« VorigeDoorgaan »
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
"God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 1 Cor. x. 13.
OH! words of great and gracious power!
This promise cheers my drooping heart.
For that blest thought relieves my care,-
When Pleasure's gay and glittering way
When hourly round my path arise
I would not crave release from strife,
REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
A practical Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark, in the Form of Lectures intended to assist the Practice of Domestic Instruction and Devotion. By the Right Reverend J. B. SUMNER, D.D., Lord Bishop of Chester. 8vo. London. 1831.
We take up this familiar exposition of Scripture, by the author of "Apostolical Preaching," The Evidences of Christianity," and "The Records of the Creation," with something of the same feelings with which Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Dr. Watts, expresses his admiration of the simple catechisms for children by the author of elaborate dissertations on logic and the science of the mind. Such publications indicate that a writer is both mentally able and morally willing to stoop-if, indeed, stooping it be to turn aside from grappling with the higher orders of intellect, to converse with the poor and ignorant; and, after supplying the mental appetite of the learned
and critically fastidious, to purvey "milk for babes."
This the Bishop of Chester has done, and well done, in the present volume; the success and popularity of which, we trust, will induce his Lordship to follow up his plan, till he has gone through at least the whole of the New Testament. It is, perhaps, a little selfish, commercially speaking, to ask for a succession of volumes like this, of more than six hundred octavo pages, at the inadequate price of nine shillings; but, leaving this matter, with due gratitude, to his Lordship, we feel assured, from the present specimen, that the design will not languish for want of public favour. We have tried the volume by the best test, having witnessed its use for several months in families, with the general and increasing suffrages and edification of all their members. It were superfluous to say, that it is Scriptural in doctrine; devout in spirit; based upon solid, though not obtruded, Biblical criticism; and replete with
judicious remarks and edifying exposition and application; because for all this the much-respected name of the Right Reverend author is by anticipation an adequate guarantee. From his Lordship's pen no person would expect any thing but what is sound and useful; designed to promote the glory of God and the instruction and salvation of mankind. The main point, therefore, for inquiry is, whether it is adapted for its particular purpose. Is it sufficiently plain and simple for family reading? While it interests and instructs the master and mistress of the family, will it keep up the attention of the children, and prevent the cook and footman falling asleep? And will all parties rise improved and instructed, and see the book opened the next time without a shudder? We may honestly answer in the affirmative; and we may add, that it is impossible seriously to read these Lectures without becoming acquainted both with the way of salvation, and the duties and privileges of the Christian life. They are not, indeed, professedly doctrinal, except as the passage takes the expositor by the hand, which, though not less truly, is often less obviously, in the Gospel of Matthew or Mark, than in the Gospel of St. John or the Epistles of St. Paul: but Christian doctrine is both interwoven throughout, and often directly enlarged upon, and always in connexion with the blessings and the obligations of the Christian character.
The nature of an exposition does not admit of analysis; and a few cursory extracts would not present a satisfactory view of the work; as the chief points of instruction and application arise incidentally, as suggested by the sacred text, and not in the orderly form of a set treatise. That we may not, however, wholly preclude our readers from this mode of self-explication of the character of a book, we shall copy two or three passages, almost indiscriminately; though this, we trust, is almost a work of supererogation, as the work is doubtless already in
many of their hands, and familiar to their households.
The following is Lecture XVIII., entitled, Obedience the Evidence of Faith;" from Matt. vii. 21-29.
ceding discourse have been intended to "The sayings of our Lord in the predisplay the nature of true righteousness, both towards God and man; and to condemn the defective views which had firming, that no standard, short of that hitherto prevailed. He concludes by afwhich he had set up, could be allowed to his disciples, or prove any man to be one of them: Not every one that saith unto kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the will of my Father which is in heaven:" that will which he had been enforcing and explaining. And he closes all by a comparison.
"The similitude in this passage is every way exact. Men build a house, looking to future time. And they look to future time when they take the yoke of Christ' health and in strength; but they look to upon them. They are in life, nay, in the time of weakness, and of age, and of death, and of judgment; and against that season they lay a foundation and provide a refuge.
"Neither is it enough to lay a slight and inadequate foundation, and build what they may design to be a refuge. The man is called 'wise who builds on a sure foundation, and 'lays it on a rock.' Will a builder say that, because it is calm weather or low water when he builds, he will neglect his foundation, and place his house on the sandy shore? For a while, indeed, it might stand; just as, while a may feel no alarm, be sensible of no man is well, or prosperous, or busy, he danger, and find no want of a just title to religious confidence. But the house which and totters when the storms arise. All stood secure while all was calm, rocks within is hurry, confusion, and alarm. So is it with the man who heareth these sayings and doeth them not who has named Lord, Lord, but has given no signs of the name of Christ, and said unto him faith in his life, nor been zealous to do the will of his Father which is in heaven. Such nominal religion is a sandy foundation, which will neither stand in the
hour of death nor in the day of judgment.
It will not stand in the hour of death: for a man will feel reminded then of what he had before forgotten, how without how the Saviour condemned those who holiness no man can see the Lord;' and
called him Master and Lord and did not the things which he said.' will it stand in the day of judgment: for reply to such as trusted in their church Christ has himself declared, that he will to save them, and in their Christian name
to save them, and shewed no other signs of being in his faith;- I never knew you, ye that work iniquity.'
"Here then is a sufficient reason why we should never be satisfied, as though 'we had already attained, either were already perfect;' but should be constantly pressing onward in the course of obedience, and sanctification, and fervent zeal. Nothing else will avail in the season of trial. An inexperienced person might stand by an architect, who was clearing away the loose or sandy earth where a house was to be built, and was perhaps laying down arches or driving in piles, at a great expense of time and trouble; he might see this, and ask, why so much labour should be employed on what is to be buried under ground, and to make no part of the building. The answer is,—were we to build without a foundation, or not to make that foundation deep and strong, the house might endure for a while; but when the wintry storms arise, and the swelling stream beats vehemently against it, that is, at the very season when you most need a safe and comfortable shelter, you would be forced to leave it, and go elsewhere for security.
"So it is with regard to the state of the heart before God. While we are employed in the active concerns of life, and engaged in the daily business which occupies our minds, a slight stay is enough for a man; he sees himself better than others, he sees others worse than himself; he performs some religious duties, he does not often fall into very gross sins; so he lulls his conscience, and contents himself with a general hope that there is no need of more thought or more fear; he trusts that he is within the Christian covenant, and that God will receive him into his kingdom.
"But the storm comes at some time or other; the tempest of affliction, or of sickness, or of approaching death. This is the trial of religion, for it is against this trial that religion is to prepare you. And then the man who has made no more than a nominal profession of faith in Christ, and has never laboured to adorn his Saviour's doctrine by a pure and holy conversation, by resisting the sin of his heart, by abounding in the work of the Lord;
he feels that this is no time for deceiving his own soul, as he may have done hitherto, by vain words. He feels that a merely outward profession was not the faith intended by the command, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;' that it was no merely outward profession which Paul was making, when he brought under his body, and kept it in subjection;' that outward profession is not the faith required by St. James, who insists that we shew our faith by our works;' that it is not outward profession which will be recompensed by the blessed words, Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 354.
into the joy of thy Lord. Those who had prophesied in the name of Christ, and cast out devils, and done many wonderful works, had made more outward profession than he can have to shew. Yet they are rejected; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
"Now, therefore, is the time for laying a foundation which will stand good at the last. We must not be satisfied, unless when we look into ourselves and examine our lives, we have the testimony of our conscience,' that it has been our purpose, our prayer, our labour, to be neither barrien nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ;' but to add to our faith virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and brotherly kindness, and charity.
"Observe, however, that there is nothing in this to contradict the general language of the Gospel; nothing to imply that a man's own righteousness is to be the ground of his confidence. This would indeed be to build our house upon the sand.
By grace we are saved; not of works, lest any man should boast.' But the truth here declared, is another truth, no less to be insisted on, that the practice of a Christian must be as peculiar as his faith; that the faith in which he professes to live, must shine in his actions, must speak in his words, must breathe in his spirit and temper. Then, though the floods may come, and the winds blow, and the stream beat against your house, it shall not be shaken; for it is founded upon a rock. For though your earthly habitation be dissolved,' you have a habitation secured for you in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God; where no storms shall rage, no tempests ever threaten; but all shall be perpetual calm and sunshine, in the presence of God and of the Lamb." pp. 90-95.
We feel, in quoting this detached exposition, the inconvenience to which we have animadverted, of exhibiting a brick as a specimen of a house; as this particular passage does not explicitly state what is the foundation on which the superstructure of a holy life is to be erected. Yet we need not say that this most important point is dwelt upon in very many parts of the volume, and runs throughout its tissue. Thus in the very first lecture we read:
"The word Jesus was a name in frequent use among the Jews, and simply means a saviour. It was given to the Son now born into the world, because it described the character which he should bear and the office which he should perform. To save his people from their sins is mentioned as 2 Z
the purpose of his great undertaking, and of his long expected coming. ." It is assumed, then, that this was what the world most wanted, and ought to be most grateful for. And we know it was Scripture acquaints us, that 'in Adam all died;' that by one man, sin entered
into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned' (Rom. v. 12, &c.) Since, therefore, judgment had come upon all men to condemnation,' what the world required was a deliverer from that judgment. Jesus came to be such a deliverer: -not in the sense in which Moses or Joshua were deliverers; but in a sense as different as his birth was different from theirs he came to give his life a ransom for many;' to suffer once for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God' (1 Pet. iii. 18).
"But the world required something more;-required to be delivered not only from the fatal consequences of sin, but from sin itself. This too is a part of the salvation brought by Jesus. It was for this salvation that St. Paul gave thanks to God:-After lamenting the natural state of man, that in him (that is, in his flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for the good that he would he does not, but the evil which he would not, that he does '--he' thanks God,' who has delivered him from the body of this death through Jesus Christ our Lord' (Rom. vii. 18-25). To this power he trusted, saying, I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me' (Phil. iv. 13). For he had been assured, and believed the promise, grace is sufficient for thee' (2 Cor. xii. 9). "Such is the fulfilment of that gracious purpose announced in the name of Jesus: he saves his people from their sins: he saves them from the guilt of sin by his blood; and by the power of his Holy Spirit he saves them from the dominion of sin." pp. 3—5.
the great importance of an orderly and copious perusal of the Scriptures, taking them in large masses; not merely selecting a favourite verse or sentence as a thesis, but follow
ing them up chapter by chapter, and book by book; and so frequently, and in such considerable portions, as never, in reading one part, to be very far from another; never to incur the danger of sliding into religious mannerism; but going from the Epistles to the Gospels, and from the Gospels to the Epistles; from the Psalms to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the Psalms; from Revelations to Genesis; with from Genesis to Revelations, and the last harmony still ringing in our ear, with the traces of the last exhibited heavenly landscape still impressed upon the eye, and the blessed instructions of the part we have just shut fresh in our memory and warm in our hearts, while we are opening a successive page. With this view we question not that a family in six or twelve months would gain a far riper knowledge of Christian truth by going through a course of reading such as that before us, grounded on the successive text of the Divine word, than by fitand-start expositions, each intended to comprise a summary of sacred truth. The all-wise Inditer of the Scriptures could, if he had seen fit, have made every chapter as it were a little sermon; an epitome of the fall of man, his guilt and wretchedness, the atonement, the need of regeneration and newness of life, with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit's influence, the life of faith, and progressive sanctification. But this was not the plan which he has seen fit to pursue; and though in detached sermons, catechisms, and set treatises, this method may be often the best, yet in large and oft-repeated private or family reading, the word of God exactly as it stands before us with its variety of topics, its narratives, its prophecies, its promises, its parables, its descriptions, its doctrines, its practical exhortations, its poetical,
historical, and didactic portiones, is the best system of instruction. Some points may be passed over for a time; but they will recur again and again in their place and order and relative magnitude; and the largeness of God's word thus be substituted for the littleness of man's comment. This does not derogate from the importance of elementary instruction, and the frequent inculcation and application of the more prominent points; but it prevents our concocting a human system, and giving only our own partial conclusions instead of the integrity of God's holy
"To effect that renewal, Christ came into the world: and he does effect it, in all who receive him.' The Spirit of God dwells in them,' leads' them, 'guides them into all truth.' They have still a heart from which those evils would proceed which defile a man: the corruption of
nature remains even in them that are regenerate. But they mortify the deeds of the body, through the Spirit;' they keep down the risings of envy, and pride, and jealousy; they set their affections on things above; they cultivate those better principles, and they show the fruits of those better principles by which it is seen that if any man is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature;' old things are passed away;' that is, things that are natural to his heart, and would be allowed in his practice, if he were left to himself, are exchanged for higher desires and heavenly views. And thus they are gradually prepared to leave a state of being, in which, after all, so much remains that is polluted, vile, and unsatisfactory and to begin a glorified state of spirit, and soul, and body,' in which nothing shall enter that defileth, or worketh abomination."" pp. 203, 204.
The freedom of our pardon is thus described, from the parable of the servant who had nothing to pay (Matt. xviii.):
"And as all are alike in this, that they cannot say they have no sin; so all are alike in this also, that they have nothing at all to pay. For what can they do? Repent of having sinned? That they may well do: but will this make void what is past? It does not discharge a debt, to lament that we have incurred it. Or shall
they sin no more? That too must be their endeavour: but suppose they could accomplish it, does it discharge a debt now ex
sting, that you do not make that debt larger? Will not the debt still remain that was originally contracted? So that, do all we can, we are like the servant in the parable, and have nothing at all to pay.
"What then have we to allege in our ed? That God may not deal with us after own behalf, why judgment should be stayour sins, nor reward us according to our iniquities? We can indeed do nothing, but fall down and worship God, and beseech him to have patience with us: we can but implore the Redeemer, that as we on our parts have nothing at all to pay, he will pay all for us; will discharge our debt, will let his life be our ransom." pp.
Faith and works are set forth as
follows, from Matt. xxv. 41-46:
"In the description here given us of the judgment day, the one class is accepted, not because they had works independently of faith, but because their faith in the Redeemer wrought with their works, and by works was their faith made perfect.' While the other class is rejected, not because they had no works to justify and save them: (for what would be the hope of any man, if he trusted to be saved or justified by any thing he had done or can do?) but because their conduct had shown, that they had no real faith in him whom they had been used to call by the name of Lord and Saviour.
dead, so faith without works is dead also." For as the body without the spirit is
The love of Christ is thus exemplified, from Matt. xxvi. 30—44:
"The suffering which is here recorded, shows the extent of Christ's love. he suffered less, we should not have rightly known the greatness of that mercy which he exercised towards mankind. It was much, indeed, that when he was rich in the fulness of heavenly joy, he should become poor,' for man's sake, and descend to a world like ours. that he should place himself under the fierceness of that Divine wrath, from which his disciples are delivered, is a degree of love which passes all understanding.' One return he requires of us: one return we can attempt to make,—our gratitude; gratitude which is to be shown by 'Because we thus obedience to his will. judge; that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that
they which live should not henceforth
live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them.' This is the principle of the Christian's practice; and this principle ought to receive fresh strength, from every fresh contemplation of that precious death,' from which our life, our real and spiritual life is derived." p. 370.
The endurance of Christ to the end in the great work of redemp