« AnteriorContinuar »
contemners of his Son as in the same predicament with those who receive him? Nothing of this kind can be found in all the book of God. It may be called candour; but there is no such candour in the inspired volume. That calls every thing by its proper name, and assigns to every thing its proper character: and the unbelief which is thought a matter of so much indifference by the world at large, is declared to be the infallible source of ruin to all who indulge it. But let the Scriptures speak for themselves : “ He that believeth on Christ is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God:” and again, “ He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life: but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” In conformity with these declarations is the whole tenour of sacred writ: “I am the truth, and the life,” says our Lord; “no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” “ Come unto me,
ye that labour and are heavy laden! and I will give you rest.” “ Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” To the same effect is the testimony of his Apostles; “ Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." “ There is not salvation in any other: there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ.”
What now shall we say to these things? Is there any difficulty in understanding these passages? I know, it is fashionable with many to represent the doctrines of the Gospel as so abstruse and intricate that no one of common discernment can understand them. But what intricacy is there here which the most unlettered man in the universe may not understand? Men may invent subtleties on any subject ; and on this among the rest : but there is nothing here which is not plain and easy to the most common apprehension. Christ has made an atonement for our sins: and he calls us to seek salvation through his blood and righteousness. He tells us, that “ having no sin of his own, he was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” And when he sent his disciples to go and preach this Gospel to every creature, he added, “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.”
What shall we say then? Shall we believe what the Lord Jesus Christ has so strongly affirmed ? or shall we believe the surmises of ungodly men, and, as St. John expresses it, “ make God a liar ?” Even if there were no such strong assertions to guide us, our own reason might tell us, that God, after having given his only dear Son to die for us, would never leave it a matter of indifference whether we believed in him or not: but when we find the testimonies of Scripture so plain and so express on the subject, we must conclude, that the unbelief which men so proudly and impiously justify, will issue in the everlasting confusion of those who indulge it. III. The last way to which we shall direct your atten
tion, is that of cold formality. Many who have respect for the Gospel as a system, content themselves with yielding to it a bare assent; and persuade themselves that they receive it aright, even though they never are stimulated by it to any extraordinary exertions. As for all that zeal and love and diligence in the service of the Lord Jesus which they behold in some few around them, they account it all a needless preciseness; and they impute it, for the most part, to ostentation or vanity in those who dare to maintain it. To be regular in their attendance on public worship, to fulfil the duties of their station, and to do unto others as they would be done unto, this is enough for them, and more than this they utterly despise. Speak not to them of loving God, of living by faith on the Lord Jesus, of maintaining fellowship with him in the exercise of prayer and praise: speak not to them of walking as Christ walked, of bearing the cross after him, and of rejoicing that they are counted worthy to suffer for him: speak not to them of receiving out of his fulness, of living to his glory, or of growing up into his image: such ideas are quite foreign to their minds: they sound only as the reveries of an over-heated imagination: to aspire after such things would be to be righteous over-much: if such exertions were necessary for the attainment of heaven, what must become of all the world? Their religion lies in a much narrower space; they do as they would be done unto, and they mind their proper business in life: if this will not save them, nothing will: and they have no fear but that, when they shall have finished their course, God will say to them, “ Well done, good and faithful servants; enter ye into the joy of your Lord.”
But if these views of a Christian's duty be right, whence is it that the Christian course is represented in Scripture as so arduous, that the most “righteous persons are scarcely saved,” and with great difficulty ? How comes it, that the divine life is compared to a race, that calls for such exertion; a wrestling, that requires such skill; a warfare, that is attended with such labour and danger? What is there, in the kind of life which has been described, that at all corresponds with such images as these? If the way to heaven be so easy that people can walk in it without any material difficulty, how comes it that our Lord has represented the path of religion as strait and unfrequented, and has bidden us to strive to enter in at the strait gate, because many seek to enter in, and are not able ? St. Paul, when enumerating many classes of ungodly persons who should arise in the latter days, mentions those who have “ a form of godliness without the power;" and in those very words describes the characters which we are now considering. The
of whom we are speaking, particularly value themselves upon their moderation in religion; as though it were a virtue to love God moderately; to serve our Lord and Saviour moderately; and to seek the salvation of our souls moderately. This was the religion of the Laodicean Church: they determined to guard against all extremes: they would not neglect the service of God altogether; nor would they, on the other hand, engage in it with all their might. And what says God unto them? Does he commend this boasted moderation ? No: he says, “ I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot! So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of
thee out of my mouth.” Let me not be understood as though I would vindicate any thing that was really enthusiastic: God forbid! The only thing for which I am contending is, that God is to be served, not in a cold, lifeless, formal manner, but with unfeigned delight, and with all the powers and faculties of our souls. We must “ yield ourselves living sacrifices to him:" we must endeavour to “ walk worthy of him;” and strive to the uttermost to “ glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his." This is the holiness to which we are to attain; and “ without this holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
Having specified some of those ways which seem right to the generality of men, but will assuredly end in death, namely, the ways of licentiousness, proud unbelief, and cold formality, we would entreat you to contemplate the state of those who walk in them, at that period when they are about to be undeceived.
Whilst they are in health, and the world smiles upon them, their religion, such as it is, will suffice; and their confidence will bear them up. But when sickness comes, and they draw near to the chambers of death, a doubt will not unfrequently arise in their minds, whether they are prepared to meet their God. To dispel these thoughts, they betake themselves to business or pleasure or company, or perhaps to strong drink: but in spite of all the means used to allay their fears, their suspicions will recur with greater force, and excite a wish to know the opinion of some one better informed than themselves : but they are afraid to suggest their doubts, lest they should create an alarm in the minds of others, and impress them with an unfavourable apprehension of their state. The
recurrence of these thoughts makes them cling to life : not that life is pleasant to them; but they are afraid to die. Compelled at last by inward uneasiness, they perhaps put to some friend a question respecting the evidences of our acceptance with God. They are then answered in the most confident manner, that, as they have done no harm, and have been very attentive to their duties in life, they have no cause of fear. The satisfaction founded on such an answer as this, soon passes away; and their former fears return. Now perhaps they would be glad to see some person, whose piety they have heretofore ridiculed as needless preciseness: but they are afraid, lest a conversation with him should confirm, rather than remove, their doubts and fears. They wish, but cannot make up their minds, to send for him. Perhaps they suggest the idea to their attendant, but are dissuaded from encouraging it: they are told with increasing confidence, that all is well with them. Perhaps they persevere in their wishes, and a faithful monitor is sent for. The servant of God deals tenderly with them, but at the same time points out the errors they have fallen into, and the importance of seeking salvation in another way. This disquiets them for a time, and makes them doubly earnest about their souls. The faithful monitor repeats his visit: but the officious friends have barred the door against him; or perhaps have over-persuaded the dying man to decline all further interviews, and to venture his soul upon his own delusions. Any excuse is offered: the dying man is asleep, or too ill to see any one; and thus the only remaining hope for the poor man is banished. Such consolations as are founded on error and presumption are administered to the last : and at length the disembodied spirit rushes unprepared into the presence of its God.
But who can conceive the surprise and horror of the soul at the instant of its separation from the body? Methinks it shrinks back, wishing if possible to hide itself in its former tenement of clay. But the time is come for it to be undeceived. Now it sees the weakness