صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

No. 29.]




A Sermon



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1 Thessalonians, iv. 1.—" Furthermore, then, we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more."

We have here St. Paul addressing the Thessalonian converts on the part of himself and those two fellow-labourers in the ministry, whose names are joined with his in the opening of the epistle, with a mixture of affection and solemnity; entreating them as brethren by the sacred ties of brotherhood, and adjuring them by the Son of Man, by their common Lord, by that Jesus, who was at once their Redeemer, their King, and their Judge. Nor is the end for which these powerful incentives are applied at all unworthy of him it is the promotion of holy living; a conclusion, indeed, to which the Apostle never fails to bring his reasoning, his exhortations, his entreaties, and to the inseparability of which from the spirit and design of the Gospel he bears on all occasions unequivocal and unvarying testimony. This I say is manifestly the general scope of the passage which I have taken from the epistle of the day for our present consideration.

The inspired teacher, while he reminds his disciples of the full instruction, which they received from him


self and his colleagues as to the manner in which they ought to walk and to please God, is not content with enforcing a constant adherence to that Christian rule of life, but is very urgent with them that they should abound in the exemplification of it more and more. He expresses his anxiety that they should not only bring forth the fruits of their faith without failing, but also in continual increase and abundance-that they should make daily advances in the acquirement of those graces and the discharge of those obligations to which they had been called by their conversion from heathen darkness to Christian light.

Such is the lesson which St. Paul here presses upon the church of the Thessalonians. Let us now consider its application to ourselves.

If any

one should be inclined to suppose, that because we are not like those early believers, new converts to Christ, or because the Gospel has sounded in our ears from our earliest childhood, we have, therefore, nothing to learn from it, the notion would admit of too ob


accession and improvement. In this
respect it exhibits nothing but what is
analagous to the other attainments
which lie within the reach of our facul-
ties. Nor let it be objected that this
comparison is out of place, for while
we have our being in a soil which con-
nects our souls most closely and inti-
mately with our bodies, some consi-
derable similarity must reasonably be
expected to subsist between our bodily
and spiritual concerns, our worldly and
our religious capacities.

vious and too complete a refutation.
The mere theory, indeed, of our faith
is easy of apprehension; and igno-
rance in this respect can be attri-
buted only to a gross neglect of those
means of spiritual knowledge which
are placed within the reach of every
one of us, and it must be classed with
that wilful ignorance against which,
be it remembered, the word of God in
many places has denounced wrath and
punishment. Christianity has no
doctrines to be kept back from the
world at large and communicated to a
few favoured adepts alone. There is
no saving truth belonging to it which
the most unlearned person that now
hears me may not sufficiently under-
stand; and God forbid that the minis-
ters of religion should ever be otherwise
than most willing and ready to assist
those who desire their assistance in
coming to such an understanding. But
the knowledge of Jesus Christ and him
crucified, that knowledge for the excel-
lency of which St. Paul counted all
things but loss, is something far higher
in its nature, far more extensive in its
influence, far more powerful in its ope-
ration than a simple acquaintance with
the terms of salvation as they are pro-quity who left us this record,
posed to man in the Gospel. It has he went on in the continual acquire-
its seat in the heart rather than in the ment of much knowledge," displayed
understanding, though not to the ex- thereby, to the honour of our nature
clusion of the latter, and consists in be it spoken, not a singular disposi-
practice rather than in speculation. tion; and who would withhold the due
Its use and application extend to tribute of praise from those, who pos-
every variety of human circumstances. sessing leisure and qualifications for
It manifests its reality by its mighty such studies, have scorned to grovel in
effects on the moral character and con- the pursuit of mere sensual gratifica-
duct of those with whom it resides. tions, and have directed themselves to
Such is its true nature, and such does the cultivation and improvement of
it appear to us in that book, in which that far better part of their constitu-
alone it is fully pourtrayed.
tion, their minds? The desires, of
Judge, now, whether this be a pos- which these are the workings, are of
session to be gained once for all, ab-heavenly birth, and exhibit traces of
solutely, fully, and satisfactorily. On the divine image originally impressed
the contrary, it manifestly, and from on man.
the very nature of it admits of various
gradations, and is capable of continual

Now to pass over minor pursuits, in which, however, those who are devoted to them make daily advances, what splendid instances to our present purpose are at hand in the widely extended ranges of human learning and science? How easily would it be to accumulate the names of men who have laboured here with a perseverance that no difficulties could exhaust, with an ambition that no advancement could satisfy, unceasingly heaping acquisition on acquisition, no sooner setting foot on one resting place than eager to proceed to another, and proposing no end to their toilsome progress but that of life itself. That wise man of anti"That

But it must not be forgotten that there are other ends to which these

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energies should be yet more earnestly | ward of it shall fail among the spirits directed, other objects far more worthy of just men made perfect. And these, of the aspiration and exertion of an im- be it particularly observed, are acquimortal being. Howmuchsoever those sitions not like the others to which we who are unwearied in their endeavours have adverted, limited to a few gifted to enlarge the empire of human science or favoured ones, but attainable by all, may be entitled to our admiration, however circumstanced who are walkthey have a much stronger claim to it ing in the open field of Christian duty. who are constantly extending the king- While these men glory in daily multidom of God within them; in other plying intellectual pursuits which at the words, who are daily endeavouring to very time of their increase are hastening become better and holier and more to their total extinction, at least, as far Christian-like. Whatever may be the as the present possessor is concerned, is value of new ground gained in the field of it reasonable, is it consistent to add secular learning, it dwindles into no- nothing to the imperishable treasures thing when compared with the advances of Christian virtue? While there are in that learning for the promotion of those who can never take their fill of which, we are told, that the Scriptures earthly wisdom, in the best sense of were written it is a mere trifle if it the expression, is it worthy our imbe considered with reference to pro- mortal destiny that we should rest sagress, in what the Apostle in his strong tisfied with any fixed and definite meafigurative language calls, "Learning sure, however large, of the wisdom Christ." That which commonly passes which descendeth from above, and reunder the name of learning, be its turneth again? Such, however, is the value what it may for awhile, must opinion which we are too apt to entersoon finally determine, or at least, be tain, such is the conduct which we are swallowed up and lost in something too often content to adopt. There is a infinitely greater; and as to any fruit spiritual indolence about us which init may produce to us in a future duces us to repose in self-complacency state that will depend not on itself but in our spiritual attainments, whisperon the purpose to which it shall have ing a persuasion that it is enough if been applied. But if we learn of Him we do not recede, and that to advance who offered, and still offers himself to is no part of our duty. We are readily mankind as a meek and lowly and yet disposed to forget how extremely difan authoritative teacher, if we train ficult it is in such a case to remain ourselves in conformity to the revealed stationary, and how naturally it is in will of our Saviour and our God, this all acquirements originally attended is the learning which will endure with difficulty, particularly in moral through all eternity. "Let us learn," and religious habits, to begin to go said one of the Fathers, "let us learn back when we cease to go forward. those lessons on earth, the knowledge Time moves on perpetually while our of which may remain with us in salvation stands still we grow older heaven;" and we are reminded by far without becoming wiser and better, higher authority than this, "That and death calls us to our account not tongues shall cease, and knowledge more fully prepared for it than if our shall vanish away; but charity," under probationary course had been cut off which name, in the language of Scrip- years before. ture, all Christian practice is sometimes comprehended, "charity never faileth;" neither the habit nor the re

Now, let us not flatter ourselves, that this is a point on which we are left at liberty to follow our own de

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