« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
of mourning and misery ceased to resound? The groans of suffering have echoed from California to Japan. The stream of sorrow has flowed without interruption for six thousand years. On all the public concerns of man, on every nation, on every age, have been labelled, ' Lamentation, mourning, and woe.'
Sucb has been the conduct of man towards man. Not less shameful, not less guilty, has been the conduct of man towards his Maker. Instead of rendering to this glorious Being, whose we are, and whom we are bound to serve, the direct, instinctive homage of the heart, and the cheerful obedience of the hands ; instead of acknowledging his rightful government, rejoicing in his divine perfections, and voluntarily labouring to accomplish his exalted purposes; we have said to him with one united voice, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. For Jehovah, the only living and true God, mankind have subtituted deities, formed by the imagination, graven by art, and molten in the furnace. The forest has been scoured, the ocean swept, and the sky ransacked, for objects of worship. The world has prostrated itself before men deformed with villany, and putrid with pollution. The knee has bent to the ox, the snake, the frog, and the fly. Nay, the heart has yielded its homage, prayers, and oblations to the stock of a tree; and parents have sacrificed their children to the great enemy of God and man. Look over the long page of history, and you will be astonished to see how rarely a country is mentioned, and how rarely a period occurs, in which you would be willing to have lived.
But guilt is not the only ingredient of the human character. It is scarcely less humble and insignificant, than it is guilty. We are born of the dust, allied to worms, and victims to corruption. Weak, ignorant, frail, perishing, and possessed only of an ephemeral existence, we still are proud ; proud of our reason with all its errors, and of our temper with all its sins. We claim a kindred to angels; but, by a voluntary slavery to passion and appetite, assimilate ourselves to the beasts which perish. We boast loudly of the dignity of our nature; and prostitute that nature daily, on objects of shame and remorse, and to purposes which we would not, for a world, have known even to our nearest friends. What a dreadful display of our character would our thoughts, wishes and designs mako
to mankind, if they were all printed in a volume, and read even by such eyes as ours! How few thoughts do we form, which we should be willing to have an angel know! How few purposes, over which an angel would not weep!
In this character, at the same time, we are immoveably fixed and perverse. No event, in the immense providence of God, has contributed to prove that there is in a sinful mind a tendency to renovation. Arguments plead, reason testifies, judgments warn, and mercies allure, in vain!' The sinful heart is incased in adamant, and is proof even to the arrows of the Almighty. God calls' earnestly, and continually ; but we refuse. He stretches out his hand,' both to smite and to heal, but we disregard.' In
consequence of our character, our circumstances have become deplorable. The law of God, with an unalterable sentence, has declared that the soul which sinneth shall die.' As a prelude to the execution of this penalty, thorns and briers have overspread this melancholy world. Toil and care, sorrow and suffering, disease and death, entered Paradise the moment it was polluted by sin ; withered all its bloom, and blasted its immortality. Death, the dreadful offspring of this dreadful parent, has claimed the earth as his empire, and mankind as his prey. All nations have perished under his iron sceptre; the young man and maiden, old men and children.' Half mankind has he compelled to the grave in the dawn of childhood, and converted the world into one vast burying ground. We walk on human dust; and the remains of men once living are turned up by the plough, and blown about by the wind.
From this deplorable lot, and the guilty character of which it is the reward, there was, independently of Christ's mediation, no escape; and to both there was no end. With heaven our communication was cut off. No messenger ever came from that delightful world, to soothe the fears or awaken the hopes of mankind, concerning a future existence. If in the vast of being, or the boundless extent of divine benevolence, good was laid up in store for them, it was unknown. No tidings of relief or hope, no intimations of forgiveness or reconciliation, had ever reached this desolate region. Eternity, solemn and awful in itself, and more solemn and awful from its obscurity,
became intensely dreadful to beings who could make no claims to acceptance, and find no solid ground of hope.
To such beings how delightful must be any tidings of good! How much more delightful, tidings of extensive good! How transporting, tidings of such good, which by their certainty banished distrust and doubt from the soul!,
II. The nature of these tidings next demands our consideration.
This is exhibited in five forms of phraseology : “That bringeth good tidings ;—that publisheth peace ;-that bringeth good tidings of good ;—that publisheth salvation that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.' The first and third of these forms indicate, generally, that the tidings are good, or joyful; and tidings concerning good of great value. The remaining forms teach us the nature of that good.
In the two first-mentioned forms of expression, we are assured, that the subject of these tidings is real good, attainable by us, reserved by God for our enjoyment, certain, future, and immortal. Good, fitted for the enjoyment of such minds as ours, such as God himself esteems real good, and such as it becomes his character to proffer and to bestow. The tidings concerning this glorious allotinent are also in themselves pronounced to be good; because they are sincere and certain, and because they communicate easy and effectual means of making it ours.
It is styled in the second phrase, ' Peace.' Peace is cessation of war, or contention; and in the present
the cessation of our hostility with God, ourselves and our fellow
The soul of man is at war with his Maker. The great subjeot of controversy here, is our obedience to this will. This he requires, and we refuse. Nothing can terminate the contest but our submission; for it cannot be supposed, that the Creator will bend his own pleasure to the rebellious spirit of his creatures. In announcing these tidings to mankind, Christ first proclaims to them, that God is willing to be reconciled. This is intelligence which, before the mediation of Christ commenced, could never have gained credit, even in the world of benevolence itself. Angels knew no reward for revolt from their Creator, but final rejection: the reward to which
their own companions had been irrevocably condemned. With wonder and amazement they saw a new system of dispensations commencing in this apostate world, and heard forgiveness and reconciliation proclaimed to man. Humble as was our origin, guilty and little as was our character, we were commanded, invited, and entreated to lay down the weapons of our warfare ; to return to God, our duty, and our happiness; and to receive from his hands peace, commencing in this world, and extending its benign and delightful influence throughout eternity.
The soul reconciled to its God, becomes at once reconciled to itself. With himself man is as truly at war, as with his Maker. A contention, real, unceasing, and violent, is carried on between the conscience and the passions. Conscience claims to controul the man, as her original and rightful province. Against this claim a mob of furious passions revolt,
. and demand, and wrest out of her hands the controverted dominion. As in all cases where the order established by God becomes inverted, so here every real interest is sacrificed. The soul is debased with guilt, harassed by fear, tossed by a tempest of conflicting desires, wounded with remorse, and hastened onward to final destruction. Conscience, in the. mean time, infixes all her stings into the heart of this miserable subject of domestic discord, and holds up her awful mirror before his eyes, presenting him with an exact and terrible portrait of himself; pale, languid, sickly with mental diseases, his spiritual life already gone, and himself, both soul and body, destined speedily to an eternal grave. But when the soul submits to its Maker, and bows its own will to his, the man becomes reconciled to himself. The controul of conscience is not only permitted, but chosen. The froward, passions, like stubborn children who have renounced their filial impiety, bend with a gentleness and serenity before unknown, to a dominion now first discovered not only to be safe, but easy, reasonable, and delightful. No longer a seat of confusion and discord, the soul becomes henceforth a mansion of peace and harmony, where sweet affections rise and operate, under the controul and the approbation of consci
The man is reconciled to himself; and, turning his eyes inward, beholds henceforth a prospect beautiful and lovely, an image of heaven, a resemblance, faint and distant
indeed, but still a real resemblance, to the character of his Maker.
Peace with our fellow-men is the natural consequence of peace with ourselves; not indeed necessarily, nor uniformly; but always, so far as they are possessed of the same blessing, and under the influence of the same disposition. While the same internal hostility predominates in them, they are unfitted to be at peace with God or man. But the period is hastening when this happy state of mind shall be the state of all men, and peace shall prevail on earth, according to the full import of the hymn sung by angels at the birth of the Saviour. The tidings of the text will then be illustriously realized; and man, at peace with his Maker and himself, will be at peace also with all his fellow-men. The confused noise of the battle of the warrior' will then be heard no more ; and · garments ' be seen no more 'rolled in blood.' Violence shall' then · be no more heard in the' world; ‘wasting nor destruction within its borders.' The earth no longer convulsed by human passions, no longer gloomy and desolate with the iniseries of human conflicts, will assume the aspect of a delightful morning in the spring, were all is verdant and blooming beneath, and all is bright and glorious above.
In the fourth of these forms of expression, this good is styled Salvation.'
Salvation denotes a deliverance from evil, and an introduction to the enjoyment of good. In the present case, both the evil and the good are immeasurable.
The evil is two-fold; a compound of sin and misery; both imperfect in this world, and both finished in the world to
From both in this world the deliverance announced is partial; beginning from nothing, and enlarging, and ascending, with a constant though unequal progress, towards perfection. The soul, before a mass of deformity and corruption, begins to be adorned with life, and grace, and beauty. With it angels love to commune, on it God is pleased to look with complacency.
From future sin and future misery the deliverance is complete. With death our last sins terminate, and our last misery is undergone. Cast your eyes forward through the vast of duration, and think what it would be to sin and suffer for ever. How amazing the evil! How astonishing the deliverance !