Imágenes de páginas

doeth good, no not one." Every soul has been arraigned at the bar of divine justice; the charge of universal guilt has been established; and sentence of death passed upon every descendant of him who first violated the command of his Maker. By nature all are alienated from the love of God, and averse to holy principles of action; and, therefore, in the sense intended by our Apostle, they are spiritually dead. For the purposes of self-gratification ; for the active pursuit of present enjoyment; for the inordina te love of the things of time and sense, man has principles and faculties of action abundantly sufficient. Ingenuity in the contrivance of his plans, activity in their pursuit, perseverance in their accomplishment, all who are observant of the course of human action will admit to belong naturally to man. It is this very devotion to earthly things, associated with dislike to spiritual, that the terms of our text were intended to designate. When we speak of a man's being “ dead in trespasses and sins, and so incapable of doing what is spiritually good, it is not physical nor intellectual, but moral incompetency we intend. It is like our speaking of a miser being incapable of a generous action. The evil lies in the perverted state of the will, or heart, which is the seat of guilt. It does not imply that the man could not do what is right, if he really had a desire for it. But he has no inclination for spiritual things. On the contrary, he has a deliberate and allowed aversion to what is agreeable to the will of God. He is dead to holy duties—has no relish for them. This is sinful, and brings him in guilty before God. And, surely, it does not di. minish, far less take away his guilt, that such is its extent, that nothing less than divine

power will ever overcome it. Unrenewed men are utterly opposed to the holy requirements of God's law; and they willingly, and without constraint, reject the Gospel. The first is sufficient to seal their condemnation. The second raises their criminality into a still higher grade of atrocity. Having incurred an awful penalty, they ungratefully reject the declared and only means of its remission. They manifest no desire after an interest in the salvation which God has mercifully revealed. They have willingly brought upon themselves the guilt of transgression, and they are most criminally indifferent 10 the promises which divine mercy proposes for its removal. Is not this statement supported by Scripture authority and daily observation ? Surely an unbiassed judgment must acknowledge its accordance with both. Men are called upon to love God with all their heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. They are conjured to abandon their pride, and self-indulgence, their love of the world, their reliance on their own righteousness, their opposition to the grace of the Gospel. There are set before them the love of God, as the legitimate and grand incentive to duty; his law as the supreme rule of conduct, his glory as its proper end, and his mercy in Christ Jesus as the only hope of escaping the consequences of transgression. But alas, how inellectually are these things pressed upon their attention ! ritude and vigor of action, which are so readily called forth in the inferior con. cerns of life, are here wanting.

Call we to such ever so loudly; they an. swer not. Proclaim we the terrors of the Lord ; they still slumber and sleep amid the billows of divine wraih. Address we to them the affecting appeals

All that prompof God's mercy and compassion ; they have ears, but they hear not. Reiterate we the free forgiveness of the Gospel, and all the countless blessings God is ready, for Christ's sake, to bestow upon repentant sinners; they refuse to stretch out the hand of faith to receive them. O how many have lived estemed, and died lamented, and have had eulogies eloquent, perhaps just, pronounced upon their social virtues, whose minds have been strangers to the spirituality and holiness of God's law, whose conduct has not been subordinated to his commands, and whose hearts have never felt the quickenings of his grace, and so risen into that spiritual life which alone prepares for life eternal! Never do they seem to realize the solemn truth, that the period of probation is wasted and the soul destroyed by any course that is pursued without reference to God and the salvation of his Son, and with no heart-fels reliance on that Almighty Spirit, who alone quickeneth the spiritually dead. And this appropriately introduces our

II. Second topic: namely, the agency by which alone, souls, dead in trespasses and sins, are rescued from that state. “ You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sing.”

It is Christ, through the eternal Spirit, who is the agent in this great work. The converted Ephesians had heard the voice of the Son of God, and lived : and that same Son of God has still a voice upon earth. He addresses men in his Gospel, which, under the influences of the Spirit, that gracious Comforter, whom, agreeably to his promise, he hath sent from the Father, is made the power of God unto their salvation. This is the appointed agency for calling mau from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from Satan to God, from spiritual death to spiritual life and peace. The doctrine of an incarnate Savior, honored not merely as a preacher of righteousness, but as an atoning sacrifice, applied by the Spirit in demonstration and power, is, indeed, to its believing recipient, as life from the dead. The sight, by faith, of Jesus Christ, consenting to die, as a vicarious offering for sin, in our flesh, and in our behalf, with the incalculable weight of all our offences on his guiltless head; and then rising from the dead, still bearing our nature in triumph from the grave, and elevating it to the throne of God in glory, where he ever lives as our prevailing intercessor, imparts, as it were, a new existence to the soul. In the cordial persuasion and acceptance of these wondrous truths, it revives from its dreadful torpor, and is animated with principles of spiritual life before unknown. No otherwise can any experience a resurrection from the death of sin, and a new birth to righteousness, or look forward with well grounded hope for the salvation of God. That blessed Gospel which proclaims these saving truths also shows man his depravity and helplessness. It indicates with unclouded clearness that he needs salvation from the dominion, as well as the penalty of sin; but that, in neither respect, can he be a Savior to himself; that he must place his entire dependence upon “the Lamb of God," 10 whom has been committed the work of redemption, and “who alone taketh away the sin of the world :” and it sets forth this divinely constituted Redeemer in all the freeness, extent, and fulness of his great salvation. It exhibits him as declaring, in these unmeasured terms, the ample sufficiency

of the means of its attainment, and as pledging his sacred word for its bestowment on every believer;"I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.' And, as an incitement, at once 10 embrace the proffered blessing, it sounds in the ear of each slumbering mor. tal the stirring call, “ Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Nor is this all. But, aware of inan's desperate insensibility, and that, if left to himself, he would remain unprofited by all the invitations of the Gospel, the same Jesus sends a heavenly influence to awaken and impress the heart. Without this, the privileges, duties, and delights of spiritual life would still be unheeded and unknown. But Christ fulfils his promise, made before his ascension to the Father, in sending the Holy Spirit to "convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judginent." This sacred Agent accompanies the preaching of the word with his energetic inward operations. He removes the natural dulness of the ear, and softens the stony hardness of the heart. We remember the seer of old in the valley of vision. He saw at first only dry bones. But presently there was a noise and a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them from above. Yet there was no life in them. The spark of vitality remained to be enkindled. But, when the word was given, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live,"immediately the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.” In like man. Her the Gospel is a dead letter, or it produces but a semblance of life, until the Holy Spirit visits, with his enlightening and animating beams, the souls to whom it is addressed. It is He who commends it to the awakened understanding and the anxious heart of the sinner in all its sufficiency for his salvation, and in all its fitness to his spiritual wants. After convincing him of sin, the Spirit takes of the things of Christ and shows them to him. He quickens the discernment, so as to enable the subject of his influences to see the beauty and excellence of the Gospel plan. He persuasively inclines, or more powerfully draws, his will into the choice of the better part. He re. news the sinner's nature, and sanctifies his affections, so as to prepare him for an entire surrender to God of all his faculties and powers, and for a full engagement in all the duties of evangelical obedience. These things, in his natural state, he discerned not. They were, on the contrary, foolishness to him. Now he sees them in bright and undeceiving colors, and his heart is enraptured with the view. O who, in the pride of his soul, would trust the blindness of the natural understanding, or the feeble light of unassisted reason, when offered such an enlightener and such a guide! Who would rest in his own inefficient efforts, when he may rely ou this all-powerful Agent! Who would delay one moment to accept that aid, without which the Bible presents in vain its glorious truths, and the soul remains utterly unprepared for the bliss of heaven, and momentarily exposed to perdition? Shall we be told that there is discouragement in this view of man's required reliance on divine assistance in the work of salvation? We answer, No. It is the only sure

ground of consolation and hope. Without it there would be ground for neither. Though Christ, in the way now stated, is both “the author and finisher of our faith," he may be resorted to without hesitation or doubt as 10 his willingness to in terpose the required agency in behalf of every sincere suppliant of his favor. His power is indicated in the declaration, “As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom he will :" and the willingness of the former to co-operate in the work, is found in the assurance, that He will give the Holy Spirit to all that ask. There is, therefore, nothing dispiriting, but every thing encouraging, in relinquishing self-dependence, and coming at once to Jesus, " the way, the truth, and the life." Because he liveth, his believing people shall live also. Yes, he who stood at the grave of Lazarus, and at whose bidding the dead came forth in all the vigor of restored life; he who took the ruler's daughter by the hand, and raised her as from the bed of death; he at whose call the young man of Nain arose from the bier, restored to all his functions; he, in fine, who manifested the energies of omnipotence in “ loosing himself from the bands of death, it not being possible that he should be holden of them, he surely has power to bestow grace and salvation, and will confer them on all who come in humble penitence and faith to receive them at his hands. Millions of contrite sinners, bowing beneath his cross, have been invested with these blessings, from that hour in which he breathed upon his apostles, and said unto them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” down to the favored day in which we live. Nor must it be questioned, that he is as ready now as ever 10 quicken into spiritual life the millions of our race now lying dead in trespasses and sins, to make them partakers of his own nature and blessedness, and to form himself within them the hope of future glory. He is exalted at the right hand of the Father for these very purposes, and his mediatorial reign will not terminate until, to an illustrious extent, they have been achiered. However many slight his mercy, and become self-destroyers, myriads of the dead in sin shall be quickened to spiritual lise, delivered from the power of Satan, absolved from the sentence of condemnation, and received into those heavenly mansions which the Savior has prepared.

Our subject addresses itself with interest both to those who are still dead in trespasses and sins, and to those who, under the quickening influence of the Spirit, have risen into spiritual life.

1. We are bound, in faithfulness, to say to the former, that, in their present state, the sacred Scriptures bear toward them a most threatening, nay, a condemning aspect. So they did towards the quickened individuals addressed in our text in their antecedent state of spiritual death. But, as the blessing of God accompanied the labors of his servants in their recovery to life, so we are encouraged to hope for like effects on our ministry, in reference to the dead in sin. The promise is unrevoked: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Yes, in reliance on Him, without whose blessing we know that our preaching and your hearing are alike vain, we will hope, that, in another sense than that which looks forward to the final judgment, “the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son

of God, and live.” O, make this hour your own, by listening to the Savior's call, breaking the chains of death in which you have been so long ingloriously holden, and coming forth from the grave of sin into the liberty of the sons of God. Let the time past suffice to have remained in degradation, darkness, inactivity, and death. The calls of mercy, so often unheard or disregarded, are still sounded in your ears; the gracious provisions still tendered to your acceptance. But while we repeat our solicitations to all who have hitherto turned a deaf ear to oar message, we solemnly warn them of the danger of continued unbelief. We would inscribe, in characters that should be ever present to their view, that declaration of Christ himself: “ He that be. lieveth on the Son of God hath life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” How awful the thought, that, when persevering obduracy shall have sealed you to the doom of the reprobate, that same benignant Savior who is now entreating you to turn and live, will cast upon you the everlasting reproach, “Ye would not come unto me that ye might have life.” The voice of entreaty will then be changed to that of solemn adjudication ; and the sentence of that dread tribunal annex to the spiritual death the consignment of body and soul to a second death, tremendous in wo, as eternal in duration. Do you vainly indulge a hope that the supplication, which the fearful prospect before you may extort, will, even at that late period, be favorably heard and answered ?

We do not hesitate to affirm, that no warrant for such a hope is to be found in the book of God. He who is now crying, “ Turn ye at my reproof : behold, I will pour out my Spirit upon you; I will make known my words unto you,” will then fulfil the prediction of his prophet, in the stern reply, “ Because I have called, and ye refused ; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded: but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh ; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when disPress and anguish cometh upon you : then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer ; they shall seek me early, but shall not find me.” How astonish. ing that folly, which is willing to encounter peril such as this ! Be it not yours, my hearers. Dismiss a spirit of procrastination, and seek now that transition from spiritual death to a renewed life of faith and holiness, which is the only safe precursor, as it is the assured pledge, of immortal glory.

2. We have said our subject addresses itself with interest also to those who, under the influence of the Spirit, have emerged from the death of sin into spiritual life.

Take care that you have the undoubted witness within yourselves of this most interesting, blessed fact. If God has enabled you to realize this happy change, you know it by its benign effects upon your dispositions and feelings; and by those fruits of righteousness which, if ye were not living trees of the Lord's planting, you could not possibly produce. If you are under no self. deception as to what God has wrought for you and within you, "maintain the beginning of your confidence steadfast unto the end.” Be humble and unostentatious, meek and lowly, as your adored Master. But it is no vio

« AnteriorContinuar »