« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
His is a greater work; to teach men the science of salvation the plan of mercy-to watch over them, and lead them from the brink of hell to the gate of heaven! Hence Mark xvi, 15; Acts xx, 28; and 2 Tim. iv, 1, 2. He is then to labour for,
1. The awakening and conversion of sinners. Wherever he goes he will find them insensible, asleep; his is the task to arouse, invite, and urge them, by all that is tender and awful, and to lead them to the hallowed cross.
2. The edification and sanctification of believers. When they are converted, his labour is but just begun; they are weak, tempted, and afflicted. He is their shepherd and guide-responsible in some degree, and freed from this responsibility only when he or they are removed from each other, or from the earth. Would you know the labours this work imposes? Learn them from the lives of Christ and his apostles, and from the nature of the work itself. There is no ease, no trifling, for eternity is at stake!
II. The difficulties that lie in his way.
Some of them are,
1. The coldness of Christians. These ought to be, and usually are, his fellow-labourers. Sometimes, however, they are tardy and slothful. The world, the flesh, and Satan, interfere with their duties; they do not labour with all their souls. Sometimes they fall into sin-into apostacy-disgrace the cause, and grieve God.
2. The hostility of the human heart to God and holy things. This is the doctrine of the Bible, the experience of the world. Our message is unpleasant, our truths unwelcome, and man rouses up to repel, refute, and cavil. O sin, how hast thou blinded and maddened the human race!
3. Love of the world and sin. "I have loved strangers, and after them will I go." Yes, the whole soul is wedded to sin, and its affections glued to earth. We come to
divorce and sever; will it be strange if this prove difficult? We come not to possess an uno noccupied, but to repossess an inhabited land. Need we not an angel to go before us?
4. The opposition of Satan. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Powers of darkness combine to oppose us! Fearful host! Strong, artful, and malicious; how various and complicated their means of assault! Man, noble, dignified, is too often their victim.
III. The smallness of his own resources.
Health sometimes forsakes him, and his body lies exhausted and nerveless under excessive labour. Will not every faithful minister die at last a martyr? The mind, too, loses its strength and elasticity through care, anxiety, trouble, and sickness. This is but a fair picture of man. O how few and feeble his powers! And what, I ask, is a perfect man to this great work-a work which "filled a Saviour's hands?" What are splendid talents? They cannot save one soul! What is moving, melting eloquence? It cannot draw the worldling from his idols; it cannot break the chains of sin. Summon all our resources, they are inadequate to the saving souls. "Our sufficiency is of God." lency of the power is of God, and not of us." one revealed truth clearer than another it is this. With deep and impassioned feeling, then, may we not say in he words of the text, "If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence?" It is the language of my soul. "My presence shall go with thee." Kind assurance! is it already given? O that that presence might to-day be manifested in power and glory in this assembly! O that it may overshadow this sacred desk, as the cherubim overshadowed the mercy seat!
mighty work of
"The excelIf there be
WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD.-Eph. ii, 12.
SUCH is a part of Paul's description of the Gentiles. It was an affirmation made of all, whatever might have been their degree of civilization or degradation. It included alike the polished Athenian and the barbarous Scythian." The same description is equally applicable to every careless sinner at the present day, except in one particular, viz., he has a theoretical knowledge of God, which the heathen had not. It is this knowledge, and the effects resulting from it, which distinguish us from the heathen. Yes, be it remembered, that it is to revelation we are indebted for the untold blessings of our social organization. Still, every careless sinner is a practical atheist. This is indeed a hard saying, and I would it could be softened consistently with truth. But consider the facts of the case, and then decide for yourselves in view of God's word. He is without God,
I. In his thoughts. The Bible, in the descriptions which it gives of the righteous, takes special notice of the state of the mind. It dwells upon the thoughts. Now its description of the wicked is, "God is not in all his thoughts." "The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord." "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity." "How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts." The thoughts of the sinner are engrossed with the affairs of this world. His mind is wholly occupied with its cares, business, and pleasures. It may be drawn to other objects in the sanctuary, and in times of affliction; but is it not partially, and unwillingly drawn? Is not the world brought
into the sanctuary? How often do you seriously reflect on your own nature and destiny? on the claims, the love, and the justice of God? Can you say, "How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand?" It is a melancholy fact that these subjects are excluded from the mind. Hence God ex claims, "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" "Can maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number." "Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider."
II. In his motives. The great motive in the gospel is, "the glory of God." No man can claim to be a Christian who is not, in a good degree, influenced by it; all other holy motives are only streams from this. Now it is the motive which determines, in God's sight, the character of actions. That only is right which finds its ultimate motive in the glory of God. "It is God's command," says the saint, "hence I obey." Selfishness, benevolence, friendship, patriotism, operate in the sinner's heart. Many of the acts which proceed from them may be great public or social virtues, but here they end. They are not the works of faith, nor will they commend us to God. Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." Have you at any time, before or after an action, asked, "Will this promote God's glory?" If not, can you then claim him as your spring of action?
III. In his desires. The language of the Christian is, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." The corresponding action is, 'Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee." The language of the sinner is, "Depart from us;
ways." "We "Go thy way
for we desire not the knowledge of thy will not have this man to reign over us." for this time." Nor is the feeling which prompts this language changed, till he beholds his danger, and his heart is melted. Why need I dwell here? Does not your experience prove my words? Do you now desire God? Deal plainly with yourself. Are you seeking him? If not, surely then you desire him not.
IV. In his enjoyments. We derive enjoyment from the past, the present, and the future. In a review of the past, do you receive pleasure from God's dealings with you, from your own emotions, (for you can recall convictions and vows,) and from your seasons of prayer? These are sweet to the saint; hence he speaks of them. But are they not arrows to your soul? And do your present enjoyments flow from reading the Bible, from prayer, from love to God? Have you not, on the contrary, an aversion to these duties? Do you expect any enjoyment from them? Are not your pleasures sensual, social, or intellectual? Candour says, Yes. You say you anticipate heaven with joy. But is it so? It is fashionable to talk of going there-poetry and fiction dwell upon its loveliness—but the poet's is not the saint's heaven. God has also so revealed heaven that we cannot despise it; but we may not view it rightly. Do you feel happy in the thought of a heaven whose pleasures are holy and spiritual? Do you love its King, its inhabitants, its occupations? If you expect to love them, why not love them now? It is God who makes heaven dear to the saint.
"Not all the harps above
Can make a heavenly place,
Let me be anywhere with God; where he is, is heaven. Again, would you not live here always? Many would.