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quires this change in every man, to show that this depravity is universal.
Yet there are those who deny this mortifying fact; and though they live in a land of vision,' are so unacquainted with the Bible, and ignorant of themselves, as to imagine that they are pure. "There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, but are not washed from their filthiness." We may conclude the reception our subject will meet with from you. You cannot understand it, because you know nothing of the state to which it refers ; and you cannot value it, because you feel nothing that can render it interesting. The whole system of the Gospel is founded in the fact of our guilt and depravity; and till a man is convinced of this, he will be like the deaf adder, that stoppeth his ear against the voice of the charmer, charm ho never so wisely. Pardon offered to the innocent will be deemed an insult Alms presented to the affluent will be rejected with disdain. O what a mercy, to feel our need of mercy !—Beg of God to open the eyes of your understanding, and lead you into an acquaintance with yourselves; that, seeing what you are, and feeling what you deserve, and what yon need, you may be prepared to welcome the glad tidings of salvation, and deem it a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that, There is " a fountain opened for sin, and for uncleanness."
Secondly. The presumptuous. Antinomian perversion is far worse than mere ignorance of the Gospel. We should be cautious in applying hard names; but the Scripture makes no scruple to call those "ungodly men, that turn the grace of our Lord God into lasciviousness." And yet there are men, whose very religion leaves them personally unchanged: who dream of mercy while they live in sin; and claim eternal life without "the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost" But there is no salvation without cleansing: "He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure." For sin separates between God and the soul; and that wall of division must be removed before we can meet There must be agreement before there can lie intimacy. "How can two walk together, except they be agree I? What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness! And what communion hath light with darkness? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, siith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the I/jrd Almighty."
Were we even pardoned for contracting the disease, yet, while it continues uncured, we can have no ease within. If we entered heaven with an unsanctified disposition, we should be incapable of relishing its enjoyments. A title to glory can never give us a meetness for it Wherever we carry sin in us, we carry hell with us. The Lord Jesus is a Saviour, because he "saves his people from their sins."—" He gave himself tor us, that he might redeem us from aB iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Beware of deceiving yourselves. To be washed in this fountain, is the one thing needful. "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me."
Thirdly. The self-righteous. I mean those who hope to cleanse themselves in some other way than by this fountain. Some would wash away their sins by the tears of repentance. Some would cover them by charity: for " charity" (by the mistake of a passage of Scripture) "covers a multitude of sins." Some would pay off the old score by ceremonial and superstitious observances—And here, what an article could religious folly furnish! What is there to which men have not had recourse while asking, "How shall I come before the Lord, or bow before the high God!"'
Even when people are in a measure awakened, and begin to feel their need of salvation, it cannot hut be remarked, how inclined they are to some plan, some services, some sacrifice, of their own. The simple provision of God offends them; and they resemble Naaman. Naaman was a leper. He had come with a splendid train ; and more full of pride than of disease, he stood, with his horses and his chariot, at the door of the house of Elisha. Hence, when Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again unto thee, and thou shalt be clean, Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord bis God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abanaand Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may 1 not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned, anil went away in a rage." And would have remained a leper had not the servants been wiser than the master. Here was his error. He came for a cure, and it was, therefore, for him not to prescribe, but to submit So it should be with you. You are not to go about to establish your own righteousness, but to submit yourselves to the righteousness which is of God. You are not to reason nnd speculate; but follow I he Divine will. Y'ou are lost, and ready to perish. The Gospel reveals a method of salvation, and you should cheerfully and thankfully bow to it—you should implicitly acquiesce in it; remembering that you have no claims on the sovereign Donor; and that the plan is the effect of his wisdom, as well as of his goodness.
And would he, at an infinite expense, have provided, and made known, this way of salvation, if any other had been sufficient? Would he have called the attention of the universe to the opening of this Fountain, for the ablution of souls, had other streams been available? Our having recourse, therefore, to any other plan of salvation, is not only useless, and sure to end in disappointment; but it is criminal. There is nothing than can render us more guilty before God. It is disobedience; it is opposition. It robs him of his peculiar glory. It degrades his understanding, as well as detracts from his mercy. It "frustrates the grace of God, and makes Jesus Christ to be dead in vain."
Fourthly. The fearful. It is no easy thing to satisfy the conscience of awakened sinners: they need strong consolation who are "fleeing for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before them."—And is it not provided! Wherefore do you doubt? We acknowledge the blood of bulls and of goats could not take away sin. Neither could blood merely human. But the blood of which we speak is the blood of a Divine Sufferer; and we know the all-sufficiency of it, because it has been accepted by Him who required it on our behalf. And it He has heard the voice of the blood of sprinkling, and is satisfied; if his law is magnified and made honourable; and he can be faithful and just, as well as merciful and gracious, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness— tec may well believe—and enter into rest
But you say, it is not the efficiency of the Fountam you question. What then? Why, whether I have liberty to make use of it! Let us examine this case. And for whom is this Fountain opened! The innocent and the clean! No—It is opened "for sin and uncloanness." Guilt, therefore, constitutes no exclusion. We are told, he "came into the world to save sinners;" and that "he died for the ungodly." As I can only at first apply to him in the character of a sinner, it is obvious, that the warrant which authorizes me to apply must be addressed indiscriminately to all sinners. And so it is. All who have the Gospel have such a warrant—a warrant that will not only justify any man from presumption who acts upon it, but will be sure to condemn all those who do not Come, therefore, come, whoever you are.
"This Fountain unsealed
But I have nothing to pay. And you need nothing:
"This Fountain, though rich.
I know that such language has been deemed altogether exceptionable; as if we encouraged sin, while we only encourage the sinner. And how are we to encourage a sinner! Is it by requiring of him, as the ground of his hope, conditions which he cannot perform? Or is it by keeping him back from Christ, while waiting for qualifications which he can never derive from himself! Are men to be warmed before they go to the fire, to entitle them to the heat, and to prepare them for it? Are patients to be recovered, or, at least, considerably mended, before they apply to the physician! The sick and the dying are his charge. Do not wait, therefore, for qualifications to recommend you—We do need a mediator between God and us, but not between us and Christ What said Paul and Silas at once to the jailer's question!" Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
"Let not conscience make you linger,
Finally. There is one class more who have a relation to our subject; and it consists of those who by faith have applied to this Saviour: and who know, by experience, that there is indeed a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. You are witnesses. You can vouch that it is accessible and free. Were you refused! Were you required to wait! Was your claim questioned? Rather, were you not welcomed with a smile, which showed, that the backwardness had only been on your side; and with a voice, that kindly anticipated your approach, and said, "Wilt thou be made whole?"
You can vouch for its efficacy too. You know that it can relieve a troubled mind; that it can heal the broken in heart, and bind up all their wounds. You know that, while it deeply humbles before God, it can inspire a holy freedom: for you "have boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of Him." You know that, while it renders the curse harmless, it makes sin odious; and not only tranquillizes, but "purifies the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God."
When persons, labouring under a malady, have found relief, a grateful disposition leads them, as opportunity offers, to commend the physician; while a benevolent feeling urges them to recommend his remedy to others, who are suffering under the same complaint "Praise ye the Lord. Declare his doings among the people. Make mention that his Name is exalted." Go, and divulge—not only what you have read and heard, but— what you have known and felt Are there not thousands perishing around you? And are they not your brethren; bone of your bone, and flesh of your flesh! What was once your promise, your vow, if you were matched from the jaws of death yourselves ?—
"Then will I tell to sinner? round
Pray that this way may be known on earth; this saving health among all nations. Send, where you cannot go yourselves—aid the Bible Society, in diffusing the Scriptures; and Missionary Societies, m sending forth missionaries. Employ your personal influence. Make use of your talents; make use of your tongue. Let your temper, your conduct, your life, your character, speak.
Indeed, it will be in vain for you to applaud a remedy that has done you no good. When you recommend it, with all the symptoms and effects of your disorder upon you, they will naturally say, " You have an end to answer, regardless of our welfare. You do not believe in the virtue of the medicine, or you would have used it yourself." If, therefore, you are vain, and proud, and revengeful, and selfish, and covetous; if your family is the scene of discord and strife; if your shop is famed for cunning, overreaching, and injustice; if, under the profession of Christianity, you have not the honesty of a heathen—you had much better say nothing: for people will immediately judge of your religion bv you—And will your conduct impress it? Will this endear it?
But, blessed be God, allowing for human infirmities, and imperfections, inseparable from the present life; blessed be God, there are some who are emphatically the better for the Gospel: they are spiritually convalescent; they are other creatures than they once were : they are renewed in the spirit of their minds; they live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world; and they walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called; they are followers of him who went about doing good. They are also increasing; and though, as yet, they are few, compared with the world that lietli in wickedness, there are enough to show the reality and power of the Saviour's grace, and to leave those without excuse who will not come to him, that they might have life.
But oh! what, what will it be when all, "out of every kindred, and nation, and people, and tongue"—all that he has ever saved, shall be assembled together, as the trophies of his! cross—while he, engaging every eye, and enrapturing every heart, shall hear from the Countless throng; "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father; be glory and dominion for ever and ever!!"
RELIGIOUS INDECISION. Ephraim is a cake not turned.—Hobo vii. 8.
Baked on one side only—neither soft nor hard—neither bread nor dough—disagreeable —unserviceable. "A very homely comparison, a very vulgar image," you say. But the sacred penmen are above our fastidiousness. They write for the common people; and what are little delicate allusions, discerned and relished only by a refinement of taste, while they are lost upon the majority of readers? They want something plain, and yet forcible; something to rouse the conscience, and to lodge in the mind. And "the words of the wise," says Solomon, "are as goads, and as nails;" goads to wound, and nails to fasten. If the image be vulgar, it is striking; and if the comparison be homely, it is much too flattering for the persons it is intended to express.
Let us divide our subject into three parts. I. We Shall Inquire After The Censured
CHARACTERS. II. We SHALL EXPOSE THEIK CONDUCT AND THEIR CONDITION. III. WE SHALL ENDEAVOUR TO BRING THEM TO A DECISION; or, as our text would authorize us to say—see if we cannot turn these cakes.
I. Who Are Ephraimites! In answering this question, as the preacher ought to proceed with great caution, so you ought to hear with peculiar seriousness; and may the God of the spirits of all flesh empower an inward monitor to say, as we proceed, "Thou art the man."
There are three classes of persons, as far as our subject requires us to distinguish them. There are real Christians, who are entirely for God. There are the profligate, who make no pretensions to religion. And there are some who stand between both, and seem to partake of each; and these are the characters we are in search of.
Few are totally regardless of Divine things. Some, indeed, wear no disguise, and encumber themselves with no forms. They never call upon God's name—unless to profane it; never observe the sabbath, or hear the word preached; they explicitly avow their ungodliness, always in actions, and often in words: and, " I am for hell," is written in capitals on their forehead. But these are not the mass: there are not many who can shake off all religious concern. Their education, their relations, reason, conscience, reputation, even their worldly interest—all these induce them to pay some attention to religion. But the lamentation is, that they are only formal, external, partial—at best, but hajf-hearted, in their regards. "Ephraim is a cake not turned."
Who then are the characters intended? If xe look into the Scripture, we shall find some •jf them represented by the successors of Israel. When the king of Assyria had carried away the ten tribes from Judea, he "brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the Lord: therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them. Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he liath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land. Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom he brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land." And so they did; and, with a mongrel devotion, they served both Jehovah and their idols; the one from affection, and the other for fear of the lions: "They feared the Lord, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence." We shall find some of them in a Balaam—unable to go beyond the word of the Lord; and yet loving the wages of unrighteousness; delighting in what he declined; sacrificing his conscience to his tame; blessing Israel, and showing how to curse them; praying, " Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his," and perishing in battle against them. We shall find some of them in a young man, so promising, so wise, so humble, as to inquire after eternal life, kneeling; and so amiable, as to engage the affection of the Saviour; but who went away sorrowful, because he could not resign an earthly possession at the command of Him, who would more than have repaid the sacrifice. We shall find some of them in a Herod, who "heard John gladly, and feared him, and did many things," but retained his Herodias, and murdered his admired preacher, for the sake of an unlawful passion. We shall find some of them in an Agrippa, who, pressed by the eloquence and truth of the Apostle's reasoning, exclaimed, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."
And cannot we find, nearer home, individuals, alternately in the temple and the tavern? now in the house of prayer, and now in the place of dissipation! repairing to the one from conviction, and to the other from inclination? refusing to the passions what may trouble the conscience, and to conscience what may trouble the passions! equally remote from the ardours of the pious, and the excesses
of the profane? free from gross vices, and yet indulging in graceless tempers? wearing "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof? having a name to live, and yet dead!"
Some of these characters are to be met witli in connexion with the more evangelical modes of religion. Such persons will attend only on the preaching of the Gospel. They are orthodox in their views. With their mouth, they show much love. Their feelings are sometimes powerfully excited. They receive the word with joy. They have another heart; but not a new one.
We have read of a bishop, formerly in Spain, whose clergy had long been carrying on a controversy, concerning the condition of Solomon: some pleading for his salvation, and others for his perdition. To accommodate both parties, the good bishop ordered a representation of him to be drawn on the walls of his chapel, half in hell, and half in heaven. And what better could a moral painter do with numbers in our day? We know not whether to set them down as children of wrath, or heirs of glory. Their inconsistencies are such, that each side seems to disown them; and they continue to agitate both the hopes and fears of those who have any regard for their eternal welfare. But our fears must prevail: and we proceed,
II. To EXPOSE THEIR CONDUCT, AND THEIR
Condition. And this may be done, by observing Four things.
First This indecision is unreasonable. What is there that will not convince you of the truth of this remark ?—Think of God. Is he such a friend, such a father, such a master, such a sovereign, as to deserve only a languid devotion, a divided heart? "Cursed be thedeceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen."—Look at the Saviour of sinners. How did he engage in the work of your deliverance? Did indifference bring him from heaven to earth; and induce him, who. was rich, for your sake to become poor; and die, that you might live? He loved us, and: gave himself for us: and one feeling only can correspond with his infinite kindness, a feeling of universal consecration:
"Were the whole realm of nature mine.
Look at the hell you have to escape; the glory you have to obtain; the brevity and uncertainty of the time allowed you for success. Does a state of slumber become the awfulness of your situation and prospects! "Escape for thy life: look not behind thee; neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the
rive, whither thou goest" Look at religion, there any medium between the truth, and importance of the subject? If you do not believe this Book to be true, you are an infidel; if you do, and disregard its contents, you are worse. Can lukewarmness ever perform the duties of religion? Is prayer only the bending of the knee? Is praise only " a solemn sound upon a thoughtless tongue?" Can lukewarmness ever conquer the difficulties of religion? Will this enable you to run the race that is set before you, or to fight the good fight of faith ?—Look at your fellow-creatures. They rise up early, and sit up late, and compass sea and land, to gain a little shining dust, or the smile of the great; and yet, what a disparity is there between your zeal and their zeal, their sacrifices and your sacrifices ?—Look at the uselessness of all your half measures. Have you suffered so much in vain, if it be yet in vain? Are ye so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh? If the course in which you have been engaged is not worthy of your regard, why did you go so far? If it be, why not go further? If resolved to perish, could you not have perished without resisting any sin; without performing any duty?
Secondly. This indecision is dishonourable. Such a man is never regarded. In vain you say, "Why, he is the very man the people of the world approve"—and suppose he was—Are they to be our judges? He that judges us is the Lord. But you are mistaken. The people of the world may like such a temporizer so far as by resemblance he justifies them; but as to real veneration and respect for him, they have none—nor can they have any. No; such a man is never regarded. He is no character. He has neither the value, nor solidity of gold: lead is his image—worthless, and easily receptive of any impression. "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." Uprightness and consistency are always admired. The possessor after a while lives down reproach, and enthrones himself m the judgment and esteem of his fellow-creatures. "Well," say they, "he is sincere and honest; he is all of a piece." But base is the man who changes with the times; varies with his situations; conforms to the company he is in; is always worldly with the worldly, and sanctified with the saints—Who likes "a cake not turned?"
Thirdly. Such indecision is wretched. Can any thing bo more miserable than to have two businesses to carry on at the same time; two parties to consult in every action and in every look; two masters to serve who hate each other, and whose designs are perfectly
opposite? What but distraction, confusion, and drudgery, and strife must ensue? These half Christians, owing to the light they have in the understanding, and the checks of conscience, cannot enjoy the vanities of the world and the pleasures of sin: while religion, as regarded by them, is no source of joy; they do not enter into the spirit cf it, and, therefore, cannot relish its satisfactions. The real believer enjoys the light of God's countenance, the comforts of the Holy Ghost, and has meat to eat winch others know not of; and the professed votary of sin and the world enjoys the delights which arise from time and sense: but the character before us enjoys neither. He gives up the creature for God, and God for the creature. He laces heaven for the sake of earth, and earth for the sake of heaven; and is of all wen (he most miserable.
Fourthly. Such indecision is dangarmt. I wish to be understood to mean—peculiarly dangerous. Observe, in the first place: such characters are not easily convertedFor though they have not religion enough to ensure their safety, they have sufficient to make them insensible of their danger. Though they have not enough to keep them awake, they have sufficient to lull them to sleep. Conscience has nothing very criminal, in their view, to reproach them with. Their exemption from immorality gives them confidence and peace. Their attention to the exterior of piety, and the decency of their general demeanour, attract from men the praise which is due to real godliness; and this flatters and confirms the good opinion they entertain of themselves. Their satisfaction with themselves is also strengthened by contrasts with the character and conduct of others, who are outwardly and openly wicked. Their very convictions, too, in time are altered; their practice has bribed their judgment; and what formerly appeared wrong is now deemed a vain scruple, the effect of education, or a contracted mind. Secondly: they are not very likely to continue always in this state. Duties never relished, in time disgust Prayer never performed in earnest, may be wholly given up. Doctrines never known in their vital influence, may be discarded as speculations. Errors more congenial with their present feelings, and necessary to justify the course they take, may be adopted. God may withdraw his restraining and assisting grace, and leave them to their own lusts. The principles of sin, being unmodified, may gather strength by having been so long repressed, and may break forth with greater violence. And when such persons as these fall, they generally become despisers, revilers, persecutors. "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walieth through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my