« AnteriorContinuar »
ciples of this school. Is religion the subject of discussion? ? nothing can exceed their forbearance. Their kind, openhearted candour embraces the whole world in self-complacent charity: they speak like very lambs. Is anything personal or political the theme? Is the discussion literary or scientific? Is the question at issue a matter of secular business, involving money or money's worth? Alas! where is the forbearance? Where the charity? Where the mild, benignant candour? Gone, all gone! In proportion as their feelings become interested, their tempers become heated, their principles bigotted, and their language severe and exclusive. Their intolerance and their feelings go hand in hand; and they shew no intolerance in religion, because they have no real feeling upon the subject. Their charity costs them nothing. And is not this darkness?
On the most momentous of all subjects, their language is this, or such as this: “There are, we hope, many ways to heaven; whatever differences may now exist among men of various parties and opinions. After all, there is good sense, and practical religion too, in the famous couplet of our freethinking Poet:
For jarring creeds, let senseless bigots fight,
His can't be wrong, whose life is in the right. Let
every man go his own way, then; his religion is between himself and his God: do not interfere with other creeds and persuasions: you will only exasperate, and do harm. True religion is kind: there is no harshness in it towards our fellowcreatures, however differing from ourselves. God is merciful over all. I never can believe, that a kind beneficent Being will condemn his creatures to everlasting misery for those saults, which a frail nature exposed them to, or for that ignorance which they could not avoid.'
Is not this a fair unexaggerated representation of their opinions? Is it not lamentably true, that the prevailing tone of what is called Christianity around us, has so subsided into a good-natured softness, a plausible profession of individual humility, slily praising itself, while, at the same time, it affects too much diffidence to find fault with another; that any thing approaching the spirit, and fire, and zeal, and faith of primitive piety is denounced as fanaticism, or, at least, shrunk from and shunned as unholy, because unhumbled impetuosity, needlessly offensive, and, therefore, exceedingly injudicious? Here lies the true secret of the great apparent increase of religion among us. The visible church has relaxed in both her doctrine and practice. She occupies a lower and broader platform than is meet; and having laid aside, as ultra and unnecessary, much of what is forbidding to the carnal mind, she has enticed multitudes to join hands with her, whose hearts are not right with her Lord, and who would never have made a show of joining her, had she adhered to the faithfulness of her Lord's truth, and the holiness of her Lord's example. It is not so much that genuine Christianity has increased, as that a spurious mixture, diluted to the palate of the world, is passing current for the true. And is not this darkness?
Hear, ye plausible speakers of smooth things, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace; hear ye the word of the Lord: There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, and the end thereof are the ways of death. It seemeth right, and leadeth unto death: so much for sincerity, that cameleon creature, which it has become the fashion to idolize. On the authority of the living God, we pronounce her a blind guide, promising heaven, and leading multitudes innumerable into hell. Hear ye the word of the Lord: Wide is the gate, and broud is the
that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat, because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. So much for that affectation of universal charity, which proudly contradicts even God himself, and
says, “No! surely such harshness cannot be in God; no, no, wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to salvation; there is more good than evil in the world; I hope the best for all my fellow-creatures.” Vain, groundless delusion! 0, thou slanderer of Him who was charity indeed, who so loved the children of men, that he poured out his soul even unto death to save them, while he spake unto them plain and faithful things! O, thou false friend, who coverest over the surface of the sinner's wound, and leavest the mortifying venom to work its work of death within, how long shall this be in thine heart, to daub the wall with untempered mortar; to prophesy lies, and cause my people to forget my name, by your dreams, saith the Lord. He that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Jer. xxiii. 26-29.
But is not true religion, the genuine light of the gospel, amazingly increased in the world, and especially in our own land? Thanks be unto God, who has never left himself without witnesses: the gates of hell can never prevail against the true church of his dear Son; and in joy and gladness do we recognise the out-stretched arm of his Almighty grace, snatching brands from the burning, and adding to the church daily such as shall be saved. To be instrumental in this glorious work is our best privilege, our highest, purest, most constraining joy. But the light which thus shines in the body of Christ, though inextinguishable by all the power, and craft, and subtlety of the devil, or man, or both; and though a faithful and true witness for the Most High, nobly confessing the absent king even in the rebel's camp, is yet too small to deliver the nations from the wide-spreading darkness. It can no more enlighten the world by its present means of self-extension, previous to the return of the Saviour, and the restoration of the Jews, than the light-houses on our coast can spread radiance across the ocean. They supply, each in its small locality, a true, and steady, and most valuable beacon, but the broad bosom of the ocean remains sunk in darkness till the returning sun gilds again the eastern horizon.
Let darkness be put for ignorance of, and enmity against, God; his character, infinitely perfect in every attribute; his revealed truth in Jesus Christ; his special providence; his long suffering patience; and his coming judgment: and it is evident to all who have spiritual discernment, that this first clause in the second verse of Isaiah lx. presents no real difficulty. Some of the succeeding verses are abundantly precise. The sons of strangers shull build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wruth I smote thee, but in my favour hare I had mercy on thee. It would be difficult to find words more accurately and comprehensively descriptive of the Jewish history. The Prophet proceeds: “Therefore thy gates shall be open continually: they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary: and I will make the place of my feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee, shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The City of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breasts of kings; and thou shalt know that I, the LORD, am thy Saviour, and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Similar is the prediction of the Prophet Micah upon this subject: “In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halteth; and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that
I have afflicted. And I will make her that halted a remnant; and her that was cast far off, a strong nation; and the Lord shall reign over them in mount Zion, from henceforth, even for ever. And thou, 0 Tower of the flock, the strong-hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.” Mic. iv. 6-8.
And the Prophet Zechariah, in like manner, declares the glory of the Jewish nation, when her God and Saviour shall return to her. “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” Zech. vii. 20-23.
Now contemplate this whole subject in one view. God has divided his great proceeding with this world into four steps. 1. He took a nation circumcised in his name, and having an elect people within it, saved by his grace. 2. He has taken a number of nations (still a small number, compared with all mankind) baptized in his name, and having an elect people within them, saved by his grace. Here as yet he pauses! 3. He will take a saved nation, the Jews, the first that ever will be saved as a nation. There is no such thing now as a saved nation, nor never has been: though there are, and have been, nations, called by the Saviour's name. The first nation that shall ever appear on the face of the earth, of whom it can be truly said, they all know and love the Lord, from the least unto the greatest, will be the restored Jewish nation. 4. The fourth step is the gathering of all the nations, to the brightness of Judah’s light, and to the glory of her rising. What shall the receiving of her be, but life from the dead?
Thus God has concluded all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.* Amen.
* See Rom. xi. passim.
The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, in its con
nexion with the present suffering, and coming glory of the Suints: the present proud prosperity, and coming utter destruction of the ungodly.
2 Thess. i. 6—9. “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense
tribulation to them that trouble you. "And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be
revealed from heaven with his mighty angels; in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our
Lord Jesus Christ. “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the
Lord, and from the glory of his power."
THESE are tremendous words!
Following the selected services of the church at this season, the second Advent of the Lord Jesus is still our subject. I have set before you the great fact: its time, and nature; some of the signs predicted to precede it: and its connexion with the history of Israel, that wonderful people, God's witnesses from generation to generation.
My present intention is to show its connexion with the suffering now, and the glory hereafter, of the children of God: the proud prosperity now, and the ulter destruction hereafter, of ungodly men.
For this purpose I have selected the comprehensive statement of our text, in which the Apostle declares, in words that burn, what the Lord will do at his coming, both to the suffering believer, and to the hitherto triumphant oppressor.
Of the origin of the Church at Thessalonica we read in the 17th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. When St. Paul was itinerating from city to city, preaching both to Jews and Greeks the everlasting Gospel of the grace of God, amongst other places he came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of
, the Jews: and Paul as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures: opening and alleging that Christ must reeds have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach to you, the despised Nazarene, is Christ, the anointed one of God, predicted by the prophets. And some of them believed and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. Thus was laid the foundation