« VorigeDoorgaan »
that remains. With more leisure than ever for devotion, shall you pray less? With ample reasons for thanksgiving, shall your songs be fewer? If you cannot be so active in public duty, be more humble and penitent, meek and heavenly-minded. And let not those, who are looking back from old age on their past life with some emotions of complacency, be high-minded, but fear. Presumption will put you off your guard, and expose you to failures which will cover you with shame and confusion. Let your whole deportment proclaim, as well as your words, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake."
Let me address a few exhortations to those who have made but small progress in the Christian life. Let the Apostle's feelings encourage you to persevere in that path whose close is marked by such delightful reflections. Contrast with them the horrible reflections of the apostate, and the gloom which darkens his last hour. The man who has lost a battle by his cowardice, or who has deserted the standard of his general, must hide his head from the scorn of the world; but far more bitter are his feelings who has turned from the Captain of Salvation to his enemies. It is impossible that he who errs from the faith can be happy. The arrows which he throws pierce his own heart, and the brands which he tosses kindle the fire of hell within him. The principles which have been rejected with scorn will not come to be the comforters of a death-bed, and the opportunities of salvation, and of doing good, which he hath lost, will rise
to his mind to increase the terrors of the angel's voice, when he swears that "there shall be time no longer." Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Let unconverted men consider that they are fighting against God, and opposing his plans for their salvation. You suppress the movements of his Spirit, and overpower the struggles of conscience. You are aiding Satan in his rebellious devices, and are led captive by him at his will. You cannot expect to prosper in such a contest. Who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle, I would go through them, I would burn them up together. Ye run to the excess of riot, and while ye do so ye are hastening to destruction; and your rejection of the faith of the gospel leaves you no other prospect but that of dying in your sins, and of perdition without remedy. You may hear this with unconcern, but you shall mourn at the last when your flesh and your body are consumed; and, amidst the agonies of the place of misery, there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth at the remembrance of a life of folly and vice. It is neither wise to live nor safe to die in sin. Receive the truth in the love of it, be ye reconciled to God, and begin this very moment the race of righteousness in deep contrition, holy purposes, and solemn dedication of yourselves to the Redeemer's cause and service, and may he enable you to serve him with zeal and fidelity, in holiness and in righteousness, before him all the days of your life. Amen.
DYING PROSPECTS OF AN AGED SAINT.
2 TIMOTHY iv. 8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
THE prospects which have excited the exultation of men fall far below the one which the text describes. The gay and splendid visions which rise before the fleshly mind produce only a momentary rapture. Reason soon detects their uncertainty and their emptiness, while a higher principle condemns them as base and carnal. The efforts made to realize such expectations have occupied the time and the faculties which should be devoted to nobler objects, and led, in many cases, to deeds which have involved men in shame and perdition. In cases where they have been realized, how rarely have they been felt worthy of the fondness with which they have been cherished, of the exertions which they demanded, and of the attention which they engrossed? No prospects of earthly enjoyment can remain when calamity and danger approach; they quickly pass away, and leave their place to be occupied by the darkest forebodings; and that same liveliness of imagination, which clothes
the object of hope in colours so beautiful, never fails to aggravate the evils of disappointment, and to exhibit the object of dread in the most hideous form, and its advance as near and certain.
How different are the prospects of religion! They will bear the strictest examination, and their influence hath given the heart rest amid the violence of persecution, and made the scaffold of death seem the threshold of glory. Such was their influence on the heart of Paul. He saw a violent death before him, and beheld the axe whetting which was to sever his head from his body; but he looks beyond the scaffold to the throne which was prepared for him, and to the crown held by the righteous Judge to be placed where his love had destined it. Having described his exertions in the work of his Master in language taken from the contests in the Grecian games, he holds out the honours of the blessed by the rewards of the victors. The Apostle had witnessed the interest excited by these prizes among all classes, and especially he had marked their power in the efforts of the candidates as they drew near the goal, and such was the influence of the heavenly glory on his mind. The old saw these games with a vivid remembrance of efforts they could no longer make, and marked the prizes with regret that for them they could not contend; but the aged Christian, like the Apostle, is still struggling and pressing forward, and it is his privilege that he can regard himself as nearest to the prize.
In this discourse I shall call your attention to the
object of Paul's expectation, to his impressions and hopes respecting it, and to the character of those who shall share with him in this glory.
I. Let us attend to the object of Paul's expectation. 1. It is described as a crown. In the Olympic games the victors were rewarded with crowns by the judges who were appointed to decide on the merits of the different candidates; and though these crowns were made of the leaves or branches of trees, they were supposed to confer such honour, that they were sought with the keenest ardour of ambition. greatest princes, and the most successful generals, were eager to enrol their names among the candidates, and conceived that the honours awarded to the victors were necessary to complete their glory and their happiness; while those of inferior rank considered the attainment of the Olympic garland as an ample compensation for the meanness of their lot, and as adding a lustre to their name, which should distinguish their posterity.
The glory of the heavenly state is the reward of those who have run with patience the race set before them, and who have wrestled with spiritual wickednesses in high places; and it is not made of perishing plants, but of the tree of life, and its verdure never decays. The possessors of these ancient crowns had various privileges and distinctions connected with them; and with the crown of which the text speaks are associated a seat on the Saviour's throne, a kingdom that cannot be moved, and pleasures evermore. The distinctions connected with success in these games