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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

. (page 43 of 45)
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obhgation is the condition on which man receives his existence : " No
man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself: for whether we
live, we live to the Lord ; and whether we die, we die to the Lord :
whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." The sun
shines, not for his own glory, but for the glory of him who has placed
him as a lamp in the firmament of heaven, and for the benefit of those
minor orbs that roll round in infinite space. Some men are suns, and
others are only stars ; but all are compelled to shine — to shine, not
for their own glory, but for the glory of Him who has fixed them in
their appointed spheres. And there is a propriety in all this. If a
finite creature were to seek his own glory, he would make an attempt
to vault into the very throne, and invade the very prerogative of
heaven ; he would aim at that which does not belong to the creature,



378 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

because his glory cannot be the greatest good. But for the Deity to
aim at this object, and to achieve it, is for him to achieve the greatest
good : and at the very moment that this is enhanced to its highest
splendor, it becomes the medium through which, in a proportionate
degree, the happiness of the moral universe is enhanced.

Now, in reference to this " glorious gospel," we say, that in it all
the perfections of the Divine nature are strikingly displayed. " The
heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his
handy work." The dread magnificence of the stars — the beauty of
the varying seasons — the living millions that swim in the seas, that
float in the air, that graze in the field, or, in endless combination of
color and form, people the regions of infinite space — speak of a pres-
ent and a presiding God. But, brethren, where is the record of par-
don ? Where is the proof of forgiving mercy ? It is Aeither written
by the sun-beam, nor wafted by the breeze. The sea says, " It is not
in me : " all nature says, " It is not in me." " Canst thou, by search-
ing, find out God ? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfec-
tion ? " These are past man's understanding : how small a portion is
known to him ! But when we turn to this " glorious gospel," we see
the Deity full robed, in his round of rays complete. In it we see
exemplified what is profound in wisdom, inflexible in justice, awful in
dignity, and touching in compassion, in their individual excellence, and
in their harmonious combination.

But in this " glorious gospel " there is, besides the exhibition of all
the perfections of the Godhead, the most striking developement of them.
For though all the attributes of the Godhead are infinite, yet their
manifestation may be varied in an endless diversity of degrees and
forms : but in this " glorious gospel " there is the most striking display
of the whole. Let us look at these perfections of the Divine nature
as philosophers do at a ray of light, through the medium of prism :
let us resolve them into their original elements (if I may be allowed
the expression), and bring them to this test : and we shall point them
towards this " glorious gospel : " there is the most striking display
of all the attributes of Jehovah.

Is love an attribute of the Divine nature ? God is love : he is benev-
olence itself ; it dwells in him as its proper seat ; it springs from him
as its proper source ; and ever actuates him as a vital and immortal
principle. We see it in the fragrance that regales our senses, and in
the beauty that charms our eye : as Paley has dehghtfully said, " Pain
is the exception — happiness is the rule: " and in all the varied forms
of happiness in which the countless myriads of God's creatures that



GLORY OP THE GOSPEL. 379

people this lower world do possess and exhibit it, we see so many indi-
cations of the truth of the maxim that " God is love."

But this is only as a taper to the sun, compared with the exhibition
of eternal love in the cross of the Son of God. That such a sacrifice
should be offered — 0, this comes home to our souls with melting and
with mighty persuasion. It is not merely that " we have redemption,"
but, " we have redemption through his blood.^' It is not merely that
we have eternal life, but that that life cost the Son of God his own.
And whether we consider the magnitude of the blessings that we
receive, or the price at which they were purchased, it is such a display
of divine love as we shall be occupied through the countless ages of
eternity in endeavoring to comprehend. Hence it has been beautifully
said that it is " the noon-tide of meridian compassion ; " it is " the
everlasting display of everlasting love." And hence the apostle of
the Gentiles, when he would give us an exhibition of the love of God,
does not take us to some lofty mountain, and there spread before us,
in beautiful perspective, all the majestic attractions of nature ; but he
takes us to the foot of Calvary, and, pointing us to the illustrious suf-
ferer, he says, " Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he
loved us, and gave his Son to be a propitiation for our sins."

Is justice an attribute of Divine nature ? Where dd we see it dis-
played so effectually as in " the glorious gospel of the blessed God ! "
Justice is that attribute of his nature by which he is made to assign to
every intelligent and accountable being that which is his due. He has
evinced his righteous displeasure against sin in a thousand striking
forms. I see it engraven on the arms that are washed on the shores
of the Red Sea : I see it in those cities of the Plain that are the
blighted and blasted monuments of the eternal ire of God : I see it in
that abode where " the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched ; "
where prayer is unavailing, where repentance is ineffectual, where
mercy is unknown.

But in each, in all of these, I have not so awful an exhibition of the
inflexible justice of God, as when I go to the affecting scenes of Geth-
semane and Calvary. There he hangs, rent with wounds, and racked
with pain ; his bones dislocated, his nerves convulsed. A gushing
crimson tide flows from his bleeding heart : it trickles down his sacred
body ; it stains with purple the very ground on which his cross stands.
It is noon ; and yet it is awfully dark. " I^loi, Eloi, lama sabacthani ? "
" My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ? " And why is all
this ? 0, brethren, it is justice sheathing its sword in the heart of
mercy : it is Jehovah's Son bearing a weight of woe which none but
Omnipotence could inflict, and none but Omnipotence could ly?ar.



380 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

And if I wish for a display, either of the justice of Jehovah, or the
moral turpitude of sin, I must view it in the cross of Christ.

Is wisdom an attribute of the Divine nature ? Where have we such
a display of it as in " the glorious gospel of the blessed God ? " Wis-
dom consists in selecting the most suitable objects, and in adopting the
most efficient means for the attainment of those objects. Now, in this
gospel, the Deity has abounded towards us in all wisdom and pru-
dence. I can very well conceive of holy and happy beings conferring
kindness on holy and happy beings in return : but it is left to the wis-
dom of the cross to exhibit the medium in which a being of unsullied
holiness can, compatibly with the claims of justice, pardon the guilty
and save the lost. I can very well conceive how mercy can pardon
the ofifender, or how justice can punish his sin : but it is left to the
mysterious developement of Calvary to unfold the method by which,
while the Eternal Legislator maintains, unimpaired, the equity of his
moral government, he adopts into his family, and bestows all the marks
of love upon that very offender who has trampled on his authority,
and hurled defiance at his throne. Here, then, we have the most vivid
display of all the perfections of the Godhead.

We must, however, advance a step further : here is the most har-
monious exhibition of the perfections of the G-odhead. It is necessary
for the divine glory, that all the attributes of the Godhead should be
illustrated in harmony with each other, and that the scheme of mercy
itself should be constructed on the principles of immutable justice.
Supposing that there exists a law ; that that law has been violated ;
and that the Divine Legislator determines to pardon the offender : it is
obvious to a demonstration that he can only do this, compatibly with
the claims of justice, through the medium of substitution and of atone-
ment, and putting the offender under a course of moral discipline.
Were Jehovah to bestow the blessing of eternal life through any
medium which allowed his holiness to be sullied, or his veracity to be
impeached, such an exhibition would not be the gospel ; because the
interests of a part — and that, peradventure, a very small part of the
intelligent universe, and that even a guilty part — would be advanced
at the expense of the whole : for the various orders of intelligent
beings might, from that very moment, imagine that they could, with
impunity, trample on his authority, and hurl defiance at his throne.
Such an act of indiscriminate lenity, therefore, would not be the gospel^
but a mere substitute for it, unworthy the character of the Deity, and
unadapted to the moral necessities of the universe.

There is, then, the great problem to be solved — How can God be
just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly ? How can sin be pardoned,



GLORY OF THE GOSPEL. 381

and yet punished ? How can the law be maintained in its authority,
and the violator of that law be rescued from unrepealable and eternal
death ? From the depth of the Everlasting Mind there arose that
scheme by which all these important ends were attained. The Ever-
lasting Son of the Everlasting Father stooped from his throne in the
heavens, and he became the weeping babe in the manger of Bethlehem,
the weary traveller in the journey of life, the agonizing sufferer in the
garden of Gethsemane, the spotless victim on the accursed tree. And
when, by the mysterious oblation on the cross, once offered, he had
harmonized all the attributes of the Godhead in one triumphant act of
mercy, he opened a medium by which — compatibly with the claims
of eternal justice, that looked so high and made so rigid a demand —
he could pour the blessings of eternal salvation on the very vilest of
the vile. Brethren, this is the moral glory of the Gospel ; and this is
the glory of ministers, that they have to preach it. Let the wise man
glory in his wisdom ; let the rich man glory in his riches ; let the strong
man glory in his strength ; God forbid that I should glory, save in the
cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nor is this a useless speculation ; it is as important as it is true.
For the moral character of the Deity is at the foundation of all virtue.
If that were to be suUied, virtue would have no foundation, hell would
have no terror, obedience would have no authority and no rule. If you
could shake the character of the Deity, you would shake his very
throne, and unhinge the moral harmony of the universe itself. There-
fore i#is of the highest importance, not only to the happiness of
creatures in this inferior world, but to intelligences that occupy the
ilUmitable regions of the universal government ; it is essential to each
and to all, that there be a correct exhibition of the character of God.
And not only so, but it bears a most beneficial aspect upon the moral
happiness of beings like ourselves. For if you and I were to cherish
expectations of future happiness that were not to be built on the foun-
dation of the divine glory, and to be cherished only in proportion as
that glory was tarnished, then our hope must terminate in despair.
But, when a scheme is resolved upon, is brought before us, is explained
to us, in which, at the very moment that Jehovah pardons the guilty
and saves the lost, he does, at that time and through that medium, only
add an additional ray to his own ineffable grandeur and glory, then
despondency itself may hope, and the most forlorn of the human race
may cherish a well founded hope of everlasting salvation.

But I must advance to the second part of the discourse, and remind
you that this is " the glorious gospel of the blessed God," because it



382 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

IS ADMIRABLY ADAPTED TO THE MORAL AND SPIRITUAL NECESSmES

OF Man. Those necessities are vast and varied ; but there is no want
that it cannot supply, no guilt that it cannot pardon, no depth of misery
which it cannot explore.

View man under all the phases of his existence, and you will find
there is the fullest adaptation in this gospel to each and to all. Man
is an ignorant being ; ignorance is the oflfspring of guilt ; and when man
became a sinner, his mental vision was beclouded. As sin diffused
itself, ignorance followed as its attendant, till it thickened on the
nations into a darkness that might be felt. In reference to all that was
of the highest importance, the world was in a state of grovelling igno-
rance : conjecture instead of certainty, probability instead of proof,
were all to which they could attain. Their poets, it is true, sung of
Tartarian gulfs and Elysian fields ; but these were only considered
poetic flights of the fancy, while the realities concealed beneath them
were not generally beheved. All the light that was possessed by the
world prior to the disclosure of the gospel was that which was confined
to the small nation of the Jews ; and this, compared with the light
which was thereafter to be revealed, was as the first ray of the morn-
ing struggling with the retiring obscurity of the night. But when the
star arose at Bethany, to dispel the darkness of the long evening, and
poured its radiance on the path of life, Jesus explained what was ambig-
uous, he established what was doubtful ; he elucidated what was obscure ;
and he shed an unearthly light on that all-important question — " How
can man be just with God ? How can man be pure with his M^er ? "

But when we say that this gospel is adapted to man as an ignorant
being, I would remind you that it is so, not merely as adapted to con-
vey to him the truth he should understand, but, by a light directed to
the understanding and to the heart, first to instruct the judgment, and
then to renovate the soul. There is all tTie difierence in the world
between mere intellectual and spiritual light ; between that knowledge
that may be obtained by the unaided efforts of the human mind, and
that which is to be acquired by the teaching of the Spirit of God.
The one is as different from the other as the mere picture of a country
as it is painted on a map is from the country itself, where, with its hills
and dales, and rivers, it stretches itself before your view. A man may
have some faint conception that honey is sweet, or music harmonious ;
but the individual who has not the power of tasting and hearing can
have no conception of the sweetness of the one, or the melody of the
other. Now, there is a species of spiritual perception with which the
soul must be invested ere it is capable of seeing the excellences of
eternal truth. And here the gospel comes to our aid, to dispel from



GLORY OP THE GOSPEL. 383

our minds the darkness of ignorance, and the delusions of error. It
carries the light of eternal truth down to every compartment of the
inner man : and that God who, in the beginning of time, commanded
the light to shine out of darkness, shines into our minds to give us th?
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ.

It is adapted likewise to man as a guilty being. That he is guilty,
I need not pause to prove. Our violation of the divine law, our abuse
of the divine goodness, our forgetfulness of the divine authority, all
combine to fasten on our minds the appalling conviction that, as by
nature we are the children of wrath, so by practice we are the children
of disobedience. Tremendous thought ! to be exposed to the displeas-
ure of that being, compared with which the concentrated indignation
of all the beings in the universe would be only as the displeasure of a
child. And yet this is the awful moral predicament in which every
sinner is found. He is exposed to the lightning of that eye, he is
exposed to the grasp of that omnipotent arm ; and, if he die as he
lives, he sinks into a state where the mercy of God is clean gone for
ever, and he will be favorable no more.

Some of you are called upon this evening to pity the condition of
the heathen. I would rather, for a moment, call upon you to pity ^/owr-
selves. But peradventure, you ask, " How will sin be pardoned ?
Why will repentance avail nothing ? " And what can you do by
repentance ? Can you recall the past, and thereby avert the future ?
Can you do more by repentance than acquit yourself of present obli-
gation ? Can you produce a surplus of merit that shall be employed
for the reduction of your past deficiencies ? Must the pardon of the
philosophy which was too proud to submit to the humiliating doctrines
of the cross, be based on the exploded notion of supererogation ? If
we are left in doubt on this subject, how sin can be pardoned, and God
yet glorified, the gospel comes in to our aid. It is the precious blood
of Jesus which can alone avail. He is " the end of the law for
righteousness to every one that believeth." And when the sinner
comes and places the burden of his weakness and his woe on his
precious blood and prevailing intercession, in that very act, whatever
may have been his anterior crimes, he passes from death unto life —
from a state of condemnation to a state of acceptation — from the
dark, dreary dominion of nature, into the light and loveliness of the
kingdom of God : and those perfections of the Godhead which before
had lowered upon him with frowns of severity, now relax into smiles
of love ; and " there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are
in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."



384 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

This gospel is still further adapted to man as a polluted being. And
we bring the broad and sweeping charge against human nature as a
whole — that it is in this state of pollution. We acknowledge that
there is a vast disparity as it relates to the exterior man. We know
there may be the consistency of friendship, the ardor of patriotism, and
the firmness of inflexible principle, even where the gospel has not
found its way ; and individuals who admit this truth, bring it as a
charge that we have underrated the condition of mankind, and, there-
fore, the gospel is not necessary for them. We admit that there are
in the character of man some appearances more favorable than others :
we admit there are some species of excellence to be found where the
gospel has not worked its way. But let us come to the point — on
what are we to form our estimate of the moral character of man ?
Upon principle and motive. Upon that which we designate principle
depends the moral virtue of every action, and the moral quality of
every mind. Where this principle is wanting, there the character is
reduced to one mass of moral depravity : where this principle exists,
there is, undoubtedly, a substratum of moral excellence. And when
we proceed to the examination, we shall find, that though there may be
amiable dispositions, generous feelings, and firm friendships, there is a
total destitution of moral principle, in the scriptural sense of the word ;
for that principle is, supreme love to God, evincing itself in all its
appropriate forms. Bring forth, therefore, the most flattering speci-
men of human nature that your imagination can paint, or your expe-
rience can produce, whether in Christian or heathen lands ; if the love
of God has not actuated it, if the fear of God has not restrained it, if
a regard to the Divine authority has not influenced it, then, notwith-
standing the attractions with which the man is invested, we are com-
pelled to reduce him to his own naked deformity, and to say, he is " a
child of wrath even as others." Weighed in the balance of the sanc-
tuary, he is found wanting : measured by the rule of right and wrong,
he comes short of what regeneration and pardon imply : and the decis-
ions of the last day will award the unhappy outcast his destiny amongst
those who had lived without repentance, and died without hope.

And is this the condition of man, as man, under all the varied forms
of his existence ? And has the sin-sick angel of death breathed on
the vast family of man ? And are they all spiritually dead ? It is
true. And how are they to be made alive again ? The past history
of the world is only a mournful record of the triumphs of sin, over
every barrier that civilization or philosophy has interposed. But " the
glorious gospel " comes in to our aid ; and, at the very moment that it
reveals to us an all-eflficacious atonement through faith, by which sin



GLORY OF THE GOSPEL. 385

may be pardoned, it exhibits a benign agent who can enlighten what is
dark, and cleanse what is impure, and elevate what is earthly, and
carry the very light of heaven into the inert mass of this world's cor-
ruption. And this benign agent will communicate himself to the most
unworthy supplicant that implores its aid, not only with the sovereignty
of a prince, but with the generosity of a friend. So that no man is
doomed to live the slave of sin contrary to his will. Wherever he is,
this gospel comes to his aid. Living under a dispensation of mercy,
however reduced he may be by the recklessness of his evil propensi-
ties, the gospel meets him on the very ground to which he is reduced,
raises his prostrate spirit, and impresses upon it the long-lost lineaments
of heaven.

It is " the glorious gospel " because it is adapted to man, as a mis-
erable being. Misery and guilt are linked to each other in an unbroken
chain ; and no man can be the voluntary slave of sin, without, in a
proportionate degree, being the victim of wretchedness. To prove this,
I need not exhibit to you the many-colored woes which obtain in this
lower world ; I need not point out to you the pestilence impregnating
the air with poison, and war drenching its sword in blood ; I need not
take you down to those haunts where the victims of want retire to die ;
I will take you where some of you may be reluctant to go ; I will take
you into the interior of an unpardoned sinner's heart, and there you
will find misery personified before your view. He has a conscience —
a conscience that appears to slumber — and he may even imagine that
it is dead. But it is active all the while : with minute attention it
notices every action of his life ; it chronicles every thought, and waits
only the favorable moment to read the black catalogue aloud, to the
confusion of the sinner and the astonishment of the world. Awaken-
ing, by some unexpected incident in the history of his life, his
conscience is like rousing the hungry lion in his lair : no power can
resist its force, no attempts can mitigate its rage. 0, the horrors of
an accusing conscience ! There are some evils which you may escape
by going into company ; there are others which you may avoid by going
into solitude : but the guilty wretch passes into company, and his guilty
conscience dashes the untasted cup of pleasure from his trembling lips :
he goes into solitude, and, as a spirit, it passes before him, and " the
hair of his flesh stands up." man, whoever thou art, whose con-
science is unappeased by the blood of sprinkling, peace of mind thou
canst not enjoy ;

" The dreadful syllables — death, hell, and sin —
Tho' whispered, plainly tell what works within;
That conscience there performs its faithful part,
And writes a doomsday sentence on your heart."

25



386 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

And how is tliis conscience to be appeased ? Will philosophy avail ?
Will scepticism avail ? Will pleasure avail ? Miserable comforters
are they all ; a guilty conscience, like the barbed arrow in the panting
sides of the wounded deer, adheres to him wherever he goes, and every
attempt to eradicate the fatal shaft only lacerates the wound the more.
Am I addressing such a being this evening ; and do you ask, with
anxious, palpitating breast, " How shall I escape the wrath to come ? "
0, I rejoice that I stand before you with " the glorious gospel of the
blessed God." That very atonement that satisfied the claims of justice,
will satisfy the claims of conscience ; that very blood that expiated the
guilt of sin, will allay the throbbings of an anxious mind. Here is the



Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 43 of 45)