« AnteriorContinuar »
who seemed not far from the kingdom of heaven, who possessed, apparently, every amiable virtue, and seemed to be friendly to religion, who in an hour of clear conviction, manifested the temper of Satan. Then the character of the heart was brought into view. The Holy Spirit brought those objects before the mind which were opposite to the feelings of the heart. This brought the heart into action and displayed its character. Ordinarily men have such indefinite ideas of God, and of religion, that they know not whether they hate or love them. The experience of all who have been born again, and their confessions, join with Scripture, to make it certain that the heart, while unrenewed, is enmity against God and religion. It hates every thing that is holy. It hates every thing that opposes its selfish views. Such a heart, it is to be expected, a priori, will break out in such desires as I have in this discourse brought into view. It will wish there were no God, and that its passions had no restraints laid upon them—even if universal ruin ensue. If, then, any heart does not seem to be so depraved, it is because its nature has not been brought into view. It only waits an opportunity, and its nature will appear.
2. We may learn from our subject the nature of that change, which we term regeneration. It is not a mere outward reformation. It is a universal change in the desires of the heart, in the affections of the soul. The man may reform very much without being regenerated. The corrupt principles of the heart may for a time lie inoperative without being destroyed. Regeneration begins, and ensures their destruction. In order to hope that we are regenerated, we must feel that we have a set of new desires, not only distinct from, but opposite to those desires which we before entertained.
3. Our subject shows us the great difference between the righteous and the wicked. They have directly opposite desires. The wishes and the prayers of the one are directly opposed to the wishes and the prayers of the other. If one is gratified the other mourns. If one is exalted the other sinks. If one is happy the other weeps. Hence there is an absolute necessity, if they depend on God for happiness, that one or the other be for ever miserable.
4. Our subject shows us why sinners do not desire or relish the society of the righteous. They have opposing desires. They pursue distinct interests. Of course their language and their employment must be distinct and opposite. This being the case, how can they associate? While one remains the friend of God, and
the other his enemy, one pursues the interests of his kingdom, the other pulls down-while this remains the case they must dwell apart, or if together must be unhappy.
5. We learn from our subject that there must be hereafter two worlds, one for the righteous, the other for the wicked. No doubt there will be the same difference in their characters hereafter that there is in this world. They will continue to have opposite interests. They cannot then dwell together in peace in the same world. As the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness are entirely distinct here, so they must be hereafter. Christ will say to the righteous, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
6. We may infer from our subject, the necessity of ministers preaching doctrines which the impenitent will be unwilling to hear. We have seen that they are desirous not to become acquainted with their own hearts, but the design of preaching the gospel is, to make men acquainted with themselves, that they may be brought to repentance. Our labor, then, would all be lost if we left out of view those doctrines which sinners are more generally unwilling to hear. Instead of passing these doctrines by, these are the very doctrines which, above all others, we must preach. They object to these doctrines because they alarm their consciences. They cannot rest easy, they cannot feel satisfied with themselves while these doctrines are preached, hence they complain. Their complaints cannot be heard. The very doctrines they oppose must often be preached.
THE CHRISTIAN'S REVIEW.
ROMANS VI. 21.
What fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
THE apostle inquires of the converts of his time, what fruit they had in those things of which they are now ashamed, things, the end of which is death. Hence three questions proper to be put now to those who were once in the gall of bitterness and under the bonds of iniquity: What fruit had you then in the works of sin? why have you become ashamed of them? and how is their end death?
I. What part had you in the works of sin? amounts to this. What enjoyments had you? Did the service of the prince of darkness make you happy? Or are the Scriptures true, and was the way of transgressors hard? Let me say, and if I fail to prove my positions, let them be rejected, that the pleasures of a life of ungodliness, are neither innocent, nor rational, nor satisfying, nor elevating, nor abiding, nor safe.
1. They are not innocent. Men who refuse to be happy in the way that God appoints, cannot be innocently happy in any way. He directs that we be happy in serving him; that we make it our meat and drink to do his will and pleasure. "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." We are to walk in the ways of wisdom, and have the promise that we shall find them ways of pleasantness and paths of peace. Now if men do not love God, and will not take pleasure in obeying him, it must be that they are not innocently happy. Made as we are, we shall either love God supremely, and then shall be happy in serving him, or shall set up some idol in his place, and put our trust, and draw our enjoyment, from some forbidden source. It matters not as it regards the innocence of our enjoyments, whether they are derived from one created object or another, if we do not joy in God, we cannot be innocent. If we permit the noblest object he ever built, to take the place of himself in our esteem,
and every unregenerate man does, God must feel himself robbed and insulted.
2. The pleasures of ungodly men, not being innocent, are not rational. I know that many may think this a high and unwarranted charge against the whole family of the unsanctified, and still it is easily supported. It surely is most reasonable that men put themselves under the guidance of their Maker, and obey him in all things, and on him place supremely their affections. But none of these is true of the ungodly. They are not willingly under the Divine guidance, else they would have the best possible evidence that they are the children of God. His law they do not make their guide, nor his word the man of their counsel, else they would have the testimony of this text among others that they are his children, "Then are ye my disciples, if ye do whatsoever I command you." And the charge against them is, that they love the world and the things of the world, and that the love of the Father is not in them and all this cannot be reasonable. Hence the pleasures of ungodly men are not reasonable pleasures, in other words they are not rationally happy. If we inquire in what their pleasures consist, we shall gain additional evidence that they are not rational. They consist in the gratification of their appetites and passions, not in those pursuits that elevate the mind and mend the heart.
3. The pleasures of unregenerate men are not satisfying. That which is neither innocent nor rational, we should not expect would be satisfying; we should promptly declare it impossible. God has made the brute creation, but not man, to be satisfied with the gratifications of appetite. This is their noblest power, the highest happiness they are capable of. Of them God has not required a higher aim, nor even this; he requires nothing. Of man he requires, that we give him our hearts, and man he has made capable of a higher enjoyment through the medium of the moral affections, than through the gratifications of appetite. And he requires us to be happy through this higher medium. He will not be satisfied that our noblest powers lie dormant; and while he is not so, neither shall we be. If we are capable of ten degrees of happiness, five will not satisfy us. Feed the appetites to the full, and we have only the five degrees, and are not satisfied. Men have made the trial. We have an instance exactly in point in Solomon. He built houses, and planted vineyards, and made gardens, and orchards, and pools of water, and got him men and maid servants, and cattle, and silver and gold, and musicians, and every thing that his 33
heart could desire. And when done, he declares them all vanity and vexation of spirit; they did not satisfy him. And if such is the experience of one who had the means of gratifying his senses to the full, and spared no pains to do so, what must be the sure experience of all other men, when they shall have made their highest efforts. They know their own comforts to be poor and unsatisfying, but are so unhappy as to doubt whether religion would furnish them any better comforts. Hence they press on, and still hope that some object may lie ahead, not yet overtaken, that will yield them the very blessedness they covet.
4. The pleasures of ungodly men are not calculated to elevate, but to depress their nature. They take pleasure in objects beneath the dignity of their being. If they would uniformly pursue science, and aim to elevate their minds, and take some mighty grasp of the works of God, then would less be said; though still, till they should give him their hearts, they would find themselves meanly employed. But, unhappily, they do not care, ordinarily, to attend at all to the elevation of their being. The things they might easily know, they do not care to know; the books they might read, and that lie in their way, they will not read; the very hours they have to spare, and that hang heavy on their hands, they would rather occupy in trifles than in the acquisition of solid science. The Sabbaths, for instance, that are not spent in the sanctuary, how seldom are they employed in the acquisition of science, though to thus employ them would be wrong. And the evenings, and other hours of relaxation, how belittling is more generally the employment with which they are filled up-the most useless conversation, or the merest indolence. O, how much these hours might do for the mind-suppose it of no importance that the heart be made better. How might all our young men acquire a knowledge of history, and enter more or less profoundly into science, and rise to the ability of reasoning ably, and speaking eloquently, and wielding an honest and masterly influence in any great matter of interest that should come before them. What a pity it would seem to be, that the noble mind, made in the image of God, and, for ought we know, capable of soaring in company of angels, in flights of sublime conception, should be held down by a depraved taste, and by sordid appetites, to daily converse with the merest trifles of time and sense. I remember the disgust it gave me, when I read of one of the emperors of antiquity, that most of his time was spent in catching flies. Though a mere child, when I met with this historical fact, I involuntarily inquired, why his crown, and throne, and