« AnteriorContinuar »
But I would warn those who, though they have sinned with a high hand, are not altogether past feeling, lest you fall into such a state of confirmed disobedience and unbelief. Take heed lest you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.'* If, under the light of the Gospel, you can go on in a course of wilful, wanton, deliberate wickedness, you are upon the very edge of the unpardonable sin, of that state from which it is impossible to renew you to repentance. If the Bible be, as you vainly wish it may prove, a cunningly-devised fable,' you may trample upon it with impunity, and laugh on securely to the end of life. But if it be true, remember you have been this day warned of the consequences of despising it. If you will perish, I am clear of your blood.
II. 1 proceed to consider the final issue of this unequal contest between the worms of the earth and their Maker. 'He will dash them in pieces like a potters vessel.' Such a vessel may be curiously wrought, and appear beautiful to the eye; but it is frail, easily broken, and when once broken to pieces, it is irreparable. It is therefore a fit emblem of mortal man in his best estate. 'We are fearfully and wonderfully made.'t The texture of the human frame is admirable. The natural capacities of the mind of man, the powers of his understanding, will, and affections, the rapidity of imagination, the comprehension of memory, especially in some instances, are so many proofs, that, considered as a creature of God, he is a noble creature; and, though he is debased and degraded by sin, there are traces of his original excellence remaining, sufficient to denominate him in the words of the poet, ⚫ majestic though in ruins.' But if you suppose him rich, powerful, wise, in the common sense of the words, he is brittle as a potter's vessel;' and, while possessed of every possible advantage, he is but like the grass or the flower of the field, which, in its most flourishing state, falls in a moment at the stroke of the scythe, and withers and dies. A fever, a fall, a tile, a grain of sand, or the air that finds its way through a crevice, may be an overmatch for the strongest man, and bring him down hastily to the grave. By a small change in the brain, or some part of the nervous system, he who now prides himself in his intellectual abilities, may soon become a lunatic or an idiot. Disease may quickly render the beauty loathsome, and the robust weak as infancy. There are earthern or china vessels which might possibly endure for many ages, if carefully preserved from violence. the seeds of decay and death are sown in our very frame. are crushed before the moth, and moulder away untouched,
*Heb. iii. 13.
+ Psalm cxxxix. 14
under the weight of time. How surely and inevitably, then, must they whom the Lord strikes with his iron rod, be shattered with the blow!
Communities and collective bodies of men are, in his hand, no less frail than individuals. The first born throughout Egypt, and the vast army of Sennacherib, perished in a night. The Romans were the iron rod in his hand, wherewith he dashed the Jewish nation to pieces. Their fragments are scattered far and wide to this day, and who can gather them up? The Roman empire was likewise dashed to pieces in its turn; and such has been the end, successively, of many powers, and of many persons, who have presumed to oppose his designs. For a while they were permitted to rage, and plot, and strive; but at length they stumbled and fell, and their memory is perished.
But it is proper to bring the consideration nearer home. I have been informed, that the music to which this passage is set, is so well adapted to the idea it expresses, as in a manner to startle those who hear it. They who live in sinful habits, regardless of the Gospel, would be startled, indeed, if they were duly sensible how directly the words apply to their own situation, and that the Psalmist describes the manner in which God will treat them if they continue impenitent. If we could see all that passes upon dying beds, we should often see the false peace and vain hopes of sinners dashed to pieces when eternity is opening upon their view. We shall certainly see the solemnity of the great day: For we must all appear,' not only as spectators, but as parties nearly interested in the proceedings, 'before the judgment-seat of Christ.' 'Behold, he cometh in the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him!' He will, descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God,' and before him shall be gathered all nations.' Where, then, shall the sinner and the ungodly appear? What will then become of those who despise, and those who abuse the Gospel of the grace of God? The libertine, the infidel, the apostate, the hypocrite, the profane scoffer, and false professor, how will they stand, or whither will they flee, when the great Judge shall sit upon his awful throne, and the books shall be opened, and every secret thing shall be disclosed? Alas! for them that are full,' and that laugh now, for then they shall pine and mourn.'* Then their cavils will be silenced, their guilt, with all its aggravations, be charged home upon them, and no plea, no advocate be found. Can their hearts endure, or their hands be strong, when he shall
* Luke, vi. 25.
speak to them in his wrath, and say, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels?"
But let them who love his name rejoice. You have fled for refuge to hope set before you. To you his appearance will be delightful, and his voice welcome. You shall not be ashamed. This awful God is yours. He will then own and accept you before assembled worlds, and will say, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.' Then the days of your mourning shall be ended, and your sun shall go down no more.'*
THE LORD REIGNETH.
REV. xix. 6.
Hallelujah ; for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
THE book of the Revelation, being chiefly prophetical, will not, perhaps, be fully understood, till the final accomplishment of the events shall draw near, and throw a stronger light upon the whole series. But, while the learned commentators have been hitherto divided and perplexed in their attempts to illustrate many parts of it, there are other parts well adapted for the instruction and refreshment of plain Christians; particularly those passages in which the scenery and images seemed designed to give us some representation of the happiness and worship of the heavenly state. Thus a plain, unlettered believer, when reading with attention the fourth and fifth chapters, though he cannot give a reason why the elders are four-and-twenty, the living creatures four, and the number of their wings neither more nor less than six; yet, from the whole description of the Lamb upon the throne, the songs of the redeemed, and the chorus of the angels, he receives such an impression of glory, as awakens his gratitude, desire, and joy, and excites him likewise to take up the song of praise to him' who has loved him, and washed him from his sins in his own blood.' is content to leave the discussion of hard questions to learned men, while he feeds by faith upon those simple truths which can be relished only by a spiritual taste; and which, where there is
* Matth. xxv. 34. Isai. lx. 20.
such a taste, make their way to the heart, without the assistance of critical disquisition.
The subject of the preceding chapter is the destruction of mystical Babylon, the head of the opposition against the kingdom of the Lord Christ. But Babylon sinks like a mill-stone in the mighty ocean, and is no more found. So must all his enemies perish. The catastrophe of Babylon, like that of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, is beheld by the saints and servants of the Lord with admiration, and furnishes them with a theme for a song of triumph to his praise. This may be properly styled sacred music indeed. It is commanded, inspired, and regulated by the Lord himself. The performers are all interested in the subject, they who fear God,' and are devoted to his service and glory. And though persons of this character are comparatively few upon earth, hidden, and in a manner lost, among the crowd of mankind; they will be, when brought together at last, a very large company. Their united voices are here compared to the voice of many waters, and of mighty thunders, and this is the solemn close, the chorus of their song, 'Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.'
The impression which the performance of this passage in the Oratorio usually makes upon the audience is well known. But however great the power of music may be, should we even allow the flights of poetry to be truth, that it can 'soften rocks, and bend the knotted oak,' one thing we are sure it cannot do; it cannot soften and change the hard heart, it cannot bend the obdarate will of man. If all the people who successively hear the Messiah, who are struck and astonished, for the moment, by this chorus in particular, were to bring away with them an abiding sense of the important sentiment it contains, the nation would soon wear a new face. But do the professed lovers of sacred music, in this enlightened age, generally live as if they really believed that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth?" Rather, do not the greater part of them live, as they might do if they were sure of the contrary? as if they were satisfied to demonstration, that either there is no God, or that his providence is not concerned in human affairs? I appeal to conscience; I appeal to fact.
I apprehend that this passage, taken in the strictest sense, refers to a period not yet arrived. Babylon is not yet fallen. The servants of God in the present day, will, most probably, fulfil their appointed time upon earth, like those who have lived before them, in a state of conflict. They must endure the cross, and sustain opposition for his sake. The people who shall live when the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ,' when the 'nations shall learn war no
more,' are yet unborn. But even now we may rejoice that' the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,' and that Jesus is 'King of kings, and Lord of lords.' I must consider my text as referring to him. Many of the Heathens believed that God reigned. The Christian doctrine is, that the Lord God omnipotent exerciseth his dominion and government in the person of Christ. The Father loveth the Son, and hath committed all things into his hands.** And thus our Lord after his resurrection, assured his disciples, 'All power is committed unto me in heaven and in earth.' He has already taken to himself his great power, and reigneth.'His right of reigning over all is essential to his divine nature; but the administration of government in the nature of man, is the effect and reward of his obedience unto death. But in the union of both natures, he is one person, Christ Jesus the Lord. All the riches and fulness of the Godhead, all the peculiar honours of the Mediator, centre in him. They may be distinguished, but they are inseparable.
Happy are they who can, upon solid and Scriptural grounds, exult in the thought that the Lord reigneth, and can make his government the subject of their hallelujahs and praises! Happy they, who see acknowledge, and admire his management in the kingdom of providence, and are the willing subjects of his kingdom of grace. Let us take a brief survey of his reigning glory in these kingdoms.
I. Great and marvellous is this Lord God omnipotent in his kingdom of Universal Providence. His mighty arm sustains the vast fabric of the universe. He upholds the stars in their courses, If we attentively consider their multitude, their magnitudes, their distances from us and from each other, and the amazing swiftness, variety, and regularity of their motions, our minds are overwhelmed, our thoughts confounded, by the vastness and the wonders of the scene. But He spoke them into being, and they are preserved in their stations and revolutions by his power and agency. If we fix our thoughts upon the earth, though in comparison of the immensity of his creation, it is but as a point or a grain of sand, it is the object of his incessant care. All its various inhabitants derive their existence and their support from him. He provides for the young ravens when unable to fly, and for the young lions that traverse the woods. The instinct of an, imals, whereby they are unerringly instructed in whatever concerns the welfare and preservation of their species, so vastly exceeding the boasted wisdom of man, that he can neither imitate nor comprehend it, is communicated by him. He teaches the birds to
*John, iii. 35.
+ Matth. xxviji. 18,