« PreviousContinue »
terns which you had hewed out for yourself, and bitterly regret that ever you forsook the fountain of living waters.
We entreat you, then, rejecters of our gospel, to pause and reflect upon the fearful consequences of your present
Certain and overwhelming destruction lies at a short distance before you. The only opportunity of escape is rapidly passing away. Yes, the day of salvation flies apace. The night, in which no man can work, must soon set in. A few more months or years like the past, will land you in the world of wo.-But what are we saying? The sun may not go down before the angels of heaven, who would gladly have celebrated your conversion, shall take up their barps to sound the dirge of your perdition—and will you, can you, dear hearers, still resolve to forsake the fountain of living waters ?" We trust not. Come, then, to this fountain, and partake of its contents. O! come without delay, and drink, and live for ever.
JOHN III. 36. (Last Clause.)
He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God
abideth on him."
Man, as a moral agent, always acts in the view, and under the influence of motives. It is through the instrumentality of these, that his character and conduct are operated on by the God who made him.
The system of truths exhibited in the Bible, is simply a scheme of motives, devised by infinite wisdom and good
with a view to influence the conduct of men as religious beings. We entirely mistake the nature and design of God's revelation, if we contemplate it in any other light than this. All the facts related-all the doctrines taught -all the promises of good, and threatenings of evil, contained in the inspired record,—are neither more por less than so many motives, which our Creator has been pleased to present to our consideration, as the means of reclaiming us from sin and consequent misery.
Of these motives, one of the most solemn and impressive, is furnished in the text which we have just read to you. It is here declared, in reference to any and every one who does not believe on Christ, that he shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."
We shall not take up your time to-day with any critical and explanatory remarks on the phraseology of the text. We presume that you are all sufficiently conversant with the general scope of doctrine and style of diction that prevail in the New Testament, to comprehend the proposition involved in this passage. You are aware that faith in the Son of God is the grand condition on which the blessings of the gospel are tendered to human acceptance, and can therefore be at no loss in perceiving, that what our divine Lord here teaches us is briefly this, —that the man who has not faith, must be miserable for
The text before us, then, might be considered as presenting two prominent topics of reflection; first, the importance of faith, and second, the perpetuity of future suffering. We shall confine our remarks this morning to the latter of these topics; and we ask your candid and serious attention, while we undertake, for a few minutes, to show that the punishment which God has denounced in his word, against all who persist in unbelief, shall be
absolutely interminable in its duration. It affords us no sort of pleasure, dear hearers, to bring forward and dwell upon a subject of this description. But we should be awfully delinquent in faithfulness to the Master by whose authority we stand before you, did we forbear to urge the most solemn and cogent of those motives to a virtuous and pious life, which he has placed at the disposal of his ministering servants. Yes, however grating to our sensibilities may be the thought, that any of our fellow beings, and particularly, that any
of our personal friends—any of the men and women whom we esteem and love on earth -are destined to dwell with devouring flames, and lie down in everlasting burnings, it is still our duty to assert, with distinctness and emphasis, a truth which God, for the most important, and there would be no incongruity in adding, the most benevolent purpose, has thought proper to disclose.
It is not to be wondered at, that this truth has been so often and so strenuously denied. The sinner is naturally reluctant to admit, that the course which he delights to pursue, shall terminate in endless wo. He attempts to silence and to soothe his conscience in some such way as this : “All the harm,” says he, “ that I ever do, is done to myself. The Being who formed me can sustain no real injury by my aberrations from the line of strict rectitude. He is merciful and indulgent in his disposition. He surely cannot be so cruel as to render me miserable for ever, simply for yielding to the impulse of passions which he himself has implanted in my nature. He must desire the happiness of all bis creatures, and what he desires he certainly will be able, in the end, to accomplish.”
Thus it is that the wicked endeavour to persuade themselves that the notion of perpetual sufferings is a mere fable, invented to terrify weak and superstitious minds.
It is, moreover, a lamentable fact, that even good men, distinguished less for strength of intellect than for suavity of disposition, have been led, in some instances, to embrace the doctrine which supposes, that all the partakers of our common nature shall be raised ultimately to a state of perfect and unending bliss.
There are two modifications of this doctrine, each of which has its advocates. Some imagine, that there is no punishment at all in the future world ; while others admit, that the wicked are to be punished, for a limited period, after death, and restored, through the medium of such penal discipline, to the favonr and enjoyment of their Maker.
The former of these schemes—that which supposes that there is no punishment whatever in the future world -has been defended with particular diligence, and propagated with untiring zeal, in many sections of our own country, during the last fifteen or twenty years. The modern asserter of universal salvation generally adopts this view of the subject. The judgment, he contends, is past already, and the penal effects of sin consist wholly in the afflictions incident to our present state. We deem it unnecessary to employ much time in pointing out the absurdity of such a doctrine as that which we have now stated. Indeed, we are at a loss to conceive how any sensible and candid observer of human life can seriously maintain, that this world is a state of retribution. What! is it a fact, that men are happy or miserable here, precisely in proportion to their deserts ? We leave it to the common sense, and the common honesty of every individual in this assembly to answer the question.—Besides, we should really like to know how death, which, so far as we can understand it, is merely a dissolution of the union that had subsisted between the body and soul, can produce an essential change in the moral character of men; and with
out such a change we may confidently pronounce, that not a few of those who die must be more or less unhappy. There is nothing in the ordinary circumstances under which we pass from the present to a future condition of being, to rectify the sentiments and feelings which we have here cherished, and to alter the babits which we have here formed. It is not, therefore, to be presumed, that death ushers all men, no matter what may have been their character and conduct in this world, into a state of perfect purity and consummate felicity. We may venture to affirm, that, so long as the principles of the divine government remain what they are—so long as God himself continues what he is a bad man cannot be happy, in the proper sense of the term. And we repeat it, that the change which death induces in the mode of our existence, is not a moral process by which a bad man is rendered good.-And, after all, is there not something incongruous -something revolting to our instinctive conceptions of rectitude and fitness—in the idea, that the virtuous and the viciousthe benefactors of their race, and those who have lived only to disgrace and injure society—shall become alike the participants of joy, immediately on their departure hence? One individual, for example, may die in the very act of praising his Maker, or rendering an important service to a fellow being, while another may close his career, uttering curses on the God who made him, or inflicting the deepest injury on some member of the community to which he belonged. And will any one, in moments of sober and honest reflection, imagine, that both these persons enter into the same state of felicity ?-We might further insist on the pernicious practical tendency of the doctrine which we oppose. It requires no profound acquaintance with human nature to discern, that this doctrine is calculated to destroy every incentive to virtue,