« ForrigeFortsæt »
best and most legitimate use. I am convinced of its value; and am satisfied that some of the best men that ever professed Gospel-truth, were the best and soundest scholars. Indeed, to this fountain, though we do not owe the truth itself, we owe, under God, its elucidation and establishment. Even good men, without learning, are themselves unconsciously benefited by the acquired wisdom of the wise. Mis-applied learning only is to be condemned. Perversion of memory, or perversion of understanding, are equally distant from this contemplation, which respects only the better part of man and his profitable and consistent study in the school of Christ.
The religious use, then, of one of the most surprising endowments of the human mind, must ever be considered as a crowning blessing of our mortal state; a blessing not confined to the short life of man, whose days are numbered, but extending to that new state of existence to which we shall be introduced hereafter, where we shall know even as we are known. As memory is the monitor of conscience, and as conscience will not forsake us either in death or at judgment, it is an awful consideration that, it will continue our blessing, or our curse, to all eternity. The alternative is before us. The moment must not be lost. Heap up splendid recollections of God's goodness to you, in sending you a deliverer in the person of your Saviour: lay his merits to your heart; remember the whole train of thought which brought you to him, and his
kindness in accepting you; pray for the grace of his Spirit in retaining you in his service; thus shall memory help you forward in all the stages of your salvation, till memory itself shall be absorbed in the actual possession of all the promises of God, and every good thought, word, or deed, that you have remembered on earth, shall be safely restored to you in heaven.
IF ever a member of the Church of Christ has reason to drop the tear of compassion, it is here. The inveterate and persevering sinner excites a degree of indignation from the hardness of his heart, and the uncompromising nature of his conduct; but he who has been reclaimed from sin by, what was once, a strong conviction of its malignity, corrected by corresponding principles, and confirmed by a faith calculated to preserve the system of his life whole and undefiled, when he falls from his integrity, by whatever circumstances, either of seduction operating on his passions, or by the perversion of his reason and understanding; who that beholds the ruin of such a man, but must grievously deplore his degradation! He is truly in the state of him in the Gospel', who, after his house had been cleansed of pollution, and
1 Matt. xii. 45.
every bad spirit expelled from it, goeth and taketh to himself seven other spirits worse than the first; dissolute and dissipated companions of his lusts and pleasures, cherishing and aggravating his impiety. Demoniac, as he proves himself to be, he becomes even farther advanced than his associates, and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Why is he worse? Because he has sinned against conviction; because "he was once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and was made partaker of the Holy Ghost;" because he "tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come;" and because he has fallen away." Were we literally to conclude the passage, miserable and irretrievable would be his condition. But though it is miserable, I trust in the Lord Jesus that it is not irretrievable. The Apostle indeed uses a strong expression, "It is impossible to renew them again to repentance'." And under such a sentence, so understood, who could be saved? But the line of the Apostle's argument leads us to interpret the passage as applying to those who apostatize from Christianity; and even in this case, it speaks more of the difficulty than the impossibility. The spirit of Christ's religion, though doubtless, not excluding woe to the wicked! offers mercy and loving-kindness to the penitential submissions of the true believer. But to those "who crucify to themselves the Son of God
afresh, and put him to an open shame," what do they but acknowledge themselves deniers of the Saviour, and conspire with the executioners of Jesus to crucify him a second time on Calvary.
The rejection of "these thorns and briars," whose end is to be burned, consists yet with the Apostle's admission, that they are nigh unto cursing'. extremity of the denunciation is softened, though the intimidation is expressed, that "they are nigh unto cursing." Of his immediate converts he had better hopes; and in the kindness of his heart towards them, his words breathe the sweetest consolation. "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." The Apostle Peter is equally strong in his language relative to a relapse, which evidently will bear the same interpretation, illustrated by the allusion of unclean animals returning to their accustomed impurity'; and the allusion is pointed by the application, "it is happened unto them according to the true proverb."
We, certainly, were not converted from a state of idolatry to a confession of the faith of Christ; for, to most of us, Christianity came upon us in the most genial and pleasing manner, and brought spiritual gifts and graces to our souls, as the dew refreshes the earth. Had we accepted and been satisfied with these reviving streams of blessings, our transition from an
1 Heb. vi. 8.
2 2 Pet. ii. 22.
earthly to an heavenly paradise, would have completed an happiness beyond the utmost capacity of man to conceive. But when all this is relinquished for an alternation of sin and sorrow, when we know not how to use the bounty of the Almighty, when we count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, when we choose rather to "reign in hell than serve in heaven';" how sadly must we feel the change, and deplore the fallen mind, the degraded creature, the arch-angel ruined!
When we turn our eye inward, how much of this do we find actually written in our breasts! There is no man who has not occasion to feel himself ashamed, nay disgraced by a retrogade motion from his spiritual attainments. He feels it; but will he confess it? The mistaken pride of a corrupt nature rises in opposition. He is afraid the world should see it, as well as himself. This is his trial, in which he must overcome or perish. The true penitent expresses himself in open confession and undisguised satisfaction; his acknowledgment is full, free, and open, like that of Zacchæus, "if I have taken aught from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold"." "What cares he," says the honest and good Bishop Hall, "to shame himself that he may give glory to God? Woe be to the bashfulness that ends in confusion of face. O God, let me blush before men rather than be confounded before thee, thy saints, and angels !"
2 Luke xix. 8.