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sarily antagonistic; but fire and life are. Unless under such miraculous circumstances as those in which the three Hebrew children walked unhurt in the furnace, or the mountain bush, as if bathed in dew, flowered amid the flames, life cannot exist in fire under any shape or form. No creature feeds, or breeds, or breathes in flames. What the winds fan, and the soil nourishes, and the dews refresh, fire kills. It scorches whatever it touches, and whatever breathes it, dies. Turning the stateliest tree, and sweetest flowers, and loveliest form of the daughters of Eve, into a heap of ashes, or a coal-black cinder, fire is the tomb of beauty, and the sepulchre of all life; the only region and realm within which death reigns, with none to dispute his sway. And thus the characteristic feature of this element—
besides the pain it inflicts—is the destruction and death
it works. Suppose, then, that the fire that is never quenched is but a painted flame—grant that it is nothing but a symbol or figure of the punishment which awaits the impenitent and unbelieving, in what respects have they, who have persuaded themselves of that, improved their prospects? It is, “as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him ; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.” Although the language of Scripture were figurative, yet express
ing, as it does, the utter consumption and death of all
hope and happiness, it is not less madness for any one to reject the Saviour, and for the enjoyment of a passing pleasure to brave so terrible a doom. Endless misery—the worm that never dieth, and the fire that is never quenched—in whatever shape it comes, is an awful thought. We cannot think of it without shuddering. Oh, why should any hear of it without fleeing in. stantly to Jesus; for who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burning 2 I do not undertake to defend God's procedure in this matter. He will defend it himself, and one day justify his ways, in the judgment even of those whom he condemns. They shall not have the miserable consolation of complaining that they have been hardly and unjustly dealt with. The sentence that condemns them shall find an awful echo in their own consciences. How they shall blame themselves, and regret their life, and curse their folly—turning their stings against their own bosoms, as the scorpion, maddened with pain, is said to do, when surrounded by a circle of fire! Before we leave this subject, let us all join in thanksgiving, both saints and sinners. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Fascinated, bewitched by pleasure, do you still linger beside the pit, notwithstanding, perhaps, that its flames are rising fearfully lurid against the darkening skies of a fast descending night? Be thankful that you are not in the pit: and falling on your knees by its horrible brink, let its miserable captives, who envy you your time of prayer, hear your cry for mercy, and that that gracious long-suffering God, who has preserved you to this day as a monument of his sparing, would now make you a monument of his saving mercy. And how should saints praise him How should they praise him, who have exchanged the horrible fear of hell for a holy happy fear of God, and—in a good hope through grace, that they have been delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son—enjoy a peace that passeth understanding. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Blessed, more blessed than if he had the wealth of Croesus, the poorest, humblest, weakest child of God, who can say with David—He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. It is beautiful to see a bird spring from its grassy bed, mounting up on strong wing into a morning sky of amber, and ruby, and gold, and Sapphir, and to hear her, as she climbs the heavens, sing out the joy which God has poured into her little heart in a thrilling gush of music; but, oh, if God's people through more purity enjoyed more peace of heart, were they as holy, and therefore as happy as they might be, how would angels stay their flight, and pause upon the wing to watch the rise, and listen to the song of him who, as he rises, sings—my soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. “Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.”
II. Consider how we are brought into this kingdom.
Translation is the expression used to describe the method. There is a difference between being transformed and being translated; in so far ás the first describes a change of character, while the second describes a change of state. These changes are coincident— they take place at the same time; but the transformation is not completed, nor are saints made perfect in holiness, until the period arrives for a second translation. Then those who were translated at conversion into a state of grace, are translated at death into a state of glory. The transformation of the soul into the image of God, and of God's dear Son, begins at the first translation, and is finished at the second. And it is with man as with a rude block of marble. Raised from its dark low quarry-bed, it is, in the first instance, removed to the sculptor's studio. There the shapeless mass gradually assumes, under his chisel, the features and form of humanity—blow after blow, touch after touch is given, till the marble grows into a triumph of his genius, and seems instinct with life. And, now a perfect image, it is once more removed, and leaves his hand to become on its pedestal the attractive ornament of some hall or palace. Now, it is the change of state corresponding to the removal of the block from the quarry, that we have here to do with. And let us take care that the word employed to describe the change from nature to grace leads to no mistake. It were a great mistake to Suppose that God only is active while man remains passive in this work. You may, indeed, translate a man from one earthly kingdom to another, you may carry him, for instance, across the channel which parts Great Britain from France, while his senses and faculties are steeped in slumber. The traveler falls asleep in one country to awake in another; and, conveyed smoothly along the level road or over an arm of the sea— rocked, it may be, into deeper slumber by the gentle motion—he opens his eyes, amid a Babel of tongues, on the strange costumes, and faces, and scenery of a foreign land. Not only so ; but, greater and most solemn change, a man may be translated from this world into the next in a state of entire unconsciousness. As I have seen a mother approach the cradle and gently lift up the sleeping babe to take it to her own bed and bosom, so, muffled in the cloud of night, death has stolen on the sleeper, and, moving with noiseless step across the floor, has borne him off so gently, that, on awaking, he was in heaven, and opened his eyes on the glories of the upper sanctuary ; and when his children, wondering what detains their father from the morning meal, enter his chamber, they find the spirit fled, and, as one who had done his work, his lifeless form resting on the couch in a posture of calm repose. Such sudden transition from time into eternity brings an awful arrestment to a life of sin! The sinner is like some wretched criminal, who has been tracked to his hidingplace. Lying asleep in the arms of guilt, he is roused by rough hands, loud voices, and the flash of lanterns; starting up, he stares wildly round ; and how pale he turns to see his bed beset, and door and window guarded by the stern officers of justice—they are come to drag him to prison. But to die and not know it, not even to taste death, to be spared the bitter cup, to be exempt from the mortal struggle, to be borne across the deep cold waters asleep in Jesus' arms, to be awakened from nature's unconscious slumbers by strains of heavenly music, and the bright blaze of glory, what a happy close of a holy life!
It is not in this quiet, gentle, placid way, that sinners are translated out of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son; far otherwise. And in illustration of that, I now remark:
1. That this translation is attended by suffering and self-denial.
Killed by a bullet, prostrated by a blow, deprived at once of consciousness and of existence by means of an opiate or some other narcotic poison, man may die to natural life quite unconsciously. But thus he never dies to sin. Best of all deaths! yet it is attended by