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Now he is too time has not
Leave a man with the impression that it is not his duty NOW to repent and believe, but that it may be at some future time, or under some more favourable influence from heaven, and you send a paralysis through his whole moral frame. No man will feel it, and no man will care about future duty. No man will tremble or be alarmed unless he feels that he is guilty now, and now bound to obey. What cares the sinner for that future? At that time he will attend to it. busy, or too thoughtless, or he feels that the come, and he will concern himself in the affairs of his merchandise or farm. Wo to the ministry which, by indolence, or false doctrine, or the fear of man, makes an impression like this! That cold, abstract, and formal doctrine, which directs men only to the future; that miserable perversion of the doctrine of the Spirit's influence which directs the eye onward and permits him to wait; diffuses the chills of Greenland over the soul, and the long death of the tomb over a congregation. Glad would be any assassin or murderer; glad would be any drunkard or gambler who may now be lashed and scourged by the stings of remorse, to find such a preacher, who would tell him not to feel or be disturbed now, but to wait God's time in this matter. A more consoling minister of peace you could not send into any prison, or den of wickedness; into any band of highwaymen, or pirates, or into a slave-ship, than would be these. But, oh! let not the Christian ministry be charged with folly and guilt like this. On a sinner's soul there is NOW pressing all the elements of obligation that can sink it down in any future scenes. Duty relates not to the future. It presses Now; and that amazing pressure the sinner must be made to feel, or must jeopard the eternal interests of his soul.
3. We approach men with all the proofs of the truth of revelation; and the end of those proofs is to teach men to feel their guilt. The argument from miracles and prophecy is not
a speculative inquiry, like the cold and formal steps of mathematical science, or the researches of philosophy. Each argument is a part of the vast array of proof, to show that the declarations which affirm the lost condition of men are confirmed by demonstration. It is an array of evidence to prove that the account given of their guilt is really the judgment of Almighty God; that the declaration that men hate God is one that has been breathed from his lips, and has come from his profound view of all human hearts; that such was his view of their guilt that there was no way of expressing it but by the very scenes which the infinite love of Christ, and the retributions of eternity laid open. Language could not do it. Human speech faltered; and the poetic fancy of the singers of Israel, the dark and awful flights of prophetic description, and the eloquent tongue of apostles could not do it. There was a mode. God's infinite Son could become incarnate. And it was by giving a living demonstration in the groans of Gethsemane, and when the dead were rising in that ill-fated city where the Saviour died, that he could tell the sinner what his sins deserved; and point him to those scenes, and say, in that garden and on that cross you may see what your sins deserved. There was one more mode. It was possible that men should suffer forever-and the infinite God has told us that such are his views of human guilt, that nothing but that will be a fair expression of that evil to other worlds. Now every time we press the evidences of religion it is with reference to just this result. And this was the use the apostles made of it; and this is the way in which they convinced men of their guilt. They urged the proofs of the resurrection of the Saviour; and, on the ground of that, they pressed the guilt of man who had crucified him. And the result was that thousands of his murderers trembled, and asked with deep solicitude what they should do.
4. We come to men with all the evidence drawn from the
history of the world, that they are guilty, and that the guilty must suffer. All this analogy belongs properly to the province of religion. God has left his views of sin in no measured or doubtful form in the history of devils and of man. The sinner himself is ruined, and he feels it and knows it. His alarms of conscience; his humbling anticipations; his calamities, his sickness, and bereavements; his wasting frame, and his approaching death,—all admonish him of it. Man is a sinner, and the earth, arched with the graves of the dead; and the plague, the pestilence, and war, prove it. Man is a sinner, and each ruined capital, each desolated city, each town reeling beneath the upheaving earth, or falling by its own crimes, proves it. The broken columns and mighty fragments of arches in ancient towns, are monuments to preserve the memory of the guilt which caused their ruin, and are emblematic of the broken and prostrate character of man. To each vice God has affixed its own marks of crime. The drunkard proclaims everywhere in his face and frame, that God thinks him to be an evil man, and hates his crime. And so each gambler, pirate, murderer, becomes everywhere the herald of his own sin. The entire history of man lies before the ministry, as constituting materials of the proof of guilt. In every age, every nation, God has written with his own finger his view of the guilt of men; he has uttered it in every language; and we come to men with the demonstration drawn from the experience of six thousand years, to press this mighty argument on their minds, to show that God esteems them to be sinners, and that except they repent, they shall all likewise perish.
5. The gospel, in the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, has exhausted all the appeals which can be made to men's sensibilities to make them feel their guilt. It comes in at the end of law; and when all the other topics of persuasion have been found to be ineffectual. For four thousand years, in pagan
and Jewish lands, law had uttered its denunciations almost in vain. God had exhausted the forms of those appeals in the terrors of Sinai; the inflictions of a guilty conscience; and the threatenings of hell. Men were guilty—they felt it—knew it. They mocked him with vain oblations; sprinkled impure altars with the blood of innocence offered by unholy hands, and then returned to their pollution. It became needful that some other plan should be tried to see whether men could be made so effectually to perceive their guilt, and ill-desert, as to hate it, and abandon it. That plan is what was expressed in the cross of Christ. The essence of that plan consists in man's being made to see an innocent Being suffering unutterable agonies in his stead, and as the proper expression of his crime.
Now the value of that plan may be seen by supposing, that human law had some such device. One thing strikes every man on going into a court of justice. It is that the criminal, who knows his guilt, and who may expect to die, is so unmoved by the scene, and the danger; and especially that he seems to have so little sense of the evil of the crime for which he is to die. One reason is, that there is little in the law that will make him feel; and less in the proceedings. His mind is taken off from his guilt, by the technicalities of the law; by the contests of advocates; by the discrepancies of witnesses; often by the coldness and want of feeling in the judge, the jury, and hardened spectators. But suppose there could be placed in full view, where the man alone could see it, some innocent being voluntarily suffering what his crime deserved -illustrating on the rack, or amid flames-just what he ought to suffer, and bearing this so patiently, so mildly, as he sank into the arms of death, as to be the highest expression of pure friendship. Suppose this was the brother, or the father of the man he had slain, and that the dying man should tell him that he bore this to show the importance of main
taining violated law, and that but for these sufferings the guilty wretch could not be saved from death, and how much more affecting would be this, than the mere dryness of statutes, and the pleadings of counsel, and the charge of the judge. You may find here, perhaps, a slight illustration of the principle on which the gospel acts. Law had tried its power in vain, and the only effectual scheme is to place before the sinner the innocent Lamb of God, bleeding for his sins. Thus it was said of him, "He shall be set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign to be spoken against, that thereby the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." And thus also it was prophesied: "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn." Hence the apostles met with such success; whose preaching was a little more than a simple statement of the truth that Jesus died, and rose. And, however it is to be accounted for, it is this which has in all ages been attended with the convictions of guilt among men. Gosner, the celebrated Bavarian Catholic priest, at present a Protestant clergyman in Berlin, who has probably been the means of the immediate conversion of more souls than any man living, is said seldom to vary in his manner of preaching. The love of Christ is almost his constant theme, and his preaching is almost a constant pouring out of the warm effusions of the heart in the love of God, the preciousness of the Saviour, and the desirableness of heaven.* The affecting experience of the Moravian missionaries in Greenland is well known. For many years they endeavoured to teach the benighted pagans the existence and attributes of God, and the doctrines of retribution. Never was work more unsuccessful than this. The heart of the Greenlander, cold as his own snows, was unmoved, and the missionaries appeared to toil in vain. On one occasion it happened that one of them read in
Biblical Repository, vol. iii. pp. 535, 536.