« PoprzedniaDalej »
portals of their dwelling. And can I be unaffected-can I be silent -or utter only the notes of peace over a scene like this ? No; my soul is moved within me. “Oh! that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night” for the dying and the dead around me. I stand in this “valley of dry bones" and cry, "Hear ye the word of the Lord. Tremble, ye that live carelessly; rise up and be afraid, ye thoughtless ones; for when ye say, peace and safety, sudden destruction cometh, and ye shall not escape' “ Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep, so shall your poverty come as one that travelleth, and your want as an armed man.
Do any say, It is not possible that the situation of the impenitent should be so alarming, so inconceivably terrible, as it has now been described ? Why, then, do the Oracles of Truth uniformly represent it in this aspect? Why have all the inspired servants of God manifested such agonizing solicitude in view of the criminality and danger of irreligious men? Why did the Psalmist exclaim, “I beheld the transgressors and was grieved ;"_"rivers of waters run down mine eyes;"_“horror hath taken hold of me, because of the wicked ?" Why did an Apostle declare, “I have continual sorrow and heaviness in my heart—for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh ?” And why is there joy in heaven,-why does a fresh tide of rapture spread through all the angelic hosts—when even one sinner repents? Those lofty intelligences, free from the mists and illusions of earth, and dwelling in the pure light of eternity, must know, far better than we, what is the real state of the careless and worldly; and did they not see it to be one of tremendous jeopardy, would they deem the event, which delivers from it, worthy of calling forth such seraphic delight? Oh, then, trust not your own vain imaginations, but believe the infallible word of the Savior, when he assures you, solemnly and plainly, that “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” If you will not be convinced by this accumulated testimony,—if you refuse to give heed to the warning which has now been addressed to you,you will evince, in your indifference to it, another token of perdition, far more dreadful than any which I have previously enumerated. No truth can be set before you more adapted to break up your sinful slumbers, and dispel your false security, than that which this discourse has exhibited. There is nothing in the whole compass of Scripture more appalling; and were it once to be brought home to your hearts, the trumpet of the judgment could not more effectually arouse you. And shall it not arouse you? Can you look, without alarm, upon the fearful picture of your condition which the Divine pencil has drawn? Can you continue unmoved, while you see it clearly proved from the teachings of inspiration, that your final ruin is awfully probable? Oh, ye undying spirits ! ye heirs of eternity! Ye hardened and presumptuous sinners! upon whom the precursors of condemnation are gathering thick and dark;—will you refuse to believe that you are in danger of hell, till you feel its unquenchable fires blazing around you ?
Do you reply, If our escape from the wrath to come be thus improbable, it will avail nothing to attempt it; we will
, therefore, dismiss at once all concern respecting our future destiny, and giving ourselves up to the pursuits and vanities of the world, enjoy life while we can? Enjoy life! And can life be enjoyed, while such a doom, like the naked sword suspended above the couch of the ancient reveller, is hanging over you, and may, at any moment, fall, and plunge you into the abyss ? What! Enjoy life while God is forgotten, the Savior rejected, probation passing away, and the gulf of eternal wo opening beneath your feet ! Well may we say of such pleasure, “ It is madness.” It is far more insane than the mirth of the criminal who, condemned to die, and waiting the hour of execution, strives to banish his fears by singing and dancing, or drowns them in the stupor of intoxication. There is no necessity that you should resort to this desperate expedient ; for, although your destruction is probable, it is not yet inevitable; and nothing but your own obstinate continuance in sin can render it so. Your case would indeed be hopeless,—the marks of perdition upon you would be ineffaceable,—were there not an Almighty Redeemer who is both able and willing to grant you his aid. While, therefore, you abandon all expectation of saving yourselves, go, in humility and faith, to his throne of grace, and fervently implore
his omnipotent succor. Tell him that you have destroyed yourselves by rebellion against him ; that, with suicidal folly, you have raised impassable barriers between your souls and the mansions of his love; that you do not deserve his compassion, and might justly be left to perish forever. In this way alone can deliverance be obtained. But a step so self-abasing I fear your proud and obdurate hearts will not consent to take. I fear that whatever apprehensions you may now feel will soon subside, and be succeeded by a still deeper lethargy. This I cannot prevent. I have no power to arrest the raging disease which is fast hurrying you to the second death." I can only sit down beside you, and watch your moral symptoms, and weep as I contemplate their increasing violence, and breathe forth my earnest prayers to that great Physician who alone can remove them. To him I invite you. Seek him while he may be found. Seek him, ere yet the distemper of sin shall be beyond remedy, and mercy shall depart
, and hope shall expire, and the recording Angel,” with a pen dipped in “ the wine of the wrath of God,” shall write on your foreheads, “INCURABLE.”
BY REV. TRYON EDWARDS,
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK.
ESTIMATES OF LIFE.
“ For what is your life.”-James iv. 14.
To reflect, to consider his ways, to draw from the past, lessons for the guidance of the future, this is one of the highest prerogatives of man. This it is that raises him above the brutes, and enables him to make all that is gone, tributary-subservient, to all that is to come.
And there are seasons peculiarly fitted for this work-restingpoints in the journey of life, from which, if we are wise, we shall rigidly scrutinize the past, and seriously plan for the future resolving to make, for that future, more of life, to live to better purposes for higher, and nobler, and better ends, than we ever before have done.
Such, for example, is the day of our birth, at every return of which we should remember that then we commenced a deathless existence, and should ask ourselves how we are living—what we are doing as moral beings, and whether we are making that existence a blessing or a curse. Such, too, is every Sabbath, breaking in as it does upon the business and turmoil of the world-giving us a breathing space, as spiritual beings, and whispering to us of higher and holier things, and of our immortality. And such, especially, is the opening of every successive year, when the months of the past one have fled, each bearing with it the record of our sins, our follies, and our neglects, to write them in the judgment book.
At every such season, we are resting, as it were, for a moment, on some hill-top of probation. From it we clearly see the year that has gone. Its wasted hours rise up, like an accusing conscience, to reprove us. Its departed dead gaze upon us face to face. Its trials and sorrows gush up afresh to our hearts, reminding us that “ the past the past, we never can forget.” Its broken resolutions, its wasted opportunities, its misimproved privileges, the little progress we have made in self-improvement, the little we have done for God, or self, or the world; all these come over us, each with its pangs to our hearts, and in bitterness we could weep at the thoughts that, like scorpion stings, are piercing our inmost souls.
Such, to every reflecting mind, and with greater or less intensity, are somewhat the views which the flight of time suggests. And often are such ready to exclaim, “O! that I could go back,—that I could live over the years that are gone, that I might spend them differently, and to better purposes than they have been spent.” But even if this were possible, it might not be best. And the only test of your sincerity in desiring it, is, how will you spend the future? If you really wish that the days now gone were again your own, that you might improve them to the utmost, then you will now begin, and will continue to live for days to come, as you think you would for the past, if that again were in your power. You will act on the wise suggestion, “ Look not mournfully to the past; it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present; for it is thine. Go forth to meet the future, with holy purpose, and a resolute and manly heart; for thus you may make it your own." You will ponder the lessons which departed and coming years suggest, striving to make the most of them all. Of the multitudes of these lessons which might be suggested, several are brought to our view in the inquiry of our text—the solemn and pertinent inquiry, “ What is your life?” On this question, in several of its aspects, it may be profitable to dwell. And,
I. What is your life in its duration?—It is short, very short. It is spoken of as a moment, as but a hand's breadth ; and so, if you reflect, you will find it. Go ask the aged if their years have not fled like a dream, and their reply will tell you how short, in the review, life seems to them. Compare the whole of even the longest life with the endless years of eternity, and it will appear but as a drop to the fathomless ocean. Think of it in its actual duration, or its rapid progress; consider how much is given to infancy, and sleep, and rest, and sickness, and how much is wasted in idleness or worse than idleness, and it will seem to be speeding as on the lightning's wing. Estimate it by the rapid flight of its enjoyments or its sorrows, both of which pass like shadows or dreams ;—by its hopes that delude, or its plans that mock us ;-by its purposes, so few of which we fulfil, or its intended attainments, so few of which we ever make, and it will seem as but a moment. Go and measure it at the bed of death; take its dimensions by the guage of the sepulchre ;-look back from your last hour, and see how rapidly the whole of life has gone, and you will be amazed at its brevity-amazed to see how soon, from you, it has passed forever! From all these estimates you will feel, perhaps with mournful weight,-certainly with deep conviction, that life, in its duration, is very short; that it flies like a dream,—that it speeds like the wind.
II. What is your life in its security ? - It is uncertain ;- at any moment your hold on it may be loosed, and it may be gone forever. In allusion to the remark of David, that “there is but a step between us and death,” most strikingly has it been said, “ that the whole course of life is ever parallel, --side by side with death; that death is not a precipice at a distance, toward which we are gradually coming, and over which we must bye and bye plunge, but a precipice, on the very brink of which we are all the while walking, and over which at any instant we may fall.” We are ever on the verge of life, always on the confines of eternity, always close upon the judgment, within a single step either of heaven or hell! And between the path we tread and the gulf by our side, there is no barrier to guard us nothing to save
us from falling—as others have fallen, at every point of that path. There is no certainty in your life. A single breath may blight, or an insect undermine it. A very moth may sever some one of the thousand cords that bind you to exisence, or disease may breathe upon you, and you are gone! It is only to shut out a little air; only to let in some floating atom to rankle in your vitals; only to touch you with the finger of sickness, and all will soon be over, and your health, and bloom, and hopes will perish together in the grave. The Word of God declares, and every day confirms it, that life is of all things the most uncertain. Like the dew on the grass, it is exhaled in a moment. Like the leaf, before the autumn's breath, it fades ere we think it. Like the vapor, the cloud, the dream, it is gone. Like the wave it passes while we behold it. Like the flower it withers and dies; and, as in the twinkling of an eye, we are in eternity!
III. What is your life in its objects ?—God has given, and he is continuing your days for high and important ends. He is sparing you in life that in it you may prepare for your entire existence : that you may put away the moral stain, and break from the ruling power of sin; that you may turn to the ways of holiness, and seek his favor, and enter his service; that by his grace you may elevate and improve and ennoble your entire nature; that as physical, mental, social, and moral beings, you may aim at the highest possible perfection and strive for it, with all diligence and prayerfulness, with all your own, and all of God's imparted strength. Life is the only season in which to mould yourself for immortality, to fix your grasp on heaven, to make God your friend ; the only season for doing or getting good, for blessing your fellow men, and taking them with you to the skies. These are the great objects of life; and when it is once ended they can never be secured. The victory once unwon, it never can be gained: the prize once lost, it can never be recovered. To all eternity you may weep and lament it, but tears and lamentations will