Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

SERMON XV.

THE EVILS OF FALSE SECURITY.

JEREMIAH vi. 14.

They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying Peace, Peace; when there is no peace."

We must all have remarked, on what a slight and passing consideration people will dispose of a question which relates to the interest of their eternity; and how strikingly this stands contrasted with the very deep, and earnest, and long sustained attention, which they bestow on a question that relates to their interest, or their fortune, in this world. Ere they embark, for example, on an enterprize of trade, they will look at all the sides, and all the possibilities of the speculation; and every power of thought within them, will be put to its busiest exercise, and they will enter upon it with much fearfulness, and they will feel an anxious concern in every step, and every new evolution, of such an undertaking. Compare this with the very loose and summary way in which they make up their minds, about the chance of happiness in another world. See at how easy a rate they will be satisfied with some maxim of security, the utterance of which serves as a bar against all further prosecution of the subject. Behold the use they make of some hastily assumed principle in religion,--not for the purpose of fastening their minds upon it, but for the purpose, in fact of hurrying their minds away from it. For it must be observed of the people to whom we allude, that, in spite of all their thoughtlessness about the affairs of the soul, they are not altogether without some opinion on the matter; and in which opinion there generally is comprised all the theology of which they are possessed. Without some such

opinion, even the most regardless of men might feel themselves in a state of restlessness; and therefore it is, however seldom they are visited with any thought about eternity, and however gently this thought touches them, and however quickly it passes away, to be replaced by some of the more urgent vanities and interests of time, yet, with most men, there is something like an actual making up of their minds, on this awfully important subject. There is a settlement they have come to about it, which, generally speaking, serves them to the end of their days; --and on the strength of which, there are many who can hush within them, every alarm of conscience, and repel from without them, the whole force of a preacher's demonstration, and all that power of disquietude which lies in his faithful and impressive warnings.

We speak in reference to a very numerous set of individuals, among the upper and middling classes of society. There is a class of what may be called slender and sentimental religionists, who do profess a reverence for the matter, and maintain many of its outward decencies, and are visited with occasional thoughts, and occasional feelings of tenderness about death, and duty, and eternity, and would be shocked at the utterance of an infidel opinion; and with all these symptoms of a religious inclination about them, have their minds very comfortably made up, and altogether free from any apprehension, either of present wrath, or of coming vengeance. Now, on examining the ground of their tranquillity, we are at a loss to detect a single ingredient of that peace and joy in believing, which we read of among the Christians of the new Testament. It is not that Christ is set forth a propitiation for their sins,-it is not that they stagger not at the promise of God, because of unbelief,-it is not that the love of him is shed abroad in their hearts, by the Holy Ghost, it is not that they carry along with them any consciousness whatever, of a growing conformity to the image of the Saviour,-it is not that their calling and their election are made sure to them, by the successful diligence with which they are cultivating the various accomplishments of the Christian character;--there is not one of these ingredients, will we venture to say, which enters into the satisfaction that many

feel with their own prospects, and into the complacency they have in their own attainments, and into their opinion, that God is looking to them with indulgence and friendship. With most of them, there is not only an ignorance, but a positive disgust, about these things. They associate with them the charges of methodism, and mysticism, and fanaticism: and meanwhile cherish in their own hearts, a kind of impregnable confidence, resting entirely on some other foundation.

We believe the real cause of their tranquillity to be, just that eternity is not seen nearly enough, or urgently enough, to dis turb them. It stands so far away on the back ground of their contemplation, that they are almost entirely taken up with the intervening objects. Any glimpse they have of the futurity

ich lies on the other side of time, is so faint, and so occasional, that its concerns never come to them with the urgency of a matter on hand. It is not so much because they think in a particular way on this topic, that they feel themselves to be at peace. It is rather, because they think so little of it. Still, however, they do have a transient and occasional thought, and it is all on the side of tranquillity; and could this thought be exposed as a minister of deceitful complacency to the heart, it may have the effect of working in it a salutary alarm, and of making the possessor of it see the nakedness of his condition, and of undermining every other trust but a trust in the offered salvation of the gospel, and of unsettling the blind and easy confidence of his former days, and of prompting him with the question, "What shall I do to be saved?" and of leading him to try this question by the light of revelation, and to prosecute it to a scriptural conclusion, till he came to the answer of, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

What is the way, then, in which they do actually make up their minds upon this subject? There is, in the first place, a pretty general admission, that we are sinners, though along with this, there is a disposition to palliate the enormity of sin, and to gloss it over with the gentle epithet of an infirmity. It is readily allowed, then, that we have our infirmities; and then to make all right, and secure, and comfortable, the sentiment with which they bring the matter round again, is that, though we

[merged small][ocr errors]

have our infirmities, God is a merciful God, and he will overlook them. This vague, and general, and indistinct apprehension of the attribute of mercy is the anchor of their hope; not a very sure and steadfast one certainly, but just as sure and as steadfast, as, in their peaceful state of unconcern, they have any demand for. A vessel in smooth water needs not be very strongly fastened in her moorings; and really any convictions of sin they have, agitate them so gently, that a very slender principle indeed, uttered occasionally by the mouth, and with no distinct or perceptible hold upon the heart, is enough to quiet and subdue all that is troublesome within them. A slight hurt needs but a slight remedy, and however virulent the disease may be, yet, if the patient be but gently alarmed, a gentle application is enough to pacify him in the mean time. Now, a tasteful and a tender sentiment about the goodness of God, is just such an application, He will not be severe upon our weaknesses; he will not cast a glance of stern and unrelenting indignation upon us. It is true, that there is to be met with, among the vilest dregs and refuse of society, a degree of profligacy, for which it would really be too much to expect forgiveThe use of hell is for the punishment of such gross and enormous wickedness as this. But the people who are so very depraved, and so very shocking, stand far beneath the place which we occupy in the scale of character. We, with our many amiable, and good, and neighbourlike points and accomplishments, are fair and befitting subjects for the kindness of God. When we err, we shall betake ourselves to a trust in that indulgence, which gives to our religion the aspect of so much cheerfulness; and we will school down all that is disquieting, by a sentiment of confidence in that mercy which is soothing to our hearts, and which we delight to hear expatiated upon, in terms of tastefulness, by the orators of a genteel and cultivated piety.

ness.

Under this loose system of confidence, then, by which the peace of so many a sinner is upheld, it is the general mercy of God on which he rests. I shall, therefore, in the first place, endeavour to prove the vanity of such a confidence; and, in the second place, the evils of it.

I. There is one obvious respect, in which this mercy that is so slenderly spoken of, and so vaguely trusted in, is not in unison with truth; and that is, it is not the mercy which has been made the subject of an actual offer from God to man, in the true message that he has been pleased to deliver to the world. In this message, God makes a free offer of his mercy, no doubt t; but he offers it on a particular footing, and on that footing only, will he have it to be received. Along with the revelation he makes of his attribute of mercy, he bids us look to the particular way, in which he chooses that attribute to be put forth. The man who steps forward to relieve you of your debts, by an act of gratuitous kindness, may surely reserve the privilege of doing it in his own way; and whether it be by a present in goods, or by a present in money, or by an order upon a third person, or by the appointment of one whom he makes the agent of his beneficence, and whom he asks you to correspond with and to draw upon, it would surely be most preposterous in you to quarrel with his generosity, because it would have been more to your taste, had it come to you through a différent channel of conveyance. He has a fair right of insisting upon his own way of it; and if you will not acquiesce in this way, and he leaves you under your burden, you have nothing to complain of. You might have liked it better, had he authorized you to draw upon himself, rather than on the agent he has fix. ed upon. But no; he has his reasons, and he persists in his own way of it, and you must either go along with this way, or throw yourself out of the benefit of his generosity altogether. It is conceivable that, in spite of all this, you may be so very perverse as to draw upon himself, instead of drawing upon the authorized agent. Well, the effect is, just that your draft is dishonoured, and your debt still lies upon you; and, by your wilful resistance to the plan of relief laid down, are left to remain under the full weight of your embarrassments.

And so of God. He may, and he actually has stepped forward, to relieve us from that debt of sin under which we lie. But he has taken his own way of it. He has not left us to dictate the matter to him, but he himself has found out a ransom. He offers us eternal life; but he tells us where this is to be

« AnteriorContinua »