Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

the Psalmist," is upon the waters; the and fan the sparks of genius, as well voice of the Lord divideth the flames as summon from the perishable, and of fire:" and well therefore may this guide to the immortal. voice correct the disorders of states,

SERMON

IV.

.

NEGLECT OF THE GOSPEL FOLLOWED BY ITS REMOVAL.

[ocr errors]

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”—Revelation, 2:5.

In our last discourse we endeavored | they can go to Christ as a mediator to set before you the advantages re- and propitiation. Repentance is regardsulting from the possession of God's ed as a something which they have to oracles: the words which we have just do, a condition they have to perform, read will lead us to speak of dangers in order that they may be fitted to approduced by their neglect. The text ply to the Redeemer, and ask a share contains an exhortation, and a threat in the blessings which he purchased ening, with which we have evidently for mankind. We do not, of course, as great concern, as had the church of deny that there must be repentance Ephesus to which they were originally before there can be forgiveness; and addressed. The exhortation-an ex- that it is only to the broken and conhortation to repentance-is one which trite heart that Christ extends the fruits we shall do well to apply to ourselves; of his passion. We say to every man the threatening-a threatening that the who may be inquiring as to the pardon candlestick shall be removed-may of sin, except you repent you cannot take effect in our own days as well as be forgiven. But the question is, whein earlier.

ther a man must wait till he has reNow there are few duties to which pented before he applies to Christ; men are more frequently urged, and in whether repentance is a preliminary regard to which, nevertheless, they which he has to effect, ere he may are more likely to be deceived, than venture to seek to a mediator. And it the great duty of repentance. It is of is here, as we think, that the mistake the first importance, that the exact lies, a mistake which turns repentance place and nature of this duty should be into a kind of obstacle between the sinaccurately defined; for so long as there ner and Christ. is any thing of misapprehension, or The scriptural doctrine in regard to mistake, in regard to repentance, there repentance is not, that a man must recan be no full appreciation of the prof. pent in order to his being qualified to fered mercies of the Gospel. It seems go to Christ; it is rather, that he must to be too common an opinion, that re. go to Christ in order to his being enpentance is a kind of preparation, or abled to repent. And the difference preliminary, which men are in a great between these propositions is manifest degree to effect for themselves before and fundamental. There would be no virtue in our repentance, even if we coming, in his exaltation, the source could repent of ourselves, to recom- and dispenser of those various assistmend us to the favor of the Redeemer; ances which fallen beings need as probut there goes forth virtue from the bationers for eternity. Redeemer himself, strengthening us What then is it which a man has to for that repentance which is alone ge- do who is desirous of becoming truly nuine and acceptable. St. Peter suffi- repentant? We reply that his great ciently laid down this doctrine, when business is earnest prayer to Christ, he said of Christ to the high priest and that he would give him the Holy SpirSadducees, "him hath God exalted it, to enable him to repent. Of course with his right hand to be a Prince and we do not mean that he is to confine a Savior, for to give repentance to Is- himself to prayer, and make no effort rael, and forgiveness of sins.” Here re. at correcting what may be wrong in pentance is stated to be as much the his conduct. The sincerity of his praygift of the glorified Christ as forgive- er can only be proved by the vigor of ness—a statement inconsistent with his endeavor to obey God's commands. the notion, that repentance is some- But we mean, that, along with his strenthing which must be effected without uousness in renouncing evil habits and Christ, as a ground on which to rest associations, there must be an abiding our application to him for pardon. We persuasion that repentance, as well as rather gather from these words of the forgiveness, is to be procured through apostle, that we can no more repent nothing but the atoning sacrifice of without Christ than be pardoned with Christ; and this persuasion must make out Christ: from him comes the grace him unwearied in entreaty, that Christ of contrition as well as the cleansing would send into his soul the renovating of expiation.

power. It may be urged that Christ There may indeed be the abandon- pardons none but the penitent; but our ment of certain vicious practices, and a statement rather is, that those whom breaking loose from habits which have he pardons he first makes penitent. held the soul in bondage. Long ere the

And shall we be told that we thus man thinks of applying to Christ, and reduce man below the level of an inwhilst almost a stranger to his name, telligent, accountable being; making he may make a great advance in refor: him altogether passive, and allotting mation of conduct, renouncing much him no task in the struggle for immorwhich his conscience has declared tality? We throw back the accusation wrong, and entering upon duties of as altogether unfounded. We call upon which he has been neglectful. But this man for the stretch of every muscle, comes far short of that thorough mor. and the strain of every power. As to al change which is intended by the his being saved in indolence, saved in inspired writers, when they speak of inactivity, he may as well look for harrepentance. The outward conduct may vest where he has never sown, and for be amended, whilst no attack is made on knowledge where he has never studied. the love of sin as seated in the heart; Is it to be an idler, is it to be a slugso that the change may be altogether gard, to have to keep down that pride on the surface, and extend not to the which would keep him from Christ; to affections of the inner man. But the be wrestling with those passions which repentance, required of those who are the light that is in him shows must be forgiven through Christ, is a radical mortified; to be unwearied in petition change of mind and of spirit ; a change for the assistances of the Spirit, and in which will be made apparent by a cor- using such helps as have been already responding in the outward deportment, vouch safed? If this be idleness, that but whose great scene is within, and man is an idler who is actuated by the which there affects every power and consciousness, that he can no more repropensity of our nature. And a re- pent than be pardoned without Christ. pentance such as this, seeing it mani. But if it be to task a man to the utmost festly lies beyond the reach of our own of his energy, to prescribe that he go strivings, is only to be obtained from straightway for every thing which he Christ, who ascended up on high, and needs to an invisible Mediator; go, in "received gifts for the rebellious,” be- / spite of the opposition of the flesh; go, though the path lies through resisting them in exultation at his repentance. inclinations; go, though in going he And it is urging you to this considmust abase himself in the dust, and eration, to urge you to the rememberproclaim his own nothingness; then ing from whence you are fallen. We we are exhorting the impenitent to the all know what a power there is in memightiest of labors, when we exhort mory, when made to array before the them to seek repentance as Christ's guilty days and scenes of comparative gift. The assigning its true place to innocence. It is with an absolutely repentance; the destroying the notion crushing might that the remembrance that repentance is to be effected for of the years and home of his boyourselves, and then to recommend us hood will come upon the criminal, when to the Savior; this, in place of telling brought to a pause in his career of mismen that they have little or nothing to doing, and perhaps about to suffer its do, is the urging them to diligence by penalties. If we knew his early histoshowing how it may be successful; ry, and it would bear us out in the atand to effort, by pointing out the alone tempt, we should make it our business channel through which it can prevail. to set before him the scenery of his naAnd if there be given to the angel of tive village, the cottage where he was a church the same commission as was born, the school to which he was sent, given to the angel of the church at the church where he first heard the Ephesus, so that he must come down preached Gospel; and we should call upon a careless or backsliding congre. to his recollection the father and the gation with a stern and startling sum- mother, long since gathered to their mons; never let it be thought that he rest, who made him kneel down night either keeps out of sight the moral and morning, and who instructed him inabilities of man, or urges to an inert out of the Bible, and who warned him, and idle dependance, when he expati. even with tears, against evil ways and ates on the necessity, and exhorts to evil companions. We should remind the duty, of repentance-he is preach- him how peacefully his days then gliing that Christ is all in all, and never- ded away; with how much of happitheless he is animating his hearers to ness he was blessed in possession, how strive for the mastery, and struggle for much of hope in prospect. And he may deliverance, when he entreats them in be now a hardened and desperate man: the words of our text, to remember but we will never believe, that, as his from whence they are fallen, and re- young days were thus passing before pent, and do the first works."

him, and the reverend forms of his paBut there is more in this exhortation rents came back from the grave, and than the summons to repentance: me- the trees that grew round his birthmory is appealed to as an assistant in place waved over him their foliage, and the duty to which men are called. In he saw himself once more as he was in other parts of Scripture we find great early life, when he knew crime but by worth attached to consideration-as name, and knew it only to abhor--we when the Psalmist says, "I thought on will never believe that he could be proof my ways, and turned my feet to thy against this mustering of the past—he testimonies.” Here the turning to might be proof against invective, proof God's testimonies is given by David against reproach, proof against remonas an immediate consequence on the strance; but when we brought memothinking on his ways, as though con- ry to bear upon him, and bade it peosideration were alone necessary to in-ple itself with all the imagery of youth, sure a speedy repentance. The great we believe that, for the moment at evil with the mass of men is, that, so least, the obdurate being would be subfar at least as eternity is concerned, dued, and a sudden gush of tears prove they never think at all-once make that we had opened a long sealed-up them think, and you make them anx. fountain. jous; once make them anxious, and And we know no reason why there they will labor to be saved. When a should not be a like power in memory, man considers his ways, angels inay be in cases which have no analogy with said to prepare their harps, as know. this, except in the general fact, that ing that they shall soon have to sweep men are not what they were. If we ar

ray before is the records of man's pris- of better days; and there will be a petine condition, and avail ourselves of netrating power in the once gladdening such intelligence as it hath pleased God but now melancholy strain, which there to vouchsafe, we may with sufficient would not be in the shrill note of ventruth be said to remember whence we geance. And thus in each case, memofell. And very energetic and persua- ry may be a mighty agent in bringing sive would be this remembrance. We me to repentance. It can scarcely come should feel that we were gaining a to pass, that I should diligently and segreat moral hold on a man, if we pre- riously remember whence I am fallen, vailed on him to contrast what he is, and yet be conscious of no desire to with what Adam was ere he ate the regain the lost position. I cannot gaze forbidden fruit. It is a contrast which on Paradise, and not long to leave the must produce the sense of utter degra- wilderness; I cannot see in myself the dation. The waving trees of Paradise, wanderer, and not yearn for the home and the glorious freshness of the young I have forsaken. And therefore is there creation, and the unrestrained inter- a beautiful appropriateness in the mescourse with God, and the beautiful tran- sage with which St. John was charged quillity of human life—these will make to the angel of the church at Ephesus. the same kind of appeal, as the fields We know that except men repent, exwhere we played in our boyhood, and cept the indifferent be roused to earnthe roof which sheltered us whilst yet estness, the backsliding recovered to untutored in the vices, and unblench- consistency, nothing can prevent their ed by the sorrows of the world. I was final destruction. And wishing to bring by creation a lofty being, with a com- them to repentance, we would waken prehensive understanding, a will that memory from her thousand cells, and always moved in harmony with the di- bid her pour forth the imagery of what vine, and affections that fastened on they were, that they may contrast it the sublime and indestructible. I am, with what they are. If we can arm through apostacy, a wayward thing, against them their own recollections, with crippled energies, contracted ca- we feel that we shall have brought to pacities, and desires engrossed by the bear the most powerful of engines. Our perishable. I had a body that was heir appeal is therefore to the past, our sumto no decay, a soul rich in the impress mons is to the shades of the dead. And of Deity; but now I must go down to though we know that no remonstrance, the dust, and traces of the defaced and no exhortation, can be of avail, eximage are scarcely to be found on my cept as carried to the heart by the Spispirit. I had heaven before me, and rit of the living God, yet are we so permight have entered it through an obe- suaded of the power of consideration, dience which could hardly be called a and of the likelihood that those who trial; but now, depraved in inclination, are brought to consider their ways will and debased in power, to what can I go on to reform them, that we think we look forward but tribulation and wrath? prescribe what cannot fail of success, Oh, this it is to remember from whence when, in order that men may repent, I am fallen.

we entreat them, in the words of our And if I have been, like the Ephe- text, to remember from whence they sian Church, what Scripture calls a are fallen, and do the first works.

. backslider, may not memory tell ine of But we turn from the exhortation to comforts I experienced, when walking the threatening contained in our text, closely with God, of seasons of deep / "I will come unto thee quickly, and gladness when I had mortified a pas- will remove thy candlestick out of his sion, of communion with eternity so place, except thou repent." It is not real and distinct that I seemed already difficult to determine what the calamidelivered from the trammels of flesh? ty is which is figuratively denoted by It may well be, if indeed I have de- the removal of the candlestick. St. clined in godliness, that, though mu- John had beheld one like unto the Son sing on past times, there will be ex- of man, magnificently and mysteriouscited within me a poignant regret. ly arrayed, standing in the midst of There will come back upon me, as upon seven golden candlesticks, and holdthe criminal in his cell, the holy music | ing in his right hand seven stars. The

evangelist is expressly informed that greater evidences of divine favor on
the seven stars are the angels, or bi- which to rest a persuasion that they
shops, of the seven churches; and should not be cast off and deprived of
that the seven candlesticks are those their advantages. Yet how completely
churches themselves. Hence the can- has the candlestick been removed from
dlestick represents the christian church Judea. The land of Abraham, and of
as erected in any land; and therefore Isaac, and of Jacob; the land which
the removing the candlestick out of his held the ark with its mysterious and
place can mean nothing less than the sacramental treasures; the land where
unchurching a nation, the so withdraw- priests made atonement, and prophets
ing from them the Gospel that they delivered their lofty anticipations; the
shall lose the distinctive marks of a land which Jesus trode, where Jesus
christian community. We need not be preached, and where Jesus died; has
over-careful as to the exactness with been tenanted for centuries by the un-
which we preserve the metaphor. If believer, profaned by the followers,
the candlestick be removed, the mean- and desecrated by the altars, of the
ing must be that the spiritual light is Arabian impostor.
removed; or that a land which has We appeal again to the early church-
been blessed with a knowledge of chris- es. Where are those christian socie-
tianity, and thereby brought specially ties to which St. Paul and St. John in-
into covenant with God, is deprived of scribed their epistles ? Where is the
the advantages which it has failed to Corinthian church, so affectionately
improve, and dislodged from the re- addressed, though so boldly reproved,
lationship into which it had been ad- by the great apostle of the Gentiles?
mitted.

Where is the Philippian church, where And this may take place, for undoubt- the Colossian, where the Thessaloniedly this has taken place. There are an, the letters to which prove how indeed clear and encouraging promises cordially christianity had been receivin Scripture, sufficient to assure us that ed, and how vigorously it flourished ? neither outward opposition, nor inward Where are the Seven Churches of Asia, corruption, shall prevail to the extinc respecting which we are assured that tion of Christ's church upon earth. But they were once strenuous in piety, and these promises refer generally to the gave promise of permanence in chrischurch, and not to this or that of its tian profession and privilege? Alas, sections. They give no ground for ex. how true is it that the candlesticks pecting that the church, for example, have been removed. Countries in which of England, or the church of Rome, the Gospel was first planted, cities will never cease to be a church-on where it took earliest root, from these the contrary, their tenor is quite com- have all traces of christianity long ago patible with the supposition, that Eng. disappeared, and in these has the cross land or Rome may so pervert, or abuse, been supplanted by the crescent. The the Gospel, as to provoke God to with traveller through lands where apostles draw it, and give it to lands now over- won their noblest victories, where marrun with heathenism. There may be, tyrs witnessed a good confession, and and there are, promises that there shall thousands sprang eagerly forwards to be always a candle in the world; but be " baptized for the dead,” and to fill the candlestick is a moveable thing, up every breach which persecution and may be placed successively in dif- made in the christian ranks, can scarce ferent districts of the earth.

find a monument to assure him that he And we say that this unchurching of stands where once congregated the fola nation is what has actually occurred, lowers of Jesus. Every where he is and what therefore may occur again, if surrounded by superstitions little betmercies be abused, and privileges ne. ter than those of heathenism, so that glected. We appeal to the instance of the unchurching of these lands has the Jews. The Jews constituted the been the giving them up to an Egypchurch of God, whilst all other tribes tian darkness. And what are we to say of the human population were stran- of such facts, except that they provegers and aliens. And never were a peo- prove with a clearness and awfulness of ple more beloved ; never had a nation demonstration, which leave ignorance

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »