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them as reprobate and wilfully lost, their doom will be fixed and cannot be changed—cannot be lessened—a doom so black and wretched, that light and hope can never dawn upon it.
I have but a moment in which to put a question or two upon this matter to some souls in this congregation who have never followed Christ, and therefore cannot have an interest in his atonement and intercession. On reason you rely, by reason then for once you shall be judged. Say, what can weigh at all in the balance against eternal happiness? What can be any compensation for everlasting misery? If ye can bring nothing to set against these things, why do ye leap with your eyes open, for your boast is the march of light, down the precipice of certain irremediable destruction? Why deliberately prepare yourselves for the worm that dieth not, the fire that shall not be quenched. What! is happiness bitter that ye so cordially hate and reject it? Is misery sweet, that ye so anxiously seek and court it? Care ye not whether ye live hereafter with those you love in Paradise, or are driven from them into the nether region? whether you rise again to see your pious friends in Abraham's bosom, or join your guilty companions in the furnace of wrath?
Alas, for you, if such be your choice! the warnings of ministers may be too late, and the stings of conscience itself in vain. But while we have a voice to proclaim your guilt, and breath to admonish you of your ruin, we will, as affectionately as boldly, entreat you to hold no longer such absurd opinions as you have hitherto done against your best, your dearest interests.
Quit, O quit, without a moment's hesitation, the maxims and habits, the fashions and follies of a world which lieth in wickedness; nor care what that busy, meddling, ill-judging world shall say or think of you. It is the fear of the world's opinion, the
world's censure which keeps so many souls out of the kingdom of heaven. But what of this? the world is not the friend of God, the world is not the friend of man. One other fatal truth lies at the door of every one, who loves the world better than he loves the Redeemer who came to save it. In this he denies the Son of God, and when he does, he has nothing to hope for beyond the grave, nothing to look forward to in heaven. Things present, and things to come, eternity and judgment, the Creator, the Saviour, the Comforter, are all against him. To what rock, then, shall he flee for safety, or in what mountain shall he shelter from wrath? Where is the friend that will plead his cause, when conscience rises up, or where the power which can make his peace, when the Omnipotent whets his sword?
O, if ye would know something of the misery, something of the fears of the unprepared sinner, when he is summoned away, visit him, where I have seen him, upon the bed of sickness and of death: and only stay to hear him curse the follies which have brought him to that state of mourning and of woe. Listen to his confession, when truth can gain an hearing at last. If, O my soul, even in this life, my punishment is too heavy for me to bear, what will it become in the next. Ah! when a few moments more are past, all my projects, my hopes, my dreams of this poor passing world will be gone. But not so the things of eternity—not so the concerns of my precious soul. They are all lost, and I have found nothing in their stead. I would give ten thousand worlds if I had them, for one year to repent, one hour to make my peace. But it cannot be. Lord Jesus have mercy on me, and when I come to the place of torment. O! grant me one drop of water to cool my tongue, one ray of hope to still my anguish. But I must hasten to a close. And
now behold once more a brighter, happier scene, in which you yourselves, if you confess Christ, and live with him, and die with him, may be the principal actors.—Behold the last moments of a dying disciple, who, having served his Saviour and suffered in his cause, looks forward to a blissful immortality. He serenely shuts his eyes upon this earth, and calmly meets eternity. And wherefore? because death, which is so terrible to the wicked, is to him a messenger of peace. The more he thinks of dying, the less he fears it. It does not announce to his conscience chains and darkness, but deliverance and freedom. It calls him from a life of sorrow and trials to a better and more perfect life—where pain and grief are strangers, a life replete with gladness and with glory. Why should the Christian regret to make a change so much to his advantage? Why hesitate to follow a Saviour's call to rest and honour? Why linger to pass over Jordan, when the city of God is on the other side? No fear nor doubt disturbs his breast, forevery reflection is peaceful, and every prospect is joyous. He is already on the threshold of heaven: the gates of the new Jerusalem are now opening before him. Therefore the nearer his end approaches, the more his countenance brightens, and his heart is cheered. And though he sometimes for a moment feels a wish to stay on earth with his attached family, yet he hastens to the place of his destination, and addresses his sorrowing friends with this consoling assurance. Weep not for me, nor wish to keep me from my Saviour, whose arms of mercy are open to receive me. I know your affection for me—I trust I have deserved it. And kind you are in thinking that my departure will be your loss. Forget not, however, that it will be my gain. Think not we shall long be separate. I
soon shall embrace you in another and a better life, if with piety and patience you serve yonr gracious God, and trust in your adorable Redeemer. Thas, full of hope, both lives and dies the believing Christian. He suffered with Christ, and therefore he knows that he shall reign with him.
Let me then conclude by exhorting you never more to prefer the hard bondage of sin to the easy yoke of virtue, nor risk, for the sake of all the world contains, the refined satisfactions and felicities of heaven. O ye that are created and redeemed to immortal life, animate yourselves to a generous and holy conduct. Set loose your hearts from all that is earthly, and fij them upon things above, where Christ is reigning at the right hand of God. Transport yourselves by frequent meditations into the realms of eternal day; there walk and talk with God, maintaining in all things a heavenly frame of mind, and regulating your whole behaviour by the hopes and interests of a future world. Shew to mankind that you are children of light, who look not so much at the things which are seen, as at the things which are not seen. Do honour to the religion which you profess by a steady and cheerful course of honourable and charitable deeds. And take fast hold on the hope of everlasting life, which God hath given you in his Son Jesus Christ.
O, this will support you in the fiercest trials—this will console you ia the heavest afflictions. It is a peace, a hope, a triumph, which will not leave you even in death; but will, after the strictest judgments attend you, fearless and rejoicing, into the kingdom of your Lord. In which blessed region of light and life, that we all may on* day meet together and be separated no more, may God of his infinite merer grant for the sake of Jesus Christ.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. T. DALE,
AT ST. SEPULCHRE'S CHURCH, MARCH 6, 1831.
Genesis, xlii. 28.—" Their heart Jailed fhem, and they were afraid, saying, What is this that God hath done unto us.»"
The influence of true religion is indirect as well as immediate, general as well as personal, in its operation. So far from being limited and confined to the man by whom it is felt and acknowledged, it extends, in a measure, to most, if not all of those with whom he is habitually conversant. How often, in the world around us, is a whole family observed to take its character and complexion from a single member, especially if he be the one whose peculiar relation assigns to him the highest place—the father, for example—or the master of the house. How does his very presence diffuse around, so to speak, an atmosphere of purity, in which even those of habitually corrupt minds and conversation do not venture, openly at least, to breathe anything calculated to defile. And how frequently may we suppose, nay, rather may it be said, how frequently do we know, are the spirit and example of such an individual found conducive, though perhaps at a late period, to the conviction and conversion of others. Many a Christian master of a family, it is more than probable, who has been himself brought by the grace of God to a saving knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and whose most diligent and zealous exertions have been subsequently directed to communicate the same benefit to the various members of his household, has laboured among them perhaps for years without producing any perceptible effect on a single individual—there is, to all ap
pearance, no pious child or servant to awaken a hope that his labour is not in vain in the Lord. But, perhaps, at the very time when he was beginning to despond, nay, when he might be almost tempted to despair, circumstances have occurred in the course of Divine Providence, which have tended to educe and elicit the latent seed— to awaken and enkindle [the dormant spark. Suffering, or sickness, or disappointment, seizes, it may be, upon that very individual of whom the fewest and faintest hopes were entertained, and it is proved that the work of grace was advancing in his heart when it was wholly unsuspected by others, and unknown in a great measure even to himself.
Instances of this kind are, at least, sufficiently numerous, I say not only to forbid despair, but to teach steadfastness in duty, if not to kindle and to cherish hope. And it is probable they would be greatly increased, if men could only be taught to seek for the workings of Divine Providence in what are called the common occurrences of life; and remembering that all things are of God, to ask themselves, whenever His guiding hand is made peculiarly visible in the bestowment or withdrawal, either of evil or of good, "What is this that God hath done to Di? What is the purpose for which we may presume that he has done it? What is the end which it is designed and adapted to produce?"
Though no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation, and consequently we are not only authorized, but required to draw from every passage such instruction as may suit the exigencies of our own peculiar case, we are yet to bear in mind that the word of God teaches by example as well as by precept. Thus St. Paul, when detailing the transgressions and the consequent sufferings of Israel in the wilderness, affirms "all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." Let us, therefore, follow up the Apostle's suggestion, by considering, not without earnest prayers for that guidance of the Holy Spirit, without which even his suggestions can lead to no permanently profitable result;
In the First Place, The ParticuLar APPLICATION Or OUR TEXT TO
The Sons Of Jacor. And Secondly,
ITS GENERAL APPLICATION TO CHRISTIANS, AND CONSEQUENTLY TO OURSELVES.
There is scarcely a character in the Old Testament in whom the influence of true religion is more gradually and progressively, we might indeed say, more slowly developed than in Jacob, the father of the persons by whom the question of our text was proposed. Himself the son of an amiable and indulgent—perhaps too indulgent father; and of a mother, whose subsequent conduct proves her notions of religion to have been the very reverse of consistent or correct, Jacob is first presented to us by the simple and candid narrative of Scripture (a simplicity and candour, be it observed, which speak more forcibly and satisfactorily in confirmation of its truth than a thousand arguments), under a very questionable, not to say culpable and censurable aspect. First, he meanly takes advantage of his brother's extreme necessity to seduce him into the sin and folly of parting with his birth
right. Then he combines with his mother to deceive the blind and aged father; so that Isaac, contrary to his intention and desire, may bestow on him the blessing designed for Esau. Even when the celestial Vision meets him on his flight, and he is assured of Jehovah's continued protection, a spirit which we may well term mercenary and sordid, enters even into his compact with God. And the means which he afterwards took to increase his own substance by impairing Laban's, however they might be provoked and palliated by the selfish and iniquitous conduct of his employer, can hardly be reconciled with the principles of integrity and consideration for our neighbour, that are inculcated throughout the whole of Scripture. As a husband, he was unduly and undeservedly partial; and when he had been appropriately punished for his fault, by the loss of his beloved Rachael, he seems to have transferred his inordinate and unreasonable preference to her children. Here, too, the chastisement, with which his fault was visited, whether considered as to its own nature, or as to those who were the instruments of its infliction, bare an exact and memorable relation to the fault itself. The child of his misjudging fondness was viewed with extreme, though not unfounded jealousy, by those who naturally felt themselves neglected and aggrieved; and, regardless of the deep wound which the loss of his beloved Joseph would inflict on their aged father, they sold their brother into Egypt — all, indeed, unconsciously working the secret will of God, but none the less criminal on that account: Jacob, equally to be censured for his undiscriminating partiality; his sons equally to be condemned for their cruelty to their brother, when "they saw the anguish of his soul, and he besought them and they would not hear."
Though, however, Jacob had, possibly, neglected to give his sons good precepts, and, certainly, had failed in setting them a good example, we are by no means to run into the opposite conclusion, and infer, that his precepts, or his example, were invariably, or even generally, the reverse of good. In him, as it has been already observed, the work of grace was progressive; and if he had not, even at the time of our text, become perfect, he was, doubtless, then pressing to the mark—drawing nearer to the standard—emulating more clearly the example of his father Abraham, from whom he inherited the promise. A severe blow had been struck to his overweening affection by the bereavement of Rachael; it had been renewed and repeated in the loss of Joseph; and the axe was, as it were, about to be laid to the root of his unjust predilections by his reluctant separation from Benjamin. Doubtless, however, though, in his first anguish, he exclaimed, " All these things are against me," he could afterwards say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; before I was afflicted I went astray, but no w I have kept thy word;" —and hence, probably, his instructions to his sons would become more spiritual in themselves, and would be more effectually seconded by example. Their hearts would thus become more susceptible; and being conscious that they had struck a dagger into the breast of their aged parent, the resignation, which he doubtless would continually express to the will of Jehovah, would be to them the severest reproach. Every allusion to the lost Joseph would awaken in them the anguish of bitter remorse, and dispose them to anticipate the anger of an offended God, for their sin against the ties of natural affection, and still more, against the fundamental laws of their divine Creator, of which they could not be ignorant. Each of them would feel like a
Cain, as if there was a mark upon his brow, at once the symbol of his guilt and the emblem of his punishment; and if their crime were hidden from all men, not excepting their indulgent father, they would know and feel that it could not be concealed from the heartsearching God." All things were naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom they had to do." He set their misdeeds before Him, their secret sins in the light of his countenance.
Hence, it appears, they were in perpetual expectation of some palpable and signal indication of the divine displeasure. As their crime had hitherto drawn down no appropriate penalty, (though they must have been aware that the sword of divine judgment was ever hanging over their heads) they were afraid of punishment where they had been guilty of no offence—whereever they walked, conscience proclaimed, "There is a lion in the path," and they feared lest he should spring upon them and rend them. In proof of this, it may be observed, nothing could be more harmless, natural, and unexceptionable, than their conduct on the present occasion. Here at least they had nothing with which to reproach themselves. Constrained by famine, and in obedience to their father's command, they had come into Egypt to buy food—they conducted themselves in that strange country inoffensively and like true men—they brought down sufficient of the simple coin of the age to pay for all that they could purchase; yet, with all their consciousness of innocence and integrity, no sooner does a slight impediment present itself in the stern and suspicious address of the Ruler, than their thoughts return to their brother. And when they were liberated and permitted to depart, no sooner do they discover the money, which they had paid for the corn, deposited in the mouth of the sack, than they recognise, at once, the super