« הקודםהמשך »
was life-knowledge. That is the only knowledge that invests the soul
What can we know of spiritual life without it? A famous military surgeon once got hold of a subject with a wound in his side so extraordinary, that after it was healed by an almost miracle, there remained an opening into the stomach, through which articles of food could be introduced, and the process of digestion by the gastric juice could in some respects be watched as it went on. Did it help him in the least to understand the mystery of life ? Or could the sight of another man's digestion, or the scientific study of the phenomena, give the observer any hold upon the living principle, any command over it, or supply the exercise of it in his own vital organs? If this be a somewhat crude and rude illustration, it is nevertheless powerful. No external knowledge will supply the place of inward experience and life. Neither the analysis of the elements of truth, nor the sight of its effect upon others, will ever enable us to understand it as life, without ourselves eating it, taking it up into the spiritual circulation, and possessing the life of the Spirit within us. If, as with Paul, it please God “to reveal his Son in us that we might preach him," then we are prepared to preach him, but not otherwise ; and this preparation with us must be as entirely and originally by the Spirit of God as it was with Paul, or we are wholly ignorant of the living Word, and of all living theology.
The sermons of Dr. Walker, here presented anew, are living truth. They are much occupied with Christ and his glory ; his glory in himself, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and the glory of their inheritance in him. They also search the heart, both of the sinner and the saint, the converted and the unconverted, and they sweetly illustrate and commend the various branches of Christian experience and duty. There is nothing redundant or superfluous, either in style, thought, or imagery, but every thing is appropriate, and every thing tells.
tance of it to the ministers of Christ, are Preached in the High Church of Edinburgh, May discourse.
the purposes aimed at in the following 5, 1761, at the opening of the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale.
The first thing that demands our attention, is the amiable temper expressed
in these words : Now we live, if ye stand 1 THESSALONIANS MI. 8.—“For now we live, if fast in the Lord. ye stand fast in the Lord.”
The general meaning of the passage is obvious: It contains
an obliging and The author of this epistle is introduced spirited declaration of the apostle's good. into the sacred history with other senti- will to the Christians at Thessalonica. ments and views than these words express. But if we attend to his situation when he He makes his first appearance at a scene wrote this epistle, and place ourselves in of blood, consenting to the death of a holy the circumstances of those to whom it martyr, and keeping the raiment of them was addressed, we shall feel an emphasis that slew him. Soon after, we hear of in the word now, that gives a surprising him making havoc of the church of Christ addition both to the tenderness and dig. in Jerusalem, entering into every house, nity of his sentiment and expression. and dragging both men and women to pri- Had the time referred to been a season; nay, such was the excess and fury son of prosperity; had Paul, in the height of his zeal, that, breathing out threaten- of worldly felicity, meant no more than ings and slaughter against the disciples of to assure the Thessalonians, that amidst the Lord, he persecuted them even unto all his affluence, he kindly remembered strange cities: “I verily thought,” said them; and though at present beyond the he, in the presence of Agrippa," that I need of wishing any thing for himself, yet ought to do many things contrary to the that the report of their steadfastness, and name of Jesus of Nazareth." But here the hope of its continuance, had made a we behold a new creature indeed! What considerable addition to his happiness, and things were formerly gain to Paul, these heightened his relish for the good things he counts loss for Christ; the once hated he possessed : even upon this supposition, name of Jesus is now become dearer to I apprehend, the particle now, would justly him than life itself; and he who in times be deemed emphatical, and worthy to be past persecuted the saints, now glories in accented. the cross, and preaches the faith he had But with what force must it strike us, endeavored to destroy.
when we find that it refers to a season of In my text, he discovers a temper of adversity! Paul, at the time of writing most distinguished excellence; a temper, this epistle, was a poor, afflicted, solitary my reverend Fathers and Brethren, which man ; banished from his friends, living I hope we shall not barely applaud, but among strangers, laboring with his own earnestly covet and endeavor, by the grace hands for a scanty subsistence, and destiof God, to possess.
tute of almost every earthly comfort. To unfold the peculiar excellence of All this the Thessalonians knew full this temper, and to illustrate the impor- I well. With grief they had beheld, his sufferings in their own city, when the beauty, belonging to it, superior to any unbelieving Jews, moved with envy, took thing that is commonly celebrated by that unto them certain lewd fellows of the name among men. Would we behold baser sort," and raised such an uproar, as heroism in its fairest and most exalted obliged them to send him away by night form, instead of looking for it among those into Berea. They further knew, that the whom the world hath styled heroes, we same unbelieving and envious Jews, upon shall succeed far better if we turn our eyes hearing that he preached with success at to Paul of Tarsus. Berea, had followed him thither also, and Where shall we find such determined so inflamed the multitude against him, courage, such cool intrepidity, and conthat he found it necessary to retire as far tempt of danger, as in this good and faithas Athens, to get beyond the reach of his ful soldier of Christ ? "Behold,” said unrelenting persecutors. Judge then with he to the elders of the church at Ephesus, what emotion they would read this strong, “ Behold, I go bound in the spirit unto this endearing profession of his concern Jerusalem, not knowing the things that for their welfare; they who, under God, shall befall me there; save that the Holy owed their conversion to his ministry, and Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, to whom, as I just now observed, his past that bonds and afflictions abide me. But sufferings on their own account, and his none of these things move me, neither present distress, were perfectly known. count I my life dear unto myself, so that
He had told them a little before, that I may finish my course with joy, and the the bitterest ingredient in all his afflic- ministry which I have received of the tions, was the apprehension he had, that Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the his sufferings might have a tendency to grace of God.”--Acts xx. 22. shake their faith, and to prejudice their With what invincible fortitude did he minds against the gospel of Christ : “For triumph over adversity in every frightful this cause," says he, “I sent to know your shape! with what noble freedom and infaith, lest, by some means, the tempter dependence of spirit, did he exult amidst have tempted you, and our labor be in those sufferings of which human nature vain. But when Timotheus returned, and hath the greatest abhorrence ! brought us good tidings of your faith and unto this hour,” says he in his letters to charity, we were comforted over you, in the Corinthians, " we both hunger and all our affliction and distress, by your thirst, and are buffeted, and have no cerfaith.” And then he adds, For now, even tain dwelling-place; we are made as the at this present time, distressed and afflict- filth of the world, and are the offscouring ed as we are, yet now we live, if ye stand of all things unto this day. fast in the Lord.
troubled on every side, yet not distressed; Here then the purest zeal for the hon. we are preplexed, but not in despair; or of his Master, and the most generous persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, love to the souls of men, are happily but not destroyed; as deceivers, and yet united, and feelingly expressed in the true; as unknown, and yet well known; native language of a warm and upright as dying, and behold we live ; as chastenheart. I say the purest zeal and the ed, and not killed ; as sorrowful, yet al. most generous love; for no tincture of sel- ways rejoicing; as poor, yet making many fishness appears in either : if Christ is rich; as having nothing, and yet possessglorified, if men are saved, Paul obtains ing all things.” his utmost wish; his happiness is inde- And what was it that supported and pendent of every thing else; he enjoys all enlivened his mind under such a load of that in his own estimation is worthy to be complicated distress? Hear the account accounted life, if his spiritual children he gave of it to Timothy, which exactly stand fast in the Lord.
agrees with the declaration in my text: And is not this a temper of most dis-“ I endure all things for the elect's sake, tinguished excellence? When I called it that they also may obtain the salvation amiable, I only spoke the half of its which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal praise; it hath a dignity, as well as a glory.”—2 Tim. ii. 10. Paul denied him- .
We are pos
self for the good of others, and cheerfully God may enable us to deliver his message renounced every temporal interest to pro- with becoming warmth and propriety, for mote the eternal happiness of men. the sake of those committed to our care;
With what a graceful mixture of ma- and his word, though uttered by unhaljesty and meekness does he appeal to the lowed lips, may enter with power and efThessalonians in the foregoing part of this ficacy into the hearts of our hearers. It epistle!“ Our exhortation was not of de- is an awful truth, that if we measure ourceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile : but selves either by our manner of performing, as we are allowed of God to be put in or even by the effects that follow our pubtrust with the gospel, even so we speak, lic ministrations, we shall often be liable not as pleasing men, but God, which tri- to err very fatally. Paul thought it eth our hearts. For neither at any time sible that one might preach to the saving used we flattering words, as ye know, nor of others, and after all be a cast-away; a cloak of covetousness; God is witness : and I can easily conceive, that the preachnor of men sought we glory, neither of ing to others may, through want of attenyou, nor yet of others; but we were gentle tion on our part, be in some measure the among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her cause of it. The assistance afforded us in children: so, being affectionately desirous our Master's work, may lead us to form a of you, we were willing to have imparted better opinion of our spiritual condition unto you, not the gospel only, but our own than is either reasonable or safe; and souls also, because ye were dear to us. therefore we have greater need to look For what is our hope, our joy, our crown frequently and narrowly into our hearts, of rejoicing, are not even ye, in the pre- lest the gifts we receive for the use of the sence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his com-church should pass with us for those pecuing? for ye are our glory and joy." liar graces of the Spirit, which prove our
And what can attract our love, what adoption into the family of God, and mancan merit our esteem, what can excite our ifest our title to the heavenly inheritance. admiration, if such a temper doth not? But did our souls burn with that ferA temper which, to all the magnanimity vent zeal for the glory of God, and that of the hero, unites all the piety and benev- vehement thirst for salvation of men, which olence of the saint.
fired the generous breast of this apostle, But it will not avail us barely to esteem we should be in no danger of judging too or admire this temper : it is necessary, my favorably of ourselves. Such high aims Brethren, that we ourselves be possessed would cause our most vigorous efforts to of it. I shall therefore proceed, as I pro- appear so little in our own eyes, that, inposed, in the
stead of yielding fuel to our pride, they Second place, To illustrate the impor- would rather afford us matter of self-abasetance of this excellent temper; the pecu- ment, as bearing no proportion, either to liar importance of it to the ministers of the duty we owe, or the exalted felicity to Christ. And,
which we aspire. Conscious of our weak1st. It is of importance to guard us ness, how earnestly should we then address against that self-deceit to which, of all God for the influences of his Spirit, to aid men in the world, we are most exposed. us in our work, and to impart virtue and The office we hold removes us at a greater efficacy to the means we employ! And, distance than other men from any of those at the same time, with what holy severity temptations to gross and scandalous sins, should we examine the most secret receswhich wound the conscience, and divulge ses of our hearts, lest any root of bitterthe secret corruptions of the heart; so ness should find indulgence there, that that mere decency of conduct may pass might either unfit us for service, or mar with us for real sanctity; and what is our usefulness, by provoking God to withpurely the effect of restraint from without, hold that grace upon which both our abilmay be mistaken by us for the product of ity and success depend ! a new nature within. Besides, the stated 2dly. The importance of this temper duties that belong to our office frequently will further appear from the influence it contribute to cherish this presumption. would have upon our public ministrations. It would make us better preachers as well only feel to purpose, and then we shall as better men.
speak with propriety and energy. Did we, We should never be at a loss for pro- like Paul, travail as in birth till Christ per subjects of discourse. This, you were formed in the souls of men, would must be sensible, is not always the case. not our tongue be as the pen of a ready Most of us, I suppose, will have the can- writer ? Did we consider that we speak dor to acknowledge, that we have fre- in the name of God; that we speak to the quently spent more time in seeking a text, creatures of God; to them, I say, and not than might reasonably have sufficed to merely before them; that we publish those compose a sermon; and we shall probably truths by which only they can be saved, find, upon a fair recollection, that this and proclaim that law by which they shall waste of time has happened most common- be judged ; did we consider that they and ly when we set out in preparing for our we are fast hastening to judgment, and public work, with no other view than to that neither of us can know how soon the make a sermon. Fancy is a roving ca. summons of removal may be put into our pricious guide; but, when necessity pre- hands; what shall I say? would not Eliscribes, it always speaks with precision. hu's situation become ours, when he thus We may know with certainty what our expressed himself, “ I am full of matter, people need, when we can only imperfect the spirit within me constraineth me: bely guess at what will please them; so that, hold my belly is as wine that hath no vent; did the necessities of our hearers get the it is ready to burst like new bottles; I disposal of our studies, we should seldom will speak that I may be refreshed.” hesitate long in the choice of our sub- Job xxxii
. 18, 19, 20. Nay, my brethren, jects; and, give me leave to add, we with such great objects in our eye, we should more frequently preach the same should not only speak, but we should speak necessary truths, and press them from as Elihu resolved to do in the following time to time, with redoubled earnestness, part of the quotation, we should speak till they appeared to have obtained their with an honest and impartial freedom; for full effect upon the hearts of those com- thus he goes on ;.“ Let me not, I pray you, mitted to our care.
accept any man's person, neither let me Nor is this all. The temper I am re- give flattering titles unto man; for I know commending would assist us in forming not to give flattering titles; in so doing, and pronouncing our sermons, no less my Maker would soon take me away." than in choosing the most profitable sub- 3dly. This temper would likewise have jects. As it would reject all useless, un- a happy influence upon all the parts of our edifying speculations, so it would effectu- external conduct. We should not think ally banish those gaudy ornaments which it enough to abstain from evil; we should too often put the preacher in the place of carefully avoid every thing that had the his text; or, as one hath well expressed appearance of evil, that our conduct might it, serve only to evaporate weighty truths, have nothing in it of a doubtful nature, and to make them appear as light as the nothing ambiguous, or that needed to be style.
Had we no other aim than to explained. He lives, alas ! at a poor rate, guide our hearers in the way of heaven, and far below the dignity of his sacred ofperspicuity and persuasion would then be- fice, who is frequently put to it to vindicome the sole objects of our attention; cate his conduct, and to prove that he and these, I apprehend, are more within hath not exceeded his Christian liberty. every man's reach than is commonly ima- A minister of Christ ought to go before gined. I never knew any person much at his people in every thing that is true, just, a loss, feelingly and intelligibly, to im- pure, lovely, and of good report. His part to others what he greatly feared, or light ought to shine in the eyes of men; loved, or hated. Rules of art have their nay, to shine with such strength, that they use ; but though art hath collected rules, may see his good works, and be constrainit was Nature that furnished them. Both ed to glorify his Father in heaven. order and elocution are the offspring of a A holy life is the most persuasive serwarm and understanding heart. Let us mon, expressed too in a language which