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Perhaps however it may be thought, that the fire of hell will separate sin from the sinner, as the fire of the furnace separates the dross from the gold. But what is there in the sinner that can be compared to gold? Is not the whole dross; and can the most intense heat of the furnace so act upon dross, as to make it any thing but dross? Laying aside figures, and using plain language, if the sufferings of hell have a reforming, and new creating, influence, why are not the wicked here reformed, in practice; and made holy in heart, by the sufferings which they endure, of various kinds, and in various degrees of severity? Let us bring the subject where we can see it in the light of reason and revelation.
Another class is made up of those persons who are not anxious about this great salvation nor about their neglect of it, because they conclude that man, however he may
differ from animals, in other things, resembles them in this, that he will cease to exist when his connection with this world ceases, This conclusion, irrational, and absurd, as it is, accounts for all those instances of suicide, which cannot be accounted for from distraction. The arch apostate though not a tvise, and safe, counsellor, is yet a powerful, and persuasive one; and has won over, many a time, a Judas, or an Ahithophel, to engage in the work of self execution. But with what indescribable horrors must he be surrounded, who throws himself into eternity, and into the immediate presence of God, having expected nothing from his own murder but such a state of insensibility as would free him from a load of evils which he had not fortitude, and patience, to endure! The disappointment must be awful and overwhelming!
As others have resorted to this expedient who might be as unlikely as some of us to adopt it, let us be upon
our guard, lest the practice of sin induce us to receive for truth the most palpable and pernicious falsehood.
If we have any word of God we may learn from it the souls immortality and if we can see any thing in the light of reason we can see that man was made in vain, and far worse than in vain, made only for this world, for his excursive, and ever busy mind furnishes him with much disquietude, while the ox, that knows his owner, and the ass,
his master's crib, perform their daily task, without any painful reflections, or anticipations, and lie down at nigh satisfied with being filled. That we should be placed over the brutes, and subject them to our will, and yet be, upon the whole, in a condition far less desirable than theirs, is such an incongruity, that nothing but that stupefaction which is the effect of sin, can account for its being admitted.
The three things which have been considered appear to include all which can be said by those who expect to escape, while they neglect this great salvation. But what can we find in these things that will warrant us to put our all at hazard? The question of our text my friends has nothing to do with cunningly devised fables, but is of vast practical importance.
This church probably embraces about one-seventh part of the people. Let us say there may be as many christians out of the church, as there are false professors in it. Taking their estimate, and remembering, that for the present, all may be viewed as neglecting this great salvation, who have not heartily embraced it, the result will be, that sixsevenths of this people, with all the privileges which christianity can afford them, are in a most precarious and perilous situation. Do we think of this when we lay ourselves down upon our beds to sleep, uncertain whether we shall awake, until the heavens be no more! Do we think of this, when we put on our clothes, not knowing whether we shall
ever put them off, or whether some friend will have to strip . our lifeless bodies! Do we think of this when instead of seeking the favor of God, we pursue the lying vanities of life
as the child chases the butterfly or thinks to overtake the rain-bow.
UPON THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
MATTHEW xxii, 42.
What think ye of Christ; whose son is he.
The Jews had the scriptures of the Old Testament; and the scribes, and pharisees, were the public teachers of religion. Very incorrect ideas had these teachers of the subject which they undertook to explain; as may be seen by all competent judges. When one question leads to another, and when there is an intimate connection between the two, he is not prepared to answer the first, who has no reply to make to the second.
Were not the question contained in the text an important one, though many seem to think it immaterial how they reply to it, Christ would not have proposed it to the pharisees; and had their answer been pertinent, and sufficient; he would not have proposed his second question, to which they could find nothing to say.
Having all the information with regard to this matter which the pharisees possessed and much in addition, it becomes us to improve from their error, that we may be
prepared to meet the difficulty which, to them was insurmountable, and which put them to silence. The scriptures must be our guide, and while we follow them depending upon their divine Author to discover to us the truth, we shall not be in danger of going astray.
Though many entertain the opinion of the pharisees, and of the Jews, generally, that Christ was merely a man, nothing in the scriptures is plainer than, that he had an exist
ence before he appeared in this world; and the pharisees were puzzled, and put to shame, by having a single passage brought up to them, in which David in his days spoke of Christ, and called him his Lord. St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, and referring them to the misconduct of the Israelites in the wilderness, and to the judgments which they procured for themselves, says, Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
The affair alluded to by the Apostle, took place more than fourteen hundred years before the birth of Christ. How then could the Israelites tempt him, unless he had an existence antecedently to his appearing in the manger at Bethlehem? Were it recorded that the same people, at the same time persecuted, and put to death the apostles, the absurdity, and falsehood, of the record, would be very apparent, for every one can see, that the apostles could not be persecuted, and put to death before they were born..
Christ is undoubtedly the angel of the Lord who in former times communicated with many of whom we have an account, for he used language which would have been very unbecoming for any created angel; language suitable, only upon the supposition, that he who was sent, was equal to him that sent him. A passage in the thirty-second chapter of Genesis evidently relates to Jesus Christ. On his return from Padan Aram to the land of his nativity, Jacob, being alone, was met at a place which he called Peniel, by one in the form of a man, who wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. He who is here spoken of as a man, is likewise described as God; and Jacob, sensible that he was God, importunately craved his blessing and obtained it. But no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father he hath declared him. Hosea, referring to this appearance of God in the form of a man, says, Jacob had power over the angel, and prevailed. We can have no doubt who it was that appeared to Jacob, if we credit what is written of him. In various other passages Christ is spoken of as the angel of the Lord, for no one beside can be intended.
The one whom Nebuchadnezzar saw in the midst of the burning fiery furnace, in company with the three persons cast by his order into that dreadful place, with the intention of destroying them, whatever might be his ideas of him, must have been Jesus Christ, since he describes him as like to the Son of God. What we find in the writings of several of the prophets, is to be referred to the same glorious person who manifested himself to them to instruct and direct them in their business. St. John informs us, that the Word was in the beginning; and by saying that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, he puts it beyond all dispute, that what he says of the Word, is to be understood of Christ. When Christ declared, I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world, and go to the Father, it was so evident to his disciples, that he spoke of an existence which he had before he was born of Mary, that they said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb, by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. We are told, that Christ took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and we have abundant proof, upon the very face of the passage in which we get the information, that he had a being before he was thus manifested. If Christ was ever rich, and became poor, and we are assured of this change in his condition, he must have been rich in some other world, for here he was poor from his birth to his death.
Those persons who are disposed to answer the question in the text as the pharisees answered it, ought to consider what fair construction they can put upon the many passages of the scriptures which relate to this point. Ingenious attempts have been made to set aside the obvious meaning of those scriptures which militate against the simple humanity of Christ
; but such attempts serve only to show what influence the heart can have over the understanding:
If it is of consequence to know whether Christ existed before he was seen in our world, it is of no less consequence to be made acquainted with the character which he sustained while here; and whether those attributes which belong to God were possessed by him. Omnipresence is