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2 CORINTHIANS VI. 2.
It is a gross and fatal error in the public creed and conscience, that effects are not looked for at the moment, or are to be expected when the gospel is preached. Ministers have not calculated that God will give his word success while yet they are speaking. And Christians have unkindly prayed and calculated that the truth may lodge and do good at some future hour. And sinners have laid up the truth for future use. Thus the gospel receives a go-by for the present moment. And yet,
I. The claims of the gospel forbid all this.
1. It proffers sinners every blessing they need; pardon, justification, adoption, sanctification, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, and eternal life.
2. Its injunctions are from the highest authority; from God, from Jesus Christ, from the Holy Ghost; from him who holds in his hands the keys of hell and of death.
3. It proffers blessings that sinners cannot do without. They are undone now without them, and without them are lost for ever.
4. It sets the present time as the only one for the acceptance of its blessing. They are withdrawn if not now accepted, to be offered again perhaps never!
5. The offer is taken back unless accepted now.
6. The present acceptance of the gospel is more probable now, than at any future time, and the recording angel waits to minute the sinner's refusal. As the sinner glides down the broad smooth way to death, a wilderness of thorns and briars grow up behind him, high as heaven, through which he must hew his way back, if he ever reaches heaven; hence every furlong he proceeds, increases the improbability of his safe and timely retreat.
II. Why then does the gospel produce no immediate effect?
1. Because the gospel offers the sinner a salvation he disapproves; a holy salvation, a gracious salvation.
2. It requires him to put on a character that he disapproves and hates!
3. It proffers the formation of relationships that are unwelcome; to all the regenerate; a brotherhood and heirship with Jesus Christ; a kind and eternal fraternity with the household of faith.
4. There are pleasures and friendships to be given up, that are greatly beloved. The heart has taken a dying hold of objects that prolong its death.
5. The sinner is too stupid to estimate the value of the offer made. The mind is a vacuum that has been empty till it hates truth, and will not think. It instinctively repels the truth.
6. The offer of the gospel mercy is considered a mere intellectual proposition, that the sinner is to survey, and contemplate, and reason about. But God directs his gospel to the heart, for it to feel and act upon. It is a blaze sent to melt the heart, (the blow pipe). It is a hammer lifted by the hand of God to break the heart. It is a charge meant to be lodged deep in the heart, to blow it up, and send it broken and shivered to the skies. It has to do with the understanding and conscience only, as they constitute the pass way to the heart. If the truth lodges in either, and does not travel on to the heart, nothing is done. If when it comes there it meets a rock, it rebounds back to heaven. If the mind and conscience, truth's avenue, be cased over, and thus its passage to the heart be blocked up, the heart remains whole till the world is burned.
PSALMS CXXXVII. 5, 6.
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
JERUSALEM was the centre of worship in Israel, and was the type of the church of God in after ages. The kingdom of Christ is that absorbing interest that should occupy supremely the hearts of God's people.
I. What is the extent of that interest which we may not forget? What does it imply or involve?
1. The divine glory. In no part of the operations of Jehovah has he so fully displayed himself as in the work of redemption.
His mighty power and godhead are displayed in the things that His wisdom can easily be discerned, and his goodness inferred from the visible creation. Still, what the poet says, is true, that
"God, in the person of his Son,
Has all his mightiest works outdone."
Here the whole of the divine character is drawn out to view, as well as his grace, and mercy, and long-suffering, and patience, and endurance, as his more awful and terrifying attributes.
May we, then, forget an interest that involves all these; that lets down, as it were, the mighty God to the composed and deliberate contemplation of his creatures, or rather, lifts them into the rank of angels, and to a close and intimate companionship with himself, and with his Son, Jesus Christ? Now, where is an interest so grand as this, or that may a moment come in for so large a share of our affections, and command away our thoughts and our contemplations?
2. The interest of Zion involves the salvation of sinners. The church is composed of redeemed sinners. If it becomes enlarged, sinners are saved; and when stationary, none are added to the number of the saved. A long suspension of the divine influence may harden many, till they shall become incorrigible, and the truth never take hold again of their affections and their hearts. While our children shall see us caring supremely for Zion, they will not forget that they are the children of the covenant and the hope of the Church, and will view themselves as not at liberty to go on in the way of transgressors. Could we properly estimate the worth of the soul, we should never suffer any other interest to come in competition with it. What may I remember-what may I not forget, if Jerusalem has lost its power to interest me, and the eternal salvation of my neighbors and my children has not invaluable importance in my estimation?
3. The interest of Zion must prosper, in order to the present joy and comfort of his people. This can be said of no other concerns. We may be poor and disgraced and diseased, and may see taking their flight from us all the dear objects of time and sense, and yet may be happy; but not happy is the people of God while Zion languishes. The captive Jews could not sing the Lord's song in a strange land; their harps were hung upon the willows, till God should turn again their captivity.
4. Zion's prosperity involves the growth and maturity of religion
in the hearts of God's people. It is an interest as dear to them as is their own final redemption from sin, and their complete equipment for the paradise of God. When Zion is in the dust, believers suffer in their own individual spiritual interest.
While I have thus shown what is involved in the prosperity of Jerusalem, I have, I know, offered some reasons why we may not forget her. But let us, in the second place, look at another class of reasons which cannot so properly be considered as descriptive of the interest involved.
1. Because God will not forget Jerusalem, we may not. has graven her upon the palms of his hands." Her walls are continually before him. He governs the world for her sake, and will never for a moment turn his eye from her interest. While some other interest may attract us, and we may not forget the Church, and pour out but few prayers for her redemption into the heart of God, she will continue as dear and important as ever. "He will guard her as the apple of his eye."
2. The Lord Jesus will not forget the interest for which he died, because we forget. It is said of him, you know, that "he ever liveth to make intercessions for his people." A perpetual intercessor! what a delightful thought! He will not then forget the church for which he is interceding. His blood will remain the price of her redemption; his righteousness, her covering; his merits, her plea. In the darkest hour, when almost all have fled, Jesus is there; hard by the interest he watches, awake to protect the Church he purchased with his own blood.
3. Zion may not be forgotten by her sons, because her foes will not forget her. The Church has ever been in this world like the bush that Moses saw burning, but not consumed. The world has viewed her existence as its living reproach; her prosperity the object of its envy, and her honors as detracting from its beauty and glory. The report of all her revivals has gone down to hell, and circulated through all its precincts, to the glory of her God and King; and whenever there shall be another revival, it will be quickly reported in that territory of darkness. Hence, a perpetual warfare with her interests. The men of the world suppose themselves to have a high interest in the disgrace and the tears and the backslidings of the Church. They are mistaken: but this alters not the fact; and Jerusalem should not be forgotten by her friends while her foes will not forget her. If men will watch to do her hurt, believers should watch to do her good.
Finally we may not forget Zion, as the church below is intimately connected with the Church above, and cannot suffer without exciting the interest of all heaven, or prosper, but it gives all heaven joy.
1. There can be no dissentions among believers, as the Church is to each a paramount interest.
2. How mistaken are believers, if they imagine they can suffer or prosper alone!
3. How this subject enhances the worth of a revival!
4. How strikingly will the world be one in her interest, when the Lord Jesus shall spread the glory of Zion over all her friends, and the whole world be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as Ride on, blessed Lord Jesus, conquerthe waters cover the sea. ing and to conquer, until thy kingdom shall conquer all the nations, and cover the wide world, and until the time has come for thee to reign over all lands; and then thy friends will sing, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation;" and will add, "Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, and blessed be his glorious name for ever, and let the whole world be filled with his glory: amen, and amen!"
JOHN XVI. 4.
I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
THE character of the Lord Jesus Christ; the work that he would do, and the spirit with which he would enter upon that work, have been pointed out to the world so distinctly that "the way faring though a fool need not err therein." This work he had to finish when he made this prayer and was finishing it in the very prayer itself. Hence,
I. He had to finish the work of a holy apostleship which he had been doing all his life, but never finished until he closed this prayer, at the close of which he might have said "I am ready to be offered."