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he took up his parable and said, Balak the King of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, come, curse me Jacob, and come defy me Israel. How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy whom the Lord hath not defied? For from the tops of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him; Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." Thus have we in the closing words of the mercenary prophet, the very language that will burst from the lips of every dying sinner It is easy to show that the good man dies with a very different set of affections.
I. He can have the happiest reflections. He can look back upon a life of Godliness and forward to heaven as a scene of interminable blessedness.
II. He can take the happiest circumspective view. He has kept his family and circumstances shaped for the grave, and now comes home, unless his hope deceives him, like a shock of corn fully ripe. III. He can look forward with pleasure. Heaven lies in his prospect and looms up before him like a ship returning from sea. He often thinks of that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
IV. He has made preparation for his departure. His peace is made with God, and he sometimes, when hope prevails, takes hold of the things within the veil.
V. He dies happy. God gives him dying comforts. It is the happiest hour of his life, the hour that introduces him to his King "the Lord of hosts." It is the hour David spoke of when he said "I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness."
VI. Christ is with him as he promised, "I will be with thee in six troubles and in seven I will not forsake thee." Flesh and heart have failed him, but God has become the strength of his heart and portion for ever.
VII. Death finishes his trials. He shall hunger no more neither thirst any more. He is passing through the waters, and the promise is, "they shall not overflow thee." He is walking through the fire, and the promise is, "it shall not kindle upon him."
VIII. Death consummates his hopes. It introduces him to better society and better comforts than he leaves behind. "He traverses the river of the water of life and plucks the fruit fresh from the tree of life."
IX. He applies to his soul the leaves of that tree which it was promised should be "for the healing of the nations."
1. We are not surprised that a wicked man should choose such a death.
2. How astonishing that the hope of such a death should not stimulate to a holy life. "But he loves the wages of unrighteousness," and rather risks dying wretched than living holy.
3. Ungodly men do not act according to their conviction. And this is their shame and will be their disgrace for ever.
4. They are then unreasonable beings and God will convict them out of their own mouths.
5. If then Sinners will treat their own souls so unreasonably it is not wonderful they will treat unreasonably the Son of God, and pierce themselves through with many sorrows.
ACTS XVII. 30.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.
PAUL was in Athens, and preached there, to a congregation of idolators the doctrine of the text. By the times of this ignorance it is supposed God meant, "the times in which he permitted all nations to walk in their own ways."
Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
When it is said, "the times of this ignorance God winked at," we are taught, that when God has given up a nation, or an individual, to walk in his own ways, he may leave them without those rebukes which he will send after those he has not so given up. Not that he, by winking, may be said to approve of their sins. This he cannot do. He long suffered the Assyrians and Babylonians, and the other nations bordering upon Israel, to be unmolested, but he afterward punished them.
But men that have his word he commands everywhere to repent now. It will be my object to show the obligations resting upon all men to repent immediately.
1. The duty is a reasonable one. To know, and confess, and hate, and quit sin, and undo the mischief it has done. Every part of it is most reasonable.
2. The being sinned against is doing sinners good. "He does them good, and gives them rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness."
3. It has required great forbearance in him to keep them out of hell so long.
4. They cannot tell when this forbearance may cease.
5. This forbearance may cease suddenly. "At midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him." He hath set them in slippery places.
6. They are daily increasing the work, and making it more difficult if they ever should repent.
7. They have now more time to undo the mischief. This is a part of repentance.
8. If sinners would treat God as they feel themselves obliged to treat men, consistency of character would require them to repent. 9. If they would be happy, to repent would set the conscience
10. If they would have the favor of God, which is eternal life. 11. If they would have the confidence of men; who can trust the man who will not restore what he has robbed from his Maker?
12. It is what we all mean to do; and while we delay the work is becoming harder. As the sinner goes away from God, his path becomes overgrown with thorns and briars; compelling him, if ever he returned, to hew a passage back to God and heaven, and way of life, by dint of excessive labor.
13. It is the command of God. And if God did not command us to do what would do ourselves infinite good, we should still be under unalterable obligations to obey. But when he commands us to do that which will thus make us happy in all the processes, and eternally blessed at the end, our obligations to obedience are amazingly multiplied.
1. Then sinners cannot be convicted too soon.
2. Then ministers cannot preach too plain.
3. Then convicted sinners cannot be too much distressed.
4. Then we should let no stupid sinner alone.
5. We should consider our children ruined till they repent. 6. Thus there is no security for character till men repent.
7. Thus godliness has promise of the "life that now is, as of that which is to come."
JEREMIAH XVII. 5.
Thus saith the Lord; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord; for he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited."
To trust in the Lord, and make flesh our arm, and have our heart depart from the Lord, are three phrases meaning the same thing; and is characteristic of the whole human family by nature. It describes a heart that leans toward the creature in all its operations, and in all its hopes, and in the whole volume of its desires and wishes. Thus have we an inspired description of the nature of man as he came out from the hand of his Creator, and as he goes on to operate in this dying world to form a character in preparation for his eternal state. This condition of man I shall attempt to describe.
I. He relies on his own resources to supply his wants in this world. He trusts in riches, forgetting that they "take themselves wings and fly away, as an eagle toward heaven." No man can tell, whatever his resources are to-day, that he shall not be a beggar to-morrow.
1. The same may be said of the man who depends upon human esteem to establish his character. No one but he who has the whole character in his hand, and has under his entire control all the future circumstances that go to make up that character, can tell what may be the changes that may go to alter his character and form him for an entirely different future destiny than that to which he seems subjected to-day.
2. And the same may be said of the man that founds his hopes of heaven on the opinion that others, in an incautious hour, may
have' expressed of his character. On this ground, Judas had a good character, who afterward sold and betrayed his master for thirty pieces of silver. He knew not "what manner of man he was."
3. The man who thus founds his hopes of heaven on the opinion of others, does not much differ from him who depends upon human means to bring him to that eternal life he hopes for. His hope of heaven will not be very likely to prove that "anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, entering into that which is within the veil." He will be liable to be driven about by every wind of doctrine, and exhibit a piety too vascillating to take a firm hold of those realities revealed as the objects of faith.
4 The same is the case with the man who intends to meet God without a Savior, and lays the foundation of his immortal hopes on any good deeds he has done or may do. He will find, at length, that God is a consuming fire, and after he has walked awhile by the light of his own fire, he will have to lie down in everlasting
II. I shall attempt to decipher the illustration given us in the
1. "He shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh."
We have here a description of one of those vast tracts of the eastern desert covered with moveable sand, on which nothing will grow, but the meanest stinted heath (so called) or shrub, rising but a few feet from the ground, and where it stands the everlasting curse of the soil that grows it. "He shall not see when good cometh." That is, when another part of the desert may be watered by some fortuitous shower or dew, none will come nigh to it. The condition of the plant described is farther illustrated, when it is said to inhabit the "parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land not inhabited." Thus is added to sterility the idea of saltness, which proves the source of barrenness through the whole vegetable world; which shows the lonely and desolate condition as well as barrenness of the plant that attempts to grow and bear fruit, and come to any thing like maturity in this woful spot.