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whose doom is shadowed forth by the worm that dieth not, and the lake that burneth with quenchless fire: pass down the stream of endless years, and, when myriads after myriads of ages shall have carried you far beyond the utmost point that imagination can now reach, pause there, and ask the sufferers in hell, and the glorified in heaven to tell you, if they can, the value of those interests which are suspend. ed on the gospel.
With such interests at stake can we fail to be excited ? Go bid the mother feel not while her first born, her only child is expiring in her arms; bid the fond father and husband feel not as he sees his house and whole family wrapt in flames, and hears their wild shrieks for relief; but tell not him whose immortality is at stake, to smother his feelings on a subject that fills all heaven with deep solicitude ? Sooner put your foot on the raging volcano, and bid its fiery bosom cease to heave.
V. But reflect on the necessity of strong emotion. Without it the gospel can never accomplish its great design of preparing a fallen race for heaven. Can rebels against God be reclaimed from sin, and transformed into his image, without touching their sensibilities ? A sinner regenerated, a Christian sanctified, and united to God, without melting his heart! Can you weld cold iron?
Look at the essential elements of piety. Its seat is in the heart; its very aliment is emotion; and as well might you talk of vision without light, or of fire without heat, as of a Christian without excitement. Examine his spiritual exercises, and see if they are not all exciting. Is there no emotion in that godly sorrow for sin which is unto life? None in that faith which works by love, purifies the heart, and overcomes the world? None in the returning prodigal, none in the humble publican, none in every one of the graces that characterize a new creature in Christ? While attending on the various exercises of devotion, while passing through the conflicts of his spiritual war. fare, and going on from one degree of grace to another, till he attains the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus, can the Christian be unmoved? As well might you live without breathing. Piety without emotion is utterly irreconcilable.
VI. Look at some prominent EXAMPLES of true religion. Here we see its essence bodied forth in visible and living forms. And were they all cold as ice? Did piety, in the days of its greatest purity and power, produce no excitement ? Did it touch no chord of deep and exquisite sensibility in the bosom of patriarchs, prophets and apostles ? Was the royal penitent unmoved while pouring forth the confessions and entreaties of the fifty-first Psalm ? When smitten to the earth on the plains of Damascus, did Paul feel no emotion ? Was there no excitement on the day of Pentecost? None in the bosom of the trem. bling jailer? None wherever the apostles preached the gospel in demonstration of the Spirit and of power? See the early disciples forsaking father and mother, wife and children, home and country, to go forth, few and feeble, on the mighty enterprise of converting the world to a crucified Savior, braving all the terrors of the dungeon and the stake, setting at defiance the rage of earth and hell leagued against them; and say, can you discover in them no strength of emotion ?
If the religion of earth will not satisfy you, examine that of heaven. Inquire of those who have for untold ages bowed before the throne of Jehovah, and rejoiced in his presence, where is fullness of joy. Has there been no excitement in the bosom of those pure and happy spirits ? Did the seraphim never kindle into rapture, never burst forth in transports of admiration and praise, never make the lofty arch of heaven ring with their allaluiahs to the Lord God Omnipotent?
If then man was made for excitement; if the gospel was designed, and its truths are adapted to produce the deepest emotion ; if the interests at stake so urgently require it; if it is indispensable to the very existence of piety; if the best examples of earth and heaven conspire to illustrate and enforce it; surely we ought to exhibit an ever-burning zeal in matters of religion.
1. Hence we see the propriety of applying divine truth so as to move the whole inner man. Often does it fall on the soul as powerless as moon-beams on a mountain of ice, either because the hearer will not let it come home to himself, or because the preacher does not duly press it on the heart and conscience. He may preach the truth but does not grapple it to the hearer's mind with hooks of steel. He may discharge arrows drawn from the quiver of the Almighty; but he shoots them so much at random as to hit no one, or wraps so much silk about the point as to penetrate no one's heart or conscience. But did Baxter, did Paul, did the Son of God preach thus ? But you dread the consequences of excitement.
What consequences ? Anxious inquiries after the way of life, the conversion of sinners, the quickening of Christians in their spiritual course? No; but the bad passions that may spring up under such a plain and pointed exhibition of the truth. But who are to blame for such passions ? The preaching of Christ and his apostles was followed everywhere with similar results : but would you blame them instead of their infuriated persecutors ? Let every sinner be willing to do his duty by repentance, and faith, and new obedience, and this' conflict between the gospel and human depravity would forever cease.
2. Far be it from me to plead for an improper kind, or an excessive degree of excitement in religion. It should ever be holy, constant, well-regulated. It should spring from intelligent and disciplined piety. It should be lighted only at the altar of God, and be kept alive only by the truths of his word, and the influences of his Spirit. It should be constantly increasing to the end of life. The zeal that is hot to-day, and cold to-morrow, that blazes in a crowd, but dies in solitude, that thinks by the fidelity of a month to earn the privilege of a year's apathy and sloth, is worse than useless. Ours should be, not like the flashes of a fire-fly in a summer evening, or the lurid gleams of lightning at midnight, but like the sun pouring down a ceaseless flood of genial light and heat. I have no sympathy with that sort of zeal which wakes up at the commencement of a revival, and coolly calculates on going to sleep again at its close. I plead only for that which will keep the Christian awake through life, and make his soul, even amid a general declension, like the land of Goshen during the darkness that brooded over all the rest of Egypt.
3. Object not the impossibility of sustaining such a spirit of zeal. I know how exhausting are the excitements of guilt; they create in the bosom a whirlwind that convulses the soul, and shatters its tenement of clay. But is it so with the fervors of holiness? Did the zeal of prophets and apostles derange their minds, or waste their energies ? Will the excitement of heaven exhaust the glorified spirits there? Such exeitement, so far from enfeebling our minds, jading our spirits, or undermining our health, would continually impart fresh vigor to them all.
4. Reflech, then, on the fatal delusion of those who make their religion to consist simply in cool exercises of the intellect. Could you speak with the tongue of men and of angels; had you the gift of prophecy, and understood all the mysteries of religion; had you the highest degree of knowledge, and a faith sufficient to remove mountains; what would you still be without those warm emotions of love to God and man which the gospel requires ? Sounding brass, a tinkling eymbal. Hast thou faith? Be it so; but can faith alone save tbee? Dost thou believe there is one God? Devils also believe that, and tremble tro. Dost thou assent to the entire system of truth revealed in the Bible? So has many a sinner that still went down to bis grave impenitent. Hast thou even professed Christ b-fore men ? So had they who are represented as pleading before their final Judge, "We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.” But he will reply, “I never knew you; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity."
What then must we think of men whose sensibilities are all asleep on the heart-stirring themes of the gospel ? Knowledge, indeed, they may have; that knowledge which puffeth up; philosophy, falsely so called, that starts a thousand foolish questions, and genders an abundance of strife and vain babbling; that pries into mysteries never revealed, displays a wonderful skill in threading the labyrinths of a metaphysical theology, and contends fiercely enough, if not for the faith once delivered to the saints, yet for its own favorite dogmas. But is this religion? If a man thus makes his head a sort of ice-house to keep his heart in a state of perpetual coldness; if his soul can slumber over those truths and glories which fill all heaven with transport; if he can sleep over a world perishing in sin, at the dawn of the millenium, and in view of such motives as drew the Son of God from his throne to a cross-can he possess the spirit of apostles, or of the divine Lord and Master ?
5. Here we find a full answer to the charge of excessive zeal in religion. Its quality may be wrong; but there is no danger of there being too much of the right kind. Is it possible to feel, or sacrifice in this cause more than the gospel requires, or its spirit would prompt; more than our own immortal interests, or those of a perishing world imperiously demand; more than prophets, a postles and martyrs actually did? Who is more fired with holy enthusiasm than Paul was? or more than saints and angels in heaven will forever be ? Beware, then, how you censure a degree of zeal which you
do not reach, and cannot fully appreciate in others. Look first to yourself; for a cold heart is a bad judge in such a case. With the spirit of Christ glowing in your bosom, would you censure them? Take care best you betray your own deficiencies, contravene the whole tenor of The Bible, and reproach some of the best men that ever lived. Measure the intensity of that love which brought the Savior from his Father's bosom to the cross; drink, yourself, a few draughts from that tide of holy, rapturous emotion which will pour through paradise forever; inquire of the martyr as he gazes on the opening visions of eternity, and in his chariot of fire mounts up to glory; ask all the worthies of the church in past ages, all the master-spirits of heaven; and then say, if you can find, even in this excitable age, a degree of ml equal to the exigencies of the case.
But whence come charges of enthusiasm? From the sincere, devoted follower of Christ, or even from men who would fain extin. guish all enthusiasm, or censure that of the student and the poet, the orator and the patriot, or frown on that spirit of enterprise which is hewing down our forests, and constructing our canals and railways, whitening every sea with our sails, and wafting home to our bosoms the riches of every clime? Yes; go to the man who is daily straining all his powers to reach a high point of professional eminence; go to the devotee of pleasure who feeds his jaded sensibilities with novels, theatres and other fashionable amusements; go to the miser who sacrifices himself, soul and body, a whole burnt-offering at the shrine of Mammon; go to a man like the late ravager of Europe, his bosom a volcano of enthusiasm, whose lava desolated a continent; and these are the very men whom you will find, though all ablaze themselves in chase of this world's vanities, yet loudly reprobating enthusiasm in matters of religion.
6. But genuine zeal is the grand desideratum of the age. A thousand voices from every quarter of the world, from heaven, and from hell, are calling loudly for a far higher degree of it than the church has ever reached. God enjoins it. The Savior expects it. The gospel deserves it Motives from three worlds plead for it. Six hundred millions going down to their graves in sin cry aloud for it. All the benevolent enterprises of the day most deeply need it. It is indis. pensable to sustain revivals of religion, and prepare the way for that revival of a thousand years which shall one day encircle the globe, and send its saving influences into every human family. The angel having the everlasting gospel to preach, is waiting for it. The promises of God in his word, the openings of providence, the dawning glories of the millenium, all most imperiously demand it. Breathe the zeal of prophets and apostles, the spirit of Christ himself, only a small portion of heaven's enthusiasm, into all that bear the Christian name; and how soon would the hosannahs of our whole race blest with the privileges of the gospel, rise to mingle with the anthems above unto Him who hath loved us, and given himself to die for us—unto whom be glory forever. AMEN.