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What divine thoughts does Christianity inspire, when we stand by a deathbed, and gaze upon the body of a believer whose happy spirit is fled to its kindred and its home! That pale countenance shall be relumined by a ray from “the excellent glory,” and shall rekindle with smiles and triumph on the resurrection morn! That sunken eye shall again brighten into rapture, when it opens upon the descending Redeemer, as he comes in “ the glory of his Father, and all the holy angels with him!” That deafened ear, which ten thousand thunders could not now affect, shall be sweetly charmed again, when the song of eternal victory is uttered before the throne, by all who have “overcome through the blood of the Lamb!" That tongue shall be no longer silent, when the happy universe commences the last great chorus—“Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth !"
But to whom have I been addressing myself? Is it the prerogative of all men to attain to celestial glory? Will “the image of the heavenly" be at last transferred to all who have borne “ the image of the earthy ?" or will there be a final discrimination of character, which shall determine the destinies of men ? — It has been already intimated that the future must depend on the present, which is “the day of salvation.” The character of every man for eternity must be formed in time. This is the “ bud of being.” The elements of all that is immortal enter into our moral constitution here; and on earth it is that the infant demon or the infant seraph is born. It is for ourselves, in a sense, to mould our everlasting destiny. We cannot penetrate the mysteries of the divine administration ; but we can read the revelations of the divine will; and these supremely and immediately concern us. Every principle we cherish, every step we take -- the habits of our minds, the dispositions of our hearts, the conduct of our lives, have associations which belong to another world; for here, nothing terminates. What we have been and what we are, constitute only the preliminaries of what we shall be; the moral progress we make at present is the commencement of interminable misery, or infinite joy.
The certainty of these statements is ascertainable not only from the direct assurances of Scripture, but from the law of adaptation so clearly developed in the economy of the universe, which requires that we should become as infallibly fixed in the condition of our future being, as we are ennobled or debased in the elements of our present character. Adaptation bespeaks design. In a dispensation of perfect wisdom, the end proposed cannot fail of being answered ; and between the means and end there must be an entire correspondence. The harmonies of the moral world cannot be supposed to be less complete than those of the natural ; and as every object assumes its proper place in the visible creation, according to its magnitude, form, and purpose, so must every being occupy its appropriate sphere in the invisible universe, according to the diversities of moral qualification. When sin, sorrow, and death constitute the elements of character, the law of adaptation points out the present world as the fitting abode of transgressors, or some one more dark and woeful, when moral degeneracy has become mature in the unsanctified soul; but when an opposite character springs out of opposite elements, another and a better world, enlightened with the presence of God, enriched with the resources of scriptural joy and the means of interminable improvement, and adorned with the glories of immortality—a world of holiness, happiness, and life—will become our appropriate habitation. He who bears “ the image of the earthy" must, therefore, unless the great transformation be effected, sink to perdition; and he who bears “the image of the heavenly,” must, by the perfecting influence of the process already commenced, ascend to the bliss of heaven.
Am I then a penitent—a believer—a Christian? Am I converted, and shall I be saved? Whose " image and superscription" is stamped upon my character? My relation to time is comparatively nothing; what am I in relation to eternity? Have I “fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before me in the gospel?” Is Christ “ formed in me the hope of glory?” That I have “borne the image of the earthy,” and still sustain it, in some unhappy measure, is sufficiently obvious; am I solicitous of bearing, and do I pray and strive to grow into "the image of the heavenly ?" Be assured that nothing else will appear beautiful or desirable at the resurrection. Now we are attracted and seduced by the fair and the splendid, that have only the stamp of earth upon them; we value riches, honours, titles, influence,--the gaudy plumage of life, the transient decorations of a perishing scene ;—then, to awake from the grave with “the image of the heavenly” upon us—the characteristic resemblance of our glorified Lord—will alone appear impor
When the body, so long prostrate in the dust, arises in the freshness of that happy morning, and the spirit is thus dressed for immortality, what gratulations will greet the believer from the encircling multitude of the heavenly company, while accents of benediction, sweeter than the harps of angels, will announce the Redeemer's own perfect, public, and final welcome. I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." Let the practical “conclusion of the whole matter," then, be briefly this-Pray earnestly to possess the Saviour's image ; strive continually that it may be perfected upon you.
“ As for me, SERMON XVII.
A WARNING TO THE UNGODLY.
BY JAMES PARSONS.
1 Peter iv. 18.-And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where
shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ?
Salvation, perfect deliverance from the pollution and penal consequences of sin, and exaltation to the enjoyment, of supreme happiness, is the blessing which should be desired and sought with intense earnestness by every human being. That it is, nevertheless, greatly undervalued and neglected by immense multitudes, is a fact which must at once be painfully acknowledged. Men devote their chief attention to minor and insignificant objects ; they exercise their highest energies in the acquisition of the imagined advantages of time—wealth, power, fame; and for these, vain and fleeting as they are, they forego and sacrifice the benefits which are vast as the capacities of the soul, and lasting as the duration of eternity. The strange and infatuated folly of a course like this, cannot fail to be discerned as soon as an accurate estimate is formed of the purposes and range of existence. Those by whom that estimate is formed, will leave all earthly things in obscurity and disregard, that they may secure the infinite good which dominant depravity induces to despise : and anxious will be their aspiration, too, for their wandering and endangered brethren—"O that men were wise; that they understood this; that they would consider their latter end !"
Reflections on the ultimate distribution of recompense to the human race, and on the ultimate condition of those by whom the attainment of salvation is despised, must ever be deeply affecting. The mode in which such reflections were pursued by the apostle, in the words of the text and their immediate connexion, eminently adapted to place these solemn subjects fully before us, and to produce powerful impressions on
Few can hear his statements and inquiries without feeling some emotion of solemnity as they are uttered. “The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ?" The reference at the commencement of these verses is to severe temporal chastisements and sorrows, about to be endured by the faithful disciples of Christ. From these, the writer is led to contemplate the inflictions reserved for the disobedient and unbelieving; and, seeing that the saints are introduced into their heavenly inheritance, not without much difficulty, he argues the certain ruin of the wicked, and ponders, and teaches others to ponder, on the sadness of their inevitable doom. How clear and how solemn the deduction to arise from the question—" And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” We shall endeavour more sufficiently to explain, and more deeply to impress the contents of these emphatic words; and may God by his Spirit lead you to devout and saving meditation !
I. We shall notice THE IMPORTANT FACTS ASSUMED RESPECTING THE RIGHTEOUS : “ If the righteous scarcely be saved.”
1. It is assumed, that the salvation of the righteous is attended with serious difficulty. It is proper for the righteous themselves sometimes to take the view of their own spiritual circumstances and prospects which is thus offered ; and it is proper also, and indeed unspeakably important, that they who have no pretensions to the character of the righteous, should have this view fully exhibited, that their own condition may be adequately elucidated and understood.
Difficulty in the accomplishment of salvation may be stated to exist, because of the intrinsic evil of sin. Sin is an evil, the enormity of which it is impossible to describe, or to conceive. Being the transgression of the law propounded by the eternal God, a disavowal of his authority, and a rebellion against his governmentwe cannot fully consider the aspect it bears to the divine perfections and glory, without finding that the only appropriate way of speaking concerning it, is to affirm it an evil which is infinite. The proper desert of sin must be punishment. It cannot but excite the very highest indignation in the Being against whom it is perpetrated. The rights of holiness and justice necessarily require signal and adequate retribution ; and as God is perfectly holy and perfectly just, he is bound by these essential attributes to deal out to an evil
which is infinite, inflictions which are infinite also. In coincidence with this principle, we are informed, that God “will by no means clear the guilty;" that he is “ angry with the wicked every day;" that he is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity;" that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men;" and that his wrath, when imposed, is "the vengeance of eternal fire." Now, it is clear, that an evil of which such is the magnitude, and of which such are the affirmed results, interposes a difficulty to the pardon and salvation of those who have been involved in it—a difficulty which in some views must be perfectly appalling. To redeem from its guilt and consequences, how many plans might be proposed, and proposed in vain !- how many remedies might be suggested, and suggested in vain !-how many efforts might be attempted, and attempted in vain! How vast and mighty must be the power which can effectually remove from the guilty the imputation of sin and the peril of punishment-restore them to His favour whom they had offended, and impart a title to that heaven from which they merited an eternal exclusion ! Here is a course of contemplation which serves to illustrate the truth--that “the righteous scarcely can be saved.”
Difficulty may be stated to exist also, because of the indwelling corruption of the human heart, after a state of pardon has been vouchsafed. For it is a fact, that after men have been changed from a condition of condemnation to one of acceptance, there remain within them evil propensities and passions, the paramount operation of which would render them once more habitually the servants and slaves of iniquity. It is a pernicious mistake to consider, that the struggle of the mind with sin is terminated at the period of conversion; or that any period can arrive to the believer on earth, when he has no further inherent evil to contend with, when all the remnants of indwelling pollution are annihilated, and when he has but to wait in placid and unruffled triumph for his entrance into eternal joy. Ask those who know the secrets of Christian experience, whether it is not a source of constant lamentation, that they carry with them onward, what is emphatically termed, “ the plague of their own hearts”? Ask them, whether," when they would do good, evil is not present with them”? Ask them, whether, though they “ delight in the law of God after the inward man, they do not see another law in their members warring against the law of their mind, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin, which is in their members"? Ask them, whether they do not discover, thus rankling within them, that which, if not vigilantly guarded and kept