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are in this world, we have neither reached the hell or the heaven of eternity. We are only on the one or the other of those paths which lead to them. Now to turn from the wrong to the right path, is just to turn from sin unto sacredness. And, in the very act of so turning, we receive strength for all the fatigues of that new journey which leadeth unto Zion. Turn unto me says God, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you. This influence from on nigh will be given to your efforts and your prayers. Your prayer for some abstract and indefinite beatitude in another state of being, is not a prayer which accords with the will of God; and can no more be listened to by Him or meet with acceptance, than any sordid or selfish petition for some luxury or splendour of this world which your heart is set upon. But when, instead of this, the prayer is for that beatitude which lies in holiness; when it is a prayer for the very beatitude of the good and the glorified spirits in heaven; when the desire for a joyful eternity above is thus consecrated by a desire for grace and godliness below; in one word, when, in place of a mere animal or selfish aspiration for the comfort, it becomes a moral and a sacred aspiration for the character of heaven the prayer to a holy Creator from a creature desirous to be holy-then, in the answer of such a prayer, will the gospel make full vindication of that gracious economy which it announces to the world. The pardon of his sins through the blood of Christ, is as free to him as are the light and air of heaven to the commoners of nature. The spirit who gives him victory over his sins and upholds him on his advancing way to all righteousness, is alike free to him-nor does there exist one obstacle in the way of his salvation, who is honestly intent to be as he ought and to do as he ought.
This argument is not wholly inapplicable at a sacramental season, which generally more than usual is a season of devotion. There comes now upon many a spirit a greater than its wonted desirousness about the things of eternity; and there is withal the imagination that what you are to do upon the morrow,* is somehow connected with the furtherance and the security of your everlasting interests. Now the impression which I want to leave upon you is, that your good in a future world can in no conceivable way be promoted by it, but in so far as it subserves your goodness in this world. The literalities of a sacramental observation will of themselves avail you nothing; and here is superstition, at once the most deceitful
Preached on the day before a Sacrament.
and degrading superstition, in the thought that your claim for heaven can at all be improved by an act of sacredness which leaves not one habit or one affection of sacredness behind it. This we particularly address to those who make due presentation of themselves on the communion Sabbath, and discharge themselves of all the punctualities of the communion table, and yet the whole year round cleave most tenaciously and with hearts full of secularity to the dust of a perishable world— who in hand and in person intromit with all the forms of the ordinance, but catch not so much as one breath upon their spirits from the air of the upper sanctuary-or, if they do experience among the solemnities of a rare and remarkable occasion some transient inspiration, all is dissipated, and goes to nought, when they return to their homes and thence lapse again into all the earthliness of their unchanged natures. Be assured that the part you thus take in what may be called the mechanism of a sacrament, without any part in the mind which should animate and pervade it, will leave no other bearing on your immortal state than just to aggravate your condemnation; and therefore to escape the guilt which lies in this mockery of Heaven, and to turn the morrow's service into the real purposes of your salvation, let me entreat you to open your heart to the affecting realities which are couched in the symbols and shadowed forth as it were in the acts of the institution. The bread and the wine which are the memorials of your atonement should encourage even the guiltiest of you all to draw nigh in faith-for there is no guilt beyond the reach of that atonement. But remember that you also draw nigh with full purpose of heart after the new obedience of the gospel. Coming thus, you are warranted to sit down at the table of the sacrament; and the prayers of a heart desirous of a present holiness as of a future heaven, will most surely meet with acceptance, and as surely be answered with power. Your prayer to be saved from the punishment of sin, lifted while the emblems of the Redeemer's sacrifice are before you, will most certainly prevail. Your prayer to be saved from the power of sin, lifted in the presence of Him who is Master of the assembly and to whom the dispensation of the Spirit has been committed, will as certainly prevail; and your joining in this ordinance will contribute to save, just as far as it contributes to sanctify you.
But I have all along spoken as if this were a direct prayer for the object of one's own personal salvation. Whereas it is an intercessory prayer, and suggests what we ought to do for the salvation of
Paul had made
those who are dear to us.
This might serve as admonition to those whose hearts are set on the eternity of relatives or friends-to the mother who has watched and laboured for years that the good seed might have fixture in the hearts of her children, but does not find that this precious deposit has yet settled or had occupation there-to the sister whose gentle yet earnest remonstrances have been wholly unable to control a brother's waywardness-to that one member perhaps of a family whom the grace of the Spirit hath selected, and who now strives and supplicates in the midst of an alienated household, that all may be arrested in their way and turned unto God -to that holy and heaven-born disciple, whom the pollutions of the world have touched not; but who standing alone in a companionship of scorners, mourns Over the profaneness and the profligacy that hitherto have marked all his solemn
warnings, all his friendly but ineffectual protestations. All these may, like other zealous missionaries, have had but a hard experience. They may have long been in contact and collision with the power of sin and unbelief in the hearts of others, and had much to discourage them. Their fidelity may have given offence-their affectionate counsels may have been spurn. ed-their moral earnestness may have been laughed at-all their expedients to impress or to convince may have vanished into impotency-their very speech may at length become a signal for the attitude of suspicion and of prompt resistance on the part of their fellows-And so their every argument might only strengthen, might only confirm, the impenitency which it was meant to soften or do away. In these, and in many other ways, might they receive most palpable intimation that they are doing no good; and even perhaps but fixing more inveterately than before the distaste of children or of friends for God and godliness. And so might they be tempted to desist, even as the apostles desisted, from their countrymen. Yet let them never forget, that what has heretofore been impracticable to performance may not be impracticable to prayer. With man it may be impossible; but with God all things are possible. That cause which has so oft been defeated and is now hopeless on the field of exertion may on the field of prayer and of faith be triumphant. Never cease then your sup. plications to the sanctuary above; for that power to turn the unregenerate and subdue them-which all your experience has told you does not reside unless it be given, in the earthen vessels that are below. Let those anxieties for the Christianity either of your household or of your aquaintanceship, which have hitherto been so unproductive of good-let them still continue to be unbosomed as before in the ear of your Father in heaven. He willeth intercessions to be made for all men, and He willeth all men to be saved. These declarations place you on firm and high vantage-ground in praying for human souls; and never, we may be well assured, never, can any intercession be lifted with greater acceptance than that of a Christian parent, when he asks in behalf of those children who now gladden his home upon earth-that they shall be preserved and permitted to spend with Him their eternity in heaven.
It must not be disguised however, that this is a matter on which parents may delude themselves-that in their disincli nation to spiritual things, and their indolence together, they may be glad to stand exonerated from the fatigues of performance, and take refuge in the formalities
of prayer-that under the semblance of doing homage to the omnipotence of grace, they may omit the doing of those things which it is the office of grace to make effectual for the conversion of the human spirit that in contemplating the part of the Holy Ghost as the agent, they may forget their own part as the instruments of this mighty operation; And therefore would we warn them lest they turn the orthodoxy of their creed, into a justification for the laxity and remissness of their conduct. That prayer never can avail which is not the prayer of honesty; and it is not the prayer of honesty, if, even though you pray to the uttermost for the religion of others, you do not also perform to the uttermost. Could we only purge the prayers of men of all their hypocrisy, then should we behold the pro
mises of the Bible nobly accredited by the verifications of experience; and the interchange of petitions and their responses between heaven and earth would demonstrate to the eye of observation, that there was indeed a living reality in the gospel. Even as it is, though we cannot just say that Christianity always runs in families, yet frequent enough are the instances of a transmitted faith and a transmitted holiness from parents unto children-to assure us that did the former but acquit themselves in all strenuousness and with all supplication, of their duty, the blessing of an efficiency from above would descend upon the souls of the latter; and manifold more than at present would be the examples of those who were born unto Christian parents being also born unto God.
"For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge."
VER. 2. It is evident from this verse that the Israelites had one good quality while they wanted another. But the remarkable thing-I had almost said the strange thing of this verse-is, that the apostle should make their possession of this one good quality the reason of his prayer. It is my prayer that they might be saved-for I bear them record that they have a zeal of God.' They had zeal, but they wanted knowledge. One would think, that, if they wanted both, they would at least stand in greater need of his prayers; and the mystery is, how it comes about, that their having something of what is good should be the moving cause why Paul should be led to pray for their supreme good, even the everlasting salvation of their souls-a pretty plain intimation, that if they had not been in the possession at least of this something, if they had not had thus much of good, even zeal for God, he would not have prayed for them.
some great and palpable unlikelihood— as in praying for that which you either know to be agreeable to the will of God, or to be in harmony with the established processes of nature and of providence. It is thus that you could not pray so hopefully for the salvation of a thorough and confirmed reprobate, as for that of a man in whom you could perceive some lurking remainders of good-some aspirations towards a state of betterness-some symptoms or promises of a coming penitency or coming amendment. When all these are utterly extinguished, then faith is extinguished, and the tongue of prayer is either put to silence or paralysed. There is the despair of any reformation; and whosoever asks for that which he despairs of, let not that man think that he shall obtain it of the Lord. There is a dependance affirmed constantly in the New Testament between that faith wherewith a prayer ascends upwardly to heaven, and that fulfilment which comes in anThe only explanation I can give of swer thereto downwardly upon earth; and this peculiarity, and it appears to me a whatever therefore shall tell adversely or very probable one, is this. You know favourably on the faith of supplicants that it is only the prayer of faith that below, must tell adversely or favourably availeth; and that in proportion as this on the fulfilments that are granted in the faith is staggered or weakened in any sanctuary above. And so it is just as if manner, in that proportion prayer loses all chance of a man's salvation were done of its efficacy. It is thus that you have away, when all hope of it had died away not the same heart, the same encourage- from the hearts of those who should pray ment, the same confidence, in praying for | for it.
From the materials of such an argument as this there may be constructed a powerful appeal, by which, if possible, to arrest the headlong way of that moral desperado, who, hastening on from one enormity to another, is fast losing all the delicacies of conscience, the truth and the tenderness of other days—in whose breast that light of the inner man which has been termed the candle of the Lord is fading away to its ultimate extinction; and whom the Spirit, tired and provoked by the stubborn resistance of all His warning, is on the eve perhaps of abandoning, and that forever, to his own heart's
There is an observable harmony here all prayer about them. He still observed between that process which takes place in one good point or property in the characthe hearts of believers, and that processter of that nation-a zeal of God, even which takes place in the counsels and that very zeal which actuated himself acts of the upper sanctuary. You know when he breathed forth threatenings and that according to the usual methods of slaughter against Christians-And so he the divine administration, the Spirit is still could hope, and still could pray for given in larger measure and larger mani- them. festations to those who have duteously responded to His earlier intimations, or made right and faithful use of His first and feebler influences upon their heartswhereas He is more and more withdrawn from those who quarrel or who resist these first impressions of His upon the conscience so that at length He may take a final and irrecoverable departure away from their souls, and abandon to their own infatuation the unhappy men, who, growing every year in moral hardihood, live in the recklessness of all that is sacred, and die at the last in fatal impenitency. With this view of it you will be at no loss to understand the saying-wickedness since he will have it so. Every · that to him who hath, more shall be given; and from him who hath not, there shall be taken away even that which he hath. Paul himself, who served God with good conscience from his youth, though then in ignorance and in unbelief, had at length a full revelation given to himwhereas those of his countrymen who even against conscience maligned and resisted the Saviour, and so put away from them the things which belonged to their peace, were delivered up to that state of judicial blindness in which they were for ever hid from their eyes. The life of a Christian is made up of perpetual accessions of grace from one degree of it to another, till he arrives at perfection, and is ripe for glory. The life of an impenitent is made up of perpetual and successive extinctions of one good feeling, of one lingering sensibility after another, till he pass away into utter darkness, and is ripe for the awful the irremediable destruction which follows it. There is a point somewhere in this dismal this descending pathway, where the irrecoverable step is taken, and he has sinned unto death. You will here be reminded of the apostle John, who bids us pray for those who have not sinned unto death; but who adds that there is a "sin unto death and I do not say that he should pray for it." Now, as the last symptoms of any remaining good die away from the character of these reprobates, so the last sparks of a hope for their recovery die away from the hearts of by-standers who are looking on, and who at length cease to persuade and even cease to pray for them. Paul had not just sunk so low in despondency with regard to the Jews, He was not yet discouraged out of all faith and
year finds him a more confirmed alien from God, and stouter in all the purposes of rebellion than before. The disease of his soul grows and gathers in inveteracytill, encrusted all over with that judicial hardness to which he has been delivered, all the touching demonstrations of Providence and all the loud artillery of menacing sermons play upon him in vain. Even when age and disease overtake him, even the alarum bell of his coming mortality might bring no terror to his ear; and with all his sensibilities lying prostrate under the power of that corruption which has withered them, he may be alike unappalled by the demonstrations of his guilt, and the fell denunciations of the vengeance which is due to it. The truth is that he is sunken, he is profoundly sunken in spiritual lethargy; and now beyond the possibility of recall, he affords the dire and the dreadful spectacle of a helpless a hopeless creature, whom the Spirit of God hath irrecoverably forsaken. Know then all ye regardless hearers who have entered and are now walking on a path of wilful iniquity, that this is the state to which you are descending. Your friends behold the progress of this impenitency. They sigh and they even supplicate Heaven on your account; but the time may speedily arrive, when the characteristics of your impiety shall look so indelible and so desperate, that to supplicate in faith is beyond them. And O is it not time to retrace your footsteps on this way of destruction, unknowing as you are how near or how soon you shall be on the verge of that condition when the Spirit of God shall cease to strive; and the very parents who gave you birth may weep, but cannot pray for you!
The Jewish character was not yet so many are said to perish for lack of knowutterly desolated of all worth and good-ledge. When Christ shall come in flaming ness, as to drive the apostle from hope's fire and amid the elements of dissolving last refuge even prayer. They wanted nature, it is to take vengeance on those knowledge, but they had zeal; and this who know not God. Knowledge and so far propped his spirit in that exercise, ignorance in fact are dealt with, even as to the success of which a certain faith righteousness and sin are dealt with and a certain hopefulness are so indis- They are dealt with morally, or as the pensable. That must have been a valua- proper subjects of a moral reckoning; ble property, in virtue of which they and whereas under our existing economy could still be prayed for. But that on the the pleasures and preferments of a joyful other hand must have been a most impor- eternity in heaven come in train of the tant and essential property, from the want one, hell and destruction and all the penal of which they eventually perished. Had consequences of guilt in most frightful they added knowledge to their zeal, they aggravation are made to follow in train would still have remained the favourites of the other. of Heaven; and from the actual history of the Jewish people, we may learn what a serious want the want of knowledge is. That day of their tremendous visitation, in the prospect of which our Saviour shed tears over their devoted city, came upon them, to use His own language, just because they knew not the things which belonged to their peace. Their ruin as a nation was the effect of their ignorance; and in that fearful that overwhelming doom which our Saviour wept over, but would not recall, we have experimental proof of that alliance which obtains, by the ordinations of the gospel, between the knowledge of man and his salvation, on the one hand, and between the want of that knowledge, and his utter and irreversible wretchedness, upon the other. The judgment which went forth against them because of their ignorance, had in it as much of the spirit and character of a vengeance, as if it had been inflicted on the worst moral perversities whereof humanity is capable. It is true that the awful extermination came upon them, because they had killed the Prince of life. But it was in the spirit of a blind zeal, and as Peter and John testify, through ignorance that they did it. Their condemnation still resolves itself into the want of knowledge-for had they known, Paul says, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Let us not then underrate the importance of knowledge in religion; nor, under the imagination that ignorance is not a responsible or not a punishable offence, hold that men might be in safety however defective in point of information, however wrong in point of mere understanding.
Now the question is, ought this in moral fairness to be? The equity of such a dispensation has been stoutly and openly denied. It has been asked if man be responsible for knowledge or understanding or belief, just as he is responsible for the dispositions of his heart or the doings of his hand. They can understand how man should be punished for his wrong behaviour. But they understand not how man should be punished for his wrong belief. The difficulty is to conceive on what ground the mere views of the understanding should properly be made the subjects of count or reckoning at all. Are the wrong views of the understanding to be resented or revenged upon, just as you would resent or revenge the wrong volitions of the will? You at once perceive the justice of retribution for the conduct. But you do not perceive the justice of retribution for the creed. You would never think of blame or of vengeance either for the height of a man's stature, or for the hue and the features of his countenance. And in like manner the opinions of the judgment are held by some to be equally exempted, as things of physical and organic necessity, from blame or from vengeance. Man is held by them to be responsible for his doings, which he can help; but not for his doctrines, which they say he cannot helpAnd so the God of Christianity has been charged with unrighteousness; and Christianity itself with this dread inscription upon its forehead that "He who believeth not shall be damned"-has been indignantly exclaimed against as a hard and a most revolting dispensation.
Now we shall not enter on the consideBut in addition to the historical proofs, ration that the punishment consequent on for what may be called the religious im- the unbelief is not all for the unbelief, portance of knowledge, which might be but for the guilt of a broken law, the drawn from the narratives of Scripture, condemnation of which takes its own there is abundance of still more direct proper and primary effect upon you, beproof in its merely doctrinal or didactic cause you have not found your way to the passages. On the one hand the know-place of refuge or of protection thereledge of God and of Jesus Christ is said from. This is very true-yet it is further to be eternal life. And on the other hand true, that the guilt of a broken law is