Thomas Wilson.

The works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) online

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At the same time, we must not imagine but that the
public worship and ordinances of religion are an acceptable


SERM. way of honouring our Creator and Redeemer; of obtaining
^^^^- the graces and blessings of God ; and a powerful means of
forwarding our salvation. But still they are only means, and
intended by God to lead and enable us to perform the
duties, the necessary duties, which we owe to God, our neigh-
bour, and ourselves ; namely, to live soberly, righteously, and
yodly, in this present evil world.

Outward ordinances are a povverful means of bringing us
to salvation, through the grace of God. For indeed, if we
did not observe one day in seven, we should soon forget the
God that made us, and the Saviour who redeemed us ; if we
did not go to church to hear God's Word, we should be
ignorant of His will ; if we did not often pray to God for
His blessing upon ourselves and our labours, we should for-
[Acts 17. get that we depend upon Him for life, and breath, and all
^^■-^ things ; that is, in other words, we should live without God

in the world; we should be downright atheists.

But when we join with our fellow christians in glorifying
God for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings we
enjoy, or hope for; this will be a powerful means of im-
printing on our hearts a grateful reverence for God when
we leave His house.

So when we hear His promises of eternal happiness to
those that obey Him, and the dreadful judgments that must
be the portion of those that neither love, nor fear, nor wor-
ship God, as they ought to do ; these truths often repeated
are very proper to comfort and encourage such as are serious
and good, and to awaken, and to amend the wicked.

And so for the other outward ordinances of Christianity ;
they are truly means of salvation, when they are observed
as they ought to be.

What an invaluable blessing is it, to be received into the
Church of God by baptism ; to be made a member of Christ,
a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven ;
to be under the government of God's Holy Spirit, and under
the care of His angels.

These are powerful motives to such as have any thoughts
and concern for their souls, to live as becomes the children
of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is another outward


and powerful means of salvation. We are too apt to forget
what was promised for us when we were made christians,
and too apt, God knows, to fall into the sins we have
repented of. Now in this sacrament Jesus Christ has pro-
vided a remedy for both these evils. We are here put in
mind, and required, to examine into our lives, whether we
live as becomes the Gospel of Christ ; and if we have not
done so, to repent and amend, as we hope for salvation, with
assurance of pardon, through the merits and mediation of
Christ, if we do so.

These are means of making us religious, and acceptable
to God ; but then we must have a care of flattering our-
selves, that because we observe these outward ordinances,
that therefore we are truly religious and in a happy con-
dition; for a man may have a form of godliness xoiihout Me [2Tim.3. 5.]
power. One may be a strict observer of the Lord's day, a
careful attender upon the public worship, without an heart
sincerely disposed to lead a Christian life, to be governed by
the Word we have heard, and the precepts given us in the
Gospel. " They hear My words,'' saith God, by His Prophet, Ezek.33.3i.
" but will not do them."

You shall hear what God saith by another Prophet ; " Will Jer.7.9— il.
ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and come before Me
in this house, which is called by My name, and say, we hope
for pardon ? Is not this to make the house of God a den of
thieves, of drunkards, and all uncleanness?"

You shall hear what an Apostle of Christ tells us : that
in the last days, even an outward profession of Christianity
shall be attended with the greatest crimes. Men, even
men professing Christianity, shall be " lovers of themselves, 2 Tim. 3.
covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ~ "
unthankful, unholy, without natural aff'ection, truce-breakers,
false accusers, despisers of those that are good, incontinent,
fierce, traitors, head}'^, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more
than lovers of God."

Need we any greater proof that we are even now in the
last days of Christianity, when we see christians, so called,
guilty of such crimes as these, under an outward form of
religion? Not considering, " that they crucify to themselves Heb. 6. 6.
the Son of God again, and put Him to an open shame."


SERM. Now, in order to prevent these sad delusions, let every
" ' " ' serious christian, who hopes for salvation, ask himself. Why
do I call Jesus Christ my Lord ; or, in other words, why do
I profess myself to be a christian ? Is it not because, as we
are sinners, we are under the displeasure of God, and there-
fore can have no hopes of salvation, if by the merits of Jesus
Christ, and through faith in His blood, we are not restored
to God's favour, and obtain His pardon, and by His Holy
Spirit be enabled to lead an holy and a Christian life ? If
we do not therefore endeavour to lead such a life, we must
never hope for the kingdom of heaven, notwithstanding all
our outward devotion and professions.

You observe the Lord's day, and attend the service of the
Church : this is certainly a Christian duty, and well done ; but
then, if you are not a better christian for it all the week
after, it is to be feared you went to church out of shame, or
out of custom only, and not out of devotion to God, or to
obtain such heavenly dispositions as are necessary to your
leading a good life.

We come to church to glorify God, by owning our whole
dependance on Him, and to give Him thanks for His provi-
dence and care of us ; but then we must not forget, that God
will be more glorified by our good lives when we return
home, than by our good words here. You have our Lord's
[John 15. word for this : " In this is My Father glorified, that ye bring
■-' forth much fruit."

We come hither to confess and beg pardon for our sins.
Now if we come with an unforgiving temper, or without a
full purpose, through the grace of God, of leading a new life,
not one sin will be forgiven us, but we shall return home
under the displeasure of an offended God, and fall into all the
disorders of a sinful life.

We come here to make an open confession of our faith ;
and it is our duty to do so. We profess our belief in God,
the Father and Creator of all things. Now if as such we
fear, love, honour, and obey Him, our faith is right. Only
Tit. 1. 16. let us not forget, that there are people, " who profess to know
God, but in works deny Him ;" and that such are repro-

We profess our belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and


our Lord and Saviour; but then we must know, and remem-
ber, that He is the author of eternal salvation to them, and
to them only, that obey Him.

We profess our belief in the Holy Ghost, as the author of
all our graces, who helps oui* infirmities, enlightens our
minds with saving truths, and is the sole principle of a
Christian life, and for that end given us at our baptism. But
then we must know, that if Ave grieve Him by our evil lives.
He will leave us to ourselves, and then what will our faith
profit us ?

You come to church to hear God's holy Woi'd read and
explained, to be put in mind of your duty ; to awaken you,
if you have forgot it, into a sense of your danger, and of the
happiness you may lose. Now, all this is lost upon you, with
the loss of your souls, if you do not return home with a full
pui'pose of leading a life answerable to what you have heard.
" For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the Rom. 2. 13.
doers of the law shall be justified."

Lastly ; you return home with a solemn blessing upon you
from God by His own minister, appointed to bless the people
in His name. Now that it may be an effectual blessing to
you, let it be your sincere desire and endeavour, that you
may grow in grace, that you may live to God's glory by
leading an holy life ; and you may depend upon it, God the
Father Avill be your preserver, God the Son will be your
redeemer, God the Holy Ghost your sanctitier, unto your
lives' end.

In short ; if the service of the Church doth not create in
us holy affections, sincere purposes of amending our ways
where we have done amiss, and of honouring God, not only
with our lips, but in our lives ; all our outward devotions and
prayers will stand us in no stead, neither now, nor at the
hour of death, nor in the day of judgment.

Our Blessed Lord warned His followers against two then
reigning evils ; and the same reign at this day. Take heed
and beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees ;
that is, of atheism and hypocrisy, — of a mere formal religion,
or none at all.

Self-love, indeed, will be apt to be pleased, and place con-
fidence in the outward duties of religion. The reason is


^Ji? ^- plain : there is not one of these outward duties, whether it
be observing the Sabbath, or attending the church, or giving

oi alms, or fasting, ov praying ; any or all of these are easier
to be performed than taking care of and changing the heart
and life, which will require both prayer, and pains, and self-
denial, and watching, to do it effectually.

Nay, let me tell you, that Satan himself will be well pleased
that you should observe all the outward duties of religion,
can he but prevail upon you to neglect that holiness of life
without which, he knows, no man must see the Lord. This,
assure yourselves, christians, is one of the most subtile snares
of the devil, to tempt men to be satisfied with a shadow of
religion without the power.

But then, as we ought not to place religion in a strict ob-
servance of these outward duties, and lay too great a stress
upon them; so ought we to be very careful not to despise
them, as too many do, as if we might be good christians
without observing them. This is another snare of the devil,
by which millions of souls have been ruined.

The public worship is most certainly a duty, and accept-
able to God ; and when our hearts go along with our bodies,
all the outward ordinances are steps to lead us to what is
absolutely necessary in religion ; that is, a good life, a devout
temper, and such as is necessary to fit us for a better world
than this we live in.

Jesus Christ has appointed these ordinances, and His
ministers to take care of them, in order to preserve His
elect, whom He hath redeemed with His most precious
blood. And dreadful, very dreadful, will be the judgment
of all those who enjoy these means of grace and salvation,
and are not bettered by them.

In one word : Men may perish in the use of those very
ordinances which are appointed for their salvation. I will
therefore conclude what I have already said with a few
necessary truths, which I would hope you will remember,
and carry home with you.

Remember then, that the end of coming to church ought
to be a continual advance in piety, growing in grace, and in
the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, per-
fecting holiness in the fear of God.


Outward duties are a proper means of leading to conver-
sion itself; therefore, let us see what effects these have upon
our lives : otherwise we may go on in a round of outward
duties all our life long, and be no nearer heaven when we
come to die.

You hear the commands of God read to you; you beg
Him to write them in your hearts, to pardon you when you
have been so unhappy as to break any of them. Now, if all
this is forgotten as soon as you leave the church, what can
you expect, but that God will leave you to yourselves ?

If you have confessed your sins with a true penitent heart,
it will be seen by your Ufe afterwards that you did so.

You have given God thanks for His mercies and blessings;
take heed that you do not use any of them to His dishonour.

We bless ourselves, and we bless God, that we have the
liberty of hearing His Word, and our duty, one day in seven.
But pray take the word of Christ along with you; " Blessed Luke u. 28.
are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it." " Every Luke 6. 44.
tree" (saith our Lord) " is known by its fruit," and every
christian by the manner of his life.

Every christian may know whether he is in the way of
salvation by such proofs as these following : He will carefully
observe the outward duties of religion ; he will, at the same
time, take care that his heart go along with his outward
actions ; for by these he is known, by his heart, and by his
life. "In this the children of God are manifest, and the Uohn 3.10.
children of the devil : whosoever doeth not righteousness is
not of God ;" that is, if we are not upright, we are not of

And now, to conclude what we have to say upon this

We have been obliged to mention very often the necessity
of good purposes, of a good life, of good ivorks, of good resolu-
tions. Let me not lead you into a mistake, as if these were
in our own power, and owing to ourselves : so far from it,
that they are the free gift of God, merited by our Lord
Jesus Christ, for all such as in the sincerity of their hearts
do pray for them.

To this place we come one day in seven, to pray for these
graces and blessings. These, and all other blessings which


SERM. we stand in need of, God will surely grant us, if we ask

XXXI » o ->
'— them with a sincere purpose of glorifying Him in our lives

and conversations ; ever remembering, that a christian pro-
fession without a christian life, is like a tree that makes a
great show, and flourisheth with leaves, but beareth no fruit,
and therefore is fit only to be cut down and burnt.

May we all lay these things to heart, that when we come
to the house of God, we may so hear, so pray, so praise His
holy name, and purpose so to live, as that we return home
every Lord^s day with His blessing.

And this we beg for Jesus Christ His sake; to Whom,
with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and
glory, now and for ever. Amen.



Luke v. 4 — 7.

Now when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon, Launch out
into the deep, and let down i/our nets for a draught. And
Simon answering, said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all
the night, and have taken nothing : nevertheless, at Thy word
I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they
inclosed a great multitude of fishes, and filled both the ships.

Here is, good christians, a very instructive passage of
Holy Scripture. Here are people toiling and taking pains,
and in an honest way, and yet without any success. This
will teach us, that the success of all our labour and pains
depends upon the will and pleasure of God. "We have
toiled all the night, and have taken nothing."

Then here is, in Simon Peter, an instance of great resig-
nation to the will of God ; no fretting at their bad success,
but waiting with patience for God's good time. Here is also
an example of a well-grounded faith in God's power to favour
those that depend on Him, even when they have the least
hopes : " At Thy word I will let down the net." And this
should teach us never to distrust the power or the goodness
of God, but to live in a constant dependance upon Him,
even then when our honest endeavours do not succeed.

For observe what follows : " When they had let down the
net, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes ; so many, as
to fill both their ships ;" which no doubt did convince them,


S E R M. and should convince us, that man liveth not by bread alone,
XXXII. ^^^ i^y. j^-g ^^^ labour and industry only, (though these are
^ • • "-J necessary,) but by the Word of God ; that is, by the blessing
of God upon his labours.

Lastly ; here is an instance of great piety and gratitude
[Luke 5. 8.] for this great blessing. St. Peter falls down " at Jesus' feet,
saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
that is, I am verily unworthy of so great a favour ; I acknow-
ledge Thine infinite power, and infinite goodness ; for nothing
less than infinite power and goodness could work such a

But now, however plain and instructive these things are,
and though in general every christian owns, that without the
[Ps. 127. 1, blessing of God no man can prosper; "that except the Lord
build the house, they labour in vain that build it ; that it is
but lost labour to rise up early and late take rest,'' unless
God be favourable unto their endeavours ; that we are bound
to depend upon God at all times ; and to adore Him, even
when He withholds His blessings ; and that it is our bounden
duty to be thankful when He bestows them upon us. Though
this is owned by every christian, yet there are but too many
who do not consider what this obliges them to.

Christians do not, for instance, always consider, that if we
depend upon God's blessing, then should we never fail to ask
His blessing; then should we never undertake any business
which we have reason to believe He will not be pleased with;
that we should never fret when we are disappointed in our
expectations ; and that we should never make an ill use of
God's favours, whenever He sends them.

That these things are not well considered, is too plain
from the practice of the world ; where it is seldom enquired,
— am I in the way of my duty ? May I beg God's blessing
upon this work or undertaking? Shall I injure no man by
it ? Shall I break none of God's laws, nor do dishonour to
my Christian profession, if I succeed in it ? A christian, who
dare not ask himself such questions as these, may depend
upon it, that whether he succeeds or not, he is in a bad way ;
he is doing that which he will one day repent of.

Now, it being certain, that every body wishes that his
labours may be blessed with good success, and that most


people are ioipatient when they are disappointed in their
expectations ; it being certain also, that very many who do
succeed in their labours and wishes are not always the better
for it, and that it would have been a mercy to them if God
had not answered them in their expectations ; it will there-
fore be of use to us to enquire into these particulars : First ,-
Why our expectations are not always answered, and our
labours are not at all times blessed with good success ? And
secondly; What are the most likely means to prevail with
God to bless all our honest endeavours ?

Now, in the first place, though industry in our several
callings be a duty, and a blessing is promised to it in
several places of Holy Scripture, and generally speaking it
is attended with good success ; yet this is always to be
understood with this condition, that God sees it meet, that
it wall be for His glory, and for our greater good. For God
may, and very often does, deny success to our endeavours,
for very many reasons.

To make us sensible of our own weakness and inability to
help ourselves without His blessing ; and to let us see " that [i Cor. 3.7.]
neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth,"
(in comparison), " but God, Who giveth the increase."

God often disappoints our expectations, to make us more
sensible of our dependance upon Him ; to oblige us to go to
Him at all times for help; to hinder us from sacrificing to [Hab.i.16.]
our own net, as if all our success was owing to ourselves ; to
increase our faith, and hope, and patience, and other virtues ;
that we may depend upon His word and promises, wait His
time which is always best, and cast all our care on Him Who
careth for us.

There is another plain reason why men do not often suc-
ceed, even in their most honest employments. They under-
take and follow their business without ever asking God's
blessing ; they labour and take pains, as if that alone would
do ; and God, Who knows that such as go about their busi-
ness without His leave and blessing will, if they prosper,
never thank Him for their success, — He therefore often blasts
their labours, and makes all their endeavours fruitless.

This shews the great advantage and necessity of private
and family prayers. For why should any person, or family.


s E R M. expect that God should prosper them in the way they go,
•^-^-^"' who will not so much as ask His protection and blessing.
One may say, that such persons, such families, cannot pros-
per ; or if they do for a while, it will be to their greater loss
and sorrow.

Lastly; it is in great mercy to us, that God very often
denies success to our labours. If, for instance, we are in a
had way, good success would but harden us, and encourage
ns to go on in sin ; would but make us more wicked, and
hasten our destruction. God is therefore undoubtedly mer-
ciful in hindering our succeeding in any evil way what-
ever. And if we are in a good way, and are in danger
of abusing the favour of God (which He only knows), it
must be owned to be the greatest goodness in Him to dis-
appoint us ; neither to hear our prayers for success, nor to
prosper our labours.

For most certainly it had been better for millions of people,
who are gone to give an account to God for the evil use they
made of His favours, if He had withheld them ; if all their
endeavours had been blasted with ill success ; if they had
wanted that abundance which they made so ill use of; if
they had lived and died as poor and miserable in the eye of
the world as Lazarus. And they will, in the words of a
Christian poet,

Bless their poverty, Avho had

No reckonings to make when they are dead.

[chap. 4. 3.] "Ye ask (saitli St. James), and receive not, because ye ask
amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.^^ And is it
not a mercy not to be heard, when men make such petitions ?
[Matt. 6. And does not God indeed answer our daily prayers, " Lead
■^ us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," when He

denies us success in such things as He sees would really hurt
us, and hinder our salvation?

The Wise man's advice would now seem very strange to
Prov. 23. most ears ; " Labour not to be rich : cease from thine own

4 5..

wisdom ;" for that will suggest to thee that riches are a
mighty blessing : but, adds he, they will deceive thee at last,
" For riches certainly make themselves wings ; they fly away
as an eagle towards heaven.'' And is not God kind to those


whose wishes for riches and abundance He denies, and so
prevents the greatest vexation which men suffer in being
deprived of them ?

But then if we consider what our Lord has made known
to us ; that riches are a mighty hindrance in our way to
heaven ; that it is the hardest thing in the world to have
them, and not to trust in them ; that they who receive all
the good things in this world which their riches afford them,
will be tormented in the text. Whoever considers this will
be convinced, sure, that God is indeed merciful to all those
to whom He denies that success which would be their ever-
lasting ruin.

After all ; as it is the most difficult thing in the world to
persuade even the best christians to believe this ; and as
there is scarce one in a thousand who will be convinced that
there is so much danger as God has declared in having our
wishes for abundance fulfilled, God is therefore forced to dis-
appoint those who fear Him, and for whom He has greater
mercies in store; and a time will come when they shall see
and confess the kindness of God in denying them that
success in all things which they so passionately desired and
laboured for.

But are we not, therefore, to labour and pray for success
upon our honest endeavours? Are we not to be careful in
our business, and diligent in our callings ? Yes ; most cer-
tainly. God, from the creation, designed man for business ;
He put Adam into the garden of Eden, to dress and to keep
it. And though we are taught to pray for our daily bread,
yet every man is bound to do something towards obtaining
it, or else he may starve, and ought to do so. "If any man [2 Thess.

Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) → online text (page 31 of 49)