« FöregåendeFortsätt »
the original grandeur of the universe almost goes back to its former chaos before the eye of man, when in his natural and slavish condition :-to him the heavens declare not the glory of God; to him the firmament shews not HIS handy-work. The affections too, and all the holy ties of relationship-the delights and joys of domestic happiness-all have received a blight, which only the grace of God can restore. O wretched men that we are, who shall deliver us from the body of this death! Who shall cast down the prison-walls, snap the chain, that binds us to the dust, asunder! Who shall set the prisoners free! Who shall restore the beauties of creation-cast out the frailties of the human nature-bring back the lost properties of man! Who shall replace the lost affections, restamp the Divine image, and reconcile us to God our offended Father! Have we no hope? "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered ?" We are prisoners-prisoners in the flesh, in that tabernacle, in which we groan, being
burthened, in that body of our humiliation, which we trust, shall hereafter be fashioned after Christ's glorious body, according to that mighty working, whereby He shall subdue all things to himself. The heart of stone rests within. Deadly and evil passions riot in the soul, the seat, from whence once came purity and virtue untainted. Tied and bound are we by the chain of our sins-secluded from all enjoyment of bliss; because our paths are strewed by sin, and sin doth cover us, as it were with a mantle. And conscience too —that never sleeping monitor-lying heavily within, tells us, of secret sin, startles the heart, when it should be at peace, and destroys all the calm and halcyon sunshine of the soul. Sin is around us, and is rearing its dark and gloomy building, encircling its wretched captives, so that they cannot break through its adamantine walls. Fresh strength is given to them; and every day that passes gives greater security against their escape. The arm of flesh is utterly
incapable of throwing open the prisondoors. They remain closed against all human power. An irresistible barrier is thrown up, over which no captive, by his own puny efforts, can ever pass. Plan after plan may be laid. The heavens may be scanned;-the divings into Revelation may be far and deep, and the recesses of philosophy may be fathomed, but all to no purpose; man remains a prisoner! a slave to evil passions! a captive and victim to human crime-weak in his prison-house— mortal in his nature!
But although a prisoner, a slave, a victim-still in HOPE. Although the soul be bound up in the corrupt tenement although misery and sin weaken it, and death doth change it into dust-still in HOPE. "Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of Hope. "Troubled" then are we" on every side, yet not distressed;" "perplexed, but not in despair-persecuted, but not forsaken-cast down, but not destroyed." Prisoners! but still in HOPE. Though the evil nature be upon us, we are in hope of the Divine-though dead in
Adam, in hope of being made alive in Christ-though corrupt in affections, in hope of being sanctified by the Spiritthough wanting in practice, in hope of being made holy by grace-though deserving of punishment, in hope of receiving the crown of glory-though prisoners in the flesh, in hope of the soul being freed from the flesh, and ascending to the Father. For "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
But, still further, how are we prisoners of hope? Though prisoners by sin, we have hope in Christ, because Christ gave himself a ransom for sinners. Every child of Adam, then, should have hope. The penitent sinner especially has it; because he is awakened by a consciousness of his sin, and by the apprehension of his danger. It is when man begins to feel, that he is a prisoner, that he begins to entertain hope. When his sin rises before him, hope is sure to follow, because his mind is impressed by evil consequences; and, in his low condition, he looks beyond this earth for help; he calls upon his God in the hour of his
need; he looks in hope upon the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners. All men, indeed, into whatever state of dejection they may be thrown, entertain some hope, however small, of a prosperous change. The spark within, however it may be smothered by the cares and the losses of the world, never dies: however faintly it may shed forth its light, it will yet twinkle. In worldly concerns experience doth testify this truth. In spiritual, the Bible doth reveal it; and in proportion as the mind of man is made to feel the great danger of sin, in the same proportion will hope arise in those eternal promises, that God has given. The truth of this can only be profitably felt by bearing in mind, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: he "came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." He came not for the sake of his own glory, and after having performed a few mighty works before the eyes of men, to ascend into heaven in majesty; but he came to atone for sin-to restore to the favour of the Father a lost and disconsolate.