« PreviousContinue »
[There will be no change whatever in the gravek They who die without an interest in Christ will be for ever miserable' — —-They who have improved their time for the great ends and purposes of life, will be for ever happy in the presence of their God".
1. This very day or night may be our last
[Yes; if the term of our continuance on earth be now to expire, we cannot resist the divine will; we must go: but whither? Can it be to the regions of the damned? O how shall we dwell with everlasting burnings?" Is there reason to hope that we should go to heaven? then welcome sickness! welcome death! But let us not rest one moment while this awful matter is in suspense.]
2. Our last day must come soon at all events
[What if we live fifty or sixty years? the time will soon be gone, as a weaver's shuttle passing through the loom; and then the thread of life will be cut. They who are now advanced in years, look back upon their past life as a dream. So will it appear to us also, when it is spent. Let us then work while it is day; and before the night comes, in which no man can work."]
3. The present moment is of infinite importance to us all
[It is all that we can call our own: and on this eternity depends. Let us therefore live as those who live for eternity.a If ever we should be with Christ in Paradise, shall we regret that we took so much pains to get thither? If, on the contrary, we should ever lift up our eyes in hell, shall we not bewail the supineness that brought us thither? Let us then
Eccl. ix. 10. Whatever our real character was in death, such it will remain, Rev. xxii. 11. just as Babel remained, from the instant that God confounded the languages of the builders.
1 There was an impassable gulf fixed between the rich man and Lazarus: nor was there so much as the smallest mitigation of pain allowed to him that was in hell. Luke xvi. 26. Rev. xiv. 10, 14. As on Noah's entrance into the ark the door was shut; so there will remain no possibility of admission into heaven, if once we die without an interest in Christ.
m They shall be as pillars in the temple of their God, and shall go no more out. Rev. iii. 12. and iv. 8. and vii. 15.
n Isaiah xxxiii. 14.
• Job vii. 6.
P John ix. 4.
q 1 Cor. vii. 29-31.
awake from our slumbers; and labour, that, at whatever time our Lord may come, he may find us watching*.]
Much of the foregoing matter would serve to illustrate ANOTHER TEXT, Jer. xxviii. 16. This year thou shalt die. It might be treated thus: 1. What prospect there is that the text will be fulfilled in us (Many will die this year-No one has any security that he himself shall not be among the number-We all feel in ourselves the seeds of death-Many who in all respects were as likely to live as we, are dead already-There is a year coming wherein every one of us must die-) 2. What effect that prospect should have upon us (It should make us, dead to the world-serious in self-examination -Diligent in working out our salvation.)
CCCLXIII. THE COMMONNESS AND FOLLY OF
Ps. xiv. 1. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
MEN, who judge only by the outward appearance, are apt to entertain a good opinion of themselves: but God who looketh at the heart, describes the whole race of mankind as immersed in an unfathomable abyss of wickedness-In confirmation of this melancholy truth we need look no further than to the declaration in the text
may be thought indeed that the text is spoken only in reference to a few professed infidels: but the words immediately following shew that it relates to many, yea to all mankind; "all being gone aside, and none doing good, no not one"-Above all, St. Paul, expressly upon the subject of human depravity, appeals to this very passage as decisively establishing that doctrine-In considering the words before us we shall shew
I. The atheistical thoughts and desires of the heart God interprets the thoughts and desires of the heart as though they were expressed in words; and he attests its real language to be like that in the text-It may be un
1. As an assertion
[The name here used for God is not Jehovah, which relates to his essence, but Elohim, which characterizes him as the
a Jer. xvii. 9.
b Rom. iii. 10-12.
moral governor of the world-The words therefore must be understood, not as declaring that there is no God, but that there is no God who interferes in human affairs-It is true there are not many, who will deliberately affirm this in plain terms; but, alas! how many are there, whose actions manifest this to be the inward thought of their hearts!-If we look around us, we shall see the great mass of mankind living as if there were no superior being to whom they owed obedience, or to whom they were accountable for their conduct-They enquire constantly whether such or such a line of conduct will tend to their comfort, their honour, or their interest; but how rarely do they examine whether it will please God! How will men gratify in secret, or at least harbour in their bosoms, those lusts, which they could not endure to have exposed to the eye of a fellow-creature, while yet they feel no concern at all about the presence of their God! The language of their hearts is, "The Lord seeth us not, he hath forsaken the earth:"How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of the heaven," ignorant and indifferent about the affairs of men-And as we thus refuse to acknowledge God ourselves, so we do not choose that any others should acknowledge him-Is any one of our companions awed by the fear of God? how ready are we to laugh at his scruples; to propose to him the customs and maxims of the world as more worthy of his regard than the mind and will of God; and to encourage him in the hope, that such compliances · shall never be noticed in the day of judgment!—And what is this but to use the very language which God imputes to us, "The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil?"-]
2. As a wish
[The words "There is" are not in the original, and may therefore be omitted: the text will then stand thus; The fool hath said in his heart, No God! that is, I wish there were none-And how common a wish is this!-When men are fully convinced in their minds that God notices every transaction of their lives, and records it in the book of his remembrance, they are still unwilling to give up their lusts, and determined to continue in sin at all events-But are they easy in such a state? No: they shrink back at the prospect of death and judgment, and wish that they could elude the summons that will be given them in the last day-Gladly would they sleep an eternal sleep, and barter their immortality for an exemption from appearing at the tribunal of God-What satisfaction would they feel if they could be certified on unquestionable grounds, that God did not notice their actions, or
that, notwithstanding he be the Governor and Judge of all, he hath decreed to bestow on them the favour of annihilation!-Instantly they would exclaim, Now I may dismiss my fears: now I may take my fill of pleasure; and "drink iniquity like water," without any dread of future consequencesWe may appeal to the consciences of all, whether such have not been frequently the thoughts of their hearts, or, at least, whether their dread of death and judgment do not justly admit of this construction?-]
Such being the thoughts and desires of the heart, we proceed to shew
II. The folly of entertaining them
This will appear in a striking point of view, if we consider
1. The thing wished for is absolutely impossible
[God can no more cease to inspect the ways of men with a view to a final retribution, than he can cease to exist-As his superintending care is necessary for the perservation of the universe, so the continual exercise of his moral government is necessary for the vindication of his own honour-How absurd then is it to indulge a wish, when it is not possible for that wish ever to be gratified, and when the indulging of it makes us act as though it would be gratified!-How much better were it to say at once, There is a God, and I must fear him; there is a judgment, and I must prepare for it!-]
2. If the wish could be obtained, it would be an unspeakable injury to all in this world
[Men are led even by the faintest hopes of impunity, to live in sin; and how much more would they yield themselves up to its dominion, if they could once be sure that God would never call them into judgment for it!-This, as it respects individuals, would greatly embitter this present lifeThe gratification of their lusts would indeed afford them a transient pleasure: but who that considers how soon such enjoyments cloy; who that knows how many evils they bring in their train; who that has seen the effects of unbridled passions, of pride, envy, wrath, malice, of lewdness, covetousness, or any other inordinate affection; who that has the least knowledge of these things can doubt, but that sin and misery are indissolubly connected, and that, in proportion as we give the rein to appetite, we undermine our own happiness? And what would be the consequence to the community at large?-Men even now "bite and devour one another" like wild beasts, the very instant that God withdraws his restraint from them!-It is he alone, who overruled the pur
poses of a lewd Abimelech, a covetous Laban, and a revengeful Esau, that keeps the world in any measure of peace and quiet-And if once it were bereft of his providence, it would instantly resemble that world, where the dispositions of men are suffered to rage without control, and incessantly to torment themselves, and all around them-Is it not then the extremest folly to entertain a wish, that would involve in it such tremendous consequences?-]
3. It would be productive of still greater evil as it respects the world to come
[Doubtless, if there were no moral governor of the universe, there would be no fear of hell; and the thought of this would be a great acquisition to ungodly men-But they, on the other hand, entertain no hope of heaven; their brightest prospect would be, annihilation-Melancholy prospect indeed!-How much better even for the most ungodly to have a God to face unto; a God to pardon their iniquities; a God to sanctify and renew their souls; a God to bless them with immortality and glory!-They need not to wish for the cessation of his agency, or the extinction of their own existence, seeing that he is rich in mercy unto all that call upon him, and ready to receive returning prodigals-And is it not for the interest of all that there should be such a God?—Is not the prospect of obtaining his favour, and participating his glory, better than annihilation, more especially when the terms of our acceptance with him are so easy?-He requires nothing but that we should humble ourselves before him, and plead the merits of his dear Son, and renounce the ways that have been displeasing to him: the very instant we return to him in this manner, he will "cast all our sins into the depth of the sea," and embrace us with the arms of his mercy-What madness then to wish that there were no such being!-] INFER
1. How great is the patience of God!
[God sees, not one only or even many, but all the world living without God,f banishing him from their thoughts, and from the universe: yet he not only bears with them, but follows them with invitations, and promises, and waiteth to be gracious unto them--Let us stand amazed at his goodness: and let it lead us to repentance— ——]
2. How glorious is the change that takes place in conversion!
[Grace no sooner enters into the heart than it slays this
↑ Eph. ii, 19.
8 Ps. x. 4.