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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

. (page 31 of 45)
Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 31 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


atry, and even old age and sickness might be employed in services
acceptable to God ; ay, services, it may be, which shall be recompensed
by a yet brighter glory in the invisible world than had been attained
by the prophet who went away so gloriously in the chariot of fire.
Thus Elijah did God's work in disappearing, and EHsha in remaining ;
the one by mounting in the whirlwind, the other by lingering on the
bed, and sinking slowly into the grave. And it is the same still. God
has particular lessons to give, and particular ends to answer, when he



270 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

calls awaj one of his servants in the midst of his strength and with
every indication of triumph, and when he leaves another, not even to
be employed in laborious exertion, but to spend months, and even
years, in the silence of his chamber and in the solitariness of his couch.
Dismiss, then, the thought that there is anything strange in the linger-
ing sickness and the long delayed deaths of Christians who have given
full evidence of their faith and their piety. They are ready, they are
fit to die, if by readiness, if by fitness, we mean such a spiritual state
that hope might justly plant itself by their grave, and smile beautifully
as they were committed to its cold embrace. But God has still work
for them to do, and heaven has still prizes for them to win. Therefore
do they live ; therefore is the lamp so long in going out. They hve
that they may preach, they live that they may practice, Christianity.
The lamp yet burns, that the flickering light may guide some wandering
or wavering spirit, and add another sparkle to the crown of righteous-
ness which shall be awarded at the judgment. Oh ! then marvel not
that death comes so slowly. The mercy is, that it comes not more
quickly. And Avhensoever Elisha, the old and worn down man, " falls
sick of the sickness whereof he must die," in place of looking on him
as he lingers as on one who can be of no further use, rather regard him
as still an efficient laborer in the highest of causes, and breathe over
him such words as were breathed by Joash, king of Israel ; words
expressive of the blank which his departure must leave — " My father,
my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof."

And yet, perhaps, — this is the last thing I have to say — you still feel
as though it were upon Elijah that the great honor was put. He may
seem to you to have obtained the better portion of the two. You contrast
the bed of languishing with the chariot of fire, and you cannot hesitate
as to which were the preferable lot. Well, it has not been the object
of our discourse to make you think the departure of Elijah less glorious,
but that of Ehsha glorious also, because also useful. There was a
greater brilliancy about that witness to the truth of a resurrection,
which Elijah was removed that he might give, than about that conversion
of numbers from idolatry, which Elisha remained that he might effect.
And, in like manner, that at the least as much of usefulness appertains
to the lingering old age and the sickness of one Christian as to the
earlier and more triumphant death of another — this may be proved,
vrithout your feeling satisfied that the diversity of God's dealings should
not be taken in evidence of some diversity in his favor. Now we
might safely refer to another life, to the decisions and allotments of
another state of being, for full proof that God may as graciously
approve, and design as gloriously to recompense, the patience of the



ELIJAH AND ELISHA. 271

sufferer on his sick bed, as the boldness of the martyr at the stake.
But even in this life he will often provide that they who serve him
through solitary watching and meek endurance, should share his honors
with those whose virtues have been more conspicuous, and whose actions
more brilliant. Seems it to you to have been so glorious a thing to
have witnessed, as Elijah witnessed, to the truth of a resurrection ;
and would you not have wondered, had Elisha, as he lingered on his
bed, sighed for the privilege of giving a Uke testimony to so stupendous
a fact ? After all, then, which of the two was most honored as a
witness to the resurrection, Elijah, who departed in the whirlwind, or
Ehsha, who went down into the grave ? Know ye not what narrative
follows immediately on that of the sickness and death of Elisha —
immediately, as though God would prevent the suspicion that he had
put an honor on one servant which he had denied to another ? It is
this : — " And EUsha died, and they buried him. And the bands of
the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it
came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a
band of men ; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha : and
when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he
revived, and stood up on his feet." Nay, sirs, was there more glori-
ousness in the chariot of fire than in this ? Was it a more wondrous
thing not to die, than, when dead, to give life ? Was it a greater proof
of God's approval, to escape the grave, than to defeat it whilst lying in
it ? Was there a stronger attestation to the truth of a resurrection
when a living man sprang from the earth, showing that body as well as
soul can ascend up on high, than when a dead man took off the grave
clothes, and returned to his fellow men — an evidence that a prophet
greater than Elijah or Elisha would yet He among the buried, but only
to despoil the sepulchres of their prey ? It might almost be said, that
God showed himself jealous for the honor of his servant Elisha, and
put him, as it were, on a par with Elijah, by giving him, if not mirac-
ulous departure out of life, yet miraculous energy after death. If it
were as a tjrpe of the ascending Christ, that Elijah went up to
heaven, surely it was a type of Christ " through death destroying
him that had the power of death," that the bones of Ehsha communi-
cated life. And God still often effects something similar in regard to
his servants. The aged believer, whose closing scene has been regarded
as furnishing only material of melancholy contrast, whether with his
ovm more active days, or with the more rapid and joyful transition of
his own brethren in the flesh, so debilitated has he been by long sick-
ness, — " My heart is smitten and withered Uke grass, so that I forget
to eat my bread," — often wins after death a testimony to his usefulness



2T2 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

■which may well compensate for the darkness which seemed to hang over
his decHne. The good deeds wrought by him in his protracted illness,
may not immediately appear ; but afterwards we learn that he did not
linger in vain, that he did not die in vain, The example is remembered,
the patience, the meekness, — remembered by children, by servants,
by friends, by neighbors. It is remembered, to be imitated in their own
day of sorrow, their own hour of dissolution. Then it administers
courage, constancy, hope ; and what is this, but the bones of Elisha
communicating life ? Oh ! we may not look with Elijah to escape death ;
but we may look with Elisha to work wonders after death. We may
suffer much, we may linger long, — no burning rapture may charac-
terize our going hence ; but if there be patient submission to the will
of the Lord, our memory may survive, and be instrumental to the
victories of rehgion. Oh ! who would complain at not being borne
away in the fire of heaven, if, whilst in dust, he should turn others
from the fire of hell ?



SERMON XXIII.

THE HAPPY MAN A RELIGIOUS MAN.
BY REV ROBERT NEWTON, D. D.



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

Man is obviously formed for happiness. Indeed this is matter of
consciousness to all ; we all feel that it is as natural for us to desire to
be happy as it is for us to breathe. This is nature's first and last wish ;
and the desire of happiness forms not noly one of the eariiest, but one
of the most powerful principles of our nature.

But although happiness is earnestly desired, and although, in one
way or other, happiness is universally pursued, the melancholy fact is,
after all, that it is but very partially enjoyed. Unhappy man has long
since become a general designation for our species. And we are not
surprised at this, when we recollect that very many of our race, after
devoting many a long year of fruitless toil and labor to the search
for happiness, have all but arrived at the conclusion, (if they have



THE HAPPY MAN A RELIGIOUS MAN 273

not actually arrived there,) that its attainment is impossible — that all
that they have heard and read concerning it, is deceptive and unreal
— and that, in point of fact, there is no such thing to be attained or
enjoyed by man in this desert world.

What, then, my dear friends, is to be done ? Are we to sit down in
despondency ? and are we, very soon after that, to abandon ourselves
to despair ? and, sitting side by side, are we to heave sigh for sigh, to
shed tear for tear, and, looking on one another through the medium of
those tears, are we to say, Alas ! there is no happiness ? Can we
suppose that the wise and benevolent author of our existence has made
us capable of that which he has determined we shall not enjoy ? Can
we suppose that he, that is the former of us all, has implanted in our
bosoms the desire of happiness — created there the intense thirst after
happiness — ■ whilst he has placed the satiating stream yonder far
beyond our reach ? It cannot be. Heaven never had created but to
bless. What other motive could possibly have induced the Divine
Being to give existence to the human being, but that of diffusing happi-
ness — making his creature, man, happy ?

And man was happy when God made him ; but then he was happy
in his God, and he was to be happy in nothing contrary to God, and in
nothing without God. And while man remained with God, his happi-
ness remained with him ; but when by transgression -he fell from God,
he lost his happiness. And now man is unhappy, because he is guilty ;
he is unhappy, because he is unholy ; he is unhappy, because he
is unlike God. He wants to be happy independently. He feels
painfully that he has lost his happiness, but then he knows very
well that he has not lost the capacity for enjoyment ; and he
feels — strongly feels — he has not lost the desire after it, but
then he seeks it any where — every where — except where alone he
can find it. He " spends his money for that which is not bread, his
labor for that which satisfieth not." He seeks happiness in very
vanity, he seeks happiness in folly, he seeks happiness in sin. But
instead of rest and peace, he finds toil and labor ; instead of happi-
ness and repose, he finds vanity and vexation of spirit.

When abandoning all these earthly cisterns (which are all " broken
cisterns, and which contain no water — not a drop of real happiness
for the spiritual immortal mind of man,) man betakes himself to God
in Christ as his only refuge, and seeks to be accepted of God in Christ,
and the Lord becomes his God, then he finds the happiness which he
sought in vain elsewhere. Then he comes to the fountain of living
water ; and then he drinks and is satisfied. Then he can subscribe to
the doctrine which my text contains, " Happy is that people, that is ia
18



274 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

such a case ; yea, happy," beyond all compare, " is that people,
•whose God is the Lord."

Now that is our God, to which we are principally devoted ; that is
our God which has the first place in our thoughts, and which has the
highest place in our aifections : that is our God, to which we bow down,
to which we continually pay our devotion — whatever it may be ; it
may be some idol. Now to have Jehovah for our God is to have our
thoughts first of all accupied with him — to have our affections
supremely placed on him — to be reconciled to him — to be accepted
of him through Jesus Christ — to know him, and to love him, and
to live devoted to him. And my text declares, that all such persons
are really and pre-eminently happy.

Now one would suppose that a discourse on the subject of happiness
must be interesting to all, because all are in search of it. One would
suppose that such a discourse must be interesting to young people ; I
see a great number of young people (and with very great pleasure)
in this assembly, and I know my young friends are all intensely desirous
to obtain happiness. Let me, then, try, in dependence on Divine aid,
to show you where it is to be found, and to show you the nature and the
excellence of " the people whose God is the Lord ;" and having done
this, let me endeavor to state, and to lay prostrate some of those
objections, which are sometimes urged against the doctrine which my
text contains.

I. The nature and excellence of " the people whose God is
THE Lord." They are " happy.''^

And what is happiness ? It is enjoyment, it is satisfaction, it is
delight. And, for any thing I know to the contrary, the different beings
that inhabit this earth are obliged, by their own nature, to seek for
enjoyment, to seek for a bliss suited to their nature ; and for anything
I know, they are happy, just in proportion as they are in their proper
element, and as they possess and enjoy what may be called their chief
good ; they have an enjoyment according to their nature and capacity.

And, my dear friends, is it not in this way that we are to ascertain
how man becomes happy ? Surely, he cannot be happy till he lives
in his proper element ; he cannot be happy till he finds and enjoys
his chief good. And need I tell my friends where that is, and
■what that is ? Is it not he, who is the father of the human
spirit — the centre and the rest of the soul of man ? Did He not
form our spirits for Himself ? And is it not there alone that we find our
proper element — the element of the soul, for which it was originally
formed ? And is it not there — in the enjoyment of God — that we



THE HAPPY MAN A RELIGIOUS MAN. 275

find our chief good ? There, and there alone we find a portion, suited
to our nature and equal to our capacities, commensurate with all our
wishes, and lasting as our being.

1. This happiness, however, is all aggregate. There are various
ingredients in the happiness of this people, " the people whose God is
the Lord." At present I will select three of these ingredients.

And I begin by remarking, that " the people whose God is the
Lord," are happy inasmuch as they enjoy the peace of God. I name
this in the first instance, because I believe it is the lowest grade of all
true religious happiness. It begins here.

That " there is no peace to the wicked," is a fact — a truth which
reason suggests, a truth which revelation asserts, a truth which expe-
rience awfully demonstrates. An old Pagan could stumble upon this
truth — " No wicked man is happy." And no wicked man, as such, can
he happy, because every thing is out of course ; all is in a state of moral
derangement, disorder and chaos, and, therefore, there can be no real
enjoyment. What are the wicked like ? The prophet tells you what.
I was thinking the other night when on the ocean, and when the raging
billows dashed against the vessel — I thought of the language of the
prophet, " The wicked is like the troubled sea " — not the sea when
it is calm, and serene, and placid, but the ocean when tempesi>tossed,
one angry wave succeeding another. That is the emblem of a wicked
mind, the emblem of an unsanctified heart — all agitation, commotion,
and disorder. " There is no peace " — there can be none — " to the
wicked."

Now, this is clearly seen by the enlightened mind, and this is deeply
felt by the enlightened conscience. There is not only the perception
of what is really the bane of happiness — sin, guilt, depravity ; but
there is the painful feeling, too, so that, while we see our sin, we feel
its curse — what " an evil and a bitter thing " it



Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 31 of 45)