« AnteriorContinuar »
servant of the tyrannizing Satan, the proportion to my simplicity and faithGOD of this world?
I would, though so often refused and wearied with disappointment, again point to you the open door, again invite your feet to the narrow way that may lead to the eternal city; and remember this, that if you listen not to my voice now, there cometh a day when it shall pierce sharper than a two edged sword -there cometh a day, when just in
fulness in publishing the doctrines of the everlasting Gospel, your neglect will stand aggravated, your condemnation be increased, and that he who now bends over you, and would constrain, with the affections of the pastor and minister, shall become a witness against you at the bar of judgment, and at the opening of the door of eternal destiny, and at the descent of a way that leads no more back. Amen.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. GERARD NOEL,
AT RICHMOND, SUNDAY MORNING, OCT. 28, 1832.
II. Corinthians ii. 2—14—16.—“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?" THE importance of the Christian | of GOD, in connexion with the dearest ministry rests upon the truth and interest of mankind-we unveil the authority of the Christian revelation. allotments of eternity-—we unfold, to If the religion of Christ be not derived the eye of faith, scenes of the brightest from the conjectures of men, but from glory, or scenes of the darkest despair. the revelation of GOD, it commands The subject of our ministry belongs human attention at once, by all the to the deepest sympathies of our comarguments of fear, and by all the al- mon nature; we convey a message lurements of hope. Its accents are no from the Creator to his creatures, and longer doubtful; its doctrines are no in the communication of this message, longer the sport of rival controversies, painful as it may be to the pride of but the recorded decisions of GOD- those whom we address, we repose on -decisions, the reception or rejection strength not our own. Our statement of which will tell upon the happiness is from Christ, and we rely upon his or the misery of each man, eternally. succour for our success. "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto GoD a sweet savour of
Under this solemn impression the Apostle Paul devoted his life to the proclamation of the Gospel. "We are ambassadors for GOD"-we bear a high commission-we reveal the will
Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?"
This language is eminently figurative; and it is still a question, to what custom the Apostle refers. Some think the allusion throughout is to the triumph of a heathen conqueror, scattering fragrant incense in his way, the perfume of which would be deadly to the captives doomed to experience his revenge, and full of life to those who were to be the objects of the conqueror's clemency and regard. Others, and I think more justly, account the allusion to be to the sweet fragrance poured upon the dress of the Jewish high priest when he came forth to teach and to bless the people: for there the Lord promised his blessing, even life for evermore. To the penitent, who confided in the truth of his doctrine, that doctrine was as the savour of life; to the obdurate, who despised his Gospel, it was as the odour of death.
This figurative language was familiar to the Jews," The law," says one of their ancient writers, "to them that go on the right hand of it is the savour of life; but to them that go on the left hand of it, it is the savour of death." The Apostle thus appears to adopt this language in respect to the Gospel, to whose effects, indeed, it far more emphatically refers. The ministers of Christ proclaim salvation by the death of Christ, and so are the sweet odour of life to those who believe; yet the ministers of Christ become the odour of death, the instruments of a deeper condemnation, according to the command of Christ, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned."
In the use of this interpretation of the passage, the words of the Apostle will present to our view the nature of the Gospel ministry; its success in every place to be a ground of great thanksgiving to GOD; and the insufficiency of man for its due fulfilment. And, oh! that the mighty workings of the Spirit of Christ may so prevail in us, my brethren, as that we may grasp firmly hold of these momentous themes. If ever I have prayed for a sacred impression on your souls, I implore it yet more fervently to-day. I would be solemn in my own thoughts, I would have these thoughts to be full of eternity, and I would ask of GOD that you may be serious in your thoughts.
The expressions of the Apostle, in the First place, UNFOLD TO US THE NATURE OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRY. "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life."
The office of the Christian ministry, in the view of the Apostle, is to make known the savour of the knowledge of Christ in every place. The knowledge of Christ is the theme of his ministry, and the savour of that knowledge implies its excellency. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true GOD, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in GOD, believe also in me." In reference to this knowledge, the Apostle could say, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord." The subject of the
not philosophy, | lasting Spirit, and whosoever is in Christ becomes a new creature, and lives henceforth to GOD.
Gospel ministry is neither civil justice, nor social morality, as separated from the high motives of religion; but it is the knowledge of Christ-the history of the adorable person, work, and office of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of GOD-it is the atonement of his blood shed for the sins of the whole world-it is the everlasting love of GOD in Christ towards his elect church, dear to him as the apple of an eye-it is the conversion of the heart from its feeble and earth-fallen tendency to the love and obedience of the faith-it is the sanctity of the will and of the affections, by the great teacher and comforter, the Holy Ghost —it is the visible display of grace, the life of faith, the growth of gratitude, the preparation for Heaven, the fellowship of the Father and of his Son Jesus Christ. Human science is valuable only as it is connected with this knowledge. In itself it may augment power, and thus augment calamity-in itself it may engender pride, and communicate materials for violence and passion. It is only when combined with, and sanctified by, the knowledge of Christ, that it guards the welfare which otherwise it falsely assumes to protect. Without Christ, man is a sinner doomed to woe and death, cold-hearted, selfish, and proud. Separated from Christ, he is to be arraigned at the bar of his judge, without advocate, plea, or hope; he must perish for the ungodly is to perish. The penalties of GOD's government will press him down, and who shall rescue him from his sovereign grasp? To know Christ is to know a remedy for all this misery. In the blood and righteousness of Christ, pardon, peace, and increasing blessedness are found. He is the GOD-man -the Lord of Heaven-JEHOVAH's fellow, wearing the human form strong to save, and glad to redeem. With him is the residue of the ever
The Apostle calls this subject of the ministry the savour of Christ: "Both," says an ancient writer, 66 on account of the holy fragrance of his doctrines, and also his partial manifestation." "The Apostle," he remaks, "calls our present knowledge, the odour of knowledge, because of the small part of the truth which we now have, and because that which is now concealed shall in due time be made manifest; like the process of fumigation, which is often carried on by a hidden fire, sending forth, beyond the boundary, its sweet odour; thus we are refreshed by it, see it not, and yet enjoy its fragrance." These ideas are as just as they are eminent. We see through a glass, but yet darkly, but the doctrine of Christ is still as fragrant odours poured forth-it forms a Heaven of hope and peace. Thy love," says the church to Christ, "is better than wine. Because of the savour of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth." "Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips." "His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh," This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughter of Jerusalem."
In these figurative terms are described the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, its power over the heart, and its holy efficacy on the affections. It is not a knowledge which is curious, but not essential; playing about the fancy, but without influencing the conscience. It is a knowledge connected at once with high principle, with the fairest hopes and with the brightest prospects. It is the medium through which sin is forgiven, the heart saved, the memory healed of her wounds, and her sorrows converted into joy. Yet still we see as through a glass darkly. The fragrance is very refreshing, but he who
scatters it is still unseen; and when he comes the second time, without sin unto salvation, then shall we see him face to face, and know even as we are known.
Such is the subject of this ministry, and the operation of this ministry is to make manifest the savour of the knowledge of Christ. GOD would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of Christ; he would not conceal the tidings of great joy; he lays it rather upon his church to spread the tidings through the wide world. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." This knowledge of Christ is as needful for one as for another. Within the boundaries of this knowledge lie folded up all the remedies for human calamity-wherever guilt requires pardon, wherever a torn conscience needs binding up, or a defiled heart requires pure affections-for the savage and the civilized, the learned and the unlearned, the child and the grown up person, these are the only sedatives for pain, the only cure for the soul's disease; without these we droop and die for ever.
Yet are the ultimate effects of this ministry widely different; it becomes, we are told, a savour of death unto death, as well as a savour of life unto life. The Apostle here says for himself and his fellow labourers, "We are savours of death unto death." Christ had put his fragrancy upon them, but the world was not refreshed by them. The faculty which should have rejoiced, was perverted and injured by sin; hence the character and the doctrines of the Apostles were too often slandered and condemned; the purity of their lives created resistance among the wicked, while the doctrines which they taught unfolded that pride which sought its own exaltation. "We preach," says the Apostle, "Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the
Greeks foolishness." 66 the author of the Christrian doctrine, "is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." To such persons-to the worldly, the proud, and the self-righteous, the Apostles became as the savour of death; they became the unwilling instruments to many of a more aggravated destruction. This result had already arisen from the instruction of their great Master, "If I had not come and spoken unto them," as none other man has, "they had not had sin”that is, this aggravated sin—“ but now they have no cloak for their sin. For they have hated both me and my Father." How often it happens in the natural world, that remedies, otherwise the most powerful, if they miss the desired effect aggravate disease!—so in like manner the word of GOD, when it proves not the odour of life, becomes the odour of death. But, blessed be GOD, very frequently the the effects were medicinal and, consolatory: the Apostles were to many as the refreshing odour of life; their doctrine distilled as the dew upon the parched soil of the human heart; it brought to the awe-struck criminal the hopes of pardon from his Almighty Lawgiver; it conveyed to the harrassed, with the vain speculations of vain Gentile philosophy, an attractive revelation of the name and character of the true God; it brought to the heart of him, torn with an incurable anguish by that vain philosophy, the full assurance of a blessed immortality; it brought to the soul degraded by selfish and sensual passions the high objects and glorious purposes for which Christ himself had lived and died; it became the medium, through the energy of the Holy Ghost, by which the love of Christ was shed abroad in the heart; it constrained the astonished and happy believer to live no longer to himself, but to him who
died for him and rose again. To such the ministry of the Apostle was indeed a savour of life.
though to some he proves the rock of offence. The proper result of the Gospel ought ever to be distinguished from its accidental results. It belongs, alas! to human depravity, to convert the instrument of life into the instrument of death.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE GOSPEL IN EVERY PLACE WAS THEIR GROUND OF THANKSGIVING TO GOD, and the Apostle expressed his feelings of noble and heart-felt delight, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place." It is here affirmed, as a SECOND great point of
In both cases, however, whether in the painful results of aggravated guilt, or in the happy results of recovery, were the Apostles unto GoD a sweet savour of Christ: "We are unto a GOD a sweet savour of Christ," the Apostle declares, "in them that are saved, and in them that perish." This Gospel, whether contemplated in its doctrines or its ministry, whether in its destructive, or its saving effect, was still precious to God, the sweet odour of Christ, the wonder of redeeming love, the brightest manifestation of the power and glory of GoDthe text, that the Gospel is incapable to man. Through his unbelief it of defeat. Like the palm-tree, it even might accidentally bring a curse, but grows under pressure; it is ever victhat was not intended, but it was in- torious: where it saves not, it kills. tended to convey a blessing. The Its effect is never neutral; it gains hardness of heart in him who rejected a moral victory in every possible case. it, changed not the character of the Where it touches the spring of conGospel, to whose generous motives he trition and love in the human heart, had been so long listening in vain. It and the waters of repentance flow, was still to God the same Gospel, its it saves the soul alive, and manifests decisions the same, its effects just the the unsearchable depths of the divine same. To the diseased eye the light beneficence; where it gains no lodgis hurtful, and yet the sun does not ment into the spirit of the impenitent shine to injure. Thus the Gospel is and lost, it manifests his character, it still the Gospel-to those who believe exhibits in open day his concealed deit, it brings health-to those who re- pravity, and justifies, in his case, the ject it, it brings destruction. It is penalty of destruction. It yields still still to GOD a sweet odour. The term a moral triumph to God; it exhibits odour is here, very emphatic-it is as his awful and ultimate justice, when if the Apostle had said, so great is the his insulted mercy has told upon the power of the Gospel, that, not only by criminal in vain. The ministers of the taste, but even by the perfume, it Christ are ever on the side of vicvivifies or destroys, and whichever it tory; but, oh! they would win for may be, it is never preached in vain. mercy, and not for justice—they But how is it, then, the ministration would triumph in Christ, not by of life? The answer is easy-when merited ruin, but by unmerited salit saves by faith it acts according to vation! its own nature; when it occasions destruction through unbelief, the effect is not of itself, but of the incredulity of those who reject it. Christ is the light of the world, though he blinds the unbelieving; he is the foundationstone that GOD has laid in Zion,
But if these results attend the proclamation of the Gospel, WHO IS SUFFICIENT FOR THESE THINGS? This is the THIRD point in the text.
Well might the Apostle ask this question. If the sword be derived from the armoury of heaven, and stand