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death? Wretched, indeed, must be the last moments of
? him who has misspent his days in the pursuit of this world's vanities. Not the recollection of the past, and still less the anticipation of the future, can administer the least solace to his mind. He is conscious, that he is utterly unprepared to render an account of his stewardship. He knows, that he has squandered the mercies of heaven. The representative of Deity within his breast-a faithful and terrific monitor—points him to the blessings of providence which he has abused—to the means of grace which he has neglected. Memory, at the call of conscience, holds up to his view a mirror of his sins, from the contemplation of which he would, if it were possible, speed bis flight to the utmost verge of the universe. Miserable being! his soul is required of him, and he can neither avoid nor delay the summons. Willingly and
. eagerly would he part with all that the world had ever done for him, to obtain the respite of a single year—a single day—a single hour! But divine justice frowns indignant at the mere suggestion of such a barter. Weeping relatives and pious friends mingle their entreaties to the Father of mercy, that the dying culprit's term of probation may be only a little lengthened. Still the language of God is, “ Cut him down; why cumbereth he the ground ?”
We beseech you, then, dear hearers, to act a wiser part. O! let it be your primary object to make your peace with God, and prepare for the solemnities of judgment, and the realities of the eternity that follows. Defer not-we beg you to defer not-this business till the hour of death. Justly has it been called, “the work of a life-time, and too great a work for a life-time.” We can assure you, that you have not a moment to lose.
All the time that you can possibly employ—all the effort that you can possibly put forth—will not do more than save you from destruction. Now is the crisis of your fate. To day is the season of salvation. 66
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near.-Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”
MARK X. 17-22.
“And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and
kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God. Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him, loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”
We shall first lay before you a brief review of the circumstances here presented to our consideration, and then dwell a little upon the practical lesson which the passage so impressively inculcates.
The ministry of our divine Lord excited an uncommon degree of attention throughout his native country. Wherever he appeared as a teacher, vast numbers crowded about him, and listened with the deepest interest to his instructions. His auditors also frequently made free to interrogate him respecting religious subjects; and he never failed, except where the inquiry manifestly proceeded from an improper motive, or related to a topic of no practical importance, to return a prompt, a kind, and a satisfactory answer. Several instances occur in the New Testament, of conversations between Christ and persons who took the liberty of consulting him, and asking his opinion in respect to matters involving the present duty or the future destiny of man. In the case now before us, the inquirer was an individual of wealth and consideration, whose moral character would seem to have been what we are accustomed to call upblemished. There is no reason to presume that he approached our Lord with any sinister or unworthy object in view. His whole demeanour was marked by ingenuousness, and indicated an upfeigned desire for information and improvement. He was not like the pert lawyer, who stood up and tempted Jesus, demanding what he must do to inherit eternal life, and for whose benefit the Saviour told the story of the benevolent Samaritan. Nor did he resemble the cunning and malignant hypocrites, who, on a certain occasion, were so anxious to find out whether it was lawful for them, conscientious men, to pay tribute to Cæsar. In short, he must be looked upon as a young man correct in his life, and amiable in his manners, whose application to Christ was, in all respects, candid and commendable.
This inquirer, we are told, came to Jesus runninga circumstance characteristic of the ardour and impetuosity of youth. We are likewise informed, that he kneeled to our Lord_conduct which showed that he entertained the most profound respect for the personage whom he was going to consult.--He further manifested his sincere regard for Christ by the appellation with which he addressed him, “Good Master.”—And what was the query which he had to propose? It was one of the very highest importance, and ran in such terms as these, “What shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?" Every one who considers himself as an accountable agent, and believes that when he is done with this world, his existence shall be prolonged indefinitely in another state, must admit the momentousness of the question here recorded. To discover the method by which peace and
happiness after death are to be obtained—to know the precise course which we are required by our Maker to pursue, as the means of securing his favour, and ultimately raising us to his presence in the regions of perpetual light and bliss—is surely an object, compared with which, all the other objects of human pursuit dwindle into insignificance. And 0! how unutterable the follyhow teeming with perils the condition-of him, who never thinks it worth his while to inquire, how he is to make provision for the exigencies of a coming eternity!
The language of this young man, “What shall I do?” taken in connexion with all the circumstances attending his interview with Christ, is an evidence that he was under the influence of the same error into which his countrymen had generally fallen, and believed that future happiness was to be purely the result and reward of human exertions. He did not ask whether the divine favour could be obtained by the doing of some good thing—the performance of one or more virtuous, and pious, and benevolent deeds. This he took for granted. It was a point relative to which he entertained not the least doubt. And so most men, or, perhaps, we should rather say, all men, before they feel the power of evangelical truth, and become Christians in the strict and peculiar sense of the term, conceive that a rigidly moral deportment, especially when united to certain religious observances, will be sufficient to procure eternal life from a merciful Divinity. We know, indeed, that they will not always say that such is their creed. But then they act, they live as if it was; and that amounts to the same thing.
Our Lord, before proceeding to answer directly the question proposed to him, made a remark by no means inappropriate, suggested by the manner in which he had been addressed. “Why callest thou me good ? there is