Page images

young friends, ask you—Are you not much takes it as kindness_“I love them that love less piously inclined than you once were ? me, and they that seek me early shall find Have you not exchanged a lovely teachable me.” He will guide you with his counsel, ness of mind, for conceit and self-sufficiency? and afterwards receive you to glory. 'Should a tenderness of conscience, for an insensi- life be spared to a late period, it will only exbility of mind, which the word can seldom tend your course of usefulness, and with pleamove? Have you not given up private prayer? sure you will look back upon a life of mercy Have you not lost much of your veneration and grace, of communion with him, and dedifor the pious and the good ? Cannot you trifle cation to him. Found in the way of righteouswith what once made you tremble ? Are you ness, he will view your hoary head as "a not beginning to "walk in the counsel of the crown of glory." When the days come in ungodly;" to " stand in the way of sinners;" which many will say, “We have no pleasure,” to "sit in the seat of the scornful ?"

it shall be otherwise with you. Under the Ah! had you proceeded in the good course decays of nature, and the loss of friends of in which you were once engaged, ere now which time has robbed you; when every thing you might have been far advanced and esta- earthly has become distasteful: and you are blished; ere now, actions would have produced made to "possess months of vanity, and weahabits, and habits have yielded pleasure. risome nights are appointed unto you”-with What can be more distressing, than your de humble boldness you may plead, “Cast me clensions from the good ways of God, to your not off in the time of my old age; forsake pious friends; to your godly ministers! 0 me not when my strength faileth. O God, how does it grieve them to see you breaking thou hast taught me from my youth: and over the barriers of a good education, and re- hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. solving that the prayers, and tears, and vows Now also, when I am old and gray-headed, O of your connexions shall be all in vain! Mi- God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy nisters viewing you with hopeful pleasure as strength unto this generation, and thy power they buried the aged and the honourable, to every one that is to come." And he will were saying-Well

, others are coming for answer you: “ Even to your old age I am he; ward, and will be the pillars of our bereaved and even to hoary hairs will I carry you: I churches: " instead of the fathers shall be have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, the children." Your parents were beginning and will deliver you." to say to each other-We shall soon be laid low in the dust—but these our loved offspring shall be a seed to serve him. Now a death DISCOURSE XXVII. has spread over all their hopes !-especially when they reflect, that you are likely to

THE MISERY OF CONTENDING go greater lengths in error and wickedness

WITH GOD. than others; and that you will be reclaimed with much more difficulty than those who Wo unto him that striveth with his Maker! never did such “despite to the Spirit of

Isaiah xlv, 9. grace."

THE life of man is held forth by various But Thirdly. There are some who in their images: and it is worthy of our observation early days are truly

devoted to the service that they will apply equally to the righteous and glory of God. "To you, my dear young and the wicked. For instance, friends, the words are applicable—not in a The Christian is a traveller--and so is the way of reproach, but honour-not in a sinner; only the one is journeying to heaven, way of rebuke, but encouragement. And and the other to hell. what we wish you to observe is this—that The Christian is a husbandman-so is the early piety is peculiarly acceptable to the sinner. Both sow: only the one “sows to God of your lives and mercies. He takes it the flesh, and shall of the flesh reap corrupkind-O wonderful condescension ! O touch- tion; while the other sows to the Spirit

, and ing motive !-he takes it kind : " I remember shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of

The Christian is a soldier—and we read in thine espousals, when thou wentest after me the Scripture of his commander, his enemies, in the wilderness, in a land that was not and his arms of his " fightings without," and sown."

of his " fead' within;" of his toil, and of his You are forsaking the world, and willing triumph.But if the life of the Christian be to follow him whithersoever he goeth. You a warfare, so is the life of the sinner. There are pressing through a thousand allurements is however this difference between them. The and seductions to reach him, and to say, kneel- one wages a good warfare, and is crowned ing at his footstool, “Whom have I in heaven with glory and honour—the other is engaged but thee? and there is none upon earth that in a cause the most infamous, and covers himI desire beside thee.” You give him the self with shame and confusion. The one is first-born of your days, the first-fruits of your sure of victory-the other is certain of defeat. reason and affections—And I say again—he The one fights for God – but the other against


him—and “Wo unto him that striveth with own righteousness, and save ourselves; if we his Maker!"

endeavour to rear a shelter, instead of repair1. LET US MENTION SOME INSTANCES IN ing to the only refuge provided—we are striv. WHICH THE SINNER STRIVES WITH GOD. ing with God. In the Gospel God says, " Come II. CONSIDER THE WO WHICH HIS OPPOSI. and let us reason together;" but the singer

says, “ Depart from us: we desire not the And, O! let me beseech you this evening knowledge of thy ways." The language of to hear, not only with seriousness, but with the Gospel, as a token of willing submission, self-application, that while I am endeavouring is, “ Kiss the Son"—the language of the sinto lay open this crime, and this curse, you ner is, “We will not have this man to reign may individually ask yourselves, in the pre- over us." The language of the Gospel is, sence of God, whether you are chargeable “Go and wash in Jordan seven times; and with the one, in order to determine whether be clean"—the language of the sinner is, you are exposed to the other.

“Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Da. I. Let me specify some INSTANCES IN WHICH mascus, better than all the waters of Israel! THE SINNER MAY BE CONSIDERED AS STRIVING may I not wash in them and be clean?" No. with God. And here l hardly think it worth And the reason is, that your cure can only while to mention atheism, which opposes his come from God, and he has determined to very being, and tries to banish him from the save you in his own way: he has revealed world which he has made. Some indeed have only one remedy; to this the promise is made; supposed that a speculative atheist is an im- to this he requires you to submit; and if you possibility. I have often thought that if such refuse this method, and think of becoming a monster can be found, he is to be found, not your own physician, you are at variance with in a heathen but in a Christian country. How God. And even after persons have some sefar God may give up a man “ to strong delu- rious concern about their souls, they find it sion to believe a lie,” who has despised and no easy thing to yield up themselves unrerejected the advantages of revelation, it is servedly to this sovereign plan. Such is the not for us to determine—but “if the light pride of reason, and the force of legality; that is in thee be darkness, how great is that such a difficulty is there in relinquishing all darkness !"

apprehension of some worthiness and strength It is undeniable however that we have a of their own; and such a disposition have they multitude of practical atheists. That is; we to make themselves better before they rely have thousands who live precisely as they on the Saviour, that they are often detained would do if they believed there was no God; long in opposing this gracious scheme, till and are no more influenced by his presence increasing conviction compels them to acquiand perfections, than if they were persuaded esce. And, though the force of it be subdued, the Scripture was “a cunningly devised something of the old leaven remains in the fable.” Yea, they not only live “ without God people of God all through life. in the world,” but they live against him! Thirdly. The sinner strives with God by Wherein ?

violating the dictates of conscience. ConFirst. They strive with him by transgress- science is the Divinity in man. And how ing his holy and righteous law. And this is often, and how faithfully, has it addressed done, not only by the commission of those you! “O do not that abominable thing sins which it forbids, but also by the omis- that I hate'”—and yet you did it. " Abansion of those duties which it enjoins. The don that vicious course : its steps take man that does not love his neighbour and hold on hell'”—and yet you pressed forward. strive to do him good, is therefore criminal, “Beware of that irreligious connexion : evil as well as the man who robs and oppresses communications corrupt good manners: a him. This law is also broken by the desires companion of fools shall be destroyed'”—and of the heart, as well as by the actions of the yet you complied with their enticements. life. It is so spiritual as to apprehend mur-Ando! what labour have you had to lull der in angry words, and adultery in wanton conscience asleep, that you might steal forth looks. Now every instance of disobedience and pursue your iniquities undisturbed ! How is a contention with God; a daring struggle hard have you often found it to subdue the to determine whether we shall b governed by uneasinesses which have sprung from its rehis will or by our own.

proaches and condemnation! And sometimes, Secondly. The sinner strives twith God by in struggling with you alone, has it not been opposing the Gospel. The Gospel is a scheme ready to gain the victory, till you went forth of mercy designed to glorify God in the sal- and called in to your assistance-your comvation of man, and is made known “for the rades, and your dissipations; and thus rallied obedience of faith.” It calls us to repentance. and reinforced, you have renewed the contest, It calls us to renounce our own righteousness. and again “done despite unto the Spirit of It calls us to flee for refuge to the Saviour of grace ?" sinners. If, therefore, we go on in our im- Fourthly. The sinner strives with God by penitency; if we endeavour to establish our refusing to resign himself to the dispensations

[ocr errors]

of his providence. By various blessings and | vealed will of God, “ who will have all men indulgences, in his person, in his family, or to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of in his business, God would attach his heart to the truth.” Persons may endeavour to justify himself

. Hence the Apostle says, that " the their opposition in some cases, because those goodness of God leadeth to repentance:" it who are labouring to do good are not of their ought to do so : it is the design and the ten- community, and “walk not with them”—but, dency of it-But the sinner frustrates this surely, it becomes them to be exceedingly design and tendency-yea, he does more-he cautious in their conclusion, and to weigh the urns it into an encouragement to sin. He is admonition of Gamaliel: “ Refrain from these evil because God is good ; and the mercies, men, and let them alone: for if this counsel which should serve as so many “cords of love" or this work be of men, it will come to nought; to draw him to God, he employs as so many but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it: weapons of rebellion against him! “Because lest haply ye be found even to fight against sentence against an evil work is not executed God.” speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of And be it remembered, that men will be men is fully set in them to do evil. Let favour judged not according to their success, but be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn according to their intention. God may overrighteousness: in the land of uprightness will rule their rage for good, and make all their he deal unjustly, and will not behold the efforts to subserve the cause they opposemajesty of the Lord.”

but as this was not their design, it will not be God tries other means. He sends a suc- their exculpation. It was " in their heart" cession of disappointments and afflictions. to prevent the diffusion of truth, and the inThese are designed to wean him from the fluence of the Gospel: and God deals with world-but " he holds fast deceit, he refuses them accordingly. He “looketh to the to return.” They are “to hedge up his way heart;" and will punish them in proportion with thorns”—but he breaks through them, to the good they would have hindered, and and wanders on. By these God arms him- the evil they would have spared, had they self to awaken his fears, and drive him back- been successful. For “wo unto him that but “ he rushes upon the thick bosses of his striveth with his Maker!" backler.” God strikes—and he strikes again! II. No WONDER SUCH A WO IS HERE DE"O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? NOUNCED—for this striving with God is, thou hast stricken them, but they have not First, A practice the most shameful and grieved ; thou hast consumed them, but they ungrateful. What would you think of a child have refused to receive correction: they have who should strive with his father, reproach made their faces harder than a rock: they his character, counteract all his designs, and have refused to return."

endeavour to injure his concerns ?-But such He fixes the bounds of our habitations; ar- is your conduct towards God. “Is not he ranges all our affairs; leaves nothing to thy Father, that hath made thee?" What chance. And upon this principle we should would you think of a person who would set learn, in whatsoever state we are, therewith himself against a benefactor that had never to be content." For God cannot err. But given him the least ground of provocation, the sinner murmurs and complains; he quar- and had always been doing him good? But rels with the allotments of Providence; he such is your conduct towards God. He has wishes to rectify the Divine proceedings preserved your souls in life. His air you God has not properly disposed of him, or of have breathed. From his table you have others-and the common sentiment is, that been fed. He has given you all things richGod has placed him too low, and others too ly to enjoy. high; indulged him too little, and others too Has he not therefore reason to be astonishmuch.

ed at your baseness and ingratitude? “Hear, Again. The sinner strives with God by O heavens; and give ear, 0 earth: for the the persecution of his people. For such is Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and the intimate and inseparable union between brought up children, and they have rebelled him and his followers, that in whatever degree against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and you endeavour to injure them, you oppose the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not him: he considers it as done against himself: know, my people doth not consider.” " for he that toucheth them, touches the apple It is, Secondly, a practice the most unreasonof his eye." Therefore said our Lord and able and absurd. For observe-in all the inSaviour, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou stances in which you oppose him, he is aim

ing to promote your good: his design is to Finally. He strives with God by trying make you wise, to make you holy, to make to hinder the spread of his cause. He who, you happy; and the advantages of compliance by fraud or force, would keep the Gospel from will be all your own. Besides, entering a neighbourhood, or, by reproach or Can you do without him ?-Can you do threatening, would discourage people from without him .in life? In death can you do hearing it, is in avowed opposition to the re- without him? Who else can pardon you ?


or sanctify you? or comfort you ? or give you and prospered. Did Pharaoh? Did Belshaz an abundant entrance into the everlasting zar? Did the Jews ? kingdom of our Lord and Saviour? What To improve this awful subject, let me ask then can equal the folly of offending and pro- -Whether you are for God or against him! voking Him whose favour is life, and upon Be not surprised—you are either his friends whom you absolutely depend for every thing or his enemies: there is no neutrality here. essential to your happiness in time and eter- In some cases, neutrality is allowable if not nity?

commendable. In family disputes, or in And therefore, Thirdly, Nothing can be quarrels among neighbours, it may be proper more injurious and ruinous. In striving with to stand neuter. If we can do no good, we him, you only resemble the wave that dashes shall do no harm; and this is often a consiagainst the rock, and is driven back in foam; derable point. In the senate of a nation a or the ox that kicks against the goad, and member may waive his vote; things may be only wounds himself; or the thorns and briers balanced in his mind; and nothing for the that should set themselves in battle array time may cause either side of the question against the fire. Hence says God, “ Let the to preponderate. And it is the excellency potsherds strive with the potsherds of the of a representative to be of no party. Two earth.” If you will contend, choose an enemy nations may worry and consume each other, like yourselves, with whom you may claim while a third however pressed, may remain some kind of equality. There is none between neutral and save its wealth and its subjects. you and me There are cases, in which it But here--we repeat it—and it cannot be re may be proper to wage war, where there is peated too often; here, there is not, and there only a probability, or even a possibility of cannot be a state of indifference.He that victory. But whạt desperate madness actuates is not for me is against me; and he that you ? 'You strive with an adversary by whom gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. No you know you must be conquered. For “have man can serve two masters, for either he will you an arm like God, or can you thunder hate the one, and love the other; or else he with a voice like his ?" Need you be told, will hold to the one, and despise the other. that he can work immediately upon the mind, Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” and in the twinkling of an eye could produce Are you then the enemies of God; and such terrors in your consciences as would be have you to this hour been striving with your intolerable? Need you be told that he is able to Maker? O! let me admonish you. Let me destroy both body and soul in hell ? Need you address you in the words of Eliphaz to Job: be told that all creatures, from an angel to a Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at worm, are under his control, and only wait peace: thereby good shall come unto thee." his signal to fall upon you?

Let me urge you, in the language of the This, you say, only shows what he can do. apostle Peter: “Humble yourself

under the Let us thén see what he will do. What has mighty hand of God, and he will exalt you he said ? Read these threatenings : “ If ye in due time.” If you are willing to return, walk contrary to me, I also will walk con- be not discouraged. Behold him stretching trary to you; and will punish you seven times forth the golden sceptre, saying, Touch, and for your iniquity.” “He shall be revealed live: “I will be merciful to the unrighteous, from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flam- and their sins and iniquities will I remember ing fire; taking vengeance on them that no more.” He is “ in Christ, reconciling the know not God, and that obey not the Gospel world unto himself, not imputing their tres of our Lord Jesus Christ : who shall be pu- passes unto them.” He has established "a nished with everlasting destruction from the ministry of reconciliation,” and sends forth presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his ambassadors to “ beseech" you to be rehis power. And Enoch also, the seventh from conciled unto God. How wonderful that he Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, should not wait to be solicited, but make the the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his proposal himself, and urge you to aceept of saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to it! Will not such love prevail? Do you convince all that are ungodly among them of still harbour doubts in your minds which keep all their ungodly deeds which they have un- you from him ? Let me if possible dispel godly committed, and of all their hard speech them by another illustration—for till your es which ungodly sinners have spoken against hope be excited, it is in vain to expect your him.”

return. A king may justly punish rebels: “ But what reason have we to believe that but suppose from his clemency he has issued all this is true ?"-Because it is found in a a proclamation, assuring them that whoever book written by God himself. Because many within a given period will come in and give of these threatenings have already been ac- up his arms, shall be pardoned and released complished. Because it accords with those –What would you think of this prince, evils and miseries which are found to attend if, as soon as one of these rebellious sub wickedness even in this world. · And because jects entered his presence to claim the no one ever hardened himself against God privilege, he should have him immediately


and you

erecuted !-But you say—surely he never DISCOURSE XXVIII. could do this his honour would be at stake. Though he was originally under no obligation to save him, he is now; for he has bound COMMUNION WITH THE SAVIOUR himself by his word. And can God deny INSEPARABLE FROM HOLINESS. himself! Venture then upon his promise. Go to him with weeping and supplication, and If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

John xiii. 8. say, “ O Lord, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: by thee only will we If the most minute circumstances in the make mention of thy name.” But remember, lives of illustrious characters be perused with you have no time to lose the season of al- eagerness and pleasure, surely we can never lowed submission is fixed, and will soon elapse. feel indifferent to any part of the history of “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles our Lord and Saviour. He was fairer than thou art in the way with him ; lest at any the children of men: he was higher than the time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, kings of the earth: all he did was wise and and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and good: and we are concerned in all. thou be cast into prison.”

Observe the transaction to which the Happy are you who have abandoned the words before us refer—" Jesus knowing that unrighteous struggle, and are now one with the Father had given all things into his God. The enmity of your heart has been hands, and that he was come from God, and slain, the weapons of your rebellion have went to God; he riseth from supper”-Such been thrown down, and many a tear shed a solemn preface raises a high degree of exupon them. Be as zealous for him as you pectation. From such an introduction, who have been against him. He has done much would not look for an illustrious display of for you; have much to do for him. his power and glory ?-But“ he laid aside his Rise up for him against the evil doers, and garments; and took a towel and girded himstand up for him against the workers of ini- self. After that he poureth water into a baquity. Redeem for him the time which you son, and began to wash the disciples' feet, have lost. Honour him with your substance. and to wipe them with the towel wherewith Employ in his service every power you pos- he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon sess, and every blessing you enjoy. Whether Peter : and Peter said unto him, Lord, dost you live, live unto the Lord; or whether you thou wash my feet?" How much was all die, die unto the Lord; so that, living or dy- this in character with Peter !–He was stronging, you may be the Lord's.

ly attached to his Master, and deeply sensiTo conclude. We have been speaking of ble of his own unworthiness; but forward and a striving with God which is unlawful and impetuous; rash in action, and often speaking destructive--but there is a striving with him without due reflection. Therefore « Jesus which is allowable and necessary. It is by answered and said unto him, What I do thou prayer and supplication. Such was the strife knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereof the woman of Canaan under the several after.” “There is something more in this discouragements she at first received, to try action than you are aware of, and by-and-by her fervency and her faith. “Let me alone,” you will perceive it.” The intimation refers said God to Moses; Moses was striving with to the design of this washing, which was twohim in prayer for the preservation of the Is-fold. First, exemplary—to enforce upon them raelites; and God speaks as if he could do condescension, humbleness of mind, brotherly nothing against prayer. “ Let me go,” said kindness. And secondly, symbolical—to lead the angel to Jacob; Jacob was wrestling with their minds impressively to things of a higher him; and " he said, I will not let thee go, nature. What therefore was perhaps excuexcept thou bless me. And he blessed him sable in Peter before, became censurable now. there."

After such an intimation he should have imAnd when Providence seems to oppose the plicitly acquiesced; instead of which, he promise; when experience seems to disagree saith, “Thou shalt never wash my feet." with the word ; when we are exercised with Upon which, Jesus answered him in plain delaysand rebukes too--then to persevere-to and awful terms, “If I wash thee not, thou pray and not faint-this will be found nothing hast no part with me.” less than a wrestling with God. But this is Though this declaration intends nothing a holy violence. This is a pleasing resistance. less than the necessity of obedience in this And in this strife we are sure to prevail. instance, it surely comprehends much more. He never said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye He therefore now does not mention the washme, in vain. “ Wait on the Lord; be of ing of his feet, but of himself: if I wash good courage, and he shall strengthen thine thee not. And the threatening—thou hast heart: wait, í say, on the Lord. The king-“no part with me," seems too dreadful to be dom of heaven suffereth violence, and the denounced against an unwillingness to comviolent take it by force.”

ply with this ceremonial observance, which

« PreviousContinue »