« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
You will, nevertheless, find the Savior to be most benevolent and merciful. While others talk of divine mercy, none but the contrite sinner can rightly understand its nature or estimate its worth. The true penitent is impressed with a sense of the holiness and glory against which he has sinned; he is penetrated with a conviction of his deep criminality; and, therefore, cannot think of that mercy which has hitherto saved him from hell, but with deep emotions of gratitude. And when he considers that he has not merely been spared, but that pardon and life eternal have been continually offered him; that the gate of glory is yet open before him, and God his Savior ready to receive him; then he begins to comprehend with all saints what is the "breadth and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, and to be filled with all the fulness of God." whom much is forgiven, the same will love much.
Those who find the Savior will find him worthy of the highest love, the firmest confidence, and the most entire obedience. Christ has said, "he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me." Nor will these sayings seem hard to those who attain to a spiritual knowledge of him for they perceive that, he is "God manifested in the flesh;" that in him "dwells all the fulness of the Godhead, bodily;" that he is "God over all blessed for ever;" that he " is the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace." Therefore they cheerfully surrender to him their hearts, confide in his declarations, and bow to his authority; they consecrate to him both soul and body; and while dwelling on earth, join with ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, in heaven, saying, "Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing."
If you find the Savior, you will find that he is a portion sufficient to satisfy the most enlarged desires of the soul. You have sought happiness elsewhere; it has seemed within your reach; but you have been continually disappointed. "It has been as when a hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite." But whenever you find the Savior, your wearied spirit will rest in him with entire satisfaction. Then you can say, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." "Thou art my portion." Thou art to me "wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption." Thou art "my Savior and my God." And in seasons of deep distress, when all the streams of earthly comfort are failing, you may say with Habakkuk, "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine, the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall; yet will I rejoice in the Lord; yea, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Surely the man who trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is, is blessed indeed. The source of his happiness is as permanent as the being and immutability of God. It is far above the changes
and calamities of this transitory world. Even when the cold chills of death shall paralyze his nerves, and the dread realities of eternity shall rise up in near prospect; his heart shall still be warm with the love of Christ; and his faith shall rest immovable on the promises; and his soul, shaking off dull mortality, shall look away into the untried scenes of futurity with strong desire to depart and be with Christ for ever. And through eternity, Christ will be the portion of his people; they will for ever rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Men may be told of all these things, they may assent to their truth, but they can have no experimental knowledge of them, until they humbly seek the Savior; and learn for themselves how precious he is to them that believe. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them; because they are spiritually discerned."
III. At what time may the Savior be found?
"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found." If you were earnestly invited to go in to a public entertainment while the doors were open, you would naturally receive the impression that they were soon to be closed; and if you desired to go in at all, would think it important to embrace the favorable opportunity. If you were groaning with broken limbs, and should be urged by a friend to send for an eminent surgeon while he might be obtained, you would readily receive the idea that at a future hour he might not be obtained; and would doubtless wish immediate application to be made. In like manner, when entreated to "seek the Lord while he may be found," we ought to believe that the time is coming when he can no more be found as a Savior; and if we hope to find him in that capacity at all, should be excited to call upon him "while he is near."
But at what time may the Lord be found? The sinner, in the present life, is under a dispensation of mercy; and is assured that, if he repents and comes to Christ, he shall be saved. Let his sins be ever so aggravated; if he truly repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus, he shall find mercy. Saul the cruel persecutor; Manasseh, who drenched the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the thief on the cross, may all be adduced in confirmation of this. Stout-hearted and far from righteousness as they had been, they all became contrite; and humbly, earnestly, and successfully sought the divine forgiveness while it was attainable. To all men in the present life, the Savior's invitation is, "Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and beside me there is none else." "He that believeth hath everlasting life."
But when persons are removed from this to the eternal world, their season of probation is terminated. Those who have sought and found the Lord will there be made welcome to the joys of his kingdom, and those who neglected to seek him will have no Savior; but, under the weight of their guilt, and the wrath of God, will sink into an abyss of wo, where the voice of mercy will never be heard, nor the hope of mercy ever come. That the Lord Jesus will not be found in the character of a Savior by any impenitent man, after death, is most evident from his own warnings and solemn declarations. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able. When once the master of the house
is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without and to knock, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; he shall say, I tell you I know you not, whence ye are; depart from me all ye workers of iniquity. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity." These are the declarations of the faithful and true Witness, the Judge both of the living and the dead. That awful portion of the divine word found in the first chapter of the Proverbs, will, after death, be entirely applicable to all the wicked; and they must learn by woful experience what it means. "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will 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."
This life, then, furnishes our only opportunity to seek the Lord with success. Here the great work of securing salvation must be performed; or eternally remain unaccomplished. And what is this life? Think of its narrow bounds; think of its speedy flight; of its liability every moment to be terminated; and of the tremendous consequences to you, should yours be terminated before you have secured the favor of the Lord Jesus; and be excited to seek him before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and while ye look for light he turn it into the shadow of death."
But, were we sure this life would be prolonged for many years, yet in the course of it some seasons are peculiarly favorable to the great business of seeking salvation; and it most deeply concerns us to seize and improve them. In the first place, the season of youth presents a most favorable opportunity to seek the Lord. Then the heart is not so hardened and vicious as it may be in subsequent life. It must, indeed, be admitted, that the hearts of the young, while unrenewed, are destitute of holiness, and strongly inclined to evil. This makes it difficult even for them to seek the Lord, and consecrate themselves to his service. Perhaps, my young friends, you have learned something of this by experience. When you once thought seriously of coming to Christ, did it not seem difficult to forsake the alluring paths of sin? Did you not find it hard to break away from your vain and worldly associates; to subdue the pride, envy, and sensuality of your hearts; to confess your faults to those you have injured, and all your sins to God; and to consecrate yourselves for ever to his service? If so, be assured these duties will never become easier. The disease of sin, which has already exhibited such alarming symptoms, is continually extending itself, and growing more inveterate. If a cure is ever to be effected, now is the best time to seek it. Or, to use another illustration; if, when your moral existence comm mmenced, you launched on that current of time which is rolling silently downward to the ocean of a dark and miserable eternity; the farther you suffer yourself to be borne along, the more difficult will be your return; and it deeply concerns you to make an
immediate and strenuous effort to escape, before the current shall grow stronger, and the roar of the last tremendous cataract shall convince you that all is lost; and overwhelming fear shall cause your heart to sink and die within you. Now you have special encouragement to cry to the great God your Savior for help. Now he calls, "Return unto me, for I have redeemed thee. Son, give me thy heart. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you. Yea, I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me.” He does not overlook the little children, but says, "Suffer them to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." None of you who are capable of understanding that, to come to Christ is to love and serve him, are too young to comply with his invitation. O, come to him now; before you shall grow more depraved and hardened; before the cords of your sins shall bind you more firmly; and your time shall be shorter and your condemnation heavier; and the Almighty shall be more highly incensed against you. Now, now, beloved youth, is your time to seek the Lord with hope of success.
Again-while persons are favored with the means of religious instruction, and the exercise of reason, they should, with all earnestness, seek the Lord. The greater part of our race, destitute of divine revelation, are involved in the darkness of heathenism; they know nothing of Christ or his salvation; nothing of heaven with its glory, or hell with its horrors. How then can they seek the Lord? "How shall they call on him of whom they have not heard?" Some, too, once favored with the instructions of pious parents and faithful ministers, now dwell in the solitary wilderness where no voice is heard proclaiming salvation; or in the licentious village where no Sabbath is hallowed, and no influence of Christianity is felt; or in the obscure lanes and sequestered abodes of crime and wretchedness in great cities, which have long been overlooked or despaired of, by those whose business is to win souls to Christ; or, perchance, their home is on the wide waters, where no voice of admonition or prayer is heard, and religion is mentioned only to be ridiculed. And some, once blessed with the full exercise of reason, are now delirious on the bed of death, or wandering about in idiocy; or, having become dangerous to society, are confined in the cage of the maniac. And are you sure that similar disasters will never befall you; that you shall never be as far removed from the light of the gospel and means of salvation, as any whose case has been named? O, tempt not the Almighty to recall the price he has put into your hands to get wisdom; and to swear in his wrath you shall never enter into his rest.
Especially is it a precious opportunity to seek the Lord, when his work is revived in your neighborhood, and your own mind is impressed with divine truth. Then it is comparatively easy to break away from the entanglements of sin; to inquire of those more experienced the way of salvation; and to go with those who are pressing into the kingdom of heaven. Then the Lord is graciously near; and every humble suppliant may approach him with filial confidence. Thrice happy the people thus favored. "O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years; in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy."
Perhaps some of you are thinking, "Could I once more enjoy such advantages as I have misimproved, could I go back to the days of my youth, or be favored with the instructions and prayers of my parents, or hear the voice of that faithful minister who wore out his life in seeking my conversion; or could I once more live in any place where sinners are awakened, and in great numbers turning to God, I would esteem it a great privilege indeed; and would certainly endeavor to seek the Lord with all my heart." However that might be, it is certain that your misspent opportunities can never return. Those of you who are advanced in years can never go back to the days of early youth, and recover the advantages you have lost. Those of you who have followed those pious parents and that minister to the grave, who once and again so earnestly besought you with tears to come to Christ, cannot reanimate their decayed forms, or bring down their blessed spirits from their celestial seats, to counsel and entreat you again. And those of you who have lived through one revival of religion after another, impenitent and unconverted, have reason to fear that God will not prolong your lives to another such precious season; or if he should, you may only behold it with your eyes, while your heart shall feel no interest in it. The situation of all who have hitherto neglected salvation has now become exceedingly critical and alarming; but still you are prisoners of hope, and not of despair, and now is the time for you to make perhaps your only effort to escape damnation, and to lay hold on eternal life. Great difficulties may appear in your way; but great as they are, you must meet and surmount them, or lose your soul. If you are conscious of your own weakness and frailty, then cry mightily unto God for help.
Do some of you say, We can find no time to attend to these things? No time! Why do you not say when hungry, I have no time to eat; or when thirsty, I have no time to drink? Why do you not say when languishing with disease or tortured with agony, I have no time to seek for health or ease? All this you might do, with less absurdity than to plead that you have no time to seek salvation. For "what is a man profited if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" He would, even in that case, part with it at an infinite loss. But who of you can expect to gain the whole world, or even any considerable part of it? Alas! how low then the ambition, how grovelling the thoughts of such as put their souls in jeopardy for a treasure which moth, or rust, or fire may consume!
But think not only of the folly, but the imminent danger of delaying to seek the Lord. While you delay, your guilt is accumulating; your condemnation is growing more and more aggravated, and life is hastening to its termination. Even now the fatal arrow may be aimed at your heart; the sword of divine justice may be uplifted to cut you off. By the terrors of the Lord, then, we beseech you to flee from the wrath to come.
But if you are not to be moved by any rational consideration of danger, yet suffer the goodness of God to melt you into penitence. It was he who gave you that body, so fearfully and wonderfully made; and that soul which allies you to angels. It is he who has nourished and clothed you; who has sustained you in adversity; and redeemed your life from destruction, when the shades of death were collecting about you. He has given his Son to die for you, his word to teach you, his Spirit to strive with you. It is his own kind voice which is now heard out of heaven, calling you to seek him while