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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

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cles of inspiration, and opened their blessed pages in the midst of open
day ; and it will be a revival of their spirit and their times if we can
prevail on the clergy of the three establishments to preach as becomes
them, on the fourth day (Sunday) of October, 1835, which is the
third centenary of the completion and publication of the first English
Bible by Miles Coverdale, on the glorious privileges and blessings of
the Reformation. This array was likewise formed by the Scottish
reformers when they so thoroughly rooted out the man of sin from the
land, that in 1611 there was but one aged Roman Catholic priest in
Scotland, and about ten families professing the popish faith. Ther-
mopylae, and Marathon, and Trafalgar, and Waterloo, are not meet to be



360 < THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

mentioned in the same breath with these glorious triumphs, these
embattled arrays of the noble array of reformers ; and the names of
Csesar, and Themistocles, and Alexander, are not worthy to appear
next to those of Luther, Calvin, Ridley, Knox, and others, of whom
the world was not worthy. Onward, my brethren, in the steps of these
martyred but mighty men, and under the shelter of the altars and
monuments they raised, and by the graves under which their ashes
repose ; onward in the same glorious struggle, and put yourselves in
determined array against Babylon.

" All ye that bend the bow shoot at her, and spare no arrows."
This appears to me to be the Spirit's call to the ministers of the gospel.
It is on them especially that the duty devolves of standing on the
watch-towers of Zion, and of taking the lead in all the battles of the
Lord. They are to bear forward that consecrated banner, under the
inspiration of which are marshalled the saints of the Most High ; and on
no account to retreat till they are called from the arena of contest to the
victor's laurels, and the victor's rest. Never,will the Christianity of
our Protestant people rise to its spring-tide strength while the Christi-
anity of our Protestant priests continues so low and so superficial.
Let us, then, " spare no arrows ! " Let us use all legitimate weapons.
These arrows are mentioned in Psalm xlv. 5, " Thine arrows are sharp
in the hearts of the king's enemies ! " Some of these are feathered
with love, and some with wrath ; some are the terrors of the Lord, and
others are the mercies of the Lord. We are to take one and all from
the armory of heaven, and whether they produce plagues or wound but
to save, we are to shoot them against Babylon. If there be anything
likely to win in the promises of God — if any thing likely to alarm in
the terrors of God — if any efficacy in prayer — if any blessing on
means — we are to employ all these and spare none, for Babylon's case
is an almost desperate case. This instrumentality we are to employ
now. We do not wait till the black cloud has covered the whole canopy
of heaven before we run for shelter ; we do not wait till the plague-spot
has covered the whole body before we apply for an antidote and a cure ;
we do not wait till danger has attained its maximum before we labor to
arrest or to anticipate it, — why, then, should the children of this world
be wiser in their generation, than the children of Ught ? The present
crisis calls aloud for active and vigorous efforts. Spare no arrows —
support every society that bears upon popery at home, aid and strengthen
especially the British Reformation Society, which, in my opinion, is a
noble and scriptural array — a glorious phalanx — a mighty vantage
ground from which we may shoot the arrows of the Lord against
Babylon. If we come short in our efforts now, we shall have to lament



CONVERSION OF SINNERS. 361

our neglect when Babylon has reared her blasphemous head, diademed
with the crowns she has filched from heaven and earth, and drunk with
the blood of martyrs, and rejoicing in the strength and maturity which
your apathy and liberaUzed notions have ministered to her. If it be
any privilege to vindicate the glory of God, dishonored and eclipsed
by an anti-Christian church — if there be any bowels of mercy tow ard
the souls that are in jeopardy — if any patriotism. Christian patriotism,
in the bosoms of men — if any obligation in the commandments of
God — then put yourselves in array against Babylon, and the banner
over you shall be love, and the rampart round you shall be omnipo-
tence, and the glory of God shall be your reward. Protestantism
bearded in the lands of its birth and its blessings — truth blended with
fables, and popery threatening to subvert the Church of Ireland, that
it may have more room to attack the Churches of England and Scot-
land, bid you note and ponder the injunction of the text. Let the fear
of darkness enveloping these lands of yet unextinguished light- — let
the crown, the altar, and the constitution — let the cry of the martyrs
from beneath the altar, " How long, Lord, holy and true, dost thou
not judge and avenge our blood" — let heaven 'and earth, let eternity
and time, be heard, while they cry with one voice, " Put yourselves in
array against Babylon round about ; all ye that bend the bow shoot at
her, spare no arrows ; for she hath sinned against the Lord."



SERMON XXX.

HUMAN AGENCY IN THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS.
BY REV. ROBERT YOUNG.



" Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save
a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." — James v. 20.

There is no doctrine more prominently stated in the Holy Scrip-
tures, or more strikingly exemplified in the experience of men, than
that of human depravity. Revelation boldly asserts, that " all have
sinned ; " and history, with its ten thousand tongues, substantiates the
fact. Sin is an hereditary disease, entailed upon all the posterity of
the first transgressor ; corrupting every faculty of the soul, and
spreading its polluting and deadly influence through the whole mass of



362 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

human society. What was said of the Jews politically, may be said
of the world spiritually : " The whole head is sick, and the whole heart
is faint." Hence appears the necessity of conversion. Men are
guilty, and therefore exposed to the penalties of a violated law ; unholy,
and therefore totally unfit for the kingdom of heaven ; and without
conversion must consequently perish. Thank God ! they may be con-
verted ; for the atonement of Christ, the promises of the gospel, and
the influences of the Holy Ghost, bear their united testimony to this
exhilarating truth. And to induce those who are happily converted, to
labor for the conversion of others, the apostle says, " Let him know "
— yes, let him know, for the direction of his talents, and the encour-
agement of his heart — " that he which converteth tlie sinner from the
error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of
sins."

Having this evening to plead the cause of The London Female
Mission, the text selected for the occasion may be considered —

I. As describing the object which this mission contemplates ;

II. As investing its agents with authority for acting ; and —

III. As famishing the most powerful motives to persevering zeal in
its operations.

I. The text may be considered as describing the object which
THE London Female Mission contemplates. Its object is not
merely to protect, but to save ; not only to reclaim from one vice, but
from every vice, by " converting sinners from the error of their ways."

The parties for whose benefit this mission has been established, are
found in the ways of error ; for they " have forsaken the Guide of
their youth, and forgotten the covenant of their God." Does darkness
associate itself with error ? They are as degenerate and deeply fallen
creatures, said to " grope in darkness ; " to have their eyes "blinded by
the god of this world ; " and to be thus rendered incapable of knowing
themselves, and of " beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ." Does impurity associate itself with error ? They are " alto-
gether as an unclean thing ; " and " the imaginations of their hearts
are only evil, and that continually." Does misery associate itself with
error ? " Destruction and misery are in all their ways ; the way of
peace they know not ; " and in a state of fearful disquietude " they go
about, seeking rest, but find none." Does danger associate itself with
error ? The curse of a violated law, like the avenger of blood, is
pursuing them ; and we are assured, that " their feet go down to death,
and their steps take hold on hell." Now, to " convert these sinners
from the error of their ways," is to bring them from darkness to light;



CONVERSION OP SINNERS. 363

from impurity to holiness ; from misery to happiness ; from danger to
safety ; and in fact from Satan to God.

The change implied in the conversion of sinners is universal. There
is a change in their understanding ; for " God who commandeth light
to shine out of darkness, shineth into their hearts," " opening the eyes
of their understanding " to know themselves, and the " things which
are freely given to them of God." There is a change in their will ;
for being subdued by a Divine power, they no longer resist the author-
ity of their Maker, but humbly acquiesce in the plan of saving grace,
and the various dispensations of Divine providence. There is a change
in their affections ; for they no longer wander after forbidden objects,
or " cleave to the dust of the earth," but are "set on things above,
where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God." There is a change in
their de'portment ; for having "put off concerning the former conversa-
tion, the old man which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lust," and
having " put on the new man, which after God is created in righteous-
ness and true holiness," they " walk righteously and godly and soberly
in the present evil world." There is a change in their condition.
Formerly they were " slaves to divers lusts and pleasure," but are now
free from the " bondage of sin and death ; " they were the " enemies
of God by reason of wicked works," but now are they his friends,
and delight to do whatever he commands them ; they " were the
children of wrath even as others," but now are they " the children
of God by faith in Christ Jesus," and have " received the Spirit of
adoption, whereby they cry Abba Father." Such is the nature of
scriptural conversion. It is not a partial change, but extends to every
propensity and feehng of fallen nature. Sinners are not merely
mended, but " created anew in Christ Jesus." They have as penitents
approached the mercy-seat, and in the exercise of simple faith, obtained
the forgiveness of their sins and an inheritance amongst them that are
sanctified ; and thus " old things have passed away, and all things
become new."

Now to accomplish this great work as extensively as possible, is the
object contemplated by The London Female Mission. If the class of
persons this mission seeks to benefit, be not sincerely converted to
God, no scriptural hope can be entertained of their permanent recovery.
To attempt the reformation of such characters independently of con-
version, would in general, if not always, be found to be as unavailing
as the putting " new cloth into an old garment ; " for such efforts would
in all probability be so perverted by them, as to make the moral rent
worse. You cannot give them any pi-inciple sufficiently powerful to
secure their permanent reformation, whilst their old offending nature



364 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

remains ; for how can you expect the fruit to be good, while the tree
is corrupt ? the streams to be pure, while the fountain remains polluted ?
The experiment of producing a good life, in connection with an evil
heart of unbeHef, has been repeatedly tried, but always failed. In a
large provincial town in the North, there is an extensive penitentiary,
very liberally supported ; but as it does not make conversion to God,
by faith in Christ Jesus, the foundation of the permanent recovery of
its numerous inmates, I regret to say, that many of them after having
filled up their probation, and left the institution, are unable to resist
temptations to vice, and in a short time return to their former ways,
and in some instances become more vile than before. Another insti-
tution was established, of which I had the honor to be secretary ; and
as it was established on the principle that conversion to God is indis-
pensable to the permanent rescue of unfortunate females, we kept none
under its care who did not give evidence of a sincere desire, not only
to forsake one sin, but every sin, and to save their souls ; and such was
its management, as to render it almost impossible for any but the truly
penitent to remain long under its control. During the first year of the
society's labors, the Divine blessing was so richly communicated, that
seventy females were rescued from the grasp of the destroyer ; two of
whom died happy in the Lord, eighteen were restored to their friends,
and thirty-two placed in situations where in general they gave satis-
faction, and all of them afforded encouraging evidence of true conversion.
We never thought of sending a female from under the society's care,
either to her relations or to a situation, without having reason to believe
that she had experienced a saving change ; and although in some cases
we were deceived, yet generally speaking we had cause to rejoice over
those who professed to obtain salvation. See, therefore, my dear
friends, that you never lose sight of this principle in the operations of
the London Female Mission ; but labor to bring the objects of your
charity to a saving acquaintance with your Redeemer. Let not the
character of their crimes, or the depth of their depravity, discourage
you ; for Christ is " mighty to save." Do you say that their " sins are
as scarlet ? " God says, " They shall be as white as snow." Do you
say that " they are red like crimson ? " God says, " They shall be as
wool." Do you say that the objects of your charity are " five hundred
pence debtors ? " God says he will " frankly forgive them all." Nor
should you forget, that he who hath said " Publicans and harlots shall
enter into the kingdom of heaven," graciously beheld, in the days of
his humiliation —

" A harlot in distress ;



Dried up her tears, her pardon seal'd,
And bade her go in peace."



CONVERSION OF SINNERS. 365

It is worthy of remark, that the first convert in the great revival of
religion which took place in America, under the ministry of President
Edwards and his contemporaries, was an unfortunate female ; and her
conversion was made a blessing to many thousands. Mr. Edwards
says — " God made it the greatest occasion of awakening to others,
of anything that ever came to pass in the town. The news of it
seemed almost like a flash of Hghtning upon the hearts of young
people, and upon many others." And the result of the revival so
commenced, was estimated to be the conversion of thirty thousand
souls.

II. The text may be considered as investing the agents of
THE London Female Mission with authority for acting.

It assumes that it is the duty of Christians to labor according to
their respective abilities, for the conversion of sinners ; not merely
ministers, but private members. For it was not to ministers, but the
church generally, that the apostle addressed himself in the words before
us ; and thus recognised the principle of lay-agency in the conversion
of sinners, as being consistent with apostolic order. Here, then, is
your authority for acting ; and which no advocate of apostolic succes-
sion, is able to take from you.

This view of the subject is supported by other considerations, upon
"which we shall now enter.

1. Your duty to labor for the conversion of souls, may be argued
from the method of JehovaKs government.

It appears to be a principle in the Divine administration, for God to
accomplish what man cannot accomplish ; but not to perform what man
can perform. See this principle exemplified in nature. God does not
cultivate the soil, or deposit the seed therein, because man can do that ;
but he gives the fruit of the earth in all its variety and richness, and
thus effects what man cannot effect. See this exemplified in the mira-
cles of our Lord. Take his raising Lazarus for an example. When
he had come to the tomb of his servant, he directed his attendants to
roll away the stone ; and when he had restored his friend to life, he
farther instructed them to " loose him and let him go." Now he that
raised Lazarus from the dead, could have easily rolled away the stone
and loosed his servant from his bands ; but these were things which man
could do ; and our Lord, on that deeply interesting occasion, absolutely
performed nothing but what man could not perform. Now this appears
to be the principle upon which he acts in the conversion of sinnei-s.
It is true, that you cannot of yourselves do any good thing, much less
convert sinners from the error of their ways, as that is a Divine work ;
yet you can humbly, and in dependence upon spiritual aid, employ the



866 ' THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

means which God has appointed for that important end. And vre
maintain, that you have no more authority to expect that God will
convert sinners whilst the use of those means is neglected, than the
husbandman has authority to expect a plentiful harvest whilst he
neglects to cultivate his land and sow his seed.

The truth of God, presented to the mind, is the great instrument of
conversion ; and it does not appear that a sinner can be converted and
saved independently of the truth of God. For instance : are men born
again ? It is " not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible ; even the
word of the Lord, which liveth and abideth for ever." Are they
sanctified ? It is " through the truth." Are they " made clean ? "
It is " through the words which Christ speaks unto them." Hence the
absolute necessity of teaching, and consequently of human agency in
the conversion of sinners. It is undoubtedly your duty, as Christians,
to make known, in some way, and to the extent of which you are capa-
ble, the vital doctrines of the gospel to those persons whose conversion
you desire ; and thus to furnish that divinely appointed instrument, by
which the Holy Ghost awakens, converts and saves. For this purpose
you are directed to teach the words of the law " diligently unto your
children ; and to talk of them when you sit in the house and when you
walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up." You are
" in any wise to rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin upon your
brother ; " to " do and teach the commandments of God ; " to " say
every man to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord ; " and, in fact, to be
" teachers of all good things." Nor is this all ; for as intercessory
prayer offered to God, as well as religious truth presented to the mind
of man, is an instrument of conversion, it becomes your duty also to
pray for the conversion of sinners. " The effectual fervent prayer of
a righteous man availeth much ; " and it is clearly intimated in the
context, that it may not only " save the sick," but avail in the " con-
version of a sinner from the error of his ways."

2. Your duty to labor for the conversion of sinners, may be argued
from the spirit and tendency of exj)erimental Chnstianity . It not only
qualifies its recipients for this important work, by giving them knowl-.
edge, love, and meekness, but inspires them with a sincere and ardent
desire to be so employed. For the truth of this, we might refer you
to Andrew, who, on finding the Messiah, hastened home to bring his
brother Simon. We might refer you to Saul of Tarsus, who, on obtain-
ing salvation, immediately went forth to recommend it to his countrymen.
We might refer you to the martyrs, and confessors, whose hearts so
ardently desired the conversion of their persecutors, that they were
manifestly more concerned for that than their own safety. We might



CONVERSION OF SINNERS. 367

refer you to the truly pious, in every age of the world, who have wept
and prayed and labored in various ways to effect the conversion of
sinners. But we need not go further than this assembly for witnesses
of this truth ; each Christian present being such a witness. When jou
first felt the love of God shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost
given unto you, how did you feel respecting impenitent sinners ? Did
you not earnestly desire their conversion ? You did ; and if you
obeyed the impulse of your new nature, you strove to effect that con-
version. I appeal to your consciences for the truth of this. Nor was
this feeling intended to resemble the mountain torrent, that soon
exhausts itself ; but the steady flowing stream, deepening and widening
as it advances in its course. If you have lost this feeling, you cannot
have retained your religion, it being inseparably connected therewith ;
for " he that loveth God must love his brother also," and cannot but
desire and labor for his conversion. If such, therefore, be the ten-
dency of religion — if it excite an ardent desire for the conversion of
sinners, as well as invest you with moral capabilities for this important
work — what is the fair and legitimate conclusion forced upon us, but
that you ought to be thus employed ? If you are not, you will certainly
prove unfaithful to your principles, hide your talent in the earth, resist
the Spirit's influence, and thereby greatly endanger your own safety.
3. Your duty to labor for the conversion of sinners, may be argued
from the history of the church. Church history records the conversion
of myriads of sinners — sinners of every character, and age, and
nation, and grade in society — and places them before us as the tro-
phies of redeeming grace. And do you ask, by what agency so many
sinners have been converted from the error of their ways ? Perhaps
in some cases God may have effected the blessed work independently
of human agency, although that is by no means evident ; but it is very
clear that his usual, if not his invariable course, has been to employ
that agency. If ever there had been a period when human agency
was unnecessary, it must surely have been on the day of Pentecost,
when the Holy Ghost descended upon the disciples ; but even then, it
was not dispensed with in the conversion of the three thousand souls,
who, on that memorable occasion, were added to the Lord. They had
mockingly witnessed the effects of the Spirit's manifestation, and were
not " pricked in their hearts " until they heard the Gospel message
from the lips of Peter. Then, and not till then, did they discover their
sin and danger, and exclaim, " Men and brethren, what shall we do ? "
Nor can we find a conversion to God after that period, on record in the
New Testament, in which human agency of some description was not
employed. Was the Ethiopian eunuch converted ? The Spirit



368 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

directed Philip to join himself to his chariot, and to preach unto him
Jesus, that he might understand what he was reading ; and the eunuch
"hehevedwith all his heart," was baptized, and " went on his way
rejoicing." Was Saul, of Tarsus, converted ? Ananias was com-
manded to go into the street, which was called " Straight," and in the
house of one Judas, to put his hands upon him, that he might receive
his sight, and " be filled with the Holy Ghost." Was Cornelius, and
his household, converted ? Peter was instructed in a vision to go down
to Cesarea to tell them words whereby they might be saved ; and " while
he yet spake, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word."
Now in each of these cases of conversion, the Divine being had nearly
effected the glorious work himself, but did not complete it without
human agency ; as if to testify to his church, throughout all genera-
tions, that it is his rule to bless man by man, and to make " the weak
things of the world to confound the things which are mighty."

If we examine the annals of the church from that period to the pres-
ent, we shall find that families and tribes and even nations, have been
converted by means of human agency ; and sometimes by that, which
in the estimation of the world has been the most weak and contemptible.
Hence we are told, that the king and queen of the ancient Iberia, a
province in Asia, were brought to embrace the Christian faith by means
of a captive woman ; and this event led to the conversion of nearly all
their subjects. But we may come nearer home, even to our own
experience and observation, for evidences of the truth we seek to



Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 41 of 45)