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never discharged the duty their office requires, have you not had an instructer and a reprover in a brother? In a sister? In a "wife? In a husband? If relations have all neglected you, have you met with no pious friend? No godly acquaintance? No religious neighbour?
In the Sixth, we place the dispensations of providence. All events have a voice, especially those of an afflictive kind. Hence we are commanded to hear the rod. And who has not been addressed by it? He has chastened you with sickness. You drew nigh unto the grave, and looked over the brink of In the Second, we place the Scriptures. life into an awful eternity. He has visited These you have in your own language, and you with disappointments in your worldly are not forbidden the use of them. You can affairs; and told you not to lay up treasure on read them; and by the perusal bring around earth, where moth and rust do corrupt, and you Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Paul; thieves break through and steal. You have the prophets and the apostles; with all their seen your neighbours carried to their long warnings and invitations. And I may apply home. You have witnessed dying beds. to you the words that were originally ad- Your own dwelling has been made the house dressed to Timothy: "From a child thou hast of mourning-" lover and friend has he put known the holy Scriptures, which are able to far from you, and your acquaintance into simake thee wise unto salvation, through faith lence." The very day in which you have which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is lived has been full of awful admonitions. given by inspiration of God, and is profitable When his "judgments are abroad in the for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for in-earth, the inhabitants of the world should struction in righteousness." learn righteousness."
In the Third, we place ministers. In the name of God, whose they are, and whom they serve, they place before you your duty in the various conditions of life, and alarm and allure you to the performance of it. They proclaim the threatenings of the Law, and the promises of the Gospel. They announce your danger, and call upon you to flee for refuge to the hope set before you. "Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things that you hear, and have not heard them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear."
Yet now many are there who "regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operations of his hands!" How many are there who disregard all these instructers and reprovers! Let us turn from the subject, to II. The PERIOD of these regrets. It is a dying hour. It is "at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed."
Such a period is unavoidable. There is no prevention of it, nor escape from it. However long life may be, it will have an end: the last breath will expire; the last Sabbath will elapse; the last sermon will be heard. The sparkling eye must be closed in darkness; In the Fourth, we place conscience. This the busy tongue must be silenced for ever instructer and reprover you have always with the hands must forget their enterprizes; and you; always in you. How often has this di- those idolized frames, that exhausted so much vine messenger, when you have been ventur-time and attention in pampering and adorning on a sinful action, cried Forbear! How ing them, must be consigned to rottenness often has it arraigned and condemned your and worms. proceedings, and filled you with anguish and terror! How often has it told you that you are in the gall of bitterness, in the bond of iniquity; and that your heart is not right in the sight of God!
Such a period cannot be far off. what is our life? It is a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." It is a flood. It is a flower. It is a tale that is told. It is a dream.-It is a hand's breadth. It is nothing before Godsurely every man at his best estate is altogether vanity."
Such a period may be very near. general limitation of human life is threescore years and ten; but few reach it, and come to the grave in full age. Indeed when we consider of what a multiplicity of delicate organs our system is composed, and how liable they are to injury; and add to this the numberless diseases and accidents that lie ambushed in our path; the wonder is, that we live a week, a day, an hour, to an end. The ox
In the Fifth, we place irrational creatures. Can you hear the melody of the birds, and not be ashamed of your sinful silence? Can you see the heavenly bodies perform unerringly their appointed course, and not reflect on your own numberless departures from duty? "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise; which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest." 66 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." "Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."
Such a period is sometimes prematurely brought on by sin. Solomon here intimates this; and it is a supposition illustrated and confirmed by facts. How many die by the hand of civil justice; and acknowledge at
sets your most secret sins in the light of God's countenance. With what ingratitude, folly, madness, will you charge yourselves! What reflections on opportunities lost! on faculties perverted! What fear of mercy abused; and of judgment approaching! What anticipations of hell, where the worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched!— Many of the sinner's dying confessions and horrors are never made known. Relations and friends conceal them. They often indeed mistake them, and ascribe these exclamations to the phrensy of the disorder. And, perhaps, were it not for the composing draught, it would be impossible, in many cases, to secure the attendance of any in the room. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God !"
the place of execution, the disregard of instruction and reproof, in which the fatal career commenced! How many of those who die what is called a natural death, might have been now living, had not their "bones been filled with the sins of their youth, that lie down with them in the dust!" How many yet living, but diseased, emaciated figures, exhibiting the appearances of decay and age, might have been sound in constitution, and healthy and strong, had they listened to that wisdom which has "length of days in her right hand," as well as in her left hand riches and honour!" How many reduced and worn down by hard labour and living, to which they had been unaccustomed, who have pined away in want, or dragged on a miserable being in prison, might have still enjoyed liberty and ease, had they followed that god- Secondly. It is useless. I do not mean as liness which "has the promise of the life to others-it may serve to convince them that now is, as well as of that which is to what "an evil and bitter thing it is to sin come!" As to "bloody and deceitful men," against God," and awaken in them a salutary, they do not often "live out half their days." because a seasonable, fear. But with reBut such a period as this, if it be not pre-gard to the individuals themselves, says God maturely produced by irreligion, is always himself: "Because I have called, and ye reimbittered by it. "You will mourn at the fused; I have stretched out my hand, and no last, when your flesh and your body are con- man regarded; but ye have set at nought all sumed, and say, How have I hated instruc- my counsel, and would none of my reproof: tion, and my heart despised reproof!" Such I also will laugh at your calamity; I will, self-reflection and condemnation are unavoidable unless prevented, first, by your being cut off suddenly, and not having a moment given you for thought. Secondly, by your being deprived of reason, and thus rendered incapable of any mental exertion. Or, thirdly, by your having annihilated all moral feeling, and completely subdued the power of conscience and who can tell how far a man may be hardened "through the deceitfulness of sin," and by trifling with the means of grace, and die in peace, though he is sure to awake in torment! Would you desire such preventions as these? Are they not more dreadful than the effect? Yet you must hope—either for sudden death-or the suspension of reason-or the loss of conscience; or you must expect a dying hour to be imbitterred with regrets.
III. Let us consider the NATURE of these regrets. "And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body be consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!" In other cases, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." But this mourning has two attributes to distinguish it.
mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices." What! Is this dying grief, always, and invariably unavailing ?-Ianswer; we are to describe, things according to their natural and common course, and not according to occasional and very unusual exceptions. And in the case before us-are not exceptions very unusual? Do not men commonly die as they live? And with regard to those dying regrets, to which so many look forward as a final refuge, and from which so many instantaneous saints are furnished for our magazine-calendars—what degree of dependence is to be placed upon them? In reply to this, let the following remarks be examined.
The First regard the Scripture. There First. It is dreadful. A dying hour has we find one, and only one called at this hour. been called an honest hour. The world It was the dying thief. He implored and obthen recedes from your view, demonstrating tained mercy when the heaven was covered its incapacity to succour; and acknowledging with blackness, and the earth trembled, and that it attracted you only to show its empti- the rocks rent, and the graves were opened, ness, and elevated only to depress. The de- and a suffering Saviour would crown the lusions of imagination give way. Criminal prodigies of nature with a miracle of grace excuses vanish. Memory goes back, and re-a case in all its circumstances so amazcalls the guilt of former life: and conscience ingly peculiar, that were not men infatu
ated by sin, it could never be drawn into a
The Second is derived from observation.
The Third regards the force of habit. "As well may the Ethiopian change his skin, and the leopard his spots, as they learn to do good who have been accustomed to do evil." Diseases which if taken in time are curable, by becoming inveterate are rendered desperate. "But there is no desperate case here," you are ready to say. "With God all things are possible. His grace is almighty." Acknowledged: and you shall have all the encouragement derivable from a miracle of grace. But what probability is there, that an extraordinary dispensation of grace will be adopted, after all the ordinary means of salvation have been despised and neglected? And despised and neglected too in hope of this!
Hence our Fourth remark regards the influence of such examples. If persons who live without God in the world were as frequently called in their last hour as too many seem to admit, would not the frequency of the occurrence influence persons to procrastinate their religious concerns, and to say to every present application, "Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee?" But does God by his conduct contradict his commands? And having said, "To-day if ye will hear his voice harden not your heart;"-" now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation;" "seek ye the Lord while he may be found, : and call upon him while he is near;"-would he supersede the necessity or weaken the impression of all this, by his constantly receiving sinners when they can insult him no longer, and showing that forced regret is as acceptable to him as genuine repentance?
Yet, by the way, we should have more hope of such a man, if he died uncertain and distressed, than were we to see him dying in "the full assurance of hope." For though God is a sovereign, and we are not to limit the Holy One of Israel, it is not surely reasonable to expect, that a man who has given his whole life to the world, the flesh, and the devil, and is only driven to God by dying regret, should be able to say with a Simeon, who has been waiting for the consolation of Israel; "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation!" Let us conclude by three reflections.
First. How good is God! He is much more attentive to our welfare than we 'ever have been, or ever can be. He originally made man upright; and when by transgression he fell away from him, he did not avail himself of the rights his justice had acquired over him; nor did he even treat him with neglect. He remembered us in our low estate, and "so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." He has sent us the information, with numberless means and motives to awaken our attention to it. And these he is continually reaping. So true is it, that he is "longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and live." So justly may he complain, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" For,
Secondly. How fallen is man! Some deny his depravity, contending that we are naturally virtuous, or at least as much inclined to good as evil. But if this be the fact, why do we need so many hinderances to restrain us from evil, and so many endeavours to excite us to good? And why are they ineffectual too? They ought upon this principle to be successful with the majority, or at least an equal number of mankind. But are they? Do we not see men generally breaking through every restraint, and disregarding every kind of instruction and reproof! And are not they who walk by the rule of God's word, "a peculiar people?”
For Finally, observe the uncertainty the Thirdly. How important is serious thought! individual must feel in determining the reali- In this religion commences: "I thought on ty of his religious feelings. How is he to my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testiknow whether they are the cries of nature, monies. I made haste, and delayed not to or the desires of grace? whether they flow keep thy commandments." Could men go on from the Spirit of God, or result from his tre- as they do, if they considered their ways, mendous situation, and his depressed and dis- comparing them with the word of God, and ordered frame? And has he not enough to examining their consequences? Impossible. bear without this cruel perplexity? Now that It is thoughtlessness that ruins them. They he needs the comforts of religion, is he inca- never faithfully inquire, How will this close? pable of deciding whether he is entitled to its Will it bring me peace at the last? How promises? Now that he needs confidence, will it appear when reviewed from the bormust he expire in darkness and in doubt?—ders of the grave? "A prudent man fore
(ON THE LOSS OF A CHRISTIAN FRIEND.)
Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Phil. iii. 20, 21.
THE present is not the principal state in which man is to be found; and it shoud never be viewed separate from another; to which it bears the same relation as infancy to manhood, as spring to autumn, as seedtime to harvest. Who, in nature, having scattered one kind of grain in his field, would think of filling his barn with another? And in religious concerns "be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; for he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
This consideration stamps an awfulness on human nature; and teaches us the true importance of the present period. It is comparatively a matter of little concern what is to become of us, and where we shall reside, for a few weeks or years. The grand question is, Where are we to reside for ever? And what is to become of us when the trumpet shall sound, and all the dead, both small and great, shall stand before God, and receive of the things done in the body, whether they be good, or whether they be evil?
Some never afford this subject a moment's thought. Others remain in a state of uncertainty. But the primitive Christians gave all diligence to make their calling and their election sure; and conscious of the reality of their religion, and the blessedness of their condition, could say; "Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." Let us considerTHE CHRISTIAN'S STATE-THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPECTATION-THE CHRISTIAN'S DESTINY.
I. His present STATE. It is thus expressed: "Our conversation is in heaven." The original term is used two ways. Sometimes it signifies a certain alliance, and means citizenship: and sometimes it denotes a peculiar behaviour. Our translators have preferred the
latter; and rendered it conversation. And they have done so, not only in the passage before us, but in several other places, meaning however by the term, not discourse only, but the whole tenor of our conduct. We need not disunite these two senses. The one will infer and explain the other.
Be it remembered therefore, in the First place, that the believer stands in connexion with another and a nobler world; he belongs to "a better country, even a heavenly." He is a citizen of no mean city: "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God," and which abounds with laws, honours, riches, pleasures, immunities, and intercourse, the most valuable and glorious. How did a man boast in being a citizen of Rome! When the centurion heard that Paul was a Roman, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman! He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was freeborn." Think, then, what a privilege it is to belong to a state concerning which it is said,
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him!"-Hence our Saviour teaches his disciples to prefer their being registered among the living in Jerusalem to the power and fame of working miracles: "Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Now, Secondly, as the Christian is allied to such a country, a suitable mode of living becomes him. A citizen of Rome could live elsewhere, even in any of the distant provinces. A citizen of heaven resides on earth for a season; but he is a stranger and a foreigner. Though in the world, he is not of it. while certain purposes detain him here, his principles, his habits, and his speech, show that he belongs to "a peculiar people." He is a citizen of glory. He prefers his fellowcitizens. He loves to speak of the glory of his kingdom. He will correspond with it; and as cold water to a thirsty soul, so will good news be from this far country. His body is here, and his business is here-but his soul is there-there is his treasure; there his inheritance; there his thoughts fix; there his affections rest;
"There his best friends, his kindred dwell;
He acts habitually under an impression of heaven, and with a reference to it. His chief care is to gain it. He often fears that he shall miss it at last; and the apprehension stimulates his vigilance, self-examination, and diligence. He concurs in the prayer," Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in hea
ven:" he mourns over his want of conformity to the servants of God above; and is seeking after an increase of those blessed tempers and joys, which are possessed by them in all their perfection. He is not only longing, but preparing for heaven. And he is hastening towards it, not only as a place of release from trouble, but as a state of freedom from sin, and communion with God.
II. His high expectation. "Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ."
This reminds us of the present abode of our Redeemer: he is now in heaven. And hence we need not wonder that Christians should have their conversation in heaven. For he is their treasure; and where "the treasure is, there will the heart be also."The removal of a very dear friend into another neighbourhood will frequently render a place indifferent to us; and we change our residence to be near him. The death of a delightful relation will turn a paradise into a wilderness. How often do we look up, and follow our departed connexions in our thoughts! But something of them remains. The body we have laid in the grave. We go to the place to weep there. We feel a propriety in the very dust we tread. But nothing of our Saviour remains to attach us to earth: his very body is gone from us. "I am no more," said he," in the world"-a sentence sufficient to render the world dreary; we feel his attraction as he ascends; and "rising together with Christ, we seek those things that are above, where he sitteth at the right hand of God. We set our affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. And when he who is our life shall appear, we shall also appear with him in glory."
mind with regard to this appearance. He looks for him.
He believes his coming; and this distinguishes him from infidels. They ask, "Where is the promise of his coming?" and having rendered it their interest that he should not come, persuade themselves that he will not. Their unbelief is the offspring of their vices and their fears. But with the Christian it is not a matter of opinion or conjecture; he does not say, He may come; but He will come and by means of that "faith which is the evidence of things not seen,' he beholds him already marshaling his angels and traveling down.
But do not all believe this truth? It is an invidious task to call men infidels. But suppose they prove themselves so? Now we know from observation and experience that belief sways the mind, and governs the conduct. Even when our persuasion is founded on our own imagination, or the testimony of our fellow-creatures, it produces some effect. How much more operative should be our confidence in the testimony of God, who cannot be deceived, and who cannot lie! Now if men live precisely like others; as bold in sin; as remiss in duty; can they really believe? Do not actions speak louder than words?
The true believer therefore pays attention to his coming, and thus he is distinguished from nominal Christians, who, if we must allow that they believe it, are not influenced by it. What we look for we prepare for in proportion as we attach importance to it. We prepare for the reception of a friend. How much more should we prepare for the reception of a king. But here the personage expected is the King of kings; the Governor of the universe; the Judge of all!-And does the Christian, who is looking for Him, imAgain. Though our Redeemer is now in merse himself in the cares of this life? Does heaven, he will come thence. The time is he "sleep, as do others?" Does he play and indeed a secret: but the thing is sure. He trifle? Does he smite his fellow-servant, and does not forget his friends while he is ab- eat and drink with the drunken? No; but sent; he communicates with them, and sup- seeing he looks for such things, he is diliplies them: and has promised to "come gent that he may be found of him in peace, again and receive them to himself, that where without spot, and blameless." He waits with he is there they may be also." But how his "loins girded, and his lamp burning;"wonderful the difference between his former and "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and his future coming! Then he was seen he should live soberly, righteously, and godly of few; now "every eye shall see him."- in the present world," and is thus looking for Then his glory was veiled, and "the world that blessed hope, "and the glorious appearknew him not;" now we shall "see him as ing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus he is." Then" he was despised and rejected Christ." of men;" now he "shall come in the clouds of heaven, with all the holy angels!" Then he was born in a stable, and nailed to a cross; now "he shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations." He was "once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for him will he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
Observe also the state of the Christian's
For, Finally, remark the character under which the Christian waits for him: "from whence we look for the Saviour." This was the name given him at his birth, and for the most important of all reasons, because he should "save his people from their sins.” This work he has not only undertaken, but will completely accomplish. He is coming to finish it; and to fulfil all that the name imposes upon him, or implies. He will create