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sity to hear what he would say, they put this question to bim : “ Master, what great sin had those Galileans committed, that they suffered such things?” He does not answer to their curiosity, (which signified nothing) but he answers to their mistake; letting them know, that those men had not been chosen for punishment because they were the greatest of sinners; but to give warning to other sinners, as great or greater than themselves, that without repentance they also would certainly perish at some time or other. A tower might not fall upon their heads, to kill them in the midst of their rioting, as was the case at Siloam; neither night the sword of a tyrant slay them; yet they might be assured, they should at length perish under the vengeance of God; and this vengeance had already fallen upon some as an earnest and example to all the rest.
If you consider with yourselves what it is to perish, that is, to be lost and miserable to eternity ; and that you must either perish or repent ; I think you will be ready to hear what I have to offer upon the subject; and if your minds should hitherto have been careless and dead upon it, you will awake, and hear what js to be said : for at some time or other you must awake; and how much better is it to be called out of your sleep by a friend, than to be awakened in the morning by the voice of an executioner, calling you to your death! .
I shall have but little difficulty in making you understand what it is to repent, if you recollect the vow you made at your baptism, to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are the three enemies, which draw men into sin, and by binding them down in it with a chain, hinder their repentance. The devil tempts you to pride, envy, malice, ignorance, cruelty, falsehood, and disobedience ; by the last of which, I mean rebellious undutifulness. The world tempts you to covetousness, vanity, the pursuit of pleasure, the love of shew and appearance : and covetousness draws you into injustice, fraud, oppression, and extortion. The flesh tempts you to excess, self-indulgence, sloth, intemperance, greediness, drunkenness, and all such sins as turn man into a beast; the worst of beasts, and the most odious, which is the swine.
The law of God in the ten commandments, as you have been taught in your catechism, is pointed against all these sins, and, the law of God being known, conscience will be sure to tell you how and when you depart from it; and it will so often set your offences before you, that it requires very little art and skill to try and examine yourselves according to the plain rule of God's commandments. Your heart, if you listen to it, will soon tell you how you stand, in respect to the law of God on the one hand, and to your three enemies and their works on the other. To repent, is to forsake them and their works, and turn to God and his law; not in your words only, but in your hearts : for so the catechism teaches; that by repentance we do not only confess sin, but forsake it.
I am convinced, that very little teaching is wanting to shew people what it is to forsake sin, and turn to God. Our Saviour says nothing about it in the text, but supposes his meaning to be sufficiently understood; and that nothing is wanting in his hearers, but a due consideration of the motive, which should lead all men to repentance: that except they repent, they shall perish. What a terrible word is this, if we could understand it now, as it will be understood by sinners hereafter : But, as it is said of the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, that they are such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it ever entered into the heart of man to conceive them ; so may we say of those other things, which God hath prepared for them who do not love him, that they are such as our senses of seeing, and hearing, and conceiving, will not now enable us fully to understand. What it is to perish, can be known, so far only, as God has been pleased to reveal to us in his word. If it were possible for us to comprehend it in its full extent, the prospect might shock us to such a degree, as to strike us dead upon the spot with terror. But that would be of no use ; it is not designed to fright us out of life, but to fright us out of sin. God grant that it may have its effect! The general sense of it is contained in those words of oar Saviour concerning his sheep, I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish : so that to perish, is to lose eternal life; and, with that, all things desireable and delightful to man. It is hard for us to conceive what a spirit can be without life : but you may have some understanding of it, if you consider that there is even in this world a life which is no life ; with which when death is compared, it is preferred, and often chosen, as the better of the two. Many there are to be found, who live only to feel misery; who breathe only to utter sighs and groans : and when the body is thus overloaded with infirmity, the faculties of the mind are of little use. When the strength of the body is gone, the spirit is also broken, and no longer capable of exerting itself any further, than barely to be sensible of its own suffering. What is such a life as this, but a daily death? And if we were to say of such a person, that he dies every day, the meaning of the expression would immediately be understood by those who are made acquainted with the case. We are then to conceive, that the spirit which loses eternal life, lives only to suffer and to be miserable. It lives, but without the powers and comforts of life. It is separated from Christ, the Light of the world ; and having lost him, finds nothing but the darkness of despair. It is separated from the Spirit, whose name is the Comforter, and its misery can find no alleviation. Being thus divided from the Light and Spirit of the Lord, the divine presence can be manifested to it only as a consuming fire, such as God is said to be to the wicked : it will never be blessed with a prospect of that place which Christ hath prepared for his disciples: it will never be admitted to the society of angels, and just men made perfect; but will be sent away to join the blaspheming crew of fallen angels; and be tormented with those, for whom torment was made. These are some of those terrors of the Lord, by the preaching of which the apostles persuaded men; that is, persuaded them to repent, and fly from the wrath to come. And perhaps, they that hear me now may think it necessary they should repent: perhaps they form a resolution that they will repent. So did Felix ; and thought he might find a proper season for it; but that season never came : «Go thy way, for this time, (said he to Paul,) when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.” Thus it generally happens : for, as Felix never found a time, so the man who doth not enter upon a new course of life, the moment he is convinced that such a course is necessary, never enters upon it at all : if he suffers himself once to cool upon the subject, all things are against him, and he will never be warm any more: if he can put off his repentance, he will never repent at all: and I will give you my reasons, why I think he will not.
1. Man brings with him a corrupt nature into the world : he is more inclined to evil than to good. One bad example can draw himn further into a life of wicke edness, and prevail more for his destruction, than twenty good ones for his reformation. One corrupting discourse from a seducing companion will instil more evil into his mind, than twenty demonstrations from the pulpit will be able to overcome: this is my first reason.
2. When sin becomes habitual to the mind, the case is daily altering for the worse. There is a double disadvantage ; sin grows stronger, and the mind grows weaker: on which account, he who does not resist his sin to day, will be less able to do it to-morrow. It is the same with sin as with sickness. All men know, that in the case of bodily sickness, it is of the utmost importance to seize the first opportunity of a cure. Some trifling remedy may be sufficient now; but after a few days, not all the remedies in the world; and so the case is a lost one.
3. The Scripture represents it as an impossibility to change a habit of evil for a habit of good : and we have a frightful picture of the case by the prophet Jeremiah, in the following words : “ Can the Ethio“pian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? then " may ye do good, that have been accustomed to do "" evil.” Yet men are so sottish as to continue the practice of sin; and if they think at all (which some never do) they think they shall be able to wash it off when they please, as easily as if it were a speck of diri. But when it is grown old, it is no longer like dirt upon the skin; it is the blackness of the Ethiopian, to take away which, you must take away the skin at the same time. Did you ever hear of the