Page images
PDF
EPUB

into hell, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched-if these things will not make us serious, then it is most certain, either that we do not believe there are any such consequences, or that we have not yet thought of them at all, or that we have forcibly dismissed them from our minds, or that we are so imbued with levity of character that even eternity can make no impression upon us. In

any

of these cases our condition is next to desperate; we can have no hope hereafter from any thing that Christianity has to offer us.

If our want of seriousness concerning religion is occasioned by our not believing it, there can be no hope of salvation from a religion which we reject. Indeed, the mind cannot be affected by wbat it does not realize; and if the mind is untouched by the realities of a future state, the conduct will be so likewise.

If it be the case with us, as alas! it is with thousands, that we have not yet thought of these things, and hence are not serious about them, certainly it is high time with every one who hears me, to take the subject home to his deepest consideration. The great events of death and judgment, of heaven and hell, are not at a distance from us. As we draw near the close of our days, they come nearer to every one of us, and are precisely the same as if the day of our death was the day of judgment. Therefore, it is folly in the extreme in any rational being to say he has not thought of religion. It is an answer we sometimes receive; but it is a foolish one, indeed it is worse than foolish, it is highly presumptuous. And yet do I not look on many who would have to give this answer or none at all ? Who have never sat down to count the cost at which their immortal souls are staked in an approaching eternity, nor have given to the revelation of Jesus Christ and him crucified, that serious consideration to which, as the only name under heaven given among men for salvation, it is entitled ! Alas! my careless hearers, can religion do you any good while it is a mere matter of occasional speculation, desired perhaps, but never sought, never found? I may sow the word, but of what advantage can it be to the thoughtless way side hearer, who allows the wicked one to catch it away almost as it is sown? With what profit will it fall on the shallow ground of that heart to which seriousness is a stranger ? Alas! should it even spring up, how soon is it blasted and withered in the ungenial climate of the vanities and follies of the world! and how surely is it choked and rendered unfruitful in those whose seriousness is absorbed in the cares of this life! whose hearts bow down before the god of this world ! Oh! if it should please God to command the pestilence upon us, or infect our atmosphere with death, what thousands would be turned over to the forlorn hope of a death-bed repentance, because religious seriousness is banished from their hearts! And is this impossible? Has it never happened ? Ask yourselves, then, seriously, my hearers, can youth, or health, or business, or pleasure be any excuse for not thinking about religion ? Is it of importance only to the old, and infirm, and dying, to be saved? Do the young, and the strong, and the busy, and the dissipated never die ? Can they be saved without religion ? or can religion save them without thinking about it? No! Those who are saved, not only receive the word into an honest and good heart, but keep it there. They are not only hearers, but doers of the word. The man who brings forth fruit with patience, delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates therein day and night, and is compared to a tree planted by the rivers of water, which bringeth forth fruit in his season.

Lastly, if want of seriousness on the subject of religion proceed from such a levity of mind as nothing can make any impression upon, the condition is most dangerous. For this levity must be cured before any religious impression can be entertained, and the cure is in the hand of God only—in the application of those severe afllictions, which bring the mind to its balance. Then will the solemn considerations which were before made light of and jested at, find room to be entertained, and estimated according to their actual worth ; and thus is the visitation of personal suffering very often the greatest kindness, because the only means of begetting seriousness on the subject of religion. Numbers ascribe their first serious impressions to the loss of some dear object, or to some severe bodily suffering; and as all serious persons find that disposition increased by every fresh affliction, this should teach us how necessary such visitations are to us, and how experimentally David spoke, when

he said, It is good for me, that I have been afflicted. I know, O LORD, that thou, in very faithfulness, hast afflicted me.

In saying, however, that the remedy for this most dangerous state of mind is in the hand of God only, we do not mean to say, that nothing can be done, either by the persons themselves or by others, in aid of this most necessary work--for much may be done ; and this poor world, amid all its witcheries, is full of proofs, from daily calamity and supervening death, that it is not worth depending on for present pleasure, and that the sum of its gratifications, for the period of its endurance, would be dear bought, at the expense of the soul.

Let us, then, my brethren, treasure up the instruction this parable presents us with. Weekly the sower goes forth to sow. Let us examine carefully into what kind of ground, with what disposition of heart, we receive the good seed of the kingdom. Let us bring that to bear upon the fruit it produces in our outward conduct, and, by their mutual relation to each other, be certified both of the motive from which we act and the end to which we are progressing. Let us do this with the seriousness which eternity demands. So shall we daily ripen for the kingdom which cannot be moved, and, in the harvest of the world, when the tares shall be separated from the wheat, be gathered by the reapers into the garner of the Son of God.

Vol. II.--59

SERMON XLI.

FRUIT ACCORDING TO SEED SOWN.

GALATIANS vi. 7:

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall be

also reap."

The influence of the present life upon that which is to come, is here set forth under a similitude which is at once familiar and striking; and, as no one can possibly mistake the application, all are interested to consider its bearing upon their individual condition. We are all busy and attentive, in various manners and degrees, in cultivating the material seed we have committed to the earth, and in pursuing our different worldly occupations. We have sowed in hope, and put forth our various exertions in confidence, that neither seed time nor harvest, nor the fruit of skill, and care, and diligence, shall be disappointed ; and in all this we have done what is right, and what is, in truth, our bounden duty. We have none of us, however, expected to gather cotton from peas or corn from cotton, nor yet that the event in any worldly calling should be opposite to the means made use of to attain it. Now I would ask, why have we thus acted and expected ? Upon what ground have we thus put forth our labour and skill in our various occupations ? And whence is it, that no man hath even looked for an alteration in the kind of his crop, or a result opposite to just expectation in the other pursuits of life? And let the only just answer that can be given-habitual dependance on the fixed order of an unchangeable Providence, in the government of Almighty God—open up to us the analogy of my text, and impress our hearts with its importance and equity. For while we are ploughing and sowing, and labouring and striving for time, we are likewise putting in a crop for eternity; and just such as we sow, that shall we also reap. On this day, then, when worldly cares and occupations are interdicted-when the bustle and turmoil of the world is hushed by the command of God-let us endeavour to reap the fruit which a careful consideration of this subject will surely present to us.

Be not deceived ; God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

The doctrine contained in the text is the fundamental doctrine of all religion, the link which connects time and eternity, and a state of reward or punishment with the quality of moral conduct. That every man shall finally receive of God according to what he has done in the present life, is a truth of the same certainty and of the same importance with the acknowledgment of the very being of God as the Moral Governor of the universe; and only as this is the fixed and full persuasion of our minds, will the claims and duties of religion be respected. Hence the frequency with which the doctrine is repeated in the Scriptures; the earnestness with which it is pressed upon our belief; the various similitudes whereby its connexion with our present conduct is illustrated, and the solemnity of that judgment which shall precede it is represented.

As Jesus Christ came to reveal fully the will of God for our guidance-to furnish us amply for that life and immortality which is brought to light by the gospel, so did he continually confirm all the obligations of his religion, in the application of this equitable rule of judgment to our actions—The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with the angels, and then he shall reward every man acccording to his works. Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give lo every man according as his work shall be. And what our Lord himself thus clearly taught, was no less plainly and earnestly inculcated by his apostles. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

To imagine, therefore, that any other rule will decide our everlasting destiny, is not only to run counter to the express declarations of the Judge himself, but to affront the equity of our own minds, and to render practical, personal religion unim

« PreviousContinue »