Page images

is much pains taken to show that the terms “ everlasting," " eternal," and the like, as used in the Bible do not mean endless. But let me ask, what would be the opinion of a being from some other world, one who is not personally interested in the decision, after acquainting himself with our language, should he set himself to decide this question from the terms that are used in the Bible ? Let a man go to the Bible as an honest citizen to a law that has just been penned, to find out what the legislators did rather than what they should mean. Let him read that the wicked “ shall be punished with everlasting destruc. tion"- that they “shall go away into everlasting punishment”- that “their worm shall not die, nor their fire be quenched”—that they “shall be destroyed"—that they “shall be destroyed without remedy"—that their hope shall perish—that they “shall utterly perish”—that they shall not be forgiven either in this world or that which is to come. Now what must be his conclusion from an examination of phrases of this kind, if he honestly de. sired to know the mind of God—there cannot be a remaining doubt. If any thing less than endless punishment be the “ wages of sin,” the Bible, on this subject, will mislead the honest reader. Further, when the Scriptures speak of the “ love of God," and the “ mercy of God,” it would be considered as being both absurd and impious to assert that any thing less than infinite love and mercy were intended. What then must be the meaning of such phrases as the "wrath of God," and the “anger of God ?"

Besides, regeneration is represented as essential to salvation, and as being effected only by the Holy Spirit. But there is not the slightest hint in the Bible that the Spirit will strive with sinners for their conviction and conversion in the future world. Painful as the truth may be to the mind of the impenitent sinner, there is every variety of expression and every kind of metaphor used in the Bible to show that the penalty of the law can be nothing less than everlasting death.

2. It is plain from this subject that the penalty of the law is ro arbilrary appointment of the Almighty. Some are convinced that the doctrine of endless punishment is taught in the Scriptures, who yet feel that it is hard and unjust, and that it is supported by the mere sovereignty of the Almighty. We have seen, however, that the law depends on relations as imperishable as the nature of things, and that upon every principle by which we estimate the de. sert of crime among men, the penalty of sin must be everlasting death. The sinner, it is true, does not accomplish an evil equal to such a penalty ; but the criminality of men is not measured by their power or success in the work of evil. It is a principle universally admitted, that criminality is to be predicated wholly on the intention or design. Is the man who endeavors to steal your property, and by being discovered is prevented, as guilty as though he had succeeded ? Is the man who designs to burn your house, and destroy your life, and the lives of your family, and is prevented, as criminal as if he had effected his purpose? Does the man who endeavors to overturn the govern. ment, and is defeated, deserve to be treated as though he were successful ?then is the sinner who breaks the least of God's commands and teaches men 80, guilty of the whole ;- then is the man who heeds not the authority of God, who profanes his name or his holy Sabbath—or refuses to give his whole heart in God, as guilty as though he had effected the ruin of the law. No thanks to him that his spirit does not prevail in the bosom of every dependent moral being. It is the spirit with which he is pleased, and to which he has given all the influence of his own example, Sinners have shown what

[ocr errors]

they would be willing to do, had they the power, when they put the crown of thorns upon the Savior's head. They would cast contempt, everlasting contempt, on his name, and character, and errand into the world. I do not mean simply the men that crucified him, nor the vilest and bitterest of his enemies at the present day. The statement is true in reference to the most moral among the impenitent. By refusing to accept of him as their Savior, they say that he is not to be compared with the world as an object of affection that he has wholly mistaken their case, for they stand in no need of any righteousness but their own—that they have some excuse for violating the law which entirely removes their desert of blame. This is said by every sinner in a manner to exert the greatest influence; for in no way can a man show so certainly the feelings of his heart as by his example. If the character of our Lord, and his design in giving himself a sacrifice for sin, were to be estimated according to the treatment he receives from sinners, what could be more odious, or less deserving our attention ? Indeed if the sinner could have his desires in relation to the character and government of God gratified, holiness would be banished from the universe. Now if sinners are to be viewed according to their desires, does not sin, from a principle uniformly admitted, and from the nature of things, deserve everlasting death?

3. This subject shows that no minister can fulfil his duty as a messenger of the Lord of Hosts" without frequently and foithfully preaching the law, with all its obligations and penalties. What can be more vain than to imagine that sinners may be persuaded to repent before they are sensible that they are guilty ? It is impossible. Of what will they repent till they are convinced that they are sinners? If the law be, as we have shown it to be, the standard by which God will determine the character of all moral beings, is it not impossible that men should know their own character, and equally impossible that they should be induced to repent, or possess any just views of the grace

manifested if they should receive pardon, till they have some proper views of the law? It is seriously feared that on this point the preaching of many who are regarded as zealous and faithful at the present day is extremely defective. Carefully look at the multitudes that occupy our houses and throng our streets, ascertain their views and feelings on this subject, and how little will you find them acquainted with the depravity of their hearts? Do they act at all under the impression that they are responsible to God? and that their character and destiny are to be determined by his holy and just law? Could it be inferred from their conduct that they felt themselves under a law that regarded every sinful feeling as exposing them to the penalty of everlasting death? Now if God be just, and if the iniquities of men “ will find them out,should not every measure be taken to show them their sins while they may repent and obtain pardon? Till men are made acquainted with the law, they will remain ignosant both of the number and character of their sins. And what is it but cruelty to conceal from them the fact, that for those sins over which they sleep as quietly as though nothing were at stake, unless they repent, and the guilt is cancelled in a Savior's blood, the interests of holiness and heaven will demand their eternal death. Let sinners be convinced of their guilt, and that God will call them to account, and there is some hope that, by presenting Christ before them, they may be persuaded to turn and live; but so long as they are blind to these facts, there is no hope in their case.

It is important also for the people of God frequently to contemplate the claims and penalties of the law. We can form a far better opinion of the character of our hearts from our feelings towards the law than from our feel. ings towards the gospel. Let the gospel be proclaimed in a loose and indefinite manner—as it is proclaimed when its conditions are kept out of sight, and it is represented as in opposition to the law-and it is no evidence that we love God that we are pleased with such a gospel. That man of the world who, to increase his wealth, can trample upon every command of God—that unfeeling miser who, for the same purpose, can grind the faces of the poor-that hardened profligate whose greatest anxiety is to escape detection-ihat drunkard who reels along the streets-yea, that midnight murderer—indeed any one, however sunk in guilt and abandoned of God, would be pleased with a gospel like this. It was not the exhibition of such a gospel that led Felix to tremble. It was a gospel that derived all its value from just views of the law. Let men be told that the blood of Christ can never be applied to any but such as love the law and justify its obligations and penalties, and none but good men, such as Paul, will be pleased.

4. If we have taken a correct view of the law, how fearfully important is the present life. Every view we have taken of the law indicates that this life is a state of trial, and that the state of retribution to which it points is interminable. This life, when compared with eternity, is but a point; and upon this point are suspended all the future interests of the soul. The shortness and uncertainty of time have led many to doubt whether such immense interests are depending on it as the Scriptures represent. But this objection is far more specious than solid. Where is the sinner who does not decide, short as his time on earth may be, whether he will submit to God? Wherein would his condition be amended by a longer life or a longer time of trial ? Do men lose their alienation of heart as they advance in life? Does their opposition to holiness and heaven wear out with their years ? Neither can the uncertainty of life be viewed as an objection of any weight. On this question also we may appeal to facts. Are men more solicitous to secure the favor of God under the impression that life is secure, or under the feeling that it is uncertain? The mere statement of this question is a sufficient answer. The providence of God will be found to be just and holy. It will be seen that it was not for want of opportunity, my hearers, if you continue to neglect the great salvation and sink for ever under the penalty of the law. That interests 80 extensive and overwhelming should be suspended upon a single point is a plain indication that the whole plan had its origin in the wisdom of God. Impenitent sinners will feel, when they look at the equity of God's law, that the trial with them is a fair one, and that when they are condemned no injustice is done them. But with the saints the magnitude of the danger to which they are exposed will greatly and eternally increase their admiration of the mercy by which they were saved.

5. If the view we have taken of the law be correct, how great is the mercy of God in the gift of his Son! The extent of mercy and compassion in the provisions of the gospel is just equal to our demerit according to the decision of his law. He could not give up his law that would have been a greater sacrifice than to have suffered this whole world to have sunk under its penalty. He has made a declaration of his righteousness which will sustain its holy and equitable claims; while all such as repent and do him the honor to trust in his word may be saved with an everlasting salvation.

6. From the view we have taken of the law, how great will be the mercy of God towards such as are finally pardoned and received to his favor! What a theme will the gospel system be to employ their meditations! The more they discover of the purity of the law and the reasonableness of its claims, the more they will see of their personal desert of punishment. They will discover more and more clearly that God has not suffered his Son to pour out his soul unto death to wash away offences of a trifling turpitude. The light of eternity will show that God is not dealing in unreal and unmeaning expressions, when he warns us of the dangerous tendency and guilty character of sin. While it will be seen that sin aimed at nothing less than the ruin of the sinner and the character and government of God, it will be seen also that the blood of Christ has cleansed every believer from the darkest stains. While ages after ages shall roll away, and the plan and extent of divine mercy shall be constantly unfolding, a sense of obligation, and a conception of the greatness of divine grace, will keep pace with the increase of light in the mind of every believer.

7. How many and how weighty are the motives that urge every sinner to repent, and accept of pardon in the name of Jesus! Fearful as the penalty of the law is, God has given every assurance that he is determined to execute it. Who among you can dwell with devouring fire ? Who among you can dwell with everlasting burnings ? If you would not meet the decisions of the judgment-day alone, and support the claims of the law with your own blood, accept the invitations of mercy without delay. Every thing calls upon you to awake. The law and the gospel, the shortness and uncertainty of life, all bid you open your eyes to the interests of your souls. What is it that you gain by crowding the subject from your minds, and heedlessly braving the threatenings of God. Consider what prevents you from repenting this moment, and think how it must appear when you shall look back upon it from the bar of judgment. Is it the urgency of your temporal concerns? A faithful attention to those interests need not hinder your repentance a moment. And if it did, what is your wealth, which you must soon leave, contrasted with the life or death of your immortal spirit? Is it your friends ? Are you afraid of a sneer? Without repentance the soul is lost; and would you ever, while the recollection should exist, forgive yourself for venturing everlasting death for such a cause as this? Do you say that you do not know whether these things are true? Is it not time that you did know? The Bible was put into your hands that you might learn and feel the power of its evidence, that it is the word of God.

Do you plead the old and impious excuse that you are unable to repent ? Will you dare to tell the Judge when you shall meet him at his bar “ that he . is a hard master ? Do you say that you will think of it to-morrow? God says, “to-day ;” and he may say, “ thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” Your heart says, to-morrow, and the enemy


souls says, to-morrow; but the voice of Jehovah and of your own conscience is, “ Now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.” Which will you obey? It is time to look at this subject with seriousness. Does not the gospel bear every mark of being God's method of saving sinners, while it supports the law that condemns them? Has he sent his Son to die for you when your sins did not endanger you? Has he sent him to die that he might justify or save you in your sins ? Will you neither believe what God hath said, nor what he hath done ? Turn

ye, ye,

for why will die ?






II CORINTHIANS, viii. 12.-For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted

according to that which a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.

This passage has primary, if not exclusive reference, to contributions made for the poor saints of Judea and other places. To give a new impulse to the liberality of the Corinthians, Paul told them what had been done by the churches of Macedonia. Lest the spirit of emulation, which was so prominent at Corinth, should be improperly awakened by what he had said, a rule of duty was given in the words of the text. Offerings made, with a willing mind, according to the ability of the giver, will be accepted without reference to other churches or individuals.

If the duty of man is to be regulated by his ability, in his religious charities, then duty and moral obligation in all cases must be determined by the same rule. The passage suggests the idea that,


[ocr errors][merged small]

A man may be criminal for his inability, but he never can be criminal for not doing that which is beyond his present ability. The man who, by prodigality, has wasted his estate, is criminal, and highly so; but when it is gone, he is no more criminal for not giving liberally, than if his estate had been buried in the ruins of an earthquake. The murderer is guilty and condemned for killing his neighbor, but when he is dead, he is no more to blame for not restoring him to life than if he had been killed by the lightning of heaven.

Moral obligation, then, depends on present ability to do the thing required. Acceptable obedience supposes the ability possessed is put forth, under the control of a willing mind, in the performance of duty. Disobedience ever implies existing ability, which is not used for right purposes, because there is not a willing mind.

These remarks illustrate what is intended by that ability on which obligation depends. It is the actual possession of every thing requisite to the performance of duty, and all our duty, if we have a proper disposition of heart.

In further illustration of the sentiment, I remark :

1. Nothing can be the duty of man, for the neglect of which he is totally incapable of being made to feel guilt and self-condemnation. There is in man a moral principle, which is capable of discerning between right and wrong, and charging home guilt for the slightest deviation from the rule of duty. From

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »