« VorigeDoorgaan »
upon the men of the present generation? You are then in possession of all the facts necessary to a decision. You stand in the presence of Him who died to redeem a world lying in wickedness, and at whose bar you must review the resolution of the present moment. In the presence of that Savior, redeemed sinners, what will ye do?
Time will barely suffer me to allude, in the briefest manner, to that species of religious effort which has given occasion to this address. You cannot, however, fail to see, that if ever the Gospel is universally to prevail, it must be by such efforts, under God, that its triumph will be achieved. By furnishing employment for talent of every description, the Sabbath School system multiplies, almost indefinitely, the amount of benevolent effort, and awakens throughout every class of society the dor. mant spirit of Christian philanthropy. It renders every teacher a student of the Bible; and thus, in the most interesting manner, brings divine truth into immediate contact with the understanding and the conscience. All this it does to the teacher. But, beside all this, the Sabbath School is imbuing what will, twenty years hence, be the active population of this country, with the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is teaching that class of the community, into whose hands so soon the destinies of this country will fall
, the precepts of inviolable justice, and eternal truth. But more than all
, it is implanting in the bosoms of millions of immortal souls, that knowledge which is able to make them wise unto salvation, through the faith that is in Christ Jesus." How transcendently glorious are the privileges before us! Who will not embark in this holy enterprise ?
One remark more, and I have done. I see before me the representatives of a very important portion of the Christian church. We are assembled in the midst of a city, renowned for its deeds of mercy. The effects of our decisions may be felt in the remotest hamlet in the land. To us is offered the high honor of giving an impulse to this work, that shall afford cheering promise of its speedy consummation.
Suffer me, then, in the name of the omniscient Savior, to ask, What will you do ? Let every minister of the Cross here ask himself, Why, even during my own lifetime, should not the millenium commence in my congregation ? Here, then, before the altar of God, let us dedicate ourselves anew, and in the strength of Christ resolve that we will hencefor. ward live with direct reference to the immediate coming of his kingdom. Professional men, before you rest to-night, will ye dedicate that intellect, with which God has endowed you, with all the means of influence which it can command, to the service of your Redeemer? Men of wealth, as ye retire from this place, will ye collect the title-deeds of that property, which Providence has lent you, and write upon them all, “ Holiness to the Lord ?" A thousand times have we said that we would do all this. Let the Spirit witness with our spirits, that we do it now in view of the judgment-seat of Christ. Henceforth, in the Sabbath School, in the Bible Class, and in the use of all the means which God has placed in our power, let us labor to bring this world under the blessed reign of the Redeemer-or let us cease to pray, “ Thy kingdom come.” May. God enable us to act worthy of his cause; and to his great name shall be the glory. AMEN.
Jos, xxi. 7.- Wherefore do the wicked live? The existence of sin, and the frequent prosperity of the wicked, have in every age presented ground for much speculation and great diversity of opinion. Job has not been the only one, who, on beholding these things taking place under the eye of the Omniscient and Holy One, has inquired with anxiety, wherefore do the wicked live?
An answer to this inquiry I shall attempt, by stating some of the most obvious reasons why the wicked may be suffered to live.
In morals, a safe standard of judging is to be found only in the Scriptures of truth :—there we find but one line of distinction laid down to determine the character of men; all are either righteous or wicked,-friends or enemies to God : guided by this infallible rule, we find that not only the openly vicious, but every unbeliever, must be ranked with the wicked. The impenitent and unbelieving, however amiable as men and useful as citizens, muust eventually sink under the frown of an offended God, as certainly as the openly abandoned, the unjust, the deceitful, and the profane. Why then are the wicked suffered to continue in life?
1. TO PROLONG THEIR OPPORTUNITY FOR BECOMING RECONCILED TO God.
Every sin, whether of action, word, or thought, is a violation of God's law, and exposes the transgressor to his curse. No man can plead guiltless : all are already under sentence of condemnation, as rebels against God. But by the mediation of Jesus Christ, men are brought into a new condition of trial : the terms are no longer do this and live ; but to those actually under sentence of condemnation a reprieve is granted, while proposals, rich in grace, are held out, acceptance of which reverses the dreadful sentence, brings the transgressor into favor with God, and more than repairs the ruins of the fall : rejection of these proposals seals the curse irrevocable, and ensures aggravated condemnation. Now, “God,” who " is not desirous that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth”spreads these gracious terms before men, wherever the Gospel is preached, and “commands all men, every where, to repent.”
VOL. V.--No. 4
The wicked, although even now under condemnation for their sins, are yet suffered to live that they may enjoy the benefit of this provision. A full view of their guilt and their alarming progpects is spread before them in God's word, the entreaty to turn and live is perpetually sounded in their ears, and motives manifold and urgent, meet them on every hand, to flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life. They are on trial, and trial implies the power to neglect duty, if we choose so to do. At death, this trial terminates, and all possibility of restoration to the Divine favor, if not secured before, then ceases for ever.
The wicked have souls; for whose cleansing a Savior's blood will avail, if they but seek to have it applied to them ; souls endowed with vast capacities to suffer or to enjoy; souls, whose interests are enduring and indestructible as the throne of God; souls, whose condition for eternity is suspended on the issue of this life, brief at best ! No wonder, then, since their removal, while impenitent, would plunge them at once into remediless wo, that the wicked are suffered to continue many years, that their trial may be prolonged, and every possible advantage afforded them, to escape the doom they deserve, and take refuge near the throne of mercy! Let us, then, keep in view the vast capacities of the human soul, the nature of probation, and the unutterable interests involved in its issue, when with Job we inquire, wherefore do the wicked live?
But the wicked may be suffered to live, 2. FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS :
Some, who have contemptuously spurned the offer of mercy, and are already ripe for destruction, may, nevertheless, be suffered to live many years for the sake of their families, to provide for and educate their children, among whom there may
be those whom God shall claim as his ; and who, he discerns, could not be so well disciplined and prepared for the stations he designs them hereafter to fill, as they will be by having just such an education, and witnessing just such an example, as the continuance of the parent will furnish. Possibly the scoffs and blasphemies, the cold formality, or the worldly life of the parent, may excite the most salutary emotions in the minds of the children. The stoical indifference of one parent to all the solemn interests of the soul, contrasted with the uniform fervor, the trembling solicitude, the conscientious simplicity of the other, may be the instrument of awakening reflection in the minds of the children, unmasking the world to their view, and kindling within them effectual desires after a better portion. Some among the wicked may
be suffered to live at ease, till every thing is ready to render the circumstances of their death widely impressive upon their acquaintances. Others may be suffered to live and prosper, because of the influence they are exerting for the good of society, in promoting the education of the young, furnishing the pious poor with employment and sustenance, and indirectly preparing the way for the approach of those glorious times, predicted in the Bible, when all shall know the Lord. The dispensations of God's providence are conducted on a regular and an infinitely wise plan: and it may yet be scon, that all the writings of infidels, all the discoveries and the frequently blasphemous perversions of science, all the revolutions of empire produced by ambition, were only preparing the way for such a state of society as will be found needful for the general diffusion of the truth, and the conversion of the world to holiness : and consequently, that all the proud, and ambitious, and blasphemous, who took part in those preparatory measures, were suffered to live, notwithstanding their wickedness, for the sake of the beneficial results, which, in spite of their different intentions, will have been made to arise from their doings.
Cyrus knew not God ;--but he was suffered to live and prosper, for the sake of the good he would accomplish to God's people Israel. The Romans knew not God, but they were suffered to prevail, and prepare the
way for the spread of the Gospel. So it may be now with many who know not God: they may be continued to aid in supporting the institutions of the Gospel, where they live; which, though they themselves reject it, may prepare their children for a place in heaven. Or they may live, that, by the influence which they indirectly exert, and with intentions just the reverse, they may aid in fulfilling God's purposes of mercy to bring in the latter day glory. Just as Joseph's brethren, in the very steps they maliciously took to prevent his anticipated elevation, were only smoothing the way for its more speedy accomplishment.
The wicked live, then, I would remark,
3. THAT THEY MAY CONTRIBUTE TO MATURE THE PIETY, ELEVATE THE CHARACTER, AND HEIGHTEN THE FUTURE FELICITY OF THE SAINTS.
This world is a scene of trial to all its inhabitants : the ungodly in Gospel lands are under trial to determine whether they will embrace the Gospel and be saved ; and every act assects their final destiny, just so far as it tends to prepare them to accept or to reject salvation. The righteous are also under trial, to decide what advances they will make in holiness.
If the Christian had no difficulties, no opposition to contend with in his course through life, he could not possibly make such advances in holiness as now he may.
Trial strengthens all the powers of the regenerate nature. It invigorates faith. When Abraham's faith had been subjected to the trial of offering up his beloved Isaac, it was not only shown to be genuine, by his cheerful obedience, but it was strengthened by the discipline which that obedience included. Ile would, thenceforth, have a firmer faith in God's power, and in his faithfulness to his promises than ever before. Thus it was, that “ his faith wrought with his works, and by works (i. e. by acting under the influence of faith) was his faith made perfect,” or established.
Job was a patient man, before his severe afflictions; but those trials at once discovered the greatness of his patience, his submission to the will of God, and strengthened these dispositions in his soul. The Prophets, who lived in times of prevailing wickedness, and whose blood was shed in the service of God; the Apostles, and the martyrs of the primitive Church, who suffered persecution, famine, nakedness, the loss of all things, and laid down their lives for the testimony of Jesus ; in so doing not only evinced the reality of their faith, but they were strengthening it by every trial. The act of relying habitually on the word of truth, amid discouragements on every handsubmitting to self-denial, and loss, and pain, and ignominy, for the sake of Christ, could not fail to nourish a more vigorous faith, a deeper humility, a more heavenly temper, than if they had met with fewer difficulties, if they had lived in less perilous times. And even where no bloody persecution rages-and no open opposition is urged against the Gospel or its professors, just so far as the wicked prosper, does the very spectacle of their triumph call forth in the righteous a firmer faith in God's word, where alone is found the true solution to all the difficulties involved in this state of things. And just so far as the influence of the wicked is felt in any community or in any family circle, against true religion in all the fulness of its demands, in all the heavenliness of its spirit, it calls into more active operation, not only the faith of Christians, but also their forbearance, patience, and meekness. The more ensnaring are the allurements of the world, the firmer will be the purpose, the more determined the resolution required of Christians to resist them. And since every true Christian will resist them (however few they may be among the number of graceless professors, whose love waxes cold, when iniquity abounds), it follows that the existence of the wicked becomes incidentally advantageous to the righteous, whom they despise. The very contempt they exhibit towards Christians, the enticements they employ to ensnare them, the calumnies they propagate against them, the opposition they make to the accomplishment of their plans of benevolence, all become means to render them more firm in faith, and more uniformly humble, self-denying, and circumspect. Every disappointment, and every instance of opposition they meet with is contributing to render true Christians more holy, more spiritual, more like Jesus Christ : and of consequence, because inward holiness is the spring of true enjoyment, it is contributing to heighten their felicity. Hence the Scriptures call upon Christians to rejoice in trials ;- that the trial of their faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, may be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ :” which manifestly implies, that the Christian, when he has passed honorably through trials, will obtain a higher felicity as the consequence. So that, if the wicked are the means of presenting such trials, they are thereby unintentionally toiling to heighten the
present, and more especially the future felicity of God's people, in preparing them to reap a richer reward on high. This thought our Lord himself presents in that memorable passage, “ blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake :--rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”
Were the wicked early cut off in their career of wickedness, were the ebullitions of their hatred against God's truth and against God's people uniformly restrained, the saints would not be subjected to this salutary discipline; they would fail of that great and peculiar reward in heaven, which, in this way alone, they can obtain. If, then, at any time, my Christian friends, you behold the wicked prospering in their wickedness, setting their mouth against the very heavens, and with desponding heart you begin to inquire, “Wherefore do the wicked live?”?-remember, that if faithful to your Lord, to his cause, and to your souls, they are only toiling to render you more holy,--and prepare
for you a brighter crown on high.