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

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

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and accredited workmen, and will assuredly at last, if found " faithful
unto death, " receive of him the promised reward ; for as he employs
the workmen, he also pays them their wages. Souls for their hire,
seals to their ministry, constitute their present recompense ; and by-
and-by, in the presence of assembled worlds, when the chief Shepherd,


when the Master-builder shall appear for that purpose, " a crown of
glory, that fadeth not away." And what mitred abbot, what crosiered
ecclesiastic, what titled dignitary, what impurpled prelate, does he need
to envy, to whom, though persecuted and despised on earth, his Lord
shall say, " Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the
joy of thy Lord ? " " Well done ! " — oh ! it shall ring through all
the regions of the blest ; and the joy which it awakens shall infinitely
more than compensate for a life of ceaseless sacrifice and toil, though
a thousand such lives were compressed into one, and that one fife
lengthened out to the days of Methuselah.

3. Christ is the foundation, Christ is the architect ; and now, thirdly,
Christ is the proprietor of the Church : " On this rock," he says, " I
will build my Church."

He calls it his. Every living stone in that building is the purchase
of his blood as well as the work of his hand, given to him by his
Father, in covenant engagements, for this express purpose, that from
such materials he might construct " a glorious church," and finally
" present it to himself without spot or blemish, or any such thing."
We talk of this church and of that, of your church and of my church,
of the Church of England, and the Church of Ireland, and the Church
of Scotland ; but the true church is the Church of Christ. It is the
property of no party, of no country, of no body, of no class or com-
munity or nation under heaven, but the property of Christ, composed
of the holy and the excellent from among them all, and to be allowed
and recognized and honored as his property, when all the communities
who have laid claim to it on earth shall have ceased for ever to exist,
when he shall come to be '' glorified in his saints, and admired in all
them that believe."

4. Finally, while Christ is the foundation, the architect, and the pro-
prietor of the church, he is also the guarantee of its stabiUty : " On
this rock," he says, " I will build my church ; and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it."

By " the gates of hell" are meant the powers of darkness, the thrones,
the principalities, the princedoms, the dominations of the infernal world
and all the forces that superstition, infidelity, and antichrist, in all their
varied forms, can supply and league with them. These powers of dark-
ness shall not prevail against it. Let them combine, let them make the
effort ; let them combine with all their art and cunning and sophistry,
as they ever have done, as they are doing now, as they will still con-
tinue to do ; let them do the utmost which ingenuity can suggest, which
poUcy can approve, which power can execute ; let them summon learn-
ing to their aid, and aiTay themselves with the decrees of councils and


the acts of legislation ; let them nerve afresh the old arm of persecu-
tion ; let them open again the dungeons of the Inquisition ; let them
kindle anew the fires of Smithfield ; let them plj their racks ; let them
thunder their anathemas and mutter their curses ; as in time past, so
in time to come, all shall prove impotent and vain; like the storm, that
only roots the monarch of the forest still further in the soil, or the bil-
low, that leaves unmoved the rock at whose base it has broken.

" What though the gates of hell withstand,
Yet must this building rise."

"The gates of hell shall not prevail agamst it." They never have
prevailed against it ; they may have seemed to do so for a season, but
they never have in reality. Is the sun plucked from the firmament
because sometimes it is obscured by clouds ? Are stars quenched in
their orbit, because there are nights of darkness in which they fail to
shine ? Clouds sometimes have hung around the Church, and there
have been periods in her story when the enemy has seemed to triumph ;
but those periods, like the summer cloud, have passed away, and from
that temporary gloom the Church has emerged with augmented splen-
dor. Did they prevail against the Church of Calvary ? They thought
to do so ; they imagined that they had ; and all seemed lost, when the
stone was rolled to the door of the sepulchre, when the seal was fixed
and the Roman guard was set. But see what " a show he made of
them openly," and how he triumphed over them in his cross, when,
having burst the barriers of the tomb, " He ascended up on high,
leading captivity captive ; " and as he entered the celestial world amid
the anthems and hallelujahs of cherubim and seraphim, and countless
myriads of " the morning stars," the powers of darkness were seen
prostrate and crushed beneath his feet, and writhing in anguish for
their previous overthrow. Did they prevail against it at the Reforma-
tion, with their racks, and their dungeons, and their bulls and all their
instruments of torture ? They seemed to think they had ; but like
the phoenix, the Church has risen from the flame, and, in reaction
against the powers of darkness, has been augmented and gaining
strength from that period to the present hour. Do they now ? Are
the powers of darkness prevailing against the Church in these days in
which we live ? They struggle, they boast, they utter great swelling
words of vanity, but do they prevail ? Where is the evidence ?
Where is the proof? Is it in the twenty-seven million copies of the
word of God, which the Bible Society alone has printed and sent
abroad in every tongue and dialect of the world's vast family ? Is it
in the noble army of missionaries, who are gathering materials for this


building from almost ever j region under heaven, and adorning the goodly
structure with every variety of color the human countenance presents ?
Is it in the planting of missionary churches abroad, or in the idols
abandoned by their former worshippers, that grace our missionary
museum at home ?

And if " the gates of hell " have never yet prevailed, if the gates
of hell are not prevaiUng now, shall they ever prevail ? No ; they
never shall. The truth of prophecy, the faithfulness of God, the cer-
tainty of the covenant, the rectitude of the Divine administration, the
atonement of Christ, the value of his blood, the privileges of his inter-
cession, all forbid. Instability there may be in all other things : " the
mountains may depart, and the hills may be removed ; " thrones may
totter, the heavens may be wrapped together as a scroll, the elements
may " melt with fervent heat," the earth and all its works may " be
burned up ; " palaces and pyramids, the noblest works of man, the
Alps and the Andes, the mightiest works of God, may only serve as
fuel to the general flame, and ruin once more drive her ploughshare
over the creation ; but the word of our God shall endure for ever ; and
ere the powers of darkness, ere " the gates of hell shall prevail against
the Church," the pillars that support the eternal throne must fall, and
the being of a God be blotted out from the universe which he has



" Not slothful in business." — Romans, xii. 11.

Two things are very certain, — that we have all got a work to do,
and are all, more or less, indisposed to do it : In other words, every
man has a calling, and most men have a greater or less amount of in-
dolence, which disinclines them for the work of that calling. Many
men would have liked the gospel all the better, if it had entirely
repealed the sentence, " In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy
bread ; " had it proclaimed a final emancipation from industry, and
turned our world into a merry play-ground or luxurious dormitory.
But this is not what the gospel does. It does not abolish labor ; it


gives It a new and a nobler aspect. The gospel abolishes labor much
in the same waj as it abolishes death ; it leaves the thing, but changes
its nature. The gospel sweetens the believer's work ; it gives him new
motives for performing it. The gospel dignifies toil : it transforms it
from the drudgery of the workhouse or the penitentiary, to the affec-
tionate offices and joyful services of the fire-side and the family circle.
It asks us to do for the sake of Christ many things which we were once
compelled to bear as a portion of the curse, and which worldly men per-
form for selfish and secondary reasons. " Whatsoever ye do in word
or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." " Wives, submit
yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord." " Chil-
dren, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing unto the
Lord." " Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the
flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart,
fearing God ; and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord and
not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward
of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ." The gospel has not
superseded diligence. " Study to be quiet and to do your own busi-
ness, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you." " If
any man will not work, neither let him eat." It is mentioned as almost
the climax of sin, "And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about
from house to house ; and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busy-
bodies, speaking things which they ought not : " as on the other hand,
the healthy and right-conditioned state of a soul is " not slothful in
business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."

I. This precept is violated by those who have no business at all.
By the bounty of God's providence, some are in such a situation that
they do not need to toil for a subsistence ; they go to bed when they
please, and get up when they can sleep no longer, and they do with
themselves whatever they hke ; and though we dare not say that their's
is the happiest life, it certainly is the easiest. But it will neither be
a lawful life nor a happy one, unless it have some work in hand, some
end in view. Those of you who are familiar with the sea- shore, may
have seen attached to the inundated reef, a creature, whether a plant
or an animal you could scarcely tell, rooted to the rock as a plant might
be, and twirling its long tentacula as an animal would do. This plant-
animal's life is somewhat monotonous, for it has nothing to do but grow
and twirl its feelers, float in the tide, or fold itself up on its foot-stalk
when that tide has receded, for months and years together. Now,
would it not be very dismal to be transformed into a zoophyte ? Would
it not be an awful punishment, with your human soul still in you, to be


anchored to a rock, able to do nothing but spin about your arms or fold
them up again ; and knowing no variety, except when the receding
ocean left you in the daylight, or the returning waters plunged you into
the green depths again, or the sweeping tide brought you the prize of
a young periwinkle or an invisible star-fish ?

But what better is the life you are spontaneously leading ? "WTiat
greater variety marks your existence, than chequers the life of the sea-
anemone ? Does not one day float over you like another, just as the
tide floats over it, and find you much the same, and leave you vegeta-
ting still ? Are you more useful ? What real service to others did
you render yesterday ? What tangible amount of occupation did you
overtake in the one hundred and sixty-eight hours of which the last
week consisted ? And what higher end in living have you than that
polypus ? You go through certain mechanical routines of rising, and
dressing, and visiting, and dining, and going to sleep again ; and are
a little roused from your usual lethargy by the arrival of a friend, or
the effort needed to write some note of ceremony. But as it curtseys
in the waves, and vibrates its exploring arms, and gorges some dainty
medusa, the sea-anemone goes through nearly the same round of pur-
suits and enjoyments with your intelligent and immortal self. Is this a
life for a rational and responsible creature to lead ?

II. But this precept is also violated by those who are diligent In
trifles, — whose activity is a busy idleness. You may be very earnest
in a pursuit which is utterly beneath your prerogative as an intelligent
creature, and your high destination as an immortal being. Pursuits
which are perfectly proper in creatures destitute of reason, may be
very culpable in those who not only have reason, but are capable of
enjoyments above the range of reason itself. We this instant imagined
a man retaining all his consciousness transformed into a zoophyte. Let
us imagine another similar transformation ; fancy that, instead of a
polypus, you were changed into a swallow. There you have a creature
abundantly busy, up in the early morning, for ever on the wing, as
graceful and sprightly in his flight as tasteful in the haunts which he
selects. Look at him, zigzagging over the clover field, skimming the
limpid lake, whisking round the steeple, or dancing gaily in the sky.
Behold him in high spirits, shrieking out his ecstasy as he has bolted
a dragon-fly, or darted through the arrow-slits of the old turret, or
performed some other feat of hirundine agility. And notice how he
pays his morning visits, alighting elegantly on some house-top, and
twittering politely by turns to the swallow on either side of him, and


after five minutes' conversation, off and away to call for his friend at
the castle. And now he has gone upon his travels, gone to spend the
winter at Rome or Naples, to visit Egypt or the Holy Land, or perform
some more recherche pilgrimage to Spain or the coast of Barbary.
And when he comes home next April, sure enough he has been abroad ;
— charming climate, — highly delighted with the cicadas in Italy, and
the bees on Hymettus ; — locusts in Africa rather scarce this season ;
but upon the whole much pleased with his trip, and returned in high
health and spirits. Now, dear friends, this is a very proper life for a
swallow, but is it a life for you ? To flit about from house to house ;
to pay futile visits, where, if the talk were written down, it would
amount to little more than the chattering of a swallow ; to bestow all
your thoughts on graceful attitudes, and nimble movements, and pol-
ished attire ; to roam from land to land with so little information in
your head, or so little taste for the sublime or beautiful in your soul,
that could a swallow pubhsh his travels, and did you publish yours, we
should probably find the one a counterpart of the other ; the winged
traveller enlarging on the discomforts of his nest, and the wingless one,
on the miseries of his hotel or his chateau ; you describing the places
of amusement, or enlarging on the vastness of the country, and the
abundance of the game ; and your rival eloquent on the self-same
things. Oh ! it is a thought, not ridiculous, but appalling. If the
earthly history of some of our bi'ethren were written down ; if a faith-
ful record were kept of the way they spend their time ; if all the hours
of idle vacancy or idler occupancy were put together, and the very
small amount of useful diUgence deducted, the life of a bird or quadru-
ped would be a nobler one ; more worthy of its powers and more equal
to its Creator's end in forming it. Such a register is kept. Though
the trifler does not chronicle his own vain words and wasted hours, they
chronicle themselves. They find their indelible place in that book of
remembrance with which human hand cannot tamper, and from which
no erasure save one can blot them. They are noted in the memory
of God. And when once this life of wondrous opportunities and awful
advantages is over — when the twenty or fifty years of probation are
fled away — when mortal existence, with its faculties for personal im-
provement and serviceableness to others, is gone beyond recall— when
the trifler looks back to the long pilgrimage, with all the doors of hope
and doors of usefulness, past which he skipped in his frisky forgetful-
ness — what anguish will it move to think that he was gambolled
through such a world without salvation to himself, without any real
benefit to his brethren, a busy trifler, a vivacious idler, a clever fool !


III. Those violate this precept who have a lawiul calling, a proper
business, but are slothful in it. When people are in business for them-
selves, they are in less risk of transgressing this injunction : though
even there it sometimes happens that the hand is not diligent enough
to make its owner rich. But it is when engaged in business, not for
ourselves, but for others, or for God, that we are in greatest danger
of neglecting this rule. The servant, wlio has no pleasure in his work,
who does no more than wages can buy, or a legal agreement enforce ;
the shopman, who does not enter con amove into his employer's inter-
est, and bestir himself to extend his trade as he would strive were the
concern his own ; the scholar, Avho trifles when his teacher's eye is
elsewhere, and who is content if he can only learn enough to escape
disgrace ; the teacher, who is satisfied if he can only convey a decent
quantum of instruction, and who does not labor for the mental expan-
sion and spiritual well-being of his pupils, as he would for those of his
own children ; the magistrate or civic functionary, who is only careful
to escape public censure, and who does not labor to make the commu-
nity richer, or happier, or better for his administration : the minister,
who can give his energies to another cause than the cause of Christ,
and neglect his Master's business in minding his own ; every one, in
short, who performs the work which God or his brethren have given
him to do in a hireling and perfunctory manner, is a violater of the
divine injunction, " Not slothful in business." There are some per-
sons of a dull and languid turn. They trail sluggishly through life,
as if some painful viscus, some adhesive slime were clogging every
movement, and making their snail-path a waste of their very substance.
They do nothing with that healthy alacrity, that gleesome energy
which bespeaks a sound mind even more than a vigorous body ; but
they drag themselves to the inevitable task with remonstrating reluc-
tance, as if every joint were set in a socket of torture, or as if they
expected the quick flesh to cleave to the next implement of industry
they handled. Having no wholesome love to work, no joyous delight
in duty, they do every thing grudgingly, in the most superficial man-
ner, and at the latest moment. Others there are, who, if you find
them at their post, you will find them dozing at it. They are a sort
of perpetual somnambulists, walking through their sleep ; moving in a
constant mystery ; looking for their faculties, and forgetting what they
are looking for ; not able to find their work, and when they have found
their work not able to find their hands ; doing every thing dreamily,
and therefore every thing confusedly and incompletely ; their work a
dream, their sleep a dream; not repose, not refreshment, but a slum-
brous vision of rest, a dreamy query concerning sleep ; too late for


every thing, taking their passage when the ship has sailed, insuring
their property when the house is burned, locking the door when the
goods are stolen — men, whose bodies seem to have started in the race
of existence before their minds were ready, and who are always ga-
zing out vacantly as if they expected their wits were coming up by
the next arrival. But, besides the sloths and somnambulists, there is
a third class — the day-dreamers. These are a very mournful, because
a self deceiving generation. Like a man who has his windows glazed
with yellow glass, and who can fancy a golden sunshine, or a mellow
autumn on the fields even when a wintry sleet is sweeping over them,
the day-dreamer lives in an elysium of his own creating. With a foot
on either side of the fire — with his chin on his bosom, and the wrons
end of the book turned towards him, he can pursue his self-complacent
musings till he imagines himself a traveller in unknown lands — the
explorer of Central Africa — the solver of all the unsolved problems
in science — the author of some unprecedented poem at which the
wide world is wondering — or something so stupendous that he even
begins to quail at his own glory. The misery is, that whilst nothing is
done towards attaining the greatness, his luxurious imagination takes
its possession for granted ; and with his feet on the fender, he fancies
himself already on the highest pinnacle of fame ; and a still greater
misery is, that the time thus wasted in unprofitable musings, if spent
in honest application and downright working, would go very far to
carry him where his sublime imagination fain would be. It would not
be easy to estimate the good of which day-dreams have defrauded the
world. Some of the finest intellects have exhaled away in this slug-
gish evaporation, and left no vestige on earth except the dried froth —
the obscure film which survives the drivel of vanished dreams ; and
others have done just enough to show how important they would have
been had they awaked sooner, or kept longer awake at once. Sir
James Mackintosh was one of the latter class. His castle-buildinc
" never amounted to conviction ; in other words, these fancies have
never influenced my actions ; but I must confess that they have often
been as steady and of as regular recurrence as conviction itself; and
that they have sometimes created a little faint expectation, a state of
mind in which my wonder that they should be realized would not be so
great as it rationally ought to be." Perhaps no one in modern times
has been capable of more sagacious or comprehensive generalization in
those sciences which hold court in the high places of human intellect
than he ; but a few hints and a fragment of finished work are all that
remain. Coleridge never sufficiently woke up from his long day-dream
to articulate distinctly any of the glorious visions which floated before


his majestic fancv, some of which we reallj believe that the world
would have been the wiser for knowing. And, returning from secular
philosophy to matters of Christian practice, have you never met those
whose superior gifts would have made them eminently useful, and who
had designs of usefulness, perhaps philanthropic schemes of pecuhar
ingenuity and beauty, but who are passing away from earth, if they
have not passed away already, without actually attemptuig any tangi-
ble good ? And yet so sincere are they in their own inoperative be-
nevolence — so hard do they toil and sweat in their own Nephelococ-
cy^a, that nothing could surprise them more than the question —
" What do yc more than others ? " unless it were their own inability
to point out the solid product and laj'^ their hands on the actual results.

To avoid this guilt and wretchedness —

1. Have a business in which diligence is lawful and desirable. There
are some pursuits which do not deserve to be called a business, ^ro-
pus was the king of Macedonia, and it was his favorite pursuit to make
lanterns. Probably he was very good at making them, but his proper
business was to be a king, and therefore the more lanterns he made,
the worse king he was. And if your work be a high calUng, you must
not dissipate 3'our energies on trifles, on things which, lawful in them-
selves, are still as irrelevant to you as lamp-making is irrelevant to a king.
Perhaps some here are without any specific calling. They have neither
a farm nor a merchandise to look after. They have no household to care
for, no children to train and educate, no oflficial duties to engross their
time ; they have an independent fortune, and live at large. My friends,
I congratulate you on your wealth, your liberal education, your position
in society, and your abundant leisure. It is in your power to be the
benefactors of your generation ; you are in circumstances to do an em-
inent service for God, and finish some great work before your going
hence. What that work shall be I do not attempt to indicate ; I rath-
er leave it for your own investigation and discovery. Every one has

Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 9 of 45)