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inclined, the best of us, it is to be feared, to be comfortable and easy amidst a mass of grievous imperfections, not to say sins and errors of a very fearful kind ?
I speak not now of persons who are going in a deliberate course of profligacy, or open violation of God's law, in fraud or dishonesty, in sins of intemperance or uncleanness, in malice or envy ; because habits of this kind, when known, and allowed, and persevered in, are so contrary to the Gospel of Christ, that no person whatever can imagine that it is safe to continue in them unto their life's end. And, therefore, persons who deliberately go on in these ways, do one of two things : either they pretend to deny and disbelieve the Gospel, or else they comfort themselves with the assurance, that of course they do not intend to keep on in those evil ways always; they mean to be very different persons, quite changed characters before long, or at least in plenty of time. Such persons forget that in so doing they provoke as it were the Almighty to His face—they go the way to make Him withdraw His grace utterly from them, they contradict His very word, and say “ There is mercy with THEE, therefore shalt Thou not be feared.”
But it were well if we were only in danger in respect of open sins and deliberate defiance of ALMIGHTY GOD.
How faint is our sense, even at the best, of our real position with regard to Him—of the extreme malignity of our sins and imperfections—of the depth of His mercy for us—of the return we ought to make for that mercy.
If a person goes on through life, or for many years, doing nothing whatever for the sake of Jesus Christ, and leading just such a life as a quiet, steady moral Heathen might do, we know that such persons are not much, or not at all, I should say, the worse thought of, for their disregard of what is called religion ; and because others are satisfied with them, therefore they too are satisfied with themselves. Yet all the while, either the Gospel of the LORD JESUS CHRIST must be all a fable, or persons who lead this kind of hard irreligious life must be in the way to be cast off eternally. The world may treat them with respect, or even admiration ; but in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if they will look into it without partiality, they will find themselves
differently described ; and by the Gospel, not by the world, they must be judged in the last day.
If, again, persons lead the life of what is called men of business-if fathers and mothers of families devote their whole time to domestic cares and anxieties, so as literally not to have sufficient time for religion (as the phrase is), have they not reason to apprehend that they are too ready to trust to excuses, that their supposed love for God (for perhaps it is but supposed) has made them too much inclined to be presumptuous, easy, and confident? very different from the confession of the holy penitent
There is mercy with thee, therefore shalt Thou be feared." And to mention only one other consideration—the disputes and dissensions which now for a long time past have sadly torn in pieces the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; what are these
very often owing to, but to the presumptuousness and over confidence of zealous persons, who, too much forgetting their own frailty and imperfection, will, without scruple, pass a heavy judgment on their brethren; and having no fears for themselves, will treat those whom they think in error with such bitterness and scorn, as all serious and thoughtful persons, however differing on other points, must agree in lamenting and deprecating from the bottom of their hearts ?
The conclusion of the whole matter seems to be, that we should all endeavour more and more to feel and acknowledge our own deficiencies, our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and then to set in earnest about “ leading a new life,” as we learnt in the Catechism. Because, to go on as we have been without trying to grow better, may indeed satisfy other people, and ourselves
but still the awful question remains, whether we are indeed such as our Lord, Master, and REDEEMER will acknowledge as His, in the day when He makes up His jewels?
NONE SHALL ESCAPE GOD'S JUDGMENT.
Rom. xiv. 11.
“As I live, saith the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall
confess to God."
WHEN our LORD and Saviour was put on His trial as blasphemer before the Sanhedrim, or great council of the Jews, He for some time made no answer to the many calumnies which were heaped on Him. At length, when the High Priest stood up, and, whether in scorn or in wrath, said—“I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God,”—then, though He knew all things which should come upon Him, He would not shrink from declaring the awful truth of His own Divine nature-" JESUS saith unto him, Thou hast said, I AM”-I am the MESSIAH, the eternal Son of God. “Nevertheless," notwithstanding the low and degraded state in which you now see me, standing before your
tribunal as a criminal, persecuted, forsaken, insulted, and to all appearance cast off by God and man,-nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye yourselves see fulfilled in me the ancient prophecy of Daniel (chap. vii.], "ye shall see the Son of Man, the incarnate WORD, sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Whereupon the High Priest rent his clothes, saying, “ He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need
have we of witnesses ? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death.” This is one
case; let us now look to another. Christians by profession, and, as such, we all know and acknowledge that our eyes shall some time or other be witnesses to great and astonishing events- to such displays of the power and majesty of Almighty God, as the world has not yet seen.
Every one knows this, however little they may reflect on it; but every one, I say, knows, that a day of final judgment is drawing on, when this world of trial and probation shall be put an end to-when the LORD JESUS shall sit on the throne of His glory, thousand thousands ministering unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand standing before Him; when the righteous shall be admitted to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and the wicked shall be compelled to acknowledge Him for their Judge, whom they have, through life, refused to love as their Saviour, or to obey as their Master and LORD.
These things, I say, we know; as Christians we cannot, we dare not deny them. But it more deeply concerns us, by a close and serious examination of our own hearts, to ascertain whether or not we are really prepared to meet those great events; whether (though we may not venture to scorn or deny Him, as the Jewish rulers did), whether our love and obedience towards the holy Jesus is now such as in that dread hour shall entitle us, through the atonement of His blood, to His merciful acceptance and eternal rewards.
“Every knee," we know, “shall bow to Him,” then, in terror, however now it may be proof against His love. Every tongue shall then confess the justice and majesty of our Saviour God, however now we may practically refuse to acknowledge His infinite mercy, and our own infinite need of it.
There is plainly a notion very much abroad in the world, and in more or less degrees acted on by vast numbers of Christians ; that if they can forget God, God will forget them; that is, if they can contrive to keep religion out of their thoughts, there will be an end of the matter, and they shall hear no more about it.
This notion is indulged and acted upon (I say) not entirely, but in various degrees, more or less, by great numbers of people in these days. And these numbers are not at all likely to grow less, but rather to increase, in proportion as wild fancies and imaginations of all shapes and colours (as one may say) are dignified in common speech, and therefore in common opinion, with the sacred names of religion and the Gospel.
For in such a mixture and confusion of notions and professions, where some of course must be wrong, it is but a slight step further to say that perhaps all are wrong; or at least, that it is out of our power to distinguish what is right; at all events, that we cannot do so without spending a great deal of time and trouble on the matter ;—and so people say, they must go on as they are, and hope for the best—hope that somehow or other they shall come right at last.
Thus unwilling are the generality of persons to be put at all out of their way, or to take any considerable pains or trouble about truth and duty.
Yet, “ As I live, saith the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me;" the time shall come when all shall confess that Christian truth and Christian duty were matters of far more consequence, far more value, than any thing else whatever, which is now thought worthy to occupy the time, and absorb the care of mortal man.
What then I would wish, by the aid of God's sacred Spirit, to lead your thoughts to, is this plain consideration : that, however neglectful and indifferent a person may be about religious truth during this his probationary life, yet for this his neglect and indif. ference he must at last render a severe account, and confess himself miserably and shamefully self-deceived.
The proud and haughty members of the Jews' Sanhedrim, when they heard the despised JEsus of Nazareth avow HIMSELF to be the MESSIAH, the eternal Son of God, immediately condemned Him as a blasphemer. Yet the time is coming, we know, when these very men shall see Him coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory. Before Him Annas and Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod, shall bow down, and cry for mercy to Him whom they treated as the vilest and most degraded of the sons of men, though He were in truth, all the while, their Saviour and JUDGE.
Of Pilate indeed it may reasonably be supposed, that some