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sions and amusements;—and exchanges their songs of revelry and mirth for the wailings of despair.
My second reflection is, that it becomes every one to take care what habits he forms, and what influence he exerts in this world. He is acting for eternity. The admonitions of this subject extend therefore to every action of his life, but more especially to those two classes of actions called secret and indifferent, because he is least likely to place a proper estimate on the importance of these. Why should he be scrupulous about those things to which no human eye is witness? His thoughts are conceived in the secret recesses of his own bosom ;-why should he be solicitous concerning these? For two important reasons. In reference to his whole existence there are no secret things. Thoughts are not secret. God sees them, and he will publish them another day to all worlds. Another reason is, these secret things, as he calls them, have an immense influence on his own character. Like a seed sown in the ground, one thought produces another, and that produces more, and so the product multiplies, till this train of thoughts engrosses and occupies the soul, and becomes, in fact, the character of the man. Hence it is an axiom, that every man is in reality, what he is in secret; and he is in secret what he has made himself by the habits of thought which he indulges.
Strictly speaking, too, for the same reason, there is no such thing as indifferent actions. Moralists and theologians, for certain purposes, may include under this head a large proportion of the “deeds done in the body;" and we may be accustomed to regard them as quite unimportant; and yet our Judge has told us that for all these we must give account. The reason is, that though, in themselves, without moral character, they are not without moral influence. What can be more indifferent than an idle thought? It comes and goes in a moment, and is forgotten. Yet it is recorded as with “a pen of iron," and will be brought into remembrance at the final day, because it stands connected with our endless character and destination.
Besides, others around us are acting for eternity; acting under a system of reciprocal relations, which make us, in a thousand ways, responsible for our influence in forming their character. An idle word is spoken in one moment, and the next, perhaps, no recollection of it remains in our mind. But who can tell till the day of judgment what mischief that word may have wrought in some other mind, or in thousands of other minds, immortal like our own? A single noxious weed, standing in a field, is harmless, but it soon ceases to be a single weed; the wind wafts its seeds to another field, and thence to another, and another; till this one noxious plant becomes a hundred millions, and spreads over a state or a continent. So it is with example among men. One wicked parent may spread his baneful influence through twenty generations of his descendants. Some of these may spread it round the globe; and all may feel it through everlasting ages.
On the other hand, the example of one pious individual may be attended with unspeakable benefits to his fellow-men. Suppose that a few such men as Luther, and Knox, and Edwards had never existed; and who can tell how much the want of their influence on the world might have changed our own moral condition, changed the state of the church on earth, and changed the results of the final judgment. Suppose that the little company that landed on Plymouth rock, with their associates and successors among our pilgrim fathers, had all been atheists, who would ever have seen our New England, with its christian schools and colleges, its thousand churches and pastors, and its tens of thousands who have been redeemed from spiritual death, and become sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty ? O, who can look down through eternal ages, and remember that he and all around him are forming a character for endless being, and not feel the awful consequences which hang on this probation; not feel his dread responsibility every hour, for the influence he exerts on his fellow-men!
My third reflection is, that our relations to eternity should teach us the true value of time. Let man believe that there is no hereafter, or no hereafter of misery to the wicked, and he may consistently trifle away life in neglect of religion. But let him believe the views exhibited in this discourse, and can he trifle? In our whole immortal existence no period is so important as this short life, if we view it as our only season of probation. I say this short life, for at the longest it is but a few days before our bodies must crumble to dust; and even the world which we inhabit, with all its generations, and all the pageantry of its false glory, is passing away.”
“What does not fade? The tow'r that long had stood
Achaia, Rome, and Egypt moulder down;
Yet every man, and woman, and child in this assembly has a soul that shall not die; and in its consequences, every action and thought of that soul is eternal, and abides for ever. And the destinies of that soul must be fixed in the present life; a life so uncertain, that none can tell what a day may bring forth; so fleeting, that it vanishes away like a shadow; so frail, that it breaks at a touch, like the spider's web. Yet on this little span of
probation the welfare of our whole immortality is at stake. Here every one, whatever his character, or age, or condition, is in a world of hope, a world of motives, urging him to embrace the Gospel, and be happy. But death shuts up the scene; no more hope, no more motives to impenitent sinners. When that hour
comes our preparatory work ceases, and our unalterable retribution begins.“ It is appointed unto all men once to die,”—but once," and after death, the judgment."
This stamps a value on time surpassing all conception. It is our season for doing a great work; a work which must be done in a few days or never. Look, then, on this world of immortal beings, each one of whom is to live and die for himself; to live and die for eternity; to live but once, and die but once, and say whether they feel the worth of time. It is indeed a world of action; all is bustle and business. In the senate chamber, in the court, the counting-room, the camp, the field, the shop, the market, all is action. But what are these men doing? Worse than nothing, if their time and efforts have not a direct bearing on the great work of the soul and eternity. And what, my dear hearers, are you doing? Say, beloved youth, are there not some of you who have not begun this great work, and yet presumptuously hope that there are years enough to come? Cherish not this delusion. Take your stand in some great city, and fix your eye on the passing crowd. Among these busy thousands you see one old man, tottering under the decrepitude of fourscore years. You look at him as a stranger in this world. Where are the companions of his childhood ? In the grave. And all this throng, exulting in the gayety of youth or the vigor of manhood, will go down to the grave, with few exceptions, long before reaching the period of that old man; and will you risk your salvation on the hope that you shall be among those few exceptions?
Another year of your short life is just finished; with all its Sabbaths and means of grace, it is gone for ever. A new year has begun, which to some of us may probably be the last year of our probation. In the light of this subject, may I not hope that every heart is ready to say, “If God shall spare my life this year I will not waste my precious time, but will devote it to him." Do you make this resolution? Then take a few plain and practical directions; the sum of which is, Let holiness to the Lord be the motto of all
actions. Fifty-two Sabbaths are before you this year; let each of these be kept holy. Let no day of this year be spent without reading the Bible, nor without prayer to God. Let no hour of this year be lost in needless sleep ; nor in useless attentions to dress ; nor in excessive indulgence of appetite in food and drink; nor in any conversation, or the reading of any book that you would dread to recollect at the judgment.
“Spend your time this year in nothing which you know must be repented of. Spend it in nothing on which you might not pray for the blessing of God. Spend it in nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed. Spend it in nothing which you might not safely and properly be found doing if death should surprise you in the act."*
* Baxter's Directory.
My dear impenitent hearers, to close this subject, I would gladly tell you, and make you feel, how solemn is your condition. The amount of all I have said, all I can say, is, you are on trial for eternity. A universe of motives is around you. The law threatens, the Gospel invites, providences urge, conscience warns, time flies, judgment approaches. The heavens and the earth tender you their aid in this trial for eternity ; sun, moon, and stars shine to light you onward; angels stoop from the battlements of heaven to see the result of this trial ; God waits with long suffering, to see the result. Say, what shall this result le? Will you die, eternally ? or, will you be holy and happy for ever?
BY REV. EBENEZER PORTER, D.D.
Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in
righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.-Acts, 17 : 31.
This passage is the conclusion of Paul's sermon at Mars Hill. The preacher skilfully takes a subject suggested by the occasion, and adapts his reasonings to the character of his hearers. He boldly proclaims the truth to those who had never heard it; and solemnly enforces it, with a frequent application to their consciences. We admire the fearless honesty of the man who could stand up among the philosophers and scholars of Athens, and, reviewing the idolatry of that renowned metropolis, declare the period of its utmost splendor to have been times of ignorance. We honor the pious fidelity that makes Jesus Christ the end and object of preaching, and shows men their sins in order to show them the
The apostle exhibits the solemnities of the judgment as a motive to repentance.
Independently of revelation, we must look upon the doctrine of the text as at least reasonable and probable. To what end is a day of probation without a day of retribution ? Without such a day, how can the Supreme Lawgiver stamp on the characters of men any public marks of his approbation or displeasure? Without reference to such a day, how can the unequal allotments of Providence be explained ? and whence the impressions of dread that thrill the guilty soul in anticipation of an hereafter? But the Bible places this subject beyond the reach of doubt. The text affirms that a day of judgment is appointed,-appointed by God.
The first inquiry before us, then, is, By whom will the world be judged ? and the
Second, In what manner will this office be executed ?
I. To the first inquiry, By whom will the world be judged ? the text gives a brief answer, “ By that man whom God hath ordained." But who is that man? The same whom the Father commanded all his angels to worship, and to whom he said, “ Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." The same who was both the son of David, and the Lord of David. The same who testified of himself, “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man.” The office of judge, then, is assigned to Christ, as a part of that mediatorial work for which he became incarnate, and in reference to which he is styled “Man," and the “Son of Man.” But does this imply that he is only man? The Judge of the world, unquestionably, must possess attributes which cannot be possessed by a mere man ; which cannot be communicated to any created being. This office implies infinite knowledge, to comprehend at once the eternal counsels of Jehovah and the secrets of all hearts. It implies infinite authority, to pronounce the final sentence; infinite truth, purity, and wisdom, to do it justly; infinite power to execute it. Let it not be said that these attributes are delegated to Christ for this special purpose. The supposition that the infinite God can delegate his own attributes, so as to make a created being infinite, is an absurdity too obvious to require refutation. Accordingly the two facts that Christ rose from the dead and that he will judge the world, are often mentioned by the apostles in close connection; the former as a pledge of a general resurrection, and both as evidence of his real divinity. Paul, in his long discussion of this subject to the Corinthians, speaks of the resurrection and judgment as the great “closing scene of the mediatorial work.” “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father.” The dispensation of grace and forgiveness will then cease, and the reign of strict law will return and continue for ever.
II. Our second inquiry is, In what manner will the world be judg. ed? And here again the text gives a brief answer, “In righteousness."
There is much sublimity in the apocalyptic representation of the judgment-seat, as a great white throne, emblematical at once of the majesty, and purity, and impartiality of Him who sat upon it. When we are told, however, that he will judge the world in righteousness, the question arises, will his final decisions be strictly according to law, or in other words, according to personal charac