« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
everlasting chains, unto the judgment of the great day. It was he that created the world, and made it a suitable habitation for man—for man, obedient, sinless, and immortal. And he saw the sad effects of sin, when the tempter entered the peaceful bowers of Eden, and when the forbidden fruit was taken. He has watched the effects of sin, in its wide-spreading influence among mankind, in all succeeding ages. And it was their sad condition, as under its reigning power, that moved his pity, and urged him to undertake for their recovery, by making his soul an offering for sin. And while he was on the earth and fulfilling the ends of his mission, though he knew no sin as a transgressor, yet he had opportunity of tasting its bitter ingredients. “Himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree," and the anguish of spirit which he endured, when on him was laid the iniquity of us all, and when denied the light of his Father's countenance, he bowed his head in death, plainly told him what sin must be, which could be only thus atoned for. Nor is it strange, that the benevolent Jesus, remembering the agonies of his cross when he sunk under the painful load of our iniquity, should desire our deliverance.
He is well acquainted with the effects of sin, as resulting from continued impenitence. He knows what must be the sinner's course, and what his fearful end, if, resisting proffered mercy, he goes on hardening himself in unbelief. He can foresee the sorrows and woes that will cluster around him, leading a sinful life, and dying a hopeless death. He knows what it will be for a sinner to appear at his judgment-bar, unwashed in his blood and without the robes of his righteousness, only to be banished from his presence to the world of despair. And the mind of Jesus is capable of comprehending the extent and severity of the woes to be endured in that eternal world.
The capacities of men are limited, and never do their powers appear so feeble and imperfect as when they look into futurity, and attempt to measure and estimate the unseen things of eternity. With all the light of revelation, we form but feeble conceptions of what awaits us beyond the grave. We.can know something of the happiness of the righteous. We can know something of the miseries of the lost. The Scriptures have exhibited, by the most terrific images, the punishment of the ungodly. But no man will know, in this life, what it is to be banished from the presence of God, and imprisoned with damned spirits, to blaspheme God, and feel the gnawings of the worm that never dies. till he shall sink beneath the burning lake, will understand what is intended hy the vengeance of eternal fire, nor even then will he be able to anticipate the amount of suffering, of coming ages, while the eternal smoke of his torment is ascending.
But Jesus, who takes a deep interest in all the affairs of his Father's government, and casts a penetrating glance through his wide-spreading dominions, has seen the eternal prison-house, and knows what punishments are there inflicted. From his lofty throne in the heavens he can look across the impassable gulf, and view the sufferings of the rich man, in his place of torment, calling in vain for a drop of water to cool his tongue. And he can cast his mind forward, through the coming ages of eternity, and measure the amount of suffering yet to be endured. And with his enlarged views of the fearful end of the wicked, we cannot wonder that he should take a deep interest in the condition of man on probation, and weep over his impenitence and folly,—saying, O, that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace !
II. Christ earnestly desires the conversion of the impenitent, because he knows what ample provision has been made for their pardon. He looks upon men, not only as sinners, but as redeemed sinners; and considering the price that was paid for their ransom, he earnestly desires that they may partake of its benefits. The way of salvation by Jesus Christ has always been an inviting, animating theme. It was a subject of much thought and interest to mankind, during the ages which preceded the Messiah's coming. Many prophets and wise men, looking at types and sacrifices, and anticipating a more full development of the things pertaining to salvation, when the fulness of time should come, earnestly desired to see the days of Christ's appearing. The contemplation of this theme, as more fully displayed in the life and doctrines of Christ, animated the apostles in the arduous enterprise of preaching the gospel. The subject has excited even a greater interest among the hosts of heaven. These are the things which angels desire to look into, and the lofliest hymns of praise of those who surround the throne of God are awakened by redeeming love. But to no one is redemption a subject of more interest than to the Redeemer himself.
We take deepest interest in plans that are our own, and which are accomplished by our own efforts. The salvation of a ruined world is to Christ a plan of his own, and one which has for a long time called forth his labors and awakened the full energy of his love. In the redemption of fallen men he has been the chief actor, and has watched its progress through every stage of its accomplishment, and he is capable of comprehending the real magnitude of the vast design.
When we, with our limited capacities, fix our attention upon the system of redeeming mercy, there is comparatively liule we can understand. And should we ever arrive in heaven, it will be the pleasing theme of investigation for eternity. But Jesus knows what is the breadth, and length, and heighi, and depth of that love which passeth knowledge. He was present and took part in the counsels, when it was decided in heaven that man should be redeemed, and that the Son, giving his soul an offering for sin, should have a chosen people to serve him, as his reward. He made all the arrangements of that darker dispensation by which the expectations of men were raised, and the way prepared for his appearance on the earth. He saw how great the condescension, for him who was rich, yet for our sakes to become poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich. He knows how much suffering and self nial it cost him, while, as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, he fulfilled the business of his mission. He remembers what was the anguish of that hour, when in the near prospect of death, his soul was troubled and he seemed to hesitate whether he should pray, Father, save me from this hour, or Father, glorify thy name. He knows what were the agonies of his cross, when he poured out his blood an offering for sin, and the scene veiled the heavens in sackcloth, and shook the earth, and raised the dead. Considering these sufferings, he would earnestly desire that they might avail to secure the sinner's pardon and cleansing. He knows that the provisions are ample, and that justice cannot overtake those who fly to him for refuge. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, and the poor polluted sinner may fly to the fountain, and secure its benefits. The invitations have gone out, and whosoever will may come, and Jesus, who died for the sinner, desires that he should not tarry. O, the hardness and obduracy of the impenitent heart, that is not softened and subdued by redeeming love! Seeing the reluctance of
redeemed sinners to come to Christ, what friend of God but could mingle his tears with those of Jesus, and say, O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!
III. Christ desires the enlargement of his kingdom. Of course he desires that sinners may be converted, and added to the number of its loyal subjects. When the Messiah was about to appear, the event was announced by John, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Christ came into the world to establish a kingdom, and he has ever taken a deep interest in its establishment and progress. With constant solicitude he watched over its interests when it was small, and labored and prayed for its enlargement. He came to God's chosen people, who had long enjoyed his word and ordinances, and preached the gospel of the kingdom in the cities and villages of Judea. He chose to lay the foundations of the kingdom on the labors of prophets, and gather its early subjects from the seed of Abraham. He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and he spared no effort to gather them to his fold. And when he saw the multitude of those that believed not, he was grieved at the hardness of their hearts.
He carefully instructed the few who became his followers in the great principles of the kingdom, and prepared them to become his agents in extending its borders. And when he left them, he commanded them to preach the gospel of the kingdom to all nations, and promised to be with them, even to the end of the world. Through all the fiery trials of the church, he has watched over her interests and prospered her, to her present state of enlargement. The kingdom is still to advance, and he looks forward to its future triumphs, and anticipates the day when he shall have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.
The views of men concerning this kingdom have always been gross and imperfect. From the language of prophecy respecting the Prince that was to appear, and the deliverance that was to be wrought by him, it was inferred, that his kingdom was like the kingdoms of the earth, and that he was to ascend the throne at Jerusalem, and become a conqueror and a deliverer from Roman bondage. And it was with difficulty, that he enlightened even his followers into the nature of that spiritual dominion, which it was his object to establish over the hearts and lives of men. And in all ages, when men have been called to act with reference to this kingdom, they have shown that their views were earthly, that their desires were to give the kingdom an earthly character, and that they were slow in coming to a practical knowledge of its spirituality. And now, that the kingdom has spread itself so widely on the face of the earth, and its interests have become so various and complicated, the feeble minds of men fail to embrace these interests in all their bearings, and their hearts are not moved as they might be moved by a more enlarged and perfect knowledge. And especially are their conceptions imperfect, when they turn to the future and contemplate the spreading influence of the gospel in Christian and pagan lands, till the Sun of righteousness shall compass the earth, the Millennium be uehered in, and Jesus reign in triumph over all nations. We cannot say what bearing the events which come under our own observation are to have upon these great interests. We cannot say what will result from the combined effort of the people of God to give the Bible and spread the gospel, from the extensive outpouring of the Spirit, or from the conversion even of a single sinner.
But Jesus, seated on his throne in the heavens, distinctly surveys and fully
comprehends all the interests of his kingdom, as it spreads before him in this lower world. With spiritual discernment, he knows in what hearts his reign has commenced, and to what extent the borders of the kingdom have been enlarged. He perceives to what extent his followers have obeyed his command to evangelize the nations, and what progress is now making in the recovery of the world from Satan's empire, and what prospect there is that the millennial triumph will soon be achieved. He observes the spirit of the various hosts of his armies as they advance, and marks their victories; and he knows what bearing every event will have on Zion's prosperity. He knows what obstacles are to be encountered in urging on the extension of his kingdom, what forces are required in securing its advancement, and what use he can make of sinners converted and sanctified, in filling up the ranks of his armies, and making them the instruments of glorious achievements. Every converted man becomes a soldier of the cross, or herald of salvation, and according to the talents and opportunities given him, is to be employed in extending the influence of the gospel. It must be then, that Jesus, with his views of the greatness and importance of the kingdom, and his benevolent regard for its interests, desires the conversion of sinners, that they may become subject to his reign, and that they may be workers together with him in extending his kingdom through the earth
And when his converts, in obedience to his commission, preach his gospel to impenitent men, and they hesitate concerning a compliance with the proffered mercy or a rejection of it, he knows what will be the results of their decision. He can trace all the minute bearings which the conversion even of one soul will have upon the interests which lie so near his heart. Perhaps the sinner, on whom the Savior's heart fixes with yearning anxiety, is a parent, and were he sanctified, might teach his tender offspring to know the Lord and train them up for Christ; and ordering his household after him, his children and his children's children, to the latest generation, might be found walking in the truth Perhaps he is a teacher of youth, and his labors and pious influence are needed in the extensive system of Sabbath instruction, by which the church is endeavon ing to train all her children to a saving acquaintance with the word of God. Perhaps he has talents, and property, and influence, and is wanted, in the place of the fathers who continue not, to sustain the interests of the church and prosecute plans of benevolent enterprise. Perhaps he is young, and gifted, and ardent, and, if sanctified, might become a champion of the cross amid the widespreading desolations of his own country; or a missionary to bear glad tidings to the heathen, and pour the light of heaven on their darkness. With these views, Jesus, looking down upon the impenitent hearers of his gospel, desires their conversion, and no wonder if he should weep that they are so slow of heart to believe.
But his views are not limited to the spread of the gospel, and the extension of his kingdom on the earth. His mediatorial work has reference to the more enlarged, and perfect, and permanent establishment of his kingdom in that renovated state of things which shall exist when the heavens and the earth, which now are, shall be no more. He looks forward to the period when the gospel shall have been preached to all nations, and the last of his redeemed ones shall have been gathered in, and the earth, the scene of probation, shall have passed away, and all the ransomed of the Lord shall be assembled around his throne in the heavens, and with angelic hosts, constitute an everlasting kingdom. And he desires the conversion of Einners, that they may belong to the happy numbers, who shall meet on the heavenly hill, and bring honor to the Lamb that was slain, and ascribe salvation to his blood.
In this world, we have but little knowledge of heaven. We catch but faint glimpses of the glories of Him who occupies the eternal throne, and the happiness of those who bow before him. But Jesus has full conceptions of the glories and the joys of the eternal state, and he desires the conversion of sinners, that they may enhance those glories and share in those joys. He desires their conversion, that they may come to the grave in peace, and look forward upon the untried scenes of eternity undismayed. He desires their conversion, , that when, amid attending angels, he shall ascend the throne of judgment, they may stand before him washed in his blood and clad in the robes of his righteousness, and worthy to share in the inheritance prepared by his love. He desires their conversion, that, when he shall have fulfilled the transactions of the great day, and shall leave the judgment-seat to conduct his redeemed ones up to take possession of the New Jerusalem, they may swell the triumph of his train, and sing, Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in. He is now gathering from among the sinful children of men the subjects of that kingdom whose central city has gates of pearl and streets of gold, where flows the river of life clear as crystal, and where the glory of the Lord is so resplendent, that they have no need of the sun or the moon. And he desires the conversion of sinners, that they may belong to that innumerable company whom no man can number, out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation, who cast their crowns at his feet, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
The view we have thus given of Christ may instruct his followers. You śée, Christian friends, what are the feelings of your Master towards a world lying in wickedness. You see with what emotions he regards the multitude of those who enjoy the means of grace, hear the preaching of the gospel, and receive the influence of the Spirit, and yet remain in impenitence and unbelief. And I would take the example of your Lord to awaken in your minds feelings of deep interest in their behalf. Let this mind be in you, which was also iri Christ Jesus ; for if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Taking a deep interest in those things on which the Savior's heart is fixed, and laboring to fulfil his desires, you evince your discipleship, you show yourselves the true subjects of the kingdom, and worthy to be partakers in the joys and honors of its eternal state.
Follow your Lord through the walks of Judea, and see with what affectionate earnestness he publishes the gospel of peace. How laborious and persevering, how regardless of dangers, how unwilling to abandon the sinner to his chosen way. See him on the Mount of Olives, and witness his tears, as he looks upon Jerusalem, and weeps over those who had killed the prophets and stoned them that were sent unto them, and were now filling up the measure of their iniquity. Remember what he has done and suffered to prepare for himself a redeemed people, and what are the longings of his mind that lost sinners may share in the benefits of his redemption : and ask yourselves, how he expects you, who have been redeemed by his blood and sanctified by his Spirit, will feel and act iri the circumstances in which he has placed you. How does he expect you to feel and act, in reference to those of your acquaintance and kindred who assemble