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Plainness and simplicity. It speaks not only | have refused, and the means of grace which they to the multitude promiscuously, but particularly have despised, and the opportunities of improveto individuals. All the knowledge of it which is ment which they have neglected, and the capacinecessary may easily be obtained even by the ties of usefulness which they have misapplied, most illiterate inquirer. Wisdom crieth not only will form so many bitter ingredients in their cup 'at the gates, at the entry of the city,' but also of misery. But now is the accepted time.' Let 'at the coming in at the doors.' Thus Christ the cry of wisdom, calling to repentance and taught both publicly, and from house to house. promising forgiveness, be responded to in the Not only has he placed the word of salvation prayer of the publican, who smiting on his breast, within our reach, he has brought it to our very and not daring so much as to lift up his eyes doors. He has made it not only accessible, but to heaven, cried, God be merciful to me a intelligible to all, so that every man may read sinner.' Such a cry will assuredly come up and can understand it for himself. And the with acceptance into the ears of the Lord God Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, of Sabaoth, who is not only compassionate and and make it plain upon tables, that he may run merciful, but faithful and just to forgive us that readeth it. The wayfaring men, though our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousfools, shall not err therein.' The gospel is ness.' characterised by
The urgency of its calls and invitations. cordingly wisdom crieth' with an earnest and importunate voice. And she does not wait to be applied to, but goes forth to meet the people at the entry of the city,' and there solicits their attention. She perseveres in the attempt, and continues to press upon them with her importunities, following them from 'the gates' of the city even to the coming in at the doors' of their houses. Truly the Lord 'is long-suffering to sward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.' He not only waiteth to be gracious, but employs positive means in order to persuade sinners to turn and live. He addresses them by his word and ordinances, by his ministers and people, by the remonstrances of conscience and the dispensations of providence. He speaks to them in the language of kindness and terror, of promise and threatening, of expostulation and entreaty. Instead of leaving them to the consequences of their criminal resistance, he bears with their indifference and renews his solicitations; he raises another and a louder cry; has recourse to more urgent importunity and more powerful means to enforce their compliance. With some the means prove successful; and when sinners repent and turn to the Lord, he sees in them the travail of his soul, and is satisfied. Others ntinue impenitent; and over them he utters the lamentation of unavailing sympathy: If thou hadst known, even thou, at least, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes!'
'Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!' Deut. xxxii. 29.
THE Jews were proverbially inconsiderate. Isaiah complained of them saying, 'The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.' Moses had witnessed many sad proofs of their forgetfulness and folly: and at the close of a long and laborious life, spent in their service, his heart's desire and prayer for them was, 'that they would consider their latter end.' The subject was not more important to them than it is to all. It teaches us that to 'consider our latter end' constitutes true wisdom. By our latter end he means death. But it cannot be profitably considered unless it is properly understood. We understand it to be—
The end of our present state of being, of its joys and sorrows, its duties and dangers, its possessions and pursuits, its comforts and cares. The hand then forgets its cunning, the tongue is silent, the pulse ceases to beat, and the lungs to breathe; the whole frame becomes a lump of cold and senseless clay. The ties which bind us to our nearest and dearest friends, and to every thing earthly, are then broken asunder; for they that have wives shall be as though they had none; and they that weep as though they wept not, and they that buy as though they possessed not; for How fearful, yet how just, will be the con- the fashion of this world passeth away.' And demnation of those who turn a deaf ear to the the change is final. There is hope of a tree if it try of heavenly wisdom! They are without ex-be cut down, that it will sprout again. But man case; and the invitations of mercy which they dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up
ghost, and where is he? We understand our lat- | cern. All who are truly wise will consider their ter end to belatter end. Wisdom requires them to consider it with
The commencement of a future and eternal state of being. The dust shall return to the earth as it was; but the spirit shall return to God who gave it.' After death cometh the judgment, which shall try every man's work; and the sentence of the Judge shall admit of no appeal, nor can the consequences which follow, whether happy or miserable, be ever altered, or reversed. They that are Christ's, made perfect in holiness, shall immediately enter on the full and everlasting enjoyment of God; whilst the enemies of his cross and his cause shall be cast into outer darkness, 'where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.' We understand death to be
The universal destiny of man. The stroke of death cannot be resisted by force, nor evaded by artifice, nor set aside by the influence of rank or wealth. One event happeneth to the righteous and the wicked, to the king and his subjects, to the philosopher and the fool, to the man of wealth and the child of poverty, to the sinner of fourscore and the infant of yesterday. I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living. We understand that the event of death may come― Soon and suddenly upon us. It cannot be far off, and it may be very near at hand. This night thy soul may be required of thee. How often are children carried off before their parents, the scholars before their teacher, the physician before his patients. Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.' We understand death to be
The penalty of guilt. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.' In Adam all die, even those who never sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. But as death is the wages of sin, so 'the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.' To understand death aright we must view it in connection with
The remedy which has been provided for it in the sacrifice of Christ, who by dying took away sin, which is the sting of death, and destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage, and who are enabled to say, 'Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.' How awfully momentous is the event of death, when thus understood! How unaccountable, how fatal the infatuation which treats it as a matter of trifling or of distant con
Serious attention, as a subject in which they are deeply interested, and with which they must very shortly be brought into personal connection. Fools may altogether exclude the thought of death; but instead of being resisted as a presumptuous intruder, it ought to be welcomed as a friendly monitor, and permitted habitually to influence our feelings and conduct. It is not more calculated to alarm the sinner and bring him to Christ, than it is necessary to humble the believer, and excite him to duty. They who are wise will consider their latter end—
Practically, and in the way of diligent preparation, by cultivating a state of mind and character suitable for meeting death. This includes the exercise of a simple and steady reliance on the work of Christ; connected with the cultivation of exalted spirituality, unfeigned and universal repentance, enlarged and active benevolence. Our lamps must not merely have oil in them, they must be filled with it, and exhibit a bright and vigorous flame. Nothing but the privilege of union to Christ realized by faith, evinced in the purification of the heart, and in the victory which overcometh the world, can prepare us to meet death with safety, or warrant us to meet it with confidence and comfort. 'Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.' They who are wise will consider their latter end—
Without delay. The Bridegroom may tarry, but the delay cannot be long; and the suddenness of his coming may be such as to take even those who love and long for his appearance by surprise. Then 'whatsoever tlty hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.' 'Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.'
'Turn you at my reproof; behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you,' Prov. i. 23. WISDOM has a word in season for persons of every variety of character and circumstances. For the ignorant, she has a word of instruction; for the sorrowful, a word of consolation; for the
One of these is
Conscience is a reprover. The sinner may shut his eyes to the light of scripture, and his ears to the voice of the preacher; but where can he find a retreat from the lash of an awakened conscience? By nature conscience is defiled; and it may be blinded through ignorance, or misled by error, or seared as with a hot iron by sensual excess. But the force of natural conscience cannot be altogether subdued; and when its testimony is heard condemning the sinner, and setting before him the terrors of a coming retribution, as in the case of Belshazzar whose 'knees smote one against another' when he beheld the hand-writing on the wall; or of Felix who 'trembled' when Paul 'reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come;' what is this but a message of reproof from heaven? How precious are the reproofs administered by the counsels of—
secure, a word of alarm; for the fearful, a word of encouragement. She speaks here to sinners, to 'simple ones' who 'love simplicity,' to 'scorners' who 'delight in scorning,' to 'fools' who hate 'knowledge;' that is, to wilful, daring, and obstinate transgressors, and for them she has a word of ' reproof.' Her reproofs are conveyed through many different channels. The word of God. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for reproof. It points out the evil nature and ruinous consequences of sin, and declares the certainty of a coming judgment, by which 'the wrath of God shall be revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men.' At the same time it deals with the peculiarities of individual character; it holds up to sinners of every description a mirror which reflects the image of their own depravity, and it comes home to the conscience of each in language which reproves alike the indifference of the careless, the duplicity of the hypocritical, the pride of the self-righteous, the impiety of the profane, and the excesses of the voluptuous. For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' Ministers are reprovers. They are traitors to the cause of Christ who 'speak smooth things,' saying, 'Peace, peace, when there is no peace,' and seek to please rather than to profit and edify the people. Their commission runs in these terms, ‘Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.' John the Baptist did not flatter Herod the king, but reproved him as he deserved without fear or favour. Of Jesus it is said, that he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes; and his Divine influence. This is graciously proservants are commanded to 'preach the word, be mised; for wisdom has said, 'I will pour out my instant in season and out of season, reprove, re- Spirit unto you.' Repentance is man's duty, but buke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.' God's work. We may change the conduct, but he Popular errors must not be countenanced, but renews the heart; we may avoid the act of sin, but corrected; prevailing sins must not be connived he destroys the love of it; we may go through at, but condemned; unwelcome truths must not be the forms of duty, but he implants the principle concealed, but declared; the vices both of indi- of obedience. To the commandment which says, viduals and communities must, without distinc-Turn ye at my reproof,' let us therefore reply, tion of rank, or sex, or age, or circumstances, be 'Turn thou me and I shall be turned, for thou fearlessly exposed; the people must be addressed art the Lord my God.' not in vague generalities, but in plain, pointed, and searching appeals to the conscience and the heart. He is a bad preacher who makes the hearers forget themselves in their admiration of him. Discourses which give greatest offence frequently do most good.
Christian friendship! Faithful are the wounds of a friend.' David held them in high estimation, 'Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.' Such reproofs ought to be received as tokens of affection, and listened to as the dictates of wisdom.
The afflictive dispensations of providence speak the language of reproof. Manasseh had been one of the chief of sinners, but solitude and suffering brought him to repentance, and he found mercy. We are prone to complain of our trials, but if we viewed them in the proper light we should see cause to be thankful for them. We ought always to bear in mind that to improve them aright is to be reproved by them. The reproofs of wisdom all aim at one practical object, it is to awaken repentance.' But reproofs cannot produce this effect without the operation of—
Reproofs must be understood in order to be effectual. Wisdom has provided and promised all needful instruction. She therefore adds, ‘I will make known my words unto you.' The Spirit has given the word, but he must also give the capacity to discern its meaning. In his light
only shall we see light. Let us unite dependence | limitation of Christ's atonement to those whom on his teaching with the diligent and prayerful the Father has given him. It will be sufficient use of all appointed means of instruction. Let to answer every objection, and silence every murus beware of setting at nought his counsels, or mur for the Judge to say, 'I have called, and ye despising his reproofs; for he who being often re- refused.' 'Few are chosen,' but 'many are called ;' proved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be de- and it is not with the purpose of election, which stroyed, and that without remedy.' has not been revealed, that sinners have to do, but with the call of mercy which addresses to them the free, unrestricted, unconditional offer of salvation. In refusing this call they act wilfully, deliberately, from enmity to God, and aversion to his service. This is the condemnation that light is come. into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Thus they incur the guilt of disobeying the command of God, of denying his truth, of despising his mercy, of rejecting his counsel, of counting the blood of the covenant, wherewith Christ was sanctified, an unholy thing, and doing despite unto the Spirit of grace. Resting on such grounds the punishment of the wicked shall be perfectly
'Because I have called, and ye refused, I also
In the indulgence extended to wicked men there is an apparent deviation from those principles of rectitude and impartiality which regulate the divine government. Not only do they seem to enjoy impunity in sin; they often attain to a far higher degree of prosperity than falls to the lot of others. This has in all ages been a source of perplexity and discouragement to the people of God, whilst it renders sinners bolder and more hardened in wickedness. But they abuse the divine forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance; and they treasure up to themselves 'wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgments of God.' 'Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.' But God will bring every work into judgment, and will render unto every man according to his work; and he will be glorified no less in the destruction of his enemies than in the salvation of his redeemed people. He has distinctly stated
The grounds of their condemnation. They shall not be permitted to urge the plea of ignorance, nor the want of opportunity, nor even moral inability as their excuse; far less shall they be allowed to plead the decrees of God, or the
Righteous. The justice of God demands it; his mercy permits it; his truth and faithfulness cannot be maintained without it. All the attributes of his character will be infinitely honoured by it. The whole intelligent creation will approve of it. Sinners themselves will silently acquiesce in it. The man who had not on the wedding garment was speechless in presence of the king, so shall be the finally impenitent under the sentence of the Judge. And their condemnation as it is perfectly righteous so it is inevitably
Certain. Now they have an accepted time,' and a 'day of salvation.' But the door, by which they are now invited to enter, will then be shut. Prayer will no longer avail. All the things that belong to their peace will be hid from their eyes. The God of mercy will then have 'forgotten to be gracious,' and will 'be favourable no more.' How vain must be the hope of the poor and distressed when their prayer for relief is met not by the look and language of sympathy, but by laughter and mockery! How dreadful to hear the Father of mercies declare, I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh.' And he is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent.'
How then shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Who can resist the force of his Almighty arm, or elude the inspection of his allseeing eye? What is there to make up for the want of his friendship, or to protect us from the effect of his anger? The punishment of the sinner will be unspeakably—
Awful. To them on the left hand the Judge only with profound respect, but with affectionate shall say, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into ever- acquiescence; they must be submitted to not only lasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' from a sense of duty, but in the spirit of love. 'When, therefore, the great day of his wrath is To this effect it is enjoined, 'These words which come, who shall be able to stand? Who among I command thee this day shall be in thine heart." us can dwell with devouring fire? who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?'
But, blessed be God, there is still a way of escape. The time has not yet arrived of which it is said, 'Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer.' His patience continues to wait, and his Spirit to strive. He calls upon us to 'come, for all things are now ready. Turn ye, why will ye die, O house of Israel? Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.'
These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up,' Deut. vi. 6, 7. THE words which form the subject of this exhortation obviously refer in the first instance to the law of the ten commandments, which had on that very day been delivered to the people of Israel. 'These words' may, however, be supposed to comprehend generally the whole of revelation, including both the Old and New Testaments; and in particular they apply to the record which God has given of his Son Jesus Christ, which unfolds a complete system of truth to be believed, and a perfect rule of duty to be followed, with all necessary means to be observed for the purpose of enabling us to understand the one and to obey the other. Our duty in reference to the words of inspiration consists of two parts: we are commanded to receive them for our own benefit, and we are required to communicate them for the benefit of others. They demand in the first instance a
Cordial reception from ourselves. It is not enough that we put them in our houses, so as to have constant access to them for reading and meditation; nor even that we have them in our memories so as to be able to repeat them with ease and accuracy from beginning to end. They must not only be known and remembered, but understood and approved; they must be regarded not
The words which God has commanded us deserve a place in the heart. They are the words of infallible truth, and merit our fullest confidence; they are the words of eternal life, and claim our warmest attachment. More to be desired are they than gold; yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey, and the honey comb.' It is the heart that God looks to, and speaks to: and the services we perform in obedience to his word can be acceptable and honouring to him in so far only as they express the feelings of the heart. So long as it has not taken possession of the heart, the word of God can produce no sanctifying effect on the character; and is in reality rejected. The good seed must be sown not by the way side, nor on stony ground, nor among thorns, where it would be either entirely lost, or exert only a superficial and temporary influence; but on the soil of a good and honest heart, where it will take deep root, and bring forth fruit in some thirty, in some sixty, and in some a hundred fold. But as it is man's duty to receive the word into his heart, so it is God's work to put it there, and he has graciously promised to do his own work. 'Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after these days, saith the Lord. I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.'
Having taken possession of the heart, the words which God has commanded us will necessarily exert their proper influence in securing all those practical effects which are intended or required. The memory will carefully retain them, the mind will seriously reflect upon them, the mouth will loudly speak of them, and the life habitually correspond with them. In particular, the reception of them for ourselves will produce the desire, and enforce the endeavour to