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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

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heaven for him hereafter, no language can describe the weight that is
on the spirit of such a man !

Yet this weight Christ bore ! Not the burden of having committed
these sins — not the shame of conscious transgression ! No : he " did
no sin, and in his mouth no guile was found." Nothing but a lamb,
" without spot and blemish," could be placed on God's altar ; and
unless Christ had been a lamb "without spot and blemish," he never
could have been " the Lamb of God." But the burden of the agony ;
the burden of a just sense of the anger of God against sin ; the burden
of the ignominy and shame ; — all these laid heavy on his soul. He
complained in agony ; he sorrowed even unto death. No pain was
inflicted, as yet, on his body ; there was, as yet, no stroke to bring
forth blood, yet the very anguish of his soul caused him to " sweat as
it were great drops of blood." And, through life, he looked not like a
man of spotless innocence, all light, and gay, and buoyant ; he was
always as a man ashamed. " He was oppressed, and he was afflicted ; "
he looked like a man who was " stricken and smitten of God ;" he had


the constant appearance of " a man of sorrows, and acquainted with
grief." He knew what it was to bear a burden on his spirits ; and it
was our sins which lay heavy on his souh

But the apostle speaks with emphasis here, and he says, " who his
oivn self bare our sins." " His own self! " As if the apostle would
remind you of the dignity of his nature ; the purity of his character ;
the excellence of his life ; the greatness of his sacrifice. That the
king should take upon him the crimes of his subjects ! That the foun-
tain of justice and purity should be arraigned at an earthly tribunal,
and become liable to suifer as a worker of iniquity. " His own self! "
As if the apostle would remind you, too, of his ability ; of one
" mighty to save ! " of one whose " own arm brought salvation ; " of
one who was Almighty ; of one who, when he took this heavy burden
upon him, proved clearly that he was able to bear it all.

The Apostle reminds you, too, that this was done " inhis own body."
Not that his body suffered chiefly, or only ; the most affecting scene of
his agonies was before his body suffered ; and on the cross he com-
plained chiefly of mental agony : — " My God ! my God! why hast
thou forsaken me ? " But it was only by taking a body upon him that
he could be made of the seed of David according to the flesh, though
he was still " God over all " according to the Spirit. And it was in
the body that he was to suffer ; it was during his abode in the flesh
alone that he could do this ; and when his body had suffered all that
was required, "he said. It is finished ! and he bowed his head, and
gave up the ghost."

The apostle adds, " on the tree^ " Who his own self bare our
sins in his own body on the tree ; " alluding to the cross of wood on
■which he suffered, which was made from a tree, and to remind us, also,
it is probable, of the Avay in which we fell. By one tree we fell, by
another we rise. By eating of the forbidden tree we fell ; by believing
in the true cross we live. " Christ hath redeemed us from the curse
of the law, being made a curse for us ; for it is written, Cursed is every
one that hangeth on a tree ; that the blessing of Abraham might
come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ."

But you say. How could it be that one could suffer for another ? I
return to meet your inquiry. I ask you. Do you believe the account
which is given of his agonies and death ? I can account for these but
in three ways. First : That Christ was guilty, and deserved to suffer ;
at this you are shocked. Then the second is scarcely better ; that a
just and holy God punished him, an innocent person, without any
cause, as a vile, wicked person deserved to be treated. And if you
reject these two reasons, there remains only a third, which is the doc-


trine of the text — that Christ endured all these various woes that he
might bear the burden of our sins ; that he might offer himself as a
spotless victim to the divine justice ; and that God, who cannot pass by
sin, might, in visiting in wrath the person of our surety, effectually
punish sin, and visit the sinner in mercy and in grace.

If you still argue, how can this be ? I answer, that God has, from
the first, acted towards the human race uniformly in a wonderful man-
ner. Angels sinned singly ; they fell singly ; they were punished
singly. But with man it was otherwise — the first man was created at
the head of all his race. God acts towards men as a kind of mass.
God not only in the natural world has made one man, and from that
one caused all others to spring to the end of time, but he has acted
thus in a moral point of view also. We all fell in the first man ; he
sinned, and we are sinners too, because of him. If, then, you regard
this representative government in reference to man, where can be the
difficulty of his so acting to Christ ? Surely you can more readily
conceive how God can show favor to some, because he is pleased with
one, than you can how he should be displeased with many because of
the transgression of one ? You admit the first and most difficult part
of the subject ; why not admit the second, which is, that God could
accept of the sufferings of one for the good of many ?

Secondly, therefore, let us notice the transfer of benefit from the
innocent to the guilty. When the apostle spake of the consequence
of guilt, it was all Christ's ; now he comes to speak of the benefit, we
are included. Of the former he says, " Who his own self bare our
sins in his own body on the tree." Of the benefit, he says, " that we,
being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness ; by whose stripes ye
were healed." And in these words we are taught that the death of
Christ must be the death of sin in us ; that the death of sin must be the
life of righteousness ; and that this will show that our souls are healed
through his stripes.

1. We are here taught that the death of Christ must he the death of
sin in us. " That we, being dead to sin." Before we were alive to
him, we were alive to nothing else but sin, though it was the very
worst kind of life. Death and life are sometimes strangely mixed —
as when a corpse is so putrid as to become the prey of worms, you
say it is alive — it is all alive ! A strange expression to use as to what
is so very dead I So the Apostle speaks of " walking according to the
course of this world " when we were " dead in trespasses and sins."
But to be dead to sin, it is a grand affair ! Let us take care that
there be no deception here. Many suppose that they are dead to sin
because they are almost dead in body ; or because they are half dead


through fear ; or because, by old age, they are become weak and

Under affliction a man sees himself half dead in body, and then he
fancies sin is dead. " Oh ! " he cries, " I see how sinful I have been !
0, what an awful thing sin is ! 0, if God does but spare me, how will
I live to him ! " Well, God does spare him, and then the proverb is
fulfilled, " When the sick man became well he was worse than before."
And really such men sin with such eagerness, that they seem to be try-
ing to make up for lost time ; they are more greedy after sin because
of their short fast. My hearers, if you are afflicted, and no change
takes place, you may be sure that sin is not dead. I warn you, by all
the terrors of eternity, against the delusion of supposing, that because
you yourselves are half dead by sickness, that therefore sin is dead
in you.

Again : some suppose that they are dead to sin, because hy alarm
of mind, they are half dead through fear. Thus we read of Nabal,
that when his wife told him what had been threatened him by David,
" his heart died within him, and he became as a stone." When they
witness the death of a dear friend, or see some one drop down dead
by their side, or hear of some dreadful and alarming accident, and thus
they themselves are half killed by terror, they imagine sin is dead.
But time does wonders : the terror is softened down ; the fluttering
hearts become composed ; and they turn away to iniquity as before.
Just as a man about to be gibbeted for his crimes, suddenly receives a
reprieve, and then turns to all his crimes again, though he had every
mark of penitence when he supposed death near. A poor woman was
once about to commit suicide ; she did what she imagined would cause
her death ; the Doctor did all he could, though he considered that all
would be in vain ; then she died, indeed, to sin ; but some symptoms
of returning strength began to appear, and/rom that very moment there
were also symptoms of apostacy ! No, my hearers, there is no depen-
dence to be placed on the disgust with sin which is occasioned by the
fear of death.

The same may be said of old age, and of persons going out of the
world. Because the power to sin has left them ; because they can no
longer eat or drink, or taste or see ; because they are become half
dead, a sort of carcases upon the earth ; — they imagine themselves
to be dead to sin. But, 0, if they could have new blood infused into
the veins, we should at once see all their sins spring up into vigor and
activity as before !

The fact is, that there is no death to sin but through the death of
Christ. Is it not said, " He bare our sins in his own body on the tree,


that we might be dead to sins ? " /Vnd if we could have been dead to
sin without this, would he have endured all his agony and shame, and
at length have died upon the cross ? No : it is a stab at the heart that
is fatal ; and never are we struck to the heart till we see Christ, the
innocent, becoming our sacrifice, taking our load upon him, and endur-
ing unutterable anguish on our account. Then are we touched to the
heart ; we feel to the quick ; we are alive to a sense of what he endured
for us. Then we say, " God forbid that I should glory, save in the
cross of Jesus, my Lord ! " Then, when pressed under the load of
sin, we behold him bearing our burden, and our hearts are made light
and gladsome. Then love melts us, and mercy brings us down ; and
henceforth we die to that accursed thing which brought our Lord to
his death. Then we become " dead to sins ; " as a cancer is not erad-
icated from the human frame till every fibre is removed ; so the cancer^
of sin is not wholly destroyed in our souls till we become dead to sin
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

2. We are taught that the death of sin must be the life of righteous-
ness. There is to be a death ; but there must also be a life. Christ
said to the Jews, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living ;
for all Uve unto him : " so he that is " dead to sin " by the cross of
Christ, is, by the same cross, made " alive to righteousness.^' There
is a vitahty in religion ; and the soul is not only made alive, but hvely.
" To be carnally minded is death ; " — a poor, dull thing, at best : —
" to be spiritually minded, is life and peace." At the same time, that
there is calmness in our own souls, we are all activity for the good of oth-
ers. I always pity a man who is going on in a cold, dull, heavy, lead-
like manner ; and if it does not speak doubt as to the -existence of
religion, it speaks a volume as to its want of excellence. There is a
life in all true religion ; it has but little of the snail about it. If we
are, indeed, dead to sin, we shall be all alive to righteousness. I love
to see a people aUve ; all among them aiming to do good — good to all
around them : their heads full of schemes, their hearts full of love,
their hands full of gifts for his honor and glory.

3. All this shows that our souls are healed by his stripes. There is
a reference in these words to the 53d of Isaiah — " With his stripes
we are healed." And the words in both places refer to his scourging
in Pilate's hall. The word stripe signifies a ivale ; where, in conse-
quence of a blow or cut from a lash, the extravasated blood is seen in a
blackish, bluish form, under the skin. But, because this is spoken of
as one, the learned Vitringi supposes that it appUes to one wound, the
body of Christ being wounded all over. He was all stripe and pain ;


we are all ease and pleasure. " By whose stripes je were healed." —
And how is healing indicated ? Bj three signs : —

By disease p-evented in action. Physicians aim at this : time and
nature, they say, will do all the rest. what a disease is sin ! All
that is seen and said, and acted under its influence, is wrong ! But
when we come to be healed by the stripes of Christ, diseased action
ceases : we see aright, both as to ourselves and as to our Savior ; we
hear aright, for "blessed are the people that know the joyful sound; "
we feel aright, there is a pleasant glow through our whole frame ; all
our various powers act aright, for the glory of God, and the benefit of
ourselves and others.

By the removal of agonizing sensation^ heahng is indicated. All
the disordered actions we perform in a state of nature produce only
► wretchedness. Many a sinner, who seems happy, wishes he were a
reptile or a brute. Colonel Gardiner, who was known by the name of
" the happy rake," on seeing a dog come into a room one day, wished
he were that dog ! But this disease yields to the healing power of the
cross of Christ. Does a child of God, does a man healed by the
stripes, by the cross of Christ, wish he were a dog, or wish he had
never been born ? No : many times a day he blesses God that ever
he was born at all ; and he hopes to live to eternity, and rejoices that
he shall live through everlasting ages. Healing is indicated, also.

By the obviating of threatening danger. This is an important thing
in cases of disease : it is the danger which hangs over the patient that
alarms him. It is not merely the pain and languor — at these he could
smile ; but he fears that he shall die, and that there is something after
death, which, though unknown, makes him wretched beyond measure.
There is danger, but healing removes this danger ; renews the prospect
of life for many years to come, and so restores tranquillity and pleas-
ure. And so it is here — healing by the wounds of Christ obviates
the threatened danger. There is no more fear of death ; no, that is
past : there is no more dread of eternity ; no, for that is lighted up
with glory. These are the blessed consequences of healing by his
stripes, " who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,
that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness."

And now to apply. And here I shall not proceed according to the
usual course of inquiry, and ask you, first, if you are diseased : — this
I know ; I know that you are all so. But I will ask you, if you have
felt your disease ? A sinner is like a man frost-bitten — he would fain
sleep ; he would lie down in the snow though he knows that by so doing he
must die ! and his friends are obliged to use great force to rouse him, and
to keep him from dropping off to sleep. 0, sin is a lethargy of the most


dreadful kind ! If physical sounds could waken, I could wish for a voice
of thunder, and for lungs of brass, that I might cry, " Awake, thou
that sleepest ! What meanest thou, sleeper ? awake, arise ! "
But ah ! 'tis not the voice that reaches the ear, 'tis not physical exer-
tions that can accompUsh this. 'T is the mind that is diseased ! 't is the
mind that must be brought to see and feel. come, and let mind
have intercourse with mind ! let me speak to your immortal spirits.
Must not your spirits have been lost, but for him who " bare your sins
in his own body on the tree ? come and let us linger round the cross,
and mark all the ignominy, the pains, the agony, the blood ! Why
was all this ? What had he done ? He had done nothing but what
was lovely and meritorious ; it was all for others ; it was all for the guilty.
Then, have you obtained an interest in it ? Have you ever become
" dead to sins, and alive to righteousness ? " Has there ever sprung
up within you a concern for your souls — for righteousness — for sal-
vation — for everlasting glory ? If not, you are not yet interested in
the death of Christ.

There must be a union with Christ. In order that he might be
united to us, he became a man. Angels were not bettered by his
coming, for he never became an angel. There must, I repeat it, be
some union with him : we must, ourselves, feel something of the agony
of the cross operating upon our minds, and teaching us the evil of sin
— the danger of our souls — the wonders of his love — the faithful-
ness of his promise ; we must venture our whole souls upon him, we
must cast ourselves alone on the mercy of the Savior. Has there been
this personal intercourse with Christ ? If not, do not flatter yourselves
that you are any better for his bearing the burden of sin, " in his own
body upon the tree." But if you are not, such a burden, — a burden
at which God so expressed his abhorrence, — still lies heavy on your
souls ! And if you go out of the world, and such a burden presses
upon you, how low do you suppose it will sink you ? Who can tell ?

• " in the lowest deep, a lower deep

Still threat'ning to devour you, opens wide ! "

" Who among you can dwell with everlasting burnings ? " Your " feet
shall slide in due time." Do you exclaim, Where then shall I flee ?
Flee to him " who, his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the
tree." But will he receive me ? Will he not receive you ? Where-
fore did he bear that heavy burden ? He did not bear it for nothing ;
and when he sees you casting yourselves at his feet as a penitent, he
sees " of the travail of his soul." and he will blot out your offences,


and say with exultation, " Now I am glad I died, for that poor sinner
Uves ! "

let those who are alive through Christ, cherish the warmest grati-
tude ! Live to righteousness alone. Never trifle with your souls.
Seek to enjoy more and more of that healthful state of mind -which is
to you a pledge of everlasting bliss in the presence of God.



" The voice said, Cry. And he said, Wliat shall I cry ? All flesh is grass, and all the
goodliness tliereof is as the flower of the field : the gi-ass withereth, the flower fadeth ; because
the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it : surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the
flower fadeth : but tlie word of our God shall stand for ever." — Isaiah xl. 6 — 8.

The chapter out of which my text is taken, is, perhaps, the most
magnificent piece of verse ever penned by any author, of any age.
Its dignity, its energy, its sublimity, its point, are without parallel in
the language of man. By the common consent of Christian exposi-
tors, the text and its connection have reference to Gospel times; and,
indeed, we have the authority of the New Testament writers also, in
applying it to John the Baptist, as the forerunner of Christ, and to
Christ himself.

It seems to have been the custom of the monarchs of antiquity,
whenever they went on any expedition, to send a herald before them to
announce their approach, to level mountains, to raise valleys, and to
remove every impediment out of the way. King Messiah is here
represented as about to commence that career of conquest, of glory,
and of salvation, which is destined never to terminate, till all the nations
of the world shall become the kingdoms of our God, and of his Christ.
His messenger, John the Baptist, is said to go before him to prepare
his way : " The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness. Prepare ye
the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our
God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall
be made low : and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough
places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh


shall see it together : for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
When this work was done, command was given to make another proc-
lamation : — " The voice said, Cry. And he said. What shall I cry ? "
to Avhich the answer seems to be, in order to illustrate the worth, the
truth, the excellency, and the dispensation about to be given to the
world ; to put it in contrast with all which the world contains — with
all that forms the pride, the dignity, the glory of man : cry this —
" All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of
the field ; the grass withereth, the flower fade th: because the Spirit
(or wind) of the Lord bloweth upon it ; surely the people is grass.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth ; but the word^of our God shall
stand for ever."

With an authority certainly much less, but, in a sense, as real, every
genuine minister of the word of God is called upon to make proclama-
tion of the vanity and nothingness, of the fleeting, transitory nature
of all worldly good. And, to say the truth, this is one of the excep-
tions taken to his character : he is called a harbinger of trouble, of
sorrow, and of tears ; the plaints of distress are supposed to follow in
his train ; and his discourses are often shunned and disregarded. But
this does not alter the nature of things ; this does not stamp value on
that which is valueless. I smile when I see a gay young man turn
away from a discourse on the vanity of earthly things ; but this does
not change his state. The patient may chase from his chamber the
honest physician who tells him his real state ; but that does not make
him less a dying man.

I propose to set before you from the text, first, the transitory nature
of all earthly things ; and, secondlt/, the durability of that dispensation
of truth with which God has blessed the world.

I. The transitory nature of all earthly things.

" All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of
the field." Let us consider some of those things which constitute the
goodliness and the glory of man, and see how they justify the asser-
tion in the text, They are,

1. Personal endowments of leauty mid of form. We make our
boast of beauty ; of the sparkling eye ; of comely features. We make
our boast of strength ; of the muscular, well-built form ; of the strong,
athletic frame ; of dexterity and activity. Small is our cause for
boast ! That body which seemed to concentrate in it all that Avas beau-
tiful and charming ; see it when wasted by accidents and by time —
when brought down by sickness — when blasted by the touch of death !
Look at it : — where the eye once danced with joy, the slimy reptile


crawls and riots ! Where is the beauty of form ? exhaled in putres-
cent air ; odious and disgusting. Look at that muscular man, whose
shoulder the hand of sickness has brought down to dust, and made food
for reptiles and for worms ! Look at him now, and then feel and con-
fess the force of the representation in the text — " All flesh is grass,
and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field." Perhaps
it is not possible to choose a more appropriate figure : — a flower is one
of the most beautiful objects in nature. In the swiftness of its growth —
the delicacy of its form — the elegance of its colors — and the exquis-
iteness of its fragrance, — it is an emblem of youth ; but it is an emblem
of its dangers too ! Nipt by the chilling wind — or plucked by the
ruthless hand — or trodden by the foot of violence ! it is first spoiled,
and then cast out as worthless !

" So blooms the human face divine,

When youth its pride of beauty shows ;
Fairer than spring the colors shine,

And sweeter than the virgin rose.
Or worn by slowly rolling years,

Or broke by sickness in a day,
Thy fading glory disappears.

The short-liv'd beauties die away." ,

The text may be illustrated,

2. By adverting to the wisdom, as well as to the beauty and strength
of man. Since the attention of man was first directed to the objects
of nature, what an innumerable succession has there been of notions,
of systems,- of theories, of hypotheses, almost without end. And yet
each in their day was regarded as truth : the abettors of them laid
down their arguments — came to conclusions — and said, all this is
true ; all this is demonstration. And yet we look on these ill-digested

Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 28 of 45)