« AnteriorContinuar »
that the habitual indulgence of one known and wilful corruption, is incompatible with the existence of the Christian character, and will cast the transgressor into perdition ; his urgent enforcement of all the branches of evangelical obedience, is as troublesome and annoying to some that call themselves Christians, as vinegar to a fresh wound. They shrink from his distinguishing marks of the true and false professor ; they tremble at his denunciations of Divine vengeance, and vent their spleen in angry reproaches upon his legality. “We ask for bread,” say they, “and he gives us a stone ; for an egg, and he gives us a scorpion; we want comfort, and he gives us distress ; promises, and he denounces threatenings ; the felicities of heaven, and he describes to us the torments of hell.” Hypocrites! he gives you that which belongs to you. To prophesy smooth things to you, would be to corrupt his message, and to comfort those whom God would not have comforted. Consolation to you would be a deadly poison, a fatal opiate to lull you to sleep. You must forsake your sins, or what have you to do with peace ? He must bring you nearer to the Holy One, that you may see more clearly still your vileness. The most appalling denunciations of Divine vengeance are necessary for you. Thunders louder and more dreadful than those that are rolled over the conscience of the men that make no profession, are necessary for unsound professors. They have heard ordinary storms so often, that they can sport with thunderbolts. If you rightly understood your own case, you would deprecate smooth things, dread the language of deceit, and ask for plain dealing and faithful admonition. Your peril is extreme.
It is not uncommon for even consistent Christians, who have nothing beyond the ordinary imperfections of even the best men, to wish to hear less of the alarming parts of Divine truth. “We want comfort,” say they ; we are at peace with God. To us he comes not in the earthquake, or the tempest, but in the still small voice.” Be it so. But have you no compassion for others, no concern for their salvation ? Besides, can you not, while the tempest is abroad, and the storm is passing by, lift up your heart in gratitude to God, that you have found a shelter? And after all, are there no imperfections yet to be put away from you, no defects yet to be supplied, which require the voice of alarm sometimes to be sounded in your ears? Who can tell but this may be necessary for keeping you awake ? Cordials, and emollients, and delicacies, may not do for a continuance, even for your moral constitution; something more pungent and painful may be occasionally necessary. It may be good even for you, sometimes, to rejoice with trembling. A blast of the trumpet, at which Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and
quake,” may prevent the progress of that fearful lethargy which has begun to creep over your soul. Innumerable Christians have derived unspeakable advantages from the alarms that have sounded from Zion's hill, and have returned to buckle on their armour afresh, and to go forth with renewed strength to the good fight of faith.
Let those who cannot bear to hear the descriptions of future punishment, think with themselves how they shall be able to endure it.
There is every reason for believing, that they who demand smooth things and deceit from the preacher, are the very persons who are going on to suffer the vengeance, to the description of which they cannot be made to listen with patience. Why those alarms and terrors, those painful forebodings, those dreadful apprehensions ? Ah, why? Do they not disclose the secrets of a mind, aware that if it continue in its present state, it has nothing else to look for, but the wrath to come? “ The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath seized the hypocrites ?" But why? Because their awakened and terrified conscience exclaims, “Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings — who can dwell with devouring fires?" Yes, that unutterable aversion, and irreconcilable hatred to the subject of future punishment, which makes them dislike the preaching and the preacher that bring it before them, too plainly indicate the state of their mind; it is like the malefactor not liking to hear the description of the gallows, or the palpitation of the offender, as he passes beneath the gloomy and frowning portals of the prison ; the virtuous citizens have nothing to fear from either. Take warning, sinner, from this simple fact. Let your own feelings be your monitor. Ask yourself the simple and natural question, why you tremble at the denunciations of divine wrath against transgressors ;why you should wish the seers to prophesy deceit and lies.
And, then, if the very report of approaching vengeance makes the ear to tingle, what, ( what will be the dread reality! All that the most eloquent, the most impassioned preacher can say of the wrath coming upon the wicked, is infinitely below the mark. It is less than the description of the most exquisite tortures that can ever be inflicted by fire, or sharp-edged instruments upon the human frame, compared with the experience of the horrible agony. Assemble all the threatenings and the curses that the finger of justice has written in the sacred volume; associate all the figures under which the torments of the damned are set forth in the word of God; array all the terms of indignation and vengeance which can be selected from the page of inspiration; add to these, all the passages of that lurid eloquence of man, which seems irradiated with the reflection of infernal fires, and vocal with sounds that escape from the bottomless
pit;—and what is it, after all, compared with the reality of future punishment, but as the mere pencil representation of the deluge, compared with the real horrors of that most amazing scene of infinite wrath? Oh, no; there is in that one word—Hell, a depth, and length, and breadth of meaning which nothing short of actual suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, can enable us to understand. These terms are too weak to convey to us adequate ideas on this subject, and therefore figures are employed ; figures are too weak, and visions are added to them ; words, figures, and visions are too weak, and therefore does the apostle drop all, and ask, with most alarming emphasis, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?" With that question, I close my discourse; a question which crowds the imagination with more terrors than the most extended and appalling description, and impresses the heart with the conviction that the man who dies without repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, goes to a state of misery in another world, which is unavoidable, indescribable, and eternal.
BY JOHN THORNTON.
Mark xii. 34.—He said unto him, Thou art not far from the
Kingdom of God.
The discourses of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, were admirably calculated to excite a spirit of seriousness and devotion. There was nothing in the subjects he introduced, or in his manner of treating them, to gratify a taste for curious and speculative inquiries. He well knew, indeed, how to meet the objections and silence the cavils of the proud Pharisees and the sceptical Sadducees; but whether he addressed the learned or the illiterate, his main design was to enforce and apply the grand principles of true religion.
In the preceding verses we are told, that one of the scribes asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all ? And he answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel ; the Lord our God is one Lord : and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength : this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, master, thou hast said the truth, for there is one God, and there is none other but he : and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” This judicious and serious answer drew forth from the great Teacher the words of our text, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” Some commentators have supposed that this scribe, or lawyer, as Matthew calls him, proposed the question with the design of drawing something from the lips of Jesus which could be turned into matter of accusation against him ; but it seems more probable, that his object was to tempt, as the Queen of Sheba did Solomon, by putting his far-famed wisdom to the test of trial. If, leed, he had at first any captious intention, he appears to have been brought in the issue to a better state of mind.
The kingdom of God is a phrase which conveys very different ideas, according to the scope of the passage in which it is used. Sometimes it means the divine power in the moral government of the world. “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty : for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine ; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all,” i Chron. xxix. 11. At other times it means the dispensation of Divine grace in the church. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever," Dan. ii. 44. “ Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matt. vi. 33. It is in this latter sense that the phrase in question is applied in our text. But without going into critical inquiries, our chief aim shall be to turn the subject to some practical uses.
I. Are there not many bearing the Christian name, and some of you, who, though not far from the kingdom of God, have never yet passed the boundary which separates it from the world ?
1. In this state are those who have correct views of doctrinal truth, without a spirit of devotion. A man of a sound and strong understanding, and of an inquisitive turn of mind, may be led to study the contents of the Bible, much as he would study general history; and the same faculties and process will carry him to a respectable proficiency in both these departments of research. He may make himself acquainted with different systems of theology, just as he masters and discriminates different systems of philosophy, in each influenced by similar motives, and using similar means. It is a fact, that many do actually weigh the proofs and evidences of the Christian religion with so much diligence and candour as to be fully convinced of its divine authority, and to be aware of the weakness and folly of all the objections which infidels produce against
In this respect they occupy favourable ground, and are separated by a wide space from the devious and dark paths of scepticism,