Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Let your conduct and your creed be rendered harmonious, by acting as you believe. You believe the scriptures; act agreeably to them, and you shall have that “ peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” But delay not this important change, lest the opportunity to make it be lost forever. The mansions of eternal woe are peopled with delaying sinncrs. Fervently implore the assistance of God, and, in his strength, without the loss of a moment, enter on the discharge of your duty. “ Kiss the the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him."

M.

TIE NECESSITY OF REPENTANCE, IN ORDER TO ENJOY THE

HAPPINESS OF HEAVEN. Christ declares, that “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The original word for repentance (ustavo) signifies a change of mind. Hence, repentance may be defined to be a change of mind or disposition, and from this will flow as its fruit a change of conduct. True evangelical repentance, therefore, is a holy change of mind, accompanied with a correspondent holy change in the conduct. The true penitent sorrows for, hates, and forsakes sin ; he loves and follows after holiness.

Such a change of heart and life, is absolutely necessary in order to be admitted to the happiness of heaven. It is an incontrovertible truth, that God is a holy God, that heaven and all its enjoyments are holy, and that nothing that defileth shall enter there. It is, moreover, a dictate of reason and experience, that there is a necessary connexion between a relish for any enjoyment, and deriving happiness from that enjoyment. We cannot take pleasure in a feast, let it be ever so sumptuous, if through sickness or the want of appetite we loathe it. Hence, our reason teaches us, that a holy nature is absolutely necessary, in order to derive bappiness from holy enjoyments. We must have an appetite for boliness, we must love it, our supreme delight must be placed in holy enjoyment; and, by consequence, we must hate sin and sinful enjoyments before we can, agreeably to all the dictates of reason and experience, enjoy the happiness of heaven. Does impenitent man, then, possess a holy nature? Are holy exercises and enjoyments, the love, the service, and fruition of God, his supreme happiness? or is the reverse the fact? If the former be true, that man naturally, and without repentance, places his supreme felicity in the love, service, and enjoyment of God, then there can be no necessity of repentance; but if the latter be true, then it must inevitably fol. low, that without repentance or a change of disposition and practice, he cannot be happy in heaven. Without consuming time in detailing proof, we may confidently assert, that this is a truth abundantly evident from the word of God, and confirmed by history and observation; that in our natural state we do not love, but on the contrary hate, holiness; have no desire of communion with God, nor take delight in serving and enjoying him. The conclusion is obvious, that we must repent; we must hate what we now love, and love, delight, and place our supreme felicity in exercises and enjoyments which we now hate, before we can be admitted into heaven, or be happy there. We are not only, while impenitent, unwortly a seat in those blissful mansions; but entirely unfit, and absolutely disqualified for it; so that we could not be happy, even if admitted there.

This is an important matter, which merits our most serious consideration. Many fancy they are going to heaven; that is, they have a hope of it, let them live here as they please. But unless they repent, it will be to hell, let them go where they will. Were it possible for them to force the gates of heaven, even there they would find hell.

Let us, for a moment, suppose it possible that without repentance, and, consequently, without a relish for holy exercises and enjoyments, we could be admitted into heaven ; from the nature of things, can we suppose that we should enjoy any happiness there? No! our sinful appetites woúld loathe the holy food, and we must pine away at the heavenly feast. The chief happiness of heaven consists in communion with God. “ Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Could those enjoy communion with God who do not love him? How could those who now esteem the law of God an intolerable restraint, and his service a grievous burden, be happy in being entirely subjected to this law, and forever engaged in his service? How could those be happy in the immediate presence of God, who now hate to think of him? The nature of sin is to make us flee from God; thus Adam when he had sinned, hid himself in the garden from the presence of the Lord. A sight of the spotless purity of Jehovah, in contrast with his own sinful defilement, would overwhelm the sinner, and make the bottomless pit comparatively a desirable refuge. God has appointed one day in seven as a Sabbath, and has commanded us to keep it holy; but how many are there that cannot endure to spend one day in seven even in atteinpting holy exercises, in convers.

VOL. II. .

ing with God and their own souls? Is it reasonable that such could be happy in keeping an eternal Sabbath holy to the Lord? Are there not many who seldom or never bow the knee at the throne of God's grace, and who esteem his worship an irksome task? Could such be happy in prostrating themselves in humble adoration before the throne of his glory, and forever employing themselves in his worship and service ?

Instances of this kind might be multiplied, but these are sufficient to show the fallacy of the hope which many persons entertain about their happiness in a future state. It is the voice of reason, as well as inspiration, “ that without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” and that except ye repent with such a repentance as includes a change of mind, a love of God and holiness, and a hatred of sin, ye must perish.

M.

OF APOSTATE ANGELS.

No. III. In a state of warfare, it is of great consequence to be able to ascertain the resources and strength, the number and views of those to whom we are opposed. The christian fights under the banners of the Captain of Salvation, and must dispute every inch of ground. “ His adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.”

Fallen Angels, who are the enemies of men, were created, ori. ginally, with the powers, the honours, and the purity of those who stood. Their fall, although no where fully narrated, is every where supposed, and clearly demonstrable from the word of God. The prophets, describing the disgrace and ruin which they beheld gathering in thick tempestuous clouds around wicked princes, drew allusions from the disgrace and ruin which had overwhelmed apostate angels in irreparable destruction. “ Angels” are mentioned by the apostle Jude, as beings, “who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation.” The apostle Peter assures us, that “ God spared not the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” An expression of scripture, denominating the evil one, “ the prince of the power of the air,” gives countenance to a Jewish tradition, that the air is inhabited by fallen spirits, who there range at large, pursuing their pernicious purposes. This, however, is perfectly consistent with the other declaracion. They may be under “chains of darkness," yet be permitted occasionally to roam about our earth; an idea which receives countenance from several passages in the gospel, where evil spirits are represented as deprecating the command of the Saviour to leave the possessed, and to return to “the deep."

Micaiah represents the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. It was debated who should persuade Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead; the service was undertaken by an attendant spirit. How is he to execute this service? “I,” says he, “ will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” A permission was granted for the attempt: “ Thou shall persuade him, and prevail also; go forth and do so.” A passage of like import is found in the book of Job; the sons of God, the angels, being assembled in the divine presence, Satan appeared among them. When it was demanded whether, in his observations upon the human character, he had not been struck with the integrity of Job ; he is represented as speaking in the most contemptuous manner of Job's religious character, as founded on selfish principles only, of which he engaged to produce the most undoubted proof were he permitted to afflict that holy man in his own family and person. The permission was granted; the issue of the attempt I shall afterwards examine, only observing at present, that the moral, in both of the passages now produced, is, that fallen spirits are employed by God in the administration of his providence, that they cannot act without his permission, and that to whatever lengths their malice, when acting, might lead them, there is a limit which they have no power to exceed.

The serpent, by whom Eve was seduced, appears, from various passages of scripture, to have been an evil spirit in the shape of that animal. The original form of the serpent, Milton supposes, was graceful and beauteous, distinguished by its instinctive sagacity, and probably on these accounts a great favourite. Still it was neither possessed, nor supposed to be possessed of an intelligent principle, nor of the power of speech. When, therefore, he was heard to speak and reason, he might derive from that circumstance an advantage in urging his temptation. The scripture tells us, that our first mother saw that the tree which bore the forbidden fruit was “a tree to be desired to make one wise:" How could she see this? The serpent might have told her that he was himself a proof of it; that by eating the fruit he had improved his condition, becoming intelligent, and in wisdom resembling those angels

whose conversation had, perhaps, been familiar and highly instructive to Eve. But as God's veracity in executing his threatens ings, and his goodness, in appointing the spheres in which he has determined that his creatures should move, were questioned and denied by the intimations of the tempter, Eve ought to have taken the most serious alarm. Yet it must be confessed that the seduction was most artfully managed. The seducer with his tongue used deceit, while the poison of asps was under his lips. Through his subtilty he beguiled Eve, and thus “brought death into the world and all our woe.” It required great address thus to corrupt a mind attached to obedience, both from interest and inclination. But this, probably, was neither the first attempt, nor the first triumph, of Satan. The same address, it is likely, had turned the minds even of celestial beings from their allegiance, and engaged them in a league detestable in itself, and ruinous to all whom it embraced. What an enemy hast thou, O man, in this degenerate spirit! He takes every advantage. He has the most accurate acquaintance with human nature, and knows well what bait takes best with the bold or timorous; the covetous or voluptuous; the knowing or ignorant; and the bait, eluding observation, is so managed in his skilful hands, as to be attended, too often, with fatal success. A passage in the book of Revelation places this subject in the strongest light, where the woman, or church, is represented as persecuted by a great dragon. (Revelation xii. 7–17.) This passage, although in many respects of dubious import, clearly evinces the truth which I am attempting to establish, that in fallen spirits we have the most dangerous enemies, who possess great malignity and great power, and use every effort to involve the human race in the same ruin with themselves. Their complete triumph nothing could arrest but the divine grace and energy interposed in our behalf.

When the hedge was removed from Job's substance, family, and person, neither substance, family, nor person was in safety. The furious lion approached and seized his prey. The suddenness of the attack, and the force with which it was urged, was irresistible; heaven, earth, and hell appeared to be combined in effecting the patriarch's destruction. From the wealthiest and most happy man of all the East, he became at once the poorest and the most afflicted. “ There came” says the historian, “a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were ploughing, and the asses feeding be. side them; and the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword, and

« VorigeDoorgaan »