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man acts the king, but passing behind the curtain dwindles to a pauper ; for here a king acts the pauper, and as soon as the curtain falls ascends his throne. See that mingled throng in the streets, fluttering about like insects in the summer's sun,--the reputed creatures of a day. How little is it considered that every one of that number, and of those human shapes in the filthy dungeon, is destined to eternal progression, and will one day be greater than kings in glory or equally great in misery. Fix your eyes a little upon that throng, and silently mark whither they will go when they disperse. I follow one with my eyes to his secret apartment: I see the shiverings of death stealing upon him; the tears of mourners fill the room; the soul bursts its cerement, and is an angel now : wings are lent it, and I trace it soaring through the regions of light. I follow it in its course of endless progression until it has become greater than Gabriel was. I pursue till it has become greater than the whole human race were in this infant world,—till it has become greater than all the angels together were when it left the body: and I leave it still progressing towards God, approximating towards his infinite dimensions,-a point at an immeasurable distance, but at which it is eternally stretching away. We are lost, we are swallowed up in the boundless prospect.
Upon the principle of eternal progression, (however slow that progression may be, these are the destinies of the feeblest soul that ever enters heaven.
I return to the street. I follow another of the crowd through his round of dissipation,-through many serious thoughts, many broken resolutions,—until I trace him to a dying bed. His soul is forced from the body amidst the agonies of distracted friends, and, staring with wild affright, is dragged to the mouth of the pit and plunged into hell. And is not this enough ? Good God, is not this enough? Must it still proceed from bad to worse ? This is believed by many from the very nature of the soul, and from hell's being called a “bottomless pit,” in which, as the figure seems to import, one may sink forever deeper and deeper in misery without finding a bottom. It is also alleged that the same unchangeable purity that required the punishment of sins committed in the body, will equally require an increase of misery to provide a punishment for all the rage and wickedness of hell. That the punishment will be endless is certain, but whether it will be progressive I will not venture to assert. But the thing being once admitted, consequences result enongh to shake a world. Then the time will come when the smallest soul in hell will contain more misery than Satan now does ;-time will come when the smallest soul in hell will endure more in one hour than has been endured on earth by all nations since the creation. And further still,—it is too awful to proceed. O what a God is that which lives from eternity to eternity! O what a redemption did Christ come to accomplish, from this eternity of pain to this immortality of glory! O what a soul has man ! Surely it was worth being redeemed by the blood of the Son of God. Surely it is worth being saved by a life of self-denial and prayer. What can be too much to give in exchange for the soul ?
How solemnly important do sabbaths now appear, and time, and the Bible, and every thing which relates to the soul's salvation. The sun, moon, and stars appear solemn in shining; the earth, the concave, and all nature seem to borrow the solemnity of eternity; and this world appears only the cradle in which souls yet in swaddling bands are rocked for immortality.
Heir of immortality, bow before thine own majesty. Debase not thyself by sordid actions. A royal infant, while in his nurse's arms, though unconscious of his dignity, is yet born to sway the sceptre and fate of nations, and should be trained up in habits according with his august destinies.
Whilst thou art pursuing every idle phantom, thou forgettest the dignity of thy nature and the infinite grandeur of thy destinies. But thou wast born for great things. Those eyes were formed to see great things, and that soul to experience amazing sensations. Man, thou hast a world in thyself. Child of death, thou hast a concealed treasure in thy bosom, (alas too concealed, which the exhausted Indies could not purchase. Crowns and kingdoms sink to nothing before it. It is worth more than the sun, moon, and stars, if the sun were gold and every star a ruby. If from the birth-day of this earth omnipotence had been exerted to create as many worlds in a moment as there are dusts in this, and all these worlds were gold and diamond, and possession to be given for eternity, they would all be like filth of the street to the value of thy soul. And wilt thou live and die ignorant of the treasure thou possessest? Wilt thou squander it all for toys and be an everlasting bankrupt ? When thou shalt carry back thy soul to Him who gave thee the talent, fair and glorious, to improve for him, and to return still more fair and glorious, and shalt present it such a ruinous mass, what will the Judge say to thee? If they must perish who murder the body, what a death of deaths is due to those who murder the soul. Less vile would it be, were the soul out of the question, to destroy the bodies of a whole nation. This vast, this magnificent soul of man! Were there no God to sin against, I had almost said, it would deserve eternal damnation to sin against such a soul.
Ah sinner, this soul of thine is on the point of being lost forever, and immense difficulties lie in the way of saving it. Up, without delay, and see what can be done. Surely the infinite treasure is worth one mighty effort to save it.
Should you reign universal emperor of this lower world for three score years and ten, and then sink into eternal misery, what an infinite loser would you be. What solace would the world be to you after your soul was lost ? All the streams and oceans you had commanded would not afford you a drop of water to cool your tongue; but the remembrance of past prosperity would only aggravate present distress. The wealth of Xerxes and Cræsus now avails them not; it is no comfort to Alexander that he conquered the world ; nor is Nero profited by a name to live after he is dead.
But if to exchange the soul for a world would be a senseless bargain, how worse than mad to sacrifice it for a toy. No sinner obtains the whole world at last, and most that lose their souls receive but a small pittance in return. How many are selling their deathless souls for some paltry sum extorted by oppression, for the momentary pleasure of the brute, for the intoxicating bowl, for the dark delight of marring another's fame, for the useless diversion of profaning the name of God, for a toy,--a nothing when nothing is offered,--a nothing always,--and less than nothing. For nothing more is gained than though the soul were saved, and all the present delights of religion are lost. This great mart, the world, is full of distracted men, hurrying from place to place to barter their souls for less, far less than nothing. They sell them now for naught, but time will come when they would give ten thousand worlds to redeem them back again. But then it will be too late. For what can a man in hell "give in exchange for his soul ?"
My dear hearers, my heart is distressed with the apprehension that some of you will lose your souls. Indeed, I expect nothing else. You are hearing these solemn truths perhaps with indifference, if not with disgust. You will go careless from the house of God. You will think little of what you have heard until a dying day. But then perhaps these truths will meet you again. You need not then be told of the worth of the soul. Perhaps the pangs of dissolving nature will be your least distress. You may then remember this day, and mourn that the warnings of anxious love were unheeded. I can do no more than 'entreat you, and I do entreat you with the most heart-felt regard. And if you are offended at this freedom, I ask but one more privilege,—to weep and pray for you in secret, and to cry in the midnight hour, “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end."
BY EDWARD D. GRIFFIN, D. D.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. Col. i. 10.- That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,
being fruitful in every good work, and INCREASING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF God.-(Particularly the last clause.)
The knowledge of God lies at the foundation of all true religion. It is the want or indistinctness of this knowledge that occasions all the stupidity of sinners and all the false hopes of professing Christians; that produces most of the religious errors which abound in the world, that causes so much superficial, proud, worldly religion even among the sincere, and so little religion even anong judicious Christians. Although this most precious of all knowledge is open to all, yet there is very little of it in the world, -very little of it in the Church of Christ. There is so much unbelief and aversion to God, so much pride and worldliness, so much guilt that shrinks from clear views of God, so much sluggishness which binds the soul to earth, that the mass even of Christians pass to the grave with a very incompetent knowledge of God. Even their serious thoughts linger too much on earth. Their religious knowledge and conversation are too confined to subordinate subjects; and in their very prayers their eyes are apt to be more intensely fixed on the blessings they ask or the sins they deplore, than on the face of God himself. Now and then a Christian arises who outstrips the piety of his contemporaries, and stands a luminary to enlighten and to be admired by remote generations. If you search for the cause of his preeminent piety, it is to be found in his superior knowledge of God. Desirous to see a greater number of eminent Christians formed, and to witness the prevalence of that religion which is enlightened, judicious, and humble; I am anxious to press upon my hearers, to press upon my brethren in the Church, to press upon my own soul, the study of God. The knowledge which I would recomiend, though it includes the speculation of the understanding, is not confined to it. It consists in a clear discernment of God's spiritual glory and in a holy intimacy with him; which can be obtained neither by a speculative knowledge without right affections, nor yet by warm affections without deep and extensive knowledge.
In general it may be observed that the great end for which men were sent into the world was to learn the character of their Maker, by studying his glories in his works and word, that they might obey and enjoy him. The great end which God had in view in all his works was to make an illustrious display of his perfections, that crcatures might know him and be united to him in sublime and everlasting communion. All things which are proposed as objects of our belief or knowledge, are but one complicated lesson of God which we were sent into the world to learn. The vast and interesting object on which his divine cye is immoveably fixed, and which in the progress of time he will fully attain, is to fill the world, the universe, with the knowledge of his glory. He declared to Moses, “As truly as I live all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." The harp of prophecy awoke to rapture on this delightful theme. Isaiah struck the note, and Habakkuk triumphantly resounded, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." The object of the whole creation will not be lost; creatures shall known him. The end for which human beings were placed on this earth will be attained: it must be that men shall know their God,--know him in a far greater measure than they have done in past ages. The times are rolling on,--the light is bursting from a thousand sources,--the world will be flocking to the great display,_all nations will be in motion. Arise ye and join them, and hasten to the knowledge of God. Come, for it is the end of all things, and it is the end of your creation.
Further, God is the being with whom we have the most intimate and interesting connexion; and therefore we ought certainly, and it chiefly concerns us, to become acquainted with him. He is the being with whom we chiefly have to do in time and eternity. It is in him that we live and move and have our being, and he will be our final Judge. He is the author of all our comforts on earth; and he will be to eternity either the author and object of our whole enjoyment, or the executioner of his wrath upon us. Should it not be a chief desire to get acquainted with the benefactor who has sent all our comforts to us for so many years, and with the fearful Name on which all our future destinies depend? Shall a man be anxious to see the generous stranger who once relieved his wants, or the relation in a foreign country who is to make him his heir ? and shall we be indifferent to an acquaintance with our God?
Further, there is room for far more enlarged knowledge of God than any of us have yet acquired. In the recesses of his nature are laid up treasures of knowledge which eternal research will not exhaust. None but he who from eternity lay in his bosom could with perfect propriety say, I know thee. In this world the best of Christians see through a glass darkly, and know but in part what they were destined to know. Agur found reason in his humility to complain, “I neither learned wisdom nor have the knowledge of the Holy." The apostle Paul, aster having spoken of the primitive Christians as knowing God, thought proper to correct the expression as being too strong: “But now after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God." This distinction made by the same apostle in another place : “ If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know; but if any man love God, the same is known of him." The lowest degree of perfect knowledge is reserved for heaven: “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Our knowledge of God will at best continue imperfect "till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a persect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” There is therefore abundant room for the most enlightened Christians to increase in the knowledge of God, and to plunge deeper and still deeper into this ocean without a bottom or a shore. What a call then for Christians of ordinary attainments to stir up their sluggish spirits, to clear away the mist from their eyes, that they may gaze with more intenseness upon God,--that they may study him with deeper scrutiny and contemplate him with clearer discernment.
Several motives to this have already been presented. What remains is to show that a clear knowledge and discernment of God is of all things the most purifying, the most humbling, the most exalting, the most happy.