« PrécédentContinuer »
hostility, escapes only because it is beneath its notice, or invisible to its eyes. And yet this is the interest in which God has made himself a party; this is the cause which is identified with Christ himself; this is the religion to which his. own emphatic words apply, with still more pointed force than to its first promulgators, “whoso despiseth you despiseth me.”
Here then is the awful test to which God puts the hearts of men—the mysterious balance by which he weighs them, and by which he ascertains, shall I say, his real friends. He assumes the form of great humility, that, on the one hand, he may reach and draw forth that deep degeneracy which turns even from God himself, when placed for a moment on the suffering side ; and that, on the other hand, he may exercise and crown that tried fidelity of soul, which when all things visible were against him, confessed an invisible and crucified Redeemer.
Who then can conceive and estimate that exceeding weight of joy with which this faithful flock shall hail their triumphant Shepherd, when he
appears in glory! When the standard of the cross shall beam with insufferable brightness from all the towers and battlements of heaven! When the dead, small and great, shall stand before the Son of God; and when, from that awful judgment-seat, he shall look down with unutterable
love upon the humblest soul that was faithful to him in life, and from amidst the dazzling glories that surround him, shall say, “It is I; be not “ afraid—Fear not; I am thy shield, and thy “ exceeding great reward.”
There is, in the glory to be revealed, one step higher than Christ's sublimest exaltation in his mediatorial kingdom. It is what divines have called the beatific vision. The revelation of God as he is in himself—the Trinity unveiled and without a cloud; and seen as far as created intelligences can bear to look on the divine essence and live. But on this it is unprofitable for us to dwell: we have not faculties for so high a reach. Let us abstain from all presumptuous speculation; and rest in the thankful belief, that “ not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him."
My brethren, these realms of everlasting joy are not displayed in Scripture to tantalize you with forbidden fruit: they are the inheritance of every one of you, who will accept the mercies freely offered you.
Hopeless, indeed, would be our condition, if in our own strength we had to tread the upward path which leads to this blessed mansion; or pay down, as the price of our admission, the ten thousand talents which we owe to God. But the
Scriptures assure us, that the full price of our entrance into heaven is paid ; that our sins, tho' red like erimson, and as the sand on the sea shore innumerable, are expiated by the blood of Christ; that entire forgiveness iš purchased for the guilty and the lost; that the kingdom of heaven is opened to all believers; that all may now come to the waters of salvation....may come and buy wine and milk, without money and without price. All that is required on our part, is to repent and believe the Gospel; to come unto him who is the way, the truth, and the life; to own, and to receive him as our great deliverer, from both the power, and punishment of sin.
The Gospel must be received in all its fulness; and none can with consistence claim its future pardon, unless they earnestly desire to find it now, the power of God unto salvation. If we do not hunger, and thirst after righteousness; if we do not love righteousness for its own sake, and press
for the attainment of every virtue, as its own reward ; what can our hopes or anticipations of heaven be, but the creatures of mere delusion ? Nay, if dissevered from the true relish of purity and goodness, let us take care that our longing after another life, be not the child of discontent, the secret working of a subtle unmortified ambition. For whatever the outward głories of eternity may be, the life of heaven is in the soul
itself. It must be fitted for the calm delights, and suited to the spiritual enjoyments of the state of blessedness, or it is self-evident that it cannot be happy. For happiness essentially consists in the fruition of what we love. No being can feel happy, in an uncongenial, and hostile element. As soon then could the pillars of heaven give way; as soon could darkness issue from the sun, or defilement from the bosom of God, as could the man who lives and dies in sin, and in the friendship of this present world, pass through the grave and gate of death, to a joyful resurrection. Death will not change the character of the soul. Judge then the matter for yourselves. Could foul debauchery feel happy in scenes of angelic innocence, of high unconquerable virtue, which no hellish impurity could seduce ? or could pride feel happy where all are dead to self, where all are poor in spirit, and asscribe praise, and honor, and glory, to God alone ?
It is in this view that the Scriptures insist with so much force on the necessity of conversionof a radical change from our natural corruption; from that deadness to God, and the heavenly life, in which we are all conceived and born. Nor is this transformation a mere arbitrary appointment; it is an unalterable necessity; grounded in the nature and constitution of things.
When, therefore, as your appointed ministers,
we beseech you in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God; and to renounce in heart and mind a world that lieth in wickedness-its mad ambition, its deceitful pleasures, its ruinous delusions ; we do so, because we feel that we are pleading with you for your life. We know that those who strive to compromise between the world and God, are trifling with themselves, and will reap unmingled misery in the end. They will find at last, that they were grasping at two shadows-that the world was a shadow; that their religion was a shadow; and that between these shadows they have thrown away the substance; they have lost heaven, and lost their souls.
If this would appear to any of you the language of severity, pause a moment, and consider what this language means. You must be holy here, if you would be happy hereafter. ; But what does this amount to ? It is in other words to say, that God has offered you an endless heaven, and requires as the preparation for it, that this heaven should begin on earth. Is this then a hard allotment, or a severe condition ?
If any of you, my brethren, could call it so, let me ask you in conclusion, whether you are happy in the ways you are now pursuing ? Are you solidly contented ? Have your hopes' been realized ? Is your bosom the seat of deep tranquillity ? - Ask yourselves these questions in the