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semblance. Both are the natural productions of the constitution of the creature, who was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected the same in hope. Both are promoted by the indulgence of appetites and passions, both become inveterate by habit. Natural blindness and ignorance of divine things are so very similar that the scriptures use the same word to signify both, and the Saviour represents sinners by those who are sick.
If the mind of the hearer has consented to the idea that the miraculous cures performed by Jesus on the bodies of people, were designed to indicate the power of his grace to cleanse from sin and moral defilement, we may proceed to consider one of the most glorious truths, which the gospel was designed to reveal. This great truth is seen in the following argument. As there were no natural disorders which were too stubborn for the miraculous power of Jesus to remove, no demoniac so raving that Jesus could not clothe him in his right mind, none so strongly locked in the dark house of death that he could not call them from thence, we infer, that no degree or description of sin, however chronical, however inveterate is beyond the power of divine mercy to wash away.
We are informed that there was one instance of a posssessed of a devil whose case was beyond the power of the disciples of Jesus; but Jesus cast him out, and told the disciples that their unbelief was the reason that they failed of this miracle. The same may be the case with many even now, they can find sins which they think cannot be washed away, but all this is owing to their unbelief.
The case of Lazarus was attended with peculiar circumstances which may be profitably noticed in the present argument. When Jesus advanced toward the sepulchre, the weeping sister Martha exclaimed, "Lord, by this time he stinketh; for he
hath been dead four days." Probably her thoughts were the following. Hadst thou but come in season, such is thy power, thou nightest have prevented my brother's death, or even after his breath had left his body, possibly hadst thou been here to exert thy power before corruption had begun its work, the event might have been to the praise of thy glorious power and to our consolation. But the precious time is gone, the opportunity is lost, four days have surely carried my brother beyond the reach of thy restoring power. But notwithstanding all this reasoning, at the words of Jesus, "Lazarus, come forth," the dead was raised.
Like faithless Martha, many who profess to be the disciples of Jesus, have made their calculations, by which they have bounded the grace of God, and carried sinners of a certain character beyond those limits. It is frequently the topic of our preachers, to set forth, in the most lamentable language, the awful situation of thousands and millions of their fellow creatures, who, they say, will come short of the divine mercy, through delay. Had they exerted their powers in season, had they improved their precious noments of probation, all would have been well and the prize secure. But it is now too late. The door of mercy is shut. the poor wretched sinner would now give a thousand worlds, if he had them, for one hour in which he might repent, he is denied the privilege of repenting forever.
With such appalling language as this, and more to the utmost stretch of imagination assisted by the blindest enthusiasm, the feeble nerves and delicate minds of women and children are terrified into a kind of religious delirium. But surely one plain testimony of divine truth removes all those gloomy fears. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
But it is not enough that we prove the proposition that, the grace of God revealed in the gospel is sufficient to take away the sin of the world; it is of still greater consequence that the mind should understand the nature of this great truth. For this kind of knowledge is that which changes the mind from darkness to light, and delivers it from the reigning power of sin to the love of holiness and to the obedience of the just.
The doctrine of Jesus Christ reveals the divine character to the understanding whereby the sinner is brought to know God, whom to know is life eternal; God is love, and love has the power to transform the mind into its own image; God is justice, and justice forms its own character in the heart of its moral subject; God is truth, and truth drives out error and takes up its residence in the soul; God is holiness, and holiness washes out every stain of sin, and implants in the mind a love to its divinity. The sinner thus saved, thus delivered from sin is made rationally happy in the enjoyment of those moral perfections which are the natural elements of a moral being. All that can be termed sinfulness is just as contrary to the health of the soul, as disorders of the body are to the health of the body. And all the salvation which a sick man needs is to be delivered from his sickness, and all the salvation a sinner needs is to be saved from his sins.
The opinion that a time will ever come when it will not be just in the nature of things for a sinner to repent, embraces and necessarily implies the absurdity that it will be just for the sinner to continue in sin!
But the common doctrine of the church contends that if men do not repent of their sins in this life, they will not be allowed the privilege of repenting in a future state, and therefore must remain sinful forever. Now all these notions are the offpring of
imagination, and have no foundation in reason nor in the scripture of truth. The gospel was sent into this world for the purpose of reforming mankind, and reconciling the nations to God. It was needed here, because it is here that men are sinners. If it could be proved that the next state of existence is one subject to these moral infirmities, what reason can there be offered that their remedy will not be found in that state as well as in this. We have physicians and medicine in this mortal state, and it is thought by some that there are medicines in every climate sufficient for the disorders of that climate. Now if the next state be incident to sickness and disorders, what reason can there be offered that there will not be physicians and suitable medicines in that state to cure those disorders?When the great physician of souls was here on earth, he was never known to shun a place because sickness or wickedness was there. He, no doubt, knew that legions possessed the man in the country of the Gadarines, yet he went there, and there he cast out the devils; and if on the other side of death legions of demons possess men no doubt Jesus will in due time cast them out.
The hearer is cautioned against supposing that we allow that the next state will be subject to sickness or to sin; we distinctly say that the evidence of this is wanting both in scripture and reason.
As the inconveniences of sickness and disorder
are sufficient to induce the patient to apply to a physician, so the painful infelicities of sin are the proper inducements to apply to the spiritual physician, whose doctrine is amply efficacious in removing our sins from us. The supposition that has taken the lead of the minds of religious people, that it would be desirable to live in sin in this world, if it were not that it is so offensive to God, that he will punish them forever hereafter to show his resentment, is one of the most pernicious deceptions
that ever darkened the understanding of mankind. This deception is the means of continuing people in the love of sin. They long to live in it, and would without restraint, were it not for this system of fear. But it has been fully proved that this terror is no real security to a virtuous life. Those who are the strongest advocates for this doctrine of tormenting men in another world, because they have been sinners here, are, in general, as wicked men as any other class. It is true they endeavour to be more secret in the practice of vice, but this only adds the wickedness of hypocrisy to the rest of their sins. These remarks are by no means directed against any particular denomination, they are designed for general application. The fact is, if men are really virtuous, they are so from the love they have for the moral principles of our common nature; and we are happy to find some of this desscription among all denominations and in every class of citizens.
It would be most glaringly absurd for one to tell a sick man languishing with distressing pain, that as there is no penal law by which any punishment can be inflicted on him for being sick, he had better not send for a physician, nor give himself any trouble about recovering his health. A patient who should be treated with such communication would surely think himself trifled with. If one who knew the situation of the woman, who pressed through the crowd to reach the garment of Jesus, had told her, that no punishment would be inflicted on her if she did not go to him, and therefore she might indulge in the pleasures of her disorder, would she have supposed the person serious? But this would have been no more absurd than it is to tell sinners, that if there be no everlasting damnation in the eternal world for their sins in this, they may indulge in all the pleasures of sin. As sin is a disorder it certainly deprives of happiness, and plunges the sinner