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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

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balm, the vital and all-healing balm, that alone can reach the emer-
gency of your case ; all else is but moral empyricism, that mocks the
misery it proposes to alleviate, and deepens the wound it proposes to
heal. Come to the Cross ; come, and by faith apply the precious blood
of sprinkling, and you will have peace within and peace above, " a
tranquil conscience and a smihng God ; " a peace which, built on a
firm foundation, and supported by principle, cannot be shaken by aught
that time can develope, or eternity conceal ; a peace which, like the
unruffled surface of the lake on a calm summer's evening, is not only
tranquU, but reflects on its bosom the very tranquillity of the skies.
0, could I but persuade you to come and allay the throbbings of your
mind, by the application of this precious blood ; then you would feel
the truth of the declaration, that it is " the glorious gospel of the
blessed God."

This gospel is adapted to man as an immortal being. That it be so,
I need not now pause to prove ; our sense of right and wrong, our
insuppressible forebodings, the apparent disorders that obtain in the
moral government of the universe, all combine to fasten on our minds
the truth that we shall be called to a final and definite account —
" Apart from which consideration," (to use the language of the finest
orator of his day,) " our life is a shadow, our very existence itself is a
riddle, and the mysterious events that obtain in the world around us,
are as incoherent as the leaves which are scattered by the wind."

But what rehef can be afforded to the inquiry — whether it be
prompted by the moody spirit of unhallowed scepticism, or the tremb-
ling anxiety of unsatisfied conscience — Is this soul of mine immortal,
or does it die with the body ? Is this eye, before which the wide
domain of nature lies spread in beautiful perspective, to be for ever
quenched in darkness ? Is this spirit, that seems Uke the master spirit
of this lower world, that can penetrate the profoundest with the
keenness of intuition, and embody the loftiest in the colors of a vivid



GLORY OF THE GOSPEL. 387

imagination, to sink into gloom and annihilation, and to be, notwith-
standing all its mental appliances, as though it never had been ? To
lull these anxious inquiries — inquiries suggested by the loftiest mind
that ever descended on this orb, and to which they found no satisfac-
tory reply — we return an unhesitating answer : " the glorious gospel
of the blessed God." There we learn that our soul is as immortal as
the source from whence it came : that it may change the mode of its
existence, but that its existence can never close ; that it will pass
through the valley of the shadow of death, but only to enter its mag-
nificent residence, where it will find objects corresponding to its nature,
and commensurate with its duration ; and that which pours such a flood
on the eternal destination of man, and not only points out heaven, but
bestows the boon, must be " the glorious gospel of the blessed God."

It is so, in the last place, because it is adapted to man as an impo-
tent being. For vast and important as are the blessings to which I
have adverted, if they were bestowed on conditions with which we
could not possibly comply, the exhibition would only serve to mock our
misery and enhance our despair ; we should only be in the predicament
of the wretch of antiquity, who was suspended over a running stream,
■which, when he attempted to partake of it, rushed from him, and left
him more wretched than before. The blessings to which I have
adverted, are not more exalted in their nature than free in their dispo-
sal ; they are without money and without price : and to be without
money and without price is all that is required on your part and
mine, in order to receive them as the express gift of heaven. When
our first parents Avere expelled from Paradise, there was an angel with
a flaming sword placed to guard the entrance to that Paradise, and to
prevent their return. But here is no angel. I recall the expression
— there is an angel ; but instead of an angel of justice with its flam-
ing sword, it is the angel of mercy ; and a voice is heard in every
passing breeze, exclaiming, " Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to
the waters ; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat ; yea,
come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." And do
you wonder, brethren, that our feelings are kindled, when we state truths
like these ? It is an impious calumny ; and, whatever might be our
feelings, I should blush for myself if I could speak on such a subject,
without a desire of speaking thoughts that breathe, and in words that
burn, while I proclaim to guilty, rebellious, miserable, dying, immortal
beings, " the glorious gospel of the blessed God."

Thirdly, it is " the glorious Gospel of the blessed God," because IT

IS DESIGNED TO ACHIEVE ULTIMATELY THE MOST IMPORTANT BLESSINGS

TO TEE World at large.



388 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

The reign of sin and misery is not to exist eternally on this lower
world ; it is to be brought to a close. Standing on the mount of Scrip-
ture prophecy, and looking down the vale of time, we contemplate a
scene such as earth never saw ; such as angels stoop down to see. The
language of beauty and blessedness is employed to depict, as with the
colors of heaven, this unearthly scene. The effects of the Savior's
death will flow down the tide of eternity, will increase with the increas-
ing gratitude of successive generations, and be prolonged, even after
it has been hymned over the habitations of this lower world. But
what is to produce this change ? Will philosophy and civilization
accomplish it ? The experiment has been tried : for four thousand
years philosophy had its reign ; and it is a well-attested fact, that, at
the time in which philosophy shone with its greatest splendor, in which
philosophers themselves were men of the highest repute, and when it
was the pride of kings and emperors to patronize them, and raise them
to honor — at that very time men were sunk in the depth of moral
degradation ; sable night spread her canopy over this darkened world,
under which the most detestable rights were perpetrated in rapid suc-
cession. A by-stander might say, " Philosophy, it is true, instructed
their minds, and civilization reformed their manners ; " but there is noth-
ing that can stop the course of that infernal pit, the pestilence of
which continually rises before our view, and produces all monstrous
things. But the gospel will come into our view, and achieve all that,
in the praises of which poets sung and martyrs bled. 0, what visions
of glory — you who love the Savior, and desire now to encircle his
brow with mediatorial glory — what visions of glory rise before our
view ! In the prospect of those scenes we discover the truth : eternal
truth, which has so long labored through the darkness of an eclipse,
shall shine forth in its own splendor ; and men will acquire a knowledge
of subjects, equally important in their nature, and imperishable in their
duration. " HoUness " — consisting in the supreme love of God, and
of conformity to his image — will be written on the very bridles of the
horses, and mingle with the commerce of the nations. The heart of man
— now a fountain from which all fetid streams are perpetually pour-
ing forth — will then give birth to all that is holy in principle, and bland
in disposition. The breath of heaven has originated more enlightened
systems of civil government than any the world ever discovered. Then,
indeed, philosophy shall refine the minds, and civilization reform the
manners of mankind : but, above all, the gospel, under its plastic
influence, shall mould this world into such a scene of moral beauty,
that the Deity shall again look on it with complacency, and pronounce
that all is very good. The love of the Savior shall warm every heart,



GLORY OF THE GOSPEL. 389

and dwell on every tongue — now rising in solitary strains of gratitude,
now combining in hymns of praise — till it shall roll through creation,
and the very thunder of God awaken the universe to new and raptu-
rous delight : the dwellers in the valleys and on the rocks shout to each
other ; the distant hills and mountain-tops catch the swelling joy, till
nation after nation join in the choir, and earth rolls the rapturous song
around. Brethren, these are scenes which we are warranted to con-
template, through the medium of the prophecies of the gospel ; and
that which the prophecy announces, the truth shall achieve ; and,
under the influence of this " glorious gospel," this new and better
order of things shall surely arise.

I must now come to the concluding part of the subject, to deduce
SUCH Remarks as its Nature will suggest.

First of all — for I shall be very simple and obvious in the inferences
I shall draw — I remind you both of the privileges and the obligations
with which you are invested who possess this gospel. May I not take
up the language of benediction in this assembly this evening, and say,
" Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have
desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them ; and
to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." You
are guilty, and you know the medium of pardon: you are unholy, and you
know the medium of sanctification : you are miserable, and you know
where to flee for comfort : there is no form of evil to which you are
exposed, for which there is not a commensurate remedy in the " glori-
ous gospel ; " and you are intrusted with privileges above millions.
0, think of them. Your privileges and your obligations keep pace
with each other ; and to whom much is given, much will be required.
What if this evening I were empowered to stand in the midst of the
dense population of India or China — what would be the emotion of
some broken-hearted wretch if he could have caught the sounds to
which perhaps some of j'ou have listened this evening with unconcern !
And what if, still further, I had been commissioned to traverse the
hills, and valleys, and plains, of those lands, and pronounce to its
■wretched inhabitants the invitations of that gospel to which you have
listened : would they not rise from their abodes of wretchedness, and
make the very vault of perdition to echo with the song of gratitude
and praise ? Remember that you possess that, this evening, for which
the lost in hell would give millions of worlds. By this gospel you will
be saved : by this gospel you will be condemned. " Hell," said a
pious writer, " is truth seen too late." Be careful, I beseech you,



390 THE ENGLISH PULPIT,

half-hearted, undecided, impenitent, perishing hearers of the gospel ;
lest you pluck yourselves, Avith a suicidal hand, by your own impeni-
tence, from the elevation you now occupy ; and sink, like Lucifer,
never to rise again.

Secondly, we infer from this subject how pitiable must he the condi-
tion of those inhabitants of the earth to whom this gos^M has never
been sent ! Ignorance there has no guide, misery no asylum, despair
no hope ; society itself is only a scene of wretchedness, where we
behold, in awful combination, all that is ferocious in aggression on the
one side, and all that is ineffectual or timid in compliance on the other.
But it is to man individually that the situation is most terrible. View
that hoary savage. He sees about him the scenes of his youth ; his
hands are stained with blood ; he sinks at once under an accumulated
load of crimes and years. He would look to the grave for succor ;
but alas ! all there is dark — the darkness of the shadow of death.
See that poor inhabitant of Hindostan. He resorts to the most detes-
table orgies to allay the throbbings of a guilty conscience : he offers
" the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul." And what can meet
their case ? They are wretched here^ and eternity to them is only a
dark and dreary scene, where they are mocked with the unreal illu-
sions of a vain imagination, or appalled by the spectres of guilt and
sin. Who can meet their case ? In this fearful condition they are
passing on from what is temporal to what is eternal ; and, as they
vanish from our view, we seem to hear the shout of anguish, or the
sullen groan of despair. What can meet their case ? Why, brethren,
you possess that which will meet their case, which will enlighten their
darkness, comfort them in their sorrow, and pour the very radiance of
heaven over the valley of the shadow of death.

Now, I would ask, while you behold millions of your fellow-beings,
allied to you by the common sympathies of nature, perishing in the
situation to which I have adverted, and you possess that which will
meet the urgency of their case — can you lie down on the bed of
repose, and slumber unconcerned and unaffected by the piercing shrieks
that arise from the agonized hearts of perishing millions ? Remember
that he who refuses to extend the key of knowledge to those who are
in ignorance, is, as Johnson has said, guilty of all the crimes that igno-
rance may produce ; in the same way that he who extinguishes a light-
house, would be guilty of the horrors of the shipwreck. You possess
the means by which this gospel may be extended. Institutions have
arisen so vast as to embrace empires, and yet so minute as to receive
the smallest contribution that may be poured into its treasury. We
invite, then, young and old, master and servant, rich and poor, literate



WORTH OF THE SOUL. 391

and illiterate — we invite you all to link every energy of your nature
with the cause, and to devote yourselves, at once, with the firmness of
a principle, and the ardor of a passion, to those big and busy enter-
prises which are designed to tell on the moral destiny of a lost and
ruined world.



SERMON XXXII.

THE WORTH OF THE SOUL.

BY REV. TIMOTHY GIBSON.

" What shall a man give in exchange for his soul V" — Matt. xvi. 26.

Whether man is a merely material being, formed only to eat and
drink, to live a few years on earth, and then to perish for ever in the
dust, or whether he is the partaker of a higher nature, and formed for
a more exalted state of being, are questions of vital importance —
questions, which deeply involve our character in time, and our pros-
pects for eternity. If, in man, be seen only a material being, whose
existence is confined within the limits of threescore years and ten, and
who has neither happiness to hope, nor misery to fear, beyond the
grave — religion is only, as infidelity has represented it to be, a system
of error, encouraging but by delusive hopes, and intimidating by super-
stitious fears ; imposing restraints, to which you are bound by no tie
to submit ; and enjoining as duties, what you are under no obligation to
perform. But, on the other hand, if in man is seen an immortal crea-
ture — a candidate for the skies ; if, not only death, but judgment
awaits him ; if everlasting happiness or misery must be his doom —
then, religion is the most important subject that can engage his powers ;
and diUgently to learn its truths, and patiently to obey its commands,
must be, at once, his interest and his duty.

The worth of the human soul, I propose, in dependence upon the
help of Divine grace, to establish on the general principle of its im-
mortality. And give me, I beseech you, your careful attention, and
your earnest prayers, that God, who alone bestoweth wisdom, and out
of whose mouth alone come knowledge and understanding, may afiord
us that assistance which we require to our profitable consideration of
the subject.

Of the immortality of the soul, we have three kinds of proof: natu-
ral, moral, and Divine.



392 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

I. Natural. The immaterial nature of the human mind, furnishes
so strong a proof of its immortality, as to have forced one of the most
subtle advocates of infidelity to acknowledge, that if the soul be,
indeed, distinct from matter, the inference can scarcely be avoided,
that it is immortal ! Let us then shortly examine whether we are,
or are not, elevated in the scale of being, above the earth we tread
upon, and the gross materials of which these earthly bodies are made
■ — whether we are, or are not, by the original constitution of our
nature, the subjects of immortality.

It is a principle, which must necessarily be admitted as the ground-
work of all reasoning — that, from nothing, nothing can arise ; and
that for every eflfect there must exist a sufficient cause. It is the
province of reason and of philosophy to trace out effects ; to explore
the source from whence they proceed, and to ascertain whether the
cause which is assigned them be equal to their production. Were an
idolater to inform you, that his god of wood or stone had often heard
his prayer, alleviated his sufferings, and supplied his wants, you would
reject his testimony, and pity his weakness ; because your own under-
standing would convince you, that a mere block of wood, or stone,
however elegantly formed, or beautifully ornamented, yet, being inani-
mate, could not hear his supplications, or afford him relief.

A cause like this, you would perceive, must necessarily be unequal
to the production of such effects : the testimony, therefore, however
confidently given, you would at once reject.

In man, we find perception, consciousness, thought, and reason ; and
the question presents itself to the inquiring mind — " Do these proper-
ties result from matter ; or, have they a distinct, an independent, an
immaterial cause ? " The existence of the properties themselves, is
unquestionable ; there must therefore exist some substance, or being,
from which, as their cause, these effects proceed ; and, as we have
before remarked, it is the province of reason and philosophy to search
out this cause, and to ascertain, as nearly as possible, its nature.

Give to the man of science any portion of matter, and let him
reduce it to its first principles ; does he find any one of them the sub-
ject of thought or reason ? Impossible. Let him examine the nature
of the electric fluid, to the instrumentality of which, as some philoso-
phers seem to have taught, the visible creation owes all its variety of
texture and form. Does reason reside here ? No. Let him investi-
gate the nervous system in the human body, with which sensation is
unquestionably connected. Do the nerves possess thinking or reason-
ing powers ? Assuredly not. The inevitable conclusion, therefore, is,
that these powers are neither essential properties of matter, nor in-



WORTH OF THE SOUL. 393

herent in any material elements, within the compass of our research.
And it would be absurd to suppose, that the effect can rise above its
cause, since that would be to state, that a thing might be produced by
a cause unequal to its production ; or, that the mind of man has no
adequate cause of existence.

If, however these absurdities are too evident to be admitted ; if man
possess thinking and reasoning powers ; if these powers are neither
essential properties of matter, nor inherent in any material element
within our knowledge ; and if no union of elements can give a power
essentially different from those powers, which those elements separately
possess — then, the human mind is produced by no modification of
matter ; but must, in its nature, be immaterial and spiritual.

The intellectual powers of man furnish a second proof, that his soul
is immaterial. We have already stated, that no effect can rise higher
than its cause ; in illustration of which remark, it may be added, that
the motion given to an inanimate body, can only be in exact propor-
tion to the force employed. And if no excellency can be communi-
cated which is not possessed, it will assuredly follow, that a material
mind must be incapable of performing a spiritual act, or of perceiving
an immatei'ial object. But the human mind does perform acts purely
spiritual ; and does perceive objects purely immaterial ; therefore it
manifestly follows, that, in its nature, it must be immaterial also.

To think, to understand, to reason, are actions, which it is impossi-
ble for mere matter to perform. To see the beauty of goodness, and
to feel the force of moral obligation, are also the peculiar prerogatives
of man. Truth and falsehood, justice and oppression, benevolence and
cruelty, appear to him in widely different colors, and excite in his
mind essentially different feelings. He rises higher ; he forms con-
ceptions of angels and spirits — of the perfections, and character, and
government of God ; he prays and praises, reverences and adores ;
rejoices in Jehovah's favor, and fears Jehovah's wrath. Here, also,
we discover powers which mere matter cannot possess ; and, therefore,
powers, which matter can never communicate.

But an objection against these conclusions is sometimes raised, from
the painful effects produced on the mind by the weaknesses and dis-
eases of the body. " Where," says the materialist, " shall we find
proofs of the mind's independence of the bodily structure ? Of that
mind, which, like its clay tabernacle, is infantile in the child, debilita-
ted in disease, enfeebled in old age, and annihilated by death ? " This
objection however, great as it appears at first sight, is not insurmount-
able. Though we allow that the mind, during its continuance in the
present world, is united to the body, and is so far confined to it, that



394 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

its senses are the onlj medium through which impressions are commu-
nicated from surrounding objects, and its organs the only instruments
by which the mind here carries on its visible operations, yet this by no
means proves it to be material ; and the objection alluded to vanishes
immediately, when we reflect, that the ideas which the mind forms of
objects, must, necessarily, be correct or incorrect, in proportion to the
perfection or imperfection of the senses ; and that its operations must
be affected, in some degree, according to the state of the brain. But
the senses and the brain are not therefore the mind ; nor do they on
this account produce it.

This immateriaUty of the mind deprives the materialist of all positive
evidence for its perishableness or its death ! it furnishes, if not abso-
lute proof, at least, a strong probability of its immortality ; and also
lays a firm foundation, on which other proofs of this important fact may
rest. Immateriality seems to imply a natural power of perpetual
duration, as a consequence of exemption from all causes of decay.
Dissolution is only the separation of the constituent parts of a com-
pound body ; and it is effected either by some inward tendency in the
nature of that body, or by some outward violence employed ; but an
immaterial substance, being formed of no union of material elements,
cannot be the subject of inward decays, but must preserve the identity
of its nature for ever. No means, short of an annihilating act by him
who gave it being, can terminate its existence ; and as in this exemp-
tion from inward corruption and from outward violence, we have an
apparent assurance that such an act will not be performed, the con-
clusion seems just — that the human soul is not the natural subject of
dissolution, but was designed by its Creator to enjoy an endless life.

II. Of this immortality we have proofs of a moral nature.

1. The first of these is derived from the wisdom and goodness of
God. It is the province of wisdom, to adapt the means used to the
ends proposed ; and of goodness, to proportion happiness to the powers
of the object for whom that happiness is designed. The Creator of
the world, being infinitely wise, the means employed by him must, with
the utmost exactness, be fitted to the ends proposed ; and the powers
of the beings he has formed, must be precisely adapted to the proper
exercise of those powers, and to the final destiny of the beings them-
selves ; and, as he is infinitely good, provision must be made by him
for the supply of every desire he has implanted. Whether we look at
beasts or birds, fishes or insects, all are furnished with organs exactly
adapted to the functions they are intended to perform, and to the



WORTH OF THE SOUL. 395

sphere in which these creatures are designed to move. Nor is there
either defect or superfluity observable throughout the whole.

Man, we have said, possesses thinking and reasoning powers, by
which he understands truth and obtains knowledge ; and even in *he



Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 44 of 45)