« PoprzedniaDalej »
scene is to be changed. Complete redemption is decreed. The promise has been uttered-the power pledged. Christ is the wielder of that power. He has appeared for this one simple purposeto destroy the works of the devil. He has begun to destroy these works: he will complete what he has begun. And how will his glory shine forth in the final achievement of this destruction and of a world's deliverance. The christian then labors in hope. Let hope warm his heart and wake up his energies, and let him do something worthily in this advancing enterprise of mercy. If he takes but one soul off from the empire of darkness, and sets it over to the empire of light and love, he does a noble work. He may do more-may win many, if he will, from rebellion to allegiance, and so may every disciple of the Lord. Then would Christ's kingdom rapidly spread; he would ere long come into possession of the world he made, and peace would pervade all its borders, and the voice of gladness and thanksgiving be heard in all its dwellings.
In conclusion, we request all unconverted persons to consider the nature of their position. Let it be remembered that there are but two standards in this world—but two great moral sides; that of Christ and that of the devil. On one side or the other all mankind are arranged, either with Christ or with Satan. It is an appalling consignment I know, which thus sets all men who are not at heart living christians, over on the side of the adversary. The Bible does it: we must do it, or go against the plainest teachings of this book. According to the voice that speaks here, no matter what the standing of unregenerate men, what their outward character and appearance, they are the subjects of the wicked and malignant one; they are doing his work; they are preparing to share his prison and torments. We ask the sinner, if he is contented with this relation. Is it a worthy position for an intelligent creature of God? Is it a fitting service for those noble powers? The devil's drudgery, is it not rather infinitely dishonorable and degrading? And the end, the award, who can look at it? The unquenchable fire, the horrid companionship. Who can meet and bear such a doom? Consider these things, and look away from all this infamy and wo, to that other side of truth and love which still invites your allegiance. Yield, this hour, to that attracting goodness; submit to that rightful authority; become a member of that kingdom which is destined in its consummation to fill the earth and the universe with glory and praise.
BY REV. LYMAN H. ATWATER.
THE CAUSes of supERFICIAL AND TRANSIENT RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE.
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away."-Luke, 8: 13.
The parable, from the exposition of which this passage is quoted, is designed to illustrate the various reception and effects of the preached word among men. This is set forth in a description of the various sorts of hearers and hearing with which it would meet. For the more vivid illustration of the subject, he compares the word preached to seed; and the different classes of hearers are represented by the different kinds of soil in which it lodges. Some of this seed, our Saviour teaches, fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up it withered away, because it lacked moisture. In the text, he expounds this passage so that none may mistake his meaning. They who are on a rock are they, who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. The passage then teaches,
I. THAT THERE IS A CLASS OF HEARERS, WHO, FOR A SEASON, ARE GREATLY CHARMED WITH THE THINGS OF RELIGION, WHILE THEY HAVE NO ABIDING ROOT OF FAITH, OR TRUE RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLE IN THEIR SOULS.
II. THAT SUCH RELIGIONISTS OFTEN EVINCE THEIR UNSOUNDNESS, BY SWERVING FROM CHRISTIAN PURITY AND FIDELITY, OR BY UTTER APOSTACY, WHEN URGED BY SEVERE TEMPTATIONS.
These propositions scarcely need confirmation. For, were they not affirmed in the unerring oracles of God, they would be manifest beyond all dispute to any intelligent observer. The
history of preaching, from the days of Christ until now, is a living exemplification, an eternal monument of their truth. There ever have been, and are, those in greater or less numbers, who hear the word anon with joy; who perhaps for the time soar above all others in the impassioned zeal and high-toned professions with which they appear to embrace religion; whose ardor not only faints, but expires, as soon as it ceases to be fanned by the breath of extraneous excitement which first gave it being; or, at all events, as soon as they are brought into a position in which religion involves any self-denial. As our Saviour elsewhere expresses it, when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by-and-by he is offended. This declension of multitudes, who did run well for a time, into listless indifference, or utter apostacy, has occurred with greater or less frequency in all ages, thus wounding the hearts of the pious, and the cause of Christ in the house of his friends. This being so, it behoves us to consider this phenomenon in its causes, and, if possible, seek some remedy or alleviation.
It is necessary, however, to guard against the inference which inconsiderate minds may be in danger of deriving from this passage, viz. that it militates against the doctrine of the saint's perseverance, inasmuch as it may be supposed to imply the loss of a faith and love which once existed, and a consequent falling from grace But, let it be remembered that these persons withered away because they had no root in them; for it fell on a rock, and therefore could not root itself down into the depths of the soul. From which it appears that the heart in which this rapid and short-lived growth of seeming piety had appeared, had ever been a heart of stone, unchanged to an heart of flesh: also, that however such converts may have had appearances of faith and love in their own view, and the view of others, yet they had no living and abiding root or principle thereof in their souls. The text, therefore, instead of teaching their fall from grace, teaches by implication the direct contrary; for it teaches that the cause of their lapse is, that they never had the true root of grace in their souls, but only a plausible show of it; thus manifestly implying that a principle of true grace would have prevented such a catastrophe; that as it is a dog, and not a lamb
that returns to his vomit, so it is the sinner still unrenewed, and not the saint that returns with a sharpened appetite to his lusts. With these preliminary explanations I will now proceed to inquire into some of the causes which contribute to make and multiply stony-ground hearers, instead of those good and honest hearts which hear the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
1. The depravity of the human heart is unquestionably the first and pregnant source of this superficial and illusive hearing of the word. This too arms all other influences with their power. The Bible attaches to the heart but two attributes, viz. that it is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. These two properties are causes adequate to the production of all the results in question. For that the heart in this case retains its wickedness unslain, is supposed. For the dominion of sin, and lack of renewing grace, is the reason given for their apostacy. Sin seeks to cherish, strengthen, and perpetuate its own existence. It strives to fortify itself by every device. If then the sinner who believes it will procure eternal torments for him, unless he repents and believes, can be persuaded that he does indeed exercise love towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ; while sin and lust are still unmortified, and reigning in his soul-however their outbreakings may be temporarily checked-this pacifies his conscience, and smothers all alarms, while it spares his sin, and extinguishes all desires and endeavors to eradicate it. We see, then, in the wicked heart ample disposition, stimulated by the most stirring motives and impulses to hear the Gospel superficially, and lay the flattering unction to the soul that it has complied with the Gospel, while it has never laid down the weapons of its rebellion against God. If the disposition arises from the desperate wickedness, the means of indulging it are found in the deceitfulness of the heart.
It is capable of assuming such specious disguises, that the prophet well inquires, Who can know it? Who can understand his errors? says the Psalmist. As it is an ingredient of the heart's wickedness that it masks and conceals itself, so it has ensnared multitudes of dying immortals to think they are something when they are nothing. While the heart cherishes sin as a sweet morsel, why should it not task all its craft, all its powers of self
flattery, in devices to persuade itself of peace and safety, although treading on the extreme verge of the pit? Surely it is far more agreeable and soothing to believe that our affections, principles, and actions are conformed to the will and word of God; and, in the strength of that conviction, to be fascinated with hearing the word, than to hear it thrusting its reproofs and warnings as arrows and goads into the soul, and serving no other purpose than to torment it with a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. But while this is the original and efficient cause of all superficial and spurious religious experience, there are various instrumental causes which greatly augment and aggravate its influences; some of which will now be specified. And,
2. A want of a thorough religious education often contributes to this superficial and transient kind of religious experience. While the Spirit of God is the efficient author of regeneration, yet he operates by the instrumentality of the Word. For of his own will begat he us by the word of truth. The fruit of his saving work in the soul is, that he produces a harmony between our hearts and the announcements of his word. The consequence is, that in proportion as the doctrines and precepts of the Bible are well understood and impressed upon the mind, the prospect increases that its religious experience, if any it has, will be pure, deep, and abiding; and not only so, but the subject of them being versed in the unerring and eternal standard of true piety-the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel-is enabled in some degree to compare his own state, feelings, and exercises with this only standard; and thus detect any unsound leaven, and learn whether his joy in hearing the word is genuine or counterfeit. Now mankind are by nature so depraved, sluggish, and stupid in divine things, that they rarely have any true and well-defined ideas of evangelical religion, except as it is impressed upon them by varied, reiterated, and never-ceasing instruction. And when it is thus iterated line upon line, and precept upon precept, it is surprising what indefinite and erroneous notions of religion often lurk in the mind. The most clear and impressive preachers are often painfully disappointed to witness what ignorance and misapprehension many who have heard them all their days betray on those fundamental points which