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Calvary. And this was an object of such paramount importance in his estimation, that it may with truth be affirmed, he never lost sight of it; never degraded it from the prominent station which it was entitled to hold; nor ever allowed any other object to claim the precedence of it. From the first Sermon that the writer of this was privileged in hearing from his lips, to the very last that he delivered, he can testify, that the incessant burden of his preaching was " Jesus Christ and him crucified"—which he undeviatingly exhibited as the alone ground of liope to the guilty and perishing children of men. And his public ministrations were characterised by this excellence, that you might, in all his Sermons, constantly trace an unity of design,—oue object which be had ever in view, namely, to lead the minds of his hearers to Christ, " in whom it hath pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell"—and that for the supply of all their spiritual wants—for pardon, peace, and joy eternal. In. truth, nothing short of the grossest stupidity could account for any of his hearers mistaking him on this head.
2. Another prominent trait in the ministry of Mr. Austin was his simple view of faith. No attentive reader of the scriptures needs to be told that much is therein said respecting the efficacy of faith, in the whole affair of our salvation. We are said to bejustified by faith—to be sanctified by faith—to live by faith—to walk by,faith—to overcome the world by faith—and in short, we are said to be saved by grace through faith. No wonder, therefore, that the subject of faith should have given rise to so much discussion in the Christian church. Ft is indeed of the highest importance to a minuter to have his views regulated by the word of God on this particular point; for on no
one article in the system of Christian doctrines, is the spirit of error more prevalent than on that of faith. Ask the generality of preachers "what is faith?" the reply will be—" It is a principle qf grace implanted in the heart, at regeneration, &c. &c." but of this mysterious principle no definite or distinct idea can be formed, for it is supposed to exist where no sentiment is conveyed to the mind, nor any light to the understanding. We are sometimes very gravely told from the pulpit, that this "principle of grace," may be implanted in the heart, without the subject knowing any thing in the world about it, and that it may remain there, like seed buried under the clods of the valley, for twenty years, 'ere it spring up and fructify! Such is the vile jargon we are often destined to hear from many a famed divine in the present day. But the moment we open the scriptures and attend to them, we are struck with the incongruity of the modern doctrine respecting, faith, and that infallible standard. Both prophets and apostles appear to have studied the greatest plainness of speech on this subject—sometimes exhibiting it under the idea of crediting a report, as in Isaiah liiL 1. Rom. x. 16. sometimes as the belief of a witness or testimony, 1 John v. 9. and then it is equivalent to a conviction, or confident persuasion of the truth of what is testified or promised, Heb. xi. 1, 11. Rom. iv. 21. and at other times it is even described as synonymous with knowledgtr See Ps. lxxxix. 15. Is. liii. 11. John xvii. 3.—-yea, with hearing God I speaking to us in his own word: Is. Iv. 3. And thus instead of holding up the "one faith" to us as a mysterious, indescribable something, inexplicable by human language, there is nothing more simple and intelligible than the faith of the gospel, as it lies in the
be ye saved, &c." Thus to " hold forth the word of life" to men of every rank, with the promise of salvation to him that believeth, he always regarded as "the great affair' (an expression which he often used concerning it) and whatever was the subject of discourse, he rarely, if ever closed it, without bringing the matter to this point. And this leads us to remark another peculiarity in his preaching, namely,
3. His views of the calls and invitations of the gospel.* In this last particular, Mr. Austin's preaching formed a perfect contrast to that of numbers of his brethren, who have adopted the scheme of Hyper-Calvinism contained in the writings of Drs. Crisp and Gill, Mr. Brine and others; but in our opinion, it constituted the crowning excellence of his ministry, and therefore deserves to be particularly mentioned.
We remember to have been struck with the pertinency of a remark we have somewhere seen respecting the great Dr. Gill, namely, that he appears to have been extremely jealous lest one more than the elect should be saved! And to avoid splitting on that rock, he was led to reject all the calls and invitations, with which the scriptures abound, as inducements to sinners to repent and believe the gospel, as, in his view, savouring of Arminian legality! This takes its rise ' from a miserably defective view of " the glorious gospel of the blessed God,'' and Mr. Austin was fully aware of its unscriptural bearing, which is to becloud
* We cannot help remarking in this place, that the peculiarity above mentioned is happily described by the writer of the " Elegy on Mr. Austin's death," inserted p. 9, 10. of this volume, in the following lines
"No Sectarian zeal could bind him,
To with-hold the gospel call;
His enlarged views inclin'd him,
Freely to encourage all." We could not, however, refrain from smiling, when we noticed that, by some accident this Stanza is wanting in the copy of the Elegy inserted in the Baptist Magazine, January 1817. Query! Was the Editor apprehensive it might be construed into a reflection on the conduct of his ministering brethren, and consequently that it might give offence?
holy scriptures. Mr. Austin was perfectly aware of the truth of all this, and he was deeply solicitous to guard his hearers from the leaven of the Pharisees on this point. He very properly considered that, as the work finished by the Son of God on Mount Calvary is the only meritorious ground of a sinner's acceptance, so all the benefit of that work is conveyed to men, by means of the divine Testimony, or report concerning it—for Christ's righteousness is " unto and upon all that believe, without difference." Rom. iii. 22. ch. x. 4—17. The great thing with him, consequently, was, to hold up to the view of perishing sinners, "the word ot the truth of the gospel"—to state its importance and excellency—to illustrate its import—and exhibit the divine evidence by which it is supported, and to urge men, by every argument and motive which reason, conscience, and revelation could"suggest, to believe it to the saving of the soul. It was a rare thing with him to notice any of the controversies that exist in the world about the nature of faith; but he was very anxious to present to the view of the sinner what he was to believe; and if at any time ke found it necessary to explain what he meant by believing, the mode of speech which he generally adopted, and with which he was best pleased, as being least liable to mistake or abuse, was that of having "the eye of the mind turned to Christ"—a phraseology which he evidently borrowed'from Is. xlv. 22. "Look unto me and
the riches and freeness of divine grace, and its immediate nearness to the chief of sinners. He not only considered the gospel as revealing the way of salvation, through the mediation of the Son of God; but he also regarded it in the light of A Feast, provided by the Majesty of heaven, to which all the sons of wretchedness and misery are graciously invited to come and partake of its choicest blessings without money and without price. Isaiah lv. 1—3. Matt, xxii. 1—10. Luke xiv. 16—24. And though he was fully aware that nothing short of almighty power could prevail on sinners to comply with the gracious invitations and kind entreaties of the master of the feast, yet he did not consider this as making the slightest difference with regard to his duty in urging, entreating, and beseeching sinners to be reconciled unto God, 2 Cor. v. 19—21. And here his excellence as a preacher of the gospel eminently appeared, at least in our estimation. For though it has certainly Allien to our lot to hear a great variety of ministers of the word during the last thirty-five years, we can truly declare that we never heard one who surpassed the subject of this Memoir, in the instance we are now mentioning, and very few that have equalled him.
There was a peculiarity, we had almost said an unrivalled felicity, in his manner of bringing home to the hearts and consciences of his bearers, the great subjects of his ministration. His method was his own, but it was admirable; and no verbal description can fully do justice to it. "And now, my dear hearers," he would say, when he came to wind up his discourse and bring it to a close, "you have been hearing of matters of vast concern to all the human race—permit me seriously to ask youwhat you think of them. Inthis large'assembly there may possibly
be one, or two, or more, who have never thought at all about their immortal souls, or the things that relate to their eternal peace. Your chief concern is, " What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal! shall we becloatbed." But, oh, do consider that you are mortal beings—that you are the subjects of sin, and in a state of condemnation—that death stands ready to arrest you and hurry you away to the bar of judgment, there to give an account of all your actions to God! If you go on in this state until death overtake you, what becomes of you for eternity? Well; remember, that novo is the accepted time and day of salvation. The gospel addresses you in the most kind and endearing language—tells you of a finished salvation—sets before you "a feast of fat things," comprising all that is necessary to make you happy in this life and in that which is to come; and invites you to partake without money and without price—" The Spirit and the bride say, come; and let him that heareth say, come; and whosoever will, let him come and take of the waters of life freely." But, ah, my dear hearer, if you put these things from you, giving a preference to the pleasures of sin, and casting the fear of God behind your back, how will you answer for such conduct in the great day of account! Remember, once more, that he that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, for the wrath of God abideth on him."
This is an imperfect sketch of the style of his addresses, which he always contrived to introduce in an easy, natural, and pleasing manner; and though the phraseology might be varied, the sentiment was always substantially the same.
We have oftener than once heard it remarked of Mr. Austin, in reference to the scriptural order of Christ's house, that " he knew more than he practised," and to his praise be it recorded, that this is the strongest censure we ever heard passed upon his character. But even admitting this to be true, we fear it is only what may be said of hundreds of other ministers, and of churches also, which boast much of their apostolic purity.
Video meliora, proboque,
Deteriora«equoris a maxim that has been current for ages, and happy they who can plead an exemption from the charge. It is not our business, however, to vindicate what is amiss in any man, and Mr. Austin's character stands in need of no such weapons of defence. That there were several things in the order of the church which appeared to himself capable of improvement, we never doubted; and had be been privileged, at the time he took the pastoral charge of it, with the wisdom and experience which he had acquired at the time he quitted it, we can readily believe that he would have instituted a different order. But when a church has once set out wrong, and proceeded for a course of years in an unscrtptural way, it is no easy matter to draw them out of the beaten track, and lead them into a Dew path, especially when they are to be the first to innovate. Mr. Austin approved of weekly communion; and could he have brought the church into one mind upon the subject, we doubt not but it would have afforded him the sincerest pleasure; but he was aware that the object could not. be attained without great sacrifices, and he had not nerve for the undertaking. That brethren, who have gifts for discharging the duty to edification, should exhort one another and the body at large, when publicly assembled together, met his cordial approbation, and one evening each week was ap.
propriated to that purpose. With these meetings he has often expressed his cordial satisfaction; "I enjoy them exceedingly," he has often said to the writer of this, "and find them very refreshing to my own mind." On these occasions he always presided, when not prevented from attending; lie began by reading a chapter from one of the apostolic epistles, and gave out a hymn; then called upon one of the brethren to pray: after which two or three of thesi spake to exhortation—and haviDg sang another hymn, he himself concluded by a short prayer, in which he always adverted to the leading topics that had formed the subject-matter of exhortation, imploring the divine blessing "to follow the important things that had been said unto them, and the truths of which they lrad then been reminded by their dear brethren." What Mr. Austin's sentiments were, respecting a plurality of Elders, Pastors, or Bishops, in every church where they can be obtained, we are not competent to speak; but, we greatly question if there be any one thing from which the churches of the present day suffer more painful consequences than they do from their culpable neglect of the mind of Christ, in reference to this matter; and the existing state of the church in Fetter-lane, since the death of Mr. Austin, is one, among innumerable other proofs of its truth. Whether that church possesses wisdom and virtue enough to profit by its present afflicted state, is a question which a little time will decide; but one cannot help figuring to one's-self, how vastly different had been its condition during the last six months, had it possessed a presbytery, after the pattern of the first churches. Titus i. 5. Phil. i. 1. Acts xiv. 23. ch. xv. 4. ch. xx. 17. We anticipate the objection that will be instantaneously started, "How shall a church, that has no affluent members, provide the means of support for more than one pastor I" but the objection weighs not a feather with us—Let them select one at least, who is in a situation to support himself—for if he be a man at all fitted for the office, it will be far more agreeable to him to do that, than to receive support from others. Acts xx. 35. 1 Pet. v. 2—4. And these remarks are equally applicable to the rest of the Baptist churches!
But whatever may be said of the radical defects iu the constitution and order of the church, it will not be denied by any one, that, in discharging the duties of his official station, Mr. Austin was very exemplary. In his public doctrine be exhibited "a pattern of uneorruptness, gravity, sincerity—sound speech which could not be condemned:" and in this respect, too, he formed a striking contrast to many of his brethren in the ministry. Deeply impressed with the importance of the message he had to deliver, there was Bo display of greatness about him, no effort to shine; the first object of his regard was to present to the minds of his hearers, the doctrine of the everlasting gospel, in language the most plain and easy of comprehension that he could select, without obtruding his own important self on thetr consideration. He was indeed well content to be nothing, that " Christ might be all in all." Yet his discourses were never common-place effusions; far less were they crude and incoherent rhapsodies: but the result of a diligent study of the holy scriptures, and consequently they always commanded the attention of his audience; and there was this singularity attending them, that we do not remember to have ever wished them shorter. He rarely descended below his own standard in preaching, but he sometimes rose to things that were uncommon.
ly great, and which, we can truly say, often excited our admiration. His deportment in the church was strougly characterised by the amiable qualities of meekness, gentleness, patience and humility. With the strictest truth may it be said, that he " was with them in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling;" and with equal propriety it may be added, that "he was gentle among them, even as a nurse cherisheth her children." Every member shared his affection and his prayers; and few ministers could with more consistency appropriate the words of the apostle, "Who is weak and I am not weak—who is offended and I burn not?" Though very averse to a gossiping style of visiting, the moment he heard of indisposition or distress in the family of any of his friends, his attentions were prompt, and his sympathy unfeigned. He mixed very little with the world, but devoted himself most unreservedly to the discharge of the duties which devolved upon him from the station in which the exalted head of the church had placed him, "pursuing the noiseless teuour of his way," amidst a variety of difficulties, both from within and from without, but encouraged by the success with which his ministry was crowned, and cheered with the animating prospect of being enabled through grace, to render in bis account with joy, to the Chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls. The duties which he enforced upon others he was always solicitous to exemplify in his own conduct; and though a most strenuous advocate for the doctrine of the free justification of the ungodly though faith in the blood of the Lamb, no man could contend more pointedly for the holy influence of the gospeL It was his constant prayer, as he told the writer of this Memoir, that God would rather take him out of