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field: but your condition will be destitute of all resources. And with no business to engage, no amusements to beguile,
in heavenly places;" what it is to live in pleasure, to die in hope, to obtain "glory, honour, and immortality." These are the blessings you give up. And what do you gain by the surrender? Solomon tells you, "vanity and vexation of spirit." Worldly things are less than the soul, and cannot fill it; worse than the soul, and cannot satisfy it. They have no relation to our grand wants, or our best interests. They please, only to poison; they elevate, only to depress. They "perish in the using." You can carry nothing of them with you. You are not certain of holding them for life; and if you were, "what is your life? It is even as a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." View them in the light of Scripture; view them under the anguish of conscience; view them from the borders of the grave; view them from the vastness of eternity, and they are nothing. Nevertheless for these-and often without obtaining them-you sin away your everlasting portion. "What is a man profited if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" If the whole cannot indemnify him-can a part-a particle? "O ye sons of men, how long will ye love vanity and seek after leasing?-Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge?"
III. Let us CONSIDER ESAU IN HIS MISERY, AND COMPARE YOUR DOOM WITH HIS DOOM.
"For you know how that afterward, when he could have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." Read the relation in the book of Genesis. Nothing could be more affecting than his expostulations, and his bitter cries-but to no purpose does he urge his petition or press his father to retract: the benediction is pronounced, and Isaac acquiesces in the decision of Heaven. For repentance here refers to Isaac, not to Esau: the meaning is, not that Esau humbled himself in vain for his sin, and could not obtain forgiveness-but that he could not prevail upon Isaac to change his mind, and reverse what he had spoken: that, with regard therefore to the birthright which he had sold, his loss was irretrievable.
Say, ye gay dreamers of gay dreams, How will ye weather an eternal night, Where such expedients fail?"
Then your application will be useless. You may supplicate; but you will be rejected, and no place will be found for repentance in the mind of your Judge, though you “seek it carefully with tears.'
Hence we see what a difference there is between the origin and the issue of an irreligious course. "A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and are punished." The wise will always judge of things by their end. It is the end that crowns the action. Sin is never profitable; but its beginnings are flattering. "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant-but he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell. Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue: though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth: yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him." "What fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death."
And did God thus by his righteous judgment exclude from all his claims the profane Esau because he had despised them-"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Are you disposed to pity him? Yea, rather, weep for yourselves. Your loss is inestimably greater than his loss. After all his disappointments he had something left, and could entertain himself with the diversions of the
Again. Sin unavoidably brings a man sooner or later to lamentation and regret. "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see, that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts." And hence, if we studied our true comfort, we should never sin: we should reason thus: "If ever I am saved, I must be brought to repentance, and every sin I now commit will then give me pain: and if I have not that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto life, what will be the self-condemnation and anguish of a dying bed and a judgment day? Sin, like Ezekiel's roll, is written, within and without, with lamentation and mourning and wo." "
Let us also remark, that there is a repentance which is unavailing. Paul tells us of a "sorrow of the world which worketh death." Some are fretting because every one will not submit to their humours. Some grieve over their temporal losses, and never ask "where is God my maker, that giveth songs in the night?" Every remorse of conscience is not the effect of saving grace. Judas" repented, and went and hanged himself." The eyes which sin closes, eternity will open. But then grief comes too late. The blessing once lost, cannot be recovered.
I know that many unguarded things have been said of the loss of a day of grace. The
subject is alarming. I do not pretend to do justice to it, or to answer any curious questions which may arise from it. What I think I am authorized to say from the Scripture is this. First. That while there is life, there is hope; nor can we imagine that God would prolong existence but to afford us space for repentance. This indeed he has assigned as the reason. God "is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." "The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation." Secondly. It is always dangerous to delay the work of repentance; since, by repeated acts, habits are formed, and dispositions rendered more and more unfavourable. The disease neglecting, ed, becomes inveterate; and the shrub suffered to stand, grows into a deep-rooted tree. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots then may ye also learn to do good who are accustomed to do evil." But we should not only consider repentance as a work to be performed by us, and the delay of which multiplies difficulties; but also-and without this our repentance cannot be saving -as a blessing and an influence to be imparted from God. Now your criminal delay in seeking this renders it less probable that you will ever find it: for though you cannot deserve grace, you may grieve it: and after so many invitations scorned-what wonder if he should say, "None of them that were bidden shall taste of my supper!" Thirdly. There are cases and circumstances in every man's life more friendly to religion than others. On these much seems to turn; and these may be lost even in this life. I have no doubt but that when Felix trembled, he felt as he never did before, and never did again. But he wilfully strove to do away the impression. And have not some of you had convictions which have for the time filled you with fear? Have you not had such relishes of good things as have led you to "call the sabbath a delight," and to "hear the word with joy?" Have not your closets occasionally seen a bended knee? Have not your walks witnessed your tears and vows? Your earthly hopes withered, and your comforts removed-have you not been constrained to turn aside from the world, deploring its emptiness, and sighing for a nobler good! Now when he draws, we should run; when he knocks, we should open. Fourthly. Death, it is certain, ends all your opportunities. After this, no pardon will be offered; no motives will be urged. Time is for sowing, and eternity for reaping; and "what a man soweth that shall he also reap." Hence the distinction always maintained in the Scripture between this world and another: the one is a state of probation, the other of decision. Hence the importance of life. Hence the wisdom of complying with the admonition," Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is
near." For there is a season when, if you "call upon him, he will not answer, and if you seek him early, you will not find him." And how soon you may be in this unalterable state it is impossible to determine. We know your breath is in your nostrils; you are exposed to a thousand accidents and diseases.
But your harvest is not yet past, your summer is not yet ended. Still he bears with you. Once more he invites you. It is time, it is high time, and, blessed be his name, it is not too late, to seek him. I see him now standing with the door wide open, beseeching you as you love your souls to enter inYou refuse-and he shuts to the door, say
"O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace—but now they are hid from thine eyes!"
And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and said unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.John i. 46-50.
MUCH of the excellency of the Scripture lies in this-that it does not state things in general representations, but descends to particulars-that it does not place them before us in speculative notions, but in practical ef fects-that it does not describe them only, but exemplifies-so that we see them alive and in motion.
The passage of Scripture which is now to engage our attention is peculiarly interesting and instructive. It is a narrative of the interview between our Lord and Nathanael. It leads us,
First, to observe THE ADVANTAGES OF OCCASIONAL SOLITUDE.-What was Nathanael doing under the fig-tree? We are not informed. Perhaps he was reading the Scriptureperhaps he was engaged in meditation-perhaps lie was praying-perhaps he was joining himself to the Lord in a perpetual covenant saying, "Lord, I am thine, save me: and manifest thyself to me." Some purpose had allured him there which our Saviour noticed and approved; he saw him "in secret," and he now "rewards him openly.” Does he see
us? Are we strangers to retirement? Surely, if we are Christians, and concerned for the welfare of our souls, we shall often retire, and find that we have much to do alone. I pity the man whose life is full of action, and void of thought. I pity the professor who lives only in public; who is always hearing sermons; who pays very little attention to the duties of the family, and none to those of the closet. It is alone that we disengage ourselves from the dominion of the world. The world conquers us in a crowd. When our senses are dazzled, and our minds amused, we are too much occupied to find out the cheat; but when we are drawn back from it, when we calmly consider it as an object of lonely contemplation, oh! how is its importance diminished, how is its influence reduced! It is then we sigh-"vanity of vanities, all is vanity." It is alone that conscience operates, that motives impress, that truth is examined and applied. It is alone that we obtain a knowledge of ourselves; it is there we can examine our condition, investigate our characters, discover our follies and our weaknesses. Alone, we can be familiar with God, and divulge to him secrets which we could not communicate to the dearest friend, or express in any public or social exercises of religion.
who can know it? I the Lord search the
Let us remember therefore, that "the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding both the evil and the good." Of this he will give proof hereafter, when "he shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." It will be in vain for the sinner then to say—when his wickedness is published to the world-"Whence knowest thou this ?"I saw thee, says the Judge, devising mischief upon thy bed; I saw thee walking in a way that was not good; I saw thee endeavouring to stifle every conviction of conscience, and to banish every serious reflection from the mind; thou hast always stood in my presence; thou hast always sinned under mine eye. I beheld all thy actions, I heard all thy words, all thy thoughts were open to all aremy view and here they
But let the righteous rejoice. He sees their situations, their trials, their dangers, their fears, their desires. He has " ven them upon the palms of his hands, their walls are continually before him."
Let the broken-hearted penitent be encouraged. Godly sorrow affects loneliness. Into many a corner you retire to pour out tears unto God. Well, thither his eye follows you-" To this man will he look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, "And the and that trembleth at his word." Lord said unto Ananias, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold! he prayeth." Thirdly. SINCERITY IN RELIGION IS A
Secondly. Let us remark HOW PERFECTLY ACQUAINTED OUR SAVIOUR IS WITH OUR MOST "Whence knowest thou me?" asks Nathanael, when our Saviour had, in few words, developed his character. Je-QUALITY WHICH OUR SAVIOUR CALLS UPON US What an honoursus answered-" When thou wast under the TO OBSERVE AND ADMIRE. fig-tree I saw thee." This good man ima- able character, as he approaches him, does he "Behold an Israelite ingined himself alone there: he supposed no give Nathanael! eye saw him. No wonder therefore he was deed, in whom is no guile." By calling him Israelite," he distinguishes him from Israsurprised, to hear a person, who appeared only an a man like himself, announcing the whole af- other nations; and by calling him an “ fair: no wonder he was immediately convin- elite indeed," he distinguishes him from his ced of his Messiahship, and exclaimed, "Rab- own. For all "were not Israel, who were bi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the of Israel." From the beginning, "he was King of Israel." To know all persons and not a Jew who was one outwardly; neither things infallibly, is the prerogative of God was that circumcision which was outward in only. He therefore claims it, in distinction the flesh: but he was a Jew, who was one infrom all creatures: "The heart is deceitful wardly; and circumcision was that of the above all things, and desperately wicked; heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; 6
I love the fig-tree. I love to go forth from among the works of man, to enjoy the creation of God: to enter a wood-to walk through a field of standing corn-to follow the windings of a river-to view the playfulness of the lambs-to listen to the varied melody of the birds. Here is nothing to vex, nothing to pollute. What an innocency, what a softness does it spread over the mind! How disposed is the heart to welcome and cherish every devotional sentiment!
“O sacred solitude! divine retreat!
Choice of the prudent, envy of the great-
VERY LITTLE LIGHT.
whose praise was not of men, but of God." "according to what he has, and not accordNow Nathanael was one of these true Israel-ing to what he has not." ites; he was in reality, as well as by profession, one of the people of God. And the evidence he gave of this was, his freedom from guile. But our Saviour does not say he has no guilt-a man may be freckled, or have spots, and not be painted. A Christian is not sinlessly pure; he has many unallowed and bewailed infirmities; but guile he has not: he is no hypocrite. He does not, in religion, ascend a stage to assume a character which does not belong to him. He is what he appears to be. There is a correspondence between his professions and actions; his meaning and his words. He is upright in his dealings with himself-in his dealings with his fellow-creatures-and in his dealings with his God. He is all of a piece. He is the same alone as in company: the same in his own house as in the house of God: the same in prosperity as in adversity.
And this leads us to a fourth remark. THERE MAY BE TRUE GRACE, WHERE THERE 18 AT PRESENT This was the case with Nathanael. His knowledge as yet was small; his mind was contracted; and he laboured under low prejudices. He had no apprehension of a Messiah, distinguished by poverty and suffering. And because Nazareth was a wicked place, and a place of obscurity, he concluded, nothing good or great could originate thence. Nevertheless he was open to conviction-he complied with the invitation, "Come and see"he immediately "believed with the heart, and confessed with the tongue"-and our Saviour, pleased with his proficiency, promises to "lead him into all truth."
This is the character that stands fair with his own conscience. This is the character that enthrones himself in the esteem of others. This is the character that the King of Glory delights to honour. "The prayer of the upright is his delight." Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart." "The upright shall dwell in thy presence." "The Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Hast thou," said he to Satan, "hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" And placing such a character before us, in a situation the most sublime and awful, he says, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the up-but the oak is as much slower in attaining its right, for the end of that man is peace." perfection, as it is more firm in its grain, There are two reasons why he calls upon us more durable in continuance, more important to admire a Nathanael. The one is, THE in its use. RARENESS OF THE CHARACTER. It is not to be seen every day. Many make no pretensions to religion; and many have only "a form of godliness," while they deny the power
Now this may be the case with others. And indeed, so far am I from supposing it necessary, to evidence the reality of a man's conversion, that he should in every thing see clearly at first, that I commonly suspect those that are all at once so ripe in knowledge, and so high in doctrine. These disproportionated notionalists remind me of those unhappy children, whose heads grow so much faster than their bodies-the effect of disease, or weakness of constitution, not of health and vigour. I love to see knowledge, experience, and practice advancing together "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." That which comes up in a night may wither in a night-we dislike mushroom piety. If we look into nature, we shall find things slower in their growth, in proportion to their excellency. How rapidly nettles, and thistles, and reeds, and osiers spring up to maturity!
"Broad is the road that leads to death,
And thousands walk together there; . But wisdom shows a narrower path, With-here and there-a traveller."
The other is, THE EXCELLENCY OF THE CHARACTER. It is indispensably necessary, in all religious concerns-nothing can be a substitute for this integrity-nothing that we can say, nothing that we can do, nothing that we can suffer. Without this, every thing else will only render us the more vile and abominable. Judas is called a devil. On the other hand, where this is found, and God sees that a man acts conscientiously, and from a sincere desire to please and glorify him, he will pass by mistakes, pardon imperfections, and accept him
Let us not then conclude that a man is a stranger to divine grace, because he is unable, at present, to go all our lengths in sentiment. It is not possible for us to determine, in certain disadvantageous circumstances, with how much ignorance in the judgment true grace in the heart may be connected. How little of the plan of salvation did Peter know, when our Saviour said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven!" As the sanctification of the soul, so the illumination of the mind is gradual; and surely intellectual defects are no more wonderful than moral ones.
Nor let us be anxious to force upon him doctrines which at present he is not prepared to receive. Our Saviour said to his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now." Where the heart is right with God, a growing experience
THE CHARACTERS OF SIN.
BE ATTENDED WITH CLEARER LIGHT.
in divine things will, after a while, make room | tain proper apprehensions of the evil of sin. Hence the Scriptures are so large and partifor the admission of every important truth. And therefore, we remark, finally, THAT cular in describing it. They place it before WHERE GRACE IS REAL, IT WILL IN DUE TIME us in every quality, and express it under every allusion that can rouse our indignation, or awaken our fear and our flight. Witness the language of the Apostle: What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death."
cause I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see Grace is an acgreater things than these." tive principle, and leads us to use what we have-and "to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundance." It disposes us to go on, "and then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." It inspires reverence and humility, and a dependence on Divine teaching-and "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant: the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." Let not thy deficiencies therefore cast thee down. You are under the care of one who will "not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, till he send forth judgment unto victory." He has your welfare at heart. The convictions and desires which he has produced in you are tokens for good. He will never leave nor forsake you, "till he has done all that which he has spoken to you of: he will perfect that which concerneth you." It is now only the dawn; but the dawn is the pledge and the beginning of noon. "And the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." And whatever discoveries he has already made, remember, you shall see "greater things than these"
First, greater in this world; more of himself, of his word, of his grace, of his providence. He can enable us to see divine things more clearly; more impressively; with more confidence, and with more appropriation. Let us not limit our desires, or our hopes.
Secondly, greater in another world. After all our attainments, this earth is only a land of obscurities. But heaven is everlasting light. In those happy regions there is "no darkness at all."-"Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall we know even as also we are known. And when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."
Then he will fully reveal himself. "We know that Messiah who is called Christ shall come; and when he is come, he will tell us all things."
Behold the enemy. Sin is here arraigned and condemned in all the periods of time: the past, the present, and the future. For the past-here is unprofitableness; for the present
here is disgrace; and for the future-here is perdition. Let us, then, consider sin under these three characters. I. As UNFRUITFUL. III. AS DESTRUCTIVE. II. AS SHAMEFUL.
And I. The Apostle asks, "What fruit had ye in those things?" The question implies an undeniable negative, and suggests that sin yields no real benefit, no solid satisfaction. It should be otherwise. Sin ought to produce something: for it costs much. It requires the sinner to wage war with himself, to overcome innumerable difficulties, to make the most expensive sacrifices. Now, for a man to labour and toil, to give up all the advantages of religion, to sacrifice his soul, his God, his everlasting welfare, and plunge into "the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone" for nothing! is hard indeed!
And is not this the case? Read the history of wicked nations, families, individuals. What does the sinner ever gain or enjoy! What that is valuable and satisfactory? What that deserves the name of "fruit?" What that even corresponds with his own expectation?-The enemy told Adam and Eve that they should "be as gods," when his design was to degrade them " below the beasts that perish." And thus we read of the deceitfulness of sin:" it attracts by flatIt looks on tery; it destroys by delusion. with blandishing smiles, but conceals the cloven foot; it presents the bait, but hides the hook; it talks of liberty and indulgence, but this is only to favour its inroads; once admitted, slavery and desolation spread all around. It promises much, but how does it perform? "Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue; though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth: yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him." Sinful gratifications continue no longer than the actions themselves: for then, consequences begin to be thought of: reason ascends the throne, and scourges; conscience awakes and condemns. Nor is it easy for the sinner to creep along to the commission of his crimes unseen by reason, unobserved by conscience; and, oh! when they are lookers on!--how, by their warnings and reproaches, do they imbitter his enjoyment! He finds
THE CHARACTERS OF SIN.