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of God is clearly exhibited to the mind of man, his conscience approves of it, and he is convinced that he ought to obey it. When he transgresses it he is conscious that he does wrong, that he renders himself blame-worthy, and that he ought to have rendered obedience. Or when the Gospel is intelligibly presented to him, he cannot do otherwise than assent to it, as being worthy of acceptation. He is conscious that he ought to accede to its terms, and gratefully accept the great salvation. Man has not only ability to act as a moral agent, but he is susceptible of retribution. He is a proper subject for reward or punishment. He is conscious that he ought not to be accepted and rewarded unless he does right; and that he deserves to be condemned and punished when he commits sin.
Man's nature, therefore, is adapted to a state of probation. He has ability and capacity to do right, and receive reward ; or to do wrong, and receive punishment. Since, moreover, man is an immortal being, he is by nature adapted to be in this life a probitioner for eternity. According to the character which he forms here, whether holy or sinful, he will be fitted either for a state of happiness or misery in eternity.
II. Man's condition in this life is adapted to a state of probation for eternity.
He has opportunity to do good or to do evil. He may exercise in his heart, and manifest in his life, benevolence or selfishness, love or hatred, faith or unbelief, piety or impietyobedience to God or rebellion against him. He not only has, as before stated, ability to distinguish between right and, wrong, and a consciousness that he ought to obey the law of God, and accede to the terms of the Gospel ; but such is the condition in which he is placed that he is of necessity constantly deciding the question whether he will obey or disobey, accede or refuse. I now speak of the condition of man while he has a knowledge of the Scriptures. He knows what his duty is to God, his fellow-man, and himself. Motives are presented to induce him to do his duty. At the same time his heart is tried by temptations. In this condition be cannot suspend his moral agency. He must voluntarily conform to the rule of moral rectitude, or voluntarily act in violation of it. If he is a sinner be must either repent, or persist in transgression; he must obey the Gospel in the exercise of faith, or continue in unbelief; he must yield to the authority and espouse the cause of Christ, and stand with him or continue to resist his authority and oppose his cause. Thus, every person upon whom the light of revelation shines, is forming a moral character, either holy or sinful : is laying up a treasure either of heavenly blessedness with the sints in sight, or of wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the
righteous judgment of God. Nor are those only who have the Scriptures in a condition which is adapted to a probationary state : "for," says the apostle, " when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law unto themselves ; who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another." Accordingly moral obligation rests upon the pagan world, and they are constantly forming a character as proba tioners for eternity:
III. The comparisons by which the scriptures represent this life, plainly teach that it is a season of probation for eternity. this life is compared to seed time. “Be not deceived,” says the apostle, “God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well-doing ; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." In this life men sow their different kinds of seed. Some sow to the flesh. They occupy their time and talents in gratifying the carnal mind. They are caterers to the selfishness, pride, covetousness, or licentiousness of their own hearts. Their harvest time will come ; and as they have sowed to the flesh, they will of the flesh reap corruption. Their portion will be the wages of sin---the second death. Others sow to the Spirit. They occupy their time and talents according to the dictates and under the influence of the spirit of grace. They too will have a harvest. They will of the spirit reap life everlasting. As during the appropriate season the seed is sown, springs up, and is matured for the harvest, so, during this life, man forms his character as a probationer for the final judgment,--that harvest which will be at the end of the world, and the consequence of which will be the retributions of eternity.
Of similar import are the parables of the ten virgins and that of the talents. When the virgins were called to go out to meet the bridegroom, the wise having taken oil in their vessels were in readiness “ when at midnight there was a cry made, behold the bridegroom cometh ; go ye out to meet him.” Whereas the foolish, having neglected to prepare for the event, when they afterward came, saying Lord, Lord, open unto us,” received the reply, “ Verily, I say unto you, Í know you not." Also the three servants, to one of whom were given five talents, to another two, to another one, were placed on probation ; and when their term was expired, their Lord came to reckon with them. The two former had been faithful to their trust, and had gained as much as had been committed to them ; to each of whom his Lord said, “Welldone, thou good and faithful servant ; thou hast been faithful over a few things I will make thee ruler over many things ; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” But the other servant, under pretence that his Lord was severe and oppressive, went and hid his talent in the earth, and when his Lord came to reckon with him, said, "Lo there thou hast that is thine." To whom his Lord justly replied, " Thou wicked and slothful servant ;” and commanded, "Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Wbat instruction did our Saviour design to communicate by these parables, except that mankind are put on trial, and that when the term of probation shall have passed, they will be rewarded or punished according as they shall have been faithful or unfaithful ?
Likewise the parable of the rich man and Lazarus was evidently designed to convey the same instruction. The rich man employed his treasures to gratify his pride and voluptuousness; he was hard hearted and unmerciful. He regarded not the cry of poverty and distress. Lazarus was afflicted with poverty and disease, but possessed qualifications for heaven. He died, and was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell be lifted up his eyes, being in torments. Their lifetime was the season of their probation. They received their retribution in eternity. To the rich man, when he said, “Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame” Abraham replied, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.
Another comparison which is employed in the Scriptures, is that of the Olympic games ; in which comparison, the motive presented to man to be faithful, zealous, and persevering in the service of Christ, is likened to that which influenced the competitors in those games. The apostle says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Again, “ Know ye not that they who run a race run all, but one obtaineth the prize ? So run that
ye may obtain. And every one that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” But when will the faithful receive that crown ? The same apostle informs us when he says, “ I have fought a good fight : I have finished my course : I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me in that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” This shows the reason why he said at another time,“ We are willing ratber to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” He believed in accordance with the Lord's parables which have been considered, that this is the season of man's probation, and that in eternity he will receive his corresponding reward.
IV. The promises, invitations, and warnings to induce men
to accede to the terms of the gospel, imply that this life is a season of probation for eternity. The promises and their conditions are comprised in the following examples : “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." "R:pent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” These conditions and promises imply that mankind are sinners, that they have forfeited eternal life, and are justly condemned. Compliance with these conditions is required of men in this life. The promises can be fulfilled only in eternity. The enjoyment of eternal life implies eternal duration. Every person, therefore, to whom the gospel is made known, is in a state of trial in respect to its terms. It is to be decided whether he will accede to thein or not; and whether he shall receive remission of sins and eternal life or not. The probation is in this life, and it is for eternity.
The invitations of the gospel imply the sime. “ Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." This invita tion is tendered to those living in this world. The salvation which men need, and which is offered them in the gospel, is deliverance from the curse of the law, which is eternal punishment. Another invitation is, “ Incline your eur and come unto me; hear and your soul shall live ; and I will mıka an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure inercies of Divid." This is also addressed to men in the prosent life, while the blessing offered is everlasting. The sum of the invitations of the gospel is, Come now with believing hearts to Christ and accept salvation and eternal life : behold now is the accepted time : bebold now is the day of salvation.
The same doctrine is implied in the warnings of Scripture. In the following language addressed to those who had rejected divine mercy, God presents solemı warning to others : “ Be cause I have called iind ye refused, I have stretched out my hand and no man regarded : but ve huve set at naught my counsel and would none of my reproof ; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh. When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction as a whirlwind ; when distress and anguish come upon you ; then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer ; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me." Is not this a warning to all not to slight the calls, and not to reject the offers of God's mercy, lest remedilesy woo come upon them? Our Saviour'says, “He that believeth not shall be damned;" Again, "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life : but the wrath of God abideth on him.” He thus warns sinners of the loss which they will sustain, and the fearful judgment which will come upon them in eternity, if they persist in unbelief. Not to see life, is to be excluded from heaven ; to be damned is to be doomed to hell.