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more to do; and at times, even in the very crisis of a fashionable career of licensed and refined ungodliness, the thought comes across the mind with a withering influence, felt even to the heart's core, "What will you do in the end thereof?" "What shall I do when God riseth up, and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him?”
Now these are the individuals of whom better things may be expected. If they will but be faithful to their own convictions, we are warranted to hope that the Christian ministry may be useful to them. And in this hope we will enter upon two points of inquiry, which by the blessing of God's Holy Spirit, may afford a profitable meditation both to them and to the real Christian. These are,
I. The claim of God to the heart.
II. The proof that it is given to him.
I. The claim of God to the heart. By "the heart," we mean in the Scripture sense of the word, the reigning affections of the man.-By "the giving of the heart," that direct affectionate going forth of the inclinations towards God, which would prove him to be the chief object of value and delight. The claim to this gift is advanced in the text: "My son, give me thine heart;" and that claim is stated even more powerfully than this, by the Saviour. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with
all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and great commandment."
Now if we were in a right moral state of heart, it is evident that the bare command issued by the God of the universe to his creatures to love him, would be amply sufficient; and the kindly and tender approach of the Omnipotent, with all the yearnings of a father's love, "My son, give me thine heart," would surely set such a question at rest for ever. The hearts of angels respond at once to that beloved authority; and who that felt rightly would not love the infinite good, from whom all subordinate good proceeds, better than all the creatures of his hand, and turn with hatred from any creature or any enjoyment that threatened to usurp his place?
But it is not so.-The command falls powerless on the ear of the children of this world; they hear as though they heard not; and they either argue against the possibility of feeling such a love, or they coolly aver that they love God, while in their works they deny him, and trifle with his authority. And however humiliating it may be to our kind, we are reduced to the necessity of arguing the cause for God, and shewing the claim that he puts forth to the affections of his creatures.
We will not, on this occasion, take the ground of argument that God is our maker, and that therefore we ought to love him. That is a truth which almost every body admits, and lays by as a worn
out truism, fit only to be forgotten. We will not shew that the infinite fountain of wisdom, and justice, and benevolence, and mercy, is necessarily to his moral creatures, the exclusive object of adoration and supreme delight. For every one will most readily assent to this, while every inward feeling they have belies the admission. They know that they are not occupied with the contemplation of those attributes of God. They know that if he of whom they speak is practically any thing to them whatever, it is a dark unintelligible object of terror and of aversion, from whose presence and service they are glad to escape, and whom at the utmost they attempt, in the midst of habitual disobedience, to propitiate by the slavish service of a formal and heartless prayer.
But the real claim of God to the heart is advanced by him in a very different way. It is in fact the same claim which we might argue abstractedly; but it would be to very little purpose, for man disregards it. God has therefore taken another method. He brings home the claim in a far more powerful manner to the heart, in the doctrine of the cross of Christ. His own Son has come down from heaven, and appeared in this world as a man; and after a life of snffering and persecution, has laid down his life upon the accursed cross. Now what is the truth told to us by that mysterious event? It is this: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." That is the great truth now to be inculcated on the children of men; and the declaration of this truth is appointed as the means of bringing back their cold revolted hearts to their adorable Creator. And what are the statements here made?
First, That we were all perishing. We are all naturally under the dominion of sin, the children of disobedience. Our heart is given to evil, and God forgotten-so entirely forgotten and put aside, that no abstract argument of the duty to love God, however just and convincing, has any power with us whatever. And such is our corruption that if God were pleased to act according to the rule of our creation, we must perish; and to perish, is to go into "everlasting fire, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
But, Secondly, That God has at once, by the most extraordinary proof of his wisdom and power, compassion and mercy, proclaimed forgiveness to as many as will receive it. Instead of dealing with the guilty polluted race as they have deserved, he comes forth in Christ, "reconciling the world unto himself; not imputing unto men their trespasses," but laying them on an effectual surety, who has borne them in his own body on the cross, and shed his blood as an acceptable atonement: and now his word and his ministers declare, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all men to be received,
that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The way to communion with God, the way to his eternal presence, is made open and easy: there is one, the crucified Jesus, our brother and our friend, at the right hand of God, who "ever liveth to make intercession for us ;" and who is "able to save unto the uttermost, all them that come unto God by him."
And then, Thirdly, For the overruling all the rebelliousness and unwillingness of the natural heart, the means of gospel grace are provided, to which any one may apply himself; and a powerful controlling sanctifying influence from the Spirit of God is promised to turn the heart to God, and to overcome the sinful love and the destructive power of this present world.
And now, then, how is it that a claim to the heart is advanced by means of these facts? In this way: You are a perishing creature, without God, and without any real hope in the world. You are altogether unreservedly dependent upon the word of the Almighty. Had God pleased, you might have been at this moment reaping in eternal fire the deadly fruit of a heart wilfully closed against his love. But from your earliest hour of responsibility till now, his dealings with you have been those of the tenderest compassion. Long before you were called into being, your case and that of