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Title: Sermons to the Natural Man
Author: Shedd, William G. T. (William Greenough Thayer), 1820-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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It is with a solemn feeling of responsibility that I send forth this
volume of Sermons. The ordinary emotions of authorship have little place
in the experience, when one remembers that what he says will be either a
means of spiritual life, or an occasion of spiritual death.

I believe that the substance of these Discourses will prove to accord
with God's revealed truth, in the day that will try all truth. The title
indicates their general aim and tendency. The purpose is psychological. I
would, if possible, anatomize the natural heart. It is in vain to offer
the gospel unless the law has been applied with clearness and cogency. At
the present day, certainly, there is far less danger of erring in the
direction of religious severity, than in the direction of religious
indulgence. If I have not preached redemption in these sermons so fully
as I have analyzed sin, it is because it is my deliberate conviction
that just now the first and hardest work to be done by the preacher, for
the natural man, is to produce in him some sensibility upon the subject
of sin. Conscience needs to become consciousness. There is considerable
theoretical unbelief respecting the doctrines of the New Testament; but
this is not the principal difficulty. Theoretical skepticism is in a
small minority of Christendom, and always has been. The chief obstacle to
the spread of the Christian religion is the practical unbelief of
speculative believers. "Thou sayest,"--says John Bunyan,--"thou dost in
deed and in truth believe the Scriptures. I ask, therefore, Wast thou
ever killed stark dead by the law of works contained in the Scriptures?
Killed by the law or letter, and made to see thy sins against it, and
left in an helpless condition by the law? For, the proper work of the law
is to slay the soul, and to leave it dead in an helpless state. For, it
doth neither give the soul any comfort itself, when it comes, nor doth it
show the soul where comfort is to be had; and therefore it is called the
'ministration of condemnation,' the 'ministration of death.' For, though
men may have a notion of the blessed Word of God, yet before they be
converted, it may be truly said of them, Ye err, not knowing the
Scriptures, nor the power of God."

If it be thought that such preaching of the law can be dispensed with, by
employing solely what is called in some quarters the preaching of the
gospel, I do not agree with the opinion. The benefits of Christ's
redemption are pearls which must not be cast before swine. The gospel is
not for the stupid, or for the doubter,--still less for the scoffer.
Christ's atonement is to be offered to conscious guilt, and in order to
conscious guilt there must be the application of the decalogue. John
Baptist must prepare the way for the merciful Redeemer, by legal and
close preaching. And the merciful Redeemer Himself, in the opening of His
ministry, and before He spake much concerning remission of sins, preached
a sermon which in its searching and self-revelatory character is a more
alarming address to the corrupt natural heart, than was the first
edition of it delivered amidst the lightnings of Sinai. The Sermon on the
Mount is called the Sermon of the Beatitudes, and many have the
impression that it is a very lovely song to the sinful soul of man. They
forget that the blessing upon obedience implies a _curse_ upon
disobedience, and that every mortal man has disobeyed the Sermon on the
Mount. "God save me,"--said a thoughtful person who knew what is in the
Sermon on the Mount, and what is in the human heart,--"God save me from
the Sermon on the Mount when I am judged in the last day." When Christ
preached this discourse, He preached the law, principally. "Think
not,"--He says,--"that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am
not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven
and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law
till all be fulfilled." John the Baptist describes his own preaching,
which was confessedly severe and legal, as being far less searching than
that of the Messiah whose near advent he announced. "I indeed baptize you
with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than
I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the
Holy Ghost and with _fire_; whose _fan_ is in his hand, and he will
_thoroughly purge_ his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but
he will _burn up the chaff_ with unquenchable fire."

The general burden and strain of the Discourse with which the Redeemer
opened His ministry is preceptive and mandatory. Its keynote is: "Thou
shalt do this," and, "Thou shalt not do that;" "Thou shalt be thus, in
thine heart," and, "Thou shalt not be thus, in thine heart." So little is
said in it, comparatively, concerning what are called the doctrines of
grace, that it has often been cited to prove that the creed of the Church
has been expanded unduly, and made to contain more than the Founder of
Christianity really intended it should. The absence, for example, of any
direct and specific statement of the doctrine of Atonement, in this
important section of Christ's teaching, has been instanced by the
Socinian opponent as proof that this doctrine is not so vital as the
Church has always claimed it to be. But, Christ was purposely silent
respecting grace and its methods, until he had _spiritualized Law_, and
made it penetrate the human consciousness like a sharp sword. Of what use
would it have been to offer mercy, before the sense of its need had been
elicited? and how was this to be elicited, but by the solemn and
authoritative enunciation of law and justice? There are, indeed, cheering
intimations, in the Sermon on the Mount, respecting the Divine mercy, and
so there are in connection with the giving of the Ten Commandments. But
law, rather than grace, is the main substance and burden of both. The
great intention, in each instance, is to convince of sin, preparatory to
the offer of clemency. The Decalogue is the legal basis of the Old
Dispensation, and the Sermon on the Mount is the legal basis of the New.
When the Redeemer, in the opening of His ministry, had provided the
apparatus of conviction, then He provided the apparatus of expiation. The
Great High-Priest, like the Levitical priest who typified Him, did not
sprinkle atoning blood indiscriminately. It was to bedew only him who
felt and confessed guilt.

This legal and minatory element in the words of Jesus has also been
noticed by the skeptic, and an argument has been founded upon it to prove
that He was soured by ill-success, and, like other merely human reformers
who have found the human heart too hard, for them, fell away from the
gentleness with which He began His ministry, into the anger and
denunciation of mortified ambition with which it closed. This is the
picture of Jesus Christ which Rénan presents in his apocryphal Gospel.
But the fact is, that the Redeemer _began_ with law, and was rigorous
with sin from the very first. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered not
far from twelve months from the time of His inauguration, by baptism, to
the office of Messiah. And all along through His ministry of three years
and a half, He constantly employs the law in order to prepare his hearers
for grace. He was as gentle and gracious to the penitent sinner, in the
opening of His ministry, as he was at the close of it; and He was as
unsparing and severe towards the hardened and self-righteous sinner, in
His early Judaean, as He was in His later Galilean ministry.

It is sometimes said that the surest way to produce conviction of sin is
to preach the Cross. There is a sense in which this is true, and there is
a sense in which it is false. If the Cross is set forth as the cursed
tree on which the Lord of Glory hung and suffered, to satisfy the demands
of Eternal Justice, then indeed there is fitness in the preaching to
produce the sense of guilt. But this is to preach the _law_, in its
fullest extent, and the most tremendous energy of its claims. Such
discourse as this must necessarily analyze law, define it, enforce it,
and apply it in the most cogent manner. For, only as the atonement of
Christ is shown to completely meet and satisfy all these _legal_ demands
which have been so thoroughly discussed and exhibited, is the real virtue
and power of the Cross made manifest.

But if the Cross is merely held up as a decorative ornament, like that on
the breast of Belinda, "which Jews might kiss and infidels adore;" if it
be proclaimed as the beautiful symbol of the Divine indifference and
indulgence, and there be a studious _avoiding_ of all judicial aspects
and relations; if the natural man is not searched by law and alarmed by
justice, but is only soothed and narcotized by the idea of an
Epicurean deity destitute of moral anger and inflicting no righteous
retribution,--then, there will be no conviction of sin. Whenever the
preaching of the law is positively _objected_ to, and the preaching of
the gospel is proposed in its place, it will be found that the "gospel"
means that good-nature and that easy virtue which some mortals dare to
attribute to the Holy and Immaculate Godhead! He who really, and in good
faith, preaches the Cross, never opposes the preaching of the law.

Still another reason for the kind of religious discourse which we are
defending is found in the fact that multitudes are expecting a happy
issue of this life, upon ethical as distinguished from evangelical
grounds. They deny that they deserve damnation, or that they need
Christ's atonement. They say that they are living virtuous lives, and are
ready to adopt language similar to that of Mr. Mill spoken in another
connection: "If from this position of integrity and morality we are to be
sent to hell, to hell we will go." This tendency is strengthened by the
current light letters, in distinction from standard literature. A certain
class, through ephemeral essays, poems, and novels, has been plied with
the doctrine of a natural virtue and an innate goodness, until it has
become proud and self-reliant. The "manhood" of paganism is glorified,
and the "childhood" of the gospel is vilified. The graces of humility,
self-abasement before God, and especially of penitence for sin, are
distasteful and loathed. Persons of this order prefer to have their
religious teacher silent upon these themes, and urge them to courage,
honor, magnanimity, and all that class of qualities which imply
self-consciousness and self-reliance. To them apply the solemn words of
the Son of God to the Pharisees: "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin:
but now ye say, We _see_, therefore your sin remaineth."

It is, therefore, specially incumbent upon the Christian ministry, to
employ a searching and psychological style of preaching, and to apply the
tests of ethics and virtue so powerfully to men who are trusting to
ethics and virtue, as to bring them upon their knees. Since these men are
desiring, like the "foolish Galatiana," to be saved by the law, then let
the law be laid down to them, in all its breadth and reach, that they may
understand the real nature and consequences of the position they have
taken. "Tell me," says a preacher of this stamp,--"tell me, ye that
desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law,"--do ye not hear its
thundering,--"_cursed_ is every one that continueth not in ALL things
that are written in the law, to do them!" Virtue must be absolutely
perfect and spotless, if a happy immortality is to be made to depend upon
virtue. If the human heart, in its self-deception and self-reliance,
turns away from the Cross and the righteousness of God, to morals and the
righteousness of works, then let the Christian thinker follow after it
like the avenger of blood. Let him set the heights and depths of ethical
_perfection_ before the deluded mortal; let him point to the inaccessible
cliffs that tower high above, and bid him scale them if he can; let him
point to the fathomless abysses beneath, and tell him to descend and
bring up perfect virtue therefrom; let him employ the very instrument
which this _virtuoso_ has chosen, until it becomes an instrument of
torture and self-despair. In this way, he is breaking down the "manhood"
that confronts and opposes, and is bringing in the "childhood" that is
docile, and recipient of the kingdom.

These Sermons run the hazard of being pronounced monotonous, because of
the pertinacity with which the attempt is made to force self-reflection.
But this criticism can easily be endured, provided the attempt succeeds.
Religious truth becomes almighty the instant it can get _within_ the
soul; and it gets within the soul, the instant real thinking begins. "As
you value your peace of mind, stop all scrutiny into your personal
character," is the advice of what Milton denominates "the sty of
Epicurus." The discouraging religious condition of the present age is
due to the great lack, not merely in the lower but the higher classes, of
calm, clear self-intelligence. Men do not know themselves. The Delphic
oracle was never less obeyed than now, in this vortex of mechanical arts
and luxury. For this reason, it is desirable that the religious teacher
dwell consecutively upon topics that are connected with that which is
_within_ man,--his settled motives of action, and all those spontaneous
on-goings of his soul of which he takes no notice, unless he is persuaded
or impelled to do so. Some of the old painters produced powerful effects
by one solitary color. The subject of moral evil contemplated in the
heart of the individual man,--not described to him from the outside, but
wrought out of his own being into incandescent letters, by the fierce
chemistry of anxious perhaps agonizing reflection,--sin, the one awful
fact in the history of man, if caused to pervade discourse will always
impart to it a hue which, though it be monochromatic, arrests and holds
the eye like the lurid color of an approaching storm-cloud.

With this statement respecting the aim and purport of these Sermons, and
deeply conscious of their imperfections, especially for spiritual
purposes, I send them out into the world, with the prayer that God the
Spirit will deign to employ them as the means of awakening some souls
from the lethargy of sin.

Union Theological Seminary,
New York, _February 17_, 1871.

           *   *   *   *   *
























1 Cor. xiii. 12.--"Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also
I am known."

The apostle Paul made this remark with reference to the blessedness of
the Christian in eternity. Such assertions are frequent in the
Scriptures. This same apostle, whose soul was so constantly dilated
with the expectation of the beatific vision, assures the Corinthians, in
another passage in this epistle, that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath
prepared for them that love Him." The beloved disciple John, also, though
he seems to have lived in the spiritual world while he was upon the
earth, and though the glories of eternity were made to pass before him in
the visions of Patmos, is compelled to say of the sons of God, "It doth
not yet appear what we shall be." And certainly the common Christian, as
he looks forward with a mixture of hope and anxiety to his final state in
eternity, will confess that he knows but "in part," and that a very small
part, concerning it. He endures as seeing that which is invisible, and
cherishes the hope that through Christ's redemption his eternity will
be a condition of peace and purity, and that he shall know even as also
he is known.

But it is not the Christian alone who is to enter eternity, and to whom
the exchange of worlds will bring a luminous apprehension of many things
that have hitherto been seen only through a glass darkly. Every human
creature may say, when he thinks of the alteration that will come over
his views of religious subjects upon entering another life, "Now
I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. I am now
in the midst of the vapors and smoke of this dim spot which men call
earth, but then shall I stand in the dazzling light of the face of God,
and labor under no doubt or delusion respecting my own character or that
of my Eternal Judge."

A moment's reflection will convince any one, that the article and fact of
death must of itself make a vast accession to the amount of a man's
knowledge, because death introduces him into an entirely new state of
existence. Foreign travel adds much to our stock of ideas, because we go
into regions of the earth of which we had previously known only by the
hearing of the ear. But the great and last journey that man takes carries
him over into a province of which no book, not even the Bible itself,
gives him any distinct cognition, as to the style of its scenery or the
texture of its objects. In respect to any earthly scene or experience,
all men stand upon substantially the same level of information, because
they all have substantially the same data for forming an estimate. Though
I may never have been in Italy, I yet know that the soil of Italy is a
part of the common crust of the globe, that the Apennines are like other
mountains which I have seen, that the Italian sunlight pours through the
pupil like any other sunlight, and that the Italian breezes fan the brow
like those of the sunny south the world over. I understand that the
general forms of human consciousness in Europe and Asia, are like those
in America. The operations of the five senses are the same in the Old
World that they are in the New. But what do I know of the surroundings
and experience of a man who has travelled from time into eternity? Am I
not completely baffled, the moment I attempt to construct the
consciousness of the unearthly state? I have no materials out of which to
build it, because it is not a world of sense and matter, like that which
I now inhabit.

But death carries man over into the new and entirely different mode of
existence, so that he knows by direct observation and immediate
intuition. A flood of new information pours in upon the disembodied
spirit, such as he cannot by any possibility acquire upon earth, and yet
such as he cannot by any possibility escape from in his new residence.
How strange it is, that the young child, the infant of days, in the heart
of Africa, by merely dying, by merely passing from time into eternity,
acquires a kind and grade of knowledge that is absolutely inaccessible
to the wisest and subtlest philosopher while here on earth![1] The dead
Hottentot knows more than the living Plato.

But not only does the exchange of worlds make a vast addition to our
stores of information respecting the nature of the invisible realm, and
the mode of existence there, it also makes a vast addition to the kind
and degree of our knowledge respecting _ourselves_, and our personal
relationships to God. This is by far the most important part of the new
acquisition which we gain by the passage from time to eternity, and it is
to this that the Apostle directs attention in the text. It is not so much
the world that will be around us, when we are beyond the tomb, as it is
the world that will be within us, that is of chief importance. Our
circumstances in this mode of existence, and in any mode of existence,
are arranged by a Power above us, and are, comparatively, matters of
small concern; but the persons that we ourselves verily are, the
characters which we bring into this environment, the little inner world
of thought and feeling which is to be inclosed and overarched in the
great outer world of forms and objects,--all this is matter of infinite
moment and anxiety to a responsible creature.

For the text teaches, that inasmuch as the future life is the _ultimate_
state of being for an immortal spirit, all that imperfection and
deficiency in knowledge which appertains to this present life, this
"ignorant present" time, must disappear. When we are in eternity, we
shall not be in the dark and in doubt respecting certain great questions
and truths that sometimes raise a query in our minds here. Voltaire now
knows whether there is a sin-hating God, and David Hume now knows whether
there is an endless hell. I may, in certain moods of my mind here upon
earth, query whether I am accountable and liable to retribution, but the
instant I shall pass from this realm of shadows, all this skepticism will
be banished forever from my mind. For the future state is the _final_
state, and hence all questions are settled, and all doubts are resolved.
While upon earth, the arrangements are such that we cannot see every
thing, and must walk by faith, because it is a state of probation; but
when once in eternity, all the arrangements are such that we cannot but
see every thing, and must walk by sight, because it is the state of
adjudication. Hence it is, that the preacher is continually urging men to
view things, so far as is possible, in the light of eternity, as the only
light that shines clearly and without refractions. Hence it is, that he
importunes his hearers to estimate their duties, and their relationships,
and their personal character, as they will upon the death-bed, because in
the solemn hour of death the light of the future state begins to dawn
upon the human soul.

It is very plain that if a spiritual man like the apostle Paul, who in a
very remarkable degree lived with reference to the future world, and
contemplated subjects in the light of eternity, was compelled to say that
he knew but "in part," much more must the thoughtless natural man confess
his ignorance of that which will meet him when his spirit returns to God.
The great mass of mankind are totally vacant of any just apprehension of
what will be their state of mind, upon being introduced into God's
presence. They have never seriously considered what must be the effect
upon their views and feelings, of an entire withdrawment from the scenes
and objects of earth, and an entrance into those of the future state.
Most men are wholly engrossed in the present existence, and do not allow
their thoughts to reach over into that invisible region which revelation
discloses, and which the uncontrollable workings of conscience sometimes
_force_ upon their attention for a moment. How many men there are, whose
sinful and thoughtless lives prove that they are not aware that the
future world will, by its very characteristics, fill them with a species
and a grade of information that will be misery unutterable. Is it not the
duty and the wisdom of all such, to attempt to conjecture and anticipate
the coming experience of the human soul in the day of judgment and the
future life, in order that by repentance toward God and faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ they may be able to stand in that day? Let us then endeavor
to know, at least "in part," concerning the eternal state.

The latter clause of the text specifies the general characteristic of
existence in the future world. It is a mode of existence in which the
rational mind "_knows_ even as it is known." It is a world of
knowledge,--of conscious knowledge. In thus unequivocally asserting that
our existence beyond the tomb is one of distinct consciousness,
revelation has taught us what we most desire and need to know. The first
question that would be raised by a creature who was just to be launched
out upon an untried mode of existence would be the question: "Shall I be
_conscious_?" However much he might desire to know the length and breadth
of the ocean upon which his was to set sail, the scenery that was to be
above him and around him in his coming history,--nay, however much he
might wish to know of matters still closer to himself than these; however
much he might crave to ask of his Maker, "With what body shall I come?"
all would be set second to the simple single inquiry: "Shall I think,
shall I feel, shall I know?" In answering this question in the
affirmative, without any hesitation or ambiguity, the apostle Paul has
in reality cleared up most of the darkness that overhangs the future
state. The structure of the spiritual body, and the fabric of the
immaterial world, are matters of secondary importance, and may be left
without explanation, provided only the rational mind of man be distinctly
informed that it shall not sleep in unconsciousness, and that the
immortal spark shall not become such stuff as dreams are made of.

The future, then, is a mode of existence in which the soul "knows even as
it is known." But this involves a perception in which there is no error,
and no intermission. For, the human spirit in eternity "is known" by the
omniscient God. If, then, it knows in the style and manner that God
knows, there can be no misconception or cessation in its cognition. Here,
then, we have a glimpse into the nature of our eternal existence. It is a
state of distinct and unceasing knowledge of moral truth and moral
objects. The human spirit, be it holy or sinful, a friend or an enemy of
God, in eternity will always and forever be aware of it. There is no
forgetting in the future state; there is no dissipation of the mind
there; and there is no aversion of the mind from itself. The cognition is
a fixed quantity. Given the soul, and the knowledge is given. If it be
holy, it is always conscious of the fact. If it be sinful, it cannot for
an instant lose the distressing consciousness of sin. In neither instance
will it be necessary, as it generally is in this life, to make a special
effort and a particular examination, in order to know the personal
character. Knowledge of God and His law, in the future life, is
spontaneous and inevitable; no creature can escape it; and therefore the
bliss is _unceasing_ in heaven, and the misery is _unceasing_ in
hell. There are no states of thoughtlessness and unconcern in the future
life, because there is not an instant of forgetfulness or ignorance of
the personal character and condition. In the world beyond this, every man
will constantly and distinctly know what he is, and what he is not,
because he will "be known" by the omniscient and unerring God, and will
himself know in the same constant and distinct style and manner.

If the most thoughtless person that now walks the globe could only have a
clear perception of that kind of knowledge which is awaiting him upon the
other side of the tomb, he would become the most thoughtful and the most
anxious of men. It would sober him like death itself. And if any
unpardoned man should from this moment onward be haunted with the
thought, "When I die I shall enter into the light of God's countenance,
and obtain a knowledge of my own character and obligations that will be
as accurate and unvarying as that of God himself upon this subject," he
would find no rest until he had obtained an assurance of the Divine
mercy, and such an inward change as would enable him to endure this deep
and full consciousness of the purity of God and of the state of his
heart. It is only because a man is unthinking, or because he imagines
that the future world will be like the present one, only longer in
duration, that he is so indifferent regarding it. Here is the difficulty
of the case, and the fatal mistake which the natural man makes. He
supposes that the views which he shall have upon religious subjects in
the eternal state, will be very much as they are in this,--vague,
indistinct, fluctuating, and therefore causing no very great anxiety. He
can pass days and weeks here in time without thinking of the claims of
God upon him, and he imagines that the same thing is possible in
eternity. While here upon earth, he certainly does not "know even as
also he is known," and he hastily concludes that so it will be beyond the
grave. It is because men imagine that eternity is only a very long space
of _time_, filled up, as time here is, with dim, indistinct
apprehensions, with a constantly shifting experience, with shallow
feelings and ever diversified emotions, in fine, with all the _variety_
of pleasure and pain, of ignorance and knowledge, that pertains to this
imperfect and probationary life,--it is because mankind thus conceive of
the final state, that it exerts no more influence over them. But such is
not its true idea. There is a marked difference between the present and
the future life, in respect to uniformity and clearness of knowledge.
"Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known." The
text and the whole teaching of the New Testament prove that the invisible
world is the unchangeable one; that there are no alterations of
character, and consequently no alternations of experience, in the future
life; that there are no transitions, as there are in this checkered scene
of earth, from happiness to unhappiness and back again. There is but one
uniform type of experience for an individual soul in eternity. That soul
is either uninterruptedly happy, or uninterruptedly miserable, because it
has either an uninterrupted sense of holiness, or an uninterrupted sense
of sin. He that is righteous is righteous still, and knows it
continually; and he that is filthy is filthy still, and knows it
incessantly. If we enter eternity as the redeemed of the Lord, we take
over the holy heart and spiritual affections of regeneration, and there
is no change but that of progression,--a change, consequently, only in
degree, but none of kind or type. The same knowledge and experience that
we have here "in part" we shall have there in completeness and
permanency. And the same will be true, if the heart be evil and the
affections inordinate and earthly. And all this, simply because the
mind's knowledge is clear, accurate, and constant. That which the
transgressor knows here of God and his own heart, but imperfectly, and
fitfully, and briefly, he shall know there perfectly, and constantly, and
everlastingly. The law of constant evolution, and the characteristic of
unvarying uniformity, will determine and fix the type of experience in
the evil as it does in the good.

Such, then, is the general nature of knowledge in the future state. It is
distinct, accurate, unintermittent, and unvarying. We shall know even as
we are known, and we are known by the omniscient and unerring Searcher of
hearts. Let us now apply this general characteristic of cognition in
eternity to some particulars. Let us transfer our minds into the future
and final state, and mark what goes on within them there. We ought often
to enter this mysterious realm, and become habituated to its mental
processes, and by a wise anticipation become prepared for the reality

I. The human mind, in eternity, will have a distinct and unvarying
perception of the _character of God_. And that one particular attribute
in this character, respecting which the cognition will be of the most
luminous quality, is the Divine holiness. In eternity, the immaculateness
of the Deity will penetrate the consciousness of every rational creature
with the subtlety and the thoroughness of fire. God's essence is
infinitely pure, and intensely antagonistic to sin, but it is not until
there is a direct contact between it and the human mind, that man
understands it and feels it. "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the
ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee, and I abhor myself." Even the best of
men know but "in part" concerning the holiness of God. Yet it is
noticeable how the apprehension of it grows upon the ripening Christian,
as he draws nearer to the time of his departure. The vision of the
cherubim themselves seems to dawn upon the soul of a Leighton and an
Edwards, and though it does not in the least disturb their saintly and
seraphic peace, because they are sheltered in the clefts of the Rock of
Ages, as the brightness passes by them, it does yet bring out from their
comparatively holy and spiritual hearts the utterance, "Behold I am vile;
infinite upon, infinite is my sin." But what shall be said of the common
and ordinary knowledge of mankind, upon this subject! Except at certain
infrequent times, the natural man does not know even "in part,"
respecting the holiness of God, and hence goes on in transgression
without anxiety or terror. It is the very first work of prevenient grace,
to disclose to the human mind something of the Divine purity; and
whoever, at any moment, is startled by a more than common sense of God's
holy character, should regard it and cherish it as a token of benevolence
and care for his soul.

Now, in eternity this species of knowledge must exist in the very highest
degree. The human soul will be encircled by the character and attributes
of God. It cannot look in any direction without beholding it. It is not
so here. Here, in this life, man may and does avert his eye, and refuse
to look at the sheen and the splendor that pains his organ. He fastens
his glance upon the farm, or the merchandise, or the book, and
perseveringly determines not to see the purity of God that rebukes him.
And _here_ he can succeed. He can and does live days and months without
so much as a momentary glimpse of his Maker, and, as the apostle says,
is "without God" in this world. And yet such men do have, now and then, a
view of the face of God. It may be for an instant only. It may be merely
a thought, a gleam, a flash; and yet, like that quick flash of lightning,
of which our Lord speaks, that lighteneth out of the one part of heaven,
and shineth unto the other part, that cometh out of the East and shineth
even unto the West,--like that swift momentary flash which runs round the
whole horizon in the twinkling of an eye, this swift thought and gleam of
God's purity fills the whole guilty soul full of light. What spiritual
distress seizes the man in such moments, and of what a penetrating
perception of the Divine character is he possessed for an instant! It is
a distinct and an accurate knowledge, but, unlike the cognition of the
future state, it is not yet an inevitable and unintermittent one. He can
expel it, and become again an ignorant and indifferent being, as he was
before. He knows but "in part" at the very best, and this only

But carry this rational and accountable creature into eternity, denude
him of the body of sense, and take him out of the busy and noisy world of
sense into the silent world of spirits, and into the immediate presence
of God, and then he will know upon this subject even as he is known. That
sight and perception of God's purity which he had here for a brief
instant, and which was so painful because he was not in sympathy with it,
has now become everlasting. That distinct and accurate knowledge of
God's character has now become his only knowledge. That flash of
lightning has become light,--fixed, steady, permanent as the orb of day.
The rational spirit cannot for an instant rid itself of the idea of God.
Never for a moment, in the endless cycles, can it look away from its
Maker; for in His presence what other object is there to look at? Time
itself, with its pursuits and its objects of thought and feeling, is no
longer, for the angel hath sworn it by Him who liveth for ever and ever.
There is nothing left, then, to occupy and engross the attention but the
character and attributes of God; and, now, the immortal mind, created for
such a purpose, must yield itself up to that contemplation which in this
life it dreaded and avoided. The future state of every man is to be an
open and unavoidable vision of God. If he delights in the view, he will
be blessed; if he loathes it, he will be miserable. This is the substance
of heaven and hell. This is the key to the eternal destiny of every human
soul. If a man love God, he shall gaze at him and adore; if he hate God,
he shall gaze at him and gnaw his tongue for pain.

The subject, as thus far unfolded, teaches the following lessons:

1. In the first place, it shows that _a false theory of the future state
will not protect a man from future misery_. For, we have seen that the
eternal world, by its very structure and influences, throws a flood of
light upon the Divine character, causing it to appear in its ineffable
purity and splendor, and compels every creature to stand out in that
light. There is no darkness in which man can hide himself, when he leaves
this world of shadows. A false theory, therefore, respecting God, can no
more protect a man from the reality, the actual matter of fact, than a
false theory of gravitation will preserve a man from falling from a
precipice into a bottomless abyss. Do you come to us with the theory
that every human creature will be happy in another life, and that the
doctrine of future misery is false? We tell you, in reply, that God is
_holy_, beyond dispute or controversy; that He cannot endure the sight of
sin; and that in the future world every one of His creatures must see Him
precisely as He is, and know Him in the real and eternal qualities of His
nature. The man, therefore, who is full of sin, whose heart is earthly,
sensual, selfish, must, when he approaches that pure Presence, find that
his theory of future happiness shrivels up like the heavens themselves,
before the majesty and glory of God. He now stands face to face with a
Being whose character has never dawned upon him with such a dazzling
purity, and to dispute the reality would be like disputing the fierce
splendor of the noonday sun. Theory must give way to fact, and the
deluded mortal must submit to its awful force.

In this lies the _irresistible_ power of death, judgment, and eternity,
to alter the views of men. Up to these points they can dispute and argue,
because there is no ocular demonstration. It is possible to debate the
question this side of the tomb, because we are none of us face to face
with God, and front to front with eternity. In the days of Noah, before
the flood came, there was skepticism, and many theories concerning the
threatened deluge. So long as the sky was clear, and the green earth
smiled under the warm sunlight, it was not difficult for the unbeliever
to maintain an argument in opposition to the preacher of righteousness.
But when the sky was rent with lightnings, and the earth was scarred with
thunder-bolts, and the fountains of the great deep were broken up, where
was the skepticism? where were the theories? where were the arguments?
When God teaches, "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the
disputer of this world?" They then knew as they were known; they stood
face to face with the facts.

It is this _inevitableness_ of the demonstration upon which we would
fasten attention. We are not always to live in this world of shadows. We
are going individually into the very face and eyes of Jehovah, and
whatever notions we may have adopted and maintained must all disappear,
except as they shall be actually verified by what we shall see and know
in that period of our existence when we shall perceive with the accuracy
and clearness of God Himself. Our most darling theories, by which we may
have sought to solace our souls in reference to our future destiny, if
false, will be all ruthlessly torn away, and we must see what verily and
eternally is. All mankind come upon one doctrinal platform when they
enter eternity. They all have one creed there. There is not a skeptic
even in hell. The devils believe and tremble. The demonstration that God
is holy is so irrefragable, so complete and absolute, that doubt or
denial is impossible in any spirit that has passed the line between time
and eternity.

2. In the second place, this subject shows that _indifference and
carelessness respecting the future life will not protect the soul from
future misery_. There may be no false theory adopted, and yet if there be
no thoughtful preparation to meet God, the result will be all the same. I
may not dispute the Newtonian theory of gravitation, yet if I pay no heed
to it, if I simply forget it, as I clamber up mountains, and walk by the
side of precipices, my body will as surely be dashed to pieces as if I
were a theoretical skeptic upon the subject of gravitation.

The creature's indifference can no more alter the immutable nature of
God, than can the creature's false reasoning, or false theorizing. That
which is settled in heaven, that which is fixed and eternal, stands the
same stern, relentless fact under all circumstances. We see the operation
of this sometimes here upon earth, in a very impressive manner. A youth
or a man simply neglects the laws and conditions of physical well-being.
He does not dispute them. He merely pays no attention to them. A. few
years pass by, and disease and torturing pain become his portion. He
comes now into the awful presence of the powers and the facts which the
Creator has inlaid in the world, of physical existence. He knows now even
as he is known. And the laws are stern. He finds no place of repentance
in them, though he seek it carefully with tears. The laws never repent,
never change their mind. The principles of physical life and growth which
he has never disputed, but which he has never regarded, now crush him
into the ground in their relentless march and motion.

Precisely so will it be in the moral world, and with reference to the
holiness of God. That man who simply neglects to prepare himself to see a
holy God, though he never denies that there is such a Being, will find
the vision just as unendurable to him, as it is to the most determined of
earthly skeptics. So far as the final result in the other world is
concerned, it matters little whether a man adds unbelief to his
carelessness, or not. The carelessness will ruin his soul, whether with
or without skepticism. Orthodoxy is valuable only as it inspires the hope
that it will end in timely and practical attention to the concerns of the
soul. But if you show me a man who you infallibly know will go through
life careless and indifferent, I will show you a man who will not be
prepared to meet God face to face, even though his theology be as
accurate as that of St. Paul himself. Nay, we have seen that there is a
time coming when all skeptics will become believers like the devils
themselves, and will tremble at the ocular demonstration of truths which
they have heretofore denied. Theoretical unbelief must be a temporary
affair in every man; for it can last only until he dies. Death will make
all the world theoretically orthodox, and bring them all to one and the
same creed. But death will not bring them all to one and the same happy
experience of the truth, and lave of the creed. For those who have made
preparation for the vision of God and the ocular demonstration of Divine
truth, these will rise upon their view with a blessed and glorious light.
But for those who have remained sinful and careless, these eternal truths
and facts will be a vision of terror and despair. They will not alter. No
man will find any place of repentance in them, though, like Esau, he seek
it carefully and with tears.

3. In the third place, this subject shows that _only faith in Christ and
a new heart can protect the soul from future misery_. The nature and
character of God cannot be altered, and therefore the change must be
wrought in man's soul. The disposition and affections of the heart must
be brought into such sweet sympathy and harmony with God's holiness, that
when in the next world that holiness shall be revealed as it is to the
seraphim, it will fall in upon the soul like the rays of a vernal sun,
starting every thing into cheerful life and joy. If the Divine holiness
does not make this impression, it produces exactly the contrary effect.
If the sun's rays do not start the bud in the spring, they kill it. If
the vision of a holy God is not our heaven, then it must be our hell.
Look then directly into your heart, and tell us which is the impression
for you. Can you say with David, "We give thanks and rejoice, at the
remembrance of Thy holiness?" Are you glad that there is such a pure and
immaculate Being upon the throne, and when His excellence abashes you,
and rebukes your corruption and sin, do you say, "Let the righteous One
smite me, it shall be a kindness?" Do you _love_ God's holy character? If
so, you are a new creature, and are ready for the vision of God, face to
face. For you, to know God even as you are known by Him will not be a
terror, but a glory and a joy. You are in sympathy with Him. You have
been reconciled to Him by the blood of atonement, and brought into
harmony with Him by the washing of regeneration. For you, as a believer
in Christ, and a new man in Christ Jesus, all is well. The more you see
of God, the more you desire to see of Him; and the more you know of Him,
the more you long to know.

But if this is not your experience, then all is ill with you. We say
_experience_. You must _feel_ in this manner toward God, or you cannot
endure the vision which is surely to break upon you after death. You must
_love_ this holiness without which no man can see the Lord. You may
approve of it, you may praise it in other men, but if there is no
affectionate going out of your own heart toward, the holy God, you are
not in right relations to Him. You have the carnal mind, and that is
enmity, and enmity is misery.

Look these facts in the eye, and act accordingly. "Make the _tree_ good,
and his fruit good," says Christ. Begin at the beginning. Aim at nothing
less than a change of disposition and affections. Ask for nothing less,
seek for nothing less. If you become inwardly holy as God is holy; if you
become a friend of God, reconciled to Him by the blood of Christ; then
your nature will be like God's nature, your character like God's
character. Then, when you shall know God even as you are known by Him,
and shall see Him as He is, the knowledge and the vision will be
everlasting joy.

[Footnote 1:

  "She has seen the mystery hid,
  Under Egypt's pyramid;
  By those eyelids pale and close,
  Now she knows what Rhamses knows."
  ELIZABETH BROWNING: On the Death of a Child.]


1 COR. xiii. 12.--"Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also
I am known."

In the preceding discourse, we found in these words the principal
characteristic of our future existence. The world beyond the tomb is a
world of clear and conscious knowledge. When, at death, I shall leave
this region of time and sense and enter eternity, my knowledge, the
apostle Paul tells me instead of being diminished or extinguished by the
dissolution, of the body, will not only be continued to me, but will be
even greater and clearer than before. He assures me that the kind and
style of my cognition will be like that of God himself. I am to know as I
am known. My intelligence will coincide with that of Deity.

By this we are not to understand that the creature's knowledge, in the
future state, will be as extensive as that of the Omniscient One; or that
it will be as profound and exhaustive as His. The infinitude of things
can be known only by the Infinite Mind; and the creature will forever be
making new acquisitions, and never reaching the final limit of truths and
facts. But upon certain moral subjects, the perception of the creature
will be like that of his Maker and Judge, so far as the _kind_ or
_quality_ of the apprehension is concerned. Every man in eternity, for
illustration, will see sin to be an odious and abominable thing, contrary
to the holy nature of God, and awakening in that nature the most holy and
awful displeasure. His knowledge upon this subject will be so identical
with that of God, that he will be unable to palliate or excuse his
transgressions, as he does in this world. He will see them precisely as
God sees them. He must know them as God knows them, because he will "know
even as he is known."

II. In continuing the examination of this solemn subject, we remark as a
second and further characteristic of the knowledge which every man will
possess in eternity, that he will know _himself_ even as he is known by
God. His knowledge of God we have found to be direct, accurate, and
unceasing; his knowledge of his own heart will be so likewise. This
follows from the relation of the two species of cognition to each other.
The true knowledge of God involves the true knowledge of self. The
instant that any one obtains a clear view of the holy nature of his
Maker, he obtains a clear view of his own sinful nature. Philosophers
tell us, that our consciousness of God and our consciousness of self
mutually involve and imply each other[1]; in other words, that we cannot
know God without immediately knowing ourselves, any more than we can know
light without knowing darkness, any more than we can have the idea of
right without having the idea of wrong. And it is certainly true that so
soon as any being can intelligently say, "God is holy," he can and must
say, "I am holy," or, "I am unholy," as the fact may be. Indeed, the only
way in which man can truly know himself is to contrast himself with his
Maker; and the most exhaustive self-knowledge and self-consciousness is
to be found, not in the schools of secular philosophy but, in the
searchings of the Christian heart,--in the "Confessions" of Augustine; in
the labyrinthine windings of Edwards "On the Affections." Hence the
frequent exhortations in the Bible to look at the character of God, in
order that we may know ourselves and be abased by the contrast. In
eternity, therefore, if we must have a clear and constant perception of
God's character, we must necessarily have a distinct and unvarying
knowledge of our own. It is not so here. Here in this world, man knows
himself but "in part." Even when he endeavors to look within, prejudice
and passion often affect his judgment; but more often, the fear of what
he shall discover in the secret places of his soul deters him from making
the attempt at self-examination. For it is a surprising truth that the
transgressor dares not bring out into the light that which is most truly
his own, that which he himself has originated, and which he loves and
cherishes with all his strength and might. He is afraid of his own heart!
Even when God forces the vision of it upon him, he would shut his eyes;
or if this be not possible, he would look through distorting media and
see it with a false form and coloring.

  "But 'tis not so above;
  There is no shuffling; there the action lies
  In his true nature: and we ourselves compelled,
  Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
  To give in evidence."[2]

The spirit that has come into the immediate presence of God, and beholds
Him face to face, cannot deceive Him, and therefore cannot deceive
itself. It cannot remain ignorant of God's character any longer, and
therefore cannot remain ignorant of its own.

We do not sufficiently consider and ponder the elements of anguish that
are sleeping in the fact that in eternity a sinner _must_ know God's
character, and therefore _must_ know his own. It is owing to their
neglect of such subjects, that mankind so little understand what an awful
power there is in the distinct perception of the Divine purity, and the
allied consciousness of sin. Lord Bacon tells us that the knowledge
acquired in the schools is power; but it is weakness itself, if compared
with that form and species of cognition which is given to the mind of man
by the workings of conscience in the light of the Divine countenance. If
a transgressor knew clearly what disclosures of God's immaculateness and
of his own character must be made to him in eternity, he would fear them,
if unprepared, far more than physical sufferings. If he understood what
capabilities for distress the rational spirit possesses in its own
mysterious constitution, if when brought into contact with the Divine
purity it has no sympathy with it, but on the contrary an intense
hostility; if he knew how violent will be the antagonism between God's
holiness and man's sin when, the two are finally brought together, the
assertion that there is no external source of anguish in hell, even if it
were true, would afford him no relief. Whoever goes into the presence of
God with a corrupt heart carries thither a source of sorrow that is
inexhaustible, simply because that corrupt heart must be _distinctly
known_, and _perpetually understood_ by its possessor, in that Presence.
The thoughtless man may never know while upon earth, even "in part," the
depth and the bitterness of this fountain,--he may go through this life
for the most part self-ignorant and undistressed,--but he must know in
that other, final, world the immense fulness of its woe, as it
unceasingly wells up into everlasting death. One theory of future
punishment is, that our globe will become a penal orb of fire, and the
wicked with material bodies, miraculously preserved by Omnipotence, will
burn forever in it. But what is this compared with the suffering soul?
The spirit itself, thus alienated from God's purity and _conscious_ that
it is, wicked, and _knowing_ that it is wicked, becomes an "orb of fire."
"It is,"--says John Howe, who was no fanatic, but one of the most
thoughtful and philosophic of Christians,--"it is a throwing hell into
hell, when a wicked man comes to hell; for he was his own hell

It must ever be borne in mind, that the principal source and seat of
future torment will be the sinner's _sin_. We must never harbor the
thought, or fall into the notion, that the retributions of eternity are a
wanton and arbitrary infliction upon the part of God. Some men seem to
suppose, or at any rate they represent, that the woes of hell are a
species of undeserved suffering; that God, having certain helpless and
innocent creatures in His power, visits them with wrath, in the exercise
of an arbitrary sovereignty. But this is not Christ's doctrine of endless
punishment. There is no suffering inflicted, here or hereafter, upon any
thing but _sin,_--unrepented, incorrigible sin,--and if you will show
me a sinless creature, I will show you one who will never feel the least
twinge or pang through all eternity. Death is the wages of _sin_. The
substance of the wretchedness of the lost will issue right out of their
own character. They will see their own wickedness steadily and clearly,
and this will make them miserable. It will be the carrying out of the
same principle that operates here in time, and in our own daily
experience. Suppose that by some method, all the sin of my heart, and all
the sins of my outward conduct, were made clear to my own view; suppose
that for four-and-twenty hours continuously I were compelled to look at
my wickedness intently, just as I would look intently into a burning
furnace of fire; suppose that for this length of time I should see
nothing, and hear nothing, and experience nothing of the world, about me,
but should be absorbed in the vision of my own disobedience of God's good
law, think you that (setting aside the work of Christ) I should be happy?
On the contrary, should I not be the most wretched of mortals? Would not
this self-knowledge be pure living torment? And yet the misery springs
entirely out of the _sin_. There is nothing arbitrary or wanton in the
suffering. It is not brought in upon me from the outside. It comes out of
myself. And, while I was writhing under the sense and power of my
transgressions, would you mock me, by telling me that I was a poor
innocent struggling in the hands of omnipotent malice; that the suffering
was unjust, and that if there were any justice in the universe, I should
be delivered from it? No, we shall suffer in the future world only as we
are sinners, and because we are sinners. There will be weeping and
wailing and gnashing of teeth, only because the sinful creature will be
compelled to look at himself; to know his sin in the same manner that it
is known by the Infinite Intelligence. And is there any injustice in
this? If a sinful being cannot bear the sight of himself, would you have
the holy Deity step in between him and his sins, so that he should not
see them, and so that he might be happy in them? Away with such folly and
such wickedness. For it is the height of wickedness to desire that some
method should be invented, and introduced into the universe of God,
whereby the wages of sin shall be life and joy; whereby a sinner can look
into his own wicked heart and be happy.

III. A third characteristic of the knowledge which every man will possess
in eternity will be a clear understanding of _the nature and wants of the
soul._ Man has that in his constitution, which needs God, and which
cannot be at rest except in God. A state of sin is a state of alienation
and separation from the Creator. It is, consequently, in its intrinsic
nature, a state of restlessness and dissatisfaction. "There is no peace
saith my God to the wicked; the wicked are like the troubled sea." In
order to know this, it is only necessary to bring an apostate creature,
like man, to a consciousness of the original requirements and necessities
of his being. But upon this subject, man while upon earth most certainly
knows only "in part." Most men are wholly ignorant of the constitutional
needs of a rational spirit, and are not aware that it is as impossible
for the creature, when in eternity, to live happily out of God, as it is
for the body to live at all in the element of fire. Most men, while here
upon earth, do not know upon this subject as they are known. God knows
that the whole created universe cannot satisfy the desires of an immortal
being, but impenitent men do not know this fact with a clear perception,
and they will not until they die and go into another world.

And the reason is this. So long as the worldly natural man lives upon
earth, he can find a sort of substitute for God. He has a capacity for
loving, and he satisfies it to a certain degree by loving himself; by
loving fame, wealth, pleasure, or some form of creature-good. He has a
capacity for thinking, and he gratifies it in a certain manner by
pondering the thoughts of other minds, or by original speculations of his
own. And so we might go through with the list of man's capacities, and we
should find, that he contrives, while here upon earth, to meet these
appetences of his nature, after a sort, by the objects of time and sense,
and to give his soul a species of satisfaction short of God, and away
from God. Fame, wealth, and pleasure; the lust of the flesh, the lust of
the eye, and the pride of life; become a substitute for the Creator, in
his search, for happiness. As a consequence, the unregenerate man knows
but "in part" respecting the primitive and constitutional necessities of
his being. He is feeding them with a false and unhealthy food, and in
this way manages to stifle for a season their true and deep cravings. But
this cannot last forever. When a man dies and goes into eternity, he
takes nothing with him but his character and his moral affinities. "We
brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry
nothing out." The original requirements and necessities of his soul are
not destroyed by death, but the earthly objects by which he sought to
meet them, and by which he did meet them after a sort, are totally
destroyed. He still has a capacity for loving; but in eternity where is
the fame, the wealth, the pleasure upon which he has hitherto expended
it? He still has a capacity for thinking; but where are the farm, the
merchandise, the libraries, the works of art, the human literatures, and
the human philosophies, upon which he has heretofore employed it? The
instant you cut off a creature who seeks his good in the world, and not
in God, from intercourse with the world, you cause him to know even as he
is known respecting the true and proper portion of his soul. Deprived of
his accustomed and his false object of love and support, he immediately
begins to reach out in all directions for something to love, something to
think of, something to trust in, and finds nothing. Like that insect in
our gardens which spins a slender thread by which to guide itself in its
meanderings, and which when the clew is cut thrusts out its head in every
direction, but does not venture to advance, the human creature who has
suddenly been cut off by death from his accustomed objects of support and
pleasure stretches out in every direction for something to take their
place. And the misery of his case is, that when in his reachings out he
sees God, or comes into contact with God, he starts back like the little
insect when you present a coal of fire to it. He needs as much as ever,
to love some being or some thing. But he has no heart to love God and
there is no other being and no other thing in eternity to love. He needs,
as much as ever, to think of some object or some subject. But to think of
God is a distress to him; to reflect upon divine and holy things is
weariness and woe. He is a carnal, earthly-minded man, and therefore
cannot find enjoyment in such meditations. Before he can take relish in
such objects and such thinking, he must be born again; he must become a
new creature. But there is no new-birth of the soul in eternity. The
disposition and character which a man takes along with him when he dies
remains eternally unchanged. The constitutional wants still continue. The
man must love, and must think. But the only object in eternity upon which
such capability can be expended is God; and the carnal mind, saith the
Scripture, is _enmity_ against God, and is not subject to the law of God,
neither indeed can be.

Now, whatever may be the course of a man in this life; whether he becomes
aware of these created imperatives, and constitutional necessities of his
immortal spirit or not; whether he hears its reproaches and rebukes
because he is feeding them with the husks of earth, instead of the bread
of heaven, or not; it is certain that in the eternal world they will be
continually awake and perpetually heard. For that spiritual world will be
fitted up for nothing but a rational spirit. There will be nothing
material, nothing like earth, in its arrangements. Flesh and blood cannot
inherit either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. The enjoyments
and occupations of this sensuous and material state will be found neither
in heaven nor in hell. Eternity is a spiritual region, and all its
objects, and all its provisions, will have reference solely to the
original capacities and destination of a spiritual creature. They will,
therefore, all be terribly reminiscent of apostasy; only serving to
remind the soul of what it was originally designed to be, and of what it
has now lost by worshipping and loving the creature more than the
Creator. How wretched then must man be, when, with the awakening of this
restlessness and dissatisfaction of an immortal spirit, and with the
bright pattern of what he ought to be continually before his eye, there
is united an intensity of self-love and enmity toward God, that drives
him anywhere and everywhere but to his Maker, for peace and comfort. How
full of woe must the lost creature be, when his immortal necessities are
awakened and demand their proper food, but cannot obtain it, because of
the aversion of the heart toward the only Being who can satisfy them.
For, the same hatred of holiness, and disinclination toward spiritual
things, which prevents a man from choosing God for his portion here,
will prevent him hereafter. It is the bold fancy of an imaginative
thinker,[4] that the material forces which lie beneath external nature
are conscious of being bound down and confined under the crust of the
earth, like the giant Enceladus under Mt. Etna, and that there are times
when they roar from the depths where they are in bondage, and call aloud
for freedom; when they rise in their might, and manifest themselves in
the earthquake and the volcano. It will be a more fearful and terrific
struggle, when the powers of an apostate being are roused in eternity;
when the then eternal sin and guilt has its hour of triumph, and the
eternal reason and conscience have their hour of judgment and remorse;
when the inner world of man's spirit, by this schism and antagonism
within it, has a devastation and a ruin spread over it more awful than
that of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

We have thus, in this and the preceding discourse, considered the kind
and quality of that knowledge which every human being will possess in the
eternal world. He will know God, and he will know himself, with a
distinct, and accurate, and unceasing intelligence like that of the
Deity. It is one of the most solemn and startling themes that can be
presented to the human mind. We have not been occupied with what will be
_around_ a creature, what will be _outside_ of a man, in the life to
come; but we have been examining what will be _within_ him. We have been
considering what he will think of beyond the tomb; what his own feelings
will be when he meets God face to face. But a man's immediate
consciousness determines his happiness or his misery. As a man thinketh
in his heart so is he. We must not delude ourselves with the notion, that
the mere arrangements and circumstances of the spiritual world will
decide our weal or our woe, irrespective of the tenor of our thoughts and
affections; that if we are only placed in pleasant gardens or in golden
streets, all will be well. As a man thinketh in his heart, so will he be
in his experience. This vision of God, and of our own hearts, will be
either the substance of heaven, or the substance of hell. The great
future is a world of open vision. Now, we see through a glass darkly, but
then, face to face. The vision for every human creature will be beatific,
if he is prepared for it; will be terrific, if he is unprepared.

Does not the subject, then, speak with solemn warning to every one who
knows that he is not prepared for the coming revelations that will be
made to him when he dies; for this clear and accurate knowledge of God,
and of his own character? Do you believe that there is an eternal world,
and that the general features of this mode of existence have been
scripturally depicted? Do you suppose that your present knowledge of the
holiness of God, and of your own sinful nature, is equal to what it will
be when your spirit returns to God who gave it? Are you prepared for the
impending and inevitable disclosures and revelations of the day of
judgment? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God, who
came forth from eternity eighteen centuries since, and went back into
eternity, leaving upon record for human instruction an unexaggerated
description of that invisible world, founded upon the personal knowledge
of an eye-witness?

Whoever thus believes, concerning the record which Christ and His
apostles have left for the information of dim-eyed mortals who see only
"through a glass darkly," and who know only "in part," ought immediately
to adopt their descriptions and ponder them long and well. We have
already observed, that the great reason why the future state exerts so
little influence over worldly men lies in the fact, that they do not
bring it into distinct view. They live absorbed in the interests and
occupations of earth, and their future abode throws in upon them none of
its solemn shadows and warnings. A clear luminous perception of the
nature and characteristics of that invisible world which is soon to
receive them, would make them thoughtful and anxious for their souls; for
they would become aware of their utter unfitness, their entire lack of
preparation, to see God face to face. Still, live and act as sinful men
may, eternity is over and around them all, even as the firmament is bent
over the globe. If theirs were a penitent and a believing eye, they would
look up with adoration into its serene depths, and joyfully behold the
soft gleam of its stars, and it would send down upon them the sweet
influences of its constellations. They may shut their eyes upon all this
glory, and feel only earthly influences, and continue to be "of the
earth, earthy." But there is a time coming when they cannot but look at
eternity; when this firmament will throw them into consternation by the
livid glare of its lightnings, and will compel them to hear the quick
rattle and peal of its thunder; when it will not afford them a vision of
glory and joy, as it will the redeemed and the holy, but one of despair
and destruction.

There is only one shelter from this storm; there is only one covert from
this tempest. He, and only he, who trusts in Christ's blood of atonement,
will be able to look into the holy countenance of God, and upon the dread
record of his own sins, without either trembling or despair. The merits
and righteousness of Christ so clothe the guilty soul, that it can endure
the otherwise intolerable brightness of God's pure throne and presence.

  "Jesus! Thy blood and righteousness,
  My beauty are, my glorious dress;
  Mid flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
  With joy shall I lift up my head."

Amidst those great visions that are to dawn upon every human creature,
those souls will be in perfect peace who trust in the Great Propitiation.
In those great tempests that are to shake down the earth and the sky,
those hearts will be calm and happy who are hid in the clefts of the Rock
of Ages. Flee then to Christ, ye prisoners of hope. Make preparation to
know even as you are known, by repentance toward God and faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ. A voice comes to you out of the cloud, saying, "This
is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." Remember, and
forget not, that this knowledge of God and your own heart is
_inevitable._ At death, it will all of it flash upon the soul like
lightning at midnight. It will fill the whole horizon of your being full
of light. If you are in Christ Jesus, the light will not harm you. But if
you are out of Christ, it will blast you. No sinful mortal can endure
such a vision an instant, except as he is sprinkled with atoning blood,
and clothed in the righteousness of the great Substitute and Surety for
guilty man. Flee then to CHRIST, and so be prepared to know God and your
own heart, even as you are known.

[Footnote 1: Noverim me, noverim Te.--BERNARD.]

[Footnote 2: Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act III., Sc. 4.]

[Footnote 3: Howe: On Regeneration. Sermon xliii.]

[Footnote 4: Bookschammer: On the Will.]


PSALM cxxxix. I-6.--"O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou
knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought
afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted
with, all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord,
thou knowest it altogether. Thou, hast beset me behind and before, and
laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is
high, I cannot attain unto it."

One of the most remarkable characteristics of a rational being is the
power of self-inspection. The brute creation possesses many attributes
that are common to human nature, but it has no faculty that bears even
the remotest resemblance to that of self-examination. Instinctive action,
undoubtedly, approaches the nearest of any to human action. That
wonderful power by which the bee builds up a structure that is not
exceeded in accuracy, and regularity, and economy of space, by the best
geometry of Athens or of Rome; by which the beaver, after having chosen
the very best possible location for it on the stream, constructs a dam
that outlasts the work of the human engineer; by which the faithful dog
contrives to perform many acts of affection, in spite of obstacles, and
in the face of unexpected discouragements,--the _instinct_, we say, of
the brute creation, as exhibited in a remarkably wide range of action and
contrivance, and in a very varied and oftentimes perplexing conjuncture
of circumstances, seems to bring man and beast very near to each other,
and to furnish some ground for the theory of the materialist, that there
is no essential difference between the two species of existences. But
when we pass beyond the mere power of acting, to the additional power of
_surveying_ or _inspecting_ an act, and of forming an estimate of its
relations to moral law, we find a faculty in man that makes him differ in
kind from the brute. No brute animal, however high up the scale, however
ingenious and sagacious he may be, can ever look back and think of what
he has done, "his thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing him."

The mere power of performance, is, after all, not the highest power. It
is the superadded power of calmly looking over the performance, and
seeing _what_ has been done, that marks the higher agency, and denotes a
loftier order of existence than that of the animal or of material nature.
If the mere ability to work with energy, and produce results, constituted
the highest species of power, the force of gravitation would be the
loftiest energy in the universe. Its range of execution is wider than
that of any other created principle. But it is one of the lower and least
important of agencies, because it is blind. It is destitute of the power
of self-inspection. It does not know _what_ it does, or _why_. "Man,"
says Pascal,[1] "is but a reed, and the weakest in all nature; yet he is
a reed that _thinks_. The whole material universe does not need to arm
itself, in order to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water is enough to
destroy him. But if the whole universe of matter should combine to crush
him, man would be more noble than that which destroyed him. For he would
be _conscious_ that he was dying, while, of the advantage which the
material universe had obtained over him, that universe would know
nothing." The action of a little child is altogether nothing and vanity
compared with the energy of the earthquake or the lightning, so far as
the exhibition of force and the mere power to act is concerned; but, on
the other hand, it is more solemn than centuries of merely natural
processes, and more momentous than all the material phenomena that have
ever filled the celestial spaces, when we remember that it is the act of
a thinking agent, and a self-conscious creature. The power to _survey_
the act, when united with the power to act, sets mind infinitely above
matter, and places the action of instinct, wonderful as it is, infinitely
below the action of self-consciousness. The proud words of one of the
characters in the old drama are strictly true:

  "I am a nobler substance than the stars,
  Or are they better since they are bigger?
  I have a will and faculties of choice,
  To do or not to do; and reason why
  I do or not do this: the stars have none.
  They know not why they shine, more than this taper,
  Nor how they, work, nor what."[2]

But this characteristic of a rational being, though thus distinctive and
common to every man that lives, is exceedingly marvellous. Like the air
we breathe, like the light we see, it involves a mystery that no man has
ever solved. Self-consciousness has been the problem and the thorn of the
philosophic mind in all ages; and the mystery is not yet unravelled. Is
not that a wonderful process by which a man knows, not some other thing
but, _himself_? Is not that a strange act by which he, for a time,
duplicates his own unity, and sets himself to look at himself? All other
acts of consciousness are comparatively plain and explicable. When we
look at an object other than ourselves,--when we behold a tree or the
sky,--the act of knowledge is much more simple and easy to be explained.
For then there is something outside of us, and in front of us, and
another thing than we are, at which we look, and which we behold. But in
this act of _self_-inspection there is no second thing, external, and
extant to us, which we contemplate. That which is seen is one and the
same identical object with that which sees. The act of knowledge which in
all other instances requires the existence of two things,--a thing to be
known and a thing to know,--in this instance is performed with only one.
It is the individual soul that sees, and it is that very same individual
soul that is seen. It is the individual man that knows, and it is that
very identical man that is known. The eyeball looks at the eyeball.

And when this power of self-inspection is connected with the power of
memory, the mystery of human existence becomes yet more complicated, and
its explanation still more baffling. Is it not exceedingly wonderful,
that we are able to re-exhibit our own thoughts and feelings; that we can
call back what has gone clear by in our experience, and steadily look at
it once more? Is it not a mystery that we can summon before our mind's
eye feelings, purposes, desires, and thoughts, which occurred in the soul
long years ago, and which, perhaps, until this moment, we have not
thought of for years? Is it not a marvel, that they come up with all the
vividness with which they first took origin in our experience, and that
the lapse of time has deprived them of none of their first outlines or
colors? Is it not strange, that we can recall that one particular feeling
of hatred toward a fellow-man which, rankled in the heart twenty years
ago; that we can now eye it, and see it as plainly as if it were still
throbbing within us; that we can feel guilty for it once more, as if we
were still cherishing it? If it were not so common, would it not be
surprising, that we can reflect upon acts of disobedience toward God
which we committed in the days of childhood, and far back in the dim
twilights of moral agency; that we can re-act them, as it were, in our
memory, and fill ourselves again with the shame and distress that
attended their original commission? Is it not one of those mysteries
which overhang human existence, and from which that of the brute is
wholly free, that man can live his life, and act his agency, over,
and over, and over again, indefinitely and forever, in his
self-consciousness; that he can cause all his deeds to pass and re-pass
before his self-reflection, and be filled through and through with the
agony of self-knowledge? Truly _such_ knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I _go_ from my _own_
spirit, and whither shall I flee from my _own_ presence. If I ascend up
into heaven, it is there looking at me. If I make my bed in hell, behold
it is there torturing me. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in
the uttermost parts of the sea, even there must I know myself, and acquit
or condemn myself.

But if that knowledge whereby man knows himself is mysterious, then
certainly that whereby God knows him is far more so. That act whereby
_another_ being knows my secret thoughts, and inmost feelings, is most
certainly inexplicable. That cognition whereby _another_ person
understands what takes place in the corners of my heart, and sees the
minutest movements of my spirit, is surely high; most surely I cannot
attain unto it.

And yet, it is a truth of revelation that God searches the heart of man;
that He knows his down-sitting and uprising, and understands his thought
afar off; that He compasses his path and his lying-down, and is
acquainted with all his ways. And yet, it is a deduction of reason, also,
that because God is the creator of the human mind, He must perfectly
understand its secret agencies; that He in whose Essence man lives and
moves and has his being, must behold every motion, and feel every
stirring of the human spirit. "He that planted the ear, shall He not
hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see?" Let us, then, ponder the
fact of God's exhaustive knowledge of man's soul, that we may realize it,
and thereby come under its solemn power and impression. For all religion,
all holy and reverential fear of God, rises and sets, as in an
atmosphere, in the thought: "Thou God seest me."

I. In analyzing and estimating the Divine knowledge of the human soul, we
find, in the first place, that God accurately and exhaustively knows _all
that man knows of himself_.

Every man in a Christian land, who is in the habit of frequenting the
house of God, possesses more or less of that self-knowledge of which we
have spoken. He thinks of the moral character of some of his own
thoughts. He reflects upon the moral quality of some of his own feelings.
He considers the ultimate tendency of some of his own actions. In other
words, there is a part of his inward and his outward life with which he
is uncommonly well acquainted; of which he has a distinct perception.
There are some thoughts of his mind, at which he blushes at the very time
of their origin, because he is vividly aware what they are, and what they
mean. There are some emotions of his heart, at which he trembles and
recoils at the very moment of their uprising, because he perceives
clearly that they involve a very malignant depravity. There are some
actings of his will, of whose wickedness he is painfully conscious at the
very instant of their rush and movement. We are not called upon, here, to
say how many of a man's thoughts, feelings, and determinations, are thus
subjected to his self-inspection at the very time of their origin, and
are known in the clear light of self-knowledge. We are not concerned, at
this point, with the amount of this man's self-inspection and
self-knowledge. We are only saying that there is some experience such as
this in his personal history, and that he does know something of himself,
at the very time of action, with a clearness and a distinctness that
makes him start, or blush, or fear.

Now we say, that in reference to all this intimate self-knowledge, all
this best part of a man's information respecting himself, he is not
superior to God. He may be certain that in no particular does he know
more of himself than the Searcher of hearts knows. He may be an
uncommonly thoughtful person, and little of what is done within his soul
may escape his notice,--nay, we will make the extreme supposition that he
arrests every thought as it rises, and looks at it, that he analyzes
every sentiment as it swells his heart, that he scrutinizes every purpose
as it determines his will,--even if he should have such a thorough and
profound self-knowledge as this, God knows him equally profoundly, and
equally thoroughly. Nay more, this process of self-inspection may go on
indefinitely, and the man may grow more and more thoughtful, and obtain
an everlastingly augmenting knowledge of what he is and what he does, so
that it shall seem to him that he is going down so far along that path
which the vulture's eye hath not seen, is penetrating so deeply into
those dim and shadowy regions of consciousness where the external life
takes its very first start, as to be beyond the reach of any eye, and
the ken of any intelligence but his own, and then he may be sure that God
understands the thought that is afar off, and deep down, and that at this
lowest range and plane in his experience He besets him behind and before.

O, this man, like the most of mankind, may be an unreflecting person.
Then, in this case, thoughts, feelings, and purposes are continually
rising up within his soul like the clouds and exhalations of an
evaporating deluge, and at the time of their rise he subjects them to no
scrutiny of conscience, and is not pained in the least by their moral
character and significance. He lacks self-knowledge altogether, at these
points in his history. But, notice that the fact that he is not
self-inspecting at these points cannot destroy the fact that he is acting
at them. The fact that he is not a spectator of his own transgression,
does not alter the fact that he is the author of it. If this man, for
instance, thinks over his worldly affairs on God's holy day, and perhaps
in God's holy house, with such an absorption and such a pleasure that he
entirely drowns the voice of conscience while he is so doing, and
self-inspection is banished for the time, it will not do for him to plead
this absence of a distinct and painful consciousness of what his mind was
actually doing in the house of God, and upon the Lord's day, as the
palliative and excuse of his wrong thoughts. If this man, again, indulges
in an envious or a sensual emotion, with such an energy and entireness,
as for the time being to preclude all action of the higher powers of
reason and self-reflection, so that for the time being he is not in the
least troubled by a sense of his wickedness, it will be no excuse for him
at the eternal bar, that he was not thinking of his envy or his lust at
the time when he felt it. And therefore it is, that accountableness
covers the whole field of human agency, and God holds us responsible
for our thoughtless sin, as well as for our deliberate transgression.

In the instance, then, of the thoughtless man; in the case where there is
little or no self-examination; God unquestionably knows the man as well
as the man knows himself. The Omniscient One is certainly possessed of an
amount of knowledge equal to that small modicum which is all that a
rational and immortal soul can boast of in reference to itself. But the
vast majority of mankind fall into this class. The self-examiners are
very few, in comparison with the millions who possess the power to look
into their hearts, but who rarely or never do so. The great God our
Judge, then, surely knows the mass of men, in their down-sitting and
uprising, with a knowledge that is equal to their own. And thus do we
establish our first position, that God knows all that the man knows;
God's knowledge is equal to the very best part of man's knowledge.

In concluding this part of the discussion, we turn to consider some
practical lessons suggested by it.

1. In the first place, the subject reminds us that _we are fearfully and
wonderfully made_. When we take a solar microscope and examine even the
commonest object--a bit of sand, or a hair of our heads-we are amazed at
the revelation that is made to us. We had no previous conception of the
wonders that are contained in the structure of even such ordinary things
as these. But, if we should obtain a corresponding view of our own mental
and moral structure; if we could subject our immortal natures to a
microscopic self-examination; we should not only be surprised, but we
should be terrified. This explains, in part, the consternation with which
a criminal is filled, as soon as he begins to understand the nature of
his crime. His wicked act is perceived in its relation to his own mental
powers and faculties. He knows, now, what a hazardous thing it is to
possess a free-will; what an awful thing it is to own a conscience. He
feels, as he never did before, that he is fearfully and wonderfully made,
and cries out: "O that I had never been born! O that I had never been
created a responsible being! these terrible faculties of reason, and
will, and conscience, are too heavy for me to wield; would that I had
been created a worm, and no man, then, I should not have incurred the
hazards under which I have sinned and ruined myself."

The constitution of the human soul is indeed a wonderful one; and such a
meditation as that which we have just devoted to its functions of
self-examination and memory, brief though it be, is enough to convince us
of it. And remember, that this constitution is not peculiar to you and to
me. It belongs to every human creature on the globe. The imbruted pagan
in the fiery centre of Africa, who never saw a Bible, or heard of the
Redeemer; the equally imbruted man, woman, or child, who dwells in the
slime of our own civilization, not a mile from where we sit, and hear the
tidings of mercy; the filthy savage, and the yet filthier profligate, are
both of them alike with ourselves possessed of these awful powers of
self-knowledge and of memory.

Think of this, ye earnest and faithful laborers in the vineyard of the
Lord. There is not a child that you allure into your Sabbath Schools, and
your Mission Schools, that is not fearfully and wonderfully made; and
whose marvellous powers you are doing much to render to their possessor a
blessing, instead of a curse. When Sir Humphrey Davy, in answer to an
inquiry that had been made of him respecting the number and series of his
discoveries in chemistry, had gone through with the list, he added: "But
the greatest of my discoveries is Michael Faraday." This Michael Faraday
was a poor boy employed in the menial services of the laboratory where
Davy made those wonderful discoveries by which he revolutionized the
science of chemistry, and whose chemical genius he detected, elicited,
and encouraged, until he finally took the place of his teacher and
patron, and acquired a name that is now one of the influences of England.
Well might he say: "My greatest discovery was when I detected the
wonderful powers of Michael Faraday." And never will you make a greater
and more beneficent discovery, than when, under the thick scurf of
pauperism and vice, you detect the human soul that is fearfully and
wonderfully made; than when you elicit its powers of self-consciousness
and of memory, and, instrumentally, dedicate them to the service of
Christ and the Church.

2. In the second place, we see from the subject, that _thoughtlessness in
sin will never excuse sin_. There are degrees in sin. A deliberate,
self-conscious act of sin is the most intense form of moral evil. When a
man has an active conscience; when he distinctly thinks over the nature of
the transgression which he is tempted to commit; when he sees clearly
that it is a direct violation of a command of God which he is about to
engage in; when he says, "I know that this is positively forbidden
by my Maker and Judge, but I _will do it_,"--we have an instance of the
most heaven-daring sin. This is deliberate and wilful transgression. The
servant knows his lord's will and does it not, and he shall be beaten
with "many stripes," says Christ.

But, such sin as this is not the usual form. Most of human transgressions
are not accompanied with such a distinct apprehension, and such a
deliberate determination. The sin of ignorance and thoughtlessness is the
species which is most common. Men, generally, do not first think of what
they are about to do, and then proceed to do it; but they first proceed
to do it, and then think nothing at all about it. But, thoughtlessness
will not excuse sin; though, it is a somewhat less extreme form of it,
than deliberate transgression. Under the Levitical law, the sin of
ignorance, as it was called, was to be expiated by a somewhat different
sacrifice from that offered for the wilful and deliberate sin; but it
must be expiated. A victim must be offered for it. It was guilt before
God, and needed atonement. Our Lord, in His prayer for His murderers,
said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." The act of
crucifying the Lord of glory was certainly a sin, and one of an awful
nature. But the authors of it were not fully aware of its import. They
did not understand the dreadful significance of the crucifixion of the
Son of God, as we now understand it, in the light of eighteen centuries.
Our Lord alludes to this, as a species of mitigation; while yet He
teaches, by the very prayer which He puts up for them, that this
ignorance did not excuse His murderers. He asks that they may be
_forgiven_. But where there is absolutely no sin there is no need of
forgiveness. It is one of our Lord's assertions, that it will be more
tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment, than it will be
for those inhabitants of Palestine who would not hear the words of His
apostles,--because the sin of the former was less deliberate and wilful
than that of the latter. But He would not have us infer from this, that
Sodom and Gomorrah are not to be punished for sin. And, finally, He sums
up the whole doctrine upon this point, in the declaration, that "he who
knew his master's will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes;
but he who knew not his master's will and did it not shall be beaten with
few stripes." The sin of thoughtlessness shall be beaten with fewer
stripes than the sin of deliberation,--but it shall be _beaten_, and
therefore it is _sin_.

The almost universal indifference and thoughtlessness with which men live
on in a worldly and selfish life, will not excuse them in the day of
accurate accounts. And the reason is, that they are capable of _thinking_
upon the law of God; of _thinking_ upon their duties; of _thinking_ upon
their sins. They possess the wonderful faculties of self-inspection and
memory, and therefore they are capable of bringing their actions into
light. It is the command of God to every man, and to every rational
spirit everywhere, to walk in the light, and to be a child of the light.
We ought to examine ourselves; to understand our ruling motives and
abiding purposes; to scrutinize our feelings and conduct. But if we do
little or nothing of this, we must not expect that in the day of judgment
we can plead our thoughtless ignorance of what we were, and what we did,
here upon earth, as an excuse for our disobedience. God expects, and
demands, that every one of His rational creatures should be all that he
is capable of being. He gave man wonderful faculties and endowments,--ten
talents, five talents, two talents,--and He will require the whole
original sum given, together with a faithful use and improvement of it.
The very thoughtlessness then, particularly under the Gospel
dispensation,--the very neglect and non-use of the power of
self-inspection,--will go in to constitute a part of the sin that will be
punished. Instead of being an excuse, it will be an element of the
condemnation itself.

3. In the third place, even the sinner himself _ought to rejoice in the
fact that God is the Searcher of the heart_. It is instinctive and
natural, that a transgressor should attempt to conceal his character
from his Maker; but next to his sin itself, it would be the greatest
injury that he could do to himself, should he succeed in his attempt.
Even after the commission of sin, there is every reason for desiring that
God should compass our path and lying down, and be acquainted with all
our ways. For, He is the only being who can forgive sin; the only one who
can renew and sanctify the heart. There is the same motive for having the
disease of the soul understood by God, that there is for having the
disease of the body examined by a skilful physician. Nothing is gained,
but every thing is lost, by ignorance.

The sinner, therefore, has the strongest of motives for rejoicing in the
truth that God sees him. It ought not to be an unwelcome fact even to
him. For how can his sin be pardoned, unless it is clearly understood by
the pardoning power? How can his soul be purified from its inward
corruption, unless it is searched by the Spirit of all holiness?

Instead, therefore, of being repelled by such a solemn truth as that
which we have been discussing, even the natural man should be allured by
it. For it teaches him that there is help for him in God. His own
knowledge of his own heart, as we have seen, is very imperfect and very
inadequate. But the Divine knowledge is thoroughly adequate. He may,
therefore, devolve his case with confidence upon the unerring One. Let
him take words upon his lips, and cry unto Him: "Search me, O God, and
try me; and see what evil ways there are in me, and lead me in the way
everlasting." Let him endeavor to come into possession of the Divine
knowledge. There is no presumption in this. God desires that he should
know himself as He knows him; that he should get possession of His views
upon this point; that he should see himself as He sees him. One of the
principal sins which God has to charge upon the sinner is, that his
apprehensions respecting his own character are in conflict with the
Divine. Nothing would more certainly meet the approbation of God, than a
renunciation of human estimates of human nature, and the adoption of
those contained in the inspired word. Endeavor, therefore, to obtain the
very same knowledge of your heart which God Himself possesses. And in
this endeavor, He will assist you. The influences of the Holy Spirit to
enlighten are most positively promised and proffered. Therefore be not
repelled by the truth; but be drawn by it to a deeper, truer knowledge of
your heart. Lift up your soul in prayer, and beseech God to impart to you
a profound knowledge of yourself, and then to sprinkle all your
discovered guilt, and all your undiscovered guilt, with atoning blood.
This is _salvation_; first to know yourself, and then to know Christ as
your Prophet, Priest, and King.

[Footnote 1: PENSÉES: Grandeur de l'homme, 6. Ed. Wetstein.]

[Footnote 2: CHAPMAN: Byron's Conspiracy.]


PSALM cxxxix. 1--6.--"O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou
knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising; thou understandest my thought
afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted
with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O Lord,
thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and
laid thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is
high, I cannot attain unto it."

In the preceding discourse upon this text, we directed attention to the
fact that man is possessed of the power of self-knowledge, and that he
cannot ultimately escape from using it. He cannot forever flee from his
own presence; he cannot, through all eternity, go away from his own
spirit. If he take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost
parts of the earth, he must, sooner or later, know himself, and acquit or
condemn himself.

Our attention was then directed to the fact, that God's knowledge of man
is certainly equal to man's knowledge of himself. No man knows more of
his own heart than the Searcher of hearts knows. Up to this point,
certainly, the truth of the text is incontrovertible. God knows all that
man knows.

II. We come now to the second position: That _God accurately and
exhaustively knows all that man might, but does not, know of himself_.

Although the Creator designed that every man should thoroughly understand
his own heart, and gave him the power of self-inspection that he might
use it faithfully, and apply it constantly, yet man is extremely ignorant
of himself. Mankind, says an old writer, are nowhere less at home, than
at home. Very few persons practise serious self-examination at all; and
none employ the power of self-inspection with that carefulness and
sedulity with which they ought. Hence men generally, and unrenewed men
always, are unacquainted with much that goes on within their own minds
and hearts. Though it is sin and self-will, though it is thought and
feeling and purpose and desire, that is going on and taking place during
all these years of religious indifference, yet the agent himself, so far
as a sober reflection upon the moral character of the process, and a
distinct perception of the dreadful issue of it, are concerned, is much
of the time as destitute of self-knowledge as an irrational brute itself.
For, were sinful men constantly self-examining, they would be constantly
in torment. Men can be happy in sin, only so long as they can sin without
thinking of it. The instant they begin to perceive and understand _what_
they are doing, they begin to feel the fang of the worm. If the frivolous
wicked world, which now takes so much pleasure in its wickedness, could
be forced to do here what it will be forced to do hereafter, namely, to
_eye_ its sin while it commits it, to _think_ of what it is doing while
it does it, the billows of the lake of fire would roll in upon time, and
from gay Paris and luxurious Vienna there would instantaneously ascend
the wailing cry of Pandemonium.

But it is not so at present. Men here upon earth are continually thinking
sinful thoughts and cherishing sinful feelings, and yet they are not
continually in hell. On the contrary, "they are not in trouble as other
men are, neither are they plagued like other men. Their eyes stand out
with fatness; they have more than heart could wish." This proves that
they are self-ignorant; that they know neither their sin nor its bitter
end. They sin without the _consciousness_ of sin, and hence are happy in
it. Is it not so in our own personal experience? Have there not been in the
past ten years of our own mental history long trains of thought,--sinful
thought,--and vast processions of feelings and imaginings,--sinful
feelings and imaginings,--that have trailed over the spaces of the soul,
but which have been as unwatched and unseen by the self-inspecting eye of
conscience, as the caravans of the African desert have been, during the
same period, by the eye of our sense? We have not felt a pang of guilt
every single time that we have thought a wrong thought; yet we should
have felt one inevitably, had we _scrutinized_ every such single thought.
Our face has not flushed with crimson in every particular instance in
which we have exercised a lustful emotion; yet it would have done so had
we carefully _noted_ every such emotion. A distinct self-knowledge has by
no means run parallel with all our sinful activity; has by no means been
co-extensive with it. We perform vastly more than we inspect. We have
sinned vastly more than we have been aware of at the time.

Even the Christian, in whom this unreflecting species of life and conduct
has given way, somewhat, to a thoughtful and vigilant life, knows and
acknowledges that perfection is not yet come. As he casts his eye over
even his regenerate and illuminated life, and sees what a small amount of
sin has been distinctly detected, keenly felt, and heartily confessed, in
comparison with that large amount of sin which he knows he must have
committed, during this long period of incessant action of mind, heart,
and limbs, he finds no repose for his misgivings with respect to the
filial examination and account, except by enveloping himself yet more
entirely in the ample folds of his Redeemer's righteousness; except by
hiding himself yet more profoundly in the cleft of that Rock of Ages
which protects the chief of sinners from the unsufferable splendors and
terrors of the Divine glory and holiness as it passes by. Even the
Christian knows that he must have committed many sins in thoughtless
moments and hours,--many sins of which he was not deliberately thinking
at the time of their commission,--and must pray with David, "Cleanse thou
me from secret faults." The functions and operations of memory evince
that such is the case. Are we not sometimes, in our serious hours when
memory is busy, convinced of sins which, at the time of their commission,
were wholly unaccompanied with a sense of their sinfulness? The act in
this instance was performed blindly, without self-inspection, and
therefore without self-conviction. Ten years, we will say, have
intervened,--years of new activity, and immensely varied experiences. And
now the magic power of recollection sets us back, once more, at that
point of responsible action, and bids do what we did not do at the
time,--analyze our performance and feel consciously guilty, experience the
first sensation of remorse, for what we did ten years ago. Have we not,
sometimes, been vividly reminded that upon such an occasion, and at such
a time, we were angry, or proud, but at the time when the emotion was
swelling our veins were not filled with, that clear and painful sense of
its turpitude which now attends the recollection of it? The re-exhibition
of an action in memory, as in a mirror, is often accompanied with a
distinct apprehension of its moral character that formed no part of the
experience of the agent while absorbed in the hot and hasty original
action itself. And when we remember how immense are the stores of memory,
and what an amount of sin has been committed in hours of thoughtlessness
and moral indifference, what prayer is more natural and warm than the
supplication: "Search me O God, and try me, and see what evil ways there
are within me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

But the careless, unenlightened man, as we have before remarked, leads a
life almost entirely destitute of self-inspection, and self-knowledge. He
sins constantly. He does only evil, and that continually, as did man
before the deluge. For he is constantly acting. A living self-moving
soul, like his, cannot cease action if it would. And yet the current is
all one way. Day after day sends up its clouds of sensual, worldly,
selfish thoughts. Week after week pours onward its stream of low-born,
corrupt, unspiritual feelings. Year after year accumulates that hardening
mass of carnal-mindedness, and distaste for religion, which is sometimes
a more insuperable obstacle to the truth, than positive faults and vices
which startle and shock the conscience. And yet the man _thinks_ nothing
about all this action of his mind and heart. He does not subject it to
any self-inspection. If he should, for but a single hour, be lifted up to
the eminence from which all this current of self-will, and moral agency,
may be seen and surveyed in its real character and significance, he would
start back as if brought to the brink of hell. But he is not thus lifted
up. He continues to use and abuse his mental and his moral faculties,
but, for most of his probation, with all the blindness and heedlessness
of a mere animal instinct.

There is, then, a vast amount of sin committed without self-inspection;
and, consequently, without any distinct perception, at the time, that it
is sin. The Christian will find himself feeling guilty, for the first
time, for a transgression that occurred far back in the past, and will
need a fresh application of atoning blood. The sinner will find, at some
period or other, that remorse is fastening its tooth in his conscience
for a vast amount of sinful thought, feeling, desire, and motive, that
took origin in the unembarrassed days of religious thoughtlessness and
worldly enjoyment.

For, think you that the insensible sinner is always to be thus
insensible,--that this power of self-inspection is eternally to "rust
unused?" What a tremendous revelation will one day be made to an
unreflecting transgressor, simply because he is a man and not a brute,
has lived a human life, and is endowed with the power of self-knowledge,
whether he has used it or not! What a terrific vision it will be for him,
when the limitless line of his sins which he has not yet distinctly
examined, and thought of, and repented of, shall be made to pass in slow
procession before that inward eye which he has wickedly kept shut so
long! Tell us not of the disclosures that shall be made when the sea
shall give up the dead that are in it, and the graves shall open and
surrender their dead; what are these material disclosures, when compared
with the revelations of self-knowledge! What is all this external
display, sombre and terrible as it will be to the outward eye, when
compared with all that internal revealing that will be made to a hitherto
thoughtless soul, when, of a sudden, in the day of judgment, its deepest
caverns shall heave in unison with the material convulsions of the day,
and shall send forth to judgment their long slumbering, and hidden
iniquity; when the sepulchres of its own memory shall burst open, and
give up the sin that has long lain buried there, in needless and guilty
forgetfulness, awaiting this second resurrection!

For (to come back to the unfolding of the subject, and the movement of
the argument), God perfectly knows all that man might, but does not, know
of himself. Though the transgressor is ignorant of much of his sin,
because at the time of its commission he sins blindly as well as
wilfully, and unreflectingly as well as freely; and though the
transgressor has forgotten much of that small amount of sin of which he
was conscious, and by which he was pained, at the time of its
perpetration; though on the side of man the powers of self-inspection and
memory have accomplished so little towards the preservation of man's sin,
yet God knows it all, and remembers it all. He compasseth man's path, and
his lying-down, and is acquainted with all his ways. "There is nothing
covered, therefore, that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall
not be known. Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the
light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be
proclaimed upon the house-tops." The Creator of the human mind has
control over its powers of self-inspection, and of memory; and when the
proper time comes He will compel these endowments to perform their
legitimate functions, and do their appointed work. The torturing
self-survey will begin, never more to end. The awful recollection will
commence, endlessly to go on.

One principal reason why the Biblical representations of human sinfulness
exert so little influence over men, and, generally speaking, seem to them
to be greatly exaggerated and untrue, lies in the fact that the Divine
knowledge of human character is in advance of the human knowledge. God's
consciousness and cognition upon this subject is exhaustive; while man's
self-knowledge is superficial and shallow. The two forms of knowledge,
consequently, when placed side by side, do not agree, but conflict. There
would be less difficulty, and less contradiction, if mankind generally
were possessed of even as much self-knowledge as the Christian is
possessed of. There would be no difficulty, and no contradiction, if the
knowledge of the judgment-day could be anticipated, and the
self-inspection of that occasion could commence here and now. But such is
not the fact. The Bible labors, therefore, under the difficulty of
possessing an advanced knowledge; the difficulty of being addressed to a
mind that is almost entirely unacquainted with the subject treated of.
The Word of God knows man exhaustively, as God knows him; and hence all
its descriptions of human character are founded upon such a knowledge.
But man, in his self-ignorance, does not perceive their awful truth. He
has not yet attained the internal correspondent to the Biblical
statement,--that apprehension of total depravity, that knowledge of the
plague of the heart, which always and ever says "yea" to the most vivid
description of human sinfulness, and "amen" to God's heaviest malediction
upon it. Nothing deprives the Word of its nerve and influence, more than
this general lack of self-inspection and self-knowledge. For, only that
which is perceived to be _true_ exerts an influence upon the human mind.
The doctrine of human sinfulness is preached to men, year after year, to
whom it does not come home with the demonstration of the Spirit and with
power, because the sinfulness which is really within them is as yet
unknown, and because not one of a thousand of their transgressions has
ever been scanned in the light of self-examination. But is the Bible
untrue, because the man is ignorant? Is the sun black, because the eye is

However ignorant man may be, and may desire and strive to be, of himself,
God knows him altogether, and knows that the representations of His word,
respecting the character and necessities of human nature, are the
unexaggerated, sober, and actual fact. Though most of the sinner's life
of alienation from God, and of disobedience, has been a blind and a
reckless agency, unaccompanied with self-scrutiny, and to a great extent
passed from his memory, yet it has all of it been looked at, as it
welled, up from the living centres of free agency and responsibility, by
the calm and dreadful eye of retributive Justice, and has all of it been
indelibly written down in the book of God's sure memory, with a pen of
iron, and the point of a diamond.

And here, let us for a moment look upon the bright, as well as the dark
side of this subject. For if God's exhaustive knowledge of the human
heart waken dread in one of its aspects, it starts infinite hope in
another. If that Being has gone down into these depths of human
depravity, and seen it with a more abhorring glance than could ever shoot
from a finite eye, and yet has returned with a cordial offer to forgive
it all, and a hearty proffer to cleanse it all away, then we can lift up
the eye in adoration and in hope. There has been an infinite forbearance
and condescension. The worst has been seen, and that too by the holiest
of Beings, and yet eternal glory is offered to us! God knows, from
personal examination, the worthlessness of human character, with a
thoroughness and intensity of knowledge of which man has no conception;
and yet, in the light of this knowledge, in the very flame of this
intuition, He has devised a plan of mercy and redemption. Do not think,
then, because of your present ignorance of your guilt and corruption,
that the incarnation and death of the Son of God was unnecessary, and
that that costly blood of atonement which you are treading under foot wet
the rocks of Calvary for a peccadillo. Could you, but for a moment only,
know yourself _altogether_ and _exhaustively_, as the Author of this
Redemption knows you, you would cry out, in the words of a far holier man
than you are, "I am undone." If you could but see guilt as God sees it,
you would also see with Him that nothing but an infinite Passion can
expiate it. If you could but fathom the human heart as God fathoms it,
you would know as He knows, that nothing less than regeneration can
purify its fountains of uncleanness, and cleanse it from its ingrain

Thus have we seen that God knows man altogether,--that He knows all that
man knows of himself, and all that man might but does not yet know of
himself. The Searcher of hearts knows all the thoughts that we have
thought upon, all the reflections that we have reflected upon, all the
experience that we have ourselves analyzed and inspected. And He also
knows that far larger part of our life which we have not yet subjected to
the scrutiny of self-examination,--all those thoughts, feelings, desires,
and motives, innumerable as they are, of which we took no heed at the
time of their origin and existence, and which we suppose, perhaps, we
shall hear no more of again. Whither then shall we go from God's spirit?
or whither shall we flee from His presence and His knowledge? If we
ascend up into heaven, He is there, and knows us perfectly. If we make
our bed in hell, behold He is there, and reads the secret thoughts and
feelings of our heart. The darkness hideth not from Him; our ignorance
does not affect His knowledge; the night shineth as the day; the darkness
and the light are both alike to Him.

This great truth which we have been considering obtains a yet more
serious emphasis, and a yet more solemn power over the mind, when we take
into view the _character_ of the Being who thus searches our hearts, and
is acquainted with all our ways. Who of us would not be filled with
uneasiness, if he knew that an imperfect fellow-creature were looking
constantly into his soul? Would not the flush of shame often burn upon
our cheek, if we knew that a sinful man like ourselves were watching all
the feelings and thoughts that are rising within us? Should we not be
more circumspect than we are, if men were able mutually to search each
other's hearts? How often does a man change his course of conduct, when
he discovers, accidentally, that his neighbor knows what he is doing.

But it is not an imperfect fellow-man, it is not a perfect angel, who
besets us behind and before, and is acquainted with, all our ways. It is
the immaculate God himself. It is He before whom archangels veil their
faces, and the burning seraphim cry, "Holy." It is He, in whose sight the
pure cerulean heavens are not clean, and whose eyes are a flame of fire
devouring all iniquity. We are beheld, in all this process of sin, be it
blind or be it intelligent, by infinite Purity. We are not, therefore, to
suppose that God contemplates this our life of sin with the dull
indifference of an Epicurean deity; that He looks into our souls, all
this while, from mere curiosity, and with no moral _emotion_ towards
us. The God who knows us altogether is the Holy One of Israel, whose
wrath is both real, and revealed, against all unrighteousness.

If, therefore, we connect the holy nature and pure essence of God with
all this unceasing and unerring inspection of the human soul, does not
the truth which, we have been considering speak with a bolder emphasis,
and acquire an additional power to impress and solemnize the mind? When
we realize that the Being who is watching us at every instant, and in
every act and element of our existence, is the very same Being who
revealed himself amidst the lightenings of Sinai as _hating_ sin and
not clearing the thoughtless guilty, do not our prospects at the bar of
justice look dark and fearful? For, who of the race of man is holy enough
to stand such an inspection? Who of the sons of men will prove pure in
such a furnace?

Are we not, then, brought by this truth close up to the central doctrine
of Christianity, and made to see our need of the atonement and
righteousness of the Redeemer? How can we endure such a scrutiny as God
is instituting into our character and conduct? What can we say, in the
day of reckoning, when the Searcher of hearts shall make known, to us all
that He knows of us? What can we do, in that day which shall reveal the
thoughts and the estimates of the Holy One respecting us?

It is perfectly plain, from the elevated central point of view where we
now stand, and in the focal light in which we now see, that no man can be
justified before God upon the ground of personal character; for that
character, when subjected to God's exhaustive scrutiny, withers and
shrinks away. A man may possibly be just before his neighbor, or his
friend, or society, or human laws, but he is miserably self-deceived who
supposes that his heart will appear righteous under such a scrutiny and
in such a Presence as we have been considering.[1] However it may be
before other tribunals, the apostle is correct when he asserts that
"every mouth, must be stopped, and the whole world plead guilty before
God." Before the Searcher of hearts, all mankind must appeal to mere and
sovereign mercy. Justice, in this reference, is out of the question.

Now, in this condition of things, God so loved the world that He gave His
only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but
have everlasting life. The Divine mercy has been manifested in a mode
that does not permit even the guiltiest to doubt its reality, its
sufficiency, or its sincerity. The argument is this. "If when, we were
yet sinners," _and known to be such, in the perfect and exhaustive manner
that has been described,_ "Christ died for us, much more, being now
justified by His blood, shall we be saved from Wrath through Him."
Appropriating this atonement which the Searcher of hearts has Himself
provided for this very exigency, and which He knows to be thoroughly
adequate, no man, however guilty, need fear the most complete disclosures
which the Divine Omniscience will have to make of human character in the
day of doom. If the guilt is "infinite upon infinite," so is the
sacrifice of the God-man. Who is he that condemmeth? it is the Son of God
that died for sin. Who shall lay anything to God's elect? it is God that
justifieth. And as God shall, in the last day, summon up from the deep
places of our souls all of our sins, and bring us to a strict account for
everything, even to the idle words that we have spoken, we can look Him
full in the eye, without a thought of fear, and with love unutterable, if
we are really relying upon the atoning sacrifice of Christ for
justification. Even in that awful Presence, and under that Omniscient
scrutiny, "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."

The great lesson, then, taught by the text and its unfolding, is _the
importance of attaining self-knowledge here upon earth, and while there
remaineth a sacrifice for sins_. The duty and wisdom of every man is, to
anticipate the revelations of the judgment day; to find out the sin of
his soul, while it is an accepted time and a day of salvation. For we
have seen that this self-inspection cannot ultimately be escaped. Man was
made to know himself, and he must sooner or later come to it.
Self-knowledge is as certain, in the end, as death. The utmost that can
be done, is to postpone it for a few days, or years. The article of death
and the exchange of worlds will pour it all in, like a deluge, upon every
man, whether he will or not. And he who does not wake up to a knowledge
of his heart, until he enters eternity, wakes up not to pardon but to

The simple question, then, which, meets us is: Wilt thou know thyself
_here_ and _now_, that thou mayest accept and feel God's pity in Christ's
blood, or wilt thou keep within the screen, and not know thyself until
beyond the grave, and then feel God's judicial wrath? The self-knowledge,
remember, must come in the one way or the other. It is a simple question
of time; a simple question whether it shall come here in this world,
where the blood of Christ "freely flows," or in the future world, where
"there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin." Turn the matter as we will,
this is the sum and substance,--a sinful man must either come to a
thorough self-knowledge, with a hearty repentance and a joyful pardon, in
this life; or he must come to a thorough, self-knowledge, with a total
despair and an eternal damnation, in the other. God is not mocked. God's
great pity in the blood of Christ must not be trifled with. He who
refuses, or neglects, to institute that self-examination which leads to
the sense of sin, and the felt need of Christ's work, by this very fact
proves that he does not desire to know his own heart, and that he has no
wish to repent of sin. But he who will not even look at his sin,--what
does not he deserve from that Being who poured out His own blood for it?
He who refuses even to open his eyes upon that bleeding Lamb of
God,--what must not he expect from the Lion of the tribe of Judah, in the
day of judgment? He who by a life of apathy, and indifference to sin,
puts himself out of all relations to the Divine pity,--what must he
experience in eternity, but the operations of stark, unmitigated law?

Find out your sin, then. God will forgive all that is found. Though your
sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. The great God
delights to forgive, and is waiting to forgive. But, _sin must be seen by
the sinner, before it can be pardoned by the Judge_. If you refuse at
this point; if you hide yourself from yourself; if you preclude all
feeling and conviction upon the subject of sin, by remaining ignorant of
it; if you continue to live an easy, thoughtless life in sin, then you
_cannot_ be forgiven, and the measure of God's love with which He would
have blessed you, had you searched yourself and repented, will be the
measure of God's righteous wrath with which He will search you, and
condemn you, because you have not.

[Footnote 1: "It is easy,"--says one of the keenest and most incisive of
theologians,--"for any one in the cloisters of the schools to indulge
himself in idle speculations on the merit of works to justify men; but
when he comes _into the presence of God_, he must bid farewell to these
amusements, for there the business is transacted with seriousness. To
this point must our attention be directed, if we wish to make any useful
inquiry concerning true righteousness: How we can answer the _celestial
Judge_ when He shall call us to an account? Let us place that Judge
before our eyes, not according to the inadequate imaginations of our
minds, but according to the descriptions given of him in the Scriptures,
which represent him as one whose refulgence eclipses the stars, whose
purity makes all things appear polluted, and who searches the inmost soul
of his creatures,--let us so conceive of the Judge of all the earth, and
every one must present himself as a criminal before Him, and voluntarily
prostrate and humble himself in deep solicitude concerning; his
absolution." CALVIN: Institutes, iii. 12.]


ROMANS i. 24.--"When they knew God, they glorified him not as God."

The idea of God is the most important and comprehensive of all the ideas
of which the human mind is possessed. It is the foundation of religion;
of all right doctrine, and all right conduct. A correct intuition of it
leads to correct religious theories and practice; while any erroneous or
defective view of the Supreme Being will pervade the whole province of
religion, and exert a most pernicious influence upon the entire character
and conduct of men.

In proof of this, we have only to turn to the opening chapters of St.
Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Here we find a profound and accurate
account of the process by which human nature becomes corrupt, and runs
its downward career of unbelief, vice, and sensuality. The apostle traces
back the horrible depravity of the heathen world, which he depicts with a
pen as sharp as that of Juvenal, but with none of Juvenal's bitterness
and vitriolic sarcasm, to a distorted and false conception of the being
and attributes of God. He does not, for an instant, concede that this
distorted and false conception is founded in the original structure and
constitution of the human soul, and that this moral ignorance is
necessary and inevitable. This mutilated idea of the Supreme Being was
not inlaid in the rational creature on the morning of creation, when God
said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." On the
contrary, the apostle affirms that the Creator originally gave all
mankind, in the moral constitution of a rational soul and in the works of
creation and providence, the media to a correct idea of Himself, and
asserts, by implication, that if they had always employed these media
they would have always possessed this idea. "The wrath of God," he says,
"is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of
men who hold the truth in unrighteousness; _because_ that which may be
known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them. _For_
the invisible things of him, even his eternal power and Godhead, are
clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the
things that are made, so that they are without excuse; _because_ that
when they _knew_ God, they glorified him not as God" (Rom. i. 18-21).
From this, it appears that the mind of man has not kept what was
committed to its charge. It has not employed the moral instrumentalities,
nor elicited the moral ideas, with which it has been furnished. And,
notice that the apostle does not confine this statement to those who live
within the pale of Revelation. His description is unlimited and
universal. The affirmation of the text, that "when man knew God he
glorified him not as God," applies to the Gentile as well as to the Jew.
Nay, the primary reference of these statements was to the pagan world. It
was respecting the millions of idolaters in cultivated Greece and Rome,
and the millions of idolaters in barbarous India and China,--it was
respecting the whole world lying in wickedness, that St. Paul remarked:
"The invisible things of God, even his eternal power and Godhead, are
clearly seen from the creation of the world down to the present moment,
being understood by the things that are made; _so that they are without

When Napoleon was returning from his campaign in Egypt and Syria, he was
seated one night upon the deck of the vessel, under the open canopy of
the heavens, surrounded by his captains and generals. The conversation
had taken a skeptical direction, and most of the party had combated the
doctrine of the Divine existence. Napoleon had sat silent and musing,
apparently taking no interest in the discussion, when suddenly raising
his hand, and pointing at the crystalline firmament crowded with its
mildly shining planets and its keen glittering stars, he broke out, in
those startling tones that so often electrified a million of men:
"Gentlemen, who made all that?" The eternal power and Godhead of the
Creator are impressed by the things that are made, and these words of
Napoleon to his atheistic captains silenced them. And the same impression
is made the world over. Go to-day into the heart of Africa, or into the
centre of New Holland; select the most imbruted pagan that can be found;
take him out under a clear star-lit heaven and ask him who made all that,
and the idea of a Superior Being,--superior to all his fetishes and
idols,--possessing eternal power and supremacy ([Greek: theotaes])
immediately emerges in his consciousness. The instant the missionary
takes this lustful idolater away from the circle of his idols, and brings
him face to face with the heavens and the earth, as Napoleon brought his
captains, the constitutional idea dawns again, and the pagan trembles
before the unseen Power.[1]

But it will be objected that it is a very dim, and inadequate idea of the
Deity that thus rises in the pagan's mind, and that therefore the
apostle's affirmation that he is "without excuse" for being an idolater
and a sensualist requires some qualification. This imbruted creature,
says the objector, does not possess the metaphysical conception of God as
a Spirit, and of all his various attributes and qualities, like the
dweller in Christendom. How then can he be brought in guilty before the
same eternal bar, and be condemned to the same eternal punishment, with
the nominal Christian? The answer is plain, and decisive, and derivable
out of the apostle's own statements. In order to establish the guiltiness
of a rational creature before the bar of justice, it is not necessary to
show that he has lived in the seventh heavens, and under a blaze of moral
intelligence like that of the archangel Gabriel. It is only necessary to
show that he has enjoyed _some_ degree of moral light, and that he _has
not lived up to it_. Any creature who knows more than he practises is a
guilty creature. If the light in the pagan's intellect concerning God and
the moral law, small though it be, is yet actually in advance of the
inclination and affections of his heart and the actions of his life, he
deserves to be punished, like any and every other creature, under the
Divine government, of whom the same thing is true. Grades of knowledge
vary indefinitely. No two men upon the planet, no two men in Christendom,
possess precisely the same degree of moral intelligence. There are men
walking the streets of this city to-day, under the full light of the
Christian revelation, whose notions respecting God and law are
exceedingly dim and inadequate; and there are others whose views are
clear and correct in a high degree. But there is not a person in this
city, young or old, rich or poor, ignorant or cultivated, in the purlieus
of vice or the saloons of wealth, whose knowledge of God is not in
advance of his own character and conduct. Every man, whatever be the
grade of his intelligence, knows more than he puts in practice. Ask the
young thief, in the subterranean haunts of vice and crime, if he does not
know that it is wicked to steal, and if he renders an honest answer, it
is in the affirmative. Ask the most besotted soul, immersed and
petrified in sensuality, if his course of life upon earth has been in
accordance with his own knowledge and conviction of what is right, and
required by his Maker, and he will answer No, if he answers truly. The
grade of knowledge in the Christian land is almost infinitely various;
but in every instance the amount of knowledge is greater than the amount
of virtue. Whether he knows little or much, the man knows more than he
performs; and _therefore_ his mouth must be stopped in the judgment, and
he must plead guilty before God. He will not be condemned for not
possessing that ethereal vision of God possessed by the seraphim; but he
will be condemned because his perception of the holiness and the holy
requirements of God was sufficient, at any moment, to rebuke his
disregard of them; because when he knew God in some degree, he glorified
him not as God up to that degree.

And this principle will be applied to the pagan world. It is so applied
by the apostle Paul. He himself concedes that the Gentile has not enjoyed
all the advantages of the Jew, and argues that the ungodly Jew will be
visited with a more severe punishment than the ungodly Gentile. But he
expressly affirms that the pagan is _under law_, and _knows_ that he is;
that he shows the work of the law that is written on the heart, in the
operations of an accusing and condemning conscience. But the knowledge of
law involves the knowledge of _God_ in an equal degree. Who can feel
himself amenable to a moral law, without at the same time thinking of its
Author? The law and the Lawgiver are inseparable. The one is the mirror
and index of the other. If the eye opens dimly upon the commandment, it
opens dimly upon the Sovereign; if it perceives eternal right and law
with clear and celestial vision, it then looks directly into the face of
God. Law and God are correlative to each other; and just so far,
consequently, as the heathen understands the law that is written on the
heart does he apprehend the Being who sitteth upon the circle of the
heavens, and who impinges Himself upon the consciousness of men. This
being so, it is plain that we can confront the ungodly pagan with the
same statements with which we confront the ungodly nominal Christian. We
can tell him with positiveness, wherever we find him, be it upon the
burning sands of Africa or in the frozen home of the Esquimaux, that he
knows more than he puts in practice. We will concede to him that the
quantum of his moral knowledge is very stinted and meagre; but in the
same breath we will remind him that small as it is, he has not lived up
to it; that he too has "come short"; that he too, knowing God in the
dimmest, faintest degree, has yet not glorified him as God in the
slightest, faintest manner. The Bible sends the ungodly and licentious
pagan to hell, upon the same principle that it sends the ungodly and
licentious nominal Christian. It is the principle enunciated by our Lord
Christ, the judge of quick and dead, when he says, "He who knew his
master's will [clearly], and did it not, shall be beaten with many
stripes; and he who knew not his master's will [clearly, but knew it
dimly,] and did it not, shall be beaten with few stripes." It is the
just principle enunciated by St. Paul, that "as many as have sinned
without [written] law shall also _perish_ without [written] law."[2] And
this is right and righteous; and let all the universe say, Amen.

The doctrine taught in the text, that no human creature, in any country
or grade of civilization, has ever glorified God to the extent of his
knowledge of God, is very fertile in solemn and startling inferences, to
some of which we now invite attention.

1. In the first place, it follows from this affirmation of the apostle
Paul, that _the entire heathen world is in a state of condemnation and
perdition_. He himself draws this inference, in saying that in the
judgment "_every_ mouth must be stopped, and the _whole_ world become
guilty before God."

The present and future condition of the heathen world is a subject that
has always enlisted the interest of two very different classes of men.
The Church of God has pondered, and labored, and prayed over this
subject, and will continue to do so until the millennium. And the
disbeliever in Revelation has also turned his mind to the consideration
of this black mass of ignorance and misery, which welters upon the globe
like a chaotic ocean; these teeming millions of barbarians and savages
who render the aspect of the world so sad and so dark. The Church, we
need not say, have accepted the Biblical theory, and have traced the lost
condition of the pagan world, as the apostle Paul does, to their sin and
transgression. They have held that every pagan is a rational being, and
by virtue of this fact has known something of the moral law; and that to
the extent of the knowledge he has had, he is as guilty for the
transgression of law, and as really under its condemnation, as the
dweller under the light of revelation and civilization. They have
maintained that every human creature has enjoyed sufficient light, in the
workings of natural reason and conscience, and in the impressions that
are made by the glory and the terror of the natural world above and
around him, to render him guilty before the Everlasting Judge. For this
reason, the Church has denied that the pagan is an innocent creature, or
that he can stand in the judgment before the Searcher of hearts. For this
reason, the Church has believed the declaration of the apostle John, that
"the _whole_ world lieth in wickedness" (1 John v. 19), and has
endeavored to obey the command of Him who came to redeem pagans as much
as nominal Christians, to go and preach the gospel to _every_ creature,
because every creature is a lost creature.

But the disbeliever in Revelation adopts the theory of human innocency,
and looks upon all the wretchedness and ignorance of paganism, as he
looks upon suffering, decay, and death, in the vegetable and animal
worlds. Temporary evil is the necessary condition, he asserts, of all
finite existence; and as decay and death in the vegetable and animal
worlds only result in a more luxuriant vegetation, and an increased
multiplication of living creatures, so the evil and woe of the hundreds
of generations, and the millions of individuals, during the sixty
centuries that have elapsed since the origin of man, will all of it
minister to the ultimate and everlasting weal of the entire race. There
is no need therefore, he affirms, of endeavoring to save such feeble and
ignorant beings from judicial condemnation and eternal penalty. Such
finiteness and helplessness cannot be put into relations to such an awful
attribute as the eternal nemesis of God. Can it be,--he asks,--that the
millions upon millions that have been born, lived their brief hour,
enjoyed their little joys and suffered their sharp sorrows, and then
dropped into "the dark backward and abysm of time," have really been
_guilty_ creatures, and have gone down to an endless hell?

But what does all this reasoning and querying imply? Will the objector
really take the position and stand to it, that the pagan man is not a
rational and responsible creature? that he does not possess sufficient
knowledge of moral truth, to justify his being brought to the bar of
judgment? Will he say that the population that knew enough to build the
pyramids did not know enough to break the law of God? Will he affirm that
the civilization of Babylon and Nineveh, of Greece and Rome, did not
contain within it enough of moral intelligence to constitute a foundation
for rewards and punishments? Will he tell us that the people of Sodom and
Gomorrah stood upon the same plane with the brutes that perish, and the
trees of the field that rot and die, having no idea of God, knowing
nothing of the distinction between right and wrong, and never feeling the
pains of an accusing conscience? Will he maintain that the populations
of India, in the midst of whom one of the most subtile and ingenious
systems of pantheism has sprung up with the luxuriance and involutions of
one of their own jungles, and has enervated the whole religious sentiment
of the Hindoo race as opium has enervated their physical frame,--will he
maintain that such an untiring and persistent mental activity as this is
incapable of apprehending the first principles of ethics and natural
religion, which, in comparison with the complicated and obscure
ratiocinations of Boodhism, are clear as water, and lucid as atmospheric
air? In other connections, this theorist does not speak in this style. In
other connections, and for the purpose of exaggerating natural religion
and disparaging revealed, he enlarges upon the dignity of man, of every
man, and eulogizes the power of reason which so exalts him in the scale
of being. With Hamlet, he dilates in proud and swelling phrase: "What a
piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in
form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of
animals!" It is from that very class of theorizers who deny that the
heathen are in danger of eternal perdition, and who represent the whole
missionary enterprise as a work of supererogation, that we receive the
most extravagant accounts of the natural powers and gifts of man. Now if
these powers and gifts do belong to human nature by its constitution,
they certainly lay a foundation for responsibility; and all such
theorists must either be able to show that the pagan man has made a
right use of them, and has walked according to this large amount of truth
and reason with which, according to their own statement, he is endowed,
or else they consign him, as St. Paul does, to "the wrath of God which is
revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of _men
who hold the truth in unrighteousness_." If you assert that the pagan man
has had no talents at all committed to him, and can prove your assertion,
and will stand by it, you are consistent in denying that he can be
summoned to the bar of God, and be tried for eternal life or death. But
if you concede that he has had one talent, or two talents, committed to
his charge; and still more, if you exaggerate his gifts and endow him
with five or ten talents, then it is impossible for you to save him from
the judgment to come, except you can prove a _perfect_ administration and
use of the trust.[3]

2. In the second place, it follows from the doctrine of the text, that
_the degraded and brutalized population of large cities is in a state of
condemnation and perdition_.

There are heathen near our own doors whose religious condition is as sad,
and hopeless, as that of the heathen of Patagonia or New Zealand. The
vice and crime that nestles and riots in the large cities of Christendom
has become a common theme, and has lost much of its interest for the
worldly mind by losing its novelty. The manners and way of life of the
outcast population of London and Paris have been depicted by the
novelist, and wakened a momentary emotion in the readers of fiction. But
the reality is stern and dreadful, beyond imagination or conception.
There is in the cess-pools of the great capitals of Christendom a mass of
human creatures who are born, who live, and who die, in moral
putrefaction. Their existence is a continued career of sin and woe. Body
and soul, mind and heart, are given up to earth, to sense, to corruption.
They emerge for a brief season into the light of day, run their swift and
fiery career of sin, and then disappear. Dante, in that wonderful Vision
which embodies so much of true ethics and theology, represents the
wrathful and gloomy class as sinking down under the miry waters and
continuing to breathe in a convulsive, suffocating manner, sending up
bubbles to the surface, that mark the place where they are drawing out
their lingering existence.[4] Something like this, is the wretched life
of a vicious population. As we look in upon the fermenting mass, the only
signs of life that meet our view indicate that the life is feverish,
spasmodic, and suffocating. The bubbles rising to the dark and turbid
surface reveal that it is a life in death.

But this, too, is the result of sin. Take the atoms one by one that
constitute this mass of pollution and misery, and you will find that each
one of them is a self-moving and an unforced will. Not one of these
millions of individuals has been necessitated by Almighty God, or by any
of God's arrangements, to do wrong. Each one of them is a moral agent,
equally with you and me. Each one of them is _self_-willed and
_self_-determined in sin. He does not _like_ to retain religious truth in
his mind, or to obey it in his heart. Go into the lowest haunt of vice and
select out the most imbruted person there; bring to his remembrance that
class of truths with which he is already acquainted by virtue of his
rational nature, and add to them that other class of truths taught in
Revelation, and you will find that he is predetermined against them. He
takes sides, with all the depth and intensity of his being, with that
sinfulness which is common to man, and which it is the aim of both ethics
and the gospel to remove. This vicious and imbruted man _loves_ the sin
which is forbidden, more than he loves the holiness that is commanded. He
_inclines_ to the sin which so easily besets him, precisely as you and I
incline to the bosom-sin which so easily besets us. We grant that the
temptations that assail him are very powerful; but are not some of the
temptations that beset you and me very powerful? We grant that this
wretched slave of vice and pollution cannot break off his sins by
righteousness, without the renewing and assisting grace of God; but
neither can you or I. It is the action of _his own_ will that has made
him a slave. He loves his chains and his bondage, even as you and I
naturally love ours; and this proves that his moral corruption, though
assuming an outwardly more repulsive form than ours, is yet the same
thing in principle. It is the rooted aversion of the human heart, the
utter disinclination of the human will, towards the purity and holiness
of God; it is "the carnal mind which is enmity against God; for it is not
subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. viii. 7).

But there is no more convincing proof of the position, that the degraded
creature of whom we are speaking is a self-deciding and unforced sinner,
than the fact that he _resists_ efforts to reclaim him. Ask these
faithful and benevolent missionaries who go down into these dens of vice
and pollution, to pour more light into the mind, and to induce these
outcasts to leave their drunkenness and their debauchery,--ask them if
they find that human nature is any different there from what it is
elsewhere, so far as _yielding_ to the claims of God and law is
concerned. Do they tell you that they are uniformly successful in
inducing these sinners to leave their sins? that they never find any
self-will, any determined opposition to the holy law of purity, any
preference of a life of licence with its woes here upon earth and
hereafter in hell, to a life of self-denial with its joys eternal? On the
contrary, they testify that the old maxim upon which so many millions of
the human family have acted: "Enjoy the present and jump the life to
come," is the rule for this mass of population, of whom so very few can
be persuaded to leave their cups and their orgies. Like the people of
Israel, when expostulated with by the prophet Jeremiah for their idolatry
and pollution, the majority of the degraded population of whom we are
speaking, when endeavors have been made to reclaim them, have said to the
philanthropist and the missionary: "There is no hope: no; for I have
loved strangers, and after them I will go" (Jer. ii. 25). There is not a
single individual of them all who does not love the sin that is
destroying him, more than he loves the holiness that would save him.
Notwithstanding all the horrible accompaniments of sin--the filth, the
disease, the poverty, the sickness, the pain of both body and mind,--the
wretched creature prefers to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,
rather than come out and separate himself from the unclean thing, and
begin that holy warfare and obedience to which his God and his Saviour
invite him. This, we repeat, proves that the sin is not forced upon this
creature. For if he hated his sin, nay if he felt weary and heavy laden
in the least degree because of it, he might leave it. There is a free
grace, and a proffered assistance of the Holy Ghost, of which he might
avail himself at any moment. Had he the feeling of the weary and penitent
prodigal, the same father's house is ever open for his return; and the
same father seeing him on his return, though still a great way off, would
run and fall upon his neck and kiss him. But the heart is hard, and the
spirit is utterly _selfish_, and the will is perverse and determined, and
therefore the natural knowledge of God and his law which this sinner
possesses by his very constitution, and the added knowledge which his
birth in a Christian land and the efforts of benevolent Christians have
imparted to him, are not strong enough to overcome his inclination, and
his preference, and induce him to break off his sins by righteousness.
To him, also, as well as to every sin-loving man, these solemn words will
be spoken in the day of final adjudication: "The wrath of God is revealed
from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness, of men who hold
down ([Greek: katechein]) the truth in unrighteousness; because that
which may be known of God is manifest _within_ them; for God hath shewed
it unto them. For the invisible things of him, even his eternal power and
Godhead, are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being
understood by the things that are made; so that they are without excuse,
because that when they knew God. they glorified him not as God."

3. In the third and last place, it follows from this doctrine of the
apostle Paul, as thus unfolded, that _that portion of the enlightened and
cultivated population of Christian lands who have not believed on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and repented of sin, are in the deepest state of
condemnation and perdition._

"Behold thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy
boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are
more excellent, being instructed out of the law, and art confident that
thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in
darkness: an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes: which hast
the form of knowledge, and of the truth, in the law: thou therefore that
teachest another teachest thou not thyself? thou that makest thy boast of
the law, through breaking the law dishonored thou God?"

If it be true that the pagan knows more of God and the moral law than he
has ever put in practice; if it be true that the imbruted child of vice
and pollution knows more of God and the moral law than he has ever put in
practice; how much more fearfully true is it that the dweller in a
Christian home, the visitant of the house of God, the possessor of the
written Word, the listener to prayer and oftentimes the subject of it,
possesses an amount of knowledge respecting his origin, his duty, and
his destiny, that infinitely outruns his character and his conduct. If
eternal punishment will come down upon those classes of mankind who know
but comparatively little, because they have been unfaithful in that which
is least, surely eternal punishment will come down upon that more favored
class who know comparatively much, because they have been unfaithful in
that which is much. "If these things are done in the green tree, what
shall be done in the dry?"

The great charge that will rest against the creature when he stands
before the final bar will be, that "when he knew God, he _glorified_ Him
not as God." And this will rest heaviest against those whose knowledge
was the clearest. It is a great prerogative to be able to know the
infinite and glorious Creator; but it brings with it a most solemn
responsibility. That blessed Being, of right, challenges the homage and
obedience of His creature. What he asks of the angel, that he asks of
man; that he should glorify God in his body and spirit which are His, and
should thereby enjoy God forever and forever. This is the condemnation,
under which man, and especially enlightened and cultivated man, rests,
that while he knows God he neither glorifies Him nor enjoys Him. Our
Redeemer saw this with all the clearness of the Divine Mind; and to
deliver the creature from the dreadful guilt, of his self-idolatry, of
his disposition to worship and love the creature more than the Creator,
He became incarnate, suffered and died. It cannot be a small crime, that
necessitated, such an apparatus of atonement and Divine influences as
that of Christ and His redemption. Estimate the guilt of coming short of
the glory of God, which is the same as the guilt of idolatry and
creature-worship, by the nature of the provision that has been made
to cancel it. If you do not actually feel that this crime is great, then
argue yourself towards a juster view, by the consideration that it cost
the blood of Christ to expiate it. If you do not actually feel that the
guilt is great, then argue yourself towards a juster view, by the
reflection that you have known God to be supremely great, supremely good,
and supremely excellent, and yet you have never, in a single feeling of
your heart, or a single thought of your mind, or a single purpose of your
will, _honored_ Him. It is honor, reverence, worship, and love that
He requires. These you have never rendered; and there is an infinity of
guilt in the fact. That guilt will be forgiven for Christ's sake, if you
ask for forgiveness. But if you do not ask, then it will stand recorded
against you for eternal ages: "When he, a rational and immortal creature,
knew God, he glorified Him not as God."

[Footnote 1: The early Fathers, in their defence of the Christian
doctrine of one God, against the objections of the pagan advocate of the
popular mythologies, contend that the better pagan writers themselves
agree with the new religion, in teaching that there is one Supreme Being.
LACTANTIUS (Institutiones i. 5), after quoting the Orphic poets, Hesiod,
Virgil, and Ovid, in proof that the heathen poets taught the unity of
the Supreme Deity, proceeds to show that the better pagan philosophers,
also, agree with them in this. "Aristotle," he says, "although he
disagrees with himself, and says many things that are self-contradictory,
yet testifies that one Supreme Mind rules over the world. Plato, who is
regarded as the wisest philosopher of them all, plainly and openly
defends the doctrine of a divine monarchy, and denominates the Supreme
Being; not ether, nor reason, nor nature, but, as he is, _God_; and
asserts that by him this perfect and admirable world was made. And Cicero
follows Plato, frequently confessing the Deity, and calls him the Supreme
Being, in his treatise on the Laws." TERTULLIAN (De Test. An. c. 1; Adv.
Marc. i. 10; Ad. Scap. c. 2; Apol. c. 17), than whom no one of the
Christian Fathers was more vehemently opposed to the philosophizing of
the schools, earnestly contends that the doctrine of the unity of God is
constitutional to the human mind. "God," he says, "proves himself to be
God, and the one only God, by the very fact that He is known to _all_
nations; for the existence of any other deity than He would first have to
be demonstrated. The God of the Jews is the one whom the _souls_ of men
call their God. We worship one God, the one whom ye all naturally know,
at whose lightnings and thunders ye tremble, at whose benefits ye
rejoice. Will ye that we prove the Divine existence by the witness of the
soul itself, which, although confined by the prison of the body, although
circumscribed by bad training, although enervated by lusts and passions,
although made the servant of false gods, yet when it recovers itself as
from a surfeit, as from a slumber, as from some infirmity, and is in its
proper condition of soundness, calls God by _this_ name only, because it
is the proper name of the true God. 'Great God,' 'good God,' and 'God
grant' [deus, not dii], are words in every mouth. The soul also witnesses
that He is its judge, when it says, 'God sees,' 'I commend to God,' 'God
shall recompense me.' O testimony of a soul naturally Christian [i.e.,
monotheistic]! Finally, in pronouncing these words, it looks not to the
Roman capitol, but to heaven; for it knows the dwelling-place of the true
God: from Him and from thence it descended." CALVIN (Inst. i. 10) seems
to have had these statements in his eye, in the following remarks: "In
almost all ages, religion has been generally corrupted. It is true,
indeed, that the name of one Supreme God has been universally known and
celebrated. For those who used to worship a multitude of deities,
whenever they spake according to the genuine sense of nature, used simply
the name of God in the _singular_ number, as though they were contented
with one God. And this was wisely remarked by Justin Martyr, who for this
purpose wrote a book 'On the Monarchy of God,' in which he demonstrates,
from numerous testimonies, that the unity of God is a principle
universally impressed on the hearts of men. Tertullian (De Idololatria)
also proves the same point, from the common phraseology. But since all
men, without exception, have become vain in their understandings, all
their natural perception of the Divine Unity has only served to render
them inexcusable." In consonance with these views, the Presbyterian
CONFESSION OF FAITH (ch. i.) affirms that "the light of nature, and the
works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness,
wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable."]

[Footnote 2: The word [Greek: apolountai], in Rom. ii. 12, is opposed to
the [Greek: sotaeria] spoken of in Rom. i. 16, and therefore signifies
_eternal_ perdition, as that signifies _eternal_ salvation.-Those
theorists who reject revealed religion, and remand man back to the first
principles of ethics and morality as the only religion that he needs,
send him to a tribunal that damns him. "Tell me," says St. Paul, "ye
that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? The law is not
of faith, but the man that _doeth_ them shall live by them. Circumcision
verily profiteth if thou _keep_ the law; but if thou be a breaker of the
law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision." If man had been true to
all the principles and precepts of natural religion, it would indeed be
religion enough for him. But he has not been thus true. The entire list
of vices and sins recited by St. Paul, in the first chapter of Romans, is
as contrary to natural religion, as it is to revealed. And it is
precisely because the pagan world has not obeyed the principles of
natural religion, and is under a curse and a bondage therefor, that it is
in perishing need of the truths of revealed religion. Little do those
know what they are saying, when they propose to find a salvation for the
pagan in the mere light of natural reason and conscience. What pagan has
ever realized the truths of natural conscience, in his inward character
and his outward life? What pagan is there in all the generations that
will not be found guilty before the bar of natural religion? What heathen
will not need an atonement, for his failure to live up even to the light
of nature? Nay, what is the entire sacrificial cultus of heathenism, but
a confession that the whole heathen world finds and feels itself to be
guilty at the bar of natural reason and conscience? The accusing voice
within them wakes their forebodings and fearful looking-for of Divine
judgment, and they endeavor to propitiate the offended Power by their
offerings and sacrifices.]

[Footnote 3: Infidelity is constantly changing its ground. In the 18th
century, the skeptic very generally took the position of Lord Herbert
of Cherbury, and maintained that the light of reason is very clear, and
is adequate to all the religious needs of the soul. In the 19th century,
he is now passing to the other extreme, and contending that man is
kindred to the ape, and within the sphere of paganism does not possess
sufficient moral intelligence to constitute him responsible. Like
Luther's drunken beggar on horseback, the opponent of Revelation sways
from the position that man is a god, to the position that he is a

[Footnote 4: DANTE: Inferno, vii. 100-130.]


ROMANS i. 28.--"As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a reprobate mind."

In the opening of the most logical and systematic treatise in the New
Testament, the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul enters upon a line
of argument to demonstrate the ill-desert of every human creature without
exception. In order to this, he shows that no excuse can be urged upon
the ground of moral ignorance. He explicitly teaches that the pagan knows
that there is one Supreme God (Rom. i. 20); that He is a spirit (Rom. i.
23); that He is holy and sin-hating (Rom. i. 18); that He is worthy to be
worshipped (Rom. i. 21, 25); and that men ought to be thankful for His
benefits (Rom. i. 21). He affirms that the heathen knows that an idol is
a lie (Rom. i. 25); that licentiousness is a sin (Rom. i. 26, 32); that
envy, malice, and deceit are wicked (Rom. i. 29, 32); and that those who
practise such sins deserve eternal punishment (Rom. i. 32).

In these teachings and assertions, the apostle has attributed no small
amount and degree of moral knowledge to man as _man_,--to man outside of
Revelation, as well as under its shining light. The question very
naturally arises: How comes it to pass that this knowledge which Divine
inspiration postulates, and affirms to be innate and constitutional to
the human mind, should become so vitiated? The majority of mankind are
idolaters and polytheists, and have been for thousands of years. Can
it be that the truth that there is only one God is native to the human
spirit, and that the pagan "_knows_" this God? The majority of men are
earthly and sensual, and have been for thousands of years. Can it be that
there is a moral law written upon their hearts forbidding such carnality,
and enjoining purity and holiness?

Some theorizers argue that because the pagan man has not obeyed the law,
therefore he does not know the law; and that because he has not revered
and worshipped the one Supreme Deity, therefore he does not possess the
idea of any such Being. They look out upon the heathen populations and
see them bowing down to stocks and stones, and witness their immersion in
the abominations of heathenism, and conclude that these millions of human
beings really know no better, and that therefore it is unjust to hold
them responsible for their polytheism and their moral corruption. But why
do they confine this species of reasoning to the pagan world? Why do they
not bring it into nominal Christendom, and apply it there? Why does not
this theorist go into the midst of European civilization, into the heart
of London or Paris, and gauge the moral knowledge of the sensualist by
the moral character of the sensualist? Why does he not tell us that
because this civilized man acts no better, therefore he knows no better?
Why does he not maintain that because this voluptuary breaks all the
commandments in the decalogue, therefore he must be ignorant of all the
commandments in the decalogue? that because he neither fears nor loves
the one only God, therefore he does not know that there is any such

It will never do to estimate man's moral knowledge by man's moral
character. He knows more than he practises. And there is not so much
difference in this particular between some men in nominal Christendom,
and some men in Heathendom, as is sometimes imagined. The moral knowledge
of those who lie in the lower strata of Christian civilization, and those
who lie in the higher strata of Paganism, is probably not so very far
apart. Place the imbruted outcasts of our metropolitan population beside
the Indian hunter, with his belief in the Great Spirit, and his worship
without images or pictorial representations;[1] beside the stalwart
Mandingo of the high table-lands of Central Africa, with his active and
enterprising spirit, carrying on manufactures and trade with all the
keenness of any civilized worldling; beside the native merchants and
lawyers of Calcutta, who still cling to their ancestral Boodhism, or else
substitute French infidelity in its place; place the lowest of the
highest beside the highest of the lowest, and tell us if the difference
is so very marked. Sin, like holiness, is a mighty leveler. The "dislike
to retain God" in the consciousness, the aversion of the heart towards
the purity of the moral law, vitiates the native perceptions alike in
Christendom and Paganism.

The theory that the pagan is possessed of such an amount and degree of
moral knowledge as has been specified has awakened some apprehension in
the minds of some Christian theologians, and has led them,
unintentionally to foster the opposite theory, which, if strictly
adhered, to, would lift off all responsibility from the pagan world,
would bring them in innocent at the bar of God, and would render the
whole enterprise of Christian missions a superfluity and an absurdity.
Their motive has been good. They have feared to attribute any degree
of accurate knowledge of God and the moral law, to the pagan world, lest
they should thereby conflict with the doctrine of total depravity. They
have mistakenly supposed, that if they should concede to every man, by
virtue of his moral constitution, some correct apprehensions of ethics
and natural religion, it would follow that there is some native goodness
in him. But light in the intellect is very different from life in the
heart. It is one thing to know the law of God, and quite another thing to
be conformed to it. Even if we should concede to the degraded pagan, or
the degraded dweller in the haunts of vice in Christian lands, all the
intellectual knowledge of God and the moral law that is possessed by the
ruined archangel himself, we should not be adding a particle to his moral
character or his moral excellence. There is nothing of a holy quality in
the mere intellectual perception that there is one Supreme Deity, and
that He has issued a pure and holy law for the guidance of all rational
beings. The mere doctrine of the Divine Unity will save no man. "Thou
believest," says St. James, "that there is one God; thou doest well, the
devils also believe and tremble." Satan himself is a monotheist, and
knows very clearly all the commandments of God; but his heart and will
are in demoniacal antagonism with them. And so it is, only in a lower
degree, in the instance of the pagan, and of the natural man, in every
age, and in every clime. He knows more than he practises. This
intellectual perception therefore, this inborn constitutional
apprehension, instead of lifting up man into a higher and more favorable
position before the eternal bar, casts him down to perdition. If he knew
nothing at all of his Maker and his duty, he could not be held
responsible, and could, not be summoned to judgment. As St. Paul affirms:
"Where there is no law there is no transgression." But if, when he knew
God in some degree, he glorified him not as God to that degree; and if,
when the moral law was written upon the heart he went counter to its
requirements, and heard the accusing voice of his own conscience; then
his mouth must be stopped, and he must become guilty before his Judge,
like any and every other disobedient creature.

It is this serious and damning fact in the history of man upon the globe,
that St. Paul brings to view, in the passage which we have selected as
the foundation of this discourse. He accounts for all the idolatry and
sensuality, all the darkness and vain imaginations of paganism, by
referring to _the aversion of the natural heart_ towards the one only
holy God. "Men," he says,--these pagan men--"did not _like to retain_ God
in their knowledge." The primary difficulty was in their affections, and
not in their understandings. They knew too much for their own comfort in
sin. The contrast between the Divine purity that was mirrored in their
conscience, and the sinfulness that was wrought into their heart and
will, rendered this inborn constitutional idea of God a very painful one.
It was a fire in the bones. If the Psalmist, a renewed man, yet not
entirely free from human corruption, could say: "I thought of God and was
troubled," much more must the totally depraved man of paganism be filled
with terror when, in the thoughts of his heart, in the hour when the
accusing conscience was at work, he brought to mind the one great God of
gods whom he did not glorify, and whom he had offended. It was no wonder,
therefore, that he did not like to retain the idea of such a Being in his
consciousness, and that he adopted all possible expedients to get rid of
it. The apostle informs us that the pagan actually called in his
imagination to his aid, in order to extirpate, if possible, all his
native and rational ideas and convictions upon religious subjects. He
became vain in his imaginations, and his foolish heart as a consequence
was darkened, and he changed the glory of the incorruptible God, the
spiritual unity of the Deity, into an image made like to corruptible man,
and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things (Rom. i. 21-23).
He invented idolatry, and all those "gay religions full of pomp and
gold," in order to blunt the edge of that sharp spiritual conception of
God which was continually cutting and lacerating his wicked and sensual
heart. Hiding himself amidst the columns of his idolatrous temples, and
under the smoke of his idolatrous incense, he thought like Adam to escape
from the view and inspection of that Infinite One who, from the creation
of the world downward, makes known to all men his eternal power and
godhead; who, as St. Paul taught the philosophers of Athens, is not far
from anyone of his rational creatures (Acts xvii. 27); and who, as the
same apostle taught the pagan Lycaonians, though in times past he
suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, yet left not himself
without witness, in that he did good, and gave them rain from heaven,
and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. (Acts
xiv. 16, 17).

The first step in the process of mutilating the original idea of God, as
a unity and an unseen Spirit, is seen in those pantheistic religions
which lie behind all the mythologies of the ancient world, like a
nebulous vapor out of which the more distinct idols and images of
paganism are struggling. Here the notion of the Divine unity is still
preserved; but the Divine personality and holiness are lost. God becomes
a vague impersonal Power, with no moral qualities, and no religious
attributes; and it is difficult to say which is worst in its moral
influence, this pantheism which while retaining the doctrine of the
Divine unity yet denudes the Deity of all that renders him an object of
either love or reverence, or the grosser idolatries that succeeded it.
For man cannot love, with all his mind and heart and soul and strength, a
vast impersonal force working blindly through infinite space and
everlasting time.

And the second and last stage in this process of vitiating the true idea
of God appears in that polytheism in the midst of which St. Paul lived,
and labored, and preached, and died; in that seductive and beautiful
paganism, that classical idolatry, which still addresses the human taste
in such a fascinating manner, in the Venus de Medici, and the Apollo
Belvidere. The idea of the unity of God is now mangled and cut up into
the "gods many" and the "lords many," into the thirty thousand divinities
of the pagan pantheon. This completes the process. God now gives his
guilty creature over to these vain imaginations of naturalism,
materialism, and idolatry, and to an increasingly darkening mind, until
in the lowest forms of heathenism he so distorts and suppresses the
concreated idea of the Deity that some speculatists assert that it does
not belong to his constitution, and that his Maker never endowed him with
it. How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!

But it will be objected that all this lies in the past. This is the
account of a process that has required centuries, yea millenniums, to
bring about. A hundred generations have been engaged in transmuting
the monotheism with which the human race started, into the pantheism and
polytheism in which the great majority of it is now involved. How do
you establish the guilt of those at the end of the line? How can you
charge upon the present generation of pagans the same culpability that
Paul imputed to their ancestors eighteen centuries ago, and that Noah the
preacher of righteousness denounced, upon the antediluvian pagan? As the
deteriorating process advances, does not the guilt diminish? and now, in
these ends of the ages, and in these dark habitations of cruelty, has not
the culpability run down to a minimum, which God in the day of judgment
will "wink at?"

We answer No: Because the structure of the human mind is precisely the
same that it was when the Sodomites held down the truth in
unrighteousness, and the Roman populace turned up their thumbs that they
might see the last drops of blood ebb slowly from the red gash in the
dying gladiator's side. Man, in his deepest degradation, in his most
hardened depravity, is still a rational intelligence; and though he
should continue to sin on indefinitely, through cycles of time as long as
those of geology, he cannot unmake himself; he cannot unmould his
immortal essence, and absolutely eradicate all his moral ideas. Paganism
itself has its fluctuations of moral knowledge. The early Roman, in the
days of Numa, was highly ethical in his views of the Deity, and his
conceptions of moral law. Varro informs us that for a period of one
hundred and seventy years the Romans worshipped their gods without any
images;[2] and Sallust denominates these pristine Romans "religiosissimi
mortales." And how often does the missionary discover a tribe or a race,
whose moral intelligence is higher than that of the average of paganism.
Nay, the same race, or tribe, passes from one phase of polytheism to
another; in one instance exhibiting many of the elements and truths of
natural religion, and in another almost entirely suppressing them. These
facts prove that the pagan man is under supervision; that he is under the
righteous despotism of moral ideas and convictions; that God is not far
from him; that he lives and moves and has his being in his Maker; and
that God does not leave himself without witness in his constitutional
structure. Therefore it is, that this sea of rational intelligence thus
surges and sways in the masses of paganism; sometimes dashing the
creature up the heights, and sometimes sending him down into the depths.

But while this subject has this general application to mankind outside of
Revelation; while it throws so much light upon the question of the
heathens' responsibility and guilt; while it tends to deepen our interest
in the work of Christian missions, and to stimulate us to obey our
Redeemer's command to go and preach the gospel to them, in order to
save them from the wrath of God which abideth upon them as it does upon
ourselves; while this subject has these profound and far-reaching
applications, it also presses with sharpness and energy upon the case,
and the position, of millions of men in Christendom. And to this more
particular aspect of the theme, we ask attention for a moment.

This same process of corruption, and vitiation of a correct knowledge of
God, which we have seen to go on upon a large scale in the instance of
the heathen world, also often goes on in the instance of a single
individual under the light of Revelation itself. Have you never known a
person to have been well educated in childhood and youth respecting the
character and government of God, and yet in middle life and old age to
have altered and corrupted all his early and accurate apprehensions, by
the gradual adoption of contrary views and sentiments? In his childhood,
and youth, he believed that God distinguishes between the righteous and
the wicked, that he rewards the one and punishes the other, and hence he
cherished a salutary fear of his Maker that agreed well with the dictates
of his unsophisticated reason, and the teachings of nature and
revelation. But when, he became a man, he put away these childish things,
in a far different sense from that of the Apostle. As the years rolled,
along, he succeeded, by a career of worldliness and of sensuality, in
expelling this stock of religious knowledge, this right way of conceiving
of God, from his mind, and now at the close of life and upon the very
brink of eternity and of doom, this very same person is as unbelieving
respecting the moral attributes of Jehovah, and as unfearing with regard
to them, as if the entire experience and creed of his childhood and youth
were a delusion and a lie. This rational and immortal creature in the
morning of his existence looked up into the clear sky with reverence,
being impressed by the eternal power and godhead that are there, and when
he had committed a sin he felt remorseful and guilty; but the very same
person now sins recklessly and with flinty hardness of heart, casts
sullen or scowling glances upward, and says: "There is no God." Compare
the Edward Gibbon whose childhood expanded under the teachings of a
beloved Christian matron trained in the school of the devout William Law,
and whose youth exhibited unwonted religions sensibility,--compare this
Edward Gibbon with the Edward Gibbon whose manhood was saturated with
utter unbelief, and whose departure into the dread hereafter was, in his
own phrase, "a leap in the dark." Compare the Aaron Burr whose blood was
deduced from one of the most saintly lineages in the history of the
American church, and all of whose early life was embosomed in ancestral
piety,--compare this Aaron Burr with the Aaron Burr whose middle life and
prolonged old age was unimpressible as marble to all religious ideas and
influences. In both of these instances, it was the aversion of the heart
that for a season (not for _eternity_, be it remembered) quenched out the
light in the head. These men, like the pagan of whom St. Paul speaks, did
not like to retain a holy God in their knowledge, and He gave them over
to a reprobate mind.

These fluctuations and changes in doctrinal belief, both in the general
and the individual mind, furnish materials for deep reflection by both
the philosopher and the Christian; and such an one will often be led to
notice the exact parallel and similarity there is between religious
deterioration in races, and religious deterioration in individuals. The
_dislike to retain_ a knowledge already furnished, because it is painful,
because it rebukes worldliness and sin, is that which ruins both mankind
in general, and the man in particular. Were the heart only conformed to
the truth, the truth never would be corrupted, never would be even
temporarily darkened in the human soul. Should the pagan, himself,
actually obey the dictates of his own reason and conscience, he would
find the light that was in him growing still clearer and brighter. God
himself, the author of his rational mind, and the Light that lighteth
every man that cometh into the world, would reward him for his obedience
by granting him yet more knowledge. We cannot say in what particular
mode the Divine providence would bring it about, but it is as certain as
that God lives, that if the pagan world should act up to the degree of
light which they enjoy, they would be conducted ultimately to the truth
as it is in Jesus, and would be saved by the Redeemer of the world. The
instance of the Roman centurion Cornelius is a case in point. This was a
thoughtful and serious pagan. It is indeed very probable that his
military residence in Palestine had cleared up, to some degree, his
natural intuitions of moral truth; but we know that he was ignorant of
the way of salvation through Christ, from the fact that the apostle Peter
was instructed in a vision to go and preach it unto him. The sincere
endeavor of this Gentile, this then pagan in reference to Christianity,
to improve the little knowledge which he had, met with the Divine
approbation, and was crowned with a saving acquaintance with the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Peter himself testified to this,
when, after hearing from the lips of Cornelius the account of his
previous life, and of the way in which God had led him, "he opened his
mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of
persons: but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh
righteousness is accepted with him" (Acts x. 34, 35).[3]

But such instances as this of Cornelius are not one in millions upon
millions. The light shines in the darkness that comprehends it not.
Almost without an exception, so far as the human eye can see, the
unevangelized world holds the truth in unrighteousness, and does not like
to retain the idea of a holy God, and a holy law, in its knowledge.
Therefore the knowledge continually diminishes; the light of natural
reason and conscience grows dimmer and dimmer; and the soul sinks down in
the mire of sin and sensuality, apparently devoid of all the higher ideas
of God, and law, and immortal life.

We have thus considered the truth which St. Paul teaches in the text,
that the ultimate source of all human error is in the character of the
human heart. Mankind do not _like to retain_ God in their knowledge, and
therefore they come to possess a reprobate mind. The origin of idolatry,
and of infidelity, is not in the original constitution with which the
Creator endowed the creature, but in that evil heart of unbelief by which
he departed from the living God. Sinful man shapes his creed in
accordance with his wishes, and not in accordance with the unbiased
decisions of his reason and conscience. He does not _like_ to think of a
holy God, and therefore he denies that God is holy. He does not _like_ to
think of the eternal punishment of sin, and therefore he denies that
punishment is eternal. He does not _like_ to be pardoned through the
substituted sufferings of the Son of God, and therefore he denies the
doctrine of atonement. He does not _like_ the truth that man is so
totally alienated from God that he needs to be renewed in the spirit of
his mind by the Holy Ghost, and therefore he denies the doctrines of
depravity and regeneration. Run through the creed which the Church has
lived by and died by, and you will discover that the only obstacle to its
reception is the aversion of the human heart. It is a rational creed in
all its parts and combinations. It has outlived the collisions and
conflicts of a hundred schools of infidelity that have had their brief
day, and died with their devotees. A hundred systems of philosophy
falsely so called have come and gone, but the one old religion of the
patriarchs, and the prophets, and the apostles, holds on its way through
the centuries, conquering and to conquer. Can it be that sheer imposture
and error have such a tenacious vitality as this? If reason is upon the
side of infidelity, why does not infidelity remain one and the same
unchanging thing, like Christianity, from age to age, and subdue all men
unto it? If Christianity is a delusion and a lie, why does it not die
out, and disappear? The difficulty is not upon the side of the human
reason, but of the human heart. Skeptical men do not _like_ the religion
of the New Testament, these doctrines of sin and grace, and therefore
they shape their creed by their sympathies and antipathies; by what they
wish to have true; by their heart rather than by their head. As the
Founder of Christianity said to the Jews, so he says to every man who
rejects His doctrine of grace and redemption: "Ye _will_ not come unto me
that ye might have life." It is an inclination of the will, and not a
conviction of the reason, that prevents the reception of the Christian

Among the many reflections that are suggested by this subject and its
discussion, our limits permit only the following:

1. It betokens deep wickedness, in any man, to change the truth of God
into a lie,--_to substitute a false theory in religion for the true one_.
"Woe unto them," says the prophet, "that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for
sweet, and sweet for bitter." There is no form of moral evil that is more
hateful in the sight of Infinite Truth, than that intellectual depravity
which does not like to retain a holy God in its knowledge, and therefore
mutilates the very idea of the Deity, and attempts to make him other than
he is. There is no sinner that will be visited with a heavier vengeance
than that cool and calculating man, who, because he dislikes the
unyielding purity of the moral law, and the awful sanctions by which it
is accompanied, deliberately alters it to suit his wishes and his
self-indulgence. If a person is tempted and falls into sin, and yet does
not change his religious creed in order to escape the reproaches of
conscience and the fear of retribution, there is hope that the orthodoxy
of his head may result, by God's blessing upon his own truth, in sorrow
for the sin and a forsaking thereof. A man, for instance, who amidst all
his temptations and transgressions still retains the truth taught him
from the Scriptures, at his mother's knees, that a finally impenitent
sinner will go down to eternal torment, feels a powerful check upon his
passions, and is often kept from outward and actual transgressions by his
creed. But if he deliberately, and by an act of will, says in his heart:
"There is no hell;" if he substitutes for the theory that renders the
commission of sin dangerous and fearful, a theory that relieves it from
all danger and all fear, there is no hope that he will ever cease from
sinning. On the contrary, having brought his head into harmony with his
heart; having adjusted his theory to his practice; having shaped his
creed by his passions; having changed the truth of God into a lie; he
then plunges into sin with an abandonment and a momentum that is awful.
In the phrase of the prophet, he "draws iniquity with cords of vanity,
and sin as it were with a cart-rope."

It is here that we see the deep guilt of those, who, by false theories of
God and man and law and penalty, tempt the young or the old to their
eternal destruction. It is sad and fearful, when the weak physical nature
is plied with all the enticements of earth and sense; but it is yet
sadder and more fearful, when the intellectual nature is sought to be
perverted and ensnared by specious theories that annihilate the
distinction between virtue and vice, that take away all holy fear of God,
and reverence for His law, that represent the everlasting future either
as an everlasting elysium for all, or else as an eternal sleep. The
demoralization, in this instance, is central and radical. It is in the
brain, in the very understanding itself. If the foundations themselves of
morals and religion are destroyed, what can be done for the salvation of
the creature? A heavy woe is denounced against any and every one who
tempts a fellow-being. Temptation implies malice. It is Satanic. It
betokens a desire to ruin an immortal spirit. When therefore the siren
would allure a human creature from the path of virtue, the inspiration of
God utters a deep and bitter curse against her. But when the cold-blooded
Mephistopheles endeavors to sophisticate the reason, to debauch the
judgment, to sear the conscience; when the temptation is addressed to the
intellect, and the desire of the tempter is to overthrow the entire
religious creed of a human being,--perhaps a youth just entering upon
that hazardous enterprise of life in which he needs every jot and tittle
of eternal truth to guide and protect him,--when the enticement assumes
this purely mental form and aspect, it betokens the most malignant and
heaven-daring guilt in the tempter. And we may be certain that the
retribution that will be meted out to it, by Him who is true and The
Truth; who abhors all falsehood and all lies with an infinite intensity;
will be terrible beyond conception. "Woe unto you ye _blind guides_! Ye
serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of
hell! If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the
plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away
from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part
out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things
that are written in this book."

2. In the second place, we perceive, in the light of this subject, _the
great danger of not reducing religious truth to practice_. There are two
fatal hazards in not obeying the doctrines of the Bible while yet there
is an intellectual assent to them. The first is, that these doctrines
shall themselves become diluted and corrupted. So long as the
affectionate submission of the heart is not yielded to their authority;
so long as there is any dislike towards their holy claims; there is great
danger that, as in the instance of the pagan, they will not be retained
in the knowledge. The sinful man becomes weary of a form of doctrine that
continually rebukes him, and gradually changes it into one that is less
truthful and restraining. But a second and equally alarming danger is,
that the heart shall become accustomed to the truth, and grow hard and
indifferent towards it. There are a multitude of persons who hear the
word of God and never dream of disputing it, who yet, alas, never dream
of obeying it. To such the living truth of the gospel becomes a
petrifaction, and a savor of death unto death.

We urge you, therefore, ye who know the doctrines of the law and the
doctrines of the gospel, to give an affectionate and hearty assent to
them _both_. When the divine Word asserts that you are guilty, and that
you cannot stand in the judgment before God, make answer: "It is so, it
is so." Practically and deeply acknowledge the doctrine of human guilt
and corruption. Let it no longer be a theory in the head, but a humbling
salutary consciousness in the heart. And when the divine Word affirms
that God so loved the world that he gave his Only-Begotten Son to redeem
it, make a quick and joyful response: "It is so, it is so." Instead of
changing the truth of God into a lie, as the guilty world have been doing
for six thousand years, change it into a blessed consciousness of the
soul. Believe_ what you know; and then what you know will be the wisdom
of God to your salvation.

[Footnote 1: "There are no profane words in the (Iowa) Indian language:
no light or profane way of speaking of the 'Great Spirit.'"--FOREIGN
MISSIONARY: May, 1863, p. 337.]

[Footnote 2: PLUTARCH: Numa, 8; AUGUSTINE: De Civitate, iv. 31.]

[Footnote 3: It should be noticed that Cornelius was not prepared for
another life, by the moral virtue which he had practised before meeting
with Peter, but by his penitence for sin and faith in Jesus Christ, whom
Peter preached to him as the Saviour from sin (Acts x. 43). Good works
can no more prepare a pagan for eternity than they can a nominal
Christian. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius could no more be justified
by their personal character, than Saul of Tarsus could be. First, because
the virtue is imperfect, at the best: and, secondly, it does not begin at
the beginning of existence upon earth, and continue unintermittently to
the end of it. A sense of _sin_ is a far more hopeful indication, in the
instance of a heathen, than a sense of virtue. The utter absence of
humility and sorrow in the "Meditations" of the philosophic Emperor, and
the omnipresence in them of pride and self-satisfaction, place him out of
all relations to the Divine _mercy_. In trying to judge of the final
condition of a pagan outside of revelation, we must ask the question: Was
he penitent? rather than the question: Was he virtuous?]


LUKE xi. 13.--"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto
your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask him?"

The reality, and necessity, of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the
human heart, is a doctrine very frequently taught in the Scriptures. Our
Lord, in the passage from which the text is taken, speaks of the third
Person in the Trinity in such a manner as to convey the impression that
His agency is as indispensable, in order to spiritual life, as food is in
order to physical; that sinful man as much needs the influences of the
Holy Ghost as he does his daily bread. "If a son shall ask bread of any
of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?" If this is not at all
supposable, in the case of an affectionate earthly parent, much less is
it supposable that God the heavenly Father will refuse renewing and
sanctifying influences to them that ask for them. By employing such a
significant comparison as this, our Lord implies that there is as
pressing need of the gift in the one instance as in the other. For,
he does not compare spiritual influences with the mere luxuries of
life,--with wealth, fame, or power,--but with the very staff of life
itself. He selects the very bread by which the human body lives, to
illustrate the helpless sinner's need of the Holy Ghost. When God, by
his prophet, would teach His people that he would at some future time
bestow a rich and remarkable blessing upon them, He says: "I will pour
out my Spirit upon all flesh." When our Saviour was about to leave his
disciples, and was sending them forth as the ministers of his religion,
he promised them a direct and supernatural agency that should "reprove
the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment."

And the history of Christianity evinces both the necessity and reality of
Divine influences. God the Spirit has actually been present by a special
and peculiar agency, in this sinful and hardened world, and hence the
heart of flesh and the spread of vital religion. God the Spirit has
actually been absent, so far as concerns his special and peculiar agency,
and hence the continuance of the heart of stone, and the decline, and
sometimes the extinction of vital religion. Where the Holy Spirit has
been, specially and peculiarly, there the true Church of Christ has been,
and where the Holy Spirit has not been, specially and peculiarly, there,
the Church of Christ has not been; however carefully, or imposingly, the
externals of a church organization may have been maintained.

But there is no stronger, or more effective proof of the need of the
presence and agency of the Holy Spirit, than that which is derived from
the _nature of the case_, as it appears in the individual. Just in
proportion as we come to know our own moral condition, and our own moral
necessities, shall we see and feel that the origin and growth of holiness
within our earthly and alienated souls, without the agency of God the
Holy Spirit, is an utter impossibility. Let us then look into the
argument from the nature of the case, and consider this doctrine of a
direct Divine operation, in its relations to ourselves personally. Why,
then, does every man need these influences of the Holy Spirit which are
so cordially offered in the text?

1. He needs them, in the first place, in order that _he may be convinced
of the reality of the eternal world._

There is such a world. It has as actual an existence as Europe or Asia.
Though not an object for any one of the five senses, the invisible world
is as substantial as the great globe itself, and will be standing when
the elements shall have been melted with fervent heat, and the heavens
are no more. This eternal world, furthermore, is not only real, but it is
filled with realities that are yet more solemn. God inhabits it. The
judgment-seat of Christ is set up in it. Heaven is in it. Hell is in it.
Myriads of myriads of holy and happy spirits are there. Myriads of sinful
and wretched spirits are there. Nay, this unseen world is the _only_ real
world, and the objects in it the _only_ real objects, if we remember that
only that which is immutable deserves the name of real. If we employ the
eternal as the measure of real being, then all that is outside of
eternity is unreal and a vanity. This material world acquires
impressiveness for man, by virtue of the objects that fill it. His farm
is in it, his houses are upon it, solid mountains rise up from it, great
rivers run through it, and the old rolling heavens are bent over it. But
what is the transient reality of these objects, these morning vapors,
compared with the everlasting reality of such beings as God and the soul,
of such facts as holiness and sin, of such states as heaven and hell?
Here, then, we have in the unseen and eternal world a most solemn and
real object of knowledge; but where, among mankind, is the solemn and
vivid knowledge itself? Knowledge is the union of a fact with a feeling.
There may be a stone in the street, but unless I smite it with my foot,
or smite it with my eye, I have no knowledge of the stone. So, too, there
is an invisible world, outstanding and awfully impressive; but unless I
feel its influences, and stand with awe beneath its shadows, it is as
though it were not. Here is an orb that has risen up into the horizon,
but all eyes are shut.

For, no thoughtful observer fails to perceive that an earthly, and
unspiritual mode of thought and feeling is the prevalent one among men.
No one who has ever endeavored to arrest the attention of a fellow-man,
and give his thoughts an upward tendency towards eternity, will say that
the effort is easily and generally successful. On the contrary, if an
ethereal and holy inhabitant of heaven were to go up and down our earth,
and witness man's immersion in sense and time, the earthliness of his
views and aims, his neglect of spiritual objects and interests, his
absorption in this existence, and his forgetfulness of the other, it
would be difficult to convince him that he was among beings made in the
image of God, and was mingling with a race having an immortal destination
beyond the grave.

In this first feature of the case, then, as we find it in ourselves, and
see it in all our fellow-men, we have the first evidence of the need of
_awakening_ influences from on high. Since man, naturally, is destitute
of a solemn sense of eternal things, it is plain that there can be no
moral change produced in him, unless he is first wakened from this
drowze. He cannot become the subject of that new birth without which he
cannot see the kingdom of God, unless his torpor respecting the Unseen is
removed. Entirely satisfied as he now is with this mode of existence, and
thinking little or nothing about another, the first necessity in his case
is a startle, and an alarm. Difficult as he now finds it to be, to bring
the invisible world before his mind in a way to affect his feelings, he
needs to have it loom upon his inward vision with such power and
impressiveness that he cannot take his eye off, if he would. Lethargic as
he now is, respecting his own immortality, it is impossible for him to
live and act with constant reference to it, unless he is wakened to its
significance. Is it not self-evident, that if the sinner's present
indifference towards the invisible world, and his failure to feel its
solemn reality, continues through life, he will certainly enter that
state of existence with his present character? Looking into the human
spirit, and seeing how dead it is towards God and the future, must we
not say, that if this deadness to eternity lasts until the death of the
body, it will certainly be the death of the soul?

But, in what way can man be made to realize that there is an eternal
world, to which he is rapidly tending, and realities there, with which,
by the very constitution of his spirit, he is forever and indissolubly
connected either for bliss or woe? How shall thoughtless and earthly man,
as he treads these streets, and transacts all this business, and enjoys
life, be made to feel with misgiving, foreboding, and alarm, that there
is an eternity, and that he must soon enter it, as other men do, either
as a heaven or a hell for his soul? The answer to this question, so often
asked in sadness and sorrow by the preacher of the word, drives us back
to the throne of God and to a mightier agency than that of man.

For one thing is certain, that this apathy and deadness will never of
itself generate sensibility and life. Satan never casts out Satan. If
this slumberer be left to himself, he is lost. Should any man be given
over to the natural inclination of his heart, he would never be awakened.
Should his earthly mind receive no check, and his corrupt heart take its
own way, he would never realize that there is another world than this,
until he entered it. For, the worldly mind and the corrupt heart busy
themselves solely and happily with this existence. They find pleasure in
the things of this life, and therefore never look beyond them. Worldly
men do not interfere with their own present actual enjoyment. Who of this
class voluntarily makes himself unhappy, by thinking of subjects that are
gloomy to his mind? What man of the world starts up from his sweet sleep
and his pleasant dreams, and of his own accord looks the stern realities
of death and the judgment in the eye? No natural man begins to wound
himself, that he may be healed. No earthly man begins to slay himself,
that he may be made alive. Even when the natural heart is roused and
wakened by some foreign agency; some startling providence of God or some
Divine operation in the conscience, how soon, if left to its own motion
and tendency, does it relapse into its old slumber and sleep. The needle
has received a shock, but after a slight trembling and vibration it soon
settles again upon its axis, ever and steady to the north. It is plain,
that the sinner's worldly mind and apathetic nature will never conduct
him to a proper sense of Divine things.

The awakening, then, of the human soul, to an effectual apprehension of
eternal realities, must take its first issue from some other Being than
the drowzy and slumbering creature himself. We are not speaking of a few
serious thoughts that now and then fleet across the human mind, like
meteors at midnight, and are seen no more. We are speaking of that
permanent, that everlasting dawning of eternity, with its terrors and its
splendors, upon the human soul, which allows it no more repose, until it
is prepared for eternity upon good grounds and foundations; and with
reference to such a profound consciousness of the future state as this,
we say with confidence, that the awakening must proceed from some Being
who is far more alive to the solemnity and significance of eternal
duration than earthly man is. Without impulses from on high, the sinner
never rouses up to attend to the subject of religion. He lives on
indifferent to his religious interests, until _God_, who is more merciful
to his deathless soul than he himself is, by His providence startles him,
or by His Spirit in his conscience alarms him. Never, until God
interferes to disturb his dreams, and break up his slumber, does he
profoundly and permanently feel that he was made for another world, and
is fast going into it. How often does God say to the careless man:
"Arise, O sleeper, and Christ shall give thee light;" and how often does
he disregard the warning voice! How often does God stimulate his
conscience, and flare light into his mind; and how often does he stifle
down these inward convictions, and suffer the light to shine in the
darkness that comprehends it not! These facts in the personal history of
every sin-loving man show, that the human soul does not of its own
isolated action wake up to the realities of eternity. They also show that
God is very merciful to the human soul, in positively and powerfully
interfering for its welfare; but that man, in infinite folly and
wickedness, loves the sleep, and inclines to remain in it.
The Holy Spirit strives, but the human spirit resists.

II. In the second place, man needs the influences of the Holy Spirit
_that he may be convinced of sin_.

Man universally is a sinner, and yet he needs in every single instance to
be made aware of it. "There is none good, no, not one;" and yet out of
the millions of the race how very few _feel_ this truth! Not only does
man sin, but he adds to his guilt by remaining ignorant of it. The
criminal in this instance also, as in our courts of law, feels and
confesses his crime no faster than it is proved to him. Through what
blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, and insensibility of
conscience, is the Holy Spirit obliged to force His way, before there is
a sincere acknowledgment of sin before God! The careful investigations,
the persevering questionings and cross-questionings, by which, before a
human tribunal, the wilful and unrepenting criminal is forced to see and
acknowledge his wickedness, are but faint emblems of that thorough work
that must be wrought by the Holy Ghost, before the human soul, at a
higher tribunal, forsaking its refuges of lies, and desisting from its
subterfuges and palliations, smites upon the breast, and cries, "God be
merciful to me a sinner!" Think how much of our sin has occurred in total
apathy, and indifference, and how unwilling we are to have any distinct
consciousness upon this subject. It is only now and then that we feel
ourselves to be sinners; but it is by no means only now and then that we
are sinners. We sin habitually; we are conscious of sin rarely. Our
affections and inclinations and motives are evil, and only evil,
continually; but our experimental _knowledge_ that they are so comes not
often into our mind, and what is worse stays not long, because we dislike

The conviction of sin, with what it includes and leads to, is of more
worth to man than all other convictions. Conviction of any sort,--a
living practical consciousness of any kind,--is of great value, because
it is only this species of knowledge that moves mankind. Convince a man,
that is, give him a consciousness, of the truth of a principle in
politics, in trade, or in religion, and you actuate him politically,
commercially, or religiously. Convince a criminal of his crime, that is,
endue him with a conscious feeling of his criminality, and you make him
burn with electric fire. A convicted man is a man thoroughly conscious;
and a thoroughly conscious man is a deeply moved one. And this is true,
with emphasis, of the conviction of sin. This consciousness produces a
deeper and more lasting effect than all others. Convince a community of
the justice or injustice of a certain class of political principles, and
you stir it very deeply, and broadly, as the history of all democracies
clearly shows; but let society be once convinced of sin before the holy
and righteous God, and deep calleth unto deep, all the waters are moved.
Never is a mass of human beings so centrally stirred, as when the Spirit
of God is poured out upon it, and from no movement in human society do
such lasting and blessed consequences flow, as from a genuine revival of

But here again, as in reference to the eternal state, there is no
realizing sense. Conviction of sin is not a characteristic of mankind at
large. Men generally will acknowledge in words that they are sinners, but
they wait for some far-distant day to come, when they shall be pricked in
the heart, and feel the truth of what they say. Men generally are not
conscious of the dreadful reality of sin, any more than they are of the
solemn reality of eternity. A deep insensibility, in this respect also,
precludes a practical knowledge of that guilt in the soul, which, if
unpardoned and unremoved, will just as surely ruin it as God lives and
the soul is immortal. Since, then, if man be left to his own inclination,
he never will be convinced of sin, it is plain that some Agent who has
the power must overcome his aversion to self-knowledge, and bring him to
consciousness upon this unwelcome subject. If any one of us, for the
remainder of our days, should be given over to that ordinary indifference
towards sin with which we walk these streets, and transact business, and
enjoy life; if God's truth should never again in this world stab the
conscience, and God's Spirit should never again make us anxious; is it
not infallibly certain that the future would be as the past, and that we
should go through this "accepted time and day of salvation" unconvicted
and therefore unconverted?

But besides this destitution of the experimental sense of sin, another
ground of the need of Divine agency is found in the _blindness_ of the
natural mind. Man's vision of spiritual things, even when they are set
before his eyes, is dim and inadequate. The Christian ministry is greatly
hindered, because it cannot illuminate the human understanding, and
impart the power of a keen spiritual insight. It is compelled to present
the objects of sight, but it cannot give the eye to see them. Vision
depends altogether upon the condition of the organ. The eye sees only
what it brings the means of seeing. The scaled eye of a worldling, or a
debauchee, or a self-righteous man, cannot see that sin of the heart,
that "spiritual wickedness," at which men like Paul and Isaiah stood
aghast. These were men whose character compared with that of the
worldling was saintly; men whose shoes' latchets the worldling is not
worthy to stoop down and unloose. And yet they saw a depravity within
their own hearts which he does not see in his; a depravity which he
cannot see, and which he steadily denies to exist, until he is
enlightened by the Holy Ghost.

But the preacher has no power to impart this clear spiritual discernment.
He cannot arm the eye of the natural man with that magnifying and
microscopic power, by which hatred shall be seen to be murder, and lust,
adultery, and the least swelling of pride, the sin of Lucifer. He is
compelled, by the testimony of the Bible, of the wise and the holy of all
time, and of his own consciousness, to tell every unregenerate man that
he is no better than his race; that he certainly is no better than the
Christian Church which continually confesses and mourns over indwelling
sin. The faithful preacher of the word is obliged to insist that there is
no radical difference among men, and that the depravity of the man of
irreproachable morals but unrenewed heart is as total as was that of the
great preacher to the Gentiles,--a man of perfectly irreproachable
morals, but who confessed that he was the chief of sinners, and feared
lest he should be a cast-away. But the preacher of this unwelcome message
has no power to open the blind eye. He cannot endow the self-ignorant and
incredulous man before him, with that consciousness of the "plague of the
heart" which says "yea" to the most vivid description of human
sinfulness, and "amen" to God's heaviest malediction upon it. The
preacher's position would be far easier, if there might be a transfer of
experience; if some of that bitter painful sense of sin with which the
struggling Christian is burdened might flow over into the easy, unvexed,
and thoughtless souls of the men of this world. Would that the
consciousness upon this subject of sin, of a Paul or a Luther, might
deluge that large multitude of men who doubt or deny the doctrine of
human depravity. The materials for that consciousness, the items that go
to make up that experience, exist as really and as plentifully in your
moral state and character, as they do in that of the mourning and
self-reproaching Christian who sits by your side,--your devout father, your
saintly mother, or sister,--whom you know, and who you know is a better
being than you are. Why should they be weary and heavy-laden with a sense
of their unworthiness before God, and you go through life indifferent and
light-hearted? Are they deluded in respect to the doctrine of human
depravity, and are you in the right? Think you that the deathbed and the
day of judgment will prove this to be the fact? No! if you shall ever
know anything of the Christian struggle with innate corruption; if you
shall ever, in the expressive phrase of Scripture, have your senses
exercised as in a gymnasium [1] to discern good and evil, and see
yourself with self-abhorrence; your views will harmonize most profoundly
and exactly with theirs. And, furthermore, you will not in the process
create any _new_ sinfulness. You will merely see the _existing_ depravity
of the human heart. You will simply see what _is_,--is now, in your
heart, and in all human hearts, and has been from the beginning.

But all this is the work of a more powerful and spiritual agency than
that of man. The truth may be exhibited with perfect transparency and
plainness, the hearer himself may do his utmost to have it penetrate and
tell; and yet, there be no vivid and vital consciousness of sin. How
often does the serious and alarmed man say to us: "I know it, but I do
not _feel_ it." How long and wearily, sometimes, does the anxious man
struggle after an inward sense of these spiritual things, without
success, until he learns that an inward sense, an experimental
consciousness, respecting religious truth, is as purely a gift and
product of God the Spirit as the breath of life in his nostrils.
Considering, then, the natural apathy of man respecting the sin that is
in his own heart, and the exceeding blindness of his mental vision, even
when his attention has been directed to it, is it not perfectly plain
that there must be the exertion of a Divine agency, in order that he may
pass through even the first and lowest stages of the religious

In view of the subject, as thus far unfolded, we remark:

1. First, that it is the duty of every one, _to take the facts in respect
to man's character as he finds them_. Nothing is gained, in any province
of human thought or action, by disputing actual verities. They are
stubborn things, and will not yield to the wishes and prejudices of the
natural heart. This is especially true in regard to the facts in man's
moral and religious condition. The testimony of Revelation is explicit,
that "the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the
law of God, neither indeed can be;" and also, that "the natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit, neither can he know them, because
they are spiritually discerned." According to this Biblical statement,
there is corruption and blindness together. The human heart is at once
sinful, and ignorant that it is so. It is, therefore, the very worst form
of evil; a fatal disease unknown to the patient, and accompanied with the
belief that there is perfect health; sin and guilt without any just and
proper sense of it. This is the testimony, and the assertion, of that
Being who needs not that any should testify to Him of man, for he knows
what is in man. And this is the testimony, also, of every mind that has
attained a profound self-knowledge. For it is indisputable, that in
proportion as a man is introspective, and accustoms himself to the
scrutiny of his motives and feelings, he discovers that "the whole head
is sick, and the whole heart is faint."

It is, therefore, the duty and wisdom of every one to set to his seal
that God is true,--to have this as his motto. Though, as yet, he is
destitute of a clear conviction of sin, and a godly sorrow for it, still
he should _presume_ the fact of human depravity. Good men in every age
have found it to be a fact, and the infallible Word of God declares that
it is a fact. What, then, is gained, by proposing another than the
Biblical theory of human nature? Is the evil removed by denying its
existence? Will the mere calling men good at heart, and by nature, make
them such?

  "Who can hold a fire in his hand,
  By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?
  Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite,
  By bare imagination of a feast?
  Or wallow naked in December snow,
  By thinking on fantastic summer heat?"[2]

2. In the second place, we remark that it is the duty of every one, _not
to be discouraged by these facts and truths relative to the moral
condition of man._ For, one fact conducts to the next one. One truth
prepares for a second. If it is a solemn and sad fact that men are
sinners, and blind and dead in their trespasses and sin, it is also a
cheering fact that the Holy Spirit can enlighten the darkest
understanding, and enliven the most torpid and indifferent soul; and it
is a still further, and most encouraging truth and fact, that the Holy
Spirit is given to those who ask for it, with more readiness than a
father gives bread to his hungry child. Here, then, we have the fact of
sin, and of blindness and apathy in sin; the fact of a mighty power in
God to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; and the
blessed fact that this power is accessible to prayer. Let us put these
three facts together, all of them, and act accordingly. Then we shall be
taught by the Spirit, and shall come to a salutary consciousness of sin;
and then shall be verified in our own experience the words of God: "I
dwell in the high and holy place, and with him also that is of a contrite
and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the
heart of the contrite ones."

[Footnote 1: [Greek: Ta aisthaeria gegurasmena.] Heb. v. 14.]

[Footnote 2: SHAKSPEARE: Richard II. Act i. Sc. 3.]


Luke xi. 13.--"If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto
your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask him."

In expounding the doctrine of these words, in the preceding discourse,
the argument for the necessity of Divine influences had reference to the
more general aspects of man's character and condition. We were concerned
with the origin of seriousness in view of a future life, and the
production of a sense of moral corruption and unfitness to enter
eternity. We have now to consider the work of the Spirit, in its
relations, first, to that more distinct sense of sin which is denominated
the consciousness of _guilt_, and secondly, to that saving act of
_faith_ by which the atonement of Christ is appropriated by the soul.

I. Sin is not man's misfortune, but his fault; and any view that falls
short of this fact is radically defective. Sin not only brings a
corruption and bondage, but also a condemnation and penalty, upon the
self-will that originates it. Sin not only renders man unfit for rewards,
font also deserving of punishment. As one who has disobeyed law of his
own determination, he is liable not merely to the negative loss of
blessings, but also to the positive infliction of retribution. It is not
enough that a transgressor be merely let alone; he must be taken in hand
and punished. He is not simply a diseased man; he is a criminal. His sin,
therefore, requires not a removal merely, but also an _expiation_.

This relation and reference of transgression to law and justice is a
fundamental one; and yet it is very liable to be overlooked, or at least
to be inadequately apprehended. The sense of _ill-desert_ is too apt to
be confused and shallow, in the human soul. Man is comparatively ready to
acknowledge the misery of sin, while he is slow to confess the guilt of
it. When the word of God asserts he is poor, and blind, and wretched, he
is comparatively forward to assent; but when, in addition, it asserts
that he deserves to be punished everlastingly, he reluctates. Mankind are
willing to acknowledge their wretchedness, and be pitied; but they are
not willing to acknowledge their guiltiness, and stand condemned before

And yet, guilt is the very essence of sin. Extinguish the criminality,
and you extinguish the inmost core and heart of moral evil. We may have
felt that sin is bondage, that it is inward dissension and disharmony,
that it takes away the true dignity of our nature, but if we have not
also felt that it is _iniquity_ and merits penalty, we have not become
conscious of its most essential quality. It is not enough that we come
before God, saying: "I am wretched in my soul; I am weary of my bondage;
I long for deliverance." We must also say, as we look up into that holy
Eye: "I am guilty; O my God I deserve thy judgments." In brief, the human
mind must recognize all the Divine attributes. The entire Divine
character, in both its justice and its love, must rise full-orbed before
the soul, when thus seeking salvation. It is not enough, that we ask God
to free us from disquietude, and give us repose. Before we do this, and
that we may do it successfully, we must employ the language of David,
while under the stings of guilt: "O Lord rebuke me not in thy wrath:
neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Be merciful unto me, O God be
merciful unto me."

What is needed is, more consideration of sin in its objective, and less
in its subjective relations; more sense of it in its reference to the
being and attributes of God, and less sense of it in its reference to our
own happiness or misery, or even to the harmony of our own powers and
faculties. The adorable being and attributes of God are of more
importance than any human soul, immortal though it be; and what is
required in the religious experience is, more anxiety lest the Divine
glory should be tarnished, and less fear that a worm of the dust be made
miserable by his transgressions. And whatever may be our theory of the
matter, "to this complexion must we come at last," even in order to our
own peace of mind. We must lose our life, in order to find it. Even in
order to our own inward repose of conscience and of heart, there must
come a point and period in our mental history, when we do actually sink
self out of sight, and think of sin in its relation to the character and
government of the great and holy God,--when we do see it to be _guilt_,
as well as corruption.

For guilt is a distinct, and a distinguishable quality. It is a thing by
itself, like the Platonic idea of Beauty.[1] It is sin stripped of its
accompaniments,--the restlessness, the dissatisfaction, and the
unhappiness which it produces,--and perceived in its pure odiousness and
ill-desert. And when thus seen, it does not permit the mind to think of
any thing but the righteous law, and the Divine character. In the hour of
thorough conviction, the sinful spirit is lost in the feeling of
guiltiness: wholly engrossed in the reflection that it has incurred the
condemnation of the Best Being in the universe. It is in distress, not
because an Almighty Being can make it miserable but, because a Holy and
Good Being has _reason_ to be displeased with it. When it gives utterance
to its emotion, it says to its Sovereign and its Judge: "I am in anguish,
more because Thou the Holy and the Good art unreconciled with me, than
because Thou the Omnipotent canst punish me forever. I refuse not to The
punished; I deserve the inflictions of Thy justice; only _forgive_, and
Thou mayest do what Thou wilt unto me." A soul that is truly penitent has
no desire to escape penalty, at the expense of principle and law. It says
with David: "Thou desirest not sacrifice;" such atonement as I can make
is inadequate; "else would I give it." It expresses its approbation of
the pure justice of God, in the language of the gentlest and sweetest of

  "Thou hast no lightnings, O Thou Just!
  Or I their force should know;
  And if Thou strike me into dust,
  My soul approves the blow.

  The heart that values less its ease,
  Than it adores Thy ways;
  In Thine avenging anger, sees
  A subject of its praise.

  Pleased I could lie, concealed and lost,
  In shades of central night;
  Not to avoid Thy wrath, Thou know'st,
  But lest I grieve Thy sight.

  Smite me, O Thou whom I provoke!
  And I will love Thee still;
  The well deserved and righteous stroke
  Shall please me, though it kill."[2]

Now, it is only when the human spirit is under the illuminating, and
discriminating influences of the Holy Ghost, that it possesses this pure
and genuine sense of guilt. Worldly losses, trials, warnings by God's
providence, may rouse the sinner, and make him solemn; but unless the
Spirit of Grace enters his heart he does not feel that he is
ill-deserving. He is sad and fearful, respecting the future life, and
perhaps supposes that this state of mind is one of true conviction, and
wonders that it does not end in conversion, and the joy of pardon. But if
he would examine it, he would discover that it is full of the lust of self.
He would find that he is merely unhappy, and restless, and afraid
to die. If he should examine the workings of his heart, he would discover
that they are only another form of self-love; that instead of being
anxious about self in the present world, he has become anxious about self
in the future world; that instead of looking out for his happiness here,
he has begun to look out for it hereafter; that in fact he has merely
transferred sin, from time and its relations, to eternity and its
relations. Such sorrow as this needs to be sorrowed for, and such
repentance as this needs to be repented of. Such conviction as this needs
to be laid open, and have its defect shown. After a course of wrongdoing,
it is not sufficient for man to come before the Holy One, making mention
of his wretchedness, and desire for happiness, but making no mention of
his culpability, and desert of righteous and holy judgments. It is not
enough for the criminal to plead for life, however earnestly, while he
avoids the acknowledgment that death is his just due. For silence in such
a connection as this, is _denial_. The impenitent thief upon the cross
was clamorous for life and happiness, saying, "If thou be the Christ,
save thyself and us." He said nothing concerning the crime that had
brought him to a malefactor's death, and thereby showed that it did not
weigh heavy upon his conscience. But the real penitent rebuked him,
saying: "Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same
condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our
deeds." And then followed that meek and broken-hearted supplication:
"Lord remember me," which drew forth the world-renowned answer: "This day
shalt thou be with me in paradise."

In the fact, then, that man's experience of sin is so liable to be
defective upon the side of guilt, we find another necessity for the
teaching of the Holy Spirit; for a spiritual agency that cannot be
deceived, which pierces to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit,
and is a discerner of the real intent and feeling of the heart.

II. In the second place, man needs the influences of the Holy Spirit, in
order that _he may actually appropriate Christ's atonement for sin_.

The feeling of ill-desert, of which we have spoken, requires an
expiation, in order to its extinction, precisely as the burning sensation
of thirst needs the cup of cold water, in order that it may be allayed,
the sense of guilt is awakened in its pure and genuine form, by the Holy
Spirit's operation, the soul _craves_ the atonement,--it _wants_ the
dying Lamb of God. We often speak of a believer's longings after purity,
after peace, after joy. There is an appetency for them. In like manner,
there is in the illuminated and guilt-smitten conscience an appetency for
the piacular work of Christ, as that which alone can give it
pacification. Contemplated from this point of view, there is not a more
rational doctrine within the whole Christian system, than that of the
Atonement. Anything that ministers to a distinct and legitimate craving
in man is reasonable, and necessary. That theorist, therefore, who would
evince the unreasonableness of the atoning work of the Redeemer, must
first evince the unreasonableness of the consciousness of guilt, and of
the judicial craving of the conscience. He must show the groundlessness
of that fundamental and organic feeling which imparts such a blood-red
color to all the religions of the globe; be they Pagan, Jewish, or
Christian. Whenever, therefore, this sensation of ill-desert is elicited,
and the soul feels consciously criminal before the Everlasting Judge, the
difficulties that beset the doctrine of the Cross all vanish in the
_craving_, in the _appetency_, of the conscience, for acquittal through
the substituted sufferings of the Son of God. He who has been taught by
the Spirit respecting the iniquity of sin, and views it in its relations
to the Divine holiness, has no wish to be pardoned at the expense of
justice. His conscience is now jealous for the majesty of God, and the
dignity of His government. He now experimentally understands that great
truth which has its foundation in the nature of guilt, and consequently
in the method of Redemption,--the great ethical truth, that after an
accountable agent has stained himself with crime, there is from the
necessity of the case no remission without the satisfaction of law.

But it is one thing to acknowledge this in theory, and even to feel the
need of Christ's atonement, and still another thing to _really
appropriate_ it. Unbelief and despair have great power over a
guilt-stricken mind; and were it not for that Spirit who "takes of the
things of Christ and shows them to the soul," sinful man would in every
instance succumb under their awful paralysis. For, if the truth and Spirit
of God should merely convince the sinner of his guilt, but never apply the
atoning blood of the Redeemer, hell would be in him and he would be in
hell. If God, coming forth as He justly might only in His judicial
character, should confine Himself to a convicting operation in the
conscience,--should make the transgressor feel his guilt, and then leave
him to the feeling and with the feeling, forevermore,--this would be
eternal death. And if, as any man shall lie down upon his death-bed, he
shall find that owing to his past quenching of the Spirit the
illuminating energy of God is searching him, and revealing him to
himself, but does not assist him to look up to the Saviour of sinners;
and if, in the day of judgment, as he draws near the bar of an eternal
doom, he shall discover that the sense of guilt grows deeper and deeper,
while the atoning blood is not applied,--if this shall be the experience
of any one upon his death-bed, and in the day of judgment, will he need
to be told what he is and whither he is going?

Now it is with reference to these disclosures that come in like a deluge
upon him, that man needs the aids and operation of the Holy Spirit.
Ordinarily, nearly the whole of his guilt is latent within him. He is,
commonly, undisturbed by conscience; but it would be a fatal error to
infer that therefore he has a clear and innocent conscience. There is a
vast amount of undeveloped guilt within every impenitent soul. It is
slumbering there, as surely as magnetism is in the magnet, and the
electric fluid is in the piled-up thunder-cloud. For there are moments
when the sinful soul feels this hidden criminality, as there are moments
when the magnet shows its power, and the thunder-cloud darts its nimble
and forked lightnings. Else, why do these pangs and fears shoot and flash
through it, every now and then? Why does the drowning man instinctively
ask for God's mercy? Were his conscience pure and clear from guilt, like
that of the angel or the seraph,--were there no latent crime within
him,--he would sink into the unfathomed depths of the sea, without the
thought of such a cry. When the traveller in South America sees the smoke
and flame of the volcano, here and there, as he passes along, he is
justified in inferring that a vast central fire is burning beneath the
whole region. In like manner, when man discovers, as he watches the
phenomena of his conscience, that guilt every now and then emerges like a
flash of flame into consciousness, filling him with fear and
distress,--when he finds that he has no security against this invasion,
but that in an hour when he thinks not, and commonly when he is weakest
and faintest, in his moments of danger or death, it stings him and wounds
him, he is justified in inferring, and he must infer, that the deep places
of his spirit, the whole _potentiality_ of his soul is full of crime.

Now, in no condition of the soul is there greater need of the agency of
the Comforter (O well named the Comforter), than when all this latency is
suddenly manifested to a man. When this deluge of discovery comes in, all
the billows of doubt, fear, terror, and despair roll over the soul, and
it sinks in the deep waters. The sense of guilt,--that awful guilt, which
the man has carried about with him for many long years, and which he has
trifled with,--now proves too great for him to control. It seizes him
like a strong-armed man. If he could only believe that the blood of the
Lamb of God expiates all this crime which is so appalling to his mind, he
would be at peace instantaneously. But he is unable to believe this. His
sin, which heretofore looked too small to be noticed, now appears too
great to be forgiven. Other men may be pardoned, but not he. He
_despairs_ of mercy; and if he should be left to the natural workings of
his own mind; if he should not be taught and assisted by the Holy Ghost,
in this critical moment, to behold the Lamb of God; he would despair
forever. For this sense of ill-desert, this fearful looking-for of
judgment and fiery indignation, with which he is wrestling, is organic to
the conscience, and the human will has no more power over it than it has
over the sympathetic nerve. Only as he is taught by the Divine Spirit, is
he able with perfect calmness to look up from this brink of despair, and
say: "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. The
blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. Therefore, being justified
by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I know
whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which
I have committed unto him against that day."

In view of the truths which we have now considered, it is worthy of

1. First, that _the Holy Spirit constitutes the tie, and bond of
connection, between man and God_. The third Person in the Godhead is very
often regarded as more distant from the human soul, than either the
Father or the Son. In the history of the doctrine of the Trinity, the
definition of the Holy Spirit, and the discrimination of His relations in
the economy of the Godhead, was not settled until after the doctrine of
the first and second Persons had been established. Something analogous to
this appears in the individual experience. God the Father and God the Son
are more in the thoughts of many believers, than God the Holy Ghost. And
yet, we have seen that in the economy of Redemption, and from the very
nature of the case, the soul is brought as close to the Spirit, as to the
Father and Son. Nay, it is only through the inward operations of the
former, that the latter are made real to the heart and mind of man. Not
until the third Person enlightens, are the second and first Persons
beheld. "No man," says St. Paul, "can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by
the Holy Ghost."

The sinful soul is entirely dependent upon the Divine Spirit, and from
first to last it is in most intimate communication with Him during the
process of salvation. It is enlightened by His influence; it is enlivened
by Him; it is empowered by Him to the act of faith in Christ's Person and
Work; it is supported and assisted by Him, in every step of the Christian
race; it is comforted by Him in all trials and tribulations; and, lastly,
it is perfected in holiness, and fitted for the immediate presence of
God, by Him. Certainly, then, the believer should have as full faith in
the distinct personality, and immediate efficiency, of the third Person,
as he has in that of the first and second. His most affectionate feeling
should centre upon that Blessed Agent, through whom he appropriates the
blessings that have been provided for sinners by the Father and Son, and
without whose influence the Father would have planned the Redemptive
scheme, and the Son have executed it, in vain.

2. In the second place, it is deserving of very careful notice that _the
influences of the Holy Spirit may be obtained by asking for them_. This
is the only condition to be complied with. And this gift, furthermore, is
peculiar, in that it is _invariably_ bestowed whenever it is sincerely
implored. There are other gifts of God which may be asked for with deep
and agonizing desire, and it is not certain that they will be granted.
This is the case with temporal blessings. A sick man may turn his face to
the wall, with Hezekiah, and pray in the bitterness of his soul, for the
prolongation of his life, and yet not obtain the answer which Hezekiah
received. But no man ever supplicated in the earnestness of his soul for
the influences of the Holy Spirit, and was ultimately refused. For this
is a gift which it is always safe to grant. It involves a spiritual and
everlasting good. It is the gift of righteousness, of the fear and love
of God in the heart. There is no danger in such a bestowment. It
inevitably promotes the glory of God. Hence our Lord, after bidding his
hearers to "ask," to "seek," and to "knock," adds, as the encouraging
reason why they should do so: "For, _every one_ that asketh receiveth;
and he that seeketh, [always] findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall
[certainly] be opened." This is a reason that cannot be assigned in the
instance of other prayers. Our Lord commands his disciples to pray for
their daily bread; and we know that the children of God do generally find
their wants supplied. Still, it would not be true that _every one_ who in
the sincerity of his soul has asked for daily bread has received it. The
children of God have sometimes died of hunger. But no soul that has ever
hungered for the bread of heaven, and supplicated for it, has been sent
empty away. Nay more: Whoever finds it in his heart to ask for the Holy
Spirit may know, from this very fact, that the Holy Spirit has
anticipated him, and has prompted the very prayer itself. And think you
that God will not grant a request which He himself has inspired? And
therefore, again, it is, that _every one_ who asks invariably receives.

3. The third remark suggested by the subject we have been considering is,
that _it is exceedingly hazardous to resist Divine influences_. "Quench
not the Spirit" is one of the most imperative of the Apostolic
injunctions. Our Lord, after saying that a word spoken against Himself is
pardonable, adds that he that blasphemes against the Holy Ghost shall
never be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to come. The
New Testament surrounds the subject of Divine influences with very great
solemnity. It represents the resisting of the Holy Ghost to be as
heinous, and dangerous, as the trampling upon Christ's blood.

There is a reason for this. We have seen that in this operation upon the
mind and heart, God comes as near, and as close to man, as it is possible
for Him to come. Now to grieve or oppose such a merciful, and such an
_inward_ agency as this, is to offer the highest possible affront to the
majesty and the mercy of God. It is a great sin to slight the gifts of
Divine providence,--to misuse health, strength, wealth, talents. It is a
deep sin to contemn the truths of Divine Revelation, by which the soul is
made wise unto eternal life. It is a fearful sin to despise the claims of
God the Father, and God the Son. But it is a transcendent sin to resist
and beat back, _after it has been given_, that mysterious, that holy,
that immediately Divine influence, by which alone the heart of stone can
be made the heart of flesh. For, it indicates something more than the
ordinary carelessness of a sinner. It evinces a determined _obstinacy_ in
sin,--nay, a Satanic opposition to God and goodness. It is of such a
guilt as this, that the apostle John remarks: "There is a sin unto death;
I do not say that one should pray for it."[3]

Again, it is exceedingly hazardous to resist Divine influences, because
they depend wholly upon the good pleasure of God, and not at all upon any
established and uniform law. We must not, for a moment, suppose that the
operations of the Holy Spirit upon the human soul are like those of the
forces of nature upon the molecules of matter. They are not uniform and
unintermittent, like gravitation, and chemical affinity. We may avail
ourselves of the powers of nature at any moment, because they are
steadily operative by an established law. They are laboring incessantly,
and we may enter into their labors at any instant we please. But it is
not so with supernatural and gracious influences. God's awakening and
renewing power does not operate with the uniformity of those blind
natural laws which He has impressed upon the dull clod beneath our feet.
God is not one of the forces of nature. He is a Person and a Sovereign.
His special and highest action upon the human soul is not uniform. His
Spirit, He expressly teaches us, does not always strive with man. It is a
wind that bloweth when and where it listeth. For this reason, it is
dangerous to the religious interests of the soul, in the highest degree,
to go counter to any impulses of the Spirit, however slight, or to
neglect any of His admonitions, however gentle. If God in mercy has once
come in upon a thoughtless mind, and wakened it to eternal realities; if
He has enlightened it to perceive the things that make for its peace; and
that mind slights this merciful interference, and stifles down these
inward teachings, then God withdraws, and whether He will ever return
again to that soul depends upon His mere sovereign volition. He has bound
himself by no promise to do so. He has established no uniform law of
operation, in the case. It is true that He is very pitiful and of tender
mercy, and waits and bears long with the sinner; and it is also true,
that He is terribly severe and just, when He thinks it proper to be so,
and says to those who have despised His Spirit: "Because I have called
and ye refused, and have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded, I
will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh."

Let no one say: "God has promised to bestow the Holy Ghost to every one
who asks: I will ask at some future time." To "ask" for the Holy Spirit
implies some already existing desire that He would enter the mind and
convince of sin, and convert to God. It implies some _craving_, some
_yearning_, for Divine influences; and this implies some measure of such
influence already bestowed. Man asks for the Holy Spirit, only as he is
moved by the Holy Spirit. The Divine is ever prevenient to the human.
Suppose now, that a man resists these influences when they are _already_
at work within him, and says: "I will seek them at a more convenient
season." Think you, that when that convenient season comes round,--when
life is waning, and the world is receding, and the eternal gulf is
yawning,--think you that that man who has already resisted grace can make
his own heart to yearn for it, and his soul to crave it? Do men at such
times find that sincere desires, and longings, and aspirations, come at
their beck? Can a man say, with any prospect of success: "I will now
quench out this seriousness which the Spirit of God has produced in my
mind, and will bring it up again ten years hence. I will stifle this
drawing of the Eternal Father of my soul which I now feel at the roots of
my being, and it shall re-appear at a future day."

No! While it is true that any one who "asks," who really _wants_ a
spiritual blessing, will obtain it, it is equally true that a man may
have no heart to ask,--may have no desire, no yearning, no aspiration at
all, and be unable to produce one. In this case there is no promise.
Whosoever _thirsts_, and _only_ he who thirsts, can obtain the water of
life. Cherish, therefore, the faintest influences and operations of the
Comforter. If He enlightens your conscience so that it reproaches you for
sin, seek to have the work go on. Never resist any such convictions, and
never attempt to stifle them. If the Holy Spirit urges you to confession
of sin before God, yield _instantaneously_ to His urging, and pour
out your soul before the All-Merciful. And when He says, "Behold the Lamb
of God," look where He points, and be at peace and at rest. The secret of
all spiritual success is an immediate and uniform submission to the
influences of the Holy Ghost.

[Footnote 1: [Greek: _Anto, kath anto, meth anton, monoeides_.]--PLATO:
Convivium, p. 247, Ed. Bipont.]

[Footnote 2: Guyon: translated by Cowper. is expressed by VAUGHAN in
Works III. 85.--A similar thought "The Eclipse."

  "Thy anger I could kiss, and will;
  But O Thy grief, Thy grief doth kill."]

[Footnote 3: The sin against the Holy Ghost is unpardonable, not because
there is a grade of guilt in it too scarlet to be washed white by
Christ's blood of atonement but, because it implies a total quenching of
that operation of the third Person of the Trinity which is the only power
adequate to the extirpation of sin from the human soul. The sin against
the Holy Ghost is tantamount, therefore, to _everlasting_ sin. And it is
noteworthy, that in Mark iii. 29 the reading [Greek: _amartaemartos_],
instead of [Greek: kriseos], is supported by a majority of the
oldest manuscripts and versions, and is adopted by Lachmann,
Tischendorf, and Tregelles. "He that shall blaspheme against the Holy
Ghost.... is in danger of eternal _sin_."]


HEBREWS vii. 19.--"For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in
of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh to God."

It is the aim of the Epistle to the Hebrews, to teach the insufficiency
of the Jewish Dispensation to save the human race from the wrath of God
and the power of sin, and the all-sufficiency of the Gospel Dispensation
to do this. Hence, the writer of this Epistle endeavors with special
effort to make the Hebrews feel the weakness of their old and much
esteemed religion, and to show them that the only benefit which God
intended by its establishment was, to point men to the perfect and final
religion of the Gospel. This he does, by examining the parts of the Old
Economy. In the first place, the _sacrifices_ under the Mosaic law were
not designed to extinguish the sense of guilt,--"for it is not possible
that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin,"--but were
intended merely to awaken the sense of guilt, and thereby to lead the Jew
to look to that mercy of God which at a future day was to be exhibited in
the sacrifice of his eternal Son. The Jewish _priesthood_, again,
standing between the sinner and God, were not able to avert the Divine
displeasure,--for as sinners they were themselves exposed to it. They
could only typify, and direct the guilty to, the great High Priest, the
Messiah, whom God's mercy would send in the fulness of time. Lastly, the
moral _law_, proclaimed amidst the thunderings and lightnings of Sinai,
had no power to secure obedience, but only a fearful power to produce the
consciousness of disobedience, and of exposure to a death far more awful
than that threatened against the man who should touch the burning

It was, thus, the design of God, by this legal and preparatory
dispensation, to disclose to man his ruined and helpless condition, and
his need of looking to Him for everything that pertains to redemption.
And he did it, by so arranging the dispensation that the Jew might, as it
were, make the trial and see if he could be his own Redeemer. He
instituted a long and burdensome round of observances, by means of which
the Jew might, if possible, extinguish the remorse of his conscience, and
produce the peace of God in his soul. God seems by the sacrifices under
the law, and the many and costly offerings which the Jew was commanded to
bring into the temple of the Lord, to have virtually said to him: "Thou
art guilty, and My wrath righteously abides within thy conscience,--yet,
do what thou canst to free thyself from it; free thyself from it if thou
canst; bring an offering and come before Me. But when thou hast found
that thy conscience still remains perturbed and unpacified, and thy heart
still continues corrupt and sinful, then look away from thy agency and
thy offering, to My clemency and My offering,--trust not in these finite
sacrifices of the lamb and the goat, but let them merely remind thee of
the infinite sacrifice which in the fulness of time I will provide for
the sin of the world,--and thy peace shall be as a river, and thy
righteousness as the waves of the sea."

But the proud and legal spirit of the Jew blinded him, and he did not
perceive the true meaning and intent of his national religion. He made it
an end, instead of a mere means to an end. Hence, it became a mechanical
round of observances, kept up by custom, and eventually lost the power,
which it had in the earlier and better ages of the Jewish commonwealth,
of awakening the feeling of guilt and the sense of the need of a
Redeemer. Thus, in the days of our Saviour's appearance upon the earth,
the chosen guardians of this religion, which was intended to make men
humble, and feel their personal ill-desert and need of mercy, had become
self-satisfied and self-righteous. A religion designed to prompt the
utterance of the greatest of its prophets: "Woe is me! I am a man of
unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips," now
prompted the utterance of the Pharisee: "I thank Thee that I am not as
other men are."

The Jew, in the times of our Saviour and his Apostles, had thus entirely
mistaken the nature and purpose of the Old dispensation, and hence was
the most bitter opponent of the New. He rested in the formal and
ceremonial sacrifice of bulls and goats, and therefore counted the blood
of the Son of God an unholy thing. He thought to appear before Him in
whose sight the heavens are not clean, clothed in his own righteousness,
and hence despised the righteousness of Christ. In reality, he appealed
to the justice of God, and therefore rejected the religion of mercy.

But, this spirit is not confined to the Jew. It pervades the human race.
Man is naturally a legalist. He desires to be justified by his own
character and his own works, and reluctates at the thought of being
accepted upon the ground of another's merits. This Judaistic spirit is
seen wherever there is none of the publican's feeling when he said, "God
be merciful to me a sinner." All confidence in personal virtue, all
appeals to civil integrity, all attendance upon the ordinances of the
Christian religion without the exercise of the Christian's penitence and
faith, is, in reality; an exhibition of that same legal unevangelic
spirit which in its extreme form inflated the Pharisee, and led him to
tithe mint anise and cummin. Man's so general rejection of the Son of God
as suffering the just for the unjust, as the manifestation of the Divine
clemency towards a criminal, is a sign either that he is insensible of
his guilt, or else that being somewhat conscious of it he thinks to
cancel it himself.

Still, think and act as men may, the method of God in the Gospel is the
only method. Other foundation can no man lay than is laid. For it rests
upon stubborn facts, and inexorable principles. _God_ knows that however
anxiously a transgressor may strive to pacify his conscience, and prepare
it for the judgment-day, its deep remorse can be removed only by the
blood of incarnate Deity; that however sedulously he may attempt to obey
the law, he will utterly fail, unless he is inwardly renewed and
strengthened by the Holy Ghost. _He_ knows that mere bare law can make no
sinner perfect again, but that only the bringing in of a "better hope"
can,--a hope by the which we draw nigh to God.

The text leads us to inquire: _Why cannot the moral law make fallen man
perfect_? Or, in other words: _Why cannot the ten commandments save a

That we may answer this question, we must first understand what is meant
by a perfect man. It is one in whom there is no defect or fault of any
kind,--one, therefore, who has no perturbation in his conscience, and no
sin in his heart. It is a man who is entirely at peace with himself, and
with God, and whose affections are in perfect conformity with the Divine

But fallen man, man as we find him universally, is characterized by both
a remorseful conscience and an evil heart. His conscience distresses him,
not indeed uniformly and constantly but, in the great emergencies of his
life,--in the hour of sickness, danger, death,--and his heart is selfish
and corrupt continually. He lacks perfection, therefore, in two
particulars; first, in respect to acquittal at the bar of justice, and
secondly, in respect to inward purity. That, therefore, which proposes to
make him perfect again, must quiet the sense of guilt upon valid grounds,
and must produce a holy character. If the method fails in either of these
two respects, it fails altogether in making a perfect man.

But how can the moral law, or the ceremonial law, or both united, produce
within the human soul the cheerful, liberating, sense of acquittal, and
reconciliation with God's justice? Why, the very function and office-work
of law, in all its forms, is to condemn and terrify the transgressor; how
then can it calm and soothe him? Or, is there anything in the performance
of duty,--in the act of obeying law,--that is adapted to produce this
result, by taking away guilt? Suppose that a murderer could and should
perform a perfectly holy act, would it be any relief to his anguished
conscience, if he should offer it as an oblation to Eternal Justice for
the sin that is past? if he should plead it as an offset for having
killed a man? When we ourselves review the past, and see that we have not
kept the law up to the present point in our lives, is the gnawing of the
worm to be stopped, by resolving to keep it, and actually keeping it from
this point? Can such a use of the law as this is,--can the performance of
good works, imaginary or real ones, imperfect or perfect ones,--discharge
the office of an _atonement_, and so make us perfect in the forum of
conscience, and fill us with a deep and lasting sense of reconciliation
with the offended majesty and justice of God? Plainly not. For there is
nothing compensatory, nothing cancelling, nothing of the nature of a
satisfaction of justice, in the best obedience that was ever rendered to
moral law, by saint, angel, or seraph. _Because the creature owes the
whole_. He is obligated from the very first instant of his existence,
onward and evermore, to love God supremely, and to obey him perfectly in
every act and element of his being. Therefore, the perfectly obedient
saint, angel, and seraph must each say: "I am an unprofitable servant, I
have done only that which it was my duty to do; I can make no amends for
past failures; I can do no work that is meritorious and atoning."
Obedience to law, then, by a creature, and still less by a sinner, can
never atone for the sins that are past; can never make the guilty perfect
"in things pertaining to conscience." And if a man, in this indirect and
roundabout manner, neglects the provisions of the gospel, neglects the
oblation of Jesus Christ, and betakes himself to the discharge of his own
duty as a substitute therefor, he only finds that the flame burns hotter,
and the fang of the worm is sharper. If he looks to the moral law in any
form, and by any method, that he may get quit of his remorse and his
fears of judgment, the feeling of unreconciliation with justice, and the
fearful looking-for of judgment is only made more vivid and deep. Whoever
attempts the discharge of duties _for the purpose of atoning for his
sins_ takes a direct method of increasing the pains and perturbations
which he seeks to remove. The more he thinks of law, and the more he
endeavors to obey it for the purpose of purchasing the pardon of past
transgression, the more wretched does he become. Look into the lacerated
conscience of Martin Luther before he found the Cross, examine the
anxiety and gloom of Chalmers before he saw the Lamb of God, for proof
that this is so. These men, at first, were most earnest in their use of
the law in order to re-instate themselves in right relations with God's
justice. But the more they toiled in this direction, the less they
succeeded. Burning with inward anguish, and with God's arrows sticking
fast in him, shall the transgressor get relief from the attribute of
Divine justice, and the qualities of law? Shall the ten commandments of
Sinai, in any of their forms or uses, send a cooling and calming virtue
through the hot conscience? With these kindling flashes in his
guilt-stricken spirit, shall he run into the very identical fire that
kindled them? Shall he try to quench them in that "Tophet which is ordained
of old; which is made deep and large; the pile of which is fire and much
wood, and the breath of the Lord like a stream of brimstone doth kindle
it?" And yet such is, in reality, the attempt of every man who, upon
being convicted in his conscience of guilt before God, endeavors to
attain peace by resolutions to alter his course of conduct, and strenuous
endeavors to obey the commands of God,--in short by relying upon the law
in any form, as a means of reconciliation. Such is the suicidal effort
of every man who substitutes the law for the gospel, and expects to
produce within himself the everlasting peace of God, by anything short of
the atonement of God.

Let us fix it, then, as a fact, that the feeling of culpability and
unreconciliation can never be removed, so long as we do not look entirely
away from our own character and works to the mere pure mercy of God in
the blood of Christ. The transgressor can never atone for crime by
anything that he can suffer, or anything that he can do. He can never
establish a ground of justification, a reason why he should be forgiven,
by his tears, or his prayers, or his acts. Neither the law, nor his
attempts to obey the law, can re-instate him in his original relations to
justice, and make him perfect again in respect to his conscience. The ten
commandments can never silence his inward misgivings, and his moral
fears; for they are given for the very purpose of producing misgivings,
and causing fears. "The law worketh wrath." And if this truth and
fact be clearly perceived, and boldly acknowledged to his own mind, it
will cut him off from all these legal devices and attempts, and will shut
him up to the Divine mercy and the Divine promise in Christ, where alone
he is safe.

We have thus seen that one of the two things necessary in order that
apostate man may become perfect again,--viz., the pacification of his
conscience,--cannot be obtained in and by the law, in any of its forms or
uses. Let us now examine the other thing necessary in order to human
perfection, and see what the law can do towards it.

The other requisite, in order that fallen man may become perfect again,
is a holy heart and will. Can the moral law originate this? That we may
rightly answer the question, let us remember that a holy will is one that
keeps the law of God spontaneously and that a perfect heart is one that
sends forth holy affections and pure thoughts as naturally as the sinful
heart sends forth unholy affections and impure thoughts. A holy will,
like an evil will, is a wonderful and wonderfully fertile power. It does
not consist in an ability to make a few or many separate resolutions of
obedience to the divine law, but in being itself one great inclination
and determination continually and mightily going forth. A holy will,
therefore, is one that _from its very nature and spontaneity_ seeks God,
and the glory of God. It does not even need to make a specific resolution
to obey; any more than an affectionate child needs to resolve to obey its

In like manner, a perfect and holy heart is a far more profound and
capacious thing than men who have never seriously tried to obtain it deem
it to foe. It does not consist in the possession of a few or many holy
thoughts mixed with some sinful ones, or in having a few or many holy
desires together with some corrupt ones. A perfect heart is one undivided
agency, and does not produce, as the imperfectly sanctified heart of the
Christian does, fruits of holiness and fruits of sin, holy thoughts and
unholy thoughts. It is itself a root and centre of holiness, and
_nothing_ but goodness springs up from it. The angels of God are totally
holy. Their wills are unceasingly going forth towards Him with ease and
delight; their hearts are unintermittently gushing out emotions of love,
and feelings of adoration, and thoughts of reverence, and therefore the
song that they sing is unceasing, and the smoke of their incense
ascendeth forever and ever.

Such is the holy will, and the perfect heart, which fallen man must
obtain in order to be fit for heaven. To this complexion must he come at
last. And now we ask: Can the law generate all this excellence within the
human soul? In order to answer this question, we must consider the nature
of law, and the manner of its operation. The law, as antithetic to the
gospel, and as the word is employed in the text, is in its nature
mandatory and minatory. It commands, and it threatens. This is the style
of its operation. Can a perfect heart be originated in a sinner by these
two methods? Does the stern behest, "Do this or die," secure his willing
and joyful obedience? On the contrary, the very fact that the law of God
comes up before him coupled thus with a _threatening_ evinces that his
aversion and hostility are most intense. As the Apostle says, "The law is
not made for a righteous man; but for the lawless and disobedient, for
the ungodly and for sinners." Were man, like the angels on high, sweetly
obedient to the Divine will, there would be no arming of law with terror,
no proclamation of ten commandments amidst thunderings and lightnings. He
would be a law unto himself, as all the heavenly host are,--the law
working impulsively within him by its own exceeding lawfulness and
beauty. The very fact that God, in the instance of man, is compelled to
emphasize the _penalty_ along with the statute,--to say, "Keep my
commandments _upon pain of eternal death_,"--is proof conclusive that man
is a rebel, and intensely so.

And now what is the effect of this combination of command and threatening
upon the agent? Is he moulded by it? Does it congenially sway and incline
him? On the contrary, is he not excited to opposition by it? When the
commandment "_comes_," loaded down with menace and damnation, does not
sin "revive," as the Apostle affirms?[1] Arrest the transgressor in the
very act of disobedience, and ring in his ears the "Thou shalt _not_" of
the decalogue, and does he find that the law has the power to alter his
inclination, to overcome his carnal mind, and make him perfect in
holiness? On the contrary, the more you ply him with the stern command,
and the more you emphasize the awful threatening, the more do you make
him conscious of inward sin, and awaken his depravity. "The law,"--as St.
Paul affirms in a very remarkable text,--"is the _strength_ of sin,[2]"
instead of being its destruction. Nay, he had not even ([Greek: te])
known sin, but by the law: for he had not known lust, except the law had
said, "Thou shalt not lust." The commandment stimulates instead of
extirpating his hostility to the Divine government; and so long as the
_mere_ command, and the _mere_ threat,--which, as the hymn tells us, is
all the law can do,--are brought to bear, the depravity of the rebellious
heart becomes more and more apparent, and more and more intensified.

There is no more touching poem in all literature than that one in which
the pensive and moral Schiller portrays the struggle of an ingenuous
youth who would find the source of moral purification in the moral law;
who would seek the power that can transform him, in the mere imperatives
of his conscience, and the mere struggling and spasms of his own will. He
represents him as endeavoring earnestly and long to feel the force of
obligation, and as toiling sedulously to school himself into virtue, by
the bare power, by the dead lift, of duty. But the longer he tries, the
more he loathes the restraints of law. Virtue, instead of growing lovely
to him, becomes more and more severe, austere, and repellant. His life,
as the Scripture phrases it, is "under law," and not under love. There is
nothing spontaneous, nothing willing, nothing genial in his religion. He
does not enjoy religion, but he endures religion. Conscience does not, in
the least, renovate his will, but merely checks it, or goads it. He
becomes wearied and worn, and conscious that after all his self-schooling
he is the same creature at heart, in his disposition and affections, that
he was at the commencement of the effort, he cries out, "O Virtue, take
back thy crown, and let me sin."[3] The tired and disgusted soul would
once more do a _spontaneous_ thing.

Was, then, that which is good made death unto this youth, by a _Divine_
arrangement? Is this the _original_ and _necessary_ relation which law
sustains to the will and affections of an accountable creature? Must the
pure and holy law of God, from the very nature of things, be a weariness
and a curse? God forbid. But sin that it might _appear_ sin, working
death in the sinner by that which is good,--that sin by the commandment
might become, might be seen to be, exceeding sinful. The law is like a
chemical test. It eats into sin enough to show what sin is, and there
stops. The lunar caustic bites into the dead flesh of the mortified limb;
but there is no healing virtue in the lunar caustic. The moral law makes
no inward alterations in a sinner. In its own distinctive and proper
action upon the heart and will of an apostate being, it is fitted only to
elicit and exasperate his existing enmity. It can, therefore, no more be
a source of sanctification, than it can be of justification.

Of what use, then, is the law to a fallen man?--some one will ask. Why is
the commandment enunciated in the Scriptures, and why is the Christian
ministry perpetually preaching it to men dead in trespasses and sins? If
the law can subdue no man's obstinate will, and can renovate no man's
corrupt heart,--if it can make nothing perfect in human character,--then,
"wherefore serveth the law?" "It was added because of
transgressions,"--says the Apostle in answer to this very question.[4] It
is preached and forced home in order to _detect_ sin, but not to remove
it; to bring men to a consciousness of the evil of their hearts, but not
to change their hearts. "For," continues the Apostle, "if there had been
a law given which could have given _life_"--which could produce a
transformation of character,--"then verily righteousness should have been
by the law," It is not because the stern and threatening commandment can
impart spiritual vitality to the sinner, but because it can produce within
him the keen vivid sense of spiritual death, that it is enunciated in the
word of God, and proclaimed from the Christian pulpit. The Divine law is
waved like a flashing sword before the eyes of man, not because it can
make him alive but, because it can slay him, that he may then be made
alive, not by the law but by the Holy Ghost,--by the Breath that cometh
from the four winds and breathes on the slain.

It is easy to see, by a moment's reflection, that, from the nature of the
case, the moral law cannot be a source of spiritual life and
sanctification to a soul that has _lost_ these. For law primarily
supposes life, supposes an obedient inclination, and therefore does not
produce it. It is not the function of any law to impart that moral force,
that right disposition of the heart, by which its command is to be
obeyed. The State, for example, enacts a law against murder, but this
mere enactment does not, and cannot, produce a benevolent disposition in
the citizens of the commonwealth, in case they are destitute of it. How
often do we hear the remark, that it is impossible to legislate either
morality or religion into the people. When the Supreme Governor first
placed man under the obligations and sovereignty of law, He created him
in His own image and likeness: endowing him with that holy heart and
right inclination which obeys the law of God with ease and delight. God
made man upright, and in this state he could and did keep the commands
of God perfectly. If, therefore, by any _subsequent action_ upon their
part, mankind have gone out of the primary relationship in which they
stood to law, and have by their _apostasy_ lost all holy sympathy with
it, and all affectionate disposition to obey it, it only remains for the
law (not to change along with them, but) to continue immutably the same
pure and righteous thing, and to say, "Obey perfectly, and thou shalt
live; disobey in a single instance, and thou shalt die."

But the text teaches us, that although the law can make no sinful man
perfect, either upon the side of justification, or of sanctification,
"the bringing in of a better _hope_" can. This hope is the evangelic
hope,--the yearning desire, and the humble trust,--to be forgiven through
the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be sanctified by the
indwelling power of the Holy Ghost. A simple, but a most powerful thing!
Does the law, in its abrupt and terrible operation in my conscience,
start out the feeling of guiltiness until I throb with anguish, and moral
fear? I hope, I trust, I ask, to be pardoned through the blood of the
Eternal Son of God my Redeemer. I will answer all these accusations
of law and conscience, by pleading what my Lord has done.

Again, does the law search me, and probe me, and elicit me, and reveal
me, until I would shrink out of the sight of God and of myself? I hope, I
trust, I ask, to be made pure as the angels, spotless as the seraphim, by
the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit. This confidence in Christ's
Person and Work is the anchor,--an anchor that was never yet wrenched
from the clefts of the Rock of Ages, and never will be through the aeons
of aeons. By this hope, which goes away from self, and goes away from the
law, to Christ's oblation and the Holy Spirit's energy, we do indeed draw
very nigh to God,--"heart to heart, spirit to spirit, life to life."

1. The unfolding of this text of Scripture shows, in the first place, the
importance of having a _distinct and discriminating conception of law,
and especially of its proper function in reference to a sinful being_.
Very much is gained when we understand precisely what the moral law, as
taught in the Scriptures, and written in our consciences, can do, and
cannot do, towards our salvation. It can do nothing positively and
efficiently. It cannot extinguish a particle of our guilt, and it cannot
purge away a particle of our corruption. Its operation is wholly negative
and preparatory. It is merely a schoolmaster to conduct us to Christ. And
the more definitely this truth and fact is fixed in our minds, the more
intelligently shall we proceed in our use of law and conscience.

2. In the second place, the unfolding of this text shows the importance
of _using the law faithfully and fearlessly within its own limits; and in
accordance with its proper function_. It is frequently asked what the
sinner shall do in the work of salvation. The answer is nigh thee, in thy
mouth, and in thy heart. Be continually applying the law of God to your
personal character and conduct. Keep an active and a searching conscience
within your sinful soul. Use the high, broad, and strict commandment of
God as an instrumentality by which all ease, and all indifference, in sin
shall be banished from the breast. Employ all this apparatus of torture,
as perhaps it may seem to you in some sorrowful hours, and break up that
moral drowze and lethargy which is ruining so many souls. And then cease
this work, the instant you have experimentally found out that the law
reaches a limit beyond which it cannot go,--that it forgives none of the
sins which it detects, produces no change in the heart whose vileness it
reveals, and makes no lost sinner perfect again. Having used the law
legitimately, for purposes of illumination and conviction merely, leave
it forever as a source of justification and sanctification, and seek
these in Christ's atonement, and the Holy Spirit's gracious operation in
the heart. Then sin shall not have dominion over you; for you shall not
be under law, but under grace. After that _faith_ is come, ye are no
longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are then the children of God by faith
in Christ Jesus.[5]

How simple are the terms of salvation! But then they presuppose this
work of the law,--this guilt-smitten conscience, and this wearying sense
of bondage to sin. It is easy for a _thirsty_ soul to drink down the
draught of cold water. Nothing is simpler, nothing is more grateful to
the sensations. But suppose that the soul is satiated, and is not a
thirsty one. Then, nothing is more forced and repelling than this same
draught. So is it with the provisions of the gospel. Do we feel ourselves
to be guilty beings; do we hunger, and do we thirst for the expiation of
our sins? Then the blood of Christ is drink indeed, and his flesh is
meat with emphasis. But are we at ease and self-contented? Then nothing
is more distasteful than the terms of salvation. Christ is a root out of
dry ground. And so long as we remain in this unfeeling and torpid state,
salvation is an utter impossibility. The seed of the gospel cannot
germinate and grow upon a rock.

[Footnote 1: Rom. vii. 9-12.]

[Footnote 2: 1 Cor. xv. 56.]

[Footnote 3: SCHILLER: Der Kampf.]

[Footnote 4: Galatians iii. 19.]

[Footnote 5: Galatians iii. 25, 26.]


ISAIAH, i. 11.--"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord;
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though
they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

These words were at first addressed to the Church of God. The prophet
Isaiah begins his prophecy, by calling upon the heavens and the earth to
witness the exceeding sinfulness of God's chosen people. "Hear, O
heavens, and give ear O earth: for the Lord hath spoken; I have nourished
and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox
knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not
know, my people doth not consider." Such ingratitude and sin as this, he
naturally supposes would shock the very heavens and earth.

Then follows a most vehement and terrible rebuke. The elect people of God
are called "Sodom," and "Gomorrah." "Hear the word of the Lord ye rulers
of Sodom: give ear unto the law of our God ye people of Gomorrah. Why
should ye be stricken, any more? ye will revolt more and more." This
outflow of holy displeasure would prepare us to expect an everlasting
reprobacy of the rebellious and unfaithful Church, but it is strangely
followed by the most yearning and melting entreaty ever addressed by the
Most High to the creatures of His footstool: "Come now, and let us reason
together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

These words have, however, a wider application; and while the unfaithful
children of God ought to ponder them long and well, it is of equal
importance that "the aliens from the commonwealth of Israel" should
reflect upon them, and see their general application to all
transgressors, so long as they are under the Gospel dispensation. Let us,
then, consider two of the plain lessons taught, in these words of the
prophet, to every unpardoned man.

I. The text represents God as saying to the transgressor of his law,
"Come and let us reason _together_." The first lesson to be learned,
consequently, is the duty of examining our moral character and conduct,
_along with God_.

When a responsible being has made a wrong use of his powers, nothing is
more reasonable than that he should call himself to account for this
abuse. Nothing, certainly, is more necessary. There can be no amendment
for the future, until the past has been cared for. But that this
examination may be both thorough and profitable, it must be made _in
company with the Searcher of hearts_.

For there are always two beings who are concerned with sin; the being who
commits it, and the Being against whom it is committed. We sin, indeed,
against ourselves; against our own conscience, and against our own best
interest. But we sin in a yet higher, and more terrible sense, against
Another than ourselves, compared with whose majesty all of our faculties
and interests, both in time and eternity, are altogether nothing and
vanity. It is not enough, therefore, to refer our sin to the law written
on the heart, and there stop. We must ultimately pass beyond conscience
itself, to God, and say, "Against _Thee_ have I sinned." It is not the
highest expression of the religious feeling, when we say, "How can I do
this great wickedness, and sin against my conscience?" He alone has
reached the summit of vision who looks beyond all finite limits,
however wide and distant, beyond all finite faculties however noble and
elevated, and says, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against

Whenever, therefore, an examination is made into the nature of moral evil
as it exists in the individual heart, both parties concerned should share
in the examination. The soul, as it looks within, should invite the
scrutiny of God also, and as fast as it makes discoveries of its
transgression and corruption should realize that the Holy One sees also.
Such a joint examination as this produces a very keen and clear sense of
the evil and guilt of sin. Conscience indeed makes cowards of us all, but
when the eye of God is felt to be upon us, it smites us to the ground.
"When _Thou_ with rebukes,"--says the Psalmist,--"dost correct man for
his iniquity, Thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth." One
great reason why the feeling which the moralist has towards sin is so
tame and languid, when compared with the holy abhorrence of the
regenerate mind, lies in the fact that he has not contemplated human
depravity in company with a sin-hating Jehovah. At the very utmost, he
has been shut up merely with a moral sense which he has insulated from
its dread ground and support,--the personal character and holy emotions
of God. What wonder is it, then, that this finite faculty should lose
much of its temper and severity, and though still condemning sin (for it
must do this, if it does anything), fails to do it with that spiritual
energy which characterizes the conscience when God is felt to be
co-present and co-operating. So it is, in other provinces. We feel the
guilt of an evil action more sharply, when we know that a fellow-man
saw us commit it, than when we know that no one but ourselves is
cognizant of the deed. The flush of shame often rises into our face, upon
learning accidentally that a fellow-being was looking at us, when we did
the wrong action without any blush. How much more criminal, then, do we
feel, when distinctly aware that the pure and holy God knows our
transgression. How much clearer is our perception of the nature of moral
evil, when we investigate it along with Him whose eyes are a flame of

It is, consequently, a very solemn moment, when the human spirit and the
Eternal Mind are reasoning together about the inward sinfulness. When
the soul is shut up along with the Holy One of Israel, there are great
searchings of heart. Man is honest and anxious at such a time. His usual
thoughtlessness and torpidity upon the subject of religion leaves him,
and he becomes a serious and deeply-interested creature. Would that the
multitudes who listen so languidly to the statements of the pulpit, upon
these themes of sin and guilt, might be closeted with the Everlasting
Judge, in silence and in solemn reflection. You who have for years been
told of sin, but are, perhaps, still as indifferent regarding it as if
there were no stain, upon the conscience,--would that you might enter
into an examination of yourself, alone with your Maker. Then would you
become as serious, and as anxious, as you will be in that moment when you
shall be informed that the last hour of your life upon earth has come.

Another effect of this "reasoning together" with God, respecting our
character and conduct, is to render our views _discriminating_. The
action of the mind is not only intense, it is also intelligent. Strange
as it may sound, it is yet a fact, that a review of our past lives
conducted under the eye of God, and with a recognition of His presence
and oversight, serves to deliver the mind from confusion and panic, and
to fill it with a calm and rational fear. This is of great value. For,
when a man begins to be excited upon the subject of religion,--it may be
for the first time, in his unreflecting and heedless life,--he is
oftentimes terribly excited. He is now brought _suddenly_ into the midst
of the most solemn things. That sin of his, the enormity of which he had
never seen before, now reveals itself in a most frightful form, and he
feels as the murderer does who wakes in the morning and begins to realize
that he has killed a man. That holy Being, of whose holiness he had no
proper conception, now rises dim and awful before his half-opened inward
eye, and he trembles like the pagan before the unknown God whom he
ignorantly worships. That eternity, which he had heard spoken of with
total indifference, now flashes penal flames in his face. Taken and held
in this state of mind, the transgressor is confusedly as well as terribly
awakened, and he needs first of all to have this experience clarified,
and know precisely for what he is trembling, and why. This panic and
consternation must depart, and a calm intelligent anxiety must take its
place. But this cannot be, unless the mind turns towards God, and invites
His searching scrutiny, and His aid in the search after sin. So long as
we shrink away from our Judge, and in upon ourselves, in these hours of
conviction,--so long as we deal only with the workings of our own minds,
and do not look up and "reason together" with God,--we take the most
direct method of producing a blind, an obscure, and a selfish agony. We
work ourselves, more and more, into a mere phrenzy of excitement. Some of
the most wretched and fanatical experience in the history of the Church
is traceable to a solitary self-brooding, in which, after the sense of
sin had been awakened, the soul did not discuss the matter with God.

For the character and attributes of God, when clearly seen, repress all
fright, and produce that peculiar species of fear which is tranquil
because it is deep. Though the soul, in such an hour, is conscious that
God is a fearful object of sight for a transgressor, yet it continues to
gaze at Him with an eager straining eye. And in so doing, the superficial
tremor and panic of its first awakening to the subject of religion passes
off, and gives place to an intenser moral feeling, the calmness of which
is like the stillness of fascination. Nothing has a finer effect upon a
company of awakened minds, than to cause the being and attributes of God,
in all their majesty and purity, to rise like an orb within their
horizon; and the individual can do nothing more proper, or more salutary,
when once his sin begins to disquiet him, and the inward perturbation
commences, than to collect and steady himself, in an act of reflection
upon that very Being who _abhors_ sin. Let no man, in the hour of
conviction and moral fear, attempt to run away from the Divine holiness.
On the contrary, let him rush forward and throw himself down prostrate
before that Dread Presence, and plead the merits of the Son of God,
before it. He that finds his life shall lose it; but he that loses his
life shall find it. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die,
it remains a single unproductive corn of wheat; but if it _die_, it
germinates and brings forth much fruit. He who does not avoid a contact
between the sin of his soul and the holiness of his God, but on the
contrary seeks to have these two things come together, that each may be
understood in its own intrinsic nature and quality, takes the only safe
course. He finds that, as he knows God more distinctly, he knows himself
more distinctly; and though as yet he can see nothing but displeasure in
that holy countenance, he is possessed of a well-defined experience. He
knows that he is wrong, and his Maker is right; that he is wicked, and
that God is holy. He perceives these two fundamental facts with a
simplicity, and a certainty, that admits of no debate. The confusion and
obscurity of his mind, and particularly the queryings whether these
things are so, whether God is so very holy and man is so very sinful,
begin to disappear, like a fog when disparted and scattered by sunrise.
Objects are seen in their true proportions and meanings; right and wrong,
the carnal mind and the spiritual mind, heaven and hell,--all the great
contraries that pertain to the subject of religion,--are distinctly
understood, and thus the first step is taken towards a better state of
things in the soul.

Let no man, then, fear to invite the scrutiny of God, in connection with
his own scrutiny of himself. He who deals only with the sense of duty,
and the operations of his own mind, will find that these themselves
become more dim and indistinct, so long as the process of examination is
not conducted in this joint manner; so long as the mind refuses to accept
the Divine proposition, "Come now, and let us reason _together_." He, on
the other hand, who endeavors to obtain a clear view of the Being against
whom he has sinned, and to feel the full power of His holy eye as well as
of His holy law, will find that his sensations and experiences are
gaining a wonderful distinctness and intensity that will speedily bring
the entire matter to an issue.

II. For then, by the blessing of God, he learns the second lesson taught
in the text: viz., that _there is forgiveness with God_. Though, in this
process of joint examination, your sins be found to be as scarlet, they
shall be as white as snow; though they be discovered to be red like
crimson, they shall be as wool.

If there were no forgiveness of sins, if mercy were not a manifested
attribute of God, all self-examination, and especially all this conjoint
divine scrutiny, would be a pure torment and a pure gratuity. It is
wretchedness to know that we are guilty sinners, but it is the endless
torment to know that there is no forgiveness, either here or hereafter.
Convince a man that he will never be pardoned, and you shut him up with
the spirits in prison. Compel him to examine himself under the eye of his
God, while at the same time he has no hope of mercy,--and there would be
nothing _unjust_ in this,--and you distress him with the keenest and most
living torment of which a rational spirit is capable. Well and natural
was it, that the earliest creed of the Christian Church emphasized the
doctrine of the Divine Pity; and in all ages the Apostolic Symbol has
called upon the guilt-stricken human soul to cry, "I believe in the
forgiveness of sins."

We have the amplest assurance in the whole written Revelation of God,
_but nowhere else_, that "there is forgiveness with Him, that He may be
feared." "Whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy;" and
only with such an assurance as this from His own lips, could we summon
courage to look into our character and conduct, and invite God to do the
same. But the text is an exceedingly explicit assertion of this great
truth. The very same Being who invites us to reason with Him, and canvass
the subject of our criminality, in the very same breath, if we may so
speak, assures us that He will forgive all that is found in this
examination. And upon _such_ terms, cannot the criminal well afford to
examine into his crime? He has a promise beforehand, that if he will but
scrutinize and confess his sin it shall be forgiven. God would have been
simply and strictly just, had He said to him: "Go down into the depths of
thy transgressing spirit, see how wicked thou hast been and still art,
and know that in my righteous severity I will never pardon thee, world
without end." But instead of this, He says: "Go down into the depths of
thy heart, see the transgression and the corruption all along the line of
the examination, confess it into my ear, and I will make the scarlet and
crimson guilt white in the blood of my own Son." These declarations of
Holy Writ, which are a direct verbal statement from the lips of God, and
which specify distinctly what He will do and will not do in the matter of
sin, teach us that however deeply our souls shall be found to be stained,
the Divine pity outruns and exceeds the crime. "For as the heavens are
high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards them that fear him.
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how
shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Here upon earth,
there is no wickedness that surpasses the pardoning love of God in
Christ. The words which Shakspeare puts into the mouth of the remorseful,
but _impenitent_, Danish king are strictly true:

  "What if this cursed hand
  Were thicker than itself with brother's blood?
  Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
  To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy,
  But to confront the visage of offence?"[1]

Anywhere this side of the other world, and at any moment this side of the
grave, a sinner, _if penitent_ (but penitence is not always at his
control), may obtain forgiveness for all his sins, through Christ's blood
of atonement. He must not hope for mercy in the future world, if he
neglects it here. There are no acts of pardon passed in the day of
judgment. The utterance of Christ in _that_ day is not the utterance,
"Thy sins are forgiven thee," but, "Come ye blessed," or "Depart ye
cursed." So long, and only so long, as there is life there is hope, and
however great may be the conscious criminality of a man while he is under
the economy of Redemption, and before he is summoned to render up his
last account, let him not despair but hope in Divine grace.

Now, he who has seriously "reasoned together" with God, respecting his
own character, is far better prepared to find God in the forgiveness of
sins, than he is who has merely brooded over his own unhappiness, without
any reference to the qualities and claims of his Judge. It has been a
plain and personal matter throughout, and having now come to a clear and
settled conviction that he is a guilty sinner, he turns directly to the
great and good Being who stands immediately before him, and prays to be
forgiven, and _is_ forgiven. One reason why the soul so often gropes days
and months without finding a sin-pardoning God lies in the fact, that its
thoughts and feelings respecting religious subjects, and particularly
respecting the state of the heart, have been too vague and indistinct.
They have not had an immediate and close reference to that one single
Being who is most directly concerned, and who alone can minister to a
mind diseased. The soul is wretched, and there may be some sense of sin,
but there is no one to go to,--no one to address with an appealing cry.
"Oh that I knew where I might find him," is its language. "Oh that I
might come even to his seat. Behold I go forward, but he is not there;
and backward, but I cannot perceive him." But this groping would cease
were there a clear view of God. There might not be peace and a sense of
reconciliation immediately; but there would be a distinct conception of
_the one thing needful_ in order to salvation. This would banish all
other subjects and objects. The eye would be fixed upon the single fact
of sin, and the simple fact that none but God can forgive it. The whole
inward experience would thus be narrowed down to a focus. Simplicity and
intensity would be introduced into the mental state, instead of the
previous confusion and vagueness. Soliloquy would end, and prayer,
importunate, agonizing prayer, would begin. That morbid and useless
self-brooding would cease, and those strong cryings and wrestlings till
day-break would commence, and the kingdom of heaven would suffer this
violence, and the violent would take it by force. "When I _kept silence_;
my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long. For day and
night thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture was turned into the drought
of summer. I _acknowledged_ my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity I no
longer _hid_. I said, I will _confess_ my transgressions unto the Lord;
and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this,"--because this is
Thy method of salvation,--"shall every one that is godly pray unto
thee, in a time when thou mayest be found." (Ps. xxxii. 3-6.)

Self-examination, then, when joined with a distinct recognition of the
Divine character, and a conscious sense of God's scrutiny, paradoxical as
it may appear, is the surest means of producing a firm conviction in a
guilty mind that God is merciful, and is the swiftest way of finding Him
to be so. Opposed as the Divine nature is to sin, abhorrent as iniquity
is to the pure mind of God, it is nevertheless a fact, that that sinner
who goes directly into this Dread Presence with all his sins upon his
head, in order to know them, to be condemned and crushed by them, and to
confess them, is the one who soonest returns with peace and hope in his
soul. For, he discovers that God is as cordial and sincere in His offer
to forgive, as He is in His threat to punish; and having, to his sorrow,
felt the reality and power of the Divine anger, he now to his joy feels
the equal reality and power of the Divine love.

And this is the one great lesson which every man must learn, or perish
forever. The _truthfulness_ of God, in every respect, and in all
relations,--His strict _fidelity to His word_, both under the law and
under the gospel,--is a quality of which every one must have a vivid
knowledge and certainty, in order to salvation. Men perish through
unbelief. He that doubteth is damned. To illustrate. Men pass through
this life doubting and denying God's abhorrence of sin, and His
determination to punish it forever and ever. Under the narcotic and
stupefying influence of this doubt and denial, they remain in sin, and at
death go over into the immediate presence of God, only to discover that
all His statements respecting His determination upon this subject are
_true_,--awfully and hopelessly true. They then spend an eternity, in
bewailing their infatuation in dreaming, while here upon earth, that
the great and holy God did not mean what he said.

Unbelief, again, tends to death in the other direction, though it is far
less liable to result in it. The convicted and guilt-smitten man
sometimes doubts the truthfulness of the Divine promise in Christ. He
spends days of darkness and nights of woe, because he is unbelieving in
regard to God's compassion, and readiness to forgive a penitent; and
when, at length, the light of the Divine countenance breaks upon him, he
wonders that he was so foolish and slow of heart to believe all that God
himself had said concerning the "multitude" of his tender mercies.
Christian and Hopeful lay long and needlessly in the dungeon of Doubting
Castle, until the former remembered that the key to all the locks was in
his bosom, and had been all the while. They needed only to take God at
his word. The anxious and fearful soul must believe the Eternal Judge
_implicitly_, when he says: "I will justify thee through the blood of
Christ." God is truthful under the gospel, and under the law; in His
promise of mercy, and in His threatening of eternal woe. And "if we
believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself." He hath
promised, and He hath threatened; and, though heaven and earth pass away,
one jot or one tittle of that promise shall not fail in the case of those
who confidingly trust it, nor shall one iota or scintilla of the
threatening fail in the instance of those who have recklessly and rashly
disbelieved it.

In respect, then, to both sides of the revelation of the Divine
character,--in respect to the threatening and the promise,--men need to
have a clear perception, and an unwavering belief. He that doubteth in
either direction is damned. He who does not believe that God is truthful,
when He declares that He will "punish iniquity, transgression and sin,"
and that those upon the left hand shall "go away into everlasting
punishment," will persist in sin until he passes the line of probation
and be lost. And he who does not believe that God is truthful, when He
declares that He will forgive scarlet and crimson sins through the blood
of Christ, will be overcome by despair and be also lost. But he who
believes _both_ Divine statements with equal certainty, and perceives
_both_ facts with distinct vision, will be saved.

From these two lessons of the text, we deduce the following practical

1. First: In all states of religious anxiety, we should _betake ourselves
instantly and directly to God_. There is no other refuge for the human
soul but God in Christ, and if this fails us, we must renounce all hope
here and hereafter.

                "If this fail,
  The pillared firmament is rottenness,
  And earth's base built on stubble."[2]

We are, therefore, from the nature of the case, shut up to this course.
Suppose the religious anxiety arise from a sense of sin, and the fear of
retribution. God is the only Being that can forgive sins. To whom, then,
can such an one go but unto Him? Suppose the religious anxiety arises
from a sense of the perishing nature of earthly objects, and the soul
feels as if all the foundation and fabric of its hope and comfort were
rocking into irretrievable ruin. God is the only Being who can help in
this crisis. In either or in any case,--be it the anxiety of the
unforgiven, or of the child of God,--whatever be the species of mental
sorrow, the human soul is by its very circumstances driven to its Maker,
or else driven to destruction.

What more reasonable course, therefore, than to conform to the
necessities of our condition. The principal part of wisdom is to take
things as they are, and act accordingly. Are we, then, sinners, and in
fear for the final result of our life? Though it may seem to us like
running into fire, we must nevertheless betake ourselves first and
immediately to that Being who hates and punishes sin. Though we see
nothing but condemnation and displeasure in those holy eyes, we must
nevertheless approach them _just and simply as we are_. We must say with
king David in a similar case, when he had incurred the displeasure of
God: "I am in a great strait; [yet] let me fall into the hand of the
Lord, for very great are his mercies" (1 Chron. xx. 13). We must suffer
the intolerable brightness to blind and blast us in our guiltiness, and
let there be an actual contact between the sin of our soul and the
holiness of our God. If we thus proceed, in accordance with the facts of
our case and our position, we shall meet with a great and joyful
surprise. Flinging ourselves helpless, and despairing of all other
help,--_rashly_, as it will seem to us, flinging ourselves off from the
position where we now are, and upon which we must inevitably perish, we
shall find ourselves, to our surprise and unspeakable joy, caught in
everlasting, paternal arms. He who loses his life,--he who _dares_ to
lose his life,--shall find it.

2. Secondly: In all our religious anxiety, we should _make a full and
plain statement of everything to God_. God loves to hear the details of
our sin, and our woe. The soul that pours itself out as water will find
that it is not like water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered
up again. Even when the story is one of shame and remorse, we find it to
be mental relief, patiently and without any reservation or palliation, to
expose the whole not only to our own eye but to that of our Judge. For,
to this very thing have we been invited. This is precisely the "reasoning
together" which God proposes to us. God has not offered clemency to a
sinful world, with the expectation or desire that there be on the part of
those to whom it is offered, such a stinted and meagre confession, such a
glozing over and diminution of sin, as to make that clemency appear a
very small matter. He well knows the depth and the immensity of the sin
which He proposes to pardon, and has made provision accordingly. In the
phrase of Luther, it is no painted sinner who is to be forgiven, and it
is no painted Saviour who is offered. The transgression is deep and real,
and the atonement is deep and real. The crime cannot be exaggerated,
neither can the expiation. He, therefore, who makes the plainest and most
child-like statement of himself to God, acts most in accordance with the
mind, and will, and gospel of God. If man only be hearty, full, and
unreserved in confession, he will find God to be hearty, full, and
unreserved in absolution.

Man is not straitened upon the side of the Divine mercy. The obstacle in
the way of his salvation is in himself; and the particular, fatal
obstacle consists in the fact that he does not feel that he _needs_
mercy. God in Christ stands ready to pardon, but man the sinner stands up
before Him like the besotted criminal in our courts of law, with no
feeling upon the subject. The Judge assures him that He has a boundless
grace and clemency to bestow, but the stolid hardened man is not even
aware that he has committed a dreadful crime, and needs grace and
clemency. There is food in infinite abundance, but no hunger upon the
part of man. The water of life is flowing by in torrents, but men have no
thirst. In this state of things, nothing can be done, but to pass a
sentence of condemnation. God cannot forgive a being who does not even
know that he needs to be forgiven. Knowledge then, self-knowledge, is the
great requisite; and the want of it is the cause of perdition. This
"reasoning together" with God, respecting our past and present character
and conduct, is the first step to be taken by any one who would make
preparation for eternity. As soon as we come to a right understanding of
our lost and guilty condition, we shall cry: "Be merciful to me a sinner;
create within me a clean heart, O God." Without such an
understanding,--such an intelligent perception of our sin and guilt,--we
never shall, and we never can.

[Footnote 1: SHAKSPEARE: Hamlet, Act iii. Sc. 4.]

[Footnote 2: MILTON: Comus, 597-599.]


John viii. 34.--"Jesus answered them, Verily, verily I say unto you,
whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."

The word [Greek: doulos] which is translated "servant," in the text,
literally signifies a slave; and the thought which our Lord actually
conveyed to those who heard Him is, "Whosoever committeth sin is the
_slave_ of sin." The apostle Peter, in that second Epistle of his which
is so full of terse and terrible description of the effects of unbridled
sensuality upon the human will, expresses the same truth. Speaking of the
influence of those corrupting and licentious men who have "eyes full of
adultery, and that _cannot_ cease from sin," he remarks that while they
promise their dupes "liberty, they themselves are the servants [slaves]
of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he _brought
in bondage_."

Such passages as these, of which there are a great number in the Bible,
direct attention to the fact that sin contains an element of
_servitude_,--that in the very act of transgressing the law of God there
is a _reflex_ action of the human will upon itself, whereby it becomes
less able than before to keep that law. Sin is the suicidal action of the
human will. It destroys the power to do right, which is man's true
freedom. The effect of vicious habit in diminishing a man's ability to
resist temptation is proverbial. But what is habit but a constant
repetition of wrong decisions, every single one of which _reacts_ upon
the faculty that put them forth, and renders it less strong and less
energetic, to do the contrary. Has the old debauchee, just tottering
into hell, as much power of active resistance against the sin which has
now ruined him, as the youth has who is just beginning to run that awful
career? Can any being do a wrong act, and be as sound in his will and as
spiritually strong, after it, as he was before it? Did that abuse of free
agency by Adam, whereby the sin of the race was originated, leave the
agent as it found him,--uninjured and undebilitated in his voluntary

The truth and fact is, that sin in and by its own nature and operations,
tends to destroy all virtuous force, all holy energy, in any moral being.
The excess of will to sin is the same as the defect of will to holiness.
The degree of intensity with which any man loves and inclines to evil is
the measure of the amount of power to good which he has thereby lost. And
if the intensity be total, then the loss is entire. Total depravity
carries with it total impotence and helplessness. The more carefully we
observe the workings of our own wills, the surer will be our conviction
that they can ruin themselves. We shall indeed find that they cannot be
_forced_, or ruined from the outside. But, if we watch the influence upon
the _will itself_, of its own wrong decisions, its own yielding to
temptations, we shall discover that the voluntary faculty may be ruined
from within; may be made impotent to good by its own action; may
surrender itself with such an intensity and entireness to appetite,
passion, and self-love, that it becomes unable to reverse itself, and
overcome its own wrong disposition and direction. And yet there is no
_compulsion_, from first to last, in the process. The man follows
himself. He pursues his own inclination. He has his own way and does
as he pleases. He loves what he inclines to love, and hates what he
inclines to hate. Neither God, nor the world, nor Satan himself, force
him to do wrong. Sin is the most spontaneous of self-motion. But
self-motion has _consequences_ as much as any other motion. Because
transgression is a _self_-determined act, it does not follow that it has
no reaction and results, but leaves the will precisely as it found it. It
is strictly true that man was not necessitated to apostatize; but it is
equally true that if by his own self-decision he should apostatize, he
could not then and afterwards be as he was before. He would lose a
_knowledge_ of God and divine things which he could never regain of
himself. And he would lose a spiritual _power_ which he could never again
recover of himself. The bondage of which Christ speaks, when He says,
"Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin," is an effect within the
soul itself of an unforced act of self-will, and therefore is as truly
guilt as any other result or product of self-will,--as spiritual
blindness, or spiritual hardness, or any other of the qualities of sin.
Whatever springs from will, we are responsible for. The drunkard's
bondage and powerlessness issues from his own inclination and
self-indulgence, and therefore the bondage and impotence is no excuse for
his vice. Man's inability to love God supremely results from his intense
self-will and self-love; and therefore his impotence is a part and
element of his sin, and not an excuse for it.

  "If weakness may excuse,
  What murderer, what traitor, parricide,
  Incestuous, sacrilegious, may not plead it?
  All wickedness is weakness."[1]

The doctrine, then, which is taught in the text, is the truth that _sin
is spiritual slavery_; and it is to the proof and illustration of this
position that we invite attention.

The term "spiritual" is too often taken to mean unreal, fanciful,
figurative. For man is earthly in his views as well as in his feelings,
and therefore regards visible and material things as the emphatic
realities. Hence he employs material objects as the ultimate standard, by
which he measures the reality of all other things. The natural man has
more consciousness of his body, than he has of his soul; more sense of
this world, than of the other. Hence we find that the carnal man
expresses his conception of spiritual things, by transferring to them, in
a weak and secondary signification, words which he applies in a strong
and vivid way only to material objects. He speaks of the "joy" of the
spirit, but it is not such a reality for him as is the "joy" of the body.
He speaks of the "pain" of the spirit, but it has not such a poignancy
for him as that anguish which thrills through his muscles and nerves.
He knows that the "death" of the body is a terrible event, but transfers
the word "death" to the spirit with a vague and feeble meaning, not
realizing that the second death is more awful than the first, and is
accompanied with a spiritual distress compared with which, the sharpest
agony of material dissolution would be a relief. He understands what is
meant by the "life" of the body, but when he hears the "eternal life" of
the spirit spoken of, or when he reads of it in the Bible, it is with the
feeling that it cannot be so real and lifelike as that vital principle
whose currents impart vigor and warmth to his bodily frame. And yet,
the life of the spirit is more intensely real than the life of the body
is; for it has power to overrule and absorb it. Spiritual life, when in
full play, is bliss ineffable. It translates man into the third heavens,
where the fleshly life is lost sight of entirely, and the being, like St.
Paul, does not know whether he is in the body or out of the body.

The natural mind is deceived. Spirit has in it more of reality than
matter has; because it is an immortal and indestructible essence, while
matter is neither. Spiritual things are more real than visible things;
because they are eternal, and eternity is more real than time. Statements
respecting spiritual objects, therefore, are more solemnly true than any
that relate to material things. Invisible and spiritual realities,
therefore, are the standard by which all others should be tried; and
human language when applied to them, instead of expressing too much,
expresses too little. The imagery and phraseology by which the Scriptures
describe the glory of God, the excellence of holiness, and the bliss of
heaven, on the one side, and the sinfulness of sin with the woe of hell,
on the other, come short of the sober and actual matter of fact.

We should, therefore, beware of the error to which in our unspirituality
we are specially liable; and when we hear Christ assert that "whosoever
committeth sin is the slave of sin," we should believe and know, that
these words are not extravagant, and contain no subtrahend,--that they
indicate a self-enslavement of the human will which is so real, so total,
and so absolute, as to necessitate the renewing grace of God in order to
deliverance from it.

This bondage to sin may be discovered by every man. It must be
discovered, before one can cry, "Save me or I perish." It must be
discovered, before one can feelingly assent to Christ's words, "Without
me ye can do nothing." It must be discovered, before one can understand
the Christian paradox, "When I am weak, then am I strong." To aid the
mind, in coming to the conscious experience of the truth taught in the
text, we remark:

I. Sin is spiritual slavery, if viewed in reference to man's _sense of
obligation to be perfectly holy_.

The obligation to be holy, just, and good, as God is, rests upon every
rational being. Every man knows, or may know, that he ought to be perfect
as his Father in heaven is perfect, and that he is a debtor to this
obligation until he has _fully_ met it. Hence even the holiest of men are
conscious of sin, because they are not completely up to the mark of this
high calling of God. For, the sense of this obligation is an exceeding
broad one,--like the law itself which it includes and enforces. The
feeling of duty will not let us off, with the performance of only a part
of our duty. Its utterance is: "Verily I say unto you, till heaven and
earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till
_all_ be fulfilled." Law spreads itself over the whole surface and course
of our lives, and insists imperatively that every part and particle of
them be pure and holy.

Again, this sense of obligation to be perfect as God is perfect, is
exceedingly deep. It is the most profound sense of which man is
possessed, for it outlives all others. The feeling of duty to God's
law remains in a man's mind either to bless him or to curse him, when all
other feelings depart. In the hour of death, when all the varied passions
and experiences which have engrossed the man his whole lifetime are dying
out of the soul, and are disappearing, one after another, like
signal-lights in the deepening darkness, this one particular feeling of
what he owes to the Divine and the Eternal law remains behind, and grows
more vivid, and painful, as all others grow dimmer and dimmer. And
therefore it is, that in this solemn hour man forgets whether he has been
happy or unhappy, successful or unsuccessful, in the world, and remembers
only that he has been a _sinner_ in it. And therefore it is, that a man's
thoughts, when he is upon his death-bed, do not settle upon his worldly
matters, but upon his sin. It is because the human conscience is the very
core and centre of the human being, and its sense of obligation to be
holy is deeper than all other senses and sensations, that we hear the
dying man say what the living and prosperous man is not inclined to say:
"I have been wicked; I have been a sinner in the earth."

Now it might seem, at first sight, that this broad, deep, and abiding
sense of obligation would be sufficient to overcome man's love of sin,
and bring him up to the discharge of duty,--would be powerful enough to
subdue his self-will. Can it be that this strong and steady draft of
conscience,--strong and steady as gravitation,--will ultimately prove
ineffectual? Is not truth mighty, and must it not finally prevail, to the
pulling down of the stronghold which Satan has in the human heart? So
some men argue. So some men claim, in opposition to the doctrine of
Divine influences and of regeneration by the Holy Ghost.

We are willing to appeal to actual experience, in order to settle the
point. And we affirm in the outset, that exactly in proportion as a man
hears the voice of conscience sounding its law within his breast, does he
become aware, not of the strength but, of the bondage of his will, and
that in proportion as this sense of obligation to be _perfectly_ holy
rises in his soul, all hope or expectation of ever becoming so by his own
power sets in thick night.

In our careless unawakened state, which is our ordinary state, we sin on
from day to day, just as we live on from day to day, without being
distinctly aware of it. A healthy man does not go about, holding his
fingers upon his wrist, and counting every pulse; and neither does a
sinful man, as he walks these streets and transacts all this business,
think of and sum up the multitude of his transgressions. And yet, that
pulse all the while beats none the less; and yet, that will all the while
transgresses none the less. So long as conscience is asleep, sin is
pleasant. The sinful activity goes on without notice, we are happy in
sin, and we do not feel that it is slavery of the will. Though the chains
are actually about us, yet they do not gall us. In this condition, which
is that of every unawakened sinner, we are not conscious of the "bondage
of corruption." In the phrase of St. Paul, "we are alive without the
law." We have no feeling sense of duty, and of course have no feeling
sense of sin. And it is in this state of things, that arguments are
framed to prove the mightiness of mere conscience, and the power of bare
truth and moral obligation, over the perverse human heart and will.

But the Spirit of God awakens the conscience; that sense of obligation to
be _perfectly_ holy which has hitherto slept now starts up, and begins to
form an estimate of what has been done in reference to it. The man hears
the authoritative and startling law: "Thou shalt be perfect, as God is."
And now, at this very instant and point, begins the consciousness of
enslavement,--of being, in the expressive phrase of Scripture, "_sold_
under sin." Now the commandment "comes," shows us first what we ought to
be and then what we actually are, and we "die."[2] All moral strength
dies out of us. The muscle has been cut by the sword of truth, and the
limb drops helpless by the side. For, we find that the obligation is
immense. It extends to all our outward acts; and having covered the whole
of this great surface, it then strikes inward and reaches to every
thought of the mind, and every emotion of the heart, and every motive of
the will. We discover that we are under obligation at every conceivable
point in our being and in our history, but that we have not met
obligation at a single point. When we see that the law of God is broad
and deep, and that sin is equally broad and deep within us; when we learn
that we have never thought one single holy thought, nor felt one single
holy feeling, nor done one single holy deed, because self-love is the
root and principle of all our work, and we have never purposed or desired
to please God by any one of our actions; when we find that everything
has been required, and that absolutely nothing has been done, that we are
bound to be perfectly holy this very instant, and as matter of fact are
totally sinful, we know in a most affecting manner that "whosoever
committeth sin is the _slave_ of sin".

But suppose that after this disheartening and weakening discovery of the
depth and extent of our sinfulness, we proceed to take the second step,
and attempt to extirpate it. Suppose that after coming to a consciousness
of all this obligation resting upon us, we endeavor to comply with it.
This renders us still more painfully sensible of the truth of our
Saviour's declaration. Even the regenerated man, who in this endeavor has
the aid of God, is mournfully conscious that sin is the enslavement of
the human will. Though he has been freed substantially, he feels that the
fragments of the chains are upon him still. Though the love of God is the
predominant principle within him, yet the lusts and propensities of the
old nature continually start up like devils, and tug at the spirit, to
drag it down to its old bondage. But that man who attempts to overcome
sin, without first crying, "Create within me a clean heart, O God," feels
still more deeply that sin is spiritual slavery. When _he_ comes to know
sin in reference to the obligation to be perfectly holy, it is with
vividness and hopelessness. He sees distinctly that he ought to be a
perfectly good being instantaneously. This point is clear. But instead of
looking up to the hills whence cometh his help, he begins, in a cold
legal and loveless temper, to draw upon his own resources. The first step
is to regulate his external conduct by the Divine law. He tries to put a
bridle upon his tongue, and to walk carefully before his fellow-men. He
fails to do even this small outside thing, and is filled with
discouragement and despondency.

But the sense of duty reaches beyond the external conduct, and the law of
God pierces like the two-edged sword of an executioner, and discerns
the thoughts and motives of the heart. Sin begins to be seen in its
relation to the inner man, and he attempts again to reform and change the
feelings and affections of his soul. He strives to wring the gall of
bitterness out of his own heart, with his own hands. But he fails
utterly. As he resolves, and breaks his resolutions; as he finds evil
thoughts and feelings continually coming up from the deep places of his
heart; he discovers his spiritual impotence,--his lack of control over
what is deepest, most intimate, and most fundamental in his own
character,--and cries out: "I _am_ a slave, I am a _slave_ to myself."

If then, you would know from immediate consciousness that "whosoever
committeth sin is the slave of sin," simply view sin in the light of that
obligation to be _perfectly_ pure and holy which necessarily, and
forever, rests upon a responsible being. If you would know that spiritual
slavery is no extravagant and unmeaning phrase, but denotes a most real
and helpless bondage, endeavor to get entirely rid of sin, and to be
perfect as the spirits of just men made perfect.

II. Sin is spiritual slavery, if viewed in reference to the _aspirations_
of the human soul.

Theology makes a distinction between common and special grace,--between
those ordinary influences of the Divine Spirit which rouse the
conscience, and awaken some transient aspirations after religion, and
those extraordinary influences which actually renew the heart and will.
In speaking, then, of the aspirations of the human soul, reference is had
to all those serious impressions, and those painful anxieties concerning
salvation, which require to be followed up by a yet mightier power from
God, to prevent their being entirely suppressed again, as they are in a
multitude of instances, by the strong love of sin and the world. For
though man has fallen into a state of death in trespasses and sins, so
that if cut off from _every_ species of Divine influence, and left
_entirely_ to himself, he would never reach out after anything but the
sin which he loves, yet through the common influences of the Spirit of
Grace, and the ordinary workings of a rational nature not yet reprobated,
he is at times the subject of internal stirrings and aspirations that
indicate the greatness and glory of the heights whence he fell. Under the
power of an awakened conscience, and feeling the emptiness of the world,
and the aching void within him, man wishes for something better than he
has, or than he is. The minds of the more thoughtful of the ancient
pagans were the subjects of these impulses, and aspirations; and they
confess their utter inability to realize them. They are expressed
upon every page of Plato, and it is not surprising that some of the
Christian Fathers should have deemed Platonism, as well as Judaism, to be
a preparation for Christianity, by its bringing man to a sense of his
need of redemption. And it would stimulate Christians in their efforts to
give revealed religion to the heathen, did they ponder the fact which the
journals of the missionary sometimes disclose, that the Divine Spirit is
brooding with His common and preparatory influence over the chaos of
Paganism, and that here and there the heathen mind faintly aspires to be
freed from the bondage of corruption,--that dim stirrings, impulses, and
wishes for deliverance, are awake in the dark heart of Paganism, but that
owing to the strength and inveteracy of sin in that heart they will prove
ineffectual to salvation, unless the gospel is preached, and the Holy
Spirit is specially poured out in answer to the prayers of Christians.

Now, all these phenomena in the human soul go to show the rigid bondage
of sin, and to prove that sin has an element of servitude in it. For when
these impulses, wishes, and aspirations are awakened, and the man
discovers that he is unable to realize them in actual character and
conduct, he is wretchedly and thoroughly conscious that "whosoever
committeth sin is the _slave_ of sin." The immortal, heaven-descended
spirit, feeling the kindling touch of truth and of the Holy Ghost,
thrills under it, and essays to soar. But sin hangs heavy upon it, and it
cannot lift itself from the earth. Never is man so sensible of his
enslavement and his helplessness, as when he has a _wish_ but has no

Look, for illustration, at the aspirations of the drunkard to be
delivered from the vice that easily besets him. In his sober moments,
they come thick and fast, and during his sobriety, and while under the
lashings of conscience, he wishes, nay, even _longs_, to be freed from
drunkenness. It may be, that under the impulse of these aspirations he
resolves never to drink again. It may be, that amid the buoyancy that
naturally accompanies the springing of hope and longing in the human
soul, he for a time seems to himself to be actually rising up from his
"wallowing in the mire," and supposes that he shall soon regain his
primitive condition of temperance. But the sin is strong; for the
appetite that feeds it is in his blood. Temptation with its witching
solicitation comes before the will,--the weak, self-enslaved will. He
_aspires_ to resist, but _will_ not; the spirit _would_ soar, but the
flesh _will_ creep; the spirit has the _wish_, but the flesh has the
_will_; the man longs to be sober, but actually is and remains a
drunkard. And never,--be it noticed,--never is he more thoroughly
conscious of being a slave to himself, than when he thus _ineffectually_
aspires and wishes to be delivered from himself.

What has been said of drunkenness, and the aspiration to be freed from
it, applies with full force to all the sin and all the aspirations of the
human soul. There is no independent and self-realizing power in a mere
aspiration. No man overcomes even his vices, except as he is assisted by
the common grace of God. The self-reliant man invariably relapses into
his old habits. He who thinks he stands is sure to fall. But when, under
the influence of God's common grace, a man aspires to be freed from the
deepest of all sin, because it is the source of all particular acts of
transgression,--when he attempts to overcome and extirpate the original
and inveterate depravity of his heart,--he feels his bondage more
thoroughly than ever. If it is wretchedness for the drunkard to aspire
after freedom from only a single vice, and fail of reaching it, is it not
the depth of woe, when a man comes to know "the plague of his heart," and
his utter inability to cleanse and cure it? In this case, the bondage of
self-will is found to be absolute.

At first sight, it might seem as if these wishes and aspirations of the
human spirit, faint though they be, are proof that man is not totally
depraved, and that his will is not helplessly enslaved. So some men
argue. But they forget, that these aspirations and wishes are _never
realized_. There is no evidence of power, except from its results. And
where are the results? Who has ever realized these wishes and
aspirations, in his heart and conduct? The truth is, that every
_unattained_ aspiration that ever swelled the human soul is proof
positive, and loud, that the human soul is in bondage. These
_ineffectual_ stirrings and impulses, which disappear like the morning
cloud and the early dew, are most affecting evidences that "whosoever
committeth sin is the _slave_ of sin." They prove that apostate man has
sunk, in one respect, to a lower level than that of the irrational
creation. For, high ideas and truths cannot raise him. Lofty impulses
result in no alteration, or elevation. Even Divine influences leave him
just where they find him, unless they are exerted in their highest grade
of irresistible grace. A brute surrenders himself to his appetites and
propensities, and lives the low life of nature, without being capable of
aspirations for anything purer and nobler. But man does this very
thing,--nay, immerses himself in flesh, and sense, and self, with an
entireness and intensity of which the brute is incapable,--in the face of
impulses and stirrings of mind that point him to the pure throne of God,
and urge him to soar up to it! The brute is a creature of nature, because
he knows no better, and can desire nothing better; but man is "as the
beasts that perish," in spite of a better knowledge and a loftier

If then, you would know that "whosoever committeth sin is the _slave_ of
sin," contemplate sin in reference to the aspirations of an apostate
spirit originally made in the image of God, and which, because it is not
eternally reprobated, is not entirely cut off from the common influences
of the Spirit of God. Never will you feel the bondage of your will more
profoundly, than when under these influences, and in your moments of
seriousness and anxiety respecting your soul's salvation, you aspire
and endeavor to overcome inward sin, and find that unless God grant you
His special and renovating grace, your heart will be sinful through all
eternity, in spite of the best impulses of your best hours. These upward
impulses and aspirations cannot accompany the soul into the state of
final hopelessness and despair, though Milton represents Satan as
sometimes looking back with a sigh, and a mournful memory, upon what he
had once been,[4]--yet if they should go with us there, they would
make the ardor of the fire more fierce, and the gnaw of the worm more
fell. For they would help to reveal the strength of our sin, and the
intensity of our rebellion.

III. Sin is spiritual slavery, if viewed in reference to the _fears_ of
the human soul.

The sinful spirit of man fears the death of the body, and the Scriptures
assert that by reason of this particular fear we are all our lifetime in
bondage. Though we know that the bodily dissolution can have no effect
upon the imperishable essence of an immortal being, yet we shrink back
from it, as if the sentence, "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt
return," had been spoken of the spirit,--as if the worm were to "feed
sweetly" upon the soul, and it were to be buried up in the dark house of
the grave. Even the boldest of us is disturbed at the thought of bodily
death, and we are always startled when the summons suddenly comes: "Set
thy house in order, for thou must die."

Again, the spirit of man fears that "fearful something after death," that
eternal judgment which must be passed upon all. We tremble at the
prospect of giving an account of our own actions. We are afraid to reap
the harvest, the seed of which we have sown with our own hands. The
thought of going to a just judgment, and of receiving from the Judge of
all the earth, who cannot possibly do injustice to any of His creatures,
only that which is our desert, shocks us to the centre of our being! Man
universally is afraid to be judged with a righteous judgment! Man
universally is terrified by the equitable bar of God!

Again, the apostate spirit of man has an awful dread of eternity. Though
this invisible realm is the proper home of the human soul, and it was
made to dwell there forever, after the threescore and ten years of its
residence in the body are over, yet it shrinks back from an entrance into
this untried world, and clings with the desperate force of a drowning man
to this "bank and shoal of time." There are moments in the life of a
guilty man when the very idea of eternal existence exerts a preternatural
power, and fills him with a dread that paralyzes him. Never is the human
being stirred to so great depths, and roused to such intensity of action,
as when it feels what the Scripture calls "the power of an _endless_
life." All men are urged by some ruling passion which is strong. The love
of wealth, or of pleasure, or of fame, drives the mind onward with great
force, and excites it to mighty exertions to compass its end. But never
is a man pervaded by such an irresistible and overwhelming influence as
that which descends upon him in some season of religious gloom,--some
hour of sickness, or danger, or death,--when the great eternity, with
all its awful realities, and all its unknown terror, opens upon his
quailing gaze. There are times in man's life, when he is the subject of
movements within that impel him to deeds that seem almost superhuman; but
that internal ferment and convulsion which is produced when all eternity
pours itself through his being turns his soul up from the centre. Man
will labor convulsively, night and day, for money; he will dry up the
bloom and freshness of health, for earthly power and fame; he will
actually wear his body out for sensual pleasure. But what is the
intensity and paroxysm of this activity of mind and body, if compared
with those inward struggles and throes when the overtaken and startled
sinner sees the eternal world looming into view, and with strong crying
and tears prays for only a little respite, and only a little preparation!
"Millions for an inch of time,"--said the dying English Queen. "O
Eternity! Eternity! how shall I grapple with the misery that I must meet
with in _eternity_,"--says the man in the iron cage of Despair. This
finite world has indeed great power to stir man, but the other world has
an infinitely greater power. The clouds which float in the lower regions
of the sky, and the winds that sweep them along, produce great ruin and
destruction upon the earth, but it is only when the "windows of heaven
are opened" that "the fountains of the great deep are broken up," and
"all in whose nostrils is the breath of life die," and "every living
substance is destroyed which is upon the face of the ground." When fear
arises in the soul of man, in view of an eternal existence for which he
is utterly unprepared, it is overwhelming. It partakes of the immensity
of eternity, and holds the man with an omnipotent grasp.

If, now, we view sin in relation to these great fears of death, judgment,
and eternity, we see that it is spiritual slavery, or the bondage of the
will. We discover that our terror is no more able to deliver us from the
"bondage of corruption," than our aspiration is. We found that in spite
of the serious stirrings and impulses which sometimes rise within us, we
still continue immersed in sense and sin; and we shall also find that in
spite of the most solemn and awful fears of which a finite being is
capable, we remain bondmen to ourselves, and our sin. The dread that goes
down into hell can no more ransom us, than can the aspiration that goes
up into heaven. Our fear of eternal woe can no more change the heart,
than our wish for eternal happiness can. We have, at some periods,
faintly wished that lusts and passions had no power over us; and perhaps
we have been the subject of still higher aspirings. But we are the same
beings, still. We are the same self-willed and self-enslaved sinners,
yet. We have all our lifetime feared death, judgment, and eternity, and
under the influence of this fear we have sometimes resolved and promised
to become Christians. But we are the very same beings, still; we are the
same self-willed and self-enslaved sinners yet.

Oh, never is the human spirit more deeply conscious of its bondage to its
darling iniquity, than when these paralyzing fears shut down upon it,
like night, with "a horror of great darkness." When under their
influence, the man feels most thoroughly and wretchedly that his sin is
his ruin, and yet his sinful determination continues on, because
"whosoever committeth sin is the _slave_ of sin," Has it never happened
that, in "the visions of the night when deep sleep falleth upon men," a
spirit passed before your face, like that which stood still before the
Temanite; and there was silence, and a voice saying, "Man! Man! thou must
die, thou must be judged, thou must inhabit eternity?" And when the
spirit had departed, and while the tones of its solemn and startling cry
were still rolling through your soul, did not a temptation to sin solicit
you, and did you not drink in its iniquity like water? Have you not found
out, by mournful experience, that the most anxious forebodings of the
human spirit, the most alarming fears of the human soul, and the most
solemn warnings that come forth from eternity, have no prevailing power
over your sinful nature, but that immediately after experiencing them,
and while your whole being is still quivering under their agonizing
touch, you fall, you rush, into sin? Have you not discovered that even
that most dreadful of all fears,--the fear of the holy wrath of almighty
God,--is not strong enough to save you from yourself? Do you know that
your love of sin has the power to stifle and overcome the mightiest of
your fears, when you are strongly tempted to self-indulgence? Have you no
evidence, in your own experience, of the truth of the poet's words:

"The Sensual and the Dark rebel in vain, Slaves by their own compulsion."

If, then, you would know that "whosoever committeth sin is the _slave_ of
sin," contemplate sin in relation to the fears which of necessity rest
upon a spirit capable, as yours is, of knowing that it must leave the
body, that it must receive a final sentence at the bar of judgment, and
that eternity is its last and fixed dwelling-place. If you would know
with sadness and with profit, that sin is the enslavement of the will
that originates it, consider that all the distressing fears that have
ever been in your soul, from the first, have not been able to set you
free in the least from innate depravity: but, that in spite of them all
your will has been steadily surrendering itself, more and more, to the
evil principle of self-love and enmity to God. Call to mind the great
fight of anguish and terror which you have sometimes waged with sin, and
see how sin has always been victorious. Remember that you have often
dreaded death,--but you are unjust still. Remember that you have often
trembled at the thought of eternal judgment,--but you are unregenerate
still. Remember that you have often started back, when the holy and
retributive eternity dawned like the day of doom upon you,--but
you are impenitent still. If you view your own personal sin in reference
to your own personal fears, are you not a slave to it? Will or can your
fears, mighty as they sometimes are, deliver you from the bondage of
corruption, and lift you above that which you love with all your heart,
and strength, and might?

It is perfectly plain, then, that "whosoever committeth sin is the slave
of sin," whether we have regard to the feeling of obligation to be
perfectly holy which is in the human conscience; or to the ineffectual
aspirations which sometimes arise in the human spirit; or to the dreadful
fears which often fall upon it. Sin must have brought the human will into
a real and absolute bondage, if the deep and solemn sense of indebtedness
to moral law; if the "thoughts that wander through eternity;" if the
aspirations that soar to the heaven of heavens, and the fears that
descend to the very bottom of hell,--if all these combined forces and
influences cannot free it from its power.

It was remarked in the beginning of this discourse, that the bondage of
sin is the result of the _reflex_ action of the human will upon itself.
It is not a slavery imposed from without, but from within. The bondage of
sin is only a _particular aspect_ of sin itself. The element of
servitude, like the element of blindness, or hardness, or rebelliousness,
is part and particle of that moral evil which deserves the wrath and
curse of God. It, therefore, no more excuses or palliates, than does any
other self-originated quality in sin. Spiritual bondage, like spiritual
enmity to God, or spiritual ignorance of Him, or spiritual apathy towards
Him, is guilt and crime.

And in closing, we desire to repeat and emphasize this truth. Whoever
will enter upon that process of self-wrestling and self-conflict which
has been described, will come to a profound sense of the truth which our
Lord taught in the words of the text. All such will find and feel that
they are in slavery, and that their slavery is their condemnation. For
the anxious, weary, and heavy-laden sinner, the problem is not
mysterious, because it finds its solution in the depths of his own
_self-consciousness_. He needs no one to clear it up for him, and he has
neither doubts nor cavils respecting it.

But, an objection always assails that mind which has not the key of an
inward moral struggle to unlock the problem for it. When Christ asserts
that "whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin," the easy and
indifferent mind is swift to draw the inference that this bondage is its
misfortune, and that the poor slave does not deserve to be punished, but
to be set free. He says as St. Paul did in another connection: "Nay
verily, but let them come themselves, and fetch us out." But this slavery
is a _self_-enslavement. The feet of this man have not been thrust into
the stocks by another. This logician must refer everything to its own
proper author, and its own proper cause. Let this spiritual bondage,
therefore, be charged upon the _self_ that originated it. Let it be
referred to that self-will in which it is wrapped up, and of which it is
a constituent element. It is a universally received maxim, that the agent
is responsible for the _consequences_ of a voluntary act, as well as for
the act itself. If, therefore, the human will has inflicted a suicidal
blow upon itself, and one of the consequences of its own determination is
a total enslavement of itself to its own determination, then this
enslaving _result_ of the act, as well the act itself, must all go in to
constitute and swell the sum-total of human guilt. The miserable
drunkard, therefore, cannot be absolved from the drunkard's condemnation,
upon the plea that by a long series of voluntary acts he has, in the end,
so enslaved himself that no power but God's grace can save him. The
marble-hearted fiend in hell, the absolutely lost spirit in despair,
cannot relieve his torturing sense of guilt, by the reflection that he
has at length so hardened his own heart that he cannot repent. The
unforced will of a moral being must be held responsible for both its
direct, and its _reflex_ action; for both its sin, and its _bondage_ in

The denial of guilt, then, is not the way out. He who takes this road
"kicks against the goads." And he will find their stabs thickening, the
farther he travels, and the nearer he draws to the face and eyes of God.
But there is a way out. It is the way of self-knowledge and confession.
This is the point upon which all the antecedents of salvation hinge. He
who has come to know, with a clear discrimination, that he is in a guilty
bondage to his own inclination and lust, has taken the very first step
towards freedom. For, the Redeemer, the Almighty Deliverer, is near the
captive, so soon as the captive feels his bondage and confesses it. The
mighty God walking upon the waves of this sinful, troubled life,
stretches out _His_ arm, the very instant any sinking soul cries, "Lord
save me." And unless that appeal and confession of helplessness _is_
made, He, the Merciful and the Compassionate, will let the soul go
down before His own eyes to the unfathomed abyss. If the sinking Peter
had not uttered that cry, the mighty hand of Christ would not have been
stretched forth. All the difficulties disappear, so soon as a man
understands the truth of the Divine affirmation: "O Israel thou hast
destroyed thyself,"--it is a real destruction, and it is thy own
work,--"but in ME is thy help."

[Footnote 1: MILTON: Samson Agonistes, 832-834.--One key to the solution
of the problem, how there can be bondage in the very seat of
freedom,--how man can be responsible for sin, yet helpless in
it,--is to be found in this fact of a reflex action of the will upon
itself, or, a reaction of self-action. Philosophical speculation upon
the nature of the human will has not, hitherto, taken this fact
sufficiently into account. The following extracts corroborate the view
presented above. "My _will_ the enemy held, and _thence_ had made a
chain for me, and bound me. For, of a perverse _will_ comes _lust_; and a
lust yielded to becomes _custom_; and custom not resisted becomes
_necessity_. By which links, as it were, joined together as in a chain, a
hard bondage held me enthralled." AUGUSTINE: Confessions, VIII. v. 10.
"Every degree of inclination contrary to duty, which is and must be
sinful, implies and involves an equal degree of difficulty and inability
to obey. For, indeed, such inclination of the heart to disobey, and the
difficulty or inability to obey, are precisely one and the same. This
kind of difficulty or inability, therefore, always is great according
to the strength and fixedness of the inclination to disobey; and it
becomes _total_ and _absolute_ [inability], when the heart is totally
corrupt and wholly opposed to obedience.... No man can act contrary to
his present inclination or choice. But who ever imagined that this
rendered his inclination and choice innocent and blameless, however wrong
and unreasonable it might be." SAMUEL HOPKINS: Works, I. 233-235.
"Moral inability" is the being "unable to be willing." EDWARDS: Freedom
of the Will, Part I, sect. iv. "Propensities,"--says a writer very
different from those above quoted,--"that are easily surmounted lead us
unresistingly on; we yield to temptations so trivial that we despise
their danger. And so we fall into perilous situations from which we might
easily have preserved ourselves, but from which we now find it impossible
to extricate ourselves without efforts so superhuman as to terrify us,
and we finally fall into the abyss, saying to the Almighty, 'Why hast
Thou made me so weak?' But notwithstanding our vain pretext, He addresses
our conscience, saying, 'I have made thee _too weak to rise from the
pit_, because I made thee _strong enough not to fall therein_." ROUSSEAU:
Confessions, Book II.]

[Footnote 2: Romans vii. 9-11.]

[Footnote 3: Some of the Schoolmen distinguished carefully between the
two things, and denominated the former, _velleitas_, and the latter,

[Footnote 4: MILTON: Paradise Lost, IV. 23-25; 35-61.]


ROMANS vii. 10.--"The commandment which, was ordained to life, I found to
be unto death."

The reader of St. Paul's Epistles is struck with the seemingly
disparaging manner in which he speaks of the moral law. In one place, he
tells his reader that "the law entered that the offence might abound;" in
another, that "the law worketh wrath;" in another, that "sin shall not
have dominion" over the believer because he is "not under the law;" in
another, that Christians "are become dead to the law;" in another, that
"they are delivered from the law;" and in another, that "the strength
of sin is the law." This phraseology sounds strangely, respecting that
great commandment upon which the whole moral government of God is
founded. We are in the habit of supposing that nothing that springs from
the Divine law, or is in any way connected with it, can be evil or the
occasion of evil. If the law of holiness is the strength of sin; if it
worketh wrath; if good men are to be delivered from it; what then shall
be said of the law of sin? Why is it, that St. Paul in a certain class of
his representations appears to be inimical to the ten commandments, and
to warn Christians against them? "Is the law sin?" is a question that
very naturally arises, while reading some of his statements; and it is a
question which he himself asks, because he is aware that it will be
likely to start in the mind of some of his readers. And it is a question
to which he replies: "God forbid. Nay I had not known sin, but by the

The difficulty is only seeming, and not real. These apparently
disparaging representations of the moral law are perfectly reconcilable
with that profound reverence for its authority which St. Paul felt and
exhibited, and with that solemn and cogent preaching of the law for which
he was so distinguished. The text explains and resolves the difficulty.
"The commandment which was ordained to _life_, I found to be unto death."
The moral law, in its own _nature_, and by the Divine _ordination_, is
suited to produce holiness and happiness in the soul of any and every
man. It was ordained to life. So far as the purpose of God, and the
original nature and character of man, are concerned, the ten commandments
are perfectly adapted to fill the soul with peace and purity. In the
unfallen creature, they work no wrath, neither are they the strength of
sin. If everything in man had remained as it was created, there would
have been no need of urging him to "become dead to the law," to be
"delivered from the law," and not be "under the law." Had man kept his
original righteousness, it could never be said of him that "the strength
of sin is the law." On the contrary, there was such a mutual agreement
between the unfallen nature of man and the holy law of God, that the
latter was the very joy and strength of the former. The commandment was
ordained to life, and it was the life and peace of holy Adam.

The original relation between man's nature and the moral law was
precisely like that between material nature and the material laws. There
has been no apostasy in the system of matter, and all things remain there
as they were in the beginning of creation. The law of gravitation, this
very instant, rules as peacefully and supremely in every atom of matter,
as it did on the morning of creation. Should material nature be
"delivered" from the law of gravitation, chaos would come again. No
portion of this fair and beautiful natural world needs to become "dead"
to the laws of nature. Such phraseology as this is inapplicable to the
relation that exists between the world of matter, and the system of
material laws, because, in this material sphere, there has been no
revolution, no rebellion, no great catastrophe analogous to the fall of
Adam. The law here was ordained to life, and the ordinance still stands.
And it shall stand until, by the will of the Creator, these elements
shall melt with fervent heat, and these heavens shall pass away with a
great noise; until a new system of nature, and a new legislation for it,
are introduced.

But the case is different with man. He is not standing where he was, when
created. He is out of his original relations to the law and government of
God, and therefore that which was ordained to him for life, he now finds
to be unto death. The food which in its own nature is suited to minister
to the health and strength of the well man, becomes poison and death
itself to the sick man.

With this brief notice of the fact, that the law of God was ordained to
life, and that therefore this disparaging phraseology of St. Paul does
not refer to the intrinsic nature of law, which he expressly informs us
"is holy just and good," nor to the original relation which man sustained
to it before he became a sinner, let us now proceed to consider some
particulars in which the commandment is found to be unto death, to every
_sinful_ man.

The law of God shows itself in the human soul, in the form of a _sense of
duty_. Every man, as he walks these streets, and engages in the business
or pleasures of life, hears occasionally the words: "Thou shalt; them
shalt not." Every man, as he passes along in this earthly pilgrimage,
finds himself saying to himself: "I ought, I ought not." This is the
voice of law sounding in the conscience; and every man may know, whenever
he hears these words, that he is listening to the same authority that cut
the ten commandments into the stones of Sinai, and sounded that awful
trumpet, and will one day come in power and great glory to judge the
quick and dead. Law, we say, expresses itself for man, while here upon
earth, through the sense of duty. "A sense of duty pursues us ever," said
Webster, in that impressive allusion to the workings of conscience, in
the trial of the Salem murderers. This is the accusing and condemning
_sensation_, in and by which the written statute of God becomes a living
energy, and a startling voice in the soul. Cut into the rock of Sinai, it
is a dead letter; written and printed in our Bibles, it is still a dead
letter; but wrought in this manner into the fabric of our own
constitution, waylaying us in our hours of weakness, and irresolution,
and secrecy, and speaking to our inward being in tones that are as
startling as any that could be addressed to the physical ear,--undergoing
this transmutation, and becoming a continual consciousness of duty and
obligation, the law of God is more than a letter. It is a possessing
spirit, and according as we obey or disobey, it is a guardian angel, or a
tormenting fiend. We have disobeyed, and therefore the sense of duty is a
tormenting sensation; the commandment which was ordained to life, is
found to be unto death.

I. In the first place, to go into the analysis, the sense of duty is a
sorrow and a pain to sinful man, because it _places him under a continual

No creature can be happy, so long as he feels himself under limitations.
To be checked, reined in, and thwarted in any way, renders a man
uneasy and discontented. The universal and instinctive desire for
freedom,--freedom from restraint,--is a proof of this. Every creature
wishes to follow out his inclination, and in proportion as he is hindered
in so doing, and is compelled to work counter to it, he is restless and

Now the sense of duty exerts just this influence, upon sinful man. It
opposes his wishes; it thwarts his inclination; it imposes a restraint
upon his spontaneous desires and appetites. It continually hedges up his
way, and seeks to stop him in the path of his choice and his pleasure. If
his inclination were only in harmony with his duty; if his desires and
affections were one with the law of God; there would be no restraint from
the law. In this case, the sense of duty would be a joy and not a sorrow,
because, in doing his duty, he would be doing what he liked. There are
only two ways, whereby contentment can be introduced into the human soul.
If the Divine law could be altered so that it should agree with man's
sinful inclination, he could be happy in sin. The commandment having
become like his own heart, there would, of course, be no conflict between
the two, and he might sin on forever and lap himself in Elysium. And
undoubtedly there are thousands of luxurious and guilty men, who, if they
could, like the Eastern Semiramis, would make lust and law alike in their
decree;[1] would transmute the law of holiness into a law of sin; would
put evil for good, and good for evil, bitter for sweet and sweet for
bitter; in order to be eternally happy in the sin that they love. They
would bring duty and inclination into harmony, by a method that would
annihilate duty, would annihilate the eternal distinction between right
and wrong, would annihilate God himself. But this method, of course, is
impossible. There can be no transmutation of law, though there can be of
a creature's character and inclination. Heaven and earth shall pass away,
but the commandment of God can never pass away. The only other mode,
therefore, by which duty and inclination can be brought into agreement,
and the continual sense of restraint which renders man so wretched be
removed, is to change the inclination. The instant the desires and
affections of our hearts are transformed, so that they accord with the
Divine law, the conflict between our will and our conscience is at an
end. When I come to love the law of holiness and delight in it, to obey
it is simply to follow out my inclination. And this, we have seen, is to
be happy.

But such is not the state of things, in the unrenewed soul. Duty and
inclination are in conflict. Man's desires appetites and tendencies are
in one direction, and his conscience is in the other. The sense of duty
holds a whip over him. He yields to his sinful inclination, finds a
momentary pleasure in so doing, and then feels the stings of the
scorpion-lash. We see this operation in a very plain and striking manner,
if we select an instance where the appetite is very strong, and the voice
of conscience is very loud. Take, for example, that particular sin which
most easily besets an individual. Every man has such a sin, and knows
what it is, Let him call to mind the innumerable instances in which that
particular temptation has assailed him, and he will be startled to
discover how many thousands of times the sense of duty has put a
restraint upon him. Though not in every single instance, yet in hundreds
and hundreds of cases, the law of God has uttered the, "Thou shalt not,"
and endeavored to prevent the consummation of that sin. And what a
wearisome experience is this. A continual forth-putting of an unlawful
desire, and an almost incessant check upon it, from a law which is hated
but which is feared. For such is the attitude of the natural heart toward
the commandment. "The carnal mind is _enmity_ against the law of God."
The two are contrary to one another; so that when the heart goes out in
its inclination, it is immediately hindered and opposed by the law.
Sometimes the collision between them is terrible, and the soul becomes;
an arena of tumultuous passions. The heart and will are intensely
determined to do wrong, while the conscience is unyielding and
uncompromising, and utters its denunciations, and thunders its warnings.
And what a dreadful destiny awaits that soul, in whom this conflict and
collision between the dictates of conscience, and the desires of the
heart, is to be eternal! for whom, through all eternity, the holy law of
God, which was ordained to life peace and joy, shall be found to be unto
death and woe immeasurable!

II. In the second place, the sense of duty is a pain and sorrow to a
sinful man, because it _demands a perpetual effort_ from him.

No creature likes to tug, and to lift. Service must be easy, in order to
be happy. If you lay upon the shoulders of a laborer a burden that
strains his muscles almost to the point of rupture, you put him in
physical pain. His physical structure was not intended to be subjected to
such a stretch. His Creator designed that the burden should be
proportioned to the power, in such a manner that work should be play. In
the garden of Eden, physical labor was physical pleasure, because the
powers were in healthy action, and the work assigned to them was not a
burden. Before the fall, man was simply to dress and keep a garden; but
after the fall, he was to dig up thorns and thistles, and eat his bread
in the sweat of his face. This is a _curse_,--the curse of being
compelled to toil, and lift, and put the muscle to such a tension that
it aches. This is not the original and happy condition of the body, in
which man was created. Look at the toiling millions of the human family,
who like the poor ant "for one small grain, labor, and tug, and strive;"
see them bending double, under the heavy weary load which they must carry
until relieved by death; and tell me if this is the physical elysium, the
earthly paradise, in which unfallen man was originally placed, and for
which he was originally designed. No, the curse of labor, of perpetual
effort, has fallen upon the body, as the curse of death has fallen upon
the soul; and the uneasiness and unrest of the groaning and struggling
body is a convincing proof of it. The whole physical nature of man
groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, waiting for the
adoption, that is the _redemption of the body_ from this penal necessity
of perpetual strain and effort.

The same fact meets us when we pass from the physical to the moral nature
of man, and becomes much more sad and impressive. By creation, it was
a pleasure and a pastime for man to keep the law of God, to do spiritual
work. As created, he was not compelled to summon his energies, and strain
his will, and make a convulsive resolution to obey the commands of his
Maker. Obedience was joy. Holy Adam knew nothing of _effort_ in the path
of duty. It was a smooth and broad pathway, fringed with flowers, and
leading into the meadows of asphodel. It did not become the "straight and
narrow" way, until sin had made obedience a toil, the sense of duty a
restraint, and human life a race and a fight. By apostasy, the obligation
to keep the Divine law perfectly, became repulsive. It was no longer easy
for man to do right; and it has never been easy or spontaneous to him
since. Hence, the attempt to follow the dictates of conscience always
costs an unregenerate man an effort. He is compelled to make a
resolution; and a resolution is the sign and signal of a difficult and
unwelcome service. Take your own experience for an illustration. Did you
ever, except as you were sweetly inclined and drawn by the renewing grace
of God, attempt to discharge a duty, without discovering that you were
averse to it, and that you must gather up your energies for the work, as
the leaper strains upon the tendon of Achilles to make the mortal leap.
And if you had not become weary, and given over the effort; if you had
entered upon that sad but salutary passage in the religious experience
which is delineated in the seventh chapter of Romans; if you had
continued to struggle and strive to do your duty, until you grew faint
and weak, and powerless, and cried out for a higher and mightier power to
succor you; you would have known, as you do not yet, what a deadly
opposition there is between the carnal mind and the law of God, and what
a spasmodic effort it costs an unrenewed man even to _attempt_ to
discharge the innumerable obligations that rest upon him. Mankind
would know more of this species of toil and labor, and of the cleaving
curse involved in it, if they were under the same physical necessity in
regard to it, that they lie under in respect to manual labor. A man
_must_ dig up the thorns and thistles, he _must_ earn his bread in the
sweat of his face, or he must die. Physical wants, hunger and thirst,
set men to work physically, and keep them at it; and thus they well
understand what it is to have a weary body, aching muscles, and a tired
physical nature. But they are not under the same species of necessity, in
respect to the wants and the work of the soul. A man may neglect these,
and yet live a long and luxurious life upon the earth. He is not driven
by the very force of circumstances, to labor with his heart and will, as
he is to labor with his hands. And hence he knows little or nothing of a
weary and heavy-laden soul; nothing of an aching heart and a tired will.
He well knows how much strain and effort it costs to cut down forests,
open roads, and reduce the wilderness to a fertile field; but he does not
know how much toil and effort are involved, in the attempt to convert the
human soul into the garden of the Lord.

Now in this demand for a _perpetual effort_ which is made upon the
natural man, by the sense of duty, we see that the law which was ordained
to life is found to be unto death. The commandment, instead of being a
pleasant friend and companion to the human soul, as it was in the
beginning, has become a strict rigorous task-master. It lays out an
uncongenial work for sinful man to do, and threatens him with punishment
and woe if he does not do it. And yet the law is not a tyrant. It is
holy, just, and good. This work which it lays out is righteous work, and
ought to be done. The wicked disinclination and aversion of the sinner
have compelled the law to assume this unwelcome and threatening attitude.
That which is good was not made death to man by God's agency, and by a
Divine arrangement, but by man's transgression.[2] Sin produces this
misery in the human soul, through an instrument that is innocent, and in
its own nature benevolent and kind. Apostasy, the rebellion and
corruption of the human heart, has converted the law of God into an
exacting task-master and an avenging magistrate. For the law says to
every man what St. Paul says of the magistrate: "Rulers are not a terror
to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou, then, not be afraid of the
power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For
he is the minister of God to thee for good: _but if thou do that which is
evil, be afraid_." If man were only conformed to the law; if the
inclination of his heart were only in harmony with his sense of duty; the
ten commandments would not be accompanied with any thunders or
lightnings, and the discharge of duty would be as easy, spontaneous,
and as much without effort, as the practice of sin now is.

Thus have we considered two particulars in which the Divine law,
originally intended to render man happy, and intrinsically adapted to do
so, now renders him miserable. The commandment which was ordained to
life, he now finds to be unto death, because it places him under a
continual restraint, and drives him to a perpetual effort. These two
particulars, we need not say, are not all the modes in which sin has
converted the moral law from a joy to a sorrow. We have not discussed the
great subject of guilt and penalty. This violated law charges home the
past disobedience and threatens an everlasting damnation, and thus fills
the sinful soul with fears and forebodings. In this way, also, the law
becomes a terrible organ and instrument of misery, and is found to be
unto death. But the limits of this discourse compel us to stop the
discussion here, and to deduce some practical lessons which are
suggested by it.

1. In the first place, we are taught by the subject, as thus considered,
that _the mere sense of duty is not Christianity_. If this is all that a
man is possessed of, he is not prepared for the day of judgment, and the
future life. For the sense of duty, alone and by itself, causes misery in
a soul that has not performed its duty. The law worketh wrath, in a
creature who has not obeyed the law. The man that doeth these things
shall indeed live by them; but he who has not done them must die by them.

There have been, and still are, great mistakes made at this point. Men
have supposed that an active conscience, and a lofty susceptibility
towards right and wrong, will fit them to appear before God, and have,
therefore, rejected Christ the Propitiation. They have substituted ethics
for the gospel; natural religion for revealed. "I know," says Immanuel
Kant, "of but two beautiful things; the starry heavens above my head, and
the sense of duty within my heart."[3] But, is the sense of duty
_beautiful_ to apostate man? to a being who is not conformed to it? Does
the holy law of God overarch him like the firmament, "tinged with a blue
of heavenly dye, and starred with sparkling gold?" Nay, nay. If there be
any beauty in the condemning law of God, for man the _transgressor_, it
is the beauty of the lightnings. There is a splendor in them, but there
is a terror also. Not until He who is the end of the law for
righteousness has clothed me with His panoply, and shielded me from their
glittering shafts in the clefts of the Rock, do I dare to look at them,
as they leap from crag to crag, and shine from the east even unto the

We do not deny that the consciousness of responsibility is a lofty one,
and are by no means insensible to the grand and swelling sentiments
concerning the moral law, and human duty, to which this noble thinker
gives utterance.[4] But we are certain that if the sense of duty had
pressed upon him to the degree that it did upon St. Paul; had the
commandment "come" to him with the convicting energy that it did to St.
Augustine, and to Pascal; he too would have discovered that the law which
was ordained to life is found to be unto death. So long as man stands at
a distance from the moral law, he can admire its glory and its beauty;
but when it comes close to him; when it comes home to him; when it
becomes a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; then its
glory is swallowed up in its terror, and its beauty is lost in its truth.
Then he who was alive without the law becomes slain by the law. Then this
ethical admiration of the decalogue is exchanged for an evangelical trust
in Jesus Christ.

2. And this leads us to remark, in the second place, that this subject
shows _the meaning of Christ's work of Redemption_. The law for an
alienated and corrupt soul is a burden. It cannot be otherwise; for it
imposes a perpetual restraint, urges up to an unwelcome duty, and charges
home a fearful guilt. Christ is well named the _Redeemer_, because He
frees the sinful soul from all this. He delivers it from the penalty, by
assuming it all upon Himself, and making complete satisfaction to the
broken law. He delivers it from the perpetual restraint and the irksome
effort, by so renewing and changing the heart that it becomes a delight
to keep the law. We observed, in the first part of the discourse, that if
man could only bring the inclination of his heart into agreement with his
sense of duty, he would be happy in obeying, and the consciousness of
restraint and of hateful effort would disappear. This is precisely what
Christ accomplishes by His Spirit. He brings the human heart into harmony
with the Divine law, as it was in the beginning, and thus rescues it from
its bondage and its toil. Obedience becomes a pleasure, and the service
of God, the highest Christian liberty. Oh, would that by the act of
faith, you might experience this liberating effect of the redemption that
is in Christ Jesus. So long as you are out of Christ, you are under a
burden that will every day grow heavier, and may prove to be fixed and
unremovable as the mountains. That is a fearful punishment which the poet
Dante represents as being inflicted upon those who were guilty of pride.
The poor wretches are compelled to support enormous masses of stone which
bend them over to the ground, and, in his own stern phrase, "crumple up
their knees into their breasts." Thus they stand, stooping over, every
muscle trembling, the heavy stone weighing them down, and yet they are
not permitted to fall, and rest themselves upon the earth.[5] In this
crouching posture, they must carry the weary heavy load without relief,
and with a distress so great that, in the poet's own language,

                                   "it seemed
    As he, who showed most patience in his look,
    Wailing exclaimed: I can endure no more."[6]

Such is the posture of man unredeemed. There is a burden on him, under
which he stoops and crouches. It is a burden compounded of guilt and
corruption. It is lifted off by Christ, and by Christ only. The soul
itself can never expiate its guilt; can never cleanse its pollution. We
urge you, once more, to the act of faith in the Redeemer of the world. We
beseech you, once more, to make "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"
your own. The instant you plead the merit of Christ's oblation, in simple
confidence in its atoning efficacy, that instant the heavy burden is
lifted off by an Almighty hand, and your curved, stooping, trembling,
aching form once more stands erect, and you walk abroad in the liberty
wherewith Christ makes the human creature free.

[Footnote 1:
                               "She in vice
    Of luxury was so shameless, that she made
    Liking to be lawful by promulged decree,
    To clear the blame she had herself incurr'd."
    DANTE: Inferno, v. 56.]

[Footnote 2: Romans vii. 13, 14.]

[Footnote 3: KANT: Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft (Beschlusz).--De
Stael's rendering, which is so well known, and which I have employed,
is less guarded than the original.]

[Footnote 4: Compare the fine apostrophe to Duty. PRAKTISCHE VERNUNFT,
p. 214, (Ed. Rosenkranz.)]

[Footnote 5: "Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow
down their back alway." Rom. xi. 10.]

[Footnote 6: DANTE: Purgatory x. 126-128.]


Matthew xix. 20.--"The young man saith unto him, All these things have I
kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?"

The narrative from which the text is taken is familiar to all readers of
the Bible. A wealthy young man, of unblemished morals and amiable
disposition, came to our Lord, to inquire His opinion respecting his own
good estate. He asked what good thing he should do, in order to inherit
eternal life. The fact that he applied to Christ at all, shows that he
was not entirely at rest in his own mind. He could truly say that he had
kept the ten commandments from his youth up, in an outward manner; and
yet he was ill at ease. He was afraid that when the earthly life was
over, he might not be able to endure the judgment of God, and might fail
to enter into that happy paradise of which the Old Testament Scriptures
so often speak, and of which he had so often read, in them. This young
man, though a moralist, was not a self-satisfied or a self-conceited
one. For, had he been like the Pharisee a thoroughly blinded and
self-righteous person, like him he never would have approached Jesus of
Nazareth, to obtain His opinion respecting his own religious character
and prospects. Like him, he would have scorned to ask our Lord's judgment
upon any matters of religion. Like the Pharisees, he would have said, "We
see,"[1] and the state of his heart and his future prospects would have
given him no anxiety. But he was not a conceited and presumptuous
Pharisee. He was a serious and thoughtful person, though not a pious and
holy one. For, he did not love God more than he loved his worldly
possessions. He had not obeyed that first and great command, upon which
hang all the law and the prophets, conformity to which, alone,
constitutes righteousness: "Thou shalt _love_ the Lord thy God with all
thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy mind, and all thy strength." He
was not right at heart, and was therefore unprepared for death and
judgment. This he seems to have had some dim apprehension of. For why, if
he had felt that his external morality was a solid rock for his feet to
stand upon, why should he have betaken himself to Jesus of Nazareth, to
ask: "What lack I yet?"

It was not what he had done, but what he had left undone, that wakened
fears and forebodings in this young ruler's mind. The outward observance
of the ten commandments was right and well in its own way and place; but
the failure to obey, from the heart, the first and great command was the
condemnation that rested upon him. He probably knew this, in some
measure. He was not confidently certain of eternal life; and therefore he
came to the Great Teacher, hoping to elicit from Him an answer that would
quiet his conscience, and allow him to repose upon his morality while
he continued to love this world supremely. The Great Teacher pierced him
with an arrow. He said to him, "If them wilt be perfect, go and sell that
thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven:
and come and follow me." This direction showed him what he _lacked_.

This incident leads us to consider the condemnation that rests upon every
man, for his _failure_ in duty; the guilt that cleaves to him, on
account of what he has _not_ done. The Westminster Catechism defines sin
to be "any _want of conformity_ unto, or any transgression of, the law of
God." Not to be conformed, in the heart, to the law and will of God, is
as truly sin, as positively to steal, or positively to commit murder.
Failure to come up to the line of rectitude is as punishable, as to step
over that line. God requires of His creature that he stand squarely
_upon_ the line of righteousness; if therefore he is off that line,
because he has not come up to it, he is as guilty as when he
transgresses, or passes across it, upon the other side. This is the
reason that the sin of omission is as punishable as the sin of
commission. In either case alike, the man is off the line of rectitude.
Hence, in the final day, man will be condemned for what he lacks, for
what he comes short of, in moral character. Want of conformity to the
Divine law as really conflicts with the Divine law, as an overt
transgression does, because it carries man off and away from it. One
of the Greek words for sin [Greek: (amurtanein)] signifies, to miss the
mark. When the archer shoots at the target, he as really fails to strike
it, if his arrow falls short of it, as when he shoots over and beyond it.
If he strains upon the bow with such a feeble force, that the arrow drops
upon the ground long before it comes up to the mark, his shot is as total
a failure, as when he strains upon the bow-string with all his force, but
owing to an ill-directed aim sends his weapon into the air. One of the
New Testament terms for sin contains this figure and illustration, in
its etymology. Sin is a want of conformity unto, a failure to come clear
up to, the line and mark prescribed by God, as well a violent and
forcible breaking over and beyond the line and the mark. The _lack_ of
holy love, the _lack_ of holy fear, the _lack_ of filial trust and
confidence in God,--the negative absence of these and other qualities in
the heart is as truly sin and guilt, as is the positive and open
violation of a particular commandment, in the act of theft, or lying, or

We propose, then, to direct attention to that form and aspect of human
depravity which consists in coming short of the aim and end presented to
man by his Maker,--that form and aspect of sin which is presented in the
young ruler's inquiry: "What lack I yet?"

It is a comprehensive answer to this question to say, that every natural
man lacks _sincere and filial love of God_. This was the sin of the
moral, but worldly, the amiable, but earthly-minded, young man. Endow
him, in your fancy, with all the excellence you please, it still lies
upon the face of the narrative, that he loved money more than he loved
the Lord God Almighty. When the Son of God bade him go and sell his
property, and give it to the poor, and then come and follow Him as a
docile disciple like Peter and James and John, he went away sad in his
mind; for he had great possessions. This was a reasonable requirement,
though a very trying one. To command a young man of wealth and standing
immediately to strip himself of all his property, to leave the circle in
which he had been born and brought up, and to follow the Son of Man, who
had not where to lay His head, up and down through Palestine, through
good report and through evil report,--to put such a burden upon such a
young man was to lay him under a very heavy load. Looking at it from a
merely human and worldly point of view, it is not strange that the young
ruler declined to take it upon his shoulders; though he felt sad in
declining, because he had the misgiving that in declining he was sealing
his doom. But, had he _loved_ the Lord God with all his heart; had he
been _conformed unto_ the first and great command, in his heart and
affections; had he not _lacked_ a spiritual and filial affection towards
his Maker; he would have obeyed.

For, the circumstances under which this command was given must be borne
in mind. It issued directly from the lips of the Son of God Himself. It
was not an ordinary call of Providence, in the ordinary manner in which
God summons man to duty. There is reason to suppose that the young ruler
knew and felt that Christ had authority to give such directions. We know
not what were precisely his views of the person and office of Jesus of
Nazareth; but the fact that he came to Him seeking instruction respecting
the everlasting kingdom of God and the endless life of the soul, and the
yet further fact that he went away in sadness because he did not find it
in his heart to obey the instructions that he had received, prove that he
was at least somewhat impressed with the Divine authority of our Lord.
For, had he regarded Him as a mere ordinary mortal, knowing no more than
any other man concerning the eternal kingdom of God, why should His words
have distressed him? Had this young ruler taken the view of our Lord
which was held by the Scribes and Pharisees, like them he would never
have sought instruction from Him in a respectful and sincere manner; and,
like them, he would have replied to the command to strip himself of all
his property, leave the social circles to which he belonged, and follow
the despised Nazarene, with the curling lip of scorn. He would not have
gone away in sorrow, but in contempt. We must assume, therefore, that
this young ruler felt that the person with whom he was conversing, and
who had given him this extraordinary command, had authority to give it.
We do not gather from the narrative that he doubted upon this point. Had
he doubted, it would have relieved the sorrow with which his mind was
disturbed. He might have justified his refusal to obey, by the
consideration that this Jesus of Nazareth had no right to summon him, or
any other man, to forsake the world and attach himself to His person and
purposes, if any such consideration had entered his mind. No, the sorrow,
the deep, deep sorrow and sadness, with which he went away to the
beggarly elements of his houses and his lands, proves that he knew too
well that this wonderful Being who was working miracles, and speaking
words of wisdom that never man spake, had indeed authority and right to
say to him, and to every other man, "Go and sell that thou hast, and give
to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow

Though the command was indeed an extraordinary one, it was given in an
extraordinary manner, by an extraordinary Being. That young ruler was not
required to do any more than you and I would be obligated to do, _in the
same circumstances_. It is indeed true, that in the _ordinary_ providence
of God, you and I are not summoned to sell all our possessions, and
distribute them to the poor, and to go up and down the streets of this
city, or up and down the high-ways and by-ways of the land, as
missionaries of Christ. But if the call were _extra-ordinary_,--if
the heavens should open above our heads, and a voice from the skies
should command us in a manner not to be doubted or disputed to do this
particular thing, we ought immediately to do it. And if the love of God
were in our hearts; if we were inwardly "conformed unto" the Divine law;
if there were nothing lacking in our religious character; we should obey
with the same directness and alacrity with which Peter and Andrew, and
James and John, left their nets and their fishing-boat, their earthly
avocations, their fathers and their fathers' households, and followed
Christ to the end of their days. In the present circumstances of the
church and the world, Christians must follow the ordinary indications of
Divine Providence; and though these do unquestionably call upon them to
make far greater sacrifices for the cause of Christ than they now make,
yet they do not call upon them to sell _all_ that they have, and give it
to the poor. But they ought to be ready and willing to do so, in case God
by any remarkable and direct expression should indicate that this is
His will and pleasure. Should our Lord, for illustration, descend again,
and in His own person say to His people, as He did to the young ruler:
"Sell all that ye have, and give to the poor, and go up and down the
earth preaching the gospel," it would be the duty of every rich Christian
to strip himself of all his riches, and of every poor Christian to make
himself yet poorer, and of the whole Church to adopt the same course that
was taken by the early Christians, who "had all things common, and sold
their possessions and goods and parted them to all men, as every man had
need." The direct and explicit command of the Lord Jesus Christ to do any
particular thing must be obeyed at all hazards, and at all cost. Should
He command any one of His disciples to lay down his life, or to undergo
a severe discipline and experience in His service, He must be obeyed.
This is what He means when He says, "If any man come to me, and hate not
his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and
sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And
whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my
disciple" (Luke xiv. 26, 27).

The young ruler was subjected to this test. It was his privilege,--and it
was a great privilege,--to see the Son of God face to face; to hear His
words of wisdom and authority; to know without any doubt or ambiguity
what particular thing God would have him do. And he refused to do it. He
was moral; he was amiable; but he refused _point-blank_ to obey the
direct command of God addressed to him from the very lips of God. It was
with him as it would be with us, if the sky should open over our heads,
and the Son of God should descend, and with His own lips should command
us to perform a particular service, and we should be disobedient to the
heavenly vision, and should say to the Eternal Son of God: "We will not."
Think you that there is nothing _lacking_ in such a character as this? Is
this religious perfection? Is such a heart as this "conformed unto" the
law and will of God?

If, then, we look into the character of the young ruler, we perceive that
there was in it no supreme affection for God. On the contrary, he loved
_himself_ with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. Even his
religious anxiety, which led him to our Lord for His opinion concerning
his good estate, proved to be a merely selfish feeling. He desired
immortal felicity beyond the tomb,--and the most irreligious man upon
earth desires this,--but he did not possess such an affection for God as
inclined, and enabled, him to obey His explicit command to make a
sacrifice of his worldly possessions for His glory. And this lack of
supreme love to God was _sin_. It was a deviation from the line of
eternal rectitude and righteousness, as really and truly as murder,
adultery, or theft, or any outward breach of any of those commandments
which he affirmed he had kept from his youth up. This coming short of the
Divine honor and glory was as much contrary to the Divine law, as any
overt transgression of it could be.

For love is the fulfilling of the law. The whole law, according to
Christ, is summed up and contained, in these words: "Thou shall _love_
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself." To be
destitute of this heavenly affection is, therefore, to break the law at
the very centre and in the very substance of it. Men tell us, like this
young ruler, that they do not murder, lie, or steal,--that they observe
all the commandments of the second table pertaining to man and their
relations to man,--and ask, "What lack we yet?" Alexander Pope, in the
most brilliant and polished poetry yet composed by human art, sums up the
whole of human duty in the observance of the rules and requirements of
civil morality, and affirms that "an honest man is the noblest work of
God." But is this so? Has religion reached its last term, and ultimate
limit, when man respects the rights of property? Is a person who keeps
his hands off the goods and chattels of his fellow-creature really
qualified for the heavenly state, by reason of this fact and virtue of
honesty? Has he attained the chief end of man?[2] Even if we could
suppose a perfect obedience of all the statutes of the second table,
while those of the first table were disobeyed; even if one could fulfil
all his obligations to his neighbor, while failing in all his obligations
to his Maker; even if we should concede a perfect morality, without any
religion; would it be true that this morality, or obedience of only one
of the two tables that cover the whole field of human duty, is sufficient
to prepare man for the everlasting future, and the immediate presence of
God? Who has informed man that the first table of the law is of no
consequence; and that if he only loves his neighbor as himself, he need
not love his Maker supremely?

No! Affection in the heart towards the great and glorious God is the sum
and substance of religion, and whoever is destitute of it is irreligious
and sinful in the inmost spirit, and in the highest degree. His fault
relates to the most excellent and worthy Being in the universe. He comes
short of his duty, in reference to that Being who _more than any other
one_ is entitled to his love and his services. We say, and we say
correctly, that if a man fails of fulfilling his obligations towards
those who have most claims upon him, he is more culpable than when he
fails of his duty towards those who have less claims upon him. If a son
comes short of his duty towards an affectionate and self-sacrificing
mother, we say it is a greater fault, than if he comes short of his duty
to a fellow-citizen. The parent is nearer to him than the citizen, and he
owes unto her a warmer affection of his heart, and a more active service
of his life, than he owes to his fellow-citizen. What would be thought of
that son who should excuse his neglect, or ill-treatment, of the mother
that bore him, upon the ground that he had never cheated a fellow-man and
had been scrupulous in all his mercantile transactions! This but feebly
illustrates the relation which every man sustains to God, and the claim
which God has upon every man. Our first duty and obligation relates to
our Maker. Our fellow-creatures have claims upon us; the dear partners of
our blood have claims upon us; our own personality, with its infinite
destiny for weal or woe, has claims upon us. But no one of these; not all
of them combined; have upon us that _first_ claim, which God challenges
for Himself. Social life,--the state or the nation to which we
belong,--cannot say to us: "Thou shalt love me with all thy heart, and
soul, and mind, and strength." The family, which is bone of our bone, and
flesh of our flesh, cannot say to us: "Thou shalt love us, with all thy
soul, mind, heart, and strength." Even our own deathless and priceless
soul cannot say to us: "Thou shalt love me supremely, and before all
other beings and things." But the infinite and adorable God, the Being
that made us, and has redeemed us, can of right demand that we love and
honor Him first of all, and chiefest of all.

There are two thoughts suggested by the subject which we have been
considering, to which we now invite candid attention.

1. In the first place, this subject _convicts every man of sin_. Our
Lord, by his searching reply to the young ruler's question, "What lack I
yet?" sent him away very sorrowful; and what man, in any age and country,
can apply the same test to himself, without finding the same
unwillingness to sell all that he has and give to the poor,--the same
indisposition to obey any and every command of God that crosses his
natural inclinations? Every natural man, as he subjects his character to
such a trial as that to which the young ruler was subjected, will
discover as he did that he lacks supreme love of God, and like him, if he
has any moral earnestness; if he feels at all the obligation of duty;
will go away very sorrowful, because he perceives very plainly the
conflict between his will and his conscience. How many a person, in the
generations that have already gone to the judgment-seat of Christ, and in
the generation that is now on the way thither, has been at times brought
face to face with the great and first command, "Thou shall love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart," and by some particular requirement has been
made conscious of his utter opposition to that great law. Some special
duty was urged upon him, by the providence, or the word, or the Spirit
of God, that could not be performed unless his will were subjected to
God's will, and unless his love for himself and the world were
subordinated to his love of his Maker. If a young man, perhaps he was
commanded to consecrate his talents and education to a life of
philanthropy and service of God in the gospel, instead of a life devoted
to secular and pecuniary aims. God said to him, by His providence, and by
conscience, "Go teach my gospel to the perishing; go preach my word, to
the dying and the lost." But he loved worldly ease pleasure and
reputation more than he loved God; and he refused, and went away
sorrowful, because this poor world looked very bright and alluring,
and the path of self-denial and duty looked very forbidding. Or, if he
was a man in middle life, perhaps he was commanded to abate his interest
in plans for the accumulation of wealth, to contract his enterprises, to
give attention to the concerns of his soul and the souls of his children,
to make his own peace with God, and to consecrate the remainder of his
life to Christ and to human welfare; and when this plain and reasonable
course of conduct was dictated to him, he found his whole heart rising up
against the proposition. Our Lord, alluding to the fact that there was
nothing in common between His spirit, and the spirit of Satan, said to
His disciples, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me"
(John xiv. 30). So, when the command to love God supremely comes to this
man of the world, in any particular form, "it hath nothing in him." This
first and great law finds no ready and genial response within his heart,
but on the contrary a recoil within his soul as if some great monster had
started up in his pathway. He says, in his mind, to the proposition:
"Anything but that;" and, with the young ruler, he goes away sorrowful,
because he knows that refusal is perdition.

Is there not a wonderful power to _convict_ of sin, in this test? If you
try yourself, as the young man did, by the command, "Thou shalt not
kill," "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not commit adultery," you may
succeed, perhaps, in quieting your conscience, to some extent, and in
possessing yourself of the opinion of your fitness for the kingdom of
God. But ask yourself the question, "Do I love God supremely, and am I
ready and willing to do any and every particular thing that He shall
command me to do, even if it is plucking out a right eye, or cutting off
a right hand, or selling all my goods to give to the poor?" try yourself
by _this_ test, and see if you lack anything in your moral character.
When this thorough and proper touch-stone of character is applied, there
is not found upon earth a just man that doeth good and sinneth not. Every
human creature, by this test is concluded under sin. Every man is found,
lacking in what he ought to possess, when the words of the commandment
are sounded in his ear: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and all thy soul, and all thy mind, and all thy strength." This
sum and substance of the Divine law, upon which hang all the other laws,
convinces every man of sin. For there is no escaping its force. Love of
God is a distinct and definite feeling, and every person knows whether he
ever experienced it. Every man knows whether it is, or is not, an
affection of his heart; and he knows that if it be wanting, the
foundation of religion is wanting in his soul, and the sum and substance
of sin is there.

2. And this leads to the second and concluding thought suggested, by the
subject, namely, that _except a man be born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God._ If there be any truth in the discussion through which we
have passed, it is plain and incontrovertible, that to be destitute of
holy love to God is a departure and deviation from the moral law. It is a
coming short of the great requirement that rests upon every accountable
creature of God, and this is as truly sin and guilt as any violent and
open passing over and beyond the line of rectitude. The sin of omission
is as deep and damning as the sin of commission. "Forgive,"--said the
dying archbishop Usher,--"forgive all my sins, especially my sins of

But, how is this lack to be supplied? How is this great hiatus in human
character to be filled up? How shall the fountain of holy and filial
affection towards God be made to gush up into everlasting life, within
your now unloving and hostile heart? There is no answer to this question
of questions, but in the Person and Work of the Holy Ghost. If God shall
shed abroad His love in your heart, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto
you, you will know the blessedness of a new affection; and will be able
to say with Peter, "Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love
thee." You are shut up to this method, and this influence. To generate
within yourself this new spiritual emotion which you have never yet felt,
is utterly impossible. Yet you must get it, or religion, is impossible,
and immortal life is impossible. Would that you might feel your straits,
and your helplessness. Would that you might perceive your total lack of
supreme love of God, as the young ruler perceived his; and would that,
unlike him, instead, of going away from the Son of God, you would go to
Him, crying, "Lord create within me a clean heart, and renew within me a
right spirit." Then the problem would be solved, and having peace with
God through the blood of Christ, the love of God would be shed abroad in
your hearts, through the Holy Ghost given unto you.

[Footnote 1: John ix. 41.]

[Footnote 2: Even if we should widen the meaning of the word "honest," in
the above-mentioned dictum of Pope, and make it include the Latin
"honestum," the same objection would lie against dictum. Honor and
high-mindedness towards man is not love and reverence towards God. The
spirit of chivalry is not the spirit of Christianity.]


MATTHEW xix. 20.--"The young man saith unto him, All these things have I
kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?"

In the preceding discourse from these words, we discussed that form and
aspect of sin which consists in "coming short" of the Divine Law; or, as
the Westminster Creed states it, in a "want of conformity" unto it. The
deep and fundamental sin of the young ruler, we found, lay in what he
lacked. When our Lord tested him, he proved to be utterly destitute of
love to God. His soul was a complete vacuum, in reference to that great
holy affection which fills the hearts of all the good beings before the
throne of God, and without which no creature can stand, or will wish to
stand, in the Divine presence. The young ruler, though outwardly moral
and amiable, when searched in the inward parts was found wanting in the
sum and substance of religion. He did not love God; and he did love
himself and his possessions.

What man has omitted to do, what man is destitute of,--this is a species
of sin which he does not sufficiently consider, and which is weighing him
down to perdition. The unregenerate person when pressed to repent of his
sins, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, often beats back the kind
effort, by a question like that which Pilate put to the infuriated Jews:
"Why, what evil have I done?" It is the subject of his actual and overt
transgressions that comes first into his thoughts, and, like the young
ruler, he tells his spiritual friend and adviser that he has kept all the
commandments from his youth up. The conviction of sin would be more
common if the natural man would consider his _failures_; if he would look
into his heart and perceive what he is _destitute_ of, and into his
conduct and see what he has left _undone_.

In pursuing this subject, we propose to show, still further, the
guiltiness of every man, from the fact that he _lacks the original
righteousness that once belonged to him_. We shall endeavor to prove
that every child of Adam is under condemnation, or, in the words of
Christ, that "the wrath of God abides upon him" (John iii. 36), because
he is not possessed of that pure and perfect character which, his Maker
gave him in the beginning. Man is culpable for not continuing to stand
upon the high and sinless position, in which he was originally placed.
When the young ruler's question is put to the natural man, and the
inquiry is made as to his defects and deficiency, it is invariably
discovered that he lacks the image of God in which he was created. And
for a rational being to be destitute of the image of God is sin, guilt,
and condemnation, because every rational being has once received this

God has the right to demand from every one of his responsible creatures,
all that the creature _might_ be, had he retained possession of the
endowments which he received at creation, and had he employed them with
fidelity. The perfect gifts and capacities originally bestowed upon man,
and not the mutilated and damaged powers subsequently arising from
a destructive act of self-will, furnish the proper rule of measurement,
in estimating human merit or demerit. The faculties of intelligence and
will as _unfallen_, and not as fallen, determine the amount of
holiness and of service that may be demanded, upon principles of strict
justice, from every individual. All that man "comes short" of this is so
much sin, guilt, and condemnation.

When the great Sovereign and Judge looks down from His throne of
righteousness and equity, upon any one of the children of men, He
considers what that creature was by _creation_, and compares his
present character and conduct with the character with which he was
originally endowed, and the conduct that would naturally have flowed
therefrom. God made man holy and perfect. God created man in his own
image (Gen. i. 26), "endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true
holiness, having the law of God written in his heart, and power to fulfil
it." This is the statement of the Creed which we accept as a fair and
accurate digest of the teachings of Revelation, respecting the primitive
character of man, and his original righteousness. And all evangelical
creeds, however they may differ from each other in their definitions of
original righteousness, and their estimate of the perfections and powers
granted to man by creation, do yet agree that he stood higher when he
came from the hand of God than he now stands; that man's actual character
and conduct do not come up to man's created power and capacities. Solemn
and condemning as it is, it is yet a fact, that inasmuch as every man was
originally made in the holy image of God, he ought, this very instant to
be perfectly holy. He ought to be standing upon a position that is as
high above his actual position, as the heavens are high above the earth.
He ought to be possessed of a moral perfection without spot or wrinkle,
or any such thing. He ought to be as he was, when created in
righteousness and true holiness. He ought to be dwelling high up on those
lofty and glorious heights where he was stationed by the benevolent
hand of his Maker, instead of wallowing in those low depths where he has
fallen by an act of apostasy and rebellion. Nothing short of this
satisfies the obligations that are resting upon him. An imperfect
holiness, such as the Christian is possessed of while here upon earth,
does not come up to the righteous requirement of the moral law; and
certainly that kind of moral character which belongs to the natural man
is still farther off from the sum-total that is demanded.

Let us press this truth, that we may feel its convicting and condemning
energy. When our Maker speaks to us upon the subject of His claims and
our obligations, He tells us that when we came forth from nonentity into
existence, from His hand, we were well endowed, and well furnished. He
tells us distinctly, that He did not create us the depraved and sinful
beings that we now are. He tells us that these earthly affections, this
carnal mind, this enmity towards the Divine law, this disinclination
towards religion and spiritual concerns, this absorbing love of the world
and this supreme love of self,--that these were not implanted or infused
into the soul by our wise, holy, and good Creator. This is not His work.
This is no part of the furniture with which mankind were set up for an
everlasting existence. "God saw everything that he had made, and behold
it was very good." (Gen. i. 31). We acknowledge the mystery that
overhangs the union and connection of all men with the first man. We know
that this corruption of man's nature, and this sinfulness of his heart,
does indeed, appear at the very beginning of his individual life. He is
conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity (Ps. li. 5). This selfish
disposition, and this alienation of the heart from God, is _native_
depravity, is _inborn_ corruption. This we know both from Revelation,
and observation. But we also know, from the same infallible Revelation,
that though man is born a sinner from the sinful Adam, he was created
a saint in the holy Adam. By origin he is holy, and by descent he is
sinful; because there has intervened, between his creation and his birth,
that "offence of one man whereby all men were made sinners" (Rom. v. 18,
19). Though we cannot unravel the whole mystery of this subject, yet if
we accept the revealed fact, and concede that God did originally make man
in His own image, in righteousness and true holiness, and that man has
since unmade himself, by the act of apostasy and rebellion,[1]--if we
take this as the true and correct statement of the facts in the case,
then we can see how and why it is, that God has claims upon His creature,
man, that extend to what this creature originally was and was capable of
becoming, and not merely to what he now is, and is able to perform.

When, therefore, the young ruler's question, "What lack I?" is asked and
answered upon a broad scale, each and every man must say: "I lack
original righteousness; I lack the holiness with which God created man; I
lack that perfection of character which belonged to my rational and
immortal nature coming fresh from the hand of God in the person of Adam;
I lack all that I should now be possessed of, had that nature not
apostatized from its Maker and its Sovereign." And when God forms His
estimate of man's obligations; when He lays judgment to the line, and
righteousness to the plummet; He goes back to the _beginning_, He goes
back to _creation_, and demands from His rational and immortal creature
that perfect service which, he was capable of rendering by creation, but
which now he is unable to render because of subsequent apostasy. For,
God cannot adjust His demands to the alterations which sinful man makes
in himself. This would be to annihilate all demands and obligations.
A sliding-scale would be introduced, by this method, that would reduce
human duty by degrees to a minimum, where it would disappear. For, the
more sinful a creature becomes, the less inclined, and consequently the
less able does he become to obey the law of God. If, now, the Eternal
Judge shapes His requisitions in accordance with the shifting character
of His creature, and lowers His law down just as fast as the sinner
enslaves himself to lust and sin, it is plain that sooner or later all
moral obligation will run out; and whenever the creature becomes totally
enslaved to self and flesh, there will no longer be any claims resting
upon him. But this cannot be so. "For the kingdom of heaven,"--says our
Lord,--"is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his
own servants and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five
talents, and to another two, and to another one; and straightway took his
journey." When the settlement was made. Each and every one of the parties
was righteously summoned to account for all that had originally been
intrusted to him, and to show a faithful improvement of the same. If any
one of the servants had been found to have "lacked" a part, or the whole,
of the original treasure, because he had culpably lost it, think you that
the fact that it was now gone from his possession, and was past recovery,
would have been accepted as a valid excuse from the original obligations
imposed upon him? In like manner, the fact, that man cannot reinstate
himself in his original condition of holiness and blessedness, from which
he has fallen by apostasy, will not suffice to justify him before God for
being in a helpless state of sin and misery, or to give him any claims
upon God for deliverance from it. God can and does _pity_ him, in his
ruined and lost estate, and if the creature will cast himself upon His
_mercy_, acknowledging the righteousness of the entire claims of God upon
him for a sinless perfection and a perfect service, he will meet and find
mercy. But if he takes the ground that he does not owe such an immense
debt as this, and that God has no right to demand from him, in his
apostate and helpless condition, the same perfection of character and
obedience which holy Adam possessed and rendered, and which the unfallen
angels possess and render, God will leave him to the workings of
conscience, and the operations of stark unmitigated law and justice. "The
kingdom of heaven,"--says our Lord,--"is likened unto a certain king
which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to
reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents; but
forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and
his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The
servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have
patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant
was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt"
(Matt, xviii. 28-27). But suppose that that servant had _disputed_ the
claim, and had put in an appeal to justice instead of an appeal to mercy,
upon the ground that inasmuch as he had lost his property and had nothing
to pay with, therefore he was not obligated to pay, think you that the
king would have conceded the equity of the claim? On the contrary, he
would have entered into no argument in so plain a case, but would have
"delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due
unto him." So likewise shall the heavenly Father do also unto you, and to
every man, who attempts to diminish the original claim of God to a
perfect obedience and service, by pleading the fall of man, the
corruption of human nature, the strength of sinful inclination and
affections, and the power of earthly temptation. All these are man's
work, and not that of the Creator. This helplessness and bondage grows
directly out of the nature of sin. "Whosoever committeth sin is the
slave of sin. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves slaves to
obey, his slaves ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of
obedience unto righteousness?" (John viii. 34; Rom. vi. 16).

In view of the subject as thus discussed, we invite attention to some
practical conclusions that flow directly out of it. For, though we have
been speaking upon one of the most difficult themes in Christian
theology, namely man's creation in holiness and his loss of holiness by
the apostasy in Adam, yet we have at the same time been speaking of one
of the most humbling, and practically profitable, doctrines in the whole
circle of revealed truth. We never shall arrive at any profound sense of
sin, unless we know and feel our guilt and corruption by nature; and we
shall never arrive at any profound sense of our guilt and corruption by
nature, unless we know and understand the original righteousness and
innocence in which we were first created. We can measure the great depth
of the abyss into which, we have fallen, only by looking up to those
great heights in the garden of Eden, upon which our nature once stood
beautiful and glorious, the very image and likeness of our Creator.

1. We remark then, in the first place, that it is the duty of every man
_to humble himself on account of his lack of original righteousness, and
to repent of it as sin before God._

One of the articles of the Presbyterian Confession of Faith reads thus:
_Every_ sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the
righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature,
bring _guilt_ upon the sinner, whereby he is "bound over to the wrath of
God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all
miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal."[2] The Creed which we accept
summons us to repent of original as well as actual sin; and it defines
original sin to be "the want of original righteousness, together with the
corruption of the whole nature." The want of original righteousness,
then, is a ground of condemnation, and therefore a reason for shame, and
godly sorrow. It is something which man once had, ought still to have,
but now lacks; and therefore is ill-deserving, for the very same reason
that the young ruler's lack of supreme love to God was ill-deserving.

If we acknowledge the validity of the distinction between a sin of
omission and a sin of commission, and concede that each alike is
culpable,[3] we shall find no difficulty with this demand of the Creed.
Why should not you and I mourn over the total want of the image of God in
our hearts, as much as over any other form and species of sin? This
image of God consists in holy reverence. When we look into our hearts,
and find no holy reverence there, ought we not to be filled with shame
and sorrow? This image of God consists in filial and supreme affection
for God, such as the young ruler lacked; and when we look into our
hearts, and find not a particle of supreme love to God in them, ought
we not to repent of this original, this deep-seated, this innate
depravity? This image of God, again, which was lost in our apostasy,
consisted in humble constant trust in God; and when we search our
souls, and perceive that there is nothing of this spirit in them, but on
the contrary a strong and overmastering disposition to trust in
ourselves, and to distrust our Maker, ought not this discovery to waken
in us the very same feeling that Isaiah gave expression to, when he said
that the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint; the very same
feeling that David gave expression to, when he cried: "Behold I was
shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me?"

This is to repent of original sin, and there is no mystery or absurdity
about it. It is to turn the eye inward, and see what is _lacking_ in our
heart and affections; and not merely what of outward and actual
transgressions we have committed. Those whose idea of moral excellence is
like that of the young ruler; those who suppose holiness to consist
merely in the outward observance of the commandments of the second table;
those who do not look into the depths of their nature, and contrast the
total corruption that is there, with the perfect and positive
righteousness that ought to be there, and that was there by
creation,--all such will find the call of the Creed to repent of original
sin as well as of actual, a perplexity and an impossibility. But every
man who knows that the substance of piety consists in positive and holy
affections,--in holy reverence, love and trust,--and who discovers that
these are wanting in him by nature, though belonging to him by creation,
will mourn in deep contrition and self-abasement over that act of
apostasy by which this great change in human character, this great lack
was brought about. 2. In the second place, it follows from the subject
we have discussed, that every man must, by some method, _recover his
original righteousness, or be ruined forever_. "Without holiness no man
shall see the Lord." No rational creature is fit to appear in the
presence of his Maker, unless he is as pure and perfect as he was
originally made. Holy Adam was prepared by his creation in the image
of God, to hold blessed communion with God, and if he and his posterity
had never lost this image, they would forever be in fellowship with their
Creator and Sovereign. Holiness, and holiness alone, enables the creature
to stand with angelic tranquillity, in the presence of Him before whom
the heavens and the earth flee away. The loss of original righteousness,
therefore, was the loss of the wedding garment; it was the loss of the
only robe in which the creature could appear at the banquet of God.
Suppose that one of the posterity of sinful Adam, destitute of holy love
reverence and faith, lacking positive and perfect righteousness, should
be introduced into the seventh heavens, and there behold the infinite
Jehovah. Would he not feel, with a misery and a shame that could not be
expressed, that he was naked? that he was utterly unfit to appear in such
a Presence? No wonder that our first parents, after their apostasy, felt
that they were unclothed. They were indeed stripped of their character,
and had not a rag of righteousness to cover them. No wonder that they hid
themselves from the intolerable purity and brightness of the Most High.
Previously, they had felt no such emotion. They were "not ashamed," we
are told. And the reason lay in the fact that, before their apostasy,
they were precisely as they were made. They were endowed with the image
of God; and their original righteousness and perfect holiness qualified
them to stand before their Maker, and to hold blessed intercourse with
Him. But the instant they lost their created endowment of holiness, they
were conscious that they lacked that indispensable something wherewith to
appear before God.

And precisely so is it, with their posterity. Whatever a man's theory of
the future life may be, he must be insane, if he supposes that he is fit
to appear before God, and to enter the society of heaven, if destitute of
holiness, and wanting the Divine image. When the spirit of man returns to
God who gave it, it must return as good as it came from His hands, or it
will be banished from the Divine presence. Every human soul, when it goes
back to its Maker, must carry with it a righteousness, to say the very
least, equal to that in which it was originally created, or it will be
cast out as an unprofitable and wicked servant. _All_ the talents
entrusted must be returned; and returned with usury. A modern philosopher
and poet represents the suicide as justifying the taking of his own life,
upon the ground that he was not asked in the beginning, whether he wanted
life. He had no choice whether he would come into existence or not;
existence was forced upon him; and therefore he had a right to put an end
to it, if he so pleased. To this, the reply is made, that he ought to
return his powers and faculties to the Creator in as _good condition_ as
he received them; that he had no right to mutilate and spoil them by
abuse, and then fling the miserable relics of what was originally a noble
creation, in the face of the Creator. In answer to the suicide's
proposition to give back his spirit to God who gave it, the poet
represents God as saying to him:

  "Is't returned as 'twas sent? Is't no worse for the wear?
  Think first what you are! Call to mind what you were!
  I gave you innocence, I gave you hope,
  Gave health, and genius, and an ample scope.
  Return you me guilt, lethargy, despair?
  Make out the invent'ry; inspect, compare!
  Then die,--if die you dare!"[4]

Yes, this is true and solemn reasoning. You and I, and every man, must by
some method, or other, go back to God as good as we came forth from Him.
We must regain our original righteousness; we must be reinstated in our
primal relation to God, and our created condition; or there is nothing in
store for us, but the blackness of darkness. We certainly cannot stand in
the judgment clothed with original sin, instead of original
righteousness; full of carnal and selfish affections, instead of pure and
heavenly affections. This great lack, this great vacuum, in our
character, must by some method be filled up with solid, and everlasting
excellencies, or the same finger that wrote, in letters of fire, upon the
wall of the Babylonian monarch, the awful legend: "Thou art weighed in
the balance, and art found wanting," will write it in letters of fire
upon our own rational spirit.

There is but one method, by which man's original righteousness and
innocency can be regained; and this method you well know. The blood of
Jesus Christ sprinkled by the Holy Ghost, upon your guilty conscience,
reinstates you in innocency. When that is applied, there is no more guilt
upon you, than there was upon Adam the instant he came from the creative
hand. "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Who
is he that condemneth, when it is Christ that died, and God that
justifies? And when the same Holy Spirit enters your soul with renewing
power, and carries forward His work of sanctification to its final
completion, your original righteousness returns again, and you are again
clothed in that spotless robe with which your nature was invested, on
that sixth day of creation, when the Lord God said, "Let us make man in
our image, and after our likeness." Ponder these truths, and what is yet
more imperative, _act_ upon them. Remember that you must, by some method,
become a perfect creature, in order to become a blessed creature in
heaven. Without holiness you cannot see the Lord. You must recover the
character which you have lost, and the peace with God in which you were
created. Your spirit, when it returns to God, must by some method be made
equal to what it was when it came forth from Him. And there is no method,
but the method of redemption by the blood and righteousness of Christ.
Men are running to and fro after other methods. The memories of a golden
age, a better humanity than they now know of, haunt them; and they sigh
for the elysium that is gone. One sends you to letters, and culture, for
your redemption. Another tells you that morality, or philosophy, will
lift you again to those paradisaical heights that tower high above your
straining vision. But miserable comforters are they all. No golden age
returns; no peace with God or self is the result of such instrumentality.
The conscience is still perturbed, the forebodings still overhang the
soul like a black cloud, and the heart is as throbbing and restless as
ever. With resoluteness, then, turn away from these inadequate, these
feeble methods, and adopt the method of God Almighty. Turn away with
contempt from human culture, and finite forces, as the instrumentality
for the redemption of the soul which is precious, and which ceaseth
forever if it is unredeemed. Go with confidence, and courage, and a
rational faith, to God Almighty, to God the Redeemer. He hath power. He
is no feeble and finite creature. He waves a mighty weapon, and sweats
great drops of blood; travelling in the greatness of His strength. Hear
His words of calm confidence and power: "Come unto me, all ye that labor
and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

[Footnote 1: The Augustinian doctrine, that the entire human species was
created on the sixth day, existed as a _nature_ (not as individuals) in
the first human pair, acted in and fell with them in the first
transgression, and us thus fallen and vitiated by an act of self-will has
been procreated or individualized, permits the theologian, to say that
all men are equally concerned in the origin of sin, and to charge the
guilt of its origin upon all alike.]

[Footnote 2: CONFESSION OF FAITH. VI. vi.]

[Footnote 3: One of the points of difference between the Protestant and
the Papist, when the dogmatic position of each was taken, related to the
guilt of original sin,--the former affirming, and the latter denying. It
is also one of the points of difference between Calvinism and

[Footnote 4: Coleridge; Works, VII. 295.]


ROMANS ii. 21--23.--"Thou therefore which, teachest another, teachest
Thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou
steal? thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou
commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
thou that makest thy boast of the law, through, breaking the law
dishonorest thou God?"

The apostle Paul is a very keen and cogent reasoner. Like a powerful
logician who is confident that he has the truth upon his side, and like a
pureminded man who has no sinister ends to gain, he often takes his stand
upon the same ground with his opponent, adopts his positions, and
condemns him out of his own mouth. In the passage from which the text is
taken, he brings the Jew in guilty before God, by employing the Jew's own
claims and statements. "Behold thou art called a Jew, and restest in the
law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the
things that are more excellent, and art confident that thou thyself art a
guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor
of the foolish. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not
thyself? thou that preachest that a man should not steal, dost thou
steal? thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law
dishonorest thou God?" As if he had said: "You claim to be one of God's
chosen people, to possess a true knowledge of Him and His law; why do you
not act up to this knowledge? why do you not by your character and
conduct prove the claim to be a valid one?"

The apostle had already employed this same species of argument against
the Gentile world. In the first chapter of this Epistle to the Romans,
St. Paul demonstrates that the pagan world is justly condemned by God,
because, they too, like the Jew, knew more than they practised. He
affirms that the Greek and Roman world, like the Jewish people, "when
they knew God, glorified him not as God, neither were thankful;" that as
"they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over
to a reprobate mind;" and that "knowing the judgment of God, that they
which commit such things" as he had just enumerated in that awful
catalogue of pagan vices "are worthy of death, not only do the same, but
have pleasure in them that do them." The apostle does not for an instant
concede, that the Gentile can put in the plea that he was so entirely
ignorant of the character and law of God, that he ought to be excused
from the obligation to love and obey Him. He expressly affirms that where
there is absolutely no law, and no knowledge of law, there can be no
transgression; and yet affirms that in the day of judgment every mouth
must be stopped, and the whole world must plead guilty before God. It is
indeed true, that he teaches that there is a difference in the degrees of
knowledge which the Jew and the Gentile respectively possess. The light
of revealed religion, in respect to man's duty and obligations, is far
clearer than the light of nature, and increases the responsibilities of
those who enjoy it, and the condemnation of those who abuse it; but the
light of nature is clear and true as far as it goes, and is enough to
condemn every soul outside of the pale of Revelation. For, in the day of
judgment, there will not be a single human creature who can look his
Judge in the eye, and say: "I acted up to every particle of moral light
that I enjoyed; I never thought a thought, felt a feeling, or did a deed,
for which my conscience reproached me."

It follows from this, that the language of the apostle, in the text, may
be applied to every man. The argument that has force for the Jew has
force for the Gentile. "Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not
thyself? thou that preachest that a man should not steal, dost thou
steal?" You who know the character and claims of God, and are able to
state them to another, why do you not revere and obey them in your own
person? You who approve of the law of God as pure and perfect, why do you
not conform your own heart and conduct to it? You who perceive the
excellence of piety in another, you who praise and admire moral
excellence in your fellow-man, why do you not seek after it, and toil
after it in your own heart? In paying this tribute of approbation to the
character of a God whom you do not yourself love and serve, and to a
piety in your neighbor which you do not yourself possess and cultivate,
are you not writing down your own condemnation? How can you stand before
the judgment-seat of God, after having in this manner confessed through
your whole life upon earth that God is good, and His law is perfect, and
yet through that whole life have gone counter to your own confession,
neither loving that God, nor obeying that law? "To him that knoweth to do
good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James iv. 17.)

The text then, together with the chains of reasoning that are connected
with it, leads us to consider the fact, that a man may admire and praise
moral excellence without possessing or practising it himself; that _the
approbation of goodness is not the same as the love of it_.[1]

I. This is proved, in the first place, from the _testimony_ of both God
and man. The assertions and reasonings of the apostle Paul have already
been alluded to, and there are many other passages of Scripture which
plainly imply that men may admire and approve of a virtue which they do
not practise. Indeed, the language of our Lord respecting the Scribes and
Pharisees, may be applied to disobedient mankind at large: "Whatsoever
they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do ye not after their
works: for they say, and do not." (Matt, xxiii. 3.) The testimony of man
is equally explicit. That is a very remarkable witness which the poet
Ovid bears to this truth. "I see the right,"--he says,--"and approve of
it, but I follow and practise the wrong." This is the testimony of a
profligate man of pleasure, in whom the light of nature had been greatly
dimmed in the darkness of sin and lust. But he had not succeeded in
annihilating his conscience, and hence, in a sober hour, he left upon
record his own damnation. He expressly informed the whole cultivated
classical world, who were to read his polished numbers, that he that had
taught others had not taught himself; that he who had said that a man
should not commit adultery had himself committed adultery; that an
educated Roman who never saw the volume of inspiration, and never heard
of either Moses or Christ, nevertheless approved of and praised a virtue
that he never put in practice. And whoever will turn to the pages of
Horace, a kindred spirit to Ovid both in respect to a most exquisite
taste and a most refined earthliness, will frequently find the same
confession breaking out. Nay, open the volumes of Rousseau, and even of
Voltaire, and read their panegyrics of virtue, their eulogies of
goodness. What are these, but testimonies that they, too, saw the right
and did the wrong. It is true, that the eulogy is merely sentimentalism,
and is very different from the sincere and noble tribute which a good man
renders to goodness. Still, it is valid testimony to the truth that the
mere approbation of goodness is not the love of it. It is true, that
these panegyrics of virtue, when read in the light of Rousseau's
sensuality and Voltaire's malignity, wear a dead and livid hue, like
objects seen in the illumination from phosphorus or rotten wood; yet,
nevertheless, they are visible and readable, and testify as distinctly as
if they issued from elevated and noble natures, that the teachings of
man's conscience are not obeyed by man's heart,--that a man may praise
and admire virtue, while he loves and practises vice.

II. A second proof that the approbation of goodness is not the love of it
is found in the fact, that _it is impossible not to approve of goodness_,
while it is possible not to love it. The structure of man's conscience is
such, that he can commend only the right; but the nature of his will is
such, that he may be conformed to the right or the wrong. The conscience
can give only one judgment; but the heart and will are capable of two
kinds of affection, and two courses of action. Every rational creature is
shut up, by his moral sense, to but one moral conviction. He must approve
the right and condemn the wrong. He cannot approve the wrong and condemn
the right; any more than he can perceive that two and two make five. The
human conscience is a rigid and stationary faculty. Its voice may be
stifled or drowned, for a time; but it can never be made to titter two
discordant voices. It is for this reason, that the approbation of
goodness is necessary and universal. Wicked men and wicked angels must
testify that benevolence is right, and malevolence is wrong; though they
hate the former, and love the latter.

But it is not so with the human _will_. This is not a rigid and
stationary faculty. It is capable of turning this way, and that way. It
was created holy, and it turned from holiness to sin, in Adam's
apostasy. And now, under the operation of the Divine Spirit, it turns
back again, it _converts_ from sin to holiness. The will of man is thus
capable of two courses of action, while his conscience is capable of only
one judgment; and hence he can see and approve the right, yet love and
practise the wrong. If a man's conscience changed along with his heart
and his will, so that when he began to love and practise sin, he at the
same time began to approve of sin, the case would be different. If, when
Adam apostatised from God, his conscience at that moment began to take
sides with his sin, instead of condemning it, then, indeed, neither Ovid,
nor Horace, nor Rousseau, nor any other one of Adam's posterity, would
have been able to say: "I see the right and _approve_ of it, while I
follow the wrong." But it was not so. After apostasy, the conscience of
Adam passed the same judgment upon sin that it did before. Adam heard its
terrible voice speaking in concert with the voice of God, and hid
himself. He never succeeded in bringing his conscience over to the side
of his heart and will, and neither has any one of his posterity. It is
impossible to do this. Satan himself, after millenniums of sin, still
finds that his conscience, that the accusing and condemning law written
on the heart, is too strong for him to alter, too rigid for him to bend.
The utmost that either he, or any creature, can do, is to drown its
verdict for a time in other sounds, only to hear the thunder-tones again,
waxing longer and louder like the trumpet of Sinai.

Having thus briefly shown that the approbation of goodness is not the
love of it, we proceed to draw some conclusions from the truth.

1. In the first place, it follows from this subject, that _the mere
workings of conscience are no proof of holiness_. When, after the
commission of a wrong act, the soul of a man is filled with
self-reproach, he must not take it for granted that this is the stirring of
a better nature within him, and is indicative of some remains of original
righteousness. This reaction of conscience against his disobedience
of law is as necessary, and unavoidable, as the action of his eyelids
under the blaze of noon, and is worthy neither of praise nor blame, so
far as he is concerned. It does not imply any love for holiness, or any
hatred of sin. Nay, it may exist without any sorrow for sin, as in the
instance of the hardened transgressor who writhes under its awful power,
but never sheds a penitential tear, or sends up a sigh for mercy. The
distinction between the human conscience, and the human heart, is as wide
as between the human intellect, and the human heart.[2] We never think of
confounding the functions and operations of the understanding with
those of the heart. We know that an idea or a conception, is totally
different from an emotion, or a feeling. How often do we remark, that a
man may have an intellectual perception, without any correspondent
experience or feeling in his heart. How continually does the preacher
urge his hearers to bring their hearts into harmony with their
understandings, so that their intellectual orthodoxy may become their
practical piety.

Now, all this is true of the distinction between the conscience and the
heart. The conscience is an _intellectual_ faculty, and by that better
elder philosophy which comprehended all the powers of the soul under the
two general divisions of understanding and will, would be placed in the
domain of the understanding. Conscience is a _light_, as we so often call
it. It is not a _life_; it is not a source of life. No man's heart and
will can be renewed or changed by his conscience. Conscience is simply a
law. Conscience is merely legislative; it is never executive. It simply
says to the heart and will: "Do thus, feel thus," but it gives no
assistance, and imparts no inclination to obey its own command.

Those, therefore, commit a grave error both in philosophy and religion,
who confound the conscience with the heart, and suppose that because
there is in every man self-reproach and remorse after the commission of
sin, therefore there is the germ of holiness within him. Holiness is
_love_, the positive affection of the heart. It is a matter of the heart
and the will. But this remorse is purely an affair of the conscience, and
the heart has no connection with it. Nay, it appears in its most intense
form, in those beings whose feelings emotions and determinations are in
utmost opposition to God and goodness. The purest remorse in the universe
is to be found in those wretched beings whose emotional and active
powers, whose heart and will, are in the most bitter hostility to truth
and righteousness. How, then, can the mere reproaches and remorse of
conscience be regarded as evidence of piety?

2. But, we may go a step further than this, though in the same general
direction, and remark, in the second place, that _elevated moral
sentiments are no certain proof of piety toward God and man_. These, too,
like remorse of conscience, spring out of the intellectual structure, and
may exist without any affectionate love of God in the heart. There is a
species of nobleness and beauty in moral excellence that makes an
involuntary and unavoidable impression. When the Christian martyr seals
his devotion to God and truth with his blood; when a meek and lowly
disciple of Christ clothes his life of poverty, and self-denial, with a
daily beauty greater than that of the lilies or of Solomon's array; when
the poor widow with feeble and trembling steps comes up to the treasury
of the Lord, and casts in all her living; when any pure and spiritual act
is performed out of solemn and holy love of God and man, it is impossible
not to be filled with sentiments of admiration, and oftentimes, with an
enthusiastic glow of soul. We see this in the impression which the
character of Christ universally makes. There are multitudes of men, to
whom that wonderful sinless life shines aloft like a star. But they do
not _imitate_ it. They admire it, but they do not love it.[3] The
spiritual purity and perfection of the Son of God rays out a beauty which
really attracts their cultivated minds, and their refined taste; but when
He says to them: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek
and lowly of heart; take up thy cross daily and follow me;" they turn
away sorrowful, like the rich young man in the Gospel,--sorrowful,
because their sentiments like his are elevated, and they have a certain
awe of eternal things, and know that religion is the highest concern; and
sorrowful, because their hearts and wills are still earthly, there is no
divine love in their souls, self is still their centre, and the
self-renunciation that is required of them is repulsive. Religion is
submission,--absolute submission to God,--and no amount of mere
admiration of religion can be a substitute for it.

As a thoughtful observer looks abroad over society, he sees a very
interesting class who are not far from the kingdom of God; who,
nevertheless, are not _within_ that kingdom, and who, therefore, if they
remain where they are, are as certainly lost as if they were at an
infinite distance from the kingdom. The homely proverb applies to them:
"A miss is as good as a mile." They are those who suppose that elevated
moral sentiments, an aesthetic pleasure in noble acts or noble truths, a
glow and enthusiasm of the soul at the sight or the recital of examples
of Christian virtue and Christian grace, a disgust at the gross and
repulsive forms and aspects of sin,--that such merely intellectual and
aesthetic experiences as these are piety itself. All these may be in the
soul, without any godly sorrow over sin, any cordial trust in Christ's
blood, any self-abasement before God, any daily conflict with indwelling
corruption, any daily cross-bearing and toil for Christ's dear sake.
These latter, constitute the essence of the Christian experience, and
without them that whole range of elevated sentiments and amiable
qualities, to which we have alluded, only ministers to the condemnation
instead of the salvation of the soul. For, the question of the text comes
home with solemn force, to all such persons. "Thou that makest thy boast
of the law, through breaking of the law, dishonorest thou God?" If the
beauty of virtue, and the grandeur of truth, and the sublimity of
invisible things, have been able to make such an impression upon your
intellects, and your tastes,--upon that part of your constitution which
is fixed and stationary, which responds organically to such objects, and
which is not the seat of moral character,--then why is there not a
corresponding influence and impression made by them upon your heart? If
you can admire and praise them, in this style, why do you not _love_
them? Why is it, that when the character of Christ bows your intellect,
it does not bend your will, and sway your affections? Must there not be
an inveterate opposition and resistance in the _heart_? in the heart
which can refuse submission to such high claims, when so distinctly seen?
in the heart which can refuse to take the yoke, and learn of a Teacher
who has already made such an impression upon the conscience and the

The human heart is, as the prophet affirms, _desperately_ wicked,
_desperately_ selfish. And perhaps its self-love is never more plainly
seen, than in such instances as those of that moral and cultivated young
man mentioned in the Gospel, and that class in modern society who
correspond to him. Nowhere is the difference between the approbation of
goodness, and the love of it, more apparent. In these instances the
approbation is of a high order. It is refined and sublimated by culture
and taste. It is not stained by the temptations of low life, and gross
sin. If there ever could be a case, in which the intellectual approbation
of goodness would develop and pass over into the affectionate and hearty
love of it, we should expect to find it here. But it is not found. The
young man goes away,--sorrowful indeed,--but he goes away from the
Redeemer of the world, _never to return_. The amiable, the educated, the
refined, pass on from year to year, and, so far as the evangelic sorrow,
and the evangelic faith are concerned, like the dying Beaufort depart to
judgment making no sign. We hear their praises of Christian men, and
Christian graces, and Christian actions; we enjoy the grand and swelling
sentiments with which, perhaps, they enrich the common literature of the
world; but we never hear them cry: "God be merciful to me a sinner; O
Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant me thy peace;
Thou, O God, art the strength of my heart, and my portion forever."

3. In the third place, it follows from this subject, that in order to
holiness in man there must be a change in his _heart and will_. If our
analysis is correct, no possible modification of either his conscience,
or his intellect, would produce holiness. Holiness is an affection of the
heart, and an inclination of the will. It is the love and practice of
goodness, and not the mere approbation and admiration of it. Now, suppose
that the conscience should be stimulated to the utmost, and remorse
should be produced until it filled the soul to overflowing, would there
be in this any of that gentle and blessed affection for God and goodness,
that heartfelt love of them, which is the essence of religion? Or,
suppose that the intellect merely were impressed by the truth, and very
clear perceptions of the Christian system and of the character and claims
of its Author were imparted, would the result be any different? If the
_heart_ and _will_ were unaffected; if the influences and impressions
were limited merely to the conscience and the understanding; would not
the seat of the difficulty still be untouched? The command is not: "Give
me thy conscience," but, "Give me thy _heart_."

Hence, that regeneration of which our Lord speaks in his discourse with
Nicodemus is not a radical change of the conscience, but of the _will_
and _affections_. We have already seen that the conscience cannot undergo
a radical change. It can never be made to approve what it once condemned,
and to condemn what it once approved. It is the stationary legislative
faculty, and is, of necessity, always upon the side of law and of God.
Hence, the apostle Paul sought to commend the truth which he preached, to
every man's conscience, knowing that every man's conscience was with him.
The conscience, therefore, does not need to be converted, that is to say,
made opposite to what it is. It is indeed greatly stimulated, and
rendered vastly more energetic, by the regeneration of the heart; but
this is not radically to alter it. This is to develop and educate the
conscience; and when holiness is implanted in the will and affections, by
the grace of the Spirit, we find that both the conscience and
understanding are wonderfully unfolded and strengthened. But they undergo
no revolution or conversion. The judgments of the conscience are the same
after regeneration, that they were before; only more positive and
emphatic. The convictions of the understanding continue, as before, to be
upon the side of truth; only they are more clear and powerful.

The radical change, therefore, must be wrought in the heart and will.
These are capable of revolutions and radical changes. They can apostatise
in Adam, and be regenerated in Christ. They are not immovably fixed and
settled, by their constitutional structure, in only one way. They have
once turned from holiness to sin; and now they must be turned back again
from sin to holiness. They must become exactly contrary to what they now
are. The heart must love what it now hates, and must hate what it now
loves. The will must incline to what it now disinclines, and disincline
to what it now inclines. But this is a radical change, a total change, an
entire revolution. If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature,
in his will and affections, in his inclination and disposition. While,
therefore, the conscience must continue to give the same old everlasting
testimony as before, and never reverse its judgments in the least, the
affections and will, the pliant, elastic, plastic part of man, the seat
of vitality, of emotion, the seat of character, the fountain out of which
proceed the evil thoughts or the good thoughts,--this executive, emotive,
responsible part of man, must be reversed, converted, radically changed
into its own contrary.

So long, therefore, as this change remains to be effected in an
individual, there is and can be no _holiness_ within him,--none of that
holiness without which no man can see the Lord. There may be within him a
very active and reproaching conscience; there may be intellectual
orthodoxy and correctness in religious convictions; he may cherish
elevated moral sentiments, and many attractive qualities springing out of
a cultivated taste and a jealous self-respect may appear in his
character; but unless he _loves_ God and man out of a pure heart
fervently, and unless his will is entirely and sweetly submissive to the
Divine will, so that he can say: "Father not my will, but thine be done,"
he is still a natural man. He is still destitute of the spiritual mind,
and to him it must be said, as it was to Nicodemus: "Except a man be born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The most important side of his
being is still alienated from God. The heart with its affections; the
will with its immense energies,--the entire active and emotive portions
of his nature,--are still earthly, unsubmissive, selfish, and sinful.

4. In the fourth, and last place, we see from this subject _the necessity
of the operation of the Holy Spirit, in order to holiness in man_.

There is no part of man's complex being which is less under his own
control, than his own will, and his own affections. This he discovers, as
soon as he attempts to _convert_ them; as soon as he tries to produce a
radical change in them. Let a man whose will, from centre to
circumference, is set upon self and the world, attempt to reverse it, and
set it with the same strength and energy upon God and heaven, and he will
know that his will is too strong for him, and that he cannot overcome
himself. Let a man whose affections cleave like those of Dives to earthly
good, and find their sole enjoyment in earthly pleasures, attempt to
change them into their own contraries, so that they shall cleave to God,
and take a real delight in heavenly things,--let a carnal man try to
revolutionize himself into a spiritual man,--and he will discover that
the affections and feelings of his heart are beyond his control. And the
reason of this is plain. The affections and will of a man show what he
_loves_, and what he is _inclined_ to. A sinful man cannot, therefore,
overcome his sinful love and inclination, because he cannot _make a
beginning_. The instant he attempts to love God, he finds his love of
himself in the way. This new love for a new object, which he proposes to
originate within himself, is prevented by an old love, which already has
possession. This new inclination to heaven and Divine things is precluded
by an old inclination, very strong and very set, to earth and earthly
things. There is therefore no _starting-point,_ in this affair of
self-conversion. He proposes, and he tries, to think a holy thought, but
there is a sinful thought already in the mind. He attempts to start out a
Christian grace,--say the grace of humility,--but the feeling of pride
already stands in the way, and, what is more, remains in the way. He
tries to generate that supreme love of God, of which he has heard so
much, but the supreme love of himself is ahead of him, and occupies the
whole ground. In short, he is baffled at every point in this attempt
radically to change his own heart and will, because at every point this
heart and will are already committed and determined. Go down as low as he
pleases, he finds sin,--_love_ of sin, and _inclination_ to sin. He never
reaches a point where these cease; and therefore never reaches a point
where he can begin a new love, and a new inclination. The late Mr.
Webster was once engaged in a law case, in which he had to meet, upon the
opposing side, the subtle and strong understanding of Jeremiah Mason. In
one of his conferences with his associate counsel, a difficult point to
be managed came to view. After some discussion, without satisfactory
results, respecting the best method of handling the difficulty, one of
his associates suggested that the point might after all, escape the
notice of the opposing counsel. To this, Mr. Webster replied: "Not so; go
down as deep as you will, you will find Jeremiah Mason below you."
Precisely so in the case of which we are speaking. Go down as low as you
please into your heart and will, you will find your _self_ below you; you
will find sin not only lying at the door, but lying in the way. If you
move in the line of your feelings and affections, you will find earthly
feelings and affections ever below you. If you move in the line of your
choice and inclination, you will find a sinful choice and inclination
ever below you. In chasing your sin through the avenues of your fallen
and corrupt soul, you are chasing your horizon; in trying to get clear of
it by your own isolated and independent strength, you are attempting
(to use the illustration of Goethe, who however employed it for a false
purpose) to jump off your own shadow.

This, then, is the reason why the heart and will of a sinful man are so
entirely beyond his own control. They are _preoccupied_ and
_predetermined_, and therefore he cannot make a beginning in the
direction of holiness. If he attempts to put forth a holy determination,
he finds a sinful one already made and making,--and this determination is
_his_ determination, unforced, responsible and guilty. If he tries to
start out a holy emotion, he finds a sinful emotion already beating and
rankling,--and this emotion is _his_ emotion, unforced, responsible,
and guilty. There is no physical necessity resting upon him. Nothing but
this love of sin and inclination to self stands in the way of a supreme
love of God and holiness; but _it stands in the way._ Nothing but the
sinful affection of the heart prevents a man from exercising a holy
affection; but _it prevents him effectually_. An evil tree cannot bring
forth good fruit; a sinful love and inclination cannot convert itself
into a holy love and inclination; Satan cannot cast out Satan.

There is need therefore of a Divine operation to renew, to radically
change, the heart and will. If they cannot renew themselves, they must
_be_ renewed; and there is no power that can reach them but that
mysterious energy of the Holy Spirit which like the wind bloweth where it
listeth, and we hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh
or whither it goeth. The condition of the human heart is utterly
hopeless, were it not for the promised influences of the Holy Ghost to
regenerate it.

There are many reflections suggested by this subject; for it has a wide
reach, and would carry us over vast theological spaces, should we attempt
to exhaust it. We close with the single remark, that it should be man's
first and great aim _to obtain the new heart_. Let him seek this first of
all, and all things else will be added unto him. It matters not how
active your conscience may be, how clear and accurate your intellectual
convictions of truth may be, how elevated may be your moral sentiments
and your admiration of virtue, if you are destitute of an _evangelical
experience_. Of what value will all these be in the day of judgment,
if you have never sorrowed for sin, never appropriated the atonement for
sin, and never been inwardly sanctified? Our Lord says to every man:
"Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or else make the tree
corrupt, and its fruit corrupt." The _tree itself_ must be made good.
The heart and will themselves must be renewed. These are the root and
stock into which everything else is grafted; and so long as they remain
in their apostate natural condition, the man is sinful and lost, do
what else he may. It is indeed true, that such a change as this is beyond
your power to accomplish. With man it is impossible; but with God
it is a possibility, and a reality. It has actually been wrought in
thousands of wills, as stubborn as yours; in millions of hearts, as
worldly and selfish as yours. We commend you, therefore, to the Person
and Work of the Holy Spirit. We remind you, that He is able to renovate
and sweetly incline the obstinate will, to soften and spiritualize the
flinty heart. He saith: "I will put a new spirit within you; and I will
take the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you an heart of
flesh; that ye may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do
them; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God." Do not listen
to these declarations and promises of God supinely; but arise and
earnestly _plead_ them. Take words upon your lips, and go before God. Say
unto Him: "I am the clay, be _thou_ the potter. Behold thou desirest
truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden parts _thou_ shalt make me
to know wisdom. I will run in the way of thy commandments, when _thou_
shalt enlarge my heart. Create within me a clean heart, O God, and renew
within me a right spirit." _Seek_ for the new heart. _Ask_ for the new
heart. _Knock_ for the new heart. "For, if ye, being evil, know how to
give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly
Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." And in giving the Holy
Spirit, He gives the new heart, with all that is included in it, and all
that issues from it.

[Footnote 1: See, upon this whole subject of conscience as distinguished
from will, and of amiable instincts as distinguished from holiness, the
profound and discriminating views of EDWARDS: The Nature of Virtue,
Chapters v. vi. vii.]

[Footnote 2: Compare, on this distinction, the AUTHOR'S' Discourses and
Essays, p. 284 sq.]

[Footnote 3: The reader will recall the celebrated panegyric upon Christ
by Rousseau.]


PROVERBS ix. 10.--"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Luke
xii. 4, 5.--"And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that
kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will
forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed
hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him."

The place which the feeling of fear ought to hold in the religious
experience of mankind is variously assigned. Theories of religion are
continually passing from one extreme to another, according as they
magnify or disparage this emotion. Some theological schools are
distinguished for their severity, and others for their sentimentalism.
Some doctrinal systems fail to grasp the mercy of God with as much vigor
and energy as they do the Divine justice, while others melt down
everything that is scriptural and self-consistent, and flow along vaguely
in an inundation of unprincipled emotions and sensibilities.

The same fact meets us in the experience of the individual. We either
fear too much, or too little. Having obtained glimpses of the Divine
compassion, how prone is the human heart to become indolent and
self-indulgent, and to relax something of that earnest effort with which
it had begun to pluck out the offending right eye. Or, having felt the
power of the Divine anger; having obtained clear conceptions of the
intense aversion of God towards moral evil; even the child of God
sometimes lives under a cloud, because he does not dare to make a right
use of this needed and salutary impression, and pass back to that
confiding trust in the Divine pity which is his privilege and his
birth-right, as one who has been sprinkled with atoning blood.

It is plain, from the texts of Scripture placed at the head of this
discourse, that the feeling and principle of fear is a legitimate one.[1]
In these words of God himself, we are taught that it is the font and
origin of true wisdom, and are commanded to be inspired by it. The Old
Testament enjoins it, and the New Testament repeats and emphasizes the
injunction; so that the total and united testimony of Revelation forbids
a religion that is destitute of fear.

The New Dispensation is sometimes set in opposition to the Old, and
Christ is represented as teaching a less rigid morality than that of
Moses and the prophets. But the mildness of Christ is not seen,
certainly, in the ethical and preceptive part of His religion. The Sermon
on the Mount is a more searching code of morals than the ten
commandments. It cuts into human depravity with a more keen and terrible
edge, than does the law proclaimed amidst thunderings and lightnings.
Let us see if it does not. The Mosaic statute simply says to man: "Thou
shalt not kill." But the re-enactment of this statute, by incarnate
Deity, is accompanied with an explanation and an emphasis that precludes
all misapprehension and narrow construction of the original law, and
renders it a two-edged sword that pierces to the dividing asunder of soul
and spirit. When the Hebrew legislator says to me: "Thou shalt not kill,"
it is possible for me, with my propensity to look upon the outward
appearance, and to regard the external act alone, to deem myself innocent
if I have never actually murdered a fellow-being. But when the Lord of
glory tells me that "whosoever is angry with his brother" is in danger
of the judgment, my mouth is stopped, and it is impossible for me to
cherish a conviction of personal innocency, in respect to the sixth
commandment. And the same is true of the seventh commandment, and the
eighth commandment, and of all the statutes in the decalogue. He who
reads, and ponders, the whole Sermon on the Mount, is painfully conscious
that Christ has put a meaning into the Mosaic law that renders it a far
more effective instrument of mental torture, for the guilty, than it is
as it stands in the Old Testament. The lightnings are concentrated. The
bolts are hurled with a yet more sure and deadly aim. The new meaning is
a perfectly legitimate and logical deduction, and in this sense there is
no difference between the Decalogue and the Sermon,--between the ethics
of the Old and the ethics of the New Testament. But, so much more
spiritual is the application, and so much more searching is the reach of
the statute, in the last of the two forms of its statement, that it looks
almost like a new proclamation of law.

Our Lord did not intend, or pretend, to teach a milder ethics, or an
easier virtue, on the Mount of Beatitudes, than that which He had taught
fifteen centuries before on Mt. Sinai. He indeed pronounces a blessing;
and so did Moses, His servant, before Him. But in each instance, it is a
blessing upon condition of obedience; which, in both instances, involves
a curse upon disobedience. He who is meek shall be blest; but he who is
not shall be condemned. He who is pure in heart, he who is poor in
spirit, he who mourns over personal unworthiness, he who hungers and
thirsts after a righteousness of which he is destitute, he who is
merciful, he who is the peace-maker, he who endures persecution
patiently, and he who loves his enemies,--he who is and does all this in
a perfect manner, without a single slip or failure, is indeed blessed
with the beatitude of God. But where is the man? What single individual
in all the ages, and in all the generations since Adam, is entitled to
the great blessing of these beatitudes, and not deserving of the dreadful
curse which they involve? In applying such a high, ethereal test to human
character, the Founder of Christianity is the severest and sternest
preacher of law that has ever trod upon the planet. And he who stops with
the merely ethical and preceptive part of Christianity, and rejects its
forgiveness through atoning blood, and its regeneration by an indwelling
Spirit,--he who does not unite the fifth chapter of Matthew, with the
fifth chapter of Romans,--converts the Lamb of God into the Lion of the
tribe of Judah. He makes use of everything in the Christian system that
condemns man to everlasting destruction, but throws away the very and the
only part of it that takes off the burden and the curse.

It is not, then, a correct idea of Christ that we have, when we look upon
Him as unmixed complacency and unbalanced compassion. In all aspects,
He was a complex personage. He was God, and He was man. As God, He could
pronounce a blessing; and He could pronounce a curse, as none but God
can, or dare. As man, He was perfect; and into His perfection of feeling
and of character there entered those elements that fill a good being with
peace, and an evil one with woe. The Son of God exhibits goodness and
severity mingled and blended in perfect and majestic harmony; and that
man lacks sympathy with Jesus Christ who cannot, while feeling the purest
and most unselfish indignation towards the sinner's sin, at the same time
give up his own individual life, if need be, for the sinner's soul. The
two feelings are not only compatible in the same person, but necessarily
belong to a perfect being. Our Lord breathed out a prayer for His
murderers so fervent, and so full of pathos, that it will continue to
soften and melt the flinty human heart, to the end of time; and He also
poured out a denunciation of woes upon the Pharisees (Matt, xxiii.),
every syllable of which is dense enough with the wrath of God, to sink
the deserving objects of it "plumb down, ten thousand fathoms deep, to
bottomless perdition in adamantine chains and penal fire." The
utterances, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do: Ye
serpents, ye generation of vipers! how can ye escape the damnation of
hell?" both fell from the same pure and gracious lips.

It is not surprising, therefore, that our Lord often appeals to the
principle of fear. He makes use of it in all its various forms,--from
that servile terror which is produced by the truth when the soul is
just waked up from its drowze in sin, to that filial fear which Solomon
affirms to be the beginning of wisdom.

The subject thus brought before our minds, by the inspired Word, has a
wide application to all ages and conditions of human life, and all
varieties of human character. We desire to direct attention to _the use
and value of religious fear, in the opening periods of human life_. There
are some special reasons why youth and early manhood should come
under the influence of this powerful feeling. "I write unto you young
men,"--says St. John,--"because ye are _strong_." We propose to urge upon
the young, the duty of cultivating the fear of God's displeasure, because
they are able to endure the emotion; because youth is the springtide and
prime of human life, and capable of carrying burdens, and standing up
under influences and impressions, that might crush a feebler period, or a
more exhausted stage of the human soul.

I. In the first place, the emotion of fear ought to enter into the
consciousness of the young, because _youth is naturally light-hearted_.
"Childhood and youth," saith the Preacher, "are vanity." The opening
period in human life is the happiest part of it, if we have respect
merely to the condition and circumstances in which the human being is
placed. He is free from all public cares, and responsibilities. He is
encircled within the strong arms of parents, and protectors. Even if he
tries, he cannot feel the pressure of those toils and anxieties which
will come of themselves, when he has passed the line that separates youth
from manhood. When he hears his elders discourse of the weight, and the
weariness, of this working-day world, it is with incredulity and
surprise. The world is bright before his eye, and he wonders that it
should ever wear any other aspect. He cannot understand how the
freshness, and vividness, and pomp of human life, should shift into its
soberer and sterner forms; and he will not, until the

  "Shades of the prison-house begin to close
     Upon the growing Boy."[2]

Now there is something, in this happy attitude of things, to fill the
heart of youth with gayety and abandonment. His pulses beat strong and
high. The currents of his soul flow like the mountain river. His mood is
buoyant and jubilant, and he flings himself with zest, and a sense of
vitality, into the joy and exhilaration all around him. But such a mood
as this, unbalanced and untempered by a loftier one, is hazardous to the
eternal interests of the soul. Perpetuate this gay festal abandonment
of the mind; let the human being, through the whole of his earthly
course, be filled with the sole single consciousness that _this_ is the
beautiful world; and will he, can he, live as a stranger and a pilgrim
in it? Perpetuate that vigorous pulse, and that youthful blood which
"runs tickling up and down the veins;" drive off, and preclude, all that
care and responsibility which renders human life so earnest; and will the
young immortal go through it, with that sacred fear and trembling with
which he is commanded to work out his salvation?

Yet, this buoyancy and light-heartedness are legitimate feelings. They
spring up, like wild-flowers, from the very nature of man. God intends
that prismatic hues and auroral lights shall flood our morning sky. He
must be filled with a sour and rancid misanthropy, who cannot bless the
Creator that there is one part of man's sinful and cursed life which
reminds of the time, and the state, when there was no sin and no curse.
There is, then, to be no extermination of this legitimate experience.
But there is to be its moderation and its regulation.

And this we get, by the introduction of the feeling and the principle of
religious fear. The youth ought to seek an impression from things unseen
and eternal. God, and His august attributes; Christ, and His awful
Passion; heaven, with its sacred scenes and joys; hell, with its just woe
and wail,--all these should come in, to modify, and temper, the jubilance
that without them becomes the riot of the soul. For this, we apprehend,
is the meaning of our Lord, when He says, "I will forewarn you whom ye
shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into
hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him." It is not so much any particular
species of fear that we are shut up to, by these words, as it is the
general habit and feeling. The fear of _hell_ is indeed specified,--and
this proves that such a fear is rational and proper in its own
place,--but our Lord would not have us stop with this single and isolated
form of the feeling. He recommends a solemn temper. He commands
a being who stands continually upon the brink of eternity and immensity,
to be aware of his position. He would have the great shadow of eternity
thrown in upon time. He desires that every man should realize, in those
very moments when the sun shines the brightest and the earth looks the
fairest, that there is another world than this, for which man is not
naturally prepared, and for which he must make a preparation. And what He
enjoins upon mankind at large, He specially enjoins upon youth. They need
to be sobered more than others. The ordinary cares of this life, which do
so much towards moderating our desires and aspirations, have not yet
pressed upon the ardent and expectant soul, and therefore it needs, more
than others, to fear and to "stand in awe."

II. Secondly, youth is _elastic, and readily recovers from undue
depression_. The skeptical Lucretius tells us that the divinities are the
creatures of man's fears, and would make us believe that all religion has
its ground in fright.[3] And do we not hear this theory repeated by the
modern unbeliever? What means this appeal to a universal, and an
unprincipled good-nature in the Supreme Being, and this rejection of
everything in Christianity that awakens misgivings and forebodings within
the sinful human soul? Why this opposition to the doctrine of an
absolute, and therefore endless punishment, unless it be that it awakens
a deep and permanent dread in the heart of guilty man?

Now, we are not of that number who believe that thoughtless and lethargic
man has been greatly damaged by his moral fears. It is the lack of a
bold and distinct impression from the solemn objects of another world,
and the utter absence of fear, that is ruining man from generation to
generation. If we were at liberty, and had the power, to induce into the
thousands and millions of our race who are running the rounds of sin and
vice, some one particular emotion that should be medicinal and salutary
to the soul, we would select that very one which our Lord had in view
when He said: "I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which
after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you,
Fear him." If we were at liberty, and had the power, we would
instantaneously stop these human souls that are crowding our avenues,
intent only upon pleasure and earth, and would fill them with the
emotions of the day of doom; we would deluge them with the fear of God,
that they might flee from their sins and the wrath to come.

But while we say this, we also concede that it is possible for the human
soul to be injured, by the undue exercise of this emotion. The bruised
reed may be broken, and the smoking flax may be quenched; and hence it is
the very function and office-work of the Blessed Comforter, to prevent
this. God's own children sometimes pass through a horror of great
darkness, like that which enveloped Abraham; and the unregenerate mind is
sometimes so overborne by its fears of death, judgment, and eternity,
that the entire experience becomes for a time morbid and confused. Yet,
even in this instance, the excess is better than the lack. We had better
travel this road to heaven, than none at all. It is better to enter into
the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into
hell-fire. When the saints from the heavenly heights look back upon their
severe religious experience here on earth,--upon their footprints stained
with their own blood,--they count it a small matter that they entered
into eternal joy through much tribulation. And if we could but for one
instant take their position, we should form their estimate; we should not
shrink, if God so pleased, from passing through that martyrdom and
crucifixion which has been undergone by so many of those gentle spirits,
broken spirits, holy spirits, upon whom the burden of mystery once lay
like night, and the far heavier burden of guilt lay like hell.

There is less danger, however, that the feeling and principle of fear
should exert an excessive influence upon youth. There is an elasticity,
in the earlier periods of human life, that prevents long-continued
depression. How rare it is to see a young person smitten with insanity.
It is not until the pressure of anxiety has been long continued,
and the impulsive spring of the soul has been destroyed, that reason is
dethroned. The morning of our life may, therefore, be subjected to a
subduing and repressing influence, with very great safety. It is well to
bear the yoke in youth. The awe produced by a vivid impression from the
eternal world may enter into the exuberant and gladsome experience of the
young, with very little danger of actually extinguishing it, and
rendering life permanently gloomy and unhappy.

III. Thirdly, youth is _exposed to sudden temptations, and surprisals
into sin_. The general traits that have been mentioned as belonging to
the early period in human life render it peculiarly liable to
solicitations. The whole being of a healthful hilarious youth, who feels
life in every limb, thrills to temptation, like the lyre to the plectrum.
Body and soul are alive to all the enticements of the world of sense; and
in certain critical moments, the entire sensorium, upon the approach of
bold and powerful excitements, flutters and trembles like an electrometer
in a thunder-storm. All passionate poetry breathes of youth and spring.
Most of the catastrophes of the novel and the drama turn upon the violent
action of some temptation, upon the highly excitable nature of youth. All
literature testifies to the hazards that attend the morning of our
existence; and daily experience and observation, certainly, corroborate
the testimony. It becomes necessary, therefore, to guard the human soul
against these liabilities which attend it in its forming period. And,
next to a deep and all-absorbing _love_ of God, there is nothing so well
adapted to protect against sudden surprisals, as a profound and definite
fear of God.

It is a great mistake, to suppose that apostate and corrupt beings like
ourselves can pass through all the temptations of this life unscathed,
while looking _solely_ at the pleasant aspects of the Divine Being, and
the winning forms of religious truth. We are not yet seraphs; and we
cannot always trust to our affectionateness, to carry us through a
violent attack of temptation. There are moments in the experience of the
Christian himself, when he is compelled to call in the _fear_ of God to
his aid, and to steady his infirm and wavering virtue by the recollection
that "the wages of sin is death." "By the fear of the Lord, men,"--and
Christian men too,--"depart from evil." It will not always be so. When
that which is perfect is come, perfect love shall cast out fear; but,
until the disciple of Christ reaches heaven, his religious experience
must be a somewhat complex one. A reasonable and well-defined
apprehensiveness must mix with his affectionateness, and deter him from
transgression, in those severe passages in his history when love is
languid and fails to draw him. Says an old English divine: "The fear of
God's judgments, or of the threatenings of God, is of much efficiency,
when some present temptation presseth upon us. When conscience and the
affections are divided; when conscience doth withdraw a man from sin,
and when his carnal affections draw him forth to it; then should the fear
of God come in. It is a holy design for a Christian, to counterbalance
the pleasures of sin with the terrors of it, and thus to cure the poison
of the viper by the flesh of the viper. Thus that admirable saint and
martyr, Bishop Hooper, when he came to die, one endeavored to dehort him
from death by this: O sir, consider that life is sweet and death is
bitter; presently he replied, Life to come is more sweet, and death to
come is more bitter, and so went to the stake and patiently endured the
fire. Thus, as a Christian may sometimes outweigh the pleasures of sin by
the consideration of the reward of God, so, sometimes, he may quench the
pleasures of sin by the consideration of the terrors of God."[4]

But much more is all this true, in the instance of the hot-blooded youth.
How shall he resist temptation, unless he has some _fear_ of God before
his eyes? There are moments in the experience of the young, when all
power of resistance seems to be taken away, by the very witchery and
blandishment of the object. He has no heart, and no nerve, to resist the
beautiful siren. And it is precisely in these emergencies in his
experience,--in these moments when this world comes up before him clothed
in pomp and gold, and the other world is so entirely lost sight of, that
it throws in upon him none of its solemn shadows and warnings,--it is
precisely now, when he is just upon the point of yielding to the mighty
yet fascinating pressure, that he needs to feel an impression, bold and
startling, from the _wrath_ of God. Nothing but the most active remedies
will have any effect, in this tumult and uproar of the soul. When the
whole system is at fever-heat, and the voice of reason and conscience is
drowned in the clamors of sense and earth, nothing can startle and stop
but the trumpet of Sinai.[5]

It is in these severe experiences, which are more common to youth than
they are to manhood, that we see the great value of the feeling and
principle of fear. It is, comparatively, in vain for a youth under the
influence of strong temptations,--and particularly when the surprise is
sprung upon him,--to ply himself with arguments drawn from the beauty of
virtue, and the excellence of piety. They are too ethereal for him, in
his present mood. Such arguments are for a calmer moment, and a more
dispassionate hour. His blood is now boiling, and those higher motives
which would influence the saint, and would have some influence with him,
if he were not in this critical condition, have little power to deter him
from sin. Let him therefore pass by the love of God, and betake himself
to the _anger_ of God, for safety. Let him say to himself, in this moment
when the forces of Satan, in alliance with the propensities of his own
nature, are making an onset,--when all other considerations are being
swept away in the rush and whirlwind of his passions,--let him coolly
bethink himself and say: "If I do this abominable thing which the soul of
God hates, then God, the Holy and Immaculate, will burn my spotted soul
in His pure eternal flame." For, there is great power, in what the
Scriptures term "the terror of the Lord," to destroy the edge of
temptation. "A wise man feareth and departeth from evil." Fear kills out
the delight in sin. Damocles cannot eat the banquet with any pleasure, so
long as the naked sword hangs by a single hair over his head. No one can
find much enjoyment in transgression, if his conscience is feeling the
action of God's holiness within it. And well would it be, if, in every
instance in which a youth is tempted to fling himself into the current of
sin that is flowing all around him, his moral sense might at that very
moment be filled with some of that terror, and some of that horror, which
breaks upon the damned in eternity. Well would it be, if the youth in the
moment of violent temptation could lay upon the emotion or the lust that
entices him, a distinct and red coal of hell-fire.[6] No injury would
result from the most terrible fear of God, provided it could always fall
upon the human soul in those moments of strong temptation, and of
surprisals, when all other motives fail to influence, and the human will
is carried headlong by the human passions. There may be a fear and a
terror that does harm, but man need be under no concern lest he
experience too much of this feeling, in his hours of weakness and
irresolution, in his youthful days of temptation and of dalliance. Let
him rather bless God that there is such an intense light, and such a pure
fire, in the Divine Essence, and seek to have his whole vitiated and
poisoned nature penetrated and purified by it. Have you never looked with
a steadfast gaze into a grate of burning anthracite, and noticed the
quiet intense glow of the heat, and how silently the fire throbs and
pulsates through the fuel, burning up everything that is inflammable,
and, making the whole mass as pure, and clean, and clear, as the element
of fire itself? Such is the effect of a contact of God's wrath with man's
sin; of the penetration of man's corruption by the wrath of the Lord.

IV. In the fourth place, the feeling and principle of fear ought to enter
into the experience of both youth and manhood, _because it relieves from
all other fear_. He who stands in awe of God can look down, from a very
great height, upon all other perturbation. When we have seen Him from
whose sight the heavens and the earth flee away, there is nothing, in
either the heavens or the earth, that can produce a single ripple upon
the surface of our souls. This is true, even of the unregenerate mind.
The fear in this instance is a servile one,--it is not filial and
affectionate,--and yet it serves to protect the subject of it from all
other feelings of this species, because it is greater than all others,
and like Aaron's serpent swallows up the rest. If we must be liable to
fears,--and the transgressor always must be,--it is best that they should
all be concentrated in one single overmastering sentiment. Unity is ever
desirable; and even if the human soul were to be visited by none but the
servile forms of fear, it would be better that this should be the "terror
of the Lord." If, by having the fear of God before our eyes, we could
thereby be delivered from the fear of man, and all those apprehensions
which are connected with time and sense, would it not be wisdom to choose
it? We should then know that there was but one quarter from which our
peace could be assailed. This would lead us to look in that direction;
and, here upon earth, sinful man cannot look at God long, without coming
to terms and becoming reconciled with Him.

V. The fifth and last reason which we assign for cherishing the feeling
and principle of fear applies to youth, to manhood, and to old age,
alike: _The fear of God conducts to the love of God_. Our Lord does not
command us to fear "Him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into
hell," because such a feeling as this is intrinsically desirable, and is
an ultimate end in itself. It is, in itself, undesirable, and it is only
a means to an end. By it, our torpid souls are to be awakened from their
torpor; our numbness and hardness of mind, in respect to spiritual
objects, is to be removed. We are never for a moment, to suppose that the
fear of perdition is set before us as a model and permanent form of
experience to be toiled after,--a positive virtue and grace intended to
be perpetuated through the whole future history of the soul. It is
employed only as an antecedent to a higher and a happier emotion; and
when the purpose for which it has been elicited has been answered, it
then disappears. "Perfect love casteth out fear; for fear hath torment,"
(1 John iv. 18.[7])

But, at the same time, we desire to direct attention to the fact that he
who has been exercised with this emotion, thoroughly and deeply, is
conducted by it into the higher and happier form of religious experience.
Religious fear and anxiety are the prelude to religious peace and joy.
These are the discords that prepare for the concords. He, who in the
Psalmist's phrase has known the power of the Divine anger, is visited
with the manifestation of the Divine love. The method in the
thirty-second psalm is the method of salvation. Day and night God's hand
is heavy upon the soul; the fear and sense of the Divine displeasure is
passing through the conscience, like electric currents. The moisture,
the sweet dew of health and happiness, is turned into the drought of
summer, by this preparatory process. Then the soul acknowledges its sin,
and its iniquity it hides no longer. It confesses its transgressions unto
the Lord,--it justifies and approves of this wrath which it has
felt,--and He forgives the iniquity of its sin.

It is not a vain thing, therefore, to fear the Lord. The emotion of which
we have been discoursing, painful though it be, is remunerative. There is
something in the very experience of moral pain which brings us nigh to
God. When, for instance, in the hour of temptation, I discern God's calm
and holy eye bent upon me, and I wither beneath it, and resist the
enticement because I fear to disobey, I am brought by this chapter in my
experience into very close contact with my Maker. There has been a vivid
and personal transaction between us. I have heard him say: "If thou doest
that wicked thing thou shalt surely die; refrain from doing it, and I
will love thee and bless thee." This is the secret of the great and swift
reaction which often takes place, in the sinner's soul. He moodily and
obstinately fights against the Divine displeasure. In this state of
things, there is nothing but fear and torment. Suddenly he gives way,
acknowledges that it is a good and a just anger, no longer seeks to beat
it back from his guilty soul, but lets the billows roll over while he
casts himself upon the Divine pity. In this act and instant,--which
involves the destiny of the soul, and has millenniums in it,--when he
recognizes the justice and trusts in the mercy of God, there is a great
rebound, and through his tears he sees the depth, the amazing depth, of
the Divine compassion. For, paradoxical as it appears, God's love is best
seen in the light of God's displeasure. When the soul is penetrated by
this latter feeling, and is thoroughly sensible of its own
worthlessness,--when, man knows himself to be vile, and filthy, and fit
only to be burned up by the Divine immaculateness,--then, to have the
Great God take him to His heart, and pour out upon him the infinite
wealth of His mercy and compassion, is overwhelming. Here, the Divine
indignation becomes a foil to set off the Divine love. Read the sixteenth
chapter of Ezekiel, with an eye "purged with euphrasy and rue," so that
you can take in the full spiritual significance of the comparisons and
metaphors, and your whole soul will dissolve in tears, as you perceive
how the great and pure God, in every instance in which He saves an
apostate spirit, is compelled to bow His heavens and come down into a
loathsome sty of sensuality.[8] Would it be love of the highest order, in
a seraph, to leave the pure cerulean and trail his white garments through
the haunts of vice, to save the wretched inmates from themselves and
their sins? O then what must be the degree of affection and compassion,
when the infinite Deity, whose essence is light itself, and whose nature
is the intensest contrary of all sin, tabernacles in the flesh upon the
errand of redemption! And if the pure spirit of that seraph, while filled
with an ineffable loathing, and the hottest moral indignation, at what he
saw in character and conduct, were also yearning with an unspeakable
desire after the deliverance of the vicious from their vice,--the moral
wrath, thus setting in still stronger relief the moral compassion that
holds it in check,---what must be the relation between these two emotions
in the Divine Being! Is not the one the measure of the other? And does
not the soul that fears God in a _submissive_ manner, and acknowledges
the righteousness of the Divine displeasure with entire acquiescence and
no sullen resistance, prepare the way, in this very act, for an equally
intense manifestation of the Divine mercy and forgiveness?

The subject treated of in this discourse is one of the most important,
and frequent, that is presented in the Scriptures. He who examines is
startled to find that the phrase, "fear of the Lord," is woven into the
whole web of Revelation from Genesis to the Apocalypse. The feeling and
principle under discussion has a Biblical authority, and significance,
that cannot be pondered too long, or too closely. It, therefore, has an
interest for every human being, whatever may be his character, his
condition, or his circumstances. All great religious awakenings begin
in the dawning of the august and terrible aspects of the Deity upon the
popular mind, and they reach their height and happy consummation,
in that love and faith for which the antecedent fear has been the
preparation. Well and blessed would it be for this irreverent and
unfearing age, in which the advance in mechanical arts and vice is
greater than that in letters and virtue, if the popular mind could be
made reflective and solemn by this great emotion.

We would, therefore, pass by all other feelings, and endeavor to fix the
eye upon the distinct and unambiguous fear of God, and would urge the
young, especially, to seek for it as for hid treasures. The feeling is a
painful one, because it is a _preparatory_ one. There are other forms of
religious emotion which are more attractive, and are necessary in their
place; these you may be inclined to cultivate, at the expense of the one
enjoined by our Lord in the text. But we solemnly and earnestly entreat
you, not to suffer your inclination to divert your attention from your
duty and your true interest. We tell you, with confidence, that next to
the affectionate and filial love of God in your heart, there is no
feeling or principle in the whole series that will be of such real solid
service to you, as that one enjoined by our Lord upon "His disciples
first of all." You will need its awing and repressing influence, in many
a trying scene, in many a severe temptation. Be encouraged to cherish it,
from the fact that it is a very effective, a very powerful emotion. He
who has the fear of God before his eyes is actually and often kept from
falling. It will prevail with your weak will, and your infirm purpose,
when other motives fail. And if you could but stand where those do, who
have passed through that fearful and dangerous passage through which you
are now making a transit; if you could but know, as they do, of what
untold value is everything that deters from the wrong and nerves to the
right, in the critical moments of human life; you would know, as they do,
the utmost importance of cherishing a solemn and serious dread of
displeasing God. The more simple and unmixed this feeling is in your own
experience, the more influential will it be. Fix it deeply in the mind,
that the great God is holy. Recur to this fact continually. If the dread
which it awakens casts a shadow over the gayety of youth, remember that
you need this, and will not be injured by it. The doctrine commends
itself to you, because you are young, and because you are strong. If it
fills you with misgivings, at times, and threatens to destroy your peace
of mind, let the emotion operate. Never stifle it, as you value your
salvation. You had better be unhappy for a season, than yield to
temptation and grievous snares which will drown you in perdition. Even if
it hangs dark and low over the horizon of your life, and for a time
invests this world with sadness, be resolute with yourself, and do not
attempt to remove the feeling, except in the legitimate way of the
gospel. Remember that every human soul out of Christ ought to fear, "for
he that believeth not on the Son, the wrath of God abideth on him." And
remember, also, that every one who believes in Christ ought not to fear;
for "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, and he
that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."

And with this thought would we close. This fear of God may and should end
in the perfect love that casteth out fear. This powerful and terrible
emotion, which we have been considering, may and ought to prepare the
soul to welcome the sweet and thrilling accents of Christ saying, "Come
unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden," with your fears of death,
judgment, and eternity, "and I will give you rest." Faith in Christ lifts
the soul above all fears, and eventually raises it to that serene world,
that blessed state of being, where there is no more curse and no more

  "Serene will be our days, and bright,
    And happy will our nature be,
  When love is an unerring light,
    And joy its own security."

[Footnote 1: The moral and healthful influence of fear is implied in the
celebrated passage in Aristotle's Poetics, whatever be the
interpretation. He speaks of a _cleansing [Greek: (katharsin)]_ of the
mind, by means of the emotions of pity and terror [Greek: (phobos)]
awakened by tragic poetry. Most certainly, there is no portion of
Classical literature so purifying as the Greek Drama. And yet, the
pleasurable emotions are rarely awakened by it. Righteousness and justice
determine the movement of the plot, and conduct to the catastrophe; and
the persons and forms that move across the stage are, not Venus and the
Graces but,

                       "ghostly Shapes
  To meet at noontide; Death the Skeleton
  And Time the Shadow."

All literature that tends upward contains the tragic element; and all
literature that tends downward rejects it. Æschylus and Dante assume a
world of retribution, and employ for the purposes of poetry the fear it
awakens. Lucretius and Voltaire would disprove the existence of such a
solemn world, and they make no use of such an emotion.]

[Footnote 2: WORDSWORTH: Intimations of Immortality.]

[Footnote 3: LUCRETIUS: De Rerum Natura, III. 989 sq.; V. 1160 sq.]

[Footnote 4: BATES: Discourse of the Fear of God.]

[Footnote 5: "Praise be to Thee, glory to Thee, O Fountain of mercies: I
was becoming more miserable and Thou becoming nearer, Thy right hand was
continually ready to pluck me out of the mire, and to wash me thoroughly,
and I knew it not; nor did anything call me back from a yet deeper gulf
of carnal pleasures, but _the fear of death, and of Thy judgment to
come_; which, amid all my changes, never departed from my breast."
AUGUSTINE: Confessions, vi. 16., (Shedd's Ed., p. 142.)]

[Footnote 6: "Si te luxuria tentat, objice tibi memoriam mortis tuae,
propone tibi futuruin judicium, reduc ad memoriam futura tormenta,
propone tibi acterna supplicia; et etiaim propone aute oculos tuos
perpetuosignes infernorum; propone tibi horribiles poenas gehennae.
Memoria ardoris gehennae extinguat in te ardorem luxuriane."

BERNARD: De Modo Bene Vivendi. Sermo lxvii.]

[Footnote 7: BAXTER (Narrative, Part I.) remarks "that fear, being an
easier and irresistible passion, doth oft obscure that measure of love
which is indeed within us; and that the soul of a believer groweth up by
degrees from the more troublesome and safe operation of fear, to the more
high and excellent operations of complacential love."]

[Footnote 8: "Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem, thy birth and thy
nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy
mother an Hittite. Thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing
of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. And when I passed by thee
and saw thee polluted in thy own blood, I said unto thee when, thou wast
in thy blood, Live; yea I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood,
Live." Ezekiel xvi. 1, 5, 6.]


LUKE xvi. 25.--"And Abraham said, Son remember that thou in thy lifetime
receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he
is comforted, and thou art tormented."

The parable of Dives and Lazarus is one of the most solemn passages in
the whole Revelation of God. In it, our Lord gives very definite
statements concerning the condition of those who have departed this life.
It makes no practical difference, whether we assume that this was a real
occurrence, or only an imaginary one,--whether there actually was such a
particular rich man as Dives, and such a particular beggar as Lazarus, or
whether the narrative was invented by Christ for the purpose of conveying
the instruction which he desired to give. The instruction is given in
either case; and it is the instruction with which we are concerned. Be
it a parable, or be it a historical fact, our Lord here teaches, in a
manner not to be disputed, that a man who seeks enjoyment in this life as
his chief end shall suffer torments in the next life, and that he who
endures suffering in this life for righteousness' sake shall dwell in
paradise in the next,--that he who finds his life here shall lose his
life hereafter, and that he who loses his life here shall find it here

For, we cannot for a moment suppose that such a Being as Jesus Christ
merely intended to play upon the fears of men, in putting forth such a
picture as this. He knew that this narrative would be read by thousands
and millions of mankind; that they would take it from His lips as
absolute truth; that they would inevitably infer from it, that the souls
of men do verily live after death, that some of them are in bliss and
some of them are in pain, and that the difference between them is due to
the difference in the lives which they lead here upon earth. Now, if
Christ was ignorant upon these subjects, He had no right to make such
representations and to give such impressions, even through a merely
imaginary narrative. And still less could He be justified in so doing,
if, being perfectly informed upon the subject, He knew that there is no
such place as that in which He puts the luxurious Dives, and no such
impassable gulf as that of which He speaks. It will not do, here, to
employ the Jesuitical maxim that the end justifies the means, and say, as
some teachers have said, that the wholesome impression that will be made
upon the vicious and the profligate justifies an appeal to their fears,
by preaching the doctrine of endless retribution, although there is no
such thing. This was a fatal error in the teachings of Clement of
Alexandria, and Origen. "God threatens,"--said they,--"and punishes, but
only to improve, never for purposes of retribution; and though, in public
discourse, the fruitlessness of repentance after death be asserted, yet
hereafter not only those who have not heard of Christ will receive
forgiveness, but the severer punishment which befalls the obstinate
unbelievers will, it may be hoped, not be the conclusion of their
history."[1] But can we suppose that such a sincere, such a truthful and
such a holy Being as the Son of God would stoop to any such artifice as
this? that He who called Himself The Truth would employ a lie, either
directly or indirectly, even to promote the spiritual welfare of men? He
never spake for mere sensation. The fact, then, that in this solemn
passage of Scripture we find the Redeemer calmly describing and minutely
picturing the condition of two persons in the future world, distinctly
specifying the points of difference between them, putting words into
their mouths that indicate a sad and hopeless experience in one of them,
and a glad and happy one in the other of them,--the fact that in this
treatment of the awful theme our Lord, beyond all controversy, _conveys
the impression_ that these scenes and experiences are real and true,--is
one of the strongest of all proofs that they are so.

The reader of Dante's Inferno is always struck with the sincerity and
realism of that poem. Under the delineation of that luminous, and that
intense understanding, hell has a topographic reality. We wind along down
those nine circles as down a volcanic crater, black, jagged, precipitous,
and impinging upon the senses at every step. The sighs and shrieks jar
our own tympanum; and the convulsions of the lost excite tremors in our
own nerves. No wonder that the children in the streets of Florence, as
they saw the sad and earnest man pass along, his face lined with passion
and his brow scarred with thought, pointed at him and said: "There goes
the man who has been in hell." But how infinitely more solemn is the
impression that is made by these thirteen short verses, of the sixteenth
chapter of Luke's gospel, from the lips of such a Being as Jesus Christ!
We have here the terse and pregnant teachings of one who, in the phrase
of the early Creed, not only "descended into hell," but who "hath the
keys of death and hell." We have here not the utterances of the most
truthful, and the most earnest of all human poets,--a man who, we may
believe, felt deeply the power of the Hebrew Bible, though living in a
dark age, and a superstitious Church,--we have here the utterances of the
Son of God, very God, of very God, and we may be certain that He intended
to convey no impression that will not be made good in the world to come.
And when every eye shall see Him, and all the sinful kindreds of the
earth shall wail because of Him, there will not be any eye that can look
into His and say: "Thy description, O Son of God, was overdrawn; the
impression was greater than the reality." On the contrary, every human
soul will say in the day of judgment: "We were forewarned; the statements
were exact; even according to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath" (Ps. xc. 11).

But what is the lesson which we are to read by this clear and solemn
light? What would our merciful Redeemer have us learn from this passage
which He has caused to be recorded for our instruction? Let us listen
with a candid and a feeling heart, because it comes to us not from an
enemy of the human soul, not from a Being who delights to cast it into
hell, but from a friend of the soul; because it comes to us from One who,
in His own person and in His own flesh, suffered an anguish superior
in dignity and equal in cancelling power to the pains of all the hells,
in order that we, through repentance and faith, might be spared their

The lesson is this: _The man who seeks enjoyment in this life, as his
chief end, must suffer in the next life; and he who endures suffering in
this life, for righteousness' sake, shall be happy in the next._ "Son,
remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and
likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art

It is a fixed principle in the Divine administration, that the scales of
justice shall in the end be made equal. If, therefore, sin enjoys in this
world, it must sorrow in the next; and if righteousness sorrows in this
world, it must enjoy in the next. The experience shall be reversed, in
order to bring everything to a right position and adjustment. This is
everywhere taught in the Bible. "Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have
received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall
hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Blessed
are ye that hunger now; for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep
now; for ye shall laugh" (Luke vi. 21, 24, 25). These are the explicit
declarations of the Founder of Christianity, and they ought not to
surprise us, coming as they do from Him who expressly declares that His
kingdom is not of this world; that in this world His disciples must have
tribulation, as He had; that through much tribulation they must enter
into the kingdom of God; that whosoever doth not take up the cross daily,
and follow Him, cannot be His disciple.

Let us notice some particulars, in which we see the operation of this
principle. What are the "good things" which Dives receives here, for
which he must be "tormented" hereafter? and what are the "evil things"
which Lazarus receives in this world, for which he will be "comforted" in
the world to come?

I. In the first place, the worldly man _derives a more intense physical
enjoyment_ from this world's goods, than does the child of God. He
possesses more of them, and gives himself up to them with less
self-restraint. The majority of those who have been most prospered by
Divine Providence in the accumulation of wealth have been outside of the
kingdom and the ark of God. Not many rich and not many noble are called.
In the past history of mankind, the great possessions and the great
incomes, as a general rule, have not been in the hands of humble and
penitent men. In the great centres of trade and commerce,--in Venice,
Amsterdam, Paris, London,--it is the world and not the people of God who
have had the purse, and have borne what is put therein. Satan is described
in Scripture, as the "prince of this world" (John xiv. 30); and his words
addressed to the Son of God are true: "All this power and glory is
delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it." In the parable
from which we are discoursing, the sinful man was the rich man, and the
child of God was the beggar. And how often do we see, in every-day
life, a faithful, prayerful, upright, and pure-minded man, toiling in
poverty, and so far as earthly comforts are concerned enjoying little or
nothing, while a selfish, pleasure-seeking, and profligate man is
immersed in physical comforts and luxuries. The former is receiving evil
things, and the latter is receiving good things, in this life.

Again, how often it happens that a fine physical constitution, health,
strength, and vigor, are given to the worldling, and are denied to the
child of God. The possession of worldly good is greatly enhanced in
value, by a fine capability of enjoying it. When therefore we see wealth
joined, with health, and luxury in all the surroundings and appointments
combined with taste to appreciate them and a full flow of blood to enjoy
them, or access to wide and influential circles, in politics and fashion,
given to one who is well fitted by personal qualities to move in
them,--when we see a happy adaptation existing between the man and his
good fortune, as we call it,--we see not only the "good things," but the
"good things" in their gayest and most attractive forms and colors. And
how often is all this observed in the instance of the natural man; and
how often is there little or none of this in the instance of the
spiritual man. We by no means imply, that it is impossible for the
possessor of this world's goods to love mercy, to do justly, and to walk
humbly; and we are well aware that under the garb of poverty and toil
there may beat a murmuring and rebellious heart. But we think that from
generation to generation, in this imperfect and probationary world, it
will be found to be a fact, that when _merely_ earthly and physical good
is allotted in large amounts by the providence of God; that when great
incomes and ample means of luxury are given; in the majority of instances
they are given to the enemies of God, and not to His dear children. So
the Psalmist seems to have thought. "I was envious,"--he says,--"when I
saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death;
but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither
are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as
a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with
fatness; they have more than heart could wish. Behold these are the
_ungodly_ who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily _I_
have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all
day long have _I_ been plagued, and chastened every morning" (Ps.
lxxiii). And it should be carefully noticed, that the Psalmist, even
after further reflection, does not _alter_ his statement respecting the
relative positions of the godly and the ungodly in this world. He sees no
reason to correct his estimate, upon this point. He lets it stand. So far
as this merely _physical_ existence is concerned, the wicked man has the
advantage. It is only when the Psalmist looks _beyond_ this life, that he
sees the compensation, and the balancing again of the scales of eternal
right and justice. "When I thought to know this,"--when I reflected upon
this inequality, and apparent injustice, in the treatment of the friends
and the enemies of God,--"it was too painful for me, until I went into
the sanctuary of God,"--until I took my stand in the _eternal_ world, and
formed my estimate there,--"_then_ understood I their end. Surely thou
didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down to
destruction. How are they brought into desolation as in a moment! They
are utterly consumed with terrors." Dives passes from his fine linen and
sumptuous fare, from his excessive physical enjoyment, to everlasting

II. In the second place, the worldly man _derives more enjoyment from
sin, and suffers less from it_, in this life, than does the child of God.
The really renewed man cannot _enjoy_ sin. It is true that he does sin,
owing to the strength of old habits, and the remainders of his
corruption. But he does not really delight in it; and he says with St.
Paul: "What I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." His sin
is a sorrow, a constant sorrow, to him. He feels its pressure and burden
all his days, and cries: "O wretched man, who shall deliver me from the
body of this death." If he falls into it, he cannot live in it; as a man
may fall into water, but it is not his natural element.

Again, the good man not only takes no real delight in sin, but his
reflections after transgression are very painful. He has a tender
conscience. His senses have been trained and disciplined to discern good
and evil. Hence, the sins that are committed by a child of God are
mourned over with a very deep sorrow. The longer he lives, the more
odious does sin become to him, and the more keen and bitter is his
lamentation over it. Now this, in itself, is an "evil thing." Man was not
made for sorrow, and sorrow is not his natural condition. This wearisome
struggle with indwelling corruption, these reproaches of an impartial
conscience, this sense of imperfection and of constant failure in the
service of God,--all this renders the believer's life on earth a season
of trial, and tribulation. The thought of its lasting forever would be
painful to him; and if he should be told that it is the will of God, that
he should continue to be vexed and foiled through all eternity, with the
motions of sin in his members, and that his love and obedience would
forever be imperfect, though he would be thankful that even this was
granted him, and that he was not utterly cast off, yet he would wear a
shaded brow, at the prospect of an imperfect, though a sincere and a
struggling eternity.

But the ungodly are not so. The worldly man loves sin; loves pleasure;
loves self. And the love is so strong, and accompanied with so much
enjoyment and zest, that it is _lust_, and is so denominated in the
Bible. And if you would only defend him from the wrath of God; if you
would warrant him immunity in doing as he likes; if you could shelter him
as in an inaccessible castle from the retributions of eternity; with what
a delirium of pleasure would he plunge into the sin that he loves. Tell
the avaricious man, that his avarice shall never have any evil
consequences here or hereafter; and with what an energy would he apply
himself to the acquisition of wealth. Tell the luxurious man, full of
passion and full of blood, that his pleasures shall never bring down any
evil upon him, that there is no power in the universe that can hurt him,
and with what an abandonment would he surrender himself to his carnal
elysium. Tell the ambitious man, fired with visions of fame and glory,
that he may banish all fears of a final account, that he may make himself
his own deity, and breathe in the incense of worshipers, without any
rebuke from Him who says: "I am God, and my glory I will not give to
another,"-assure the proud and ambitious man that his sin will never find
him out, and with what a momentum will he follow out his inclination.
For, in each of these instances there is a _hankering_ and a _lust_. The
sin is _loved and revelled in_, for its own deliciousness. The heart is
worldly, and therefore finds its pleasure in its forbidden objects and
aims. The instant you propose to check or thwart this inclination; the
instant you try to detach this natural heart from its wealth, or its
pleasure, or its earthly fame; you discover how closely it clings, and
how strongly it loves, and how intensely it enjoys the forbidden object.
Like the greedy insect in our gardens, it has fed until every fibre and
tissue is colored with its food; and to remove it from the leaf is to
tear and lacerate it.

Now it is for this reason, that the natural man receives "good things,"
or experiences pleasure, in this life, at a point where the spiritual man
receives "evil things," or experiences pain. The child of God does not
relish and enjoy sin in this style. Sin in the good man is a burden; but
in the bad man it is a pleasure. It is all the pleasure he has. And when
you propose to take it away from him, or when you ask him to give it up
of his own accord, he looks at you and asks: "Will you take away the only
solace I have? I have no joy in God. I take no enjoyment in divine
things. Do you ask me to make myself wholly miserable?"

And not only does the natural man enjoy sin, but, in this life, he is
much less troubled than is the spiritual man with reflections and
self-reproaches on account of sin. This is another of the "good things"
which Dives receives, for which he must be "tormented;" and this is
another of the "evil things" which Lazarus receives, for which he must
be "comforted." It cannot be denied, that in this world the child of God
suffers more mental sorrow for sin, in a given period of time, than does
the insensible man of the world. If we could look into the soul of a
faithful disciple of Christ, we should discover that not a day passes, in
which his conscience does not reproach him for sins of thought, word, or
deed; in which he does not struggle with some bosom sin, until he is so
weary that he cries out: "Oh that I had wings like a dove, so that I
might fly away, and be at rest." Some of the most exemplary members of
the Church go mourning from day to day, because their hearts are still so
far from their God and Saviour, and their lives fall so far short of what
they desire them to be.[2] Their experience is not a positively wretched
one, like that of an unforgiven sinner when he is feeling the stings of
conscience. They are forgiven. The expiating blood has soothed the
ulcerated conscience, so that it no longer stings and burns. They have
hope in God's mercy. Still, they are in grief and sorrow for sin; and
their experience, in so far, is not a perfectly happy one, such as will
ultimately be their portion in a better world. "If in this life
only,"--says St. Paul,--"we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most
miserable" (1 Cor. xv. 19).

But the stupid and impenitent man, a luxurious Dives, knows nothing of
all this. His days glide by with no twinges of conscience. What does he
know of the burden of sin? His conscience is dead asleep; perchance
seared as with a hot iron. He does wrong without any remorse; he disobeys
the express commands of God, without any misgivings or self-reproach. He
is "alive, without the law,"-as St. Paul expresses it. His eyes stand out
with fatness; and his heart, in the Psalmist's phrase, "is as fat as
grease" (Ps. cxix. 70). There is no religious sensibility in him. His sin
is a pleasure to him without any mixture of sorrow, because unattended by
any remorse of conscience. He is receiving his "good things" in this
life. His days pass by without any moral anxiety, and perchance as he
looks upon some meek and earnest disciple of Christ who is battling with
indwelling sin, and who, therefore, sometimes wears a grave countenance,
he wonders that any one should walk so soberly, so gloomily, in such a
cheery, such a happy, such a jolly world as this.

It is a startling fact, that those men in this world who have most reason
to be distressed by sin are the least troubled by it; and those who have
the least reason to be distressed are the most troubled by it. The child
of God is the one who sorrows most; and the child of Satan is the one who
sorrows least. Remember that we are speaking only of _this_ life. The
text reads: "Thou _in thy lifetime_ receivedst thy good things, and
likewise Lazarus evil things." And it is unquestionably so. The meek and
lowly disciple of Christ, the one who is most entitled by his character
and conduct to be untroubled by religious anxiety, is the very one who
bows his head as a bulrush, and perhaps goes mourning all his days,
fearing that he is not accepted, and that he shall be a cast-a-way; while
the selfish and thoroughly irreligious man, who ought to be stung through
and through by his own conscience, and feel the full energy of the law
which he is continually breaking,--this man, who of all men ought to be
anxious and distressed for sin, goes through a whole lifetime, perchance,
without any convictions or any fears.

And now we ask, if this state of things ought to last forever? Is it
right, is it just, that sin should enjoy in this style forever and
forever, and that holiness should grieve and sorrow in this style
forevermore? Would you have the Almighty pay a bounty upon
unrighteousness, and place goodness under eternal pains and penalties?
Ought not this state of things to be reversed? When Dives comes to the
end of this lifetime; when he has run his round of earthly pleasure,
faring sumptuously every day, clothed in purple and fine linen, without a
thought of his duties and obligations, and without any anxiety and
penitence for his sins,--when this worldly man has received all his "good
things," and is satiated and hardened by them, ought he not then to be
"tormented?" Ought this guilty carnal enjoyment to be perpetuated through
all eternity, under the government of a righteous and just God? And, on
the other hand, ought not the faithful disciple, who, perhaps, has
possessed little or nothing of this world's goods, who has toiled hard,
in poverty, in affliction, in temptation, in tribulation, and sometimes
like Abraham in the horror of a great darkness, to keep his robes white,
and his soul unspotted from the world,--when the poor and weary Lazarus
comes to the end of this lifetime, ought not his trials and sorrows to
cease? ought he not then to be "comforted" in the bosom of Abraham, in
the paradise of God? There is that within us all, which answers, Yea, and
Amen. Such a balancing of the scales is assented to, and demanded by the
moral convictions. Hence, in the parable, Dives himself is represented as
acquiescing in the eternal judgment. He does not complain of injustice.
It is true, that at first he asks for a drop of water,--for some slight
mitigation of his punishment. This is the instinctive request of any
sufferer. But when his attention is directed to the right and the wrong
of the case; when Abraham reminds him of the principles of justice by
which his destiny has been decided; when he tells him that having taken
his choice of pleasure in the world which he has left, he cannot now have
pleasure in the world to which he has come; the wretched man makes no
reply. There is nothing to be said. He feels that the procedure is just.
He is then silent upon the subject of his own tortures, and only begs
that his five brethren, whose lifetime is not yet run out, to whom there
is still a space left for repentance, may be warned from his own lips not
to do as he has done,--not to choose pleasure on earth as their chief
good; not to take their "good things" in this life. Dives, the man in
hell, is a witness to the justice of eternal punishment.

1. In view of this subject, as thus discussed, we remark in the first
place, that no man can have his "good things," in other words, his chief
pleasure, in _both_ worlds. God and this world are in antagonism. "For
all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes,
and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. If any
man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John i. 15,
16). It is the height of folly, therefore, to suppose that a man can make
earthly enjoyment his chief end while he is upon earth, and then pass to
heaven when he dies. Just so far as he holds on upon the "good things" of
this life, he relaxes his grasp upon the "good things" of the next. No
man is capacious enough to hold both worlds in his embrace. He cannot
serve God and Mammon. Look at this as a _matter of fact_. Do not take it
as a theory of the preacher. It is as plain and certain that you cannot
lay up your treasure in heaven while you are laying it up upon earth,
as it is that your material bodies cannot occupy two portions of space at
one and the same time. Dismiss, therefore, all expectations of being able
to accomplish an impossibility. Put not your mind to sleep with the
opiate, that in some inexplicable manner you will be able to live the
life of a worldly man upon earth, and then the life of a spiritual man in
heaven. There is no alchemy that can amalgamate substances that refuse to
mix. No man has ever yet succeeded, no man ever will succeed, in securing
both the pleasures of sin and the pleasures of holiness,--in living the
life of Dives, and then going to the bosom of Abraham.

2. And this leads to the second remark, that every man must _make his
choice_ whether he will have his "good things" now, or hereafter. Every
man is making his choice. Every man has already made it. The heart is now
set either upon God, or upon the world. Search through the globe, and
you cannot find a creature with double affections; a creature with _two_
chief ends of living; a creature whose treasure is both upon earth and in
heaven. All mankind are single-minded. They either mind earthly things,
or heavenly things. They are inspired with one predominant purpose, which
rules them, determines their character, and decides their destiny. And
in all who have not been renewed by Divine grace, the purpose is a wrong
one, a false and fatal one. It is the choice and the purpose of Dives,
and not the choice and purpose of Lazarus.

3. Hence, we remark in the third place, that it is the duty and the
wisdom of every man to let this world go, and seek his "good things"
_hereafter_. Our Lord commands every man to sit down, like the steward in
the parable, and make an estimate. He enjoins it upon every man to reckon
up the advantages upon each side, and see for himself which is superior.
He asks every man what it will profit him, "if he shall gain the whole
world and lose his own soul; or, what he shall give in exchange for his
soul." We urge you to make this estimate,--to compare the "good things"
which Dives enjoyed, with the "torments" that followed them; and the
"evil things" which Lazarus suffered, with the "comfort" that succeeded
them. There can be no doubt upon which side the balance will fall. And we
urge you to take the "evil things" _now_, and the "good things"
_hereafter_. We entreat you to copy the example of Moses at the court of
the Pharaohs, and in the midst of all regal luxury, who "chose rather to
suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of sin
for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ, greater riches than the
treasures in Egypt: _for he had respect unto the recompense of reward_."
Take the _narrow_ way. What though it be strait and narrow; you are not
to walk in it forever. A few short years of fidelity will end the
toilsome pilgrimage; and then you will come put into a "wealthy place."
We might tell you of the _joys_ of the Christian life that are mingled
with its trials and sorrows even here upon earth. For, this race to which
we invite you, and this fight to which we call you have their own
peculiar, solemn, substantial joy. And even their sorrow is tinged with
glory. In a higher, truer sense than Protesilaus in the poem says it of
the pagan elysium, we may say even of the Christian race, and the
Christian fight,

  "Calm pleasures there abide--_majestic pains_."[3]

But we do not care, at this point, to influence you by a consideration of
the amount of enjoyment, in _this_ life, which you will derive from a
close and humble walk with God. We prefer to put the case in its baldest
form,--in the aspect in which we find it in our text. We will say nothing
at all about the happiness of a Christian life, here in time. We will
talk only of its tribulations. We will only say, as in the parable, that
there are "evil things" to be endured here upon earth, in return for
which we shall have "good things" in another life. There is to be a
moderate and sober use of this world's goods; there is to be a searching
sense of sin, and an humble confession of it before God; there is to
be a cross-bearing every day, and a struggle with indwelling corruption.
These will cost effort, watchfulness, and earnest prayer for Divine
assistance. We do not invite you into the kingdom of God, without telling
you frankly and plainly beforehand what must be done, and what must be
suffered. But having told you this, we then tell you with the utmost
confidence and assurance, that you will be infinitely repaid for your
choice, if you take your "evil things" in this life, and choose your
"good things" in a future. We know, and are certain, that this light
affliction which endures but for a moment, in comparison with the
infinite duration beyond the tomb, will work out a far more exceeding and
eternal weight of glory. We entreat you to look no longer at the things
which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things that
are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.

Learn a parable from a wounded soldier. His limb must be amputated, for
mortification and gangrene have begun their work. He is told that the
surgical operation, which will last a half hour, will yield him twenty or
forty years of healthy and active life. The endurance of an "evil thing,"
for a few moments, will result in the possession of a "good thing," for
many long days and years. He holds out the limb, and submits to the
knife. He accepts the inevitable conditions under which he finds himself.
He is resolute and stern, in order to secure a great good, in the future.

It is the practice of this same _principle_, though not in the use of the
same kind of power, that we would urge upon you. _Look up to God for
grace and help_, and deliberately forego a present advantage, for the
sake of something infinitely more valuable hereafter. Do not, for the
sake of the temporary enjoyment of Dives, lose the eternal happiness of
Lazarus. Rather, take the place, and accept the "evil things," of the
beggar. _Look up to God for grace and strength_ to do it, and then live
a life of contrition for sin, and faith in Christ's blood. Deny yourself,
and take up the cross daily. Expect your happiness _hereafter_. Lay up
your treasure _above_. Then, in the deciding day, it will be said of you,
as it will be of all the true children of God: "These are they which came
out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them
white in the blood of the Lamb."

[Footnote 1: SHEDD: History of Doctrine, II., 234 sq.]

[Footnote 2: The early religious experience of John Owen furnishes a
striking illustration. "For a quarter of a year, he avoided almost all
intercourse with men; could scarcely be induced to speak; and when he did
say anything, it was in so disordered a manner as rendered him a wonder
to many. Only those who have experienced the bitterness of a wounded
spirit can form an idea of the distress he must have suffered. Compared
with this anguish of soul, all the afflictions which befall a sinner [on
earth] are trifles. One drop of that wrath which shall finally fill the
cup of the ungodly, poured into the mind, is enough to poison all the
comforts of life, and to spread mourning, lamentation, and woe over the
countenance. Though the violence of Owen's convictions had subsided after
the first severe conflict, they still continued to disturb his peace, and
nearly five years elapsed from their commencement before he obtained
solid comfort." ORME: Life of Owen, Chap. I.]

[Footnote 3: WORDSWORTH: Laodamia.]


ROMANS ix. 15.--"For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will
have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."

This is a part of the description which God himself gave to Moses, of His
own nature and attributes. The Hebrew legislator had said to Jehovah: "I
beseech thee show me thy glory." He desired a clear understanding of the
character of that Great Being, under whose guidance he was commissioned
to lead the people of Israel into the promised land. God said to him in
reply: "I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim
the name of the Lord before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will
be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy."[1]

By this, God revealed to Moses, and through him to all mankind, the fact
that He is a merciful being, and directs attention to one particular
characteristic of mercy. While informing His servant, that He
is gracious and clement towards a penitent transgressor, He at the same
time teaches him that He is under no obligation, or necessity, to shew
mercy. Grace is not a debt. "I will have mercy on whom I _will_ have
mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I _will_ have compassion."

The apostle Paul quotes this declaration, to shut the mouth of him who
would set up a claim to salvation; who is too proud to beg for it,
and accept it as a free and unmerited favor from God. In so doing, he
endorses the sentiment. The inspiration of his Epistle corroborates that
of the Pentateuch, so that we have assurance made doubly sure, that this
is the correct enunciation of the nature of mercy. Let us look into this
hope-inspiring attribute of God, under the guidance of this text.

The great question that presses upon the human mind, from age to age, is
the inquiry: Is God a merciful Being, and will He show mercy? Living
as we do under the light of Revelation, we know little of the doubts and
fears that spontaneously rise in the guilty human soul, when it is left
solely to the light of nature to answer it. With the Bible in our hands,
and hearing the good news of Redemption from our earliest years, it seems
to be a matter of course that the Deity should pardon sin. Nay, a certain
class of men in Christendom seem to have come to the opinion that it is
more difficult to prove that God is just, than to prove that He is
merciful.[2] But this is not the thought and feeling of man when outside
of the pale of Revelation. Go into the ancient pagan world, examine the
theologizing of the Greek and Roman mind, and you will discover that the
fears of the justice far outnumbered the hopes of the mercy; that Plato
and Plutarch and Cicero and Tacitus were far more certain that God would
punish sin, than that He would, pardon it. This is the reason that there
is no light, or joy, in any of the pagan religions. Except when religion
was converted into the worship of Beauty, as in the instance of the later
Greek, and all the solemn and truthful ideas of law and justice were
eliminated from it, every one of the natural religions of the globe is
filled with sombre and gloomy hues, and no others. The truest and best
religions of the ancient world were always the sternest and saddest,
because the unaided human mind is certain that God is just, but is not
certain that He is merciful. When man is outside of Revelation, it is by
no means a matter of course that God is clement, and that sin shall be
forgiven. Great uncertainty overhangs the doctrine of the Divine mercy,
from the position of natural religion, and it is only within the province
of revealed truth that the uncertainty is removed. Apart from a distinct
and direct _promise_ from the lips of God Himself that He will forgive
sin, no human creature can be sure that sin will ever be forgiven. Let
us, therefore, look into the subject carefully, and see the reason why
man, if left to himself and his spontaneous reflections, doubts whether
there is mercy in the Holy One for a transgressor, and fears that there
is none, and why a special revelation is consequently required, to dispel
the doubt and the fear.

The reason lies in the fact, implied in the text, that _the exercise of
justice is necessary, while that of mercy is optional_. "I will have
mercy on whom I _please_ to have mercy, and I will have compassion on
whom I _please_ to have compassion." It is a principle inlaid in the
structure of the human soul, that the transgression of law _must_ be
visited with retribution. The pagan conscience, as well as the Christian,
testifies that "the Soul that sinneth it shall die." There is no need of
quoting from pagan philosophers to prove this. We should be compelled
to cite page after page, should we enter upon the documentary evidence.
Take such a tract, for example, as that of Plutarch, upon what he
denominates "the slow vengeance of the Deity;" read the reasons which he
assigns for the apparent delay, in this world, of the infliction of
punishment upon transgressors; and you will perceive that the human
mind, when left to its candid and unbiassed convictions, is certain that
God is a holy Being and will visit iniquity with penalty. Throughout this
entire treatise, composed by a man who probably never saw the Scriptures
of either the New or the Old Dispensation, there runs a solemn and deep
consciousness that the Deity is necessarily obliged, by the principles of
justice, to mete out a retribution to the violator of law. Plutarch is
engaged with the very same question that the apostle Peter takes up, in
his second Epistle, when he answers the objection of the scoffer who
asks: Where is the promise of God's coming in judgment? The apostle
replies to it, by saying that for the Eternal Mind one day is as a
thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, and that therefore "the
Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness;"
and Plutarch answers it in a different manner, but assumes and affirms
with the same positiveness and certainty that the vengeance will
_ultimately come_. No reader of this treatise can doubt for a moment,
that its author believed in the future punishment of the wicked,--and in
the future _endless_ punishment of the incorrigibly wicked, because there
is not the slightest hint or expectation of any exercise of mercy on the
part of this Divinity whose vengeance, though slow, is sure and
inevitable.[3] Some theorists tell us that the doctrine of endless
punishment contradicts the instincts of the natural reason, and that it
has no foundation in the constitution of the human soul. We invite them
to read and ponder well, the speculations of one of the most thoughtful
of pagans upon this subject, and tell us if they see any streaks or rays
of light in it; if they see any inkling, any jot or tittle, of the
doctrine of the Divine pity there. We challenge them to discover in this
tract of Plutarch the slightest token, or sign, of the Divine mercy. The
author believes in a hell for the wicked, and an elysium for the good;
but those who go to hell go there upon principles of _justice_, and those
who go to elysium go there upon the _same_ principles. It is justice that
must place men in Tartarus, and it is justice that must place them in
Elysium. In paganism, men must earn their heaven. The idea of
_mercy_,--of clemency towards a transgressor, of pity towards a
criminal,--is entirely foreign to the thoughts of Plutarch, so far as
they can be gathered from this tract. It is the clear and terrible
doctrine of the pagan sage, that unless a man can make good his claim to
eternal happiness upon the ground of law and justice,--unless he merits
it by good works,--there is no hope for him in the other world.

The idea of a forgiving and tender mercy in the Supreme Being, exercised
towards a creature whom justice would send to eternal retribution,
nowhere appears in the best pagan ethics. And why should it? What
evidence or proof has the human mind, apart from the revelations made to
it in the Old and New Testaments, that God will ever forgive sin, or ever
show mercy? In thinking upon the subject, our reason perceives,
intuitively, that God must of necessity punish transgression; and it
perceives with equal intuitiveness that there is no corresponding
necessity that He should pardon it. We say with confidence and
positiveness: "God must be just;" but we cannot say with any certainty
or confidence at all: "God must be merciful." The Divine mercy is an
attribute which is perfectly free and optional, in its exercises, and
therefore we cannot tell beforehand whether it will or will not be shown
to transgressors. We know nothing at all about it, until we hear some
word from the lips of God Himself upon the point. When He opens the
heavens, and speaks in a clear tone to the human race, saying, "I will
forgive your iniquities," then, and not till then, do they know the fact.
In reference to all those procedures which, like the punishment of
transgression, are fixed and necessary, because they are founded in the
eternal principles of law and justice, we can tell beforehand what the
Divine method will be. We do not need any special revelation, to inform
us that God is a just Being, and that His anger is kindled against
wickedness, and that He will punish the transgressor. This class of
truths, the Apostle informs us, are written in the human constitution,
and we have already seen that they were known and dreaded in the pagan
world. That which God _must_ do, He certainly will do. He _must_ be just,
and therefore He certainly will punish sin, is the reasoning of the human
mind, the-world over, and in every age.[4]

But, when we pass from the punishment of sin to the pardon of it, when we
go over to the merciful side of the Divine Nature, we can come to no
_certain_ conclusions, if we are shut up to the workings of our own
minds, or to the teachings of the world of nature about us. Picture to
yourself a thoughtful pagan, like Solon the legislator of Athens, living
in the heart of heathenism five centuries before Christ, and knowing
nothing of the promise of mercy which broke faintly through the heavens
immediately after the apostasy of the first human pair, and which found
its full and victorious utterance in the streaming, blood of Calvary.
Suppose that the accusing and condemning law written, upon his conscience
had shown its work, and made him conscious of sin. Suppose that the
question had risen within him, whether that Dread Being whom he
"ignorantly worshipped," and against whom he had committed the offence,
would forgive it; was there anything in his own soul, was there anything
in the world around him or above him, that could give him an affirmative
answer? The instant he put the question: Will God _punish_ me for my
transgression? the affirming voices were instantaneous and authoritative.
"The soul that sinneth it shall die" was the verdict that came forth from
the recesses of his moral nature, and was echoed and re-echoed in the
suffering, pain, and physical death of a miserable and groaning world
all around him. But when he put the other question to himself: Will the
Deity _pardon_ me for my transgression? there was no affirmative answer
from any source of knowledge accessible to him. If he sought a reply from
the depths of his own conscience, all that he could hear was the terrible
utterance: "The soul that sinneth it shall die." The human conscience can
no more promise, or certify, the forgiveness of sin, than the ten
commandments can do so. When, therefore, this pagan, convicted of sin,
seeks a comforting answer to his anxious inquiry respecting the Divine
clemency towards a criminal, he is met only with retributive thunders and
lightnings; he hears only that accusing and condemning law which is
written on the heart, and experiences that fearful looking-for of
judgment and fiery indignation which St. Paul describes, in the first
chapter of Romans, as working in the mind of the universal pagan world.

But we need not go to Solon, and the pagan world, for evidence upon this
subject. Why is it that a convicted man under the full light of the
gospel, and with the unambiguous and explicit promise of God to forgive
sins ringing in his ears,--why is it, that even under these favorable
circumstances a guilt-smitten man finds it so difficult to believe that
there is mercy for him, and to trust in it? Nay, why is it that he finds
it impossible fully to believe that Jehovah is a sin-pardoning God,
unless he is enabled so to do by the Holy Ghost? It is because he knows
that God is under a necessity of punishing his sin, but is under no
necessity of pardoning it. The very same judicial principles are
operating in his mind that operate in that of a pagan Solon, or any other
transgressor outside of the revelation of mercy. That which holds back
the convicted sinner from casting himself upon the Divine pity is the
perception that God must be just. This fact is certain, whether anything
else is certain or not. And it is not until he perceives that God can be
_both_ just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus; it is not
until he sees that, through the substituted sufferings of Christ, God can
_punish_ sin while at the same time He _pardons_ it,--can punish it in
the Substitute while He pardons it in the sinner,--it is not until he is
enabled to apprehend the doctrine of _vicarious_ atonement, that his
doubts and fears respecting the possibility and reality of the Divine
mercy are removed. The instant he discovers that the exercise of pardon
is rendered entirely consistent with the justice of God, by the
substituted death of the Son of God, he sees the Divine mercy, and that
too in the high form of _self-sacrifice,_ and trusts in it, and is at

These considerations are sufficient to show, that according to the
natural and spontaneous operations of the human intellect, justice
stands in the way of the exercise of mercy, and that therefore, if
man is not informed by Divine Revelation respecting this latter
attribute, he can never acquire the certainty that God will forgive his
sin. There are two very important and significant inferences from this
truth, to which we now ask serious attention.

1. In the first place, those who deny the credibility, and Divine
authority, of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments _shut up the
whole world to doubt and despair_. For, unless God has spoken the word of
mercy in this written Revelation, He has not spoken it anywhere; and we
have seen, that unless He has spoken such a merciful word _somewhere_, no
human transgressor can be certain of anything but stark unmitigated
justice and retribution. Do you tell us that God is too good to punish
men, and that therefore it must be that He is merciful? We tell you, in
reply, that God is good when He punishes sin, and your own conscience,
like that of Plutarch, re-echoes the reply. Sin is a wicked thing, and
when the Holy One visits it with retribution, He is manifesting the
purest moral excellence and the most immaculate perfection of character
that we can conceive of. But if by goodness you mean mercy, then we say
that this is the very point in dispute, and you must not beg the point
but must prove it. And now, if you deny the authority and credibility of
the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, we ask you upon what ground
you venture to affirm that God will pardon man's sin. You cannot
demonstrate it upon any _a priori_ and necessary principles. You cannot
show that the Deity is obligated to remit the penalty due to
transgression. You can prove the necessity of the exercise of justice,
but you cannot prove the necessity of the exercise of mercy. It is purely
optional with God, whether to pardon or not. If, therefore, you cannot
establish the fact of the Divine clemency by _a priori_ reasoning,--if
you cannot make out a _necessity_ for the exercise of mercy,--you must
betake yourself to the only other method of proof that remains to you,
the method of testimony. If you have the _declaration_ and _promise_ of
God, that He will forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin, you may be
certain of the fact,--as certain as you would be, could you prove the
absolute necessity of the exercise of mercy. For God's promise cannot be
broken. God's testimony is sure. But, by the supposition, you deny that
this declaration has been made, and this promise has been uttered, in the
written Revelation of the Christian Church. Where then do you send me for
the information, and the testimony? Have you a private revelation of your
own? Has the Deity spoken to you in particular, and told you that He will
forgive your sin, and my sin, and that of all the generations? Unless
this declaration has been made either to you or to some other one, we
have seen that you cannot establish the _certainty_ that God will forgive
sin. It is a purely optional matter with Him, and whether He will or no
depends entirely upon His decision, determination, and declaration. If
He says that He will pardon sin, it will certainly be done. But until He
says it, you and every other man must be remanded to the inexorable
decisions of conscience which thunder out: "The soul that sinneth it
shall die." Whoever, therefore, denies that God in the Scriptures of the
Old and New Testaments has broken through the veil that hides eternity
from time, and has testified to the human race that He will forgive sin,
and has solemnly promised to do so, takes away from the human race the
only ground of certainty which they possess, that there is pity in the
heavens, and that it will be shown to sinful creatures like themselves.
But this is to shut them up again, to the doubt and hopelessness of the
pagan world,--a world without Revelation.

2. In the second place, it follows from this subject, that mankind must
_take the declaration and promise of God, respecting the exercise of
mercy, precisely as He has given it_. They must follow the record
_implicitly_, without any criticisms or alterations. Not only does the
exercise of mercy depend entirely upon the will and pleasure of God, but,
the mode, the conditions, and the length of time during which the offer
shall be made, are all dependent upon the same sovereignty. Let us look
at these particulars one by one.

In the first place, the _method_ by which the Divine clemency shall be
manifested, and the _conditions_ upon which the offer of forgiveness
shall be made, are matters that rest solely with God. If it is entirely
optional with Him whether to pardon at all, much more does it depend
entirely upon Him to determine the way and means. It is here that we stop
the mouth of him who objects to the doctrine of forgiveness through a
vicarious atonement. We will by no means concede, that the exhibition
of mercy through the vicarious satisfaction of justice is an optional
matter, and that God might have dispensed with such satisfaction, had
He so willed. We believe that the forgiveness of sin is possible even to
the Deity, only through a substituted sacrifice that completely satisfies
the demands of law and justice,--that without the shedding of expiating
blood there is no remission of sin possible or conceivable, under a
government of law. But, without asking the objector to come up to this
high ground, we are willing, for the sake of the argument, to go down
upon his low one; and we say, that even if the metaphysical necessity of
an atonement could not be maintained, and that it is purely optional with
God whether to employ this method or not, it would still be the duty and
wisdom of man to take the record just as it reads, and to accept the
method that has actually been adopted. If the Sovereign has a perfect
right to say whether He will or will not pardon the criminal, has He not
the same right to say _how_ He will do it? If the transgressor, upon
principles of justice, could be sentenced to endless misery, and yet the
Sovereign Judge concludes to offer him forgiveness and eternal life,
shall the criminal, the culprit who could not stand an instant in the
judgment, presume to quarrel with the method, and dictate the terms by
which his own pardon shall be secured? Even supposing, then, that there
were no _intrinsic_ necessity for the offering of an infinite sacrifice
to satisfy infinite justice, the Great God might still take the lofty
ground of sovereignty, and say to the criminal: "My will shall stand for
my reason; I decide to offer you amnesty and eternal joy, in this mode,
and upon these terms. The reasons for my method are known to myself. Take
mercy in this method, or take justice. Receive the forgiveness of sin in
this mode, or else receive the eternal and just punishment of sin. Can I
not do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am good?"
God is under no necessity to offer the forgiveness of sin to any criminal
upon any terms; still less is He hedged up to a method of forgiveness
prescribed by the criminal himself.

Again, the same reasoning will apply to the _time during which the offer
of mercy shall be extended_. If it is purely optional with God, whether
He will pardon my sin at all, it is also purely optional with Him to fix
the limits within which He will exercise the act of pardon. Should He
tell me, that if I would confess and forsake my sins to-day, He would
blot them out forever, but that the gracious offer should be withdrawn
tomorrow, what conceivable ground of complaint could I discover? He is
under no necessity of extending the pardon at this moment, and neither
is He at the next, or any future one. Mercy is grace, and not debt. Now
it has pleased God, to limit the period during which the work of
Redemption shall go on. There is a point of time, for every sinful man,
at which "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin" (Heb. x. 26). The
period of Redemption is confined to earth and time; and unless the sinner
exercises repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,
before his spirit returns to God who gave it, there is no redemption for
him through eternal ages. This fact we know by the declaration and
testimony of God; in the same manner that we know that God will exercise
mercy at all, and upon any conditions whatever. We have seen that we
cannot establish the fact that the Deity will forgive sin, by any _a
priori_ reasoning, but know it only because He has spoken a word to this
effect, and given the world His promise to be gracious and merciful,
In like manner, we do not establish the fact that there will be no second
offer of forgiveness, in the future world, by any process of reasoning
from the nature of the case, or the necessity of things. We are willing
to concede to the objector, that for aught that we can see the Holy
Ghost is as able to take of the things of Christ, and show them to a
guilty soul, in the next world, as He is in this. So far as almighty
power is concerned, the Divine Spirit could convince men of sin, and
righteousness, and judgment, and incline them to repentance and faith, in
eternity as well as in time. And it is equally true, that the Divine
Spirit could have prevented the origin of sin itself, and the fall of
Adam, with the untold woes that proceed therefrom. But it is not a
question of power. It is a question of _intention_, of _determination_,
and of _testimony_ upon the part of God. And He has distinctly declared
in the written Revelation, that it is His intention to limit the
converting and saving influences of His Spirit to time and earth. He
tells the whole world unequivocally, that His spirit shall not always
strive with man, and that the day of judgment which occurs at the end of
this Dispensation of grace, is not a day of pardon but of doom. Christ's
description of the scenes that will close up this Redemptive
Economy,--the throne, the opened books, the sheep on the right hand and
the goats on the left hand, the words of the Judge: "Come ye blessed,
depart ye cursed,"--proves beyond controversy that "_now_ is the accepted
time, and _now_ is the day of salvation." The utterance of our Redeeming
God, by His servant David, is: "_To-day_ if ye will hear His voice harden
not your hearts." St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, informs the
world, that as God sware that those Israelites who did not believe and
obey His servant Moses, during their wanderings in the desert, should not
enter the earthly Canaan, so those, in any age and generation of men, who
do not believe and obey His Son Jesus Christ, during their earthly
pilgrimage, shall, by the same Divine oath, be shut out of the eternal
rest that remaineth for the people of God (Hebrews iii. 7-19).
Unbelieving men, in eternity, will be deprived of the benefits of
Christ's redemption, by the _oath_, the solemn _decision_, the judicial
_determination_ of God. For, this exercise of mercy, of which we are
speaking, is not a matter of course, and of necessity, and which
therefore continues forever and forever. It is optional. God is entirely
at liberty to pardon, or not to pardon. And He is entirely at liberty to
say when, and how, and _how long_ the offer of pardon shall be extended.
He had the power to carry the whole body of the people of Israel over
Jordan, into the promised land, but He sware that those who proved
refractory, and disobedient, during a _certain definite period of time_,
should never enter Canaan. And, by His apostle, He informs all the
generations of men, that the same principle will govern Him in respect to
the entrance into the heavenly Canaan. The limiting of the offer of
salvation to this life is not founded upon any necessity in the Divine
Nature, but, like the offer of salvation itself, depends upon the
sovereign pleasure and determination of God. That pleasure, and that
determination, have been distinctly made known in the Scriptures. We know
as clearly as we know anything revealed in the Bible, that God has
decided to pardon here in time, and not to pardon in eternity. He has
drawn a line between the present period, during which He makes salvation
possible to man, and the future period, when He will not make it
possible. And He had a right to draw that line, because mercy from first
to last is the optional, and not the obligated agency of the Supreme

Therefore, _fear_ lest, a promise being left us of entering into His
rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto you is the
gospel preached, as well as unto those Israelites; but the word, did not
profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Neither
will it profit you, unless it is mixed with faith. God limiteth a certain
day, saying in David, "_To-day_, after so long a time,"--after these many
years of hearing and neglecting the offer of forgiveness,--"_to-day_, if
ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." Labor, therefore, _now_,
to enter into that rest, lest any man fall, after the same example of
unbelief, with those Israelites whom the oath of God shut out of both the
earthly and the heavenly Canaan.

[Footnote 1: Compare, also, the very full announcement of mercy as a
Divine attribute that was to be exercised, in Exodus xxxiv. 6, 7.

This is the more noteworthy, as it occurs in connection with the giving
of the law.]

[Footnote 2: Their creed lives in the satire of YOUNG (Universal Passion.
Satire VI.),--as full of sense, truth, and pungency now, as it was one
hundred years ago.

  "From atheists far, they steadfastly believe
  God is, and is Almighty--to _forgive_.
  His other excellence they'll not dispute;
  But mercy, sure, is His chief attribute.
  Shall pleasures of a short duration chain
  A lady's soul in everlasting pain?
  Will the great Author us poor worms destroy,
  For now and then a sip of transient joy?
  No, He's forever in a smiling mood;
  He's like themselves; or how could He be good?
  And they blaspheme, who blacker schemes suppose.
  Devoutly, thus, Jehovah they depose,
  The Pure! the Just! and set up in His stead,
  A deity that's perfectly well-bred."]

[Footnote 3: Plutarch supposes a form of punishment in the future world
that is disciplinary. If it accomplishes its purpose, the soul goes into
Elysium,--a doctrine like that of purgatory in the Papal scheme. But in
case the person proves incorrigible, his suffering is _endless_. He
represents an individual as having been restored to life, and giving an
account of what he had seen. Among other things, he "informed his friend,
how that Adrastia, the daughter of Jupiter and Necessity, was seated in
the highest place of all, to punish all manner of crimes and enormities,
and that in the whole number of the wicked and ungodly there never was
any one, whether great or little, high or low, rich or poor, that could
ever by force or cunning escape the severe lashes of her rigor. But
as there are three sorts of punishment, so there are three several
Furies, or female ministers of justice, and to every one of these
belongs a peculiar office and degree of punishment. The first of
these was called [Greek: Poinae] or _Pain_; whose executions are swift
and speedy upon those that are presently to receive bodily punishment
in this life, and which she manages after a more gentle manner, omitting
the correction of slight offences, which need but little expiation. But
if the cure of impiety require a greater labor, the Deity delivers those,
after death, to [Greek: Dikae] or _Vengeance_. But when Vengeance has
given them over as altogether _incurable_, then the third and most severe
of all Adrastia's ministers, [Greek: 'Erinys] or _Fury_, takes them in
hand, and after she has chased and coursed them from one place to
another, flying yet not knowing where to fly for shelter and relief,
plagued and tormented with a thousand miseries, she plunges them headlong
into an invisible abyss, the hideousness of which no tongue can express."
PLUTARCH: Morals, Vol. IV. p. 210. Ed. 1694. PLATO (Gorgias 525. c.d. Ed.
Bip. IV. 169) represents Socrates as teaching that those who "have
committed the most extreme wickedness, and have become incurable through
such crimes, are made an example to others, and suffer _forever_ ([Greek:
paschontas ton aei chronon]) the greatest, most agonizing, and most
dreadful punishment." And Socrates adds that "Homer (Odyssey xi. 575)
also bears witness to this; for he represents kings and potentates,
Tantalus, Sysiphus, and Tityus, as being tormented _forever_ in Hades"
([Greek: en adon ton aei chronon timoronmenos]).-In the Aztec or Mexican
theology, "the wicked, comprehending the greater part of mankind, were to
expiate their sin in a place of everlasting darkness." PRESCOTT: Conquest
of Mexico, Vol. I. p. 62.]

[Footnote 4: It may be objected, at this point, that mercy also is a
necessary attribute in God, like justice itself,--that it necessarily
belongs to the nature of a perfect Being, and therefore might be inferred
_a priori_ by the pagan, like other attributes. This is true; but the
objection overlooks the distinction between the _existence_ of an
attribute and its _exercise_. Omnipotence necessarily belongs to the idea
of the Supreme Being, but it does not follow that it must necessarily be
_exerted_ in act. Because God is able to create the universe of matter
and mind, it does not follow that he _must_ create it. The doctrine of
the necessity of creation, though held in a few instances by theists who
seem not to have discerned its logical consequences, is virtually
pantheistic. Had God been pleased to dwell forever in the
self-sufficiency of His Trinity, and never called the Finite into
existence from nothing, He might have done so, and He would still have
been omnipotent and "blessed forever." In like manner, the attribute of
mercy might exist in God, and yet not be exerted. Had He been pleased to
treat the human race as He did the fallen angels, He was perfectly at
liberty to do so, and the number and quality of his immanent attributes
would have been the same that they are now. But justice is an attribute
which not only exists of necessity, but must be _exercised_ of necessity;
because not to exercise it would be injustice.-For a fuller exposition of
the nature of justice, see SHEDD: Discourses and Essays, pp. 291-300.]


MARK x. 15.--"Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the
kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein."

These words of our Lord are very positive and emphatic, and will,
therefore, receive a serious attention from every one who is anxious
concerning his future destiny beyond the grave. For, they mention an
indispensable requisite in order to an entrance into eternal life.
"Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he
_shall not_ enter therein."

The occasion of their utterance is interesting, and brings to view a
beautiful feature in the perfect character of Jesus Christ. The Redeemer
was deeply interested in every age and condition of man. All classes
shared in His benevolent affection, and all may equally partake of the
rich blessings that flow from it. But childhood and youth seem to have
had a special attraction for Him. The Evangelist is careful to inform us,
that He took little children in His arms, and that beholding an amiable
young man He loved him,--a gush of feeling went out towards him. It was
because Christ was a perfect man, as well as the infinite God, that such
a feeling dwelt in His breast. For, there has never been an uncommonly
fair and excellent human character, in which tenderness and affinity for
childhood has not been a quality, and a quality, too, that was no small
part of the fairness and excellence. The best definition that has yet
been given of genius itself is, that it is the carrying of the feelings
of childhood onward into the thoughts and aspirations of manhood. He who
is not attracted by the ingenuousness, and trustfulness, and simplicity,
of the first period of human life, is certainly wanting in the finest and
most delicate elements of nature, and character. Those who have been
coarse and brutish, those who have been selfish and ambitious, those who
have been the pests and scourges of the world, have had no sympathy with
youth. Though once young themselves, they have been those in whom the
gentle and generous emotions of the morning of life have died out. That
man may become hardhearted, skeptical and sensual, a hater of his kind,
a hater of all that is holy and good, he must divest himself entirely of
the fresh and ingenuous feeling of early boyhood, and receive in its
place that malign and soured feeling which is the growth, and sign, of a
selfish and disingenuous life. It is related of Voltaire,--a man in whom
evil dwelt in its purest and most defecated essence,--that he had no
sympathy with the child, and that the children uniformly shrank from that
sinister eye in which the eagle and the reptile were so strangely

Our Saviour, as a perfect man, then, possessed this trait, and it often
showed itself in His intercourse with men. As an omniscient Being, He
indeed looked with profound interest, upon the dawning life of the human
spirit as it manifests itself in childhood. For He knew as no finite
being can, the marvellous powers that sleep in the soul of the young
child; the great affections which are to be the foundation of eternal
bliss, or eternal pain, that exist in embryo within; the mysterious
ideas that lie in germ far down in its lowest depths,--He knew, as no
finite creature is able, what is in the child, as well as in the man, and
therefore was interested in its being and its well-being. But besides
this, by virtue of His perfect humanity, He was attracted by those
peculiar traits which are seen in the earlier years of human life. He
loved the artlessness and gentleness, the sense of dependence, the
implicit trust, the absence of ostentation and ambition, the unconscious
modesty, in one word, the _child-likeness_ of the child.

Knowing this characteristic of the Redeemer, certain parents brought
their young children to Him, as the Evangelist informs us, "that He
should touch them;" either believing that there was a healthful virtue,
connected with the touch of Him who healed the sick and gave life to the
dead, that would be of benefit to them; or, it may be, with more elevated
conceptions of Christ's person, and more spiritual desires respecting the
welfare of their offspring, believing that the blessing (which was
symbolized by the touch and laying on of hands) of so exalted a Being
would be of greater worth than mere health of body. The disciples,
thinking that mere children were not worthy of the regards of their
Master, rebuked the anxious and affectionate parents. "But,"--continues
the narrative,--"when Jesus saw it he was much displeased, and said unto
them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not,
for of such is the kingdom of God;" and then immediately explained what
He meant by this last assertion, which is so often misunderstood and
misapplied, by adding, in the words of the text, "Verily I say unto you,
whosoever shall not _receive the kingdom of God as a little child"_ that
is with a child-like spirit, "he shall not enter therein." For our Lord
does not here lay down a doctrinal position, and affirm the moral
innocence of childhood. He does not mark off and discriminate the
children as sinless, from their parents as sinful, as if the two classes
did not belong to the same race of beings, and were not involved in the
same apostasy and condemnation. He merely sets childhood and manhood
over-against each other as two distinct stages of human life, each
possessing peculiar traits and tempers, and affirms that it is the meek
spirit of childhood, and not the proud spirit of manhood, that welcomes
and appropriates the Christian salvation. He is only contrasting the
general attitude of a child, with the general attitude of a man. He
merely affirms that the _trustful_ and _believing_ temper of childhood,
as compared with the _self-reliant_ and _skeptical_ temper of manhood, is
the temper by which both the child and the man are to receive the
blessings of the gospel which both of them equally need.

The kingdom of God is represented in the New Testament, sometimes as
subjective, and sometimes as objective; sometimes as within the soul of
man, and sometimes as up in the skies. Our text combines both
representations; for, it speaks of a man's "receiving" the kingdom of
God, and of a man's "entering" the kingdom of God; of the coming of
heaven into a soul, and of the going of a soul into heaven. In other
passages, one or the other representation appears alone. "The kingdom of
God,"--says our Lord to the Pharisees,--"cometh not with observation.
Neither shall they say, Lo here, or lo there: for behold the kingdom of
God is within you." The apostle Paul, upon arriving at Rome, invited the
resident Jews to discuss the subject of Christianity with him. "And when
they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging, to
whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God,"--to whom he
explained the nature of the Christian religion,--"persuading them
concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets,
from, morning till evening." The same apostle teaches the Romans, that
"the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace,
and joy in the Holy Ghost;" and tells the Corinthians, that "the kingdom
of God is not in word, but in power." In all these instances, the
subjective signification prevails, and the kingdom of God is simply a
system of truth, or a state of the heart. And all are familiar with the
sentiment, that heaven is a state, as well as a place. All understand
that one half of heaven is in the human heart itself; and, that if this
half be wanting, the other half is useless,--as the half of a thing
generally is. Isaac Walton remarks of the devout Sibbs:

"Of this blest man, let this just praise be given, Heaven was in him,
before he was in heaven."

It is only because that in the eternal world the imperfect righteousness
of the renewed man is perfected, and the peace of the anxious soul
becomes total, and the joy that is so rare and faint in the Christian
experience here upon earth becomes the very element of life and
action,--it is only because eternity _completes_ the excellence of the
Christian (but does not begin it), that heaven, as a place of perfect
holiness and happiness, is said to be in the future life, and we are
commanded to seek a better country even a heavenly. But, because this is
so, let no one lose sight of the other side of the great truth, and
forget that man must "receive" the kingdom as well as "enter" it. Without
the right state of heart, without the mental correspondent to heaven,
that beautiful and happy region on high will, like any and every other
place, be a hell, instead of a paradise.[1] A distinguished writer
represents one of his characters as leaving the Old World, and seeking
happiness in the New, supposing that change of place and outward
circumstances could cure a restless mind. He found no rest by the change;
and in view of his disappointment says: "I will return, and in my
ancestral home, amid my paternal fields, among my own people, I will say,
_Here, or nowhere_, is America."[2] In like manner, must the Christian
seek happiness in present peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, and must here
in this life strive after the righteousness that brings tranquillity.
Though he may look forward with aspiration to the new heavens and the new
earth wherein dwelleth a _perfected_ righteousness, yet he must remember
that his holiness and happiness there is merely an expansion of his
holiness and happiness here. He must seek to "receive" the kingdom of
God, as well as to "enter" it; and when tempted to relax his efforts, and
to let down his watch, because the future life will not oppose so many
obstacles to spirituality as this, and will bring a more perfect
enjoyment with it, he should say to himself: "Be holy now, be happy here.
_Here, or nowhere_, is heaven."

Such being the nature of the kingdom of God, we are now brought up to the
discussion of the subject of the text, and are prepared to consider: _In
what respects, the kingdom of God requires the temper of a child as
distinguished from the temper of a man, in order to receive it, and in
order to enter it_.

The kingdom of God, considered as a kingdom that is within the soul, is
tantamount to religion. To receive this kingdom, then, is equivalent to
receiving religion into the heart, so that the character shall be formed
by it, and the future destiny be decided by it. What, then, is the
religion that is to be received? We answer that it is the religion that
is needed. But, the religion that is needed by a sinful man is very
different from the religion that is adapted to a holy angel. He who has
never sinned is already in direct and blessed relations with God, and
needs only to drink in the overflowing and everflowing stream of purity
and pleasure. Such a spirit requires a religion of only two doctrines:
First, that there is a God; and, secondly, that He ought to be loved
supremely and obeyed perfectly. This is the entire theology of the
angels, and it is enough for them. They know nothing of sin in their
personal experience, and consequently they require in their religion,
none of those doctrines, and none of those provisions, which are adapted
to the needs of sinners.

But, man is in an altogether different condition from this. He too knows
that there is a God, and that He ought to be loved supremely, and obeyed
perfectly. Thus far, he goes along with the angel, and with every other
rational being made under the law and government of God. But, at this
point, his path diverges from that of the pure and obedient inhabitant of
heaven, and leads in an opposite direction. For he does not, like the
angels, act up to his knowledge. He is not conformed to these two
doctrines. He does not love God supremely, and he does not obey Him
perfectly. This fact puts him into a very different position, in
reference to these two doctrines, from that occupied by the obedient and
unfallen spirit. These two doctrines, in relation to him as one who has
contravened them, have become a power of condemnation; and whenever he
thinks of them he feels guilty. It is no longer sufficient to tell him.
that religion consists in loving God, and enjoying His presence,--consists
in holiness and happiness. "This is very true,"--he says,--"but
I am neither holy nor happy." It is no longer enough to remind him that
all is well with any creature who loves God with all his heart, and keeps
His commandments without a single slip or failure. "This is very
true,"--he says again,--"but I do not love in this style, neither have I
obeyed in this manner." It is too late to preach mere natural religion,
the religion of the angels, to one who has failed to stand fully and
firmly upon the principles of natural religion. It is too late to tell a
creature who has lost his virtue, that if he is only virtuous he is safe

The religion, then, that a sinner needs, cannot be limited to the two
doctrines of the holiness of God, and the creature's obligation to love
and serve Him,--cannot be pared down to the precept: Fear God and
practise virtue. It must be greatly enlarged, and augmented, by the
introduction of that other class of truths which relate to the Divine
mercy towards those who have not feared God, and the Divine method of
salvation for those who are sinful. In other words, the religion for a
transgressor is _revealed_ religion, or the religion of Atonement and

What, now, is there in _this_ species of religion that necessitates the
meek and docile temper of a child, as distinguished from the proud and
self-reliant spirit of a man, in order to its reception into the heart?

I. In the first place, _the New Testament religion offers the forgiveness
of sins, and provides for it_. No one can ponder this fact an instant,
without perceiving that the pride and self-reliance of manhood are
excluded, and that the meekness and implicit trust of childhood are
demanded. Pardon and justification before God must, from the nature of
the case, be a gift, and a gift cannot be obtained unless it is accepted
_as such_. To demand or claim mercy, is self-contradictory. For, a claim
implies a personal ground for it; and this implies self-reliance, and
this is "manhood" in distinction from "childhood." In coming, therefore,
as the religion of the Cross does, before man with a gratuity, with an
offer to pardon his sins, it supposes that he take a correspondent
attitude. Were he sinless, the religion suited to him would be the mere
utterance of law, and he might stand up before it with the serene brow of
an obedient subject of the Divine government; though even then, not with
a proud and boastful temper. It would be out of place for him, to plead
guilty when he was innocent; or to cast himself upon mercy, when he could
appeal to justice. If the creature's acceptance be of works, then it is
no more of grace, otherwise work is no more work. But if it be by grace,
then it is no more of works (Rom. xi. 6). If the very first feature of
the Christian religion is the exhibition of clemency, then the proper and
necessary attitude of one who receives it is that of humility.

But, leaving this argument drawn from the characteristics, of
Christianity as a religion of Redemption, let us pass into the soul of
man, and see what we are taught there, respecting the temper which he
must possess in order to receive this new, revealed kingdom of God. The
soul of man is guilty. Now, there is something in the very nature of
guilt that excludes the proud, self-conscious, self-reliant spirit of
manhood, and necessitates the lowly, and dependent spirit of childhood.
When conscience is full of remorse, and the holy eye of law is searching
us, and fears of eternal banishment and punishment are rakeing the
spirit, there is no remedy but simple confession, and childlike reliance
upon absolute mercy. The sinner must be a softened child and not a hard
man, he must beg a boon and not put in a claim, if he would receive this
kingdom of God, this New Testament religion, into his soul. The slightest
inclination to self-righteousness, the least degree of resistance to the
just pressure of law, is a vitiating element in repentance. The muscles
of the stout man must give way, the knees must bend, the hands must be
uplifted deprecatingly, the eyes must gaze with a straining gaze upon the
expiating Cross,--in other words, the least and last remains of a stout
and self-asserting spirit must vanish, and the whole being must be
pliant, bruised, broken, helpless in its state and condition, in order
to a pure sense of guilt, a godly sorrow for sin, and a cordial
appropriation of the atonement. The attempt to mix the two tempers, to
mingle the child with the man, to confess sin and assert
self-righteousness, must be an entire failure, and totally prevent
the reception of the religion of Redemption. In relation to the Redeemer,
the sinful soul should be a vacuum, a hollow void, destitute of
everything holy and good, conscious that it is, and aching to be filled
with the fulness of His peace and purity.

And with reference to God, the Being whose function it is to pardon, we
see the same necessity for this child-like spirit in the transgressor.
How can God administer forgiveness, unless there is a correlated temper
to receive it? His particular declarative act in blotting out sin depends
upon the existence of penitence for sin. Where there is absolute hardness
of heart, there can be no pardon, from the very nature of the case, and
the very terms of the statement. Can God say to the hardened Judas:
Son be of good cheer, thy sin is forgiven thee? Can He speak to the
traitor as He speaks to the Magdalen? The difficulty is not upon the side
of God. The Divine pity never lags behind any genuine human sorrow. No
man was ever more eager to be forgiven than his Redeemer is to forgive
him. No contrition for sin, upon the part of man, ever yet outran the
readiness and delight of God to recognize it, and meet it with a free
pardon. For, that very contrition itself is always the product of Divine
grace, and proves that God is in advance of the soul. The father in the
parable saw the son while he was a great way off, _before_ the son saw
him, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. But while this is so,
and is an encouragement to the penitent, it must ever be remembered that
unless there is some genuine sorrow in the human soul, there can be no
manifestation of the Divine forgiveness within it. Man cannot beat the
air, and God cannot forgive impenitency.

II. In the second place, the New Testament religion proposes _to create
within man a clean heart, and to renew within him a right spirit_.
Christianity not only pardons but sanctifies the human soul. And in
accomplishing this latter work, it requires the same humble and docile
temper that was demanded in the former instance.

Holiness, even in an unfallen angel, is not an absolutely self-originated
thing. If it were, the angel would be worthy of adoration and worship. He
who is inwardly and totally excellent, and can also say: I am what I am
by my own ultimate authorship, can claim for himself the _glory_ that is
due to righteousness. Any self-originated and self-subsistent virtue is
entitled to the hallelujahs. But, no created spirit, though he be the
highest of the archangels, can make such an assertion, or put in such a
claim. The merit of the unfallen angel, therefore, is a relative one;
because his holiness is of a created and derived species. It is not
increate and self-subsistent. This being so, it is plain that the proper
attitude of all creatures in respect to moral excellence is a recipient
and dependent one. But this is a meek and lowly attitude; and this is, in
one sense, a child-like attitude. Our Lord knew no sin; and yet He
himself tells us that He was meek and lowly of heart, and we well know
that He was. He does not say that He was penitent. He does not propose
himself as our exemplar in that respect. But, in respect to the primal,
normal attitude which a finite being must ever take in reference to the
infinite and adorable God, and the absolute underived Holiness; in
reference to the true temper which a holy man or a holy angel must
possess; our Lord Jesus Christ, in His human capacity, sets an example to
be followed by the spirits of just men made perfect, and by all the holy
inhabitants of heaven. In other words, He teaches the whole universe that
holiness in a creature, even though it be complete, does not permit its
possessor to be self-reliant, does not allow the proud spirit of manhood,
does not remove the obligation to be child-like, meek, and lowly of

But if this is true of holiness among those who have never fallen, how
much more true is it of those who have, and who need to be lifted up out
of the abyss. If an angel, in reference to God, must be meek and lowly of
heart; if the holy Redeemer must in His human capacity be meek and lowly
of heart; if the child-like temper, in reference to the infinite and
everlasting Father and the absolutely Good, is the proper one in such
exalted instances as these; how much more is it in the instance of the
vile and apostate children of Adam! Besides the original and primitive
reason growing out of creaturely relationships, there is the superadded
one growing out of the fact, that now the whole head is sick and the
whole heart is faint, and from the sole of the foot even unto the head
there is no soundness in human nature.

Hence, our Lord began His Sermon on the Mount in these words: "Blessed
are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are
they that mourn; for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek; for
they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst
after righteousness; for they shall be filled."[3] The very opening of
this discourse, which He intended should go down through the ages as a
manifesto declaring the real nature of His kingdom, and the spirit which
His followers must possess, asserts the necessity of a needy, recipient,
asking mind, upon the part of a sinner. All this phraseology implies
destitution; and a destitution that cannot be self-supplied. He who
hungers and thirsts after righteousness is conscious of an inward void,
in respect to righteousness, that must be filled from abroad. He
who is meek is sensible that he is dependent for his moral excellence. He
who is poor in spirit is, not pusillanimous as Thomas Paine charged
upon Christianity but, as John of Damascus said of himself, a man of
spiritual cravings, _vir desideriorum_.

Now, all this delineation of the general attitude requisite in order to
the reception of the Christian religion is summed up again, in the
declaration of our text: "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God
_as a little child_, he shall not enter therein." Is a man, then,
sensible that his understanding is darkened by sin, and that he is
destitute of clear and just apprehensions of divine things? Does his
consciousness of inward poverty assume this form? If he would be
delivered from his mental blindness, and be made rich in spiritual
knowledge, he must adopt a teachable and recipient attitude. He must not
assume that his own mind is the great fountain of wisdom, and seek to
clear up his doubts and darkness by the rationalistic method of
self-illumination. On the contrary, he must go beyond his mind and open a
_book_, even the Book of Revelation, and search for the wisdom it
contains and proffers. And yet more than this. As this volume is the
product of the Eternal Spirit himself, and this Spirit conspires with the
doctrines which He has revealed, and exerts a positive illuminating
influence, he must seek communion therewith. From first to last,
therefore, the darkened human spirit must take a waiting posture, in
order to enlightenment. That part of "the clean heart and the right
spirit" which consists in the _knowledge_ of divine things can be
obtained only through a child-like bearing and temper. This is what our
Lord means, when He pronounces a blessing upon the poor in spirit, the
hungry and the thirsting soul. Men, in their pride and self-reliance, in
their sense of manhood, may seek to enter the kingdom of heaven by a
different method; they may attempt to _speculate_ their way through all
the mystery that overhangs human life, and the doubts that confuse and
baffle the human understanding; but when they find that the unaided
intellect only "spots a thicker gloom" instead of pouring a serener ray,
wearied and worn they return, as it were, to the sweet days of childhood,
and in the gentleness, and tenderness, and docility of an altered mood,
learn, as Bacon did in respect to the kingdom of nature, that the kingdom
of heaven is open only to the little child.

Again, is a man conscious of the corruption of his heart? Has he
discovered his alienation from the life and love of God, and is he now
aware that a total change must pass upon him, or that alienation must be
everlasting? Has he found out that his inclinations, and feelings, and
tastes, and sympathies are so worldly, so averse from spiritual objects,
as to be beyond his sovereignty? Does he feel vividly that the attempt to
expel this carnal mind, and to induce in the place thereof the heavenly
spontaneous glow of piety towards God and man, is precisely like the
attempt of the Ethiopian to change his skin, and the leopard his spots?

If this experience has been forced upon him, shall he meet it with the
port and bearing of a strong man? Shall he take the attitude of the old
Roman stoic, and attempt to meet the exigencies of his moral condition,
by the steady strain and hard tug of his own force? He cannot long do
this, under the clear searching ethics of the Sermon on the Mount,
without an inexpressible weariness and a profound despair. Were he within
the sphere of paganism, it might, perhaps, be otherwise. A Marcus
Aurelius could maintain this legal and self-righteous position to the end
of life, because his ideal of virtue was a very low one. Had that
high-minded pagan felt the influences of Christian ethics, had the Sermon
on the Mount searched his soul, telling him that the least emotion of
pride, anger, or lust, was a breach of that everlasting law which stood
grand and venerable before his philosophic eye, and that his virtue was
all gone, and his soul was exposed to the inflictions of justice, if even
a single thought of his heart was unconformed to the perfect rule of
right,--if, instead of the mere twilight of natural religion, there had
flared into his mind the fierce and consuming splendor of the noonday sun
of revealed truth, and New Testament ethics, it would have been
impossible for that serious-minded emperor to say, as in his utter
self-delusion he did, to the Deity: "Give me my dues,"--instead of
breathing the prayer: "Forgive me my debts." Christianity elevates the
standard and raises the ideal of moral excellence, and thereby disturbs
the self-complacent feeling of the stoic, and the moralist. If the law and
rule of right is merely an outward one, it is possible for a man
sincerely to suppose that he has kept the law, and his sincerity will be
his ruin. For, in this case, he can maintain a self-reliant and a
self-satisfied spirit, the spirit of manhood, to the very end of his
earthly career, and go with his righteousness which is as filthy rags,
into the presence of Him in whose sight the heavens are not clean. But,
if the law and rule of right is seen to be an inward and spiritual
statute, piercing to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and
becoming a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, it is not
possible for a candid man to delude himself into the belief that he
has perfectly obeyed it; and in this instance, that self-dissatisfied
spirit, that consciousness of internal schism and bondage, that war
between the flesh and the spirit so vividly portrayed in the seventh
chapter of Romans, begins, and instead of the utterance of the moralist:
"I have kept the everlasting law, give me my dues," there bursts forth
the self-despairing cry of the penitent and the child: "O wretched man
that I am.! who shall deliver me? Father I have sinned against heaven and
before thee."

When, therefore, the truth and Spirit of God, working in and with the
natural conscience, have brought a man to that point where he sees that
all his own righteousness is as filthy rags, and that the pure and
stainless righteousness of Jehovah must become the possession and the
characteristic of his soul, he is prepared to believe the declaration of
our text: "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little
child, he shall not enter therein." The new heart, and the right
spirit,--the change, not in the mere external behavior but, in the very
disposition and inclination of the soul,--excludes every jot and tittle
of self-assertion, every particle of proud and stoical manhood.

Such a text as this which we have been considering is well adapted to put
us upon the true method of attaining everlasting life. These few and
simple words actually dropped, eighteen hundred years ago, from the lips
of that august Being who is now seated upon the throne of heaven, and who
knows this very instant the effect which they are producing in the heart
of every one who either reads or hears them. Let us remember that these
few and simple words do verily contain the key to everlasting life and
glory. In knowing what they mean, we know, infallibly, the way to heaven.
"I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those
things which we see, and have not seen them: and to hear those things
which we hear, and have not heard them." How many a thoughtful pagan, in
the centuries that have passed and gone, would in all probability have
turned a most attentive ear, had he heard, as we do, from the lips of an
unerring Teacher, that a child-like reception of a certain particular
truth,--and that not recondite and metaphysical, but simple as childhood
itself, and to be received by a little child's act,--would infallibly
conduct to the elysium that haunted and tantalized him.

That which hinders us is our pride, our "manhood." The act of faith is a
child's act; and a child's act, though intrinsically the easiest of any,
is relatively the most difficult of all. It implies the surrender of our
self-will, our self-love, our proud manhood; and never was a truer remark
made than that of Ullmann, that "in no one thing is the strength of a
man's will so manifested, as in his having no will of his own."[4]
"Christianity,"--says Jeremy Taylor,--"is the easiest and the hardest
thing in the world. It is like a secret in arithmetic; infinitely hard
till it be found out by a right operation, and then it is so plain we
wonder we did not understand it earlier." How hard, how impossible
without that Divine grace which makes all such central and revolutionary
acts easy and genial to the soul,--how hard it is to cease from our own
works, and really become docile and recipient children, believing on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and trusting in Him, simply and solely, for salvation.

[Footnote 1: "Concerning the object of felicity in heaven, we are agreed
that it can be no other than the blessed God himself, the
all-comprehending good, fully adequate to the highest and most enlarged
reasonable desires. But the contemperation of our faculties to the holy,
blissful object, is so necessary to our satisfying fruition, that without
this we are no more capable thereof, than a brute of the festivities of a
quaint oration, or a stone of the relishes of the most pleasant meats and
drinks." HOWE: Heaven a State of Perfection.]

[Footnote 2: GOETHE: Wilhelm Meister, Book VII., ch. iii.]

[Footnote 3: Compare Isaiah lxi. 1.]

[Footnote 4: ULLMANN: Sinlessness of Jesus, Pt. I., Ch. iii., § 2.]


JOHN vi. 28, 29.--"Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we
might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is
the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."

In asking their question, the Jews intended to inquire of Christ what
_particular_ things they must do, before all others, in order to please
God. The "works of God," as they denominate them, were not any and every
duty, but those more special and important acts, by which the creature
might secure the Divine approval and favor. Our Lord understood their
question in this sense, and in His reply tells them, that the great and
only work for them to do was to exercise faith in Him. They had employed
the plural number in their question; but in His answer He employs the
singular. They had asked, What shall we do that we might work the
_works_ of God,--as if there were several of them. His reply is, "This is
the _work_ of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." He narrows
down the terms of salvation to a single one; and makes the destiny of the
soul to depend upon the performance of a particular individual act. In
this, as in many other incidental ways, our Lord teaches His own
divinity. If He were a mere creature; if He were only an inspired teacher
like David or Paul; how would He dare, when asked to give in a single
word the condition and means of human salvation, to say that they consist
in resting the soul upon Him? Would David have dared to say: "This is the
work of God,--this is the saving act,--that ye believe in me?" Would Paul
have presumed to say to the anxious inquirer: "Your soul is safe, if you
trust in me?" But Christ makes this declaration, without any
qualification. Yet He was meek and lowly of heart, and never assumed
an honor or a prerogative that did not belong to Him. It is only upon the
supposition that He was "very God of very God," the Divine Redeemer of
the children of men, that we can justify such an answer to such a

The belief is spontaneous and natural to man, that something must be
_done_ in order to salvation. No man expects to reach heaven by inaction.
Even the indifferent and supine soul expects to rouse itself up at some
future time, and work out its salvation. The most thoughtless and
inactive man, in religious respects, will acknowledge that
thoughtlessness and inactivity if continued will end in perdition.
But he intends at a future day to think, and act, and be saved. So
natural is it, to every man, to believe in salvation by works; so ready
is every one to concede that heaven is reached, and hell is escaped, only
by an earnest effort of some kind; so natural is it to every man to ask
with these Jews, "What shall we _do_, that we may work the works of God?"

But mankind generally, like the Jews in the days of our Lord, are under a
delusion respecting the _nature_ of the work which must be performed in
order to salvation. And in order to understand this delusion, we must
first examine the common notion upon the subject.

When a man begins to think of God, and of his own relations to Him, he
finds that he owes Him service and obedience. He has a work to perform,
as a subject of the Divine government; and this work is to obey the
Divine law. He finds himself obligated to love God with all his heart,
and his neighbor as himself, and to discharge all the duties that spring
out of his relations to God and man. He perceives that this is the "work"
given him to do by creation, and that if he does it he will attain the
true end of his existence, and be happy in time and eternity. When
therefore he begins to think of a religious life, his first spontaneous
impulse is to begin the performance of this work which he has hitherto
neglected, and to reinstate himself in the Divine favor by the ordinary
method of keeping the law of God. He perceives that this is the mode in
which the angels preserve themselves holy and happy; that this is the
original mode appointed by God, when He established the covenant of
works; and he does not see why it is not the method for him. The law
expressly affirms that the man that doeth these things shall live by
them; he proposes to take the law just as it reads, and just as it
stands,--to do the deeds of the law, to perform the works which it
enjoins, and to live by the service. This we say, is the common notion,
natural to man, of the species of work which must be performed in order
to eternal life. This was the idea which filled the mind of the Jews when
they put the question of the text, and received for answer from Christ,
"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Our
Lord does not draw out the whole truth, in detail. He gives only the
positive part of the answer, leaving His hearers to infer the negative
part of it. For the whole doctrine of Christ, fully stated, would run
thus: "No work _of the kind of which you are thinking_ can save you;
no obedience of the law, ceremonial or moral, can reinstate you in right
relations to God. I do not summon you to the performance of any such
service as that which you have in mind, in order to your justification
and acceptance before the Divine tribunal. _This_ is the work of
God,--this is the sole and single act which you are to perform,--namely,
that you _believe_ on Him whom He hath sent as a propitiation for sin. I
do not summon you to works of the law, but to faith in Me the Redeemer.
Your first duty is not to attempt to acquire a righteousness in the old
method, by doing something of yourselves, but to receive a righteousness
in the new method, by trusting in what another has done for you."

I. What is the _ground_ and _reason_ of such an answer as this? Why is
man invited to the method of faith in another, instead of the method of
faith in himself? Why is not his first spontaneous thought the true one?
Why should he not obtain eternal life by resolutely proceeding to do his
duty, and keeping the law of God? Why can he not be saved by the law of
works? Why is he so summarily shut up to the law of faith?

We answer: Because it is _too late_ for him to adopt the method of
salvation by works. The law is indeed explicit in its assertion, that the
man that doeth these things shall live by them; but then it supposes that
the man begin at the beginning. A subject of government cannot disobey a
civil statute for five or ten years, and then put himself in right
relations to it again, by obeying it for the remainder of his life. Can a
man who has been a thief or an adulterer for twenty years, and then
practises honesty and purity for the following thirty years, stand up
before the seventh and eighth commandments and be acquitted by them? It
is too late for any being who has violated a law even in a single
instance, to attempt to be justified by that law. For, the law demands
and supposes that obedience begin at the very _beginning_ of existence,
and continue down _uninterruptedly_ to the end of it. No man can come in
at the middle of a process of obedience, any more than he can come in at
the last end of it, if he proposes to be accepted upon the ground of
_obedience_. "I testify," says St. Paul, "to every man that is
circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the _whole_ law" (Gal. v. 3). The
whole, or none, is the just and inexorable rule which law lays down in
the matter of justification. If any subject of the Divine government can
show a clean record, from the beginning to the end of his existence, the
statute says to him, "Well done," and gives him the reward which he has
earned. And it gives it to him not as a matter of grace, but of debt. The
law never makes a present of wages. It never pays out wages, until they
are earned,---fairly and fully earned. But when a perfect obedience from
first to last is rendered to its claims, the compensation follows as
matter of debt. The law, in this instance, is itself brought under
obligation. It owes a reward to the perfectly obedient subject of law,
and it considers itself his debtor until it is paid. "Now to him that
worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. If it be of
works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work" (Rom.
iv. 4; xi. 6).

But, on the other hand, law is equally exact and inflexible, in case the
work has not been performed. It will not give eternal life to a soul that
has sinned ten years, and then perfectly obeyed ten years,--supposing
that there is any such soul. The obedience, as we have remarked, must run
parallel with the _entire_ existence, in order to be a ground, of
justification. Infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, old age, and then the
whole immortality that succeeds, must all be unintermittently sinless and
holy, in order to make eternal life a matter of debt. Justice is as exact
and punctilious upon this side, as it is upon the other. We have seen,
that when a perfect obedience has been rendered, justice will not palm
off the wages that are due as if they were some gracious gift; and on the
other hand, when a perfect obedience has not been rendered, it will not
be cajoled into the bestowment of wages as if they had been earned. There
is no principle that is so intelligent, so upright, and so exact, as
justice; and no creature can expect either to warp it, or to circumvent

In the light of these remarks, it is evident that it is _too late_ for a
sinner to avail himself of the method of salvation by works. For, that
method requires that sinless obedience begin at the beginning of his
existence, and never be interrupted. But no man thus begins, and no man
thus continues. "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray
as soon as they be born, speaking lies" (Ps. lviii. 3). Man comes into
the world a sinful and alienated creature. He is by nature a child of
wrath (Eph. ii. 3). Instead of beginning life with holiness, he begins it
with sin. His heart at birth is apostate and corrupt; and his conduct
from the very first is contrary to law. Such is the teaching of
Scripture, such is the statement of the Creeds, and such is the testimony
of consciousness, respecting the character which man brings into the
world with him. The very dawn of human life is clouded with depravity; is
marked by the carnal mind which is at enmity with the law of God, and is
not subject to that law, neither indeed can be. How is it possible, then,
for man to attain eternal life by a method that supposes, and requires,
that the very dawn of his being be holy like that of Christ's, and that
every thought, feeling, purpose, and act be conformed to law through the
entire existence? Is it not _too late_ for such a creature as man now is
to adopt the method of salvation by the works of the law?

But we will not crowd you, with the doctrine of native depravity and the
sin in Adam. We have no doubt that it is the scriptural and true doctrine
concerning human nature; and have no fears that it will be contradicted
by either a profound self-knowledge, or a profound metaphysics. But
perhaps you are one who doubts it; and therefore, for the sake of
argument, we will let you set the commencement of sin where you please.
If you tell us that it begins in the second, or the fourth, or the tenth
year of life, it still remains true that it is _too late_ to employ the
method of justification by works. If you concede any sin at all, at any
point whatsoever, in the history of a human soul, you preclude it from
salvation by the deeds of the law, and shut it up to salvation by grace.
Go back as far as you can in your memory, and you must acknowledge that
you find sin as far as you go; and even if, in the face of Scripture and
the symbols of the Church, you should deny that the sin runs back to
birth and apostasy in Adam, it still remains true that the first years of
your _conscious_ existence were not years of holiness, nor the first acts
which you _remember_, acts of obedience. Even upon your own theory, you
_begin_ with sin, and therefore you cannot be justified by the law.

This, then, is a conclusive reason and ground for the declaration of our
Lord, that the one great work which every fallen man has to perform, and
must perform, in order to salvation, is faith in _another's_ work, and
confidence in _another's_ righteousness. If man is to be saved by his own
righteousness, that righteousness must begin at the very beginning of his
existence, and go on without interruption. If he is to be saved by his
own good works, there never must be a single instant in his life when he
is not working such works. But beyond all controversy such is not the
fact. It is, therefore, impossible for him to be justified by trusting in
himself; and the only possible mode that now remains, is to trust in

II. And this brings us to the second part of our subject. "This is the
work of God, that ye _believe_ on him whom He hath sent." It will be
observed that faith is here denominated a "work." And it is so indeed. It
is a mental act; and an act of the most comprehensive and energetic
species. Faith is an active principle that carries the whole man with it,
and in it,--head and heart, will and affections, body soul and spirit.
There is no act so all-embracing in its reach, and so total in its
momentum, as the act of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this sense, it
is a "work." It is no supine and torpid thing; but the most vital and
vigorous activity that can be conceived of. When a sinner, moved by the
Holy Ghost the very source of spiritual life and energy, casts himself in
utter helplessness, and with all his weight, upon his Redeemer for
salvation, never is he more active, and never does he do a greater work.

And yet, faith is not a work in the common signification of the word. In
the Pauline Epistles, it is generally opposed to works, in such a way as
to exclude them. For example: "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By
what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude
that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law. Knowing
that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by the faith of
Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be
justified, by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law.
Received ye the Spirit, by the works of the law, or by the hearing of
faith?"[1] In these and other passages, faith and works are directly
contrary to each other; so that in this connection, faith is not a
"work." Let us examine this point, a little in detail, for it will throw
light upon the subject under discussion.

In the opening of the discourse, we alluded to the fact that when a man's
attention is directed to the subject of his soul's salvation, his first
spontaneous thought is, that he must of _himself_ render something to
God, as an offset for his sins; that he must perform his duty by _his
own_ power and effort, and thereby acquire a personal merit before his
Maker and Judge. The thought of appropriating another person's work, of
making use of what another being has done in his stead, does not occur to
him; or if it does, it is repulsive to him. His thought is, that it is
his own soul that is to be saved, and it is his own work that must save
it. Hence, he begins to perform religious duties in the ordinary use of
his own faculties, and in his own strength, for the purpose, and with the
expectation, of _settling the account_ which he knows is unsettled,
between himself and his Judge. As yet, there is no faith in another
Being. He is not trusting and resting in another person; but he is
trusting and resting in himself. He is not making use of the work or
services which another has wrought in his behalf, but he is employing
his own powers and faculties, in performing these his own works, which he
owes, and which, if paid in this style, he thinks will save his soul.
This is the spontaneous, and it is the correct, idea of a "work,"--of
what St. Paul so often calls a "work of the law." And it is the exact
contrary of faith.

For, faith never does anything in this independent and self-reliant
manner. It does not perform a service in its own strength, and then hold
it out to God as something for Him to receive, and for which He must pay
back wages in the form of remitting sin and bestowing happiness. Faith is
wholly occupied with _another's_ work, and _another's_ merit. The
believing soul deserts all its own doings, and betakes itself to what a
third person has wrought for it, and in its stead. When, for
illustration, a sinner discovers that he owes a satisfaction to Eternal
Justice for the sins that are past, if he adopts the method of works, he
will offer up his endeavors to obey the law, as an offset, and a reason
why he should be forgiven. He will say in his heart, if he does not in
his prayer: "I am striving to atone for the past, by doing my duty in the
future; my resolutions, my prayers and alms-giving, all this hard
struggle to be better and to do better, ought certainly to avail for my
pardon." Or, if he has been educated in a superstitious Church, he will
offer up his penances, and mortifications, and pilgrimages, as a
satisfaction to justice, and a reason why he should be forgiven and made
blessed forever in heaven. That is a very instructive anecdote which St.
Simon relates respecting the last hours of the profligate Louis XIV. "One
day,"--he says,--"the king recovering from loss of consciousness asked
his confessor, Pere Tellier, to give him absolution for all his sins.
Pere Tellier asked him if he suffered much. 'No,' replied the king,
'that's what troubles me. I should like to suffer more, for the expiation
of my sins.'" Here was a poor mortal who had spent his days in carnality
and transgression of the pure law of God. He is conscious of guilt, and
feels the need of its atonement. And now, upon the very edge of eternity
and brink of doom, he proposes to make his own atonement, to be his own
redeemer and save his own soul, by offering up to the eternal nemesis
that was racking his conscience a few hours of finite suffering, instead
of betaking himself to the infinite passion and agony of Calvary. This is
a work; and, alas, a "_dead_ work," as St. Paul so often denominates it.
This is the method of justification by works. But when a man adopts the
method of justification by faith, his course is exactly opposite to all
this. Upon discovering that he owes a satisfaction to Eternal Justice for
the sins that are past, instead of holding up his prayers, or
alms-giving, or penances, or moral efforts, or any work of his own, he
holds up the sacrificial work of Christ. In his prayer to God, he
interposes the agony and death of the Great Substitute between his guilty
soul, and the arrows of justice.[2] He knows that the very best of his
own works, that even the most perfect obedience that a creature could
render, would be pierced through and through by the glittering shafts of
violated law. And therefore he takes the "shield of faith." He places the
oblation of the God-man,--not his own work and not his own suffering, but
another's work and another's suffering,--between himself and the judicial
vengeance of the Most High. And in so doing, he works no work of his own,
and no dead work; but he works the "work of God;" he _believes_ on Him
whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation for his sins, and not for
his only but for the sins of the whole world.

This then is the great doctrine which our Lord taught the Jews, when they
asked Him what particular thing or things they must do in order to
eternal life. The apostle John, who recorded the answer of Christ in this
instance, repeats the doctrine again in his first Epistle: "Whatsoever we
ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandment, and do those
things that are pleasing in His sight. And _this is His commandment_,
that we should _believe_ on the name of His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John
iii, 22, 23). The whole duty of sinful man is here summed up, and
concentrated, in the duty to trust in another person than himself, and in
another work than his own. The apostle, like his Lord before him, employs
the singular number: "This is His commandment,"--as if there were no
other commandment upon record. And this corresponds with the answer which
Paul and Silas gave to the despairing jailor: "Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ,"--do this one single thing,--"and thou shalt be saved." And all
of these teachings accord with that solemn declaration of our Lord: "He
that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth
not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." In
the matter of salvation, where there is faith in Christ, there is
everything; and where there is not faith in Christ, there is nothing.

1. And it is with this thought that we would close this discourse, and
enforce the doctrine of the text. Do whatever else you may in the matter
of religion, you have done nothing until you have believed on the Lord
Jesus Christ, whom God hath, sent into the world to be the propitiation
for sin. There are two reasons for this. In the first place, it is _the
appointment and declaration of God_, that man, if saved at all, must be
saved by faith in the Person and Work of the Mediator. "Neither is there
salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given
among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts iv. 12). It of course rests
entirely with the Most High God, to determine the mode and manner in
which He will enter into negotiations with His creatures, and especially
with His rebellious creatures. He must make the terms, and the creature
must come to them. Even, therefore, if we could not see the
reasonableness and adaptation of the method, we should be obligated to
accept it. The creature, and particularly the guilty creature, cannot
dictate to his Sovereign and Judge respecting the terms and conditions by
which he is to be received into favor, and secure eternal life. Men
overlook this fact, when they presume as they do, to sit in judgment upon
the method of redemption by the blood of atonement and to quarrel with

In the first Punic war, Hannibal laid siege to Saguntum, a rich and
strongly-fortified city on the eastern coast of Spain. It was defended
with a desperate obstinacy by its inhabitants. But the discipline, the
energy, and the persistence of the Carthaginian army, were too much for
them; and just as the city was about to fall, Alorcus, a Spanish
chieftain, and a mutual friend of both of the contending parties,
undertook to mediate between them. He proposed to the Saguntines that
they should surrender, allowing the Carthaginian general to make his own
terms. And the argument he used was this: "Your city is captured, in any
event. Further resistance will only bring down upon you the rage of an
incensed soldiery, and the horrors of a sack. Therefore, surrender
immediately, and take whatever Hannibal shall please to give. You cannot
lose anything by the procedure, and you may gain something, even though
it be little."[3] Now, although there is no resemblance between the
government of the good and merciful God and the cruel purposes and
conduct of a heathen warrior, and we shrink from bringing the two into
any kind of juxtaposition, still, the advice of the wise Alorcus to the
Saguntines is good advice for every sinful man, in reference to his
relations to Eternal Justice. We are all of us at the mercy of God.
Should He make no terms at all; had He never given His Son to die for our
sins, and never sent His Spirit to exert a subduing influence upon our
hard hearts, but had let guilt and justice take their inexorable course
with us; not a word could be uttered against the procedure by heaven,
earth, or hell. No creature, anywhere can complain of justice. That is an
attribute that cannot even be attacked. But the All-Holy is also the
All-Merciful. He has made certain terms, and has offered certain
conditions of pardon, without asking leave of His creatures and without
taking them into council, and were these terms as strict as Draco,
instead of being as tender and pitiful as the tears and blood of Jesus,
it would become us criminals to make no criticisms even in that extreme
case, but accept them precisely as they were offered by the Sovereign and
the Arbiter. We exhort you, therefore, to take these terms of salvation
simply as they are given, asking no questions, and being thankful that
there are any terms at all between the offended majesty of Heaven and the
guilty criminals of earth. Believe on Him whom God hath sent, because it
is the appointment and declaration of God, that if guilty man is to be
saved at all, he must be saved by faith in the Person and Work of the
Mediator. The very disposition to quarrel with this method implies
arrogance in dealing with the Most High. The least inclination to alter
the conditions shows that the creature is attempting to criticise the
Creator, and, what is yet more, that the criminal has no true perception
of his crime, no sense of his exposed and helpless situation, and
presumes to dictate the terms of his own pardon!

2. We might therefore leave the matter here, and there would be a
sufficient reason for exercising the act of faith in Christ. But there is
a second and additional reason which we will also briefly urge upon you.
Not only is it the Divine appointment, that man shall be saved, if saved
at all, by the substituted work of another; but there are _needs_, there
are crying _wants_, in the human conscience, that can be supplied by no
other method. There is a perfect _adaptation_ between the Redemption that
is in Christ Jesus, and the guilt of sinners. As we have seen, we could
reasonably urge you to Believe in Him whom God hath sent, simply because
God has sent Him, and because He has told you that He will save you
through no other name and in no other way, and will save you in this name
and in this way. But we now urge you to the act of faith in this
substituted work of Christ, because it has an _atoning_ virtue, and can
pacify a perturbed and angry conscience; can wash out the stains of guilt
that are grained into it; can extract the sting of sin which ulcerates
and burns there. It is the idea of _expiation_ and _satisfaction_ that we
now single out, and press upon your notice. Sin must be
expiated,--expiated either by the blood of the criminal, or by the blood
of his Substitute. You must either die for your own sin, or some one who
is able and willing must die for you. This is founded and fixed in the
nature of God, and the nature of man, and the nature of sin. There is an
eternal and necessary connection between crime and penalty. The wages of
sin is death. But, all this inexorable necessity has been completely
provided for, by the sacrificial work of the Son of God. In the gospel,
God satisfies His own justice for the sinner, and now offers you the full
benefit of the satisfaction, if you will humbly and penitently accept it.
"What compassion can equal the words of God the Father addressed to the
sinner condemned to eternal punishment, and having no means of redeeming
himself: 'Take my Only-Begotten Son, and make Him an offering for
thyself;' or the words of the Son: 'Take Me, and ransom thy soul?' For
this is what _both_ say, when they invite and draw man to faith in the
gospel."[4] In urging you, therefore, to trust in Christ's vicarious
sufferings for sin, instead of going down to hell and suffering for sin
in your own person; in entreating you to escape the stroke of justice
upon yourself, by believing in Him who was smitten in your stead, who
"was wounded for your transgressions and bruised for your iniquities;" in
beseeching you to let the Eternal Son of God be your Substitute in this
awful judicial transaction; we are summoning you to no arbitrary and
irrational act. The peace of God which it will introduce into your
conscience, and the love of God which it will shed abroad through your
soul, will be the most convincing of all proofs that the act of faith in
the great Atonement does no violence to the ideas and principles of the
human constitution. No act that contravenes those intuitions and
convictions which are part and particle of man's moral nature could
possibly produce peace and joy. It would be revolutionary and anarchical.
The soul could not rest an instant. And yet it is the uniform testimony
of all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, that the act of simple
confiding faith in His blood and righteousness is the most peaceful, the
most joyful act they ever performed,--nay, that it was the first
_blessed_ experience they ever felt in this world of sin, this world of
remorse, this world of fears and forebodings concerning judgment and

Is the question, then, of the Jews, pressing upon your mind? Do you ask,
What one particular single thing shall I do, that I may be safe for time
and eternity? Hear the answer of the Son of God Himself: "This is the
work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent."

[Footnote 1: Romans iii. 27, 28; Galatians ii. 16, iii. 2.]

[Footnote 2: The religious teacher is often asked to define the act of
faith, and explain the way and manner in which the soul is to exercise
it. "_How_ shall I believe?" is the question with which the anxious mind
often replies to the gospel injunction to believe. Without pretending
that it is a complete answer, or claiming that it is possible, in the
strict meaning of the word, to explain so simple and so profound an act
as faith, we think, nevertheless, that it assists the inquiring mind to
say, that whoever _asks in prayer_ for any one of the benefits of
Christ's redemption, in so far exercises faith in this redemption.
Whoever, for example, lifts up the supplication, "O Lamb of God
who takest away the sins of the world, grant me thy peace," in this
prayer puts faith in the atonement, He trusts in the atonement, by
_pleading_ the atonement,--by mentioning it, in his supplication,
as the reason why he may be forgiven. In like manner, he who asks for the
renewing and sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost exercises faith, in
these influences. This is the mode in which he expresses his _confidence_
in the power of God to accomplish a work in his heart that is beyond his
own power. Whatever, therefore, be the particular benefit in Christ's
redemption that one would trust in, and thereby make personally his own,
that he may live by it and be blest by it,--be it the atoning blood, or
be it the indwelling Spirit,--let him _ask_ for that benefit. If he would
trust _in_ the thing, let him ask _for_ the thing.

Since writing the above, we have met with a corroboration of this view,
by a writer of the highest authority upon such points. "Faith is that
inward sense and act, of which prayer is the _expression_; as is evident,
because in the same manner as the freedom of grace, according to the
gospel covenant, is often set forth by this, that he that _believes_,
receives; so it also oftentimes is by this, that he that _asks_, or
_prays_, or _calls upon_ God, receives. 'Ask and it shall be given you;
seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For
every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to
him that knocketh, it shall be opened. And all things whatsoever ye shall
_ask in prayer, believing_, ye shall receive (Matt. vii. 7, 8; Mark xi.
24). If ye _abide_ in me and my words abide in you, ye shall _ask_ what
ye will, and it shall be done unto you' (John xv. 7). Prayer is often
plainly spoken of as the expression of faith. As it very certainly is in
Romans x. 11-14: 'For the Scripture saith, Whosoever _believeth_ on him
shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and
the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that _call_ upon
him; for whosoever shall _call_ upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
'How then shall they _call_ on him in whom they have not _believed_.'
Christian prayer is called the prayer of _faith_ (James v. 15). 'I will
that men everywhere lift up holy hands, without wrath and _doubting_ (1
Tim. ii. 8). Draw near in full assurance of _faith_' (Heb. x. 22). The
same expressions that are used, in Scripture, for faith, may well be used
for prayer also; such as _coming_ to God or Christ, and _looking_ to Him.
'In whom we have boldness and _access_ with confidence, by the _faith_ of
him' (Eph. iii. 12)." EDWARDS: Observations concerning Faith.]

[Footnote 3: Livius: Historia, Lib. xxi. 12.]

[Footnote 4: ANSELM: Cur Deus Homo? II. 20.]

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