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Miraculous love! to make His only begotten Son our brother, to humble Him to the condition of a servant, that we, most unworthy to be His servants, should be advanced to be His children: nay, to expose Him to the death of a malefactor, equally ignominious and painful, that we malefactors might obtain life and glory. If ever love deserved the title of excess, 'tis this ; for though not without reason, yet 'tis without all bounds and measure. 'Tis so far above our thought, that 'tis hard to have a firm belief of it. What the Psalmist speaks of the temporal deliverance of the Church, is more justly applicable to its spiritual eternal deliverance. When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion, we were like to them that dream. As if a poor man fancying in a dream that he is a king, adorned with the ensigns of royalty, and between hopes and fears should inquire of himself, Am I awake and in my right mind ? Is this sceptre, this robe, this crown real ? Or, is it all the pleasant deceit of imagination? And how can we reflect upon the amazing grace of God that brings salvation, but such thoughts will arise ? Is it true that God did not spare His most innocent and dear Son to absolve us guilty rebels? Did He die for His Father's enemies and His own? Unparalleled love ! only to be fully conceived by an infinite understanding. That the Divine Father should seem to love us more than His only begotten Son, in giving Him up to death for us ; that the Son of God should love us more than His own life, in dying to reconcile us to His Father, were incredible, but for the testimony of God himself. Who can resist the sweet violence, the powerful attractives of this love ? How can any person that has the use of reason to consider this great love, not be inflamed with affection towards his Saviour? How is it possible that these wide extremes should be found united, the infinite goodness of God, and the equal unthankfulness of men ? that they hate and offend whom they are obliged by the dearest titles to love and serve? Methinks such unnatural ingratitude should VOL. II.
only be found in hell; where despair of redemption has blotted out in those lost souls the memory of the love and merits of the Redeemer. But that on earth, where His most precious blood was shed, and is applicable for the salvation of all that will receive Him by faith and love, that here injuries are returned for His inestimable benefits, is the most enormous impiety. “What shall we render unto Him for our evils which He hath suffered, for His benefits which He gives to us? All that we can endure for His sake, is not comparable to one thorn of His bleeding crown. Let us return love, that is so infinitely due to Him. Woe to us if we do not love Him." *
As early as the year 1637, while discharging his duties as a clergyman in the city of Norwich, his puritanical principles brought Mr Bridge under the censure of his diocesan, by whom he was first suspended, and at last excommunicated, for nonconformity. Bridge retired to Holland, then the asylum of sufferers for conscience' sake, and preached to a congregation of English refugees, who had formed themselves into an Independent Church in Rotterdam. . On the assembling of the Long Parliament in 1640, many of the exiles returned to England, hoping to enjoy a larger measure of civil and religious freedom than had been allowed under the stern rule of the Star-chamber, and doubtless not without some instinctive presentiment of the great struggle which was impending. Bridge returned to Norfolk with several members of his Rotterdam congregation, natives of that country, and shortly after settled at Yarmouth, a port which afforded an easy retreat to Holland should the necessity arise. Here he continued to exercise his ministry, until he was again driven from his pulpit, by the operation of the Bartholomew Act, in 1662. He was never permitted to resume his labours, or return to his flock
in Yarmouth, but died at Clapham, near London, in 1670, in the seventieth year of his age.
Though, like most of his brethren in that period of storm and strife, compelled to enter the arena of polemical controversy, William Bridge was most at home in the peaceful duties of pastoral life. His writings breathe the spirit of gentleness and love, and abound in evidences of his being less an adept in scholastic casuistry, than skilful in rightly dividing the Word of Life, and expounding the truths of experimental religion, A contemporary sums up his character in the following words : _" He was no mean scholar, had a library well furnished with fathers, schoolmen, critics, and most authors of worth. He was a very hard student; rose at four o'clock winter and summer, and continued in his study till eleven.
till eleven. Many souls heartily blessed God for his labours. Though he was strictly Congregational, he heartily respected his brethren of other sentiments; witness his carriage to his fellow-minister, Mr Brinsley, for whom he used all his interest to have him continued in his place, when the government was in the hands of the Independents." *
Our first illustration of our author's lively manner, is from a discourse on Romans iv. 19.
Faith Confronting Impossibilities. DOCTRINE.-" When God intends to fulfil His promise, by giving any special
blessing to the children of Abraham, He does first of all put the sentence of death upon the blessing, and upon all the means that do lead unto it." Whilst I stand upon this truth, methinks I see matter of great and emulating encouragement to all the saints and people
* For the above notice of Bridge, and the extracts from his writings, we are indebted to the kindness of the Rev. J. S. Russell, who, justly proud of his illustrious predecessor, has laboured with successful zeal to throw light on the Nonconformist annals of Great Yarmouth.
In the year 1845, Bridge's Works were reprinted in five octavo volumes.
of God. Be not discouraged, but rather keep silence, wait, and stay upon God when the darkened times go over your head, when the sentence of death is put upon
and blessing which you most desire. This is God's way when He intends any great mercy to any of His children. He puts a sentence of death first upon it. Oh! when death sits upon
the means, then we conclude all is dead, all is gone, and we are very apt to have despairing thoughts, and to make desponding conclusions. “I said in my haste, All men are liars” (Ps. cxvi. 11). And so now-a-days-I thought, indeed, we should have had a reformation; but now nothing but sad division. I thought we should have had free enjoyment of all the ordinances; but now the sentence of death put upon all. I had thought I should have had assurance, and never doubted again ; but now death put upon it, and upon all the means that lead unto it; all is dead, all is gone. Oh, we are very apt to be much discouraged, and to make strange conclusions when death comes upon the
It is a hard thing to keep from such conclusions, for the business comes to a vote, as it were, before the soul. “The question is,” saith the soul, “ whether I shall be saved or no. As many as are for the affirmative say Ay!” “Ay!” says the promise. “ As many as are for the negative say No!” "No!” say threatenings; and “No!” says guilty conscience; “No, no, no !” say a thousand sins. “The question is, whether I shall be delivered or no? I am in such an affliction and strait-the question is, whether I shall be delivered or no? As many as are for the affirmative say Ay!” “Ay!" says the promise. “As many as are for the negative say No!” “No!” says Providence. “No!” say all second causes, and all the means round about. “No, no, no!” say a thousand sins. Now, my beloved, it is a hard thing for a poor soul to give an affirmative with the bare promise, when all else gives a negative; but the reason is, because this truth that now I am upon is not by you. Were but this truth by you, it were easy to
give an affirmative with the bare promise, when death sits upon all the means.
But if ever the mercy rise, and the grave-clothes be taken off, it shall be the choicest mercy that you ever had in all your lives. Abraham had divers sons, but the jewel was Isaac—the dead mercy. Hannah had divers children, but who like Samuel—the found mercy? Mercy, once lost, and then found, is the greatest mercy; and if ever you come to find the mercy you have lost, if ever that rise which the sentence of death is put upon, it shall be the greatest mercy.
And therefore, who would not wait upon the Lord ? Oh, my beloved in the Lord, that you would but possess your hearts with this truth, how quiet would your souls be under all the distempers and troubles of the time. When
the troubles that are abroad, yet your hearts would be quiet, and you would say, Well, notwithstanding, we may be in the way to the greatest mercy that ever England saw; why should we be thus discouraged ? Oh! my soul, wait upon God—this is God's way; He never gives any great mercy to any of His people but first He puts a sentence of death upon it, and upon all the means that lead unto it; and therefore, notwithstanding all, yet we may be in God's way; therefore, O my soul, wait upon Him. Thus much for this time.
Beason and faith. You know, beloved, the Scripture hath laid a flat opposition between faith and sense. “We live by faith," says the apostle, “ and not by sight, or by sense.” They are as two bucketsthe life of faith, and the life of sense; when one goes up, the other goes down; the higher faith rises, the lower sense and reason; and the higher sense and reason, the lower faith. That is true of the schools. Reason going before faith, weakens and diminishes it; but reason following upon faith, increases and strengthens it. Besides, you know Paul says, "Not many