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Encompass'd by a throng,
On numbers they depend;
And miss a happy end.
The simple fact that so great a multitude are crowding along through the wide gate, furnishes a reason why they continue in their ruinous course. They imagine their safety to be in proportion to their numbers. As if a host could contend with the Almighty, and wrest from him the sceptre of dominion, or prevail on him to change his unalterable purpose “ by no means to clear the guilty.” Thus they go hand in hand, strengthening each other's bands, till o the destruction of the transgressors, and of the sinners, shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed. And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.”
Another reason why the multitude encourage each other in the broad way, is found in the stillness which broods over the grave and the world of departed spirits. It is natural for us all to feel, and desire to believe, that the grave is a place where all the weary are at rest, and all troubles find their end. But the Scriptures assure us, that the conscious spirit enters, at its departure from this world, into happiness or misery, according to the works done in the body; and that the body itself lies in its resting place, till it awakes to the resurrection of life, or the resurrection of damnation. The departed Lazarus, in the parable, is said to be “in Abraham's bosom”—“the rich man in hell, being in torments." On the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elias were with Christ and the three disciples, constituting an assembly from earth and heaven. The grave, then, is, for all, the suspension of bodily, but not of spiritual suffering. But the multitude will not believe these revealed truths. They say, none have returned from the unknown world to inform us of their state. We do not know but all are happy there, and we will hope in the mercy of God, without disquieting ourselves with things beyond our knowledge. The pious Baxter has well illustrated this subject, the security of the sinner from his ignorance of the fate of those who have departed from the present state.
“ A man was driving a flock of fat lambs, upon a bridge over the Severn. Something meeting them and hindering their passage, one of the lambs leaped upon the wall of the bridge, and his legs slipping from under him, he fell into the stream ; the rest, seeing him, did, one after one, leap over the bridge into the stream, and were all, or almost all, drowned. Those that were behind did little know what was become of them that were gone before, but thought they might venture to follow their companions; but as soon as ever they were over the wall, and falling headlong, the case was altered. Even so it is with unconverted carnal men. One dieth by them, and drops into hell, and another follows the same way; and yet they will go after them, because they think not whither they are gone. Oh! but when death hath once opened their eyes, and they see what is on the other side of the wall, even in another world ; then what would they give to be where they were !"
Very evident it is, then, that the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leadeth to destruction, and many go in thereat. A sinful course is so agreeable to depraved nature--80 great is the spiritual sloth of the natural mansuch the blindness of the carnal mind--such the strength of unbelief --80 many are the allurements of the world, and the devices of Satan—such the effect of things present, compared with the influence of things distant--80 numerous are the imperfections of professing Christians-and such the force of example, the example of the multitude, that the facility with which men go to destruction is tremendously fearful. And if so, how terrible to the sinner is the declaration of Christ concerning the wide gate, and the broad way!
We now close the subject with one reflection : It is a very difficult thing to be saved.
The many obstacles we have enumerated must be overcome, or we inevitably perish. And we may well ask, with the disciples, “ Who then can be saved ?” But men in their natural character will believe that it is easy to enter in at the strait gate-that it is a thing to be accomplished whenever it suits their convenience. That the world may be sought first, and the kingdom of heaven last, and yet the soul be saved. Ah! do you know more of these things than Christ ? Do you dispute the truth of his word when he says, “ Enter ye in at the strait gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat : because strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it?” The righteous " through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven”_" the righteous scarcely be saved,” and if so, “ where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ?" Have you considered, that while you neglect salvation, time is hurrying you to that world where no ray of hope can penetrate the everlasting darkness--where despair, surveying the walls of her prison house, shall, age after age, lift up her broken voice, and ask, how long ? and on the anxious ear shall come back no answer, but,-for ever! Awake, awake now, lest you knock at heaven's gate when none shall open. To-day, harden not your heart. Behold, now is the accepted time; now the day of salvation. Escape for thy life ; tarry not in all the plain, lest thou be consumed !
INFLUENCE OF THE ATONEMENT ON THE BE
HEB. IX. 13, 14.-If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctificth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
THE law of Moses was but a shadow of good things to come. It could do little more than watch over the infancy of true religion, and keep alive the hope of a new and far better dispensation. It consulted the infirmities of man ; it wore a drapery adapted to his senses ; its rites belonged to the twilight of an early age; and all its types were designed only to prefigure the realities of a brighter and more glorious era. It was but a pioneer of Christianity ; a schoolmaster to teach a few of its elementary principles, and thus prepare mankind for a prompt and cordial reception of the Gospel.
But aside from this prospective connection with Christianity, had the ritual of Moses any power to sanctify and save? It did indeed prescribe rites to cleanse the body from ceremonial impurities; but could it purify the soul, and provide an antidote, or anodyne, for the anguish of a wounded spirit ? It taught that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins ; but was it possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away the sting of guilt? Could all the gifts and sacrifices, prescribed in the law of Moses, make the comers thereunto perfect, and disarm a guilty and exasperated conscience of its power to disturb the sinner's peace? No; the
Vol. V.-No. 5
blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, could sanctify only to the purifying of the flesh; but the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself a spotless victim for the sins of mankind, speaketh far better things than the blood of ancient sacrifices, and has a power to purge the conscience from dead works, and put an end for ever in the believer's bosom to those pangs of remorse which so naturally attend the commission of sin.
Let us then dwell on this grand peculiarity of the Gospel, and consider THE ÎNFLUENCE OF THE ATONEMENT IN RELIEVING THE BELIEVER'S CONSCIENCE FROM THE ANGUISH OF REMORSE, and thus preparing him to serve and enjoy God for ever.
We are all more or less acquainted with the nature of remorse. It is the natural consequence of sin. It is inseparable from guilt, and springs from the very constitution of man.
“No being, once created rational,
Every where may we discover the traces of a guilty conscience.
Why did the heathen offer the fruit of their bodies for the sin of their souls ? Why did even the mother throw her own child into the burning arms of Moloch, and smile with a sort of fiendish satisfaction as she saw the flames curling around it, and heard its last expiring shriek ? Why do pagans still continue these inhuman sacrifices, and inflict on themselves tortures sufficient to make a savage shudder and weep? It is all to satisfy the demands
of an accusing conscience, and shows with what tremendous severity it often
sways and scourges the soul.
Every day witnesses the secret workings of remorse. Why does the reckless mariner in the hour of danger call upon his God, and strangely mingle his prayers with his blasphemies? What makes even the unsuspected villain turn pale at the looks of virtuous men ? What drives the murderer to his dark, lonely den, and there causes him to start so often from his unquiet slumbers, and tremble at the whistling of the wind, at the rustling of a leaf, at the throbbing of his own guilty bosom? What fills the awakened sinner with such anguish of spirit, and overwhelms him in a dying hour with horror and despair ? It is conscience stirring within him, and “ harrowing up his soul with the iron tooth of remorse.”
- The mind that broods o'er sinful deeds,
But have we not all felt in our own bosom the workings of a guilty conscience ? Have we never done, or said, or thought, or felt any thing that filled us for a time with bitter remorse? Did conscience never reproach us as offenders against God? Alas! when we reflect on our manifold and aggravated transgressions of his holy law; when we remember how many duties we have neglected, and how many sins we have committed; when we think how much godness we have abused, how many means of grace we have failed to improve, and how many motives to repentance we have wilfully resisted, or carelessly disregarded; we can easily conceive, though we may never ourselves have felt, those paroxysms of remorse, those horrors of despair, which made the dying chambers of a Newport and an Altamont a very vestibule of perdition !
Such is the natural and necessary connection of sin with the miseries of remorse. Is it possible then to separate them, and dry up this fountain of unmingled and everlasting wo? If sin will be followed sooner or later by remorse, then must conscience be disarmed of its sting, or we shall all be