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6 Wash ye,
people doth not consider."
you clean ; put away the cvil of your doings from before mine eyes.” " Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord : though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool." “ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts ; and let him return unto the Lord, for he will have mercy upon him ; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” I might run through the Prophets and the Psalms, and find them filled with such expressions as these,—“that my people were wise, that they would consider their latter end, and understand the loving kindness of the Lord." “ How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? How shall I deliver thee, O Israel ?" Similar language also abounds in the New Testament. 6 Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. that thou hadst known, even in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace; but now are they hid from thine eyes.” 66 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, but ye would not :house is left unto you desolate.” But this is not all. God has seen fit to accompany his word by a most solemn and awful appeal, founded on his own existence. 66 As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way
and live. Turn ye, turn ye from
ways, for why will ye die ?” Can language be more explicit than this ? Now let the transgressor attribute his sin and destruction to any but himself; and what does he charge upon God's word? He makes all these declarations of love--all these tender entreaties and expostulations of the Most High-nothing but words of mockery, and hypocrisy, and perjury !
2. That the sinner is the guilty cause of his own ruin may appear likewise from the course pursued by God in his revealed plan of mercy, and in his general providential dealings towards man.
I am not here to prove the depravity of the natural heart. That we are all sinners is a matter of experience, which it were as much folly, as it were impiety, to question. By the disobedience of one many were made sinners; and by our actual transgressions we have provoked the Lord to anger. Viewing man, then, as he is, a sinner, how does the conduct of God towards him fix upon him the charge of his own destruction! For when the curse came, as the consequence of a violated covenant of works, God interposed with his mighty and out-stretched arm. “Entering into a covenant of grace, he made salvation possible ; he gave up the Son of his busom to fulfil the law on our behalf, and to bear the punishment due for our sins; he offers the merits and the righteousness of his Son to all without exception who will receive him as their Ruler and Redeemer.”
But besides this, God in his mercy has actually placed barriers and difliculties in the way of the sinner's destruction. He has interposed all the convictions of natural conscience, all the dread of future misery, and all the heavenly displays of love, and happiness eternal; and the sinner who perishes, must absolutely surmount all these difficulties,-he must force away all these barriers, before he can accomplish his destruction. Nay, more, he must, if he perish, stain his rebellious footsteps in the blood, and trample on the love, of a Redeemer, who poured out his soul on the cross for man's salvation. And when God has done so much to save, upon whom shall be charged the ruin of the sinner, when it cometh ? The charge must rest upon the sinner himself through the ceaseless ages of eternity. ** Thou hast destroyed thyself.”
But these are general ideas : I desire you, brethren, to consider the dealings of God towards each one of you in particular. Though the dispensations of his providence have been as various as your different relations in life, yet not one of you has been passed over in his works of love and mercy: Some in one way, and some in another, have been made the subjects of his moral interference. Let me attempt to trace out the lines of God's tenderness towards you. I borrow the train of thought from an elegant writer.—Here is an individual whom God hath placed under the mild control of some pious and godly parent-father or mother-who has sought with tears to turn him to the path of righteousness. Here is another, who, blessed with a pious and devoted wife, has been compelled, as it were, to listen to the mild preaching of a pious example. There is a wife, whose heart has been continually reproached by a husband who desires to walk in the ways of God. There is one upon whose head God hath showered the blessings of prosperity, in order that gratitude might burn, and kindle into love unfeigned. There is another who; touched by the hand of God, has mourned over the evils of adversity--calculated to lead him to a proper estimate of the vanity of earth. Here is one who has been brought to the very verge of the grave, and had the prospect of entering eternity totally unprepared ; and yet God did not permit the fatal blow to descend ; he snatched you, as it were, from the
very borders of destruction ; and you are in the land of the living ; this very day in the house of God, a monument of his sparing mercy:
Carry back your thoughts, fellow-sinner, to the earliest periods uponi which memory can fasten ; let a solemn hour of meditation be occupied with the unnumbered mercies which you have received at the hand of Providence; let another hour be devoted to a recall of those dangers from which you have been rescued ; let another be occupied in recounting the calls of God's word which have sounded in your ears;-the opportunities of grace and salvation which you have enjoyed and abused ; let all the warnings, promises, and threatenings of Jehovah, which you have slighted, come up together in remembrance; and not even the deceitfulness and the desperate depravity of the heart can hide from you the solemn truth* Thou hast destroyed thyself."
3. One other proof that sinners are their own destroyers may be drawn from the candid concessions of many who have died without hope. And how affecting the argument drawn from so faithful a moment as that which separates between time and eternity! Many live as the fool liveth, and die as the fool dieth, having no bands in their death : but not unfrequently does it happen, that God rises up in the terrors of his insulted love, and leaves on the death-scene of the careless and impenitent the deep-marked features of the ruin that is coming. On this subject I may be allowed to repeat the observations of one whose many years in the ministry gave him the most abundant opportunities of familiarity with scenes of death. 66 With whatever confidence,” says he, “ transgressors, while in health and strength, may assert their blamelesness,— with whatever impiety and boldness they may charge God as the author of their destruction,—yet their language will be changed in the honest hour when they shall have to struggle with the king of terrors. I have more than once heard the sinner, while he supposed that death was yet at a distance from him, quieting his conscience by sophistical reasoning, and excusing himself for his continuance in guilt. I have beheld this same individual stretched on a bed of sickness, pale, feeble, languishing, in the midst of the tears and sighs of relatives, expecting each moment that death would arrive and tear his unwilling soul from the body, and bear it before the tribunal of his Judge. Ah, his faltering tongue no longer dared to extenuate his neglects ; his trembling heart abstained from its unholy charges against God :-shuddering and affrighted at the misery which awaited him, he exclaimed, Fool that I was, to have rejected an offered salvation,--fool, to have closed my ears against a Saviour,-fool, to have slighted the importunities of a compassionate God. I perish, and I perish under the agonizing reflection, that I am the author of my own destruction !'” Yes, brethren, and I remember a death-scene described with inimitable pathos by Dr. Young, and told while the facts of the case were strongly impressed upon his memory, I remember those awfully affecting exclamations, as the last effort of a soul, ruined and lost by neglect -- I have been too strong for Omnipotence, I have plucked down ruin."-"Plucked down ruin !" yes ! experience often seconds the declaration of God, and many a dying agony tells,- and many a dying groan echoes back the charge which a God of truth, of holiness, and of justice, fastens on the sinner,—“Thou hast destroyed thyself."
Every impenitent sinner accomplishes his own destruction, by an obstinate perseverance in that course which he knows to be sinful. And the man who goes to perdition from this land of light, aggravates his guilt and condemnation a thousand fold by a wilful rejection of the All-glorious Substitute.
I have thus endeavoured to impress the truth so obviously revealed in the text, that the sinner is his own destroyer, This destructionunless speedy help be obtained, must be endless, and inexpressibly awful. The subject then, is one of deep and solemn interest. I now see hundreds around me, who in all human probability will refuse to give this subject the attention its importance demands; and who, by the daily continued carelessness of their lives, only add stronger confirmation to the solemn and affecting truth of God—“ Thou hast destroyed thyself.”—But inay 1 not hope that some, who have been unaffected by the terrors of the Lord, as exhibited in the former part of the text, may yet be constrained by his merciful kindness, as exhibited in the latter part,—" In me is thy help”? Behold, then, the goodness mingled with the severity of God, Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself ; but in me is thy help.” From the tremendous language with which the verse commences, God breaks off, as it were, the expected malediction, and brings to the mind a subject of which infinite love could alone have originated a thought. There is no analogy in nature by which to elucidate the idea I would convey. But, in imagination, suppose that on some summer day, when the bright orb had poured on the earth the most fiery of his beams—the heavens should become dark-suppose that clouds rolled on clouds should have all the appearance of immediately bursting on the earth with all the artillery of the skies—and suppose that with all the quickness and rapidity of thought, and with no preparatory indications, these terrific signs in heaven were at once dissipated, and an unclouded sky presented to view. How astonishing, how unexpected the change! Yet, my friends, feeble is this imagined occurrence to illustrate the meaning of the text. In a spiritual sense, there are clouds of awful portent athwart the heavens ; the thunders roar; the tempest comes rushing on; and the line of desolation crosses your path. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.” But suddenly the clouds are gone—the thunders hushed-the glorious Sun of Righteousness appears—and a voice of more than angel sweetness is heard; “ In me--in me is thy help.” This introduces the second division of our subject :
II. For self-ruined sinners there is help in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The terrific is here softened by the tender; the mercy of God beams forth amidst his most awful declarations of anger. And the sinner for whose condition there seemed no hope, may here learn to magnify the riches of Divine grace, and to adore the goodness which has provided a way of salvation.
The two great difficulties which stand in the way of man's salvation, are the condemnation of sin, and the corruption of the heart; and for the removal of these the Lord Jesus Christ is the only efficient help. To remove the condemning power of sin, Jesus Christ is the all-sufficient sacrifice. In God's word we are taught, that when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, to take upon him our nature ; and as a Divine and voluntary Substitute, to bear the heavy visitations of justice in our stead : “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows ; he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.”—“ He died the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God”_" He was made a sin-offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”—There is help for sinners in Christ, because when once they are led to see their condition by nature, and their need of a Saviour, they find in him just such a Saviour as their case requires ; one who has given himself as an offering and a sacrifice for sin, and who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto him. Considering man, then, as he always is considered in the light of the Gospel ; considering man as a sinner, his help is alone in Christ ; for it is Christ, as revealed in the Gospel, whose redemption answers the great purposes
of averting the just displeasure of God, fulfilling the demands of a violated law, expiating the sinner's guilt, and restoring him through faith to the forfeited favour of the Most High. So that now there is nothing necessary to the sinner's reconciliation with the offended Majesty of heaven, which he may not, if he come with penitence and faith, find in the complete redemption of the cross. As a sacrifice for sin, then, as an all-sufficient sacrifice, there is for sinners help in Jesus. If they will but know and feel the wretchedness of their condition, and their need of such a Saviour, and thus be led to flee for refuge to the hope which is set before them in the Gospel, they will find that there is a fulness in this redemption, which is competent to procure the pardon of their sins, and the acceptance of their persons. Help then to the perishing sinner is found in Christ alone. “ His life was a transcript of the righteousness of the law, and his death the effect of its imputed penalty ; and thus by his obedience unto death, he brought in an everlasting righteousness. To make that righteousness divine, the Deity of Christ communicates infinite sufficiency to the sufferings of his humanity, and renders a satisfaction to the law and justice of the eternal Lawgiver. By this most gracious and wisely ordered plan, the moral government of God is maintained, the law is vindicated in its curse--the perfections of the Godhead are honoured in their respective claims, without the smallest diminution of their glory, and the sinner-the self-ruined sinner-who is brought to a cordial submission to this revelation, and a cordial acceptance of it in its grace and fulness, is saved upon terms which magnify the justice as well as the mercy of God, and bring every attribute into an union the most clear and impressive.” As to the pardon of sin then--and as the purchase of his blood and righteousness-it is the high prerogative-it is the privilege- it is the delight of the Saviour, when he tells sinners that the course they are pursuing, if persisted in, will bring them into ruin, which at last can never be repaired- to call from his high and holy throne in heaven, in the language of awful and terrific appeal, yet mingled with the tenderest as