« AnteriorContinuar »
me to raise my humble protest against this destructive superstition on the part of the people, this crafty selfishness and impious arrogance on the part of the priests.
Fourthly: Liberal contributions to the cause of religion and benevolence will not do. God has in His providence made the progress of His truth in the world greatly to depend upon the giving of property. Why this ? He could have rained Bibles from heaven, studded the globe with temples, and written His gospel on the face of the heavens for men of every land to read. Why then has He left it to us? Manifestly in order to give us an opportunity of cultivating those generous sympathies of the heart, whose proper development is at once necessary to our perfection and happiness. God intended giving to His cause to be felt as, a high privilege, not an arduous duty; a thing that man should hail with delight, not an obligation to be discharged with reluctance. Men have misunderstood this, and they give from the idea of merit. This is fatal to religion. No contribution, however liberal, will enable a sinner to escape the damnation of hell. “Though I give all my goods to feed the poor,” &c.
Fifthly: Aiming at it as an end will not do. Those who from the impulse of fear seek to avoid hell, or from an impulse of hope seek to secure Heaven, will assuredly miss the mark. Such persons are influenced by the same principles as influence the avaricious man in increasing wealth, or the ambitious warrior in invading countries,SELFISHNESS. Why, in this very principle is wrapped up the combustible matter that feeds the flame of hell. It is written-written in the philosophy of mind, written on the page of experience—written by the infallible hand of Jesus that he “ that seeketh his life shall lose it."
Sixthly : External reformations will not do. There are two kinds of reformation. The one begins within, the other without; the one is the development of a new life, the other is but the putting on of a new dress ; the one is the lopping off the branches from the upas, the other is striking it dead at the root; the one is putting a mask over the demon, the other is the changing of the demon to an angel. True reformation is the new life working off the old forms; withered leaves falling, and old plumage changing, by the impulse of fresh vitalities.
The mere external reformation is no good ; it is but the painting of a corpse with the hues of life—which is a corpse still. The drunkard may renounce his intemperance, the blasphemer his oaths, the voluptuary his lusts, the liar his falseness, the sabbath-breaker his profanity; the most profligate may strip himself of all the depraved features by which he may have been known, and stand forth before the eye of society as a model of conventional morality, and yet be as near hell as ever. Like the man in the Gospel—one devil has been ejected, but no angel has been welcomed in his place; and the room is empty and ready to receive seven devils more, and make the last state worse than the first.
If then the damnation of hell cannot be escaped in any of these ways, How is it to be done? This is still the all-important question. The great glory of the Bible is that it answers this question. The answer is—“ BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED.”
But how can faith in Christ do this? Where is the adaptation of the means to the end ? In answer to this question I would briefly submit three remarks :
1. THAT TO ESCAPE HELL YOU MUST ESCAPE A SINFUL CHARACTER. Hell has always a locality, because all existences whether happy or miserable must have a place. But hell is not locality. The same place which is a hell to one may be Heaven to another. That hell is some miserable region, on whose verge the sinner is standing, and that salvation is the outstretching of the Divine arm to deliver him from falling into it, is an idea as monstrous and pernicious, as it is popular. Salvation is not the taking of a man from one place and lifting him to another; it is the taking of a man from one state of mind into another, from one class of ideas, feelings, purposes, prospects, habits, into another. Malice, envy, selfishness, remorse ;—these are the combustibles which will support the fire that is never quenched ;—these are the corrupt elements that will generate the worm which will never die. As the worms that will at last gnaw and consume the human body will spring out of it, so the worms that will prey on the lost soul will spring out of its fætid moral elements. As future forests are wrapped in the acorn, hell is contained in the sinful character. You might as well endeavor to flee from your shadow as to flee from hell, if evil is in your heart. “Marvel not that I say unto you, Ye must be born again," &c.
2. THAT TO CHANGE YOUR CHARACTER YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR BELIEFS. The characters of men are moulded and determined by their beliefs. You adopt a certain plan, or pursue a certain course of conduct, because you believe it will serve your interest or promote your pleasure. Every rational act is at once the effect and embodiment of some belief. If you would get a man to quench his passions, to control his temper, or to change his mode of life, you must change his faith.
Hence the reformer, whether in politics, science, or religion, sets to work upon the beliefs of the people. With an unsparing hand he uproots those old notions, or beliefs, from which the corrupt things have grown, and sedulously endeavors to plant those seeds of conviction that will give birth to the new order of things which he desiderates. He is assured that no mystic influence, no mechanical force, no vital magnetism, can change the human character. He knows that man follows his beliefs as the tide follows the moon. He knows that faith is the soul's rudder; and if he would change the course of the barque,-turn her into more azure seas, and towards more propitious shores, he must act upon that. The gospel itself only "effectually works in them that believe."
3. THAT THE BELIEFS NECESSARY TO CHANGE A SINFUL CHARACTER MUST REFER TO CHRIST. Two thoughts will
illustrate this :-First : Supreme love to God is the essential element of a holy character. We say emphatically, supreme love. Love to God, in some way or other, occasionally, perhaps, enters the heart of the most depraved of our race. It comes as a passing emotion, a kind of poetio sentiment; it plays upon the soul for a moment like a ray of lightning ; it does not rest, like the sunbeam, to penetrate the whole being with its genial influence. This love, unless it be supreme, forms no part of a holy character. Where love in its supreme form is not, whatever natural amiabilities there may be, they constitute no part of a holy character; and wherever it is, whatever imperfections still exist, there is the "new heart," the soul of virtue. Secondly: Faith in Christ is essential to the generating of this supreme love. Man by the constitution of his nature, cannot love a being whom he feels dislikes him. Enmity produces enmity. Assure us that a man hates us, and something of a kindred feeling will rise in our own hearts ;—at any rate there will be obstruction to our loving him. Now it is a fact, account for it how you will, that men's guilty consciences have invested the Eternal with those attributes of vengeance that awaken fear rather than love. What is wanted, therefore, to generate this love, is an unmistakable, irresistible proof that God loves us. Take an illustration :-Suppose that there exists in your heart at this moment, a burning and deeply settled hatred towards a certain individual. You have hated him for years;-the very mention of his name makes your spirit flame with indignation. You are pained at his successes ; you rejoice in his trials ; you would exult at the tidings of his death. In what way could I remove that emnity from your nature, and substitute in its place the affection of love and good will ? There is but one way, and it is this :-Let me convince you that the man you hate has no unkind feeling towards you, and never had ; but, on the contrary, loves you, has on several occasions made sacrifices to serve you, and is prepared at the present moment to do anything in his power to make you happy :-let me work this conviction into your soul, and
no sooner shall I have succeeded than your enmity would give way, amidst compunctions for your criminal mistakes, to a real affection. This is just as God has acted in the mission of Christ. He knows that, the guilt and danger of mankind arise from the want of love towards Him. He knows, from those laws which He has impressed upon the human mind, that if He could but carry home to the heart of man the conviction that, however much he may hate his Maker, his Maker loves him, the desired renovation would be forthwith effected. This He has sought to do by evidence the most overwhelming. The life of Christ is the testimony to this love. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Hence faith in this testimony of Christ, is essential to a change in man's character. There is nothing arbitrary in this, on the contrary, there is a profound philosophy, in the doctrine of the apostle; “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." In the nature of the case there is no salvation without it. With this change of heart thus wrought through Christ, forgiveness also comes, and the man exclaims “ There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” A God-loving heart gives to the soul a smiling God and a bright universe.
I preach CHRIST then as the Saviour. Brother, do you ask how you can ascend from the depths of that depravity into which you have fallen, to those moral elevations congenial with your powers and aspirations? I point you to Christ and
shall be delivered from the malady of sin which burns through your system, and which worketh death ? I point you to Christ and say, “HE IS THE BALM IN GILEAD AND THE PHYSICIAN THERE.
you may escape the terrible storm of wrath which seems brooding in that dark mass of cloud that is rolling up your horizon, threatening to scathe you with its lightnings, and to shiver you with its thunders? I point you to Christ and “HE IS THE REFUGE FROM THE STORM.”
ask how you