« AnteriorContinuar »
While it is true that an incidental activity of opposition is a more hopeful sign in the recovery of the soul, than downright insensibility, just as spasms and acute pain are better than paralysis and coma, yet no man has a right to provoke hostility, and excite prejudice of settled purpose and plan. We have no right to heap up stumbling-blocks; rather should we remove them, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. It is an ingenious art of the devil to push a man on in an opinionated, self-willed, cast-iron, imprudent, and headstrong way, and then misname this Christian fidelity. Better is it to be studious of occasions. Speak a word in season. Be fruitful in expedients. Be expert in means, that by all you may save some. If the desire and motive at the heart be right, the means will not be wanting. Now it will be an interview on purpose ; now an incidental word; now a visit of consolation in an hour of affliction; and now the loan of a book, or the mission of a letter. Watch for souls; so fowlers seek their prey, and good agencies must counteract the bad.
In short, an active desire to save men makes us catholic and prudent. And by being catholic, in this connection, is not meant a blind, unthinking charity, which dissolves away into vapory nothingness; and by prudence we intend something very different from that which the world designates by the word, in whose nomenclature it passes for an adroit avoidance of all offence to our own injury. When we say that the desire and endeavor to save lost men makes us catholic and prudent, we mean just what is implied in the conduct of the Apostle as here exhibited; a carelessness about all unimportant differences, provided that the main thing may be gained ; and the seeking of the best ends by the best means.
We must now add, and that emphatically, that there is little hope of hitting this line of discrimination, unless the heart is first possessed of the right view of man's lost condition, and prompted by the irrepressible desire to secure his salvation. If this be wanting, .. one is as sure to fall into worldly conformity as waters to flow : downward.
If you would learn to please,
Do what others do with ease, is the compendious direction of worldly and fashionable life : and this that the world may be pleased with you. Jesus Christ has said to all His disciples, Be not conformed to this world--in the sense of being converted over to the world—but seek, by all means, to convert the world over to Christ. Be consistent. Be manly. Be earnest. Yield what you may, when yielding will save. Be firm as a rock where you must, that ihereby you may gain the more.
If our hearts were only burning with love for Christ, and the souls He has died to save, we should not need so many discrimina
tions ; nor should we be left to wander and sink in the bogs and swamps of doubtful and debatable questions, which make up so much of the supposed neutral space between Christian consistency and worldly conformity.
May the Spirit of all grace and life enlighten our eyes, and move our hearts to a just apprehension of human guilt and peril, and to all forms and expressions of fidelity, that by all means we may save some!
THE SEA GIVING UP ITS DEAD.
BY REV. WILLIAM R. WILLIAMS, D. D.
PASTOR OF THE BAPTIST CHURCH, AMITY STREET, NEW YORK.
" And the sea gave up the dead which were in it."-Rev. xx. 13.
The resurrection was a favorite theme with the apostles. The fact of Christ's having risen, was with them the crowning miracle of his earthly course, and an irrefragable argument of his divine mission. The resurrection of all mankind by Christ's power, to be judged at Christ's bar, was one of the truths upon which the first ministers of the gospel sought to turn the eyes of all their hearers. Peter preached this doctrine to the scribes of Jerusalem, and Paul proclaimed it amid the philosophers of Athens. And what thoughts struggle within us, as we look forward to such a change! These corruptible bodies shall stand again in the closest companionship with the souls that once inhabited them that at death deserted them, but which now have resumed them. According to the deeds done in the body, men are to be judged. The term of probation closed when the spirit quitted the body, and dropped it into the grave. The time of judgment begins when that grave is opened and that body reanimated, "that every one may receive the things done in his body.”* We are prone, perhaps, to think too much of these perishable tabernacles of clay. But we do not, my beloved hearers, think enough of them, unless we think of them often and vividly, as bodies that are one day to rise again from the dead, endued with an indestructible existence, and capacitated for the endless bliss of heaven, or the eternal misery of hell.
I. This great doctrine, the resurrection of the body, seems yet better fitted than the kindred truth of the immortality of the soul, to make a powerful impression on the mind of man, when receiving the gospel for the first time. The heathen may have heard of the existence after death of the immaterial spirit within him ; but he thinks of that principle as something impalpable and unearthly, that he has never yet seen, and that is scarce the same with
* 2 Cor. V. 10.
out heistence el for the pression th of them of the
himself. He may have heard even that after death he should still have a body. He may have been taught, as many an idolatrous creed teaches its votaries, that the soul shall pass after death into other bodies of the higher or the lower orders of being. But this doctrine of the transmigration of souls cannot take the same hold on his mind as does the scriptural truth, teaching him the resurrection of the existing body. The thoughts of the man, his fears, his hopes, and his plans, have had reference chiefly to the body. Bring him to look upon it as possible, that this the material framework in which he has enjoyed or suffered, by which he has labored and acquired, which he has clothed and fed, and in which he has sinned this body, which, in most of his thoughts, has been regarded as the whole of himself—is to live again beyond the grave, and he is startled. Talk to him of the inward man of the soul, and he listens, as if you spoke of a stranger. But bring your statements home to the outward man of his body, and he feels that it is he himself, who is to be happy or to be wretched in that eternity of which you tell him. Hence a living missionary, in his first religious instructions to the king of a heathen tribe in South Africa, found him indifferent and callous to all his statements of the gospel, until this truth was announced. It aroused in the barbarian chief the wildest emotions, and excited an undisguised alarm. He had been a warrior, and had lifted up his spear against multitudes slain in battle. He asked, in amazement, if these his foes should all live. And the assurance that they should arise, filled him with perplexity and dismay, such as he could not conceal. He could not abide the thought. A long-slumbering conscience had been pierced through all its coverings. Well do such incidents illustrate the fact, that He who gave the gospel knew what was in man, and infused into the leaven of his own word those elements that are mightiest to work upon all the powers of man's soul, and to penetrate with their influence the whole mass of human society. And' in our announcement of that gospel, we do well to adhere to the scriptural pattern given us by the Author of the gospel. Many of the other doctrines of Christianity are almost insensibly modi. fied, in our mode of presenting them, by the natural religion which intimates, if it does not establish, these or similar truths. But the doctrine of the resurrection of the body is not a doctrine of natural religion. It is purely a doctrine of revelation, and becomes known to us merely from the living oracles of Scripture. And as man's reason did not discover it, it is not for man's reason to alter or amend the doctrine according to his caprices and prejudices.
In what glorious and terrific imagery does the Scripture before us array the scenes of the resurrection. In the heavens, thronged by angels in all their glory, is seen the descending throne. Upon it, in his own and his Father's glory, sits the Son of Man, the crucified Nazarene, now the judge of quick and dead. Before him the material heavens are rolled together as a scroll, and the elements melt with fervent heat. The creation cannot abide the dread presence of its Creator, “from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away;" and yet they cannot escape it: "and there was found no place for them.” His bare word had accomplished the miracle of creation, and now, by a kindred act of power, his mere glance shakes the world, and awes it into preparation for the judgment. The old heathen talked of their cloud-compelling Jove," whose eye gathered all the storms of the skies. But how mean is all this to the scriptural imagery of a world-compelling Christ. The trumpet sounds. The earth shakes with inward commotions. Its dead-its ancient dead-all the buried of forgotten tribes, and of antediluvian times, are coming ; more numerous than the hosts ever mustered by earthly captain to the battle, yet all their numbers infuse into them no courage in meeting their judge. They have no thought of resisting his power. Whatever the gods in whom they trusted once, they feel now the presence, and await the fiat of the one true God, Maker and Judge of heaven and earth. The patriarchs, who lived when the world was young, and the coming generations to be born long after our death, who shall have lived when that world had grown old, shall, with us, stand before the judgment-seat. From this tribunal there lies no appeal, and of the sentence now to be uttered there can be no reversal, and no revision.
It will be a scene of solemn interest, not only as the meeting of man with his Redeemer and Judge, but from the meeting of mankind together. The scriptural accounts of the judgment represent it as an occasion when we shall know ourselves at least. From their descriptions of that day, as a day of disclosures, when the secrets of all hearts shall be made manifest, they seem also to imply that we shall know others, and be known by them. Without our consciousness of our own identity, there could evidently be no sense of guilt; and without our knowledge of the identity of our fellow-sinners, it seems to us, there could be no disclosures, such as the Bible predicts. Man then, in that gathering, will not only know himself, and know his God, but he will know his race. And this, to the sinner, will add inconceivably to the terrors of that assembling. The ungodly will meet there the righteous, who warned him in vain, and all whose warnings are about to be verified. Long-forgotten emotions, and privileges undervalued and misimproved, will flash upon the memory, as the eye glances on the face of some dead friend, with whom those feelings and opportunities were associated. The unconverted child of the Sabbath schools shall face his faithful teacher; and parents and children, pastors and people, all the connections which death had for a time sundered, shall there recognize each other. It will be to some a fearful meeting, as they encounter there for the first time those whose death they had occasioned. The murderer will confront