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youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now, also, when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” And he will answer you ; “Even to your old age I am he: and even to hoary hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear: even I will carry, and will deliver you.
“I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." Amen.
THE MISERY OF CONTENDING WITH GOD. Wounto him that striveth with his Maker.- Isaiah xlv. 9.
The life of man is held forth by various images; and it is worthy of our observation, that they will apply equally to the righteous, and to the wicked. For instance :
The Christian is a traveller-and so is the sinner: only the one is journeying to heaven, and the other to hell.
The Christian is a husbandman-so is the sinner : both sow; only the one “ sows to the flesh, and shall of the flesh reap corruption ; while the
other sows to the Spirit, and shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”.
The Christian is a soldier, and we read in the Scripture of his commander, his enemies, and his arms ; of his fightings without, and of his fears within; of his toil and of his triumph. But if the life of the Christian be a warfare, so is the life of the sinner ; but there is this difference between them. The one wages a good warfare, and is crowned with glory, and honour—the other is engaged in a cause the most infamous, and covers himself with shame and confusion. The one is sure of victory—the other is certain of defeat.The one fights for God—but the other against him-and—“ Wo unto him that striveth with his Maker.”
Let us, first, mention some instances in which the sinner strives with God. And, secondly, consider the wo which his opposition necessarily entails upon him. And, O! let me beseech you this evening to hear, not only with seriousness, but with self-application, that while I am endeavouring to lay open the crime, and the curse, you may individually ask yourselves, in the presence of God, whether you are chargeable with the one, in order to determine whether you are exposed to the other.
First, let me specify some instances, in which the sinner may be considered as striving with God. And here I hardly think it worth while to mention atheism, which opposes his very being, and tries to banish him from the world which he has made. Some indeed have supposed that a speculative atheist is an impossibility. I have often thought, that if such a monster can be found, he is to be found, not in a heathen, but in
a Christian country. How far God may give up a man to strong delusion to believe a lie, who has despised and rejected the advantages of revelation, it is not for us to determine—but “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness !"
It is undeniable, however, that we have a multitude of practical atheists — that is, we have thousands who live precisely as they would do if they believed there were no God; and are no more influenced by his presence and perfections, than if they were persuaded the Scripture were a cunningly devised fable. Yea, they not only live without God in the world, but they live against him! Wherein ?
First. They strive with him by transgressing his holy and righteous law. And this is done, not only by the commission of those sins which it forbids, but also by the omission of those duties which it enjoins. The man that does not love his neighbour, and strive to do him good, is therefore criminal, as well as the man who robs and oppresses him. This law is also broken by the desires of the heart, as well as by the actions of the life; it is so spiritual as to apprehend murder in angry words, and adultery in wanton looks. Now, every instance of disobedience, is a contention with God; a daring struggle to determine whether we shall be governed by his will, or by our own.
Secondly. The sinner strives with God, by opposing the gospel. The gospel is a scheme of mercy designed to glorify God in the salvation of man, and is made known for the obedience of faith. It calls us to repentance. It calls us to renounce our own righteousness. It calls us to
flee for refuge to the Saviour of sinners. If therefore we go on in our impenitency; if we endeavour to establish our own righteousness, and save ourselves ; if we endeavour to build a shelter, instead of repairing to the only refuge provided we are striving with God. In the gospel, God says, Come, and let us reason together, but the sinner says, “ Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” The language of the gospel, as a token of willing submission, is kiss the Son-the language of the sinner is, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” The language of the gospel is, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times ; and be clean"—the language of the sinner is, “ Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ? may I not wash in them and be clean ?” No. And the reason is, that your cure can only come from God, and he has determined to save you in his own way: he has revealed only one remedy ; to this the promise is made ; to this he requires you to submit: and if you refuse this method; and think of becoming your own physician, you are at variance with God. And even after persons have some serious concern about their souls, they find it no easy thing to yield up themselves unreservedly to the sovereign plan? Such is the pride of reason, and the force of legality; such a difficulty is there in relinquishing all apprehension of some worthiness, and strength of their own; and such a disposition have they to make themselves better before they rely on the Saviour that they are often detained long in opposing this gracious scheme, till increasing conviction compels them to acquiesce. And though the force of it be broken, something of the old leaven remains in the people of God all through life. · Thirdly. The sinner strives with God by violating the dictates of conscience. Conscience is God in man. And how often, and how faithfully has it addressed you! “O do not that abominable thing that I hate”—and yet, you did it. “Abandon that vicious course ; its steps take hold on hell”—and yet, you pressed forward. “ Beware of that irreligious connexion ; evil communications corrupt good manners : a companion of fools shall be destroyed"-and yet, you complied with their enticements. And 0! what labour have you had to lull conscience asleep, that you may steal forth and pursue your iniquities undisturbed! How hard have you often found it, to subdue the uneasiness which has sprung from its reproaches and condemnation! And sometimes in struggling with you alone, has it not been ready to gain the victory, till you went forth, and called in to your assistance, your comrades, and your dissipations; and, thus rallied and re-enforced, have renewed the contest, and again “ done despite unto the Spirit of grace ?"
Fourthly. The sinner strives with God, by refusing to resign himself to the dispensations of his providence.
By various blessings and indulgences in his person, in his family, or in his business, God would attach his heart to himself. Hence, the apostle says, " That the goodness of God leadeth to repentance:" it ought to do so; it is the design and the tendency of it-But the sinner frustrates this design and tendency-yea, he does morehe turns it into an encouragement to sin ; he is evil because God is good; and the mercies which