Page images
PDF
EPUB

of an hour, are seen to possess more power to take off the mind-more attractions to engage and interest the heart, and more control over the movements and conduct of life, than these. It is quite possible, that I may be speaking before some, who, for a whole year, have not given so much as a single hour to serious thoughts of God. Perhaps, God has not been in all their thoughts. Nor let it be imagined, that inattention to these things of such high and ever-during moment, has been necessary—that men have not power to control their thoughts and give them to any subject they may choose. There is no necessity in this case, but that which is created by that depraved bias and taste of heart, which constitutes the very essence of sin. Sinners can as readily think of God, as any other object, if they will. It is impossible by any specious sophistry to argue ourselves out of the instinctive impression, that we can, if we please, attend to things so spiritual, solemn, and momentous, as the infinite God, the undying soul, and the scenes of its coming destiny. Sinners have done this with feelings of overwhelming interest and solemnity. All have done it, who are now, either in a state of acceptance, and progressive sanctification on earth, or in a state of rewards and endless glorification in heaven. And all must do it, who shall hereafter become savingly interested in Jesus Christ. This appears evident from the manner in which men are urged to do it, throughout the scriptures. Heartfelt and earnest attention to these things, is urged with much the same force and frequency, as repentance and faith. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive, how a rational being, in any measure familiar with the general statements of scripture, respecting man, his character, and his obligations, can expect to be restored to the everlasting favor and friendship of God through Jesus Christ, without making the character, the law, and government of God, the object of deep and solemn thought. Who can hope to be saved without thinking of the Holy One against whom they have rebelled, of his perfect law which they have broken, of the curse under which they consequently lie, of the soul, its poilutions, and its sins, and of the Saviour, his matchless condescension and his love? And who, it may be asked, can habitually cherish thoughts on themes so momentous, and remain indifferent to their coming destiny, or inactive in working out their salvation? There is something in the engrossing contemplation of such things, adapted to open the hearts of men to the

grace

of Christ. When men begin to think deeply, and with personal concern on topics like these, they begin to PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD. The mountains begin to sink, and the valleys begin to rise. Something is done towards making straight in the desert of their dark and desolate souls, a highway for their God and Saviour.

III. In order that the Saviour may come and establish his dominion in the hearts of men, they must abandon their self confident prejudices. Scarcely any thing has contributed so widely to prevent the saving benefits of the gospel reaching men, as their imbibed and inveterately cherished prejudices. No other cause had so fearful an agency as this, in leading the nation of the Jews contemporary with the Saviour, with one consent to despise and reject him. They had formed their notions of the Messiah according to their low and worldly views, and no clearness of scriptural representations, and no proof of his Mesiahship, though of the strongest and most convincing character, was sufficient to conquer their prejudices, and induce them to recede from an attitude of stern and obstinate hostility to his lowly person and peaceful spiritual kingdom. Prejudices of a similar nature, and no less ruinous in their influence, continue to prevail. Few are so happy as to come to the earnest examination of christianity wholly free from them. Notions of religion early formed under the influence of partial views, a wrong bias, or ushappy associations, abide with many as they grow up into life, and operate most powerfully to hinder the reception of the truth as it is in Jesus. The naturally vitiated moral temper of the human mind, prepares men to surrender themselves almost without debate or inquiry, to some of the worst prejudices that ever gain an ascendency over us. They who have been accustomed to hear the most spiritual and humbling doctrines of the gospel treated with levity, ridicule or contempt, by such as they had learned to respect, must be remarkable instances of the power of truth and conscience, if the maturer judgment and decisions on the subject, are not shaped by such representations. There are those who are strongly, if not irrecoverably, enlisted against experimental piety, from having been so circumstanced as often to hear its weaker, less cultivated, less judicious, or less spiritual advocates and professors, represent its nature, and state its leading doctrines. Such prejudices against the religion of the heart, often prevail in the minds of men without any assignable cause. Sometimes being conceived against the professor or the preacher of the gospel, not on account of what he professes or preaches, they become readily transferred to his religion and effectually shield them from all its saving influence. They exclude the blessed Saviour from a place in their hearts, because their hearts have become prejudiced and embittered against such as profess to love him and attempt to preach him. Nor must it be forgotten, that men are naturally so proud, and unhumbled, so averse to the purity and the self-denial, which the religion of the gospel requires, that they often become deeply prejudiced against it, not on account of the imperfect representation of it by its hopeful subjects, but on account of what it is in itself-on account of its own holy and heavenly nature. Now could the prejudiced only see the precise tendency and influence of their prejudice against religion—how it does not alter religion or render it the less indispensable-how it does not harm its humble professors or render them less safe and happy;

ne

but how it acts with a most disastrous power upon themselves—making them measurably wretched now, and immeasurably so hereafter; could they see all this, even self-interest might lead them to abandon it. At any rate, however it has arisen, its tendency is the same, their duty and their interest are the same. They need to feel the purifying and sustaining power of vital piety. They need to have Christ, the Lord, fix his holy and peaceful dominion in their souls. But their self-confident prejudice forbids his reign there. It lifts mountain barriers against his approach. It must be abandoned before the king of glory can come in, and dwell, and rule in them.

IV. TO PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD, it is cessary that sinners should gain humbling and alarming apprehensions of their guilty, needy, and helpless condition.

The grand requisite to the reception of evangelical blessings—of Christ and his salvation, is a soul prostrated in view of its sins, alarmed in view of its danger, and earnest in-view of its helplessness and its wants. Every sinner, with just and full views of his condition, will become humbled, anxious, and earnest. Men are naturally proud. Pride is the reigning and ruining sin in ungodly men. It renders men totally unfit for the blessings of salvation, and obstinately, averse to the way in which these blessings come to men. vents their giving any thing like deep and anxious attention to the doctrines, the duties, and the privileges of the gospel. It is the element in which are generated those blind and self-confident prejudices, that so widely prevail and so fatally mislead sinners. But let a man once gain a view of himself as he is exhibited in the word of God-let him behold his sins and guiltiness as they are presented in the light of the divine law, and he will sink into the dust. Thus contemplating himself, he who before scarcely supposed he had any sin, will now perceive that he has nothing else. He who before, fancied heaven was his just due, will now feel that he

It pre

deserves nothing but hell. He who before was ashamed to be thought serious, and despised the idea of being concerned about the welfare of the soul, will now, as he beholds himself in a perfect mirror, become unaffectedly solemn, oppressed with a sense of danger, and anxious above all things to find a refuge for his soul. Once rich in his fancied goodness, he now feels in want of all things. Once strong in his own untried and unmeasured energies, he now feels powerless and without strength. Once he thought he could rise to heaven without the gracious aid of its Eternal King, now he knows that it is of the Lord's mercies, that he is every moment kept out of hell. Such is the nature of the great and decisive revolution in the moral views and feelings of men, which prepares the way for the Saviour to come and establish his kingdom in their souls. The way is prepared for him to come and reign in them, when they are prepared to receive him. He is always ready to appear for their deliverance and salvation. He is even continually waiting to set up the kingdom of heaven in their souls. When they are alarmed, the mountains tremble. When they are humble, the mountains flow down. When they sink under a sense of guilt and helplessness, the valleys rise. When with the promptings of perishing want and the ardor of confident trust, they earnestly seek his grace, the crooked is made straight and the rough places plain, and the glory of the Lord is revealed in their spiritual emancipation, triumphant hope, and peaceful joy:

Such are some of the things indispensably necessary to PREPARE men for the reception of salvation. They must cease to do what is manifestly wrong, and begin to do what is obviously right, in the transactions of life. They must turn their minds with solemn earnestness to the consideration of the truths of God. They must abandon their unreasonable and self-confident prejudices. And they must come to entertain humbling and alarming

« PreviousContinue »