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Lord cherished the strife among them, how long would it have been, before they would have agreed on one to wear the Pontifical Robe, determined what was orthodox and what heresy, and all their brethren that could not follow them, see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, would have been excommunicated as heretics, and been persecuted at the pleasure of their apostolic judges.
To prevent that abuse of power, Jesus told them, in substance, that however dear they might value that authority -if precious as a right hand, rather than cause the offence just mentioned, they had better abandon all discipline, leaving every one accountable to civil tribunals, without the interposition of religious chastisements. Jesus, in this pointed manner, forbade his servants from exercising jurisdiction over the faith of their younger brethren. Those, therefore, who wield that unholy and forbidden sceptre, openly violate the mandates of the Son of God, destroy the honor of the Christian religion, and plunge themselves headlong into the depths of hell. :
Had the abuse of power among the apostles, been such, that an abandonment of it had been indispensable, doubtless they would have felt maimed ; but to have carried it fully into execution, as they were inclined, and as they had done in one instance, according to John's confession, and as they were disposed to do when they asked permission of their Master to call down fire on the Samaritans; or had they wielded the sword as did Peter, when he smote off the ear of the high priest's servant, the flames of Gehenna would have destroyed the earth, and the stream of Calvary been lost in the ocean of human blood. The rebuke of the Saviour amounts to this : If human nature be so weak that you cannot exercise your authority without giving such unmerited offences to your subordinate brethren, abandon it entirely, and attend wholly to preaching the word, and to the performance of such miracles, as will neither offend children,wound servants, nor burn up Samaritans ! I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves, not wolves among lambs. Though you may feel yourselves maimed by. thus curtailing your mission, and you will not be so extensively useful and blessed, as by a prudent exercise of your whole authority, still, it will be profitable and better, than to persist in persecution. The proper exercise of their power is explained in the 18th Chapter, from the 15th to the 20th verses of Matthew's gospel ; and when the servants of Jesus were governed by that excellent rule, whatsoever they bound on earth, was bound in heaven. In matters of tres. pass and crime, their jurisdiction was reasonable and necesa sary, if restrained within prudential limits; but in subjects of faith, except in the fundamental point of christianity, they were very inadequate judges. Be not alarmed at this statement till you have examined it.
Suppose one of the twelve had believed their Master would be put to death, and arise on the third day, before it took place and consequently before the rest did, would theynot have considered it heresy? . Would not Peter have branded with heresy one of his brethren, who should have believed that the Gentiles were with them fellow-heirs of the grace of God, before the Lord revealed the subject to him? The danger of being dogmatical, in relation to things but imperfectly understood, is common to most Christians, as well as professors of other religions.
4. The life into which the apostles entered, and the hellfire to which they were exposed, next demands our attention.
Though it should be admitted that the scriptures teach the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, it would not follow as a consequence, that this parable primarily related to that subject ; and being convinced that the certainty of punishment for sin, will be a more powerful restraint on wicked hearts, than its duration, when all is uncertainty and in some measure incredible, I shall direct my arguments to that point, leaving the other to my faithful brethren, of whatever persuasion, whose judgment shall lead them to embrace it. That transgressions are punished, and that the misery endured as a consequence, vastly over-balances the pleasure in the commission if crimes, is a position, to which all Christians will assent, and which every rational creature i can understand. If this truth were always present when men ; are tempted to sin, and they knew there was no escape, , would it not sufficiently deter them? Who would partake, of the most delicious fruit, if he knew it would poison him? ; What rational creature would pluck the rose, if he knew its
fragrance was the mildew of death? Who sports with the asp, whose fang is mortal ; or unarmed, attacks a lion, neither tamed nor confined ?.
The life into which the righteous enter is thus revealed, “In him was life and this life was the light of men. I am the bread of life. The words that I speak unto you--are life. I come that men might have life-more abundantly. We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” This is the life, and the everlasting life, into which the godly enter, as soon as they love their brethren, believe in the Son of God, and obey him. Jesus has but one kingdom in earth or in heaven; and that is “ the kingdom of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” He instructed us to pray that his kingdom might come, and God's will be done in earth, as it is done in heaven. This relates to the prevalence of Christ's doctrine in the heart ; for he said, “If I by the spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come unto you." Christians “are translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son." As obedience to the commands of Christ is entering into life, so disobedience is going down to hell. This is to be understood as having relation to the frame of mind, and not to any local situation. Hell-fire is an expression of great mental distress. The word, fire, is so frequently used in a figurative sense, that there is no necessity of being particular in defining its precise meaning. Common sense teaches us, that it should be explained according to the connexion in which it is found. Thus, "God is a consuming fire-shall be salted with fire-I came to send fire on earth-shall be baptized with fire-his eyes are as flames of fire shall be revealed in fire-burnt with unquenchable fire-go into everlasting fire,” all which must be explained in some figurative sense, or the scriptures are of all writing's most inconsistent and contradictory. Whatever instrument is used to punish ungodly men,whether in this or a future state, is hell. fire. “The sorrows of hell compassed me about-the pains of hell got hold on me--thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.” The deceiver says, “Stolen waters are sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But her guests are in the depths of hell.” The fire of hell is thus described ::
“ The tongue is a fire; a world of iniquity :-and is set on fire of hell.”.
This fire is with men unquenchable. As long as men persist in the commission of heinous offences, especially in persecuting each other, they are unable to prevent the flames of their own guilt from raging in their own bosoms. Perhaps this fire may, for a moment, be smothered; but it will continue to break out and rage with sevenfold vengeance. Nor can others quench the fire, while men remain in love with sin. Not all the tears of their friends, nor the intercessions of the pious, can extinguish their hell, or prevent their torment, without personal reformation. · The spirit of truth, by which their wickedness is exposed, is the worm that never dies. The same spirit which justifies the upright in heart, gnaws like a worm, in the conviction of the sinner.
But when the wicked repent and forsake their ways, the fire is not quenched, but goes out of itself, having no fuel on which to prey. The fire of Sodom was called eternal or everlasting, and was unquenchable, though it is now entirely extinct. It went out of itself, not being quenched. When death and Satan are destroyed, all things are made new, as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all are made alive, and God is all in all, where will be hell fire ? Like the eternal fire of Sodom, will it not cease to exist ? “Bless the Lord, O my soul." Amen.
GLORIOUS INTELLIGENCE FROM VERMONT.
The “ Boston Recorder," of Sept. 8, 1821, brings news of religious revivals in Vermont, which must be highly pleasing to all readers who rejoice at the conversion of sinners. The Recorder contains an extract from the “ Woodstock Monitor," which gives an account of revivals in 32 towns, in which, not less than 1800, and probably more than 2000 precious souls were converted to Christ, or become hopeful subjects of grace. The account contains the following glorious intelligence : ,
“ The work has excited and put down much violent opposition, especially among those who had advocated the doctrine of Universal salvation. Very many of this char: acter, in the light of truth saw their feet standing on slippery places, who now, instead of making the heart of the righteous sad, and strengthening the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life,' are piously engaged in warning their friends and neighbors to flee from the wrath to come, and do works meet for repentance.” The real Christian, of whatever name, will most heartily rejoice, that in so few towns, so large a number of our Saviour's blood-purchased children, should be brought to see and embrace that eternal life, which God gave them in Christ, before the world began. This, in addition to the number which had already professed the same religion, will constitute a part of that innumerable concourse, which shall celebrate the praise of God and of the Lamb, FOREVER.
But what affords nở înconsiderable part of our felicity in the consideration of this subject is, that the “ violent opposition, especially among those who had advocated the doctrine of Universal salvation,” which this revival,“ had excited,” was, by the same means, "put down.” We are professedly and pratically opposed to violent opposition to any revivals of religion, and especially oppose it in those, who advocate the doctrine of Universal salvation.
But the writer is very commendable in not intimating, that the revival put down any opposition, but that which it kad excited ; so that, as it respects opposition to religious revivals, it left the town as it found them.
The probability is, in the judgment of charity, that when the awakening commenced, either owing to the visible means by which it was effected, or something else, many, especially those who had advocated the Universal doctrine, were suspicious it was not the work of the Lord ; and possessing too much of that spirit of the primitive disciples, to whom Jesus said, “Ye'know not what manner of spirit ye are of," exhibited, in their opposition, improper violence. It was improper, because it was not that violence which \'the kingdom of heaven suffers," when it is taken by force. These opposers, however correct they might be in their profession, were possessed of a wrong spirit, and needed as real a reformation, as the earliest disciples of our Lord did,