« ForrigeFortsæt »
and our own diminished character to meet, we are content. As the one decreases, imagination extends the other. And so we pass into dwarhshness in respect of good, and into enormity in respect of evil.
Kut as I said, it is heaven the Saviour preaches, not hell. Hell is not the alternative to be chosen, and therefore it is made horrible beyond all choice. Hell is the fire from which the divine mercy would pluck us.
And it is conceived in every odious and shocking guise, to horrify human feelings as much as material fire and sulphureous smoke and darkness horrify the real sense of man. It is described so as to make the mind suffer from the thought, as much as the body suffers from the most horrid torments. But why? because it is the truth, and that we might know the truth, and take hold of the hand that is stretched out to save us.
If ever hell were described in Scripture, as oft it is in an enthusiast's sermon, out of a fell delight in cleaving the general ear with horrid speech; if ever it was made like a torturing tool in the hands of angry priests, to torture the souls of those whose party or faction they hate, then let it be condemned and heard of no more; but if with sympathy and pity it be spoken as the sad decree gone forth against sin, and if forthwith, when it hath taken hold of the soul, recovery and restoration be preached, and a way to avoid its terrors and surmount its fears, and ascend to the bosom of God; then, I say, let it be discoursed of while there is one single creature upon earth who dotes and dreams upon its confines without any fear of its s: othering and consuming effects upon the happiness and well-being of his soul.
An innocent child not many weeks old will in its ignorance grasp the flame of a taper in its tender hand, and bring excruciating agony upon its little frame. But by that experiment it is taught the power of fire, and saved from rushing into the midst of the flames, and losing its precious life. Such little children we are. So accustomed to sin, sorrow hath become so indigenous to our nature, we are as it were so annealed to suffering; or rather this state is so dubious between good and ill, mercy and justice mingling so confusedly, pleasure and pain so wildly, God is so longsuffering, and the Gospel so gracious, that we cannot fancy a place whence mercy is clean gone for ever; we cannot fancy pure unadulterated evil, pure unmitigated sorrow, absent hope, absent consolation, absolute misery and flat despair. We are to the future world of woe what new. born children are to the present world of existence, totally unacquainted with its objects and with the strange feelings which these objects will excite. What could God do, but give us a foretaste, so far as language of the earth can dress out, and so far as conception can taste, the savour of bad things to come. This smaller experiment he makes upon us like the smaller experiment which the child makes with the flame of the taper, in order to save us from the more fatal consequence which shall come, when we plunge soul and body, and are bathed through every pore with the overwhelming sensations of its agony.
And is God to be blamed for being so copious of his revelations to men, the more to excite them on every side to a glorious ascension up on high? Say, that he had kept this side of the picture under the vail, set forth heaven but : avoided all mention of hell--then he would have deprived his dispensation of half its power; it would have continued to have a purchase upon our hopes, but it would have lost all purchase upon our fears. Now it is the opinion of the best philosophers, that the activity of man is more prompt. ed by the sense of present inconvenience and the fear of portending evils, than by the taste of present pleasures and the sense of future advantage. And not only would you have lost all power over this side of man, but you would have lost half the meaning and purpose of the dispensation. What means this law, if the disobedience of it draws on no consequences? What difference between those who keep it and those who keep it not? for there is none revealed. What means this dispensation of the wrath of God against his inoffensive Son? Why thus restrain our natural inclinations? Why vex us with constant calls to repentance? What better of this ascetic life. Why not live as we list? Who could have answered these questions, if it had not been revealed that these rebellious courses led down into the second death, which is aye endured but never ended! This revelation of hell is therefore the 'vantage ground on which the genius of the Gospel stands, and from which she points aloft to heaven.
Therefore it is not true to Scripture, it is baneful to human improvement in the long run, it is not manly withal, thus to shrink from knowing the worst; and it is very wicked to make the worst palatable. Let it stand as the Scripture hath stated it, I ask no more, but be not ye poisoned by a philosophy, falsely so called. Palliate not the worst, but avoid it, í pray you; flee from it; take to righteousness, and aim at heaven. This is your resource; and when this
resource is closed against you, then is your season to complain. But at present, when all paradise unfolds its bosom to embrace us within its happy bowers, for us to be debating whether hell is tolerable, and whether we had not better run our chance awhile in its sulphurous pit, doth indicate a downward bent of nature not to be endured, much less pandered to. If any man, though hell endured but a lifetime, were in a mood to take his cast therein, rather than at once enter into the company of God and the unfallen, he is a grovelling, lustful creature, whom heaven would not be polluted with for an instant.
OF JUDGMENT TO COME.
THE ONLY WAY TO ESCAPE CONDEMNATION AND
WRATH TO COME.
From these awful scenes which we have been faintly sketching out, for in their fulness of joy or fulness of sorrow it is not given to man either to know or to describe them, we return to visible things; and, planting ourselves upon the populous earth, we could wish to lift up a voice like the last trumpet in the ears of men; How are you to escape this condemnation and wrath to come? But, alas! there is no voice like the last trumpet, to reach the ear of perishing men; and unless the Lord hasten to pour his Spirit upon all flesh, the abject people will die ignorant of salvation, and for ever perish from the way of everlasting peace. Do Thou, who gavest thy Son for sinful men, now quicken my thoughts, that they may come forth full of divine life, to plant their likeness in every bosom to which these pages may come! This, truly, is my prayer. But were my God pleased to grant me this, how little doth it avail among the myriads in this world!-among the myriads even in this empire-among the myriads even in this city, who are perishing under the mortal disease of sinfulness, which hath spread into the heart of every cottage, and is fast hauling its unvisited and unpitied inmates to habitations of misery. There is an establishment of physicians to make known the remedy unto the people, and there houses
open the remedy is made known. But, alas! the people know not of the soul-consuming malady, and having none to tell them, they come not to be cured; while in their darkness Satan revelleth, wasting them with lust and pride and quarrel. The miserable people have no chance of being delivered, unless the Lord will awaken his congregation, and send them forth on errands of salvation. Oh, for the spirit of a Paul,
to lead the congregation forth upon this errantry of good! Oh, for the spirit of a Loyola, to bind them in a harmony of exertion; Oh, for the spirit of a Luther, to make them fearless of infringing established things:- that a reformation might come about, which would not need to be reformed. But, I think Religion hath learned to make men tame and cowardly, whom anciently she made undaunted. The men of God hardly speak above their breath, who were wont to ring doom and woe into every impeding minister of evil. They creep about under the colossal limbs of power, and cry mercy instead of denouncing vengeance. It is an age in which the ancient spirit is well nigh extinct; but it will revive again in this land, which hath been famous for the junction of manhood with religion; when to the piety and the humility of the church, will be added her ancient fearlessness and heroism and activity. And the offence of the offending will be feared no longer; Christian spirit will resume its boldness, Christian sight its watchfulness; every priest will be a watchman in Zion, and every Christian a soldier around its walls.
It dispirits me while I undertake to write, to think how much better the subject hath been written before, and how darkness triumphs over all the light which hath been scattered abroad. No sooner doth a book with any nerve appear, which might make invasion upon Satan's reign, than he covers it with the disparagement of some hated name, calling it enthusiastical, gloomy, or ascetic, and so keeps it from coming into those places where the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, have their strongest holds. Or he raiseth up some strong-minded, light-witted scoffer, to argue or laugh it down, whereof he hath establishments -scholars, wits, and critics—who hate the very visage of a genuine disciple of Christ, and are aye ready to asperse any book which is marked with the sign of the Cross, and send it into the arcana of oblivion. And, oh! the natural man loveth any thing better than to hear of this new birth and regeneration, and will take up with a pleasant song or idle tale sooner than he will with the institutes of his own salvation. And, alas! there are multitudes who cannot read what is written, and come not to hear what may be spoken; so that it dispirits me while I write, to think of the difficulties which stand before my way, and how abler men have endeavoured in vain to beat these difficulties down.
But while the Press is free (which may it for ever remain!) it will send forth its host of intellectual messengers,