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prit is never reformed by suffering alone. There is suffering enough to change us all, could suffering do it.
If it do not in time, why will it in eternity, man remaining the same? Because it will be greater in degree? Then present suffering would always make us proportionally better in this life. Why did not God flood the world with wo rather than give his Son, if suffering be remedial ? Because suffering must be sanctified by the Spirit in order to do good, and the Spirit could be given only through the atonement. But in eternity there is no Spirit thus to act; He is sent to "the world,” not to hell. But,
3. Vice is progressive; hence the truth of our position. The law of the physical, intellectual, and moral world, is progression. This you admit. You have every reason to believe that this is the law of all God's moral universe, pervading heaven and hell. Death cannot interfere with this moral progression; it is not a suspension of being, but an opening to a boundless arena. In this world repentance alone stops the current, and faith alone turns it. Neither can exist without the aid of the Spirit, which enters not the world of wo. Weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, are not repentance; a view of the Judge is not faith in the Saviour. O, how sin will corrode for ever! How swiftly will the current flow when the opposing zephyrs of the Spirit are hushed for ever! I see the stream gushing anew from the grave, and I know its bed is eternity!
I leave this awful subject and all its associations with you, knowing that we are soon to pass from this changing scene to an unchanging and eternal world. If I had come commissioned to apply the declaration of the text to you now, how would you feel? We are liable to be removed at any and every moment! O! let us ascertain our moral character, for this alone of all things shall we carry with us. If holy, let us persevere; if unholy, repent and believe.
WHO AMONG US SHALL DWELL WITH EVERLASTING BURNINGS?→→→ Isaiah xxxiii, 14.
I AM ready to admit that this is figurative language, but not that on this account it means nothing. Why were figures used but because of the barrenness of language, and to make it more expressive? How foolish, then, to assert that the text is no argument for the existence of hell, inasmuch as the language is figurative! I came not, however, to prove that there is a hell, for you believe it; it is too plain to question. But who of us shall dwell there? I would have you tear yourselves away from earth, and seriously ask, Shall I go where they go who forget God? Think of hell before it shall open upon you. You start back and refuse. Why? It is too unpleasant, you say. Why is it so unpleasant? Let us see. I. Because, as sinners, we are exposed to it.
It is idle for men to say that they do not love to think of hell because the supposition of its existence is absurd; the contrary is more so. Do they say the supposition dishonours God? They care nothing about that; and, besides, hell will honour God as much as heaven, for it will show his justice and love. The fact is, our aversion proceeds from our exposure. We care nothing about dangers which do not affect us or our race-such as the conflagration of distant stars; nor usually about dangers which do not affect our friends. Hence even the most ungodly are not displeased with the thought of hell as "prepared for the devil and his angels;" though it would be hard to show why they should suffer, and the impenitent go clear. Now that it has been also prepared to hold the wicked of our race, why is the thought of it unpleasant? Because, when we come to settle the question in
the text on the principles of the Bible, we see that some of our friends may be there-that we may go there. We are exposed to everlasting burnings! We cannot bear to think thus of our friends or of ourselves.
II. The thought of it would imbitter life.
Were one to realize the effects of his sins, would he persist in them? Would the drunkard drink, should he see every dram driving his coffin-nails? Would the thief steal, should he see the progressive twisting of the gallows-rope? Men do not stop to think of the effects. Though they see them in others, they hope to escape. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Now thoughts of hell would lead us to see these effects to be awful and eternal. Were men to realize the gnawings of the worm that dieth not, could they sin as cheerfully as they do? No. Men know this, and hence put such thoughts far away; for they are in love with sin, and will not be divorced. "I have loved strangers, and after them will I go."
III. The thought of it might lead to religion.
When danger threatens we naturally look for a way of escape. Hell is revealed to us that we may avoid it. Hence it is spoken of as evitable. The way of escape is clearly marked out that we may neither mistake, nor despair. But sinners do not love religion; they love neither its Author, terms, nor nature. They will not think of hell, because they are averse to going to the cross. I appeal to you if, when you have thought of it, you have not said to yourself, "I must secure religion now; but then I do not want it now, so I will drown my thoughts of hell in business or pleasure." The Spirit was leading you, but you broke away. Why would you so peril your soul?
It is important, however, that we meet the question in
the text fairly, and we can do so by the aid of the Bible.
1. We are very soon to enter the future world, where it will be finally settled. As men, as spirits, we are bound to meet it now. How awful to be surprised at last! How inconsistent to be afraid to think of that which we are every day risking! O that we feared hell itself as much as we fear the thought of it!
2. It will lead us to close self-examination. Other motives fail to do it, but this cannot. Call up all the horrors of hell, and you instantly ask, Will they be my portion ? You know you can obtain an answer only from the Bible, conscience, and the Spirit. That you have no sympathy with hell, is no proof that you will not go there. They are investigations for eternity, which are thorough and useful.
3. It will arouse our fears for others. Many of our friends are unconverted, for whose salvation we do but little by prayer, exhortation, and other pious efforts. Other motives fail to make us faithful to them, and to overcome our diffidence. Fears of their future misery may avail to do this. "Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" See them sinking into hell-and what efforts will you make? How much does a father risk to save his son from drowning? How much will he risk to save his soul? O what a spur would these fears give to our efforts for the salvation of others at home and abroad!
Many of you are living in sin on whom every gentle motive has failed; and yet you are posting to hell. You are charmed by the siren. Think of dwelling with everlasting burnings! The thought will break the charm; it will disturb you; but like the cry of fire, it will lead you to seek for safety. There is no virtue in fear, but it will lead you to the cross; and there you will be melted, and wooed, and won. Unless you fear, you will never go;
unless you think, you may never fear. If you think aright, you may never again fear for yourself.
"Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings ?” How suitable to ask, Is it I? Can you answer boldly, No? If not, O repent, believe; for if you do not, you will dwell there! Do not put off the question. You may think me unkind to press it, but I am not half so unkind as you are in risking the danger. Will you risk it longer?
GIVE US OF YOUR OIL; FOR OUR LAMPS ARE GONE OUT.-Matt. xxv, 8.
SUCH was the language of the foolish virgins when surprised by the announcement of the bridegroom's approach. It implies, 1. A confession of their deficiency. 2. A desire to have it supplied. Without explaining the parable, let us use it as Christ did for the purpose of religious instruction. It teaches us,
I. That there are seasons when the most careless feel and confess their need of a preparation to meet God.
That we must all meet God is an admitted fact. The necessity of a preparation for this event arises from our character as sinners. The effects of that meeting will be eternal, and hence the preparation must be thorough and careful.
1. When alone we are sometimes uncons onsciously led to reflections which alarm us. So in company our countenances will sometimes change-w -we cannot join in the mirth of our companions-we equivocate. In the night we frequently think of death and judgment--troubled dreams awake us--we find no peace.
2. Under the preaching of the gospel. Human ac countability, the requisitions of the law, the moral govern ment of God, and eternity, are the great topics which cal