« FöregåendeFortsätt »
interest; but they do mark the falling tear of the penitent, and listen to the sigh of the contrite; they pause over the dwelling of prayer, ind mingle in the circle of devotion; they watch the sinner in all his goings, and register the number of the saved, and bear to heaven the joyful news when a soul is converted.',
The angels take the liveliest interest in matters pertaining to man's salvation; they are anxious spectators of the race which he is running; the guardian and ministering spirits of the heirs of salvation; and rejoice over every “sinner that repenteth” with a universal and a great rejoicing. What a rebuke is this to the dullness and apathy and neglect of too many , Christians !
The angels in heaven and Christians on earth have one and the same general interest, and grand theme, to enlist and call forth their love and service. And hence they should have a.. fellow-feeling. The desire, the anxiety, the joy of angels ought to be the desire, the anxiety, the joy of every good man., Christians ought to look upon sinners with the pity of angels, yearn over them with tho tenderness and solicitude of angels, and joy over their salvation with the joy of angels. Redemption should so wake our sensibilities, and sway such a power over our minds and hearts that the sight of a fellow-sinner plucked from endless ruin and recovered to God and life, should give us the highest joy-thrill our being as · ny. thing else can do... Earthly joy, earthly gain, earthly triumphs, what are they all worth in the scale with an immortal soul, made in the image of God-made for happiness; glory and endless life--converted from the error of his ways and made an heir of glory? When all beneath the sun has been reduced to ashes, that soul will rise to God, resplendent in moral worth and beauty, and shine forever in glory, as a star of the Redeemer's crown. The salvation of the meanest sinner that ever lived on earth, is worth all the treasures of tears and toil and blood, that the Christian church has ever poured out at the feet of Jesus.
Is this the feeling of Christians ? Is concern for the sinner made the great concern of their hearts? Do their souls melt and rejoice over a repentant sinner with a celestial feeling ? Have we, as Christians, adequate views of the worth of the soul; of the extent of the ruin which sin has brought upon it; and of the need and preciousness of its redemption ? Is salvation the theme of themes with us? Does it set the heart on fire-inspire the tongue, nerve the soul, and command life's best and noblest service ? Alas! must we not confess to an apathy here that is the grief and sorrow of angels? We do not fully enter into the spirit of the thrilling'scenes which are transpiring in this apostate and gospel world. We do not half feel for sinners who are perishing eternally on every band-in our streets, in our sanctuaries, in our own dwellings. We do
not wait and watch for the repentance of sinners, and pour out the full tide of the heart's gratitude and joy when any are found returning to give glory to God. We do not put our hearts in living contact with the cross of Christ, and fully fellowship its sympathy and travail and agony and joy and glory in the blessed work of saving sinners. Oh, that we had the spirit of Christ, the spirit of angels! Then would one great thought-the rescuing of souls from sin and death-opgro88 our minds, enlist every faculty and energy, and constrain a willing, undividod, untiring service for God and salvation.
The soul of man is of infinite value, or the angels of God would not take such an interest in its welfare. Its guilty and ruined state while perishing in sin is inexpressibly awful, or its recovery to God and life would not thus thrill the heavenly world with joy. Oh, how would angels plead and toil and strive to save men if they were but permitted such an access to, and influence over them, as Christians possess ! . And can Chrigtians bė stupid or neglectful, when angels are thus awake and would do so much to pull men out of the fire of perdition ? Can buman or angelic efforts be better exponded than in behalf of man's salvation ? What are the grand achievements of art, science or arms—what the noblest enterprises of commerce or ambition, compared to the bringing of a single sinner to Obrist? "Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, sball save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." Christian reader, take bome this thought to your heart. Ponder it well. "No other end is worth living for. Live for this. Let those sublime motives which ruled the mission and life of Jesus Christ, rule your heart and life.
No. 9, Vol. XXIII. SEPTEMBER, 1849. Whole No. 273.
BY REV. ALBERT BARNES,
Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.
“Before him went the pestilence.”-HABAKKUK iii. 5. No one can fail to be struck with the sublimity of this passage of Scripture. God is represented as passing from one land to another, accompanied with the symbols of His glory. Among those symbols was the Pestilence, preceding His coming, either as an emblem of His awful majesty, or of the ease with which he prostrates the tribes of men; or as expressive of justice and judgment. Apart from the mere poetry of the representation, however, the main truth which seems to be taught is, the connection between the Pestilence when it visits the earth, and God; or, the pestilence as accompanying the divine Being in his movements among the nations. The thought is, that the Pestilence is not the work of chance, of fate, or of mere natural laws, but is somehow connected with the Divine administration of human affairs, and should be recognized as such : or, in other words, that wherever the pestilence is, there is God directing it for distinct and important purposes.
There are great inquiries which the Pestilence, in any form, is fitted to excite among men, and each one will pursue these inquiries with reference to his own proper department :--the physiologist, the moralist, the theologian. In regard almost to no visitations of Divine Providence to the world, are there so many questions that are still involved in difficulty and uncertainty, as in reference to the various forms of the pestilence. It may be added, also, that whenever it appears in the world, and in whatever form
• Preached in the First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, on the day appointed to be observed as a National Fast, August 3, 1849.
it may manifest itself, it is a proper occasion for men to inquire wby God comes among them in this form of visitation, and what lessons he is intending to convey.
The term pestilence is a very general term. It is, essentially, some form of wasting sickness that cuts men suddenly down, and that stands apart, in some respects, from the ordinary and regular diseases with which our race is visited. Whether infectious or not, or contagious or not-if any diseases are contagious-its general characteristics seem to be, that numbers are simultaneously affected; that it is usually rapid in its work; that it defies the ordinary precautions for warding off disease; that it sets at naught the skill of medicine as applied in the usual methods of restoration of health ; and that if it is governed by regular laws and controlled by second causes-as there is no reason to doubt that it is--they are laws of its own, and are difficult of detection and classification. It is an extraordinary, not miraculous, visitation of divine Providence to mankind.
The inquiries which are appropriate to this occasion are, what place does it occupy under the Divine administration, or as connected with the moral government of God? What bearing has it on us as rational and accountable agents ? What purposes does God design to accomplish by it ? What relation, if any, has it to the sins of individuals, or the sins of a nation? Why, in bringing it upon men, does God depart from his ordinary rules in regard to disease, and his common methods in closing human life? These are the only inquiries which pertain to this place and to this occasion. There are others of great moment which pertain to the Medical Schools ; or the Sanitary Boards; and to the other conservators of public health. I have not the ability to go into them ; I shall touch on them no farther than is appropriate to my department-to show to such men that their inquiries should not exclude the higher inquiry, in which as men and as sinners, we all have a common interest.
I propose to direct your thoughts to the one point only which has already been adverted to :—the place which the Pestilence occupies under the Divine administration, or as connected with the moral government of God. In doing this, I shall notice what seem to me to be some prevalent erroneous opinions in regard to it, and shall then endeavor to show you what is the true doctrine on the subject.
1. My first object is to examine some prevalent opinions in re gard to the matter which seem to me to be erroneous. The views which I propose to notice under this head may be reduced to two: —those which do not recognize God at all in the Pestilence, and those which are the result of reasoning loosely and inconclusively in regard to His design.
be quitetomy anisdomian
1. It is undeniable that there is a very large class of persons that do not, practically, recognize the hand of God in such visitations at all, but who pursue their inquiries in such a way, as practically to exclude all recognition of the Great Ruler of the universe. There are few, indeed, that would take this ground openly and theoretically; and it may be hoped that the expression in the proclamation which has so appropriately called us together this day, recognizing the Divine hand in this visitation, may be regarded not only as giving utterance to the sentiment entertained by the highest authority in this Christian nation, but as an expopent of the belief entertained by the mass of the nation at large.* But there is a large class, it is to be feared, among whom there is no proper recognition of God; a class so intent on searching out the secondary causes, that the acknowledgment of the Divine hand does not occur. This remark, indeed, need not be confined to inquiries respecting the pestilence, and it is peculiarly proper to make it here only because there is so much in the pestilence that is adapted to rebuke it. It is, indeed, remarkable, that inquiries can be pursued in our world on so many subjects with no practical and proper recognition of God. One would say, if he were to theorize on the matter, that it would be quite an impracticable thing to pursue the study of botany, or anatomy, or astronomy, or chemistry, without finding constant traces of wisdom, and benevolence, and power, that could be best explained on the supposition that there is a God, and that could be satisfactorily explained on no other supposition. Yet, how little is this theoretical view sustained by fact. What a large portion is there of those engaged in these pursuits who fail, in any practical and proper manner, to recognize in them the Divine agency. For this there are two causes : the one is, that having found, as they suppose, the law which explains the phenomenon or the cause which lies immediately back of it, they are satisfied with that, and regard their work as done; the other is that which is stated by
*« At a season when the providence of God has manifested itself in the visi. tation of a fearful Pestilence, which is spreading its ravages throughout the land, it is fitting that a people whose reliance has ever been on His protection, should humble themselves before his throne ; and, while acknowledging past transgressions, ask a continuance of divine mercy.
“It is therefore earnestly recommended, that the first Friday in August be observed throughout the United States as a day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer. All business will be suspended in the various branches of the public service on that day; and it is recommended to persons of all religious denomi. nations to abstain, as far as practicable, from secular occupations, and to assemble in their respective places of public worship, to acknowledge the infinite goodness which has watched over our existence as a nation, and so long crowned us with manifold blessings; and to implore the Almighty, in his own good time, to stay the destroying hand which is now lifted up against us.
* Z. TAYLOR. " WASHINGTON, July 3, 1849.