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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Mark 16

Verse 9

DISCOURSE: 1460
CHRIST’S APPEARANCE TO MARY MAGDALENE

Mark 16:9. Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

ON few subjects has the ingenuity of critics been exercised more than in reconciling the accounts which the different Evangelists give respecting the appearances of Christ after his resurrection. It is not to be wondered at, that, when such a great variety of occurrences are related in so small a space, some by one person, and others by another, some in a more concise, and others in a more detailed way, there should arise a difficulty in adjusting the precise order in which every fact arose. Cavillers indeed, and infidels have made this a matter of triumph; as if the existence of a difficulty in such a particular as this would invalidate the testimony of the inspired writers altogether. But we do not hesitate to say, that it confirms rather than lessens, the credibility of their testimony; since it proves to a demonstration, that there was no concert between them, but that they related in the simplicity of their minds what they knew to be true, without inquiring whether, in recording a fact, the omission of a trifling circumstance might occasion some obscurity respecting the order or manner of its accomplishment. Leaving those smaller matters, we shall fix our attention on points of the first magnitude and importance: we shall,

I.

Notice the manifestations which Jesus gave of himself after his resurrection from the dead—

His first appearance only is mentioned in the text: but it was so speedily followed by others, and their united effect is so important in establishing the truth of his Divine mission, that we may well combine them together, and set them before you in a collective view.
They were,

1.

Early—

[It was necessary that our Lord should rise on the third day after his crucifixion. Not only did the period of Jonah’s deliverance from the belly of the fish determine the time of Christ’s continuance in the grave [Note: Mat 12:40], but it was expressly declared by David, that “God’s Holy One should not see corruption [Note: Psalms 16:10.],” and consequently that he should rise from the dead before the fourth day, when bodies in that hot climate, usually began to corrupt [Note: Joh 11:39]. Our Lord himself also had said, that, if they should “destroy the temple of his body, he would in three days raise it up again [Note: John 2:19-21.]:” And so frequently had he foretold that he would rise again on the third day, that the prediction was generally known among his enemies, and was indeed the ground of those very precautions which they used to guard the sepulchre, and thereby defeat any conspiracy amongst his followers [Note: Mat 27:63-66]. If then he had not risen on the third day, he would have been proved to be a deceiver: and if he had not made his appearance on that day, he would have given such occasion of triumph to his enemies as could scarcely ever have been removed. The absurd report that was circulated by the soldiers respecting his being stolen away while they were sleeping, would have been sanctioned; and the difficulty of removing that first impression would have been greatly increased. The Disciples too, who were already disconsolate, and, in their own apprehension, deceived, would have abandoned themselves wholly to despair. To prevent these evil consequences, our blessed Saviour manifested himself to Mary “early” on the morning of his resurrection; yea, at least five times on that very day did he make his appearance to different parties of his Disciples; first to Mary, then to the other women, then to Peter, then to two Disciples on their way to Emmaus, and then to the eleven who were gathered together. Thus early were his triumphs proclaimed; and thus seasonably were his Disciples comforted!]

2.

Numerous—

[We have already mentioned five appearances on the day of his resurrection. How many he vouchsafed to his Disciples afterwards, we cannot ascertain: for we are sure that they are not all recorded by the Evangelists. St. Paul mentions that Jesus was seen by James, and by five hundred brethren at once; neither of which appearances are particularly specified in the Gospels. We are told however, that “he was seen of the Disciples forty days;” which is a clear intimation that his intercourse with them was both frequent and familiar. Now in this he graciously condescended to our weakness. Had his manifestations of himself been very few, we might have been ready to fear, that those who testified of his resurrection were either deceivers or deceived. Not even the Apostles themselves credited the appearance of their Master to Mary, or the other females: the very report was considered by them “as an idle tale.” Much more therefore may we expect that his avowed enemies would have disbelieved it; and we at this distance of time should have had scarcely any foundation for our faith and hope. But the number of his appearances was such as to preclude a possibility of intentional collusion, or unintentional mistake.]

3.

Indubitable—

[However numerous the appearances had been, if they had been all in dreams or visions, or to separate individuals, or at a distance, there would have been reason to doubt the truth and reality of them. But they were of the most satisfactory kind imaginable. Let it be granted, that Mary Magdalene, and the other women, and Peter, and the Disciples going to Emmaus, were deceived; and that the various conversations which they had with him were mere impositions on their eyes and ears; were the eleven deceived, when, notwithstanding the doors were shut, he presented himself in the midst of them, and bade them handle him (to see that he was not a mere spirit, but had flesh and bones, like any other man), and did eat and drink before them? Was the unbelieving Thomas deceived, when our Lord bade him put his fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into the wound that had been made in his side; and when, in consequence of the impossibility of resisting conviction any longer, he exclaimed, “My Lord, and my God?” Were the five hundred brethren, who saw him at once, deceived; or were they all in a conspiracy to deceive others? Were Peter and the rest deceived, when he told them on which side of the ship to cast their net, and then partook with them of the fish which they had caught? Were they deceived, when, after conversing with him a long time, his Disciples saw him ascend gradually from the midst of them, and taken up into heaven? Blessed be his name! he has taken care that so important a truth, on which all our hopes depend, should not rest on any doubtful testimony, but that it should be substantiated by proofs which cannot be denied without subverting all kinds of evidence, and all human testimony whatsoever.]
Let us now proceed to,

II.

Inquire, Why he appeared first to Mary Magdalene in particular?

It is said of Mary Magdalene, that “he had cast out of her seven devils.” And if she was, as she is generally supposed to be, that Mary who anointed the feet of Jesus in the Pharisee’s house [Note: Luke 7:36-38.], she had been, not like the common demoniacs, a mere object of pity, but a vile, notorious, abandoned sinner. In this view, the mention of Jesus having cast seven devils out of her, gives singular importance to the text; and most forcible reasons may be assigned, why he appeared to her first, in preference to all other persons. He did so,

1.

To display the exceeding riches of his grace—

[This was the chief design of God in that plan which he formed for the redemption of mankind [Note: Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 2:7.]. The same glorious design also may be seen in a variety of incidents, which, though apparently perhaps of small importance, are deserving of very attentive consideration. The command, for instance, respecting the publishing of the Gospel first in Jerusalem, where all ranks of people had so recently united in crucifying the Lord of glory [Note: Luke 24:47.], is a most astonishing display of grace and mercy: one would rather have thought that the Apostles should have been ordered to pass them by for ever, than to make them the first offers of salvation. The instruments employed to propagate the Gospel, yet further illustrate this point. The person chosen to minister the Gospel to the circumcision, and to convert thousands of them to the faith, was Peter, who had just before denied his Lord with oaths and curses. Yea, to him was such peculiar attention shewn, that he was selected by the angel, as the person to whom, above all others, the knowledge of our Saviour’s resurrection was to be instantly conveyed [Note: ver. 7.]. And our blessed Lord himself thrice renewed his call to the Apostleship, in the presence of the other Disciples, lest his past denial of his Lord should be construed as a renunciation of it, or a dismission from it [Note: John 21:15-17.]. In like manner, the person who was commissioned to go unto the Gentiles, was Saul, the persecutor; who was arrested in his murderous career, and made the most honoured, and most useful, of all the Apostles.

In the same light we view the preference shewn to Mary Magdalene above all others: in manifesting himself first of all to her, our Saviour may well be considered as declaring, that “where sin has abounded, grace shall much more abound [Note: Romans 5:20.].”]

2.

To reward her pious assiduity—

[Mary having purchased ointments and spices for the purpose of embalming our Lord’s body, went early, while it was yet dark, to the sepulchre, to perform that last and mournful office. Though her prospects with respect to his establishing a temporal kingdom were altogether blasted, her regard for him was not in the least diminished. She was anxious to testify her respect in the only way that now remained to her: nor did any considerations of expense, or trouble, or danger, operate for a moment to impede her efforts. Such expressions of undissembled love could not escape the notice of an omniscient and gracious God. Our adorable Emmanuel would have accounted himself “unrighteous, if he could have overlooked such works and labours of love as she now shewed towards his name [Note: Hebrews 6:10.]” It had long before been announced by him to the world, “Him that honoureth me, I will honour:” and now he fulfilled that word to this highly-favoured handmaid: nor will he ever suffer even a cup of cold water, given to a person for his sake, to lose its reward.]

3.

To give encouragement to all future penitents to the end of time—

[The various events recorded in the Scriptures are not to be limited to the persons to whom they more immediately refer. Many judgments were inflicted, and many mercies vouchsafed, for the benefit of the Church in future ages: and “they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” We read of pardon being revealed to David the very instant that he confessed his heinous crime: and the improvement which he himself makes of that stupendous mercy, is; “For this shall every one that is godly make his prayer unto thee, in a time when thou mayest be found [Note: Psalms 32:5-6.].” St. Paul also informs us of the “exceeding abundant grace shewn to him;” and then adds, that he had been thus eminently distinguished by God for this reason; “that God might shew forth in him all long suffering, for a pattern to them that should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting [Note: 1 Timothy 1:14; 1 Timothy 1:16.].” For the same end, it should seem, was Mary Magdalene thus highly favoured. Persons, who are conscious of having committed enormous sins, are apt to think that they can never obtain mercy of the Lord: but our blessed Saviour would have them know, that “though our sins may have been as crimson, they shall be white as snow,” and that he is never more willing to feast with us upon the fatted calf, than on our first return from a dissolute and abandoned life.]

Conclusion—

[Behold how effectually every ground of doubt is removed from us! Can we doubt Christ’s power and authority to save? He has risen from the dead, and thereby given the most convincing evidence that he is ordained of God to be the Saviour of the world: and his umerous appearances to his Disciples after his resurrection preclude all possibility of deception. Can we doubt his willingness to save even the chief of sinners? This astonishing exercise of grace to one out of whom he had cast seven devils, forbids us to entertain the thought. Let all then trust in him as both able and willing to save them to the uttermost.]


Verses 15-16

DISCOURSE: 1461
ON THE GOSPEL MESSAGE

Mark 16:15-16. 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.

IT is to be lamented that an unhappy prejudice subsists in the Christian world against the peculiar and most essential doctrines of our holy religion; and that, while ministers defend with zeal and ability the outworks of Christianity, they are at little pains to lead their hearers within the veil, and to unfold to them those blessed truths whereon their salvation depends. Under the idea that moral discourses are more accommodated to the comprehensions of men, and more influential on their practice, they wave all mention of the sublime mysteries of the Gospel, and inculcate little more than a system of heathen ethics [Note: See this exposed with great perspicuity and strength of argument in Bishop Horsley’s First Charge.]. They would be ashamed, and almost afraid to make such a passage as this the ground-work of their discourse, lest they should be thought to be contending for some uncertain, unimportant tenets, instead of promoting the interests of piety and virtue. But can any one read such a solemn declaration as that in the text, and account it unworthy of his notice? Can any one consider the circumstances under which it was uttered, or the authoritative manner in which the Apostles were commanded to publish it to the world, and yet think himself at liberty to disregard it? Shall the very recital of it beget suspicion, as though nothing were desired but to establish the Shibboleth of a party? Let us put away such unbecoming jealousies, and enter in a fair and candid manner into the investigation of the words before us: let us consider that they were among the last words of our blessed Lord while he sojourned upon earth; that they contain his final commission to his Apostles, and, in them, to all succeeding pastors of his Church; that they are distinguished by our Lord himself by that honourable appellation, “The Gospel,” or glad tidings; and that they were delivered by him not only as the rule of our faith, but as the rule of his procedure in the day of judgment: let us, I say, consider the words in this view, and, with hearts duly impressed and open to conviction, attend to what shall be spoken, while we endeavour to explain the import—vindicate the reasonableness—and display the excellency—of this divine message: and the Lord grant, that, while we are attending to these things, the “word may come, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.”

I.

In explaining the import of our text, we shall have little more to do than to ascertain the meaning of the different terms; for the sense of them being once fixed, the import of the whole will be clear and obvious—

Salvation can mean nothing less than the everlasting happiness of the soul. To limit the term to any temporal deliverance would be to destroy utterly the truth as well as the importance of our Lord’s declaration: for though it is true, that they, who believed his prophecies relative to the destruction of Jerusalem, escaped to Pella, and were rescued from the misery in which the Jewish nation was involved, yet the followers of our Lord in that and every age have been subjected to incessant persecutions and cruel deaths; nor was that deliverance either of so great or so general concern, that the Apostles needed to go forth “into all the world,” or to preach it to “every creature.” Our Lord “came to seek and to save that which was lost;” he came to open a way for the recovery of our fallen race, and to restore men to the happiness which they had forfeited by their iniquities: this is the salvation spoken of in the text, and justly termed, a “salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
This salvation is to be obtained by faith; “He that believeth shall be saved.” By the term, “believing” we are not to understand a mere assent given to any particular doctrine; for there is not any particular doctrine to which the most abandoned sinner, or even the devils themselves, may not assent: in this sense of the word, St. James says, “the devils believe and tremble.” The faith intended in the text is far more than an acknowledgment of the truth of the Gospel; it is an approbation of it as excellent, and an acceptance of it as suitable. Assent is an act of the understanding only: but true faith is a consent of the will also, with the full concurrence of our warmest affections: it is called in one place a “believing with the heart;” and in another, a “believing with all the heart.”In few words, faith is a new and living principle, whereby we are enabled to rely upon the Lord Jesus Christ for all the ends and purposes for which he came into the world; a principle, which, at the same time that it takes us off from all self-dependence, leads us to purify our hearts from the love and practice of all sin. To such faith as this our Lord frequently annexes a promise of eternal salvation: in his discourse with Nicodemus he says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” And in the close of that chapter it is added, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Not that there is any thing meritorious in this grace more than in any other; for, as a grace, it is inferior to love; but salvation is annexed to this rather than to any other, because this alone unites us to the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we are accepted, and by whose merits we are saved.

To the term Salvation is opposed another of a most awful import, namely Damnation: as the former cannot be limited to any temporal deliverance, so neither can this be limited to any temporal judgment: for, not to mention the express and repeated declarations that the punishment of the wicked will be as “a worm that dieth not, and a fire that is not quenched,” our Lord, in the very words before us, contrasts the consequences of unbelief with the consequences of faith; thereby manifesting, that they were to be considered by us as of equal magnitude and duration: and, in his account of the final sentence which he will pass upon the righteous and the wicked in the day of judgment, he describes the happiness of the one and the misery of the other by the very same epithet, in order to cut off all occasion of doubt respecting the continuance of either: “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” We are constrained, therefore to acknowledge, that the threatening in the text includes nothing less than the everlasting misery of the soul, under the wrath and indignation of God.
This, tremendous as it is, will be the fruit of unbelief; “He that believeth not shall be damned.” We must not suppose that the unbelief here spoken of characterizes only professed infidels, who openly avow their contempt of Christianity; for then it would by no means afford a sufficient line of distinction between those that shall be saved, and there that shall perish; seeing that there are many who profess to reverence the Christian revelation, while they live in a constant violation of every duty it enjoins. If the receiving of Christ, as he is offered in the Gospel, be the faith that saves, then the not receiving of Christ in that manner must be the unbelief that condemns. This observation is of great importance: for the generality seem to have no idea that they can be unbelievers, unless they have formally renounced the Christian faith: their consciences are quite clear on this subject: the guilt of unbelief never caused them one moment’s uneasiness. But can any thing be more plain, than that the same faith, which is necessary to bring us to salvation, must be also necessary to keep us from condemnation? Indeed it is so self-evident a truth, that the very mention of it appears almost absurd; and yet it will be well if we admit its full force in the point before us: for, however zealous many are to comprehend holy actions and affections in their definitions of saving faith, they are backward enough to acknowledge that a want of those qualities must evidence them to be in a state of unbelief: yet, till this truth be felt and acknowledged, there is little hope that the Gospel will ever profit them at all.
There is a qualifying clause in the text which we must not leave unnoticed; and the rather, because it is added in the former, but omitted in the latter part; “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Our Lord had appointed baptism as that rite whereby his Disciples should be introduced into the Christian covenant, as the Jews had been by circumcision into the Mosaic covenant: and men’s submission to this rite served as a test of their sincerity, and a public badge of their profession. If any were inwardly convinced that the religion of Christ was indeed of divine authority, and were not prevented by insurmountable obstacles from conforming to this rite, they must cheerfully enlist themselves under his banners, and honour him in his appointed way; they must “follow the Lord fully,” if they would be partakers of his benefits. But, on the other hand, if they should submit to this ordinance, and yet be destitute of true faith, their baptism should not save them; they should perish for their unbelief: baptized or unbaptized, they should surely perish.

The parts of the text being thus explained, there remains no difficulty in the meaning of the whole as it stands connected together. No words can be found that can more forcibly express the solemn truth, which our Lord intended to convey: the import of his declaration is so obvious, that we shall not attempt to elucidate it any farther, but will proceed,

II.

To vindicate its reasonableness—

That men should be saved for their good works, or condemned for their gross iniquities, would be thought reasonable enough; but that they should be saved by faith, or condemned for unbelief, seems to many to be utterly unreasonable and absurd. But, to a candid inquirer, the equity and reasonableness of both these points may be easily and plainly evinced.
If faith were, as some imagine it to be, a mere assent to certain propositions, it must be confessed, that, to expect salvation by it were preposterous in the extreme. But it has already been shewn that this is not saving faith. The man who truly believes, invariably comes to Christ in this way; he confesses with humility and contrition his past offences—he acknowledges, from his inmost soul, that he deserves the everlasting displeasure of God—he renounces every hope that might arise from his comparative goodness, his penitential sorrows, his future purposes, his actual amendment—he embraces Christ as a suitable and all-sufficient Saviour—and relies simply and entirely upon the promises which God has made to us in the Son of his love. This, I say, is the believer’s experience at the first moment he truly believes in Christ. To this we might add, that, from that moment, he lives in a state of communion with his Saviour, and exerts himself to the utmost to adorn his profession by a holy life and conversation: but we intentionally omit all the fruits of faith which he afterwards produces, lest any one should be led to confound faith with its fruits, or to ascribe that to faith and works conjointly, which properly belongs to faith alone. Consider then a person coming in this penitent manner to Christ, and trusting in the promises of his God; is it unreasonable that such a person should be saved? Who in all the world should be saved so soon as he, who implores deliverance from his lost estate? Who should reap the benefits of Christ’s death, but he, who makes that his only plea and dependence? Who may so justly hope to experience God’s fidelity, as he who rests upon his promises? Who, in short, should enjoy all the blessings of redemption, but he who seeks redemption in God’s appointed way? Surely, if it be reasonable that Christ should “see of the travail of his soul,” and that God should fulfil his own word, then is it most reasonable that he who believes in Christ should be saved.

With respect to the condemnation of unbelievers, we readily acknowledge that that also would be unreasonable, on a supposition that unbelief were nothing more than a dissent from certain propositions, through a want of sufficient evidence to establish their divine authority. But unbelief is a sin of the deepest dye; and the person who is under its dominion is in a state as offensive to God as can well be conceived. For, in the first place, he rejects that which has been established by every kind of evidence which a revelation from heaven can admit of: and, in rejecting it, he shews that he is lifted up with pride and presumption: for he not only takes upon him to sit in judgment upon God, but denies his own state to be so dangerous and depraved as God has represented it. If he acknowledges himself to be a sinner, he still feels neither his guilt nor his helplessness as he ought, but “goes about to establish a righteousness of his own, instead of submitting to the righteousness of God.” That wonderful method which the infinite wisdom of God has contrived for the restoration of our fallen race, he accounts “foolishness;” and substitutes what he esteems a safer and better method of his own. The most stupendous display of divine love and mercy that ever was or can be exhibited, he disregards: and thus, both “tramples under foot the Son of God, and does despite unto the Spirit of grace:” yea, to use the language of an inspired Apostle, he “makes the only true God a liar;” for whereas God has said, that “there is no other name whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus, nor any other foundation than that which he himself has laid,” the unbeliever directly contradicts him, and unequivocally declares his expectation, that there is and shall be some other way of acceptance with him. Now is it unreasonable that such a person should be punished? that such a despiser of God should be left without any part in the believer’s portion? Let us only apply the case to ourselves. If a child should pour contempt upon the wisest counsels of his parents, and question the truth of their most solemn protestations, should we not think him worthy of his parent’s displeasure? would not we ourselves, in such a case, manifest our disapprobation of his conduct? Who then are we, that we should insult GOD thus, and do it with impunity? Who are we, I say, that, when we are at liberty to withhold a blessing from an ungrateful fellow-creature, or to inflict a punishment on him adequate to his offence, we should not be in like manner amenable to God? If any say, “We acknowledge the sinfulness of unbelief, but think the punishment of it too severe;” I answer, ‘God himself is the best judge of the malignity of sin; and he has denounced death, eternal death, as the wages due to every sin: much more therefore may it be inflicted for unbelief; since there is no sin so complicated, nor any that so effectually precludes even a possibility of salvation: we may purge away any other sin by a believing application to the blood of Christ; but by unbelief we reject the only remedy provided for us.’

Hoping that the reasonableness of our Saviour’s declaration has been satisfactorily proved, we come,

III.

To display its excellency—

While the Gospel of Christ is misrepresented and opposed by man, the angels, who are incomparably less interested in its provisions, are ever contemplating it with admiration and joy. And, if it were better understood amongst us, it could not but meet with a more favourable reception; for it has innumerable excellencies, which render it worthy of universal acceptation. Let us examine a few of its leading features. In the first place, it clearly defines the way of salvation. Take any other way of salvation that ever was devised, by repentance for instance, or by sincere obedience; what inexplicable difficulties occur to our view! for, who can tell what degree of repentance will satisfy God for our breaches of his law, and be a sufficient price for heaven? Who can mark out the line which shall be drawn between those that shall be saved and those that shall perish? Who can tell what sincere obedience means? It cannot mean the doing what we will, for that would put a murderer on the same footing with an Apostle: and if it mean the doing what we can, where is the man that can be saved by it? Where is the man who has not violated it in ten thousand instances, or who does not violate it every day of his life? Who can truly say that for any one day he has mortified every sinful habit as much as he could, exercised every holy affection as much as he could, and practised every species of duty as much as he could? And if we cannot but acknowledge that we might have done more, who shall say what degree of insincerity may be indulged without violating the law of sincere obedience? On all such plans as these we are utterly at a loss; we are at sea without a compass. But take the doctrine laid down in the text, and the way of salvation is so plain, that “he who runs may read it.” Let any man ask himself this question, Do I believe in Christ? Let him pursue the inquiry somewhat farther, Do I feel myself a guilty, helpless, condemned sinner? Do I renounce all dependence on my own wisdom, strength, and righteousness? Do I see that there is in Christ a fulness suited to my necessities? And do I daily, with humility and earnestness, beg of God that “Christ may be made unto me wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption?” These questions are easy enough to be resolved; and by the answer which conscience gives to them, we may know assuredly whether we be in the way to heaven or to hell. And who does not see how great an excellency this is in the Gospel-salvation? Who does not see how strongly this circumstance recommends the doctrine in our text?

Another excellency in the Gospel is, that it is equally suited to all persons in all conditions. Had any self-righteous methods of acceptance been proposed to the dying thief, what consolation could he have found? How little could he do in his few remaining hours! However he might have admired the goodness of God to others, he must have utterly despaired of mercy himself. But through faith in Christ he was enabled to depart in peace and joy As to the murderers of our Lord, how long must it have been before they could have entertained any comfortable hope of acceptance! But the Gospel affords a prospect of salvation to the very chief of sinners, and that, even at the eleventh hour. Nor is there any situation whatever, in which the Gospel is not calculated to comfort and support the soul. Under first convictions of sin, what so delightful as to hear of a Saviour? Under subsequent trials and temptations, how would our difficulties be increased, if we did not know that “God had laid help upon One that was mighty!” The people of God, notwithstanding the hope which they have in Christ, feel great and heavy discouragements on account of the power of indwelling corruption: they seem oftentimes to be rolling a stone up the hill, which rushes impetuously down again, and necessitates them to repeat their ineffectual labours. And what would they do if their dependence were not placed on the obedience and sufferings of the Son of God? Surely they would lie down in despair, and say like those of old, “There is no hope; I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” Under the various calamities of life, also, believers find consolation in the thought that the salvation of their souls is secured by Christ. Hence they are enabled to bear their trials with firmness: they “know how both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” And shall not this recommend the Gospel? that there is no situation, no circumstance whatever wherein it is not suited to us? that while every other method of salvation increases our anxiety, and, in many instances, drives us utterly to despair, the Gospel always mitigates our sorrows, and often turns them into joy and triumph?

A farther excellency of the Gospel is, that it refers all the glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Every other plan of salvation leaves room for man to boast: but, on the plan of the Gospel, the most moral person upon earth must subscribe to the declaration of the Apostle, “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” None, who have obtained an interest in Christ, will take the glory to themselves: the voice of all without exception is, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise.” There is not any thing that distinguishes true believers more than this, that they desire to glorify Christ as the one source of all their blessings. In this their hearts are in perfect unison with the glorified saints, who sing continually, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to Him be glory and dominion, for ever and ever.” And is not this another excellency of the Gospel? Is it at all desirable that while some in heaven are ascribing salvation to God and to the Lamb, others should ascribe salvation to God and to themselves? Surely the felicity of heaven is much increased by the obligation which they feel to Jesus, and the consideration that every particle of that bliss was “purchased for them by the blood of God” himself; nor is there so much as one amongst all the hosts of heaven who would consent for an instant to rob the Saviour of his glory.

Lastly—The last excellency which I shall mention as belonging to the Gospel, is, that it most of all secures the practice of good works. Here is the chief ground of jealousy with the world: and if the Gospel were indeed liable to the imputations cast on it, if it gave licence to men to continue in sin, we should not hesitate to discard it as a fiction, seeing that it could never be the production of a holy God. But, as the Apostle says, “The grace of God which bringeth salvation teaches us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world.” If we appeal to antiquity, who was ever so strenuous as St. Paul in asserting the doctrine of justification by faith alone? and yet, who was ever so abundant in labours of every kind? or who ever inculcated with greater energy and minuteness the necessity of good works? If we come to modern times, we must observe that they, who now preach justification by faith, are with the very same breath accused of opening heaven to all, however they may act, and yet of shutting the door against all by their unnecessary strictness: and they who receive the Gospel are condemned as licentious, while they are at the same time blamed as too rigid and precise: nor is this by any means a slight proof of the efficacy of the Gospel on the hearts and lives of its professors; for if their sentiments expose them to the former censure, it is their holy conduct that subjects them to the latter. We grant and acknowledge it with sorrow, that there are some who name the name of Christ without departing from iniquity: but must all therefore be represented as of the same stamp, and the Gospel itself be considered as unfavourable to morality? Is it just, that, while ten thousand glaring sins pass unnoticed in an unbeliever, the misconduct of a few, or perhaps one single fault in “a person professing godliness” should excite a clamour against all the religious world as hypocrites? But, thanks be to God! we can appeal to experience, that faith “does work by love,” and “overcome the world,”and “purify the heart:” we are therefore emboldened primarily and principally to recommend the Gospel from this consideration, that while the zealous advocates for self-righteousness are miserably defective in all spiritual duties, the Gospel of Christ invariably stimulates us to a holy, spiritual, and unreserved obedience.

Many more excellencies of the Gospel might be mentioned: but if those that have been stated will not endear it to us, it is in vain to hope that any thing which could be added would procure it a favourable reception.
And now, as there are many in this Assembly [Note: Preached before the University.] who are already engaged in the service of the sanctuary, and many others who are destined in due time to undertake the sacred office of the ministry, and as the words of my text are in a more especial manner applicable to persons so circumstanced, suffer me, with humility, yet with freedom and faithfulness, to address myself in a more especial manner to them; and let me entreat you to bear with me if I “use great boldness of speech.”

I would beseech you then, my Brethren, to consider, that as the eternal welfare of our fellow-creatures is suspended on their reception or rejection of the Gospel, so their acquaintance with the Gospel must depend, in a great measure, on those who are authorized to teach it: for “faith cometh by hearing; and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Be not offended then if I ask, whether you yourselves have “received the truth in the love of it?” If you have not, how can you properly commend it to others? How can it be expected that you should “contend earnestly for that faith” which you yourselves have never embraced; or that you should labour with becoming zeal to convert your hearers, when you yourselves are unconverted? O let it be a matter of deep and serious inquiry amongst us, whether we have felt the force and influence of the Gospel? Have we ever been convinced of unbelief? Have we seen the equity and reasonableness of the judgments denounced against us whilst in that state? Have we, under a deep conviction of our guilt and helplessness, “fled to Christ for refuge?” Have we discovered the transcendent excellency of this salvation; and do we feel in our inmost souls its perfect suitableness to our own necessities, and its tendency to promote the interests of holiness? Can we say with the Apostle, that, “what our eyes have seen, our ears have heard, and our hands have handled of the word of life, that, and that only, we declare” unto our people? In short, while we profess that “the ministry of reconciliation has been committed unto us,” do we experience this reconciliation ourselves? The salvation of our own souls, no less than that of our fellow-sinners, depends on this: indeed we are more interested in the Gospel than any; for if we continue ignorant of it, we perish under the aggravated guilt of rejecting it ourselves, and of betraying the souls of others into irretrievable ruin. We, of all people under heaven, are most bound to divest ourselves of prejudice, and to labour with our whole hearts, both to enjoy the blessings of the Gospel, and to shew ourselves patterns of its sanctifying influence. Let us then, in compliance with the Divine command, “take heed to ourselves, and to our doctrine, that, in so doing, we may both save ourselves and them that hear us.”
But let others also be aware, that though they may have no responsibility attaching to them as ministers, they have as Christians. I must beg leave therefore to say unto all, that as “baptism is not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,” so the faith which they profess cannot save them, unless it be accompanied with a renovation of heart and life. Do not then be hasty to conclude that you are true believers: “examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves.” Be assured, it is no easy matter to believe: it is by no means pleasing to flesh and blood: there is not any thing to which we are naturally more averse: what our Lord said to the Jews of old may be addressed with equal propriety to the greater part of nominal Christians, “Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life.” But let it be remembered, that, however humiliating it may appear to our proud nature to renounce all self-righteousness and self-dependence, and to look for acceptance through the merits of Christ alone, it must be done: it will profit us little to have received the outward seal of his covenant, unless we possess also “the faith of God’s elect.” Our lofty looks must be humbled, our haughtiness must be brought down, and the Lord alone must be exalted:” we must bow before the sceptre of his grace, or we shall be “broken in pieces with a rod of iron.” If we truly and cordially “receive Him, we shall have the privilege of becoming the sons of God; and if sons, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” But “what shall our end be, if we obey not the Gospel?” What prospect have we, but to be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power?” Behold then, life and death are this day set before you. Bearing, as we do, a commission from the Lord Jesus to preach his Gospel, “we are debtors both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.” In his sacred name, therefore, we deliver our message; we are constrained to deliver it with all faithfulness, “whether ye will hear, or whether ye will forbear.” He, who with a penitent and contrite heart believeth in the Son of God, and, by virtue of that faith, is enabled to confess him before men, and to honour him by a holy life, he shall “receive the remission of his sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Christ.” But he, who believeth not on the Son of God, however moral he may have been in his external conduct, and whatever pleas he may urge in extenuation of his guilt, he, I say, “shall not see life, but the wrath of God shall abide upon him:” he hath practically said, “I will not have this man to reign over me;” and the despised Saviour will, ere long, issue this vindictive sentence—“Bring him hither, and slay him before me.” The decree is gone forth, nor shall all the powers of heaven or hell reverse it, “He who believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.”

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See the end of Claude’s Essay, where there are four different Skeletons on this same text, to illustrate the four different modes of discussion, by Explication—by Observations—by Propositions—and by perpetual Application. These, it is hoped, will throw considerable light upon the Composition of a Sermon, as an art or Science, and facilitate the attainment of it.

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Mark 16". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/mark-16.html. 1832.