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can say is, that it is unlikely that he will die. But of this, at least, we are certain, that, come it sooner or later, death is continually on the move towards us. We are ever nearer and nearer to it. Every morning we rise we are nearer that grave in which there is no work, nor device, than we were. We are now nearer the grave, than when we entered this Church. Thus life is ever crumbling away under us. What should we say to a man, who was placed on some precipitous ground, which was ever crumbling under his feet, and affording less and less secure footing, yet was careless about it? Or what should we say to one who suffered some precious liquor to run from its receptacle into the thoroughfare of men, without a thought to stop it? who carelessly looked on and saw the waste of it, becoming greater and greater every minute ? But what treasure can equal time? It is the seed of eternity : yet we suffer ourselves to go on, year after year, hardly using it at all in God's service, or thinking it enough to give Him at most a tithe or a seventh of it, while we strenuously and heartily sow to the flesh, that from the flesh we may reap corruption. We try how little we can safely give to religion, instead of having the grace to give abundantly. “ Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because men keep not Thy law;" so says the holy psalmist. Doubtless an inspired prophet saw far more clearly than we can see, the madness of men in squandering that treasure upon sin, which is meant to buy their chief good ;-—but if so, what must this madness appear in God's sight! What an inveterate malignant evil is it in the hearts of the sons of men, that thus leads them to sit down to eat, and drink, and rise up to play; when time is hurrying on, and judgment coming ? We have been told what He thinks of man's unbelief, though we cannot enter into the depths of His thoughts. He showed it to us in act and deed, as far as we could receive it, when HE even sent His only-begotten Son into the world as at this time, to redeem us from the world,—which, most surely, was not lightly done ; and we also learn His thoughts about it from the words of that most merciful Son,—which most surely were not lightly spoken, “The wicked,” He says, "shall go into everlasting punishment.”
Oh! that there were such a heart in us, that we would fear God, and keep His commandments always! But it is of no use
to speak; men know their duty—they will not do it. They say they do not need or wish to be told it, that it is an intrusion, and a rudeness, to tell them of death and judgment. So must it be, -and we, who have to speak to them, must submit to this. Speak we must, as an act of duty to God, whether they will hear, or not, and then must leave our words as a witness. Other means for rousing them we have none. We speak from CHRIST our gracious LORD, their REDEEMER, who has already pardoned them freely, yet they will not follow Him with a true heart, and what can be done more ?
Another .year is now opening upon us; it speaks to the thoughtful, and is heard by those, who have expectant ears, and watch for Christ's coming. The former year is gone, it is dead, there it lies in the grave of past time, not to decay however, and be forgotten, but kept in the view of God's omniscience, with all its sins and errors irrevocably written, till, at length, it will be raised again to testify about us at the last day; and who among us can bear the thought of his own doings, in the course of it ?-all that he has said and done, all that has been conceived within his mind, or been acted on, and all that he has not said and done, which it was a duty to say or do.
What a dreary prospect seems to be before us, when we reflect that we have the solemn word of truth pledged to us, in the last and most awful revelation, which God has made to us about the future, that in that day, the books will be opened, “and another book opened, which is the book of life, and the dead judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works 3 !" What would a man give, any one of us, who has any
real insight into his polluted and miserable state, what would he give to tear away some of the leaves there preserved! For how heinous are the sins therein written ! Think of the multitude of sins done by us since we first knew the difference between right and wrong. We have forgotten them, but there we might read them clearly recorded. Well may holy David exclaim, “Remember not the sins of my youth nor my transgressions, according to Thy mercy remember Thou me,” Conceive, too, the multitude of sins which have so grown into us as to become part of us, and in which we
8 Rev. xx. 12.
now live, not knowing, or but partially knowing, that they are sins; habits of pride, self-reliance, self-conceit, sullenness, impurity, sloth, selfishness, worldliness. The history of all these, their beginnings, and their growth, is recorded in those dreadful books; and when we look forward to the future, how many sins shall we have committed by this time next year,—though we try ever so much to know our duty, and overcome ourselves! Nay, or rather shall we have the opportunity of obeying or disobeying God for a year longer? Who knows whether by that time our account may not be closed for ever?
Remember me, O LORD, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom 4.” Such was the prayer of the penitent thief on the cross, such must be our prayer. Who can do us any good, but He, who shall also be our Judge? When shocking thoughts about ourselves come across us and afflict us, “ Remember me,” this is all we have to say. We have “no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom” of our own, to better ourselves withal. We can say nothing to God in defence of ourselves,
,—we can but acknowledge that we are grievous sinners, and addressing Him as suppliants, merely beg Him to bear us in mind in mercy, for His Son's sake to do us some favour, not according to our deserts, but for the love of Christ. The more we try to serve Him here, the better; but after all, so far do we fall short of what we should be, that if we had but what we are in ourselves to rely upon, wretched are we, and we are forced out of ourselves by the very necessity of our condition. To whom should we go? Who can do us any good, but He who was born into this world for our regeneration, was bruised for our iniquities, and rose again for our justification? Though we have served Him from our youth up, though after His pattern we have grown, as far as mere man can grow, in wisdom as we grew in stature, though we ever have had tender hearts, and a mortified will, and a conscientious temper, and an obedient spirit; yet, at the very best, how much have we left undone, how much done, which ought to be otherwise ! What He can do for our nature, in the way
of sanctifying it, we know indeed in a measure; we know, in the case of His saints; and we certainly do not know the limit of
4 Luke xxiii. 42.
His carrying forward in objects of His special favour the work of purification, and renewal through His Spirit. But for ourselves, we know full well that much as we may have attempted, we have done very little, that our very best service is nothing worth,—and the more we attempt, the more clearly we shall see how little we have hitherto attempted.
Those whom Christ saves are they who at once attempt to save themselves, yet despair of saving themselves ; who aim to do all, and confess they do nought; who are all love, and all fear; who are the most holy, and yet confess themselves the most sinful; who ever seek to please Him, yet feel they never can ; who are full of good works, yet of works of penance. All this seems a contradiction to the natural man, but it is not so to those whom CHRIST enlightens. They understand in proportion to their illumination, that it is possible to work out their salvation, yet to have it wrought out for them, to fear and tremble at the thought of judgment, yet to rejoice always in the LORD, and hope and pray for His coming.
RELIGION A WEARINESS TO THE NATURAL MAN.
ISAIAH liii. 2.
"He hath no form nor comeliness ; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him."
“Religion is a weariness ;" such is the judgment commonly passed, often avowed, concerning the greatest of blessings which Almighty God has bestowed upon us.
And when God
the blessing, He at the same time foretold that such would be the judgment of the world upon it, even as manifested in the gracious Person of Him whom He sent to give it to us.
“ HE hath no form nor comeliness,” says the Prophet, speaking of our LORD and SAVIOUR, “and when shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." He declared beforehand, that to man His religion would be uninteresting and distasteful. Not that this prediction excuses our deadness to it; this dislike of the religion given us by God Himself, seen as it is on all sides of us, -of religion in all its parts, whether its doctrines, its precepts, its polity, its worship, its practical influence,--this distaste for its very name must obviously be an insult to the Giver. But the text speaks of it as a fact, without commenting on the guilt involved in it; and as such I wish you to consider it, as far as this
may be done in reverence and seriousness. Putting aside