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benefacior evidences a character of unparalleled debasement. What epithet then can express the moral degradation of that character which can abuse the boundless mercy and forbearance of God? The exhibitions of divine mercy towards men have been numberless. Ever since man has revolted from the government of God, he has shown himself to be merciful and gra. cious. Instead of unsheathing the sword of justice and inflicting immediate vengeance upon a revolted world, he has borne with them nearly six thousand years, and crowned them all with his goodness. But, of all the manifestations of his kindness, that which most displays the infinite fullness of his compassion is the gift of his Son. Here God has exhibited himself to the view of angels and men in the attitude of unparalleled condescension and grace. He stood in no need of our services. He might at once have consigned all the guilty subjects of the apostacy to a righteous retribution, and re peopled the world with better inhabitants. But love, pure, disinterested, and boundless, provided the Lamb of Calvary to expiate the guilt of a self-ruined world. The glad tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ have long been published to the world, and even now mercy, bearing in her hand the gracious offer of pardon, sends forth from the fullness of a bleeding heart the melting expostulation,
Why will ye die ?” But sin abuses all this mercy. It is not disarmed of its malignity by all these affecting exhibitions of heavenly mercy. only sets at naught the law of God, and bids defiance to his authority and wrath, but also casts a look of inexpressible contempt upon the blood-stained cross of his Son. It still urges its way onward, unawed and unrestrained by the boundless compassion of a crucified Saviour. Yes, from the very cross of Calvary it impiously takes encouragement to continue its desolating course, and should it succeed in extending its fearful ravages over the whole earth, it would plead in justification the mercy of God. Oh! who can estimate the power and malignity of sin ? Who could suppose that melting scene of Calvary would fail to divest it of its malignity, and put a period to its triumphs ? Who would suppose that the glad news of salvation, proclaimed in this perishing world, could fail to arrest the ear, awaken the aliention, and soften the heart of its guilty population ?. Yet the fact cannot be questioned, that thousands sit under the joyful sound for half a century, and at last go into eternity, without embracing the pardon so long proffered them. And it is not uncommon for men to plead the very mercy of God, as an excuse for their long protracted rebellion, and then with the utmost effron'ery, affect to honor him by pronouncing him too good to punish them! Such is the amazing power, such the exceeding sinfulness of sin !
V. The awful effects of sin in our world bear testimony to its exceeding sinfulness. Look in the first place at its debasing influence upon the mind of
Sin indeed has its seat in the heart, and can only indirectly affect the intellectual powers; yet its effects upon these are not on this account the less real or pernicious. Through the influence of sin the highest endowments of our intellectual nature are perverted. Though men may still reason correctly respecting subjects merely intellectual, yet in regard to ihose truths that bring into view their character and obligations, and the various relations they sustain to the moral government of God, their understandings are darkened by prejudice, and selfishness, and hatred of the truth. Thus, to silence the unwelcome accusations of a guilty conscience, they clothe God with a character which they can contemplate without any apprehensions of his wrath. They divest him of all those attributes which make angels rejoice and devils tremble. They are resolved at all events to invest God with a character that shall not disturb them in their sins. To the same cause is to be attributed all the idolatry that has existed in this degenerate world. According to inspired testimony, it was “because they liked not to retain God in their
knowledge," that men multiplied to themselves gods that cannot save. Had not sin alienated the hearts of men from the worship of the true God, the various forms of idolatry, which have so long enslaved more than half the population of our world, would never have had an existence. Here then we have an exhibition of the debasing influence of sin upon the human mind. Contemplate for a moment millions of rational and immortal beings, through a long succession of ages, prostrating themselves before gods of wood and stone ! Next contemplate millions of the same race, upon whom the blessed light of revelation has long shone, and see them laboring to put out the light of the Bible, perverting all its heavenly truths, and divesting God of every attribute that can inspire confidence in heaven, or beget alarm on earth ; and then estimate, if you can, the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Look, in the second place, at the miseries sin has caused in the world. Man, as he came from the hands of his Maker, was holy and happy. He possessed the joys of innocence, and the approbation of God. But sin banished him from Paradise, and brought a curse upon the world. From that time onward, sin has reigned, and has been the fruitful source of all the miseries under which the world has so long groaned. And how immensely great has been the amount of suffering endured by the numberless millions of human beings that have lived and died since the apostacy of man! Surely no tongue can expressno pen describe—no finite mind conceive the amount of wo endured by this world's population, since it fell under the frown of a holy God. The earth has travailed in pain for nearly sixty centuries under the accumulated miseries sin has brought upon it. Every breeze has conveyed to our ears the sighs and groans of suffering humanity. Pride, and revenge, and malice have spread, far and wide, lamentions, mourning and wo. Ambition and the love of military fame hare slain their tens of thousands upon the field of battle. Conquerors have spread complete desolation over whole kingiloms, and tyrants have urged their way to the throne through the blood of slaughtered millions. At the same time a righteous God has sent his judgments abroad upon the earth. Once to punish a rebellious generation, he deluged the world, and with the exception of a single family, swept its numerous population into a hopeless eternity. At another time he rained down fire and brimstone from heaven, upon five rich and populous, but wicked cities. Through every family in Egypt he spread lamentation and mourning. The Canaanites he delivered up to the sword of Israel.
A whole generation of Israelites he doomed to perish in the wilderness. And after he had put them in possession of the land promised to their fathers, he repeatedly delivered them into the hands of their enemies. And at last, when they had filled up the measure of their iniquity, he poured out upon them the vials of his wrath without measure. But time would fail to glance at all the judgments of a righteous God since sin entered the world. Let it not be forgotten here, that these awful effects of sin have taken place in this world of probation, distinguished by the amazing forbearance of God, and the gracious interposition of a mighty Redeemer. What an impressive exhibition then of the exceeding siufulness of sin must have been made, if the divine forbearance had not been lengthened out, and if the announcement of "peace on earth and glad tidings of great joy," had never been heard in this world of apostacy and guilt !
VI. The sufferings and death of Jesus Christ furnish another affecting proof of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. In the view of angels, no doubt, this is one of the most impressive proofs of the evil of sin. And could we have a proper view of “the glory he had with the Father before the world was," we might better appreciate the argument. Time however will permit us only to glance at the subject. The design of Christ's death was to make atonement for sin. Now, it cannot be disputed that the evil of sin must bear
a general proportion to the value of the sacrifice that was necessary for its expiation. Since then the sacrifice actually made was of infinite i alue, we infer with certainty that sin is an evil of immense magnitude. This sacrifice, be it remembered, was provided by Him against whom sin is commited, who knows perfectly its nature and tendency, and who is qualified to judge how great a sacrifice was necessary. How great then must be the evil of sin, since God judged it necessary to give up his only begotten Son as an adequate sacrifice! He who was the brightness of his Father's glory and the express image of his person ; he before whom angels veil their faces, and to whom they render the most exalted ascriptions of praise, must veil bis glories in hunan nature, and die upon the cross, before sin could be pardoned.
Again, sin was directly concerned in his death. It was by wicked hands that he was crucified and slain. The perfect holiness of his life he unexampled purity of his doctrines—the disinterested beneficence of his miracles
-the infinite importance of his mediation—and the abundant evidence of his Divinity could not save him from contempt, and mockery, and death. Oh, the exceeding sinfulness of sin! Who can estimate the malignity of that spi it which could be satisfied with nothing less than the death of the Son of God ? Surely such a spirit, if clothed with omnipotence, would dethrone Jehovah himself, annihilate his moral government, and mingle in one vast heap of ruins the combined holiness, happiness and glory of his universal empire !
VII. To have an adequate view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, we must also look at its fearful consequences in the world of retribution. We have already attempted to trace its effects in this world. But here sin has been kept under powerful restraints. We must therefore extend our view to that world where all these restraints will be removed.
Here men restrained by fear; but in the world of retribution, so far from being restrained by fear, they will “gnaw their tongues for pain, and blaspheme the God of heaven.” Here they are extensively restrained by hope; but hope will shed no kindly influence upon the dark world of perdition. Here the love of esteem imposes great restraints upon the depravity of man; but this can have no place in a world where there are no beings whose esteem is of any value.
In this world, too, there have always been some who constitute the “salt of the earth,” and preserve it from total moral corruption, but in the world of wo the influence of piety will be unknown. The Spirit of God, too, has greatly restrained the wrath of man here, but this heavenly agent will pay no gracious visit to that out cast world. Here also the Sun of Righteousness has shone; but his cheering beams will never reach that world where reigns the “ blackness of darkness forever." What then must be the consequences of sin in a world where every restraint is removed—where the Sun of Righteousness will never shine, and where it will have full opportunity to ex. tend its ravages without interruption and without end ? But this is not all. God himself will inflict exemplary punishment upon the workers of iniquity. The effects which sin itself produces, is not the only source of misery to the lost. The Bible speaks most frequently, and in language most awful of the punishment inflicted directly by the hand of a sin-hating God. The fearful representations of Scripture respecting the wrath of God -the undying worm -the unquenchable fire-the devouring flames—and the everlasting burnings, must not be overlooked in estimating the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Oh! “who arnong us shall dwell with the devouring fire! Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings !" Even here, no doubt, are some who are daily, hourly exposed to this amazing and hopeless destruction !
Impenitent sinner ! there may be but a step between you and that bottomless pit, where burn the quenchless flames of divine wrath! You are rapidly
bending your unconscious footsteps toward that world of intolerable wo. The burning lake is extended beneath your feet, and nothing but the forbearance of that God, whom you are hourly provoking by your impenitence and rebellion, keeps you from dropping into it this very moment. Oh then, flee from the wrath to come to an Almighty Saviour. Repair at once to the cross of him who is able to save to the uttermost. Delay not a moment, lest
wrath of God overtake you. The sound of mercy will not always reach your ear.
The forbearance of God will not be lengthened out forever. God may soon cut you down and consign you to the burning lake, where the smoke of your torment, ascending up in one vast column forever, will furnish to the universe an everlasting memento of the exceeding sinfulness of sin !
By ENOCH POND, D. D.,
NECESSITY AND MEANS OF REGENERATION, JOHN iii. 3. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
To beings situated as we are, in the present life, it must be of the utmost importance to know the terms, or conditions, of salvation—to know what we must be and do, in order to be saved and happy forever in the future world. The present world is fleeting and transitory. "The fashion of this world passeth away." Consequently, it cannot be of any lasting importance to us to know ever so much, pertaining merely to the present world. But our future state will be literally endless. And we are taught in the Scriptures that our condition in the future life will be radically affected, and even determined, by the characters we sustain here. It is then, as I said, of the utmost importance, that we know definitely what characters we must here sustainknow what we must here be and do, in order to be happy forever in that world to which we are all hastening.
A principal object of the revelation which God has given us, is to communicate this needed information. And one very interesting item of it is communicated by our Saviour in the text. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Except we experience a change so great and radical, as to be properly denominated a second birth—a regenerationwe cannot be admitted to the heavenly state.
The change here spoken of is the same which, in some places, is denominated a change of heart : " Make you a new heart, and a new spirit.” In other places, it is represented as a conversion, or turning from sin io holiness.
Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of God." This change is obviously an inward change. It is not baptism, or a change of profession, or a mere outward reformation. It pertains primarily and essentially to the inner man. And that within us which is changed in regeneration is, not the constitution or faculties of the mind, but the disposition or inclinations of the heart. Persons, subsequent to regeneration, have the same faculties, bodily and mental—the same understanding, conscience, memory, and will—which they had before ; but their moral exercises or affections are different. They love, they choose, they are pleased with, different objects. Their free, moral exercises or affections are changed; and this is the change spoken of by our Saviour in the text. The sentiment of the text is, therefore, this:
PERSONS MUST EXPERIENCE A RADICAL CHANGE IN THEIR MORAL EXERCISES OR AFFECTIONS, IN ORDER TO BE HAPPY IN HEAVEN.
To show the truth of this sentiment, and make it palpable to every hearer, it
may be necessary, first, to consider, for a moment, what kind of place heaven is. And, without attempting any labored description of heaven, I would say, in the general (what I doubt not will be assented to by all who hear me) that it is pre-eminently a religious state. All the views given of heaven in the Scriptures represent its inhabitants as employed, engrossed, with the interesting and important subject of religion ?
This is the subject of their thoughts and studies, and of their communications one with another. Heavenly beings are not thinking, as we 100 often are in this world, of trade, of speculation, of worldly profit—of buying, and selling, and getting gain. They are not scheming to rise, one above another, in wealth, in splendor, in honor, or in power. Their thoughts are employed upon the infinitely nobler subjects of religion and eternity. They are thinking of God, of his glorious character, perfections, and attributes. They are thinking of Christ ;-of the mysteries of his person, and the wonders of his love. With intense and growing interest, they are contemplating the works of God, and the displays which these make of his power, his wisdom, and his love. With this view, they ponder the vast work of creation, that stupendous display of Almighty power, which spoke systems, suns, and worlds into being—which formed, established, and peopled the universe. With a still higher satisfaction, they study the works of providence, and learn how things once dark have been brought into the clearest light, and how events which on earth were most mysterious and afflictive have been overruled for the wisest ends. But there is a nobler employment for heavenly beings than studying the works of creation and providence. The wonders of redemption are open before them; and it is into these things, emphatically, that “the angels desire to look.” It is the work of redemption—the noblest and best of all the Divine works—which excites the profoundest researches and the most delightful meditations of celestial minds. When, on the ground of the mysterious atonement, they see justice and mercy equally satisfied-see the law honored, God glorified, and sinners saved, they break forth with an ecstasy, of which Paul knew something, when he said, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments ! and his ways past finding out !"
And not only do the things of which I have spoken occupy the thoughts of celestial beings, they are the subject of their communications one with another. That the blessed spirits above enjoy a mutual, social intercourse, there can be no doubt, although at present we know not the manner in which this intercourse is conducted. They are not solitary beings in heaven. They do not muse and meditate alone. They are united in their contemplations and their joys, and have communication one with another the most free, and friendly, and delightful. And the subject of their communications, like that of their thoughts and studies, is wholly spiritual, wholly religious. They converse of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, and of the high interests of the Redeemer's kingdom. They talk of all the works of God, and of the displays which these make of his perfections and glories. They talk of the dealings of God towards them, and adore that faithfulness which has overruled all things for