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law, as knowledge or power. There must be, moral, intellectual,
and physical energy, in un-ited and harmonious combination. In a
wor d the reformation within him of the image of God, before he
can regain or expect to regain his birthright sovereignty.

Now, is there any thing that would lead us to suppose t v at
man will ever regain the possession of his lost dominion ? Shall
his knowledge ever b3 so enlarged as to apprehend the nature of
every thing material, and know intimately the laws by which their
mutual relations are determined ; and have the power to dispose
and arrange them according to his will ; shall he ever become God-
like, and ob-sdiettt to the first law of his nature ; shall he of neces-
sity choose good and r.ject evil mastering the latent forces of
nature, shall he ever be able to compel them to submit to his
sovereign sway? This may seem a visionary expectation. B>ut
when we announce this as man's destiny, we are borne out in the
assertion, both by the testimony of heaven and earth.

The divine economy revealed- i the books of nature and inspi-
ration is professedly a plan for restoring man to his birthright
privileges by restoring him to the image of God. The history of
the world in all the departments, both of animate, and inanimate
nature, is demonstrably but a narrative of this plan, advancing
step by step to its consummation.

We cannot oven take a cursory glance at the intellectual and
moral condition of the human race in connection with the great
events of the world's history, without observing the silent, slow,
but steady progress of mental development without observing



4 .

SERMON- ir, 235

the germs of thought, at first struggling into light through igno-
rance of the high purposes of God, and m m's immortal existence
that, like Cimmerian darkness, settled dawn upon him at his fall
and then, in efflorescent beauty, presaging its profounder attain-
ments in scientific truth. Nor can we fail to observe that the
practical and beneficial results of increased mental power, had
depended on and corresponded most exactly with the developments
of another principle religious truth which has been gradually
evolving since the day that the promise was given, that " the seed

of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent." Nor can we


look at the progressive power and transforming effects of this

principle without entertaining the confident anticipation that it
will ultimately expand, enlighten, and purify the human mind
and fit man for again holding the reign of sovereign authority over
the forces of creation.

If we look to the mental developments of the earlier ages, as
exhibited in the remains that have come down to us of these
sciences and arts, we cannot fail to be struck with the influence
which religious truth had on the production of these results. An
attentive observer of facts must perceive that all the loftier exhi-
bitions of mental skill owe their origin to the silent influences of
religion. This is sufficiently attested by the structures of India,
of Egypt, and even of Greece, while the disintombed ruins of
Babylon and Nineveh testify to the same truth. It is admitted
that a deep veil of mystery still shrouds from the inquiring the
circumstances that gave origin to these stupendous structures,
the very descriptions of which fill us with amazement allied to
incredulity. It is only through the rendings of that veil which



236 SERMONS BY DR. MATHIESON.

time has effected that we can dimly see and imperfectly read these
legends. But from the shivered parcels of knowledge which we
can collect, we are warranted in concluding that in these nations
the mighty impulsive power which operated on the public mind
and educed the national resources for the construction of these
sublime embodiments of their inner spiritual conceptions was
religious truth. We can trace in them all a recognition of the
existence and supremacy of God of a belief in man's immortality
and his proud aspirings to a higher than his earthly destiny.
This shews plainly that the religious sentiment lay at the founda-
tion of all the great movements in history, if not in the form of a
cherished sacred feeling, yet, as an instructive propelling power.

Mora especially the revelation of the will of God recorded in the
Gospel of Christ throws the clearest light on the present condition
and future prospects of man. It intimates in strong terms his
coming dignity and sovereign power. It lells us that he shall
" reign with Christ," " for whom are all things, and by whom are
all things." It asserts, what every man must feel whose moral
sense is not utterly vitiated and whose conceptions of God are
raised above the most brutal ignorance, that he has fallen from his
original state of innocence ; that the image of God in his soul is
defaced ; that, instead of being a ruler, he is a degraded slave ; at
the same time it makes known a plan by which his sins are all
taken away, their guilt pardoned, and he is re-created after the
image of God in Christ Jesus, and refitted for the high purposes
of his being.

The word of God has gone forth into the world fraught with
divine power, and it " will accomplish that for which it is sent."



SERMON II. 237

On minds that " receive it in love of it," the spirit of truth and
holiness is operating with a quickening, sanctifying power. It is
making the ungodly like unto the Son of God himself, holy, good,
and utterly free from selfishness and sin. Though the leaves of
the Bible in themselves, and apart from the living spirit that is
operating through them, are as inefficient to any good purpose as
the dry leaves which the autumn winds shake from the trees, yet,
containing, as they do, " the testimony of God, concerning His
Son," the truths recorded in them become " spirit and life unto
every one who receives them in faith. The Gospel of Christ "is
the power of God and the wisdom of God unto the salvation of all
who believe," and divine pow>-r and wisdom' will assuredly affect
that great change in the moral and intellectual condition of man
which will fit him to appropriate the latent forces of nature, and to
employ them for, the accomplishment of the great ends of his
spiritual and immortal life.

The renovating power of the Gospel is progressive and irresist-
ible. It is silent and unseen, and can only be known by its
effects ; but, as it operates through a visible agency, we can easily
discern these effecis, and they have been greater and more
astonishing than the most marvellous transformations in the
material world. Men who have lived in all manner of wickedness
have been made holy and good. Men who have hated God and
each other, by the transforming power of divine truth have become
God-loving and devout, meek and gentle, tender-hearted and kind ;
in a word, have been made like unto the Son of God, who came
into the world to do the will of His Father, and went about con.
tiuually doing good, both to the souls and bodies of men. Such is



238 SERMONS BY DR. MATHIESON.

the natural tendency of a loving reception of the truths of the
Gospel. They exalt, purify, and spiritualize the nature of man ;
they restore within him the image of the invisible God.

In the Gospel, not only are the most perfect instructions given,
but, also, the most finished and perfect pattern of every virtue and
every grace is presented. In Christ Jesus we behold, embodied,
that exalted excellence to which all shall be raised who believe in
Him, " for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the God-head bodily,"
i. e., in the Man Christ Jesus all the attributes of God, in perfect
union with humanity, are manifested. The incomprehensible
God, whom no eye hath at any time seen, is revealed in a condi,
tion which our finite minds can comprehend and appreciate ; " all
the goodness of God is made to pass before us. And how
glorious is the spectacle ! In the Man Christ Jesus, we behold
infinite wisdom and goodness administering infinite power ! All-
embracing love directing unsearchable knowledge ! How consistent
with each other, and with the whole will of God, was His every
thought, every word, every action ! How loving and compas-
sionate ! How holy, and just, and true ! How tender, and kind, and
good, was He ! His character was unique. No one ever approached
it by an infinite degree. Truly, He was God manifested in the
flesh.

And yet, it is to such perfect excellence that the Gospel

designs to raise the sinful children of men ! By faith they are

.

united to Christ, and the glory which the Father hath given unto
Him He hath given unto them, that they may be brought to " a
complete communion of Divine life with Him." When the grand
scheme revealed in the Gospel for the moral renovation and



SERMON II. 239

redemption of man will be completed, they -will be assimilated to
Him, and raised to a share of His happiness and power, for He hath
declared, " to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on
my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my
Father on His throne."

When man shall have all the powers and faculties of his nature,
both mental and physical, thus perfected and harmoniously
attuned, and it shall be a necessary law of his being to modify?
combine, control and direct the mighty agencies of nature to the
most beneficent moral purposes, and the will of God shall become
the sole law of his thoughts and actions, then shall his earthly
destiny be accomplished. Then, this rudimentary state of things
shall cloee, " and a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth
righteousness, shall be the dwelling place of holy, spiritualized
humanity." Intellectual life shall then consist in choosing that
which is good, and applying the best means for the accomplish-
ment of the best ends. Moral life shall consist in absolute purity }
in constant action. Physical life, in the exercised functions of a
spiritual, immortal body. These, in union, will be the distin-
guishing qualities of perfected humanity. The living power of
the Gospel of Christ, having accomplished its great transforma-
tions, man shall be re-invested with his lost sovereignty, and shal
reign with Him who is head over all things, for ever and for ever.

The blessed spirits around the throne of heaven, in their song
that is ever new, are represented as ascribing glory and praise unto
Him who redeemed them by His blood, and made them unto their
God, kings and priests to reign with Him on the earth. It is far
beyond the powers of our minds even to conceive the blessedness



240 SERMONS BY DR. MATHIESON.

of those who, as kings, shall reign over the tremendous forces that
are stored up in nature, and as priests shall present them all, an
offering unto God in the accomplishment of His will. The
triumphs of mind over matter which we now behold are, so to speak,
but the germinal buds of the matured fruits of mental grandeur in
those happy scenes which shall succeed this perplexed and troubled
state of being a state of being, however, perplexed and troubled
though it be, which is, perhaps, the one best adapted for eliciting
the faculties that fit a man for the society of heaven best adapted
for making him acquainted with those forces, and the organic laws
they observe, on the knowledge of which his future intercourse
with the spiritual world depends. Forces which annihilate time
and space, and tho command of which invests man with a power,
the results of which it is impossible for him, in his present state,
even to conceive.

In conclusion, permit me to offer a few exhortatory remarks by
way of inducing you to cultivate with care your physical, your
moral, your intellectual faculties, and to strive to have all the
principles of your nature so elevated, purified, and harmoniously
adjusted, as to fit you to " reign with Christ upon the earth;' 1 and
as priests, to present the various motive powers of matter, with
the governing laws and results, a holy offering unto God.

No physical culture, it is true, can give life, that is the gift of
God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. The body is the casket in
which that gift is preserved ; and the instrument by which its
operations are expressed. By observing the laws necessary to
health and longevity, you give an enlarged sphere, and a more
intense energy to the actings of your moral and intellectual nature.



SERMON II. 241

Although the spiritualized body, when it is raised from the dust of
death, shall in many respects differ from the body of flesh in which
we now live, we have no reason to believe that any of its powers or
faculties shall have perished in the grave. These are essential
elements of humanity, necessary to its perfected condition as well
as to its growth and maturity. It is by physical action that the
thoughts and desires of the mind are expressed. The more
perfectly they are expressed the more true and sympathetic will be
the contact of one mind with another, and less liable to misappre-
hension or error. In our ignorance of the future we cannot tell
what effect the full development cf our physical powers will have
on our spiritual condition, but, assuredly, the results will be glorious.
This we know, that while striving to perfect them we are doing the
will of God, and, as His agents, carrying forward the great work
which He is accomplishing on the earth.

Cultivate with care your intellectual powers, endeavour to form
the habit of accurate observation and patient thinking. Many
things will occur in the journey of life which you know little or
nothing about, but their causes and effects it is important you
should know. Let nothing that is new to you pass fro n your
minds without becoming the subject of patient scrutiny. Many
individual and social advantages are derived from this practice.
T!ie simplest incidents oftentimes give origin to the most impor-
tant discoveries. The falling of an apple to the ground led
Newton to reflect on that power which causes all bodies to descend
to the centre of the earth. Investigating this power on the
principles of sound philosophy, he discovered the law of universal

gravitation, a discovery which wrought such a revolution in the

FF



242 SERMONS BY DR. MATIIIKSON

opinions of men, as to present philosophy in a new aspect, and
religion in a more attractive form. It will not be till all the latent
powers and properties of nature be fully elicited and distinctly
understood, that man's earthly destiny shall be accomplished and
humanity fitted for the employments of the eternal world.

Above all cultivate your moral and religious nature with
assiduous care. If we have been correct in our deductions, that
the sentiment of religion, either as an instinct or a moral principle,
has been the chief stimulus to every great enterprise in the ancient
world , if the utility of every discovery has wonderfully corres-
ponded to the developments of this principle; if, until it is per-
fected, and God's will shall be the sole law of our lives, we will
hope in vain to repossess our birthright dominion over the earth ;
if without this principle to regulate the outgoings of knowledge,
our acquirements would be a curse instead of a blessing, then
cultivate your religious sentiments with peculiar care. To this
end you have every advantage given you ; you have divine
instruction given, a perfect example set before you, heavenly aid
promised you, and the noblest object that can inspire ambition and
animate Christian zeal is placed before you as the end and aim of
all your aspirations. Let the mind that was in Christ be also found
in you. Until you are made like unto Him, you are unfit to guide
the elements of nature, and command them to obey your will.

Science is increasing its bounds, knowledge is enlarging its
fields of operation. The world of mind and the world of matter
seem to be hastening to perfection; why should the Divine science
of knowing God in Christ stand still ? Why should the fields of
heavenly knowledge remain uncultivated ? Why shut our eyes to



SERMON II. 243

the light of the truth, that alone can guide our course over the
dark waters of perplexed and troubled thought ? Why shut our
hearts to the influences of God's love, which would mould them
unto His own image and make fallen man like unto Christ Jesus,
holy, benevolent, ever doing good, whose voice all nature obeyed ;
whose will was the will of His Father in heaven, whose dominion
endureth throughout all generations.

When man, created anew after the image of God, shall be pure,
righteous and good, as when first he came from the hands of his
Maker, and shall offer the fruits of his enlarged faculties an holy
offering unto God, then shall be completed the great work which
Christ came from heaven to accomplish. You are called to be
fellow-workers with Him. If noble ambition can inspire your
hearts with courage ; if glory, honour, and immortality can excite
you to patience and perseverance in well-doing ; if eternal life be a
reward adequate to the dignity of the renewed mind, the prize is
before you. The most favourable advantages are afforded you,
the Sabbath with its holy ordinances, communion with God and
its blessed influences, the Bible and its words of perfect life and
liberty are the high privileges you enjoy, Christ is ever with you to
make them available. Yield yourselves to the influences of His
Spirit. Through Him strengthening you, you can do all things
you will attain dominion not only over the earth but the higher
glory of ruling your own spirits, being filled with the light and the
righteousness of God. Amen.



SERMON III.



AND IT WAS WINTER. John's., 22.

THE winter is a season that is fitted to call up reflections of a
solemn but of a peculiarly interesting and improving kind. The
year, closing amidst its rigours and when nature seems dead, silently
leads the mind to the time when the long and dreary winter of
death shall come, and the darkness of the grave shall cover us. But,
if winter is associated with the gloomy thoughts of death, it is also
brightened with the pleasing hopes of immortality. If we give the
parting tribute of a sigh to the departed year, that may have borne
away with it many of our joys, so do we hail with gladness the
advancing year, which, in the buoyancy of hope natural to the human
mind, we expect will be fraught with many blessings. As these
anticipations come crowding upon us, if we devoutly raise our
thoughts to that gracious Being, " from whom cometh down every

This, the last sermon preached by Dr. Mathieson, was one of his
favourite discourses. It appears to have been written about the year
1848, and to have been preached frequently twice at least to the Con-
gregation of St. Andrew's the last occasion being on the 23rd of January,
1870.



246 SERMONS BY DR. MATHIESON-

good and perfect gift," the winter would not only remind us of the
close of human life, but would also lead UP to contemplate those
scenes which shall succeed the fluctuations and changes of mortal
existence, and for the enjoyment of which the trials and vexations
of this passing scene are wisely and graciously designed to be
preparatory.

We are now in the very heart of the winter. The light and the
heat of the sun are diminished ; the day " has dwindled to its
shortest span;" the earth is buried beneath the snow; myriads of
those living beings that sported in the beams of the summer's
sun are motionless or dead, and others have taken their flight to
more congenial and far distant climes ; the groves are now silent,
or echo to the moaning winds ; the rippling streams, which lately
to the imagination seemed the very types of youthful gaiety, are
now ice-bound and still, or like a mighty giant, contending with
death, for a moment they struggle with their crystal fetters,
and then, " like a child that has brawled itself to rest," they
lie still and silent as death. Over the face of nature a death-like
torpor is cast, and scarcely a vestige of what clothed hill and dale
with beauty is now to be seen. Yet, over this dead and desolate
scene the bright and beautiful sunshine is often thrown with sur-
passing splendour, like the light of immortality shining on the
coldness and desolation of the tomb. The jocund voices of con-
gregated friends, in healthful exercise on the ringing ice or crisping
snow, the glad re-unions of the scattered members of families around
the paternal hearth, the warm flow of charity, brimming over to
the cold and hungry poor, which this season calls forth, may remind
us too that there are affections and feelings which death cannot des-



SERMON III. 247

troy ; that spiritual life glows amidst the desolation and decay of
matter, and of that joyful re-union of the far scattered members of
the great family of God, when time shall be ended and eternal
ages shall run.

Nature lifts up her instructive voice in every season, and adapts
her lessons to the varying emotions of every period of human life.
But never is her voice more awfully solemn, nor her lessons more im-
portant and instructive, than when uttered amidst the storms and
ravages of the closing year. To the consideration of these, our text
naturally directs the thoughtful mind, but in calling your atten-
tion to the teachings of Nature it shall not be our object in
this discourse to lay before you all the lessons suggested by the
text, interesting and important though they may be. We will confine
our observations chiefly to the circumstances with which it is con-
nected, and hope that, by blending them with the emotions that
naturally belong to this season, a deeper and a more permanent
impression of divine things may be made on our minds, and that
the storm and desolations of the winter may be unto us the
impressive preachers of righteousness.

It was winter. This was the season when the Son of God
appeared in the world, and the cold and bleak aspect of Nature
is a befitting emblem of the cold and uncourteous reception that
was given to Him by those He came to save. He came to his own,
but his own received him not. Though He was " the Lord oi' Glory,"
" the Prince of the Kings of the earth," none welcomed His
advent none waited to do Him homage ; He seemed an outcast in
the world,which He Himself had made. He was despised and rejected
by the creatures He had formed The hardships and privations to



248 SKll.MOXs l',Y J>11 AIATIIIESON.

which Tie was exposed cannot be surpassed in the condition of
the most neglected of the children of poverty, even amidst the
rigours of the most inclement winter.

Brethren, our hearts arc touched with pity when we look upon
the sufferings of homeless poverty and want aggravated by pinching
cold ; and colder than the bitter blasts of the winter must be the
heart of that man who would not to the poor, at least to the
suffering poor, extend relief. Judging from these generous feelings of,
our nature, we' can hardly conceive it possible that we could have
incurred the reproach which is justly attached to the Jews, for their
inhospitable reception of the Saviour. But let us hear in mind
that much of this generous sympathy with the suffering poor must
be ascrib -d to the benign influences of the religion of the Son of
God an advantage which the Jews possessed not, and that much of
their unkind treatment of Jesus arose out of prejudices with which
we have not to contend. But notwithstanding our superior advan-
tages, have we any reason to boast of a mojre profound sympathy
with the " Man of sorrows ?" Have we given Him a kinder
reception than His own ungrateful countrymen gave Him ? When
lie sent out His disciples with the message of peace and salvation
He said unto them : " He that receiveth you receiveth Me." This is
greit plainness of speech. Have His messengers come unto you
in His name, and with His own gracious words of love and mercy
on their lips, and have you received them as you think you would
have received Jesus, the Son of God, had you lived when lie was
m mifested in the flesh ? Have you listened to them with the same
intense carnestnvs? as yo i thi ik yoa would have listened to Him
" who spake as never man spake" had you enjoyed the privilege of



SERMON III. 249

listening to the audible tones of His heavenly voice ? It is vain to
say the case is altered now ; that those who come to you are rude
in speech and ungainly in manners; they tell you nothing that
you have not heard before. Christ knew well what He said, and
we repeat His words, " he that heareth you heareth Me." He well
knew that those He sent forth with the overtures of pardon and
peace were men fall of imperfections and sin, that the " bodily


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Online LibraryJohn JenkinsLife of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins → online text (page 16 of 18)