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service of religion which is the forced and unnatural effort. Like the raising of water by mechanical pressure above its level, will not the current of the affections, when left to themselves, flow down again?
Do I say this is the case merely with nominal Christians Alas, brethren, the best and holiest among us will have to complain with the Psalmist, “My soul cleaveth unto the dust." How readily are our thoughts diverted by these earthly trifles; how easily are they drawn off from spiritual things; how soon do we forget that we are strangers and pilgrims here, that our treasure and our home are above. Hence the importance of the Apostle's exhortation. Hence the importance of employing the celebration of our Saviour's resurrection as an incentive to watchfulness and renewed diligence. You profess to rejoice at the event; you profess to have risen with Christ; you call yourselves his members; you have professed to have forsaken your former dead and lifeless state. Live then for God; seek after holy things; let them be the objects of pursuit and affection. Forget what is behind; reach forth to what is before; rise from the bed of carnal sloth and negligence; rise with your risen and ascended Saviour to newness of life. What is there here to engross the affections and win the heart of a risen and undying soul. All is worthless, all is transitory, all is defiled with sin, all has a tendency to engross and entrap the affections and weaken your hold on Christ. What is a Christian here? A stranger and a pilgrim, passing through the lower scene to another and an eternal world. It becomes him not to make it his rest. Objects of far higher and more transcendent value are presented to his view-a crown of glory, an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled; a treasure in the heavens which doth not wear, nor thief approach, neither moth corrupt.
But, in the third and last place, WHAT IS THE MOTIVE BY WHICH THE APOSTLE ENFORCES THE DUTY BEFORE US? It is one derived from the present glorified and exalted state of our risen and ascended Saviour. He points the Christian to his once degraded but now triumphant Lord. He reminds him of his present acknowledged union with him and his dependence upon him. He bids him remember, that Christ is no longer to be found amid earthly trifles and the vanities of this lower scene; that he has left the world; that he has risen and ascended above; and that he shall soon behold him encircled with the glorious realities of eternity. Then he urges upon him to seek after those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.
The Apostle, you observe, takes it for granted that Christ is the supreme object of the Christian's hope, and desires that he may be filled with gracious anticipations of him, whom not having seen, he has yet learnt to love. And thus he takes occasion to urge the importance of setting the heart and affections on spiritual things. How powerful, my beloved brethren, how constraiuing is the motive which the Apostle here employs. How necessary to the visible church of Christ that such a remonstrance should be regarded. Man knows how to value and preserve earthly friends and benefactors; time and distance cannot banish them from his remembrance, or sever that bond which unites brother to brother, and friend to friend. Distance will only tend to increase the ardour of our affections, and add fuel to the flame. The mind loves to transplant itself in imagination to the distant abodes of the objects of our fond affections, and to realize in imagination what we cannot actually behold.
Alas, how different are our affections in matters of religion! As Christians we belong to Christ; we are united to him in the tenderest of bonds; we are united to him in the bond of gratitude and affection. He loved us ere we loved him; he presented his life a voluntary sacrifice for sin; he suffered, and bled, and agonized on our account; he has risen triumphant from the tomb as our victorious head, and now he is removed from our sight. Yet a little while and we see him; the heavens have received him; he sits triumphant at the right hand of God, and even there he is not uninterested in his people, for even there he pleads on their behalf. He pleads for them; he intercedes for them; he presents their supplications at the throne of grace; he prepares mansions for his people; he completes his conquest over their enemies and his enemies; and he will return again to receive them unto himself. And yet he is forgotten, he engages not our thoughts and our affections. Instead of seeking after those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, we are engrossed, and occupied, and filled with creature objects. We give our main attention to the world, to a world at enmity with our Master, to a world which has cast off allegiance to him, to a world which slights him and dishonours him, which cries, "We will not have this man to reign over us." How vivid is the Apostle's appeal. Have we then forgotten our hopes, our privileges, our duties? Whose are we? To whom do we belong? Whose property do we form? Whose name do we bear? Where is that Redeemer to be found, whose cause we profess to espouse? Shall we find him amidst the haunts of pleasure and dissipation? Shall we meet with him in the busy scenes of life? No, brethren; silence, retirement, meditation, prayer, these are the means for holy intercourse with the ascended Saviour. The heavenly-minded Christian, and he alone, understands what it is to commune with Christ : he shuts his door about him and opens his heart to the instruction of his love; or he meditates on his sacred name, a name which is as honey to his taste; or he comes up to this house of prayer; and his heart burns within him as Christ opens to him the word of divine truth. Faith brings him into contact with his risen and ascended Saviour; faith enables him to see him who is invisible: he has fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
And now, in drawing this subject to a close, permit me to employ it in a twofold manner; first, as furnishing solemn matter for enquiry; secondly, as supplying a topic for consolation.
And first, how deeply solemn a subject for close inquiry have we here? We all by name and profession belong to Christ: many among us, I trust, have risen with him from a state of moral death to one of spiritual life. I say, then, Does the character and the spirit of our actions accord with our profession? What means this sluggishness, this torpor, this deadness, this unconcern? What means this restlessness, this over carefulness about the things of time and sense; this carelessness and indifference to eternal subjects? Some are actually sleeping at their posts, totally without concern upon this momentous subject; others are declining, going back; they did run well for a time but now they are stopped in their course; while others again are endeavouring to serve God and Mammon. My beloved brethren, permit me to say, your situation is most critical and most alarming. Where is your first love? Where is your professed subjection to the Gospel of Christ? Have you thus "risen with
Christ?" Have you "put off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light?" Where then are the proofs and evidences of this newness of life?" O, awake thou that sleepest! Let the Saviour's resurrection summon you now to renewed diligence Seek those things which are above. You have a race to run; you have a prize to win; you have eternal things to seek for; see that you fall not short by unbelief. Let it be seen by your spirit, your actions, your conversation, whose you are, and whom you serve. Come out from the world and be separate. There must be a difference, there must be a wide and marked difference, between the children of God and the servants of Satan, let that difference be seen; let that difference be readily marked; shine as lights in the midst of a dark and benighted world.
But, secondly, our subject furnishes us with a topic for encouragement. It is calculated to cheer and encourage the afflicted believer, who has little here to console him, and who is pursuing his weary course downwards amid tears and disappointments and alarm. My Christian brethren, ever remember, that your hopes and your affections must centre above. Your Saviour is not here. he is risen, your comforts and your joys spring not from this untimely soil, they are natives of another soil; they flourish in the Paradise of God. Your partners in religion, in the heavenly race, are for the most part above; they have been withdrawn from this lower world; they have joined the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven: let your encouragement then be, that your rest, your repose, your refreshment is to come, and that these very trials and difficulties are sent in love; in order to wean you from the creature, in order to draw you off from earthly things and lead you to "set your affections on things above."
May the celebration of the Saviour's passion at his table to-day, be the means of drawing off our hearts from this lower scene and raising our dead and lifeless souls towards heaven and eternal things. Live, my beloved brethren, live more and more as strangers and pilgrims here. Sit loosely to this lower world; let your conversation be in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
POPULAR NOTION OF HEAVEN.
"We all know what is meant by a Mahomedan Paradise-we all know, that when the Arabian impostor, the shooting star of the Revelations, promulgated his system of blasphemous deceit, he painted heaven under the aspect most calculated to allure the natives of an eastern climate, and all that can fascinate the voluptuous, and all that can charm the sensual, thronged the eternity which he promised to his followers. It was no marvel that the Saracens flocked gladly round a prophet, who taught them, that by the bold enterprizes of war in his cause, they should insure to themselves admission into the perpetual enjoyment of all in which the most carnal imagination can delight to revel; and certainly it were but a mockery of your understandings if I should stay to prove to you, that a Mahomedan's notion of heaven strikingly evinces that he can see nothing of the kingdom of God.'
"But while the men of Christendom are not in danger of being deceived with the expectation of a sensual Paradise, we meet constantly with ideas of what may be termed an intellectual Paradise. I think that very commonly literary men, if they be also in any sense religious men, associate heaven with larger developments of science and general knowledge-they look to enjoy in futurity the society of beings of an illustrious genius, they dwell with complacency on the wide and burning fields of intelligence which may then be thrown open to the expatiations of their spirits, on the vivid light which will then be cast over the most mysterious and perplexing phenomena, and thus they hang with much of rapture on the thought, that the future shall unravel all intricacies of the present-that secrets, on the exploring of which the labour and the talent of successive generations have been verily squandered, shall be laid open to their gaze; and that permitted, it may be, to range from one bright station in the universe to another, they shall gather continually an exuberant harvest of wondrous discoveries, and be admitted by the Creator into all the arcana of his most splendid operations.
"Brethren, I do believe that we shall move hereafter in so noble and enlarged a sphere of being, that the knowledge which the acutest among us can now attain of the works of Omnipotence, will appear nothing better than the veriest ignorance, when compared with that which shail then be imparted. But although there may be nothing unlawful in allowing the thought of this extension of knowledge to enter into our musings on heaven, yet it is decidedly carnal to allow such a thought a strong and prominent place; and I look upon it as one of the delusions of Satan, to lead men to fall in love with a paradise of their own creating, and then to fancy it the paradise of their Maker's creating. It is just the cheat and jugglery of the evil one to make that heaven whose prime rapture results from a knowledge of God in Christ, seem identical with an ideal heaven glowing with a knowledge of God in nature, and thus to persuade an unregenerate man that he is anticipating with delight the portion of the regenerate man, whereas the unscriptural imagery on which he is gazing proclaims with a voice like a chariot's blast, that 'Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'
"There is another point on which I would touch briefly and gently-gently, because it is bound up with the kindliest sensibilities of our nature, and it is not requisite to a minister's faithfulness that he should ever utter words which are tinctured with harshness. I turn to all that the Bible delineates of the joys and the occupations of heaven, and I find nothing but one uniform repre
sentation of rapture derived from communion with the Lord, and extacy experienced in beholding and celebrating the majesties of the Lamb. I find nothing but incidental yet brilliant notices, which exhibit to me the gladness of immortality as resulting from contemplations of the Redeemer as he is, and from the privilege of mingling with a countless assembly chaunting to the harpings of golden harps their lofty praises of salvation. There is much of simile drawn indeed from material scenery; but nothing can be more palpable than that such simile is adapted in condescension to the weakness of our capacities, and that its simple scope is to portray the spiritual enjoyment of presence with Christ, and of the immediate manifestations of his glory and his love. And whilst I thus find that God in Christ is a believer's heaven, what shall be said of that religious romance which would identify heaven with the memory of dear and buried kindred-pointing to the shore of the celestial Canaan, not as the scene in which Christ shall be met, but as the spot where we shall rush again to the warm embrace of some being, over whose ashes we have wept the bitter tears of weary months.
"O, it may be a lovely thought, and when chastened and moderated by Gospel prescriptions, I suppose it to be a lawful thought, that in yon fair world which woos us persuasively to its peaceful coast, the bands of friendship, which death hath burst rudely asunder, shall be again united, and that they who have walked in holy communion as fellow-heirs of the same promises, shall there be linked in a still holier amity as partakers of the same possessions. But what better is it than turning heaven into earth, if we transfer to it all the array of creature affections, if we look upon it as increasingly desirable, just in proportion as it is peopled out of our own circle of Christian intimates? and must not that be a degraded conception of eternity which dwells on the fact-there shall be no parting, to the comparative forgetfulness of another fact, there shall be no sinning, and so wraps itself in the hope of meeting a child, or a wife, or a parent, that it seems ready to dispense with all conjunction with the Husband of the Church, and the friend who is described as sticking closer than a brother? I would say nothing that might be deemed stoical, but I must enter a Christian's protest against this dishonouring of Christ, and this absurd division of the celestial family into separate groups, each moving in that petty circle of relative charities which had been chalked out amid the selfishness of this degenerate world. And whilst I own it would be but a churlish speech to affirm that these views of heaven as a meeting-place for parted friends, prove that he who entertains them has never yet been born again, yet assuredly, they are the views of the old man and not of the new, and are generated by that which remains of carnal, and not by that which has been inserted of spiritual nature. And if it be thus undeniable that the carnal nature, so far as it is thus unsubdued, introduces into our conceptions of heaven thoughts which detract from the simple and scriptural characteristics of heaven, then it must be allowed that this carnal nature is of itself unable to discern or appreciate the happiness of heaven; if the remnants of this nature still struggling in a Christian's breast, produce, as it were, dark specks in his vision of futurity, then it is fair to argue, that the visions of men in whom this nature is wholly unchanged, can be nothing else but one universal blot. The clearness with which heaven is discerned appears proportioned to the decisiveness with which the old man is resisted, and hence it might be called a logical inference, that Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” ”—Rev. H. MELVILL, A.M.