« PreviousContinue »
rounded by enemies only, without a friend, without a comfort, without a hope, he lifts up his eyes, and in deep despair takes a melancholy survey of the immense regions around him, but finds nothing to alleviate his woe, nothing to support his drooping mind, nothing to lessen the pangs of a broken heart.
In a far distant region he sees a faint glimmering of that Sun of Righteousness, which shall never more shine upon him. A feeble dying sound of the praise, the everlasting songs of the general assembly and church of the first-born trembles on his ear, and in an agonizing manner reminds him of the blessings in which he also might have shared, and which he voluntarily cast away. In dim and distant vision those heavens are seen, where multitudes of his former friends and companions dwell; friends and companions who, in this world, loved God, believed in the Redeemer, and by a patient continuance in well-doing, sought for glory, honour, and immortality. Among them, perhaps, his own fond parents, who, with a thousand sighs, and prayers, and tears, commended him, while they tabernacled here below, to the mercy of God, and to the love of their own Divine Redeemer. His children also, and the wife of his bosom gone before him, have perhaps fondly waited at the gates of glory, in the ardent expectation, the cheering hope, of seeing him once so beloved, re-united to their number, and a partaker in their everlasting joy. But they have waited in vain.
The curtain now is drawn, and the amazing vast is unbosomed to his view. Nature, long decayed, sinks under the united pressure of sickness, sorrow, and despair. His eyes grow dim, his ears deaf, his heart forgets to beat, and his spirit, lingering, terrified, amazed, clings to life, and struggles to keep possession of its earthly tenement. But, hurried by an unseen Almighty hand, it is irresistibly launched into the unseen abyss. Alone and friendless, it ascends to God to see all its sins set in order before its eyes. With a gloomy and dreadful account of life spent only in sin, without a single act of piety, or voluntary kindness to men, with no faith in Christ,
and no sorrow for iniquity, it is cast out as wholly wicked and unprofitable, into the land of darkness, and the shadow of death, there to wind its melancholy journey through regions of sorrow and despair, ages without end, and to take up for ever the gloomy and distressing lamentation in the text, "The "harvest is past, the summer is ended; but I am not "saved."
THE DIGNITY AND EXCELLENCE OF THE GOSPEL.
A Sermon preached at the Ordination of the Rev. Nathaniel W. Taylor, in Newhaven, April 8, 1812.
1 PETER I. 12.
"Which things angels desire to look into."
THE things, of which St. Peter speaks in this passage, are explained by him in the context. They are styled, The salvation of the soul; the reward of faith; the things testified by the Spirit of Christ concerning his sufferings, and the glory that should follow them; and the things which had been reported, or announced to the Christians of Lesser Asia, by those who had preached the Gospel to them, with the Holy Ghost, sent down from heaven, i. e. by those whose preaching had been accompanied by the inspiration and miracles of the Holy Ghost; in other words, by Paul and his immediate companions, the preachers who principally carried the news of salvation into that country. To him, who is willing to bestow even the slightest attention upon this various phraseology, it will be evident, that these things can be no other than the sum and substance of the Gospel.
Into these things angels are here said to desire to look. The
cherubim in the tabernacle, whose wings overshadowed the mercy-seat, were formed in a bending posture, with their faces looking down on this divine symbol, as if earnestly desirous to pry into the wonders which it represented. In the text, "angels," it is said, ayysho, (not or ayyor, the angels,) "desire 6 to look into these things,” εις & επιθυμούσιν αγγελοι παρακύψαι; "into which things angels earnestly desire to stoop ;" in other words, "into which things angels earnestly desire to pry with "the most attentive investigation."
By angels here, is denoted the whole host of heaven, involving all its orders and dignities; the relish for the object of inquiry being the same to all, and the spirit of investigation the same.
If these exalted beings are thus desirous to search into the Gospel, and the system of religion which it contains, it is because the precepts and doctrines which it unfolds, and the facts which it declares, merit their inquisition. The intellect, and the circumstances of angels are such, as to prevent them from error. Their minds are indeed finite, and their knowledge must therefore have its boundaries. Still they admit nothing but truth; and, so far as their capacity enables them to understand any subject, they see it as it is. They have no bias, no prejudice, no inordinate desires. The love which is enjoined in the Gospel upon men, which is declared to be the fulfilling of the law, and which reigns in their minds with an absolute and undivided dominion, rejoices in the truth, and prompts them to embrace it always and alone wherever it may be found.
At the same time, these exalted beings are possessed also of the most noble and refined taste. Their relish is as regularly conformed to truth as their intellect. Nothing little can engross their attention; nothing debased can give them pleasure. All the objects which they relish are of course important and valuable. When, therefore, we are informed, that the Gospel is an object of their earnest investigation, we are also informed, that it is an object of supreme value and importance.
It is to be remembered, that when the text was written, these celestial beings had been employed in studying the subjects
contained in the Gospel more than four thousand years. From the time when it was first published, in the sentence denounced on the serpent who deceived our first parents, to the day in which his head was bruised by the Redeemer of mankind in the completion of the work which he came to accomplish, they had watched the progress of this divine system of dispensations with the most minute and critical examination. During this long period, also, they had been voluntarily and actively employed, as ministering spirits, in carrying the designs which it involved into execution. In this manner they acquired a knowledge of the Gospel, which was in many respects experimental, and understood it far more perfectly than even they could have done in the exercise of mere speculation. Besides, they had dwelt, during this period at least, in the highest heavens. Heaven, the place both of their birth and their residence, is not only the native region of truth, but also the scene of the most sublime and glorious dispensations in the universe. In that world all the wonders of providence are consummated. In that world the perfections of God are manifested in their supreme beauty, splendour, and greatness. Every thing which it contains is refined; every thing is noble; every thing is for ever improving. But, after all their acquaintance with the glories of heaven, angels earnestly desired to look into the things which are contained in the Gospel.
The wonder, excited by this fact, will be lessened, if we remember, that "God created all things by Jesus Christ, to "the intent, that now unto principalities and powers, in heav"enly places, might be known, dia rns sxxλnoias, by means of "the church, ToλUTomiños copia 8, the immensely various "wisdom of God." Such apposite and advantageous means of exhibiting the divine wisdom to principalities and powers in heavenly places, were involved in this system of dispensations to the church, that the Most High deemed it a sufficient reason for the creation of all things. With this consideration in view, we cannot think it strange, that the system of the Gospel should command the researches of angels, since God has thus clearly indicated, that they will here find displays of his manifold wisdom, which will enlighten their understanding,