Page images

me, Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean ; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

This enmity is a thing, whose existence is taken for granted in the language of my text; for what need can there be to make peace between God and man if they are friends already? Does not the making peace between two nations imply that they had been standing to each other in the relation of antagonists, not of allies ? Not friends require to be reconciled, but foes. When, with tabard and trumpet, royal heralds proclaim the peace, and cannon roar, and church-bells ring, and bonfires blaze, and bright illuminations turn night into day, in that darkened house, where the shouts of the crowd fall heavy on a widow's heart, who clasps her children in her arms, or where a father and mother are weeping over a bloody lock of their soldier boy's hair, they know too well that war went before the peace, a tempest of blood and carnage before that dear-bought calm. When, therefore, my text says that peace was made, it implies that, though unequal antagonists, more unequally matched than if a presumptuous worm, which I could crush with one stamp of my foot, should raise itself up to bar my path and to contend with me, God and man stood face to face, front to front, in opposition the one to the other. I pray the sinner to think of his madness in contending with God. The issue is not doubtful yonder, where the chaff and the whirlwind meet, or the blast and the autumn leaves meet, or the potsherd and the potter meet; where the

unmasted, rudderless wreck meets the mountain-billow that lifts her up, and whirls her crashing on the reef, around which next moment there float but some broken timbers. Nor is it doubtful here. Throw down, I pray you, the weapons of your rebellion ; down on your knees; yield yourselves to the love of Christ; kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way ; for, who has an arm like God, or who can thunder with a voice like his ? Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth, but woe to the man that striveth with his Maker.

Animated by fierce despair, man would fight on, and fight it out to the last. If God is only set before me in the attitude and act of cursing, I believe I should curse back again. Such is our nature; and he is as ignorant of philosophy as of the gospel, who expects to conquer my enmity by the terrors of the law, or by any other argument than the love of God. But does God appear as reciprocating our enmity, as the enemy of man? No; not even when he condemns him. Το suppose so were a great mistake, were to do base wrong to a gracious God. I know that some have painted him in dark, and gloomy, and repulsive colours, imputing to the Supreme Being their own vengeful and malignant passions ; but that terrible spectre, who has a better claim than Death to be called the King of Terrors, is not the God of the Bible, is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is not He in whose name I call on the sinner to come to the throne of grace, and throw himself with confidence at the feet of mercy. I cannot

deny that God condemns, but I deny that he ever condemns willingly. He does not hate the sinner, though he hates his sins. He loves him; he loves you.

And if that judge is not considered the enemy of the pale, guilty, trembling wretch, on whose doomed, sunken head, with a voice choked by emotion, and eyes dropping tears that leave no stain on the judge's ermine, reluctant he pronounces the terrible sentence of death, is God to be considered the enemy even of him whom, after years of long suffering, he condemns to perdition ? No. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. The man who is damned has been his own enemy. And should such, which God forbid, be your awful fate, I warn you that it will be the bitterest thought of hell, that God sought to be reconciled to you and you madly refused.

Give me a voice loud enough to reach the ends of the earth, and I would raise it to proclaim that God is not willing that any man in that wide world should perish, but that all should come to him and live. Do men perish? Hear the reason, Ye will not come to me that ye might have life. Would you be saved ? listen to these gracious words, Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

II. God desires to be reconciled to his enemies.

He did me wrong; if there are faults on both sides, he was the first in the transgression ; therefore, if we are to be reconciled, he, not I, must be the first to make

advances ! Such, if you ever undertook the too often thankless, and sometimes perilous office of a mediator between friends whom differences had estranged, you know to be the law which man lays down. Man stands upon his dignity. He talks loftily of his honour, and what he calls justice to himself and the interests of society. The injured says of the injurer, and each generally thinks not himself but the other such, He is to come to me,

I am not to go to him. Indignant at the proposal of anything that wounds his pride, he spurns it away, asking, Am I to stand at his door in the humble attitude of a suppliant, to appear as if I were the injurer, not the injured ? You may tell him that he who conquers himself, wins the victory; you may tell him, that he who ruleth his own spirit is greater than he who taketh a city; you may tell him that it is noble to make the first advances. No, he says, I will not meet him even half way; let him come and acknowledge his offence; I will not refuse my hand, but he must ask it; I am willing to bury the quarrel, but he must dig the grave.

Strange terms for those to insist on who know the grace of God, and how our own great debts are forgiven! If God had so dealt with us, we should have gone to hell, every one of us. Yet such are commonly the lowest, easiest terms on which man agrees to treat with man.

And I have known a mother sternly refuse to grant a daughter the forgiveness she asked even on her knees. Come with me into that woman's cottage when she has received her summons to a bar, where she herself, as well as all of us, will need forgive

ness. Her last hour is come; and though in the dim light of a candle which we hold to her face, it looks firm and stern even in a dying hour, we think surely she will relent now, and afford some hope, however faint, that the spirit that forgives goes to be forgiven. Putting kind neighbours aside, I bend over that ghastly form, and in the awful presence of death, put her to the trial. There is no relenting. It is no time for speaking smooth things ; a soul is at stake ; and in half an hour she will be in hell or heaven. She has been plainly told, that unless she forgives, she cannot be forgiven. Jesus hanging for sinners on the cross, and praying, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do; God entreating the guilty to return to his bosom, and stooping in love over his bitterest enemies, these are set before her, but in vain. The tree falls as it leans, as well as lies as it falls. God may forgive, not she. And, when sent away, as it were, by a voice saying, She is joined to her idols, let her alone, I left these borrors, and stepping out into the calm night, raised my eyes to the spangled sky, how pleasant it was to think of the contrast between our Father there and that iron mother, and how natural it was to exclaim with David, Let me fall into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great ; and let me not fall into the hand of man. Many a star studded the night's dark vault, but I thought none looked so bright and beautiful as the blessed promise, Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet

« PreviousContinue »