« AnteriorContinuar »
sition between Christian Faith and the experience of life. We are expressly told in Scripture that the impenitent shall go into fire everlasting. Now this, though so plainly stated by our Lord Himself, that one should think no one, believer or not, can deny that He has said so, nevertheless is a hard thing surely to receive, where men will not believe, and will go by sight. It is, indeed, no difficulty for any one to sit at home and believe the doctrine; it is no trial to his faith if he live among books, or be blessed with a religious circle of friends, or happily be under a parent's roof, or like young Samuel, or aged Anna, live almost in the temple of God: but if he is thrown upon the world, if he has an opportunity of coming very near profligate, or hardened, or worldly, or unbelieving men, or, which is the same thing, if he has any particular tie connecting him with any such, then will he feel how hard a saying it is that any one, even the most wicked of men, can be destined to eternal punishment. There is no man ever so bad but to our erring eyes has some redeeming points of character. There is no man but has some human feelings or other; and those very feelings impress us with a sort of conviction that he cannot possibly be the destined companion of evil spirits. Hell is the habitation of no human affections. Let a man be ever so blood-stained, so awfully blasphemous, or so profligate, yet at least, at times, perhaps when in pain or weariness, he shows something to excite our interest and pity. And if not, then his very pain seems to plead for him. His capability of pain, and his showing that he feels it, seem to connect him with us, and to disconnect him with those fallen spirits, who have no sympathies, no weaknesses, but are impenetrable and absolute evil, even though they suffer. Even the witch of Endor showed some compassion for Saul, and moves us in doing so. “ And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have put my life in
my hand, and have hearkened unto thy words which thou spakest unto me. Now, therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee, and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy way. But he refused, and said, I will not eat. But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him ; and he hearkened unto their voice."* Such was the conduct of one who avowedly dealt with familiar spirits. Oh miserable we, then, if we are of the number of those who prefer sight to Faith! Oh miserable, if when our Saviour, the very Word of God, and the True Witness, speaks plainly one way, we listen to the serpent's voice, saying, “ Ye shall not surely die!” We have no right indeed, surely not, to say absolutely that this or that man whom we see and can point at, is destined to future punishment. God forbid ! for we can but judge by outward appearance, and God alone seeth the hearts of men. But we are expressly told that there are persons so destined; we are told that the finally impenitent, whoever they shall be, are so destined; and whatever the sight of things may tell us, however the weaknesses and waywardnesses of our hearts may plead against such awful truths, however our feelings, and imaginations, and reason may be assailed, yet“ let God be true, and every man a liar;” let us believe Him, though the whole world rose up and with one voice denied His words. Let us accept the truth, as an act of faith towards God, and as a most solemn warning to ourselves, that “ the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God;" that they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of His power, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day.”+
1 Sam. xxviii. 21-23.
Psalm ix. 17.
2 Thess. 1. 9, 10.
To conclude. Let us pray God to teach us: we need His teaching; we are very blind. The Apostles on one occasion said to Christ, when His words tried them, “ Increase our faith.” Let us come to Him honestly : we cannot help ourselves; we do not know ourselves; we need His grace. Whatever perplexity the world gives us, whether about the doctrine of regenerating Baptism, or about the Church Apostolic, or about the necessity of maintaining the Gospel faith, or about the doctrine of everlasting punishment, (blessed are they who have no such trials, but some have!) let us come to Him with pure and sincere minds; imploring Him to reveal to us what we know not, to incline our hearts when they are stubborn, and to make us love and obey Him honestly while we seek, and not to seek mere barren knowledge, “ which perisheth with the using."
FAITH AND THE WORLD.
Prov. xi. 21.-" Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be
unpunished : but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.”
When we hear speak of the wicked, we are apt to think that men of abandoned lives and unprincipled conduct, cruel, crafty, or profligate men, can alone be meant. This obtains almost universally; we think that evil, in any sufficient sense of the word, is something external to us, and at a distance. Thus in the case of children, when they hear of bad men and wicked men, they have no conception that evil can really be near them. They fancy, with a fearful curiosity, something which they have not seen, something foreign and monstrous, as if brought over the seas, or a production of another sphere; though, in truth, evil, and in its worst and most concentrated shape, is born with them, lives within them, is not subdued except by a supernatural gift from God, and is still in them, even when God's grace has brought it under. And so, when we grow up, whether we are thrown upon the world or not, we commonly do not understand t at what Scripture says of sin, of its odiousness and is peril, applies to us. The world itself, even though we see it, appears not to be the world; that is, not the world which Scripture speaks of. We do not discern, we do not detect the savour of its sinfulness; its ways are pleasant to us; and what Scripture says of wickedness, and of misery as attendere ing on it, does not, as we think, apply to the world we see.
And hence it is, that when we read, as in the text, of the short triumph and the overthrow of wickedness, when we read that “though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished,” we have a picture brought before us of some , overbearing tyranny, or some perfidious conspiracy, or some bold and avowed banding against religion, some event of a + generation or a century, and nothing short of it. And such specimens of evil doubtless are especially intended; still, af ter all, much more is included in its meaning, much which is ordinary, much which we see before our eyes.
Can it indeed be otherwise ? Is not the world in itself evil ? Is it an accident, is it an occasion, is it but an excess, or a crisis, or a complication of circumstances, which constitutes its sinfulness ? or, rather, is it not one of our three great spiritual enemies, at all times, and under all circumstances and all changes, ungodly, unbelieving, seducing, and anti-Christian ? Surely we must grant it to be so. Why else in Baptism do we vow to wage war against it ? Why else does Scripture speak of it in the terms which we know so well, if we will but attend to them ? St. James says, that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God,"* so that “ whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” And St. Paul speaks of “ walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience ;”+ and exhorts us not to be “conformed to this world,” but to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind;"I and he says that Christ“ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world."In like manner St. John says, “ Love not the world, neither the
* James iv. 4.
Eph. ii. 2.
Rom. xii. 2.
Gal. i. 4.