« AnteriorContinuar »
was something during this life to be had in religion qf which he was not yet in possession; and also that the preaching of the gospel ought to produce effects which he had not jet seen. In this situation a natural and obvious dilemma occurred ta him:— b the gospel of peace no longer the same as formerly i — has it lost its influence? — or do 1 fail in the use and application of it f — is the Lord's hand shortened ? — or am 1 a workman who ought to be ashamed, because 1 do not rightly divide the woTd of truth? From the moment these doubts laid hold of his mind, there was an end of his tranquillity. The man was too much in earnest, and had too muck light to be satisfied with pharisaical forms, or even with external morality.; but as yet, he had not light enough to comprehend the nature and extent, either of the healing or the sanctifying efficacy of the religion of Jesns. The sense of his own unworthiness increased, his anxieties grew more distressing, and his conscience more and more troubled. He prayed fervently and incessantly: he searched the Scriptures with unwearied diligence, and he conversed with serious and godly people whereever he could find them; and it was in the diligent use of these means that he was at last brought to have peace of conscience and peace with God, whom he served in newness of life. The all-important Scripture doctrine of Justification by Faith only, in a practical way, took firm possession of his heart, and soon displayed its healing power, in its applicatien to a wounded spirit.
From the commencement of this change to the time when liis judgment became settled, an interval of at least two years •lapsed. However, when first perceived, it excited the suspicion of the better sort of his hearers. They did not immediately abandon him, but made attempt* to reclaim him; but all in vain. Mr, Milner's company was no longer called for in genteel and convivial meetings .- he had left off playing at cards; he was no longer seen at the playhouse or the assembly; his presence checked and rebuked indecent conversation and irregularities of eveiy kind. Men of the world no longer felt at ease in his company. On the other hand, he devoted the time he could spare from absolute duty, or from private study, to those pastoral visits which had the express design of promoting the interests of religion.
These and similar causes concurred to separate Mr. Milner from the people of superior rank. When he preached, they were never seen at church, except once a year. He has beeit heard to say, That this dislike proceeded to such a degree, that few persons, with a tolerably good coat, would notice him. Nevertheless,' the common people heard him gladly.' The large church in which he preached was crowded beyond exam pie; — the care of the soul became the topic of conversation ;—great seriousness prevailed, drunkards and debauchees
422 MEMOlIt OF J. MUSES-.
■weire reformed, and the town assumed a new appearance. CJreat numbers were awakened under his ministry. The sick sent for him to their chambers; and when, he returned home, he found his house crowded with, visitors, who had the same object in view. Mr. Milner's labours were Hot confined to the town of Hull: he was curate, for upwards of 17 years, cf ISorth Jx'riiby; and afterwards vicar of the same. On the Sunday isrornings, in summer, before the regular service, he heard the children repeat the catechism; and explained it to them, in familiar language, many grown-up persons attending. After the morning-service was ended, he returned to Hull to preach in the afternoon. He continued this laborious practice for many years, and as long as his health permitted him.
As he believed the Articles of the Church of England in their plain, literal, and grammatical sense, all his sermons were penned according to that interpretation of Scripture which they contain and express. With such persons as are »nac<juainted with the history ef religious controversy in these kingdoms,' it may seem a paradox how such sentiments could, Od the one hand, produce all this dislike and persecution from some of the people, and resentment from jsaany of his clerical brethren; and, on the other hand, occasion such flocking to his churches. It may be sufficient to saggest,' That our author certainly did believe and maintain, that the clergy of the establishment, in general, had very much deviated from the principles to which they subscribe their assent, — that the reading-desk and the pulpit were often at. variance,— aud that, instead of setting forth to the understanding with plainness, and pressing upon the conscience with energy, the great and peculiar truths pfthe gospel; such as. Original Sin, — Justification by Faith,— and Regeneration hy the Holy Spirit, as stated in the Articles and Homilies of me Church of England, the clergy in general were substituting in their place a system of little more than Pagan ethics.' llr. Milner had never the least hesitation in owning that he •isimself, during the first years of his ministry, was as deeply in-*»ived as any person, in this charge of departing from the ge- . uaine religion of the Bible, and of the establishment to which he belonged: that he had been active and earnest in corrupting the most important passages of Scripture and articles of Jntth: that, though his own conscience never, in ths smallest degree, accused him of insincerity or hypocrisy, yet his zeal had been without knowledge; and that he had, before his conversion, explained away the peculiarities of the gospel, and misguided his audience; and that, in fact, he did not then understand the nature of Christ's salvation,— had never experienced its humbling operation on the mind of a truly penitent sinner; but was building an edifice, both of religious doctrine and pa.tice, on a self-righteous foundation.
This storm of opposition began to subside after the first seven or eight years, owtng to the steady, upright, persevering, disinterested conduct of the preacher, — the practical manner in which he preached the doctrines of the gospel, and rebutted the charge of licentious instruction. Several persons, who, in the vigour of health, had displayed a bitter eamity against Mr. Miluer and his doctrines, were staggered in their opinions at the prospect of the grave. Some of this description sent for him; and found the uncharitubk -parson their' wisest and most faithful adviser. By these and other causes Mr. M. was replaced once more in the esteem of the inhabitants of Hull. He did not return to them, — they came over to him. In fact, the sentiments which he defended in the pulpit, became so fashionable, that no clergyman was well received there who opposed, or did not support them.
This laborious servant of God neither courted nor desired the praises of the world. His eye was single. He used to lament, that his endeavours were less effectual in the latter years of his ministry, when he was become a sort of favourite again, than in the former, during the violence of opposition. He said, That talkers about religion abounded; but there was little heart-work. All were become approvers of Christian doctrine; but numbers, in the midst of their profession, remained too much like the rest of the world, — ambitious, greedy of gain, followers of pleasure. He complained also, that many heard the gospel so long, without bearing fruit, that they were hardened and incurable.
Mr. Milner continued labouring to advance the Redeemer's kingdom to the 54th year ot his age, 27 years after his conversion. He just lived to receive thai very ample and decisive testimony of esteem which was shown to him by the Mayor ami Corporation of Hull. Upon the decease of the Rev. Mr. T. Clark he was chosen Vicar, almost unanimously; but he survived that event on'y a few weeks. His health had for year* been declining. V» hen questions were directly put to him in prospect of death, little more could ever be, drawn from hi in than —' I cannot say much! I rely on the promises tor strength in time of need! Most probably, my dissolution is at no great distance. There was a time when 1 should have been very unhappy to have had so little of sensible comfort; but 1 have seen reason to believe, that one of the most acceptable exercises of the true Christian faith, consists in patiently waiting God's time, and in relying confidently on-the written word. For many years 1 have been endeavouiing to live from day today as a pensioner on God's bounty, i learn to trust t« him; aud he sends the manna without fail.!'— Hedied on the lath of November, 1797. An elegant monument, executed by Mr. Bacon, was erected to his memory by some of his pupils.'".
PARDON PROCLAIMED TO SINNERS.
Seek ye the Lord while he <%au he found: call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his waif, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.—Isa. lv. 6, 7.
How amazingly infatuated are the children of men! They will disregard their highest interest and privilege for the pursuit of the merest trifles! The favour and mercy of God are blessings of the highest magnitude ; — they are highly interesting, and absolutely necessary for every one of us: yet Low prone are the sons of men to look after that which cannot profit, and to pursue after iniquity, which certainly destroys, rather than believe in the Son of God, and engage in Jehovah's service! We can only obtain an interest in the favour of God by believing in his Son; but all who believe in him shall enjoy it forever, and shall never be left to forfeit it any more. Let sinners take warning, and remember that the time is short, and iniquity unrepented of, and unpardoned thro' the blood of the Lamb, certainly destroys the soul for ever. The matter must not be trifled with, for unbelief is big with ruin. Serious attention then to the subject, when the Lord proclaims pardon, and makes known a way of escape, is highiy incumbent on guilty sinners.
■ Sinners are here kindly directed to a gracious Friend, who will deliver them. 'Seek ye the Lord while he may be found: call ye upon him while he is near.' Seek the Lord: seek him as your Friend and Portion, — your Support and your God. Seek to be reconciled to him, and to be blessed with his favour. He is ofFended with you because of sin; but he will have mercy upon you and welcome you, when you come to him depending on his Sou. In his Son he will be found of you, and bestow upon you, for his sake, all that you need, and deliver you from all that you fear. 'Seek, and ye shall find.' Yes; the Lord may now be found of poor sinners, lie is made known in the gospel, and manifested, in his gracious character, as a God of mercy in the sending of his Son. God was. therefore in Christ Jesus,'reconciling sinners unto himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses.' He is inviting you and intreating you to come to him, thus fully making known that he may now be found. Come then, sinners, unto him, while he is ready to receive you !' Now is the accepted time, to-day is the day of salvation,' therefore come Do not trifle,— do taot linger. 'To-day, therefore, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.' O! remember a period approaches, when he will be found of you in mercy no more,— when you shall' seek him early, but shall not find him!' Do not delay then, but immediately ilee for your life to the God •of salvation. • ,
'Call ye upon him while he is near.' The Lord is near! — what a mercy! The Lord is at hand !—within call, as it were, ready to deliver us when we apply to him. He is near in a preached gospel, in a continual providence, and in his offered mercy. It becomes us to apply to him who can help us, and to call upon him who is ready to hear our cry, and send us deliverance. He says, 'Hearken unto me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness, I bring near my righteousness: it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry; and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel, my glory.' He is near, for he is warning you, inflating you, and striving with. you. Call then upon him while he is near. A period will come when he will not be near to deliver you. if you deter till then, and he cease to strive with you, your case will be dreadful indeed: Then, when you begin to call, he will not answer. Call upon him now for the blessings of salvation, pardon, peace, and eternal life. Seek these blessings for Jesus' sakoi. Ttou may well rely on this Saviour. 'Ask and you shall receive/ Ypu cannot be heard but in his name; but, pleading in that name, you will prevail -V— for he himself says, 'If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.'
Perhaps these thoughts may be read by some wtio never call on God at all, and who, perhaps, disdain to do it. Allow me for a moment to reason with ypu, and lead an unprejudiced attention. You are a stranger to prayer. This shews ihat you are a stranger to salvation, — that you do not know,yourself as a ruined hell-deserving sinner,—and that you do not believe in Jesus, nor know him as a Saviour. We do not say,' Pray, and whatever you do, your praying will save you;'—but we say, " Your being prayerless shews you are 'Christless, and therefore you are not saved." If you felt.or understood your disease, and discovered any thing of the character or skill of Jesus, the great Physician, you could not refrain from prayer, but must of necessity apply, t® him, and he would heal you. This has been the case with all those •jvho have had their eyes opened to the importance-of these matters. When the publican felt his disease, he cried out, 'God be merciful to me a sinner!' When the thief on the cross discovered the character of his fellow-sufferer, he applied to him immediately, saying, ' Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!' and the Siiviour answered,' Verily, I say unto thee, T.o-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.' When Saul of Tarsuspbtained a discovery of him in the way to, Damascus, he said,' Lord, what wouidst thou have me to do?' Were any of these rejected? No; they were all graciously heard and-answered. Remember also, there are none in HeaYen who went thither without prayer. Your being prayerless
Jfvui, 3 It