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the better management of our Journal we say, Send these to us, and leave us to judge whether they are practicable and expedient. Our idea of what the Magazine should be has hitherto far excelled the execution. Articles for the most part shorter and more lively; a better mixture of the intellectual, the devotional, and the practical; and, above all, more adaptation to the times and to the actual wants of the Church, -these, we are profoundly sensible, are the great desiderata. We beg our friends and well-wishers to aid us in our efforts to realize them.
EDINBURGH, 25th Nov. 1865.
UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE,
A NEW YEAR AND ANOTHER WARNING.
• We take no note of time
Is wise in man.'-YOUNG.
THESE words form part of a message which the prophet was to deliver at the peril of his own soul. Called of God to warn his countrymen who were living in sin, his duty and responsibility in relation to them are solemnly set before him. He is compared to the military sentinel, posted on an eminence to watch the approach of an invading force. In such a position there is no allowance made for indolence, indecision, or cowardice. . If the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned ; if the sword come and take away any person from among them, he is taken in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's band. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel ; therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me.'
Who is this wicked man? Where is he to be found ? How shall we know him? Does he think himself a wicked man? Is this the opinion of those who know him best—that he deserves the obnoxious name? For there are certain associations connected with the expression, wicked man,' which make it sound in the ears of many like that of hypocrite, drunkard, or seducer. To them it is the description of a character found out of the beaten track of ordinary average sinning; it is something which represents gross outward immorality and social indecency. Hence, in reading such a text as we have placed above, it might not occur to the mind of one in ten thousand to apply its terms to himself. The converted apply them to the unconverted ; the respectable and moral to the immoral and profligate ; they, in their turn, to others some degrees looser and more reckless than themselves. It is surely important to remember, that there is one standard of moral rectitude in the world—the Bible. Society is superficial in its judgments, changeable in its opinions, often calls good evil, and
NO. I., VOL. VII., NEW SERIES.—JANUARY 1863.
carries with it no authority on the subject of our spiritual character. How almost invariably false are the views which we form of ourselves! Even in conscious sinning, how we can walk in a 'vain show!' Nor, as we see in the case of David, does even hideous guilt prevent the strangest selfdelusion. It rather creates, deepens, and perpetuates it; and the guilty monarch awoke as from a trance, only when the prophet raised his finger and fixed his searching eye upon him, making the unexpected and tremendous application, Thou art the man!'
Reader! You are another year nearer judgment. In what state of mind are you looking into the future? Is it sadly or hopefully? Again • the summer is past, and the harvest ended. If you are not saved, there is but one aspect which you can deal with yourself, without involving yourself in eternal mistake and its consequences : it is to disband all deceptive tests. It is to look at yourself as you are in the sight of God. It may be to you, that, on the opening of this new epoch of your history, the propbetic words are sent, “O wicked man, thou shalt surely die.'
I. We outline the character of this man.
1. The wicked man does not in his heart regard God. This is the deep brand which Scripture affixes on the wicked. And if all sin is unnatural—that is, a violation of the very constitution of the moral being, and the relations in which he stands to others—the highest, most aggravated form of guilt must be godlessness. The wicked, through pride of his heart, will not seek after God.' «God is not in all his thoughts. What does this imply? That the Being of beings, the First and the Last, the Lord of life, the Fountain of all beneficence, the only Supreme Lawgiver,
by whom and for whom are all things,' of whose glory all creation fronts us as witness,—that He is practically treated as of no account. His existence is ignored. He reigns unheeded. His omniscience operates as no restraint. His goodness evokes no gratitude. Even the almighty power with which the wicked man sees himself girded round and hemmed in, inspires no reverence. But there is not only the absence of thought and right feeling; the natural mind'is enmity against God. A short step separates between indifference and hatred. We have no difficulty in resisting what we despise. When the authority which the child has treated as of no account, is firmly put forth to thwart or curb him, the natural effect upon the alienated mind is to excite antipathy and resistance. So with the wicked man. It is with something more than mere negative or passive feeling he regards God and His claims. He is in active conflict with his Maker; and, perhaps, if we consider the matter well, we will find that it is not godlessness that leads to enmity, but that all moral indifference has its root in antecedent repugnance and dislike.
2. Another feature in the character of the wicked man is persistency in his sin,--doing violence to the strong, original instinct of his nature, to adore and love God. He continues to cleave to this form of evil, and all the evil to which leads. He will not turn to God. He will not repent. He perseveres in his own way; and many are the considerations which make his guilt very great in his adherence to the course of this world. Is there anything awanting in the sweeping retributions of Providence to warn and intimidate him ? Is he destitute of knowledge? Has he no conscience? Is there no melting significance in the mercy of God, as it constantly pours down unmerited favours on his head ? Has the ruin of others no voice ? Has his own perpetual unhappiness none? It is not unlikely that the most solemn and awakening appeals of revelation have been
addressed to him ; but the wicked man keeps by his choice; and one fact explains the failure of all motives or means to recover him from going down to the gates of death-his abiding and cherished love of sin !
3. Deeply prominent is this feature, also, in the character of the wicked man—that he can contemplate without concern the injury which he inflicts on others. Sometimes he is the direct agent of this, at other times the guilty occasion; for sin, like holiness, propagates itself by means of precept and example. In the family and workshop, in the market-place and in the church, we are, consciously or unconsciously, affecting the character of others even for eternity. For who or what can limit or arrest the subtle influence which soul exercises upon soul? There is nothing more powerful in human intercourse than this influence, but nothing more unmanageable. God has mercifully bound men together by sacred ties, so that shall live or die to himself.' And this great law is an incentive to the good, at once to shine as lights in the world, and to engage in every benevolent and Christian enterprise. But the law acts in the other direction; and the wicked man, living on in his wickedness, spreads a blighting and poisonous influence on all around him, and is fairly chargeable with the guilt of involving others in a ruin similar to his own. The thought of this exercises no restraint on the heart that has not the fear of God in it. Nor, indeed, should we expect that he who lives in conscious opposition to the will of God will have much difficulty in casting from his heart the interests of his fellow-man.
Such is the wicked man. There is nothing about him incompatible with much social respectability and outward moral decorum. He is not reconciled to God. He clings to his sins. He is indifferent to the effect of his life on others. What though he can speak with the tongues of men or of angels, if these things are true of him ? And in vain we say, Lo! here, or, Lo! there, as though this kind of character was found only in certain places, as the scorner's chair or haunts of open vice. Where is the wicked man not to be found?
II. The Retribution : "Thou shalt surely die.'
Is the wicked man not already dead? Yes, but not in the sense which is here threatened. We understand the language to mean, “Thou shalt die in thy sins. There is but one issue to which continued impenitence can lead. You will perish. The judgments of God will overtake you. God is not mocked; you will reap what you sow.?
1. It will be part of the retribution, that the wicked will be permitted to grow worse. No matter how great his wickedness now; he can proceed further in hardening his heart, in boldness of defiance, and appetite for evil. There is a dazzling grandeur connected with the thought of our being immortal; but there is an awful contingency inseparable from our dignity. Our ruin, if we perish, must partake of the greatness of our nature. The indefinite and limitless capacities of the soul can stretch away in any direction ; and it is the necessity of our being that there is no stopping. Day after day, year after year, we must move on in the way of life or death. There are few, indeed, who do not expect that some day they will change and become better; for, truly,
• Of man's miraculous mistakes this bears
For ever on the brink of being born." To go on as they now feel and act, were to terminate in a too dreadful end of life; but every day in sin is bringing on the melancholy and fearful issue. This is the very essence of the direst retribution. Onward, and ever onward, to deeper evil and darker guilt; the fire of remorse never burning itself out; the worm of insatiable and guilty desire never dying, but drawing the material of new life as sin accumulates around the soul.
2. Direct and positive justice is included in the doom of the wicked man. It is a poor explanation of retributive justice to resolve it merely into the operation of natural law. The world is crowded with multitudinous forms of punishment other than progressive depravity and remorse. We see that guilt, though wearing the semblance of success for a time, does not really thrive. Fatality, in the long run, belongs to evil. The green bày-tree may have its day, but it disappears. And so we see schemes frustrated, hopes blasted, desires mocked, pride crushed, folly exposed, and ambition bound in fetters, in connection with the history of human wickedness, with a steadiness and uniformity of purpose which prove that the reins of government are held in no feeble or vacillating bands. This is not punishment merely from within. The blow of retribution is often all the more terrible that it comes from without. And in the external position in which divine righteousness places evil-doers, even in this world, there is foreshadowed clearly enough, that their outward circumstances may yet be irrevocably changed, and that the laws of nature from without, as the laws of nature in their own souls, must for ever go against them. How canst thou expect to alter the order of the universe, or the nature of God and thyself?
Thou shalt die, not another. Whither canst thou go to escape this? Where is the hiding-place? What the expedient? Thy guilt is thine own image, 'meeting thee whithersoever thou turnest. In vain we seize on any human prop. Have we any reasonable hope that Justice will blot out her own first law, “Every man must bear his own burden ; therefore, 0 wicked man, thou shalt surely die ?'
III. Why the warning is given.
There is no dubiety in regard to this. This is the solemn charge given to the prophet: 0 thou son of man, say unto them, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.' Mercy pleads. The threatening is not designed to fill the mind with despair, or present God as speaking only the language of inexorable wrath. It is the call of deep, yearning compassion. Strange and marvellous truth ! The wicked man is loved! The warning given him breathes tenderest interest and pity,— Why will ye die?'
1. The wicked man is not yet beyond hope. You may be joined to your idols, but the irreversible anathema has not yet gone forth, · Joined to his idols, let him alone.'
2. Remembrance of the past should add to the persuasiveness and power of the appeal. Can you begin another year as you are? Is it not a sad reflection, that all the years gone beyond recall have been not only a blunder, but a record of guilt and uselessness, on which it is fearful to think that the full light of eternity should ever fall?
3. This new epoch reminds us that time is short and uncertain. Since the opening of the year now passed away, it seems as if it were but a watch of the night' through which we have passed. But though short, if we knew when this transient life-dream were to end, we might make our calculations with tolerable safety. The events of every hour rebuke such an idea. There is little certain but this, that all is uncertain, that God is just, that we are on our way to judgment, that salvation is honestly offered