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And what, my hearers, can more clearly demonstrate the inveteracy of depravity, than a state like that which this text describes, a state of which some of you are conscious ? If you have thought little of sin, if you have thought little of your own sin, when viewed under any other aspect, surely here is an aspect under which its enormity clearly appears. How desperate and infatuating! How odious and ungrateful! A movement of mercy on the part of the Creator, met with stupid indifference on the part of the creature! An overture of pardon from the Majesty of heaven, received with contempt by the rebel of earth! God sending his Son to be the Saviour of the world, and man neglecting the great salvation! Jesus loving unto the death, and the sinner so hardened as to be utterly unmoved! What prostration sufficiently lowly-what tears sufficiently bitter-what repentance sufficiently vehement for such a state of depravity!
This disclosure of inward hardness and divine abandonment is calculated, also, to awaken to a sense of the fearful, imminent danger in which you are sunk. You have passed through many a stage of your guilty career, but this is its final stage ;
“ there is but a step between you and death.” In every previous state your immortal interests have been risked, but now all the hazards are gathered in one appalling throw. Yours is the condition of the traveller in winter who lies down upon the snow, and on whom sleep is stealing : for a time he buffeted with the keen blast, and toiled through the accumulating drift, but now he yields to weariness; then he felt the bitterness of the cold, and strove to escape from dangers that filled him with alarm, but now he is benumbed by the cold, and subdued by lethargy; his insensibility to cold and danger, is more fatal than the anguish and the terror. insensibility is a symptom, above all others, calculated to appal you. “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
The discovery of all-sufficiency in the salvation of the gospel, reaching the utmost extremity of guilt and danger, even such as you have now contemplated, is calculated to endear that salvation. When we discover in the gospel a remedy adequate to our deep and deadly ruin; when we see the love that it displays, notwithstanding all that guilt of which the theme of to-day has given such humbling evidence; when we see the blessings it offers to them who merited condemnation and wrath to the uttermost,—then may our hard hearts melt, and our stubborn wills bow. Lost, here is salvation. Helpless, here is strength. Guilty, here is pardon. On the verge of eternal destruction, here is everlasting life. To each
And your of us the word is addressed, and the promise is sure, “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Shall we hesitate to apply for the blessing? Shall we trifle away the last, lingering hour of clemency? Shall we any longer neglect so great salvation, abuse such signal long-suffering, and despise such condescending pity ?
“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day ; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
HEB. xii. 22—24.—But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the
city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
How imperfect and grovelling are the most elevated conceptions which we can form, in the present world, of the heavenly state ! We have indeed heard of it by the hearing of the ear; our memories are familiar with the terms employed in Scripture to describe it ; our imaginations have often dwelt, in moments of devout and hallowed contemplation, on the sublime images by which it is represented, and, as it were, brought down to the level of our feeble conceptions ; there may, perhaps, have been some favoured seasons, in which the believer is so highly privileged, as, by the exercise of strong faith, almost to realize the invisible glories of an eternal world: but yet, after all, how little can we know, in the present state of imperfection and ignorance-even with all the aids of meditation, and all the light thrown upon it in the Scriptures of revealed truth, and all the inspirations of faith—how little can we know of the actual blessedness of those who have dropped the burden of mortality, and are in full possession of the purchased inheritance !
Tell us, ye flaming seraphs, whose high, and sacred, and delightful employment it has been, from the commencement of your being, to receive and execute the command of the Eternal, what it is to stand and bow before the throne of him that filleth all in all ;—what are the unutterable delights which flow from the contemplation of his unveiled glories, and the enjoyment of his perpetual smile ; what the rapturous and ecstatic joys which spring from intimate and uninterrupted communion with the Father of your spirits and the Parent
of the universe! Tell us, ye ransomed servants of the most high God, who, after having sustained the brief conflict allotted to you on earth, have finished your course with joy, and received your bright and unfading crowns of glory, O tell us what it is to be “absent from the body and present with the Lord;" to bear, in unsullied purity and perfection, the image of your much-loved Lord; to awake up in the likeness of him, who, when on earth, was the brightness of the Father's glory, and express image of his person;" to pour forth your unceasing praises, “in strains to mortal ears unknown," to him that has redeemed you to God by his blood ! But it may not be ; this is not given to man, no, not even to the most privileged Christian on this side the grave. It is ours now to walk by faith, not by sight; to rest with humble, but unshaken confidence, on the divine testimony; to wait, in the mingled exercise of faith and patience, and a hope full of immortality, for the developments of the unseen world. Then, and not till then, can we know for ourselves what heaven is, and what are its pure and perfect enjoyments.
In the mean time, my brethren, let us be thankful, that there are such aids afforded to our faith, as those contained in the richly comprehensive portion of Scripture selected as the basis of the present discourse. It has been supposed by some excellent and judicious commentators on Scripture, that this passage primarily refers, not to the future, but to the present privileges of believers ; and unquestionably there is a just and scriptural sense in which all the blessings which it enumerates may be said to constitute the present inheritance of all true Christians. We now live, not under a dispensation of terror, but of mercy; we listen, not to the thunders of Sinai, but from Sion's holy mount the accents of peace and reconciliation are heard. All who truly believe in Christ are, even now, "fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of faith.” Their names are now enrolled in the Lamb's book of life, in characters which can never be erased.
“ The saints on earth, and all the dead,
But one communion make."
Angels are their invisible attendants, and minister to the heirs of salvation. They are virtually and spiritually united to "Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant,” by a living faith, so as to be constituted members of his spiritual body. They are admitted into the gracious presence of the “ Father and Judge of all," so as to “find access, ' at every hour,' to God within the vail.” They have even now received the atonement, “the blood of sprinkling,” by which their polluted consciences are cleansed and purified. These, my brethren,
if ye are Christians indeed, all these are your present privileges, to which you are introduced by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and which are common to all who love him in sincerity. But we apprehend that both the idiom of the sacred writings, and the terms employed by the apostle, viewed in their connexion, as well as the general tenor of his argument, warrant a higher application of the passage than that to which I have just alluded; and that this may be numbered among the portions of holy writ, in which the veil is partially drawn aside, and heaven itself unfolded to our view. Come, then, my christian friends, and let us, with sacred awe, contemplate this vision of glory : let us lift up our eyes to the celestial city, and behold its inhabitants, clothed with light and immortality, and reflecting the image of the invisible and eternal God; let us endeavour to catch the spirit of the sublime representation of the heavenly state given in the text, and to gather from it the strong consolations it is calculated to impart.
In the verses now selected, the apostle has taught us what is the final and everlasting residence of believers—“ It is mount Sion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem;" what their employment—holy and devout adoration ; what their society—“myriads of angels, and a vast assembly of the perfected spirits of the just;" what the chief source of their happiness—the presence of “ God, the Judge of all, and of Jesus, the Mediator;" and, finally, what is the procuring cause of all this blessedness—" the blood of the everlasting covenant," by which peace and pardon are now proclaimed, and the inheritance of the saints in light has been purchased and secured. O that, whilst meditating on these high and sacred themes, the phantoms of earth, which have often and too long attracted our attention, may vanish from sight; and our affections rise on the strong and ardent wing of faith, to mingle with the “general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are enrolled in heaven."
I. If it be asked, “Where are they who have fallen asleep in Jesus? what is their home, their final and everlasting residence ?" the reply furnished by the apostle in the text is, “ They are come to Mount Sion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem ;" this is, and shall for ever be, their resting-place, their secure, permanent, and everlasting abode.
I would not willingly overstrain the metaphorical language of Scripture, on this or any other subject; persuaded as I am,
that those fanciful interpretations of the divine word in which many have freely indulged, have given occasion to numerous gross perversions and dangerous errors. It is admitted that when the heavenly state