Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

as this, it is probable, would men have passed from earth to heaven had they never sinned. In some such way as this will those living at the lastday be qualified for glory. "Behold, says the Apostle, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Elijah died not, but he was changed. And in whatever way we pajs into heaven, a change analogous to death and the resurrection must pass upon us. The reason is obvious. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit iucorruption." Were the body removed with its present animal properties, it would require food and sleep and medicine even in heaven. The eye would be unequal to the splendour of the glory, the ear to the melody of the sounds, the taste to the exquisiteness of the joy, the powers to the constancy of the work. Our senses and organs are adapted to our present state, but not to our future condition. We now see how little we can bear. When an angel appeared to Daniel, he was instantly seized with a stupefaction which he could not resist When John in his exile saw Jesus, though he had been familiar with him, and had leaned on his bosom, he "fell at his feet as dead." And by the way, this regulates the dealings of God with his people, while they are in the body. Moses asked for a sight of God, which would have proved his death—" Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live." The disciples, in the mount of transfiguration, "fell asleep." It was not so much a moral, as a natural infirmity: the animal frame was overpowered with the glory of the scene. Were He to afford to his people such discoveries and communications as they may sometimes desire, it would unhinge them from earth, indispose them for the duties of their stations, and disorder their whole frame.

IV. We may regard it as A Mode Of TranSition Much To Be Desired. Death is not a pleasing subject of meditation. It is called "an enemy." It is said to be "the king of terrors." Even exclusive of the future consequences, there is much to render it formidable. Nature cannot be reconciled to its own dissolution. Who loves to be taken to pieces?

"The pains, the groans, the dying strife,
Fright our approaching souls away;
Still we shrink back again to life,
Fond of our prison and our clay."

Its forerunners and its attendants are dismaying. I have heard of a very good man, who often said he was not afraid of death, butof dying—he was chilled with the thought of corruption and worms. If we saw a viper, and knew that the poisonous fang was ex

tracted, and that it was perfectly harmle»»who could put it into his bosom without shuddering?

Let it be remembered, that such feelingi as these do not argue an inferior degree of religion. Even the apostles themselves were not strangers to these sensations. "Forin this, said they, we groan earnestly; desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. If so be that being clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we that are m this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, hut clothed upon, that mortality might be mllowed up of life." They wished to enter heaven without dying.—Sut to us this is impossible. To death as an inevitable doom we all look forward. It is the way, and the onlj way to the city of habitation.

Let us not however blaspheme death. l.et us rather see what there is to reconcile us to it Let us compare Elijah's mode of remoral with our own, and see whether the difference be so marvellously great

You have to die. But consider the names attached to death by him who perfectly knows the nature of it He tells us, "If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death"—it ought to be called something else—so qualified and softened is it with regard to him. Call it a departure—the departure of a prisoner from his prison, of a traveller from his inn. of a scholar from his school—" The time of my departure is at hand. I long to depart Call it a sleep—sleep is inviting to the wearied labourer, who has borne the burden and beat of the day.

*' They sleep in Jesus and are Meat:
How sweet their slumbers are;
From sulTring and from sin releas'd,
And freed from every caret"

"Our friend Lazarus sleepeth."

You have to die. But the sting of death is removed—for " the sting of death is sin'"— "and he bore our sins in his own body on the tree." Death stung him; but, as it is WW of the bee, left his sting in him. It is harmless now. It may terrify, but it cannot mjure.

You have to die. But God promises to he with you there. "For he hath said,I"^ Never leave thee nor forsake thee"—Mid therefore be assured he will not leave you a this time of need. To this the promise a peculiarly made: "I will be with him m trouble." Hence David triumphs, "le* though I walk through the valley"of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thon art with me; thy rod and thy staff they aw fort me."

You have to die. But the soul will be immediately disposed of infinitely to your advantage. Death will carry you from the same vain world, the same vexmg world, toe same defiling world—as Elijah's chariot car ried him. Death will carry you to the same rest, to the same fulness of joy, to the same glorious company as Elijah's chariot carried him. Absent from the body, you are present with the Lord.

[graphic]

You have to die. But the body will certainly follow. Though you do not take it along with you, but leave it in the grave, it shall not be lost there. He will come and inquire for your dust It is redeemed. "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

You have to die. But by death you may glorify God, more than by such a removal as Elijah's. It affords opportunity to display the influence of divine grace under suffering, to bear witness to the goodness of the Master you serve; to commend the ways of godliness; to convince some, to encourage others. One dying' Christian has often made many in love with death. While witnessing such a scene, they have been ready to say, " Let us go away that we may die with him."

It matters therefore little how the believer departs from this world to a better.

But the event is always worthy of our observation. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace."

And whether he ascend to heaven in a whirlwind, or be removed by a fever or a dropsy, " Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

DISCOURSE I»

THE PUNISHMENT OP ADONI-BEZEK IMPROVED.

But Jldoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and hit great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me.—Judges i. 6, 7.

Destruction had long been denounced -ipon the inhabitants of Canaan for their sina At length the measure of their iniquity is full; and the Jews are appointed to be the executioners of the Divine vengeance. Moses dies before they enter on the dreadful task; but Joshua succeeds him, and becomes the scourge of this devoted race. But even he dies before the complete reduction of the promised Jaod. Immediately after his death, Judah and ^meon assemble their forces, and attack the ***emy at Bezek, and gain a dreadful victory. Z

They slew a bezek prison inflict a pin: vere—" Th toes." Thi' you have t score and J their grea under my requited

This passage... me hold it up to view, ami v~-. mark the principal contents of the repre&o... ation.

I. See in it The Instability And UncerTainty OF WORLDLY GREATNESS. Look at

this man—and behold in what slippery places God sets the mighty and noble. How great was he in the field—where armies fled before him! how great in the palace—where a number of vanquished princes fed under his table! But behold him now—dethroned, insulted, dismembered; and his present extremity of wretchedness imbittered by the recollection of the prosperity that once crowned his head. "And seekest thou great things to thyself? Seek them not Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day will bring forth."

Prom the eagerness with which mankind pursue the distinctions of life, we should conclude, not only that they were very valuable in themselves, but that no kind of precariousness attached to them. We should suppose that they were able to ensure durable possession—and God, who in his word always gives language to actions, tells us, "Their inward thought is that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations: they call their lands after their own names." But let not the strong be secure; let not the honourable be vain; let not the rich be high-minded. Connect certainty with the motion of the wind, or with the waves of the sea—but do not trust this treacherous( this changeable world. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." "Riches make to themselves wings and fly away." "Man being in honour abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish." What is all history but a narrative of the reverses to which all earthly things are liable, however firmly established they once appeared to be: of the revolutions of empires; the destruction of cities; of the mighty put down from their seats; of counsellors led away spoiled, of politicians disgraced, generals banished, and monarchs put to death!

II. See in it Judgment Overtaking The Sinner In This LirE. Nor does Adoni-bezek stand alone as an instance of the present punishment of sin. Behold Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise. See the Flood sweep

[blocks in formation]
[graphic]

£k'St!f0I,'i of the ""goty- See the In some Sik^'1'es o^tne P'am- Remember the K-tdr/^s^le '^ed back, contrary to the '.ijdmmand, and "she became a pillar - -- •" The servant of Elisha enters his i presence—tells a lie—and goes out as white as snow." Ananias and rlira utter a known falsehood before the 'Apostle, and are both instantly numbered with the dead. And of such importance is truth to the welfare of the community—and so hateful is it to the Supreme Being—that not only are all liars to have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death—but in these instances we see "hell from beneath moved to meet them at their coming!"

It may however be necessary to observe that this is not always the case. The misery of the sinner is principally reserved for a future world, and we are now in a state of probation. But God would confirm our faith in his adorable providence. If all sin was punished here, we should look no further; if no sin, we should not easily believe in the power, the holiness, the truth of God. He therefore sometimes signally interposes; and will be known by the judgments which he executeth: "so that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth."

Present punishment, too, is less frequently executed under the gospel than under the law; and the reason is—that a future state of retribution was not so clearly and fully revealed to them as to us. Hence their threatenings are often filled with expressions of temporal evils, while ours only announce miseries beyond the grave. Then an adulterer was to be stoned; now he is to be— damned.

We may add that the punishment of sin. in this world is sometimes unavoidable. Thus, if nations are punished at all, they must be punished in time—for they have no existence in eternity; there men exist only as individuals. And nearly the same may be said of a family. Hence we read "the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesaeth the habitation of the just"

Yea, the present punishment of sin is in some measure natural. For how frequently do men's sufferings arise from the very sins they commit! Extravagance breeds ruin— indolence, poverty—intemperance, disease. "Who hath wo! Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions! Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes t They that tarry long at the wme; they that go to seek mixed wine." Why are men so unhappy—but because they are unholy. They walk contrary to God, and God walks contrary to them. They transgress his commands, and expose themselves to his wrath; and then they are alarmed with

fear. They yield to vile passions and appetites, and then they groan by reason of bondage. They violate all the rules which conduce to the welfare of the community, and then they are expelled from the esteem and regard of their fellow-creatures. And what can hinder all this'?

So that sin does not recompense or even indemnify the sinner here. "The way as well as the end of transgressors is hard." As the righteous here have some foretastes of their future happiness, so the wicked hate here the beginnings of sorrows. As godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come, so sin has the curse of this world, as well as of another.

III. See in it Punishment Inflicted urn fco«o Delay. Behold the career of this sinner !" Threescore and ten kings" he had thus inhumanly mangled. Thus he repeated his crime again and again—even until seventy times! What a lengthened course of iniquity was here!—" So long and so often had I done this, that I thought God had not seen, or did not remember. But he has found me out; and I live long enough to be a miserable instance of this awful truth—that however long punishment may be delayed, it will at last be inflicted—As I have done, so God bath requited me."

The wonder is—not that he was overtaken so soon—but that he was spared so long; and seemed to be allowed to triumph in his iniquity. The flourishing condition of sinners for a time, and especially for a long time, unchecked by calamity, is an event which baa often perplexed even pious minds. m Thus Jeremiah exclaims " Righteous *art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: wherefore, doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?" David also tells us: "As for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped; for I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."

But what is more to be lamented is, that hereby the unhappy creature himself is frequently deluded. He is apt to mistake forbearance for connivanee; and what God does not immediately punish, he concludes that be entirely neglects. "He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved; for I shall never be in adversity." "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." But we should remember the end of providence in such a dispensation. He frequently spares the ungodly for the sake of the godly: the extraction of the tares would injure the wheat By forbearing the blow, he would give space tor repentance: "the longsuffering of our God is salvation." He has therefore ends to answer worthy of himself But be convinced of this —that he never designed to cherish in ynu a hope of impunity. His patience is not forgiveness. "Be sure your sins will find you out He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." He is patient; but he is faithful, and the Scripture cannot be broken. He is patient: but patience has its limits; and the year of trial granted to the barren figtree will expire, and then, if unfruitful, it shall be cut down, and cast into the fire. He is patient: but if his patience end not in your conversion, it will be glorified in your destruction. "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence: thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them m order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.

IV. See in it A Correspondence Between Sin And Suffering. "What I have inflicted upon others, is now inflicted upon me: and in my very punishment I read my crime— as I have done, so God hath requited me!" Our Saviour has said, " With the same measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." And Eliphaz tells us, that he "had particularly remarked this even in his days. "I have seen they that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." From the nature of their suflering, men may often learn the character of their sin. God sometimes sends our troubles with a label upon them— it seems impossible to mistake their design. We are commanded to "hear the rod;" it says many things—but it frequently tells us the very sin for which we smart: it thunders or whispers, " this is the duty you have neglected. This is the idol you have adored. Hast thou not procured this unto thyself?"

Between sin and punishment there is sometimes a comparative conformity. This is the case when we sufler things which have some resemblance to our crimes. Thus the Jews, for serving strange gods, were compelled to serve strange masters. Forty days the spies were employed in exploring the land of promise, and forty years the people are condemned to wander in the wilderness for believing them.

Sometimes there is also between them a direct conformity. This is the case when we sufler in the same way and in the same things m which we sin. Thus it is said of the Chaldeans, "Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee." Thus it is said of the Church of Rome, "For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy." What was the subject of David's sin? The numbering of his people. In this he suffers: a pestilence carries off seventy thousand of his subjects. What was the design of wicked

Haman ?" Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to-morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon; then gb thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet And the thing pleased Haman, and he caused the gallows to be made." What was his doom? "And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also the gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the kmg said. Hang him thereon. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he find prepared for Mordecai. And to mention no more, in the very place where Jezebel caused the dogs to lick the blood of Naboth, the dogs licked her blood!

But there is a future conformity still more dreadful; and of which the Apostle speaks when he says, "Be not deceived ; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he tliat soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." The man who sowed thistles, and expected to reap wheat, would be deemed a fool. But are we not equally foolish i What are the principles we imbibe, the dispositions we cultivate,' the pursuits in which we are engaged, that we are concluding they will issue m glory, honour, and immortality? Is there any relation between these? Do not the steps of the road we travel take hold on hell? Misery is not only the reward of our works, but the very tendency of our sin. Hear this, ye covetous and unfeeling. Your hard-heartedness is not punishable by any human tribunal—but see your crime meeting you at the bar of God: "he shall have judgment without mercy, that showed no mercy." Think of this, ye despisers of the Gospel—he now addresses you in vain; "Because I have called, and ye refused: I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof"—And hereafter you shall address him in vain: "I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you: then shall they call upon me, bi.t I will not answer; they shall seek rne early, but they shall not find me."

Finally. See in this Scripture The Hand Op God Acknowleged, While Men Only Ark Employed—" God hath requited me." But who saw any thing of him! Did not the sons of Judah and of Simeon cut off his thumbs and his great toes? Yes—but " is there an evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?" "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things." War is as much a judgment from God, as famine or pestilence. And not only are lawful princes and magistrates the ministers of God, but he makes use of robbers and tyrants; as it is written: "Out of him came forth the corner; out of him the nail; out of him the battle-bow; out of him every oppressor together."

[graphic]

But admitting this to be true—how came Adoni-bezek, a very wicked man—a heathen —how came he to acknowledge it?—The case is this—" The Gentiles who have not a written law," says the Apostle, "are a law unto themselves: their thoughts also in the mean time accusing or else excusing one another." There is a conscience in every man; the principle belongs to human nature; and no wickedness is able completely to banish it And calamity has always been observed to have a powerful effect to enliven it So that the man who, in the days of prosperity and ease, banished reflection, never thought of God; or if he did, considered himself perhaps as the favourite of Heaven, because he was so much indulged on earth—is now abstracted; impressed; softened: he is left alone with his conscience: this tells him of his desert; this awakens all his fears. Hence sickness, accidents, death are dreadful—they stir up the apprehension of Deity. He suspects more' in the storm than thunder and lightning—God is there. The shaking of a leaf seems to say, "What is this that thou hast done?"

A good man perceives the hand of God in all events, and he wishes to see it "The Lord," says Job, "gave, and the Lord hath taken away: what! shall we receive good at the Lord's hand, and shall we not receive evil? " This calmed him. And this discovery of God is the Christian's relief and comfort in affliction—because he knows that God is his fuller and friend, and will not, cannot injure him. But it is otherwise with the sinner. His apprehension of God is forced upon him; he would gladly get rid of the conviction: it is all terror and dismay to him—for he knows that God is his adversary, and he may now be coming to lay hold of him—he knows that he his along account to give, and this may be the timt; of reckoning. Hence thf' bitterness of affliction : it is regarded not only as a trial, but as a punishment The sinner's distress seems to be the effect of chance; but he feels it to be the consequence of design. He discerns in it the injustice of men; and yet is compelled to confess that it is the righteous judgment of God. And thus, by the medium of this penal consciousness, Go 1 maintains his moral empire in the world, without deviating from the usual course of events, or breaking in upon the stated laws of nature He works

no miracle, yet his agency is believed. He does not render himself visible, yet his presence is felt and acknowledged; and common calamities are made to operate like positive tokens of divine displeasure.

Though the subject has been very instructive and practical, I wish to add two exhortations.

First Abhor Cruelty. It is equally disgraceful to religion and humanity. It renders you unpitied of God and man. 1 hope none of you would be so dreadfully savage as this monster, to torture and mangle your fellow-creatures, if you had it in your power. But let me speak a word for the poor brutes, who cannot speak for themselves, though unhappily they have the power of feeling. My dear little friends, never torment animals. Never sport with the misery of insects. Never cut off their legs or wings. God's "tender mercies are over all his works." "He hears the young ravens that cry." "Be followers of God as dear children." But what are we to say in another easel

Adoni-bezek was merciful compared with those who endeavour to draw their fellowcreatures into sin. This is not only to injure the body, but to cast the soul into hell: and what is any present suffering compared with endless misery!

Secondly. Improve The Case Of Examples. If they were not particularly adapted to do us good—the word of God would not be to full of them. Never read them carelessly. Lodge them in your memory. Often reflect upon them.

And make use of the dreadful as well u the pleasing. It is necessary that sin should be made hateful. It is necessary that we should be awakened to flee from the wrath to come.

And do not suppose that such a character as Adoni-bezek is alone exposed to danger— "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."

"For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men: but we are made manifest unto God; and 1 trust also are made manifest in your consciences."

DISCOURSE LI.

THE CHEERFUL PILGRIM.

Thy ttatutet have been my tongt m the houtr ef my pilgrimage.—Psalm cxix. 64.

How different are the views and feelings of men in the review of life! How dismal and terrifying is it to look back on years bar

« AnteriorContinuar »