« VorigeDoorgaan »
and tiresome pilgrimage to the birth-place of the prophet. The Catholic may be sincere in attempting to buy the grace of God for money. Paul was very sincere, in the sense in which the word is here used, in persecuting the church of God. I verily thought,' says he, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.' Yet he was at this time a blasphemer and injurious,' and had he persisted, he must have per
Some mistake external morality for religion, and because they treat their fellow men with justice and kindness, and perform the relative and social duties, fancy that they have all the religion which they shall ever need. They feel no deep sense of sin, and no need of a Saviour's cleansing blood; and though they live in a neglect of prayer and all the duties which they owe to God, they are content to rest on their own supposed righteousness, as the foundation of their hopes, and their preparation for heaven. Notwithstanding the absurdity of views such as these, there are multitudes, it may be feared, who entertain them. Thousands under the gospel are living, dying, and going into eternity, with no better religion than this. How great must be their disappointment, when summoned into the presence of God in all the confidence of selfrighteous expectation, to find that heaven has no place for them to find that a preparation for heaven is a very different thing from what they had supposed to find that all who rise to that world, go there, not on the ground of their own righteousness, but as those who have been pardoned for the sake of Christ to find that the feeling which pervades all heaven is, Not unto us, not unto us, but to Him who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be all the glory of our salvation.'
Others mistake the nature of religion in a different way. They think it enough that they have had convic-.. tions of sin; that they have passed through something which they call conversion; that they have made a public profession of their faith; and are commonly regarded and spoken of as Christians. They do not love the duties of religion, and they neglect these duties as often as decency will allow. Their hearts are set upon the world, and they pursue it with unremitting ardor. Still, strange as it may
seem, they do not doubt that their hearts have been renewed, that they have the essentials of religion, and that they are prepared to die in peace. Such persons seem to suppose that, in order to be religious, it is only necessary to pass through a certain process usually denominated conviction and conversion; and that prayer, and watchfulness, communion with God, and a strict religious life (though well enough for those who like them) are wholly unnecessary. Consequently, though they live after the manner of the world, and perhaps more loosely than many who make no pretensions to piety, they never doubt the reality of their religion or the goodness of their hope. But, if the representations of the Saviour are at all to be credited, such persons are preparing for an overwhelming disappointment. A shoreless eternity is before them; timè, with resistless current, is bearing them on towards it, and the moment they enter there, they will find that they have no support. They will discover, at a glance, that they have been deceived, that they have mistaken the nature of true religion, that the gate of heaven is shut against them, and their souls are lost. And though they may stand without, and cry, Lord, Lord, open unto us; we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets;' a voice of thunder will reply, 'I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.'
6. Many will be disappointed at the last, because they have mistaken the character of their own exercises and feelings. They believed that religion was necessary as a preparation for heaven, and that true religion is in its nature spiritual, having its seat in the affections of the soul. They trusted, also, that their own affections were of the right kind, and consequently that their title to heaven was sure; but in this respect their hearts deceived them.
Some mistake the excitement of mere animal sensibilities for the glow and fervor of religious affection. We are so constituted as to be susceptible of a variety of feelings connected with our animal nature, such as fear, joy, grief, natural affection, &c. These animal feelings are not unfrequently excited by religious considerations. The sufferings of Christ, the worth of the soul, the joys
of heaven, and the pains of hell, may be so presented to the mind, as to excite hopes and fears, desires and sympathies which are entirely of an animal nature. Feelings of this kind are usually ardent, strong, palpable to the sense, and peculiarly calculated to deceive the unwary. In many instances, they have been mistaken for holy affections, and persons, on the ground of them, have made high professions and indulged confident hopes. A religion of this character is usually transient. The gust of passion quickly subsides, and the sleep of worldliness returns. Or, where this is not strictly the case, the character is unstable, fitful, subject to inconsistencies and extravagancies, and easily distinguishable from the course of the just, which shines brighter and brighter to the perfect day. Still, those who are deceived by feelings such as have been described, are usually fond of the delusion, and refuse to renounce it. They think much of their high religious exercises, perhaps boast of them, and regard themselves as elevated alinost above the region of doubt, or the ordinary necessity of self-scrutiny. Ŏ what must be the disappointment of such persons, their weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, when they shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, and all the ransomed of the Lord, in the kingdom of glory, and they themselves thrust out!
But there is another mistake in regard to the nature of religious exercises, by which many are preparing themselves for disappointment hereafter. They do not distinguish between holy and selfish affectious, and because their selfishness assumes a religious aspect, they please themselves with the idea that it is religion itself. They have something which they call the love of God, but it is a mere selfish love: they love him because they think he loves them, and is determined to save them.* Their re
* Some may think that the same selfish love which is here condemned is inculcated by the apostle John. We love him because he first loved us." 1 John iv. 19. But a moment's attention to the previous verses will convince any candid person that this is a mistake. The apostle does not describe the love of God to us personally as the motive which should excite our love to him; but the love of God, in sending" his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” and in "giving us of his Spirit" to renew our hearts, he represents as the first cause of all religious affection; so that it is strictly true,
pentance too is of the same character. If anything more than mere compunction of conscience, or animal griefif it is a sorrow of the heart at all, it is selfish sorrow;a sorrow for sin, not because it is wrong in itself, and has been committed against God, but because it is likely to injure them. With the same kind of affection they embrace the Saviour. They believe he has died for them, and will certainly save them, and they love him for the favors which they expect to receive from him. Under a delusion such as this, persons may also experience a joy in religion, which they mistake for holy joy, but which is entirely selfish. They believe that God loves them, and has pardoned all their sins, and will certainly make them happy forever; and with such impressions, who would not rejoice? These selfish affections may at times be ardent, may rise very high, and may leave the possessor of them in no doubt as to the reality of his religion, while it is obvious to other eyes that they have nothing of the nature of true religion in them. They are spurious, counterfeit, terminating on self and not on God, and such as a holy God cannot approve.-Persons deceived in this way will be very likely to go on, trusting to their false hopes and selfish affections, till the light of eternity undeceives them; and then their disappointment will be extreme. Thinking nothing but that they have religion, and their foundation is strong, till their eyes are opened in the other world; what fearfulness must surprise them, what untold horrors must come over them, to find that they have been deceived, that they have no religion, that their lamps when most needed are gone out, and they are left in eternal night!
It may be easily conceived, that the disappointments, with which so many will be overtaken at the last, must be unutterably dreadful. Disappointments are painful,
that had he not first loved us, and had he not manifested his love in, the ways which have been pointed out, we never should have been brought to the exercise of a true love to him. Had he not given his Son to die for us, and his Spirit to sanctify us, how should we have been delivered from the bondage of corruption? And how should the true love of God ever have been shed abroad in our hearts? This love is a very different thing from that selfish affection of which I have spoken, and by which so many, it may be feared, are fatally deceived,
often almost beyond endurance, in the comparatively trifling concerns of the present life. Who then shall describe the anguish of disappointed, despairing souls, when the curtain of sense is withdrawn, and the scenes of the invisible world appear? Who can conceive the misery of those, whose unsuspected, long-cherished hopes suddenly vanish, in the blaze of eternity, and under the searching eye of Jehovah? They see the celestial city afar off, but it is shut against them. They see the happy company of the redeemed, but they must never be of their number. Instead of the approbation of God, they meet his frown. Instead of his favor, they endure his wrath. In place of expected glory and peace, they feel the gnawings of the never-dying worm, and the burnings of unquenchable fire. And what puts the seal upon their destruction is, they know it is irreversible. They know their dreadful state is fixed. Could they look forward to any period, however distant, when they should enjoy again the offers of the gospel, it would be some relief; but no such prospect is presented. All around them is the blackness of darkness. All is horror and despair. And to meet this, in place of an expected heaven of glory and bliss, what a difference! What a depth of disappointment and wo!
To conceive of the subject more fully, make it, reader, your own case. You now indulge a hope of heaven. You flatter yourself that you have reason to hope. Your hope is dear to you, and you are unwilling to relinquish it. But admit it as possible, at least for a moment, that you may be deceived, and that were you called away in your present state, you must be found among the miserable. Suppose also that your summons had arrived, that the scenes of eternity had opened, and your future miseries were now disclosed. O tell me, fellow traveller to the judgment, tell me if you can, what would be your feelings under such circumstances! What a fearfulness would surprise you! What a shuddering horror would come over you! What a disappointment would overwhelm you! Such a destruction of your fondest hopessuch a dashing of your most cherished expectationssuch a fall—such a ruin ;-how could you or I sustain it! And yet, is it not possible, beloved reader, that we