Images de page

peace, are hidden from their eyes. "Where no vision is, the people perish;" they are like the heathen, who, because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, are given over to a reprobate mind. Take away from any man, or any class of men the ordinary means of salvation, and you leave them little hope, because little opportunity of entering the kingdom of God.

From such persons, God also is very apt to withdraw and withhold the influences of his Spirit. He gives his Spirit in order to preserve or rescue men from a reprobate mind; when the sinner is abandoned, these influences are taken away. The Spirit of God no longer convinces him of sin; nor condescends to demolish his excuses and show him his lost condition. His conscience is no longer troubled; he no longer trembles at the coming wrath, nor feels the need of a Saviour. He has so long resisted the Spirit of God, that he has taken his final departure from him. And the consequence is that he laughs and sports on the brink of perdition, and does not awake until he awakes in hell. God has said, "my Spirit shall not always strive with man." But he also says, "Woe be unto thee when I depart from thee!" When he thus departs, he departs to return no more: the fate of the sinner is sealed. There may be a short reprieve for him; but his fate is sealed. Wherever and however long he may live, and wherever he may wander over sea or land, not one ray of heavenly light shall beam on his way. He has forsaken God; God has forgotten him, and he has no helper.

From those who have thus grieved his Spirit, God also more usually withholds those restraints upon wickedness which are imposed by his providence. His patience has become wearied, and he leaves them to

themselves. They little know how much they are indebted to his restraining and preventing providence ; nor how sad the sentence that is passed upon them, when he commissions these ten thousand restraints and preventives to let them alone. Let the sinner loose from all these, and it takes but little to make his heart like a rock of adamant. Nothing moves him; he is rash and reckless; he is ungovernable and headstrong; he is just fitted for perdition. God suffers his law to have its course upon him and he dies in his iniquity. His character is formed; and the divine long-suffering has done for him all that it can perform. He needs no farther day of grace; it is of no use to wait upon him any longer. Mercy has uttered her last admonition, and given him over to the hands of inexorable justice. He has not a friend in the universe. Heaven has no God himself is his God himself is his enemy. Justice, so slow to anger, and so long delayed, now takes its course. The tempest beats upon him; keen and bitter are its blasts of irritated and eternal vengeance.

helper for him now.

Thus it is that the sinner is sometimes given up of God. Now we say it is a fearful act thus to give him up. A righteous act it is, none may fault it; but it is not the less grievous and fearful. Holiness calls for just such hatred of iniquity as this; justice demands just honors. They have been multiplied in ages that are past, and will be repeated in ages yet to come. Yet it is most reluctantly that such deeds are done, and that such acts of Almighty vengeance must be recorded. We are at no loss to understand the solicitude, the tenderness, which would stay, and if possible, arrest the blow. It is but a natural expression of all that is kind and Godlike in the Deity, that he should be repre

sented as saying, "How shall I give thee up? how shall I deliver thee? how shall I set thee as Admah, and make thee as Zeboim ?" The sentence is too terrible a one not to be reluctantly executed; nor does God ever execute it but with reluctance.

We shall dwell a few moments on this truth, and illustrate it by the following considerations. We prove it from what God is, from what he has said, and from what he has done.

1. In the first place, it is evident from what God is. There are those who can contemplate the abandonment and perdition of men with indifference; they care not whether they are saved or lost. There are those, also, who contemplate such a disaster with a gratified and malignant pleasure; and who, could they execute the sentence, would execute it with right good will. But they are vile men that feel thus; they are more like devils than like men. It is the devil's work to tempt and seduce men to destruction, and glory in their death.

But God is no such being as this. He does not look on the sinner's destruction, even with indifference, much less with pleasure. God is good; God is love. Goodness is his distinguishing character; it is his glory, and may be said to constitute his whole nature. He is kind to the meanest, to the vilest, to the most ungrateful of his creatures. "He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.' No man can believe that such a being made men on purpose to damn them; that he takes pleasure in the death of the sinner; and that he waits eagerly for the opportunity and the time to destroy them. No, no; it would be making him a very different being from what he is, to suppose that it is

any pleasure to him that the wickedest sinner in the world should lie down in hell. He may consign him, and unless he repents, will consign him to everlasting sorrow; but nothing but necessity, nothing but firm and unyielding principle, nothing but the safety of his great empire, would ever urge him to such an act of punitive justice. Fury is not in him." He has not one feeling of cruelty, one malignant emotion in his bosom. There is no being in the universe whose heart is so full of tenderness as his.



2. But we may advert, in the second place, to what he has said. I mean what he has said upon this subject. And what has he said? what is he now saying? When he revealed his name to Moses, it was Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and of great kindness." Again he says, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth." Elsewhere he declares that "he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." And as though he doubted if men would believe him, before heaven and earth he makes the still more solemn and emphatic asseveration, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" In perfect accordance with declarations like these are the urgent and pressing invitations of his grace. 'Ho every one that thirsteth, come." "All ye that are weary and heavy laden, come unto me." "The Spirit and the Bride say come; let him that heareth say come; let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." Of the same import and spirit are the commands of his Gospel, when

he says, "Wash you, make you clean;""repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin;" "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." If there are warnings in his word, they are to induce men to flee from the wrath to come; if there are exhortations and admonitions, they are to urge them to lay hold on eternal life. God would not thus invite, and command, and admonish, and exhort men to escape from hell and flee to heaven, if he had no benevolent hesitation, no scruples of tenderness, no solicitude, no reluctance to destroy. There are so many declarations in his word which show the spirit expressed in our text, that we find it difficult to make a selection of them. We beg you to read his word; to listen to the melting appeals of his compassion there; to mark the struggle within his heart, as he gives up the incorrigible to their doom; and after he has given them up, to hear him say, “O that thou hadst known the things which belong to thy peace."

3. Let us advert then in the third place, to what he has done. "Actions speak louder than words." What has he done, in order to show men that if he must destroy, it is only because he must, and not because he delights so to do. First of all, he sent his Son to seek and to save that which was lost; through trials, through shame, through the humiliation of our nature, and the agony of the accursed tree. He has made his works and providence subservient to this redemption, urging its claims and unfolding its tenderness. He has revealed his truths and grace in his word; he has instituted the Sabbath and its sanctuaries and ministrations, and so multiplied the means of grace and salvation, that

« PrécédentContinuer »