Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

heaven. The repentance of a sinner is a subject of joy on earth ; of joy to the faithful minister who has been perhaps the honoured instrument of producing the change: as the apostle Paul, addressing the converts of his ministry, says, What is our joy, or crown of rejoicing ? are not even ye in the presence of the Lord? Or, as the beloved disciple says, I have no greater joy than to see my children walk in the truth. There is joy in the christian church on every accession of new converts: these, if genuine, constitute the true adornment of every christian society; in these its real prosperity consists ; and melancholy is the state of that church, however externally prosperous, which does not value and desire the increase of its sincere penitents far above every other sign of its prosperity! But when it is said that there is joy in heaven over every repenting sinner, the assertion is to be understood in a meaning far more just and adequate. Repentance is there weighed in other scales than here. Angels view the change that is effected in a sinner's position before God, by repentance, from higher ground,-in all its aspects and dimensions, in all its bearings and consequences. They appreciate the greatness of that happiness which their fallen brethren have lost for ever, which they themselves enjoy, and which is now in reserve for the converted sinner. They taste the joy which is set before him ; they dwell in the glory which is become the object of his desires; they know that whatever may be his present sufferings, they are light and merely for a moment,

they will ere long be exchanged for unspeakable pleasures,—he will have all his tears wiped away by God himself! Angels penetrate far deeper than it is in the power of the most exalted saints on earth to penetrate; the heights and depths, the lengths and breadths, of that eternity, which is the seal and crown of the felicity promised to every real penitent, which stamps it an eternal felicity,-even eternal life, the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. They have long been engaged in contemplating the beauty of that holiness which dwells in God as its original; they have long enjoyed him as their portion, as their all; they have been exploring the true fountain of happiness through a long succession of ages, and they find it still as fresh and inexhaustible as ever; they have long basked in the beatific splendours of uncreated light! They comprehend the mysterious and undefinable value of the soul; its intense susceptibilities as a rational, moral, accountable substance, incapable alike of extinction and unconsciousness through infinite duration : these things are clear to their view ; but they are obscure and confused to us, who are of yesterday and know nothing,—to us who are crushed before the moth.

5. In the last place, let me attempt a brief improvement of the subject which has now been presented. And, first, we may hence perceive the very great dignity and importance which attaches to the christian ministry. This is, beyond all doubt, the highest, the most sublime and sacred employment in which the sons of men can be

engaged. Its greatness, however, arises not from any circumstances of a secular kind, not from any worldly splendour, but from its purely spiritual character,—from its immediate bearing on human salvation. That salvation, in all its parts, is entirely the work and gift of God; but in this, as in his other works, he employs created instruments; and the chief instruments by whose medium salvation is communicated,—by whose operation the great change of repentance and conversion is effected,—are the ministers of the gospel. The object they habitually have in view, as preachers of the word, is to persuade men to lay down the arms of their unnatural and guilty rebellion, and enter into the covenant of a merciful God: they stand as the commissioned ambassadors of Christ : their ministry is expressly a ministry of repentance and reconciliation through the blood of the cross ; and it is powerful, in every instance, either as a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. It is an awful reflection, that if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; that we are called a sweet savour of Christ unto God, in them that are saved and in them that perish! It may well make us ready to sink under the weight of our responsibility, while we exclaim with the apostle, Who is sufficient for these things ? Oh, how anxious should this reflection make us, to whom this ministry is committed, that the blood of immortal souls may not be charged against us; since the word we deliver cannot return void to Him that sent it, but must accomplish, in every case, its

[blocks in formation]

to every

destined purpose; issuing either in the accumulation of guilt, or the increase of grace, one who hears it !

And repentance, let it be remembered, necessary as it is to salvation, is taught alone by the gospel; it is only to be learned in the school of Christ. Philosophy knew nothing of repentance toward God, any more than of faith in Jesus Christ : it excited no salutary alarm in the conscience; it opened no view of the terrors of a righteous God. It is the gospel that has first done this; it has awakened a fear which becomes its own cure, and has first taught the sinner to cry out, What shall I do to be saved ? The gospel has withdrawn the dark veil of nature's ignorance which hid God from our view, at the same time that it has brought life and immortality to light in Jesus Christ ! If it fail to lead you to repentance, it fails of every thing for which it was designed ; when He who had the keys of death and hell in his hand, could employ no stronger motive to repentance than that which he employs in assuring us, If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall DIE IN YOUR SINS !-Ye shall DIE IN YOUR SINS ! But Jesus Christ, my brethren, came expressly to save you from this dreadful destiny; he came down from heaven to give life unto the world; to quicken those that were dead in trespasses and sins ; and He is now exalted as a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance as well as remission of sins ;-—a repentance unto life, never to be repented of! There is enough here, surely, to awaken both your fear and your gratitude; to excite both a sense of the

value of your soul, and a sense of the love of your Saviour. And these are motives peculiar to the gospel: to these motives it owes all its triumphs over the hearts of men : it is the gospel of your salvation; and well might it be ushered into the world by angelic beings with that annunciation, Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth! Goodwill towards men !

2. In the second and last place, it is not necessary to produce motives to repentance from the Scriptures ; the text alone is sufficient to show its importance: the simple fact, recorded in the text, is itself equivalent to a host of arguments—the fact that the only, or at least the chief event on earth, which excites joy in heaven, in the mind of God and of the holy angels, is—the repentance of a sinner! The barrier that separates eternity from time is impassable; the world beyond the grave is enveloped in utter obscurity. Had not revelation broken the silence of nature, never should we have known that a single event, which takes place in the present scene, is noticed in heaven: but now we are informed that there are occurrences on earth which excite deep attention and emotion in that higher world ; and what are these? We are assured by the text that it is not the advancement of knowledge and civilization, not the splendours of art, nor the extension of empires and commerce, that attract the regard of those celestial intelligences; they are interested by objects of a very different description ; they rejoice over one sinner that repenteth! The repentance of one

« VorigeDoorgaan »