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Great object of Christianity.
Bible, and was reading the account of our Saviour's manifestation of himself to his disciples after his resurrection: when I read this passage, •He showed them his hands and his feet,' I immediately thought of you. I seemed to see you standing before the chancel, renouncing the pomps and vanities of the world, and the sinful desires of the fleshthen the scene of this evening came into my mind—you was standing before your dear father, opposing his wishes, your countenance swollen with anger—then rushing into a scene of dissipation and levity-I seemed to see you at the judgment day before the bar of Christ; and he said nothing to you, but showed you his hands and his feet. I have heard that we can wound Christ, and I thought he lifted up
his bleeding hands, and showed them to you, and then I wept and prayed for you.”
You may well imagine this overpowered the heart of Elizabeth. She flung herself into the arms of her sister, and sobbed aloud. A change commenced in her character from that time.
The impression that I wish to leave upon your minds is, that before this vow of renunciation can be sincerely made, there must be a real change in the heart. God must be loved above all other things; we must delight to do his will. We must leave all our broken cisterns, and come back to the fountain of living waters. We must submit our hearts to God, and become voluntary subjects of his government. When we have made this surrender of ourselves, and have once drank from the fountain of living waters, and have tasted that the Lord is gracious-when we have caught even but a faint glimpse of the beauty of holiness, and of the matchless perfection of the great and glorious God we shall most willingly renounce sin and every thing that would take off our affections from him.
The great object and business of Christianity is to bring us back to God, to make us holy and fit us for the society and enjoyments of heaven. If this object be ever accomplished, our hearts must be given up to God, purified by his Spirit, and filled with longing desires and unceasing aspirations after holiness. May we find this evidence in ourselves, that we have been born from above, and are bound to a world of glory.
Character of the audience.
The Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me.
From the 5th of St. John.
On a memorable occasion, when Paul was called from his prison cell, and required to stand up in chains, and vindicate his character, he congratulated himself upon the circumstance, that the judge before whom he was arraigned had some knowledge of facts that would tend to throw light upon his case.
“ I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews : especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews.”
With equal truth I may say, that I think myself happy that I am addressing a Christian audience, who receive the Bible as the rule of their conduct and faith.
Were the audience I am addressing dwellers in China, Thibet, Turkey, or Hindostan—had the youth assembled here this evening been taught from infancy that they could wash away their sins by frequent ablutions in the river Ganges; that they could obtain a seat among the blessed by adoring the idol Fo; or by prostrating themselves before the Lama; or by lisping with profound reverence the name of Mahomet; or by bowing before the bloody car of Juggernaut, it might be necessary to enter with much detail into all the articles of the Christian faith, and exhibit every item of the proof upon which this system rests.
But, thanks to God! I stand to-night, not amid the scenes and pollutions of idolatry, to witness, with aching heart and tearful eye, the offer of salvation through Christ spurned, rejected, and despised—I stand in the midst of beings who, from earliest infancy, have been taught to reverence and adore the one living and true God; to believe in Jesus
Profession of faith.
Christ whom he hath sent, and regard him as the friend of sinners and the Saviour of their souls. The task that I have before me is comparatively light.
In a former lecture it was remarked, that in the primitive church, three things were required of candidates before they were admitted to the privilege of baptism :-“ A formal and solemn renunciation of the devil ; a profession of faith made in the words of some received creed; a promise or engagement to live in obedience to Christ, or by the laws and rules of the Christian religion.”
In connexion with this remark, it was also observed that our baptismal service makes the same requisitions; and it was proposed to consider the qualifications of candidates for confirmation under these three heads. We have considered the first of these requisitions-what the disciple is expected to renounce.
We are now to enter upon the consideration of the second thing required-a profession of faith made in the words of some received creed. This creed is specified in our baptismal service; the second question in the demand addressed to the candidate being as follows:
“ Dost thou believe all the articles of the Christian's faith, as contained in the Apostle's creed ?" And the person to be baptized answers," I DO.”
This declaration is solemnly renewed at confirmation.
“ Do ye here, in the presence of God, and of this congregation"—is the inquiry proposed to each one-renew the solemn promise and vow that ye made, or that was made in your name, at baptism; ratifying and confirming the same, and acknowledging yourselves bound to believe and to do all these things which ye then undertook, or your sponsors then undertook for you."
They who receive confirmation acknowledge themselves bound to believe what they declared was their belief at baptism. Believers renew in this ordinance their profession of faith.
The division of the subject upon which we are entering therefore embraces a wide field. It takes in the whole subject of religious faith in all its various parts and ramifications. It calls up the question, as to the truth and credibility of Christianity, and of the Sacred Scriptures, upon which this system is based. We can barely glance at
Necessity of perfect conviction.
these topics, referring you to other sources for fuller elucidation.
By the simple affirmative reply “I do,” which you make to the inquiry of the bishop, you declare your full and entire belief of all the articles contained in the apostle's creed.
Had I time to enter into a particular consideration of each one of these, it would be a profitable exercise; but as this will not be practicable, I will here simply remark, that the creed inserted in our liturgy, and repeated by us on every occasion of public worship, is a concise and comprehensive summary of the Christian doctrines. It is denominated the apostle's creed, either because it was composed by the apostles, an idea maintained by several learned men; or because it contains all the essential doctrines which the apostles preached.
In answering the inquiry, therefore" dost thou believe all the articles of the Christian faith, as contained in the apostle's creed"—in the affirmative, you declare your belief in the truths and doctrines of the New Testament. Unless you do credit and cordially embrace the truths and doctrines taught in the New Testament, there can be no possible inducement for you to participate in the ordinances and sacraments of Christianity, heartily believe what is revealed in the New Testament, you can have no confidence in the promises of salvation there made. You cannot have that 66 hope which is as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast."
Without a firm belief in the truth of the gospel, and a realizing sense of dependence upon Christ, for your acceptance before heaven, you cannot be saved. The Scriptures declare, that " without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Now a person might have a theoretic belief in the Scriptures : his understanding may, assent to the truth of all that is recorded in the Bible, while at the same time his heart may be alienated from God, and wrapt up in insensibility and unbelief.
In a subsequent lecture we shall undertake to show the utter worthlessness of such a faith. In the present lecture we wish to direct your attention to that faith by which the
Unless you Characteristics of prophecy. understanding is constrained to assent to the truth of the gospel.
Faith, in its ordinary acceptation, consists in the mind's admitting and fully assenting to the truth of a fact or proposition, upon satisfactory evidence. Now there are many sources whence we may draw evidence to substantiate the truth and credibility of the Bible. I shall direct your attention, on the present occasion, to three of these sources : Prophecy, miracles, the character of the divine record itself
1. Prophecy. Prophecy is the prediction of an event contingent in its nature, and beyond human calculation. To foretell with perfect accuracy the birth of a certain personage, the fall of empires and the rise of nations, centuries before their occurrence, is prophecy. We are not endowed with the faculty of prescience. We cannot tell what will be on the morrow. The future is all concealed from our view; over it hangs a veil which no eye but that of Omniscience can pierce. If, therefore, any one is enabled to predict future events, it must be through an illumination from on high. If an individual were to foretell, with circumstantial exactness, a number of events that were not to occur under three or four hundred years, and those events should occur precisely according to his prediction, this would be a conclusive proof of the inspiration of that individual, and his teaching might with propriety be regarded as the word of the Lord. If one should declare, that within a given number of years, London, Paris, or New York would be entirely destroyed, its business operations suspended, its inhabitants gone, its houses demolished, its streets blocked up, and the whole extent of its territory one solitary waste,--the prediction would be regarded as one of the wild dreams of a disordered imagination, and the event as utterly improbable; but should the event accord with the prediction, all who witnessed its fulfilment would be forced to admit that the person who uttered it was divinely inspired. This is one of the claims that we put in for the inspiration of the Scriptures. Those sacred writings are full of predictions. The events foretold were declared hundreds of years before their occurrence, and many of those events were far more improbable than the one to which allusion has just been made