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Again, therefore, and finally, our subject shows us THE GUILT AND FOLLY OF BREAKING THIS LAW OF GOD, AND OF REJECTING Christ's ATONEMENT.
To break the Rule of Conduct ordained of God for moral beings involves guilt, not merely because that is established upon God's appointment, and we are bound to obey Him, but because its principles are right in themselves, and right immutably; and their perfect development, in the conduct and character, is the indispensable condition of the well-being of the universe. To violate these, therefore, is to strike a blow at the centre and source of all wellbeing; "to jar 'gainst nature's chime ;” and to send abroad, through all the circle of its effects, discord instead of order, confusion and chaos instead of beauty. Against an act like this, the Conscience remonstrates the more emphatically as it is educated more thoroughly. Over it angels, seeing its nature, and following out in part its influences, must mourn and weep. And God Himself, comprehending it fully, and seeing in his omniscience its furthest issues, must infinitely abhor it.
And it is perilous, as well as guilty ; perilous to a degree that makes its intelligent commission, by a spiritual being, seem little short of atheism or of insanity. For the Law which is here broken, is not only the most permanent, but in itself the principal and highest law, the Ground Law, so to speak, of the whole universe; the law, to which all others are subordinate; the maintenance of which is God's first purpose, and whose full execution is just as certain as His omnipotence. We plunge the hand into the flame, and it will burn us. We step from off the precipice, and we are crushed in the descent. We take into our system the deadly poison, and life itself is burned up by it. But in the Law of God, distinctively so called,—in that great moral law of which the Saviour spoke, which now pervades the system, which shall outlast it,—there is a deeper reality, a higher certainty, than in any of these; yes, than in all combined! The natural law may be suspended ; the moral, cannot. A miracle might snatch us, conceivably, from physical destruction ; but miracles, themselves, shall only sustain, illustrate, and enforce the Law of God. When we break this, therefore-aside from Christ, and His redemption—we make our own destruction certain. We call against us that whole collected might, that built the Universe to be the scene of its supremacy. And there is nothing else so certain, as that, for that transgression, we shall be punished; and all the Penalty of the Law be visited on us. In Christ, then, is our only hope! He is the one, the sole Deliverer! For Law, as such, knows no release; and God, as governor, can be but its executive; there is no other atonement but that of Christ ; and “heaven and earth shall pass, before one tittle of the law shall fail.",
Oh, then, shall we neglect the Saviour ? Because we do not see the Law in actual operation, shall we esteem it null ? Because it
is restrained for a time in execution, by God's gracious decree, and does not catch us upon the instant in its tremendous grasp, shall we flatter ourselves that it is all Advice ? that as a Law, it will not be enforced ? that it has passed away, perhaps, already ? and we, though setting ourselves unflinchingly against it, are in no danger? in need of no Redemption ? From such insanity, my friends, may God deliver us! And while he shows us the Law, its permanence and supremacy; and while he shows us Christ, the Saviour before the Law for all who trust him-may we give up our pride ; be swetly led unto the Lamb of God; accept him as our Redeemer, and thus be JUSTIFIED through Him; robed in the righteousness of Faith; made subject to the Law, and the recipients of its promise ; and fitted, when Heaven and Earth have passed away, and all the Material System has crumbled as a vesture, still to exult in our obedience, and still to triumph in its dominion !
RESPONSIBILITY OF ENJOYING THE CHRISTAIN MINISTRY.*
BY REV. GARDINER SPRING, D.D.,
PASTOR OF THE BRICK PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, NEW YORK.
It is not easy to estimate the debt of gratitude which those portions of the earth owe to the distinguishing goodness of God, who enjoy the stated ministrations of his word. The Christian ministry is among the selectest blessings which can be enjoyed by men ; one of the most important elements of individual, social, and national prosperity. It is the institution which, above all others, makes Christian lands what they are, girds them with a zone of light, and sheds upon them the balmy influences of heavenly mercy.
“What nation,” said Moses to ancient Israel, " is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous, as all this law which I set before you this day ?" This was the pre-eminence of the Hebrew state; they were a better instructed and better governed people, a holier and happier people, than any of the surrounding nations. The God of Abraham was a “glory in the midst of them, and a wall of fire round about them.” There he set his “tabernacle for a shadow in the day-time from the heat, and for a covert from storm and from rain.” Speaking of the restoration of that backsliding and chastised people, after days of darkness and rebuke, God himself says to them, “ Turn, O backsliding Israel, for I am married unto you; and I will take you one of a city and two of a family, and I will bring you unto Zion. And I will give you" -what is the gift that the greatest of all givers will give to his restored and re-espoused people ?_“I will give you Pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” The Psalmist, in speaking of them, says, “ Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” If this pre-eminence was enjoyed by the Jewish people, under a comparatively dark and shadowy dispensation, with how much stronger propriety does it belong to Christian lands, enjoying, as they do, so much clearer light, and that “better covenant, founded upon better promises ?”
This is not a subject on which the Scriptures speak in doubtful
* Transferred, by permission of the publishers, from the “ Power of the Pulpit."
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or unemphatic language. They tell us of the gifts of God to men; above all others do they magnify his “unspeakable gift,” the gift of his only and well-beloved Son. They speak, too, of the gifts which his Son bestows, as the rewarded and rewarding Mediator; gifts which he purchased by his death, and of which he is the honored dispenser. When he ascended up on high, “ he gave gifts to men," worthy of his royal bounty, and such as he himself selected as the most fitting and striking expressions of his munificence on his first accession to his mediatorial throne. “He gave—some, Apostles; and some, Prophets; and some, Evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.”
These are the gifts he bestows on us. The “lines have fallen to us in pleasant places, and we have a goodly heritage.”. We may glory in the vastness of our territory, and in the rapid growth of an enterprising population; we may survey with high and honest exultation the blessings of that civil and religious liberty which we have received from our fathers; but if we are not recreant to the trust committed to us, and feel as they felt, we shall prize the Christian ministry. Amid all the beautiful and varied scenery which delights our eye as we look over this broad land, we shall not overlook her ten thousand churches; and amid all our delighted exultation, we shall remember it is written, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
Privilege and obligation are but correlative terms. The greater the privilege, the greater the duty, and the greater the sin of leaving it unperformed. We ask more for the pulpit, than that it be provided with a pious and well-educated ministry; and we ask more for the ministry, than that it should receive an adequate pecuniary support, and be respected and encouraged. We claim for it a practical regard of the truths it inculcates, and the duties it enforces. We ask for it that character, those hopes, and those efforts which it was instituted to attain and advance.
The first great duty which the pulpit urges, is “repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." It holds up the simplicity of the method of salvation by a crucified Redeemer ;the simplicity of a spiritual faith in Jesus Christ, in opposition to that righteousness which is by the deeds of the law; the simplicity of Christian worship, in opposition to the tedious and complicated observances of all false religions. The just expression and proof of its power is found, when those who enjoy its dispensations cordially receive this system of truth and grace, and confide in that Saviour through whom they are delivered from the curse of the law; whose blood answers every charge, covers every sin, enforces every plea, and itself pleads with irresistible power. Here lies the first and great responsibility of those who are favored with a Christian ministry. Men do not truly meet any one of its claims until
this duty is performed. Their obedience to the Divine authority begins here; it is vain for them to think of anything like conformity to his will, so long'as they reject him whom God has sent, and refuse his instructions who comes to them with so many attestations of his divine mission. We call upon men, therefore, everywhere, to renounce their pretensions to self-righteousness, to feel their sin and condemnation,-to be sensible of their inability to save themselves to be conscious that they have no claims, no merit, and to throw themselves upon him who is the Author and Finisher of this great salvation. We call upon them to feel that for any good purpose they have nothing, and need all things ;to bow at his footstool, who is so holy that the heavens are not clean in his sight; and there where archangels bow, and devils tremble, to smite upon their breasts, and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”
Whence is it that men listen to the message brought to them by the Christian ministry, with not half the interest and eagerness with which they listen to a lecture on themes of mere secular inte. rest ? A lecture on astronomy, or history, or some important department in the arts; a mere play at the theatre, or song at the opera, or a paragraph from the press, telling of battles lost or won, and treaties ratified or rejected, holds them in silent thought and admiration. But the lessons of God's redeeming love; the song that was first rehearsed by angels on the plains of Bethlehem; the treaty of peace between heaven and earth, signed with the name of the ever-blessed and adorable Trinity, and sealed with the blood of the Lamb,—whose eye sparkles, whose bosom glows at messages like these ; and where are the voices that repeat these glad tidings ? Bold operations in business interest them; the aged gather up their wandering and rouse their torpid thoughts, and the young take fire at the doubtful enterprise ;-but tell them of durable riches and righteousness, of heavenly gems and diadems brighter than Gabriel wears, and they make light of it; it is tame-to listen to it is a task.
What miserable,—what guilty delusion is this! I look around me, and see men following their different secular pursuits with all the ardor and zeal they are capable of exercising. Difficulty and dangers do not discourage them, but rather give energy to their efforts; they are not phantoms and trifles that they are pursuing, but realities. But there is one thing about them all which they have forgotten, and that is, their uncertainty. They “know not what shall be on the morrow.” They are eagerly grasping the “greatest, the most slippery uncertainties.” This is a remarkable fact in the history of man. There is but one certain event in all his future course. Be he high or low, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, happy or miserable, young or old, the friend of God, or his enemy; there is not one among all the millions of our race, who can, with certainty, anticipate any other event in his future history,