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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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we may have the grace which Thou only canst procure for
us ; that we may have the grace to consider these things,
and to lay them seriously to heart ; and that our lives may
be answerable to our profession.

Now to God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, be
ascribed all honour, power, glory, and dominion, now and
for ever.



SERMON XXXVI.



THE CREED PUT INTO PRACTICE.



Vouchsafe, Jesus, to fill my heart with Thy Holy Spirit ; that it may
appear in all my words and actions, and especially in this work before
me, that I am governed by the Holy Ghost ; and may He sanctify this
discourse to the salvation of all that hear it. Amen.



Acts ii. 32, 33.

See Luke Tliis Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

11 13 • J. ' t'

John 14. Therefore being hy the right hand of God exalted, and having

Rom*^8. 16- received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath
I Cor. 12. 3; shed forth this which ye now see and hear.

I HAVE, in two former discourses, explained to you the
two first parts of the articles of our Creed, and shewed you
how they are to be put in practice ; because, as without
faith it is . impossible to please God, so without a suitable
practice our Christian name, or Christian faith, will be of
little use to us.

I am now come to the last part of our Creed, concerning
the Holy Ghost, and the following articles, which are of the
utmost importance to us.

The occasion of the words now read to you was this : Jesus
Christ, just before His ascension into heaven, had told His
disciples, that as a sure proof of His being the Son of God,
and that whatever He had told them was most certain, and
that His death was accepted of God as a sufficient sacrifice
and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world ; to give them
the utmost assurance of this, He promised them, that He
would send down the Holy Ghost from heaven, to supply



THE CREED PUT INTO PRACTICE. 399

His place on earth, to abide with them (that is, with them
and their successors) for ever; that He should lead them
into all truth ; bring all things to their remembrance what-
ever He had taught them ; and that He should convince the joim 16.
world of the sin of rejecting Christ, and treating Him as an ^~^^'
impostor ; of the corruption of human nature, and the neces-
sity of a Redeemer ; of the righteous judgment of God upon
the impenitent.

This He promised His disciples ; and accordingly, ten days
after His ascension, when the whole nation of the Jews, and
proselytes from all the nations of the world, were met at the
great feast in Jerusalem, the Holy Ghost descended in a
visible form upon the Apostles, and enabled them in a mo-
ment to speak to all those diflPerent nations, and to preach to
them, to every one in their own language.

This, as it needs must, astonished all that heard them.
Upon which St. Peter takes occasion to inform them, that
what the}^ so much wondered at was pursuant to a promise
which Christ had made them ; and that this was a sure proof,
that Jesus Christ, Whom they supposed to be no more than
a man, and as such had put Him to death, that He was the
Son of the Most High God, as He had often told them; and
that God had received Him into heaven, and had given Him
all power in heaven and on earth. And to convince them
of this. He had sent down the Holy Ghost in that won-
derful manner. Who enabled them to do what none but God
could do.

He appeals for the truth of the miracle to their own
senses; and the argument was so forcible and strong, that
as many as ivere disposed for eternal life believed, which were [Acts 13.
about three thousand, who were converted at that time.

And soon after, most of the nations of the then known
world were, by their preaching to them in their several lan-
guages, brought out of the darkness of idolatry, into the
clear light and true knowledge of God, and of His Son
Jesus Christ.

And it is upon this, that our faith in the Holy Ghost is
most firmly founded. We believe in the Holy Ghost, that
He is an infinite and an eternal Spirit, JVho tvith the Father
and the Son together is worshipped and glorified ,- that He is



400 THE CREED PUT INTO PRACTICE.

SERM. the immediate cause of all holiness in us: and that it is He
XXXVI.
• '— Who must fit us for heaven and happiness, by His grace and

assistance. That therefore we are dedicated to Him, together

with the Father, and the Son, in baptism ; and are directed

to make it one of our daily prayers, that He may ever be

with us.

We believe particularly, that it was He Who inspired the
holy apostles, and enabled them to lay the foundation of one
HOLY Catholic Church, which is the society of all true be-
lievers through the world ; for that is the meaning of the
word catholic ; (that is, universal;) because the Church of
Christ is not confined to one people, as was the Church of the
Jews, but is appointed for the salvation of all nations, and
all ages.

We believe, and are assured, that it is the same Holy

Ghost Who still appointeth the successors of the apostles.

Acts 20.28. which are the governors and pastors of Christ's flock. " Take

heed (saitli St. Paul) unto yourselves, and to all the flock over

which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.''

It is the same Holy Spirit Who enables them to preach the
Gospel with eff'ect; Who empowers them to seal covenants
betwixt God and men ; to sanctify us, by consecrating us to
God, making us members of His Church and family, and heirs
of the kingdom of heaven.

It is the Holy Ghost Who empowers and commands His
ministers, to reprove, correct, and to turn out of that society,
all such as are a scandal to it, and refuse to be reformed.
For this society is, or ought to be, a communion of saints;
that is, of persons dedicated to God ; who are all members of
one body, of which Christ is the head; who have all one
common faith, one hope of eternal life ; who are to pray for,
and to assist, and be concerned for, one another as members
of one body. This we firmly believe, and ought to act ac-
cordingly, as we hope for a share in the blessings promised
to this society. One of which especial blessings we believe
to be the forgiveness of sins upon our true repentance.

This was what the apostles were, by the Holy Ghost, com-

[2 Cor. 5. manded to publish, that God was in Christ reconciling

THE w^ORLD UNTO HiMSELF ; that IIc had appointed than and

their successors to be the ministers of this reconciliation ; that



THE CREED PUT INTO PRACTICE. 401

He had ordained the Sacrament of Baptism for the remission
of sins past ; and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, as a
standing means to restore such as shoukl afterwards fall into
sin, and repent of the same, to restore them to God's favour
and pardon.

And we shall be more sensible of the importance and com-
fort of believing the forgiveness of sins, when we consider the
next article of our Christian faith, wdiich is the resurrec-
tion OF THE BODY : for this is revealed to us by the Holy
Ghost, — that all men shall rise again with their own bodies,
and give an account of their own works. God has expressly
said this, and He is able to do it ; and therefore it is neces-
sary we should know and firmly believe it : for the conse-
quence of the resurrection will be an everlasting life ; and
they that have done good, or have lived good lives, shall go
into life everlasting ; and they that have done evil, or have
lived bad lives, and have not repented, shall go into ever-
lasting fire.

Thus I have given you a short account and explanation of
this last part of your Creed ; that as in the two former parts
I did endeavour to shew you how we might put our faith into
practice, so I may take this occasion of doing the same in all
these articles of the Christian faith just now mentioned.

And believe it, christians, it is not for nothing that you are
so often called upon to repeat these articles of your faith : it
is that you may put them in practice, as you hope for salva-
tion ; and that you may do so every day of your lives : that,
as you believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver
OF LIFE, you may, every day of your life, pray for His gra-
cious assistance. His guidance, and blessing : that you may
continue true and living members of the holy Catholic
Church, which is the appointed means of salvation : that be-
lieving the COMMUNION OF saints, you may strive to live as
becomes members of so holy a society, or body, which has
Jesus Christ for its head and pattern, the Holy Ghost for its
guide and comforter, and God the Father for its eternal re-
ward : that believing the forgiveness of sins, on one hand,
you may never despair of mercy, nor, on the other, presume
on God's mercy and forgiveness, while you continue to live in
any known sin : that professing to believe the resurrection

WILSON. J) d



14.]



402 THE CREED PUT INTO PRACTICE.

SERM. OF THE BODY, AND A LIFE EVERLASTING; yOU may ofteil re-

-^ '- member, that you will most certainly come forth out of the

grave just as you go in, either beloved or hated of God to all
eternity.

But that we may not pass over these articles, which contain
truths of so great importance, too lightly, or as lightly as too
often we repeat them, we will now consider, how they should
influence our practice.

And in the first place let us consider, that we are, every
soul of us, subject to be led and governed both by good and
Eph. 2. 2. evil spirits. St. Paul expressly tells us, " That there is an
evil spirit which worketh in the children of disobedience."
And he reckons up a very numerous host of these enemies of
mankind.

Now, christians, consider what a mercy it is, that from our
very infancy we are dedicated to the Holy Ghost, by Whom
we are put under the protection of the angels of God, who
[Heb. t. are appointed to minister unto such as shall be heirs of sal-
vation.

But then let us remember that this Holy Spirit may be
grieved, and provoked to leave us, — to leave us, not only to
ourselves, though that would be curse enough, — but to the
malice of the devil, who goes about seeking whom he may be
permitted to devour, finding them out of the protection of the
Holy Ghost, and the holy angels His substitutes.

And this, God knows, is but too often the case, and the
reason that so many, who were once the children of God, are
now become the children of the devil ; they forgot their bap-
tismal vows j they left ofl" to pray for the fellowship of the
Holy Ghost ; they added sin to sin, till they provoked God
to forsake them ; and then they became the slaves of the
devil, and must do what he will have them to do, though
never so unreasonable, never so wicked.

Let us therefore always remember, that the condition upon
which the Holy Ghost will continue to guide and to protect
us, is this ; that we keep the vows we made at our baptism,
or that we sincerely repent when we are sensible we have
broken them.

When a christian, therefore, is going to do any thing which
he knows to be a sin, he should argue thus with himself: I



THE CREED PUT INTO PRACTICE. 403

shall certainly displease the Holy Spirit by this action ; if I
shall provoke Him to leave me, I shall become a slave to
Satan, and God knows whether ever I shall be able to get
out of his snare.

There is no question to be made, but men are often forced
to reason after this manner ; the only fault is, they do not
heartily beg the aids of the Holy Spirit : my soul for that
man's, who, when assaulted by temptations, turns his eyes
inwards, and begs the assistance of the Holy Ghost, if he does
not receive grace to help him in time of need.

This is the great happiness of a christian, that our body is [i Cor. 6.
the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in tis, and consecrated ^^*-'
by His presence ; He is always in His temple, unless forced
by our sins to leave it : what has a christian then to do, but
to apply to Him at all times, and on all occasions; to be care-
ful neither to speak, nor to think, nor to do, any thing that
may displease Him ; and, if we chance to do so, immediately
to ask pardon? He is always in His temple, and ready to
hear us.

Let us therefore ever and anon plead with Him, as our ne-
cessities shall require. From Thee I beg to receive this
grace ; it belongs to Thee, my God, to fortify my soul against
this temptation ; give me light to see, and grace to amend,
where I have done amiss ; render me every day more worthy
of Thy presence, and of Thy consolations.

This is the way to pray without ceasing. To secure the [i Thess. 5,
presence, the assistance, the comforts, of this Holy Spirit, by '^
which we were sealed unto the day of redemption.

Every business, every book we read or hear, every blessing
we receive, every turn of Providence, will furnish us with oc-
casions of retiring to the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is
within us, either to give Him thanks, or to deprecate His
judgments, or to acknowledge His glorious attributes, His
power, or His wisdom, or His justice, or His goodness.

To proceed : The meanest christian has this privilege, this
honour, to have the Holy Ghost for his God, his guide, and
protector ,- and the holy angels for his guard : and it is purely
for want of faith and consideration that ever any one christian
despiseth another, or treats him with contempt.

Christians are not sensible of the greatness of this sin, and
D d 2



404 THE CREED PUT INTO PRACTICE.

SERM. that makes it so common. It would not be so common, if
XXXVI.



we would thus reason with ourselves : this poor man is dear
to God, even his poverty makes him the more so; he is a
temple of the Holy Ghost ; Jesus Christ Himself assures me,

[Matt. 18. " that their angels stand in the presence of God.^' And St.

chi ) 2 5 Ja™6s expressly says, " that God hath chosen the poor, rich
in faith, and heirs of His kingdom."

When we consider, that it was by the power of the Holy
Ghost that the Christian religion, the only ivay of salvation;
is established in the world ; that it was He Who inspired the
holy writers ; that it is for this reason that the Bible is called,
and is indeed, the Word of God ; that it is God Who speaks
to us in this Word, and by His ministers : when we knoio, and
believe, and confess this, what regard shall we have for this
Word ; how shall we abhor, and avoid, those that profane it,
as well as those that would hinder us from reading it ; with
what reverence and attention shall we read or hear it ; what
entire credit shall we give to every thing declared or com-
manded in it ; how carefully should we order our lives accord-
ing to this Word; how assured may we be, that we shall never
fall into any dangerous error, while we consult this book, and
those prstors whom the Holy Ghost has appointed to lead and
to instruct us ; and when we sincerely beg the assistance of
that Holy Spirit !

[Heb. 12. And in the last place, since " without holiness no man can
see the Lord;" and that none but this Holy Spirit can sanc-
tify and make us holy ; that it is He alone. Who must change
our hearts, and cause that we become as it were new crea-
tures : this should oblige us to pray continually for His holy
fellowship. His guidance and blessing.

It is for this reason, that the Church concludes her daily

[2 Cor. 13. service with this prayer, that "the fellowship" the commu-
nication of the gifts and graces " of the Holy Ghost, may be
with us evermore."

A man must be a very great stranger to himself, and to
his own corrupt nature, who does not see the reason of this,
and the absolute necessity of being changed into a new man,
before he can be fit for heaven, or capable of eternal happi-
ness; that he must have a new heai't, new desires, a new
spirit, and new powers, before ever he can believe, and under-



14.]



14



THE CREED PUT INTO PllACTlCE. 405

stand, and love, and do, what God has commanded as neces-
sary to salvation.

Now, it is this Holy Spirit, given at our baptism, and
dwelling in us, from Whom we have this grace. If we know
and believe this sincerely, we shall endeavour never to grieve,
never to oppose this Holy Spirit, but suffer Him to perfect
the good work He hath begun in us, in order to make us
holy, that we may be eternally happy.

And never let us say, never let us pretend, never let us
fear, that we cannot overcome the corruption of our nature.
This Holy Spirit is the almighty power of God ; He taketh
under His care all such as are consecrated to Him in bap-
tism ; He is able to convince us of the absolute necessity of
caring for our souls ; He is able to direct us how to do it
effectually ; He can enable us to overcome all the difficulties
we can possibly meet with, and at last make us acceptable
to God, which is the greatest happiness the soul of man can
desire. Only let us not oppose Him, let us not force Him
to forsake us and leave us to ourselves ; for then we have no
remedy to reclaim or to help us ; so that we shall as surely
perish as we are sinners, and as such utterly unfit for heaven.

The next article of our Creed is, the holy Catholic
Church ; that is, I believe and profess myself to be a mem-
ber of that body of men which has Jesus Christ for its head,
and His Word and Spirit for their guide ; and which, though
dispersed over the world, have one God, one Faith, one Hope ,-
a flock, whose pastors are appointed by the Holy Ghost, and
who have the faithful promise of Jesus Christ to be with
them until His coming again.

I believe likewise that God, from the beginning, has
added to this society " daily such as should be saved,^^ having Acts 2. i7.

committed the word of reconciliation, and all the means of [2 Cor. 5.

19 1
grace and salvation, to His ministers, the pastors and gover-
nors of this society.

Well, then, how ought the belief and profession of this to
affect christians? Why, every serious christian will thus
reason with himself :

The Church is called holy, because the great design of this
society is, to make men holy, that they may be happy. For
that very end, I was made a member of this C'hurch : most



406 THE CREED PUT INTO PRACTICE.

SERM. certainly, therefore, if I am not an holy member of this

XXXVI. ^ ' ' •' ^

'- Church on earth, I shall be for ever excluded that in heaven,

of which this is a part.

If God addeth to this Church such as shall be saved, then if
I, for ray wicked life, shall deserve to be separated, cut off,
or excommunicated, out of any particular Church which is a
true member of this holy Catholic Church ; then am I, most
assuredly, deprived of the ordinary means of grace, and out
of the way of salvation.

If the rulers and pastors of this Church are indeed ap-
pointed by the Holy Ghost (as St. Paul saith expressly. Acts
XX. 28, they are), then, if I shall resist their authority ; if I
shall despise their godly admonitions; if I shall kick at their
reproofs; if I shall make a mock of their persons, and of
their doctrine ; then do I plainly resist the Holy Ghost (by
Whose authority they act), and resist also the counsel and
designs of God for my salvation.

If I believe that the priest, the minister of God, is ap-
pointed by the Holy Ghost to teach, to intercede, and to bless
the people in His name ; why then I shall reverently attend
to his word, highly value his blessing and his prayers, as
some of those ways by which God has ordained to give me
His blessing and His grace.

If I profess to be a member of this holy Church, then am
I bound to make a profession of being such, to join in all
[\ Cor. 1. holy offices, with all those who in every place call on the name
of Jesus Christ, both their and our Lord, provided they have
nothing in their worship contrary to faith and piety. And I
am not to judge of this too rashly, lest, by separating myself
without cause from a sound part of the Catholic Church, I
separate myself from Jesus Christ, Who is the head of that
Church, out of which there is no salvation; as none were
saved from perishing but those who were in the ark with
Noah.

And may God grant that we may all truly understand,
and value, the glorious privilege of being members of this
[1 Pet. 1. Church, and that ive may become holy in its communion, as
He who has called us is holy.

In the next place, there is to be in this Church a commu-
nion OF SAINTS, that is, of christians; for in the Church of



15, 16.]



THE GEEED PUT INTO PRACTICE. 407

Christ, saints and christians signify the same thing; all
christians being called to holiness. p Tb^ss.

A communion (that is, there ought to be a communica-
tion, a good understanding, a fellow-feeling) amongst chris-
tians, as there is amongst the members of the same body, in
which every member contributes towards the ease, welfare,
and safety of the whole.

In this communion, christians are obliged to love and to
bear with one another ; to have compassion one for another ;
to pray for, and to help one another; not considering ourselves
as in a private capacity ; but as people united to Christ and
His Church, and entrusted, every one, with talents, whether
of wisdom, or authority, or power, or riches, for the use of
the whole body.

A christian, who considers himself in this capacity, will
reason thus with himself: I have nothing but what I have
from the bounty of God; I cannot pretend to be more a
favourite of heaven, than he that wants what I have; why
then have I more than is sufficient for my own necessities ?
The answer is plain, that I may give to him that needeth ; and [Eph. 4,
if I do not, I am unjust. So that in truth, all the advantage
that a rich christian has above a poor christian is this ; that
he has enough to live comfortably himself, and has it in his
power to make such as want live comfortably too.

God has given another man authority, — not for his own
sake, sure ! No; but that by doing justice, preserving peace,
discountenancing vice and impiety, promoting of virtue, he
may make the whole community easy and happy, and be a
means of preserving it in the favour of God.

If I have more learning and knowledge than many others,
let me not grow proud however; for I shall certainly answer
for it, as for a talent committed to my trust, and dearly pay
for it, if I do not endeavour to instruct the ignorant, and
guide those that are out of the way.

They that have time to spare, and are freed by the circum-
stances of their condition from bodily labour, are apt to
think themselves very happy ; and so they would be, if they
would spend that time, either in works of mercy or charity,
for the good of others.

For, in truth, every christian owes something to the com-



408 THE CREED PUT INTO PRACTICE.

s E R M. munion of whicli he is a member : the rich owe to the poor

XXXVI.
a part of their substance ; the poor owe to them their

prayers; the ignorant stand obhged to those that instruct

them ; and these again stand obhged to somebody for their

leisure to get wisdom.

And the Apostle's conclusion will ever be found true,

[1 Cor. 12. though little minded, ''that if one member suffer, all the
members" (though not always perceived) "will suffer with
it." And he who is not concerned for the good or evil
which happens to others, is no better than a dead member of
the body of Christ, and knows nothing of that communion
which ought to be amongst christians.

The forgiveness of sins is the next article of our Chris-
tian faith ; and it is an article of the greatest comfort ; for
all having sinned, and all being subject to sin, and on that ac-
count liable to the displeasure of God, what a mercy is it that
we have a remedy at hand, by which we may be sure of par-
don upon most reasonable terms. And this we have Jesus

[Luke 24. Christ's own word for ; commanding, " that repentance and
remission of sins should be preached unto all nations in His
name ;" that is, repentance on man's part, and forgiveness of
sins on the part of God. In His name; that is, this favour
is granted for His sake, and for the sake of what He has
done and suffered for us ; always remembering, that He died
for us, not to save us without repentance on our part, but to
prevail with God to accept of our repentance.

A christian therefore, when he reflects upon this article of

[Rom. 2.4.] his Creed, should argue thus with himself: This great good-
ness of God ought, in all reason, to lead me to repentance. If
repentance must go before pardon, why do I delay it one mo-
ment ? If repentance is the gift of God, why do I not ask
it ? What if I should provoke God by this contempt of His
mercy, to leave me to myself? I will therefore beg of God



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 36 of 49)