebleness, and decay, and
waste ; if, in a brief remnant, cut off from a life of worldliness, or sleep,
or sin, the soul can evoke into existence a new order of affections, and,
in the twinkhng of an eye, put on its dress for heaven ; we need mor-
alize no longer on the perils of spiritual delay ; we may let conscience
sleep on in the lap of the great thief of time, saying, for this time, let
us " eat and drink," and hereafter we can repent and die. But if, on
the contrary, worldly habits strike root downwards, the more they bear
fruit upwards ; if sanctification demands that every ancient idol fall and
be crushed before the ark of God ; and if time, if labor, if holy and
persevering effort, be needed to educate immortal spirits for the skies ;
then, was ever folly like his folly, who, with a conviction that his soul
is at this moment lying under the wrath of God, would say to the mes-
senger of heaven, whoever he may be, "Go thy way for this time ;
when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee ? "

Neither are the results of experience, as collected fi-om those who
are in the habit of attending the closing scenes of life, at all opposed
to the conclusions of antecedent reasoning. Physicians concur with
Divines in attesting, that men, for the most part, die as they live, and
that the exhaustion of nature's strength alone frequently incapacitates
them for any essential change in the state and affections of the mind.
Thus, those who live the hfe of the unrighteous, die the death of the
unrighteous also ; the power of unbelief is as victorious in the dying
hour, as in the hours of health ; sin, the world, and the devil hold their
victims in strong delusion to the last ; and that Savior, who, through
life, had been regarded as " a root out of a dry ground," appears, even
in death, to be destitute of all " form and comeliness."

Let us conclude with one or two practical reflections : — First, how-
great is the danger of resisting religious convictions ! of turning a deaf
ear to language, which, by its effects on our minds, is discerned to be
the voice of God ! It is not needful that we should have a Paul preach-
ing before us, or a Drusilla seated beside us, in order that words utter-
ed in the sanctuary should appear to have been so expressly written
for us, to have come home to our consciences with so much of closeness
and of power, that, although we could not send the preacher away, we
were but too willing to be sent away by the preacher ; hailing with
gladness the breaking up of the solemn assembly, welcoming with eager-
ness the in-rushing current of worldly thoughts, and giving a tacit
promise to our consciences to call for these holy convictions at some



PAUL BEFORE FELIX. 95

more convenient season. But, how know we that these convictions
will come when we call them ? Where is our warrant for supposing
that the Holy Spirit will bide our time ; will tarry our convenience ;
will wait the day when we, having nothing else to occupy us, wiU per-
mit him to rekindle his quenched flame, and to repeat the warnings
which we neglected or despised before ? Surely, all experience would
look the other way ; would teach, that convictions lose their power
when they lose their freshness. Felix, we are told, heard Paul preach
many times afterwards ; but we do not find that he ever trembled af-
ter the first.

Lastly, how great is the affront to God, of this intention to yield to
rehgious convictions hereafter ! To delay our preparation for heaven
is not a foolish thing only, not a dangerous thing only ; it is a profane,
a wicked, a God-dishonoring thing. We cannot purpose to amend our
lives to-morrow, without also purposing to insult God to-day. To tell
God that we mean to repent next year, is to tell him that we do not
mean to repent before. We may keep our resolution, or we may not
keep it ; but the mere forming of it implies that, until the time specified
arrives, we intend to go on sinning still, to make more work for his par-
doning mercy in the interim ; cutting out, as it were, a space from the
term of our moral probation, and bargaining with high heaven for an
indulgence for prospective sin.

Hear we, then, the conclusion of the whole matter, which we may
fairly sum up, in a single sentence, thus : that repentance delayed

IS MERCY TRIFLED WITH, and A HOLY LIFE INTENDED ONLY, IS LIFE

ETERNAL LOST. To Say to any religious conviction, " Go thy way for
this time," is to degrade reason, to injure the soul, to disparage heav-
en, to dishonor God. It is as if we designed to give God the worst of
our days, and spend on self and sin the best ; to reserve a lamb of the
first year for the world, and to bring to the Lord only the maimed and
the blind : it is to offer at the shrine of the evil one our manhood, our
vigor, our freshness, our strength ; and to lay on the altar of the God
of heaven an oSering of disease, decay, old age, and mental feebleness.
God grant that we may bring no more of these vain oblations ; but
now, in the accepted time, now, in our convenient season, may " offer
an offering in righteousness, and call upon the name of the Lord ! "
Amen.



96 TUB ENGLISH PULPIT.

SERMON VIII.

CHRISTIANITY A SYSTEM OF LOVE.

BY REV. JOHN ANGELL JAMES.

" By love servo one another." — Galatians v. 13.

Christianity is a system of love, — of love in its purest, brightest,
and divinest form. It is an emanation from the mind and heart of in-
finite and eternal Benevolence. Its doctrines are the truths of love ;
its principles arc the rules of love ; its invitations are the offers of love ;
its promises are the assurances of love ; its very threatenings are the
severities of love ; and its one great design is, to expel selfishness from
the human bosom, and to plant in its room a principle of holy and univer-
sal pliilanthropy. Hence a man may be so intimately acquainted with
all the evidences of this Divine system, as to be enabled, by the most
powerful and subtle logic, to defend its outworks against the attacks of
infidelity ; he may understand, and be able to arrange all its doctrines
as articles of faith in the most symmetrical order ; he may also be able
to harmonize seeming discrepancies and contradictions ; but still, if he
know not that the essence of Christianity is love, he has no sympathy
within his inner soul, he has mistaken its genius and its spirit, and is as
blind to its richest glories, as the individual whose darkened eye-balla
never look on the glories of the sky, nor the beauties of the earth.

My subject is in harmony with the feelings of my own heart, with
the movements of the day, and with the design for which we are as-
sembled this evening. The text is love ; and I hope the sermon will,
in accordance with the text, be love also.

In the first place, I shall endeavor to explain the nature, and to
exhibit the grounds and manifestations of Chi'istian love ; in the second
place, show some of the reasons why the different denominations of
professing Christians should exercise this love one to another ; thirdly,
point out the manner in which we may manifest this disposition, and
then urge a few appropriate and cogent motives.

I. In the first place, I am to explain the nature and exhibit the
errounds and exercises of Christian love.

That artificer, as it has been called, of deification, the corrupt soul
of man, never once, amidst all its multiplied devices, struck out the
idea of absolute goodness. And how should it ? All its prototypes



CHRISTIANITY A SYSTEM OF LOVE. 97

for the formation of its gods, were founded on itself — on its OAvn pas-
sions. But what idolatry could not do, and human reason in the high-
est stretch of its powers could never approach, the apostle, in one beau-
tiful expression, has set before us — " God is love." This we owe to
Revelation, and it never could have come from any other source. The
love of God is not an infinite quietism of the Divine mind, retired from
all human affairs and leaving the world to take care of itself; it is an
active principle.

There are two kinds of love in the Divine mind ; the love of com-
placency, which it bears to all the holy parts of creation, and the love
of benevolence, which it bears to the whole creation irrespective of mor-
al character. Analogous to this, there is in the mind of every good
man, a two-fold love ; the love of complacency, which he always bears
towards the righteous, and the love of benevolence, which he is to bear
to the whole sentient creation. The apostle distinguishes these two,
where he says, add " to brotherly kindness, charity." Beyond that
inner circle, where brotherly kindness " lives and moves and has its
being," there is an outer circle, in which charity also is to revolve and
perform its part. And, be it recollected, tliat we are to be no less as-
siduous in the duties of the outer circle, than we are in those of tho
inner ; and that man, wliatcver hi-j jjrofcs.sions to brotherly kindness
may be, has but the name who adds not to it charity.

Look at the operations of charity, or the love of benevolence. It
was this which existed in the mind of Deity from eternity, and in tho
exercise of which he so loved our guilty world, as to give his " only
begotten Son, that whosoever believcth in him sliould not perish, but
have everlasting life." It was on the wings of charity, that the Son
of God flew from heaven to earth, on an errand of mercy to our lost
world ; it was chanty that moved in the minds and hearts of the apos-
tles, and urged them, with the glad tidhigs of salvation, from country to
country. The whole missionary enterprise is founded, not of course
on the basis of brotherly kindness, but on that of charity. All those
si)lendid instances that have been presented to us of the exercise of
philanthropy, and with which your memories are familiar, are all the
operations of this Divine charity. See Howard, leaving the seclusion of
a country gentleman, giving up his elegant retreat, and all its luxurious
gratifications, pacing to and fro through Europe, plunging into dun-
geons, battling with pestilence, weighing tho fetters of the prisoner,
gauging the diseases even of the pest-house, — all under the influence
of heavenly charity. See Wilberforce, through twenty years of his
life, lifting up his unwearied voice, and employing his fascinating elo-
quence against the biggest outrage that ever trampled on the rights of
7



98 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

humanity. What formed his character, sketched his plan, inspired his
zeal, but charity ? See that illustrious woman, lately departed, so ripe
for glory, and so richly invested with it, who interested herself amidst
the prisoners of Newgate, — to chain their passions, to reclaim their
vices, and to render them more meet for society, which had condemned
them as its outcasts. What was it, that gave to Mrs. Fry her principle
of action, — what, indeed, was the principle itself, but charity ?

Let us, then, my dear friends, not confine our attention exclusively to
" brotherly kindness," but passing this narrower boundary, go out into
the great world, with a principle like that which I have now described
— which existed in the bosom of Deity, was displayed by the Son of
God upon the cross, and which was the basis of the origin of that In-
stitution which it is my delight and my honor to plead this evening.

But I am directed particularly, by the manner in which I intend
to treat the subject this evening, to " brotherly kindness " — to broth-
erly love, as the word would be more emphatically rendered. Broth-
erly love is founded on two things : a common relation and a common
character. It is the love of all those who are with us disciples of the
Lord Jesus Christ — children by regeneration of the one living and
true God. This is the ground of brotherly love ; and if it exist on
such ground as this, the man who loves one brother loves all, and he
who loves not all, loves none. We must go higher, and sink deeper,
for the grounds and motives of brotherly love, than the names, the
greatest, the most venerable, and the most venerated names amongst
men. It must be something deeper than Calvin, or Luther, or Whit-
field, or Wesley ; we must never stop for the foundation of brotherly
love, until we touch the rock of ages, which rock is Jesus Christ. He
that loves others only for the sake of man, loves them with an affection
infinitely lower than he who loves them for the sake of Christ and of
God.

But there is a common character, which is also a ground of brother-
ly love, as well as a common relation. The objects of this affection
bear one common impress — the image of the heavenly Father. In
human families, it is sometimes extremely difficult, if not impossible, to
trace any resemblance between the children and the parents. Not so
in the Divine family. God, in regeneration, never begets a child, but
in his own likeness ; and where there is not the image of* the Father,
there cannot be the relation. The family likeness, in that circle where
none are related to God by a more distant relationship than that of a
child, is holiness ; hohness is the family feature of the household of
faith. And where we see holiness, the mind of Christ, the image of
God — for these are convertible terms ; whatever be the color of the



CHRISTIANITY A SYSTEM OF LOVE. 99

skin of the man that bears this image, whatever be the nation which
gave him birth, whatever be the party name by which he is distinguish-
ed — there we are to recognize an object, to which we are to be dra^Ti
by the irresistible attraction of our Father's image, and by the mighty
influence of a new nature in our own souls. And the man that sees all
this, and yet waits and wishes for a second reason for his affection — who
closes -his hand, places it in his bosom, keeps his feelings in abeyance,
and holds back his heart, until he has found a denominational relation-
ship, has not a spark of brotherly love in his soul. What ! shall the
name of Jesus, shall the character of God, be not enough to engage
our love to one, w^ho bears the name and the likeness of our Father,
and stands united to our Savior by the tie of a common faith, till we
have found out that he is related to us by party name, as well as to
God by the bond of a new nature.

And how, my brethren, does brotherly love operate where it exists ?
I shall attempt no description of my own, except a passing remark, as
I go forward, on that which the apostle has already given us. " Love
suffereth long " — is not easily roused into resentment or to malice by
injuries, great or small : " is kind " in words, in actions, and in spirit ;
the law of kindness is upon its lips, and the fruit of kindness drops from
its hand. " Love envieth not." Envy is that misery which we feel at
the sight of another superior or more excellent character, which makes
us miserable at the sight of it, and causes us to hate the more eminent
one, on which the diabolical glance is fixed — than which is not to be
found a temper nearer akin to that which rages through hell. " Love
vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up " — does not boast what it has
done, can do, or will do, what it is, or what it has been — but is cloth-
ed with the garment of humility. " Love doth not behave itself un-
seemly " — keeps its place, like a soldier in the ranks, and steps not
out of the position, in which it has been placed. " Love seeketh not
her own" — abhors selfishness, looks upon the things of others, as well
as upon its own ; " is not easily provoked " — is not passionate, giving
way to ebullitions of rage of any kind; " thinketh no evil" — is not
hasty to impute a bad motive, as long as a good one can be found, for
the actions of another ; " rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the
truth " — takes no pleasure in the failings and misconduct of a foe,
but delights in the manifestations of excellence, even when its own
cause would thus seem to be damaged by what it discerns in another ;
" beareth," or covereth, " all things," — has not a microscope in its
hand, ever to magnify the failings that are near, nor a telescope, to
bring near those that are remote, but a mantle, to cover all that need
not be exposed to public view ; " believeth all things," to the advan-



100 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

tage of another ; " hopeth all things," where it has not ground for faith ;
" endureth all things " — makes any sacrifice, bears any labor, for the
benefit of others. Such are the manifestations of love.

Now for a moment- or two dwell on the importance which is attach-
ed to it by the various representations which are given of it in the word
of God.

It is the outward manifestation of an inward principle of belief —
" Faith worketh by love." It is the evidence of regeneration, in the
possession of which a man may as certainly conclude that he is a child
of God, as if a seraph were dispatched from the throne, to tell him that
he had seen his name written in the Lamb's book of life. It is the
grand novelty of the Chi'istian dispensation, like to which nothing can
be found in our world, like to which even Judaism supplied nothing as
to its model, its meaning and its motives. It is the great law of the
Christian dispensation : " This is my commandment," said the Savior



Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 11 of 45)