Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Is Not Your Rest

This is Not Your Rest

by Edward D. Griffin

"Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted."–Micah ii. 10.

The land of Canaan was called a rest. "Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest." It was given to Israel after their wanderings for four hundred and seventy years (from the time that Abraham left "Ur of the Chaldees"), as a permanent retreat from the world, where they might rest "under the shadow of the Almighty." But it was given on condition of their faithful obedience. That obedience they had failed to render. In the preceding verses the prophet had reproached them for their merciless oppression,–in our text he pronounces their doom. "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted" by your sins. You shall find neither contentment nor continuance here. One trouble shall succeed another, until you are swept away and removed to Babylon. Perhaps another idea may be added. Since the land is polluted and your doom is known, it is no longer lawful for you to seek a rest here. Arise and depart, for to rest in this place after you are forbidden to stay is pollution. Some have thought that the address was made to the oppressed, and was intended for a word of consolation. Arise and depart from this land of oppression: ye shall find relief in another country. Comfort your hearts, for the time of your deliverance is at hand. Tremble not at a removal to Babylon, for nothing but violence and injustice awaits you here. 

It is allowed by commentators that these words may be properly applied to the state of men in the present world. And I see not why they may not be applied in all the senses that have been mentioned. Let us expand them in the three-fold form.

First, this world would have been a rest had sin never entered it: but since it is polluted, there is neither contentment nor continuance here; neither solid happiness in the enjoyments it offers, nor an abiding city in any of its domains. It is no longer our permanent abode, but our passage to another country; our inn, but not our home.

Secondly, to attempt to rest in the creature after God has commanded us to give it up, is sinful. To rest in a connection with unrighteous men,–satisfied with a world corrupt through "divers lusts,"–is still more pollute. We are called upon to "come out from among them and be separate," and to keep ourselves "unspotted from the world." From resting in the creature, from resting in corrupt associations with worldy men, we are called away.

Thirdly, through the selfish passions and oppressive conduct of men, through the numerous troubles which beset this vale of tears, the pilgrim can find no rest on earth. It is a relief to think of departing to that world where "the wicked cease from troubling," and where "the weary" are "at rest." How cheering the sound, "Arise ye, and depart." Come, my children, enter into your everlasting chambers. Escape to that "rest" which "remaineth" for "the people of God."

From these different views we may consider ourselves called upon to turn our backs on the world and to set our faces towards heaven, by all the following considerations.

I. That this is not our home.
II. That the world cannot satisfy.
III. That an attempt to rest in it is sinful.
IV. That no alliance can be formed with the men of the world without hazard of pollution.
V. That no rest can be found in a world full of injustice and oppression. Nor yet,
VI. In a world inundated with the floods of affliction.

I. This is not our home. Our life is "as an hand-breadth." "Man that is born of a woman is of few days...He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not." In the morning he looketh forward to life as a little eternity; but before he is aware his head is covered with the frost of age, and he is tottering on his withered limbs. And then when leaning upon his staff and countering the graves of the companions of his youth, he can feelingly pronounce that life "is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away." It is transient "as a tale that is told." It is "as a dream when one awaketh." Regular and rapid, like the waves of the sea, one generation sweeps off another into the gulf of oblivion. Where are they who filled the world with noise and strife, with fame and folly, half a century ago? and where, half a century to come, will be those who now fill the whole circle of human vision? Before they are aware their places will be vacant, to be filled with another generation as transient as themselves. Thus passes off the glory of the world. And where does the wave sweep them? Into that state of conscious being which is never to end,–which is fraught with bliss or agony beyond the imaginations of this infant world to conceive. Through fields of light or through floods of fire, they will look back to the time when they spent a few moments on a little particle of dust called earth, which, millions of ages since, has sunk in the general conflagration. Even then their eternity will be but just begun. And when, from that remote point, they remember how attached they once were to this world, how they regarded it in a sense as their final rest, and placed it higher than that eternal state, how will they stand amazed at their folly. This is but the threshold of your being, and all before you is a boundless eternity. Why then are your affections lingering here? Why are your calculations bounded by the present world? Had not sin entered, this world might have been your happy home for many years, till exchanged by a translation to the empyreal heavens. But since the tragedy of Eden brought death into the world, how vain to linger, for a resting-place, about these mortal shores. A voice from heaven breaks in upon our frenzied dreams, "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest."

II. The world cannot satisfy. Never were the things of the world intended to fill the human mind. In the original formation of man he received a capacity which nothing but God could fill; and through by the fall he lost his relish for God, the same capacity still remains, and all creation cannot fill it now. While his mind remained pure, however, he was able to enjoy the good things of the world to a perfect degree. No restless longing, no perplexing care, no throb of envy, no collision of interest, no pang of disappointment, hung around the pursuit or possession of worldly good. His mind, kept in order by the dominant love of God, held the creature in its proper place, and could enjoy, without mixture, all that it contained. But since the creature assumed the place of God, it has become, as all idols must, an instruments of pain. Withered by the curse of God yet sought with inordinate desire and expectation, it turns to unsavoury ashes upon the palate, plants thorns of disappointment in the heart, and proves its name and its nature to be "vanity and vexation of spirit."

Many minds, broken loose from their centre, have wandered in search of rest in the creature; but none have ever found it. Wealth says, It is not in me; honour and pleasure say, It is not in me. Instead of rest there is wretchedness whenever the attempt is made. The man who surpassed in wealth, as he did in wisdom, all the other kings of Israel, had the fairest opportunity to try the experiment. He drained the creature to the dregs; and when he had drunk it off he wrote upon the goblet this label for the admonition of future ages, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit." The most effectual way to turn the sweets of creature comforts into wormwood, is to seek to draw from them, what must be derived from God alone, the supreme happiness of an immortal mind.

Thus sin and the curse have ruined that enjoyment of the creature which was originally intended. Why then search for satisfaction where it is not to be found? "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted."

III. An attempt to rest in the creature is sinful. The first command is, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." To make a god of any thing, is to set the heart supremely upon it and to attempt to rest in it as a chief source of happiness. To love "the creature more than the Creator" and to look to that for our chief comfort, is to idolize the creature, and is a breach of the first and great command. Hence the declaration, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." We may value the creature for the purposes for which it was given us; but there is not a man on earth who does not love the world too much. The chief current of selfishness sets this way: for inordinate self-love chiefly consists in overvaluing the happiness which results from the gratification of worldly propensities. While selfishness remains, the love of honour, wealth, and pleasure will hold too high a place in the heart; and we shall seek them with undue desire and reckon on them too much as essential parts of prosperity; our minds will too earnestly cleave to them and be too distracted with care about possessing them. This it is to rest in the creature; and this, in whatever degree it is indulged, is idolatry. It is the ruin of worldly men, and it is the besetting sin of Christians themselves. The only cure for it is to give a larger proportion of the heart to God: and this can be effected only by deep contemplations of God and earnest applications to Him for the Spirit. The evil consists in overvaluing our own separate happiness, in seeking a gratification which does not make a part of the general prosperity of God's kingdom, in searching for it out of God, in detaching ourselves from the universe and building ourselves up as a unit. Until men have taken an everlasting leave of the world and shut themselves up in a convent or in hell, the love of the world is the principal way by which they stray from God, the principal affection which takes the place of love to Him. It is the great road to perdition: or if the gate of hell is shut by the grace of God, it is the great road to darkness, temptation, and distress.

To attempt then to rest in the creature is to seek a guilty rest. It is to lie down in pollution. Wherefore then are your heart-strings so entwined about the world? Why cast yourselves down to sleep in the jakes? "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your" lawful "rest: because it is polluted."

IV. No alliance can be formed with the men of the world without hazard of pollution. "Evil communications corrupt good manners." A great part of the feelings, opinions, conversation, and customs of the world are opposed to the genuine spirit of the Gospel. They are such as are dictated by a heart under the supreme dominion of selfishness, unrelieved by anything better than the social affections and the faith and conscience of devils. Under the refining light of religion and science, the coarser excrescences may be lopped off and the form may be polished. Even an attitude may be taken to protect some of the general principles of Christianity. But after all, the life and soul of religion is excluded, and that with more overwhelming influence than though this garnished body had never been baptised. This is the world in its most imposing shape. In all other forms it is the open enemy of all religion, if not of all decorum. With such a world what alliance can be formed without polluting our minds and hazarding our salvation? A voice from heaven says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate,...and touch not the unclean thing." Ye "are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." "The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." I know an attempt is sometimes made to prove that the character of the world is changed by the introduction of Christianity, and to render a considerable part of the Bible inapplicable to the present day. But this arises from sheer ignorance of the character of man and the nature of regeneration. All who remain the world, in distinction from the truth Church, are the same in heart as though no Gospel had been sent. If they do not love God supremely, they are supremely attached to themselves, and of course are His enemies. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other." "He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad." Those then who have not been raised to the supreme love of God remain as fully His enemies as though no Gospel had been given to men. Those of course who are the world, in distinction from the Church, retain still the character ascribed to the world in the New Testament. With that world it is hazardous to form any alliance. Conformity to them is death. Heaven itself has said, "Be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." Why then are you resting on the opinions of worldly men? Why are you so eager to catch their smiles? Why yielding yourselves up to those habits of pleasure which their practice has sanctioned? Why reaching after associations with them to the neglect of humble Christians?

V. No rest can be found in a world full of injustice and oppression. The collisions of selfish passions keep the world in a flame and drench it in blood.

"My ear is pain'd,
My soul is sick with ev'ry day's report
Of wrong and outrage with which earth is fill'd.
There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart:
It does not feel for man.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
Lands intersected by a narrow frith
Abhor each other. Mountains interposed
Make enemies of nations, who had else,
Like kindred drops, been mingled into one."

 Not nations only, but individuals in all the departments of life, act out this detestable temper. The complaint of the prophet may be applied to every age: "Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders. And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth." In a world where selfishness forms the supreme law, where love is an exotic, thinly scattered and of feeble growth, where hard-hearted hate and hard-handed oppression repel and crush and grind the feeble, where churlishness and envy and rivalship and jealousies sever the bands of social life,–what rest can be found? But there is a world where rivalries never come, where selfish passion never sours, where envy and oppression and war can never enter, where a man finds a brother in every one he meets, where justice and honour and love and tenderness govern every heart, every action, every feature and look. Why will you linger so long among scorns and abuses? Why cleave to this hard-hearted world as though your feet grew to the soil? Come away, ye lambs of Christ, from the jaws of the lion and the bear, and enter into the heavenly fold. Will you seek to rest among enemies when there is such a world of tenderness to receive you? "There" your "best friends," your "kindred dwell, there God" your "Saviour reigns." Will you choose this for your home, where you timid spirits have only to tremble and weep? Turn your backs on this den of thieves, and enter the portals of that blessed city where all is the sweetest harmony and love.

VI. No rest can be found in a world inundated with the floods of affliction. Ever since sin entered, this world has been a vale of tears, a house of correction, to break stubborn spirits to submission, to drive wayward children to obedience by the rod, to humble the proud, and to discover God's severity against sin. It is appointed us "through much tribulation" to "enter into the kingdom of God." "In the world" we "shall have tribulation." This is the suffering time of the Church, the wilderness through which they must pass to the heavenly rest, the long, tiresome desert full of serpents and enemies, and in which is no water. Here "moth" corrupts and "thieves break through and steal." Here they have to drag about a weak and aching body. Here their heart-strings are often broken in the dying chambers of their friends.

"Why should this world delight us so?
Why should we fix our eyes
On these low grounds where sorrows grow
and every pleasure dies?"

Are we confined to this? Has infinite love provided nothing better? Has God prepared no habitation in His wide domains more worthy to be the object of our aspiring hopes? Lift up your eyes and see.

"There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand drest in living green:
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between."

Why then should we wish to continue here? Why should we thrust ourselves down among the briers and thorns? Why are we so unwilling to go away to everlasting peace? Do we not know that these afflictions were introduced by sin? The world is full of trouble because it is unclean. This argument too is pressed home by the same voice from heaven. "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted."

To these arguments, drawn from the text, it may be added, that Christians themselves are distressed with many sins. And will you seek a rest among your own pollutions? Before you lies a world of everlasting purity. Will you not arise and reach after that? Here the face of your heavenly Father is but little seen, and you are frequently called to mourn an absent God. But there you will see Him face to face without an interposing cloud to eternity. Will not this thought break your slumbers? Will you not from this hour take your hearts and hopes from earth and lodge them in the heaven of heavens? You do not belong here: you are citizens of another country. Break loose from this enchanted ground. Direct your eye immovably towards your inheritance, and press towards that glorious mark. Soon will you be far away from earth and enter among the glories of the upper world. Forget your idols, forget your father's house, and bend all your thoughts to immortality. And then your "light affliction, which is but for a moment," shall work for you "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Amen.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

By Whom Shall Jacob Arise?

By Whom Shall Jacob Arise?

by Edward D. Griffin

"By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small."–Amos vii. 2.

This was an appeal to the heart of God at a time when the judgments of heaven were bringing the chosen people to ruin. "When" the locusts "had made an end of eating the grass of the land" and were about to fall upon the corn, then said the prophet, "O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small. The Lord repented for this: It shall not be, saith the Lord." When the fire was let loose to consume the earth, the prophet again interceded: "O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small. The Lord repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord God."

"By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." This is a question which might well have been asked in every age which the Church has yet seen. Her numbers have always been small in comparison with the ranks of the wicked. Near two-thirds of the world are Pagans; a fifth part are bending at the tomb of Mahomet; and only a sixth part are nominally Christian. Of that sixth, by far the greater part are buried under Greek and Romish darkness. And even in Protestant countries, to how small a compass is the true Church reduced! The men of the world swarm on every hand, while few are on their way to Zion. How small a proportion in every city, in every village. Amidst the countless multitudes of nations, languages, and tongues, the Church, to this day, is but a drop in the ocean.

And she is weak as well as small; wholly incompetent to her own salvation; with no strength commensurate to the difficulties and enemies she has to encounter, and no ally this side of heaven.

When we look abroad over the world we behold a race of men dead in trespasses and sins, given over to the dominion of the selfish passions, chained down in ignominious servitude to the world; whom no motives can conquer, no means reclaim. To form such beings into materials for building up the Church, they must be made to undergo a thorough and wonderful transformation. Who shall accomplish this mighty change? Who shall turn back the current? Who shall drive back Jordan to its source? Easier to make any other change in the dispositions of men. For easier to make the coward brave or the miser liberal. No two states of the natural affections are so far apart and so opposed to each other as supreme selfishness and holy love. Nothing against which native selfishness is so rancorously fixed as God and His holy law. You may turn demons into seraphs as easily as by your own power you can mould men into saints. And yet if Zion arises there must be as many such transformations as the number of her sons.

The transformation must not only be begun, it must be continued and perfected. After men have set out in the heavenly course they still have to contend with their original corruptions, and with a world full of objects fitted to inflame them. All these corruptions and temptations stand in the way of the growth of the Church. And then there is another world full of enemies, deeply practised in their arts, urged on by demoniac malice to obstruct the salvation of God's people; who spread snares through all their way, and having learned the various avenues to their hearts and all their weaknesses, watch incessantly to undo them.

Besides all these innate difficulties and invisible foes which every individual Christian finds in his way, the Church as a body has to contend with a world in arms. Every  natural man is her foe. If not a foe to the social and civil order which she subserves, at least an enemy to the real spirit which constitutes the Church. The whole bent of the natural heart in every age and country, in every family and individual, is against it. The Pagan and the Mahometan raves; the Jew gnashes his teeth; the Papists reduces the whole to rites and forms, and contends for the privilege of doing this with fire and faggot; the Socinian embowels religion and presents nothing but a garnished corpse. The men of the world with one heart are arrayed against this heavenly stranger. All the aims of ambition, all the lust of wealth, every appetite and passion which reaches after pleasure, is her foe. The habits, principles, and calculations of the world are her enemies. Even "the friendship of the world" is deadly hostility. The civil arm has beaten her down with fierce and bloody persecutions. Courts have excluded her, or taken her in only to corrupt her. Learning has sought to change her nature and mould her into an easy thing to favour the pride of intellect and the epicureanism of science, and to leave the selfish heart still to reign. In a war against the genuine spirit of religion, against its self-denial and its soul-humbling doctrines, all other enmities are swallowed up, all other rivals are compacted into firm allies. Herod and Pilate bury their animosities here. All corrupt sects which in various ways have perverted the Gospel, when pure religion takes the field will coalesce into the firmest alliance against her. The combinations of wealth, learning, and power; the obstinacy and artifices of disputers; the substitution of other natures under her name; the prejudices and the passions, the arts and the arms which assail her; constitute a phalanx more formidable than was ever arrayed against any other cause.

Nor is there any need of this outward pressure to keep religion down. Leave man to himself for a single generation, and with all the means of civilization and grace, the Church would become extinct. Were she as prosperous as in the days of her primitive glory, the withdrawment of the Spirit from one generation would banish her from the world. All that has been gained in past ages is nothing without a continued operation. The process must be repeated upon every generation.

And now with all this task before us to raise up children to God from the stones of the street against all the resistance of two worlds, we may well exclaim, "By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." Our strength is wholly incompetent to preserve the Church a single hour, to add one to the number of her sons, to produce a religious impression on a single heart. If no other helper is found, we must sit down in tears and give up all for lost.

Such are the complaints which befit every period of the world. But our text was uttered in a time of special discouragement, in a time when religion was at its lowest declension, and when the hand of God was stretched out, not to revive His work, but apparently to bring the Church to ruin. It will be in exact accordance with the spirit of the text to apply it to a day of declension and judgment.

When we look abroad on the community and see errors and dissipation and vice abound in every form; when the children of the streets who can scarcely walk are filling the air with the names of the eternal God; when the idea of a change of heart and of experimental religion is hooted from society; when sinners are groping their way to perdition through darkness that may be felt, as stupid as though they had no souls; when our poor children are coming forward among dangers like these, and most of them are on their way to eternal death; is it not high time for every one to cry out with trembling and tears, "By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." By whom can he arise? He is fallen, and there is none to lift him up. He is brought low by his own sins, and has no strength to help himself. He is fallen in the midst of his enemies, and has no ally this side of heaven. By whom shall he arise? By whom shall our children be awakened and brought to salvation? Who shall remove this dreadful stupidity from the people? Who inquire who? but no one answers. We search through the world and find no arm competent to the task. Must we then sit down in despair? Must we give up these immortal souls to eternal death? Must we resign our children to everlasting woe?

The everlasting God is our hope. On Him our eyes fix when every other helper fails. it was God that began this great work. He laid the plan in the ages of eternity without the aid or counsel of creatures. He selected the Church for His own favourite interest, for the chosen means of spreading His glory before all worlds. From the beginning to the end of time He is pursuing this object with no dependence on any but Himself, resting no issue on the self-determining power of man. In propelling the mighty machine, His hand is behind every wheel to originate the first motion. Every man has his interest, in which his heart is wrapt up, and in attention to which he finds his chief employment. The Church is God's interest; and in managing her concerns and making all things subservient to her advancement, He finds His principal occupation from age to age. For this purpose He created the heavens and the earth; for this purpose He preserves and governs all things; for this purpose He brings about all the changes in the natural and moral world. This is the core of all the works of God. For this ages revolve; for this empires rise and fall; for this the world has stood and all its operations have been carried on for six thousand years. God has no other interest on earth, no other end for which He preserves and governs all. This is the grand interest on which His divine eye is immovably fixed. Whether seasons revolve or empires rise or fall, this is the only object which He has in view. This is the only interest of the world. This interest God has not committed to men; it is His own, His only portion. He has taken it into His own hands. He has set Himself down to manage it Himself. If it does not succeed it is because He has not sufficient skill and power.

In this character God is determined to be acknowledged. The great end which He proposes to Himself in all His work, is to bring out to view the riches of His nature, that creatures may see and acknowledge Him as He is, and for ever enjoy Him. That His works may be understood to be such a manifestation of Himself, His fixed design is to be known and acknowledged as the first cause of all things. It is the natural course of unbelief to put Him out of view. Ignorance has gone after its thousand deities. Learning has stopped at second causes and paid its devotions to nature. All this atheism God is resolved to confound. He is determined to be acknowledged as the author of all things, but especially as the author of salvation. This is His best and greatest effort to spread abroad the glories of His nature, to reveal to creatures what He is and what He is to them, to unite them to Him in the most perfect love, gratitude, and confidence, in the sweetest and sublimest communion. Of this great work He is fixedly determined to have all the glory. Of this glory He is the most jealous of all. This He will not give to another nor divide with another. He is resolved to be acknowledged as the sole author and finisher of the whole.

For this reason He studiously constructs the dispensations of His grace in a way to convince His people that it is "not by might, nor by power, but by" His "Spirit" that the Church is enlarged. Was He careful, in the demolition of Jericho so to shape the means that His hand alone should be acknowledged? Did He use the same care in the conquest of the Midianites in the days of Gideon? and in the overthrow of Goliath by a stripling with a sling and a stone? Much more care has He taken to secure all the honour to Himself in the business of man's salvation. The whole scheme is obviously designed "to stain the pride of" human "glory" and to attach all the honour to His throne. Among other expedients for this end, He has committed the Gospel to "earthen vessels,"–to poor, feeble, sinful men, who, so far from being able to save others, have no power to help themselves. The word in their polluted lips is made "mighty...to the pulling down of strong holds." And when the captives are released under hands incapable of breaking their own chains, they cannot doubt to whom they owe their deliverance. To make His own power more visible in this select thing, He interrupts the order of second causes and goes in the way of supernatural operations. He allows difficulties to increase, as He did on Carmel when He would prove Himself the God of the rain; and when the sacred fire descends, it consumes the wood and the stones and licks up the water in the trench. He leaves His people to come into great straits, as He did at the Red Sea. He sets impassable mountains on either hand and lets a pursuing enemy thunder in their rear; that in the moment when they give up all for lost He may open a passage through the sea. He leaves sin and error to abound, darkness and strife to overspread a region, and makes the hope of His people to fail, just before He appears in His glory to build up Zion. And all this to render His interposition more manifest, and to put His people to the greatest distance from ascribing any part of the glory to instruments. His voice is constantly heard from the highest heavens, saying, "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm." He detests the system of drawing in a crooked worldly policy to support His magnificent cause. He would lead His people forth with both their eyes fixed on the heavens, saying as they go, "My soul, with thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him."

This is the proper attitude in which to stand when our anxious souls inquire, "By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." To this then we have come: our only hope is in God. I know that not another soul will ever be converted in this congregation unless it be accomplished by the power of God. Let all other dependencies be given up; the Church must rise by God alone. There is no other helper; there is no other hope. This is our consolation in the darkest times. We never wish to see the Church in any other hands. We never wish her to have any other protector, any other ally, or that any other should share in the glory of her salvation. We know His love. We have heard Him say, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." In all ages His faithfulness has been made to appear. He has "been our dwelling-place in all generations." Abraham trusted in Him and was never forsaken. David always found Him a friend in time of need. Daniel and the three children were not abandoned to their enemies. Thousands have acknowledged, When father and mother forsook me the Lord did take me up. Why need we look for any other helper, for any other substantial and faithful friend? "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."

In the dark times of Pharisaical pride and Sadducean blasphemy, Simeon and Anna, as they waited for the consolation of Israel, often inquired, "By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." When they pressed the infant Saviour to their heart, the question was solved: "My eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." The Waldenses, shut in among their native mountains during the long papal night, often inquired, "By whom shall Jacob arise?" God answered them in His august providence. They saw Him come. They saw the throne of judgment set. They saw spiritual Babylon arraigned. They saw those great Reformers like angels flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach to every nation. Our fathers, when they hid themselves in woods and secret chambers for the sake of worshipping God, often inquired, with breaking hearts, "By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." God prepared His own answer. He opened to them this beautiful land; He raised up churches through all this howling wilderness; and on this ground erected one-half of Zion. In this day of blasphemy and rebuke, we may look abroad upon the sepulchres of our fathers and the wide spreading ruin of our offspring, and ask, with streaming tears, "By whom shall Jacob arise?" The God of our fathers will presently answer. These temples and streets shall be full of prayer and praise. Already is His hand brushing away the darkness from a thousand lands. The signs of better days are springing up through all the earth. I hear Him say from the fleecy cloud on which He is riding through the world, "The day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come."

But we return and look upon the ruins still around us, and our tears flow afresh. We raise a beseeching look and cry, "By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." Well, then, my dear brethren, you know what you have to do. Amos urged this question in the form of an intercession to move the heart of God. This is your remedy. "Arise, cry out in the night; in the beginning of the watches pour out" your "heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up" your "hands towards him for the life of" your "young children that faint for hunger in the top of every street."

But mark the order in which the prophet proceeds. His first prayer is for pardon: "O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." He prostrated himself like David, and acknowledged the sins of his people and sued for pardon, before his intercession could avail. He saw sin to be at the bottom of the trouble, and therefore concluded that the pardon of sin must be at the bottom of the deliverance, and prayed for that in the first place. Whatever calamity we are under, the pardon of sin should be first and most eagerly sought. Till this is obtained no intercession will avail. "We have transgressed and have rebelled," said the captive Church; "thou hast not pardoned;... thou hast covered thyself with a cloud that our prayers should not pass through." When a church has long been praying for a revival religion, and has not been heard, it is because God has not pardoned. Cast yourselves then on your faces, my beloved brethren, and humble yourselves in the deepest dust, for all your coldness, ingratitude, and neglect. Prostration is your first duty, and the first step towards deliverance. This done, besiege the throne of grace with many tears. And take for your encouragement the success marked in the context. Twice the interceding prophet pleadingly inquired, "By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." Twice "the Lord repented," and said "It shall not be." Twice a stop was put to the judgment by making supplication to the Judge. Thus Moses stood in the breach and turned away wrath from Israel. Thus Elijah proved that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Could you, with deep humility and deep dependence, go forth in a body, and pour your fervent cries into His ears, the blessing of hundreds ready to perish might come upon you. "The Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you that he will not hear." He might pour down such a flood of blessings that there would not be room to contain it. You would have no longer to say, "By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." Your sighs would be turned into songs. And will you lose the blessing when it is brought so near? Will you be poor when it is so easy to become rich? Will you leave at your door, despised, all that God has to give? "Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth."



Sunday, March 24, 2013

What Christ Deserves From God and Man

What Christ Deserves From God and Man

by Edward D. Griffin

"Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever."—Rev. i. 5, 6.

This was the exclamation of the beloved disciple, who had lain on his Saviour's bosom, who had seen Him die, who had just sunk at His feet in Patmos, and who was then rapt by the inspiration of God. With what inexpressible emotions did such a man, at such a time, utter this bursting praise! Could the veil of unbelief and the rock of insensibility be taken from our eyes and hearts, we would utter with the same emotions—
"Jesus is worthy to receive
Honour and power divine."

And the time is coming when "every creature.. in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them," shall be heard saying, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." This beloved apostle, in the view which he took, saw and felt that Christ was worthy, not only of all gratitude and praise from the redeemed, but of all "glory and dominion" from God. His wish, as expressed in this burst of feeling, was, that He might be honoured by the obedience and adoration and thanks of all holy creatures, and by the kingdom and inheritance conferred by the Father. I am ready to think that you, my friends, who have so often seen Him on the cross, will echo this wish from the bottom of your hearts: and in order to lead your thoughts where such a wish would carry them, I will consider,—
I. What Christ deserves from God; and,
II. What He deserves from the redeemed.

I. What He deserves from God. And here I am not certain whether the term deserves is well applied. Viewing Him purely as Mediator, holding an office under God (without reference to His original equality with the Father, or any claim which He may be supposed to have as one of the eternal Persons in the Trinity), His title rests solely on the promise which God made to the obedience that He performed while a servant under law and bound to obey. Considering Him simply in this light, He could, in strictness of speech, deserve nothing from the Father; that is, He could not as a servant add any thing to God and lay Him under obligation upon the principle of commercial justice; as when a man has done a day's work for another and has a just claim for wages. No creature or subject can lay such an obligation upon God. "Who hath first given to him and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" Gabriel has no other claim than that which rests on a gratuitous promise. And Jesus, viewed as a mere servant under law, could establish no other. All that His obedience could do was to render Him a fit object of God's approbation, and a fit subject of a reward intended to encourage obedience, but due on no other ground than that of a promise sovereignly made. If we go back to the time when the covenant of redemption was formed, and consider Him as one of the original Persons in the Trinity, standing on an equality and contracting with Him who in the economy of redemption is known as the Father; if we can consider those two Persons of pure Godhead as so far two that one can have a claim on the other; and if the second Person in the eternal Godhead (I call Him so for want of another name, though second belongs to the scale of redemption), if the second Person in the eternal Godhead can be supposed so far interested in the rewards of the Mediator (for all the rewards are conferred on the Mediator—a character wholly formed by the covenant of redemption), as to have a claim to them in His own proper and original personality; then the second Person may deserve from the first all that good which to the Mediator is a reward, just as one man may deserve from another what is due to him by a fair and equal contract. But these are points too deep and mysterious for us to pronounce upon. It is enough for us to know that the rewards are all conferred on the Mediator, once the servant, now the Vicegerent of the Father, who, as holding the rights of the Godhead, is acknowledged in them all as the original Proprietor and Giver. "Ask of me, AND I shall give thee," is the tenor of all the promises to the Son. Viewing the matter in this light, we cannot place the claims of the Mediator on any other ground than those of Gabriel, and must rest them on a sovereign promise made to His obedience. And when we speak of His deserts or merits, we must mean only His fitness for rewards which express the Father's approbation, and His claims to them on the score of a divine promise.

Such merits the Redeemer has completely made out. His unvarying obedience under circumstances so difficult and self-denying; His acting out the perfect love required in the divine law, under all the abuses and insults of His murderers; His submission to the Father's will while sweating blood in the garden; His yielding to such dreadful agonies of body and soul for so many hours without one impatient feeling or recoiling wish,—are altogether such an exhibition of obedience as makes heaven and earth amazed; such as never was and never again will be made in any part of creation; such as was fit to constitute a title to all the inheritance of the Son of God.

This is the ground on which His inheritance is conferred. In that memorable account of the inheritance of the Son of God and Heir of all things, contained in the first chapter of Hebrews, the ground o the whole is expressed in these words: "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." For one under law to love righteousness and hate iniquity, is to obey. The whole then is awarded to His obedience. Some other parts of this chapter, as throwing light on His inheritance, I will quote: "God..hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things:.. who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they: for unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?.. Of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." Here the inheritance by which Christ is raised to the title and honours of the Son of God, is made to include His exaltation to the kingdom. All this is again expressed in the Epistle to the Philippians: "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross: wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name," [to wit, the name of the Son of God;] "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, .. and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

In His inheritance are included all the positive blessings ever intended for Adam's race in both worlds; whether those which are extended to mankind indiscriminately as adapted to a state of probation, or those which are offered and promised and conferred as a gracious reward, or the sovereign gift of regeneration to the elect. All issue from Godhead as the reward of a perfect obedience; all are given to Christ for the use of man; all are held by a mediatorial claim, and drop upon our world as a part of the mediatorial estate. Not a salubrious breeze, nor a delightful prospect, nor a pleasant relation, nor a crumb of bread, but belongs to the mediatorial estate, and comes to us because first given to Christ. In this sense all are grounded on the righteousness of the Redeemer, and in no other sense come to us through Him, and in no other sense can be asked for His sake.

In His inheritance is included the highest visible throne in heaven, with all the personal glories which surround Him there, and universal dominion, accompanied with the submission and worship and thanksgiving of all holy creatures. So far as the power of enjoyment and the right of control imply possession, He possesses the whole universe, and certainly has authority to press everything into the service of His Church. As elsewhere, so on earth He is the only God that governs. All the power that is ascribed to God in the preservation, supply, and government of the world, and in the production of new generations of creatures, is exclusively exercised by the Mediatorial King. He said after His resurrection, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." The apostle speaks of him as "upholding all things by the word of his power." He was the God of the Old Testament, and has been the only Governor from the beginning. It was He that appeared in Eden; it was He that appeared to Abraham, and said, "I am the Almighty God"; it was He that appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and said, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." It must have been He, for "No man hath seen God" [meaning the Father] "at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." It was He that went before Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, and was tempted or provoked by the rebels. Hence the warning of the apostle: "Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted and were destroyed of serpents." In speaking of the Father in the first chapter of Hebrews, the apostle says, "Unto the Son he saith" [quoting from the forty-fifth Psalm], "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." He then quotes the language of the inspired David to the God of the Old Testament (who of course was no other than the Mediatorial King), as the continuance of this very address of the Father to the Son: "And thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." Whoever looks at the hundred and second Psalm will perceive that these words were addressed by David, under the Spirit of inspiration, to the God of the Old Testament,–the only God known as such: but here the apostle declares that they were addressed by the Father to the Son. As the Father had the original, undelegated claim to the Spirit, what is said by the authority of the Spirit to the God of Israel, the Mediatorial King, is ere alleged to have been said by the Father to the Son. The Son then must have been the God of the Old Testament.

In His inheritance is included the Church itself–the seed to serve Him, and the whole body of the elect before their conversion, together with the ways and means necessary to bring them to the knowledge of the truth and to conduct them to heaven; in short, the whole assembly of the redeemed in heaven and earth. His Church is one day to fill the whole world; and to all the nations then on the face of the earth He has a covenant claim. He has received by charter "the heathen for" His "inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for" His "possession." Every conversion is in pursuance of the promises made to Him, and a part of His stipulated reward. Every effusion of the Spirit is this on a larger scale. Every mission to the heathen is a partial fulfilment of the covenant made with Him. All thi mighty movement on earth is the promised reward of the Sufferer of Calvary, and is brought about on purpose to give Him a glorious triumph in the world where He obeyed and died. Who will not contemplate revivals and missions with new interest after this is known? Let them proceed. Let Him have His kingdom who died for wretched men. If all others sink, let the glorious Son of God be honoured. Go forth, ye heralds of the cross. Arise, ye nations, and "crown him Lord of all."

This leads me to consider,–

II. What He deserves from the redeemed. The ground of His claim against them is His dying for them and purchasing for them an inheritance. It is true that His obedience to His Father's law, as it constituted His excellence (His whole excellence, inasmuch as it involved all the love that struggled in His heart,) lays claim to the complacency and supreme respect of all creatures. But the special claim which He has against the redeemed is founded on the amazing love He bore them, and the unspeakable benefits He procured for them by bearing their sins and purchasing their inheritance. He loved them to such a degree that, rather than they should perish, He came down to all the humiliations of the manger and the prætorium; He endured that awful agony of soul for the greater part of four and twenty hours; and for six hours, with His life unbroken within Him, He hung suspended on the torturing spikes. All this to raise them, not from trifling calamities, but from everlasting fire, and the fury of rendering passions, and the company of raging devils, and from infinite despair. He came down to all the submission and toil of a servant, that by the most difficult and self-denying obedience He might purchase for them the blessings of this life, and glory for ever enduring and for ever increasing. This was love. This was conferring benefits on a scale worthy of the Son of God. If ever obligations were created by kindness, here are obligations as ponderous as the universe and as endless as eternity. And now what do the redeemed owe to their Deliverer?

1. They owe Him love and gratitude and praise. They owe it to Him to feel just as the beloved disciple did when His soul went out in this burst of affection: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." They owe it to Him to feel just as the redeemed in heaven do when they sing that new song: "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests." Among all the objects which engage our daily attention, the Saviour of the world ought to stand pre-eminent. We ought to ponder upon His infinite excellence in descending so far, in doing and suffering so much, to support the energy of a holy government and to snatch a world from death; to hold out to view "the image of the invisible God" irradiated as by a thousand suns; to fill the universe with a knowledge of the glory of God, and to give complete and everlasting empire to holy order. We ought to ponder upon His immeasurable tenderness and compassion towards a wretched race, towards a world of enemies, towards the tigers who hung Him on the spikes and laughed at His agonies. We ought to ponder upon Him as the only ground of pardon, as the only ground of our present and eternal comforts, as having received (as His own reward and His own estate) the whole sum of good intended for us in both worlds. We ought to ponder upon Him as the most exalted, the most holy, and the most compassionate King, raised up to suppress all insurrections, to quell all disorders, to subdue all His enemies, and to extend a sceptre of righteousness over a composed and peaceful kingdom; raised up "to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins," to penetrate the mountains after the lost sheep, and to bring them home upon His shoulders rejoicing, to gather the lambs in His arms and carry them in His bosom; to extend the shield of protection over His people, to take care of all their interests, to supply them with every comfort, to support them when weary, to cheer them when faint, to wipe the tear from their cheek, and with a tenderness which another never felt, to carry forward and compete their salvation. This wonderful Personage, who is the grand subject of the Old Testament and the New, who fills the whole field of vision (not indeed so as to hide God the Father behind the Mediator, but in a way to present the only face in which God is seen), this glorious Sufferer, Saviour, and King, ought to be the object of our highest love, gratitude, and praise. The dearest earthly friend should give place to Him. It was not too much when He required us to hate father and mother and life in comparison with our love Him. And as to gratitude, no attentions of the kindest mother can put in their claims by the side of His. The highest gratitude that ever throbbed in the most affected heart should make Him its aim and scope. Every hour of the day, as often as the mind has leisure to direct an eye to Him, this gratitude ought to spring forth. And praise, sweet as the breath of love, and deep as the consciousness of our woes, and loud as the echo of His fame, should sound through the earth. The strain should be prolonged, and die away at last on our faltering tongue, only to burst with new raptures in another and better state.

2. We owe it to Him to believe in Him and to embrace Him, to approve of the way of salvation by Him, and to accept Him for our Saviour. Not to do this is to do all in our power to make it true that He died in vain. To do this is to give Him, as far as we have influence, all the reward which He ever sought. Surely after the Son of God has descended to the manger and the cross for our salvation, it is the least that we can do to allow Him to be our Saviour.

3. We owe it to Him to escape from sin and to obey all His commands. One principal end of His mediation was to save His people from their sins; and if they refuse to escape from sin they counteract His great design. The happiness which His benevolence sought for them is that which is bottomed on holy order, and connected with a union to Him in character and heart; and if they refuse to be like Him they frustrate the very end He had in view. In reward of His labours in our service He is made King of Zion, with authority to exercise dominion over all creatures: and how ungrateful for us not to submit to an authority thus acquired. If God will make Him a King for what He has done for us, will we refuse to own Him for a King? Will we deny Him that dominion which is His recompense for laying down His life for us? After all the benefits which the Son of God has conferred on us, will we not render Him the respect of our obedience? Has He not deserved this at our hands? After all the miseries which our sin has caused Him, will we still roll it as a sweet morsel under our tongue? Has not Calvary furnished a lesson to wean us for ever from sin? Can we see the anguish which it cost His holy soul, can we see its horrid nature as there depicted, can we hear the firm determination of God to punish it as there pronounced,–without fleeing from it as from a pestilence?  without panting with insatiable desires after universal holiness?

4. We owe it to Him to rejoice in the kingdom which He has received, and in everything which brings forward the grand consummation when He is to reign over all the earth. What friend of Immanuel, after following Him through His poverty and toils, and trembling at the insults and tortures which He endured from men, does not rejoice that He has found a throne? does not leap for joy at the decree pronounced when He escaped from Pilate and the Jews and rose from the sepulchre? "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion... Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." Who does not rejoice to know that on this earth where He wandered an exile, not having "where to lay his head," he is yet to reign the beloved and universal Monarch, and with a splendour of dominion which no potentate ever before attained? Not the splendour of Persian gold and Indian gems, but the splendour of immortal love and holines waving its triumphs over sin and misery subdued. Under His benignant sceptre I see the wretched prisoners burst their chains and walk forth disenthralled and redeemed. I see the throb of misery quelled and composed, as water quenches the flaming brand. I see the triumphs of the new-creating Spirit changing the face of the valley of death, and pouring upon anguish and despair His lights and consolations. I see the wretched Hindoo leaving his religion of obscenity and blood and coming up to the dignity and blessedness of a worshipper of Jehovah. I see the poor African dropping his gregrees to lay hold of the skirt of Christ. I see the South Sea islander mountng the scale of existence from the neighbourhood of vegetative life to a standing among immortal spirits. I see the poor Jew dropping the veil and tearing the rock from his breast, and weeping as he looks on Him whom his fathers pierced. I see, from nation to nation, the angry passions hushed, the rancour of the heart extracted, the empire of crime broken, the sword beaten to a ploughshare, the night of ignorance dispersing, pardons everywhere sweeping away the sentence of death, and the general moan of misery changed to universal exultation and praise. These are fruits which everywhere grow up under the tread of a Saviour's feet. These are the triumphs of the Redeemer's reign. Who that sees these things in prospect does not rejoice that the kingdom was given to Christ? Who that has any other than the heart of a devil does not rejoice at this mighty movement which is taking place on earth? does not shout for joy at the sight of every new mission sent to the heathen? Go, ye messengers of Christ, gather to Him the promised seed from the wilderness; enlarge His kingdom among the children of the forest, and translate His praises into tongues which never before contained His name. While ye go my soul shall thank you and rejoice; yea, it shall leap for joy that He who wore the platted thorns is to wear the many crowns.

5. We owe it Him to devote ourselves to His service, and to consecrate all that we are and have to the promotion of His kingdom. "Ye are not your own," said the apostle, "for ye are bought with a price." "Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men." That is, have but one master; be not in subjection to the opinions and customs of the world; attempt not to serve God and mammon; keep your eye single; have but one ultimate end; remember that you are not your own, but belong exclusively to Him who purchased you with His blood. O what a sacred bond would a deep sense of these words impose! "Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price." If a man has bought a criminal from prison and from death that he may be his servant, how reasonably bound is that man to devote all his time to his benefactor, and never to feel himself his own. Had it not been for the bitter sufferings of our divine Master, we should have been spending all these years in hell. Surely then we are not our own but His. And nothing that we call our own is ours. "Holiness to the Lord," should be inscribed on everything that we are or have. Our only business on earth should be to promote His Kingdom and glory. Our time and talents should have no other appropriation; our exertions should have no other aim; all our habits and expenses and amusements and business and calculations should be brought under this law; every particle of our property should be disposed of in a manner which we conscientiously believe most calculated to honour Christ, and should be held ready to be given up without a struggle as fast as He calls for it, even to the uttermost farthing. We should rack our invention to contrive ways of doing good, and be constantly occupied in this study and work, as far as health will permit. We should be sure to bring to pass as much as possible every day. And when we find a clear opportunity to do or give something to promote the kingdom of Christ, we should rejoice in it more than in great riches. This is certainly the least that can result from feeling ourselves not our own, but bought with a price: and all this we manifestly owe to Him who left the heaven of His glory to die for us on a cross. Say, ye redeemed of the Lord, is this too much? Ask John, while that burst of gratitude is breaking from His heart, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood," and would he say that I have placed the standard too high? My brethren, we have divided the interest with Christ long enough. Hereafter let Him have the whole. Let us look through our hearts and families, through our neighbourhood and world, and see what we can give or do for His kingdom, and cast in our prayers, our efforts, our property, our all, to advance that great and only interest of the world. And when that kingdom shall be completed in heaven, we shall find enough in it to constitute our eternal portion, without the husks which we gave for its advancement. Let that be my portion, and let sinners take the rest. Amen.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Set Thy House In Order; For Thou Shalt Die

Set Thy House In Order; For Thou Shalt Die

by Edward D. Griffin

A New-Year's Sermon.

"Thus saith the LORD, Set thy house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live."
2 Kings xx. 1.

Would to God that every worldly care might be banished from this house, that it might be to us as solemn as the curtains of our dying bed, and that for a little season we might feel that we must die. A message has come from the eternal world, to me, to each of you, "Thus saith the LORD, Set thy house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live." It is with trembling that I bring the message to you. I tremble under a sense of its awful import. I tremble lest it should not be delivered in a skilful [sic] and faithful manner. And I tremble lest it should fail to produce the desired effect on you, the dear people of my charge. Alas, what reason have I for such a fear. I have, in my feeble manner (though in the best manner I was able), seconded the efforts of my paternal colleague; and we have pressed you with all the arguments and entreaties which anxious concern for your eternal welfare could suggest. But ah, how little does it avail. Perhaps there never was a season since the Gospel was preached to this congregation, when its effects were so little felt as at the present time. Did I know, my dear hearers, in what new method I could, with better effect, address you this day,—what arguments or persuasions, hitherto untried, the Holy Spirit would bless to your conviction, my sad heart would gladly seize them and present them to you in all the eagerness of anxious love. Had I but one prayer to offer, it should be that this message may produce on you the same effect that it did on the good Hezekiah.

One great reason that the entreaties of heaven have so little influence to arrest men in the pursuits of ambition and the world is, that they do not realizingly [sic] believe that they shall ever die. Could a deep sense of this solemn truth take possession of their minds, our expostulations would then gain admission to their ears, and perhaps to their hearts. Away then every unbelieving thought, and leave us for a little season to reflect on our approaching fate. It will be but a few days (for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it) when weeping relatives will follow to the grave every person in this assembly. But a few days and the voice of your minister shall be no more heard in this sacred place; another will succeed; but he may not find one of you present to hear his awakening tones. You may be where an angel's voice would not break your slumbers, where nothing shall make you hear till the trump of God shall sound. Where are they who formerly used to hear the Gospel in this congregation? Their seats are filled by others, and you must seek your fathers among the cold "clods of the valley," where you children will presently weep as they read the inscriptions on your monuments. Often, in the solemn dusk of evening, they may stray among the graves, and pointing to a decayed monument may say, "There lies our ancestor, long since mouldered to dust. On his bosom sleeps a favourite child, and around him are gathering the last remains of his house." A tear and a sigh may escape them, but strangers will tread upon your dust with the same indifference with which you walk over the graves of those who died a century ago. And soon it may be unknown on earth that you ever existed. A new generation will occupy your places without a thought of you, while your spirits will be either rapt in the vision of God and spreading their wings on the air of paradise, or shrieking with tormented ghosts and pouring on the ears of hell the horrid tones of despair.

"It is appointed unto all men once to die." Neither youth nor vigour nor piety nor usefulness can avert this fate. "One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet. His breasts are full of milk and his bones are moistened with marrow. And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure. They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them." In the full tide of health, in the midst of our jocund pleasures, our ambitions pursuits, our long calculations for worldly happiness, still an hour hung with black and covered with weeds is before us all. Unless we are cut off by a sudden stroke, each one of us, however unused to suffering, however our vital energies may have formerly resisted disease, each one of us must endure pain, must feel the attack of our last sickness, must be thrown upon a dying bed. An anxious pulse through all our frame shall beat the time to death's approach. A burning fever, painting lungs, racking pains, shall gradually loosen the bands of life. Do we boast of a vigorous constitution? This will only render the struggle still more severe. We must all endure pain enough to break the cords which hold the soul confined, and by a fearful disruption it must be torn from its vital seat. Whether this shall be by a sudden rack of pain or by more gradual and wasting sickness, the event is unavoidable and we must meet it. But whether more gradual or sudden, it will require a fearful conflict to drive the soul from its beloved tenement; and this conflict we must endure, until we can no longer bear it,—until we faint and die. No degree of piety will exempt us. Our "fathers, where are they? and the prophets," did "they live for ever?" This is a terror to nature; but there is one thing which can extract the sting of death and support and cheer the soul under its approach. This is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This made the martyrs triumph and hug the stake around which the fires were kindling. This, though it cannot repel, will render death more welcome than our bridal hour. Look between the curtains of a dying saint; mark his prospects glistening in his uplifted  eye. True, his feeble flesh pants and languishes; but he knows that his pains will not endure for ever. His weary soul shall soon rest upon a Saviour's bosom. Go into the next apartment, and behold the distorted features of a dying sinner. He has done with the world; he has done with pleasure and health; he is trembling and tossing under a struggle with the king of terrors. O for the repose of a single hour! But repose has fled. There is no more rest for him in this world. He is sliding down a slippery hill into eternity; and nothing can check his course. "O for a little rest!" he cries. He tries one posture and then another, but finds no rest in either. My God! and is there no pillow on which he may rest a moment beyond the grave? Is there no repose for him any more through the ages of eternity? "The silver cord" is loosened, "the golden bowl" is "broken." He opens his eyes among tormented ghosts. I hear him cry, "O to return to a dying bed! I would hug it as a bed of down: I would welcome it like heaven." My soul turns from the horrid scene and cries, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."

My beloved hearers, one more year has run its course; one more period of time is now with the years beyond the flood. A new epoch reminds us with what silent, rapid speed time steals along. We are all one year older, one year nearer to the eternal world, and have one year more to answer for. We imperceptibly grow old and approach our dying hour without being aware how rapidly we advance. The boy, the youth, the man, is looking forward to life, until he suddenly awakes from his dream and finds his life is chiefly spent. This I can attest by melancholy experience. I have been looking forward to life till now; but this day, this very day, measures to me just one-half of threescore years and ten. The illusion has now vanished, and I am at length convinced that my life is not before me but behind me, that I must look back to find it rather than forward. Doubtless there are others in this house whose life stands nearly at the same point. I cannot resist the propensity I feel to offer a few thoughts to them. You have probably, my dear friends, been involved in the common delusion of men, and have till now been calculating that you were young, and that the principal part of life and its enjoyments was before you. But how stands the account? Fifteen years more and you are fifty, and must probably begin to feel the infirmities of age. Little can you promise yourselves after that period. In addition to the commencing decays of nature, you must expect to find the companions of your youth thinned around you, and probably breaches made in your domestic relations which will change the appearance of the world and render it a solitary scene to you the rest of your days. You may possibly reach the summit of fourscore years; but really you have little prospect of enjoying the world more than ten, fifteen, or twenty years longer. The season of enjoyment has been chiefly spent before you were aware. Is it not the time to begin to make provision for another world? "Thus saith the Lord, Set thy house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live."

It is my wish to preach this day as a dying man to dying men. I am, I think, in some measure sensible that I must shortly appear with you, my dear hearers, at the bar of Christ. I therefor shall address you as a collection of people about to enter the world of spirits. I will speak to you in some such sort as though I was standing by your dying bed. "Thus saith the Lord, Set thy house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live." I pray that you may now hear, and that you may hereafter feel and act, as people who are about to die. There are two points which it is here proper to consider. 

I. What views and feelings naturally possess a man who is conscious that his end is near.
II. What measures he will take to set his house in order.

I. What views and feelings naturally possess a man who is conscious that his end is near. If his mind has an ordinary share of sensibility, he will dismiss his worldly care and turn his thoughts to the contemplation of eternity. He is no longer interested in a world he is soon to leave. The calculations and pursuits of men, their joys, their griefs, their disappointments, their success, their hurry, their hopes, their fears, all appear as idle as the sports of children. The world is lighter to him than a feather. Neither losses nor disappointments nor prosperity has power to affect him. You see him not pressing from business to business in a rage to be rich. You see him not stretching after preferment. His pride is reduced. You see him no longer assuming haughty airs, no longer fretted at every supposed neglect. Meekness and gentleness mark his deportment. No longer can unbelief or the world hide a prospect of death or seduce his thoughts from God. He looks death in the face. He turns his anxious eye to explore eternal objects. He raises an earnest look to heaven. He ardently betakes himself to prayer and to reading his Bible. All his anxiety is to prepare for his approaching fate. You all perceive that these are rational exercises for a dying man; why then not for you? It is to dying men that I am speaking. I can say to you all, "As the Lord liveth, and as" your "soul liveth, there is but a step between" you "and death."

II. Let us consider what measures a man will naturally take to set his house in order, who, with proper views, is conscious that his end is near.

1. It would be natural for him, as an honest man, to wish to settle all is accounts. This might be necessary to secure his creditors and to prevent insolvency. My dying friends, allow me to press it upon you to lose no time in looking over your long and complicated account with your Maker, and get it settled before you die; for as surely as it is left to b settled after death, you will prove everlasting bankrupts. I fear there may be some that hear me who never seriously considered that they had any account with their Maker. This is a sad mistake. God has a long and heavy account against every man. In looking over this account there are four points to be particularly considered. First, what is due to God for His own glorious perfections, as the most holy, just, and good,—as the infinite Majesty of heaven and earth, the rightful Sovereign of His creatures, who has strictly commanded every man to love Him with all the heart and soul. Secondly, what is due to God as your Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and Redeemer, for your reason and health, your food and raiment, your friends and possessions; for His mercies, which have been "new every morning" and repeated every moment, through a long succession of years. God, your Lord and Master, your Creator and Preserver, has sent you into His world to labour for Him. He has given you faculties of soul and body; He has given you time and the means of grace, and many opportunities of doing and getting good: and all these talents He has strictly commanded you to "occupy" till He shall "come." Imagine not that you were sent into the world to serve yourselves. No, you were sent, like servants into a vineyard, to labour for your Master. So many years have you been in the vineyard, and now your Master is about to cal you to account; and what account are you prepared to render? What have you ever done for your Maker? This is the third count which you are to examine. What have you ever done for Him who has given you all these talents? I ask not whether you have led moral lives, from the mere influence of education or natural principles. I ask not whether you have done acts of charity, or contributed to support the Gospel, from similar principles. But I ask what you have ever done from a sincere regard to the glory of God, and from a tender love for His Church and for the souls which He has made. If you have done anything in this way, it is well; but if nothing, enter it thus in the account and remember it. Remember that for so many years you have lived in God's world and had the use of His talents, and have never employed them at all in His service. It is a fearful conclusion. But it will be of no use to deceive yourselves. The fourth count which you are to examine is, what you have done against God, in thought, word, and deed. In thought. How many vain thoughts, how many proud, envious, revengeful thoughts, how many hard thoughts of God and His government, how many unseasonable thoughts, as worldly thoughts on the Sabbath or wandering thoughts in prayer, how many selfish feelings, how much idolatry, worldly-mindedness, and unbelief? Examine also your words; for "every idle word" shall be brought into judgment How many vain words, how many deceitful and false words? how many profane or irreverent expressions respecting God or the Bible, how many angry or defamatory words? Examine also your actions. How many unprofitable actions which only wasted precious time, how many unjust actions, how many undutiful [sic] actions towards parents, how many unkind actions towards husbands or wives, how many unfaithful actions towards children and friends, how many improper actions towards superiors, inferiors, enemies, domestics, the poor? How many of the ten commandments have you broken? and how frequently? How many sins in thought, word, and deed have you committed in the course of twenty, forty, sixty years? One sin deserves everlasting fire, and how many millions have you committed? Ah, my friends, if the sentence has gone out that this year you shall die, I fear the accounts of some of you will be found in wretched disorder. Are you prepared for judgment? You are just about to be called to an awful account by your Maker, and are you prepared? How stands the account with your God? Is it settled or is it not? If not, settle it, I beseech you, without delay. Loaded as you are with debt, you must be cast into prison unless your Surety undertakes for you: and He never will do this unless you earnestly apply to Him by faith. God to Him and engage His intercession. Rest upon Him as the only hope in a dying hour. Delay not; your breath is departing: the next hour may be too late.

As dying men it becomes you to settle all your accounts with your fellow-creatures, and not leave them to be settled at the day of judgment. If you hold grudges against any, or suppose they hold grudges against you, come to an explanation. Forgive and be forgiven, that you may die in peace with all men. have you defrauded any, whether by downright knavery or hard dealings, make restitution as soon as you are able. Have you defrauded your families by withholding pious instructions and examples, by neglecting to pray with and for them; hasten to repair the injury in the best manner you can. Hasten, for the time is short.

2. A dying man, in setting his house in order, would be desirous to dispatch all important, unfinished business, which could not be accomplished by others after his death. So do you. There is much to be done of the great business of life which another cannot do for you after your decease, and which, if you do not hasten to dispatch it, must be left undone to eternity. How far you have completed the business of life, you will judge for yourselves. This business is to subdue the passions, to learn the character of God and the way of life through His Son, to obey His will, to promote His kingdom, to advance the present and eternal interests of men, to acquire the Christian graces, to catch the notes and learn the praise of heaven. How much of this vast business remains to be done? Is it half finished? Is it even begun? It is to be feared that some of you have lived thirty, forty, and fifty years in God's world, breathing His air and living on His bounty, without even beginning the great work for which He sent you into the world. And now you are just about to be called out of the world, and still have all this momentous business to perform. Perhaps you are still asleep, and do not intend to awake till some future day. Had a dying man so much business on hand, and of such a nature that he could attend to it, with what anxious haste would he set about it. Sinners, awake and hasten for your lives. Pious parents, awake. You will soon be called from your children: whatever you do to fit them for heaven, you must do quickly. 

3. It is common for dying Christians to call their families around them and impart to them their final counsel. Thus do ye. While you are walking on the brink of the grave, and eternity is opening upon your sight; while about to take leave of your dear families, to resign them into the hands of strangers, to grow up, it may be, without any friend to form them for heaven,—call them, O call them quickly around you, and with all the commotion of pity, warn them, plead with them, and press them into the kingdom of God. Look into the streets; behold men all around you about to launch into eternity, and many of them into everlasting fire; and have you no dying charge to give them? Yes, cry unto them and pres them until your breath fails. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."

4. It is customary for men, when setting their house in order, to make their wills. I have no advice to give as to the disposition of your worldly estate. But I solemnly charge you to bequeath to God your immortal souls with all their faculties, and your bodies, to sleep in His arms, in expectation of a joyful resurrection.

5. It is not uncommon for people, when they view their end approaching, to prepare their shroud, and make every provision for their funeral obsequies, that nothing may be left to be done int he distress and confusion of the mournful day. And sometimes they prepare beforehand a vault to receive their remains. And I pray God that you may all make such full preparations for your latter end, that when the time comes you may have nothing to do but to die, and find that you have prepared a resting-place in the vaulted heavens for your repose after the struggles of a dying bed.

Dear youth, on whom the flush of health is shed, in whose veins the tide of life rapidly flows, boast not yourselves of youth and bloom. That youth and bloom will soon decay. Those smiling eyes will be suffused with tears; those active limbs will move no more.While yet the morning of life is bright upon you, come, like dutiful children, and dedicate the firstfruits of your years to your heavenly Father. It will be an offering of sweet incense to Him. Secure His favour before "the evil day come," and "the years draw nigh, when" you shall "say, I have no pleasure in them." For know, dear youth, that neither your fondest hopes nor a parent's tears can avert from you the stroke of death. In all your sportive prime, a message from the eternal world salutes you: "Thus saith the Lord, Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live."

Ye middle aged, it is high time for you to begin your provision for another world. You have probably traversed more than half your course. Should I address each one of you by name, I should tell you that the chance is greatest that you will never see the end of twenty years. Ay, my friends, the companions of my course, who are pressing on with me to the eternal world, how long shall business and ambition steal your hearts away, and no preparations be made to meet your God? Pause one moment in your hurried career; step aside with me from the din of the shouldering crowd; I have a secret message to whisper in your ear from the King of kings: "Thus saith the Lord, Set thy house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live."

My aged hearers, it seems needless to announce to you the approaching event. You cannot doubt that it is at the door. I approach you with reverence; but coming in the name of such a Master, I must not hesitate to deliver His message to you also. My venerable fathers, one by one, "Thus saith the Lord, Set thy house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live."

To all who are mortal, this message, ponderous as eternity, is addressed. O let it not be delivered in vain! Were its weighty import felt, what a solemn scene would this house present! The general inquiry would speak in every eye, "What must I do to be saved?" Ah, then believe me. Believe not me, but believe the eternal God who sent me. O be persuaded, be entreated (as though my hands clasped your feet), not to rush to judgment unprepared. It will be a dreadful scene. Turn, turn, and have compassion on your precious souls. I earnestly pray that not a person may leave this house without this message ringing, as the voice of God, in his ears, "Set thy house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live."







Monday, March 4, 2013

The Uncertainty of Human Life

The Uncertainty of Human Life

By Edward D. Griffin

"For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them."—Eccles. ix. 12.

ONE of the most lamentable effects of the fall is the incorrigible aversion of men to think of death. There is a strange stupidity in this matter which at first seems hard to e reconciled with the faculty of reason. The most solemn calls of Providence, instead of rousing men to these reflections, frequently harden them the more. It is an ancient aphorism that every man thinks all men mortal but himself. The cause of this unwillingness to think of death is easily explained. Such reflections cross our attachment to a world from which death is soon to sever us. They awaken our fears of a judgment to come, and force upon the mind unwelcome thoughts of God. A conviction that we are not prepared to die, or serious doubts on the subject, will clothe death with terror and make us recoil from the contemplation of it. Rather than encounter a realizing view of death, and engage in a serious preparation to meet it, men will hazard all consequences. Instead of wisely making God their friend, and thus rendering thoughts of Him delightful as the thoughts of a Father, and a view of death pleasant as a view of everlasting life; they will turn the subject from them and leave God to be their enemy, and content themselves with putting their enemy and their ruin out of view as long as they can. But while they disbelieve, their destruction is at the door. They are like soldiers marching up to the battery of an enemy with their eyes and ears closed, and dreaming of safety because they neither see nor hear the motions of the foe. Death will come, however much a stranger it may be to our thoughts; and it will come with double ruin for having been kept out of view so long. It may come suddenly, like the convulsions of an earthquake which at dead of night buries whole cities in ruins. These reflections are suggested by the solemn words I have read: "For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them."

Man also knoweth not his time," that is, he is ignorant of the time of his death and the time when overwhelming calamities may come upon him. When all is at rest in his house, when stillness reigns in his apartments, and sleep sits quiet on the lids of his family, the silent arrow of death may pierce the wife at his side or the children in his bosom. He may be stripped naked in one day like Job; or in the midst of his dreams of earthly happiness he may open his astonished eyes in the world of spirits.

"As the fishes that are taken in an evil net," while they are wandering securely, or sporting among pearls, or rushing together for food, little thinking of being suddenly drawn up in the concealed net.

"And as the birds that are caught in the snare," while they are hopping sportively without apprehension, or are eager to pick up the grain which is spread to decoy them to the death.

"So are the sons of men snared in an evil time," while they are sporting and feeding themselves, secure in conscious health, ignorant of the shaft that is festering in their breast.

"When it falleth suddenly upon them." While they are most secure, the arrow of the Almighty reaches their heart. While they are saying, "Soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry," the word comes, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee." "When they shall say, "Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape."

It is indeed no misfortune, but a happiness, to men that a veil is cast over future calamities, provided they hold themselves ready for all events. And this is the use which wisdom imperiously requires us to make of this uncertainty. Be prepared for the worst, and then peacefully commit the keeping of all your interests to a faithful Providence.

That "it is appointed unto men once to die," may be read in the countenances of all around us, and in the very ground on which we tread. Perhaps we scarcely step from our doors without treading on dust that was once animated with life. We are constantly walking up and down in the midst of graves, and moving over skulls which once laid schemes of ambition and gain. Our "fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live forever?" Where are now the people who first settled in this town? Where are they who filled these streets and composed this congregation and church before we were born? They are swept away, and all that remains of them this side of eternity now sleeps in the womb of yonder consecrated ground. Where are some of those whom my eyes lately beheld in this assembly? But it comes too near.

Where are now the ancient empires of Assyria, and Babylon, and Persia, and Greece, and Rome? Where are the emperors, statesmen, philosophers, and bards of antiquity? Where is now the immense army of Xerxes, which seemed to darken Asia, and to sink with its weight the land of Greece? Where are the exhaustless hordes of barbarians which issued from the north to overwhelm the Roman empire? Where can you find those stupendous monuments of human arts, the glorious cities of Nineveh, Babylon, Palmyra, and Memphis? Where is now the dust which was attached to the souls that lived before the flood? Where are now the many millions who have filled the world with noise and contention, with fame and folly, for a hundred generations? Kingdom has trodden on the heel of kingdom, and nation has followed nation, down to the land of forgetfulness. Their dust has long since returned to the common mass, and has perhaps lived and died scores of times. That which sat upon the throne has since sat upon the dunghill, and that which sat upon the dunghill has since sat upon the throne. Here is their dust, but where is their immortal part? Where are the many thousands of millions of souls that in different periods of time have escaped from dying beds, or from the field of battle? They have all stood before their righteous Judge and received their unalterable doom. Many of them have been transported with the joys of paradise for four and five thousand years, and have calmly looked down and have seen kingdom after kingdom moulder to decay, while they stood secure and unchanged in immortal life. Many of them have been in hell for more than fifty hundred years, tossing from side to side, and crying day and night for a drop of water to cool their tongue; but in fifty centuries one drop of water they have never obtained, and never will through the endless ages of eternity. They have abandoned all hope of ever seeing good again. There is but one point to which they look forward, and that is the day of judgment, which they anticipate with indescribable horror, as though it was the beginning of their torment; the point of time when their scattered dust will be collected and raised,—when they must stand, soul and body, before the judgment-seat of an almighty enemy. Never did guilty mortals, appalled with bursting thunder or trembling at midnight earthquakes, apprehend the final judgment with so much terror as the damned constantly do. They know that their guilt will then be laid open before an assembled universe, and that their punishment will be unspeakably increased.

It is not only "appointed unto men once to die," but the time of their death is altogether uncertain. Death may look in at your windows this night. You may faint and die before you leave your seats. The arrows of death which are flying around us may strike you at any time and without a moment's warning. And if any of you should be lodged under "the clods of the valley" before another Sabbath, it would be no more than has often happened. You hang over the grave by a thread on which the flame has seized, and you may look every moment to fall to rise not again "till the heavens be no more." "Good God! on what a slender thread hang everlasting things!" Could the veil be drawn from eternity and discover to your astonished eyes the infinitely glorious or dreadful consequences depending on the present life; could then the veil be drawn from the many agents which are constantly striving within you to keep in order your complicated machine, and discover to you the many critical juncture which are daily occurring, which, without making you sensible of it, bring you within a hair's breadth of death; could the veil be also drawn from the course of nature around you, and disclose the dangers among which you walk by day and sleep by night; could you thus have a view of your hourly exposures and of the eternal interests at stake, you would start from your dream like a man awoke in a burning house, and flee for your life,—ah! whither, whither, but to the arms of Christ? Were a man literally suspended over the eternal pit, only by a brittle thread, in full view of it, what horrors would seize him! Yet many hang over hell by as slender a thread, and are as easy as though no danger threatened. Unbelief keeps them secure at present, but when they once fall they can disbelieve no more.

These things are not said for the purpose of exciting needless alarm, but to call you, my dear dying friends, to examine the ground on which you stand, the end for which you were sent into the world, the use you have made of the talents intrusted to you, the solemn account you must shortly render, and whether or not you are prepared for sudden death.

On what ground then, my beloved friends, my dying charge, on what ground do you stand? Have you secured your future peace by a title on which you can confidently rely? Is there no defect? no doubt? On what then is your confidence built? On your innocence? Has your life been always such as a holy God can approve? Have you never incurred the sentence, "The soul that sinneth it shall die"? Is your confidence built on the presumption that there is no future state, or no future punishment? Then it is built on the presumption that there is no God, or at least no God of justice, and that all the proofs of divine revelation are a blank, and the hopes of the wise and good in every age have been delusions, and only the wicked have been in the right. O plunge not into eternity with brains turned with such madness as this. Is your confidence built on the mercy of God without a Saviour? But God out of Christ "is a consuming fire." Nor reason nor revelation can discover any mercy for the finally impenitent. Is your confidence built on Christ? Take care how you build on this foundation "wood, hay, stubble." If it is a confidence not to be disappointed, it will be attended with deep repentance, with supreme love to God, with humble dependence on the atonement and righteousness of Christ, with habitual devotion, with abandonment of the world, and with a general change of life. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new." Have you experienced this change? "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Without holiness "no man shall see the Lord." "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha." "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."

I cite these divine maxims as criterions by which you may decide your present state. And I add another. Have you that temper which is fitted to relish the holy joys and employments of heaven? the holy society and truths of heaven? If you have, then you will relish God's people and word and Sabbaths on earth more than you relish the world. If you have not, then you could not be happy in heaven if admitted to the place: you have no preparation in your souls to enjoy any happiness that is provided for men beyond the grave.

By such a line the word of God divides this assembly into two parts, and every person in the house falls on one side or the other. "He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad." Where then, my friends, dost thou fall? If death should arrest you this night, as perhaps it may, are you prepared to go? Are you prepared to enter the eternal world and give up an account of your life? Are you prepared to have every action, word, and thought scrutinized by omniscient purity, and retribution administered by almighty justice? Were a messenger from the world of spirits now to enter this house to announce your eternal doom; say, child of death and sin, could you calmly hear your sentence? Say, thou who art walking in the dark over a thousand apertures opening into eternity, are you prepared to hear your doom? Say, thou who hast a soul which must live to all eternity in heaven or hell, are you prepared to burst into eternity and know the worst? Poor, impenitent, prayerless sinner, are you ready to appear before God with all your guilt upon you, and to arm an infinite enemy against you? Consider, I beseech you, the end for which you were sent into the world. By all the love which a minister ought to bear to the people of his charge, with whom he expects soon to appear before God; by all the future sensibilities of your immortal souls, by all the mercy of a pleading Saviour, I do beseech you to awake out of sleep and to fix your eager eyes on these specific points: for what end did God send you into the world? for what end did He endow you with these Godlike faculties and invest you with these heavenly privileges? what is the work which He assigned you on earth? was it to pursue your own objects and forget Him? Can you believe that infinite munificence laid out so much expense and care upon a world, and placed immortal creatures in it, for no higher end than this? Your Bible tells you no; the conscience which God has placed in your breast tell you no; the very stones in the street almost tell you no. You were sent into the world as the servants of God. You received all these talents with a command to occupy till He shall come. He is infinitely worthy of your love. He has perfect right as your Creator and Lord to bind you to His service by laws. And by laws He has bound you to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might"; and, "whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do," to "do all to the glory of God." This was the end for which He sent you into the world. And now I must press the question with all the earnestness of anxious friendship, How have you answered this end since you have been in the world? Have you set before you God's glory as the great object, and His commands as the rule of your life? Have you delighted in communing with Him in the family and closet, and taught your children to love Him as their dearest friend? Or have you neglected Him and gone after the world, for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years? Have you been so long in His vineyard and done no part of the work for which He placed you there? Have you received so many mercies from God, and lived so long in His world, and breathed His air, and never once sincerely thanked Him? And now the time draws near when you must return from the vineyard to tell your Lord what you have done and what you have left undone. And what will your account be? Let your soberest reason be brought to decide this question, What must your account be? Suppose you are called to judgment to-ight, what must you account be? I pray you not to turn this question from you. Look into your hearts and lives. What have you ever done for God? that is, with a sincere desire for His glory? What have you ever done against Him? These things will shortly be examined in a court from which there is no appeal. If human entreaties could avail I would kneel and clasp your knees. By the spirits of our departed friends, by the joys of those that sleep in Jesus, and the pains of those who have no God, I adjure you to consider that when you have once plunged into eternity, there is no coming back to make a second trial. If you have rushed into the presence of God with sins unlamented and guilt unpurged, all is gone, eternally gone, without recovery or redress. Ten thousand years must you cast back your anguished eyes to privileges you once enjoyed, to calls you once rejected, to entreaties you trampled under foot. And O the thought that you came so near to heaven and fell short at last, with double the weight of your damnation. Eternal ages will roll away with no other employment for you but to "mourn at the last when" you "flesh and" your "body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!" (Prov. v 11, 12.)

"And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh," after repeated judgments had assailed him in vain, "and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?" If ever there was a time for this expostulation to be repeated in this assembly, it is the present. Judgment after judgment from the Almighty is coming upon us by day and by night. The arrows of God strike us dead without warning. The flames are commissioned to seize our dwellings in the midnight hour and to devour human life. The cries of widows and orphans and houseless families touch our hearts on every hand. And yet who has repented of his sins? Who has turned unto the Lord? Who is sighing and crying for the public and private sins that have drawn down these judgments upon us? Pharaoh-like, when one judgment comes we harden ourselves and wait for another. And another will probably come if we cannot be brought to repentance by what we have already suffered. God has certainly some great controversy with this people; and it is high time for us to search for the Achan in our camp. He has shown us that He is strong, and that it is unsafe to anger Him. There is some great sin that is yet unrepented of. Search, I pray you, your hearts and your houses for this Babylonish garment that has offended heaven. Do not, like Pharaoh, be too proud to relent. You remember how it fared with him: God forbid that we should harden ourselves until a similar destruction overtake us. Standing in my place as a messenger of an offended God, I call on those who tremble at His word to go forth in one body and "weep between the porch and the altar, and say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thy heritage to reproach." Let those who still justify their sins remember that they yet have bodies that can die, and families that can be smitten, and houses that may be consumed. Yes, and they have souls that can be lashed with eternal plagues. I call upon every one that hears me to humble himself under the mighty hand of God, and to cry on his bended knees day and night, "O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? Put up thyself into thy scabbard; rest and be still."

I can now appeal to heaven and earth that I have warned you. Therefore if the last convulsions seize you this night, say not, as you eye-balls roll in death, that you were not warned. If you are suddenly caught away to the tribunal of God, plead not there, while shaken with the frowns of your Judge, I was not warned. And while you are crying to rocks and mountains to cover you, curse not your minister for suffering you to go to hell unwarned. But why do I speak thus? You must not go; you shall not go if prayers and entreaties can stop you. Do return and have mercy on yourselves. Put me not off with excuses. When the sword of the Almighty is at your breast it is too late to talk of a more convenient season. This proneness to procrastination has destroyed more than the sword and the pestilence. It is the common highway to destruction. Few leap into perdition at once: they reach it by the gradual course of delay. They all mean to reform at last, presuming on the future aids of that mercy which they now abuse. But that mercy is not always at their command. It is just with God to withhold in their extremity those influences which in better days they rejected; and so they die as they have lived. Those of you who wish for salvation ought to begin before you leave your seats. O that God would shake this house, and fill it with the solemnity of the last judgment. Amen.