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lesson of John the Baptist with energy to For death is at work upon all ages. The your fears, "Flee from the coming wrath." | fever of a few days may hurry the likeliest But there is something so very deceiving in of us all from this land of mortality. The the progress of time. Its progress is so cold of a few weeks may settle into some gradual. To-day is so like yesterday that lingering but irrecoverable disease. In one we are not sensible of its departure. We instant the blood of him who has the proshould make head against this delusion. mise of many years, may cease its circulaWe should turn to personal account every tion. Accident may assail us. A slight example of change or of mortality. When fall may precipitate us into eternity. An the clock strikes, it should remind you of exposure to rain may lay us on the bed of the dying hour. When you hear the sound our last sickness, from which we are never of the funeral bell, you should think, that more to rise. A little spark may kindle the in a little time it will perform for you the midnight conflagration, which lays a house same office. When you wake in the morn- and its inhabitants in ashes. A stroke of ing, you should think that there has been lightning may arrest the current of life in a the addition of another day to the life twinkling. A gust of wind may overturn that is past, and the subtraction of another the vessel, and lay the unwary passenger day from the remainder of your journey. in a watery grave. A thousand dangers When the shades of the evening fall around beset us on the slippery path of this world; you, you should think of the steady and and no age is exempted from them--and invariable progress of time--how the sun from the infant that hangs on its mother's moves and moves till it will see you outbosom, to the old man who sinks under the and how it will continue to move after you decrepitude of years, we see death in all its die, and see out your children's children to woful and affecting varieties. the latest generations.
You may think it strange--but even still Every thing around us should impress we fear, we may have done little in the the mutability of human affairs. An ac- way of sending a fruitful impression into quaintance dies--you will soon follow him. your consciences. We are too well aware Á family moves from the neighbourhood of the distinction between seriousness of learn that the works of man are given to feeling, and seriousness of principle, to change. New familes succeed-sit loose think that upon the strength of any such to the world, and withdraw your affections moving representation as we are now infrom its unstable and fluctuating interests. dulging in, we shall be able to dissipate Time is rapid, though we observe not its that confounded spell which chains you to rapidity. The days that are past appear the world, to reclaim your wandering af like the twinkling of a vision. The days fections, or to send you back to your weekthat are to come will soon have a period, day business more pure and more heaand will appear to have performed their venly. But sure we are you ought to be course with equal rapidity. We talk of convinced, how that all which binds you so our fathers and grandfathers, who figured cleavingly to the dust is infatuation and their day in the theatre of the world. In a vanity; that there is something most lalittle time, we will be the ancestors of a fu- mentably wrong in your being carried ture age. Posterity will talk of us as of the away by the delusions of time---and this men that are gone, and our remembrance is a conviction which should make you will soon depart from the face of the coun- feel restless and dissatisfied. We are well try. When we attend the burial of an ac- aware that it is not human eloquence, of quaintance, we see the bones of the men of human illustration, that can accomplish a other times—in a few years, our bodies will victory over the obstinate principles of hube mangled by the power of corruption, man corruption--and therefore it is that and be thrown up in loose and scattered we feel as if we did not advance aright fragments among the earth of the new through a single step of a sermon, unless made grave. When we wander among the we look for the influences of that mighty tombstones of the churchi-yard, we can Spirit, who alone is able to enlighten and scarcely follow the mutilated letters that arrest you--and may employ even so humcompose the simple story of the inhabitant ble an instrument as the voice of a fellow below. In a little time, and the tomb that mortal, to send into your heart the inspiracovers us, will moulder by the power of 1 tion of understanding, the seasons-and the letters will be eaten I now shortly insist on the truth, that away and the story that was to perpetuate the things which are not seen are eternal, our remembrance, will elude the gaze of No man hath seen God at any time, and some future inquirer.
he is eternal. It is said of Christ, whom We know that time is short, but none having not seen, we love, and he is the of us know how short. We know that it same to-day, yesterday, and for ever.” will not go beyond a certain limit of years; is said of the Spirit, that, like the wind al but none of us know how small the num-/ heaven he eludes the observation, and 10 ber of years, or montlıs, or days may be. man can tell of him whence he cometh, QT
whither he goeth-and he is called the heart all alive to religion, and sensibly afEternal Spirit, through whom the Son of- fected with its charms, and its seriousness, fered himself up without spot unto God. and its principle. Now, my brethren, I will We are quite aware, that the idea suggest-venture to say, that there may be a world ed by the eternal things which are spoken of all this kind of enthusiasm, with the of in our text, is heaven, with all its cir- very man who is not moving a single step cumstances of splendour and enjoyment. towards that blessed eternity, over which This is an object which, even on the prin- his fancy delights to expatiate. The movciples of taste, we take a delight in contem- ing representation of the preacher may be plating; and it is also an object set before listened to as a pleasant song—and the enus in the Scriptures, though with a very tertained hearer return to all the inveterate sparing and reserved hand. All the de- habits of one of the children of this world. scriptions we have of heaven there, are It is this, my brethren, which makes me general, very general. We read of the fear that a power of deceitfulness may acbeauty of the heavenly crown, of the un-company the eloquence of the pulpit--that fading nature of the heavenly inheritance, the wisdom of words may defeat the great of the splendour of the heavenly city-and object of a practical work upon the conthese have been seized upon by men of science-that a something short of a real imagination, who, in the construction of business change in the heart, and in the their fancied paradise, have embellished it principles of acting, may satisfy the man with every image of peace, and bliss, and who listens, and admires, and resigns his loveliness; and, at all events, have thrown every feeling to the magic of an impressive over it that most kindling of all concep-description-that, strangely compounded tions, the magnificence of eternity. Now, I beings as we are, broken loose from God, such a picture as this has the certain effect and proving it by the habitual voidness of of ministering delight to every glowing our hearts to a sense of his authority, and and susceptible imagination. And here lies of his will; that, blind to the realities of anthe deep-laid delusion, which we have oc- other world, and slaves to the wretched incasionally hinted at. A man listens, in fatuation which makes us cleave with the the first instance, to a pathetic and high-full bent of our affections to the one by wrought narrative on the vanities of time which we are visibly and immediately sur
and it touches him even to the tenderness rounded; that utterly unable, by nature, of tears. He looks, in the second instance, / to live above the present scene, while its to the fascinating perspective of another cares, and its interests are plying us every scene, rising in all the glories of immor- 1 hour with their urgency; that the prey of tality from the dark ruins of the tomb, and evil passions which darken and distract the he feels within him all those ravishments inner man, and throw us at a wider disof fancy, which any vision of united gran- | tance from the holy Being who forbids the deur and loveliness would inspire. Take indulgence of them; and yet with all this these two together, and you have a man weight of corruption about us, having minds weeping over the transient vanities of an that can seize the vastness of some great ever-shifting world, and mixing with all conception, and can therefore rejoice in the this softness, an elevation of thought and expanding loftiness of its own thoughts, as of prospect, as he looks through the vista it dwells on the wonders of eternity; and of a futurity, losing itself in the mighty having hearts that can move to the impulse range of thousands and thousands of cen- of a tender consideration, and can, thereturies. And at this point the delusion fore, sadden into melancholy at the dark comes in, that here is a man who is all that picture of death, and its unrelenting cruelreligion would have him to be a man ties; and having fancies that can brighten weaned from the littleness of the paltry to the cheerful colouring of some pleasing scene that is around him—soaring high and hopeful representation, and can, thereabove all the evanescence of things present, fore, be soothed and animated when some and things sensible--and transferring every sketch is laid before it of a pious family affection of his soul to the durabilities of a emerging from a common sepulchre, and pure and immortal region. It were better on the morning of their joyful resurrection, if this high state of occasional impress- forgetting all the sorrows and separations ment on the matters of time and of eternity, of the dark world that has now rolled over had only the effect of imposing the false- /them--0, my brethren, we fear, we greatly hood on others, that man who was so fear it, that while busicd with topics such touched and so transported, had on that as these, many a hearer may weep, or be single account the temper of a candidate elevated, or take pleasure in the touching for heaven. But the falsehood takes pos- imagery that is made to play around him, session of his own heart. The man is while the dust of this perishable earth is all pleased with his emotions and his tears that his soul cleaves to; and its cheating and the interpretation he puts upon them vanities are all that his heart cares for, or is, that they come out of the fullness of a his footsteps follow after.
credite fernal con dort
in its fertuage
The thing is not merely possible-but we no practical hardihood whatever for the exsee in it a stamp of likelihood to all that ercise of labouring in the prescribed way experience tells us of the nature or the after the meat that endureth? Surely, surehabitudes of man. Is there no such thing as ly, this is all very possible--and it is just as his having a taste for the beauties of land- possible, and many we believe to be the inscape, and, at the same time, turning with stances we have of it in real life, when an disgust from what he calls the methodism eloquent description of heaven is exquisitely of peculiar Christianity? Might not he be felt, and wakens in the bosom the raptures an admirer of poetry, and at the same time, of the sincerest admiration, among those nauseate with his whole heart, the doctrine who feel an utter repugnancy to the heaven and the language of the New Testament? of the Bible--and are not moving a single Might not he have a fancy that can be re-inch through the narrowness of the path galed by some fair and well-formed vision which leads to it. of immortality-and, at the same time, have!
On the Universality of spiritual Blindness.
" Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but
not with strong drink. For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes : the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed. And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned." Isaiah xxix. 9—12.
What is affirmed in these verses of a must now therefore strike a higher mark of vision and prophecy, holds so strikingly distinction--and, in reference to the Bible, true of God's general revelation to the such a mark can be specified. This book is world, that we deem the lesson contained often made the subject of a much higher in them to be not of partial, but permanent exercise of scholarship than the mere readapplication--and we therefore proceed im-ling of it. It may be read in its original lanmediately, to the task of addressing this les-guages. It may be the theme of many a son, both to the learned and unlearned of laborious commentary. The light of conthe present day.
temporaneous history may be made to shine Let me, in the first place, dwell for a little upon it, by the diligence of an exploring anon the complaints which are uttered by tiquarian. Those powers and habits of critithese two classes respecting the hidden and cism, which are of so much avail towards impenetrable character of the book of God's the successful elucidation of the mind and communication--and, in the second place, meaning of other authors, may all be transtry to explain the nature of that sleep which | ferred to that volume of which God is the is upon both, and in virtue of which both author and what, after all this, it may be are alike in a state of practical blindness to asked, is the seal or the obstacle which the realities of the divine word---and, in the stands in the way of learned men of our third place, raise a short application upon present generation? How is it that any of the whole argument.
| them can now join in the complaint of their I. There is a complaint uttered in these predecessors, in the days of Isaiah-and verses, first by the learned--and, secondly, say, I cannot read this book because it is by thé unlearned--and we shall consider sealed? Or, is there any remaining hineach of them in order.
drance still, in virtue of which, the critics, 1st. If a book be closed down by a ma- and the grammarians, and the accomplished terial seal, then, till that seal be broken, theologians of our age, are unable to reach there lies a material obstacle even in the the real and effective understanding of the way of him who is able to read the contents words of this prophecy? of it. And we have no doubt, that the pos- Yes, my brethren, there is such an obsession of the art of reading would form the struction as you now inquire aster--and if most visible and prominent distinction, be- is wonderful to tell, how little the mere tween the learned and the unlearned in the erudition of Scripture helps the real disdays of Isaiah. But it no longer, at least in cernment of Scripture-how it may be said, our country, forms the distinction between of many of its most classical expounders, these two classes. Many a man who can that though having eyes, they see not, and barely read in these days, will still say, and though having ears, they hear not-how say with truth, that he is not learned. We doctrine, which if actually perceived and
credited, would bring the realities of an ready to begin that great renewing process
the whole copiousness of its manifold in-
expect of those among the learned, who, in complaint that I am not learned. They the pursuits of a secular philosophy, never cannot, for example, estimate the criticism enter into contact with the Bible, either in its of many an expounder. They have not doctrine or in its language, except when it time to traverse the weary extent of many a is obtruded on them? Little do they know ponderous and elaborate commentary. And of our men of general literature, who have those who have had much of Christian innot observed the utter listlessness, if not tercourse with the poor, must have rethe strong and active contempt wherewith marked the effect which their sense of this many of them hear the doctrine of the book inferiority has upon many an imagination of God's counsel uttered in the phraseology |---how it is felt by not a few of them, that of that book-how, in truth, their secret they labour under a hopeless disadvantage, impression of the whole matter is, that it is because they want the opportunities of a a piece of impenetrable mysticism-how, higher and a more artificial scholarship, and in their eyes, there is a cast of obscurity that if they could only get nearer to their over all the peculiarities of the Gospel---and teachers in respect of literary attainment, if asked to give their attention thereto, they they would be nearer that wisdom which is promptly repel the imposition under the unto salvation, and that though they can feeling of a hopeless and insuperable dark- read the book in the plainest sense of the ness, which sits in obsolete characters over term, they cannot read it with any saving the entire face of the evangelical record. or salutary effect, just because, in the lanThere may be bright and cheering exam-guage of my text, they say that they are ples to the contrary, of men in the highest not learned. And thus it is, that the man of our literary walks, who, under a peculiar who has the literary accomplishments after teaching, have learned what they never which they sigh, meets with two distinct learned from all the lessons of the academy. exhibitions to instruct and to humble him. But apart from this peculiar influence, be The first is, when the poor look up to him assured that learning is of little avail. The as to one who, because he has the scholarsacred page may wear as hieroglyphical an ship of Christianity, must have the saving aspect to the lettered, as to the unlettered. knowledge of it also, when he intimately It lies not with any of the powers or pro- feels that the luminary of science may cesses of ordinary education to dissipate shine full upon him, while not one ray to that blindness, wherewith the god of this cheer or to enlighten, may pass into his world hath blinded the mind of him who heart from the luminary of the Gospel. believes not. To make the wisdom of the | The second is, when he observes among New Testament his wisdom, and its spirit the poor, those who live, and who rejoice his spirit, and its language his best-loved under the power of a revelation, to which and best-understood language, there must himself is a stranger, those who can disbe a higher influence upon the mind, than cern a beauty and an evidence in the docwhat lies in human art, or in human expla- trine of Christ, which have never beamed nation. And till this is brought to pass, the with full radiance upon his own underdoctrine of the atonement, and the doctrine standing those whose feelings and whose of regeneration, and the doctrine of fellow-) experience move in a consonancy with the ship with the Father and the Son, and the truths of the New Testament, which, in his doctrine of a believer's progressive holiness, own experience, he never felt those whose under the moral and spiritual power of the daily path bespeaks the guidance of a wistruth as it is in Jesus, will, as to his own dom which never yet shone upon his own personal experience of its meaning, remain way, and who are blest with a peace and a so many empty sounds, or so many deep joy in believing, which have never found and hidden mysteries--and just as effectu- entrance into his own desolate bosom. ally, as if the book were held together by! This gives us a new sight of the pecuan iron clasp, which he has not strength to liarity which lies in the Bible-and by unclose, may he say of the same book lying which it stands distinguished from all other open and legible before him, that he cannot compositions. There may remain a seal read it, because it is sealed.
upon its meaning to him, who, in the ordi2. So much for the complaint of the nary sense of the term, is learned, while the learned ; and as for the complaint of the seal may be removed, and the meaning lie unlearned, it happily, in the literal sense of open as the light of day to him, who in the it, is not applicable to the great majority of same sense is unlearned. It may come with our immediate countrymen, even in the all the force of a felt and perceived reality very humblest walks of society. They can upon the one, while the reality is not perput together its letters, and pronounce its ceived, and therefore not felt by the other. words, and make a daily exercise, if they To the man of literary accomplishment, the choosé, of one or more of its chapters. report of eternal things may reach no other They have learning enough to carry them influence than that of a sound upon his ear, thus far, but not so far as to keep them from or of a shadowy representation upon the joining the unlearned of my text in the eye of his fancy. To the unlettered work.