« AnteriorContinuar »
the bitterness of a sorrow, which lays him in the writing on the walls of the banquetting room dust at the foot of the cross. of the Eastern monarch, which instantly turned his festivity into sadness, and his pride into despair. How appalling, yet how just, the description of the feelings of sinners with respect to God, given in the book of Job, they say unto God, depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.'
But the judicial dealings of God with sinners here, are little more than nominal, compared with those which will give its darkest hue to the solemnities of the last day. God will be silent no more. Discipline at an end, judgment will begin. How fearful will be the disclosures of that eventful day! There will be three books opened; a book of life for the righteous, a book of death for the wicked, and a book of remembrance for both. Long forgotten sins will then be summoned up from the depths of the past. The sinner will be reminded of scenes, of which the last trace had long been effaced, by the swift wing of time. His sins will be set in order before him. Conscience, quickened, enlightened, and made powerfully authoritative, will respond to the accusations of the judgment-seat; and the poor miserable sinner, without power to escape, yet unable to answer, will perish under the frown of his Maker's wrath! How terrible the doom of the impenitent, and unbelieving! Let sinners hear the solemn appeal, behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.'
It is stated in the preceding verse, that a time would come when God would break the silence which the sinner had misinterpreted, would reprove him, and set his sins in order before him. Sinners are solemnly called upon to consider the certainty of this. Their character is truly described, they forget God. It is said in another portion of the inspired volume, that God is not in all the sinner's thoughts, and the reason of this is undobutedly to be found in the fact, that the carnal mind is enmity against God.' God is disliked as holy, just, and true; the spirituality of his nature offends; and hence, whatever brings the thought of God near, is carefully shunned, as likely to cause pain. The life of the sinner is, in reality, one of practical atheism. If you deliberately ask him, whether there be a God, he will answer in the affirmative; but to the term God, he attaches no correct or comprehensive idea; and the moment he is led to do so, he turns away from it, as from a subject fatal to his peace. In the forgetfulness of the true God alone, he is secure; for when the idea of his holy and righteous nature breaks in upon him, it resembles the
This forgetfulness of God is a mere artifice of the corrupt heart to get rid of what is painful to it. There is a God; he is the holy, righteous, and unchangeable being, which the scriptures declare him to be; and though he is silent amidst the inequalities and the crimes of discipline, yet his own perfections render it absolutely necessary, that a time should come, when he will vindicate his dishonoured claims in the punishment of the wicked, and establish his justice by the reward of the good. Since such a time will come, it is wise in men to anticipate and prepare for it; and no infatuation can be more dreadful than that daily exhibited by sinners, in living as if that time would never arrive, and in contriving delusions, by which they may escape from the conviction of its certainty. Nothing less than the entire subversion of religion, natural and revealed, especially of the latter, is necessary to justify the conduct they pursue. If men look forward to a time of reckoning, even ia the affairs of this life, it is felt to demand anxious thought, and careful preparation; and if an important issue be at stake, no one is surprised to find, that the whole interest of the mind is concentrated upon it, that night and day are devoted to the correction of errors that may prove hurtful, and the use of means from which benefit may result; and in short, that the anticipation gives its peculiar colouring to the whole aspect of the intervening time. How solemnly then, should men live, since God will one day reckon with them? How carefully should they consider the nature of the trial, which they are to undergo! How anxiously regulate their conduct, and guard their thoughts, that the joys of acquittal may terminate their fears, and crown their hopes!
The consequences of neglecting to prepare for our final reckoning with God, are very powerfully expressed in this verse. The figurative language employed is intended to convey a strong idea of the fearfulness of the ruin, which will overtake the impenitent sinner at last. It is taken from the destructive effects caused by the attacks of the wild beasts of the forest, when, ravenous from hunger, they spring upon the passing traveller, tearing limb from limb, till the
angled carcase loses all trace of its former shape
or vigour. There is intense suffering, utter ruin, revolting deformity. Resistance is vain. So, when sinners fall into the hand of an angry God, they will be irretrievably destroyed. The sense of his displeasure will consume them, as with fire. Their own thoughts will prey upon their peace. Unquenchable regrets will annoy and torment them. Their noble nature, once capable of bearing the image of God in all its beauty, but now hopelessly abandoned to the power of evil, will stand forth in awful ruin, a monument of vengeance. He, who endowed it with its high faculties, will condemn it as worthless. The sublime uses, which it might have fulfilled, having been frustrated, it will be cast forth from the divine presence, as no longer fit to occupy a place in the pure world over which the Creator reigns. Then comes the imprisonment from which there is no release; the night of anguish on which no morn will ever rise; the abode of misery and shame, on which no hope will ever dawn. God, at last, has forgotten to be gracious, and his mercy is clean gone for ever.
There will be none to deliver. When the traveller is attacked by the wild beast of the forest, some one may come unexpectedly to his relief, and snatch him from the destruction which appears to be inevitable. But when the sinner once falls into the hand of God, none can deliver. Who can resist the Omnipotent? Who can meet the God of hosts in battle? The shields of the earth belong unto God. The devils, the victims of his righteous indignation, tremble at his glance. The innumerable company of angels wait to obey his will. When the Lord cometh forth out of his place, the strong shall be as tow, and the makers of it as a spark; and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.' In that terrible day, vain, utterly vain, will be the cry to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.'
painted to the life by the inspired apostle. When we consider that the tongue was intended by the former of our bodies, and the father of our spirits, to proclaim the glory of the great Creator, and to celebrate his praise; to make mention of the righteousness of Christ, and to hold edifying fellowship with our brethren, how humbling and saddening the thought that the very instrument with which we should seek the honour of God, and speak peace to men, is converted into an engine for kindling strife, for blaspheming the name of the Highest, and denying the Lord who bought us; and thus bringing on ourselves, and others whom we corrupt by our evil communications, certain and swift destruction! A melancholy change in the moral condition of man must have taken place, before what was designed for the accomplishment of good could be the source of such varied and soul-destroying evils. And therefore we must turn our eye to the deplorable event which occurred in paradise, if we would see clearly why a rational being, created in righteousness and true holiness, has lost his original rectitude and delight in God, and become the slave of every impulse which leads him to speak unadvisedly, irreverently, and impiously with his lips.
The heart is naturally a complete stranger to religious influences, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. When the spring is polluted the stream must be troubled and deleterious. The mind is alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in us, and proud of its fancied dignity, and exhibiting the utmost complacency in its self-acquired attainments, it gives expression to its sentiments by an organ after its own likeness; and the effects of those three characteristics of fallen man are deeply displayed in self-sufficiency, infidelity, and all unrighteousness. The tongue then, in the present circumstances of an apostate race, as an index of the depraved and unrenewed heart, is as a devouring fire among the most inflammable materials; a world of iniquity, an incalculable amount of mischief, is contained in and produced by it. In this appalling light ought we to view 'the tongue among our members, defiling,' literally blackening, the whole body' of the individuals over whom it obtains the ascendency; and not confining its ravages within so limited a sphere of
action, it has extended, and still extends, its baneful operations to all the past and existing generations of men. And can we wonder at such things, when we are assured that itself is set on fire of hell,' and know that it derives its power from the great adversary of God and man, the father of
demns. The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,' even when God's cause is the motive, and in how ungodly and unmanly a light must wrath appear when its origin is in the forgetfulness of God, and its effects a still more dreadful treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.' Impressed then with a due sense of the truths now brought before us, let us, in faith, and with souls engaged in the appropriate and earnest supplication, hear the pleading of the great apostle of the Gentiles at the throne of grace: 'And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly. And I pray God that your spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.'
lies and the murderer of souls, from the beginning? | ponder seriously and prayerfully the sins which If such be the state of the tongue' when divine the apostle here so forcibly describes and congrace has not subdued and sanctified the heart, whence it receives its poisonous qualities, can there be a subject in which we should be more deeply interested than how to get its inherent propensity to sin taken away, its moral 'filthiness' cleansed, and its every expression guarded and guided by a constant reference to the omniscience of him to whose inspection every thought is laid open, and in whose continual presence we should repeat with the feelings of the Psalmist, There is not a word on my tongue, but lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether? And though God may have visited us in mercy, and seen our spiritual diseases and healed them, still let us remember that the holiness of the believer is not complete till death is swallowed up of victory. Let us watch unceasingly over ourselves with a godly jealousy, and experiencing as we often do the weakness of our best resolutions, and knowing, as we are frequently compelled to confess, that we have not implored God to set a door upon our lips,' let us seek not only a remedy in the blood of Jesus, but an unfailing safe-guard in the might 'But I say unto you, That every idle word that of his Spirit. Let us contemplate the consemen shall speak, they shall give account thereof quences of the sins of the tongue as they are in the day of judgment,' Matt. xii. 36. manifested in the world around us, and deter- OUR Lord here places the 'sins of the tongue,' mine, in the strength of the Sanctifier, that in so exemplified in practice, in the clearest light, by far as we are concerned they shall not be increased; showing that not only the higher crime of blaslet us consider by what name we are called; the phemy against himself, and especially the highest purity, which he who was holy, harmless, and of all, that against his Spirit, are registered in undefiled, requires, and the encouragement which the book of God's remembrance as of peculiar he holds out to us, to struggle believingly with enormity, and almost beyond the reach of forthe risings of whatever is opposed to our Chris-giveness, but that every idle or unprofitable word tian principles, and to our inward peace. In is there recorded also, and must be accounted for Christ dwelleth all this fulness of the Godhead on that day when the individual who utters it bodily; and from this fulness every one that shall be tried by the omniscient and holy Judge, studies to follow the Lamb whithersoever he and the sentence passed on him be unchangeable goeth,' and thus leads and smooths the way, has and eternal. Such a view of the conduct in received, and will receive, overflowing as he is, question is surely well calculated to awaken 'with grace and truth.' 'By this shall all men reflection in the most thoughtless, and to lead to know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one serious meditation on the consequences that are to another.' This love has been planted by divine here declared to follow from speaking, not merely power in the heart of the regenerated; for it has to no good purpose and without any wish for no existence in any of the offspring of the first edification, but as is evident, from the language transgressor till Jesus has 'breathed upon them employed, when strictly examined, with an intenand said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost;' and there- tion to injure the reputation of others who may fore can have no more connection with bitter- become the objects of remarks, begun, it may be, ness, and envy, and clamour, and evil-speak- in idleness, but ending in defamation. There are ing, and all malice, than light with darkness, cases, it is true, where it would be not only pusChrist with Belial, or he that believeth with an illanimous, but positively sinful, not to utter our infidel.' Every consideration then, which ought sentiments with freedom; ungodliness must be conto weigh with a professing Christian, should demned, and the ungodly dealt with in terms secretly and irresistibly-because the work of the best fitted to express our disapprobation and Spirit that he may be glorified-constrain us to abhorrence of his guilt, and to deter others from
imitating his pernicious example. The Lord who gave himself for us, and to whom we profess to look as the author of eternal salvation to them that believe and obey him, rebuked, in the strongest language that could be used, the hypocrisy, illiberality, and licentiousness of his depraved countrymen according to the flesh;' and we must be strangers to the graces of his Spirit, and virtually apostates from his religion, whatever may be our pretensions to ‘a name to live while we are dead,' if we contemplate vice, no matter where existing, with complacency, or choose the profane or the immoral for our companions. 'And withal,' says the apostle Paul, 'they,' that is, certain individuals or classes of individuals that he is describing, 'they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle but tattlers also, and busy bodies, speaking things which they ought not.' Idleness is the parent and patron of many sins. It is equally destructive to the secular and spiritual interests of man. The human mind was formed for action, and if it be not directed to worthy objects, it will to a certainty employ itself on such as are base, degrading, and condemning.
It is a well ascertained fact, that persons who have not cultivated their understandings, and have no taste for reading, especially useful edifying reading, but who feel that they are designed by their Creator to do something, too frequently find subjects of exercise in the characters and affairs of their fellow-creatures. A more humbling view of our common nature, bad as it is, cannot be contemplated than that which is exhibited in a circle of busy bodies,' who have 'learned to be idle,' seeking pleasure-and what a pleasure! in conjecturing, hinting, asserting, and deciding respecting the state and fate of their neighbours. Here no man is safe, no character sacred. These judges have a shade to throw on the fairest reputation, an 'idle word' to whisper against whatever is true, honest, just, lovely, or of good report. One of the group assembled for mischief is led perhaps to profess his belief that such a one, naming him, means well, and is really, on the whole, a very decent sort of person. Another observes, that he had the same opinion till a certain circumstance, not worth mentioning, convinced him that he is no better than he should be. Now scandal is roused, the game is up, and each comes forward with his or her circumstance in supplement, till at last their victim is stripped of every estimable quality, and becomes a creature whom, if we paid any regard to their assertions, and would preserve our respectability, we will make it our study to avoid. In this inquisition,
as much entitled to the name of holy as any court under the special protection of the holy father of Rome himself, every art is practised to discover subjects of defamation; every torture applied to force the absent culprit to confess his guilt, and as in such a judicatory justice and humanity must not expect to find an advocate, a verdict is quickly brought in, judgment speedily given, sentence instantly pronounced, and the condemned character, without regret and without a sigh, delivered over to the proper authorities for execution. The effects of such conduct may be viewed in two aspects; as they affect those who 'speak idle words,' and the persons against whom they are spoken. This practice then degrades the rational powers of man as an intellectual being, and destroys also the sensibilities of the heart. If the failings, either real or supposed, of our brethren be the theme on which we delight to expatiate, how can we feel affection for them? How can we rejoice in their joy, and make their sorrows our own? How, in short, can we enjoy the true luxury of doing good? Again, let us consider the consequences of this 'evil thing, and bitter' on those against whom the 'idle words' are uttered. It is admitted that the really Christian portion of the community will not, on unexamined and insufficient grounds, give credit to reports circulated to the disadvantage of their fellow-christians. But that such reports have often their influence, we know from observation, and perhaps from experience cannot be denied. Is it then our wish to be followers of Christ in sincerity and truth? Let us guard against this sin which we have been contemplating. The religion of the cross, by the mouth of its Author, declares every idle word' to be a crime for which we must give an account in the day of judgment. The characteristic of the gospel is love. This was to be the distinguishing badge of our holy profession, the indubitable evidence of our walking worthy of the high vocation whereby we are called. 'If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.' 'Love,' one of the brightest jewels in the believer's crown, 'thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.' Let this divine grace then fill our hearts. Its presence will confer the purest joy, and its exercise show that the Sanctifier is preparing us for the society of those glorified spirits, who now 'perfected in love,' serve the Saviour 'who loved them even unto the death,' in the upper sanctuary.
For innumerable evils have compassed me about; mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up: they are more than the hairs of mine head; therefore my heart faileth me,' Psal. xl. 12.
If the whole of this psalm be what a remarkable portion of it undoubtedly is, as we are informed in the epistle to the Hebrews, prophetic of the Messiah and of what he endured as our substitute, nay, the very language of Jesus himself before he was manifested in the flesh to expiate our guilt, we have here a most wonderful account of the manifold evils of sin, from which we should study to learn wisdom. We behold the Son of God as the Surety of his people given to him in covenant, and with all their transgressions bound up and laid on him, feeling and expressing the sentiments awakened in his mind by the sense of what the sins imputed to him deserved. He experiences the pressure of the whole load of guilt, original and actual. He sees through all their varieties of heinousness the particular breaches of the divine law, which go to sum up the amount of depravity derived and personally contracted by his elect. He regards conscience, roused from the slumber into which it had been cast by the accumulations of iniquities that had long oppressed it. He views the place appointed for the exercise of everlasting and undiminishing retribution, and all the unimagined and untold, because unutterable, agonies of which that place is the dreadful scene. He beholds the arrows of the Almighty drawn from the quiver, and directed by an unerring hand against the objects of his hot displeasure, the poison whereof shall drink up their spirits, without lessening by one moment's duration the tortures produced by the wounds which they inflict on the undying soul. And on surveying such a mass of horrors, the Saviour must have despaired of bringing salvation, had he not been God, the Father's equal, the head of all principality and power, 'the first and the last.' Such is the light in which this remarkable passage of a remarkable psalm should be viewed, if we would see and feel the truths contained in it in all their importance to man fallen, and to be redeemed only by one higher than the heavens 'humbling himself, and becoming obedient unto death even the death of the cross.' And in this state, to a certain extent, must the believer be placed at the moment when the Spirit has convinced him of his sin and misery, and called him out of thick spiritual darkness into marvellous light. The sleep of moral death has been broken in upon
by the omnipotent agent, who alone can dispel its slumbers. The rational being who had long lain unconscious of his danger, has now his eye opened to the magnitude and multitude of the perils which surrounded him. What he once in his dreams supposed and believed to be pleasures worth the enjoying, are now found to be violations of God's commandments, destructive to God's righteous government, and exposing him to God's indignation. A complete change has been effected in his mode of apprehending objects presented to his mind. There are no longer any venial faults and trifling errors, formerly regarded as beneath the attention of a being so far removed from a world inhabited by necessarily fallible creatures, whom he has made what they are, and will not strictly reckon with for their unavoidable failings. Sin is sin in his estimation; and viewed by the new organ of vision through which he now looks, he sees and feels it to be 'exceeding sinful.' He throws a humbling glance on the innumerable evils which encompass him,' each one of which compel him to exclaim with the first murderer, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear.' His conscience, touched, purified, and strengthened by its Lord, tells him, in a voice of thunder, that his 'iniquities have taken hold on him.' Humbled in the dust, and crying out under a sense of his spiritual wretchedness, Unclean, unclean, he is not able to look up' to a holy God, or to raise his thoughts 'to the place where his honour dwelleth.' The longer he surveys the mass of iniquities rising up before his now busy memory, the more do they increase in number, and the more anxious he is that not one of them may escape his scrutiny. He wishes to know them all, to examine them all, to feel them all. There is now no disguising, no palliating, no attempting to lessen, not the most indistinctly formed intention to apologise for any one of them. Too long had he laboured to conceal them from himself, and when they refused to be concealed, to explain them away as matters of no importance. But the time of his visitation being come, and the Spirit working through the law, brought home to his conscience; the captive ready to be delivered, views himself as he really is, and from the conviction of guilt, and his felt and acknowleged inability to cancel it, his heart faints within him, and the unfeigned language of his cast-down and disquieted soul is; 'O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' He now experiences that to be a truth worthy of all acceptation,' of which he was formerly ignorant; or if he has read or heard it, which he esteemed a fanatical figment, that he