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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

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systems as belonging only to days which are gone hy, and as now
utterly exploded ; and we imagine that the perfection of science, the
perfection of art, the perfection of philosophy, has been reserved
for our times. Alas for us ! there will rise up another generation ;
and they will look back on the nineteenth century, and, in their turn,
smile at the shallowness of our science, and laugh at the puny
knowledge which we acquired. For the fact is, that all knowledge,
except that which is derived from the Bible, is destined to pass away.
" Whether there be tongues, they shall cease ; whether there be
knowledge, it shall vanish away."

3. Advert to the transitory nature of those things which, are the
produce of the imagination and taste. Whatever the pencil of the
painter has portrayed ; whatever the chisel of the sculptor has wrought;
whatever the skill of the architect has reared ; whatever is accounted
rare or beautiful ; whatever general consent has declared to be valuable ;



EARTHLY THINGS TRANSITORY. 253

all these are destined shortly to be destroyed. This may be demon-
strated ; the fine arts, as they are termed, were never carried to a
greater degree of perfection than in Athens and Greece ; never did
science appear so fully to triumph. But time has trampled down all
their magnificence and glory ; and barbarians have trodden under foot
the monuments of art they were incapable of appreciating. And shall
the fine arts of Great Britain share a better fate ? Ah, no ! all that
which fascinates our attention, or engages our study, is doomed to be
swept away into eternal oblivion by the resistless hand of time. This
should convey a very forcible reproof to those who expend so large a
portion of their time in the embellishments of life, in dress, and in
furniture, and in equipages. I grieve when I see an immortal soul
which is to be in a few days in heavenly glory or in hell fire ; when I
see that soul convulsed, tossed, elated, by some trifle which the wind
of heaven will to-morrow consign to eternal oblivion ! If we must be
excited, let it be by something which will remain ! The truth of the
text appears,

4. In reference to the possessions of men, — wealth and fortune, and
their concomitants, — grandeur, eminence, pomp, and luxury. It is a
remarkable fact, that God has been pleased to make these pass from
nation to natioa — from family to family — from man to man. " Riches
certainly make themselves wings ; they fly away, as an eagle toward
heaven ; " — and yet it is on riches that the hearts of men, corrupted
and degenerate, generally fix. All men, but those whose souls are
purged from low desire and fixed on the things which are above, set
their hearts on gold ; and yet, under the sun, there is not another gift
more fluctuating. Look at those who came over to this country at the
time of the Norman conquest. They took possession of the lands of
this fair isle ; they called them after their own names ; they left them
to their heirs ; and they enjoyed them for a few generations. But
their posterity have sunk into complete obscurity ; other families have
been fetched out of the obscure crowd, and from the very dung-hill
have come to be kings and nobles in our land. Poets have a very
significant way of stating this: — fortune, as they term it, is repre-
sented with a wheel in perpetual motion ; the radius that now lifts the
individual towards heaven is gradually lowered, till it turns in the dust ;
it then be^ns to rise, and points again to the skies. Such is the
succession of grandeur and of wealth !

5. As strikingly is this illustrated by the emptiness of that shape-
less thing, — that shadow of a shade, in which you have, no doubt, an-
ticipated my application, — that thing called /awe. You have observed
on a fine sky, a cloud : it has taken this form, and that form, and



254 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

your fancy has given it many forms : you have looked again, and you
could not find it — it has passed away for ever ! Such is the form, the
something, pursued for years, bestowed by folly and ignorance, enjoyed
for a moment, and followed by loss, reproach, and ignominy ! Such is
that worthless thing called popularity ! 0, if my soul, in an unguarded
moment has fixed its thoughts upon it, forgive the folly ! and let me be
placed in any situation, however low, where I may please Him ; rather
than in any situation, however eminent, where honor and piety are to
be placed at the feet of popular applause ! and yet, how eager are men
for it ! The poet's song, the historian's record, the trophied column,
the monument of marble or of brass, — have all been employed to per-
petuate the monarch's and the hero's fame. But do we know anything
so calculated to stamp folly upon this, as the very means which are em-
ployed to perpetuate it ?

6. See it illustrated, also, as to dominion and power . Kingdoms and
empires rise and fall — flourish and decay. Thrones are overturned ;
crowns are transferred ; sceptres are broken ; dynasties are overthrown.
Where are now Persia, Babylon, Assyria, Nineveh, and Rome? Daniel
saw the mighty monarchies represented as a great image, the head
of which was of fine gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and
thighs of brass, the legs of iron, the feet part of iron and part of clay.
The catastrophe of this image also is supplied: — a stone cut out of the
mountain smote the image and brake it in pieces, and it became " like
the chaff of the summer threshing floors, and the wind carried them
away, that no place was found for them." An instance of this has oc-
curred in our own times : — the day is not very distant when the name
of Napoleon was feared by many hearts. Conquest seemed to be given
into his hands ; the angel of Victory accompanied him in his march and
the angel of Desolation followed in his train. He bestowed thrones at
his will, as trifles ; empires were too narrow for him ; and his armies
carried their successes over half the world. His dominion seemed to
be a fair and beautiful fabric : its foundations were deep — its super-
structure rose high — its turrets touched the skies. But it was all a
shadow ; and, touched by a spear in an Almighty hand, it vanished as
though it had never been ! But why do I dwell on these things ? For,

Finally, The world itself is an illustration of the sentiment in the
text. The globe itself, on which we dwell, after it has borne generation
after generation, — the great globe itself, is appointed to be the last
and most affecting illustration of this truth. Since the world first
came out of the hands of its Maker, what changes has it under-
gone, by diluvian waters, or by subterranean fires ! And it is soon des-
tined to pass away. The figure in the text is almost as applicable to



HEAVENLY THINGS SUBSTANTIAL. 255

the world, as it Is to anything connected with the present life. And
as a person, accnstomed to behold a beautiful flower in a parterre,
should retire for a moment, and, on returning, behold that beauteous
flower gone ; so we may conceive will angels and archangels one day
turn their eyes to the spot where they had been accustomed to behold
this glorious orb, the world, and, to their astonishment, find it gone
from its sphere, struck from the works of God ! " The day of the
Lord will come as a thief in the night ; in the which the heavens shall
pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent
heat ; the earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt
up."

This may seem to be somewhat of a departure from the object of
our present assembly; yet, as the Holy Spirit has put these things
in contact, I thought it right to dwell upon them. It will, however, be
a relief to myself, and, no doubt, to you, to turn from the meditation
in which I have indulged, to a subject more in unison with the high
hopes which swell the bosoms of those who are now before me ; namely,

II. The durability of that dispensation with which God has

BEEN pleased TO BLESS THE WORLD.

" The grass withereth, the flower fadeth ; but the word of our God
shall stand for every This sentiment is greatly illustrated, and abun-
dantly confirmed, by,

1. The utter impotence of persecution. All that the ingenuity of
the devil could invent, or the cruelty of man inflict, has been tried to
extirpate the spirit of religion from the world. From the day that the
spirit of Antichrist tasted the blood of the first martyr, Stephen, thou-
sands have fled for safety to the forest wilds ; thousands more have been
shut up to perish in the dungeon's gloom ; thousands more have parted
with life upon the cruel rack ; while thousands more, in the midst of
flames, have born their testimony to the truth. What innumerable
methods, one after another, have been tried to stop the progress of the
truth ! but they have been tried in vain ; or, rather, the rage of per-
secution has been followed by an increase of the disciples of the Son
of God. A learned friend has ventured an opinion, that at no period
of the church's history has there been found a real decline in the num-
bers of the friends of truth. And there is considerable weight in the
opinion ; such outpourings of the Spirit — such secret influence on
the minds of men — such effect from the examples of heroic sufferers,
on the consciences of the beholders, — that " the blood of the martyrs "
has truly become " the seed of the church." Sometimes, it is true,
persecution has appeared to triumph ; the demon has appeared to tread



256 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.'

the cause of the Redeemer under foot ; but it has only been in appear-
ance. Like the fabled Phoenix, the church has lisen from the flames,
stretched her pmions for a loftier flight, dashed down the monuments
which her foes had reared to perpetuate her overthrow ; and gone on
from conquest to conquest, spreading the glory of her Master, and
promoting the happiness of men. Nor ought it to escape our recol-
lection, that the word of our God has been assailed ; but even heathens
have perceived the influence of the sacred writings on the lives of
Christians. And where the same spirit prevails, and while the cause
of truth is dear to our hearts, the cause must prevail. The sentiment
in the text may be illustrated and confirmed by noticing,

2. The utter failure of the opposition of Infidelity. The manner in
which infidelity has stood in the way of the truth of Christ, is highly
interesting in itself. It has varied the methods of its assaults ; but, in
all, it has only illustrated and proved the excellency of the dispensa-
tion of truth. Sometimes its opposition has been coarse, rude and
vulgar. Pens deeply dipped in filth have assailed the holiness of
truth. Low jests, loose ribaldry, obscene wit, have been hurled at the
Christian's serious thoughts of God — of Christ — of death — of
eternity. The sophist's art, also, has been called in to oppose the
system of truth ; and that system by which the martyrs were upheld
in death ; that system which had triumphed over the attacks of Julian
and Porphyry ; that system which had stood successfully against the
fury of the Caesars ; that system which had stood the test of eighteen
centuries ; that system which had taught so many thousands how to
live and how to die ; — that system has been assailed by the fine-spun
theory of a Gibbon ; and a finely-wrought syllogism was supposed to be
powerful enough to destroy it ! I would respect the man that, with
fairness and candor, attempted to oppose the system of revealed truth ;
but when in a matter so serious, — a matter which involves the ever-
lasting interests of immortal men, — I am met with a jest or a farce,
and a quibble is converted into an attack upon the truth ; a madman
is to me the emblem of wisdom ! In many cases, the poison has been
mixed up with many sweets ; the serpent lay concealed amidst beaute-
ous flowers ; and his fiery aspect, his forky tongue, and his deadly
venom, were not perceived till it was almost too late. Yet, in reality,
all these attacks have but established the truth which they were
designed to overthrow. Christianity overthrown ! My brethren, let
us not fear investigation ; let us not fear that there ever can come a
time when the truth of God can fail. Fail ! what have we been talking
about ? as if the truth of God were to fall before its foes ! It cannot
be ; it is like a strong fortress on the summit of an everlasting rock ;



HEAVENLY THINGS SUBSTANTIAL. 257

some of her iriends, through carelessness, have been entertaining
suspicions that the fortress -will be taken by storm, or that it will fall
down ; and they have brought to the foot of the rock a quantity of
straw and sand to support it ! The affected knowledge of the infidel,
the bitter sarcasms, and the haughty sneers of the worldUng, have
swept away, as with a mighty gale, the straws and sands at the base
of the rock ; but what has become of the fortress ? She has stood
firm amidst all the storms ; all her proportions are as fair as ever ; her
turrets still touch the skies ; and there she stands, more glorious in the
eyes of her friends, more terrific to the gaze of her foes ! Let her
stand by herself, and she will stand for ever, ,The declaration in the
text may be illustrated, by adverting

3. To the blessed and delightful spread given to it m our day. We
cannot contemplate, without considerable emotion, what has been done
in the days in which we live. Since we first saw the light of heaven,
what a wide diffusion has been given to the word of God ! In regions
shut up in the darkness of Atheism, or the gloom of superstition —
over many such a land has the gospel of our God spread itself. Some-
times it has proceeded silently, and at other times visibly, in its course.
In many a deep savanna, where nothing was once heard but the war
whoop of the savage, has the cheering name of our Emmanuel been
sung. Over many a plain where superstition only uttered her melan-
choly moans, has Christian prayer and Christian praise been heard,
conveying delight to the hearts of men, and joy to the hosts of heaven.
An infidel author, of base and execrable memory, undertook what he
called an impartial view of Scripture, in order to demonstrate that it
was not what it professed to be ; and, after having gone through the
books of the Old Testament, he concludes with this language of singu-
lar arrogance — " I have now gone through these books ; gone through
them as a woodman would go through a wood, with an axe, clearing
his way as he went. I have cut them down, and here they are. The
priests,. if they please, may stick them in the ground again ; but they
will never grow.'' ^ It is now nearly forty years since the hand that
wrote this has been buried in the dust ; but the soul that indited the
sentence has gone to take its stand at the tribunal of the just and
righteous Judge ; " the Judge of all the earth," who will assuredly
" do right." Whether his body is buried in America or in England,
I know not ; but, Lord, gather not the soul of thy servant with the
soul of the wicked and profane ! But let us return to the time when
these prophets and apostles were said to be " cut down." Since that
period, the British and Foreign Bible Society has multiplied these
prophets and apostles by hundreds and by thousands ! School Socie-
17



258 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

ties have risen up to put it in tlie powei' of hundreds and of thousands
to read the prophets and apostles thus circulated ! Since that time
also originated Missionary Societies ! the Church Missionary Society
— the London — the Baptists — our own. All these have arisen, and
by their active exertions have spread those prophets and apostles wider
still! The prophets and apostles '•^ cut downJ" No such thing!
They are planted on the banks of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi ;
and there they are to be seen, vigorous and strong, " Cut down " the
prophets and the apostles ? No such thing ! They have been planted
upon the sun-burnt shores of Africa, and there they afford refreshment
and shelter to the neglected children of the South. The prophets and
the apostles " cut down ? " Nothing of the kind. They have taken
root on the populous plains of Hindoostan, and there they are diffusing
their corrective influence on the poisonous systems which have hitherto
prevailed in those populous climes. " Cut down " the prophets and
apostles ? No such thing. They are planted in the islands that speck
the bosom of the Pacific Ocean ; and they have been found congenial
to the clime — purifying it from its numerous evils. " Cut down "
the prophets and the apostles ! Oh no, no ! their roots have struck
deep — their branches have spread — their tops touch the sky ; they
afford shelter for birds of every wing ; they are continually yielding
their fruit, and " their leaves are for the healing of the nations."
" The word of our God shall stand for ever." This may be illustrated
further, if we

4. Advert to the fact that the dispensation of truth with which God
has blessed the world is also the dispensation of the Spirit. If I prove
that the Bible is in all your houses, and that it rests on your tables and
your shelves, I prove but little, — a mere book is nothing. But this is
a book of the Spirit — a book of inquiry. The word of our God is a living
word : it is not only a dispensation of words, addressed to the under-
standing and will, but a dispensation of the Spirit coming to the heart
of man. If I wanted the proof of this, I would seek it among yourselves.
Is there in this large and interesting assembly a man who ever felt the
burden of a guilty conscience ? one who ever mourned over the evils of
his past life, and the evil dispositions of his own heart ? "Was it not, I
ask, by some tmth of the Spirit of your God ? Was it not by some one
single word, which entered as an arrow into your heart, and the poison,
of which drank up your spirits ? It was. Or is there in this assembly
one who ever knew what it was to receive the tokens of the forgiving
love of God ? one who can come nigh unto his throne — who can call
him Father by the Holy Ghost ? one who ever felt the peace, the hope,
the joy, the love, of the gospel springing up in the soul ? I ask, Was



HEAVENLY THINGS SUBSTANTIAL. 259

not some dear, soul-afflicting -word of our God — some gracious
remise applied by the Spirit, — that brought thee into this happy
;ate ? Is there here a man who can resist temptation — who can
aard the door of his lips and his heart — who, in adversity, can rejoice
- who, in a dark and cloudy day, can put his trust in his Father and
is God ? Was it not, I ask, because the word of our God was applied
Y the Spirit to the heart, carrying joy and gladness with it ?
I am glad, exceedingly glad, that " the word of our God shall stand
or ever.'''' I find myself a poor worm of the earth, exposed to a
lousand temptations and disasters — exposed to a thousand circum-
ances of trial and danger, over which I have no control ; I find that
am one of a multitudinous race of men ; I find that this land in which
dwell is but a speck on the face of the globe ; I find that this globe
but one in a system, of which it makes but a very small part ; I find
lat system to be one of innumerable millions, scattered over the
Qmeasurable regions of space. My heart, mv poor heart, misgives
le ! I fear that I am lost amidst these myriads of beings — that it is
Dt possible for such a poor worm as I am to be remembered by the Lord
' all! But '•^ the word of our G-od shall stand for everJ^ That
ord declares " the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his
irs are open to their cry." While he made the universe, and governs
too, he is not unmindful of the work of his hands. " Not a sparrow
,11s to the ground without his notice. " " The very hairs of my head
'e all numbered."

I perceive that life's day is rapidly hastening to a close. " The place
lat knows me now, will shortly know me no more." I feel that I have
1 intelligent thinking spirit within me ; but whether it will return to
e dust when my body dies, my reason cannot tell. But " the word
' our God shall stand for ever.^^ That word assures me that the
uls of Abraham and Lazarus are in the abodes of the faithful ; that
e souls of the faithful shall live for ever.

I am going down to the dust! king of terrors, I am not insen-

»le of thy approach ! The gloomy terrors of the grave are before me !

nust go down to " the house appointed for all living ! " But let me

t be dismayed; the word of God assures me, — and " the word of

i.^r God shall stand for ever," — that all who are in the graves shall

live again. " The hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves

shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ! " " Them that sleep with

Jesus will God bring with him." And in the day when God shall

come in glory, " he shall change my vile body, and fashion it like unto

his own glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to

subdue all things unto himself."



260 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

0, I am glad that " the word of our Grod shall stand for ever^ I
feel that I have been a sinner ! The proudest infidel feels it. He felt
it, who said, " I hate every body ; I believe myself to be about the
best of men ; and I know how bad I am ! " Yes ; and as a Christian,
with clearer light, I know that I have been a sinner. Yet let me not
sink into despair ! Let me not abandon myself to hopeless wretched-
ness ! The word of God assures me, — and '■'■the word of our God
shall stand for ever^'' — " If any man sin, we have an advocate with
the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous ; and he is the propitiation for
our sins ; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world."
" Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man ; "
" If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."



SERMON XXII.

THE TRANSLATION OF ELIJAH COMPARED WITH THE
DEATH -BED OF ELISHA.

BY REV. HENRY MELVILL, D. D.

" Now Elisha 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 Kings xiii. 14.

Elisha, as you will remember, succeeded Elijah in the prophetical
office, having been with him at the moment of his being taken up into
heaven, and having caught the mantle which fell from him, as he thus
ascended unto God. Elijah and Elisha were both conspicuous by the
power of working miracles, and by their efforts at withstanding idolatry
and restoring throughout Israel the pure worship of God. It may not
be altogether our part to institute a comparison between men so
eminently endowed, or to pronounce as to one being more illustrious
than the other ; yet there is more recorded of Elisha than of Elijah.
It would appear from the history of Elisha, that he wrought twice as
many miracles as Elijah ; as though the parting request had been liter-
ally complied with, and a double portion of the spirit of the ascending
prophet had fallen on his successor. Neither is there anything related
of Elisha, in which he would seem to have been blameworthy ; and this



ELIJAH AND ELISHA. 261

is more than can be said of Elijah ; for it would certainly seem that
Elijah, after the memorable defeat of the prophets of Baal, abandoned
his post upon a sudden fit of despondency, fleeing into the wilderness
to avoid the threatened vengeance of Jezebel ; when, by remaining to
follow up the impression which had been made, he might have succeeded,
to a great degree, in reclaiming the people of Israel from their apos-
tasy. We have before had occasion to show jou that the manifestation
upon Horeb, when the Lord was not found in the wind, the earthquake,
or the fire, but discovered himself in and through the " still small
voice," appears to have been intended as a sort of parable ; the truths
conveyed being such as were fitted to encourage the prophet to perse-
verance in the course which he had taken, and to admonish him of
punishment, if he acted differently in his office. There is nothing of
a like kind recorded of Elisha. Doubtless he too had infirmities, and
fell into sins ; for you cannot need proof that a man is not to be
accounted faultless, because only his excellencies are told us in the
Bible. But, so far as the scriptural account goes, it would be difficult
to conceal that Elisha came nearer perfection than Elijah ; that not



Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 29 of 45)