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in the highest degree particular, he has promised his special protection to those who put their trust in him. And the record of the fulfilment of this promise is written in the experience of all his people. The Christian has called
upon God for deliverance in the day of his trouble, and he has been delivered. In the day of sickness, in the day of bereavement, in the day of death, trusting in the Lord, he has been enabled to rejoice with joy unspeakable. And where the Christian is not shielded from the arrows of adversity, even where he is not delivered from the hand of the destroyer, he enjoys the favour of his God still; for adversity is made to yield a harvest of blessing, and death becomes the gate of immortal glory. Well may he say, while he confides and rejoices in the divine protection, “Who is so great a God as our God ?"
But finally, and above all, man needs a Savior. Is the God of the infidel or the God of the Christian best adapted to meet this exigency of his condition ? 'There are those, I know, who treat sin, the great moral disease of man's nature, as if it were a mere matter to be laughed at; and of course nothing else can be expected but that they should deny the necessity of any redeeming interposition. But the truth is, that in all this there is little sincerity. The infidel is a man; and he is constituted like other men; and like other men he has a conscience, which sometimes raises a tumult in his breast, by convicting him of guilt and pointing his eye towards a retribution. Every man has evidence, independently of all external testimony,--evidence which he is sometimes compelled to feel that he is a sinner, and as such is exposed to the divine displeasure ; that woes heavy and appalling await him unless his sins are forgiven. Now suppose, that with that sense of sin which every man feels at some time or other, you were to think to draw near to the infidel's God for the remission of your sins, and the cleansing of your soul ; and supposing him to be all that reason, by her best efforts, can prove him to be ;-I ask you whether you do not perceive at once that your case would be well-nigh desperate? For it cannot be denied that well directed reason attributes to the Supreme Being perfect justice and hcliness: of course these attributes require that sin should be punished; and the alternative is, that the infidel's God must either punish sin or sacrifice his perfection. When it is remembered, at the same time, that he has given no intimation of pardoning mercy, where is the shadow of encouragement to a sinner to seek forgiveness ; or the shadow of hope that it can in any way be extended to him ? And if the sinner takes counsel of his conscience, he will find that he needs not only to be forgiven, but sanctified ; that a divine influence is necessary to give a right direction to the faculties and principles of his nature, and thus render nim capable of spiritual enjoyment. Will you go to the infidel's God to seek this blessing? But where have you learned that He is a sanctifying God? Reason has not told you so. Conscience has not told you so.
Nature has not told you so. Rely on it, you are groping in the dark, and may as well fold your arms and sit down in despair.
Turn now to the God of the Christian, and behold in him the Savior that you need! He reveals himself as the Lord our Righteousness, and the Lord our strength; as the just God and the merciful; as forgiving iniquity, not at the expense of his perfections, but in a manner which renders his perfections more gloriously conspicuous—through the sacrifice of his own Son. And he gives his Spirit too, as the Sanctifier of the people; to subdue their
rebellion, to implant within them a principle of holiness, and to train them up for an eternal residence in the heavens. I appeal to the noble army of martyrs, and the spirits of the just made perfect—the redeemed who cast their crowns at the foot of the throne, whether this be not so. And lest this should seem like a blind sally of imagination, I appeal to you, Christians, yet in the midst of your conflict,—to every one of you who worships the Christian's God in sincerity and in truth-whether it be not so. Can you not stand up and testisy for your God, that when your conscience was burdened wit guilt, he graciously removed the burden by the application of the blood of his Son; that while sin rankled unsubdued in your bosom, he struck a blow which disarmed it of its power ; that in all your conflicts his grace strengthens you; and that you carry in your bosom a pledge that his grace will perfect your sanctification, and confer upon you an unwithering crown? I cannot conclude without applying this argument in one word to a practi
Let me ask then, who among you all will dare to trust his interests for time and eternity in the hands of the infidel's God? Dare you trust him as your guide, when there are so many devious paths in which you are in danger of being lost; especially when he has given you no promise of his guidance, and there is nothing in his character which should lead you to expect it? Dare you trust him as a refuge, when you do not know that he even hears the prāyers which you send up to him in your trouble ; and when you do know that there is not an hour of your life, but that every earthly refuge is liable to fail you? Dare you trust him as a Savior, when he claims no such char. acter? Dare you approach him with your heart burdened with guilt, and plead with him for forgiveness, when he has said nothing and done nothing to inspire the least hope of pardon, and when, for aught that you can see, pardon must involve the wreck of his attributes ? Dare you ask him to sanctify you, or grant you grace to help in time of need, when, as a sinner, you have forfeited every favor, and have become obnoxious to his wrath? Dare you trust him in the hour of your extremity ? Dare you lift up your eyes to him on the bed of death, and ask him to save you: amid the shudderings of guilt
, amid the convulsions of pain, amid the uncertainty, the darkness, perhaps the wailings, of that last hour, dare you, I ask, take the God of the infidel for your portion, and throw that deathless spirit of yours on his protection for eternity? Above all, dare you do this, when thousands who have done it before you have testified in the dark valley that they were without a refuge, and have died reproaching themselves for their wretched infatuation ?
I know that there is not one of you but would shudder to answer these fearful interrogatories in the affirmative; not one who dares to sit down and deliberately count the cost, and then commit his interests for time and eternity into the hands of the infidel's God. And if you dare not do it deliberately, and with your eyes open, be not so infatuated as to leap inconsiderately into these territories of doubt, and horror, and death. Turn your eye then towards the God of the Christian, and you will find a Being infinitely venerable, altogether lovely; a Being, the devout contemplation of whose character will exalt you from glory to glory; whom you may confidently trust as a guide, a protector, and a Savior ; who will sustain you by the right arm of his power and grace while the current of life is ebbing away; and who will keep your immortal spirit safe and happy amid the shocks of the last day. But remember, that in order that the Christian's God may become your portion, you must yield your hearts and lives to his service. It is not enough that you prosess your faith in him, or even that you have some emotions of sublimity or rapture in meditating on his attributes. You must love him, trust him, obey him. Then, I repeat, you may be fearless in adversity; fearless in death ; fearless amid the funereal fires of the world.
By WILLIAM B. SPRAGUE, D.D.
ALBANY, N. v.
CHOOSING THE GOOD PART.
LUKE X. 42.- And Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Our blessed Lord, when he was on earth, partook largely of all the common sufferings of human nature. Though he was Lord of the creation, and could always have supplied his own necessities and those of his disciples by miraculous agency, yet, instead of availing himself of his divine power, he suffered many of his wants to go unsupplied, and for the supply of others he cast himself on the hospitality of his friends. There was a family at Bethany who were peculiarly endeared to him ; who, in one case, at least, and probably in many others, experienced largely of his kindness, and with whom he seems always to have been a most welcome guest. Passing through their village on his way to Jerusalem, he called to see them; not in the spirit in which it is common to call upon people in these days, as a mere matter of ceremony, but from feelings of genuine affection, and with an earnest desire to do them good. The two sisters, Mary and Martha, seem both to have given him a most cordial welcome; though they exhibited their attachment and joy in very different ways: the one by endeavoring to provide for him an entertainment; the other by sitting at his feet, and listening to his instruction. Martha, observing the course which her sister was taking, in a moment of impatience, complained to the Master that she was left to serve alone, and begged of him the favor that he would bid Mary come to her assistance. But behold, Martha, who no doubt expected commendation, was met with rebuke! Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things : but one thing is needful. And Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Is there not reason to believe that if our Lord were now on the earth, he might often find occasion to offer a similar rebuke? And to be plainer still, is there not reason to believe that many a woman, and many a good woman too, loses much of the benefit to be derived from intelligent and pious visiters,
from the fact that, like Martha, she is cumbered about much serving ; that she thinks more of providing a sumptuous entertainment than of having her soul refreshed by edifying and profitable conversation.
The commendation which our Lord bestowed upon Mary is contained in the words of our text :-—" And Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Let us analyze this passage a little, and see what instruction we can gather from it.
1. The first thought which this passage obviously suggests is, that religion is a matter of deliberate choice. “ Mary hath chosen that good part.”
To choose is an act of the soul which every one perfectly understands, and which cannot be made more obvious by explanation ; insomuch that if you should hear a philosophical lecture on the subject of choice, you would after all come back to your own consciousness to know what it is. We say then that religion is just as much an object of choice as any thing else. If you are hereafter to become religious, it is certain that you will choose to become so. If you remain in your sins, it is equally certain that you will choose to remain in them. There is indeed truth, yes, and glory too, in the doctrine of a divine influence; but that does not interfere at all with your freedom; it leaves you with the full power of choice, - with all the responsibilities of a moral agent.
This is the doctrine of the Bible. “ Choose ye this day," says Joshua, “whom ye will serve.” . It is taken for granted in all the promises and threatenings of the Bible ; in the terms on which salvation is offered; in the whole system of means and motives which the gospel exhibits. It is the doctrine of reason, and on it hangs the doctrine of a retribution. It is the doctrine of experience ; for every one that has set his face towards heaven is conscious, and is ready to testify, that he has done it by a voluntary act; and notwithstanding all the cavils of irreligious men, I venture to say that every one who is walking in the way to death, feels, when he allows himself to reflect, that he is perfectly voluntary in the course he is pursuing. We will for a. moment illustrate this truth, under two or three particulars.
There is choice connected with the assent which the mind yields to the divine authority of the Scriptures. I do not mean that the mind must not be determined in its judgments by the evidence which is actually before it, or that it is possible for a man to believe in one way when he perceives that the evidence preponderates in another; but then it may be and is a matter of choice with him, whether he will examine the evidence at all ; and if so, whether he will examine it impartially, seeking divine guidance, and holding his mind in a state to admit the truth, whatever he may find it to be. One man chooses to investigate this subject with a teachable and humble spirit, and he sees evidence perfectly conclusive that the Bible is an inspired book. Another chooses to investigate it in an opposite spirit, and he decides against its claims to inspiration. The act in either case is perfectly voluntary.
And what is thus true of the evidences is not less so of the doctrines of Christianity. In a certain sense it is true that a man may believe them or not believe them as he pleases ; because it is left at his pleasure whether to examine them or not to examine them, and whether to approach them with the spirit of a caviller, or the spirit of a docile inquirer. Some of you perhaps know little of the Bible, and have never read it with any attention in the course of your lives, and of course can have no intelligent belief of its doctrines. Now is the reason of this is asked, what other reason can be given than that you choose to let the Bible alone; especially as you live in à land where the Bible is no 'rare book, and as you do not belong to a sect that prohibits or discourages the use of it? There are others among you who have made the Scriptures your constant study, and who meditate upon them when you lie down and when you rise up, and who have a thorough knowledge of their contents, and a full belief of their doctrines. And here again, what reason is to be given for this other than that you choose it should be so? Will any one of you say that he was conscious of more constraint in sitting down to study his Bible than in going out to attend to his worldly business? Did you ever dream that you had less liberty in the one case than in the other ?
Again—there is the same exercise of choice in the soul's acceptance of a Savior. The two objects which present themselves with their claims to our supreme affection are, on the one hand, the Lord Jesus Christ, and with him all the benefits of his redemption, and on the other, this present world, with all that it has to bestow. Now the sinner, so long as he remains unrenewed, . chuoses the latter. He chooses it so intensely, if I may be allowed the expression, that he rolls it as a sweet morsel under his tongue. During this period this world seems to him every thing; it occupies the whole field of his vision; but Christ and his salvation-(they may be something good for aught he knows,)—but he does not discern their excellence and glory, and therefore he does not choose them. But under the enlightening influences of the Spirit, his views change; and the world dwindles to nothing, and Christ becomes all in all, and he chooses Christ as his portion now as deliberately as he chose the world before. Let every Christian say whether I have not spoken to his own experience. Not that I would detract aught from the blessed agency of God's Spirit: no Christian will ever forget on earth or in heaven that it was by the grace of God that he became a new creature; but I venture 10 say that every Christian is conscious of having been as voluntary in the act of giving himself to God as in any other act of his life. And one proof of it among many is, that he condemns himself for not having done this act before.
I might go on to say that there is equally the exercise of choice in all the Christian's growth in grace ; in his prayers; in his social intercourse ; in his attendance on the means of religion; in his improvement of the dispensations of Providence; in every thing, in short, that enters into his progress in the divine life. But instead of extending my remarks under this article, I pass to
II. A second general observation suggested by the text, viz. that he who chooses religion chooses a good part. "Mary hath chosen that good pa t."
Is not this manifest when you consider that he who chooses religion chooses a portion for his soul ? What is the body ? Mere corruptible matter ; destined ere long to become disorganized, and to remain so perhaps for ages. And the whole animal nature-what is it? It is that which proclaims to us that we are of the earth, earthly; that which would keep us silent, if a reptile should lift up its head from the dust, and claim to be our brother or our sister. Now in making this world your portion, you consult only the