« PreviousContinue »
turn in his fortunes had flung him on a couch, not of roses, but of thorns ! In his case, the hopes of the living and the intentions of the dead were alike frustrated. The prize had proved a blank; a necessary result of this fatal oversight, that the heir had not been made meet for the inheritance.
Is such training needful for an earthly estate ? How much more for the “inheritance of the saints in light!” “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” No change to a condition however lofty—no elevation from the lowest obscurity to the highest honour, from abject poverty to the greatest affluence, adequately represents the difference between the state of sin in which grace finds us, and the state of glory to which it raises us. The most ignorant and debased of our city outcasts, the most wretched and loathsome wanderer of these streets, is not so unfit to be received into the holy bosom of a Christian family, as you are, by nature, to be received into the kingdom of heaven. A sinner there were more out of place than a ragged beggar in a royal palace, where, all gazing at his appearance with astonishment, and shrinking back from his defiling touch, he rudely thrusts himself within the brilliant circle. Compared with the difference between a man, as grace finds him, and heaven gets him, how feeble are all earthly distinctions! They sink into nothing. So unheavenly, in truth, is our nature, that unless we were made meet for the inheritance, we were no honour to it, nor were it any happiness to us.
What, for instance, were the most tempting banquet
to one without appetite, sick, loathing the very sight and smell of food ? To a man stone-deaf, what the boldest blast of trumpet, the roll of drums, stirring the soldier's soul to deeds of daring valour, or the finest music that ever fell on charmed ear, and seemed to bear the spirit on its waves of sound up to the gates of heaven? Or, what, to one stone-blind, a scene to which beauty has lent its charms, and sublimity its grandeur, - the valley clad in a many-coloured robe of flowers, the gleaming lake, the flashing cascade, the foaming torrent, the dark climbing forest, the brave trees that cling to the frowning crags, the rocky pinnacles, and, high over all, hoary winter looking down on summer from her throne on the Alps' untrodden snows? Just what heaven would be to man with his ruined nature, his low passions, and his dark guilty conscience. Incapable of appreciating its holy beauties, of enjoying its holy happiness, he would find nothing there to delight his senses. How he would wonder in what its pleasures lay; and, supposing him once there, were there a place of safety out of it, how he would long to be away, and keep his eye on the gate to watch its opening, and escape as from a doleful prison ! Such an inheritance were to such a man like the gift of a noble library to a plumed, painted savage. As, ignorant of letters, he stalked from hall to hall amid the wisdom of bygone ages, and rolled his restless eyes over the unappreciated treasures, how he would sigh to be back to his native forests, where he might sit among his tribe at the council-fire, or raise his war
whoop, or hunt down the deer. People talk strangely of going to heaven when they die; but what gratification could it possibly afford a man whose enjoyments are of a sensuous or sensual nature,—whose only pleasure lies in the acquisition of worldly objects, or the gratification of brutal appetites? You hope to go to heaven ! I hope you will. But, unless your heart is sanctified and renewed, what were heaven to you ? an abhorrent
The day that took you there would end all enjoyment, and throw you, a castaway, upon a solitude more lonely than a desert island. Neither angels nor saints would seek your company, nor would you seek theirs. Unable to join in their hallowed employments, to sympathise with, or even to understand their holy joys, you would feel more desolate in heaven than we have done in the heart of a great city, without one friend, jostled by crowds, but crowds who spoke a language we did not understand, and were aliens alike in dress and manners, in language, blood, and faith.
It is the curse of vice, that, where its desires outlive the power of gratification, or are denied the opportunity of indulgence, they become a punishment and a torment. Denied all opportunity of indulgence, what would a drunkard do in heaven? Or, a glutton? Or, a voluptuary? Or, an ambitious man? Or, a worldling? one whose soul lies buried in a heap of gold? Or, she, who, neglecting quite as much the noble purposes of her being, flits, life through, a painted butterfly, from flower to flower of pleasure, and wastes the day of grace in the idolatry and adornment of a form which death .
shall change into utter loathsomeness, and the grave into a heap of dust? These would hear no sounds of ecstasy, would see no brightness, would smell no perfumes, in paradise. But, weeping and wringing their hands, they would wander up and down the golden streets to bewail their death, crying—"The days have come in which we have no pleasure in them.' On that eternal Sabbath, from which nor fields, nor news, nor business would afford escape,—what would they do, who hear no music in church bells, and say of holy services, “ When will they be over?” Oh, the slow, weary march of the hours of neverending Sabbath devotions! Oh, the painful glare of a never-setting Sabbath sun! Than go down to hell, than perish in the coming storm, they would turn their prow to heaven; but only as the last refuge of a sinking bark,-a safe, it may be, but yet a friendless shore. Unlike the happy swallows which David envied, thy altar, O God, is the very last spot where many would choose to build their nests!
Such is by nature the disposition of all of us. heart is desperately wicked." 6. The carnal mind” has an aversion to spiritual duties, and an utter distaste for spiritual enjoyments. Nor is that all the truth. However it may lie concealed, like a worm in the bud, "the carnal mind is enmity against God." Illustrating the familiar adage, "out of sight, out of mind,” this feeling may lie dormant so long as our enemy
is unseen. But, let him appear, and his presence opens every old wound afresh, and fans the smouldering enmity into flame.
Therefore, the heaven that purifies the saint would but exasperate the hatred of the sinner; and the more God's holiness and glory were revealed, the more would this enmity be developed—just as the thicker the dews fall on decaying timber, the faster the timber rots; and the more full the sunshine on a noxious plant, the more pestilent its juices grow. It is not in polar regions, where the day is night, and the showers are snow, and the rivers are moving ice, and slanting sunbeams fall faint and feeble, but in the climes where flowers are fairest, and fruits are sweetest, and fullest sunshine warms the air and lights a cloudless sky, that nature prepares her deadliest poisons. There the snake sounds its ominous rattle, and the venomous cobra lifts her hood. Even so sin, could it strike root in heaven, would grow more rankly, more hating and more hateful than on earth, and man would cast on God an eye of deeper and intenser enmity.
Hence the need of being made, by a change of heart, new creatures in Jesus Christ. Hence, also, the need, which by reason of indwelling and remaining corruption, even God's people daily feel, of getting, with a title to the heavenly inheritance, a greater meetness for it. In other words, you must be sanctified as well as saved. This work, so necessary, as we have seen, in the very nature of things, has been assigned to the Holy Spirit. It was the office of the Son to purchase heaven for the heirs. And it is the office of the Spirit to prepare the heirs for heaven. Thus renewed, purified, and at length wholly sanctified, we shall carry a holy nature to a