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THE FEARful guilt AND PUNISHMENT OF REJECTING CHRIST.
Heb. x. 26-31. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we known him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
THE apostle had just exhorted his brethren to avail themselves fully of all the privileges of that new dispensation of which he had lately made such an able defense. Here he presents some further considerations addressed mostly to their fears, in order to induce them to attend promptly and diligently to the matter. He goes on to show them that to refuse this would be a sin of no ordinary character, but one of the most fearful guilt, and which would be visited with the most fearful condemnation. "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance is mine, I will render it, saith the Lord; and again, The Lord will avenge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
In addressing you from these solemn words, I will first attempt: to show the fearful guilt of rejecting Christ and his religion; and secondly, consider the fearful punishment which must inevitably befal those who are guilty of it.
1. It is to be observed, that to refuse to accept of salvation through Jesus Christ, is a sin of deliberate choice-a wilful sin. If it were only a slight oversight-a trifling inadvertence, there might be some excuse for it. If it were something to which the uncontrolled pressure of circumstances drove for a little while, it would not be so bad. But it is a thing which the wicked mean. This is a charge which we must bring to the door of every ungodly man and woman. If any of you are out of Christ and at hostilities with him, it is because you choose to occupy such a position. You cannot plead ignorance as the cause, nor shield yourself under some fierce necessity. You are not pious because you prefer not to be. You are in your sins and in your blood because you love and desire to be in them. It is your own settled resolution not to repent nor believe. And even if you have some thought of attending to these things hereafter, it is nevertheless your deliberate decision not to attend to them just now. I appeal to the consciousness of every sinner for the truth of this remark. And does this circumstance not impart a peculiar aggravation to your guilt? To reject Christ, and to refuse obedience to his religion is to declare sin preferable to holiness-this world more desirable than heaven-Satan a better master than Jehovah, to make Christ and all his apostles liars and impostors, and to fly daringly into the very face of Deity with the puny arm of insult and rebellion. All this the impenitent not only do, but do it as a measure of calm deliberation.
2. Not only so, but they do it against the clear convictions of their hearts. They sin against the knowledge of the truth. Every sinner is well aware that he is doing wrong. There is not a step he takes in the path of impiety that does not carry this impression to his heart. The Divinity of religion, and its consequent claims upon every one, are obvious and decided. The relations in which we all stand to God as Creator and Preserver show that it is our duty to serve him. A thousand considerations prove that the Bible is the real and infallible word of God, and that the duties which it enjoins are those which God requires from us. Internal proofs, external evidences, and collateral facts; prophecies, miracles, and experience, all enter into the grand demonstration that religion is true. And a secret conviction in the heart of the veriest infidel concedes the same. Reason and conscience combine to make the obligations of christianity clear and indisputable. These faculties are the
highest ornaments of our nature; they alone distinguish us from brutes, make us resemble God, and render us subjects of a moral government. They are the lights which a gracious God has given for our guidance, and what they decide to be right is the highest and most binding of all law. He that sins against their combined and decided direction violates his most solemn and forcible obligations, and incurs a guilt which is fearful and inexpressible. Yet such is the conduct of those who reject Jesus Christ. They face the fiercest array of moral force-stifle the noblest impulses of the soul-trample reason into the dust---and must incur an amount of guilt which makes one tremble to contemplate.
3. To refuse submission to Christ is also a sin against the only means of salvation. Were there any other possible hope of being saved such conduct might be excused. But he that refuses Christ rejects the only foundation and spurns the only Savior. "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." God has no more sons to die, and his mercy has no other outlet. The name of Jesus is the only name given under heaven among men whereby we can be saved. Bethlehem furnishes the only star to guide us to the world of glory. Calvary's cross alone can unlock for us the pearly gates of the New Jerusalem. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Prayers, and tears, and fasts, and sacrifices, and good works unless founded on him are all in vain. Turning from him, you turn from the fountain of living waters into the dreary desert. Refusing to be guided by him, your dismiss the only captain who can take you safely over the boister ous ocean of life. Declining to serve him, you decline the service of the only master who holds the brilliant laurels of everlasting reward.
"There is but one physician, can cure a sin-sick soul."
How aggravated is the guilt of him who will thus by one act crush and extinguish all his hopes of heavenly glory! How bitter the curses which rest upon him who would thus turn from the genial warmth and light of the sun to wander amid the freezing solitudes of a starless and interminable night!
4. And as a refusal to submit to Christ and believe in him is a sin against the only Deliverer, so it is also a sin against the highest interests of the immortal soul. What a wonderful thing is the hu
man soul! Sprung from the breast of Deity, it possesses capacities and powers becoming its origin, and is destined to live co-eval with the God who gave it being. It was created to rise in expansion, and power, and glory to all eternity-to be the associate of angelic orders and towering in grandeur amid the spirits that burn before the throne of God, to be the immortal representative of his creative energy and redeeming love. How base the wretch who would fetter its powers and debase its glory! Yet this is what every rejecter of Christ effectually does. He would drag it down from its sublime and lofty walks, ulcerate and deform it, and bury it up in the fiery tomb of an endless hell. Where the Savior's blood is not applied, it is diseased, and bound, and tending to an immortality of corruption and decay. He who refuses submission to Jesus, outrages it, mocks it, tramples it, and adds tenfold to its ruin. Like the impious fool who would go out with an electric rod into the storm and call down upon his head the dreadful discharge of heaven's fierce artillery; so the rejecter of Christ rushes into the sweeping tempests of Divine wrath, and is riven by the everlasting thunders which shake the throne of God! Is there no guilt in this?
5. To reject the religion of Jesus is to sin against infinite goodness and mercy. It is treading under foot the Son of God, counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace. Kindness and love are the most subduing of all weapons. The hardest and the sternest hearts have felt their power, and have softened beneath their influence. Our hearts boil with indignation toward the man who would wantonly grieve and oppress the parents who gave him being, and with patience and tenderness watched his infant couch, or toward the beggar who would turn and fire the property of the man who fed and clothed him. Not even the brute will forget the caressing hand. What then shall we think of the sinner who will slight, grieve and insult that Jesus who created and redeemed him? What manner of love and tenderness has not characterized the dealings of God toward him? What infinite compassion which would lead Him to give up his Son? Had God given a world for the salvation of the sinner, his love would have been inestimable. And had he given the entire material universe, how infinite would have been his condescension and goodness! But he has given more than all this. For surely his own Divine and eternal Son had more of his affection than all
the universe besides. But this Son he gave, that whosoever believeth might not perish. And this Son was not one of many; but his "only begotten." And not only did he give his Son, but he actually slew him for the sinner. He even called upon the sword of justice to awake and smite him. It pleased the Lord to bruise him, and to put him to grief, just that the wicked might be saved. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son to be a propitiation for us!"
"O love Divine! O mercy infinite!
O love, all height above, all depth below,
Yet, against all this does the unbeliever sin. He tramples under foot the priceless gift of Jehovah's love, and accounts the lifeblood of his only Son as the blood of a malefactor or a slave! And as though God were determined to do all that he can do for the sinner, he sends his Spirit-his gracious Spirit to bring the truth home to the impenitent heart and win him to the path of duty. This sacred influence follows the sinner into all his walks and haunts of wickedness, and woos and urges him to be reconciled to God. But the wretch insults and grieves this good Spirit also. He resists, he contemns, he utterly quenches it. Yes, let the heavens hear it with astonishment, and the earth blacken with shame that it ever nourished such a son!
Is it a little sin then to refuse to accept of Jesus Christ and his Gospel? Aye, how shall we illustrate the magnitude of a sin which. cries and smokes unto the heavens? Is there anything wicked in robbery? Who does not from his heart abhor the felon? But this is robbery of heaven-of angels-and of Christ! Is there any guilt in treason? Who does not execrate the name of Arnold? But this is treason against the King of heaven, and against a government infinitely just, and wise, and good! Is there anything criminal in murder? Has any language opprobrious terms enough to express our just abhorrence of the man who has maliciously and with deliberation stained his hands in his fellow's blood? Yet, this is the premeditated murder of the immortal soul! Who, who, can express or convey an adequate conception of that mountain of guilt incurred by the rejecters of Jesus Christ? Yet, this sin—this