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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robbing is a sin. Every man's conscience, every man who
dare ask his conscience, must tell him so. And if any man
is easy under the guilt of this sin, he will be easy under the
guilt of any other sin. For, sure, the same reason and jus-
tice, which oblige me to restore what I have borrowed, will


SERM. oblige me to make restitution for what I have wronged a

man of. This being a certain truth, that all a man gets

wrongfully is theft and robbery, and no better. Therefore,
delay not, christians, at the peril of your souls, to make
satisfaction for any injustice or wrong you have done, while
it is in your power. And if any scruple arises in your breast
concerning the way of doing it, go to your pastor, or to some
person of judgment and discretion, who may be able to
silence your doubts, and quiet your conscience. Without
doing this, a man of any thought can have no comfort either
living or dying. This day, saitli our Saviour to Zaccheus,
Luke 19. 9. '^ This day is salvation come to thy house." So that until
he had sincerely resolved to make restitution, he was not in
a state of salvation : he was in a state of perdition.

The law of God to the Israelites is so particular upon this
Levit. 6. 2, head, that I must repeat it to you. " If a soul sin, and com-
mit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbour
in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or
in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his
neighbour, or hath found that which was lost, and lieth con-
cerning it; he shall restore it in the principal, and add a
fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it
appertaineth. And then the priest shall receive his trespass-
offering, and make an atonement for him, and it shall be
forgiven him." And pray take notice, that this command
did not concern such as were convicted of these crimes of
injustice before a magistrate ; but such whose own con-
science accused them, and who desired peace and pardon
from God.

This was the way prescribed by God Himself. This is the
voice of the Law and the Gospel ; and, let me add, of natural
reason : for every body who has been wronged expects satis-
faction ; and, if it is denied by men, is apt to appeal to God
for justice and vengeance. So that the most ignorant know
their duty in this case ; and if they are loath to make resti-
tution, it is because the fear of God is not in their hearts.
They will venture their souls rather than part with what
they have got.

Christians therefore, who wish well to themselves, and are
convinced of the absolute necessity of this duty, Avill think


beforehand, when they are tempted to any of the sins we
have been speaking of: they will think what a bitter cup
they are preparing for themselves, if they give way to such

Christians would do well to consider, how it was with
Judas when his conscience was awake. He valued the thirty
pieces of silver no more than the very earth he trod upon ;
he flung them away; he confessed his injustice before the
world ; and would have given the world, if he had had it, to
have had it in his power to have undone what he had been
guilty of. And, surely, this will be the case of every one,
either now or hereafter, who knows he has done wrong, and
will not be persuaded to make timely satisfaction.

On the other hand, a christian who resolves to do his duty
in this instance to the best of his power (for God expects no
more), by doing so, he gives glory to God ; he acknowledges
the justice of His laws, the power He has to punish offend-
ers. His mercy in accepting the repentance of sinners upon
the most equitable conditions ; he shews, that he fears God,
and that he values the favour of God more than his own
profit or his own reputation ; and has the surest proof and
comfort, that his repentance is sincere, and his sin forgiven.

I shall conclude this article of restitution with the words
of that excellent godly divine. Bishop Beveridge^: "All
persons that ever wronged any man of any thing, are bound
to make restitution; all that by forging, or concealing of
deeds, or tampering with witnesses, have got possession of
other men's estates ; all that by robbing, or any kind of
theft, have stolen what was their neighbour's; all servants
and apprentices, who neglect their master's business, em-
bezzle or purloin his goods; all that by false measures or
weights impose upon their customers; all that conceal the
faults of the goods they sell; all that cheat or over-reach
those they deal with ; all that by any wicked artifice defraud
their creditors of what is their due; all that by smuggling
of goods, forswearing themselves, or bribing of others, with-
hold from the king any part of his customs, or other reve-
nues, which the laws of God and of the land have given him
a just right to ; — in short, all that have been either princi-

a [Works, vol. iii. p. 221. Oxf. ed. 1844.]


S E R M. pals or accessories in wronging any man of any thing, tliey

are bound to make full restitution." Thus far that good


Now every serious christian, who hears these things and
lays them to heart, will reason and resolve with himself after
some such way as this :

' I see plainly that I must not judge of the greatness of
the sins of injustice and fraud, by the opinion and way of
the world, but by the authority of God who has forbidden
them, by the punishments He has threatened, and by the
mischiefs that attend them. Such sins, being committed
without remorse, are too often forgotten ; and, it is to be
feared, are too seldom repented of. I will not therefore let
the love of the world possess my soul, lest it choke the seed
of God^s Word sown in my heart, and those truths which

Prov.28.20. should keep me from ruin. Such as these : He that hasteth
io he rich, can hardly be innocent. That all depends upon the
blessing of God, which cannot be hoped for in unrighteous
ways. That every man living has a right to be dealt with
fairly and with justice. That neither life nor happiness con-
sisteth in the abundance any man possesseth. That it will
be no advantage to a man to have doubled his talents, if at
the same time he has doubled his guilt. That posterity will

re- fl'^^i ^^^^ ^^^^ effects of my injustice ; God having declared, that He
will lay up the iniquities of sinners for their children. And

[Matt. 16. lastly, that there is nothing that a man can get in exchange for
'^ his soul.'

These considerations I will dwell upon, will every serious
christian say, when he has heard them from the pulpit, or
from God's Word. And may this be the resolution of every
soul who has now heard these things, and attended to them.
In order to this, I will leave a few things with you to be re-

Suppose, for example, you should see one of your poor
neighbours wronged, or deprived of his just rights or goods,
by robbery, by oppression, or hy fraud. To see a whole family
in trouble ; their minds uneasy ; their health and rest bro-
ken; their necessary business neglected ; tempted to murmur
ugainst God ; and to curse such as have been the occasion of
their trouble. Let, I say, any body who has the least spark


of humanity, grace, or goodness, see this ; and say, whether
this will not make him abhor, and resolve against, every
instance of injustice, violence, and fraud, which must, of
necessity, give his neighbour so much sorrow and grief of

If this does not affect every one that sees or hears of it
(for there may be some people so destitute of humanity and
grace, that provided they be easy, and can get or keep what
they have gotten, are not much concerned for the sufferings
of others) ; — let us suppose we saw such a man upon his death-
bed ; his eyes open, his conscience awake, and calling to
mind the evil he has done his neighbour, whether by cunning,
power, violence, or fraud; dreading the consequence; not
knowing how to make satisfaction for the injuries he has
done ; ashamed to own his crimes, and yet not able to bear
the thoughts of them ; just going to leave the world under
the greatest uncertainties of what is like to be his portion,
in a very few hours, perhaps. Can there be a case, a con-
dition, more terrible, more miserable, than this? And yet,
how many are there, who, in all human appearances leave
the world under these most astonishing circumstances.

Lastly; suppose people should be so thoughtless, so stupid,
so ignorant, as to die without remorse, or fear ; is their case
any better than that of those who die under the fear of God's
displeasure? Can it be imagined, that their ignorance or
unconcernedness will alter the decrees of God, Who has ex-
pressly declared, that they that have done evil, and have not
repented, shall go into everlasting fire ? This should hinder
christians from doing to others what they would not have
done to themselves.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself — with such
a love as worketh no ill to his neighbour. Believe it, chris-
tians, mine and your salvation depends upon the observation
of this command of God.

I pray God we may remember it ; and pardon us when-
ever through frailty we are wanting to our duty, for Jesus
Christ's sake.

To Whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, &c.

F 2



Vouchsafe, God, to direct me ; and to bless this discourse to the benefit
of my flock, and to all such as shall hear it ; that they may glorify Thee
for the truths they shall learn, and for the blessings they shall receive
by my ministry ; through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

1 Cor. xiv. 15.
See Isa. 1. I loill pray with the understanding.

si^ ' ' When one sees christians coming constantly to church,
without any visible benefit ; without becoming more serious
and devout at their prayers, or more regular in their lives ;
one cannot but conclude, either that they never ask those

[James 4.3.] graccs which they want, or that they ask and have not, be-
cause they ask amiss.

This is certain, that there is not any one grace, not one
good thing, which either in duty, interest, or charity, we are
bound to pray for, but what our Church has provided us
proper prayers by which to ask them : and it is as certain,

iJohnS.u. that God will hear us, and grant our petitions, "whenever
we ask any thing according to His will."

There must, therefore, be some very great fault, when the
generality of christians (to the great scandal of the religion
they profess) do, all their life long, pray for graces and
blessings which they never obtain. They must have been
either ignorantly, or carelessly, or wilfidly, wanting to them-
selves, when they return so often from the house of God
without benefit, and without a blessing; when it is most
certain, that God designed these solemn meetings as the
greatest of blessings ; — as the best opportunity of fitting our-
selves for heaven and happiness.


We will therefore consider, what may be the real cause of
so great unfruitfulness under such powerful ordinances, and
means of grace and salvation.

In the first place, then, it is but too plain that very many
come to church merely out of custom j many only to avoid
the reproach of having no religion ; and most of all do not
consider what they come to church for, what they want, what
they pray for. And so it comes to pass, that christians con-
fess their sins without being sensible of the danger of being
sinners. They hear the most gracious terms of pardon de-
clared, and the absolution pronounced, without receiving the
comfort and benefit thereof. They repeat the most divine
and powerful prayer of our Lord, without considering the
Majesty of Him to Whom they speak, or His wonderful
goodness in permitting them to come to Him as to a father.

They repeat His praises in the psalms and hymns without
any true devotion ; and they hear His word, His commands,
His promises, and His judgments, without being moved by
them to mend their lives.

In short, they solemnly profess their faith in God ; they ask
of Him all necessary graces and blessings ; they say Amen to
prayers which they have never attended to ; and hear a
blessing pronounced by the minister of God, to which God
has annexed an especial grace and blessing : and, after all
this, too often return home — without any benefit, without a

Our Saviour Christ will give you the true reason of this :
" this people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and Matt. 15. 8.
honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me."
This was the case of the Jews before their final destruction.
Let us take care that this be not our case and our fate.

To prevent this, I will set before you the true ivay of pro-
fiting by the public worship of God; and what every devout
christian, who hopes for God's blessing, should endeavour to
do, in order to obtain it.

He should, in the first place, endeavour (when he is about
to go to worship God), — he should endeavour to possess his
heart with a true sense of his sad condition without the grace
of God. This is, by the Spirit of God, most lively repre-
sented in these words, " Thou sayest, I have need of nothing ;


SERM. and knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and
Rev 3 17 i^^o?', and blind, and naked." This is yours, and mme, and
every man's sad condition by nature, and destitute of the
grace of God. We are wretched and miserable sinners ; and,
unless God pardon us, we are for ever undone. We are poor
and weak creatures, in danger (as Job was) of being ruined
by our adversary the devil. We are blind, and in the dark,
as to every thing relating to our happiness or misery. And
we are naked, and destitute of every virtue that might recom-
mend us to the favour of God.

These are the thoughts which we should take along with
us to the house of God ; and we should consider what we are
going thither for ; namely, to beg of God to pardon and for-
give us our sins; to give God thanks for the mercies and
favours which He has vouchsafed us ; to learn how we may
live so as to please God; to make a public and open pro-
fession of our faith; and to ask such things as are needful
both for our souls and bodies. This is truly to pray with
the understanding.

Now, every christian, who has these things in his mind
and at heart, will, when he goes to church, be very serious ;
endeavour to lay aside all worldly thoughts ; and will beg of
God to dispose and assist him in the work he is going about.
And it is for this reason, that all well-taught christians do
fall upon their knees as soon as they come into the church,
and pray to God to prevent them by His grace and Spirit.
And, that the most unlearned christian may not want words,
the Church has provided a most excellent prayer, to be made
use of before we begin any work of moment ; and which all
christians may learn, being so often repeated in the public
service, as follows : " Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings
with Thy most gracious favour," &c.

And here let me give you, and beg you to remember, one
most excellent rule of a christian life, — never to undertake
any business without praying to God, in this or some such
prayer, to prevent and prosper you. Whoever conscientiously
observes this rule, will be hindered from doing many things
which the world counts innocent, and which must afterwards
be repented of. For who can, who dare, say this prayer, and
beg of God to prevent him with His gracious favour, and


further him with His help, when he is going to do a thing
which he knows, or suspects, either to be unjust, unfit for a
christian man to do, or displeasing to God ?

Let us now return to the consideration of the public wor-
ship. And I must repeat it again, and beseech you to re-
member it, that the only way to have your persons and your
prayers accepted is, to come before God with an humble,
penitent, and obedient heart. It is for this reason you are
put in mind, "that a broken and contrite heart God will
not despise." And you have a convincing proof of this, in
the person of the publican, mentioned by our Sa^dour ; who,
out of a deep sense of his sins and unworthiness, " durst not [Luke 18.
lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, say-
ing, God be merciful unto me a sinner." Which holy indig-
nation, and condemning himself after so penitent a manner,
procured for him the pardon of his sins; the very greatest
blessing he could, or ive can, ask or obtain of God .

On the other hand; if we present ourselves before God,
after a careless, indecent manner, with a vain confidence
and satisfaction that we are not as great sinners as some
others, our very prayers will be turned into sin, and we shall
leave the church without a pardon, and without a blessing.
To prevent this, when you hear the sentences read with
which the public service begins, attend to them with serious-
ness : and in order to stir up your devotion, apply them to
yourself in some such short prayers as these following :

For example: if this sentence shall be read, "When thefEzek. 18.
wicked man turneth away from his wickedness," &c. say
secretly to yourself; Turn Thou me, O good Lord, and so
shall I be turned. Or, if this sentence should be read ; " To [Dan. 9. 9,
the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses," &c. you "^
may say in your heart ; It is of the Lord's mercies that my
sins have not been my ruin. Or suppose this sentence has
been read ; " The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit ; a [Ps. 51.17.]
broken and a contrite heart," &c. you may say in your
heart ; But most unfit is mine to be to God presented, until
I have obtained His pardon for the many sins by which it has
been defiled. Or if this sentence shall be read; " Turn unto [joei2. 13.]
the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to
anger," &c. say secretly ; God grant that I may never abuse



SERM. this goodness and patience of God, which is designed to lead

^ — me to repentance. While this sentence is reading; "I will

18, 19 ] arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father,
I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,^' &c. think
with yourself, with what an humble, penitent heart this poor
prodigal said these words, and endeavour to possess your
own heart with the same devout affections. Lastly, when
[1 John 1. this sentence shall be read ; " If we say that we have no
sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," &c.
a devout and penitent soul will pour out some such secret
ejaculation as this : The very best of men have need of mercy
and pardon ; how much more such a miserable sinner as I am !
[Ps. 32.5.] "I -vviii acknowledge my sin unto God, and mine iniquities
will I not hide."

By this method, you will keep your mind intent upon the
great work you are about; you will go through the whole
service with devotion ; " you will pray with the understand-
ing :" and you will accustom yourself to apply every scrip-
ture to your own case.

But be sure you take this consideration along with you;
[1 Cor. 12. and I beseech you to remember it as long as you live ; that
you are not going to make your address to God for yourself
only, but for every christian in the whole world. For, as we
are all members of that body of which Jesus Christ is the
head, we are every one of us bound (as we hope to meet in
heaven) to pray for, and to do good to, every member of that
body. Think seriously of this, and it will quicken your
charity, and mightily stir up your devotion, when you con-
sider, that you are going to pray for millions of millions of
christians, and that millions of christians are praying for you ;
and that, as you sincerely pray for others, God will most
surely hear their prayers for you. And then, with what
satisfaction and comfort will you leave the church, when
you consider that you have been a real benefactor to an
infinite number of miserable christians ; by praying for all
that are in error, or want the necessary means of instruc-
tion ; for all that labour under trials and afflictions ; for all
that are in pain of body or anguish of mind ; for all that are
in slavery, under persecution, in poverty, or in prison ; for
all that are under temptations, or in danger of falling into


despair ; and lastly, for all sick and dying persons. Besides
this, you have had an opportunity of shewing your gratitude,
by praying, and praising God for all your benefactors; as
also, of shewing your charity, by praying for your enemies ;
and lastly, of begging graces and blessings for all your friends
and relations, and for all that have desired your prayers.

If any considerations will make a christian serious and
devout at his prayers, surely these will : that he is doing a
work the most pleasing to God ; that he is going to do him-
self, and all his fellow christians, the greatest good that can
be thought of.

Well then, with these dispositions, and with these views,
you begin your prayers in an humble Confession of your [Dan.9.20.]
oivn sins and the sins of all others ; without which none of
our prayers will be accepted ; for a sinner can make no
prayer that will be heard, but for the grace of conversion

When the congi'egation are making this confession to
Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon their knees ; if there
be any so ill taught, or so ignorant of their duty, as wilfully
to refuse to put themselves into this humble posture, one
may, without any breach of charity, conclude — that man does
not know himself to be a miserable sinner ; or he does not
consider, that his prayers will be rejected; or he does not
believe, that hell-fire will one day be the portion of un-
pardoned sinners ; if he did, he would think no posture too
painful by which he might obtain God^s pardon and blessing.

To proceed : after this confession follows the Absolution ;
not to be repeated by you, but by the minister of God only ;
and in the name, and by the authority, of God.

Ignorant people may suggest, that we take upon us to
pardon sins, which we acknowledge none but God can do.
But surely God can send His pardon, as well as a king can
send his, by what hands He thinks fit. And if He has com- [2Cor.5.i8.]
mitted this ministry of reconciliation to His oivn ministers (as
St. Paul assures us He has done) ; who will be so perverse
as to refuse so great a mercy, though it come through the
hands of a man like themselves ?

Pray remember the behaviour of no less a man than King
David; who thought himself happy that he could receive


SERM. absolution by the mouth of his subject Nathan; who, upon
'- — his confession, declared, " God hath put away thy sin, thou

2 Sam. 12. , , ^. ' ' ^ ^ ►

13. shalt not die.

God bestows His blessings of pardon and peace according
to His own appointment. He has appointed His ministers
to baptize you for the remission of sins : and in order to
assure to you the pardon of your sins, they are ordained
to administer to you the other holy Sacrament.

Jesus Christ empowered His ministers not only to pray for,
but to give with effect, the blessings of peace and happiness,
which none but God can give, to every son of peace, that is,
Lukeio. 6. to every person qualified to receive such a blessing. Even
so, every christian, duly qualified by true repentance and faith
unfeigned, may have the comfort of hearing his pardon pro-
nounced by God's own ambassador, pursuant to Christ's own
power and authority.

But that God may render this pardon, by the mouth of His
minister, more efi'ectual, every true penitent would do well to
receive and apply it to himself in some such secret prayer as
this following : may this pardon, Lord, fall upon my soul,
and seal the forgiveness of all my sins! This one would
recommend again and again to every devout christian, as
what would be attended with the greatest comfort and
assurance of his pardon being sealed in heaven.

The next thing which we are directed to do is, to address
our heavenly Father in a pkayer appointed by the Son of
God Himself. This consideration should oblige us always to
say this prayer with the greatest attention, deliberation, de-
votion, and zeal ; that God may hear us according to the full
importance of this most comprehensive prayer.

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 7 of 49)