« PoprzedniaDalej »
ground of consolation and hope. Without it there would be ground for neither. Though Christ, in the way now stated, is both "the author and finisher of our faith," he may be resorted to without hesitation or doubt as to his willingness to interpose the required agency in behalf of every sincere suppliant of his favor. His power is indicated in the declaration, "As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom he will" and the willingness of the former to co-operate in the work, is found in the assurance, that He will give the Holy Spirit to all that ask. There is, therefore, nothing dispiriting, but every thing encouraging, in relinquishing self-dependence, and coming at once to Jesus, "the way, the truth, and the life." Because he liveth, his believing people shall live also. Yes, he who stood at the grave of Lazarus, and at whose bidding the dead came forth in all the vigor of restored life; he who took the ruler's daughter by the hand, and raised her as from the bed of death; he at whose call the young man of Nain arose from the bier, restored to all his functions; he, in fine, who manifested the energies of omnipotence in "loosing himself from the bands of death, it not being possible that he should be holden of them," he surely has power to bestow grace and salvation, and will confer them on all who come in humble penitence and faith to receive them at his hands. Millions of contrite sinners, bowing beneath his cross, have been invested w ith these blessings, from that hour in which he breathed upon his apostles, and said unto them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," down to the favored day in which we live. Nor must it be questioned, that he is as ready now as ever to quicken into spiritual life the millions of our race now lying dead in trespasses and sins, to make them partakers of his own nature and blessedness, and to form himself within them the hope of future glory. He is exalted at the right hand of the Father for these very purposes, and his mediatorial reign will not terminate until, to an illustrious extent, they have been achieved. However many slight his mercy, and become self-destroyers, myriads of the dead in sin shall be quickened to spiritual life, delivered from the power of Satan, absolved from the sentence of condemnation, and received into those heavenly mansions which the Savior has prepared.
Our subject addresses itself with interest both to those who are still dead in trespasses and sins, and to those who, under the quickening influence of the Spirit, have risen into spiritual life.
1. We are bound, in faithfulness, to say to the former, that, in their present state, the sacred Scriptures bear toward them a most threatening, nay, a condemning aspect. So they did towards the quickened individuals addressed in our text in their antecedent state of spiritual death. But, as the blessing of God accompanied the labors of his servants in their recovery to life, so we are encouraged to hope for like effects on our ministry, in reference to the dead in sin. The promise is unrevoked: "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Yes, in reliance on Him, without whose blessing we know that our preaching and your hearing are alike vain, we will hope, that, in another sense than that which looks forward to the final judgment, "the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son
of God, and live." O, make this hour your own, by listening to the Savior's call, breaking the chains of death in which you have been so long ingloriously holden, and coming forth from the grave of sin into the liberty of the sons of God. Let the time past suffice to have remained in degradation, darkness, inactivity, and death. The calls of mercy, so often unheard or disregarded, are still sounded in your ears; the gracious provisions still tendered to your acceptance. But while we repeat our solicitations to all who have hitherto turned a deaf ear to our message, we solemnly warn them of the danger of continued unbelief. We would inscribe, in characters that should be ever present to their view, that declaration of Christ himself: "He that believeth on the Son of God hath life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." How awful the thought, that, when persevering obduracy shall have sealed you to the doom of the reprobate, that same benignant Savior who is now entreating you to turn and live, will cast upon you the everlasting reproach, "Ye would not come unto me that ye might have life." The voice of entreaty will then be changed to that of solemn adjudication; and the sentence of that dread tribunal annex to the spiritual death the consignment of body and soul to a second death, tremendous in wo, as eternal in duration. Do you vainly indulge a hope that the supplication, which the fearful prospect before you may extort, will, even at that late period, be favorably heard and answered? We do not hesitate to affirm, that no warrant for such a hope is to be found in the book of God. He who is now crying, "Turn ye at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my Spirit upon you; I will make known my words unto you," will then fulfil the prediction of his prophet, in the stern reply, "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded: but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you: then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but shall not find me:" How astonishing that folly, which is willing to encounter peril such as this! Be it not yours, my hearers. Dismiss a spirit of procrastination, and seek now that transition from spiritual death to a renewed life of faith and holiness, which is the only safe precursor, as it is the assured pledge, of immortal glory.
2. We have said our subject addresses itself with interest also to those who, under the influence of the Spirit, have emerged from the death of sin into spiritual life.
Take care that you have the undoubted witness within yourselves of this most interesting, blessed fact. If God has enabled you to realize this happy change, you know it by its benign effects upon your dispositions and feelings; and by those fruits of righteousness which, if ye were not living trees of the Lord's planting, you could not possibly produce. If you are under no selfdeception as to what God has wrought for you and within you, " maintain the beginning of your confidence steadfast unto the end." Be humble and nostentatious, meek and lowly, as your adored Master. But it is no vio
lation of modesty that you make manifest to the world that you have passed from death to life, and that you are the ever improving disciples of Him to whom alone you are ready to ascribe the glorious change. Put forth, for the promotion of his glory, exertions corresponding with your renovated powLet your life be spent in their holy self-denying dedication to his service, that you may become every day more matured for the never ending life which is to follow. "If ye be indeed risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God." Renewed and ransomed spirits! Break the fetters that bind you to earth. The tendency of the living principle within you is to heaven. Let your conversation be there. In affection and in privilege, in love and in duty, rise with your risen, glorified Redeemer. "Stretch your imaginations to the utmost. Raise your wishes higher and higher, while you live. Not a wish shall be disappointed. The
gates of life are already unfolding to admit you." Anticipate, then, in holy hope, the joys that are to follow, "When Christ, who is your life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory," and ye shall be like him; for ye shall see him as he is.”
BY JAMES MILNOR, D.D.
THE PARABLE OF THE TARES.
MATTHEW Xiii. 24-30. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying; The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the household came unto him and said; Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou, then, that we go and gather them up But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together, until the harvest; and in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.
THERE is a rich variety of instruction in the parables delivered by our blessed Lord. That which we have now read affords a clear solution of a difficulty that has greatly perplexed the minds of many, and conveys a lesson calculated, if duly attended to, to avert much mischief from the church of God.
In order to derive the proper instruction from this interesting passage, I shall consider it first, generally, in reference to the world at large; se
condly; specially, in reference to the Church of Christ. And thirdly ; close the subject with a brief application of the truths thus elicited.
I. Let us deduce from the parable such instruction as it affords in reference to the existence and continuance of moral evil in the world.
Whence has moral evil its origin? If there be a superintending and Almighty Providence, why is its continuance permitted? How happens it, that the earth is covered with violence and oppression; that wicked men are exalted to riches and honor, and the virtuous made the subjects of degradation and misery; that triumphant villany so frequently exults in pride and power, while humble virtue is neither raised to prosperity, nor suffered to pursue her lowly path uninterrupted and in peace? Whence so strange an inequality in the states of men with respect to the comforts and enjoyments of life, and so manifest a pre-eminence of worldly prosperity, in many instances, granted to the unworthy and base?
These are difficulties urged by infidels against the providence of God, to confirm their own skepticism, and to unsettle the faith of others. They have also, at times, disquieted the minds of professors of religion; and much ineffectual labor has been expended for their solution. By both classes they have been exaggerated as to their nature and extent; by the former design. edly, for the most malignant and mischievous purposes; by the latter unintentionally, from perverted or mistaken apprehensions; not unfrequently from a natural temperament of mind disposed to melancholy, or from an influence upon their judgments proceeding from their own particular allotment in the world.
That much evil, however, does exist, must be admitted; and although unbelieving philosophers may speculate about its origin, to the derogation of infinite wisdom and goodness, or perhaps to the utter denial of a supreme intelligence, still the humble Christian will resort, with satisfaction, to the only authentic source of information on the subject. His Bible unfolds the origin of all this evil. It proceeds from the sinful disobedience of man, and formed no part of the stupendous creation of God. All things were originally formed, by the great Creator, in a manner perfectly agreeing with his divine perfections.
Man, the noblest of his sublunary works, he endowed with an innocence and integrity of character, that, if retained, would have been a perpetual bar against those desolating miseries which have followed his transgression. The entire freedom of his will, and an uncorrupted and unclouded reason to assist his choice, were the original gift of his Creator. Under the influence of that enemy of his peace, the devil, mentioned by Christ in his explanation of this parable, he violated the commandment of God. The primary author of moral evil, therefore, is this great adversary of the human race. Yielding, voluntarily, to his machinations, our first parents introduced sin and all its ruinous consequences into the world, and from them a seed of evil-doers have, in all successive ages, "risen up in their fathers' stead." All the fanciful theories and vain systems, invented to account for the origin of the evil, can furnish no such satisfactory information on the point, as this sure word of God.
But still, admitting the truth; of this account, it is not unusual to indulge a secret murmuring at the severity of God in connecting such terrible results with "the offence of one man." This is a subject of too great difficulty and extent to be entered into elaborately in this discourse. A few general reflec. tions suggested by the parable may perhaps be useful.
Let me again repeat, that, great as is the acknowledged evil in the world, infidelity, misanthropy, and ignorance are prone to overestimate its comparative amount, and to overlook many alleviating circumstances, which more honest, unbiassed, and lucid views will readily discover. Unequal as the conditions of men may appear at a transient glance, a closer view would often detect the fallacy of first impressions. The enlightened Psalmist acknowledges that he was, for a time, under the delusion of such a partial and imperfect apprehension of the ways of divine Providence. A view of the temporal prosperity of the wicked made him exclaim, "I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency." David, however, soon learned to estimate with more justice and reverence the dispensations of Heaven. Instead of looking only at the surface of things, or adverting merely to their present state, "he went into the sanctuary of God, and understood their end." He confesses his former ignorance and foolishness, and no longer distrusts the wisdom, or the goodness of God. He saw in the ultimate issue that there was no reason for arraigning any attribute of the divine nature, because of a temporary allowance of the predominance of vice. He no doubt also ascertained that no inconsiderable portion of the outward prosperity of the wicked was unaccompanied even by present felicity. Not unfrequently, when God gives men all the desires of their hearts, he sends leanness and wretchedness into their souls.
Wealth is often accompanied by the gnawings of conscience, at the unhallowed means that have procured it; by a restless anxiety and apprehension for its safety, and by an insatiable thirst for augmenting still the useless horde. Worldly honor hangs in trembling suspense upon the varying breath of the multitude, is haunted by a jealous fear of opposing rivals, and, even when most fully secured, soon palls with satiety, and often ends in utter dissatisfaction and disgust. Pleasure and gayety not unfrequently play their fantastic and deceptive arts before the world, when, could their votary be followed to the retirement of his closet, he would be found to be the victim of remorse, or of sullenness and gloom.
Thus, true happiness is less dependent than most imagine upon outward circumstances. Often are a tranquillity of soul, and complacency of feeling, enjoyed by the poor and despised Christian, to which the abandoned libertine, the ardent seeker of worldly honor, and the miserly accumulator of riches, are utter strangers. Neither does it always happen that virtue is not ostensibly seen to be its own reward, and vice its own punisher, in the external events of this life. The possessions of the unprincipled are frequently torn from them by the most surprising and unexpected reverses. The temporary idol of popular adulation is outrun in the race of competition, or having attained his desired eminence, grows giddy, totters,