« AnteriorContinuar »
approaches to the intemperate and the debauchee ; it is fearful in an almshouse or a jail ; it is terrific in the haunts of vice and the places of low dissipation. To an extent which has occurred in no other pestilence with which the nations have been visited, have the remarkable declarations of the ninety-first Psalm been verified in this disease: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noon-day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." This fearful visitation is a preacher of temperance in all things,-temperance in eating; temperance in drinking; temperance in the government of the passions; and it comes, at a remarkable juncture to confirm all the lessons which have been proclaimed by the temperance societies in this age. It is a preacher of righteousness, and confirms the doctrines of Christianity about the duty of subduing the soul, and keeping it calm in God : for a fit of anger, a state of high excitement, or the indulgence of any ungoverned passion, is among the things that expose to its ravages. All the precautions that have been found of service against it, accord entirely with the sternest lessons of morality and religion, and the conclusions to which its march through the world would appropriately lead men are just such as God inculcates by his law, and would produce by the fair influence of his gospel. Not thus distinctly has He commonly visited men; not thus distinct are the lessons taught by the tornado or the earthquake.
And here it is not improper to notice the comparative solicitude which is felt in regard to the evil which, as a nation, we this day pray may be removed, above a far more fearful and destructive plague that pervades our land. We all feel the propriety of the services of this day, and all respond cheerfully to the voice which as summoned us to this house of prayer. We bave been appalled by the evil that has come upon us. We trembled at its approach. We knew not which of our friends which of us—it was commissioned to cut down. We sought the means of warding off the scourge; guarded our ports; cleaned our cities; built hospitals ; sought the best medical aid ; removed the probable instigators of the plague; called upon God in our families, and in our regular public devotions, and now do it in a more set and solemn manner by this extraordinary day of devotion. Meantime there has been in our land- there is still-a scourge far more dreadful than this, about which the nation feels little alarm, and for which it has set apart no season of special prayer. This Asiatic scourge visited us seventeen years ago, and then departed. It cut down a few thousands, and then left us. It makes no one vicious; is connected on the part of no one with criminality. That more fearful scourge of which I speak is with us year by year. It never leaves us. It has spread all over the land. It demands some thirty thousand annual victims; many of them among the brightest men of the land. It fills our prisons; our almshouses ; our grave-yards. It makes widows, orphans, wretched homes, wretched graves the homes and the graves of drunkards. It is the parent of poverty, and disease, and crime, and death; and where this Asiatic scourge has demanded one victim, that has required and received more than ten. Yet the public is not alarmed. The voice of the magistrate does not summon us to the house of prayer on account of the evil; even the warning voice of the ministers of God is well-nigh silent in regard to it. How small an evil is this Asiatic scourge compared with intemperance ! Yet how differently are they treated and regarded! Against the one we use every precaution ; the other we sustain by laws, and invite and cherish by high example, and prevailing customs. Fountains of poison are opened on every highway, and at every corner of the street; and every art is resorted to, to induce the young, the vigorous, the talented, and the promising, to become the victims of the curse. Splendid houses are reared in public places; and the fascination is spread before our sons everywhere, and at all times; and no man can feel that his dearest friend is secure. On the Sabbath, and on every day and every night in the week, the allurement is spread around us; and while we are unconcerned, the curse is cutting down its thousands and its tens of thousands. Suppose the same course could be, and actually were pursued by any class of citizens in regard to this Asiatic cholera. I see a magnificent house erected in a central, and attractive, and much-thronged place in this city. I see it fitted up with every appliance of taste and art. I see it richly carpeted, and splendidly furnished. I see its doors open day and night-on the weekday and on the Sabbath, and always thronged. I see a multitude of young men there the pride and the hope of their families. I ask what this is; what it means ? Let it be told that it is a place where, for money, men are scattering this Asiatic cholera-where they are retailing that which will be certain to cut down victim after victim, and to spread this direful pestilence through the land. With what indignant feelings would such a place be regarded! How long would it be tolerated! And yet this would be a trifling evil--a curse not worth naming compared with the evils spread over the land by the dealers in alcoholic drinks. The numbers are not by far so many; the sufferings are less; the tears shed are fewer; the range of evils is infinitely more limited. This Asiatic cholera of itself produces no cursing; no crimes ; no poverty; no debasement of character; it breaks no heart of a parent over the profligacy of a child; it cuts no man off from communion with God, and sends no man to hell.
Yet in view of the scourge with which our land is visited, there is an obvious propriety that we should come before God in the manner in which we have done this day. It was meet that in view of the ravages of this destroyer, the Chief Magistrate of a Christian nation should summon the people to their places of worship to pray. It is God who has commissioned this scourge to go forth; Gud who directs its march; God who designates its victims; God who conceals the laws of its movements from us; and God who alone can remove it. He comes forth that we may recognize his hand in the affairs of nations; that He may teach men their dependence, and show them how fearful are the tokens of his wrath. By the same power by which He brought it upon us, He can continue it ; and with the same ease with which he has caused it to spread over the nations, he can cause it to retire. Dependent, then, as we are; sinful as we are; deserving of reproof as we are, it becomes us to approach Him this day with true repentance, and to pray that he will remove the scourge. It may, however, still linger-hanging over us, lest we too soon forget our sins and our repentings. . It may, it probably will, have other victims, before it departs. And in the manner of its departure, when it does go, it is commonly as marked and peculiar as it is in its approach. Here and there as it recedes, it suddenly strikes down its isolated victims, often selecting its most illustrious and its brightest victims as it retires from a land. As if not content with the numbers of the profligate and the intemperate that it has slain; as if dissatisfied that it has gone into the abodes of filth and poverty, as it has done, it selects here and there a victim higher in this world's estimation, and its last trophies are often among its most illustrious. Neither strength, nor beauty, nor piety can stand before it; and the bright and promising boy, the lovely maiden, the man of tried virtue, the pillar of the church, the support of the state, the self-denying and the skilful physician suddenly falls. Let us not, then, vaunt ourselves in any fancied security, as if we were exempt; but let us feel that, like a flash of lightning emitted from the departing storm, this fearful scourge may yet arrest any one of us, and summon us before our Judge. Happy they, and they only, who, whether they live through the
pestilence or die, have a well-founded hope of heaven in Christ Jesus; who, with a mind calm in God, and with a solid hope of future holiness and happiness, are at all times found ready for their change.
BY REV. C. WHITEHEAD,
THE DIGNITY AND HOPE OF THE CHRISTIAN.
“ Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is.”—1 JOHN, iii. 2.
Men of this world, deceived by the dazzling appendages of earthly greatness, behold not the real dignity of the child of God, nor appreciate the privileges that flow from so glorious a relation. ship. Hence the humble disciple of Jesus, though an heir to the upfading inheritance of heaven, is often regarded with indifference, and his professions of peace and joy are treated as the effusions of enthusiasm. “The world knoweth us not.”
This mere negative feeling is, however, the mildest form of that opposition which the unregenerate world cherishes towards those who are inspired by the hopes and governed by the principles of the gospel. Often it degenerates into pity, sometimes into contempt, and even into deep-rooted enmity. In the early ages of Christianity such was the hostility of its adversaries that it goaded them on to bitter persecution, and glutted itself in the groans and agonies of the expiring martyr.
The Saviour exhibits the moral turpitude of such feelings, by tracing them to their origin-an aversion to Himself,—" Marvel not if the world hate you ; ye know it hated me before it hated you.” The Apostle John discovers the same connection. Speaking of Christians sustaining to God the relationship of sons, he adds, “ therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew him not.”
But mark the contrast between the judgment of the world, misled by sin, and the judgment of the believer, directed by grace. That very relationship which men dispise, is the subject of his
exulting gratitude. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God !" Under the very trial of being thus lightly esteemed the apostle would fee for consolation to the cheering thought of his own present adoption and the glory growing out of it. As if he had said, Though we are obscure and unknown, though the world values not our religion, and the principles we profess expose us to disrepute, contumely or death; yet how great is our honor, how exalted our hopes ! “Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is.”—The passage leads us to consider,
I. The relation which the Christian sustains to God in this world. “Now are we the sons of God.” So are all men by creation and providence.
1. But Christians are the sons of God by a new, a spiritual birth, being born again from above. The Holy Spirit implants in them the principle of life; a principle powerful in its influence, universal in its control, and abiding-the germ of life eternal. Its operation commences with the first exercise of saving faith, by which the soul becomes united to an ever-living Redeemer : “ As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
They are made partakers of the Divine nature, not in its essence but in its gracious qualities. The disposition and excellencies of the blessed God are produced in his believing people by the Holy Ghost, who creates them after God in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. The clear discernment of spiritual things which belongs to God; his spotless purity, and perfect rectitude; and his truth, benevolence, and love, are, in a degree, the distinguishing characteristics of Christians, who thus like children bear the likeness of the Father. All the lovely features of the moral image of God are impressed on the newborn soul, and furnish the evidence of its adoption. But where these are wanting, it is in vain to claim the relationship of sons ; “for,” saith the apostle, “whosoever is born of God sinneth not." “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness, is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
2. Christians are also the sons of God by a special act of adoption. He has taken them from the family of strangers, yea of enemies, who had no claim upon his favor, and having brought them nigh by the blood of Christ, he has transferred them into the household of faith; and condescends to own them as his