« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
doth for the children of men,' he is in a strait between two: he knows not which way to turn: he cannot speak : he dares not be silent It may be, for a time he keeps bis mouth with a bridle; he holds his peace even from good. But his heart is hot within him, and constrains him at length, to declare what God hath wrought. And this he then doth in all simplicity, with great plainness of speech,' desiring only to commend himself to him, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins : and, (whether his words are the savour of life or of death to others) to have that witness in himself, as of sincerity, as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ. If any man counts this boasting, he cannot help it. It is enough, that a higher Judge standeth at the door.
3. But you may say, "Why do you talk of the success of the gospel in England, which was a Christian country before you were born?' Was it indeed? Is it so at this day? I would explain myself a little on this head also.
And, 1. None can deny, that the people of England, in general, are called Christians. They are called so, a few only excepted, by others, as well as by themselves. But I presume no man will say, that the name makes the thing ; that men are Christians, barely because they are called so. It must be, 2. allowed, that the people of England, generally speaking, have been christened or baptized. But neither can we infer, these were once baptized; therefore they are Christians now. It is, 3. allowed, that many of those who were once baptized, and are called Christians to this day, hear the word of God, attend public prayers, and partake of the Lord's supper. But neither does this prove, that they are Christians. For notwithstanding this, some of them live in open sin: and others (though not conscious to themselves of hypocrisy, yet) are utter strangers to the religion of the heart : are full of pride, vanity, covetousness, ambition; of hatred, anger, malice, or envy; and consequently, are no more scriptural Christians, than the open dr kard or common swearer. Now these being removed, where are the Christians,
from whom we may properly term England a Christian country. The men who have the mind which was in Christ, and who walk as he also walked? Whose inmost soul is renewed after the image of God; and who are outwardly holy, as he who hath called them is boly? There are doubtless a few such to be found. To deny this would be want of candour. But how few! How thinly scattered up and down! And as for a Christian, visible church, or a body of Christians, visibly united together, where is this to be seen !
Ye different sects, who all declare,
And shew me, where the Christians live! And what use is it of, what good end does it serve, to term England a Christian country? (although it is true, most of the natives are called Christians, have been baptized, frequent the ordinances : and although a real Christian is here and there to be found, as a light shining in a dark place :') Does it do any honour to our great Master among those who are not called by his Name? Does it recommend Christianity to the Jews, the Mahometans, or the avowed Heathens ? Sure no one can conceive it does. It only makes Christianity stink in their nostrils. Does it answer any good end with regard to those on whom this worthy name is called? I fear not; but rather an exceeding bad one. For does it not keep multitudes easy in their Heathen practice. Does it not make or keep still greater numbers satisfied with their Heathen tempers. Does it not directly tend to make both the one and the other imagine, that-they are what indeed they are not? That they are Christians, while they are utterly without Christ, and without God in the world ?--To close this point: if men are not Christians, till they are renewed after the image of Christ, and if the people of England in general are not thus renewed, why do we term them so ?" The God of this world hath long blinded their hearts.' Let us do nothing to increase that blindness : but rather labour to recover them
from that strong delusion, that they may no longer believe a lie,
4. Let us labour to convince all mankind, that to be a real Christian, is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and to serve him with all our strength; to love our neighbour as ourselves, and therefore do unto every man as we would he should do unto us. “ Nay,” you say, “ had you confined yourselves to these great points, there would have been no objection against your doctrine. But the doctrines
you have distinguished yourselves by--are not the love of God and man, but many false and pernicious errors,” p. 104.
I have again and again, with all the plainness I could, declared what our constant doctrines are; whereby we are distinguished only from Heathens or nominal Christians; not from any that worship God in spirit and in truth. Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three, that of repentance, of faith, and of holiness. The first of these we account, as it were, the porch of religion; the next, the door ; the third religion itself. That repentance, or conviction of sin, which is always previous to faith, (either in a higher or lower degree, as it pleases God,) we describe in words to this effect :
When men feel in themselves the heavy burden of sin, see damnation to be the reward of it, behold with the eye of their mind the horror of hell: they tremble, they quake, and are inwardly touched with sorrowfulness of heart, and cannot but accuse themselves, and open their grief unto Almighty God, and call unto him for mercy. This being done seriously, their mind is so occupied, partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with an earnest desire to be delivered from this danger of hell and damnation, that all desire of meat and drink is laid apart, and loathing of all worldly things and pleasure cometh in place. So that nothing then liketh them more, than to weep, to lament, to mourn, and both with words and behaviour of body, to shew themselves weary of life.'
Now permit me to ask, what if before you had observed, that these were the very words of our own church, one of your acquaintance or parishioners had come and told
you, that ever since he heard a sermon at the Foundry, he saw damnation before him, and beheld with the eye of his mind the horror of hell ? What, if he had trembled and quaked, and been so taken up, partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with an earnest desire to be delivered from the danger of hell and damnation, as to weep, to lament, to mourn, and both with words and behaviour to shew himself weary of life? Would you have scrupled to say, Here is another deplorable instance of the Methodists driving men to distraction! “See, into what excessive terrors, frights, doubts, and perplexities, they throw weak and well-meaning men! Quite oversetting their understandings and judgments, and making them liable to all these miseries."
I dare not refrain from adding one plåin question, which I beseech you to answer, not to me, but to God. Have you ever experienced this repentance yourself? Did you ever feel in yourself that heavy burden of sin? Of sin in general; more especially, inward sin ? Of pride, anger, lust, vanity ? Of (what is all sin in one) that carnal mind, which is enmity, essential enmity against God? Do you know hy experience what it is, To behold with the eye of the mind the horror of hell? Was your mind ever so taken up, partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with an earnest desire to be delivered from this danger of hell and damnation, that even all desire of meat and drink was taken
away, and you
loathed all worldly things and pleasure? Surely if
you had known, what it is, to have the arrows of the Almighty thus sticking fast in you, you could not so lightly have condemned those who now cry out, The pains of hell come about me: the sorrows of death compass me, and the overflowings of ungodliness make me afraid.
5. Concerning the gate of religion, (if I may be allowed so to speak,) the true, Christian, saving faith, we believe it implies abundantly more than an assent to the truth of the
Bible. Even the devils believe, that Christ was born of a virgin; that he wrought all kinds of miracles ; that for our sakes he suffered a most painful death to redeem us from death everlasting. These articles of our faith the very devils believe, and so they believe all that is written in the Old and New Testament. And yet for all this faith, they be but devils. They remain still in their damnable estate, lacking the very true Christian faith. The right and true Christian faith is, Not only to believe that the holy Scriptures and the articles of our faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting damnation through Christ.' Perhaps it may be expressed more clearly thus, 'A sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that by the merits of Christ bis sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God.'
For giving this account of Christian faith, (as well as the preceding account of repentance, both which I have here: also purposely described, in the very terms of the Homilies,) I have been again and again, for near these eight years past, accused of enthusiasm : sometimes by those who spoke to my face, either in conversation, or from the pulpit: but more frequently by those who chose to speak in my absence; and not seldom from the press. I wait for those who judge this to be enthusiasm, to bring forth their strong reasons. Till then, I must continue to account all these, the words of truth and soberness.
5. Religion itself, (I choose to use the very words, wherein I described it long ago,) we define, The loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves, and in that love abstaining from all evil, and doing all possible good to all men.' The same meaning we have sometimes expressed a little more at large, thus : Religion we conceive to be no other than love; the love of God and of all mankind: the loving God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, as having first loved us, as the fountain of all the good we have received, and of all we ever hope to enjoy : and the loving every soul which God hath made, every man on earth as our own soul.