« FöregåendeFortsätt »
that his truth cannot be trampled upon, | God with the eye of his mind under this and his government cannot be despoiled new aspect,-love to God would spring up of its authority, and its sanctions cannot, in his heart, as the unfailing consequence. with impunity, be defied, and every solemn Let man see God as he sets himself forth utterance of the Deity cannot but find its in this wonderful revelation, and let him accomplishment, in such a way as may believe the reality of what he sees; and vindicate his glory, and make the whole he cannot but love the Being he is employcreation he has formed stand in awe of ed in contemplating. Without this gospel, its Almighty Sovereign. And here is an- he may see him to be a God of justice; other barrier on the part of God; and that but he cannot do this without seeing the economy of redemption, in which a dead frown of severity directed against himself, and undiscerning world see no skilfulness | a wretched offender: With this gospel, he to admire, and no feature of graciousness sees the full burden of violated justice to allure, was so planned, in the upper borne away from him; and God stands becounsels of heaven, that it maketh known, fore him unrobed of all his severities, and to principalities and powers, the manifold tenderly inviting him to draw near through wisdom of Him who devised it. The men that blood of atonement which was shed, of this infidel generation, whose every fa- the just for the unjust, to bring the sinner culty is so bedimmed by the grossness of unto God. Without this gospel, he may sense, that they cannot lay hold of the see the truth of God; but he sees it pledged realities of faith, and cannot appreciate to the fulfilment of the most awful threatthem, to them the barriers we have now enings against him: With this gospel, insisted on, which lie in the way of man he sees the full weight of all these actaking God into his love, and of God taking complishments resting on the head of the man into his acceptance, may appear to be great sacrifice; and God's truth is now so many faint and shadowy considerations, fully embarked on the most cheering asof which they feel not the significancy; surances of pardon, on the most liberal inbut, to the pure and intellectual eye of an-vitations of good will, on the most exceedgels, they are substantial obstacles, and ing great and precious promises. Without One Mighty to save had to travail in the this gospel, he may see the government of greatness of his strength, in order to move God leaning on the pillars of that immutathem away. The Son of God descended bility which upholds it; but this very imfrom heaven, and he took upon him the mutability is to him the sentence of despair; nature of man, and he suffered in his stead, and how can he love that face, on which and he consented that the whole burden of are stamped the characters of a stern and offended justice should fall upon him, and vindictive majesty? With this gospel, the he bore in his own body on the tree, the face of God stands legibly revealed to weight of all those accomplishments by him in other characters. That law which, which his Father behooved to be glorified, resting on the solemn authority of its firm and after having magnified the law, and and unalterable requirements, demanded a made it honourable, by pouring out his fulfilment, up to the last jot and tittle of it, soul unto the death for us, he went up on has been magnified, and has been made high, and by an arm of everlasting honourable, by one illustrious sufferer, who strength, levelled that wall of partition put forth the greatness of his strength, in which lay across the path of acceptance; that dark hour of the travail of his soul, and thus it is, that the barrier on the part when he bore the burden of all its penalof God is done away, and he, with untar- ties. That wrath which should have been nished glory, can dispense forgiveness discharged on the guilty millions he died over the whole extent of a guilty creation, for, was all concentred upon him, who because he can be just, while he is the took upon himself the chastisement of our justifier of them who believe in Jesus. peace, and on that day of mysterious agony, drank, to the very dregs, the cup of our expiation. And God, who planned the whole work of this wonderful redemption,
And if the barrier, on the part of God, is thus moved aside, why not the barrier on the part of man? Does not the wisdom of redemption show itself here also? Does it-God, who in love to a guilty world sent not embrace some skilful contrivance, by his Son amongst us to accomplish it,which it penetrates those mounds that be- God, who rather than lose his alienated set the human heart, and ward the en- creatures, as he could not strip his eternal trance of the principle of love away from throne of a single attribute that supported it, and which all the direct applications of it, awoke the sword of vengeance against terror and authority, have only the effect his fellow, that on him the truth and the of fixing more immoveably upon their justice of the Deity might receive their basis? Yes it does,-for it changes the most illustrious vindication,-God, who, out aspect of the Deity towards man; and of Christ, sits surrounded with all the darkwere man only to have faith in the an-ness of unapproachable majesty, is now nouncements of the gospel, so as to see God in Christ, reconciling the world unto
himself, and not imputing unto them their trespasses; his tender mercy is now free to rejoice amid all the glory of his other bright and untarnished perfections, and he pours the expression of his tenderness, with an unsparing hand, over the whole extent of his sinful creation-and he lets himself down to the language of a beseeching supplicant, praying that each and every one of us might be reconciled unto himand, putting on a winning countenance of invitation to the guiltiest of us all, he tells us, that if we only come to him through the appointed mediator, he will blot out, as with a thick cloud, our transgressions, and that, as if carried away to a land that was not inhabited, he will make no more mention of them.
defied and trampled on, and that it was not possible for his perfections to receive the slightest taint in the eyes of the creation he had thrown around him; but that all this was provided for, and not a single creature within the compass of the universe he had formed, could now say, that forgiveness to man was degrading to the authority of God, and that by the very act of atonement, which poured a glory over all the high attributes of his character, his mercy might now burst forth without limit, and without controul, upon a guilty world, and the broad flag of invitation be unfurled in the sight of all its families.
And thus it is, that the goodness of God destroyeth the enmity of the human heart. When every other argument fails, this, if perceived by the eye of faith, finds its powerful and persuasive way through every barrier of resistance. Try to approach the heart of man by the instruments of terror and of authority, and it will disdainfully repel you. There is not one of you skilled in the management of human nature, who does not perceive, that, though this may be a way of working on the other principles of our constitution, of working on the fears of man, or on his sense of interest,-this is not the way of gaining by a single hair-breadth on the attachments of his heart. Such a way may force, or it may terrify, but it never, never can endear; and after all the threatening array of such an influence as this, is brought to bear upon man, there is not one particle of service it can extort from him, but what is all rendered in the spirit of a painful and reluctant bondage. Now, this is not the service which prepares for heaven. This is not the service which assimilates men to angels. This is not the obedience of those glorified spirits, whose every affection harmonizes with their every performance; and the very essence of whose piety consists of delight in God, and the love they bear to him. To bring up man to such an obedience as this, his heart behooved to be approached in a peculiar way; and no such way is to be found, but within the limits of the Christian revelation. There alone you see God, without injury to his other attributes, plying the heart of man with the irresistible argument of kindness. There alone do you see the great Lord of heaven and of earth, setting himself forth to the most worthless and the most wandering of his children,-putting forth his own hand to the work of healing the breach which sin had made between them,-telling him that his word could not be set aside, and his threatenings could not be mocked, and his justice could not be
Let the sinner, then, look to God through the medium of such a revelation; and the sight which meets him there, may well tame the obstinacy of that heart which had wrapped itself up in impenetrable hardness against the force of every other consideration. Now that the storm of the Almighty's wrath has been discharged upon him who bore the burden of the world's atonement, he has turned his throne of glory into a throne of grace, and cleared away from the pavilion of his residence, all the darkness which encompassed it. The God who dwelleth there, is God in Christ; and the voice he sends from it, to this dark and rebellious province of his mighty empire, is a voice of the most beseeching tenderness. Good will to men is the announcement with which his messengers come fraught to a guilty world; and, since the moment in which it burst upon mortal ears from the peaceful canopy of heaven, may the ministers of salvation take it up, and go round with it among all the tribes and individuals of the species. Such is the real aspect of God towards you. He cannot bear that his alienated children should be finally and everlastingly away from him. He feels for you all the longing of a parent bereaved of his offspring. To woo you back again unto himself, he scatters among you the largest and the most liberal assurances, and with a tone of imploring tenderness, does he say to one and all of you, “Turn ye, turn yè, why will you die?" He has no pleasure in your death. He does not wish to glorify himself by the destruction of any one of you. "Look to me all ye ends of the earth, and be saved," is the wide and the generous announcement, by which he would recal, from the very outermost limits of his sinful creation, the most worthless and polluted of those who have wandered away from him. Now give us a man who perceives, with the eye of his mind, the reality of all this, and you give us a man in possession of the principle of faith. Give us a man in possession of this faith; and his heart, shielded, as it were, against the terrors of a menacing Deity, is softened and subdued, and resigns its every affection at the mov
ing spectacle of a beseeching Deity; and thus it is that faith manifests the attribute which the Bible assigns to it, of working by love. Give us a man in possession of this love; and animated as he is, with the living principle of that obedience, where the willing and delighted consent of the inner man goes along with the performance of the outer man, his love manifests the attribute which the Bible assigns to it, when it says, "This is the love of God, that ye keep his commandments." And thus it is, amid the fruitlessness of every other expedient, when power threatened to crush the heart which it could not soften,-when authority lifted its voice, and laid on man an enactment of love which it could not carry,-when terror
shot its arrows, and they dropped ineffectual from that citadel of the human affections, which stood proof against the impression of every one of them,-when wrath mustered up its appalling severities, and filled that bosom with despair which it could not fill with the warmth of a confiding attachment, then the kindness of an inviting God was brought to bear on the heart of man, and got an opening through all its mysterious avenues. Goodness did what the nakedness of power could not do. It found its way through all the intricacies of the human constitution, and there, depositing the right principle of repentance, did it establish the alone effectual security for the right purposes, and the right fruits of repentance.
The Evils of false Security.
They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying Peace, Peace; when there is no peace."-Jeremiah vi. 14.
state of restlessness; and therefore it is, however seldom they are visited with any thought about eternity, and however gently this thought touches them, and however quickly it passes away, to be replaced by some of the more urgent vanities and inter
We must all have remarked, on what a slight and passing consideration people will dispose of a question which relates to the interest of their eternity; and how strikingly this stands contrasted with the very deep, and earnest, and long sustained attention, which they bestow on a question which re-ests of time, yet, with most men, there is lates to their interest, or their fortune, in something like an actual making up of their this world. Ere they embark, for example, minds, on this awfully important subject. on an enterprise of trade, they will look at There is a settlement they have come to all the sides, and all the possibilities of the about it, which, generally speaking, serves speculation; and every power of thought them to the end of their days;-and on the within them, will be put to its busiest exer- strength of which, there are many who can cise, and they will enter upon it with much hush within them every alarm of conscience, fearfulness, and they will feel an anxious and repel from without them, the whole concern in every step, and every new evo- force of a preacher's demonstration, and all lution of such an undertaking. Compare that power of disquietude which lies in his this with the very loose and summary way faithful and impressive warnings. in which they make up their minds about the chance of happiness in another world. See at how easy a rate they will be satisfied with some maxim of security, the utterance of which serves as a bar against all further prosecution of the subject. Behold the use they make of some hastily assumed principle in religion, not for the purpose of fastening their minds upon it, but for the purpose, in fact, of hurryin their minds away from it. For it must be observed of the people to whom we allude, that, in spite of all their thoughtlessness about the affairs of the soul, they are not altogether without some opinion on the matter; and in which opinion there generally is comprised all the or of coming vengeance. Now, on examintheology of which they are possessed. With-ing the ground of their tranquillity, we are out some such opinion, even the most re- at a loss to detect a single ingredient of that gardless of men might feel themselves in a peace and joy in believing, which we read
We speak in reference to a very numerous set of individuals, among the upper and middling classes of society. There is a class of what may be called slender and sentimental religionists, who do profess a reverence for the matter, and maintain many of its outward decencies, and are visited with occasional thoughts, and occasional feelings of tenderness about death, and duty, and eternity, and would be shocked at the utterance of an infidel opinion; and with all these symptoms of a religious inclination about them, have their minds very comfortably made up, and altogether free from any apprehension, either of present wrath
of among the Christians of the New Testa- | to gloss it over with the gentle epithet of ment. It is not that Christ is set forth an infirmity. It is readily allowed, then, a propitiation for their sins,-it is not that that we have our infirmities; and then to they stagger not at the promise of God, be- make all right, and secure, and comfortacause of unbelief,-it is not that the love of able, the sentiment with which they bring him is shed abroad in their hearts, by the the matter round again, is, that though we Holy Ghost,-it is not that they carry along have our infirmities, God is a merciful God, with them any consciousness whatever, of and he will overlook them. This vague, a growing conformity to the image of the and general, and indistinct apprehension of Saviour, it is not that their calling and the attribute of mercy is the anchor of their their election are made sure to them, by hope; not a very sure and steadfast one, the successful diligence with which they certainly, but just as sure and as steadfast, are cultivating the various accomplishments as, in their peaceful state of unconcern, they of the Christian character;-there is not have any demand for. A vessel in smooth one of these ingredients, will we venture to water needs not be very strongly fastened say, which enters into the satisfaction that in her moorings; and really any convictions many feel with their own prospects, and of sin they have, agitate them so gently, into the complacency they have in their that a very slender principle indeed, uttered own attainments, and into their opinion, occasionally by the mouth, and with no that God is looking to them with indulgence distinct or perceptible hold upon the heart, and friendship. With most of them, there is enough to quiet and subdue all that is is not only an ignorance, but a positive dis- troublesome within them A slight hur gust, about these things. They associate needs but a slight remedy, and however with them the charges of methodism, and virulent the disease may be, yet if the pamysticism, and fanaticism: and meanwhile tient be but gently alarmed, a gentle applicherish in their own hearts a kind of im- cation is enough to pacify him in the mean pregnable confidence, resting entirely on time. Now, a tasteful and a tender sentisome other foundation. ment about the goodness of God, is just such an application. He will not be severe upon our weaknesses; he will not cast a glance of stern and unrelenting indignation upon us. It is true, that there is to be met with, among the vilest dregs and refuse of society, a degree of profligacy for which it would really be too much to expect forgiveness. The use of hell is for the punishment of such gross and enormous wickedness as this. But the people who are so very depraved, and so very shocking, stand far beneath the place which we occupy in the scale of character. We, with our many amiable, and good, and neighbourlike points and accomplishments, are fair and befitting subjects for the kindness of God. When we err, we shall betake ourselves to a trust in that indulgence, which gives to our religion the aspect of so much cheerfulness; and we will school down all that is disquieting, by a sentiment of confidence in that mercy which is soothing to our hearts, and which we delight to hear expatiated upon in terms of tastefulness, by the orators of a genteel and cultivated piety.
Under this loose system of confidence, then, by which the peace of so many a sinner is upheld, it is the general mercy of God on which he rests. I shall, therefore, in the first place, endeavour to prove the vanity of such a confidence; and, in the second place, the evils of it.
We believe the real cause of their tranquillity to be, just that eternity is not seen nearly enough, or urgently enough, to disturb them. It stands so far away on the back ground of their contemplation, that they are almost entirely taken up with the intervening objects. Any glimpse they have of the futurity which lies on the other side of time, is so faint, and so occasional, that its concerns never come to them with the urgency of a matter on hand. It is not so much because they think in a particular way on this topic, that they feel themselves to be at peace. It is rather because they think so little of it. Still, however, they do have a transient and occasional thought, and it is all on the side of tranquillity; and could this thought be exposed as a minister of deceitful complacency to the heart, it may have the effect of working in it a salutary alarm, and of making the possessor of it see the nakedness of his condition, and of undermining every other trust but a trust in the offered salvation of the gospel, and of unsettling the blind and easy confidence of his former days, and of prompting him with the question, "What shall I do to be saved?" and of leading him to try this question by the light of revelation, and to prosecute it to a scriptural conclusion, till he came to the answer of, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." What is the way, then, in which they do actually make up their minds upon this subject? There is, in the first place, a pretty general admission, that we are sinners, though along with this, there is a disposition to palliate the enormity of sin, and
I. There is one obvious respect, in which this mercy that is so slenderly spoken of, and so vaguely trusted in, is not in unison with truth; and that is, it is not the mercy which has been made the subject of an actual offer from God to man, in the true
message that he has been pleased to de- | himself. But God tells us that he will not liver to the world. In this message, God be so drawn upon. He chooses, and has he makes a free offer of his mercy, no doubt; not the right of choosing, to bestow all his but he offers it on a particular footing, and favours upon a guilty world, in and through on that footing only, will he have it to be his Son Christ Jesus? If you choose to received. Along with the revelation he object to this way, you must just abide makes of his attribute of mercy, he bids us by the consequences. The offer is made. look to the particular way in which he God sets himself forward as merciful. But chooses that attribute to be put forth.. The he lets you know, at the same time, the man who steps forward to relieve you of particular way in which he chooses to be your debts, by an act of gratuitous kind-so. This way may be an offence to you. ness, may surely reserve the privilege of You would, perhaps, have liked better, had doing it in his own way; and whether it there been no Christ, no preaching of his be by a present in goods, or by a present cross, nothing said about his cleansing and in money, or by an order upon a third per-peace-speaking blood,-in a word, nothing son, or by the appointment of one whom he of all that which forms the burden of makes the agent of his beneficence, and methodistical sermons, and which, if met whom he asks you to correspond with and with in the New Testament at all, is only to draw upon, it would surely be most pre- to be found in what you may think its dark posterous in you to quarrel with his gène- and mystical passages. It would have been rosity, because it would have been more to more congenial to your taste, perhaps, had your taste, had it come to you through a you been left to the undisturbed enjoyment different channel of conveyance. He has a of your own soothing and elegant concepfair right of insisting upon his own way of tions,-could you just have gone direct to it; and if you will not acquiesce in this way, God himself, whom the eye of your imaand he leaves you under your burden, you gination had stripped of all tremendous sehave nothing to complain of. You might verity against sin, of all the pure and holy have liked it better had he authorized you jealousies of his nature, of all that is mato draw upon himself, rather than on the jestic in the high attributes of truth and agent he has fixed upon. But no; he has righteousness. A God singly possessed of his reasons, and he persists in his own way tenderness, in virtue of which, he would of it, and you must either go along with smile connivance at all our infirmities, and this way, or throw yourself out of the bend an indulgent eye over the waywardbenefit of his generosity altogether. It is ness of a heart devoted with all its afconceivable that, in spite of all this, you fections to the vanities and pleasures of may be so very perverse as to draw upon time,-this would be a God highly suited himself, instead of drawing upon the au- to the taste and convenience of a guilty thorized agent. Well, the effect is, just that world. But, alas! there is no such God. your draft is dishonoured, and your debt To trust in the mercy of such a Being as still lies upon you; and, by your wilful re-this, is to lean on a nonentity of your own sistance to the plan of relief laid down, are imagination. It is to be led astray, by a left to remain under the full weight of your fancy picture of your own forming. There embarrassments. is no other God to whom you can repair And so of God. He may, and he actu- for mercy, but God in Christ, reconciling ally has stepped forward, to relieve us from the world unto himself, and not imputing that debt of sin under which we lie. But unto them their trespasses. And if you he has taken his own way of it. He has resist the preaching of Christ as foolishnot left us to dictate the matter to him,- ness, if you will not recognize him, but perbut he himself has found out a ransom. He sist in your hoping, and your trusting, on the offers us eternal life; but he tells us where general ground that God is merciful, you this is to be found, even in his Son, and he are just wrapping yourselves up in a delubids us look unto him, and be saved; and sive confidence, and pleasing yourselves he says, that he who hath the Son hath with your own imagination; and the only life, and that he who believeth not the Son, real offer that ever was, or ever will be the wrath of God abideth on him. To re-made to sinful man, you are putting away strain, as it were, our immediate approaches from you. The mercy upon which you to himself, he reveals an agent, a Mediator rest, is in disunion with truth. It is a spark between God and man, and he lets us of your own kindling, and if you continue know, that no one cometh unto the to walk in it, it will lead you into a path of Father, but by him. He makes a free offer darkness, and bewilder you to your final of salvation, but it is in and through Jesus undoing. Christ, to whom the whole revealed word of God directs our eye, as the prime agent in the recovery of a guilty world. To say that we have our infirmities, but God is merciful, is like drawing direct upon God
II. The evils of such a confidence as we have been attempting to expose, are mainly reducible to two, which we shall consider in order.
First, this delusive confidence casts an