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of man, but of God." The Bible, observation, experience, all proclaim it hard for him to be converted; too hard to admit the hope, that a single soul will ever break from the bondage of sin, and rise to purity and heaven, unless divine power interfere. The solemn reality of your dependence cannot be disguised. It is one of the very plainest truths in religion. If God's arm is not made bare for your relief, you will cleave to your sins, and sink under the curse for ever. No page of the Bible and no record of past piety points to any other source of hope.
But what is the nature of the dependence? In the case of Israel, it was occasioned by a perverse heart. “I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” In the case of every sinner, it springs from precisely the same cause. There is a stubborn will opposed to the authority of the Most High. There is a heart desperately at variance with the character and arrangements and claims of Him who is upon the throne. There is a loftiness that will not stoop so low as to be saved upon the terms of the gospel. You have intelligence enough ; you encounter no embarrassments from any mysterious arrangements of God; you have capacity for moral action ; but, alas ! you are wedded to the world and to sin. “ Inclined to evil—and that continually."
You will not come to Christ that you may have life.” Mistake not, then, the true nature and ground of your dependence; but think of it, as the Bible conteinplates it, originating in a “ heart desperately wicked.”
The subject shows,
2. The propriety of pressing upon sinners their obligation and responsibility. They are subjects of God's government. The relation involves duties :—duties to be promptly met. We know they have trampled divine authority in the dust. But has their apostacy annihilated their duty ? Has their disobedience repealed the statute, and set them loose from all accountability? We know it is hard for them to return. But is the difficulty of a nature to impair at all their obligation? Is it any thing but stubborn rebellion ?-a proud reluctance to seek mercy upon gospel terms? Is the conflict between the sinner and God any other than that of mind against mind? And if God be right, is not the creature wrong? And must not the Sovereign hold him responsible for the wrong? Must not the world be frankly told, that all the obligations and responsibilities of subjects of the eternal government rest upon them every hour? Because you find it hard to God excuse you from the duty ? Because you find it hard to confess guilt, and seek pardon at his footstool, does he consent that you prolong the controversy? "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” And he bids his ministers echo the command in every dwellingplace of man. And there is wo to him who proclaims license for a single hour's continuance in sin. God is upon the throne, announcing his unchangeable law; and the announcement defines the obligations of every intelligent creature. They must be felt. They must be promptly and cheerfully met. “ It is not a vain thing for you ; because it is your life.”
3. The subject suggests a serious doubt of the genuineness of his experience who cherishes the idea that religion is an easy matter.
We have found abundant evidence that it is hard for men to be converted and saved. This sentiment is sustained by the Bible, by the nature of the gospel provisions, by observation, by the experience of the world, both saints and sinners. Something you may do in religion with but little sacrifice, and little sense of difficulty. But the work will be superficial, and the goodness like the morning cloud and the early dew. The change of character that prepares for heaven is a "great change.” Appetite and passion do not yield their supremacy at a single nod. Principles of sin, that have been gathering strength from infancy up to this hour, are not to be displaced by a single word. The human heart never rcnounces the vain world, and rises to God, and puts on the “image of the heavenly,” by any common effort. No; the great change is of God; and it is purposely wrought in such a manner as to teach the creature his utter ruin, and to draw from his humbled spirit a gushing tide of gratitude to Heaven.
Have you the hope that you have passed from death unto life? If it be genuine, you have found religion pleasant indeed ; but you know, too, that you have encountered difficulty. You can perhaps recur to a period when, with all your anxieties and doings to gain eternal life, you felt that you were steadily receding from hope and heaven—"nothirg bettered, but rather growing worse.” You can perhaps remember, that, in view of the deformity and obduracy of the heart, you sunk down in utter despair of relief from yourself, from friends, from the world, and rested your last hope only on the grace and power of the Holy One. Is there something like this in your experience? It accords with the experience of others, and among them some whose religious influence has been felt by thousands, by millions. Look at the case of Paul, of the jailer, and every Scripture example of conversion in which the first awakened feelings are described. Read the Conversion of Edwards, of Bunyan, of Brainerd, of Payson, of Mills, of Eleanor Emerson, and others who shine as stars in the firmament. These all speak a language much less flattering to human pride and false security, than that it is an easy matter to be converted and saved. They say with David--and the sentiment is reiterated by millions in both worlds--"He brought me up also out of the horrible pit and miry clay, and hath put a new song into my mouth, even praise to the living God."
Finally; our subject solemnly urges sinners at once to make God their refuge and help.
Perhaps you have often felt the necessity of something being done more effectually for your salvation. You have been aware that your spirit and that of God were not in harmony. After all you have done, you have seen the necessity of some better training, as a preparation to mingle with the saved in heaven. You have perhaps cherished anxiety, and tried to repent, and tried to embrace Christ, and strug rise from the miry clay to a standing on the rock, and sought the aid of others, supposed to be acquainted with true piety, and to have power at the altar of mercy. And, possibly, after all, you are sensible of having labored without effect. And you have stopped and stood just where Israel stood, when pouring out the piteous lament, “ There is no hope : no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go."
Derive from your experience, then, a lesson of instruction. Cease from the vain dependence upon yourself, upon your fellow-men. Cherish the impression of your lost condition, your utter unworthiness; and now look to the everlasting God, with the spirit of the publican in the temple, the leper at the feet of Jesus, the prodigal returning home, the thief on the cross, and Peter crying from the waves, Lord save me. God has the ability to save. He delighteth not in the death of the wicked. Judgment is his strange work. His very nature is love. He can rend the veil that hides his glory from your eye; and dislodge the power of sin and Satan in your heart; and give you spiritual liberty, and life, and joy. Make him your refuge. Look to him as your only help. Say that you are guilty-say that you are lost. And let the conviction be lodged deep and immoveable in your heart, that you must be saved only through infinite grace in Christ Jesus.
Come from the four winds, 0 Breath, breathe upon the slain that they may live. Be thine the victory, and thine the glory. Amen.
BY REV. CHARLES WALKER,
CHRIST DIED FOR MAN. Romans v. 6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time
Christ died for the ungodly.
This text brings to view the leading truth of the New Testament. Christ died for sinners. When men were “ without strength,” that is, when they were sinful, wicked, ungodly, Christ died for them. It is the leading truth of the gospel, because it is that with which every other truth in the scheme of salvation is connected, and on which the whole scheme itself depends. The gospel proposes a plan for saving sinners. In that plan, the atoning death of Christ is the pre-eminent part. It is the GREAT Fact of the gospel. Jesus Christ died for sinful men.
Let us, my brethren, for a moment, look at this fact. Christ died for man—not for fallen angels. There are in the universe of God other beings, besides mankind, who are sinners. But the Savior's death was not intended to benefit them. They, saith the Scripture,
reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” It is not with them a time of trial. They have not now a day of probation. Whatever might have been the conditions on which they, before they fell, occupied their heavenly seats, it is plain that no terms are now proposed to them for regaining those seats. The Savior did not die for their offences, nor was he raised again for their justification. His sufferings were endured for man, not for fallen angels-for those who have a day of probation, not for those whose doom is sealed-for prisoners of hope, not for prisoners of despair.
The Savior's death regarded man, also, in distinction from all holy beings. The angels of light and all other beings who have maintained their allegiance to God, have no need of a Redeemer's interposition on their behalf. And although from various parts of the word of God we learn that these holy beings cherish a deep concern for the affairs of men, and on this account, no doubt, looked with intense interest on Jesus' dying agonies, yet they could not feel that what they witnessed was necessary to their own enjoyment. They were happy without it, in the full enjoyment of God's favor.
But again—the Savior's death regarded man himself, not merely as an intelligent being capable of high attainments in knowledge and happiness, and of an exalted destiny ; for other intelligent beings of as high capacity as man derive no personal benefit from his redeeming work. Angels, both holy and fallen, have intelligent natures, are moral agents, and as capable of whatever is painful and wretched, and of whatever is desirable and felicitous, as man.
But the death of Christ had respect to man as a sinner. It was only as a sinner that he needed a Savier. It was only as a guilty wretch, who had broken his allegiance to God, and had become a rebel against his rightful Sovereign, that man stood in need of One to make reconciliation between him and his offended Governor. Had man remained true to his duty and his God—had he continued to wear his original garb of innocence—had he never cast off the fear of God, and erased the divine image from his soul-had he not plunged into the pollution of sin and become abased and corrupted in the sight of Heaven, the Savior's atoning and restering work would never have been undertaken.
Yes, it was for the benefit of man as a sinner, that Jesus Christ descended from heaven to earth, and expired on the cross. He gave himself up to indignity, suffering, and death for man, because man was sinful, because he had offended God, because he was exposed to all the horrors of eternal death, and could not otherwise be delivered. Jesus submitted to these sufferings to make man happy—to prepare a way for his restoration to the image and favor of God—to render it possible that the prodigal might return to his Father's house—to open heaven's doors, so that the lost wanderer might come in. Think of it, my hearers ; think long and intensely upon it, that Jesus endured the revilings of a wicked world, the hidings of his Father's countenance, the bitter anguish of the garden, and the torturing agonies of the cross, that sinful man might be saved—that the guilty rebel, who deserved a place in the prison-house of eternal despair, might have a place in heaven, and a harp of gold, and a crown of glory. Was ever love like this ? “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus so loved sinful men that he died for them. “O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.”
This simple and obvious train of thought lays a foundation for several very important reflections.
1. The immense value of the human soul. In no other way does this appear so strikingly as by contemplating the price paid for its redemption. We can, indeed, obtain an exalted conception of the worth of the human soul, by considering its nature-by looking at its capacities for intelligence and enjoyment—by contemplating its capability of exploring the vast fields of knowledge, the works of creation and redemption, and by reflecting on its adaptedness to increase in knowledge and feli. city during eternal ages. In this way it is easy to understand, that the