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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

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and engaged in the service of the Lord with some errors of doctrine
— nay, even of practice, if they do not affect his moral standing —
than a formal speculative believer of the gospel, who is correct in his
interpretation of Scripture, but takes no delight in experiencing the
gospel promises, nor in exemplifying its power to distinguish him from
the world.



30 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

We may believe witli the understanding. Indeed, if our under-
standing be not greatly war23ed by our iuclinations, we must believe the
gospel, but it will not be a believing unto righteousness — that is to
say, it will not be a justifying faith, such a faith as will induce Almighty
God to deal with us as though we were justified. It can be only when
we believe with the heart, when our aifections, and endeavors, and
wishes, are engaged on the side of Christ — when we not only under-
stand, but feel, what he has done for us as our Savior — when we not
only admit the truth of what Scripture declares concerning him, but
rejoice in his merit, and make it the grand basis of our hopes, and
the single principle of action — that we can be justified.

But, since " the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately
wicked," it becomes an inquiry of infinite concernment to us to deter-
mine if our belief be unto righteousness. By its fruits we shall know
it. If the fountain-head of faith be in the heart, its golden streams
will overflow in all our words and actions. Do we experience a sincere
delight in the work of religion — in the contemplation of God's expe-
rienced and covenanted mercies ? — In his worship ? — In the study
of his word ? — Are we fervent and persevering in prayer, not for the
good things of this world, but for an increase of the gifts and graces
of Christianity ? — Do we find solid and enduring comfort under all
the trials of life in the reflection that we possess an interest in the
kingdom which Christ has purchased ? — Is it a subject of deep anxiety
and regret that all the thoughts and wishes of our hearts are not more
directly bent towards that kingdom ; and are we continually laboring
to give them that direction? — Is our love of Christ a constraining
love — a love which compels us to love one another, because God in
Christ hath loved us ? — Are these feelings and habits in the mind in a
progressive state ? — Are we more and more detached from the world,
and rising above the care and love of those objects of pursuit which
once were very delightful to us ? This, and nothing less than this, in
its consequences and results, is what St. Paul terms " believing with
the heart unto righteousness " — not merely the assent of our under-
standing, but the consent of our wills. To believe that Jesus died for
the sins of mankind without accepting him for your own Savior — to
accept him formally for your Savior without a spirit of devotedness
to his service — this is not a belief unto righteousness. A heart
"wounded, and contrite, and longing for the enjoyment of God's sure
promises of mercy and truth -— rejoicing in these promises as estab-
lished in Jesus Christ — a heart purified and renewed by the Spirit of
holiness — a heart abhorring sin and all that leads to sin — a heart that
rejects and casts out all opinion of its own holiness or merit — a heart



JUSTIFYING FAITH. 81

that loves to meditate on the things of God, and that ascends to his
foot-stool in holj aspirations — this is a heart that believeth unto righte-
ousness.

I come now to the second division of our text.

II. "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

It is manifest that, by confession, the apostle here means an open
profession of faith in Christ crucified — a profession made before men.
We are commanded to avoid all ostentation of piety or of charity ; to
pray, not that we may be seen of men ; to give alms so secretly that
our right hand may not know what our left hand doeth ; the sum of
which precepts is — we are not to perform any act of religious duty
looking to the praise of man for our reward. But, if we are actuated
by a desire to promote the glory of God and the spiritual welfare of
others, then the public manifestation of piety is not only innocent, but
a most important part of our religious duty. In no respect should we
live or die for ourselves, neither is our religion to be of such a nature ;
we ourselves are only parties in it ; we must believe and pray for the
confirmation and enlargement of our own comfort, and strength, and
hope, but we must do this with a view to the honor of God and the
growth of Christian piety. We are commanded to confess Christ
before men — to provoke one another to good works — to let our light
shine before men, not that they may admire and applaud the lustre as
emanating from ourselves, but that they may be guided by it to the
First Source of light and truth — that they may see our good works,
and glorify our Father which is in heaven.

But how, it may be asked, how is it possible for a creature to do
honor to his Creator ? How can man glorify God — the eternal, the all-
powerful, the all-wise ? What accession of honor can accrue to him from
the united testimony of a sinful race, who from the throne of his glory
beholds and rejoices in the blessed spirits of hght, who are for ever occu-
pied in his adoration and praise ? True, indeed, it is, the Lord of heaven
and earth can receive no accession to his own intrinsic glory from the fee-
ble praises or polluted services of an infirm and sinful race ; yet he pleads
with us, and encourages us, and commands us to serve him accord-
ing to the imperfect constitution of our nature ; and surely the praises
of millions and millions of reasonable souls, the offerinsrs of devoted
hearts, the uplifted hands of the redeemed of the earth, the hallelujahs
of countless myriads presented before the throne of God and of the
Lamb, may seem not unworthy to please even the ear of Omnipotence,
to mingle with those sounds of melody in which the Eternal Spirit
spake of Him who was, and is, and is to come.



32 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

We need not ascend into heaven for a reason for that command
which directs us to make open confession of our faith before men.
With the first believers it was the test of sincerity. It was then a
dutj attended with danger, to be discharged in the face of persecution,
at the risk of bonds, starvation, and even death itself. To have denied
Christ from the fear of these would have been to betray the cause of
God, and give a triumph to sin and Satan ; whereas confessing him, in
the teeth of persecution, was the sure evidence of faith rooted in the
heart, and certified to him who made it, a confession of him by the
Lord himself on the day of judgment ; therefore, says St. Paul, " With
the mouth confession is made unto salvation." To such a trial of their
sincerity many pious servants of the Lord have since been exposed in
the later ages of the church, and, by their constancy in the midst of
flames, have witnessed a good confession before men. If, by the provi-
dence of God in the peculiar arrangements of his government, we are
protected from so fierce an ordeal, are we exempted also from the
necessity of making an open profession of our faith in a crucified
Savior ? There are still enemies of Christ and of man's salvation in
whose teeth the profession must be made. There is the evil one, who
continues to oppose the progress of the gospel, and to cause the holy
name of Jesus to be blasph'emed — there is the proud unbeliever, who
rejects the counsel of God, and lightly esteems the rock of his salva-
tion — there are those false teachers who still labor to poison the
fountain of living waters with the impure streams of human tradition
— there are those ungodly men who use the liberty of the gospel for
a cloak of maliciousness, and disclaim the eternal obligation of God's
moral law — there is a vain, deceitful world, which persuades us to
rejoice and repose in its pageantry and pleasures, and to hear its delu-
sions, and to be loud in its praises, while we are careless about the
work of salvation, and name the name of Christ in words of formal
acknowledgment: — all these are to be confronted, and confounded,
and put to shame, by the public confession of united believers. And,
lastly, there are hard-hearted and luke-warm children of this generation
who are to be awakened and allured to piety by the moving spectacle
of Christians openly and professedly engaged in the all-important work
of setting forward the glory of God, and the salvation of sinful men.

Now, it is manifest that this notion of Christian confession implies
the duty of public and common worship, a compliance with the outward
forms and proprieties of religion. It is upon this principle that the
very institutions of Christianity which we minister and reduce to use —
the sacraments which the Lord has appointed as means of grace and
badges of discipleship — and, lastly, the duty of Christian communioa



JUSTIFYING FAITH. 33

— are founded. The church of Christ could never be visibly and dis-
tinctly set apart from the world ; it could never be, as its founder
described it, a city set on a hill that cannot be hid, without the public
and visible exercises of religion, the common resorting together, and
unanimous confession of the great truths of the gospel.

What a powerful and convincing testimony it is to the importance of
these truths ! What an awakening, moving spectacle to the doubtful,
or the careless, is that of an assembled congregation of believers pro-
claiming with one heart and voice their allegiance and thanksgiving to
one common God their Father — their high and holy trust in Him who
died for their sins, and rose again for their justification ! " But, if all pro-
phesy, and there come in one that beUeveth not, or one unlearned, he is
convinced of all, he is judged of all ; and thus are the secrets of his heart
made manifest ; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God,
and report that God is in you of a truth." Thus it appears that, inde-
pendently of the apostle's command not to forsake the assembling of
ourselves together, and of the apostolic practice which sanctioned the
Lord's day as a Christian sabbath, a day for religious meeting — inde-
pendently of the comfort and refreshment which individual Christians
find in the opportunity of common worship — the duty of it is rendered
indispensable by the acknowledged efficacy of example, by which the
attention of all men may be turned to the importance of religion, and
an opening made for grace and conversion, and so for glorifying God.

It is chiefly upon this ground the apostles urged upon their converts
a punctual attendance to religion, and a strict regard to the decency
of their devotional exercises as a means of common edification and the
building up of the household of Christ. And this is a sufficient
answer to those persons who pretend that they can worship God as well
in the privacy of the chamber as in the solemn assemblies of the
Christian Sabbath. Not to dwell upon the argument that those who
neglect the public worship of God are, for the most part, unfrequent
and careless in their private devotions, we would remind them that our
religious duty is not merely a question between God and ourselves
alone — that it has a reference to the salvation of others as well as
our own, to the advancement of God's glory and the extension of his
dear Son's kingdom upon earth. But the manifestation of our own
allegiance is an essential principle of practical Christianity ; the
strength and allegiance of our faith must be made visible not only in
preserving us unblameable, but in putting forth an attractive power,
drawing into the sphere of our Influence some of those who are floating
careless upon the surface of human existence and bringing them within
the range of spiritual thanksgiving and consolation. How powerful
3



34 ■ THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

an encouragement will it be to every penitent person to be exemplary
in the observance of all the stated offices of piety, if, while he is
advancing in the race before him, he is urging others forward in the
same course, confirming the doubtful, awakening the careless, and
drawing the feet of the loiterer into paths of pleasantness and peace !
And with what a constraining force ought these motives to bind the
consciences of those servants of God, whom his providence has placed
in the higher walks of life, to let their light be seen of men — I say
what a motive to abstain from all engagements which prevent their
domestics from improving the opportunities of the Christian Sabbath

— in fact, from those engagements and amusements which are a glaring
violation of the decencies of an established religion, an open insult to
Christian piety — and to encourage and assist their famihes and ser-
vants to turn to the best account that little time which is permitted to
them, by -the habits of society, for doing honor to God, and acquiring
a saving knowledge of his love.

I need not, after what has been said, dwell upon the mercifulness
of the provision which our heavenly Father has made for the wants of
his children in appointing a Sabbath, and instituting a church, and
ordaining ministers, not merely to offer a daily sacrifice for his people^
like the Jewish priesthood, but to be their spiritual friends, guides, and
comforters, to watch over their souls as those who must give account ;
nor need I, after what has been said, endeavor to prove that it is a
subject of pious thanksgiving to any neighborhood when any enlarged
opportunities are afforded to the inhabitants of profiting by the advan-
tages held out to them by a scriptural church. But let me remind
you that he who builds it up and plants the watchman thereon will
come again, and expect the fruits of his vineyard in increased atten-
tion to the public duties of piety, in an enlarged acquaintance with
the word of God, a devout and delighted listening to the ministry of
reconciliation, a strict compHance with the gospel rule of holiness of
heart, a visible increase of Christian zeal, and the enlargement of the
Redeemer's fold.

If the sanctuary which has now been set apart by solemn prayer
from all common and trivial uses, and consecrated to the noblest occu-
pation of reasonable creatures, to the common worship of their Creator

— if it should set open its doors in vain, and if the gracious invitations
of your Savior are unanswered, may not the Lord appeal to common
sense and justice, and say, " Oh, inhabitants of Jerusalem, judge, I
pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard ! What could have been done
more to my vineyard that I have not done in it ? Wherefore, when
I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ! "



PRIVILEGES OF A CHRISTIAN. 35

But, wMIe I enlarge upon the duty of an open, an outward confession
of our faith in Christ, and the consequent obhgation of public worship,
I would caution you, in the last place, against entertaining the belief
that the pubUc exercises of religion are religion itself. They are its
aids, its expression, its demonstration, but they are not its escence, nor
its substance. No man can be truly rehgious who neglects them ; but
a strict observance of them will not supply the place, nor remedy the
defect, of a single Christian grace. Let me, then, in conclusion, recur
to the beautiful words which should occupy the first and the last place
in our exhortations and your reflections — the seat of true religion is
the heart ; it is there that faith is enshrined in humble, holy thoughts
— it is from thence that streams of charity flow — it is from thence
that prayer ascends at once to the throne of the Eternal — it is there
that holy sorrow for sin, and humble hope, must dwell. And Oh, may
he who discerns its inmost thoughts, and who alone can purify and
establish it unblameable in holiness — may he make it in every one of
us a fit habitation for himself, a decent and appropriate temple for his
Holy Spirit, that we may dwell in him, and he in us, while we continue
in his church upon earth, that our names may be inscribed among " the

GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND CHURCH OF THE FIRST-BORN, WHOSE NAMES
ARE WRITTEN IN HEAVEN ! "



SERMON III.

THE CHARACTER AND PRIVILEGES OF A CHRISTIAN.



BY REV. J. PARSONS.



A Christian." — 1 Pet. it. 16.



It has been customary, my brethren, in all ages, and in all nations,
to designate those systems which have exercised a considerable influ-
ence over the opinions and over the practice of mankind, by names
either derived from the systems themselves, or the titles of him by
whom they were respectively founded. Illustrations of this fact may
be abundantly found both in the annals of ancient and modem philoso-
phy ; and also in ancient and modem religion. Such a mode of de-
signation has justly been considered to be perfectly admissible, and in-
deed it is absolutely necessary, for the purpose of preserving the mem-
ory of those great events which have transpired both in the social and
moral history of mankind.



36 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

On this principle it was, that when Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
appeared upon the earth, for the purpose of announcing important doc-
trines with regard to the government of Jehovah, and the destinies of
mankind, and gathered around him a circle of followers, these followers
became designated by a name derived from him to whom they render-
ed their homage, and by which title they have been properly and per-
manently distinguished. As their organization and their augmentation
in number gave signs of the permanency and establishment of their
cause, they either chose or received a title which is memorable, appro-
priate, and comprehensive — a title which, altogether merging the mi-
nor distinctions of rank, of origin, and of nation, proclaimed the fact of
their union around a common Savior, and under a common religion.
That title was the title of Christians.

It is stated by the evangelical historian that " the disciples were first
called Christians at Antioch," a Gentile city, which, as we are inform-
ed in the Acts of the Apostles, received one of the earliest messages of
the gospel, and had a multitude of converts to the Lord. By that ap-
pellation they are still to be distinguished, and it must remain as the
badge of augmenting multitudes till the world itself shall fade away and
be dissolved. It is of Uttle importance to us to ascertain distinctly and
properly what may be comprehended in many of those appellations by
which the children of men are distinguished ; but it is of vast impor-
tance to every individual, that he should understand perfectly and dis-
tinctly what is comprehended in the name and character of Christian,
comprising, as it does, all that belongs to your present welfare, and
your final and everlasting state.

I would observe, my brethren, that while, on the present occasion, it
is our intention to present before you what is comprehended in the ap-
pellation of Christian, we shall, if spared to the evening of this day
fortnight, present to you what is comprehended in the character of an
infidel. Requesting, however^ your attention now to the appellation
which is particularly before us, we propose,

I. To consider in what consists the Christian's character and Chris-
tian's privileges : and,

II. We shall endeavor to impress those exhortations, which, from
the view of a Christian's character and a Christian's privileges, may
justly and properly arise.

I. In what consists a Christian's character and a Chris-
tian's PRIVILEGES.

1st. With regard to what constitutes a Christian's character.

That there have been not a few misapprehensions and perversions



PRIVILEGES OF A CHRISTIAN. 37

on this subject, will doubtless be evident to every one who is at all ac-
quainted with, and able to judge of, the past history of mankind. By
the avowed enemies of Christianity many a falsehood and many a per-
version has been uttered ; and even by those who have been recogniz-
ed among its professed friends, grievously mistaken notions have been
entertained and expressed, which have been incalculably injurious to
the promotion of the cause. As it is possible that not a few may now
be present whose notions on this subject may be far from proper and
correct, we shall endeavor to present, in a few brief particulars, all that
is stated upon it in the inspired record, by which alone our views are
to be regulated. And here you will observe,

(1.) A Christian is one y^ho fully and cordially believes the testimo-
ny that is given concerning Christ. The truth is evident, and is pal-
pable, that the claims of him who is the founder of our rehgion should
be accurately and properly estimated, and that whatever he is declar-
ed to be, in the institutes of religion, should be fully and universally
embraced. The question then arises — what is the precise nature and
import of that testimony which is given to us concerning the Founder
of Christianity, the reception of which at all times is essential to the
just estimate of his name ? The import of that testimony is, we be-
lieve, in the first place, that the Lord Jesus Christ possesses an eternal
and Divine existence in union with the Almighty Father — that he as-
sumed human nature by virtue of his miraculous incarnation, and in
which human nature he was subservient to the Father, in compliance
with the everlasting counsels, being in that nature known as the Mes-
siah, or Christ, both of which words mean " the anointed one" — that
during his existence on earth he was emphatically without a stain of
moral pollution, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sin-
ners — that in that way he became the great teacher and exemplar to
mankind — that he submitted to an ignominious death on the cross of
Calvary, as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, the imputation of the merit
of which, through the medium of faith, is essential to secure the pardon
and acceptance of man with God — that he rose again from the dead,
at an appointed period, for the purposes of his own glory, and to give
a solemn pledge and proof of the resurrection and immortahty of man-
kind — that he ascended up to heaven to his Father, and to our Fa-
ther, to his God and to our God, there to intercede, and there to reign
as Mediator, sending down the influonces of his Spirit to renovate the
hearts of his people — and that, at the appointed period which has been
determined, he shall come forth with glory and with splendor, for the
purpose of raising and judging all the human race, and that then his
mediatorial kingdom shall finally and for ever close. These various



38 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

truths, as I have now briefly stated them, we believe to be distinctly
recorded in those written statements of revelation which have descend-
ed for the guidance of our faith. They are written there in characters
of hght, Avhich no sophistry or infidelity can ever obscure or quench in
final darkness. You will observe, that a Christian is one who believes
all these truths, and cherishes them with a warm devotion of heart,
and therefore called emphatically by the apostle Paul, " One chosen
from the beginning to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit,
and belief of the truth." His mind, moreover, you will observe, be-
comes properly the subject of all those various emotions towards his
Master, and his Master's Avork, which, from its nature,it is calculated
to inspire. The divinity of Christ becomes the object of his worship ;
the condescension of Christ becomes the object of his gratitude ; the ex-
ample of Christ becomes the object of his imitation ; the atonement of
Christ becomes the object of his trust ; the glory of Christ becomes the
object of his expectation ; the reign of Christ becomes the object of his
joy ; and the re-appearance of Christ becomes the object of his hope.
Such is distinctly the nature of the Christian's faith ; and they who
feel not, and who believe not this, whatever may be their professions
and pretensions, are to be considered, at the very best, as having but
the form of religion without the power, — as having no part or lot in
the matter.

(2.) We observe that a Christian is one \fho permanently obeys the
commandments of Christ. Permanent obedience, it must always be
remembered, is to be regarded as the proper sign of genuine and per-
sonal faith. The great design of Christianity was that of possessing a
perfect and absolute empire both over the mind and over the life. The



Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 4 of 45)