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CAN THINE HEART ENDURE AND THINE HANDS BE STRONG.
No one has ever deliberately calculated on the horrors of everlasting abandonment. O! who can endure it? With what dark images does it haunt the soul? No ray of light-no gleam of hope breaks in upon the prison of despair. It is all darkness—all misery-all hopelessness. The worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. The darkness of perdition, alas! who can bear it? It is so fearful, so intense, so gloomy, so ceaseless. It is the gathering storm which increases in blackness-the total eclipse which shuts out all light for ever: the deep dungeon which immures the soul in eternal midnight. "The mist of darkness"-" The blackness of darkness," "outer darkness," are terms denoting the imagery which shadows forth the world of perdition. Oh! who can dwell for ever shut out from light? How appalling that dark abyss, where there is no sun, no moon, no twinkling star, no coming morn, no future day, that "land of darkness as of darkness itself," where there is no order, no prospect, no object of vision, nothing but the dense cloud of bottomless gulf! the terror of such darkness how inexpressibly great! And yet it is but a faint image of what the soul in perdition must endure for ever.
The shame of being lost, how insupportable! The slow finger of scorn as it points to the guilty outcast from God. Oh, who can bear it? Where will the sinner hide from the shame of his nakedness? Where will he fly from himself or conceal any longer his hidden iniquities, now that the refulgent glory of the eternal throne exposes to the noon day gaze all the abominations which he has ever committed? He gathers up, perhaps his mantle of self-righteousness, and folds it around him, but alas, it is all filthiness and rags. He is ashamed to wear it. He resorts, perhaps to a variety of expedients to preserve some shreds of a reputation, to which he is tenderly alive, but it only renders more signal his exposure, and doubles his shame. He is ashamed of the ruin which he has purchased by his iniquities. He is ashamed of the unholy influence which he has exerted, ashamed of the obliquity which is poured upon him, ashamed of his companions in guilt, of his associates in crime, ashamed to look up to that world of light which he might have inherited-ashamed to see the saints in glory
there ashamed that he heard not his Father's voice, that he fled not when he might, to the Savior's arms, and thus he yielded not, when the spirit strove to his renewing, and sanctifying and saving grace. The loss of Heaven, how shameful, how unnecessary, criminal, vile, irretrievable; and the greater the shame, because lost in the indulgence of those passions which not only degrade their possessor, but render him an object of universal loathing and contempt. Contempt is then coupled with shame. Oh, who can bear contempt? We shun it as an adder that biteth. But the portion of the wicked will be "shame and everlasting contempt."
The desertion of the world of death, how terrible! The solitary cell, how gloomy! But this is the dungeon of dungeons. Alone, shut out from all society and shut up to his own dismal reflections, and there for ever, with none to whom he can unburthen his soul; with none into whose ear he can pour the sad tale of his woe; with none to whom he can confess his crimes, and thus roll off a fraction of that intolerable load of anguish under which he is crushed. What a lonely, deserted state; how unspeakably overwhelming! In that land of shadows and of "darkness as darkness itself," "friend, lover, and acquaintance" is far away; and the sinner strides his despairing track, an eternal stranger to all the sympathies of family, all the endearments of social intercourse, all the fond recollections of home-once sweet home-but now deserted of all its charms; himself deserted, nay, himself the essence of eternal desertion; shunned by his former companions; abandoned by heaven and hope; and left to wend his solitary way in still deeper desertion, through the long track of endless night. The desertion of damnation, how intolerable! It is the bitterest ingredient in his woe.
The passions developed and perfected in the lost, how terrible! Who can stand before envy? Oh how the sinner will envy the saints in light! Their sweet songs, their golden harps, their joys unutterable and full of glory, their robes of spotless purity, are all materials for the corrosion of his envy, for the gnawings of that worm that never dies. Jealousy-the most cruel and unrelenting of all the passions, will there find full scope. All the fires of hell cannot burn it out. The floods of perdition cannot drown it. There will be malice and pride and revenge and vanity. All the base passions will be awake, and wrought up to the utmost intensity of action. "Hatred and variance and emulation and strife," sources of discord and vexation and war and carnage, are made to bear in 49.
terrible concentration upon the centre of the heart. Their smoke will be as Sodom, and their stench as Gomorrah.
The misery of being lost, how inexpressible! "Who can dwell with the devouring fire? Who can lie down in everlasting burnings?" Who can endure the gnawings of the deathless worm? The sublimest of uninspired poets has said,-
"Me miserable! which way shall I fly
It is misery, without relief, without hope, without limits; perpetually increasing, and yet with powers perpetually strengthened to bear accumulated woe. It is a wrath to be revealed, and ever to be without cessation, without abatement. Oh might hope enter into the dark mansion, might its guilty inmates indulge the prospect of annihilation, at any period, ever so remote; might some ponderous rock grind them to powder, or might one drop of water be applied to their parched tongues, what a luxury! How would it mitigate the horrors of despair, and render less intolerable the abode of the damned! But when they cry, How long, and are answered, Forever; and when again they raise their cry, How long and the pit echoes, Forever; when rocks and mountains melt down and leave them. Oh how naked, without a covert from the vengeance which they have incurred! And when their perpetual blasphemies provoke even the divine endurance, what have they to anticipate as the reward of their deeds, but indignation and anguish, tribulation and wrath? As the guilt of the lost will for ever increase, so, side by side, their despair. But what a faint image can we have of misery to be endured for ever, to increase for ever, and to be borne as the just demerit of accumulated sins for ever! As I draw near in imagination, and hear the blasphemies of the pit, the accent breaks in upon me, Oh that God would die! But he is the living God; and to be in his hands, will finish the soul's despair!
A BETTER CHURCH WILL MAKE A BETTER WORLD.
Ir was predicted of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures, that "Prayer also shall be made for him." The world might then that whatever other means have been prepared to see and say, God might use, in reinstating his Son in the empire promised him, extending from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth-whatever other means he might use, he will not dispense with Prayer. The very spirit that is to vindicate his rights in this revolted world, is a spirit of prayer and supplication. His people will appeal to himself, after they have made, and while they are making, their appeal to men.
And the Christian has learned the secret of prayer, and loves the duty. If the kingdom would rise and grow without his prayers, with any cause he would not be willing. He can go at any hour, that lies upon his heart, and plead that cause in the court of heaThe very nature of the new birth, and the relationship it has established between him and his exalted Redeemer, has won his heart for ever to that interest that was paramount in the heart of the dying Lamb of God. Hence all his followers love the same interest, and cannot be willing to be denied the privilege of pushing it forward by their prayers. As was said of the converted Apostle, "Behold he prayeth," and as he thus gave evidence of a new birth, so every Christian loves to pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."
This is a part of the work in which he will not be willing to be denied a share. It is the very work for which his new birth has prepared him. He could spend his life at the throne, and would pray, and sometimes die there. And God loves to hear him withhold the blessing he was about to give, till he has drawn out the soul in prayer, "Oh, my dove, thou art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs; let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely." And when he prays, "Thy kingdom come," he but asks God to do what he has promised, and purposed to do. Hence, how free of access is the throne of mercy! how sweet the privilege and urgent the duty of going to God, burdening the heart with the interests of his own kingdom and glory.
Here the work of erecting the spiritual temple lies open to as many builders as will touch it with their hands, or bear it on their minds. Every heart that has benevolent and holy desires, may urge the work along, the very work for which the world rolls and time endures. And shame on that believer who will not apply his energies, and would be willing to let the temple rise, if it might, without his help.
There is one consideration that it would seem must arouse the most paralyzed to action at this moment. God is shaking the world from the very revolution prayed for, and promised. 'Numerous signs mark this as the commencement of the age we have been looking for. I hardly know where to begin to enumerate these signs. The bonds of despotism are lessening, that men may be at liberty to put on the yoke of Christ. Almost every arm that ever wielded a sceptre, or controlled a conscience, is unnerved. The oppressed are rising upon their oppressors, and trampling their ensigns in the dust. The miseries of the world have been uncovered to the gaze of the Church. We have sent out, and have taken a guage of the disasters to be alleviated. We know how many millions are without the gospel, and how desolated their territory without heavenly light; and we know too how fearful the wastes of our cities, and in all parts of our lands, and how wide the havoc which the god of this world is spreading among its population. This is no doubt the very age of the world when its people know their own present history; and God is evidently preparing instruments for some mighty change in the world's condition. He has awakened the Church in some measure to a sense of her responsibilities, and she has set her guards on her distant ramparts. There is going on an organization of the Lord's hosts that must soon enlist all their energies, and open every embrasure, and marshal every phalanx that can be mustered for the onset upon the powers of darkness. The child that can carry a tract, or breathe a prayer, or bequeath a penny, can now move some spring that touches the interests of redemption. Some skirt of the wide harvest reaches to our very doors, and, if we can only lift a sickle, we can thrust it in and reap. It is now easy to be useful.
And what is, again, a sign of the times worthy of notice; many ungodly men are convinced that now is the time to secure heaven or it is lost for ever. They are ever bending to listen to the voice of mercy, lest, before they are safe, its voice should die away for ever upon their ear. They are urged by some kind of motive to offer