صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

our known obligations. “ To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” There is nothing which so greatly aggravates the sins of a man as light and knowledge ; and no where are these concentrated as in the

i Gospel. The Gospel of Christ plainly set before the minds of men, plainly sets before them their obligations and duties. All that is solemn and affecting in the relations which subsist between God and his creatures ; all that is binding in the precepts and prohibitions of his law; and all that is odious in transgression, are there set before the mind. No matter what the precept or prohibition which the sinner violates, the Gospel enforces it; and in rejecting this, the sinner transgresses under the highest aggravation. With the Gospel in his hand it is impossible to disregard any of the claims of God and duty, excepting under strong and complicated circumstances of guilt. The heathen have very little knowledge with regard to their obligations and duties, compared with that which is possessed by those in Christian lands; and have therefore comparatively rery little sin.

When the Gospel is rejected, men sin against every divine requisition, and shew that they mean to sin at every possible hazard. The terms on which Jesus Christ in the Gospel freely offers to save them are, that they shall forsake their sins, and submit themselves to his authority and grace. The salvation he offers consists, in no small degree, in deliverance from the reigning power of sin: and when they reject his offer, is it not obvious that they virtually declare that they will not forsake their iniquity? Do they not yindicate and justify all their former sins by the very act of unbelief: nay, do they not glory in them, and, in defiance of all knowledge of their duty, repeat and express them, as it were, afresh, in every act of rejecting the Saviour?

Again, unbelief is a resistance of the loudest calls and strongest motives to holiness. The wickedness of men is always enhanced by the calls and motives which they resist. Where are there so many calls and invitations, so many motives to holiness, as are found in the Gospel? How shall we enumerate them? Think, dear hearers, of the excellence, the unspeakable excellence, of the divine nature, as it is there displayed; of the rectitude of the divine government; of the reasonableness and authority of the divine law; of the beauty of holiness ; of the deformity of sin; of the loveliness of the Saviour; of the all-sufficiency of his atonement; of the offers of his mercy; of the lenity of his mediatorial reign; of the honourable exercise of his power and of his favour, communion, and presence; of sins forgotten ; of the wrathful curse removed ; of adoption into the divine family; of inheritance in the divine kingdom. These are some of the motives by which the Son of God would persuade the sinner to believe. Then think of that rebuke, of those terrors, that bondage of the curse, and those forms of horror, that exclusion from the divine favour, that abhorrence of the holy God in this world, and everlasting damnation in the world to come, which are the inheritance of all who reject the Gospel. These are some of the motives by which he would dissuade the sinner from his unbelief. But all this the unbeliever tramples under his feet; he either hates, or depreciates, or despises it all. Wherever he directs his course, considerations like these, warmly urged, and often repeated, supplicate him to return home. But he is “ stout-hearted and far froin righteousness :" no precept can control, no penalty can restrain him; no promise can allure him-no chains of darkness nor vials of wrath VOL, III,

2 K

1

terrify him into obedience. By all without and all within he is addressed in vain. Nothing moves that reluctant, resisting heart : unbelief has transformed it into a stone: there is an obstinacy which renders him unyielding and impenetrable, and which, if unrepented of, must seal his account in an awful retribution.

Again : unbelief involves the highest contempt of God, whether we consider him as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. When the light of the Gospel shines upon the mind, it brings God directly to view, in all the persons and offices of the Gospel. As the Father, he formed the method of redemption, and sent the Son to be the Saviour of sinners. And no where is he brought into the view of sinners, so directly and distinctly, and no where is he treated with such indignity, as in the rejection of this method of mercy. As the Gospel is the highest expression of his authority, so -unbelief sets at nought all his divine authority. As the Gospel is the highest expression of his love, so the unbeliever sets at nought all the love of God. As the Gospel is the highest ex pression of divine wisdom, so unbelief sets at nought all the unsearchable riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God. As the Gospel is the highest expression of the divine justice, so unbelief sets at nought that amazing exhibition of the justice of God made on the cross. As the Gospel is the highest expression of the entire excellence of the Deity, so there is no expression of the enmity of the human mind against God, to be compared with unbelief: “ If I had not done among them works which none other man did,” says the Saviour, “ they had not had sin : but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." As the Gospel is the highest expression of the divine glory, so whatever there is of determined opposition to the divine honour and glory, is found in unbelief. The rejection of the Gospel is the rejection of that great and glorious method of redemption which comprises all the designs of Deity. All things, we are taught, that are in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, all things in creatiou and providence, are but the retiring features of this marvellous design. No where is there so much of God, and no where is there an exhibition of his nature so overwhelming and so perpetual, as in the development and issues of this wonderful method of mercy. Greater honour will be paid to God, and more exalted ascriptions of praise, for this redemption, than for every thing else he has accomplished. And yet all this is set at nought by the spirit of unbelief. The glory and pride of the divine nature are set at nought, and the great Supreme degraded and dishonoured in the eyes of his creatures, and his holiest and best designs opposed and scandalized by the man who rejects the Gospel.

In the same manner is this vile sin fraught with contempt of the Redeemer and Saviour. This incarnate, once crucified, and now raised Saviour, is the one particularly rejected: he is the stone of stumbling and rock of offence; he is the sign that is spoken against; he is the disowned and despised. The rejection of the Gospel is a deliberate rejection of Christ. We profess to disapprove and condemn the unbelief of the Jews, and especially their violence and malignity; while every act of unbelief is an essential approbation of their conduct, and originates from the same corrupt source. The man who, in these ends of the earth, my hearers, and in these ages of the world, will not believe the Gospel, crucifies the Son of God afresh, and puts him to an open shame.

:

Nay, he does all in his power to annul his mediation, frustrate the designs of his atonement, and rob him of his reward. And then such denial of his love; such indifference to all the tenderness of his compassionate heart : such ingratitude, amazing ingratitude, for his condescension and mercy-what an emphasis does this give to the crime of rejecting him! There is nothing against which men array all the indignity of their unbelief so much, as against the infinite love and grace of Jesus Christ. Who could have believed there was such wickedness in the human heart? When you see the adorable Son of God passing by angels, and stooping to the seed of Abraham ; when you behold Him who thought it no robbery to be equal with God, agonizing in the garden and expiring on the cross, and all this for his enemies ; did it never occur to you that there is something unspeakably vile in refusing bim your confidence? This gracious Saviour has no such complaint against men, as that, after all he has done and suffered for them, they should think him unworthy to be intrusted with their salvation.

Equally true is it, that this sin is the highest contempt for the Holy Spirit. The particular office of the Holy Spirit is to bear testimony to the truths and obligations of the Gospel : to take of these things that are Christ's, and shew them unto men : to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Since the completion of the sacred Scriptures, his sphere of influence and action is the human soul. He enlightens the understanding to receive the truth of God, and awakens the conscience to feel the force of moral obligation : he sets the iniquities of men before them, so that their sins revive, and their hopes die; and while thus sinful and thus guilty, and in danger, he unfolds to them the method of redemption by Jesus Christ: he shews them its reality and fulness; he sets before them its freeness and love: and, with a powerful and tender persuasion, he urges on him the offer of this mercy. The Holy Spirit throws the whole weight of his authority against their unbelief, and in favour of Jesus Christ, and his redemption. So that the rejection of Christ involvс,8 the highest contempt of the Holy Spirit. And this is their condemnation ; this adds fearful aggravation to their crime: they do always resist the Holy Spirit. Thus, whether we consider him as Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, does unbelief involve the highest contempt of God.

Again: unbelief is directed against the best interests of the divine kingdom. The Gospel is adapted to make men holy and happy, and to diffuse the highest degree of holiness and happiness throughout the kingdom of God. To disbelieve the Gospel, therefore, is virtually to oppose all the holiness and happiness which it is adapted to secure. The man who himself rejects the Saviour, is not only willing that all others should reject him, but does all that his example can do to induce them to reject him: and it would be no grief of heart to hiin, if all should treat the Son of God as he treats him, and if every son and daughter of Adam should be as unholy in this world, and as miserable in the next, as he. Unbelief has no better spirit than this: you may call it by a better name, but here is its heart: and when unbelievers see others pressing into the kingdom of God, they feel unhappy, and their hearts arise against God, as well as against those who accept his mercy. They enter into the views, and they sympathize with the feelings, and they unite with all the enemies of God against the Gospel of his Son. When the great mass of men around them make light of the Gospel, they are happy; nothing disturbs them; they are gratified and when they see multitudes arrested in their career, and bowing their heads before the cross, they are dissatisfied and unhappy. And is it too much to say, that such a man is, at heart, an enemy to the best interests of the world in which he dwells, and the universe of which he is an inhabitant ? Yes, my brethren, from the bosom of such a man, abstract all those bland and social affections which so eminently fit him for an habitation among men, take off all the restraints of habit, education, self-respect, and, more than all, preventing grace; and he will view the holiness and happiness of the divine kingdom, just as Satan feels ; and will feel towards them just as the arch-deceiver feels. Such is the true spirit and tendency of this malignant sin.

This leads me to add, unbelief is a sin against the sinner's own soul. Men sometimes think that they are their own proprietors ; that they have a right to throw away their bodies and their souls without being accountable to any being in the universe. But it is not so : the soul of man is the most precious deposit committed to his care: the benevolent Creator has stamped a value upon it beyond all that is material in the world. But, dear hearers, the frame of mortality may perish, and from the earlier stages of its existence in this worlu, sink to an abyss ten-fold deeper than eternal annihilation. There is no sin that kills it as unbelief: unbelief, incorrigible unbelief, separates the soul from God and holiness; cuts it off from hope and heaven. This is one of the aggravations of this unnatural crime : it is a cruel neglect of the soul; it is nothing less than choosing to be rebels against God and be lost, rather than to submit to Jesus Christ and be saved; it is a deliberate and persevering refusal of eternal life. Is there no no crime in it? Well has eternal wisdom said, “ He that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul; all they that hate me, love death." Just to gratify bis pride and selfishness, and show how unwilling he is to lie at the footstool of mercy, and how stoutly he can defend his soul-destroying purpose -how determined he is to live for this world, and not for eternity and heaven -the unbeliever consents to be damned. Can men neglect their own souls, and become the murderers of immortality after this sort, and yet be harmless ? What a foul, infamous sin! 0! O! sin ! sin! rejecting the Saviour, and killing the soul !

Whatever, therefore, men may think of the sin of unbelief, other things being equal, nothing evinces greater moral depravity. It is the rejection of the highest degree of knowledge in regard to our obligations and duties : it is the resistance of the loudest calls, the strongest motives to holiness : it involves the highest contempt of God: it is directed against the best interests of the divine kingdom : and it kills the soul. We know of no greater sin than this; and, in fact, this comprises the turpitude of most other sins. Here all the ingredients of human corruption are collected; and once the restraining grace of God taken off, the most active fermentation produces nothing more odious or pestilential than unbelief. It is one of those compendious forms of human depravity, one of those strong expressions of the unsanctified heart in the very maturity of its moral corruption, which evinces nothing more decisively than that it is “desperately wicked."

[ocr errors]

:

Now, in viewing the considerations which illustrate the enormity of this sin,

and in applying our subject, permit me, with great freedom, to remark, in the first place, that it is obvious that the great mass of those who reject the Gospel, have no just conception of their true character in the sight of God. Most men, if they avoid gross sins, if their history is not blackened with some enormous crime, with some sort of infamy, though they may remain enemies of God and his Son, have no ver; serious compunctions of conscience. But if what has been said be true (and bring it to the standard of the Bible, and judge ye what I say)<if what we have said be true, then is it a fearful crime in the universe of God to be an unbeliever. Yes, beloved hearers; the man who, under the meridian light of the Gospel, sets at defiance the divine authority, crucifies the Son of 1 od afresh, resists the Holy Ghost, sports with the interests of the divine kingdom, and his own soul, and, in defiance of the highest and most affecting .considerations in the universe, spurns the offers of redeeming mercy for the sake of continuing in sin—what shall I say of him? Why, he is among the greatest prodigies of the universe. Assyria and Babylon knew no such sin as his : Sodom and Rome knew no such sin as his. What were all the pollutions —what the ignorance, and sottishness, and degrading vices, of ancient and modern paganisin, to this rejection—deliberate, protracted, persevering rejec. tion, of the blessed Saviour.

Dear hearers, do I address any unbelievers to-day? Might He, who knows your hearts, say to them who occupy these seats, and hear this description of the character of unbelievers, “Such are some of you ?" O the guilt--the fearful, the tremendous load of guilt, that rests upon the men in this land of light and mercy, who reject God's only Son! What shall we say to such men? O immortals ! the holy God is witness of your persevering rejection of his glorious Gospel : he has heard the unduteous purpose, “ We will not have the Son to reign over us ;" he has marked the secret determination of your souls, when you have chosen death rather than life: he has followed you with his eye when you have wagged your head, and passed contemptuously by the cross. O, what sin is this! Angels look down with wonder and with amazement today, to see any of you, coolly and deliberately, and with unbroken perseverance of soul, cast contempt on their sovereign and adorable Lord, and your gracious Redeemer. And could you yourselves view your sin as God views it, as angels view it, you would tremble, and you would mourn. 0, with what amazement, beloved hearers, will you, who reject the Saviour, look back from a dying bed, and contemplate the guilt of having lived in Great Britain, under these Gospel skies, breathing this atmosphere of truth and love, and yet having refused the blessings of the great salvation ! With what emotions of horror and self-indignation may some of the dear and immortal people who hear me speak to-day, reflect, from some distant period in eternity, on the wickedness of having closed your ears, and hardened your hearts against the crucified Saviour!

I remark again, in view of this subject, it is easy to account for the deep compunction and distress of mind which are often experienced, by convinced sinners. “When he is come, he shall convince the world of sin, because they believo not on me." Here is the secret of the anxiety and distress resulting from tñe illuminated understandings, the alarmed and penetrated consciences, of awakened and convinced men. That eternal Spirit whose office it is to convince

« السابقةمتابعة »