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intent of either: they had no idea of the one as shutting them up to the only possible way of salvation through faith in their Messiah, or of the other as shadowing forth that Messiah in all his offices. In fact, they had no spiritual discernment of any of these things, but were uninstructed and unedified by all that they had seen and heard. ] 2. The obligations which it entailed upon them
[The very first and most obvious effect of all these wonders should have been, to bring them to the knowledge of Jehovah as the only true God, and to make them his faithful worshippers and adherents to the latest hour of their lives, Yet, behold! they had not been delivered from Egypt three months, before they made and worshipped the golden calf : yea, and all the way through the wilderness they “ took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of their god Remphan, figures which they made as objects of their worship,” in preference to Jehovah, whom thus they provoked to jealousy, till he was constrained to pour forth his wrath upon them to their destruction. It might well be expected, too, that they would yield up themselves to God in a willing obedience to his Law, and live altogether devoted to his service. But they were rebellious and stiff-necked people," from first to last. The mercies of God could not win them to obedience, nor his judgments deter them from disobedience. The present and future gratification of their senses was all that they desired : and, if only they had their enjoyments, they cared not whether God were glorified or not.
We say not that this was the character of all that people : but when we recollect, that of that whole nation two only, of all the men that came out of Egypt, were suffered to enter into Canaan, we cannot but fear that the exceptions were very few, and the great mass of the people were of the very description represented in our text.]
Humiliating as this complaint is, we must also consider it, II. As applicable to ourselves at this day
Infinitely greater have our advantages been than those enjoyed by the Jewish people. They had the shadow only, but we the substance. The whole of redemption has been set before us: yet we, for the most part, have but a very faint and inadequate conception of it. By the great mass of nominal Christians,
c All these hints admit of profitable enlargement. d Acts vii. 41-43.
1. The nature of the Gospel is very indistinctly seen
[A mere general notion of salvation by Christ may be entertained: but of the grace of the Gospel, its freeness, its fulness, its suitableness, how little is seen! and how far are we from "comprehending the length and breadth, and depth and height of the love of Christ" contained in it! How few amongst us have any just views of “ the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," and of all the divine perfections, as united, and harmonizing, and glorified, in this stupendous mystery! The various offices of the sacred Three, all sustained and executed for us, how little of them is known ! Indeed, indeed, the generality of those who call themselves Christians are as dark with respect to the excellency and glory of the Gospel, as the Jews themselves were of the scope and character of their Law.] 2. The effects of it are very partially experienced
[What might we expect from those who have been redeemed by the blood of God's only dear Son, and renewed in their souls by the operation of his blessed Spirit? Should we not be full of admiring and adoring thoughts of God? Should we not be wrapt, even to the third heaven, in love to Christ? Should we not be “yielding up both our bodies and our souls to God, as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to him as our reasonable service?” And to what an extent should we not be sanctified, in all our tempers, dispositions, and actions, if we were duly influenced by the principles of the Gospel! In a word, if we felt as we ought, methinks our every feeling would be love, and our every word be praise.
But look at the great majority of those to whom the Gospel has been ministered, and say whether any measure of these effects be visible upon them? Alas! it is as true of us as of the Jews, that “God has not given us an heart to perceive, or eyes to see, or ears to hear, unto this day."] Let me then ADDRESS myself, 1. To those who are altogether blind
[Perhaps you will be disposed to say, “ If God has not given me this discernment, the fault is not mine." But this is a fatal error: for the fault is altogether yours. sought of God the illuminating influences of his Spirit, he would have opened your blind eyes, and unstopped your deaf ears, and renewed you in the spirit of your mind : no earthly parent would so readily bestow bread on his famished child, as God would have given to you his Holy Spirit in answer to your prayers. If, then, you “perish for lack of knowledge,”
it must be ascribed to your own obstinate neglect of those means which God has appointed for the attainment of spiritual instruction.] 2. To those who think they see
[Multitudes, like the Pharisees of old, are ready to ask with confidence, “ Are we blind also ?” To these we reply, Let your lives declare: let the fruit determine the quality of the tree. Yes, brethren, "if you were indeed blind, you would comparatively have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remainetho." Your conceit and self-sufficiency render your blindness tenfold more odious, more incurable, and more fatal -] 3. To those whose eyes God has opened
[Verily, the mercy vouchsafed to you is beyond measure or conception great. You doubtless feel what a blessing the gift of reason is, which so elevates you above the beasts : but far richer is the gift of spiritual discernment, which enables you to see “ the things of the Spirit,” and elevates you above your fellow-men, even above the wisest and greatest of the human race. Compare the Apostles with the philosophers of Greece and Rome; mark, not merely their intellectual powers, but their moral habits and their spiritual attainments; then will you have some conception of the mercies vouchsafed to you, and will appreciate, in some poor measure, the obligations conferred upon you.]
e John ix. 40, 41.
DANGER OF CARNAL SECURITY.
Deut. xxix. 19, 20. And it come to pass, when he heareth the
words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.
GOD has declared that he“ desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live:” and this is abundantly evident from the forbearance which he exercises towards sinners, and from the means he has used for their restoration to his favour. When he brought the
Israelites out of Egypt, he entered into covenant with them on Mount Horeb: and when that whole generation had perished in consequence of their violations of his covenant, he was graciously pleased to renew the covenant with their children in the land of Moab: and the reason he gives for that condescending kindness is, lest they should presumptuously sin, and miserably perish, after the example of their fathers a.
In the words which we have just read, he intimates, I. The astonishing delusion of sinners
That the greatest part of mankind are walking after the imaginations of their own hearts, is evident; and that God denounces his vengeance against them, is equally evident: yet on every side we behold, 1. Their fearlessness
[God speaks to them in the plainest terms, that “the soul that sinneth shall die," and that “ the wicked shall be turned into hell, even all the people that forget God.” They themselves too cannot but acknowledge, that “the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Yet they hear the denunciations of God's wrath with perfect indifference: they account them not worth the smallest consideration : yea, to use the expressive language of the Psalmist, "they puff at them b.”. What though they do “set at nought God's law, and walk rather after the imagination of their own hearts?" What though they do “ add drunkenness to thirst,” and “ draw out sin as a cart-rope," adding fresh materials continually, and drawing it out without any intermission to an indefinite length, will God regard such trifling matters? No: He does not see them, or deem them worthy of his noticed. He does indeed threaten to punish these things; but he will never execute his threatenings.' If any menace their temporal welfare, they are open enough to the impressions of fear, and anxious enough to escape the danger: but if God threaten them with his everlasting displeasure, they regard it as an empty sound. Thus do they cast off all fear of God, and treat both him and his word with the utmost contempto.] 2. Their self-complacency
[They can see no evil in sin: they are sensible that they do not conform to God's law; (nor indeed have they any wish to do so;) but yet, though their actions are not correct, their hearts are good: they mean no harm : they do as they would be done by; and that, in their estimation, comprehends all that is required of them. It is truly astonishing to see how, in the midst of all their iniquities, men will “ bless themselves in their hearts," as much as if there were nothing amiss in their conduct. They quite resent the idea of being sinners, and of deserving God's wrath and indignation: they conceive that they are very good sort of people (as the expression is), and deserving of God's favour. Thus it was with the Jews of old; “ The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these :" they thought that no expressions were too strong to characterize their goodness. And thus do sinners in this day boast of their goodness : yea, not only the moral and sober do so, but even the drunken, the sensual, the profane : all are ready to think themselves as good as they need to be, and to answer, like the Youth in the Gospel, “What lack I yet?” So blinded are they by Satan, and hardened through the deceitfulness of their own hearts !] 3. Their confidence
b Ps. x. 5.
a See ver. 1, 15, 18—20.
c Isai. v. 18.
[They entertain no doubts or fears: they think that all go to heaven, and that they must of necessity be happy when they die. “I shall have peace,” is the bold assertion of every one amongst them; nor will they suffer the safety of their state to be once questioned. On some occasions perhaps a suspicion arises in their minds that it is not quite so well with them as they imagine; but in general they go on as assured of happiness as if all the promises of the Gospel were on their side. Nor is this only in the thoughtlessness of youth: their confidence increases with their age: and even in death they frequently retain it to such a degree as to feel no fear of death : and this delusion of theirs is considered by the survivors as an evidence of their final acceptance. Well does the prophet say of them, “ A deceived heart hath turned them aside, so that they cannot deliver their souls, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?”]
But God views them with other eyes, and denounces, II. Their awful doom
The terms in which this is declared are sufficient to alarm the most careless sinner. The wrath of God is here denounced against him. This must be his portion: and this doom is,
f Jer. vii. 4.