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liberty and peace; great should be our thankfulness to God who has thus blessed us; and, while looking at our own sin. fulness and deficiencies, humbly and gratefully should we acknowledge that—“He hath not dealt with us after our sins ; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities," Psa. ciii
. 10. We read in Holy Scripture of the sufferings by God's people, of “trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins ; being destitute, afflicted, tormented ; (of whom the world was not worthy ;) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth,” Heb. xi. 36–38. And in later times, also, much the same sorrows were multiplied on the earth.
Dark were those days with sorrow and despair,
The human tiger on his fellow man. Although, however, the power to persecute with scourgings, imprisonment, and death has, in the good providence of God, been restrained in our own land and most others where the profession of Christianity is general, yet the spirit of persecution is not wholly extinct in some governments, and doubtless still lurks in very many unrenewed hearts. Recent decrees in Switzerland, condemning to fine, imprisonment, and banishment, for meeting to worship God, and the laws of Russia and some other continental nations, are examples of the former; and for the spirit of persecution in individuals, besides the testimony of the word of God, 2 Tim. iii. 12, the experience of very many of the children of God will fully prove its prevalence where there is no love to God and his people.
But, alas ! may we not go further, and say that this evil spirit is not utterly banished from the hearts of some who profess to be, and perhaps are truly converted to God? Is the day yet fully come when“ Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim ?” Christian reader lay this to heart; and while, brother, thou shrinkest from the trials of persecution, do thou shrink equally from its principle and its practice. If thou hast freely obtained mercy, freely make mercy manifest in all thy dealings with thy fellow man. “ Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put
away from you, with all malice : and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you,” Eph. iv. 31, 32.
WHY WILL YE DIE ? This is the expostulation of Infinite Love. With a compassion and condescension which angels can never measure, the Lord of glory bends from his throne to warn you of your danger, and invite you to turn and live.
Will you not hear him, your Creator, speaking to you in a voice so solemn and so tender? He knows that you must die, unless you turn. His honour, justice, truth, and the interests of the universe demand it. It is a settled, eternal principle of his thronethe sinner must turn, or die. In the nature of things it is certain. Sin, persevered in, must destroy you, in whatever world you may be placed. Were you before the throne of God, amid the glories of heaven and the songs of angels, sin, cherished in the heart, would make you wretched. By the very laws of your being, therefore, you must turn or die.
But why will you die? Why will you not turn? Are the pleasures of sin too great to be relinquished ?
Are they sufficient to counterbalance the pains of death? What are the pleasures of sin? The excitements of an impure imagination, of unhallowed passion, of depraved appetitetransient as the morning dew, and diminished by every repeated indulgence-unsatisfying and vain.
Have you not found them so ?
But what are the pains of death? What is it to die? We speak not of the death of the body. That you cannot avoid. It comes alike to all. There is another death infinitely more dreadful—the death of the soul. Not its annihilation. That were comparatively a blessing. It is to lose the favour of God; to be shut out of heaven; to be consigned to the darkness of the bottomless pit; to lose every vestige of virtue ; to be abandoned to the rage of unholy passions, to the cravings of ungratified desire, to the conscious wrath of God, to the horrors of remorse, to the companionship of fiends and the agonies of despair. This is to die! This is the second death. And it is death eternal. The pleasures of sin are for a
But the pains of death are for ever. “The worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Will you rush upon such a death?
Do you say
there is no danger; that your ways are not evil ? But are they holy? You know who has said, without holiness no man shall see the Lord, and “he that is not with me is against me.” If you have not sincerely repented, if
you have not cordially received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, if you have not been renewed in the spirit of your mind, you are most assuredly walking in the way to death. But perhaps you feel this, and go to the other extreme.
Is it, then, the recklessness of despair? Is there no hope ? Has God “in anger shut up his tender mercies?” Have you adopted the unbelieving language of ancient Israel, “ If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?" God has indeed uttered awful denunciations against transgressors. But does he therefore delight in their death ? Hear his own declaration, his solemn oath : “ As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live,” Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
God is love. Can Infinite Benevolence delight in suffering? God is your Creator, your Father. Can a tender father take pleasure in the death of his children? You instantly repel the horrid thought. Can God then take delight in your death? What has he not done to convince you that he takes no such delight? Has he not given his only begotten Son, has he not given you his word, his sabbath, the ministry of the gospel ? How many tender calls, how many blessed promises has he not uttered! What more could he have done to show you that he has no delight in your death, but rather that you turn and live?
Is it his fearful justice that discourages you? Well it might, but for that wonderful expedient which his own infinite wisdom devised. The claims of justice have been met by the death of his beloved Son. 6 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." He was made a curse for us. “ He bore our sins in his own body on the tree." “He gave himself a ransom for many." Justice and mercy are glorified in Jesus Christ. God can “ be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Why then will you
die? Are you holden by the cords of your iniquity ? It is true that the chains of sin are strong, and that you in yourself are weak. But is there not One able to help you, and does he not proffer his aid? He who commands, Repent, is also “exalted to give repentance and remission of sins.” He who says,
Return unto me, invites you also to say, “Turn me, and I shall be turned.' Go to the work with sincere and earnest effort, trusting in him to work in you to will and to do,” and you
will not fail. The way, then, is plain; the encouragement ample. “ All things are ready.” If you die, it will be because you choose to die.
But why will you die? Why spurn the only life suited to your nature; the only happiness that can fill an immortal mind? Why will you destroy that soul, so noble in its origin, so sublime in its nature, so wonderful in its powers, so vast in its capacities? Restored to the perfection and beauty of the Divine image, it might shine before the throne of God like an angel of light. In its ever-increasing knowledge, in the contemplation of the Divine glory, in the exercise of all holy affections, in the smiles of Divine favour, in the fellowship of angels, and amid the pure and lovely scenes of heaven, what immeasurable happiness might it realize in the progress of unwasting ages! Oh, why will you despise such boundless biiss? Why rush upon death? Why plunge that immortal spirit into utter and irretrievable ruin, and quench its lustre in everlasting night?
You cannot die without most fearful guilt and aggravated condemnation. What motives must you despise, what invitations of love must you resist, before you can perish ! The light of Divine truth, the compassion of a dying Saviour, the instructions of the sanctuary, the warnings and entreaties of friends, perhaps the counsels, examples, and prayers of pious parents, and it may be their injunctions pressed home upon the heart around the dying bed, the warnings of conscience, and the strivings of the Spirit,—these are the sacred influences that have been cast around you. Why will you break through them all, and urge your way down to death? If you perish, yours must be a doom deeper than that of common sinners. Why, then, will you
die ? Still the tender expostulation is heard. It comes from the garden of Gethsemane, from the hall of Pilate, from the hill of Calvary, from every bleeding wound of the expiring Saviour, from the tomb of Joseph, from the throne of glory, from the harps of angels, from the songs of the redeemed. It is repeated by saints on earth, reiterated in the soul by conscience and the Spirit; it comes back from the grave, and from the bar of judgment; it comes up from the bottomless pit, amidst the wailings of the lost, with piercing cry, Why will you
And now, fellow-sinner, will
die ? Will you not turn and live? Has any feeling of tenderness been awakened in your bosom by this appeal? Oh, cherish it. Do not defer the subject, as you have often done before. Beware how you grieve the Spirit. Go immediately to God, throw yourself at his feet, and with a broken heart confess your sins, implore his forgiveness, and resolve, trusting in his grace, henceforth to live to his glory. “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
THE MARTYR AND THE APOSTATE.
“ By their fruits ye shall know them.” In the early age of Christianity, when those who ventured to profess the name of Christ were often obliged to confess their faith by the sacrifice of their lives, there lived in the city of Antioch two friends who had together professed to embrace the Christian religion, and were closely attached to each other. One was a presbyter, or minister of the church; the other a layman. The church had then a rest from persecution, and their Christian intercourse was not interrupted by storms from without. But alas ! how often is the dove of peace scared away by some working of the sin that dwelleth in us! A small pebble thrown into the clearest stream will stir up some sediment to discolour its purity; and how slight the accident, how small the offence which may arouse, even in a Christian heart, some dark feeling, some unpleasant temper, some uncharitable thoughts! Whatever was the cause, a misunderstanding arose between these friends, which perhaps might have been removed by, a candid and Christian course of conduct, but which, nourished or aggravated, broke the bond of fellowship, and ended in a complete separation. The layman felt this severely. He knew the words of Christ; he knew how he taught his followers to act, if any man had a quarrel against any, Matt. v. 23, 24. He seems to have been sensible that he had given his brother offence, and fol. lowing the direction of his blessed Master ; he went to him, confessed his fault, fell on his knees, and entreated his pardon for Christ's sake. Strange to say, the professed minister of religion forgot to practise himself the precepts he had undertaken to teach others, “ Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
These “ fruits” by which the tree should be known, were not brought forth; the professing