Слике страница

and the eloquent tongue of apostles could not do it. There was a mode, God's infinite Son could become incarnate. And it was by giving a living demonstration in the groans of Gethsemane, and when the dead were rising in that ill-fated city where the Savior died, that he could tell the sinner what his sins deserved; and point him to those scenes, and say in that garden and on that cross, you may see what your sins deserved. There was one more mode. It was possible that men should suffer forever and the infinite God has told us that such are his views of human guilt

, that nothing but that will be a fair expression of that eyil to other worlds. Now every time we press the evidences of religion it is with reference to just this result. And this was the use the apostles made of it; and this the way in which they convinced men of their guilt. They urged the proofs of the resurrection of the Savior; and on the ground of that, they pressed the guilt of man who had crucified him. And the result was that thousands of his murderers trembled, and asked with deep solicitude what they should do.

4. We come to men with all the evidence drawn from the history of the world, that they are guilty, and that the guilty must suffer. All this analogy belongs properly to the province of religion. God has left his views of sin in no measured or doubtful form in the history of devils and of man. The sinner himself is ruined, and he feels it and knows it. His alarins of conscience ; his humbling anticipations; bis calamities, his sickness, and bereavments; his wasting frame, and his approaching death, all admonish him of it. Man is a sinner, and the earth, arched with the graves of the dead; and the plague, the pestilence, and war, prove it. Man is a sinner, and each ruined capital, each des. olated city, each town reeling beneath the upheaving earth, or falling by its own crimes, proves it. The broken columns and mighty fragments of arches in ancient towns, are monuments to preserve the memory of the guilt which caused their ruin, and are emblematic of the broken and prostrate character of man. To each vice God has affixed its own marks of crime. The drunkard proclaims every where in his face and frame, that God thinks him to be an evil man, and hates his crime. And so each gambler, pirate, murderer, becomes every where the herald of his own sin. The entire history of man lies before the ministry, as constituting materials of the proof of guilt. In every age, every nation, God has written with his own finger his view of the guilt of men; he has uttered it in every language; and we come to men with the demonstration drawn from the experience

of six thousand years, to press this mighty argument on their minds, to show that God esteems them to be sinners, and that except they repent, they shall all likewise perish.

5. The gospel, in the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, has exhausted all the appeals which can be made to men's sensibilities to make them feel their guilt. It comes in at the end of law; and when all the other topics of persuasion, have been found to be ineffectual. For four thousand years, in pagan and Jewish lands, law had uttered its denunciations almost in vain. God had exhausted the forms of those appeals in the terrors of Sinai; the inflictions of a guilty conscience; and the threatnings of hell. Men were guilty --they felt it-knew it. They mocked him with vain oblations; sprinkled impure altars with the blood of innocence offered by unboly hands, and then returned to their pollution. It became need-. ful that some other plan should be tried to see whether men could be made so effectually to see their guilt, and ill-desert, as to hate it, and abandon it. That plan is what was expressed in the cross of Christ. The essence of that plan consists in man's being made to see an innocent Being suffering unutterable agonies in his stead, and as the proper expression of his crime.

Now the value of that plan may be seen by supposing, that human law had some such device. One thing strikes every man on going into a court of justice. It is that the criminal, who knows his guilt, and who may expect to die, is so unmoved by the scene, and the danger; and especially that he seems to have so little sense of the evil of the crime for which he is to die. One reason is, that there is little in the law that will make him feel; and less in the proceedings. His mind is taken off from his guilt, by the technicalities of the law; by the contests of advocates; by the discrepancies of witnesses; often by the coldness and want of feeling in the judge, the jury, and hardened spectators. But suppose there could be placed in full view, where the man alone could see it, some innocent being voluntarily suffering what his crime deserved -illustrating on the rack, or amid flames—just what he ought to suffer, and bearing this so patiently, so mildly, as he sank into the arms of death, as to be the highest expression of pure friendship. Suppose this was the brother, or the father of the man he had slain, and that the dying man should tell him, that he bore this to show the importance of maintaining violated law, and that but for these sufferings the guilty wretch could not be saved from death, and how much more affecting would be this, than the mere dryness of statutes, and the pleadings of counsel, and the charge of the judge. You may find here, perhaps, a slight illustration of the principle on which the gospel acts. Law had tried its power in vain, and the only effectual scheme is to place before the sinner the innocent Lamb of God, bleeding for his sins. Thus it was said of him," he shall be set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign to be spoken against,” that thereby the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And thus also it was prophecied. “They shall

[ocr errors]

look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn." Hence the apostles met with such success; whose preaching was a little more than a simple statement of the truth that Jesus died, and rose. And however it is to be accounted for, it is this which has in all ages been attended with the convictions of guilt among men. Gosner, the celebrated Bavarian Catholic priest, at present a protestant clergyman in Berlin, who has probably been the means of the immediate conversion of more souls than any man living, is said seldom to vary in his manner of preaching. The love of Christ is almost his constant theme, and his preaching is almost a constant pouring out of the warm effusions of the heart in the love of God, the preciousness of the Savior and the desirableness of heaven." The affecting experience of the Moravian missionaries in Greenland is well known. For many years they endeavored to teach the benighted Payans the existence and attributes of God, and the doctrines of retribution. Never was work more unsuccessful than this. The heart of the Greenlander, cold as his own snows, was unmoved; and the missionaries appeared to toil in vain. On one occasion it happened that one of them read in the hearing of a savage, the account of the Savior's sufferings in the garden and on the cross.

How is this?” said one of the savages. “Tell me it once more, for I would be saved”—and laid his hand on his mouth and wept. Here was learned, almost by accident, the great secret of their success in the world. Here was illustrated anew the principle of the gospel, adapted to all ages and people, that the account of a suffering Redeemer, is to be the grand means of teaching sinners every where their guilt; and of drawing forth tears of repentance, from eyes that but for this would never weep.

My own experience in the ministry has been short. But I may perhaps be allowed to say, that the only revival of religion in which I, as a pastor, have been permitted to engage, began in the progress of a series of sermons on the work of Christ; and that the effect of that truth was visible through the series, till almost the entire congregation bowed at once before the cross, and a deep and awful solemnity pervaded all ranks in the community. Nor do I doubt, that this is the way in which men must be taught to feel their guilt, as the gospel spreads over the world. If you wish to make men feel the evil of sin, so and tell them, that its magnitude is so great that none but God's own Son could undertake the task of bearing the burden of the world's atonement. Go and remember, that angelic might was not equal to this ; that all on high but God, was incapable to breast the tide of human sins,--that so great were the plans of gigantic and all-spreading evil, that it was needful that God should become incarnate, and in our nature meet the evils of sin, aimed at his head

[ocr errors][merged small]

and his heart. Go and look on embodied holiness—the august blending of all virtues in the person of the Son of God, moving a present deity, through the scenes of earth ; and himself the only innocent being that had blessed our world with his presence. Then go and see innocence itself in torture, and ask, why was this ? Is this the fair expression of the desert of our sin ? Did God judge aright when he deemed that woes like these should tell how much man ought to endure? If so, then bitter sorrows should come over our souls, at the remembrance of all these sufferings, and of the sins that caused the death of this stranger friend that came to seek out the guilty, and to die.

6. One other mode consists in bringing before a man, so that he must see it, the tremendous scenes of the judgment. We must diminish the apparent journey which he has to tread, and place him amid the scenes of the judginent day. This help religion furnishes to bring guilty men to repentance. It assures us that we shall be there; and that that tribunal is a place where the sinner must feel. You perhaps have marked in a court of justice some guilty man, who at the beginning of bis trial, assumed the Stoic, and was bold, and apparently unconcerned. Yet you have marked the change in the man when the witnesses have been called; when one circumstance after another has pointed at his guilt; when an argument to condemn him might already have been made out. And you may have marked the cloud on his brow, and the paleness on his cheek, when he sees some witness advance deliberately, who he knows is acquainted with his guilt, wbo he hoped or believed would not have been there, and who now solemnly swears to declare the whole truth. His last refuge has failed and he must die. So the sinner must be made to draw near to the judgment. His delusions and evasions must be swept away.

He must be borne onward, and must look at those scenes.

Time, and friends, and pleasures, and honors, must be made to leave him—and he must be shut up and encompassed in the still, solemn scenes, where conscience shall no more be silent; where the eye of the all-seeing Judge shall be witness enough of guilt; and where he must stand riveted by that eye, quailing beneath its piercings; horror-stricken at an opening hell; and amidst that vast multitude, trembling by himself—surrounded by numberless millions, yet weeping apart. All this power the gospel wields; and with this, it intends to press on the soul till the haughty man is bowed down; and the hardened man melts into tears, and the profligate man trembles in view of judgment and of hell. The gospel is therefore a simple device, though mighty, adapted

It was originated by him who knew what was in man; and who knew the way to the human heart. It is founded on the manifest guilt of men ; it meets the susceptibilities of men;

to the state of man.

enlists on its side all that is tender and thrilling, and awful in the human bosom; and has devised a plan calling in from three worlds, all that can move, excite, win, or awe. Could this plan have been invented by men ? Is it like any thing that men ever have invented ?

The work of the ministry is one of great difficulty, and demanding great skill. It is no light work to wield that which is designed to effect great changes in the human bosom, and to revolutionize the world. It is no unimportant task to be engaged in applying that which has called forth all the wisdom of God, and which must affect forever the destinies of men. But this is not the only difficulty. It is a work of laying open human guilt; bringing out secret offenses; revealing crime ; attempting to excite the energies of conscience; to inflict the pangs of remorse on men ; and to bring them to the posture of grief, and the bitterness of penitence. It is not to be wondered at if we are regarded as ministers of gloom, and “suspected of taking a pleasure in attempting to overwhelm the soul in dark and melancholy forebodings.' Nor are we to be disappointed if one man thinks we are close, or personal, or severe; or another would like smoother prophesyings; and another be uneasy that his repose is disturbed; and another attempt to suppress his ill-concealed feelings; and another find quietude in some place where the mighty and pungent doctrines of the cross are concealed, or men are taught not to be afraid of the declaration that God is a consuming fire.

We see here what makes death so terrible to a sinner. The mask is then off. The world recedes and appears as it is. Its delusions have vanished. The mist is gone, and the naked soul, the conscience, the feelings, the apprehensions, are laid bare to the insufferable blaze of truth, and the piercings of the eye of God. The tossed sinner cannot help himself then. There is no delusion: no new mist; no cavern there; no far projecting rock; no way to silence the voice, or turn away


of God. There it is every where. The sinner dying, may roll and toss, but the eye of God is there—every where-just as bright, as keen, as riving—as justice and indignation can make it and as it will be in an eternal hell. And there too is a finger mysteriously moving on the wall, -nor can be turn from that--and writing his damnation. The man is afraid to live and afraid to die. Verily it is a fearful thing to die a sinner; and to lie on such a death-bed as that. God grant that no such struggling spirit of any of my readers, may go to the judgment seat of the eternal God !

« ПретходнаНастави »