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commence the never-ending song:-" Worthy is the Lamb." Hallelujah. Amen.
"This God is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend;
And trust him for all that 's to come.
XXIV. AN EVIL HEART OF UNBELIEF.
"If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not."-2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."-Heb. iii. 12.
TRULY, a heart of unbelief is an evil heart. Out of such a heart every evil proceeds. A bitter fountain cannot send forth sweet water. An unbelieving heart is the laboratory of Satan. "He worketh in the children of disobedience."* Unbelievers are the slaves of Satan: they "are taken captive by him at his will."+ When the glorious gospel of our God and Saviour shines around them, they see it not. As the meridian sun is hid from the naturally blind, so is the gospel hid to them that are lost, through the blinding influence of unbelief. Satan, the god of this world, blinds the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Contradictory as it may seem, many virtues, approved by men, may be exhibited by those that are lost. Generosity, sympathy for the afflicted, urbanity * Eph. ii. 2. +2 Tim. ii. 26.
of manners, patriotic displays of courage in defence of his country, and such like popular virtues, may form a wreath around the brow, or emblazon the tomb, of the unbeliever. But, what is highly esteemed amongst men is abomination in the sight of God, if faith working by love be wanting in the heart. The trumpet of fame has sounded the praises of many, even to the ends of the earth, who, at the last trumpet, shall hear these words sounded out before an assembled world : 66 Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
How empty is the breath of human praise! And yet, how many pant after it, and even risk the salvation of their souls to obtain it.-Oh! that men were wise, that they would consider their latter end! Lord teach me heavenly wisdom. Give me to see and feel, that all true honour cometh from thee. To be thy child, to form a part of thy redeemed church, to know and serve thee in the gospel of thy Son, to esteem Christ precious, and to love him with all the heart, is infinitely above the smile of monarchs, or the plaudits of the world.
What a destructive sin is unbelief. It is like a dungeon in which the prisoner is enclosed without any possibility of escape. Nothing but the mighty power of God can "bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prisonhouse."+ Unbelief is the root of all evil. Its effects upon the soul are of the most deadly nature.
whole human race is tainted with it, yea, is become radically corrupted by it. From Adam to the present time, and from this period to the latest hour of man's existence upon earth, multitudes have been, are, and will be defiled and destroyed, through the subtle poison of unbelief. "When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" We read indeed of brighter days and purer times, when Satan shall be bound for a thousand years; blissful period! *Matt. xxv. 41. + Isa. xlii. 7.
Luke xviii. 8.
when Christ shall reign in the hearts of his people, as the Universal King; when he shall reign before his ancients gloriously: but soon, alas! does this happy period draw to its close. Satan shall be again loosed out of his prison. He shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth. The enemies of Christ, innumerable like the sand of the sea, shall compass the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city, when fire shall come down from God out of heaven, and devour them.* Wickedness will therefore once more deluge the earth. But He, who is King of kings, and Lord of lords, shall come with his mighty angels in flaming fire, to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of his Son. Then will the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.+ Then will be seen the great white throne and him who sitteth on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven will flee away. Before the King of Glory will then be gathered all nations. The dead, small and great, shall stand before God. The books shall be opened; and the dead will be judged out of those things which are written in the books, according to their works; and whosoever is not found written in the BOOK OF LIFE, will be cast into the lake of fire.‡
How consoling to the tempest-tossed believer are the words of St. Paul: "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up
* Rev. xx. 8, 9. + 2 Pet. iii. 10.
Rev. xx. 11, 12, 15.
together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord."* "THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST." "Blessed and holy is he, that hath part in the FIRST RESURRECTION." "Seeing then that all these things (which now captivate the hearts of men) shall be dissolved, what manner of persons," writes St. Peter, "ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness; looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God?...... We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."+
This future glory is of necessity encompassed with clouds. But enough is revealed to animate our hopes, to stimulate our exertions, to inflame our love, to strengthen our faith, though we cannot chronologically arrange the glorious events which shall follow each other till the final consummation of all things. Different views are taken, but every view should lead us to the conclusion of St. Peter: 66 Seeing all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?"
Oh! that I may have grace with deep humility to contemplete this awful, yet, to every believer, delightful period, when Jesus shall come with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; when he shall be surrounded by all those who love his appearing, on whom he will then pronounce the sentence of blessedness, and receive them into the joy of their Lord.
Infidelity is the enemy of man. It robs him of his support, of his consolation, of his hope. It presents before him a dreary waste, at the end of which is nothing but darkness and despair.
Though all are not infidels, properly so called, rejecting the divine inspiration of the Holy Scrip
* 1 Thess. iv. 14-17. + Rev. xx. 6. 2 Pet. iii. 11-14.
tures, and scoffing at the revealed plan of salvation through Jesus Christ; yet, all are by nature under the power of unbelief. Thousands, who profess to receive the Bible as the word of God, and who would take offence at being called infidels, act as though they believed not. Whilst they profess that they know God, they in works deny him; whilst they call him Lord, Lord, they do not the things which he commandeth. It is sad to think how much practical infidelity is concealed under the garb of a religious profession. "They say, and do not."*
Unbelief, like a mighty stream, runs through the whole territory of our fallen world. Its spring is found in Paradise, where our deceived parents ate of the forbidden fruit. As their posterity increased, this river of death grew wider and wider. Whereever a human being is to be found, whatever be his country, language, or colour, there we shall find a portion of this stream, whose pestiferous exhalations destroy the fair beauty of the moral world, and convert the whole earth into a waste howling wilderness.
Blessed be God! there is a river, whose streams make glad the city of God, the Church of the Most High. This river, pure as crystal, proceeds from the fountain of Eternal Love, and flows down to earth through the adorable Redeemer of mankind. When the dreadful flood of unbelief burst forth in Paradise, threatening to overwhelm the new creation, this life-giving stream of Sovereign Love began to flow. A spiritual Eden was graciously commenced. Trees of righteousness were planted and nourished. A people was formed who should show forth the Redeemer's praise. The eleventh chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, most beautifully describes this garden of the Lord. Thousands in every age have borne witness to the truth, by faith and love, by patience and hope; exhibiting in their lives the fruits of the Spirit, and the grace and power of the adorable Saviour.
*Matt. xxiii. 3.