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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have had before me, which I cannot have if I should now
devote myself to God, then I will begin to be holy. When I
have got wealth enough to make the remainder of my life
very easy, which I cannot do so soon as I would, without
breaking some of God's laws, then I will become a new man.
I know it may be said to me, as it has been to thousands be-
[Luke 12. fore me, " Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of
[Ps. 95. thee." I know likewise, that God hath said, " To-day, if ye
7, 8-] will hear My voice, harden not your hearts ; lest ye never

enter into My rest." I know too, that the longer I go on in
the ways of sin, the harder it will be to take up. But all this


shall not discourage me; I will go on, though I perish

ThiSj I say again, is the true language of such as put off
their conversion. Let but people speak in these words, and
see how it will sit upon their minds.

And this brings us to the last and great mistake of all,
which is, of those many who place all their hopes of being
holy and happy, in a death- bed repentance. Most people
being serious when they come to die, and shewing a great
concern for having lived no better, this is called repentance.
And it being often said of such as had lived bad lives, that
they made a very good end; and people, in their last wills,
leaving their souls to God, in hopes that He will receive them
into paradise, as sure as their friends will give their bodies a
Christian burial ; and none returning from the dead, to shew
the sad mistake ; hence it is, that unthoughtful people flatter
themselves with vain hopes, that all almost are happy when
they die.

Christians would do much better to conclude, that God
will not depart from the declaration He has made : " With-
out holiness, no man shall see the Lord ;*' and therefore all,
who live without holiness, must die without hopes of mercy.
And then, what will all these sad delusions we have men-
tioned profit those who depend upon them ? Happy they who
lay hold of the present time, and by a speedy conversion
enter into the way of holiness, and continue in it unto their
lives' end !

III. And this brings us to consider. How this holiness is to
be attained. It is not the work of nature but of grace, to
" perfect holiness in the fear of God." It is for this reason 2 Cor. 7. i.
we are obliged to make use of all those means, which God has
appointed to fit us for heaven ; the chief of which are, the
Word, and Prayer : by the first our Faith is increased, and
by the second our Graces.

Now every christian, whose heart God has touched with a
sincere desire of becoming holy, (for it is to such only one can
speak to any saving purposes,) must seriously consider, what
God has made known in His Word concerning Himself, His
will, and concerning mankind. For instance : in that fVo7'd
we see our own corruption, our weakness, and our danger.


SERM. We there read, how men, ever since there were men, have

— '- been provoking God by their wickedness, and how God has

punished them continually. We there learn, that we are all
of the same race and make ; all subject to the same sins, and
to the same punishment.

The same Word makes known to us the gi'eat goodness of
God; that in order to rescue us out of the power of the
devil, and to deliver us from the slavery of sin, He has put
us under the government of His own Son ; and has promised
to make us eternally happy, if it be not our own fault. That
He is so good as to call us His children, that we may live as
becomes children of so holy a Father; and that we may
depend upon His love, upon His promises, and upon His
assistance, as a child may do upon the love of a tender

And knowing that if He should suffer us to follow our own
natural inclinations, we should certainly ruin ourselves. He
has therefore given us laivs, not only to keep us from sin and
misery, but to make us partakers of a divine nature ; that is,
to make us holy, that we may be capable of being happy.

That we may have these laws always before us. He has ap-
pointed His ministers to explain them, and to sound them
continually in the ears of all such as shall be disposed to
hear and to obey them: and to all such He has promised His
Holy Spirit, to enlighten their understandings ; to enable
them to keep His laws ; and to overcome all the difficulties
they can possibly meet with.

And lest the difficulties of an holy life should affright them,
or the commands of Jesus Christ should seem hard to flesh
and blood; this same Word of God sets before us the very
different portions of good and bad in the next life, in
John 5. 28, these most affecting words : " The hour is coming, in the
which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the
Son of God, and shall come forth ; they that have done good
unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done evil,
unto the resurrection of damnation."

And now, what has a christian to do, who has any concern
for his everlasting well-being, but to lay hold of the other
great means of salvation ? and that is, prayer, which is the
only sure remedy for all our iv ants and disorders ? What has a


sinner^ who is awakened with these truths^ to do, but to beg
of God to give him a true sense of his unhappy state, and
grace and strength to break his bonds ? What has he to do,
but to put his cause into the hands of Jesus Christ, Who is
our xA.dvocate and Peace-maker with God ; the price of Whose
blood is sufficient to procure a full discharge of all his sins ;
to beg of Him to remove all those hindrances to a true con-
version, which the devil, or his own corrupt nature, have laid
in his way ; and to give him that repentance to which He has
promised mercy and pardon ?

He will also beg of God, to create in him a new heart, to
enable him to wean his affections from things temporal, to
redeem his misspent time, and faithfully discharge the duties
of his place ; to convince him of the necessity of mortification,
of self-denial, and of watching continually \ that he may lay
hold on all occasions of doing what he believes will please
God, and of avoiding what God has forbidden.

And if to his prayers he adds the often thinking of what
must come hereafter, the thoughts of death will help to cure
him of a too great fondness for this world ; the thoughts of
a day of judgment will oblige him to strict holiness, justice,
and charity, that in that day of visitation he may find mercy ;
the fear of hell will oblige hira to take any pains here, that
he may escape the bitter pains of eternal death ; and the
hopes of heaven will help to sweeten all the troubles of this
mortal life.

These are the most sure means of attaining holiness. And
as no man who hopes for heaven can be excused from being
holy, so no christian (especially amongst us) can pretend to
want the means of becoming so.

Every christian has an opportunity of hearing the Word of
God, and of learning his duty ; of joining in the prayers of
the Church for every grace, for every virtue, for every blessing
he can possibly stand in need of, which God never denies to
the sincere, and which the most unlearned have a right to, as
well as the most learned, provided the heart be right; for
there is the defect, if any, and never in the means.

Whoever therefore aspires after holiness, and lays hold of
the means, will certainly be renewed by the Spirit that is in
him. And though to us evil habits may seem incurable, and


SEE M. true holiness almost impossible, considering our corrupt affec-
^^ tions, yet they are not so to Him Who hath called us unto

[1 Thess. ^ 3 J J

4. 7.] holiness ; and Who, by doing so, has obliged Himself to give
us all necessary assistance. But then, let us remember, that
we never shall be holy, never happy, without our own sincere

And now you see, good christians, what a great value you
ought to have for the Word of God, by which we obtain that
[Acts 15. 9.] faith which is necessary to purify the heart. You see that all
Eph. 4. 12. they who despise God's ministers, who " are ordained for the
perfecting of the Saints," are out of God^s way of becoming
holy. His Word, His day. His house, the Sacraments, are
all called holy, because God has appointed them as means to
make us holy, and to keep us in the way of holiness.

Lastly ; you see the blindness of those who pretend to be
righteous and holy upon principles of natural reason, without
the Word and the grace of God. They are ignorant of this
truth, that no man can be holy but he that believeth that Jesus
is the Christ ; that is, who receives Him as his Saviour, his
Pattern, his Mediator, his Sovereign, and his Lawgiver.

IV. We now come, in the last place, to consider, Hoiv a
christian may make a judgment of the state he is in, with respect
to this so necessary a qualification. But this, at present, I
must do in a very few words, having already detained you
too long.

And in the first place, let us lay this down for a truth, that
the manner of our life is the only sure proof of our holiness.
We are sure that we ourselves are alive, because we act like
living men. Now, if we live and act like christians, we may
be as sure that we are living members of Christ's body, and
in the way of holiness. And we know that we live like
christians, when we love God and keep His commandments,
this being the only sure proof of our love of God.

When therefore we are sure that we do not live in any
known sin, when sin is uneasy to us, when we avoid it and
all temptations to it, and by this means get the mastery over
our corruptions ; when we keep our hearts pure, and suflFer
no sin knowingly to harbour there, which is the only sure sign
that we fear God, the searcher of hearts ; when we pray to
God continually for light to know, and power to do our duty,


and conscientiously make use of the ordinary means of grace ;
when the commands of God are no longer grievous to us,
and the great truths of the Gospel affect our hearts, and
make us more serious, more charitable, more just, more tem-
perate, more devout ; why then we conclude we are certainly •
in the way of holiness ; especially if we are careful to dis-
charge the duties proper to our state and condition of life,
for which we shall be most accountable at the great day.

If the rich, for instance, are rich in good works; if the
poor are contented with their lot ; if young people are modest,
and careful to preserve their reputation and their innocence ;
and married people are mindful of the vows they made before
God, and live in peace and godliness. If parents bring up
their children in the fear of God, and honestly provide for
their necessary support ; if masters take care that their ser-
vants live as becomes christians, and treat them as such with
humanity and justice; and servaiits are faithful in what be-
longs to their place and trust; if men of trade and business
act uprightly, without taking advantage of the necessities or
ignorance of those with whom they deal ; if such as are in
affliction do patiently submit to the chastisement of the Lord ;
and such as are in prosperity be not high-minded, nor trust
in uncertain riches, but in the living God; if such as are
ignorant are desirous to learn their duty, and thankful to
those that are willing to instruct them ; if they that are in
authority consider that they are in the place of God, and re-
solve to govern with justice and integrity, and their subjects
yield them due obedience without defrauding them of their
tribute ; and lastly, if Pastors, mindful of the great account
they must give, are solicitous for the good of their flock, and
these are ready to follow their godly admonitions. These are
all instances of that holiness which God has commanded,
which He is pleased with, and which He will reward, pro-
vided they are performed in obedience to His laws.

" Every man, therefore, that has this hope" (of seeing
God in peace), "must purify himself even as He is pure." iJohnS.
If death overtakes any of us, before this is done, we are
ruined for ever.

Every man who wishes well to his own soul, cannot but be
very thoughtful when he considers these things. Let us not

448 or HOLINESS, without which no man must see the lord.

SERM stifle such thoughts; they are certainly from the good Spirit
^^^^^- of God : let us therefore dwell upon them ; let us improve
them to our great advantage.

Let such as have arrived to any good degree of holiness,
* bless God for it, and beg of Him the grace of perseverance.

Let such as are yet unconverted, beg of God the grace of
conversion : it is the only thing they ought to pray for, and
it is the only favour God will grant them ; and He will cer-
tainly grant it to every one who asks it sincerely. And it is
this very thing which will be the condemnation of all such as
die unconverted ; — that God called them to holiness ; that
He put them into the way of attaining it ; that they might
have had all necessary assistance for asking, and heaven and
happiness for their pains, and yet they continue insensible,
and die without hopes of mercy.

May God awaken all such as have it yet in their power to
work out their salvation with a salutary fear of what must
come hereafter ! And may every soul of us consider of what
moment it is to know whether we are like to be justified or
condemned, when we shall appear before God ; there being no
truth more certain than this, which therefore I would leave
upon your minds ; that ichoever lives loithout holiness, rvill die
ivithout any reasonable hopes of mercy.

May God Almighty set this home upon all our hearts, for
the Lord Christ's sake. To Whom, &c.



Luke xx. 34—36.

Jesus answering, said unto them, the children of this world marry, See Job 19.

and are given in marriage: hut they which shall he accounted %;^ Matt.

worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the j^jj^ i\ 26 ;

dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can^^^^-^''>

they die any more : for they are equal unto the angels, and are 19. 42—44

the children of God, heinq the children of the resurrection. Eph. 1. 18

■^ '' 1 Pet. 1.3

These Sadducees did, in very deed, argue like them- Re°|'22^i|
selves ; that is, like men who did not believe a resurrection.
Whether our Lord's answer convinced them of their error,
or how far their prejudices might excuse them before God, is
not material for us to know ; especially since this point is now
put out of all manner of doubt amongst christians, by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead. But
this is very material to be observed, that their error pro-
ceeded from their not knowing the Scriptures. [Matt. 22.

This was their great crime ; they would not believe a -'
future state, because they could not answer all the objections
that the wanton wit of man could invent against such a state.
The truth is, they were very fond of every thing that might
confirm them in their unbelief, and neglected the Scriptures,
which alone could have given them a sure account of what
they doubted. And thus it will always be, where people will
not believe the Word of God, when it is not agreeable to
their own weak reasonings.



s E R M. However, we are uo losers by these people's infidelity and

' — curiosity ; for in convincing them of their error, our Lord

has made known one of the most important and comfortable
truths; namely, that at the general resurrection, such as
have behaved themselves worthily in this life shall become
immortal as the angels ; that instead of a natural or animal
body, which stands in need of food and air to support it, they
shall have a spiritual body, which will need neither ; that in
that state there will be no need of marriage to preserve their
kind, for they shall never die, but shall continue in the pre-
sence of God, in a state of perfect happiness for ever.

And let us not imagine, that there was no need of such a
revelation as this to encourage us to do what God expects
from us, in order to our happiness. They that know any
thing of themselves, know very well, with what difficulty we
are brought even to think of another life : but to love it
better than this ; to deny a present pleasure for one that is
to come ; to suffer here in hopes of being rewarded here-
after ; there was an absolute necessity that the reward should
be very great, and very certain; and so it is: they which
shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, shall be equal
unto the angels; that is, after death they shall be happy,
and immortal as they.

And who is it that affirms this ? No less a person than the
Son of God ; Whom God sent from heaven on purpose to
make known to us this, amongst other things, — that men
may be much happier in the next world, than they can
possibly be in this, if it be not their own fault ; particularly,
He assures them, that after the resurrection they shall never
[1 Pet. 1. die any more ; their inheritance shall be for ever ,• they shall
' ■ '^ receive a crown of glory, that fadeth not away.

It is true, these are general expressions ; but the Apostle
tells us why the happiness of the next life is not described
1 Cor. 2. 9. more particularly : " Eye (saith he) hath not seen, nor ear
heard, neither have entered into the heart of man to conceive,
the things which God hath prepared for them that love
Him ;" that is, it is utterly impossible so to describe or
compare the state of the life to come to any thing we see, or
hear, so as to be able to comprehend it. For this, we must
either believe God's word, or continue unbelievers to our own


great loss. We are to live here by faith, not by sight ,- that is, [2 Cor. 5. 7.]
we must order our conversation not by what we see, or can
understand, in this world, but by what we believe and expect
in the next.

But then, that christians may not be charged with being
too easy of belief, in expecting an happiness which they are
never like to enjoy, God has been pleased to give us the ut-
most proof that men in reason can desire, that all the glorious [Ps. 87. 3.]
things that are spoken of the city of God, the habitation of the
blessed, are certainly true : He has, I say, given us assurance
of this, in raising our Lord from the dead.

To this the Apostles and first christians appealed, as to a
matter of fact, of which they had been eye-witnesses, for the
truth of which they were ready to lay down their lives, and
at last did so. And the providence of God so ordered mat-
ters, that the enemies of Christianity should have nothing in
reason to say against the truth of Christ's resurrection. They
set a watch upon His grave ; their own watch informed them
of what had happened when He rose from the dead; they
were forced to give them money to stifle the truth, and set
about a lie ; and yet they themselves had not the assurance
to persist in this lie, when Peter and John told them, that to [Acts 4.]
their own certain knowledge He was risen from the dead;
they had not then the face to say, " that His disciples had [Matt. 28.
stolen Him away," but only, " you would bring this man^s 28,' 39.]
blood upon us." Nay, they themselves were so far from be-
lieving their own lie, that they consented to the counsel of
Gamaliel, lest, if what the Apostles affirmed should be true,
they should be found at the last to fight against God.

In short, in those days in whicli these things were done,
the truth of Christ's resurrection was not questioned. The
circumstances of the thing, the number of the witnesses, their
resolution to die rather than to deny what they had seen and
heard ; in the mean time, the great power of God attending
them in signs, and wonders, and surprising miracles, stopped
the mouths of gainsayers ; and the Gospel, founded upon this
truth, spread over all the world.

They believed Jesus Christ to be a Divine person sent from
God ; and sent from God to reveal His will and purposes to
men. They therefore thought themselves obliged to enquire




S.ERM. diligently, what He had taught while He lived amongst men,
~^^ — what He had promised to His faithful followers, what men
might expect by embracing His Gospel. And upon the whole
they found, that Jesus Christ had not gained disciples by vain
promises of worldly advantages. No : He told them plainly,
that the next world was the place where christians were to
expect their reward ; that in the mean time they were to live
by faith in His promises. He assured them likewise, that to
try the sincerity of their faith, they should meet with a great
many troubles, that their faith and hope might be in God ; that
He expected nothing from them but what He Himself would
[Heb. 12. undergo. And He did do so ; for, " for the joy that was set
before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame ;"
for which God hath highly exalted Him ; and so He will do
[Luke 20. all His faithful followers. "They shall be equal to the
angels; they shall be the children of God;" that is, they
shall be immortal and happy.

These are the happy circumstances which all good chris-
tians shall be placed in at the resurrection. And God (you
see) has been most surprisingly careful and merciful to us,
not to let us want all the evidence that our hearts can desire,
that this shall be our portion, if we are not wanting to our-
selves ; this being one of the most powerful motives to fit us
for such a state.

For a firm belief of the unspeakable happiness of those who
die in the Lord, and whose portion shall be with the spirits of
just men made perfect, who shall be the children of God, and
equal unto the angels, — a firm belief and expectation of this,
will have these three excellent effects : First ; It will help to
sweeten all the bitter passages of this mortal life. Secondly ;
It will help to cure us of a too great fondness for this world,
which we are too apt to doat on, and which hinders us very
much in our way to heaven. Thirdly ; It will help us to run
with patience the race that is set before us ; that is, to per-
form all the duties of Christianity with cheerfulness.

I. A firm belief of immortal happiness will help to sweeten
all the bitter passages of this mortal life.

Whatever the world promises, sad experience, as well as

[Eccies. J. the wisest of men, assures us, that " all is vanity and vexation

of spirit." But this is not the worst of it ; there are afflic-



tions which are unavoidable, and would be intolerable, if we
had no hopes of seeing an end of them.

But death, you will say, will put an end to all the troubles
of this life : be it so. But then this very remedy is itself the
greatest of all afflictions ; for a man to know that he must
die, and not to know what his condition shall be after death.
Well might the Apostle say, such men, " through fear of Heb. 2. 15.
death, are all their life long subject to bondage.'^

God be praised, this is not the case of christians, unless
they are very much wanting to themselves. They may suffer,
but if they keep in their eye the rewards of a future state,
and live like men that do so, they cannot be miserable. When
a man can see an end of his miseries, and by bearing them
as becomes a christian, can be sure of a reward, — and of such
a reward as the best and wisest men have willingly laid down
their lives to obtain ; this will support his spirits, and fill his
soul with comforts, while his body is in pain ; while disasters
follow one another ; when friends forsake him, and enemies
oppress him ; while the world frowns upon him, and poverty
threatens him like an armed man.

In all these cases, a good christian labours to support his
soul with such considerations as these: a time is coming when
these afflictions will be over. Though I am now beset with
infirmities, yet hereafter I shall have a body entirely free
from pain and disorders of all kinds. Though I am poor
now, yet I have this comfort, that God can make me sufflcient
amends in the next world for what I want in this. In the
mean while, I know this to my comfort, that God has very
often tried the faith of His best servants after a more severe
way, in order to fit them for greater glory. It was thus He
dealt with Job, whom He suffered to become the most mise-

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 40 of 49)