Page images

of chap. xxii.), like those before, full of awful warning to those who should reject him and his words; implying too, that this rejection would be no rare or uncommon thing, either among Jews or Gentiles.

In the course of the day he was assailed by the insidious malicious questions, first of the Pharisees and Herodians, then of the semi-infidel sarcastic Sadducees; and, lastly, individuals, whether with or without good motives, took upon them to put questions to him.

To all these our gracious Lord gave such replies as he in his wisdom thought fittest; and then, when they had ceased to inquire any more of him, he delivered to the multitude and his disciples (St. Matthew tells us) that awful denunciation of wo and vengeance to the hypocrites, and to the whole Jewish nation, which is contained in the twenty-third chapter of this gospel. And as soon as he had finished this, he departed

out of the temple. Now it may be natural to suppose that his apostles and other disciples, who were in close attendance on him, and had heard his severe denunciations, so different probably from what they could have wished or expected, must have been a good deal perplexed and grieved at all this. Particularly they must, as devout Jews, have been much pained by the expressions which their divine Master used in the latter part of his address, implying the utter ruin of their nation and city: “All these things shall come upon this generation : your house is left unto you desolate.”

And possibly, too, they were cast down and disap pointed at observing that their gracious Lord had intermixed few or no words of encouragement with his threats of vengeance, but had seemed to imply that a time of great suffering awaited them all; that ever his faithful followers and disciples should not escape.

Under the influence of this feeling, it may have been that some or other of the disciples (probably St. Peter one of them) began to speak of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, begged their Lord to take notice of the majesty, and strength, and architectural beauty of the whole building. By which they per

haps intended to say to him, surely you do not mean to say that this magnificent house of God shall be injured, that the gifts which so many pious persons have bestowed to the honor of Jehovah shall be plundered and mutilated ;-this temple may be taken from the Jews, but surely it will be intrusted to us, your followers, citizens of the new kingdom of heaven : surely your severe warnings do not touch us; we are safe and secure in the divine favor.

To these their thoughts, the holy Jesus at the time only returned this solemn and startling reply: "See ye not all these things ? Verily, I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

He then proceeded with his disciples across the valley, and over the brook Cedron, and up the Mount of Olives on the opposite side, over against the temple, St. Mark says; that is, having the temple before them in all its majesty and beauty, against the setting sun. Here they sat down, and some of his disciples took the opportunity to ask him privately, how long it would be before these wonderful things which he had been speaking of in the temple, should come to pass.

Our Lord's answer was not immediately directed to their question, he rather began to put them in mind of the nature of his kingdom upon earth; to warn them that it would not be what they perhaps expected, that it would be, throughout, the occasion of great trials and sufferings to nations and to individuals.

“ Take heed that no man deceive you ;” implying that there would be danger of it.

"For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many."

And (so far from there being universal peace established in the earth), ye shall still be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; “nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom;" that is, civil wars. And beside this, the providence of God in his works of what is called nature, will bear witness from time to time against the crimes and wickedness of man; for “there shall be

many shall be

famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows;' - the commencement of that long process (as it were) and course of trial and suffering, to which the world should be subject under the gospel dispensation.

With respect to individual Christians also, the particular members of the church on earth, that their condition should be one of suffering and trial to them (as Christians), the omniscient prophet thus set before his first disciples, no doubt to their surprise and alarm.

“They shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated (not of the

Jews only, but] of all nations for my name's sake.” This out of the church. And within the church, offended ;" that is, shall be disgusted at the high doctrines and strict rules of the true gospel ; “and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another."

“ And because iniquity shall abound,” namely among professing Christians, "the love of many," of the manythe generality, "shall wax cold."

“ Nevertheless,” added the great teacher, foreseeing that the hearts of his disciples would be greatly cast down and dispirited by so mournful a prospect, there is still hope for you; for “he that shall endure unto the end,” he that shall go on steady, patient, and resigned, under all these trials and perplexities, that person living and dying in the right temper of a Christian, “ the same shall be saved;" so persevering, he may know that he is not in danger, but is, in fact, safe—is safe now, and shall be safe hereafter.

About thirty years after our Lord uttered this memor. able prophecy, and when the knowledge and profession of Christianity had spread far and wide among Jews and Gentiles, sufficient time had elapsed, and abundant occasion had been given, to try men's faith and sin. cerity, to ascertain whether or not they had counted the cost when they embraced the religion of Jesus of Nazareth.

And, as was to be expected, many persons who had made a fair beginning, and showed encouraging signs

[ocr errors]

of zeal and sincerity in the Christian cause, when they found that it was not what they expected, that they were to look for no positive assurance, no landing-place as it were, on which they could repose with feelings of entire security ; but that, according to our Lord's own words, the Christian life must really and truly be a life of “enduring unto the end”—many persons, I say, find

, ing the terms of the gospel to be thus strict and severe, and that there is no possibility of softening them down, began by degrees to repent of their profession, and to fall back as opportunity might offer, to some form of Judaism or heathenism, anything, in fact, by which they could quiet their consciences, and at the same time get free from the strict restraint and self-denying system essentially belonging to the Christian life.

Of the alarm and apprehension, with which such prac. tical apostacy is to be contemplated, we have various evidences in the later writers of the New Testament; but nowhere perhaps is the subject more anxiously pressed on our thoughts, than in the epistle to the Hebrews; especially in that portion of it, which the church has appointed to be read to us this evening. *

For the inspired author of that epistle, having set forth the weakness of the law-sacrifices, and how impossible it was, that they could take away sins; then proceeds to show how the sacrifice of Christ's body once offered, hath obtained eternal redemption, that is, remission of sin, for us.

Therefore (such is his argument), since our Christian privileges and blessings are so great, let us beware lest we forfeit and lose them.

And the admonitions which follow in the latter half of that 10th chapter, are, as it were, a commentary on our Lord's memorable text, He that endureth to the end the same shall be saved.” Thus, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering. Let us oonsider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves to

[ocr errors]

Aug. 7, 1836.

gether, as the manner of some is; but rather exhorting and encouraging one another.” For what will Christian privileges avail, without a Christian life. The Jew that despised the rules of the law of Moses, died without mercy. Of how much sorer punishment shall the Christian be thought worthy, who scorns and neglects the rules of the gospel. "We know him that hath said, , Vengeance belongeth unto me. The Lord shall judge his people.” This is taken from the famous song of Moses, in the 32d chap. of Deuteronomy; and the thing to be observed (I suppose) is, the denunciation, that the Lord will severely judge, not merely heathens, strangers, and foreigners, but his people, his own peculiar people, whether Jews or Christians.

For the apostle immediately adds, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

He then refers to their former courage and patience, displayed in their conduct soon after they were illumi. nated, that is, baptized ; and entreats them still to remain firm and patient, and not to cast away their confidence. Ye have (says he) "need of patience :” but remember, that “the just shall live by faith,”-that it is by your behavior in these ceaseless, harassing trials, that you show what you are —whether


will be of the number of those who draw back-draw back I say, “unto perdition”—or of them that believe, go on with reposing trust and confidence, fulfilling their Lord's will; so believe, “to the saving of the soul.” For “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Comparing then the mysterious prophetic language (for so it is was), of our Savior before his crucifixion, with the practical admonitions of the apostle thirty years afterward ; admonitions we may suppose, suggested by the conduct of too many professed Christians, even in those early days of the gospel, we (my brethren) cannot I think fail of perceiving that the matter is one of the útmost possible importance, and one that touches and affects us in many particulars.

Some few of these I would wish to press on the consideration of thoughtful persons.

« PreviousContinue »