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"the world of the ungodly." Behold Sodom and Gomorrah, "set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." See the plagues of Egypt, the destruction of the former mhabitants of Canaan, the dispersion and misery of the Jews, a people once dear to God—in all these instances, the evil of sin is brought down to a level with our senses. And it is sin also that has reduced the material creation to vanity, and doomed it to a general conflagration. As, under the law, the very house of the leper was to be pulled down, so it is with regard to this world. You say, Can trees, and valleys, and hills, and skies, be criminal? No; but they have been the unconscious instruments of the sinner's guilt, they have been contaminated by his use of them, and the day of God cometh, wherein "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burned up."
Thus far we have traced the effects of sin down through the history of this world. But there is another world that has been running parallel with this, and which will continue when this is no more. And here the consequences of sin most tremendously appear.
Enter it and see. The first thing that strikes you, is the fall of an innumerable multitude of superior beings, hurled down from heaven—What roused the vengeance which pursues them with such severity! What is it that, in a moment, could transform angels into devils! A little of that envy, that pride, that independence of spirit which you think nothing of—" he spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment"—And what place is that, "the smoke of whose torment ascendeth up for ever and ever V Sin built hell; sin produced " the worm that never diessin kindled "the fire that never shall be quenched." Oh! could you lay down your ear, and hear sin spoken of in its proper dialect, by the old sons of perdition! What do you suppose Judas now says of betraying his master for thirty pieces of silver;' Saul of persecuting David; Cain of killing his brother Abel! But all this regards the present degrees of their misery, not its future continuance.
Hence, you must contemplate sin in the threatenings of the Scripture. Oh! read and tremble. Read of "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power"—read of a doom which I hope you will never hear—" Depart, ye cursed, mto everlasting lire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Now I reason thus, and a child can understand me—if God can righteously threaten all this misery, he can also righteously inflict it; and if he can righteously inflict such misery, sin must deserve it— and if sin deserves it—deserves such punish
ment !—How is it possible for us to think to
highly of its guilt!!
There is yet another way of judging of tht
evil of sin and it is—by considering the
means employed to remove it. Now there was only one Being in the universe equal to this work—the Lord of life and glory. By no other hand could this enemy fall; a thousanu attempts had been made—but the victory was reserved for him.
And there are two things here worthy our remark.
The first is, that he derives from this work his highest title. His name is the memorial of this achievement; he will henceforth be known through all worlds as the conqueror of sin! And therefore we find, that though he is a Creator and Preserver, yet he is adored under the character of a Saviour, by all the saints on earth, and by all the angels in heaven. "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and bail) made us kings and priests unto God, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
And the second is, That even in this glorious Personage, who alone was adequate to the undertakmg, it required something peculiar and extraordinary to accomplish it He does not deliver a sinner as he performed his other works. In order to save—he must be humbled and exalted—he must descend from heaven to earth—and ascend from earth to heaven.
Let us enter into this, and, II. Consider a
WHAT MANNER HE SAVES HIS PEOPLE FROM
Their Sins. Now he accomplishes their deliverance by price—and thus he redeems: and by power—and thus he renews: in other words, by his cross, and by his grace.
To save us, he must suffer: by the shedding of his blood we are ransomed, and by hit death we live. The case is this. Where the command of the law is broken, the curse of the law enters. Sin renders man obnoxious to punishment; and this punishment is as certain as the justice and the truth of God can make it Now we had sinned, and therefore must have suffered—had not the Saviour become our surety, and our substitute. But he, standing in our place, became answerable for us; "he has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." Thus it is said, the Lord "laid on him the iniquity of us all." And how was it laid upon him—but by way of expiation' And for what purpose was it laid upon him 1—but that we might be released from a load which would have sunk us to the lowest hell. Hence it is said, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Once in the end of the world hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." In this sense he is so often
raid to "die for us"—not only for our good, but in our place, and as our victim. How else could he have fulfilled the types under the law! We are assured from the writings of the New Testament, especially from the epistle to the Hebrews, that the daily and annual sacrifices offered by the Jews were typical of Christ: but if they typified him at all, it must have been in bis death; and if they typified any thing in his death, it must have been the atonement which it made. They could not typify, in him, the death of a martyr, sealing his doctrine with his blood; er the death of an example illustrating the virtues which he had taught These views of his death are true as far as they go; but they did not go far enough to reach the main thing, the thing which God determined from the foundation of the world to render prominent in his death, and which the Church has so beautifully expressed in these words— "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
And thus it is that he saves us from the guilt of sin. But, to take a full view of this part of the subject, it is necessary to observe, that by his atonement he not only removes guilt from the view of God, but also takes it from off the mind. For it is here alone that we find effectual relief. That which appeases God's wrath, can alone appease the sinner's conscience. This blood, which speaketh better things than that of Abel, addresses both God and the sinner—it says to the one, "Forbear to strike;" and to the other, "Be encouraged to hope." It answers all that justice has to say in a way of claim, and unbelief in a way of objection. Thus by believing " we enter into rest" Our fears and jealousies subside; we draw near to God with humble confidence, and feel "a peace which passeth all understanding."
But to know whether our relief be really peace, or nothing more than ease—it is necessary to consider, not only how it is obtained, but by what it is accompanied. The peace he gives has purity with it, yea, purity in it. Those whom he redeems, he sanctifies; those whom he pardons, he renews. And hence you read of our being " saved by the washing of regeneration, and. the renewing of the Holy Ghost"
In attending to this process, let us remember, that he always saves us from the love of sin. Here is the difference between moral reformation Und evangelical conversion. In the one, sin js avoided; but in the other, it is abhorred. For sin may be shunned where it is •till loved; and the retreating sinner may look back, like Lot's wife, and bewail the idols he has been forced to leave. Am I addressing none who know what it is to forsake only from a regard to reputation, from the
influence of connexions, and the fear of consequences? Would you not rejoice if God would take off the restraint, and allow you to live as you please? Would you not feel grateful towards him if he would permit you to live in sin, and not die in sorrow! Blessing him for the indulgence, would you not go forth, free and easy, and say, "Well, no longer will I be detained from worldly dissipation—my heart has been always in it No longer will I avoid slander—I always found it the salt which gave a relish to conversation. I will now grind the faces of the poor, and debase myself even to hell, to get wealth—I loved money equally well before; but it was dreadful to think that no covetous man, who is an idolater, should have any inheritance in the kingdom of God—but now I can be covetous here, and safe hereafter?"
Turn we to the Christian. Of the Redeemer's subjects it is said, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power;" and among other things, he is willing to part with sin—with all sin—with even his dearest sins. His present hatred is greater than his former love. He now sees, not only what sin has cost him, but also what it cost the Redeemer. "Can I ever call that sweet, which he found so bitter; or deem that light, which he found so heavy? Can I ever be a friend to his enemy 1—to a monster that killed him who is all my salvation, and all my desire? " A Christian may be surprised by sin, but be can never be reconciled to it He has sworn eternal hatred against it—and he took the oath under the cross.
But is this all! Is he held in bondage by a tyrant he detests 1 No. Jesus opens the prison to them that are bound. He saith to the prisoners, Go forth. Sin shall not have dommion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Thus sin is dethroned—not only in the heart, but also in the life. By the influence of his Holy Spirit he increasingly mortifies their corruptions, and enables them to "lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, and, as new-bom babes, to desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby." The means of grace are now prized; and as they are used with a humble dependence and a holy purpose, they are not used in vain. In waitmg upon the Lord, their "strength is renewed: they mount up with wings, as eagles; they run, and are not weary, and they walk, and are not faint" Losses and trials, and all the dispensations of Providence, are now also under a gracious agency, and are made to "work together for their good."
But while the reign of sin is thus destroyed, the remains of it continue: and these are deplored and felt by the Christian as his. greatest distress. "O wretched man that I i am! who shall deliver me from the body of
this death il" In these circumstances, two things relieve his mind, and animate him in the warfare. The one is, that his Saviour is "able to keep him from falling;" and the other is, that "he will present him faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy." Then will he shake himself from all his dust, and " put on his beautiful garments" of complete holiness. What a Blissful change! When he examines himself, he can find no ignorance, no pride, no unbelief, no weakness—He is become a part of a "glorious Church, and lias no spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing!"
But this respects only the soul—yonder still lies the poor body. Death is the consequence of sin; and while the body is in the grave, the believer is not saved from all the natural effects of sin. But Jesus comes— "the resurrection and the life. He will change this vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
Now behold the work of the Saviour perfectly accomplished, and the deliverance of bis people absolutely complete. Behold him "delivering up the kingdom to God, even the Father," and hear him saying, "All these I engaged to save from their sins; and lo! they are all sinless."
To conclude. Let us observe, First, If his name be called Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins, how awfully deceived are those who hope to be saved in them! And yet, a degree of this confidence too commonly prevails. There are few indeed but entertain some expectation of going to heaven when they die, however unholy they may live. Hence, though conscious that they love sin, and indulge themselves in the practice of it, they feel nothing like despair or distress. But upon what principle is your hope founded? Did you never read that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord? Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" Did the Saviour come to give you a license to sin with impunity i His commg was designed to make sin appear "exceeding sinful, his aim, as you have heard, was to save us from it "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the workaof the devil." And what notion have you of salvation, unaccompanied with a deliverance from sin? This is like saving a man from drowning, by keeping him under the water which is destroying him; or like recovering a man from sickness, by leaving him under the malady .which constitutes the complaint Were it possible for you to be pardoned and not sane
God, and God could derive no service from you: you would remain strangers to peace and pleasure; and the cause of your misery would be left behind. Sin and sorrow are inseparable. God himself cannot separate them: he can only destroy the one by removing the other. He makes men happy by making them holy.
Besides these thoughtless creatures which I have mentioned, there are some who are more systematically wrong with regard to this subject They profess to glory in the Saviour's cross, but they will have nothing to do with his sceptre. His righteousness is their darling theme; but they mean by it— a tine robe to cover a filthy back. They are fond of the assurance of faith; but they intend by it a speculative persuasion of their safety, underived from and unconnected with any gracious operations and qualities, as evidences. They consider it as a species of unbelief even to question their being the people of God ; but they retain the love of the world in their hearts, and discover the same unsubdued tempers as others. They think it would be wrong to allow sin either to distress or alarm them—sin cannot hurt a believer—indeed sin has not the same evil when found in them, as when found in others: "he hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel!" This error does not, like many others, arise from mere ignorance And therefore the apostle Jude calls those who hold it "ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness." And they would do well to remember that another Apostle says, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." And the Saviour himself says, "Bnt these mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." The character here given of the Lord's people is, that they are saved from their sint: and this is what every truly awakened sou) desires.
Therefore, Secondly, Here is relief and consolation for those who are sensible of the evil of sin, and are asking, "What must I do to be saved?" Though deliverance appears so unspeakably desirable, yon feel that yon are wholly unable to accomplish it yourselves. Nothing in your sufferings, or doings, can wash away the pollution, or subdue the influence 6f sin. Such despair as this makes way for the hope of the Gospel. The convictions, which you feel so painful and alarming, are necessary, to enable you to perceive the meaning, and to feel the importance, of this glorious dispensation. And these also prepare you to welcome the approach of such a peculiar Saviour. So that to you it is not only "afaithful saying," but " worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ is come into the worM to save sinners." Open, then, your hearts.
tad let me pour into them the delightful message—" Unto you is bom this day, m the
city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord!" He is come to "seek and to save that which was lost" He is come that you "might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly." The Sun of righteousness is arisen with healing under his wings." Exercise faith upon him. In him there is plenteous redemption. He is now asking, "Wilt thou be made whole V
Let not the nature or the number of your transgressions keep you from him. For what is he come—but to save us from our sins? If you do not think yourselves too good, he does not think you too bad to be saved by him. Throw yourselves at his feet, and say, "O Lord, undertake for me—' Save me, and I shall be saved; heal me, and I shall be healed; for thou art my praise.'"
Finally. What should be the feelings of those who are already saved by him?—To you, ail this is more than speculation: it is experience. You were once "in the bondage of corruption;" but " the Son has made you free; and you are free indeed." Not that you are freed from all service and obedience—but you now obey and serve a master whose "voke is easy, and whose burden is light" From such an obligation you do not wish to be delivered. You can never forget what great things he has done for you. You acknowledge his goodness in saving you from indigence, from accidents, from diseases, from "wicked and unreasonable men"—but, above all, you bless him for "turning you away from your iniquities."
Thus delivered out of the hand of your enemies, see that you "serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of your life." Feel your engagements to him. Let the impressions of gratitude become every day more powerful. And to a wondering, or a despising world, say, with the Apostie, "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
THE UNION OF PRAYER AND
Iteverthelci) we made our prayer unto our
Li this mode of defence we have an example worthy of our imitation. It is equally sxpressive of piety and prudence; of dependence upon God, and the use of means.
And such a union as this is equally pleasing and profitable. It forms the man, and the Christian. It blends duty and privilege together. It keeps our devotion from growing up into rank enthusiasm; and our diligence from sinking into the wisdom of the world, which is foolishness with God.
Let us#not imagine that the force of this example is inapplicable to us. What did our Saviour say to his disciples in the garden i "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation"—the very thing here exemplified by Nehemiah and his brethren: "Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night" Besides, one of the most common and striking images by which the life of the Christian is held forth is that of a warfare. A warfare we find it to be—" without are fightings, and within are fears." Like these builders, we also are opposed by various classes of enemies who labour to hinder our work, and are always endeavouring to get an advantage over us. What then can be more reasonable than to betake ourselves to Prayer and vigilance?
I. Let uS MAKE OUR PRAYER TO GoD. On
him let us place our reliance; and bring all our perplexities, afflictions, and wants, and spread them before his throne. Nothing can be done without prayer.
Prayer is recommended by God himself— "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
The very exercise of prayer is useful. It calms the mind; it drives back our fears; it strengthens the weak hands, and confirms the feeble knees.
Prayer—is the forming of a confederacy with God, and bringing down the Almighty to our assistance: and
"Snton trembles when be sees
He knows that he cannot contend with Om-
For let us remember that every thing is under his control; and according as we please or^offend him, according as he interposes in our favour or refuses his aid, we fail or prosper- "Except the Lord build the house, they
labour in vain that build it Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
Does a nation dispense with God, and place their proud dependence on natural and acquired resources? He can "lead away their counsellors spoiled, and make their judges fools." He speaks, and the tempqst roars— and a navy sinks in "the mighty waters." He sends sickness; a general is laid by— and his absence occasions the destruction of a whole army, and the devastation of a whole country.
Does a man in trade dispense with God, and rely upon the wisdom of his own understanding, the power of his own arm, or the claim he has on the friendship of others ?— How easily can God convince him of his dependence upon Providence! He can touch an invisible spring, and a thousand occurrences are in motion: the man wonders to find his plans crossed, his hopes disappointed. It matters not what he gets—he gets nothing. "Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put into a bag with holes." Or he may succeed—but his prosperity will destroy him. The God he disregards stands by, and as he drinks the poison, says, "Let him alone." He would be rich without consulting God—and he is rich— xaA falls "into temptation, and a snare, and iflto many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition."
Surely a Christian does not think of going on without God! Generally and habitually, he does not. "Without me," says the Saviour, "ye can do nothing; and the believer is convinced of this—but not so much as he ought to be; and sometimes he seems entirely to forget the conviction. Let us take an instance. When our Lord forewarned Peter of his danger, Peter deemed the premonition needless—" Though all men should be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended; though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny." And he was sincere. But though warm, he was not wise. He was not aware of his' own weakness. He did not consider how differently he would feel in new circumstances; he did not apprehend that a little curiosity would bring him into company, and company into danger; and that the unpertinence of a maid-servant would induce him to "curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man." Had he prayed where he presumed—had he said, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest my frame, and rememberest that I am dust; I bless thee for the merciful caution; * hold thou me up and I shall be safe,' "—he would have triumphed where he fell: and have been—not an instance of the weakness of human nature, but
of the power of Divine grace. Let his injury prove our security. "Let him that thinketL he standeth, take heed, lest he fall." « Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding: in all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." "l,et us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may. obtam mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
But what is the dependence upon God which we recommend ?—It is wise, it is cautious, it is active. And if vigilance be nothing without prayer, prayer is nothing without vigilance. We must therefore, .
II. Set A Watch, Because Of Oi;r Enemies, Night Akd Day. This is not so much atteraW to as it ought to be. For the help God alfords is not designed to favour indolence, but to encourage exertion; and in his wisdom he has connected the means and the end together : and therefore to expect the end, without the use of the means, is nothing but presumption.
If people would exercise the same common sense in religion which they discover in the ordinary affairs of life, it would save them from a thousand mistakes. Behold the husbandman. He knows that God gives the increase—but he also knows hov) he gives it— and therefore manures, and ploughs, and Bows, and weeds. His reliance upon God tells him that favourable seasons and influences are necessary, to raise and ripen the corn—but he is never guilty of such folly as to go forth at harvest, and expect to reap where he has not sown. Yet such is the folly of many with regard to religious things. Such is the folly of a man who complains he does not profit by the word—but never tries to impress his mind with the importance of the duty in which he is going to engage; never hears with attention and application; never retires to review what he has heard, and to make it his own. Does the word of God operate like a charm, so that it is equally the same whether a man be awake or asleep? Such is the folly of a man who complains that his children are not religious, when he knows that he never trained " them up in the way they should go;" never prayed with them; never instructed them early in the principles of the Gospel; never placed before them a good example in his own temper and life. Such is the folly of those heads of families who complain of servants—not considering that kind affections, expressions, and actions, can only be returned where they are received—that a harsh, unfeeling, tyrannical master; that a haughty, niggardly, scolding mistress—can never be served by cordial attention, and cheerful obedience. By failing in their duty to their dependents, they set the consciences of their dependents easy in the breach of duty to them. A poor man may