Imágenes de páginas

of the next world, just as sense does generation, and I would turn your with the visible things of the present thoughts not so much to the doctrine world; but still the result of the en- itself, as to that proof of a man's being quiry must be, in a great degree, vague regenerate, which is contained in the and uncertain—we have been treading, saying of Christ to the Jewish Ruler I might almost say, on air—we have Nicodemus, “ If a man be not born abandoned altogether the sphere of again, he cannot see the kingdom of sight, and may be said to have thrown God”-if, therefore, he can see the ourselves into the region of faith before kingdom of God he is born again ; and we have shown that such a region thus, the text becomes precisely mouldexisted. The converse proof is, in ed into that shape which, as I have practice, the satisfactory proof-the shown you, is best adapted for appliworks of love proving that there must cation to enquiries into personal relibe faith, not faith proving that there gion, evidence which is deduced from should be the works of love.

an effect being appealed to in the proof Now I have passed almost unne- of the existence of a cause. cessarily from regeneration to justifi- But before I can expect you to make cation, but our argument holds equally application of a proof, it is necessary good, whichever of these spiritual ope- you should be satisfied of the validity rations be brought under review. The of that proof; and I think that under regenerate man is, in fact, the justified God's blessing, by opening before you man; and if we call to mind the ag- in some detail, the truth that an unsertion of St. Paul in writing to the generate man cannot see the kingdom Romans, “for with the heart man of God, I shall have made it easy, for believeth unto righteousness, and with each amongst you, to decide whether the mouth confession is made unto he himself hath been born again, by salvation,” we shall be ready to concur examining whether he is or is not able with the words of the martyred Bishop to see the kingdom of God. By the Hooper, who says, "that as there can expression, “the kingdom of God,” be no fire without heat, so neither can we are warranted in understanding, there be the faith of Christ in the heart not merely heaven in which God without the confession of Christ with reigns with an immediate and majestic the mouth ;” and if the inward prin- presence, but the whole of the Gospel ciple be thus invariably manifested by dispensation, which is emphatically the outward demeanour, then it must the setting up of God's dominion upon be most agreeable to the capacities of earth. It will readily occur to the our nature that we should gather our minds of most whom I address, that a evidences from solid and tangible ma- considerable number of our Saviour's terial, rather than from that which is parables are introduced by an expresinvisible and impalpable.

sion nearly synonymous with the one Now I desire to follow this method employed in our text, and that it is the of investigation in discoursing to you kingdom of heaven which Christ likens on the text,

Except a man be born unto a variety of the objects presented again, he cannot see the kingdom of in the natural creation. It is univerGod.” I wish to lay the especial em- sally conceded that, by the kingdom of phasis on the assertion," he cannot heaven, we must in such cases under, see"-the Greek is still more decisive, stand that spiritual empire which the "he is not able to see the kingdom of Redeemer came to establish amongst God."

I assume your familiar ac- men ; and the analogy seems to requaintance with the doctrine of require that we should allot the like sig.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]



nification to that kingdom of God, we have been accustomed to adhere; which is invisible to the eye of him and an eternity of woe following the who is still in an unregenerate estate. indulgence of an unclean thought, just

I suppose, then, the phrase to de- as the commission of flagrant iniquity, note the whole of that Gospel of re. this would seem so diametrically at conciliation, which lays open an ample variance with all those notions of equity provision for the rescue of man from which are implanted in us by our very the ruins of the fall, and for his final nature, that revelation might be proadmission into that glorious abode, nounced contradictory to reason, and which, in a peculiar sense, is the king- thus all its claims to divinity at once dom of God; and when it is affirmed be falsified. that an unregenerate man cannot see And here, I say, is a difficulty this kingdom, I understand the mean- which the unregenerate heart is uning to be, that until we are born again, able to master ; I admit that it is poswe are incapable of estimating the Gos- sible to introduce into the discussion pel, either in respect of the condition a kind of philosophical apparatusfrom which it rescues us, or the blessed- you may set before the view the Al. ness into which it admits us. Such are mighty as a Being infinite in all his the two topics on which I shall study attributes, and you may then exhibit separately to enlarge ;-The Gospel sin, even the tiniest and most insigni.

ficant, according to our apprehensions, MAN, FIRST, AS TO THE CONDITION as clashing with every point of this FROM which IT REDEEMS us-and, unbounded expansion, and as, thereSECONDLY, AS TO THE HEAVEN INTO fore, multiplying itself by this colli.

sion with eternal perfections into a Now I know not that there is any vast mass of bold insult and despite ; subject of enquiry more perplexing to you might, in other words, pronounce those who have not been acted on by sin (and the verdict would certainly the renewing influences of Almighty be most accurate), to be an offence grace, than that which deals with the against a whole series of infinite proenormity of sin as committed by man perties, and deriving, from the extent against his Maker. We are accus- of the surface over which it throws tomed to look for some just and settled injury, an enormity which, considered proportion between crime and punish- abstractedly in itself, it might not ment, and, gathering our notions from

seem to have possessed. But such the established principles of human metaphysical disquisition will scarcely judicature, we look upon guilt as dif- be tolerated in a religious inquiry ; fering in degrees, which are to be and if men are not to learn the evil of marked by corresponding degrees in sin until they gather it from an abstruse the penalties which it incurs. And logic, they will live and die in their without question the principle is a ignorance, not so much because the sound principle, inasmuch as the of- subject admits not of rational demonfences of man against man are marked stration, but rather because the least by a great variety of relative enormity, attention to it presupposes a spiritual and whilst some may be dealt with conversion. And with every concesleniently, others demand the very ex- sion that the enormity of human treme of penal severity. But when guilt is susceptible of a philosophical we turn to the Scriptural accounts of proof, a proof consequently which sin as committed against the Creator, might commend itself even to a carnal then there appears to be a complete understanding, I may yet contend that renouncement of the principle to which the justest estimate of sin is not a theoretical estimate, but a practical esti- | liever than just a religious education, mate; and that the cross of the Saviour or an enlistment under the banners of is virtually the only standard by which a human party, or an expertness in we can judge the guilt of the sinner. quoting and applying the terms and

If it be asked, how can you mea- phrases of an evangelical vocabulary, sure, how can you delineate that fear- why then you might go round pew ful disruption which has severed the by pew in the crowded arena of a sinful and erring world, on which professing congregation, and write we dwell, from the obedient ranks of down the vame of almost every indian unfallen creation, how can you set vidual in the listening mass, as of a forth that total alienation which trans- being who well knew the enormity of gression has introduced between the transgression against the Lord. But creature and the Creator ? then I sim- | the historical acquaintance is not ply speak to you of the enormous enough,-and the verbal familiarity is machinery which was needful in order not enough; the obedience of Christ, to bring back the wandering planet the passion of Christ, the crucifixion, into the galaxy of heavenly favour-I the burial, the resurrection of Christ, dwell only on the mightiness of the an intellectual knowledge of those, a process by which the alienation was

mere mental and scientific dealing with overthrown, and the very extremes of salvation, oh, it is nothing better than intelligent being, a righteous God, and the showy pomp of a baby's pageant, a fallen man, were brought into har- and just places its possessor on the monious union, and thus I would pre- level with the fireside student of milisume man's degradation by Christ's tary tactics, every thing as a describer humiliation, and use no plumb-line of a warrior's evolutions, nothing as with which to fathom the abyss of an achiever of a warrior's exploits. human corruption, save the golden If a man have been taught to gaze on chain of mercy, which was let down Christ with mingled awe and amazefrom heaven at the Redeemer's incar

ment and agony, to read in his every nation.

pang the bitter wrath of the Almighty And now, brethren, if I carry with against sin, to discover in the mysteme your acquiescence to this statement, rious and fearful woe which poured that the heniousness of sin can only itself over his spotless soul, the rushbe known from an accurate acquaint- | ings of that tremendous deluge which ance with the mediatorial offices of human transgression hath let loose Christ, then you at once agree to the upon creation, why then truly, he shutting out from such knowledge all knows something of a crucified Rethose who have not been born by the deemer, and something consequently Spirit which is from above. Oh, if of the immensities of sin ; but I it were enough to possess a familiar maintain, that such a contemplation historical acquaintance with Redemp- was never produced, by the keenest tion, to know the mission and the exercise of mere natural . faculties. deeds of Christ just as a school-boy All men, by their unassisted vision, does the exploits of Cæsar-if it were can see Christ dying—no man withenough to have perused the written out the aid of a spiritual telescope can record, and to have mastered syste- see Christ dying for him ; he will tell matically the arrangements of the you that it is for sin Christ dies, but scheme which the Bible developes—if he does not feel that it is for sin Christ there were nothing more required to dies; and not feeling it, he does not constitute a sincere and steadfast be- see it; if he saw it, he would be aghast and shrink and grow suddenly per-| accounted strange and inexplicable. turbed, for he would see his own con- What can be seen of the atonement demnation beneath the holy and vio- until we see sin as deserving an infilated law of his Maker. Whereas he nite penalty? What can be seen of imsees the cross only as he might see a puted righteousness until we see ourpillar set up on some distant mountain; selves so depraved by the fall, that we there may be an inscription on this can present to God no obedience of our pillar, a direction, a threatening, a own? What can be seen of the sancti. warning; but his naked eye conveys fying influences of faith, influences to him no notices save of a tall monu- which supply unto their possessors all ment resting, as it were, against the the place of an extended code of moral blue heavens ; and unless he be fur- enactments, until we see the utter nished with some instrument from the vileness of the estate from which Christ optician's manufactory, he will remain rescues, and the magnitude of the obli. as utterly ignorant of the engraving as gation which binds us to him with all if he had never beheld the pillar. And the bonds of a most loving devotion ? this lack of a magnifying glass is pre- I am persuaded, that the more you cisely the deficiency which in spiritual search into the causes of that repugthings is supplied by regeneration ; the nance which is manifested by carnal Spirit places nothing new on the cross men towards the humbling but gloof Christ, but it helps the sinner to rious doctrines of the Gospel, the more discern what is there already; it will you find that an erroneous estistrengthens his vision, or rather gives mate of the heinousness of sin is at him fresh organs, so that he can de. the root of all this virulent opposition. cypher the inscription, and thus it What are all the denials of free grace, comes to pass, that “Except a man of God's electing to himself a believe be born again he cannot see the king- ing rempant-of the sufficiency of faith dom of God."

-of man's need of supernatural assistNow, brethren, I have thus discours- ance-what, I say, are the denials of ed to you on the knowledge of sin, these doctrines, doctrines which may just as though our whole acquaintance be called the very life's-blood of Chriswith the Gospel, so far at least as our tianity, save just so many natural and present condition is concerned, were necessary results of an ignorance of resolvable into this knowledge of sin; the poisonous and pestilential characand, in real truth, although a know- ter of sin ? In proportion as man ledge of the Gospel comprehends a thinks lightly of sin, he thinks well of vast variety of departments, yet a himself; and in proportion as he thinks knowledge of sin is, as it were, the well of himself, he presumes on his passport which admits us into the se- own capacities; and so long as there crets of the kingdom. Until there be is a conceit of human ability, there a knowledge of the disease, it is not will be a correspondent contempt of possible there should be any know- Divine interference. Hence it were ledge of the remedy ; and the scheme certainly lawful to affirm, that the of salvation adapts itself with such knowledge of sin is the very eye-glass nice and accurate precision to the pe- in the spiritual telescope-take it away, culiar circumstances of fallen beings, and the whole field of view becomes that unless there be a due apprecia- dim and misty and confused-insert it, tion of these circumstances, there is and all the magnificient forms of mercy much in the scheme which must ap- and victory and deliverance walk bril. pear useless, and much which will be liantly before us in their native stature,

[ocr errors]





and man looks upon the Gospel just as even when thus taken, it is true in the an astronomer on the milky way in present life just as well as in the next, the firmament, so that where he had that “ Except a man be born again, he discerned nothing but a general bright cannot see the kingdom of God.” If he ness, he finds separate stars, each il- be not regenerate, he will have no relustrious in its splendours. And all I lish for such a heaven as is described ask of you is, whether, since it is im- to us in the Bible; he will not see, he possible that the Gospel be seen unless will not discern, any thing of heaven, the evil of sin is known, and this evil of any thing of joy, any thing of rapture, sin cannot be known, as I have explained any thing of deep and lovely tranto you, except by the regenerate, is it quillity, in those sketches and por. not a most just assertion, an assertion traitures of Paradise which are scatthat may be vindicated in its literal and tered up and down in the pages of ingrammatical acceptation, that “Ex- spiration; and thus it will be true, cept a man be born again he cannot that he cannot see the kingdom of God, see the kingdom of God?"

inasmuch as he cannot see aught of But I dismiss the first head of dis- gladdening and gorgeous dominion in course as sufficiently considered, and I those descriptions of the saint's empire turn now your attention to the Second, which have been put forth by Deity. which proposes to enlarge on the Gos- Now I shall study to follow out this pel as invisible to the unregenerate topic in some few of its details, my man, in respect of THE FINAL BLESSED- first enquiry being, whether any of INTO WHICH

those theorists, who have arisen The idea most naturally suggested amongst men, were ever able to conto the mind by the expression, “The ceive or express in what true happikingdom of God,” is that of the

ness consists? There has been much rich and beautiful home which, ho- | written, and much prated concerning noured by the especial presence of the that which philosophers are wont to Most High, is fashioned and prepared call the chief good; but oh, it were for the residence of justified spirits ; enough to cloud with melancholy the and when mention is made of our see- spirit of man, in his most joyous moing this kingdom, or of our entering ments, just to remember in what a into this kingdom, then the mind al- hopeless and heart-sickening pursuit most unavoidably turns to that future of painted shadows they have involved reception into the celestial abode, which themselves, by whom any of these awaits the faithful followers of the academical treatises have been adopted Lamb. I do not argue that this idea is as manuals, and who have followed a in any sense erroneous, but I argue that polished moral essayist as their guide it is much too straitened and confined. in searching after solid enjoyment. Heaven is a scene, the full enjoyment of There is a void in man which inconwhich is future, but foretastes of which testibly proves that something has been are allotted us during our present pil-wrenched away which belonged to him grimage ; and hence, though it can- in the days of his young creation; and not be gazed on in all the realities of into this void you may empty the gold its shining circuits, it may still be seen and the silver of earth, and the honours through the radiant vistas of a sunny of distinction, and the pleasures of voprospective. I am ready, therefore, to luptuousness, and the more precious take this expression, “The kingdom of stores of intellectual wealth and virtuGod,” in its most common significa- ous endeavour, and the effect is the tion ; but I would also maintain, that same as though a child had thrown

« AnteriorContinuar »