« FöregåendeFortsätt »
to the very temptation by which you ensnared them, to the laugh or sneer by which you banished their serious thoughts, and led them to grieve the Spirit of God, to the whole life of sin and impenitence which you lived before them. Ah! you will remember it all ; and bitter indeed will be the reflection
-- bitter enough, with no other agents of misery, to overwhelm the soul with remorse and anguish. What, then, with all its other bitter ingredients, must be the sinner's cup of final woe!
But we will pursue these thoughts no farther. I have endeavored, in what I have said, not to rely upon conjecture, but to keep within the range of Scripture teaching, and legitimate inference from it. These views, we know, are not pleasing and grateful to unrenewed hearts, but if they are in accordance with the facts of the case, they are of immense importance, aud every unconverted soul should strive to realize now, what, unless he speedily repent, he must realize when it is too late to find relief.
Imagine, then, the change already past, which may paso upon you at any hour ;-imagine yourself engaged in the reflections I have been describing. The affairs of earth are all over, and you are reviewing them from your abode in eternity. A voice from the bright world above, which you can see, but cannot enter, says to you, “Son remember, and all the scenes of probation start up before you, as witnesses to the justice of your doom, and in the words of inspiration, thou mourn at last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, “How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!" There is the golden opportunities I wasted, and the countless gifts of my Father's goodness which I abused. There is the long, dark, terrible catalogue of my sins, which must witness against me forever. There is the heaven I might have gained. There is the glorious Saviour, in whose presence I might have spent my eternity. There is the vacant seat I might have occupied—the untuned harp I might have strung. But here I am in helll the place of which I so often heard, but to which I never for a moment meant to come. Yet here I am at last, a hopeless, accursed, despairing exile from all good : the enemy of my God, the victim of my own impenitence, the murderer of my own soul,
- lost! forever lost! Oh! that the humblest saint in heaven might bring me but one drop of water, to cool my burning tongue !
My unconverted hearer, are these pictures real or not? They are as certainly real and true as that the Word of God is real and true ; and being so, your soul is in jeopardy every hour. Nothing but the slender thread of life holds you one moment from the world of torment. Let that thread be. cut, and all this will become a terrible reality to you in a single hour.
I forewarn you of it now, while you can escape, and I im. plore you to heed the warning, and take refuge in Christ. Go to him in penitence and contrition-go as a perishing sinner,-go at once, and you are safe.
BY REV. E. C. PRITCHETT,
ROME, NEW YORK.
THE CHRISTIAN AS A REFORMER. " Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove
them."-EPHESIANS, 5 : 11. All men ought to labor and pray for the extinction of evil and the prevalence of good. What all men ought to do the Christian endeavors to effect. When sins are on every hand thrusting up their horrid fronts, unabashed and bare, or are marking their deformity under the seemly guise of some pretended good, the child of God will not fail to cry, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?” And such an inquiry has peculiar significance at a time like this, when Christians have been led to see that their relations extend far beyond their parish or vicinity : and it is not easy to evade the sense of responsibility by asking, “Who is my neighbor ?" To such a prayer for wisdom, the Spirit, through the Apostle, answers in the words of our text, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
The term “darkness," as used here, means depravity, which is clear from its evident purport in the 8th verse : “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are light in the Lord." The phrase, “works of darkness," consequently signifies sins, the results of moral depravity in general, and no particular class of them rather than another. Well may they be called unfruitful,- for all that shall be finally achieved by those who persist in committing them will be but the negation of good and all hope of good, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power, the undying worm, and the unquenchable fire of Gehenna. These are the fruits of the works of darkness. With regard to them, the Christian's duty is twofold in its aspect, -negative and positive ; and in this order let us consider it.
1. Negative.—"Have no fellowship:
There are several kinds of connection with evil and with evil-doers, which may be mistaken for the forbidden fellow. ship. Consequently the indolent, the man-fearing, and the
man-pleasing, while they see that some connection is clearly allowed in the Bible, may imagine that every species of it, in turn, may be connived at, when convenient. Meanwhile, by a mistake as to the import of the term in question, a conscientious disciple, eager at all risks to clear his skirts of sin, may be so misled as to waste his energies—and then his spirit will deteriorate, and his influence be destroyed. Moreover, the Pharasaical and censorious may so interpret the Word as to feel justified in giving a wide range to the exhibition of their unlovely and invidious spirit towards their erring fellow-men; and then others, irritated by their folly, may rush in the same spirit to the opposite extreme, and surpass them in the absurdity and ferocity with which they will advocate what is wrong:
Thus professors of religion, instead of presenting the dignified spectacle of wise men, by kind discussion and enlightened investigation seeking to unite on the best means of removing evil, may appear involved in a confused tumult, where the dust of the conflict, and the fantastic tricks of the combatants blind men's eyes to the question at issue : and the attractive Christian graces shrink into oblivion, while wrath, clamor and evil-speaking sweep like a whirlwind over the arena. Instead of trusting to our fallible powers of ratiocination, let us in the light of the Scripture endeavor to discriminate between what is and what is not the fellowship forbidden.
1. All and every kind of intercourse with evil-doers is not included ; for we are commanded to rebuke, and this implies some intercourse. Besides, we are exhorted to do good unto all men, as we have opportunity.
2. All friendly intercourse with even gross sinners is not prohibited. Out Saviour sat at meal with publicans and sinners and Pharisees; and Paul instructs Christians how to conduct themselves when invited to a feast by an unbeliever ; and in 1 Cor. 5 : 10, expressly says, that they cannot avoid the company of grossly wicked men who are unbelievers, " for then must ye needs go out of the world.” It may be noted that the self-banishment of the ascetic is treated by the Apostle as a thing entirely out of the question.
3. All business intercourse is not interdicted. In 1 Cor. 10: 25, permission, and even advice is given : "whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no questions for conscience sake ;' and that too, when the buying of the article in question might well be thought to encourage idolatry, for the heathen priests were accustomed to sell in the shambles meat that had been sacrificed to idols, and thus converted it into a source of revenue and reward for their idol service.
4. The discharge of the relative duties which arise out of the family relation is not included in the prohibition. The connection of consanguinity is not to be disregarded or dis
reputed. The reciprocal obligations of parent and child, for instance, remain unimpaired, though the one remain a sinner, while the other becomes a saint. Even where the connection arises on voluntary compact, and one of the parties subsequently becomes a Christian, the continuance of the relation and of its duties is so far from being forbidden, that it is even enjoined, although under the Mosaic law such ties were sundered. The difference between the two dispensations in this matter is explained by the fact, that the former was partly national, and had for its object the preservation of religious truth rather than its diffusion, which last is the characteristic aim of the gospel ; and this appears in the reason adduced by the Apostle : "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband ? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife ?"-1 Cor, 7 : 16.
5. Civil connection with wicked governments is not forbidden. Subjection to rulers is permitted and directed by the precept of Paul, in Rom. 13 : 1, "Let every soul be subject to the powers that be.” It is also sanctioned by the example of Christ. A state of mind and a course of conduct consistent with this relation is urged by Jeremiah, upon the captive Jews in Babylon, that metropolis of vice and oppression : “ Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto the Lord for it ; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” -Jer. 29 : 7.-- Respect to magistrates is also enjoined by Paul and Peter. "Honor the king,” is the phrase used by the latter-meaning any supreme magistrate. Paul, when on trial before Festus, calls him “most noble," even when rudely interrupted by him ; and although the character of Festus was certainly no ways remarkable for virtue.
Tribute also is to be paid, though the government be unjust; though it be a supporter of idolatry, and oppressive in its rule, as was that of the Romans over the Jews ; yet Christ paid his tax to Cæsar. It is allowed to hold office under a wicked government. Joseph held office under the despot of Egypt. Daniel did likewise under the kings of Babylon and Persia, and while so doing was greeted by the angel with the title " well-beloved," and a miracle was wrought for his delivery from the lions, when cast into their den. When Sergius Paulus was converted, we do not learn that he resigned his office, nor that any such thing was ever expected from a convert.
6. Not all ecclesiastical connection with wrong-doers is forbidden. Where there is room for honest intention on either side, such connection may be continued indefinitely, as may be seen in Paul's decision on certain controverted points in Rom. 14. Where a church-member is clearly in the wrong, it is necessary to wait until appropriate efforts for reclaiming the offender have been faithfully tried, and
have not met with the desired result ;
-where even the church at large may be persuaded that an individual member has not the spirit of Christ, but yet his general conduct may be such that no overt act can be proved against bim. To exclude a member in such a case would be to hazard the good name of all, for every one is liable to misconstruction. Besides, our Saviour insists on every word being established ; and for this end it is necessary not only that the witnesses be credible, but that the charge be based on facts capable of proof. An adherence to this rule may often seem vexatious in the case of an individual concerning whose character a series of peculiar ambiguous actions may present an accumulative evidence which will leave but little room for a rational hope in his favor, while he manages after all to keep on the right side of church as well as state law; but it will be best to leave the matter to the decision of the all-seeing Judge, who trieth the reins and the heart.
Where the friends of the right, in a given case, are in a minority, and therefore powerless as to direct action, they are not guilty in retaining their ecclesiastical connection with wrong-doers, so long as they maintain their testimony. In Matt. 23 : 2,3, our Saviour thus advises his discipies : “ The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat ; all therefore wbatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do ; but do not ye after their works ; for they say and do not.” The character of these teachers is condemned; but as his disciples could not displace them, let them bide their time, attend on their synagogue ministry, for they sit in Moses' seat, i.e. tcach his doctrines, and so are orthodox, though not or. thoprax ; and let the hearers practice the duties which the preachers neglect. In John's gospel, 16 : 2, Jesus forewarns his disciples : “ They shall put you out of the synagogues.” Now they could not have been expelled from the synagogues unless they had remained in them. It is needless to expatiate on the character of the Jews who constituted their synagogues. But it may be asked whether there is any instance of a righteous minority continuing, without reproach, and with the sanction of Christ, in connection with a corrupt Christian church? For an answer to this question we may refer to the case of the church at Sardis.
By Him who hath the seven stars it is denounced as “ dead." Yet saith He," thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments ; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” If all those who remain in connection with a corrupt church are necessarily contaminated, how could any have remained in the dead church of Sardis " who had not defiled their garments ?' It is worthy of remark too, that they are not warned to come out of the corrupt connection.
This case is so extreme that some may think it proves too