« PreviousContinue »
to them, both here and hereafter. And none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. Of which words our Saviour himself has given the true and awakening exposition, in his application of the parable of the talents. For unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance ; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath.
From what has been said the following inferences seem plain and obvious, my brethren :
First, the religion of the gospel is not the creature of impulse and feeling, arbitrarily imparted once for all, and to be found most readily where reason and understanding are the farthest removed from their just influence. But it is the happy and enduring fruit of knowledge diligently sought, wisely applied, faithfully improved, and virtuously practised. It is, therefore, a gradual attainment, and as such, requires and is provided with all those means which the goodness of God has prepared and appointed to that end. Now, these means consist of our own exertions and of his grace; to separate them is to deprive ourselves of both. He that would reach heaven in his own strength will never rise, even to the view of its blessed mansions of glory; while he that waits for divine grace, without putting forth the strength already given, and which is to be found in reading, meditation, prayer, and penitence, will wait in vain. God hath no need of the sinful man, therefore he must be sought unto by all such. They must come to him for this blessing, without which we can do nothing, that is, nothing that we can do is of any worth without it. Hence, we are instructed and exhorted to work out our salvation with fear and trembling ;-For it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.— To add to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity, with all diligence.—Thus making our calling and election sure,
Secondly, as the continuing to neglect both our duty and our interest, in securing the salvation of our souls, is showed by the text to be followed by increasing blindness and corruption of mind, to the final destruction of all spiritual sense and feeling, it follows, as a most reasonable inference, that all delay to turn from such a ruinous course, is a further tempting of God, and an undeniable proof of that wickedness which shall not understand.
All warning, my dear hearers, is given for us to profit by, and our reason is to judge of the just application of that warning. To your reason, then, I appeal, to the sober reason of all present, in whatever degree the text finds you, whether of the thoughtless, the over-engaged, or the actually vicious. Are the pursuits you are occupied with, such as God will approve of and reward hereafter ? If they are, if they are such as you can bring to the standard of his word, and find them there approved; yea, further, if they are such as your own experience shows to be profitable for the advancement of spiritual light in your minds and the increase of the power of God over your hearts and lives, then cleave to them, and engage yet more diligently in them; but if they are not, if your own reason and conscience, if the observation and experience of all who are competent to judge, above all, if the word and wisdom of God testifies with these, that they are hourly sinking you deeper into darkness and delusion, hourly carrying you away further from God, from hope, and from happiness; what then—what says reason, what says conscience, what says religion, what say the united voices of the wise and the good in all ages ? Forsake the foolish and live ; make no tarrying to turn to the LORD; we have sinned, we have done wickedly, and, therefore, the way of truth is hid from us. And what says the mercy of God to those who turn to him in righteousness? When the wicked man lurneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. And lest this should not be thought warning and encouragement sufficient, by the sin-darkened hearts of a crooked and perverse generation, what says this only begotten Son to all under the gospel ? Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest ;-him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. And what says this merciful Saviour even to the blindness of sin and unbelief? I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life; he that hath ears to hear let him hear; and he that hath a heart to perceive let him understand; and whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.
To-day, then, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, but turn unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon you, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon.
THE JAILER'S QUESTION TO ST. PAUL.
Acts xvi. 30, latter clause.
“What must I do to be saved ?"
Some degree of concern, and even of anxiety, as to the failure or success of important interests, is inseparable, I believe, my brethren, from our present condition. While hope and fear vibrate in uncertainty, the restlessness of insecurity must be felt, and will manifest a corresponding influence upon the thoughts and upon the conduct. That this concern and anxiety is more frequent as well as stronger in degree respecting our temporal than our spiritual interests, is, unhappily, the experience of every Christian land. And while it is acknowledged to be altogether inconsistent with the relative importance of the two interests, but feeble efforts are made to counteract it; and the consequence certainly follows, that it increases in power, and ultimately excludes every spiritual desire and inclination. Now though this is known to be the effect, and notwithstanding the admonitions of Scripture are full and express against undue or misplaced anxiety as to worldly condition, the things that are seen prevail over the things that are not seen, and, in a variety of ways, blind the minds of them that believe not, to their everlasting ruin. Yet public opinion, as well as private inclination, is disposed to treat this departure from God, or rather this refusal to come to God, leniently, and in the common guilt to lose sight of the common danger; and because some respect can be and is shown to the outward observances of Christianity, and because less of open out-breaking wickedness is perpetrated by the careful and worldly-minded than by the careless and dissolute, therefore the delusion is cherished that the high and holy hope of the gospel may, for such, be relied upon.
There are however, some minds so overrun with levity and thoughtlessness, that they appear impenetrable to every thing like serious impression, or continued application. Trifles alone interest them and engage their activity. But of such, no man augurs well, nor is much disposition felt to admit the excuse which may be offered on the ground of natural disposition; it is condemned as inconsistent with either feeling or reflection, and as precluding any reasonable hope of usefulness or success in life. This judgment, I believe, is correct in the general ; for experience and observation concur in proving, that until this frivolous, inconsiderate state of mind is cured, the expectation of any thing profitable to themselves or useful to others is hardly to be entertained.
Thus do we reason and decide, my brethren, and correctly too, as regards the interests of time. But wherefore is it, that we stop short of the extent to which this mode of reasoning would carry us—that we are not instructed by the analogy which temporal things bear to those which are eternal, and are not moved thereby to feel the same anxiety, and put forth the same diligence for the welfare of our souls, which we manifest for that of our bodies? Wherefore do the careful, and the thoughtful, and the calculating men of business, condemn the equally busy, though careless and inconsiderate men of pleasure, as it is called? If their pursuits are alike bounded by the present life, wherein do they differ in event, as respects the great purpose of our being ? This is the touchstone of all wordly condition—the test of all present occupation to accountable beings—for, surely, when compared with eternity, the gravest as well as the gayest, the weightiest as well as the more trifling pursuits of the world, are alike frivolous and unworthy the exclusive regard of an immortal soul. In the sight of God what matters it, my hearers, whether our hearts are set on business or on pleasure, during the four-score years of our limited pilgrimage? These equally usurp the place which he alone should fill, and they alike militate against the great and declared purpose of his wisdom and mercy in permitting the world to continue, and in granting to its inhabitants opportunity and means to regain the bright inheritance which by sin was forfeited, and escape the condemnation which by sin was incurred. These are considerations