Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the whole duty of man, and are all comprehended under the two heads of justice and temperance. In the observance of the one, we render to all their dues ; by the other, we are restrained from whatever may prove hurtful either to ourselves or to others. And these points, we are informed by our LORD, in the gospel, will be the subject matter of his righteous judgment. Hence, we learn, my hearers, that the great practical purpose of Christ's religion is, the restraint of our sinful, hurtful passions, and the improvement of our moral natures to the attainment of all goodness, righteousness, and truth. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men..

By this rule, then, let us try ourselves and prove our religion ; learning, by the example of Felix, that there can be no sure and lasting peace to the unjust and incontinent—that, sooner or later, our sins will find us out—that, however securely or secretly committed, however we may be able to stifle the voice of conscience, yet a day is coming when they will be openly exposed before an assembled universe. If a poor Heathen was constrained to tremble at the prospect of God's righteous judgment on the injustice and lewdness of his life, what alarms should seize their consciences, who, under the light of the gospel, perhaps with the profession of it in their mouths, not only do such things, but have pleasure in them that do them. By the circumstances which belong to this passage of Scripture, we are instructed, that however profitable the practice of fraud and iniquity may be—however high the chase of ambition may exalt us—however gratifying the indulgence of our sensual passions may be, yet a weight is suspended to such practices which acts with accumulating power in sinking such as follow the lusts of the flesh to the lowest grade of infamy. Reason and revelation alike condemn the unjust and sensual person; and the admonition of God's Holy Spirit is responded to by the verdict of conscience, in that state of tremour and alarm with which a sense of guilt, the fear of discovery even among their fellow creatures, with the more terrible apprehensions of a future judgment, haunt the fears of wicked men. From this preponderating weight there is no escape but by the surrender

of every hope which can cheer the valley and shadow of death by prospects beyond the grave. The voice of conscience may, indeed, be silenced by custom in sin, but it is not, therefore, dead. Awake it will, most commonly, even in this life, as we see exemplified in the case before us; but if not here, yet surely hereafter, when a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation shall consume the adversary, not only of God and his fellow creatures, but of his own soul.

The particular application of the subject, is, to the most universal sin of which mankind are guilty. Some excel in one species of wickedness and some in another ; but in slighting and stilling the secret voice of conscience, in rejecting the admonition of God's holy word, in opposing the co..victions of God's Holy Spirit, where is the person who is not, in some good degree, guilty before God, and at this moment conscious of having repeatedly said, if not in words, yet in conduct, Go thy way for this time ; when I have a more convenient season I will call for thee.

My fellow sinner, who art thus treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, let the example of poor Felix, and what little I have been enabled to say upon it, be a warning to thee for the time to come. I know thy mind is now busy, and a contest is going on within thee, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh--the pride of thy unhumbled heart against the guilt and folly of persisting in rebellion against God and nature, against the reason of thy own mind, the convictions of thy conscience, and the religion of the gospel. Oh ! let me now throw my mite into the scale of thy salvation, and, in the impressive words of my Redeemer, ask thee, What will it profit thee to gain the whole world and lose thy own soul? What will the gains of injustice, the enjoyments of sinful pleasure, the praise of men, or the applause of scoffers and mockers at religion do for thee in that day when God shall judge the secrets of men according to the gospel of Christ ? 0 let not the secret workings of thy heart this day, then, rise in judgment against thee, and another putting off to a more convenient season the many calls and invitations of God's HOLY SPIRIT

shut thee up, perhaps, in judicial blindness and hardness of heart. Make not a preached gospel the savour of death to thy soul by rejecting the truth which is according to godliness, but surrender thyself to that word which now whispers, This is the way, walk ye in it.

My Christian brethren, let us, too, take warning by the admonition given us in the case of Felix. Let us make conscience of what we profess. Remember, that unto whom much is given, of the same shall much be required. That not every one that saith to Christ, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. That to all workers of iniquity, to all unchaste and unclean persons, no matter how loud and zealous they may be in a profession of religion, he will say, I know you not, depart from me, ye cursed. Remember that the agreement of practice with profession constitutes the beauty of holiness; that we are bound to exercise ourselves continually to have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men. Therefore, my brethren, If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them. An approving conscience is the witness of God within us. Watch, therefore, for that testimony; and when, in the many trials of the present life, temptation may get the better of you, listen to the reproof conscience shall then bring with a ready mind, follow the direction it shall give, and let instant repentance and reparation be the convenient season to call for that help which God is ever ready to give to those who tremble at his word. Thus shall the kingdom of God be set up in your hearts, and righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, give you a foretaste of that blessedness which awaits the faithful at the right hand of God.

SERMON XXX.

A WARNING TO UNBELIEVERS.

Joun iii. 18, middle clause.

“But he that believeth not is condemned already."

The great purpose of revelation is, to discover to us mortals, those things which our senses can by no means compass, or of which we at best can have but a feeble and obscure perception. Though the visible things of God, the wonders of the material world, hourly declare his eternal power and godhead, and preseut him to us in all the splendour of his incommunicable attributes; though the daily and hourly mercies of his providence might teach us that lesson of love, gratitude, and thanksulness, which protection, support, and supply should bring home to our hearts; yet our own experience, to say nothing of the great record of human depravity, might instruct us that more is needed than the outward natural knowledge of God, to contribute to our present or future comfort. The things that may he known of God, from the contemplation of his works, though grand and impressive, are, nevertheless, oppressive and overcoming to our feeble and depraved faculties. So infinite is the distance between the glorious Creator, and the poor, finite, perishing creature, that it appears presumptuous in the extreme to venture upon such lofty meditations. Yet from the very constitution of our nature we are drawn to such contemplations whenever our nobler faculties are disengaged from the immediate contact of sensible things, the spirit within us seeks her kindred skies, and the active mind labours to draw aside the veil which shrouds the Eternal from our view. But, alas ! my friends, all is darkness and conjecture to our limited powers; and what is worse, all is overwhelming and comfortless to our labouring, anxious minds : clouds and darkness are round about him, so that man cannot search out the Almighty to perfection. What he can attain to independent of řevelation fills him with wonder, amazement, and fear; so that he is ready now, as on the first transgression, to hide himself from God—to make his escape from Him, in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being, by whose power he is protected and preserved, by whose mercy he is spared, by whose bounty his wants are supplied, and by whose compassionate love all his disability, ignorance, poverty, weakness, and sinfulness is provided for and removed.

Could this be so, my hearers, was every thing between God and our souls at peace and in harmony ? Could the contemplation of the only wise, infinitely good, and most merciful God fill our hearts with fear and dismay, were we not conscious of such a separation between him and us as can be removed by no human power ? Could our natural notions of that great and good Being who governs the universe be painful and oppressive, were it not that we feel that we are, every way, in every imagination and thought of our hearts, and in the whole practice of our lives, opposed to his righteous government, and unworthy of his regard ? Impossible, my brethren ; there must be a cause for every effect, and the same argument which is conclusive for the being of God, is equally strong in its application to the existence of sin, as the fatal cause of that enmity and opposition to him, which is manifested in the natural man. If, with the volume of nature spread out before us, we can perceive nothing of God but what binds us up in sullen subjection to his infinite power—if his eternal godhead, abstract from what is revealed, furnishes no channel of help, no comfort of hope, no offer of mercy to such creatures as we are, what do we not owe, my friends, to that revelation which so richly supplies our severest want, and so freely provides for our highest comfort, in the knowledge of God reconciling the world to himself by JESUS Christ, and in the discoveries made to us of our original, present, and future condition ? Here, and here only, can our anxious fears and restless conjectures find repose. And, however impiety may rave, or infidelity muster up her shattered arguments and powerless objections—however the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things

« AnteriorContinuar »