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was conveyed from heaven ; for, when he beheld the armed hand uplifted to destroy the life which God had given, and which God alone had a right to take away, he cried aloud, “Do thyself no harm ;? and the man, who at one moment was seen overcome with fear, intending by a speedy death to escape the anger of his fellow-men, the next moment was seen in humbled form, and with importunate supplication, trembling at the consequences of the wrath of God. No longer regarding the opinions or censures of wicked men ; no longer thinking of his worldly prospects, but totally engrossed with the joys of heaven and the fears of hell, in reply to the affectionate exhortation of the Apostles he is described as saying, with eagerness and in agitation, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved ?”
Oh! what an earnest and awakening call must that have been which had power to arrest one so suddenly in his sin, and to convert him so effectually unto God!
And yet why should not the same blessed effects be produced now, when I have a message unto you from God; the same, the very same to each of you, that Paul gave to his former overbearing master, but now humbled follower ? It is true indeed that an inspired Apostle was the speaker ; but keep in mind that he nevertheless was a feeble mortal—so feeble, that though he might preach, it was God alone who gave him utterance, and gave the increase. It is likewise true that, when Paul spake, a mighty wonder was performed; for the bars of iron were broken, and
the well-chained prison-gates were burst asunder. Be assured, however, that the same Spirit is now present to perform as great a miracle; since He, “who alone worketh great marvels," is ready to pour down upon both minister and people the continual dew of His blessing, in order to break within us the iron bonds of sin, with which we all are shackled, and thus to set Satan's miserable captives free. Doubtless, it is not to be expected, nor is it necessary, that this marvellous change should instantaneously take place. Though still as possible, yet, if we judge by the usual method in which grace proceeds, it is not probable ; and therefore we need not expect to see sinners at one moment terrified, and at the next in peace, because believing. For surely it matters not at what precise time this needful change may be effected: it is only important to be sure that it has begun, and to be careful that it be complete. And hence it follows that this message to you from heaven—to “do yourselves no harm”—ought to be as effectual now in rescuing you from destruction, as it was when first delivered, though the speaker was an Apostle, and miraculous the scene.
I shall endeavour to show that this message is sent to each, and is most applicable to us all. And may the Lord, the Holy Spirit, convince us of this important truth, and so arouse us, one and all, that amazed at the depth and greatness of our guilt, and the imminency of our danger, we may heartily respond and say, " What must we do to be saved ? Who shall deliver us from the body of this death”?
What is the “harm” against which I am so anxious to give you warning? It is sin—sin in general, sin under every form and shape. Accordingly, we are told in Scripture that “sin is the transgression of the law,” (1 John iii. 4,) and that sin brings on the soul of man everlasting ruin. We know that sin is the violation of that code of laws delivered by Him who is “holy, just, and good,” and with whom it is impossible to err. We know that this law condemns not only the outward violation, but even the secret lust or passion from which the atrocity arises ; that this sacred law, which came from heaven amidst vivid lightnings and pealing thunders, exercises control over the most secret thought, because “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do ;” (Heb. iv. 13 ;) that the least deviation from the path marked out by infinite wisdom and holiness is an offence; and that, if no atonement had been made, everlasting destruction must have been the consequence.
We know, too, that our first parents did merely eat of the forbidden fruit, and (to single out but one more instance of the sad effects of what the world may consider slight and venial offences) that Uzzah merely touched the Lord's ark; and yet they died ! From all which, we may infer that the slightest wilful transgression of the Divine law brings in the offender guilty before God, and of course makes him subject to all the threatened terrors of the wrath of heaven.
Now, viewing the requirements of the Divine law in this light, who can expect to be clear of sin in that day when God shall appear in judgment, with power and great glory? Believe me, “no man living shall be justified in His sight.” (Ps. cxliii. 2.) We “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” (Rom. iii. 23,) offending against light and knowledge, against innumerable mercies and repeated warnings, omitting duties, and transgressing express commands.
Need I, then, hesitate to take up the words of the Apostle, and say to every one, as I would to him prepared for self-destruction, “ Cease: stop thine hand : do thyself no harm ?” I need not write as though I were addressing the miserable inmates of a prison, or any of those hardened sinners, who openly “ deny the Lord that bought them"—those moral suicides, who openly blaspheme God's holy name. But, though we hear of no horrid blasphemies among you, no murders, no such like offences, forbidden by the express letter of the Decalogue; though as members of society, your morality may be commended, yet do not vainly imagine that therefore you are exempt from the Apostle's declaration to the trembling jailor. Oh! think not, I beseech you, that I have no need to lift up my voice, after Paul's example, to testify against your guilt, to exhort you to fly instantly from danger, and to call upon you to “do yourselves no harm !”
Let us now examine with respect to our obedience ; and for this purpose let us take the Decalogue in brief succession.
Though you may not at any time have atheisti. cally denied the being or power of Him who inhabiteth eternity, yet see whether you have not loved, or desired, or trusted in any other save in God; for example, in yourselves, or in your own imaginary righteousness ; thereby, like many others, making the creature, and not the Creator, the grand object and end of your fondest desires. Have you trusted in yourselves, when Christ alone should be your rock of safety ? Have you amid alarming threatenings been careless—under blessings unthankful-under tribulation discontented ? Should such be your state of mind, though nominally believers in a Triune God (i. e., in one God in Trinity, and in Trinity in Unity), you are in fact breakers of the first Commandment; and, in deep anxiety for your spiritual safety, I call upon you to withhold your hand, to cease from sin, and to “ do yourselves no harm.”
I may say, I trust, that you have never worshipped a graven image, and that you wonder at the blind ignorance and superstition of so many fellowcreatures, who, in despite of Scripture and reason, continue so to do. But are you therefor ain that you stand acquitted of all violation of that Commandment which forbids such senseless adoration ? Before you would be sure, ask yourselves whether you have formed no unscriptural conceptions of the Divine nature of your God, either of His holiness or His mercy; whether you are in the habit of worshipping Him, as you ought to do, with