« السابقةمتابعة »
whom the cause of Christ must shortly be committed, when the heads of others are laid low in the dust of death. My young friends, resolve that you will not be merely Christians, like your fathers, but far more devout, zealous, and earnest than they: and as you have had placed before you the amount of your duty to Him who hath done such things for you, let it be made a time of repeated and reiterated vows, when you will address yourselves to your God, and say, "Here Lord I give myself away, 'tis all that I can do." And God grant to you, you who have professed the Gospel, whether aged or young, that you may lie down at last in peace as good and faithful servants, and be known in other worlds as having been wise, and therefore shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as having turned many to righteousness, and therefore shine as the stars for ever and for ever.
But you, my hearers, whose minds have been far from God, and who have thought nothing of fulfilling your obligations to him, and of meeting your responsibilities to him, can you bear the thought of dying with all your privileges unimproved and abused? Can you bear the thought of entering the portals of eternity by the gate of the guilty and the condemned? Can you bear the thought of standing before the judgment-seat, and be by an invisible power, forced away to the left hand of Him who sits there. having to glare upon you the eye of just and avenging Omniscience, and having to peal upon your spirit, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Can you bear it? Who can dwell with the devouring fire? Who can dwell with the everlasting burnings? Can you bear it?
My brethren, it is impossible for the preacher beyond that question to invent another appeal. I can only conjure you, in the name of the Master who is shortly coming, and who will judge you and me, that, while you shudder at the thought of being banished with everlasting destruction from his presence, and the glory of his power, you will even now resolve and return-seek for the influence of grace, and seek to be brought in the path-way that leads to glory. Say not that you will do it to-morrow. Tell me not, like Felix, "Go thy way for this time, and at a more convenient season I will send for thee." No, my brethren, I was going to say, I will not go; I will stand and speak, and conjure, and entreat, and warn, until every spirit in this assembly shall be given to its God. But alas! it cannot be. Yet remember, as you retire, and let the voice that speaks to you, yet speak in the echo, that now is the accepted time, and that this is the day of salvation. "Serious things to-morrow." So said the ancient captain in his beleaguered city: and when the morrow came, he was defeated-he was a captive, and a corpse. "Serious things to-morrow." So said many a spirit, whom the morrow's sun saw in the world of retribution. "Serious things to-morrow?" My brethren, serious things now; serious things now: and now, by all that is glorious in heaven-by all that is dreadful in hell -by all that is tender in the Redeemer's blood, and all that is precious in the well-being of the immortal spirit-now turn, repent, believe, be justified, and be saved. Then, my brethren, when the trump of the archangel shall sound, and when the dead shall be raised to stand before God, a hand will issue from the clouds that environ the judgment-seat, beckoning you onward and upward; and a voice, in tones of melody never yet heard by mortal man, shall echo the tidings of your acceptance, "Well done! well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!" Amen.
PRESENT IGNORANCE AND FUTURE ILLUMINATION.
REV. J. PARSONS,
SURREY CHAPEL, JANUARY 31, 1836.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." JOHN, xiii. 7.
THE immediate occasion, my brethren, on which the Lord Jesus thus addressed one of his chosen servants, was amongst the most interesting which transpired through the whole of his eventful life. The appointed period was now at hand for his endurance of betrayal and death; and he had gathered his apostles together that they might celebrate the feast which was intended to remain as a permanent memorial of his sufferings, and that they might listen to the last address of advice and consolation which he had to deliver before the mystery of his incarnation was accomplished. After they had partaken of their repast, the Saviour prefaced his intended disclosures by the performance of a remarkable symbolical action: "Supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments, and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter and Peter said unto him, Lord, dost Thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." It may appear to be the immediate purport and signification of the reply to the inquiry of the apostle, that that apostle, at a future period of his earthly life, should be able fully to understand the nature, and feel the momentousness of the action performed by his Lord. Coming influences and coming events would explain what now appeared mysterious and entirely inappropriate. Yet, my brethren, it is to be believed, that the Lord Jesus was not adverting to the action in which he was then specially engaged, but to many things forthcoming in the process of his administration and his government: and it is to be believed also that he was not merely promising accessions of knowledge in this earthly state, but that he was promising those larger and more splendid accessions of knowledge which are reserved in the world that lies beyond the grave.
In founding upon the words of the Saviour an address to Christians of our own age and our own circumstances, it cannot be esteemed improper altogether to omit the temporal part of the promise as appertaining to the individual case of the apostle, and concentrate your attention entirely upon its association with a
future and eternal state. In this manner you observe, my hearers, the text will present us with two grand and distinguishing characteristics of the present and of the future world, as applying to all the disciples of Christ; and all must feel delighted with the announcement now presented to them, that what they know not now, they shall know hereafter. At once, with the view to which we have adverted, we shall direct your patient and devout attention, while we notice the text as containing, first, a statement of present ignorance; and secondly, as containing a promise of future illumination. "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter."
First, we view the text as containing A STATEMENT OF PRESENT IGNORANCE. "What I do, thou knowest not now." In the personal history, and in the personal administration of the Lord Jesus, there were, as we have stated, many mysteries. The same truth is also to be regarded, and certainly in a far more extended range, in every department of spiritual being: there is much with regard to which it becomes the Christian to say that he knows not now. Let us illustrate the fact of his ignorance; and then let us assign its reasons.
First, we propose to illustrate the fact of his present ignorance. We are of course aware, and on a subject such as the present, it becomes us to acknowledge and to state, that God has been pleased to assist those faculties of the human mind which are adapted for, and which urge to the acquisition and the cultivation of knowledge, by the gift of his own inspired word; in which he has guarded against many momentous errors, and in which he has announced many most important truths, which it would have been impossible for mere reason itself distinctly to discover. Moreover, to those who are converted and redeemed, he has imparted and secured the influences of the Holy Spirit, by whose agency the meaning of the inspired word, which to the carnal mind is frequently obscure and impalpable, is more fully and clearly unfolded. Hence we are told that the Spirit of truth is given to "lead into all truth." We are told that "the things which God has prepared for them that love him" he hath "revealed to us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." We are told that "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." And we are told that he has given "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation" in the knowledge of himself and of his Son. All these arrangements for the illumination of the human mind require our careful and our ample acknowledgment, and for them our ardent and our lasting gratitude is due.
But allowing for the various gifts and classifications which are thus imparted, and the agencies which operate around us and in us, it must at the same time be perceived that there is a vast sphere over which as yet, ignorance casts her shade. In the very highest style and state of being we know but "in part," and we see "through a glass darkly." It may be easy, my friends, to refer at once to topics which will amply justify the use of the language employed. For example: we may remind you of your own existence, the construction of your corporeal frames, the constitution of your minds, the laws by which the functions of each are performed, the mode of their primeval union, of their present co-operation, and of their final separation: how much of mystery is here! We may remind you of those other finite beings-whose existence is
undiscoverable to sense, and of whom you know only from the words of revelation-denominated angels; their residence, their occupations, their enjoyments, their mode of exerting agencies within your own sphere, and upon your own souls: how much of mystery is here! We might remind you of God, a Trinity of persons in unity of essence; the high attributes which constitute his natural and moral character; and the processes by which he operates in the creation, and in the continued sustenance of the universe: how much of mystery is here! We might remind you of the mighty career of providential dispensations, either as applying to the regular course of individual life, or, in a yet larger and grander sphere, managing and controlling the mighty destinies of states and empires: how much of mystery is here! We might remind you of the scheme of redemption, involving in it the deathless interests of eternitythe preliminary government of no less than four thousand years-the incarnation, sufferings, death, and mediatorial glory of the Lord Jesus-and the work of the Holy Spirit on the soul, controlling, teaching, purifying, and preparing for eternity: how much of mystery is here! We might remind you of those scenes in which man is to mingle after the event of his final dissolution, the separate state of his spirit, the resurrection of his body, and those regions of eternal retribution where he is to reside among the immortal enjoyments of heaven, or the immortal miseries of hell: how much of mystery is here! Let your contemplation, my brethren, commune with the mighty topics which have thus passed before you in review, and doubtless you will be baffled and confounded the noblest of your race must feel that industry, and learning, and intellect, and genius, are but as nothing. We stand at the base of a mountain, around whose side and at whose summit there gather thick clouds and darkness, through whose shadow no human eye can pierce. We stand on the verge of a vast ocean, across the mighty expanse of whose billows no bark can steer, and whose inscrutable abysses no line can fathom. Let the vanity of science be made to pass away for ever: let the children of the clay own their insignificance, and be humbled and prostrate in the dust.
Having, my brethren, thus illustrated the fact of ignorance, which probably few will be inclined to dispute, we must proceed briefly to assign its reasons. For it cannot be unimportant-circumstanced as man is, and possessing those tendencies by which he is in ordinary cases distinguished-that we should notice briefly, though clearly, why it is that such an allotment as this does pertain to man, and why there are such multitudes of topics, and such extensive arrangements, with regard to which he "knows not now." We merely state the three following reasons:
The first reason is, the limitation of our intellectual faculties, arising partly from our inherent physical constitution, and partly from their being now identified with material and fleshly bodies.
The second is, the pollution of our moral nature. For we are sinners; we have corrupted our way upon the earth; we are hostile to God, and to the holiness and the purity of his nature; and we are prone to the habitual indulgence of those attributes which are prompted by, and which always terminate in, sense. And our sinfulness, my brethren, unquestionably debases our mental vision, enfeebles our mental energy, and clogs our mental operations; unfitting us for rapid and for enlarged acquirements; depluming the pinions on which alone the soul can soar, and well nigh chaining it to the earth.
The third is, the positive design of God with regard to our present condition. If there were no obstacles to the acquirements of knowledge of the nature to which we have adverted, yet it is his will that much shall be left impalpable to his people within the limits of our present state; and this in order to continue their fitness for the duties of life; in order to mature and perfect the graces which constitute their Christian character; in order especially to create and continue in them a vivid and burning anticipation of the final possession of another and a better world.
I do not, my brethren, attempt to amplify upon these various reasons, partly from want of time, and partly as the amplification would be remote from the purposes of general impression. But I would now impress on your minds individually the truths as they are now presented in their connexion; and then you will not think it strange, that a condition of imperfect and scanty knowledge continues as the present allotment of man; you will not think it strange that higher gifts wait not at his bidding, and that a stronger light beams not on his path; the spirit of sceptical repining against God, possessing a hold in so many bosoms, from yours will be banished and exorcised. You will be placed in that position, and be governed by those principles, which shall secure the reward of the mighty exaltation, when you shall be placed for ever amid the golden, the glowing, and the glorious visions of immortality.
We have thus, my brethren, presented to you, the first statement of the text, a statement of present ignorance. We must direct your attention more at large to the second department which it presents, namely, A PROMISE OF FUTURE
We have already stated that we deem ourselves perfectly justifiable in applying the present promise to the world which is prepared for the people of Christ beyond the grave; that world which is the great and ultimate object of all our anticipations; that world which is emphatically known as "the recompense of the reward." Under this part of our subject we design to remind you that the future state is one of vast and expanded knowledge, and that the vast and expanded knowledge of the future state is identified with the highest interests of our being.
Observe that the future state is one of vast and expanded knowledge. It is clear, my brethren, from insurmountable testimony, that such is one of the main characteristics by which it is distinguished. It is to be remembered, from what we have generally been informed as to the nature of the celestial state, that the entrance into it, or the obstructions to the attainment of knowledge, so far as can be admitted to finite beings, will be removed and chased away; both that obstruction arising from the pollution of our moral natures, and that obstruction arising from the positive will and intention of God. It is to be remembered further, that men are there to be brought into immediate contact and communication with objects, the very existence of which they know now only from testimony and by faith. That sight imparts far higher opportunities for knowledge than faith is evident; and at the same time there are doubtless imparted certain direct and mental influences by which those objects are fully understood. There are also distinct statements of Scripture on the subject, the import of which is most delightfully distinct and clear. Take the language of the apostle Paul in reference to the future state, as contained in the