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unintelligible to you? Are your views of eternity dim and indistinct? and your apprehensions of the Saviour feeble and unimpressive ? Such a state of torpor in the feelings betrays a want of faith. The scenes of a future world, the glories of Christ, the wonders of redemption, and the riches of divine mercy, are in themselves deeply affecting realities, though you remain unaffected by them. But these things can only be spiritually discerned, and an unction from the Holy One is necessary to impart the heavenly vision.
It is also through the medium of genuine faith, that we become effectually acquainted with our own guilt, depravity, and wretched
Then pride is smitten at the root, and the towering imaginations of vain glory are brought down to the dust. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Examine now, in a strict and impartial manner, your own character; is it not the want of vigorous faith, and profound humility, which keeps you from the footstool of Immanuel? Are you not ashamed to cast in your lot with his despised followers? Do you not scruple to go forth without the camp, bearing his reproach? Pride is a preventive bar to fellowship with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ. A childlike simplicity, a meek and unassuming lowliness is indispensable. “Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein." The pride and the pretensions of a self-righteous spirit must be put away from you, that you may partake the blessings of the gospel.
III. While you continue without the boundary of the kingdom of God, at whatever point of nearness, is not your state a state of awful danger?
Every one sees and admits, that those who are grossly and wilfully ignorant of religion, and at once stained with horrid crimes, and hardened in sin, are on the highway to ruin. They are at open war with the Sovereign of the universe, and hoist the black flag of rebellion, in the spirit of audacious arrogance. They curse, and swear, and blaspheme, as if the chief aim and business of their life were to insult the Majesty of heaven, and emulate the outrageous demons of hell. But may not your condition be as perilous as theirs, though you are not aware of it? You are more liable to self-deception than vile profligates. While you have the furniture of knowledge, and the form of godliness, and a thousand decencies to adorn the character, those who condemn and reprobate the notoriously vicious, are ready to award to you the tribute of their
commendation; and besides their soothing testimonies and complacent smiles, you have a flatterer within, to lull you into carnal security. You are in danger of attaching too much consequence to the soundness of your creed, the sensibility of your conscience, the amiableness of your temper, and strictness of your morals. Recollect the stinging address of Christ to some who accounted themselves righteous, and gloried in their many duties and decencies: “Verily I say unto you, that publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."
“ Great crimes alarm the conscience, but it sleeps
While thoughtful man is plausibly amused."
There is no evil so much to be dreaded as self-deception. Even if you do not think you are in the kingdom, you may cherish a false hope that you certainly shall be. Shudder at the thought of falling under a fatal delusion. What if, instead of approaching the kingdom of God, you should be now receding from it? Divine ordinances and means of grace are still with you; but in regard to the state of the mind, some of you were, perhaps, nearer the kingdom in youth than you are in mature or old age. Your serious impressions are fast wearing away ; your convictions return less frequently, and your desires and devotions grow cold and faint. Is there nothing that ought to alarm you in all this? Alas! your great danger is, being without a sense of danger. It is certain, however little you may be disposed to consider it, that if you remain without the limit of the kingdom till the hand of death seize you, eternal misery must be your doom. The threatenings of God can no more fail of being accomplished, than his promises. “ He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life ; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha."
My brethren, suffer the word of exhortation. I desire freely to reason and remonstrate with you, on the things which belong to your peace, before they are hid from your eyes. There is no safety nor solid felicity but in the kingdom of God. The world lieth in wickedness; and fearful judgment, like a gathering storm, is suspended over it, ready to burst forth at the signal of the Divine will. And can you rest easy while you are thus exposed to destruction ? Awake, you
that slumber in the lap of a treacherous repose ; awake and flee from the coming wrath! Do you not hear the thunder of the threatenings, and see the fiery flashes of Heaven's displeasure ? There is not an hour, not a moment, to be lost. Justice frowns, but
mercy, with smiling aspect and gentle voice, invites you to the only asylum. Millions have heard, have obeyed the call, have entered, and yet there is room. But who can tell how soon the overtures of superabounding goodness may be withdrawn? Who can tell how near may be the period of your probation? And will you throw away the golden opportunities given you, as if they were of no value? “ Come, serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little ; blessed are all they that put their trust in Him."
Surely, where the salvation of the immortal soul is at stake, there should be no lingering, no slothfulness, no cold wishes, or dull halfmeasures. “From the days of John the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it,” Luke xvi. 16. language of this remarkable passage, obviously denotes intense earnestness, and resolution, courage, and constancy, and patient perseverance in the face of opposition, and in the midst of all possible difficulties and trials. Now, I ask, are you pressing into the kingdom? Do not expect to glide softly and silently along, without effort or hindrance. All the representations of Scripture forbid the indulgence of so vain a hope. Are
in earnest ? 1. You must press into the kingdom, by casting off every incumbrance, and by forsaking every prejudice and passion, which has a tendency to entangle and obstruct your progress. Though a man were loaded with gold, and pearls, and sparkling diamonds, he should strip himself naked, and leave them behind as dross, rather than lose, or hazard the salvation of his soul. Let none murmur and cry,
“Oh! this is the wild-fire of enthusiasm, or the mere cant of hypocrisy.” I maintain, on the contrary, that it is a statement strictly agreeable to reason, and accordant with Scripture. Reason dictates that a smaller interest should always be resigned for the sake of a greater, when the case is clear and evident. Worldly prudence abandons this sound rule of judging and acting, as far as spiritual things are concerned; but, in doing so, incurs the charge of extravagant folly. When our Lord beheld the sorrow of one who could not submit to the sacrifice of his darling passion for wealth, he said, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” It follows, then, as a rational and scriptural conclusion, that every weight, and every besetting sin which would hinder our progress, ought to be cheerfully laid aside, and utterly forsaken. Nay, though a man were required to part with the very limbs and senses of the body,
rather than risk the salvation of his soul, he ought promptly to submit to the painful requisition. “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off ; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell ; into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched! And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched.” Mark ix. 43. Are you
in earnest ? 2. You must press into the kingdom through all possible resistance. We dare not deny, nor disguise that there are difficulties at the entrance, of no ordinary kind. Tempters and enemies will labour to turn you aside, to draw you back, to hinder, or harass you at every step of your progress. When you set your face and your heart towards Zion, the city of the living God, the world is against you. Think not that by any sort of parleying, or policy, you can ward off opposition, or work your way so dexterously as to escape what all good men have had to bear. Carnal men will always dislike spirituality, and find some method of expressing their enmity. Whosoever will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. Where hard measures are not dealt out, you may expect some bard speeches; and where cruel deeds are restrained, you may have to meet the trial of cruel mockings.
When you set your face and your heart towards Zion, the city of the living God, the devil and all his infernal host will be against you. Be prepared then for their fiery darts, and fierce assaults. Yes, you will have to wrestle, not against flesh and blood only, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Perhaps you begin to exclaim, “What! are all these sacrifices and exertions to be made ? is all this formidable opposition to be braved, while we are pressing into the kingdom of God? Alas! we are weak and unstable as water. We are discouraged by difficulties, dismayed by dangers, depressed by fears, encompassed by infirmities." All this may be true, but your souls are infinitely precious, and their salvation should be your first and last aim, your chief and only object, your earnest desire, your constant prayer. And to raise and animate your drooping spirit, let me tell you,
that good armour is provided, and sufficient strength promised for the arduous conflict to which you are called. Why then continue irresolute? “How long halt ye between two opinions ?" From this day let the dye be cast; from this hour let the solemn engagement be
made, never to be revoked, never dissolved. Come and enrol your names, and consecrate your service to the Prince of Life. And what then? Why, “ take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day ; and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked : and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” But exhortation must stop here. It is not enough to wear the proof armour provided; you must look to the glorious Captain for direction, support, and energy. This is a warfare and a work in which all the resources of nature are inadequate and insufficient. • Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." Thus equipped, thus invigorated, and thus sustained, you will no longer stand in dubious suspense at the outer frontier, but valiantly press forward into the kingdom of God, and “ be made more than conquerors, through Him who hath loved you.”