« VorigeDoorgaan »
his natural strength of mind, and his apostolic zeal for the good of souls. There is no attempt at fine writing: he evidently is above the use of any such art: he sees bis subject clearly, is impressed with its importance, and expresses himself simply and strongly. No one, we feel assured, could depart from hearing, or rise from reading his Sermons without apprehending his meaning, and carrying away, in judgment and understanding, if not in heart, something of what he wished to convey.
His first Sermon is upon Revelation iii. 16. “I would thou wert either cold or hot,”
He enters upon his subject at once : he spends none of his precious moments; he fatigues not the attention of his hearers with any thing peculiar to Laodicea, but occupies both himself and his hearers with their own case:
“Lukewarmness was not peculiar to the Laodiceans. It belongs to every age, and the infection is this moment amongst ourselves. Who then is the lukewarm?” -p. l.
Having answered this question in a way to lay the charge at the door of many of those who thought most highly of themselves, an. who have appeared outwardly righteous before men, he says,
“While the world looks on, perhaps, and almost worships bim as an idol, God may look down and rank bim lower, and mark him for deeper damnation than he does the wretch who drinks in impurity like water, or than he does the midnight ruffian who ends a life of crimes upon the scaffold."--p.3.
In the succeeding pages, he, with his own peculiar originality of thought, and strength of language, supports this first position, which many might at first have thought untenable; and thus, at length sums up his comparison between the lukewarm and the more openly criminal.
“They are both ungrateful to the kindest benefactor, the most generous of all friends. But surely the deepest shade of baseness and degeneracy belongs not to the conscious wretch who fiies affrighted from bis presence, but to the man who, on settled principle, witbbolds the feelings of his heart from God, who makes a calm and deliberate distribution, gives part to the world, and presents the impious offering of the rest to heaven."--p.6.
Mr. Woodward's next argument against the lukewarm is, that the means of recovery from that state are peeuliarly difficult.
“While the open offender sins against his conscience, and carries about him a monitor, who, though unbeeded, warns him, the lukewarm rejects the Gospel, with the sanction of his own judgment. Guarded by distinction, and by worldly prejudice, the lukewarm shuns those snares, and escapes those miseries, wbicb, nevertheless, olten arrest us in a course of sin, and call the penitent back to God. The outcast from the pale of human intercourse, fainting on the deep waters, and buffeting with the waves of infamy and destitution, is sometimes drawn by these very extremities, to the throne of grace. He feels his lost estate- he flies for pardon to the blood of Jesus-be calls on God in his trouble, and he delivers him out of his distress.”. p. 7.8.
But, perhaps, the most striking part of the Sermon is, where he shews the evils that the lukewarm are the instruments of inflicting VOL. IV.
upon others. In most energetic language, he draws a picture of a sinner convinced of his guilt, and crying out, “What must I do to be saved ?" and the injury he in this state receives from contact with the lukewarm.
“Every expedient is tried : every engine is set at work, to persuade the unhappy sinner that all his scruples were but fancies : to ply him with business, or hurry him on with what are called amusements, till all these fancies are indeed forgotten- till the struggle is over, and the soul goes down again into the darkness of this present world.”--p. 9.
Mr. Woodward is excellent in his description of the only effectual remedy for the evil of lukewarmness:
“Yes, there is one consideration which can act when every other fails, and which, to them that believe, is the power of God unto salvation, I mean the sufferings and death of the Redeenier. It was to win our affections, and to gain our hearts, that Christ is set forth in these unerring pages as emphatically “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, as enduring all the extremities of a hard and afflicted lot of distress, contempt, indignity, and pain. Yes, my brethren, read these words for yourselves : bebold, then, and see if'any sorrow was like unto his sorrow.' The question then, is, do you really believe that Christ has drunk to the dregs, this cup of misery? Do you believe that he has borne all his pains and agonies for you? Do you believe and acknowledge bim to be your Saviour and your God? What suitableness then, in the measured movements of the lukewarm, to such inconceivable, overwhelming obligations ?"p. 15.
We could wish the whole of this Sermon read with attention, by those formalists who are afraid of being righteous over much.
Wr. Woodward's second Sermon is on the happiness of Heaven, from Ps. xvi. 11.
“ Thou wilt shew me the path of life : in lby presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
It is evidently the production of a truly pious spiritual man, whose mind has been deeply exercised on heavenly subjects. He first considers the negative bappiness of heaven, or what it is not, and then proceeds to consider its positive happiness, or what it is.
Its negative happiness, he supposes to consist in “deliverance from a body of corruption-in there being no more death-no more sin.” Its positive happiness is learned in those parts of Scripture which represent it under the most captivating forms of moral pleasure—which speak of its green pastures, its clear fountains, its rivers of pleasure, its tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. The state of blessedness is in other places likened to a city, and its brilliancy and magnificence described, as in Rev. xxi. 22, in terms of the most splendid sublimity as another source of happiness is found in the happy society of the heavenly régions, “ the innumerable company of angels, the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and the spirits of the just made perfect.” In this part he is so truly. eloquent, so tender, and so animated, that we cannot refuse ourselves the pleasure of transcribing his own words:
“In the Jerusalem above, all jarring interests, all selfish and discordant passions are unknown. None but the sons of peace shall enter there, None shall strive or cry ; neither shall any one lift up his voice in the streets. Brethren shall dwell together in unity--all will be of one heart and one mind. Nor will it be a small part of our happiness, to see there face to face, the illustrious dead, whose praise is recorded in Scripture – Patriarchs, Propbets, and Apostles, all who have walked with God on earth, or suffered for the testimony of Jesus. To see there, perhaps, the man, who by his writings converted us from the paths of sin ; who, by his example, or his faithful reproofs, plucked us as brands out of the burning. And amongst the multitudes which no man can number, what joyful meetings, what blessed re-unions will there be, between those who were bound to one another in life, as friends of God, and fellow-soldiers of the cross-between parents, who had watched and wept, and prayed over their children's souls; and children, who had trod in their parents' steps, and followed their good example-between all those, in a word, who, united in the faith of a Redeemer, were pleasant to each other in life, and in death were not divided. They shall hail one another on that happy shore ; they shall call to mind the dangers anú deliverances of life's tempestuous voyage; adore together, that merciful hand, which unseen had led them all by their allotted courses, to the land of everlasting life." —pp. 26, 27.
Our truly pious Author does not forget, in the catalogue of heaven's blessedness, that which indeed constitutes the
heaven of heavens, the presence of the beloved, of him who is altogether lovely, the chief among ten thousand :
“ In that world wbere friends sball meet, it will be the blessed privilege of all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity, to meet tható friend who sticketb closer than a brother.' Who can conceive and estimate that exceeding weight of joy, with which the faithful flock sball hail their triumphant Shepherd when he appears in glory ? When the standard of the cross shall beam with unsufferable brightness from all the towers and the battlements of heaven! When the dead, small and great, shall stand before the Son of God; and when, from the awful judgment seat, he shall look down with unutterable love upon the humblest soul that was faithful to him in life, and from amidst the dazzling glories that surround him shall say, 'It is 1, be not afraid~ Fear not: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”
We shall take our leave of these excellent sermons of Mr. Woodward, by noticing the earnest and evangelic way in which he offers this heaven's blessedness to all his hearers :
“ My brethren, these realms of everlasting joy are not displayed in Scripture to tantalize you with forbidden fruit; they are the inheritance of every one of you who will accept the mercies freely offered to you.
“Hopeless, indeed, would be our condition, if in our own strength we had to tread the upward path which leads to this blessed mansion; or pay down, as the price of our admission, the ten thousand talents wbich we owe to God. But the Scriptures assure us, that the full price of our entrance into heaven is paid ; that our sins, though red as crimson, as the sands on the sea-shore innumerable, are expiated by the blood of Christ: that entire forgiveness is purchased for the guilty and the lost ; that the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers; that all may now come to the waters of salvation; may come and buy wine and milk without money and without price. All that is required on our part, is to repent and believe the Gospel ; to come unto him wbo is the way, and the truth, and the life; t town and to receive him as our great cieliverer from both the power and the punis 'ontossin.". p. 31,32.
We have read these sermons with much pleasure; and we hope with profit; and when we imagine them delivered with all the powerful assistance of Mr. Woodward's most impressive manner, we can easily conceive them producing an almost electric effect upon
his hearers. The third sermon is from the Rev. P. Roe, the excellent and beloved Rector of St. Mary's, Kilkenny; a man who has been for many years a burning and a shining light; and who has been eminently blessed in opening many eyes, and turning many hearts from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. The text of his discourse is taken from Eccles. vii. 13, 14.
“ Consider the work of God: for wlio can make that straight which he bath made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider. God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.”
After making some rather lengthened preliminary observations, he proceeds to shew, from the words of the text, first, what is to be understood as the work of God; 2dly, the improbability of altering or defeating his purposes ; 3dly, the duty incumbent on man to be satisfied with his lot; and, lastly, the necessity and advantage of consideration.
After noticing various significations of the expression, the work of God, he concludes that in the text it is evidently used to point out to us the infinitely wise arrangement of all the situations and circumstances of the sons of men; that the bounds of their habitation are marked out by him to whom all things in earth and heaven owe their existence :
-“A conviction of the wisdom which devised those works, and of the harmony which reigns through them all, is not,” says be, “ the result of superficial observation, but of researches made with humility and diligence, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit; whose influence is as necessary to enable us to glorify God for the wonders of his providence as of bis grace.” p. 47.
After dwelling shortly upon his second head, the impossibility of altering or defeating the purposes of God, he comes to the principal head of his discourse, the duty of man to be satisfied with his lot--which gives him an opportunity of stating the real condition of
" A sinner by nature and bý practice, man dezerves ro blessing from his Makerhe can lay no claim to a continuance of present mercies; nor has he, in himself, any ground to hope for fresh ones : of course, every thing he enjoys is unmerited; it is the free gift of God, and whatever his band bestows, it can in a moment take away. Is it for such a being as this to be dissatisfied with wbat be possesses, because others possess more ? Is it for him to compare bis mercies with his supposed merits, and to maintain that the latter are outnumbered by the former ? Is it for him to think that be is bardly dealt with, while oppressed by pain, hunger, or tbirst, when a moment's reflection ought to convince bim, that any thing short of hell is a blessing ?” p. 51.
Mr. Roe then proceeds to remark, that men are often discontented because they make a false estimate of happiness: they know not the real use to be made of life,
“Life,” says he, “is a great blessing, although it may be accompanied with many anxious cares and oppressive afflictions. It is during life that the preached Gospel is heard; that the sinner is made acquainted with the wages of iniquity, and is instructed to seek deliverance out of the hands of his enemies ; that he is to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ; that he is to entertain the hope which will be realized in the eternal world.”
How we could wish to see this just estimate of life, generally received and acted upon : what an influence it would have in soothing the cares, and alleviating the sorrows of life. We shall conclude our extracts from this very useful sermon, with one which speaks the Author's sentiments as well as our own as to what would make a man contented with his lot :
“ The heart must be changed hy the grace of God before it can rejoice in tribulation, and testify that 'tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope :' and it is through the belief of the Gospel, that this change is effected. The Gospel points out to man a refug e from the storms of divine wrath, and a hope in the midst of all the terrors which sin bas cast round his guilty soul, by announcing to him that an herald of mercy has winged bis way from the courts of heaven, to undertake his restoration to the favor of God-to make the atonement wbich was necessary in order to effect it; and to become the new and living way in wbich he is to walk, through all the cares and torments of life, to his beavenly rest."-p. 55. Speaking of those who believe this Gospel, he says,
They are indeed a peculiar people, and it becometh them to be thankful; they possess a joy which a stranger intermeddleth not with ; but as its origin is heavenly, so is its influence, and all who possess it are made independent of the precarious and vapid pleasures of a world which lieth in wickedness. It is thus a high privilege to see the hand of God in all his gifts and allotments; and whilst in prosperity they rejoice with trembling, they are prevented in adversity from indulging a murmuring spirit. They, and they only, can enter into the meaning and feel the force of the exhortation, ' In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider.'»
He is most instructive when pressing, in the last place, the duty of contentment. We shall conclude with one extract :
“Let us then, when engaged in the duty which the text enjoins, manifest a spirit of humility, constancy, prayer, and faith. Our ignorance, perverseness, and depravity should humble us to the dust. Our helplessness, timidity, and inordinate love should teach us a lesson of constancy. Our unmeasurable wants, daily recurring and multiplying, call us to be instant in prayer, to pray without ceasing : and our condition as fallen creatures, who so far from being able to atone for sin, or to rise by our natural strength above its temptations, or to perform our duty in an acceptable manner, are unable to make one bair white or black, to add to our stature one cubit, or to look for a moment beyond the present one-convincingly proclaim the necessity of faith, as an ingredient without which, consideration can never be really profitable.” p. 59.
The fourth Sermon, is by the Hon. and Rev. H. Packenham, Archdeacon of Emly.
We feel a high respect and regard for this zealous and valuable minister, but from our recollection of his correct and animated style of preaching, we do not think that he has done himself jus