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JEREMIAH X. 5.
THIS is a suffering world in more senses than one. subject to toil and labor in consequence of the apostacy, and to perpetual vexation of mind, in consequence of our opposition to the Divine will. The sinner, therefore, is compelled, if he will continue in sin, to maintain a mental war which devours and exterminates from his breast all the elements of vital joy. Determined not to repent-yet anxious for happiness-compelled by the necessities of his nature to cry out for peace of mind, yet averse to holiness, its necessary means, he toils hard, and travails in pain, and ripens in agony here, for the agony eternal, which lies before him. To delineate the particulars of this mental war, I remark,
I. The sinner must sustain morality without piety. He must be moral or miserable. The vices are so many demons, resolved into their original elements. They torment a man before his time. Disgrace; loss of property; of all real friendship; of domestic affection; of the health and life; of self-respect and elevated companionship; all wait around a course of vice. The vicious man sinks deeper and deeper in the mire. The reptiles of the slough, in which he journeys, grow more and more venomous and malignant. He must be moral or miserable. It is hard work, however, to maintain morality without religion. The passions are strong; the world is full of temptation; the soul is liable to be beat off from its hold on morality, unless recovered by grace; its course will be tremendous, the progress of its depravity vehement, and great the fall of it.
II. He must feel secure without a promise. No man can realize the final wreck of the soul, and feel happy in the prospect. The mind, in the ordinary stages of depravity, shudders and recoils, and hides itself from the prospect. Even the hardest incrustations of sin cannot prepare the soul to look fully at eternal wailing un
daunted. There it stands, that never ceasing view; that vivid painting of the future; that dark, shadowy, but distinct, and fearful representation of utter ruin; it is hung out before the soul by the stern truth of God, from behind every scene of guilt, and along every winding of the soul's weary path. How can he feel secure? Yet how can he bear to face that vision? If he looks to nature, it warns him; to his companions, they are falling into the arms of the monster. He is warned in the family circle, in the scene of futurity, in the haunts of dissipation, around the grave; every where a compassionate eternity weeps about him; angels of grace draw aside the veil of the pit, and with earnest countenance cry, "Escape for thy life!" If he looks to the Bible, he has no promise. If he thinks of mercy, no promise. If he looks to the end, there is the falling flood and its dreadful roar; and its fearful spray, and its havoc of apostate mind, in the boiling depths below, but no rainbow of promise. He reads all around him the startling inscription, "The fear of the wicked, it shall come uvon him.”
III. He must hope for heaven, while forming a character for perdition. He must hope, and will hope, even if he knows his hope will do no good. Heaven is the only place of final rest; if he miss it he is lost, undone for ever. Holy as it is, and much as he hates holiness, he must enter there, or eternally be an undone man. No man can bear the idea of confessed, manifest, public, and hopeless, irrecoverable disgrace. Every man, therefore, clings to the idea of a final heaven, as long as he can. But here the sinner has a hard task. His supreme selfishness leads him to hold on upon the idea of rest after this life, but that very selfishness is making his failure sure. The cords of habit are twined all about his character; they are not threads of flax, except when the Spirit rends them. They are strong cords to the wearied sinner, and he shall be holden by them, if he will continue to sin, and all the joints and departments of his character will be fitly compacted together, to make it the meet habitation of eternal life. It is hard work while these formations of character are going on, for a soul to be shut up to the necessity of keeping alive a hope of heaven, yet this the sinner must perform.
IV. He must resist Christ without a cause. He is supposed impenitent and determined on continued sin. Exposed to endless death, he has an offer of Christ and salvation. The claims of Christ are not only just, but compassionate and benevolent. If he
will sin, he must contend against the Savior in the very interpositions of his astonishing, overwhelming, agonizing mercy. This is hard work for the conscience; the wheels of probation drag heavily; their voice grates fearfully; their cry of retribution waxes loud.
V. He must try to be happy while guilty. This he cannot accom. plish, yet he must try. He will fail in every attempt, yet he must renew the trial. If he will not repent and obtain pardon in the blood of Christ, then he must retain his guilt, and feel it on his conscience, and groan under it as it continually grows heavier, while he must struggle for peace. The nature of happines renders his efforts necessary. He will make them, and will always fail. He will choose a thousand phantoms; he will grasp after every shadow; he will be stung a thousand times, yet will he renew the toil, till wearied, hopeless, and sullen, he lies down to die. It is hard toil to do what a guilty, unbelieving sinner is compelled to do in trying to be happy.
VI. He must have enough of the world to supply the place of God in his heart. The heart must have a supreme object; God is able to fill it. On him the intellect may dwell, and around the everexpanding developments of his character, the affections, like generous vines, may climb, and gather, and blossom, and hang the ripe cluster of joy for ever; but the sinner shuts out God, every vision of his character is torment, and he turns away to fill the demands of his heart with the world. He has commenced a thankless task; he has enlisted in a severe service. The whole world, if gained, would infinitely fail, yet he can gain but little of it, and that little is vanity and vexation of spirit. Yet painful and hopeless as this may be, the sinner must toil at it till he dies.
VII. He must arrange matters for death, while he is afraid to think of dying. He must work to get property for his children when he is gone. He must put his business in a train, so that it may be settled advantageously when he is gone. He must do all this on the strength and under the impulse of an idea at which he trembles.
VIII. He must read the Bible, whilst he is afraid to think or pray. This is especially true of the worldly-minded professor. If he keeps up the form of family worship, or attends at the house of God, the Bible, the holy and accusing book, is in his way. Its
truths lie across his path. He cannot turn aside, he must trample over them, while he beholds them under his feet. He knows that his footsteps are heard around the retributive throne. If driven to console himself by the promises of error, the sinner has to pervert and wrestle with the Bible. Its denunciations catch his eye, and burn him while he tries to explain them away. Its promises turn into curses within his soul, as he attempts to incorporate them in his hopes.
1. Have we no compassion for a suffering world? How little, Christian brethren, do we feel for the wretched, toiling, dying sinner, with whom we associate; for the fond relative with whom we mingle affections; for the multitudinous mass of mind, ruined, undone, and miserable, that are ripening all around us for endless woe?
2. Can we do nothing to relieve this miserable condition of our fellow-men? We can do much if we will only feel its nature and tendencies, and bear it before a compassionate God. If we will but take the gospel, and lead its giant motives forth, and lean upon the Spirit's power, the work of renovation, of redemption, and of joy will roll on. Every day cries aloud, and all around us, for our awakening to duty. The time for God's people to pray, and awake, and endeavor mightily, is now-and with most of us, now
LUKE X. 11.
Notwithstanding, be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
I. What is meant by the kingdom of God? Sometimes the kingdom of God means the place of the blessed in heaven. Sometimes it means merely the visible church. Sometimes it seems to mean the church invisible, or the collection of real believers Sometimes, as in the text, it signifies the gospel merely--which describes the king, and gives us the laws and regulations of the kingdom, and permits us to look in upon the very seat of his holy empire.
II. When may the gospel, which, as we see, means the kingdom of God, be said to come nigh to an individual or a people?
A material object, we know, may come within a greater or less distance may come within a mile, or two, or ten. It may come within the sight of the eye, or the hearing of the ear, or the reach of the arm.
1. So the gospel may come to a near or a more remote proximity. It may come within the hearing of the ear. To many, in heathen lands, it has never made this approach: they have only heard of the gospel, but have never heard the gospel. They have heard that the missionaries have come to other portions of their dark territory, but have never seen them, or listened themselves to its glad accents. No messenger of eternal life has ever stood in their presence, and sounded the good news. They have never been told the conditions upon which salvation is offered them, or been invited to come to the marriage supper of the Lamb
To all, in gospel lands, it has made a nearer approach; they have heard the conditions upon which mercy is offered them, and have had described to them the kingdom of God in all its fascination and in all its glory.
2. It makes a still nearer approach, when it reaches the understanding. Men not only hear the gospel, but think about it, and perhaps become speculative believers; and possibly even professors of religion; and it may be, even sustain a good Christian character, when, after all, the gospel may never have approached