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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

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which, but for it, we could not understand ! And inrther peculiar crim-
inality and unreasonableness attaches to modern than could attach to
ancient infidelity. On us " the ends of the world are come ; " to us the
system of Christianity is more fully explained, and the glory of GoD
shines forth with greater radiancy, in the person and work of Jesus
Christ. The beneficial effects of the system have been illustrated by
many striking facts in our days, which were not known to our fathers.
The argument for Christianity is stronger ; it has grown, and is still
growing, with the growth of information. On the infidels of these days,
therefore, the benevolent Savior may well look down with mingled emo-
tions of surprise and indignation ; he may well be alike grieved for the
hardness of their hearts, and surprised at the strength of their infatua-
tion !

Secondly. And what shall I say of the unreasonableness of the next
class, — a disbelief of the principal doctrines of Christianity? Is not
this unreasonable ? When a man writes a book for his fellow-men, if
his object be to instruct philosophers and the learned, he adapts his
style to them ; but if he be anxious to instruct the mass of men — if he
would benefit the unlearned, and those who are incapable of deep and
critical inquiry, — then he writes in a plain and popular style, that all
who read may at once comprehend his meaning. Now, apply this to
the book which God has given. The poor and uneducated form the
mass of the people ; their instruction and benefit must therefore be re-
garded ; and if he be a good and gracious God, then a plain and sim-
ple man will be able to collect his meaning from the plain language and
letter of his word. Those who reject the great truths of the Bible
pretend to say that a great part of the Bible is not to be understood
according as the words appear on the surface. They tell us about cor-
ruptions ; and they explain much of its contents away into Eastern sim-
iles. But let any plain, unsophisticated man, any man whose mind is
not prejudiced and perverted by tortured criticisms, — let any honest
man regard the corruptions, as they term them, of the Scriptures, and
he will find them to be the very vital and important truths of the sys-
tem. But there is some reason to think that men are beginning to get
tired of this rational system ; and to see that they must either follow
Scripture, as it is, or go at once to Deism : they begin now to find that
the half-way house, as it has been termed, between Deism and Chris-


tianity, is untenable. And let those who attempt to take refuge there,
let these half Avay-house-men take care, lest God should say to them, as
he said to ancient Chaldea — " Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath
perverted thee ! "

3. But the form of unbelief Avhich is the most extraordinary, is that
of the neglecters of salvation : those who hold the truth, but hold it iu
unrighteousness. You will not surely account us your enemies if we
tell you the truth. We say that there are many who admit the truth
of the gospel, and yet neglect its great salvation. If we speak of such
characters, we must speak in the terms which belong to them : we ac-
cuse you of conduct Avhich, if it were exemplified in the common affairs
of life, would justly expose you to the charge of inconsistency and irra-
tionality. I will endeavor to set out your conduct before you, and I
entreat you to let your consciences go with me. You say that you be-
lieve the gospel to be of God ; that " at the first it began to be spoken
by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him ; God
also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers
miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will ; " you
say that you beheve in his Scripture ; — and yet — you live in habitual
opposition to what you know to be the requirements, and what you
know to be the privileges of this gospel ! You say that you beheve in
the existence of a God ; a God who is present in all places ; who is in-
timately acquainted with all your thoughts, and words, and actions ; —
and yet — you go on, day after day, in a career which you know he
must hate ! You say that you believe him to be a just God ; and that
he who is the Maker of all the earth shall be the Judge of all the earth ;
and that he has prepared the thunderbolts of his wrath, that he may
take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not his
will ; — and yet — you continually defy this authority, and expose
yourselves to this vengeance ! You say you believe that you have im-
mortal souls ; that when you leave this world you must go into another
state ; that this other state must be regulated by your present charac-
ter and conduct ; that there is a state of happiness for the holy, and of
misery for the unholy ; and yet — you act as if you had no souls ; as
if there were no future state ; as if heaven were a delusion, and hell
were a chimera ! — You say that you believe Jesus Christ came from
heaven to earth to seek and to save the lost ; that he was delivered for
the offences of men, and rose again for their justification, and returned
to heaven, that he might intercede for them and send them down all
the blessings of his salvation ; and you come to hear his truth proclaim-
ed to you Sabbath after Sabbath ; and, such is the force of habit, you
■would be quite uncomfortable if you did not hsten to these things ; —


and jet — you are quite content to have no experience of this Savior's
pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace ! — I might pursue this train
of remark ; but from what has been said, you see how clearly a charge
of the most marvellous unbelief and absurdity may be made out against
you. You kiss the Savior, like Judas, and like him you betray him
for this world's good. You call him Lord, but you do not the things
which he says. You sleep as quietly in your beds, after we have as-
sured you, upon his authority, that you are in danger of eternal perdi-
tion, as if you had never heard a word about the matter! and it is
more than probable that some of you will do so this very night ! And
how is this ? Is it not marvellous ? Well may Christ be grieved and
wonder ! Is it not marvellous insensibility to what you acknowledge
to be so valuable and important ? Is it not a proof of marvellous unbe-
lief, to disregard a blessing which you yourselves allow to be attaina-
ble ? Is it not a marvellous disregard of all the thunders of the divine
wrath, which you must confess are hanging over your heads ? that
you were willing to follow up the convictions of your own minds ! that
you would not attempt to get rid of them in an unhallowed way ! that
you would cherish them by reading the Scriptures and pious books, by
meditation, by prayer, by intercourse with Christians, and by the use
of all the means which God has appointed to save souls from the wrath
to come !

4. I speak to those, also, who, though not loving sin, but truly con-
vinced of their sinfulness and consequent danger, hating sin, and de-
sirous of being freed from it; yet go on for iveeks, and months, and
even years, without finding the mercy which God has promised, — with-
out obtaining the blessings of pardon, of adoption, of holiness, of conso-
lation, of the Holy Spirit's influence. Come, and let me expostulate
with you. There are many such in all our congregations, and in all
our societies. It is a fact, that if we have a thousand members, we
find at least a hundred, to whose general seriousness we can make no
exception, whose conduct is marked by regularity ; who yet cannot,
with satisfaction to their ministers and fellow Christians, declare what
God has done for their souls. There are, no doubt, therefore, some
such present this evening. Now, let me expostulate with you : look
at your case. that I may be assisted to say something which shall
lead you this night to lay hold on Christ ! something that shall make
you ashamed of your unbelief in my Savior and yours ! something that
shall convince you that, when he opens his arms to receive you, you
have no right to run away from him ; that you have no right to close
your ears to his inviting voice ; that it is your duty, as well as your in-
terest, to lay hold on his mercy, and to receive the blessings which he


has pressed on jour acceptance in the exuberance of his kindness !
Now, what does he saj ? — " Come unto me all ye that are heavy lad-
en, and I will give you rest. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy
transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Come
now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord : Though your sins be
as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow ; though they be red like
crimson, they shall be as wool." But I need not repeat these promises :
what you want is, not the knotvledge of them, — you have heard them
read a hundred times ; — no ; what you want is, to believe, to embrace
them. These promises point out you — you yourselves — as the very
persons who want these good things. And 0, consider that these
promises are confirmed — confirmed by a solemn oath ; " that by two
immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, they might
have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the
hope set before them." You have heard God's p'omise, — now hear
God's oath. 0, infinite condescension ! You doubt his word — shame
on you ! but he does not desert you for your sin. Now, hear it, peni-
tent ! hear the oath of thy God. "We have it on record in his own book:
it is written for your comfort. Listen — " As I live, saith the Lord
God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked ; but that the wick-
ed turn from his way and live : turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways ;
for why will ye die ? " God tells you, by his life, that he is ready to
save you — to save you noiv. And this promise, and this oath, have
been sealed by the blood of Christ ; and " he that spared not his own ,
Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also
freeh - give us all things ? " And this promise, and this oath, have
been confirmed by the resurrection of Christ. By this we are taught
that the sacrifice he presented was accepted — that God is satisfied ;
and that there is nothing even in his justice to hinder him from pardon-
ing you. Hence the language of the apostle to the Hebrews ; — " Now
the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting
covenant, make you perfect ! " and so on. 0, what comfort is contain-
ed in these words ! God is " the God of peace! " ^Vhy, we might
have been charged to tell you that God is " a man of war." — But no ;
•we have to proclaim him to you as " the God of peace." He has a
peaceful disposition towards you ; and he has proved this by raising up
Jesus Christ from the dead.

It is possible that ive may have erred in telling you that this is your
privilege, and not dwelling suflSciently upon it as your duty. It is your
duty to believe ; it is a great crime yon are guilty of in not coming to
God for the pardon of your sins, when he has told you so plainly and


SO repeatedly that he waits to bestow that pardon. You believe the
word of your fellow-men : to-morrow you will take their word, perhaps,
twenty times in the day, in the course of your business ; but you will
not take the word of God; you must behold something extraordinary,
you must have some miracle performed, before you believe God ! And
is not this most marvellous, most unreasonable ? Will it not be infi-
nitely better to take him at his word, and receive the blessing ? Why,.
part of his word you do believe : — you do believe his threatenings !
when he says that " the wicked man shall surely die," this you firmly
believe. But another part of his word, — that very part which is most
suited to your case, — you put away from you ! You say that you are
not ready yet ; that you are not worthy yet ! the marvellous ab-
surdity of this unbelief ! Men under the influence of this vile princi-
ple will absolutely believe all but that which they are required to be-
lieve, — that which most of all concerns them to believe, — that " this


Christ came into the world to save sinners." I now proclaim it
to you : — take it home to yourselves : — say,

" Who did for ecfry sinner die,
Hath surely died for »7ie."

For me he hath obtained that redemption which is of so much value ;
that, without which I must for ever have perished ! " Sayest thou
this ? — Then thou art the very man for my Savior ! Thou art the
very man on whom he now looks down, on whom he now waits to be
gracious !

I have already trespassed so unwarrantably upon your time, that I
must leave you to apply this train of thought to other cases of unbelief
which will present themselves readily to your mind. We may learn
from this subject,

1. The marvellous corruption of human nature, from whence all this
unbelief originates. If man was as he came out of the hands of his
Maker, he would receive with simple, confiding love, all that he has
said, and listen implicitly to all his assurances. Faith has its seat in
the heart ; and so has unbelief; hence we read of " an evil heart of
unbelief." Man is very far gone from original righteousness. Now,
as unbelief took us away from God, so faith alone can bring us back to
God, and prepare us for an ultimate admission into heaven. See also,

2. The necessity of the agency of the Holy Spirit. This is necessa-
ry, that faith may be inspired, and kept in exercise, and brought to ma-
turity. If unbelief be in the heart by nature, it is not the nicest train
of reasoning, it is not all the power of moral suasion, that can produce
faith. True faith is supernatural ; the apostle tells the Philip plans


that it had been " given them to believe in his name." Tou must be-
lieve : believing is jour act ; but it is an act of a heart renewed by the
grace of the Holy Spirit ; by the same almighty and efficacious power
by which Christ was raised from the dead. Look at the case of infi-
dels ; other means are employed in abundance, but they remain infi-
dels still ; while others have been converted from infidelity in the ab-
sence of all human means. Look at the case of Saul of Tarsus ; he
was a most bigoted Pharisee, and a furious and determined persecutor ;
and he was not made into a sincere and humble Christian, and a zeal-
ous and successful preacher, by books, or by human argumentation.
The miraculous light, and the voice from heaven, might arouse his at-
tention, but it was by an immediate and direct interference of the Holy
Spirit that the change was effected, and true faith was inspired. The
conversion of Yanderkemp, also, is a case fully in point ; a conversion
scarcely less remarkable than that of the apostle Paul. From a Ger-
man infidel, infidelity, perhaps, of the most specious and dangerous
kind, Vanderkemp, without human interference, became a zealou3
Christian. I do not mean to say that good books, that wise and pious
information, are to be despised ; but I do mean to say, that the great
fault is in men's hearts ; and that it is necessary that the heart should
be prepared by the operation of the Spirit, to receive the truth in the
love of it. And that, though the mind may be prepared in some meas-
ure by knowledge, yet that true faith is the immediate effect of a direct
influence of the Holy Spirit.

As to all the instances of unbelief we have specified, and as to all
others which may occur, ^o direct to God; pray against your unbelief;
beseech him to cure you of this dreadful infatuation.

And let the disciples — let those who are set to guide souls to Christ,
let all the church say, " Lord, increase our faith ! "




" With the heart man believeth unto righteousness ; and with the mouth confession is made unto
salvation." — Romans i. 10.

The apostle declares that his heart's desire and prayer to God for
Israel was, that they might be saved ; but they utterly mistook the way
of salvation, imagining it to be by a work which they could themselves


achieve, upon the foundation of their own merit, as doers of the law.
They refused to accept as a free gift that which was oflfered to them by
God in Christ, and chose rather to be justified bj the deeds of the law
than by him who alone is holy. " Being ignorant," says the apostle,
" of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own right-
eousness, they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of
God." The righteousness of God is that righteousness which God be-
stows upon all believers in Christ — not actual holiness ; but, justify-
ing them, they have the privilege of being regarded as righteous, and
treated as such, for the sake of the true, intrinsic, substantial holiness
of Christ. " For," continues the apostle, " Christ is the end of the
law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

Perfect, unceasing obedience, was the requirement of the law ; but
perfect obedience was impracticable to fallen man ; therefore right-
eousness was unattainable by the deeds of the law. But was it attain-
able by the gospel ? " What saith it ? " — as asks the apostle. " The
word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart ; that is, the
word of faith which we preach. That, if thou shalt confess with thy
mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath
raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart
man believeth unto righteousness ; and with the mouth confession is
made unto salvation."

It appears, then, that, in order to salvation, two things are indispen-
sably necessary ; the one, a plenary and heartfelt faith in Jesus as a
crucified and glorified Savior ; the other, an open and oral confession
of him in that character before men, agreeably to his o^vn precept and
promise, " Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son
of man confess before the angels of God." By specifying faith and
confession as leading to certain results — the one to righteousness, that
is, to being accounted righteous in the sight of God, the other to final
salvation — the apostle has clearly intimated the inseparableness, and,
in some measure, the uniti/ of both. At all events, he has spoken of
the two as insejmrable ; and these words may be urged as an unan-
swerable refutation of two perilous errors, one of which many are found
to avow in words, while the other is by many more exemplified in prac-
tice ; for one sect pretend that religious feeling or principle is enough
without a particular profession of it ; while the other say that profes-
sion alone is all that is required of us.

Let us consider the nature of those two great acts of religion of
which the apostle speaks as being necessary to the perfection of the
Christian character — belief and confession. The point which claims
our attention, is —


I. That man believeth with the heart unto kighteous-


The apostle does not say that man beUeveth with the understanding,
which is especially considered to be the seat or instrument of belief;
but " man believeth with the heart unto righteousness." And to the
same effect he cautions the Hebrew Christians : " Take heed, breth-
ren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing
from the living God." And so it was with the first preaching of the
gospel by our blessed Lord himself ; its reception or rejection was occa-
sioned, not by the sagacity, the strength of reason, the power of in-
duction possessed by his hearers, but by the state in which their hearts
were : " But that on good ground are they, which, in an honest and
good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with
patience." Philip told the pious Ethiopian eunuch, who was endea-
voring in vain to comprehend the meaning of the evangelical prophet,
" If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest be baptized."

Now, this is the very expression by which the Scripture describes
that love of God which must be felt by all faithful and teachable
children. We must believe, as we must love, with all our heart. The
truth is, my brethren — and it is a truth which cannot be too fre-
quently nor too earnestly impressed upon mankind in an age of reli-
gious inquisitiveness — the truth is, the affections have a great deal
to do with faith. The edifice of Christian faith is not one which can
be built up solely by arguments and inferences upon the basis of his-
torical verity, but it must be raised, and strengthened, and drawn out
into full and fair proportion, by devotion, and love, and thankfulness
— by the powerful master-building of the Spirit. " Faith," the apos-
tle says, " is the evidence of things not seen." It is the certain beUef
of truths incapable of demonstration to our limited understandings ;
the sure expectation of things to come to pass hereafter ; a belief and
an expectation resting altogether upon the revelation of the promise of
God. Now, as things future and invisible cannot be objects of sense
or knowledge, properly so called, these must be embraced by the mind
upon some other principle than that upon which the understanding
builds its ordinary conclusions — and that principle is a firm reliance
upon the word of God. We judge him faithful who hath promised ;
but we can form no correct judgment of his moral perfection, talk of
them as we may, unless we feel an earnest desire to know God as he
is ; and such a desire is wholly incompatible with a set of affections
disordered by unholy wishes and habits.

We are assured, by our blessed Lord himself, that no man can come
to him as a Savior unless he be drawn of God ; and God will not draw


to liim the heart which delights in the works of the devil or the lusts
of the flesh, nor the heart which prides itself upon its virtues. The
man who is strongly attached to sinful practices, or possessed of a high
opinion of his own powers and merits, does not wish the gospel. In
the one case it would lay an irksome restraint upon his appetites, and
in the other it would mortify his pride. He comes to the examination
of truth prejudiced, and is, therefore, a partial judge. All his natural
passions are marshalled in array, to oppose the admission of affections
which require a teachable mind. He rejects the gospel of Jesus
Christ because he disbelieves it, but he disbelieves it because he dis-
likes it ; and, wishing it not to be true, he easily persuades himself
it is false. This is an evil heart of unbeUef. Look closely to the hfe
and proceedings of an infidel, and you will, in most instances, discover
abundant reason for his unwillingness to embrace that faith which com-
mands an undeviating course of holiness — which commands humiUty,
and abstinence from the things of the flesh, and a contempt of the
world ; and if you discover some symptoms, not only of a mind uncon-
vinced by the evidences of the gospel, but of a heart rebelling against
its precepts, reject the testimony of that man, pay no regard to his
authority ; he is not an unbiassed nor a candid judge. " If our gospel
be hid," said the apostle, " it is hid to them that are lost : in whom the
god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,
lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God,
should shine unto them."

But there is a speculative assent to the truth of Christianity Avhich,
although it exempts a man from the imputation of actual unbelief, is
yet not a belief unto righteousness, because it is not believing with the
heart. He may entertain no doubt of the authenticity of the gospel
of Jesus Christ, nor of the obligatory nature of his precepts, and yet,
if his heart remain unengaged in the question and work of religion,
there is no practical appHcation of his knowledge, in his own particu-
lar case, as one for whom Christ died. There is no seeking for, and,
consequently, no indwelling of the Spirit ; and, therefore, none of the
fruits of the Spirit can be produced. This, then, is an inoperative,
unfruitful faith ; it has no root in the heart, and the heart is every
thing in religion. I would rather see a Christian zealously aff'ected

Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 3 of 45)