صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


claimed sinner. Figuratively interpreted, this must represent the spiritual enjoyments of the believer, such as, a sense of pardon and safety, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, hope, confidence, fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ; in short, all the pleasures connected with a renewed heart and a good life. All these are compared to a feast, in various other passages of Scripture. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness," says the Psalmist; "and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips." "Wisdom hath builded her house," says Solomon; "she hath hewn out her seven pillars; she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table:" and she saith, "Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled." And Isaiah describes the blessings of salvation as a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." As the rest of the household, too, at the desire of the prodigal's father, shared the joy, and partook of the feast, so the household of faith are called on to rejoice, and do rejoice, on the occasion of the conversion of a sinner: "When one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it."


And, surely, the reason assigned for this joy is still more powerful in this way of applying it than in the former:"For," saith also the God of heaven, "this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." With regard to the latter of these ways of representing the saving change, “he was lost, and is found". -as we had occasion to consider it, when on the parables of the lost sheep and the lost piece of silver, it seems unnecessary to enter on it here. Let me, then, postponing every other topic for the present, take up this one very brief, but most energetic and awakening description, and press it on your serious consideration in various points of view, and at some length, by way of conclusion at this time-" He was dead, and is alive again."

We have here a striking description of the state of all men by nature-they are "dead." There are three senses in which, by nature, all men are either dead, or exposed to death. There is, first, that awful event, of which the word death most commonly conveys the idea-temporal death, the separation of the soul from the body, when the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns unto God who gave it. This is the consequence of our having violated the divine law: "Death hath passed on all men, for

that all have sinned." The thought of this event, with its accompaniments, strikes a damp on the spirits of the gayest. The gradual inroads of age, the sudden attacks of early disease, the bodily infirmity, the agonizing pain, the pale visage, the heavy moan, the stupor, the flight of the spirit, the claycold corpse, the winding-sheet, the coffin, the funeral, the grave, the darkness, and the worm!-these are serious considerations to all; the most thoughtless are moved, when they witness these things in the case of others; and, when the restlessness of their minds permits them to take a steady view of these scenes as certainly to be realized in them-selves, they cannot but be altogether shocking to unregenerated nature. To this death we are all exposed, and through it we must all pass. The sentence is pronounced against us: we are already dead in point of law. But, are we indeed living as those ought to live who know that they must die ere long, and know not how soon they may die? Happy those of us who are prepared for this inevitable change! But well may the apprehension of this event strike a damp on the spirits of those who are conscious that they are not attending to the things which belong to their peace.

There is another kind of death, however, little regarded, alas! but far more terrible-a death, not of the body, but of the soul-a death which darkens the light, not of the bodily eye, but of the understanding-a death which benumbs, not the hands and the feet, but the moral faculties-a death which separates the soul, not from the body, but from God. This is often called spiritual death; it is a being "dead in trespasses and sins." This death is most fearful, as it ends, if grace prevent not, in another kind of death still-eternal death, endless misery, called, in Scripture, "The second death." This is death indeed-death to soul and body; not the ceasing to exist, but death for ever to all that is desirable-death to the possibility of ever being made alive to happiness and to God. It is being dead spiritually, dead in sin, which is here declared to be the state of us all by nature.

Now, in considering this strong figure, which is frequently employed in Scripture, we must carefully avoid two extremes. We must neither advance those inconsiderate and unguarded assertions which are inconsistent with every man's own consciousness of the possession of the powers of intelligence and activity, and which, therefore, expose the truth to much unnecessary obloquy and opposition: nor must we so explain

away this figure, as to render it compatible with the views of those who reject the obvious meaning of the declarations of Scripture with regard to man's total depravity and spiritual helplessness. The metaphor must certainly be understood with some limitations. Natural death, for example, entirely destroys the faculties of the soul, in so far as that they no longer reside in the body: whereas, spiritual death leaves them resident with the soul in the body, but renders them dead, so to speak, to certain objects and pursuits, while they are alive to others. Thus, the unrenewed sinner is quite alive to earthly things; he is alive to the allurements of sin and of the world; nay, he may be possessed of a high degree of intellectual power, his judgment may be sound, his imagination may be lively, and his memory may be a storehouse of varied information. Nor is it merely in science professedly human that he may excel: for, he may be versed in sacred literature, and be a profound divine. He is not so dead that he cannot use the outward means of grace; for, he can read and hear, and meditate and speak on the Word of God; and he may even pray, in a certain way. These limitations are necessary to be kept in view, both to obviate the objections of those who are altogether opposed to the genuine doctrines of human depravity and divine grace, and also to expose the abuse of these doctrines on the part of some who push them beyond all reasonable and scriptural bounds, and deduce from them very illegitimate and dangerous conclusions. Thus, from the explanation just given, appears the groundlessness of the objections of those who say that these doctrines represent men as mere machines, and render all exhortations and human endeavours useless and absurd. Thus, too, it appears that the Antinomian abuse of these doctrines, which would hinder us from exhorting sinners and proposing the gospel to unbelievers, is altogether indefensible. For, to both of these classes of persons it is a sufficient reply to remind them that fallen man is still possessed of mental faculties, and that the Spirit of God operates on these faculties by means of the exhortations of his Word read and preached.

Still, you will perceive, there is a very important sense in which men are all naturally dead. They are dead to all spiritual, vital, and acceptable religion-dead to the love of God and of holiness. Strong as the figure is, it finds a very close parallel in the state of the unrenewed. Among the most striking characteristics of a dead body may be mentioned, insensibility, inactivity, incapacity of restoring itself

to life, and loathsomeness: and are not all these found in natural men? How lamentable their insensibility to the excellence of divine truth, to the beauty of holiness, and to the evil and danger of sin, in themselves and others! How glorious the blessed God! and yet, what strangers are they to his love! What human being of any distinction, or in any way amiable in their estimation, of whom they know any thing, is not more the object of their concern, than the greatest and best of Beings? Only consider what reception God's dear Son receives from such persons; for, it is awful to think of it, they treat him with disdain, and turn from him with aversion, or, at best, remain, on the whole, careless and unbelieving. Is it possible that the blessings of light, and pardon, and peace, and holiness, and life eternal, could be offered in vain to perishing men, if some lamentable and shocking catastrophe had not befallen their minds? Too plain it is that the gospel is preached to a world dead in sin, for they are still unmoved and senseless. Behold, also, another accompaniment of this death, in all men, by nature-inactivity. Bustling, indeed, most of them are, in the pursuit of what they reckon pleasure, or profit; but, those who "live in pleasure" are declared, by divine authority, to be "dead while they live;" and it is plain that not one steady and well-directed movement is made by them towards godliness, which is "profitable unto all things." They may be found rising early, and sitting up late, and eating the bread of carefulness, to prosecute some favourite object, which, whatever it may be, is still confined to this world; but, where shall we find any of them working out their salvation, striving to enter in at the strait gate, and labouring for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life? Further, as a dead body cannot restore itself to natural life, neither can a soul dead to sin restore itself to spiritual. The latter is, no doubt, a moral inability; that is, it is an inability resulting from the depraved state of the will; but still, it is a real and complete inability. It is scriptural to say that unregenerate men both will not, and cannot, serve God. It is true, they could, if they would; but then, they cannot will. "Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life," says our Lord: and the apostle Paul declares, “The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So, then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God." And, as natural death is soon followed by loathsomeness, putridity, and corruption,

[blocks in formation]

so, who are loathsome, spiritually, and in the sight of God, but those who are in a state of sin? They are emphatically called "an abomination to the Lord:" and, if they continue in that state, absolute ruin must be the result; for 66 they who sow unto the flesh, shall, of the flesh, reap corruption." How aptly, then, does this emblem of death represent the state of all men by nature!

But it is not enough, my friends, to have ascertained the meaning of the Holy Ghost in this representation of the natural state of man; it would be well if you could now be brought to apply it to yourselves. All of you, then, now present, were once dead. Doubtless, of some of you it may be truly said, "You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and in sins." But, are there not many of you still dead? Remember that it is anything but a proof of your being in a safe state, that you may never have been aware of your danger; for, insensibility is one of the concomitants of death. And, O what a startling and sad idea does this consideration convey of this assembly! Suppose that there sat, in one part of a pew, a person in full health and vigour, while there was, in another part of the same pew, a breathless and ghastly corpse; and suppose that a similar mixture prevailed throughout-suppose, in a word, that there were now as many corpses in this house as there are careless souls: what a shock would be felt by those who were alive! how piercing would be their cries! and how difficult would it be for them not to fly from the place in terror! But why is it that we are not so much affected at the thought of dead souls, as we are at that of dead bodies? Not that the tear is foolish that drops on the lifeless clay of one whom we loved; but then, that clay may have been left in the certain hope of a glorious resurrection, while the disembodied spirit may be already rejoicing in the presence of its God. Where, however, is there a spark of consolation in the case of a soul lost to everything that is excellent, and, for aught that appears, sunk in endless death? Why is it, then, that we are not as much affected at the thought of dead souls, as we are at that of dead bodies? It is because we are carried away by our senses, rather than moved by reason and the Word of God. It is because we are ourselves either quite dead, or possessed of but very little life and feeling. How many dead souls may now be present, God only knows; but one thing is certain, that, while our eye can discern, in the outward appearance of some, nothing

« السابقةمتابعة »