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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

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Now EUsha was fallen sick of his sickness, whereof he died. And Joash, the king of
Israel, came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, my father, my father, the
chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. — 2 Klsgs xiii. 14 260



Happy is that people, that is in such a case ; yea, happv is that people, whose God is
the Lord."— Psalm cxUv. 15 ". 272


Sir, we would see Jesus. — Johx xii. 21 291


Ye will not come to me that ye might have Ufe. — Johx v. 40 304


He that winneth souls is wise. — Proverbs xi. 30 316




I will open my mouth in a parable ; I will utter dark sayings of old ; which we have heard
and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children,
showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his won-
derful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a
law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their
children ; that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be
bom : who should arise and declare them to then: children : that they might set their hope
in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments. — Psalm Ixxviii.
2-7 331



Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. — Rom. iii.
25 340



Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about ; all ye that bend the bow shoot
at her, spare no arrows ; for she hath sinned against the Lord. — Jee. 1. 14 353



Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save
a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. — James v. 20 361


The glorious Gospel of the blessed God. — 1 Timothy i. 11.


Wliat shall a man give in exchange for his soul ? — Matt. xvi. 26 391




"And he marvelled because of their unbelief." — Mark ti. 6.

When He, by whom the world was made, condescended to dwell
among men, and so was " in the world," the world " knew him not."
" He came unto his own, and his own received him not." They " hid
as it were their faces from him ; he was despised, and they esteemed
him not." And by none of our Lord's countrymen was that saying
more fully verified, than by the Nazarenes. In Nazareth he appeared
as an infant ; at Nazareth he was brought up ; they had the honor of
seeing the first iridications of his superior wisdom and piety. It was
at Nazareth that " the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled
with wisdom ; and the grace of God was -with him." To Nazareth he
returned, after his celebrated conversation with the doctors in the tem-
ple ; and there he was subject to Mary, his real mother, and to Joseph,
his reputed father ; while he " increased in wisdom and in stature, and
in favour with God and man." It was at Nazareth that he wrought
in the occupation of a carpenter, till the time came for his commenc-
ing his public ministry. It was at Nazareth, in fine, that he did many
of his most wonderful works. His brethren, — that is, his kinsmen, —
all lived there ; and this, together with other circumstances, would nat-
urally beget in our Savior some particular attachment to a place with
which he had been so long connected : it would be his wish, that the
companions of his early life should be made partakers of the benefits
of his religion. Accordingly we find, that at the commencement of
his ministry he went to Nazareth ; and entered into the synagogue,
" as his custom was.^'' — I wish parents to notice this, for their encour-
agement to train their children to early habits of piety ; — as his cus-
tom was or had been, " on the sabbath-day he stood up to read ; " and


there he delivered a discourse founded on a passage in Isaiah. At the
first part of his discourse his countrymen were delighted, and " won-
dered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." But
when he began to make a proper application of his subject, as it
became him to do, their ^ger was greatly roused ; and but for an
interference of his miraculous power, his life had paid the forfeit of
his fidelity. They " rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led
him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they
might cast him down headlong. But he," perhaps rendering himself
invisible, or them powerless, " passing through the midst of them, went
his way." So ungrateful a reception might well have discouraged
him, or induced him to abandon them for ever, as persons who judged
themselves, passed sentence on themselves, as unworthy of eternal life.
But our Savior, rich in mercy, and slow to anger, has here taught us
to be " patient in tribulation," and to persevere in doing good, though
in doing it we suffer only ill. Mark tells us, and we have reason to
believe, from comparing other circumstances, that it was only a few
months after, that " he came to his own country, and when the sab-
bath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue." As on the
former occasion, the people were at first struck with admiration, and
confessed that " mighty works were wrought by his hands." But,
notwithstanding their conviction of the truth of his teaching, and the
dignity of his public ministry, their minds were filled with prejudice ;
their evil heart of unbelief was not subdued ; and they were not pre-
pared to render him that practical homage which was due to the true
Messiah. To justify themselves in their infidelity, they pretended to
doubt the truth of his mission ; and they basely and ungenerously re-
counted the meanness and obscurity of his parentage, and the defi-
ciency of his education : — "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary,
the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon ? and are not
his sisters here with us ? And they were offended at him." The
cause of this was, that their hearts were full of blindness and preju-
dice, their minds were worldly and carnal, and their reasonings were
false and deceitful. And the effects of this were deplorable ; for it is
said that " he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his
hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled be-
cause of their unbelief." — The sin of unbelief is here represented in
a two-fold point of view.

1. As injurious to those who exercise it. " He could there do no
mighty work." They did not believe in his power, and therefore they
came not to him for cure ; and he could not obtrude his goodness upon
them, or force them to receive benefits from him, consistently with his


plan and determination. " How much," says the excellent Dr. Dod-
dridge, " did these Nazarenes lose, by their obstinate prejudices against
Jesus ! How many diseased bodies might have been cured, how many
lost souls might have been recovered and saved, had they given him a
better reception ! " And you will, no doubt, join in the pious wish
which the Doctor adds : " May divine grace deliver us from that un-
belief, which does, as it were, disarm Christ himself, and render him
a savor of death, rather than of life, to our souls ! " But unbehef
is here represented,

2. As exceedingly/ unreasonable and absurd. " He marvelled be-
cause of their unbelief; " — it excited the surprise of Christ. Unbe-
lief is altogether without reason ; it is not to be vindicated. It is
contrary to the duty of the situation and circumstances under which
men are placed ; it is contrary to what might reasonably be expected
from such men under such circumstances. It is to this last view of
unbelief that we propose now to attend. We shall, first, explain what
we mean by unbelief ; and, secondly, justify the sentiment of surprise
which existed in the mind of Christ on the occasion before us.

I. Let us explain what we mean by unbelief.

Unbelief, in general, is the rejection of God's revealed truth; and,
in particular, it implies the refusal and neglect to receive and act on
the testimony God has given of his Son, as the only and all-sufficient
Savior of guilty men.

1. The unbelief of some is TOTAL. This implies a rejection of the
Messiah — a denial of his Messiahship — a total refusal to admit of his
being the way to life and blessedness. Such were the Sadducees —
such were many of the ancient Jews — and such are evidently the
majority of them to this day. Nor does it apply to Jews alone : the
same word which tells us that the doctrine of Christ was " a stumbling-
block to the Jews," tells us that, by the wise and philosophic Greeks,
it was despised as " foolishness." All men in the present day have
not even nominal faith in Christ. I speak not now of the thousands
of heathens who are not believers in Christ ; their case, whatever it
may be, is not unbelief in the gospel ; — " How shall they believe in
him of whom they have not heard ? And, how shall they hear without
a preacher ? " — their case is rather matter of our compassion than of
our surprise. But it is matter of surprise that, in a Christian country,
many to whom the gospel is preached, many who have heard the joy-
ful sound of salvation, — that many of these should despise the majesty
of the gospel, and refuse to give it that credence which it demands
from them.


2. Not only are they unbelievers who reject, but such as mutilate
and corrupt Christianity. There are many •who profess to admire,
and even to defend with zeal and learning, its exterior form and struc-
ture, who are yet among the very foremost to deprive it of all its
beauty, and to rob it of its peculiar excellency. Amongst these, I
cannot but include those who, while they admit the Messiahship of
Christ, deny his divinity, his atonement, and his dwelling in the hearts
of believers by his Holy Spirit. These are such distinguishing points
in Christian truth, that he who systematically demes them cannot, with
propriety, be called a believer in Christ. He admits the general
words of Scripture, but he puts his own sense upon these words, — a
sense very different from that which was put upon them by the primi-
tive church — a sense very different from that which was plainly taught
by Christ himself, and by his apostles. He builds the fabric of his
hopes on a different foundation from that which God has laid in Zion,
namely,, on Christ, who " gave himself for us, an offering and a sacri-
fice to God for a sweet-smelling savor," and by whose blood alone we
can be cleansed from sin ; and he regards as so enthusiastic the idea
of the indwelhng of Christ in the hearts of his people by his Holy
Spirit, that there is no room in his creed for the dominion of Christ as
King in Zion. Thus, though he believes the words of Scripture, he
believes them not in their true sense : and as he is not a believer, he
is, of course, an unbehever. This statement is no violation of true
candor^ for that requires attention to be paid to truth ; and that can-
dor which does not render due homage to the truth, is sin. However
common and fashionable this spurious candor may be among men, it is
an abomination to God, whose truth it, in fact, denies. For those who
believe not, we are required to feel the tenderest pity ; for them we
are to use our best efforts, to offer up our most fervent prayers. Per-
haps the passage which will best explain our duty in this respect, is
found in the epistle to Timothy ; — " The servant of the Lord must not
strive : but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness
instructing those that oppose themselves ; if God peradventure will
give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth ; and that
they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are
taken captive by him at his will." Now, this passage, so far from
warranting indifference to the truth, represents the truth as a matter
of the greatest importance ; the very end of our instructions is here
stated to be that such persons may be brought to repentance and ac-
knowledging of the truth ; and it is only as they repent and acknowl-
edge the truth, which they before denied, that they can be recovered
out of the snare of the devil, and brought to true repentance. That


is a false love, a fictitious tenderness, which represents error as not
dangerous ; and which declares that it matters not what we believe,
though God declares that he that believeth not the gospel, — the pure
unmutilated gospel, — shall be damned. Let us not hide the truth,
which we are called by God as a church to exhibit. It is not for the
support of light and unimportant truths that the church is called " the
pillar and ground of the truth : " — no : the truth is of importance ; it
is essential to salvation ; and men should see in our whole manner that
we consider the truth as nothing less than a matter of life and death.

3. The neglecters of the gospel, as well as its rejecters and corrup-
ters, are guilty of unbelief, though in a more mitigated form, I grant.
These hold the truth, but they hold it in unrighteousness ; like a man
who holds a torch, only to convince those who behold him that the per-
son who bears it is going sadly out of the way. Our Lord condemns
all such ; and it is evident they deserve condemnation, because no
salutary eflFects are produced by their profession of faith. Such per-
sons are unbelievers, and it is necessary that the truth should be told
them. Faith works by love : the faith of God's elect is not a mere
opinion ; it implies a belief of tlie excellency, the suitableness, the
efficacy of the gospel ; such a conviction of this as will lead men to
embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as the chief subject, the substance of
the gospel ; such a conviction as leads to the use of Christ for the ends
for which God has given him, namely, for " wisdom, righteousness,
sanctification, and redemption."

Now, if such persons are not beUevers at all, how awfully prevalent
is the sin of unbelief! Among those who call our Savior Lord, and
who, generally speaking, receive his truth, how many are there who
do not believe with the heart unto righteousness ! They have no clear
view of their need of Christ as a Savior ; no decided reliance upon
him ; no clear application of his merits and atonement. They hear
and read of Christ ; they join in hymns to his praise ; they approach
him with their lips ; — but there is no affectionate trust of the heart.
These, then, are unbelievers : God the Judge will not admit that this
faith is saving ; it is dead faith, and cannot save them.

4. Even in those who are partly renewed hy grace, there are the
secret workings of this principle. Though it is in a form more mild,
it is yet to be discovered ; and, in proportion as it exists, it mars the
progress of the work of grace in their souls. I may instance a case
or two.

There is the penitent sinner, who is seeking, but has not yet found,
the pardon of his sins. In such persons there is to be perceived some
good thing toward the God of Israel ; and much that, if followed up,


•will lead to good. They are not far from the kingdom of God : they
have some knowledge, and some faith. Now, to such, God's word
holds out the most gracious promises ; — " Ask, and ye shall receive ;
seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
" Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." And yet, in
many cases, from week to week, from month to month, from year to
year, the effect of all these kind promises and gracious invitations is
baffled by a secret something, which refuses to be comforted when God
would comfort ; which puts away the mercy which God waits to be-
stow ; which still exclaims, " The mercy of the Lord is clean gone for
ever ! he will be merciful to others, but not to me ! " Now, what is
this secret something, which keeps the man who is convinced of sin,
and who wishes for pardon, and who knows that without it he shall be
ruined for ever ? — what is it, I say, which keeps him out of the pos-
session of pardoning mercy ? — what is it ? Satan calls it humility
and diffidence ; and he keeps you out of the blessing, by telling you
it is not proper for one so sinful and so worthless to lay hold on the
blessings of salvation, and that you are only acting the part of a hum-
ble man to keep aloof from those blessings. This Satan tells you : but
he is a liar, and the father of lies. listen not to that arch fiend,
when he pretends to preach humility ! No : the real name of the
principle that keeps you back is pride, and not humility. Real humil-
ity will not lead to unbelief; it will rather lead men to cry for mercy,
and cause them to flee to the only refuge that is set before them.

And even those who believe, but are not yet made perfect in love,
are under the influence of unbelief in part. As unbelief prevents the
sinner from entering into God's family ; so unbelief, in one who is a
child, prevents him from the enjoyment of the privileges of God's fam-
ily. Take an example. — There are found, in the word of God, " ex-
ceeding great and precious promises ; " promises of a clean heart, and
a right spirit ; promises of complete recover}' to the image of God ;
promises of being sanctified wholly, body, soul, and spirit ; promises
of being preserved blameless to the coming of the day of the Lord.
And what hinders the man, who sees the beauty and excellency of
holiness, and beholds it so clearly and abundantly promised — what
hinders him from entering on the full possession of it ? In some cases
it may be want of perception of its beauty, and the possibility of at-
taining it ; but, in general, it is want of faith.

Take another case. In some dark and cloudy day a man has yield-
ed to temptation ; he has committed sin, and he is filled with misery.
But this, his guilt, he acknowledges ; he does not attempt to palliate
it ; and it is the privilege of such a man to come to God as at first he


came, and to obtain a renewal of that favor which he has forfeited.
And what is it that induces him to postpone the apphcation for this
mercy to a future period ? What prevents him approaching the foun-
tain opened ? What prompts him to seek to wear his stain away, In-
stead of coming to have it washed away at once ? Satan persuades
him that the principle which thus keeps him from God his Father, who
is waiting to be gracious to him, and receive him back to his favor, is
shame, holy shame, ingenuous shame ; — but it is really unbelief. We
ought to be ashamed of having been negligent^ of having been unfaith-
ful, of having been sinners ; but we ought not to be ashamed of coming
to God for forgiveness ; we ought to remember that these words belong
to us — " These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any
man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the right-
eous : and he is the propitiation for our sins."

And I might observe, that unbelief operates, in a degree, in believ-
ers in Christ. It is so in cases of affliction, of trial, of difficulty. Be-
lievers are sometimes in circumstances in which they are ready to say,
" My way is hid from the Lord : my God hath forgotten me ! " in op-
position to his word, who hath said, " I will never leave thee ; I will
never forsake thee ! " But I cannot dwell longer on this part ; and
you can easily apply these remarks to other cases. I proceed,

ii. to justify the expression of astonishment on the part of

It is said that " he 7narvelledheca.nse of their unbelief." — Unbelief
is altogether unreasonable and unbecoming.

1. How unreasonable, for instance, was the unbelief which our Lord
witnessed in the days of his flesh. The unbelief of these men at Naz-
areth was marked with great stupidity, and chargeable with great folly.
For, consider what opportunities they had been favored with of seeing
our Lord's early character, and of listening to his propitious doctrines.
The superior sanctity, which marked his childhood, ought to have made
strong impressions on their minds ; and ought to have led them to in-
vestigate carefully, and to receive honestly the convictions of their
minds. An unbeHef so blind as theirs was surely unreasonable. Con-
sider, also, their confession of his wisdom and power. '^ From whence,"
exclaimed they, " hath this man these things ? and what wisdom is this
which is given unto him, that such mighty works are wrought by his
hands ?" The fact they admitted ; the evidences were too strong to
be resisted. Why, then, did they not at once proceed to draw the on-
ly rational inference, namely, that he was a divine person ? Their un-
belief was unreasonable. Advert, also, to the nature of the excmes


they presented for it. They talked of the meanness of his education —
of the poverty of his circumstances — of the narrowness of his means.
Why, these were the very circumstances that ought to have induced
faith. For if natural causes could not produce such surprising effects,
how very rational to conclude that they were produced by supernatu-
ral causes. Then, their possession of the ancient Scriptures left them
without excuse. They had the prophecies of Isaiah ; and they might
have read them if they had not wilfully neglected so to do. His fifty
third chapter would have told them that Christ was to be " as a root out
of a dry ground ; " that he would be destitute of any outward " form, or
comeliness, or beauty," which should lead men to " desire him." All
this justifies the strong sensation of surprise, on the part of our Savior,
at so much insensibility. " He marvelled ; " he who well knew what
was in man, and how depraved and how very unreasonable man natu-
rally was — even He was surprised ; even the Searcher of hearts " mar-
velled, because of the unbelief" they manifested !

2. The same unreasonableness attaches to modern as to ancient un-
belief . Let us consider this in reference to the various descriptions of
unbelief we noticed in the first part of the discourse.

First. On what do our modern infidels rest their unbelief ? Do they
plead WANT OF evidence ? How base and ungrounded is their asser-
tion ! Let them study our Christianity ; let them institute a strict
comparison between its various parts ; let them look at the long chain
of prophecies by which it was introduced ; let them consider the mirar
cles by which its verity was attested — its pure salutary truths and
doctrines ; let them mark the astonishing rapidity of its early progress —
its progress in opposition to all obstructions, and to the most determin-
ed hostility ; and that it came not with any appeal to the passions, or pro-
claiming any truce to the vices, but with the force of truth alone, and
denouncing all the vices. Let them, I say, consider this body and
weight of evidence ; which, if considered aright, is more than enough
to weigh down all their objections, and which, if rejected, exposes them
most justly to the charge of unreasonable unbelief. But our religion^
they allege, contains in it so many MYSTERIES, and that these ought to
lead them to its rejection. But this very circumstance, we say, is an
additional argument for faith. If Christianity told us nothing but what
the book of nature teaches, it could not be from God. Surely, if God
write a book, it must contain something of which the ear hath not heard,
which the eye hath not seen, and of which the human heart hath not
conceived. As in the earth, while surveying the works of nature, and
perceiving their pecuUar skill and adaptation, we infer that they are
the produce of a Divine hand ; so, in what are termed the mysteries


of religion, we see abundant proofs of a Divine hand. And besides, if
we are to doubt because of what is mysterious, where is scepticism to
end ? We see mystery all around us ; and if we are not to believe till
we can comprehend, we shall never beheve at all. It is absurd, it is
monstrous, to reject the truth of God, because it teaches us something

Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 2 of 45)