« PreviousContinue »
counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace! If those unfortunate Israelites were cut off from the promise and consigned to eternal despair, bow can your sins fail to sink you to the darkest realms of perdition ? Permit me affectionately to exhort you to beware, and let this subject have some weight upon your minds. You are sailing over the same dangerous seas, and running into the same dread whirlpool in which many before you have been ruined and overwhelmed. From the deep darkness of their infernal prison the voice of warning addresses you. Your souls with all their deathless interests charge and challenge you to take heed. And your Savior with all his compassionate tenderness, in modes and phrases diversified and abundant, beseeches you to “ fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” And may the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to impress our hearts with the truth, so help us to see our exposure, and to perform our duty, that in the end we may find a triumphant entrance into that glorious rest which remains for the people of God.
PROPERTIES OF THE WORD OF GOD.
Heb. iv. 12, 13. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any
two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and opened into the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
The apostle having been led by his subject to speak of the word preached” unto the ancients, and of the manner in which it operated among them, he takes occasion here to make some general declarations concerning the properties of the word of God. His design seems to be to impress more deeply upon the minds of his readers the great importance of giving the most diligent attention to the manner in which they received and held the communications of the Lord. He wishes them to have a clear understanding of their situation under the dispensation of the Divine word, as well as of those great principles which are brought into exercise by the new relations in which that word throws them." For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
As to the specific meaning which Paul designed to convey by the word of God, there has been among commentators great diversity of opinion. Some have thought that it refers to the Lord Jesus, who is sometimes called “the Word;” others to the whole of revelation; others to the Gospel alone; others to the promises; others to the particular threat or commination which was just uttered. But without stopping to enumerate and weigh the arguments adduced in support of these several opinions, it must be evident to every one that the word of God is what God speaks, whether promises or threatenings—Law or Gospel-simple declarations of facts or statements of doctrines. It includes the whole of God's verbal communications to man. This is the idea which James at.
taches to the phrase. And after looking carefully into the matter, I prefer to understand it as referring to the whole of those communications spoken of in the opening of the epistle.
Concerning this word, the apostle in the first place affirms that it is “ quick”-living-active. The meaning is that it is not inert, but operating, and always producing effects. It is not a dead letter, but a living spirit. Wherever it is proclaimed with any degree of clearness it will work. This is its nature and the purpose whereunto it was sent.
This has been taught us by the Savior himself. “The kingdom of heaven,” says he, “is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” The point of illustration here is the operating agency of the Gospel, which is destined to work in the world until every thing shall be brought under its influence. And what is the great instrumentality through which the Gospel operates? Is it not the wordthe preaching of the word ? It is the word of God then which is like the leaven. Now we know that it is the nature of leaven to work. When put into uncorrupted flour or paste, it cannot be stopped in its operations until the whole is brought under its influence.
In another place he likens the word to seed sown-germinating, and springing up. In all good seed there is a living principle, which when brought in contact with the moisture of the earth will develop itself. So in the word of God there is a principle of life which will be manifested. No man can hear it and not be in some way affected by it. The influence which it exerts may even be imperceptible to himself; but such are the new relations which it throws around him, and the new facts which it brings up to his contemplation, that he must in the end either beneficially or adversely be made to feel it. The truths of Divine revelation are too momentous not to exert a controlling power over the destiny of every one who learns them. If the word be rejected and denounced as a crafty imposition upon human credulity entirely unworthy the attention of intelligent man, that voluntary darkening of the soul against all light will in time settle down into such an impenetrable hardness and obstinacy, as shall forever seal its perdition. If its high claims be merely neglected, and obedience to its requirements merely deferred from time to time to some more favorable season
for making it a subject of serious consideration; that neglect is sure to beget a habit of procrastination which steals away the day of grace, and in most instances ushers the soul into eternity unprepared—unsanctified—and unsaved. If however, it be received with reverence and obedience, its activity will still be felt begetting heavenly feelings and desires, and transforming the corrupt heart into a state of fitness for eternal glory. The vitality of the word separated from the character of the effects which it produces, is perfectly inherent, and entirely independent from the will or action of the persons to whom it is addressed. Man's obedience or disobedience-hearty acceptance or bitter rejection does not in the least hinder its development. If it does not prove “a savor of life unto life,” it will most assuredly prove “a savor of death unto death.”
This is a truth which it is wise for us to treasure in our hearts a truth which should ever weigh upon the mind when hearing or reading the word of God. Whenever you receive it from the preacher's lips, or learn it from the written page, you should be solemnly affected by the thought, that that same word is so quick as to facilitate your salvation, or heighten your damnation. awful as the reflection is, and little as you may feel it now, the messages which you hear from week to week from the consecrated desk, will advance you to a seat at the right hand of God, or sink you to the fiery depths of remorse and despair. That same word which you are now disposed to complain of as dry and uninteresting is telling against your souls in the dooms-day-book of God such tales aš must finally cover you with utter confusion and dismay. The truth of God will work; it is this moment affecting your destiny with an influence beyond your control. As to the particular issue of that influence, whether for better or for worse, is for you to determine by the manner in which you receive and improve it. But as to neutral ground, there is none for you to occupy. Your relation to the truth is a positive one. It is not at your option to stay its influence upon you. Such is the nature of things that the intervention of the Deity to communicate with us on the great subject of our salvation, has placed us in relations and under responsibilities which must give complexion to our destiny. And as the sun enlivens and nourishes the tree that is planted in a good soil, but decomposes and destroys it if plucked up and laid on its
surface; so the word of God exerts itself upon us, quickening and saving all who faithfully receive and heed it, and hastening and augmenting the condemnation and ruin of those who disregard and
The next thing predicated of the word of God is its power.“ The word of God is quick, and powerful.” There is a potency résident in the language and doctrines of the Scriptures which no other composition has equaled. This is to be inferred from the character of its author, and is to be seen in a number of particulars.
Its power is manifested in the authority which it exercises over the conscience. The great defect of the heathen and infidel philosophy is that it lacks that inherent energy necessary to carry its teaching's home to the heart, or to secure a general observance. This the philosophers themselves have in various ways acknowledged. There is much that is worthy of admiration in the writings of many of them, and which also addressed itself to the commendation of the people; but it never pressed itself upon their consciences with that pungency which characterizes the word of God. Heathen and infidel philosophy only addressed itself to the admiration of the intellect, but the word of God while it does this, also lays hold of the heart, it grasps the springs of action, and grapples with the deepest and strongest impulses of the soul.
Hence the fears which it alarms and the trembling which it produces in the guilty. See the paleness of Adam's face and his general shuddering, as he hears the voice of the Lord among the trees of the garden. Look at the dejected countenance and the remorseful goadings of David as Nathan announces to him the word of the Lord. Behold the confusion of faces, and hear the loud exclamations betokening the deep workings of soul in that vast congregation under the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost. Look at Felix writhing and trembling beneath Paul's exhibition of the heavenly doctrines of " righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come.” See the smitten, heart-broken sinner with tearful eyes and clenched hands crying in the agony of his soul “What must I do to be saved?” Here you have a portrayal of the power there is in the word of God.
But not only does it disturb the soul with fear and trembling on account of sin, but its power may be further seen in calming the water wbich it has troubled. How glorious are the effects which