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I. Let us begin on the subject of sowING TO THE FLESH, and observe the relation which the future punishment of the wicked will bear to it.
The fruit which arises from sowing to the flesh is termed corruption. It does not consist in the destruction of being, but of well-being : in the blasting of peace, joy, and hope ; and consequently, in the enduring of tribulation, anguish, and everlasting despair.
This dreadful harvest will all originate in the sin which has been committed in the present life. Even here we see enough to convince us of its destructive tendency. We see intemperance followed with disease, idleness with rags, pride with scorn, and indifference to evangelical truth with the belief of a lie. We see nations desolated by wars, neighbourhoods and families rendered miserable by contentions, and the minds of individuals sinking under the various loads of guilt, remorse, and despair. Great is the misery of man upon him. Yet this is but the blade proceeding from this deadly seed; or, at most, the ear : the full corn in the ear is reserved for another state.
The scriptural representations of the wrath to come convey the idea, not of torture inflicted by mere power, nor of punishment without respect to desert; but of bitter weepings and wailings, in reflecting on the deeds done in the body. The punishment of the adulterer is described as a bed, a bed of devouring fire; the deceiver will find himself deceived; he that loved cursing, it shall come upon him, as oil into his bones; and they who continued to say unto God, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways, God will say unto them, Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity : I never kner
you. Future misery will greatly consist in reflection. Abraham said to the rich man, Son, remember! If the memory could be obliterated, there is reason to think hell would be extinguished: but it must remain.
There are four things, in particular, pertaining to sin, which will continue to be the objects of reflection, and which, therefore, must prove the seeds of future misery.
1. The character of the Being against whom it has been coinmitted. If God had been wanting in justice or goodness; if his law had been what some have profanely said of it-a taskmaster, requiring brick without straw; if compliance with his will had been inconsistent with real happiness ; if his invitations had been insincere; or if his promises had, in any instance, been broken ; if his threatenings had borne no proportion to the evil of the offence; or if, in condemning the sinner, he had availed himself of his being stronger than he ; his wrath might possibly have been endured. We can hear an unjust punishment, better than a just one. The displeasure of a tralignant being, however it may injure us, does not bereave us of inward peace: it is the frown of goodness tbat is intolerable. To have incurred the displeasure of a God whose nature is Love, must furnish reflections which cannot be endured.
2. The folly of it. There are few things, in the present state, which sting the mind with keener sensations than the recollection that we have ruined ourselves by our own foolishness.
If we see a man eager in pursuing trifles, while he neglects things of the greatest importance; anxious to shun imaginary evils, and heedlessly plunging himself into real ones; all attention to present indulgences, but regardless of bis future interests ; averse from what is bis duty, and busying bimself in things for which he is utterly incompetent, and which, therefore, he should commit to another; in fine, studying to displease his best friend, and to gratify his worst enemy; we should, without hesitation, pronounce him a foolish
and foretel his ruin. Yet all this is the constant practice of every unconverted sioner; and, if he persist in his folly, the recollection of it in a future state, must overwhelm him with shame and everlasting contempt.
3. The aggravating circumstances which attend it. The same actions committed in different circumstances possess very
different degrees of guilt. The Heathens, in pursuing their immoralities, are without excuse; but tbose who are guilty of the same things amidst the blaze of gospel light, are much more so.
The profli. gate conduct of those young people whose parents have set them the example, is heinous : but what is it in comparison of that which is against example, and in spite of all the tears, prayers, and remonstrances of their godly relations ? And what is the rejection of the gospel in the most ignorant part of the community, in comparison of that which is accompanied with much hearing, reading and reflection ?
O my hearers! A large proportion of the sin committed among us is of this description: it is against light, and against love. Wisdom crieth in our streets, and understanding putteth forth her voice. The melting invitations, and solemn warnings of God are frequently sounded in our ears. If we should perish, therefore, ours will not he the lot of common sinners: our reflections will be similar to those of Chorazin and Bethsaida, whøse inhabitants are represented as more guilty than those of Sodom and Gomorrha. To reject the gospel, whether it be by a preference of gross indulgencies, a fondness for refined speculations, or an attachment to our own righteousness, is to incur the wrath of the Lamb; which is held up to us as the most dreadful of all wrath ; as that from which unbelievers would be glad to be bid, though it were by being crushed beneath falling rocks, or buried in oblivion at the bottom of the mountains.
4. That in sin which will furnish matter for still further reflection will be its effects on others connected with us. It is a very affecting consideration, that we are so linked together in society, that we almost necessarily communicate our dispositions one to another. We draw, and are drawn, in both good and evil. go to heaven, we are commonly instrumental in drawing some others along with us ; and it is the same if we go to hell. If a sinner, when he has destroyed his own soul, could say, 'I have injured myself only,' his reflections would be very different from what they will be.
The influence of an evil word or action, in a way of example, may surpass all calculation. It may occupy the attention of the sinner only for the moment; but, being communicated to another, it
may take root in him, and bring forth fruit an hundred fold. He also may communicate it to bis connexions, and they to theirs; and thus it may go on to increase, from generation to generation. In this world, no competent idea can be formed of these effects ; byt
they will be manifest in the next, and must needs prove a source of bitter reflection.
What sensations must arise in the minds of those whose lives have been spent in practising the abominable arts of seduction ; whose words, looks, and gestures, like a pestilence that walketh in darkness, convey the poison of their bearts, and spread wide wasting ruin among the unguarded youth. There they will be cast into a bed, and those who have committed adultery with them!
See there, too, the ungodly parent, compassed about, and loaded with execrations by his ungodly offspring, whom he has led on, by his foul example, till both are fallen into perdition.
Nor is this all: there also will be seen the blind leader of the blind, both fallen into the ditch; the deluded preacher, with his deluded hearers ; each of whom, during life, were employed in deceiving the other. The mask is now stripped off. Now it appears to what issue all his soothing flatteries led; and what was his real character at the time, notwithstanding the decency of his outward demeanout. Now it is manifest, that he who led not the sheep of Christ into the true pasture, entered not in by the door himself. Ah! now the blood of souls crieth for vengeance! Me thinks I see the profligate part of his auditory, who died before him, surprised at his approach. “That we,' say they, 'who have lived in pleasure, and in wantonness, should come to this place, is no wonder ; but Art Thou also become like one of us?'
II. To offer some ramarks on sowING TO THE SPIRIT; or to point out the relation that subsists between what is done for Christ in this life and the joys of the life to come.
Before I attempt to establish this part of the subject, it will be proper to form a clear and scriptural idea of it.
The relation between sowing to the Spirit and everlasting life, is as real as that between sowing to the flesh and everlasting death : it does not follow, however, that it is, in all respects, the same. The one is a relation of due desert ; but the other is not so. The scriptures, while they represent death as the proper wages of sin, have decided that eternal life is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The leading principles necessary to a clear understanding of this subject, may be stated under the following particulars :
1. Nothing performed by a creature, however pure, can properly merit everlasting life. To merit at the hand of God would be to lay bim under an obligation; and this would be the same thing as becoming profitable to him : but we are taught, when we have done all, to acknowledge that we are unprofitable servants, having done no more than was our duty to do.
2. God may freely lay himself under an obligation to reward the obedience of a holy creature with everlasting life; and his so doing may be fit, and worthy of him. This fitness, however, arises, not from the proportion between the service and the reward, but from such a conduct being adapted to express to creation in general the love which the Creator bears to righteousness, and to give encouragement to the performance of it. Such was the promise made to our first parents ; wbich, bad they continued obedient, would have entitled them to tbe reward.
3. Man having sinned, the promised good is forfeited; and death becomes the only reward of which he is worthy. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. The law is become weak through the flesh, like a just judge, who is incapable of acquitting a criminal, or of awarding lise to a character who deserves to die.
4. God having designs of mercy, notwithstanding, towards rebellious creatures, sent forth his Son to obey and suffer in their place; resolving to bestow eternal life on all that believe in him, as the reward of his undertaking. So well pleased was the Father with the obedience and sacrifice of Christ, that he not only set bim at his own right hand in the heavenly places, and made him head over all principalities and powers, and every name that is named ; but
gave bim the full desire of his beart, the salvation of his people. Hence all spiritual blessings are said to be given us in him, through him, or for his sake. By means of his death we receive the promise of eternal inheritance ; and our salvation is considered as the travail of his soul, which it was promised him he should see, and be satisfied. Mercy shown to a singer in this way is, in effect, saying,' Not for your sakes do 1 this, be it known unto yox ; (be