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“Lo he goeth by me, but I see him not; he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.”
“God is in every place, and all things are full of his majesty. The air, and earth, and waters, the swift tempest and gentle breeze—the storm and cloud and bright sunshine are full of him. Every star that shines, away in the distant universe, moves in him, and is guided by his power. The suns and planets of a thousand systems—all existences of all worlds are full of the all-pervading Deity, and dimly shadow forth the glory of his omnipotence. And the meanest creatures that are perceptible to vision—the smallest insect that is animated with the living principle, is not cast out from the presence of its exalted Maker, nor abandoned to the dark and cheerless empire of chance. From the highest intelligence that stands in the presence of God, encircled with the full effulgence of his glory, to the lowest reptile that shrinks from the light of day, all are pervaded by God, and exist in him. God is in every thing! But alas ! we see him not. His presence is always with us, but we feel it not. His Spirit is in our hearts, speaking to us in the language of mercy, but we hear it not. Every hour he is reminding us by his providence of his gracious care and watchfulness, but we understand it not-or if we do, too soon forget it. Did we always feel his presence, the least thought or deed, or word, aproaching to sin, would fill us with fear and shame. Could we entirely divest ourselves of the associations familiar to us, and when we go out at evening, instead of listening with a sort of pensive indifference, to the breathing wind, or the murmuring fountain, could hear in them the voice of God, and feel that we were surrounded by him, we should no more cherish unhallowed thoughts than we should use the language of profane impiety, when kneeling to receive a mother's prayer and blessing: .
When the tempest is abroad, and God speaks in the thunder, and shines forth in the lightning, none are so careless as to trifle; and those who see in the Deity only an angry Judge, are often filled with trembling and dismay. But is God in the tempest, and not in the calm ? Has not he who excited its wild tumult, power to guide or hush it when he will ? He who sees in him a Father, knows that he is always in his power, and always safe,-and sees nothing to dread in the fierce lightning, more than in the sunshine ; and at all times is equally fearful of offending so good a being.
There is fearful peril in forgetting God. The Bible every where inculcates the sentiment, that this is peculiarly offensive in the sight of heaven. To exclude men from eternal life, it is not necessary that they should be openly profane, or immoral, or open violaters of human and divine laws. It is enough that they forget God, and disregard his favor, and the work of their undoing is effectually accomplished.”
No. 6. Vol. XVII.]
[WHOLE No. 198.
BY REV. GEORGE B. IDE,
THE TOKENS OF PERDITION.
« Which is to them an evident token of perdition."-Philippians i. 28.
We all know what is meant by a token. When we hear the thunder rolling at a distance, and see the clouds collecting among the hills, and becoming every moment darker and more heavy, we know that a tempest is approaching. When we witness the workings of disease, ---behold it consuming the beauty of youth, and the vigor of manhood,-imparting a feverish bloom to the cheek, and a preternatural lustre to the eye,
we know that these are the auguries of death.
These are tokens in the natural world. But the moral world has also its tokens. Most men exhibit certain religious phenomena, from which, viewed in connection with the known influence of moral causes, we may estimate their prospects for eternity, and forecast the probabilities of their salvation.
Some of these are tokens for good. When, for instance, we see an individual apparently devoted to the service of God, displaying in his life the controlling power of repentance and faith, and manifesting the fruits of divine grace in the benevolence of his spirit
, and the intensity of his efforts for the welfare of men; we feel a strong confidence that his piety is genuine, and that he will, at length, be “made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” When, too, we behold an unrenewed person deeply serious about religion, sensible of his corruption and guilt, and inquiring, with anxious solicitude, “what he shall do to be saved,”-though we have still many fears that he will relapse into indifference, we are yet encouraged to hope that these impressions will terminate in vital conversion.
Most fervently could I wish that all men exhibited the cheering indications which have just been mentioned. But I cannot be insensible to the fact, that multitudes present appearances of a far different character,-appearances which, to the spiritually instructed eye, are ominous of approaching ruin, and which fill the pious observer with emotions like those of the benevolent physician, when he discovers in the symptoms of his patient the certain presage of dissolution. In many a countenance of careless levity,—in many a brazen forehead, lifted in bold defiance against the thunder of the Omnipotent,-in many an indurated bosom, that repels, with adamantine apathy, the love of a crucified Redeemer—may be seen, displayed in appalling prominence, the “evident tokens of perdition.”
But as those in whom these tokens are most clear and numerous, are usually least conscious of their existence, it will be my object distinctly to describe them.
Before entering upon this subject, however, I would wish to guard against misapprehension, by stating explicitly what we mean when we affirm that particular classes of unconverted men exhibit the omens of destruction. We do not mean that the salvation of such persons is impossible. We do not mean that God, provoked by their perseverance in sin, has withdrawn his Spirit, sealed up their hearts in impenetrable obduracy, and, in the exercise of his holy sovereignty, excluded them from mercy. It may, indeed, be so. Inspiration assures us that He has often done this in the case of incorrigible sinners. But whether He has done it with respect to any who still live and enjoy the means of grace, is a question which lies far beyond the ken of mortals. It is not for short-sighted human vision to pierce the veil of eternity, and read, in the volume of Jehovah's deep and inscrutable counsels, the final destiny of any immortal being. The secrets of that volume Omniscience only can penetrate.
66 Closed is the book to Gabriel's eye,
And sealed the doom it gives,
Between those folded leaves.
In asserting, therefore, that certain moral characteristics forebode the ultimate condemnation of those who exhibit them, we do not presumptuously attempt to disclose the hidden sentence which the Almighty may have passed upon such individuals ;—but simply to show that, by their own voluntary infatuation, they have placed themselves in the power of circumstances, and under the influence of causes, which render their conversion to God, and, consequently, their escape from the wrath to come, extremely problematical. If, indeed, they would repent and believe the Gospel, they would undoubtedly be saved ;—for all who thus comply with the overtures of mercy, however aggravated their guilt or desperate their condition, are delivered from the curse of the violated law, and become heirs of eternal life. But such is the strength of the barriers which their own conduct has
thrown in the way of their repentance and submission to Christ, as to produce a fearful improbability that they will ever exercise these affections, and thus obtain a preparation for the world of glory. That this improbability may and does exist in specific cases, is evident, not merely from the deductions of reason, and the known connection between cause and effect, but also from the unerring testimony of revelation. The Word of God, while it proclaims the freeness and universality of the offers of salvation, and indiscriminately invites all the perishing children of earth to the overflowing fountain of redeeming love, yet, by declaring that almost insuperable obstacles oppose the reformation of the inveterately wicked, and the entrance of the rich and worldly into the kingdom of heaven, plainly and solemnly intimates that the eternal prospects of some impenitent sinners are more dark and appalling than those of others.
With these preliminary remarks, I proceed to describe those features in the character and condition of particular classes of unregenerate men, which render their conversion improbable, and, in the fearful language of the text, are “to them an evident token of perdition."
1. The first is a false hope of piety.—That, among the nominal friends of the Redeemer, there are many who deceive themselves with a spurious religion, and while they have a name that they live, are in reality dead, is a fact which must be apparent even to an unreflecting observer. The Scriptures expressly declare that those only who possess the spirit and obey the commands of Christ, are his true disciples. They teach us that all the subjects of saving grace experience a moral renovation, in consequence of which they renounce their sins, separate themselves from the world, live as the inheritors of immortality, and manifest an intense and unremitted devotion to the cause of their God and Savior. And yet we see multitudes in the enclosure of the church whose conduct is widely at variance with this inspired description. In their temper and habits they appear but little different from the irreligious around them. They betray an addiction to the vanities of earth, and a disregard of eternal interests, as gross and prevailing, as if this narrow round of months and years were the whole of their existence. They evince no solicitude for the prosperity of Zion; make no exertions for the salvation of sinners; and by their inconsistency and unfaithfulness, “crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” And is it possible that such are real Christians? Can we, by any allowable stretch of charity, believe that they have felt the renewing and sanctifying power of the Spirit, cleansing their polluted natures, eradicating their evil dispositions, and raising them from their death in sin to a life of holiness? No “ By their fruits ye shall know them.” Judging by this infallible rule, we can form no other opinion of their state, than that, beguiled by an egregious self-deception, they have laid the “ flattering unction” to their souls, that they are converted and pardoned, while
they are still “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”
Various causes may have led them to embrace such a delusion. It may be, that satiated with earthly pursuits, and disgusted at the falJacy of sublunary enjoyments, they have substituted a morbid weariness of the world for the heavenly-mindedness which the Gospel requires. Borne down by the pressure of affliction, they may have supposed themselves resigned to the Divine Will, because, in their de jection, they have ceased to struggle against it. Being ignorant of the righteousness of God, they may have gone about to establish their own righteousness, until they have, at length, come to imagine their salvation attained. Or, what is still more probable, they may have been lulled into security by a counterfeit conversion. A period has, perhaps, occurred in their history, when, by some impressive combination of circumstances, their fears were excited, and their consciences aroused. Eager to obtain relief from their guilty apprehensions, but unwilling to obtain it by the exercise of repentance and faith in Christ, they caught at some consoling promise of Scripture, or some imaginary change in their own feelings, as an evidence that their sins were forgiven. Under the opiate thus administered, their anxiety subsided, their distress passed away ; and they mistook the quietude which succeeded, for the peace of reconciliation with God.
But, in which ever of these ways they have been induced to regard themselves as pious, the fact that they have done so, is replete with peril, and prophetic of ruin. Soothed by a groundless belief of safety, they have sunk into a slumber deep and unbroken as that of the sepulchre. And can any situation be more hazardous ? What can awaken those who sleep under the potent anodyne, that their preparation for eternity is already accomplished ? A lethargy, strong as death, has closed their ears, and blinded their eyes, and steeled their hearts. To every voice of warning, or of entreaty, they are insensible. Array before them all the thrilling statements of the Sacred Word, with respect to the guilt and danger of impenitent sinners, and all the expostulations, and commands, and threatenings, with which it urges
them to flee from the wrath to come.” Do they feel the force of such an appeal? No; how can they? They do not view themselves as impenitent, and, consequently, consider the message as having no reference to their own case. Change your theme. Address them as professing Christians. Admonish them of their liableness to be deceived as to their interest in the Savior. Enforce the necessity of self-examination. Display the solemn truth, that“ if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his;" and that it is the extreme of folly to presume they “ are born of God,” unless they daily live to his glory. Still they are unmoved. While the contrite and lowly“ tremble at the word of the Lord,” they remain without disquiet or alarm. No doabt, no misgiving, no suspicion of the unsoundness of their state, breaks the marble stillness of their repose. They silence every disturbing whisper with the fatal sophism, that,