« AnteriorContinua »
of the world moves forward so quietly, and lead him in a path often thorny, laborious, calling for great patience, perseverance, self-denial, conflict. And the opinions and judgments of other men at one time censure him—at another, deride ; at one time oppose, and at another condemn. But what is all this to him? While other men look to the tribunal of each other's judgments, he looks to the tribunal of conscience, and of God. He is after peace of conscience in the hour of death ; peace with God in the final day; and the joys of reward which“ pass all understanding." He acts from elevated principle, while other men act from the impulse of unsanctified feelings. He is looking to the law of God as his rule of action, while other men look to the law of their own corruptions—" the law of sin and death.” He submits, for the present, to be esteemed of men singular, that he may be found of God faithful; to be misunderstood, at present, by men, that he may be “made manifest unto God;" to suffer, at present, that he may be safe hereafter ; to go through this world, if so it must be, under its light esteem and scorn; that he may be able, at last, to lift up his head with confidence and triumph. He is willing to make sacrifices now that he may have his portion hereafter; to labor and wear himself out for God's service, and men's salvation; to live, for the present, anxious, watchful, in godly fear, in agonizing conflict, in intense pressing forward in the Christian race, that he may find that “rest which remaineth for the people of God,” and that joy which is “unspeakable and full of glory,” at the coming of the Son of man.” On the end of such a manner of living and acting he has no shadow of doubt. On the word of divine promise he is confident of approval at last, and rests in happy certainty that the benediction shall fall sweetly on his ear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
These are some of the grounds on which we defend active, serious, devoted Christians from the imputations to which we adverted in the introduction of this discourse. And in this defence we are not either defending extravagance, nor hypocritical pretensions, nor parade, nor sanctimoniousness, nor sectarian cant, nor bigotry. We are only defending Christians in walking worthy of their high vocation,”— living as becomes “the sons of God;" the ransomed of Jesus.
II. But we have now a question to ask. Are the men of this world, they who suspect the sanity of active Christians- are they in their right minds? Deranged men sometimes think themselves to be sane, and other men beside themselves. The poor maniac, from the window of the hospital, looks out on the passing traveller, and says, there goes a crazy man.' Men of the world, immersed in their cares, and distracted with the various feelings which work in the breasts to which God has said “ there is no peace,"_even these venture to pronounce heavenly-minded men“ beside themselves." Does the assertion of course make the fact?
But it may be said that every man is likely to be a prejudiced witness in his own favour. True. Then we will get testimony, the impartiality of which shall not be questionable. And we will go up to the throne of the universe for it. Thus saith God, of “the sons of men," "madness is in their hearts while they live.” If God be “a God of truth,” and if his eye be the eye of omniscience, this world is mainly filled with men who, in a moral sense, are
“ beside themselves." “ The sons of men,” says he of them, as in their natural state, and the collective body of them, with but comparatively few exceptions, have “madness in their hearts while they live;" the moral madness which began at the apostacy from God, in Eden, and has come down from generation to generation to this hour, a moral disease, most melancholy. This world, as viewed from the throne of heaven, is pronounced as one vast insane hospital, with here and there one restored, in a measure, to right reason ; labor. ing, in compassion, for the restoration of the rest, and waiting the desired day of his own discharge. The parishes, towns, cities, and congregations, of even a Christian country, are but groups and crowds of immortal men, a melancholy proportion of them with “madness in their hearts.” They fancy themselves happy-are scheming, driving, grasping for “ trifles light as air”-bubbles, which burst at the touch ; and over them “ angels weep.”
Does this need proof? We have it in affecting abundance. Would you call him beside himself who dances on the brink of a precipice which overhangs the roaring ocean? What will you say of him, who, if the Bible is true, is sporting on the "slippery places" which overhang the gulf of eternal perdition? Is he a maniac who rushes into the flames consuming his dwelling? What say you of him who is running into eternal burnings; and that, too, with the voice of redeeming mercy beseeching him, “Stay sinner, stay!” Would you pity him as not knowing what he does who should refuse the gift of an estate, and choose the perplexities and miseries of poverty? What think you of him who refuses “ an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away," "eternal in the heavens," and chooses the few poor fleeting things of earth, of which he is ever complaining that he has not enough; and which, in a few days, are to “melt with fervent heat," in the flames which shall “ melt down the skies.” Would you call him beside himself who would refuse a post of honor and office which he might fill, and choose to be a beggar upon a dunghill ? But what is he who refuses a crown of eternal life, offered by a bleeding Savior; and chooses “shame and everlasting contempt ?” What is the case of every unconverted person, in a Christian country, but that of one living at war with his own convictions ? With his Bible open before him, he will even confess himself convinced of many a solemn truth, and yet “ resists the truth ;" convinced of his duty, and yet goes, every hour, in the face of duty ; convinced that he is “guilty before God," and yet, in impenitence, goes on to aggravate his own guilt ; convinced of danger, and yet steadily advancing into danger; convinced of his true interests, as a candidate for eternity, and yet lives in a fearful trifling with those interests ; convinced that there is a heaven, and yet turning his back upon it; convinced that there is a hell, and yet moving on towards it with steps as steady and firm as though he thought himself on the way to paradise. How do unconverted men prefer temporal trifles to eternal glories! How wise are they in pursuing and carrying into effect the purposes of vain and sinful hearts ; while they forswear the wisdom which looks to the great and solemn purposes of eternity. How wary and sharpsighted, that they may not mistake or be deceived, or overreached, in the business of this world, to the value of a farthing, while they
permit Satan, and one another, and their own deceitful hearts, to flatter them, and cheat them out of a heavenly inheritance and out of their very souls, and to blindfold them, and without resistance to lead them down to eternal wo! How do they act from the motives of vain and unholy hearts, while God is mercifully calling upon them to act from the high and holy motives of the gospel of his Son! How do they live as though this world were to be their eternal home; or as though death were the end of their hopes, fears, and existence! And how lost to the “great and terrible day of the Lord," and to the judgment then to sit, as though they had in it no concern. And are these the characteristics of reason ? the habits and doings of men in their right minds? It was in view of such facts, that God pronounced the affecting truth, • madness is in the hearts of the sons of men, while they live."
“While they live." This reminds us that the time is coming when this madness will be broken up, and give place to a reign of reason which will last to eternity. But oh! not in men's becoming the subjects of spiritual healing, for it will then be too late. It will be only a state of mind produced by the bursting of the light and the fearful scenes of eternity upon their minds ; when they will no longer have a vain world on which to fasten their affections. : Could imagination “paint the moment after death," as it is, to the spirit departed from a life of “madness," by a death of hopelessness; what would it show of consternation, agony, and despair! Much more, how fearfully is the curtain actually lifted in the divine revelation of the scenes of the judgment. • The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised." " And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God : and the books were opened ; and another book was opened, which is the book of life ; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” “ Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, before the foundation of the world.” " Then will he say also unto them on his left hand, Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” When these scenes shall open, then will come a solemn close to the delirium of this distracted world. Then will be felt, by each contemner of the grace of God, madness was in mine heart while I lived. But oh! the sorrows, agonies, terrors, which overwhelm him who has misinterpreted and derided the manifestations of the Spirit of grace in God's faithful people ; and who sinks into perdition with a mind fitted to be a vessel of wrath.
Brethren, we are admonished by the subject to be active and earnest in all the duties and business of the Christian life. We must be jealous of that false modesty and fear of man which “bringeth a snare;" and which would keep us hesitating and inquiring what will the world say ? shall we not be singular ? will they not deride and censure ? when we ought to be in a course of fearless and faithful acting for Christ. What says the Word ? If
reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye.” If other men misjudge the faithful Christian, that is not his affair. Duty is his ; and God will attend to the .conse
quences of his doing it; and sooner or later set forth his vindication. poses, my brethren, must be too firm to be shaken by the skepticism or reproaches of a whole world ; our seriousness too deep to be overset by its derision ; our faith in things “ within the veil” too lively to admit of devotion to the vanities which the world is pleased to call realities, to the foolishness which unrenewed men call reason. If zeal for Christ be called madness, so be it. If devout and heavenly-minded piety be called gloom, fanaticism, delusion, so be it. If to be serious, watchful, prayerful, plain in speech respecting the things of God and holiness, is to purchase the reputation of being too strict, overmuch zealous, so be it. “I serve a strict God," said a man of devoted piety when thus charged. We must take heed, my brethren, of being chilled in our affections, low in our graces, limited in our enjoyments, and feeble in our influence on “ the children of this world," through fear of acting out religion, -manifesting the grace of God in our life and conversation. Be as singular as the apostle John ; as enthusiastic as Peter; as strict as James ; as superstitious as Paul; as-visionary as the dying Stephen ; and as much“ beside yourselves" as your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. The time comes when He who searches the heart and knows the motives will correct all misjudgments respecting you, and will bring forth your righteousness as the light; and your judgment as the noon-day.”
Does any unconverted person hear me, who is in any measure disturbed and anxious on the subject of his coming eternity? To such an one we say, you have serious reason for solicitude, and there is nothing strange or needless in your feelings. You really have occasion, as a ruined sinner, to feel ten thousand times more unhappy about yourself than you do, or ever have done. For if God were to show you just what you are, as you appear in his sight, the view of your own guilt, thus disclosed, would be enough to drive you to despair. Seek “ Christ the Lord,” who can heal you of this disease of sin, threatening your soul with eternal death. You have been beside yourself all your life, and are beginning to find it out. Go to the Savior of sinners; seek a place where you may “ sit at his feet, clothed and in your right mind.” Go, beg of him healing of your moral “madness," and he will give you grace to reign in your immortal spirit.
To you who are possessed with the idea that you are the wise and rational men of this world, in that you walk “ by sight,” not “ by faith,”—“ we pray you in Christ's stead,” and for your own souls' sakes, hear the counsel of God. The Bible is not fiction; it is truth, solemn and eternal. Anxiety about the soul is not madness, nor melancholy; it is the consequence of the strivings of the Holy Spirit with the sinner, to lead him to repentance and to Christ Jesus. Serious religion is not enthusiasm, nor singularity, nor bigotry, nor fanaticism, nor delirium ; nor is it a thing to be derided with impunity. It is right-mindedness, health of soul, preparation for heaven.--You are beside yourselves in neglecting it. You are madly pursuing shadows and vain imaginations along the broad way to hell. God is remonstrating with you; beseeching you by his word to return to him ; and striving with you, by his Spirit. "Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die ?"
REVELATION, xx. 11.--He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that
is filthy, let him be filthy still. THERE is a depth of meaning in the descriptions which the Bible has given of the final condition of the ungodly, which the boldest human mind is utterly inadequate to fathom. There is the most fearful imagery employed on this subject which lies within the compass of human language. There is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. There is the smoke of the torment that ascendeth
ever and ever. There is the worm that always gnaws and never dies. There is the pit over which hangs the blackness of darkness. There is the resurrection of damnation, and the lifting up the eyes in torment, and the being trampled under foot by Jehovah in his righteous indignation. I say that in this imagery there is a depth of meaning which we cannot fathom ; but this circumstance renders it not the less but the more dreadful; for the implication manifestly is, that the woes which are to constitute the portion of the ungodly, and which are to break upon them in an everlasting storm, are really out of the bounds of our present conceptions ; that no one can know all that is implied in the loss of the soul, until he learns it by experience.
That the statement now made will generally be assented to by this congregation, even by that part of it who are not professedly the followers of Christ, I cannot entertain a doubt; and if each individual were interrogated as to the fact whether he really believes what the Bible has said on this subject, I should expect, at least in nearly every case, to receive an affirmative answer. Why then, I am ready to ask, this entire unconcern which prevails in so many minds in respect to the salvation of the soul? If there be a fearful hell before the ungodly, wherefore is it that the ungodly do not fear it? How is it that these probationers for eternity, who, in acknowledging the truth of the Bible, acknowledge that they are themselves exposed to an eternal perdition, are after all apparently as much at ease, and move about in circles of levity with as entire thoughtlessness, as if they were really only the creatures of a day? I
VOL. V. -No. 12.