« السابقةمتابعة »
of those who are now present any feelings excited of the importance of greater attention to the stupendous duties of religion, let me request them to consider that the time has not gone by when that event may be improved by what will require the devotedness of the spirit and the deportment to the living God. I am anxious, supremely anxious, to bring you to the conclusion; and I would to God that I had an acquaintance with the precise circumstances of all the persons who constitute this assembly, that I might refer to every thing in the course of your private experience which might be construed, justly and legitimately, into an argument why you should thus devote yourselves on the altar of service to the glory of your God. But there is One who knows those circumstances, and there is One who knows what his claims are; and there is One who will vindicate the majesty of his claim, either in the redemption or the final punishment of your souls. But, my brethren, we would bring you to that state of mind in which alone you should be summoned to exist. As you have been called to take a retrospect of the mercies and the innumerable kindnesses by which the course of your past lives has been distinguished, so, with one accord, you should rush round the altar, and there give to God your hearts, saying, as did David, "Take the sacrifice, and bind it with cords, even to the altar." See, my brethren, that you endeavour to live in the spirit of those beautiful verses of one of our most eminent Christian poets:
"How happy all thy servants are!
My life, which thou hast made thy care,
"Here in thy courts I leave my vow,
And thy rich grace record:
Witness, ye saints who hear me now,
This, my brethren, is the second deportment, which the action teaches us, of the state of mind of the patriarch, that of dedication. There is yet a third view, to which we must refer. In the action of the patriarch there was ANTICIPATION. The whole of the passage which is before us distinctly announces that, in connexion with the retrospect of the past, there was, in the memorial of the patriarch, the anticipation of the future. Nor can we look upon the monumental pillar which he had erected, without finding that it was not merely a commemoration, but a prophecy; and that from the past he hurried his thoughts onward and still onward into the dark and almost impalpable future, showing him the destinies of his temporal prosperity in distant ages, especially exhibiting to him the day of Him whom Abraham rejoiced to see and was glad; and raising his thoughts above the scenes of this sublunary state to the enjoyment of that better country, that is, a heavenly, into which he knew his spiritual seed would be exalted, through the boundless mercy of God.
And, my brethren, those of us who have performed the act of dedication to our God, and are desirous of preserving the spirit of dedication as long as life shall last, are called on to connect our commemoration and our dedication with a spirit of anticipation, from which we shall find our highest and purest emotions to be derived.
Observe, that our expectation must involve future good in time. Having rendered yourselves to the service of that Jehovah who has conjured us by his past mercies, we have nothing before us, my brethren, in the prospect of the future, but calmness and peace. It is so in providence. Affliction, poverty, bereavement, disease," the rich man's scorn, the proud man's contumely," the worst storms and buffetings of "outrageous fortune"-these, separately or accumulated, form no drawback or hinderance to the enjoyment of the blessings we have announced. No, my brethren, these very things themselves, in consequence of our covenant connexion with our God, are transformed, possess a new aspect; not rising before us like demons and fiends of terror, but like ministering angels, only to wing us nearer and nearer to our God, and to bring us nearer and nearer to his reward. Nor is there one who, in reviewing past mercies, which his God has rendered him, and who has been able to dedicate himself to the service of that God in return, who cannot rest in the prospect of the future, on that one stupendous, glorious announcement of the apostle, "All things shall work together for good to them that love God."
And then, in the sphere of grace, what can we anticipate with regard to the future in the present life, but those enjoyments which "make rich," and can "add no sorrow!" We anticipate that we shall be kept; that we shall receive larger communications of knowledge, of holiness, of love, and of zeal; that we shall receive additional and nearer visions of Jehovah in spiritual intercourse and fellowship with him; and that we shall be made more and more like unto Him who was given " that he might be the first-born among many brethren;" becoming etherealized in our own nature, and made thus to partake of the beginning of heaven below.
Nor can we anticipate but that when the end of our pilgrimage is come, we shall go and stand by the side of the rolling stream of Jordan; not terrified nor shrinking back, as we behold it bear upon its flood the wrecks of departed beauty and departed power; for we shall find the ark of the covenant there, and the glory of the Shekinah there; and no sooner shall the foot touch the stream than the waters, as by magic power, shall cleave asunder, and will permit us to pass dry-shod through the deep, exclaiming, in triumphant language, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." And so, to use the language of Bunyan, we may anticipate that "all the trumpets shall sound for us from the other side."
And, my brethren, the future good which we may anticipate in time, must be also connected with the fact, that we must anticipate future good throughout immortality. My brethren, there is not a blessing in providence or in grace received by one who, as the result of an enlightened retrospect, has dedicated himself to the service of God, but what must be considered as a pledge and foretaste, a decisive promise of higher and more holy and extatic blessings which are reserved beyond the grave. My Christian brethren, here arises the choicest nobility of the state in which we exist. There is nothing. absolutely nothing, which we can anticipate on this side the grave, but what we must also anticipate and receive as a token of what is to follow when time to us shall be no more: just as the bud is the promise of the flower, as the
first-fruit is the promise of the harvest, and as the first tender streaks of the dawn are the promise of the burning splendours of the perfect and the meridian day, We have no dim outline and sketch of the scenes which are to be displayed in the palpable glories of their reality, when mortality shall be swallowed up of life. We look, my brethren, from the type to the antetype; from the Canaan which is earthly to the Canaan which is heavenly: and soon, when we have suffered the allotments of our mortality, shall we possess a peace and plenitude of anticipation, in the fruition of the beatific vision. Thus shall we stand justified in the presence of assembled worlds, crowned with imperishable laurels by Him who has gathered them from the unfading bowers of Paradise itself, ushered to the high companionship of an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, brought near the vision of that glory before which seraphs have veiled their wings; having in our hearts the fulness of joy, and around us the pleasures which are for ever: and so shall we be for ever with the Lord! This is the end of our anticipations" the glory which shall be revealed"" the building of God;" "the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens;" "the new Jerusalem;" when God shall pitch his tabernacle with men; when there shall be no sorrow, nor pain, nor death; when the former things shall be passed away; and when all things shall become new.
Thus we have endeavoured to present to you the principles of illustration rightly arising from this beautiful narrative regarding the symbolic action of one of the primeval fathers of the Church. His state of mind in erecting a monumental pillar exhibits commemoration—the commemoration of providentia favours and of spiritual blessings. It exhibits dedication-the dedication of himself solemnly by a vow to the service and the glory of his God And it exhibits anticipation; shewing that those who are inheritors of the spiritual promises like him, are enabled to anticipate in connexion with this dedication, future good in time, and future good in immortality.
And now, my brethren, in closing this address, let me present two calls to those who, perhaps, constitute a large proportion of this assembly. The first call is one to immediate repentance. For how many are now beneath the eye of God, beneath this roof, upon whom that God has showered countless and invaluable mercies; and who never yet have turned the heart with aught of the emotion of sincere thanksgiving to the Giver! I speak to aged persons who are guilty; persons in the dignified maturity of manhood who are guilty; young persons who are guilty: and their consciences tell them now, that if the preacher has been right in defining the nature of dedication to God as being an universal duty, that duty has never been performed, but has been wholly neglected by them. God was with you when you lay little infants in your mothers' arms: he was with you, as from the season of childhood you emerged into the yet more perilous season of youth, and launched amid the temptations and seductions of a world which appeared every where decorated with sincerity and charm. He was with you when you passed from youth to the business and the maturity of manhood, and when you entered amid all the perplexities and cares by which you sought to obtain comfort, and prosperity, and wealth. He was with you when you passed from the scene of manhood down to the period
of age, when the blossoms of the grave began to shew themselves upon your brow, and the grasshopper began to be a burden, and desire to fail, and the tottering frame to give testimony that ere long you should go down to the shadows of death. And yet there has been no return! My dear hearers, in these different classes of life, will you permit me to commend to your attention one inquiry, and to request that that one inquiry may be pondered by you as it stanas in holy writ, when you have gone from this house to-night, which you will find in the second chapter of the epistle to the Romans, the fourth and fifth verses. Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee"-or is intended to lead thee" to repentance? But, after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Will you despise it? Will you treasure up that wrath against the last day? Ah! who can dwell with the devouring fire, or who can dwell with the everlasting burnings? My brethren, it is by the horrors of that everlasting burning, on the one hand, as by the charms of that heaven which by devotion to God you may obtain, on the other hand, if you will, that I do conjure you now to a spirit of repentance. Now let the tear flow; now let the sigh heave; and now let the heart be broken; and now come to God, saying," A broken spirit, and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
In connexion with our call to immediate repentance, we must also present a call to immediate dedication and devotedness to God, by which alone repentance can be testified and can be confirmed. My brethren, the amount of my appeal is this (and I think I have spoken so plainly to-night that the most unlettered may understand)—I say, the amount of my appeal is this, that as responsible and immortal beings, who in every instance have received numberless mercies, of one of the least of which you were utterly unworthy you will not depart from any of the portals by which you may retire from this sanctuary to-night, without having uttered your vow, and given your heart unto God. "May I not delay till to-morrow?" My brethren, the Gospel has no commission for to-morrow: every one of its invitations is for to-day. "To-day if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts." To-day, lest ye should be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” "To-day, lest he should swear in his wrath ye shall not enter into my rest." To-morrow! How many ere to-morrow may be in another world! No, brethren, we stand upon the principles of our religion, and we say, "Now is the accepted time; this is the day of salvation." And there is a voice sounding to-night in tones of soft and celestial attraction, addressing all the hesitating and the undecided, "My son! give me thine heart. My daughter! give me thine heart." Who asks it? God-your Father, your Preserver, your Benefactor, your Judge. "My son, give me thine heart." Who amongst you, my hearers, will venture to refuse? Is there one who will start aside and deny the entreaty of his God? Ponder for a moment, and as you ponder, decide. Shall I pauseand wait?
Erethren, it is a solemn crisis. Pledges are given or are refused; hearts are rer dered-o —or are refused; and now spirits have bowed themselves to the service of God with the prospect of immortality—or spirits have hardened themselves
in yet more adamantine strength that they may be "aestroyed without re medy." How dreadful is this place! It is no ne other than the house of God, it is the gate of heaven.
My brethren, words would but enfeeble the climax whither we have conducted you and now, all must be left between your consciences and your God. One fact, however, is certain-the day shall declare it—and the result of this night's invocation will either be seen and commemorated amid the rapturous hallelujahs of heaven, or they will be seen and commemorated amid the wailings, and the groanings, and the agonies of hell.-And where-where-where shall be the eternal commemoration from you ? Answer the inquiry in your closets, and before God.