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pebbles into one of the earth's high caverns; there is a moment's amusement in listening to the rough musick wrung from the rocky surfaces, but the chasm still gapes insatiable as the grave; you must cast in immortality the love of the eternal and infinite Creator, and then, and not till then, will the void be satisfied, and the restless craving after some mighty object, over which to pour the spirit, own itself in any sense appeased. But the love of God is a principle which never found place in human ethics; it is above them, it is beyond them, it is too refined, too sublime, too stupendous. The natural heart has no power of discovering how completely happiness is resolvable into this love of God as its prime constituent element; it cannot see it, and it will not believe it; and since heaven is depicted as the possession of a full and unallayed love of the Almighty, will it not follow that the incapacity of the unregenerate man to see happiness in the love of God amounts to an incapacity of seeing heaven in the scriptural representation of heaven, and what is this but a vivid illustration of the truth, that "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
But I will subjoin some further exhibitions of the point under review, for it is one deserving your particular attention; I will refer you for a few moments to the popular notions of heaven, and, showing you their glaring inconsistency with the statements of the Bible, will leave you again to conclude, that carnal men cannot see "the kingdom of God." We all know what is meant by a Mahomedan Paradise—we all know, that when the Arabian impostor, the shooting star of the Revelations, promulgated his system of blasphemous deceit, he painted heaven under the aspect most calculated to allure the natives of an eastern climate, and all that can fascinate the
voluptuous, and all that can charm the sensual, thronged the eternity which he promised to his followers. It was no marvel that the Saracens flocked gladly round a prophet, who taught them, that by the bold enterprizes of war in his cause, they should insure to themselves admission into the perpetual enjoyment of all in which the most carnal imagination can delight to revel; and certainly it were but a mockery of your understandings if I should stay to prove to you, that a Mahomedan's notion of heaven strikingly evinces that he can see nothing "of the kingdom of God."
But whilst the men of Christendom are not in danger of being deceived with the expectation of a sensual Paradise, we meet constantly with ideas of what may be termed an intellectual Paradise. I think that very commonly literary men, if they be also in any sense religious men, associate heaven with larger developements of science and general knowledge—they look to enjoy in futurity the society of beings of an illustrious genius, they dwell with complacency on the wide and burning fields of intelligence which may then be thrown open to the expatiations of their spirits, on the vivid light which will then be cast over the most mysterious and perplexing phenomena, and thus they hang with much of rapture on the thought, that the future shall unravel all intricacies of the present—that secrets, on the exploring of which the labour and the talent of successive generations have been verily squandered, shall be laid open to their gaze; and that permitted, it may be, to range from one bright station in the universe to another, they shall gather continually an exuberant harvest of wondrous discoveries, and be admitted by the Creator into all the arcana of his most splendid operations.
Brethren, I do believe that we shall move hereafter in so noble and enlarged a sphere of being, that the knowledge which the acutest among us can now attain of the works of Omnipotence, will appear nothing better than the veriest ignorance, when compared with that which shall then be imparted. But although there may be nothing unlawful in allowing the thought of this extension of knowledge to enter into our musings on heaven, yet it is decidedly carnal to allow such a thought a strong and prominent place; and I look upon it as one of the delusions of Satan, to lead men to fall in love with a paradise of their own creating, and then to fancy it the Paradise of their Maker's creating. It is just the cheat and jugglery of the evil one to make that heaven whose prime rapture results from a knowledge of God in Christ, seem identical with an ideal heaven glowing with a knowledge of God in nature, and thus to persuade an unregenerate man that he is anticipating with delight the portion of the regenerate man, whereas the unscriptural imagery on which he is gazing proclaims with a voice like a clarion's blast, that, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
There is another point on which I would touch briefly and gently—gently, because it is bound up with the kindliest sensibilities of our nature, and it is not requisite to a minister's faithful
ness that he should ever utter words which are tinctured with harshness. I turn to all that the Bible delineates of the joys and the occupations of heaven, and I find nothing but one uniform representation of rapture derived from communion with the Lord, and ecstasy experienced in beholding and celebrating the majesties of the Lamb. I find nothing but incidental yet brilliant notices, which exhibit to me the gladness of immortality as resulting from contemplations of the Redeemer as he is, and from the privilege of mingling with a countless assembly chaunting to the harpings of golden harps their lofty praises of salvation. There is much of simile drawn indeed from material scenery; but nothing can be more palpable than that such simile is adapted in condescension to the weakness of our capacities, and that its simple scope is to pourtray the spiritual enjoyment of presence with Christ, and of the immediate manifestations of his glory and his love. And whilst I thus find that God in Christ is a believer's heaven, what shall be said of that religious romance which would identify heaven with the memory of dear and buried kindred—pointing to the shore of the celestial Canaan, not as the scene in which Christ shall be met, but as the spot where we shall rush again to the warm embrace of some being, over whose ashes we have wept the bitter tears of weary months.
(To be continued. J
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Oh, it may be a lovely thought, and when chastened and moderated by Gospel prescriptions, I suppose it to be a lawful thought, that in yon fair world which woos us persuasively to its peaceful coast, the bands of friendship, which death hath burst rudely asunder, shall be again united, and that they who have walked in holy communion as fellow-heirs of the same promises, shall there be linked in a still holier amity as partakers of the same possessions. But what better is it than turning heaven into earth, if we transfer to it all the array of creature affections, if we look upon it as increasingly desirable, just in proportion as it is peopled out of our own circle of Christian intimates? and-must not that be a degraded conception of Eternity which dwells on the fact—there shall be no parting, to the comparative forgetfulness of another fact, there shall be no sinning, and so wraps itself in the hope of meeting a child, or a wife, or a parent, that -it seems ready to dispense with all conjunction with the Husband of the Church, and the friend who is described as sticking closer than a brother? I would say nothing that might be deemed_stoical, but I must enter a Christian's protest against this dishonouring of Christ, and this absurd division of the celestial family into separate groups, each moving in that petty circle of relative charities which had been chalked out
amid the selfishness of this degenerate world. And whilst I own it would be but a churlish speech to affirm that these 'views of heaven as a meetingplace for parted friends, prove that he who entertains them has never yet been born again, yet assuredly, they are the views of the old man and not of the new, and are generated by that which remains of carnal, and not by that which has been inserted of spiritual nature. And if it be thus undeniable that the carnal nature, so far as it is yet unsubdued, introduces into our conceptions of heaven thoughts which detract from the simple and scriptural characteristics of heaven, then it must be allowed that this carnal nature is of itself unable to discern or appreciate the happiness of heaven; if the remnants of this nature still struggling in a Christian's breast, produce, as it were, dark specks in his vision of futurity, then it is fair to argue, that the visions of men in whom this nature is wholly unchanged, can be nothing else but one universal blot. The clearness with which heaven is discerned appears proportioned to the decisiveness with which the old man is resisted, and hence it might be called a logical inference, that " Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
But our time will be exhausted sooner than our topic, and I hasten to recur to those remarks with which I introduced this discourse. I have set before you, under sundry points of view, the striking truth, that the unregenerate man "Cannot See The Kingdom Of God;" as St. Paul declares in writing to the Corinthians, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." And now I leave you to bring your own hearts to the touchstone which is thus presented, and examining whether, in the senses I have unfolded, you do or do not see God's kingdom, to determine whether you have or have not been born of the Spirit. It is easy—alas! alas! for the facility with which men may garble and mystify the plainest truths—it is easy to explain away the doctrine of spiritual regeneration, to identify it, for example, with water baptism, or so to strip it of all its essential properties, that there shall remain nothing but the meagre and naked admission of the necessity of a virtuous resolve to shake off the habits of evil. Oh, preachers will oftentimes preach this, and authors will oftentimes print this; and thus the pulpit and the press, gigantic engines both for swaying the sentiments of mankind, are prostituted to the scandalous work of palming a foul lie on the understandings of sinners, deceiving them as to that internal and radical change of which their nature must be the subject, if they would hope to shun the wrath which is denounced against the workers of ungodliness.
Regeneration, brethren, is a real thing, and a heaven wrought thing, which cannot be frittered away by the grinding processes of a German neology, without at the same time stamping in the dust and scattering to the winds all that is holy and venerable and precious in Christianity. I beseech you, therefore, trifle not and tamper not with the doctrine of regeneration—are ye changed creatures— are ye new creatures—can ye—oh, it is Eternity which hangs upon the answer—can ye see the kingdom of Gon? I will hear nothing of the difficulties of answering these interrogations—difficulties !—bear with me yet a single moment—I have spoken to you of heaven, of seeing, that is, joy and rapture, things to be desired, things to be longed for, in the descriptions which the Bible has put forth of heaven—try yourselves by this simple criterion— ask your consciences, faithfully and fearlessly—no cloaking, no varnishing —ask your consciences whether you could take delight in beholding Christ, and in serving Christ, and in praising Christ? would such exercises be insipid to you? are they insipid now, and is it weariness to you to join even for a lonely hour in the communion of his people? If such be the case, then I am not your judge—but I ask you whether it be possible that you can see the kingdom of God, and I send you to your closets with the words of my text ringing in your ears, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
There are few persons, indeed, who do not suppose themselves to believe in the Being and perfections of God. These truths seem to be so plain, and the reception of them so common, that mankind in general would be displeased with any supposition to the contrary, as an insult upon their heart or understanding. But multitudes who think they possess faith in these doctrines are much mistaken. True faith determines the choice and governs the practice according to the nature of the thing believed. True faith is "the evidence," or demonstration "of things not seen." Let the objects be ever so remote, yet true faith brings them near to the mind, and renders them as powerful and as operative upon the affections and the will as if they were present and visible.
My brethren, suffer me to illustrate this remark by appealing to your conduct since you entered this church. You have most of you solemnly professed your belief in the omnipresence an domniscience of your Maker; when you joined in singing his praises, but especially in offering up your prayers to Him, each of you virtually professed to be under the conviction of the truth uttered in the text, "Thou God seest me"—because most plainly you would not have attempted to pray to an absent or inattentive being. Yet if you examine yourselves'impartially, and try your faith by the only proper test, I suspect you will find too much reason to believe, either that you do not at all believe that God sees you, or that your belief in this truth at best
is very weak and imperfect. For suppose, my brethren, that we could show you God, visibly in this assembly tonight, could we praise him so feebly, or pray to him so coldly, or speak, or hear so unfeelingly as we do; and shall seeing, and not seeing, make such a difference? Did we just this moment behold the object of our worship, would the mere shutting our eyes render his pre sence less venerable, or the influence of it less powerful?
Plainly not, my brethren; our seeing God would only assure us that he was present; and if an equal assurance can be obtained by any other means, the influence of his presence ought to be the same. It is not, therefore, the mere circumstance of seeing, or not seeing God, that causes this difference in our conduct towards him, but the believing, or not believing, the reality of his presence. Hence, it clearly follows, that any less degree of reverence on our part, than is actually due to the Majesty of Heaven, and any undutiful step in our conduct towards our Heavenly Parent and Governor, results from the weakness of our faith: a course of sin especially, or the habitual indulgence of any corrupt affection demonstrates, that whatever light you may have in your understanding, you do not, my hearers, from your heart believe the sentiment of the text, to be true in reference to yourselves, "Thou God seest me."
When these observations are considered, it will be seen, that infidelity in some degree or other is more com