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them to employ in so honourable a service: like those heavenly servants of his that do his pleasure, by continually ministering to the heirs of salvation.
7. "But may not women as well as men, bear a part in this honourable service?" Undoubtedly they may nay, they ought: it is meet, right, and their bounden duty. Herein there is no difference: "there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus." Indeed it has long passed for a maxim with many, that "women are only to be seen; not heard." And accordingly many of them are brought up in such a manner, as if they were only designed for agreeable playthings! But is this doing honour to the sex? Or is it a real kindness to them? No; it is the deepest unkindness: it is horrid cruelty: it is mere Turkish barbarity. And I know not how any woman of sense and spirit can submit to it. Let all you that have it in your power assert the right, which the God of nature has given you. Yield not to that vile bondage any longer. You, as well as men, are rational creatures. You, like them, were made in the image of God: you are equally candidates for immortality. You too are called of God, as you have time, to "do good unto all men." Be "not disobedient to the heavenly calling." Whenever you have opportunity, do all the good you can, particularly to your poor sick neighbour. And every one of you likewise, "shall receive your own reward according to your own labour."
8. It is well known, that in the Primitive Church, there were women particularly appointed for this work. Indeed there was one or more such in every Christian congregation under heaven. They were then termed Deaconesses, that is, Servants: servants of the Church, and of its great Master. Such was Phebe, (mentioned by St. Paul, Rom. xvi. 1,) "a Deaconess of the Church of Cenchrea." It is true, most of these were women in years, and well experienced in the work of God. But were the young wholly excluded from that service? No: neither need they be, provided they know in whom they have believed, and show that they are holy of heart, by being holy in all manner of conversation. Such a Deaconess, if she answered her picture, was Mr. Law's Miranda. Would any one object to her visiting and relieving the sick and poor, because she was a woman? Nay, and a young one too? Do any of you that are young desire to tread in her steps? Have you a pleasing form? An agreeable address? So much the better, if you are wholly devoted to God. He will use these, if your eye be single, to make your words strike the deeper. And while you minister to others, how many blessings may redound into your own bosom! Hereby your natural levity may be destroyed, your fondness for trifles cured, your wrong tempers corrected, your evil habits weakened, until they are rooted out. And you will be prepared to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, in every future scene of life; only be very wary, if you visit or converse with those of the other sex, lest your affections be entangled, on one side or the other, and so you find a curse instead of a blessing.
9. Seeing then this is a duty to which we are called, rich and poor,
young and old, male and female; (and it would be well if parents
THE REWARD OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
Come, ye blessed of my FATHER, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."-MATTHEW XXV. 34.
1. REASON alone will convince every fair inquirer, That God "is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." This alone teaches him to say, "Doubtless there is a reward for the righteous:" "There is a God that judgeth the earth." But how little information do we receive from unassisted reason, touching the particulars contained in this general truth! As eye hath not seen, or ear heard, so neither could it naturally enter into our hearts to conceive the circumstances of that awful day, wherein God will judge the world. No information of this kind could be given, but from the great Judge himself. And what an amazing instance of condescension it is, that the Creator, the Governor, the Lord, the Judge of all, should deign to give us so clear and particular an account of that solemn transaction! If the learned Heathen acknowledged the sublimity of that account which Moses gives of the creation, what would he have said, if he had heard this account of the Son of Man coming in his glory? Here, indeed, is no laboured pomp of words, no orna
ments of language. This would not have suited either the Speaker or
2. "Prepared for you from the foundation of the world."-But
3. "Inherit the kingdom"-as being heirs of God, and joint heirs with his beloved Son. It is your right, seeing I have purchased eternal redemption for all them that obey me. And ye did obey me in the days of your flesh. Ye "believed in the Father, and also in Ye loved the Lord your God; and that love constrained you to love all mankind. Ye continued in the faith that wrought by love. Ye showed your faith by your works. "For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and in prison, and ye came unto me."
4. But in what sense are we to understand the words that follow? "Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and gave thee meat? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?" They cannot be literally understood: they cannot answer in these very words; because it is not possible that they should be ignorant that God had really wrought by them. Is it not then manifest, that these words are to be taken in a figurative sense? And can they imply any more than that all which they have done will appear as nothing to them; will, as it were, vanish away, in view of what GOD their Saviour had done and suffered for them?
5. But the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me." What a declaration is this! Worthy to be held in everlasting remembrance. May the finger of the living God write it upon our hearts!
I would take occasion from hence, first, to make a few reflections on good works in general; Secondly, to consider in particular that institution, for the promotion of which we are now assembled; and, in the third place, to make a short application.
I. 1. And first, I would make a few reflections upon good works in general.
I am not insensible, that many, even serious people, are jealous of all that is spoken upon this subject: nay, and whenever the necessity of good works is strongly insisted on, take for granted, that he who speaks in this manner, is but one remove from Popery. But should we, for fear of this, or of any other reproach, refrain from speaking the truth as it is in Jesus? Should we, on any consideration, shun to declare the whole counsel of GOD? Nay, if a false prophet could utter that solemn word, how much more may the ministers of Christ; "We cannot go beyond the word of the LORD, to speak either more or less !"
2. Is it not to be lamented, that any, who fear God, should desire us to do otherwise? And that by speaking otherwise themselves, they should occasion the way of truth to be evil spoken of? I mean, in particular, the way of salvation by faith, which, on this very account, is despised, nay, held in abomination by many sensible men. It is now above forty years since this grand scriptural doctrine, "By grace ye are saved through faith," began to be openly declared, by a few clergymen of the Church of England. And not long after, some who heard, but did not understand, attempted to preach the same doctrine, but miserably mangled it, wresting the Scripture, and "making void the law through faith."
3. Some of these, in order to exalt the value of faith, have utterly depreciated good works. They speak of them as not only not necessary to salvation, but as greatly obstructive to it. They represent them as abundantly more dangerous than evil ones, to those who are seeking to save their souls. One cries aloud, "More people go to hell by praying, than by thieving." Another screams out, " Away with your works! Have done with your works, or you cannot come to Christ!" And this unscriptural, irrational, heathenish declamation is called, Preaching the Gospel!
4. But "shall not the Judge of all the earth" speak, as well as "do right?" Will not " he be justified in his saying, and clear when he is judged?" Assuredly he will. And upon his authority we must continue to declare, That whenever you do good to any for his sake; when you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty; when you assist the stranger, or clothe the naked; when you visit them that are sick or in prison; these are not splendid sins, as one marvellously calls them; but "sacrifices, wherewith God is well pleased."
5. Not that our Lord intended, we should confine our beneficence to the bodies of men. He undoubtedly designed that we should be equally abundant in works of spiritual mercy. He died "to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of all good works:" zealous, above all, to "save souls from death," and thereby "hide a multitude of sins." And this is unquestionably included in St. Paul's exhortation, "As we have time, let us do good unto all men :" good in every possible kind, as well as in every possible degree. But why does not our blessed Lord mention works of spiritual mercy? He could not do it with any propriety. It was not for him to say, "I was in
error, and ye convinced me; I was in sin, and ye brought me back to God." And it needed not; for in mentioning some, he included all works of mercy.
6. But may I not add one thing more; (only he that heareth, let him understand ;) good works are so far from being hinderances of our salvation; they are so far from being insignificant, from being of no account in Christianity, that, supposing them to spring from a right principle, they are the perfection of religion. They are the highest part of that spiritual building, whereof Jesus Christ is the foundation. To those, who attentively consider the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, it will be undeniably plain that what St. Paul there describes as the highest of all Christian graces, is properly and directly the love of our neighbour. And to him, who attentively considers the whole tenor both of the Old and New Testament, it will be equally plain, that works springing from this love are the highest part of the religion therein revealed. Of these our Lord himself says, "Hereby is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit." Much fruit! Does not the very expression imply the excellency of what is so termed? Is not the tree itself for the sake of the fruit? By bearing fruit, and by this alone, it attains the highest perfection it is capable of, and answers the end for which it was planted. Who, what is he then, that is called a Christian, and can speak lightly of good works?
II. 1. From these general reflections, I proceed to consider that institution in particular, for the promotion of which we are now assembled. And in doing this, I shall, First, observe, The Rise of this Institution Secondly, The Success; and, Thirdly, The Excellency of it; after which you will give me leave to make a short Application. I. On the first head, The Rise of this Institution, I may be very brief, as a great part of you know it already.
1. One would wonder, (as an ingenious writer observes,) that such an institution as this, of so deep importance to mankind, should appear so late in the world. Have we any thing written upon the subject, earlier than the tract published at Rome, in the year 1637? And did not the proposal then sleep for many years? Were there any more than one or two attempts, and those not effectually pursued, till the year 1700? By what steps it has been since revived and carried into execution, we are now to inquire.
2. I cannot give you a clearer view of this, than by presenting you with a short extract from the Introduction to the Plan and Reports of the Society," published two years ago.
"Many and indubitable are the instances of the possibility of restoring to life persons apparently struck with sudden death, whether by an apoplexy, convulsive fits, noxious vapours, strangling, or drowning. Cases of this nature have occurred in every country. But they were considered and neglected, as extraordinary phenomena, from which no salutary consequence could be drawn.
3. "At length, a few benevolent gentlemen in Holland conjectured, that some at least might have been saved, had proper means.