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that the prisoner was drunk when he was alleged to have com-



18

mitted the crime. This was ruled out by the court, on the
principle of common sense, that as drunkenness is a crime, it
is absurd to allege one crime in excuse for another. Thus was
point after point settled by common sense, in the highest court
of the land, even where a man's life was at stake. Now it
occurred to me that we have just as good a right to have com-
mon sense in our Congregationalism, and to use it, as the court
had. I have neither been troubled nor baffled since, and have
lost all my zeal for change.

It is impossible to run lines of separation, in our order, either
between east and west or north and south, because, by com-
mon consent, our churches, like those in the apostolic days,
have no federal relations ; a noble illustration of the principle,
that whatever is scriptural is found, upon trial, to be in the
highest degree reasonable, useful and safe.

I only add, on this part of the subject, that the principle of
religious toleration first became matured and settled in our
order, in the time of Cromwell. Hirnie with all his prejudices
makes this grand concession, ^^ The Independents, fro'in extrem-
ity of zeal were led into the milder principles of toleration. Of
all Christiati sects this was the first which, during its prosperity
as well as adversity, always adopted the principle of toleration.''^
He thinks it passing strange that so reasonable a principle
should not have been discovered before, and by better and
wiser men. And we cannot but regret that this principle had
not been matured and settled before our Forefathers left
England. Then should we have escaped the reproach cast
upon us, for their undue severity towards (Quakers and Ana-
baptists. Still we love to tell our children that they were the
first to discover the golden principle of toleration. This prin-
ciple, in which we are all steeped from our childhood, makes us
charitable in regard to slight varieties in modes and forms, and
ready to co-operate, heart and hand, with all of every name
and form, who love our Lord Jesus Christ, in every work of
faith and labor of love.

Such is Congregationalism in her more mature state, in " the
ear." I am not able to throw my thoughts back so far into my
childhood, as to recall the moment when I was not delighted
with a blade ; its shooting vigor, its symmetrical form, its sword-



19

like point to sunder the too heavy raindrop, its velvet softness,
and its cheerful green. But the discretion of years has sug-
gested that it is not often good policy to strike off " the ear "
for the pleasure of always admiring ''the blade."

Every one who has observed the process of nature knows
that "the blade and then the ear," are but antecedents and
preparatives for something of greater importance, and of higher
value, even " the full corn in the ear." The sense of this, as
understood by us and our Fathers, is well expressed by that
old Puritan word spirituality. By this is meant the emotions
of a human spirit, awakened by a view of God's truth, and in
accordance with the kind of truth presented at the time to the
spirit. The spiritual man is not indifferent when God utters
the doctrine of entire depravity, nor does he smile or trifle. He
mourns and is in bitterness. His humility is not only in word.
It is the humility of the spirit. His confessions are the con-
fessions of a spirit, in personal intercourse with God. When
God speaks terror, the spiritual man is not unmoved, nor does he
leap with joy. He trembles ; his heart shakes like a leaf. He
feels the terror of a spirit. When God speaks peace, and holds
forth the cross, as the way in which he justifies the ungodly,
the spiritual man is not regardless, nor does he feel like jesting
or mocking, nor is he satisfied with the words of hope and
thankfulness. In him is the faith and the gratitude of a spirit.
When God speaks promise, and gives assurance to the believer
by oath, the spiritual man is not lifeless or stupid, nor does he
cling to the crackling transports of an earthly vanity. His joy
and rejoicing are the joy and rejoicing of a spirit, filled with
visions of eternal glory. When God speaks his character, his
glory, the loveliness of his excellency, the spiritual man dis-
cerns the things that are spoken, and he feels what is far
higher than submission ; it is the spirit's admiration and delight
which cause ascriptions of praise to burst from his lips. When
the love of Christ for his enemies is disclosed, the spiritual man
hides his head in shame, that his heart has been so ready to
call down fire from heaven on those who have provoked him,
and he melts into thankfulness and kindness. When he hears
a claim from God, for any thing that he has, body, soul, child,
or fortune, and the word of truth shows that the Lord hath



20

need of this, for his cause, his honor, the Saviour's conquest,
he looks up to heaven and writes the word thine on whatever
is called for. He neither dares nor desires to withhold, to keep
back a part. These spiritual emotions, awakened by truth and
corresponding to the nature of the truth presented to view,
give all that variety to Christian experience found in the best
written religious biographies ; a variety which is the scorn of
infidelity, and the mockery of profane literature. This is "the
full corn in the ear."

This spirituality is distinguished from all that is outward,
formal, ritual. It is not the service of the lips, or the tongue,
or the knees ; not the observance of days, or times, or seasons,
fasts or festivals. It is not the use of the eye, even in reading
the words of eternal life ; or when upturned to heaven ; nor the
use of the ear, though listening to the voice of the charmer, the
thunder that shook the base of Sinai, or the anthem that cele-
brates the glory of Emmanuel, or the stability of the eternal
throne. It is not the motion of the church-going foot, or the
eloquent arm " that suits the action to the word." Spirituality
is not the fruit of the lungs, whether employed in stentorian
declamation, or breathing forth notes, soft and mellow and en-
chanting, as those of a harp ; nor is it contortions of body or
disfigurings of countenance, by which some would appear unto
men to fast, or to feel transports of extacy. There is nothing
spiritual in the grim position of melancholic muscles, or the
twang of an unearthly tone. Spirituality is distinguished even
from all merely intellectual efforts, though directed to the
most useful purpose вАФ that of clearing from fog and mysticisni
the loftiest points of theological truth, or casting the illumina-
tion of vast learning upon the darker portions of Scripture.
Woe to the mere builder, who is not a living stone in the
spiritual house ! The wealth which he may consecrate to
erect temples or cathedrals, and adorn them with carved images
or the speaking touches of the pencil, or to found colleges, or
religious houses, is no more acceptable to God than that which
built and adorned the temple at Ephesus, dedicated to the wor-
ship of Diana.

To promote spirituality is the great end of all that pertains to
us in "the blade, then the ear." Without this, all our princi-



21

pies and forms of organization are vain. Are not our forms
adapted, " in reason's eye," for this end ? The absence of all
stateliness in our ecclesiastical tribunals, of all grades and dis-
tinctive emoluments in office, exciting to pride and ambition ;
the severe simplicity of our modes of worship, and of our eccle-
siastical architecture, and the plainness of clerical manners and
apparel, enable us to place every child under the hearing of
truth, with the least possible influences to distract his attention.
We carefully exclude from the eye and the ear every thing
that can awaken the fervor of poetic ecstacy, too often mistaken
for spirituality. We have a history, and a martyrology even,
peculiarly adapted to awaken sympathy. But this is studious-
ly kept in the back ground, because of the very great danger of
mistaking mere human sympathy for spirituality. Our chil-
dren are much more familiar with the life of Jonathan Ed-
wards than with that of John Rogers. We cling with a firm
grasp to Christian truth ; because every true spiritual emotion
must arise in view of truth, and is an attainment which no
man can reach who rejects the truth ; for it is by the truth that
the Spirit of God sanctifies the people. Upon every trial, it is
found that, where this inward spirituality is wanting, if the
claims of God fall upon the man, they are not honored and an-
swered ; and when temptations strike him, they prove fatal.
This spirituality, my fathers and brethren, in the hearts of our
pastors and churches, is " the full corn in the ear."

The system, like every other, must be tried by its fruits.
And what have they been ? We should not be true to the
lights of history, did we fail to say, that when we think of the
fact that the Puritan Dr. Bound was the first man since the
apostolic age, who discovered in the word of God, and pro-
pounded to the world, the true doctrine of the Christian Sab-
bath ; and reflect on the extent to which that doctrine is now
hushing the hum of this world on the first day of the week,
and multiplying listeners, hanging with deep reflection on the
lips of faithful men of God in the ministry ; and when we think
of the extent of surface over which Puritanism has thrown the
doctrine of religious toleration, the fires it has extinguished, the
freedom of soul it has insured, and the steady march of this
light into realms of the deepest darkness ; and when we reflect



22

on the fact that the writings of the Puritans are the storehouse
from which a vast majority of the best religious books are
selected for universal distribution, and that in writings, theo-
logical, metaphysical, philosophical, and recently philological,
the Puritans are equally distinguished ; when we think of
their pattern theological seminary, and the extended influence
of its example ; and when we think of our education society
and our temperance reformation, and our various and success-
ful missions at home and abroad, and find that there is no
mountain so rugged, no ravine so deep as to stop the foot of
our sons, and of om' daughters even, in their way to the
heathen's heart, with the word of love and of life ; we cannot
but thank God for the belief that there is, somewhere, a deep
spirituality of soul from which springs a religious enterprise and
energy and perseverance which should make Puritan a world-
honored name. And we cannot but feel, when we find a
young man, trained among us, in the true mother church of
New England, ashamed of such a mother, and turning his back
upon her with scowling contempt, that he is a man much to be
pitied, a moral ruin, a deep fanatic.

Would we prevent the recurrence among us of such a cala-
mity, and answer the high ends designed by God in the exist-
ence of our order ? Let us cultivate among ourselves and our
people a higher standard of spirituality. When we reflect on
the present aspect of our churches, we feel that there is much
cause for deep humiliation and self-abasement ; but none for
despair or despondency. The infrequency with which special
tokens of the love of God are manifested, should be deeply
pondered by all on whom lies the responsibility of moulding
and guiding the sacramental host of God's elect. Let us be-
ware of delusion. There is no way in which any branch of
the Christian church can so conscientiously commit suicide, as
by earnest and feverish controversy respecting church politics.
Instead of this, let us all feel the deepest solicitude to retreat,
not to a cave or a cell, but to our closets and our conference-
rooms, and the hearths of our people, filled with the spirit of
humility, of wisdom, and of love, and uniting with the dear
children of God, offer up our prayers and supplications to Him



who is able to help us, with an importunity which cannot be
denied.

Let us remember, as pastors, with fear and trembling, that
we of necessity stamp our own image, in a great degree, on
our people. Are we proud ? So are they. Are we gloomy ?
So are they. Are we light-minded ? They will not be seri-
ous. Are we haughty and dictatorial ? They will not be low-
ly. Are we covetous ? Will they not love the world ? Are
we ambitious ? Will they not be aspiring ? Are we men of
strife ? Will they be sons of peace ? Are we hasty in our
spirit ? Will they be slow to wrath ? Do we appeal to the
bad passions of our nature, and indulge in harsh and severe de-
nunciation ? The very children will catch our spirit. Are we
crafty and subtle ? When will our people be adorned with the
robes of simplicity and godly sincerity ? Are we resting in
outward forms ; satisfied if our performances are intellectual,
deep, brilliant and polished ? Will they feel the deep emotions
of spirituality, in view of the truth of God, uttered from our
cold lips ? When our heads are laid in the cold valley of death,
and a more godly ministry shall stand in our places, what will
they judge of the various influences we shall have left behind
us ? What will God judge of those influences, when we stand
before him, at the last day, with the three or four generations
to whom we shall have spoken the word ? May the God of all
grace enable us to feel, for ourselves and our people, the crush-
ing weight of the fact, that "to be carnally minded is death,
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Amen.



(TRl



REV. MR. STEARNS'S SERMON



BEFORE THE



MAY 25, 1852.



.g;



Lb



The Position and Mission of the Congregationxnl Church.



SERMON,

DELIVERED BEFORE THE

^EBtnral llMnriatinti nf 3fKiiiMiirjiUBette,

IN

CENTRAL CHURCH, BOSTON,

MAY 25, 1852.



BY WILLIAM A. STEARNS.



BOSTON:

PRESS OF T. R. MARVIN, 42 CONGRESS STREET.

1853.



SERMON.



EXODUS XIV. 15.

AND THE lORD SAID UNTO MOSES, WHEREFORE CRIEST THOU UNTO ME ? SPEAK.
UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, THAT THEY GO FORWARD.

If ever a minister of the gospel may be over-
awed by any mere human presence, it is v^^hen rising,
as a public teacher, before the vs^ise, the good and
the venerable of his own profession. Not only
must he exclaim with the Apostle, as he has often
done in his ministrations to the less learned. Who
is sufficient for these things.^ but with the trembling
Prophet, Ah ! Lord God, behold I cannot speak,
for I am a child. May the Lord put forth his hand
on this occasion, and, touching the lips of the
speaker, say, as he did to Jeremiah, Behold, I have
put my words in thy mouth.

I will not waste your moments, my brethren, by
professions of self-distrust ; for if I have learned
what modesty and dignity require, no man should
suffer himself to be greatly abashed in attempting
to perform an assigned duty, even before the most
reverend of his fellow-men. Remembering this
principle, I shall endeavor to discourse in the pres-



4

ence of the ministry of Massachusetts with the
same freedom that I would address the most unlet-
tered audience. In doing this, I am encouraged by
the thought, that while our Sabbath congregations
may naturally enough receive the teachings of their
pastors somewhat on trust, able and well-trained
scholarship will be likely to correct whatever is
unwisely spoken, by its own better judgments.

When the Hebrew tribes fled from the oppres-
sions of Pharaoh, pursued by the armies of Egypt,
destruction behind them, the Red Sea before, the
Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto the children of
Israel, that they go forward. Our fathers, fleeing
from the old world to the new, here attempting to
establish institutions after the Mosaic pattern, took
pleasure in contemplating themselves as the elect
nation of modern times. They discovered many
analogies between themselves and the old theocracy.
They had come to possess another Canaan, and to
found another kingdom of God. Like the Israel-
ites, they rose often at the divine command and
went forward. As the v^oidi forward inspired them,
it also indicates a national characteristic, and should
be a watchword with us.

In sympathy with this word, I propose, on the
present occasion, to consider the Position and Mis-
sion OF THE Orthodox Congregational Church.
I use the word Church, instead of Churches, for
convenience, thinking it not unscriptural, and limit
my remarks to a single department of the great
Christian body, not in disparagement of those other
denominations which sympathize with us in most of
the principles and institutions which we value, but



because it is only the Orthodox Congregationalists,
and indeed those of Massachusetts, that I am called
on this occasion to address, and because, among all
the prevailing forms of Christianity, we place our
own, of course, at the head.

I. I proceed, then, without intending invidious
remark, to speak first of the positio7i of the Ortho-
dox Congregational Church.

This may be done in reference to its history, its
doctrines and its institutions.

1. The position of the Orthodox Congregational
Church, considered in reference to its history. We
are the legitimate descendants of the Puritans.
Their blood flows in our veins. We inherit their
principles of civil freedom, of ecclesiastical polity,
of Christian doctrine. We stand on the Platforms
of 1620 and 1630, more completely than any other
Christian organization now inhabiting the new
world. Of us it may be truly said, whose are the
Fathers.

The Pilgrims were the founders of a new coun-
try. The principles of civil and religious liberty
which they inculcated, have not only stood the test
of more than two centuries, built up more than
thirty magnificent commonwealths, but have shaken
the old despotisms of Europe, and are destined,
none of us doubt, to change, eventually, the civil
as well as religious condition of man.

As to the character of the early settlers, I fear no
contradiction from any thorough student in Ameri-
can history, when I assert that they were generally
among the choice men of the age. The Massachu-



setts Colony was eminently a colony of ministers.
It contained a remarkable number of publicly edu-
cated men ; and even the humbler classes were
characterized by the three principal elements of
greatness, wisdom, enterprise and faith.

Among the Plymouth settlers, Elder Brewster had
been a man of property and distinction in Europe,
had held important offices under Queen Elizabeth,
and had received a gold chain from the States of
Holland, for the faithful management of affairs
among them. Governor Bradford was as familiar
with the Dutch language as his own, spoke French,
had mastered Latin and Greek, and had learned to
see with his own eyes the ancient oracles of God
" in their native Hebrew beauty." Winslow, after
years of service in America, was recalled to fill high
stations in the new Puritan government of his native
land. Standish, descended from the house of Stan-
dish, was heir apparent to a great estate of lands
and livings, surreptitiously kept from him ; and that
little world, which came across the Atlantic in the
Mayflower, was a flock, generally speaking, worthy
of such a shepherd as John Robinson.

Of the Massachusetts Colony, among the distin-
guished laymen who helped to found our churches,
the magnanimity, wisdom, faith and statesmanship
of Winthrop, will call forth the admiration of all
coming time ; while that stern, but wise and good
old Puritan, Thomas Dudley, must ever be held,
where his character is fully understood, in honora-
ble remembrance.

Among the clergymen, we have Wilson, a fellow
of King's College, for three years a student of law



in London, afterwards chaplain in several honorable
families. He was, says the New England Memo-
rial, " orthodox in judgment and very holy in con-
versation, full of faith and prayer, eminent for
humility and sincerity, and largeness of heart as the
sea," John Cotton, also educated at Cambridge in
England, could discourse in Hebrew. His writings
show him to have been a master. Of him certain
persecuted Germans, who had experienced his liber-
ality, said, Fautor doctissimus, fidelissimus, pluri-
mumque honorandus. His tombstone, without false-
hood, declares him to have been *' a living, breath-
ing Bible, his head an index to the sacred volume,
his very name a title-page, and next, his life a com-
mentary on the text." Hooker was educated in the
English universities, and was a preacher in London
for a time. Neal describes him as a son of thunder
in the pulpit, and John Cotton calls him

" A son of thunder and a shower of rain,
A pourer forth of living oracles,
In saving souls, the sum of miracles."

Shepherd, also, was liberally educated and distin-
guished in his own country. William Johnson
speaks of him as a " gracious, sweet, heavenly-
minded and soul-ravishing minister," for whom
" thousands of souls have cause to bless God." He
has left several valuable works, all of which smell
fragrantly with the flowers of heaven. His Parable
is hardly second to any treatise on Christian expe-
rience, Edwards on the Affections not excepted.
John Eliot, one of the most remarkable of men,
was also a graduate at Cambridge. Not only was



he singularly devoted to his Saviour, exposing him-
self to hardships for Christ's sake, such as nothing
but an iron constitution and an iron faith could sus-
tain, but he seems to have achieved an almost
supernatural labor. A man who, from civilization,
could plunge into a wilderness, master and reduce
to writing the strangest of strange languages, con-
struct a grammar for it, translate into it the whole
Bible, Baxter's Call, and several of Shepherd's
works, learn to preach the gospel fluently in that
unmouthable Indian tongue, live to see three thou-
sand hopeful Indian converts and twenty-four toler-
ably educated native Indian preachers, deserves to be
reckoned among the chieftains of the church. Time
would fail me to speak of Norton, so able in his
public prayers that a godly man would travel on
foot from Ipswich to Boston to be a partaker of one
of them ; of Mitchell, whom Neal calls " an in-
comparable preacher," and of whom Richard Bax-
ter said, " If there was an oecumenical council, Mr.
Mitchell were worthy to be the moderator of it ; "
of Richard Mather, and his illustrious sons and de-
scendants ; of Davenport, considered by some the
greatest of New England's early great men, and
his associate. Stone, called, in the quaint poetry of
the times, " a stone that held light," " a stone
splendid diamond." These, and a multitude of
others, all stars, though of different magnitude,
formed a galaxy in the firmament of New England,
whose glory no constellation ever surpassed.

These are the men who founded our common-
wealths, established our system of free schools, laid



the foundations of Harvard College, and organized
our Congregational churches.

We pass down the track of history for a hundred
years, omitting to notice the wise and good of the
intervening period. About a century ago, there
appeared on the banks of the Connecticut, as the
pastor of a country church, a modest young minis-
ter, whose name was destined to illumine the whole
western world, and be an ornament to his country
in the theological circles of Europe. Jonathan
Edwards, by his voluminous writings, especially by
his immortal Treatise on the Will, has achieved a
work in Christian metaphysics which ensures him a
reputation, in that department, equal to the master
minds of Germany, Great Britain and France. As
eminent for devotion to the ministerial work, and
for deep Christian experience, as for his wonderful
powers, by universal consent, no brighter light has
ever shone among the luminaries of the Christian
church.

A splendid train of strong and highly sanctified
intellects followed. Hopkins, the younger Ed-
wards, Bellamy, Smalley, West, Emmons, Dwight,
Appleton. We cannot mention their names with-
out a glow of admiration, and, as Congregational
ministers, an increase of self-respect. Hard and
thorough students, independent thinkers, powerful
preachers, eminently devoted to their Master's ser-
vice, they consecrated their keen, strong minds, to
the illustration of religious truth. And though
some of them advanced views of doctrine not gen^
erally received among us, they have discovered new
relations of truths, and new methods of expounding



10

and defending them, which have given New Eng-
land divinity a name wherever the English language
is spoken. In no part of the world, in no age of


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