Sunday, July 26, 2009
Sermons and Lessons
A Sermon, Delivered at Rutland, West-Parish in the Tear 1805.
There is no greater folly than for men to express anger and resentment because their religious sentiments are attacked. If their characters are impeached by their own creed, they only are to blame. All that the antagonists can say, cannot make falsehood truth, nor truth falsehood.
The following discourse was delivered at Rutland, Vt. June, 1805, immediately after hearing Mr. Ballou, an Universal Preacher, zealously exhibit his sentiments. The author had been repeatedly solicited to hear and dispute with the above Preacher; and had been charged with dishonesty and cowardice for refusing. He felt that some kind of testimony, in opposition to what he calls error, ought to be made; and has been urged to let the same appear in print. But whether, on the whole, it is for the interest of truth, is left to the judgment of the candid.
Rutland, December 30, 1805.
Genesis 3:4 - And the Serpent said unto the Woman, Ye shall not surely die.
The holy Scriptures are a peculiar fund of instruction. They inform us of the origin of creation; of the primitive state of man; of his fall, or apostasy from God. It appears that he was placed in the garden of Eden, with full liberty to regale himself with all the delicious fruits that were to be found, except what grew on one tree - if he eat of that he should surely die, was the declaration of the Most High.
Happy were the human pair, amidst this delightful paradise, until a certain preacher, in his journey, came that way, and disturbed their peace and tranquility, by endeavoring to reverse the prohibition of the Almighty, as in our text - ”Ye shall not surely die.”
Earth felt the wound; nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.”
We may attend
To the character of the preacher - To the doctrine inculcated - To the hearer addressed - To the medium or instrument of the preaching.
I. As to the preacher, I would observe, he has many names given him in the sacred writings, the most common is the Devil. That it was he that disturbed the felicity of our first parents, is evident from II Cor 11:3. and many other passages of Scripture. He was once an angel of light, and knew better than to preach such doctrine; he did violence to his own reason.
But to be a little more particular, let it be observed,
1. He is an old preacher. He lived above one thousand seven hundred years before Abraham - above two thousand four hundred and thirty years before Moses - four thousand and four years before Christ. It is now five thousand eight hundred and nine years since he commenced preaching. By this time he must have acquired great skill in the art.
2. He is a very cunning artful preacher. When Elymas, the sorcerer, came to turn away people from the faith, he is said to be full of all subtlety and a child of the devil - not only because he was an enemy of all righteousness, but on account of his carnal cunning and craftiness.
3. He is a very laborious unwearied preacher. He has been in the ministry almost six thousand years; and yet his zeal is not in the least abated. The apostle Peter compares him to a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour. When God inquired of this persevering preacher, Job 2:2. “From whence earnest thou?” he answered the Lord, and said, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” He is far from being circumscribed within the narrow limits of parish, state, or continental lines; but his haunt and travel is very large and extensive.
4. He is a heterogeneous preacher, if I may so express myself He makes use of a Bible when he holds forth, as in his sermon to our Savior, Matthew 4:6. He mixes truth with error, in order to make it go well, or to carry his point.
5. He is a very presumptuous preacher. Notwithstanding God had declared in the most plain and positive terms, “Thou shalt surely die” - or “In dying thou shalt die” - yet, this audacious wretch had the impudence to confront Omnipotence, and says, “Ye shall not surely die!”
6. He is a very successful preacher. He draws a great number after him. No preacher can command hearers like him. He was successful with our first parents - with the old world. Noah once preached to those spirits that are now in the prison of hell; and told them from God, that they should surely die: but this preacher came along and declared the contrary - ”Ye shall not surely die.” The greater part, it seems, believed him, and went to destruction. So it was with Sodom and Gomorrah - Lot preached to them; the substance of which was, “Up, get ye out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this City.” Gen. 19:14. But this old declaimer told them, No danger! no danger! “Ye shall not surely die.” To which they generally gave heed; and Lot seemed to them as one who mocked - they believed the Universal preacher, and were consumed - agreeably to the declaration of the apostle Jude, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
II. Let us attend to the doctrine inculcated by this preacher, “Ye shall not surely die.” Bold assertion! without a single argument to support it. The death contained in the threatening, was doubtless eternal death, - as nothing but this would express God’s feelings towards sin, or render an infinite atonement necessary. To suppose it to be spiritual death, is to blend crime and punishment together. To suppose temporal death to be the curse of the law, then believers are not delivered from it, according to Gal. 3:13. What Satan meant to preach was, that there is no hell; and that the wages of sin is not death, but eternal life.
III. We shall now take notice of the hearer addressed by the preacher. This we have in the text - ”And the serpent said unto the WOMAN,” &c. That Eve had not so much experience as Adam, is evident; and so not equally able to withstand temptation. This doubtless was a reason why the tempter chose her, with whom he might hope to be successful. Doubtless he took a time when she was separated from her husband.
That this preacher has had the greatest success in the dark and ignorant parts of the earth, is evident: his kingdom is a kingdom of darkness. He is a great enemy to light. St. Paul gives us some account of him in his day - 2. Tim. 3:6. “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women, laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts.” The same apostle observes, Rom. 16:17,18. “Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
IV. The instrument or medium made use of by the preacher, will now be considered. This we have in the text - “And the SERPENT said,” &c. But how came the devil to preach through the serpent?
1. To save his own character, and the better to carry his point. Had the devil come to our first parents personally and unmasked, they would have more easily seen the deception. The reality of a future punishment is at times so clearly ml pressed on the human mind, that even Satan is constrained to own that there is a hell; although at other times he denies it. He does not wish to have it known that he is a liar; therefore he conceals himself, that he can the better accomplish his designs, and save his own character.
2. The devil is an enemy to all good, to all happiness and excellence. He is opposed to the felicity of the brutes. He took delight in tormenting the swine. The serpent, before he set up preaching Universal Salvation, was a cunning, beautiful and happy creature; but now his glory is departed. “And the Lord said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” There is therefore, a kind of duplicate cunning in the matter - Satan gets the preacher and hearers also.
And more than simple conquest in the foe!”
3. Another reason why Satan employs instruments in his service is, because his empire is large, and he cannot be everywhere himself.
4. He has a large number at his command, that love and approve of his work, delight in building up his kingdom, and stand ready to go at his call.
1. The devil is not dead, but still lives; and is able to preach as well as ever, “Ye shall not surely die.”
2. Universal Salvation is no new fangled scheme, but can boast of great antiquity.
3. See a reason why it ought to be rejected, because it is an ancient devilish doctrine.
4. See one reason why it is that Satan is such a mortal enemy to the Bible, and to all who preach the Gospel, because of that injunction, Mark 16:15,16. “And he said unto them, 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 damned.”
5. See whence it was that Satan exerted himself so much to convince our first parents that there was no hell - because the denunciation of the Almighty was true, and he was afraid that Adam and Eve would continue in the belief of it. Was there no truth in future punishment, or was it only a temporary evil, Satan would not be so busy in trying to convince men that there is none. It is his nature and element to lie. “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44.
6. We infer that ministers should not be proud of their preaching. If they preach the true Gospel, they only, in substance, repeat Christ’s sermons. If they preach “Ye shall not surely die,” they only make use of the Devil’s old notes, that he delivered almost six thousand years ago.
7. It is probable that the doctrine of Universal Salvation will still prevail, since this preacher is yet a live, and not in the least superanuated; and every effort against him only enrages him more and more, and excites him to new inventions and exertions to build up his cause.
To close the subject - As the author of the foregoing discourse has confined himself wholly to the character of Satan, he trusts no one will feel himself personally injured by this short sermon: But should any imbibe a degree of friendship for this aged divine, and think that I have not treated this Universal Preacher with that respect and veneration that he justly deserves, let them be so kind as to point it out, and I will most cheerfully retract; for it has ever been a maxim with me, “Render unto all their dues.”
The following Hymn, taken from the Theological Magazine, was repeated after the delivery of the preceding discourse. –
A late writer in favor of Universal Salvation, having closed his piece with these last lines of Pope’s MESSIAH,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
But fixt his word, his saving power remains,
Thy realm forever last, thy own Messiah reigns;
his antagonist made the following addition to them:—
“When seas shall waste, and skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
In adamantine chains shall death be bound,
And hell’s grim tyrant feel the eternal wound.”
But all his children reach fair Eden’s shore,
Not e’er to see their father Satan more.
The tottering drunkards shall to glory reel,
And common strumpets endless pleasure feel.
Blest are the haughty, who despise the poor,
For they’re entitled to the heavenly store.
Blest all who laugh and scoff at truth divine,
For bold revilers endless comfort find.
Blest are the clam’rous and contentious crew,
To them eternal rest and peace are due.
Blest all who hunger, and who thirst to find
A chance to plunder and to cheat mankind:
Such die in peace - for God to them has giv’n,
To be unjust on earth, and go to heaven.
Blest is the wretch whose bowels never move
With gen’rous pity, or with tender love;
He shall find mercy from the God above.
Blest all who seek to wrangle and to fight;
Such mount from seas of blood to worlds of light.
Go riot, drink, and ev’ry ill pursue,
For joys eternal are reserv’d for you.
Fear not to sin, till death shall close your eves;
Live as you please, yours is th’ immortal prize.
Old Serpent, hail! thou mad’st a just reply
To mother Eve, “Ye shall not surely die!”
But, Reader, stop!—and in God’s holy fear,
With sacred truth these tenets first compare;
Our Savior’s Sermon on the mount peruse –
Read with attention, and the bane refuse!