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now perishing for lack of knowledge. And we must consider ourselves especially here the instruments of the most high God, of moving the sensibilities of our fellow men, who are now existing in a state of rebellion and ignorance. to reclaim them again to their forgotten allegiance to their God, to circulate and extend the principles of spiritual truth far and wide, and to restore the violated honour of Jehovah in every nation that dwells upon the circuit of the globe. Brethren, we ought to regard ourselves as set apart in the providence of God to take the lead among the nations of the earth, in attempting to conduct to these bright and glorious results; and if we do not for this object employ our wealth, our talents, our opportunities, and our prayers, we are verily guilty of the sin in question, one for which it well deserves that the high distinctions which have crowned our land should be overshadowed and obliterated, that the candlestick should be darkened and removed out of its place, and that we should sink down to the most vulgar prostration of the most savage insignificance which we despise. There is a voice which sounds to me-I hear it; there is a voice which sounds to me-you hear it; and to every man, and to every woman, now in the presence of God that voice must thrill with mighty and resistless power, "Occupy-occupy-occupy, until I come." God grant, my brethren, to you and to me, that the principle may never be forgotten, that "to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
We have now reminded you of the second proposition arising from the text, that the responsibility of man connected with this state of obligation, vary in proportion to the opportunities of knowledge and of improvement.
We proceed now to the third department, which is, THAT THE PUNISH
MENT OF MEN FOR THE VIOLATION OF THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES, IS REGULATED ACCORDING TO THE VALUE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES WHICH THEY HAVE
POSSESSED, AND HAVE ABUSED: "And that servant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." There are two remarks under this part of the subject to which your attention will be called.
You will observe, first, that punishment is to be inflicted upon all by whom their original obligations have been forgotten and violated. The desert of punishment is presented under the phrase of "committing things worthy of stripes." A certain period is stated to be appointed by the master, or lord of the household, for the purpose of returning, in order to inflict punishment, or grant rewards, according to the characters of those by whom he has been professedly served. "If the servant say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the men-servants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers." The stripes are the punishment which the master in equity inflicts. It is a solemn fact, that there is not one amongst the children of men, living and dying in a state of primeval depravity and practical departure from God, who shall not saffer the final punishment which God, in righteous judgment, has ordained as the
consequence of guilt. It must be recollected what was the principle of the Mosaic law, to which probably the phrase might have some reference here. "If a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity." The Saviour, for the purpose of shewing that none among the ungodly children of men shall be exempt from the consequences of rebellion, in the parable of the Talents, to which I have already referred, does not take as the example of the punishment, the person to whom the five talents have been committed, nor the person to whom the two had been committed: but the person who had received only one. The nature and the reason of the argument every one must at once perceive. Hear the statement which is made with regard to him: "Then he which had received the one talent came, and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed :" asserting his own imperfect and improper views of the character of his master: " And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth; lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him" (taking him precisely on his own ground), “Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed; thou oughtest, therefore, to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take, therefore, the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents: for unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." The Apostle of the Gentiles also follows the example of his Master, in announcing the liability to punishment of those who constitute the lowest class in the degrees of religious privilege-I mean the heathen; he says, "God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile: but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good: to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law; (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing, or else excusing, one another, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel."
My brethren, hear, then, the statements distinctly and solemnly given. Every man, however scanty, in comparison with others, may have been the amount of his opportunities for knowledge and improvement, nevertheless, justly, deserves final punishment. Hear Him who has said, he will by no means clear the guilty. Say not that ignorance is misfortune, it is guilt: and at will be found in the final award of retribution, on those to whom we have now reterred that God is not to be subjected to any of the implications, and the
rebellious conclusions of mankind; but that still justice and judgment will be found the habitation of his throne.
But, what we principally intend to insist on, on this part of the subject, is, that the punishment to be inflicted on those whose opportunities have been many, will be far more grievous than the punishment to be inflicted on those whose opportunities have been few. "Many stripes," or larger and heavier inflictions, are to be the portion of him who knew his lord's will and did it not; but "few stripes," or minor inflictions, are to be the portion of him who knew not his lord's will, and did it not. In this infliction of stripes there seems an allusion to the law, which you observe to be contained in Deuteronomy, xxv. 1—3: "If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee." The deduction of the Saviour, in connexion with this law, appears to be this: that those whose opportunities have been few shall receive a certain amount of punishment, limited in some mode analogous to that which is contained in the announcement of the law; but that those whose opportunities have been many, and who yet have abused and slighted them, are to be subjected to a punishment to which no limit and no measure are to be assigned: they are to endure the keenest inflictions which the wrath of an Almighty and Infinite Being can pour upon them.
It will be observed that this doctrine of proportioning punishment is stated by the Saviour upon another occasion, in connexion with the habits of the Jews, in order to arouse them from that state of impenitence to which they were rapidly and awfully falling. Look at Matthew, xi. 21-24, and listen to the statement. He began to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." Now, my brethren, there is further an application of the same doctrine to those who have lived under the Gospel, as compared with those who have lived and who have perished under the law and as my desire is to close you in by an authority, against which it is impiety for you to rebel, let me shew the argument from the less to the greater, as specifically presented by the Apostle to the Gentiles in the epistle to the Hebrews. Now mark these three passages; and, my brethren, if I preached no other words than those which are now about to be uttered, I should have preached a discourse which of itself would have a right and a paramount claim to all the attention and trembling homage of your spirits. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recom
pense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" Take again the passage which occurs in chapter x. 26-31: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much more sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he" (the Son of God)" was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The last passage is the one which occurs in chapter xii. 25, 26: "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven."
Now, my brethren, I challenge you, admitting that this book is true, whether the doctrine of the proportion of punishment according to the value of the opportunities possessed and abused, is not distinctly and most triumphantly proved? I beg, earnestly and solemnly beg, that those whose consciences among you are stirred within you to-night, as testifying that you have not been led to improve the opportunities, for the welfare of your own spirits, and the glory of God-I say I do beg, earnestly, solemnly, and affectionately beg, that you will take to your own bosoms the judgment of the apostolic words. Brethren, you congratulate yourselves that your lot is cast in a Christian land: you congratulate yourselves that your Bibles are circulated without restriction from North to South, and from East to West: you are congratulating yourselves that you sit beneath your own vine and fig-tree, and that no one dareth to make you afraid you congratulate yourselves that you are far distant removed from every nation and clime of the earth, in the amount and value of the privileges with which you have been invested. It is granted, we have been attempting to prove it; and now what is the result? Why, that if you depart into a state of future retribution, and meet your coming Lord without the dedication, adequately and rightly, of all that you have and have been to his praise and glory, your's will be the "sorer punishment," which is to overtake the impenitent. It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for you. It will be more tolerable for the combined and multiplied crimes that have degraded and polluted the abandoned regions of heathenism than for you. For you the judgment throne will be invested with a more portentous gloom for you the thunder will reverberate in a mightier peal; for you the sentence will be pronounced in a harsher and a more awful tone : for you the worm that dieth not will infix a keener pang: for you the fire that never can be quenched will scorch with a hotter flame. Down, down to the iowest abyss in the pit of eternal perdition, will that man be hurled who has heard, and heard often, of salvation, but rejected it and scorned it. My fellowsinners, should it be your lot to go down there, amid those who welter in the lake of torment that burneth for ever and for ever, as you pass, your own voice wili utter a deep and muffled tone, acknowledging the justice of the God who
has condemned you, and exclaiming with the angel of the waters, "Thou art righteous, O Almighty, because thou hast judged thus:" "The servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
My brethren, it is with great anxiety of mind that I present this subject before you to-night: but addressing a vast, and doubtless promiscuous congregation, it appeared to me of immense importance that a simple and continuous statement of the great doctrines connected with our original obligations and responsibilities, would be a matter of no common moment in the discharge of duty and to the interests of souls. You have been reminded that all men are in a state of obligation to God; indebted to him for their being and its preservation, and placed by him purposely under a grand system of moral government, of which he is the head. And the general nature of the obligation which this relationship imposes, is the entire devotedness of heart, intellect, and life to his praise and glory. You have been reminded, that the responsibilities of men, connected with their state of obligation, vary in proportion to the opportunities they have possessed for knowledge and improvement. There do exist different opportunities for knowledge and improvement: we are placed in circumstances which have conferred on us in the highest degree, opportunities for knowledge and improvement; and we are therefore placed in special obligation to devote ourselves to God who gave them. The punishment of men for the violation of their responsibilities is to be regulated by the value of the opportunities which they have possessed and have abused: all men who violate their original obligations shall be punished; but the punishment to be inflicted on those whose opportunities have been many will be much more grievous and severe than the punishment to be inflicted on those whose opportunities have been few.
My Christian brethren, there is a powerful application which this subject must make to us. If I might be allowed for one moment to refer to individual circumstances, as giving me more than common, perhaps, too much earnestness, on the present occasion; I would simply state the coincidence, that this is a day of the month which I have usually set apart, or endeavoured to do so, for many years, in some measure for commemorating the event of a mother's death. In pondering, my brethren, upon the high and awful matters which the recollection of that event calls up into my spirit, I cannot of course but recollect the amount of my own personal responsibility, as having been placed. through the instrumentality of that mother's death, in the ministry of the Gospel, and having received the charge of that Gospel in declaration to human souls. My brethren, it is with emotions that you can never enter into, that I have come up hither to-night, anxious to discharge a present responsibility, and to feel in my own intellect and heart more of the might of the obligation under which I am called to faithfulness, to holiness, and to active devotedness of life. My first concern, in attempting to impress these feelings upon others, must be those who are fellow-heirs and partakers of the grace of life. I do charge you, my Christian brethren and sisters, that you will endeavour to address yourselves to those various means by which your own spirits may be roused and your own obligations may be performed. Especially I call upon the young