Considered in relation to the present position of the faithful ministers connected with the National Establishment.
Delivered August 15th, 1849.
“Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”—Mark 7:7.
My present object is not to disprove the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration. I have no reason to suppose that this doctrine is maintained by any now hearing me. The question may therefore, perhaps, be suggested, “Why then occupy our time with the subject at all?” It may, or it may not, be held by those connected with the English Establishment; but what is that to us? We do not belong to that Establishment, and why should we concern ourselves with what it teaches? Now I trust, before I have done, that I shall make it plain to every Christian understanding, that we have very much to do with the condition of what is generally denominated the National Chnrch. Even a heathen could say, “I am a human being, and therefore I reckon nothing belonging to humanity to be disconnected from myself”—much more would a Christian say, I am a believer in Christ, and therefore I am interested in everything that concerns my fellow-believers.
Many of you are aware that, for a long time past, a controversy has been carried on within the pale of the Establishment, on the efficacy of baptism. Some have maintained that the baptismal service, as contained in the Prayer-Book, must be understood to teach that every child baptised by a clergymen, and according to the rites of the Church, is, in and by the act of baptism, spiritually regenerated. Others, generally denominated the evangelical clergy, have maintained, that baptism is, in itself, only an outward sign, and that it may or may not be accompanied by any inward and spiritual grace. The Bishop of Exeter, by having refused to induct a clergyman who belongs to the Evangelical party, has caused the question to be tried before the highest legal authority under the Crown. The judge of this highest court has decided that the doctrine taught in the Prayer-Book requires every clergyman to believe that in and by the act of baptism the child is spiritually born again. Except this decision be set aside by the authority of the Queen in council, any bishop may thenceforth refuse to ordain or induct any candidate for the ministry, unless he be found willing to maintain the doctrine sanctioned by legal authority.
Such is a very brief summary of the facts of the case, and of the present position of the National Establishment.
Having thus prepared your minds more clearly to apprehend the bearing of what I am about to bring before you, I propose, as the Lord may help me, to direct your attention:—
I. To the doctrine itself, in its character and tendencies.
II. To the present position of the godly men connected with the establishment.
I. (1) The doctrine itself is obviously contrary to the whole spirit of the New Testament. In 1st Cor. 1, Paul speaks of preaching the Gospel, as being even a more important object than baptising, and regeneration is uniformly ascribed in Scripture, not to any outward rite, but to the power of the divine word as rendered efficacious by the energy of the Holy Spirit. “To be born of God” is that which constitutes the vast and all-important distinction between those, on the one hand, who belong to Christ, and those, on the other, who belong to the world that lieth in wickedness. Every regenerated soul is a saved soul, and by the fruits of holiness the reality of the new birth is outwardly manifested and proved. The doctrine now legally declared to be taught in the standard of the English Establishment, is thus at variance with Scripture, and contrary to all fact and all experience. What authority can establish so monstrous a proposition? The great mass of our ungodly population have been baptised in their infancy. We have baptised drunkards, adulterers, murderers, infidels. All these, according to the established doctrine, have passed from death unto life. They have all been born of God. The consecrated water has been sprinkled over them. The seal of the cross has been pressed upon their foreheads. In spite of these words of blasphemy and deeds of crime, we must look upon these as those who have been made “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ Jesus,” They have all been made children of God, members of Christ, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. So says the church catechism, and all who adhere to the standards of the episcopalian system, are bound to hold and teach accordingly. When the priest at the altar mutters certain Latin sentences, and then declares that that which, a few minutes before, was a wafer, has been changed into a God, you appeal to your outward sense and reason as sufficient to prove the grossness of the lie. Transubstantiation needs only to be understood to be rejected. It carries its own condemnation along with it. It is as if Satan, in the concocting of that absurdity, had tried how far he could go in seeking to befool man’s fallen and degraded reason. Baptismal regeneration is a doctrine of the same school. It contradicts Scripture—it insults reason—it sets fact and experience at defiance. And is it possible that the men of God within the pale of the Establishment will quietly succumb to such an unholy imposition? Ts superstition and idle ceremony to occupy the place and usurp the name of Christian doctrine? Has the blood of our martyrs been shed in vain? Did Latimer, and Ridley, and Hooper, resign their liberties and their lives, rather than surrender the truth of God, and shall those who may be looked upon as their successors, in the maintenance of Evangelical purity, prefer the temporalities of a National Establishment to the purity of Scriptural Christianity. And shall English Christians outside the pale of the Establishment look on with a stare of indifference, or the smile of gratified superiority? If we be Christ’s and they be Christ’s—whether they will acknowledge us or no, they are united to us by the most enduring of all relationships. The ties that bind us to our earthly connections may be snapt asunder, but the ties that bind us to the men of God, whether in the English Establishment, or in the Establishment of other lands, are lasting as eternity. Either this doctrine must be formally, solemnly rejected, or the National Establishment must be denounced as part and parcel of the Romish apostasy. We must, in that case, seek that it be overthrown. It is a power antagonist to Christ, and we are bound, by all lawful means, to resist its destructive domination. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. We would not invoke the aid of popular violence. Truth conquers by endurance. But we may protest against the errors it upholds; we may entreat the godly remnant, yet clinging, with the prejudices of early youth, to an antichristian system, to come out and abandon an institution by which truth is proscribed; and to our exhortations we may unite our prayers, on behalf of all the right-hearted men, who minister under the sanction of episcopal authority.
2. But let us look more particularly at the tendencies of this unscriptural and unreasonable dogma. All error comes from Satan, the father of lies. “What are the purposes which the doctrine in question is fitted to subserve, on behalf of the kingdom of darkness? Are we to regard this lying tradition as only a harmless speculative error? Has it no deeply important practical consequences? Let us see.
First, it manifestly tends to exalt the clerical order, and to enable the priesthood to domineer over their fellow-men. They claim to be the successors of the Apostles. They claim to be the only true ministers of Christ in our land. This claim they substantiate, not by the soundness of their doctrines, nor by the purity of their lives, but by the averment that a mysterious virtue hath been communicated unto them, by the hands of the bishop in ordination. They may, or they may not, be acquainted with what the Scriptures teach; they may, or they may not, have been enlightened by the divine Spirit; they may, or they may not, maintain outward consistency of character—all these are secondary matters. The seal of ordination has been impressed upon them. The mysterious power of forgiving sins has been conferred upon their favoured persons. There may be nothing about them in mind, or heart, or character, or conduct, fitted, in any wise, to elevate them above other men. They may have no one single rational, or Christian, ground upon which to require the reverence of their fellows; but an unseen glory, a supernatural dignity has been vouchsafed unto them. They may be ignorant triflers—the votaries of fashionable folly, or devoted to the pleasures of the chase, and the dissipation of the banquet-hall—still they are to be reverenced as the only authorised spiritual instructors of the people. Amazing infatuation! that any should be found weak enough to admit so preposterous a claim; and equally amazing, that the common sense of Englishmen should be insulted, by being told that upon the act of baptism being rightly performed, by one of their duly qualified instructors, depends the salvation of our children. Only think of the condition of our rural districts under the dominion of Tractarian clergymen. Their only authorised instructor tells the people that, by their children receiving the ordinance of baptism at his hands, their infants become the children of the living God. “Who does not see what a weight of importance this figment attaches to the clergyman? He may have very little else to recommend him to their affection or esteem. He may be too ignorant to teach, and too indolent to learn. But he can read the formula prescribed in the service-book. He can sprinkle the water on the infant’s brow. He can go through all the instituted ceremonies of popish origin. Neither in parents, or child, or sponsor, or priest may there be any right knowledge of God—any true faith in Christ—any conviction of sin—any repentance for past transgression—yet, according to the doctrine recently established by the highest legal authority, the mighty transformation has been effected. The child may grow up in ignorance and sin; but when, in after years, urged to consider the solemn declaration of the Saviour respecting the necessity of the new birth, the poor victim of priestly delusion may most confidently reply, that he was born again in and by the act of baptism, and that he has been taught by his spiritual guide that no further regeneration is required. And thus, especially in the rural districts of our unhappy country, the dark cloud of popish superstition is gathering in most affecting gloominess. The various Evangelical bodies outside the Establishment may ply their despised and rejected labours. They are looked on as impudent and unwarranted intruders into the domain of the clergyman. Those who listen to the home-missionary, or the unlettered itinerant, must expect persecution as their portion. The preachers of Christ crucified, and the maintainers of baptismal regeneration proclaim a different gospel; and instead of the church-going bell inviting the village population to listen to the exposition of the word of life, ritual observances are proclaimed as the channel through which the souls of sinners are to be translated out of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Now surely this is a sore, a deadly evil. Can the fact be denied that multitudes of the Episcopal clergy are the determined enemies of the cross of Christ? Under their deadly influence are not souls passing into eternity with a lie in their right hand? If a true servant of Christ be set down in an adjacent parish, he dare not cross’ the boundaries of his own ecclesiastical territory to carry the word of life to those who are perishing for lack of knowledge; and yet even Christian men can continue to boast of their apostolic church, and dread, with a sort of instinctive trembling, the stroke that would set them free. O that the Lord would enlighten their understandings to perceive that a system which has, throughout the whole of its history, been the tool of mere secular influence, is not the sort of instrumentality from which we may reasonably anticipate the diffusion of genuine Christianity. Will its most determined advocates among the Evangelical section of its people, mention any period in its history during which the majority of its ministers were, in the judgment of the largest charity, spiritually enlightened men. How long is our country to be nominally Christian, and really in a state of baptised heathenism? How long shall the blind guides, sanctioned by the bishops and upheld by the State, continue responsible for the perdition of our people? How long shall they refuse to teach the truth themselves, and hinder those who would gladly diffuse it? I have sometimes thought, if other duties, more suited to a retiring nature, did not seem to bar my way, that I should like to perambulate the parishes where Puseyism wields its iron sceptre, and proclaim among the deluded people the spirituality of divine truth. In most of our great cities, there are men of truth who lift up a standard against the overflowing flood of popish superstition; but, in the rural districts, the ignorant, unthinking, unvisited population are lying in supine prostration, under the withering dominion of a false and arrogant theology. I should like to bear my testimony against these mistaken men, that thus some inroad might be made on the reign of superstitious tyranny.
But while thus seeking to expose the dangerous and destructive character of Tractarian error, we would desire not to indulge a single feeling of unkindness towards those who are diffusing it. Many of them are young men, who probably have had very little opportunity of hearing the gospel faithfully proclaimed. On entering the University of Oxford they have found the views we are exposing advocated by earnest, accomplished, and most attractive men. Who would not regret that such men as the accomplished Professor of Hebrew in that seat of learning, should be found devoting his eminent endowments in behalf of a system so opposed to the simplicity of Scriptural truth! If we ourselves are more enlightened, it becomes us to remember the word of the Apostle, “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” The Spirit of Christ always leads us to compassionate those who are in error. We should pray that they may be enlightened from above. We should remember that we ourselves may never have been exposed to the temptations by which these deluded clergymen are surrounded.
It is flattering to the pride of the natural mind—it is especially gratifying to the young and inexperienced— to find themselves elevated to a position that gives them a kind of middle rank between God and their fellow-men. They may be utterly unfit for the discharge of such a ministry as that which devolved upon the first preachers of the word of life—they may find themselves unqualified for exhibiting before the popular mind the affecting realities of our holy faith—but they can readily go through the round of prescribed ceremonies. It saves much time, and effort, and labour to maintain that outward observances are the means of imparting grace.
This is not to be dealt with as a party question. We should seek to look at the whole subject, in a spirit of thoughtfulness and prayer. Tractarianism is an enormous evil, because it obstructs the efforts of those who are seeking the diffusion of the truth, and the salvation of the people. It is well that Christians generally should be awakened to the enormity of the evil, that they may meet it in a spirit of large and earnest charity. Many of its advocates may be men deserving of respect for their external character; and we have no personal quarrel with them as men. But we maintain that they preach another gospel from that which Paul proclaimed, and, therefore, were their credentials far more imposing than they are, we dare not receive or submit to them. Some of them may come in the semblance of an angel of light, and their deluded followers may imagine they see the beam of a celestial glory irradiating their temples; still, the doctrines they maintain are sufficient to invalidate and disprove their claim to be servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. No credentials can warrant our reception of that which destroys the very foundation of our holy faith, strips Christianity of its heavenly character, and degrades the dispensation of the Spirit to a dispensation of form, and grimace, and idle ceremony.
II. I now propose, in the second place, to consider the present position of the Evangelical ministers within the pale of the Establishment.
The enlightened clergymen, whether in the days of early martyrdom, or in the time of Romaine and Scott, and more recently of Richmond, have ever maintained views directly opposite to those to which legal authority now demands the assent of every clergyman. By this late decision their faith may be said to be proscribed. If they still continue within the pale of the Establishment, they continue there only by sufferance. That, which their Nonconformist opponents have said all along, has been declared by the highest legal authority to be the meaning of the Service-Book. And the misfortune is that the words in the Prayer-book certainly do seem to convey the very doctrine which Gospel clergymen condemn. Let any unprejudiced, simple-minded man read the baptismal service, and this would be the impression received from perusing it. It is quite true that the articles contradict the doctrine of ceremonial efficacy in the sacraments; and, therefore, when pressed for replies to the Tractarian, on the one hand, or to the Nonconformist on the other, the men of Evangelical sentiment take refuge in the Articles of the Church. I do not judge, far less condemn, them. There are those among them at whose feet I would desire to sit, and whose grace I would seek to honor, and admire, and imitate. But how humiliating is their position now! Throughout the whole extent of the diocese of Exeter, no clergyman may warn the people against the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. If Mr. Gorham is rejected, is it right or equitable that those who proclaim the same doctrines should be permitted to remain ministers of the Establishment? May not any of the bishops proceed at once to extremities with refractory clergymen, who refuse to submit to the legal decision as to the teaching of their own church? Have not many of themselves had scruples of conscience, and sore exercises of mind already, in reference to their position? And is not the late decision like the voice of God in His providence, proclaiming that the hour of their emancipation is come. There was a time, nearly 200 years ago, when 2,000 of the best men in the ministry of the then Establishment gave up their livings, because they could not assent to everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer. One cannot think of those noble-minded, conscientious sufferers, without a feeling of delighted gratitude and admiration. The Howes, the Baxters, the Owens, and the Henrys—the long catalogue of those illustrious men, who, by their holy characters and their edifying works, have turned the by-word “Puritan,” into a term of enduring honor—preferred a good conscience, even with the restriction of their freedom, to the liberty, the status, and the temporalities of an Establishment. History—that record of human crime and of divine retribution—has, here and there, a page of a brighter character; and no brighter page can be found in our country’s annals than that which records the labours, the sufferings, the unbending rectitude of Puritanism. While the very name of their royal persecutor suggests a mingled feeling of contempt and indignation, and reminds one of that true saying that God sometimes elevates to the pinnacle of high dignity the “basest of men,” the name of the once despised and persecuted Puritan suggests sentiments of the liveliest admiration and the deepest reverence. We think of them as second only to prophets and apostles, and look forward to the time when we shall hold unhindered and holy intercourse with those sainted men whom we have heard of, and read of, but have never seen. I do not mean to imply that they were faultless. They had their failings, and, it may be, in some instances, their prejudices, like other men. There are spots in the sun. They knew themselves fallen by nature. They made the cross their only foundation of confidence; and they so believed, that, at the risk of much that was naturally dear to them, they determined to act in the spirit of that declaration, “If it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you, more than unto God, judge ye.”
But now to apply their example to the case before us. Do the Evangelical clergy really believe all that the Prayer-Book teaches—and that according to the authorised interpretation of it? Assuredly they do not. Why not then boldly proclaim what they believe? Why not boldly renounce a church that enacts heresy by a law? Why submit to so monstrous an assumption that, on a theological question, Sir Herbert Fust is the fittest person in the kingdom to decide; and the Queen in council the only authority qualified to set aside that decision? If women are not permitted to teach in the Church, surely that must be a system opposite to the Church of the New Testament, in which a female, surrounded by the lords of her privy council, has the supreme authority to regulate questions of theology. During these 17 years past, you have never heard from my lips a whisper of disloyalty. I honour the Sovereign, not only because of her elevated station, but because of her personal character, I give thanks to God for such a Queen. But I cannot with the New Testament in my hand, admit, for a moment, that either to her, or to her privy council, belongs any scriptural right of legislation in the Church of the living God.
The National Establishment is a house divided against itself; and the highest of all authority assures us that such a house cannot stand. Why should those who preach an Apostolic Gospel any longer fraternise with those who dilute or deny it? Why should the Protestant defenders of sound theology be manacled and hampered by the tpower of a demi-popish hierarchy? Why should such men as Bickersteth and Villiers lend the sanction of their names to a system they, in heart, and testimony, and conduct, repudiate and condemn?
Should the Evangelical clergy come out of the Establishment, the best of those within her pale would accompany them in their secession. The law of toleration, and the force of public opinion, would secure for them the free exercise of their ministry. The very prejudices of the multitude would give to such ministers a readier door of access, than Nonconformist labourers could expect to meet with. The national system would be drained of its very life-blood. The ceremonialist— the clerical gentleman—the man of mere literary acquirements, and most, if not all, of the lordly overseers, might still cleave to the Apostolic Church. The self-righteous, the careless, the indifferent, the secret unbelievers—all those who are of the world, might still find, within the walls of the National Establishment, their suited and convenient resting place. But the life, and the spirit, and the earnestness, and the labours would be found among the ranks of the seceders. They might set at defiance the impositions of the Court of Arches, and smile, in security and triumph, at the fulminations of Episcopal indignation. Henry of Exeter might then mournfully exclaim that his work was ended, his occupation gone. Gospel ministers, formerly under his domination, would now breathe the air of liberty.
The secession of Gospel ministers, from a corrupt Establishment, would bring blessings to themselves— blessings to their hearers,—blessings to the Church of God—blessings to the world. It might put to shame the scoffs of infidelity, by proving that there are some who really believe what they preach. It might lead many thoughtful moralists to search and enquire. Many dark places of our land would be invaded by a beam of unwonted illumination. The whole country would be moved. Thoughts, hitherto too deep for utterance, that have been exercising the minds of many of our countrymen, might find vent and free expression. The days of Puritanism, in its purest form, or the days of Whitfield, might be restored again. If these servants of Christ are able even now, with profit and with power, to set forth the Gospel of the grace of God—their new position would place them in a far higher vantage ground for effectually doing so. The proofs of their security would be far more manifest; the consciousness of their call far more inwardly invigorating. The drawling of the parish clerk, and meaningless “amen “of the listless congregation would give place to the prevailing power of earnest supplication, and the heart-felt exclamation— “What must I do to be saved?” There are, in the National Church, men of eminent gifts—of unblemished character—of tender and gracious spirit—of high and holy affections—of large and catholic charity, in whom the monstrous worldliness of the National system cannot destroy the power of a divine life—but whose labours are impeded—whose success is hindered—whose affections are thwarted by their unhallowed connexion with a secular and Anti-christian Establishment. Oh that they were wise!—that they understood this!—that they would ponder the unworldly nature of a Scriptural Christianity!
It may be objected against the course I have been attempting to recommend to all the sound members of the Established Church, that thus the churches and parishes of our land would be left in the hands of those who are the enemies of the Church of God. But there is more of apparent than of real strength in such an objection. Meeting-places, equally serviceable with parish churches, might be erected, wherein a seceding minister might find himself called to labour. There is no lack of outward means to meet the necessary expenditure, and, if the Evangelical section of the Establishment were as poor as they are notoriously the reverse,—He, to whom belongeth the silver and the gold, would furnish whatever His service might require. If the Free Church seceders from the Scottish Establishment have, in their comparative poverty, covered the length and breadth of their native land with meeting-places, how much more might the thousands, now in connection with the national system, who appear attached to the Gospel verities, furnish, out of their abundance, all that the exigencies of the case might require. We have seen a godly edifice for the accommodation of the fatherless, raised before our eyes, through the instrumentality of one individual—one faithful servant of the Lord Jesus—who has no other wealth save what is placed at his disposal, through the efficacy of that prayer which availeth much; and the amount, so well and efficiently expended on the erection of that single structure, would supply the loss of some ten or a dozen parish churches of the ordinary dimensions. But, says the objector, our ministers would no longer retain the status, the respectability, the temporal provision attached to their present dignified position. In the mind of scripturally-taught Christians, these things rather impede than promote the great objects of the Gospel ministry. Paul, and his fellow-labourers, knew nothing of such advantages, and some of the most successful ministers of Christ in every age have laboured in dissociation from any national system.
But I must hasten to a close. Weigh and consider the points I have been pressing on your attention. Seek to feel a right and Christian interest in a subject, bearing, with so much importance, on the spread of Scriptural truth in our land. Pray that God would over-rule the decision in the Court of Arches to the promotion of His own glory. He has the hearts of monarchs in His hands. We know not what may be the decision of our Queen, or rather of her privy council. On the one hand, one could wish that the bigotry and intolerance of the Bishop of Exeter met its merited rebuke; on the other hand, we would be thankful that the godly ministers, within the Establishment, were left without a single plea for retaining their position. The decision is not under our control, but we may scripturally aid the cause of our common Christianity, by interceding with God that, directly or indirectly, the verdict of the privy council may tend to the repression of Antichristian error and the promotion of scriptural truth. And let us remember, brethren, that the smallest measure of superior enlightenment brings along with it a corresponding measure of additional responsibility. We may be convinced that our views respecting the spiritual character of the Church of Christ are more in accordance with the principles of the New Testament, than the view entertained by many of our fellow-Christians; but it does not therefore follow that we are more spiritual, more like Christ, than they are. In love, in zeal, in prayerfulness, in devoted service, such brethren may be very far advanced beyond us. Differing from them as we do, in regard to matters of Ecclesiastical polity, it becomes us not to disparage their attainments, but, with humility and candour, to acknowledge their superiority to ourselves. But while we must fully do so, the very fact of their superior attainments should make us only all the more desirous for their Ecclesiastical emancipation.
Let us commit the whole matter to the God of all grace; and let us seek that, both ourselves and those to whose present position our minds have, this evening, been directed, may receive more abundantly out of the fullness which is treasured up in Christ Jesus. And never let us forget that the rejection of error is of little avail, except it be connected with the embracing, and the maintaining, and the diffusing of the truth. While we deny the ceremonial efficacy of the baptismal rite, let us seek that the breath of the Divine Spirit might kindle the flame of the divine life within the hearts of the young, who are growing up around us. Let us seek that He who worketh when, and where, and how He pleaseth, would make more and more manifest the difference that exists between a mere ceremonial new birth, and the great reality of a spiritual regeneration. Ah! my brethren, I know not how it has been with you; but in this matter I would acknowledge that I am verily guilty. I have not felt for the young—I have not prayed for them—I have not sought their spiritual well-being as I ought to have done—I have not lived under the abiding impression that, until changed in heart, they are in danger of perishing for ever. My prayers on their behalf have been lacking in earnestness, in fervency of spirit, and in gracious tenderness; sometimes, I fear, polluted by formality and heartlessness. And, oh, if ever I may have been instrumental in the smallest measure to your spiritual edification, my earnest request is, that you will repay the benefit by the requital of intercession on my behalf. Seek that I might be more zealously alive to the bright and blessed realities of the Gospel—and that, He who has the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars, would so fill my earthen vessel with heavenly treasure, and so imbue my inner man with a fervent, a gracious, a yearning frame of spirit—as that I may be fit to be used, as His instrument, in benefitting the souls of my fellow-men; and, in particular, in leading the young out of the path of the destroyer into the. safe and pleasant pathway of holiness and peace.
I would add one word, in conclusion, to those now hearing me, who may be fully satisfied of the unfounded character of Tractarian assumptions, but who have not themselves been the subjects of a saving change. If you have as yet no Scriptural evidence to conclude that you have passed from death unto life, surely the one thing that should occupy your thoughts and interest your hearts, is the question of your own concern in the great salvation. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The Bible carries along with it the evidence of its heavenly origin. The Gospel it proclaims is not “after man.” Read and ponder the declarations of Holy Scripture. Cry unto God for the quickening and enlightening of the Divine Spirit. Make confession of your manifold ungodliness, and rest not till you are able to say from the heart, “Lord, to whom can we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You may tell me, perhaps, that you cannot convert yourselves, and that you must just wait until the energy descend from on high. This is to misunderstand, or wilfully to pervert, the truth of God.
By nature, you are at a distance from God, and at enmity against Him. In that state you cannot be happy. You carry the elements of misery within your own bosoms. The sinfulness of a fallen nature—the guilt of accumulated transgressions—the enmity that will not, and the moral helplessness that cannot, please God, unite to shut you out from His presence; but the words addressed to Israel of old may be proclaimed, as words of encouragement, to every sinner within hearing of the Gospel message,—“Thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thy help found.”
The grace that saves may enter the heart of a sinner so instantaneously, that he passes consciously at once from a state of alienation to a state of acceptance and favour; but it may also gradually dawn upon his spirit, like the streaks of the morning light. To believe a statement is to think it true; and to believe in a person is to rest our full confidence on his faithfulness. The Son of God hath made such an atonement, that whosoever will, may believe in Him and be saved. The blood that He shed was either the blood of an imposter, and the Jews were right in putting Him to death; or that blood streamed from the veins of Him who came forth from the bosom of the Father to endure the punishment in the sinner’s stead. You shrink from the former alternative. Believe and confide in the latter. Lay hold of the preciousness of the blood of Jesus. Plead that blood against Satan—plead it as an answer to the accusations of conscience—plead it before the scrutiny of a holy God. Thus will you learn the depths of your own ruin—the boundless character of divine love—the measureless value of the great salvation, and prove, in your own experience, the meaning of Scripture—“Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as He is pure.” Amen.