Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

faithful under their afflictions, by directing their minds to the increased reward which should be given them. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward." There is glory unspeakable and eternal in reserve for all christians, though some may not be called to pass through any particular or severe ordeals of trial and suffering. But for those who are thus afflicted and tormented, if faithful, there is something extra in reserve. Their steadfastness under these circumstances will go to augment the glory and the joy of their heavenly estate. A peculiar place is assigned unto those in the apocalypse who suffered and "were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held." The great multitude of the ransomed are represented as before the throne, but these as under the altar. And in those glorious days of the New Jerusalem state, to which we look with so much hope, whilst all that have part in the first resurrection are blessed and holy, and are priests of God and of Christ, and in one sense reign with him; yet a very striking and peculiar prominence is given to them that have suffered and died for the witness of Jesus. It is also a matter of common experience, that to be deprived for a time of any blessing imparts a keener relish and an increased ability for its enjoyment. So those who are most afflicted, if they are only faithful to God, will have their happiness proportionately increased in the world to come. And so the Savior also says to his followers, "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." It is this consideration which the apostle urges upon his brethren as an encouragement to steadfastness amid their diversified tribulations.

And since the more suffering by the way, the more blessed the rest at the end, may we not with Paul also, "take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake?" Remembering that every unjust reproach, and every pain we endure for the sake of our religion but widens the measure of our enjoyment and glory in the world to come; why should we shrink from the faith, though it lead us against the frown of the world-to the block-or to the stake? If "our light affliction which endureth but for a moment shall work out for us a far

more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," may we not then say-let it come? Yes, my brethren, let it come! By Divine grace we will endure it with patience and joy, for great is our reward in heaven.

4. Another consideration with which the apostle encourages his brethren, is the necessity of patience. "For ye have need of patience; that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." Their patience under their numerous sufferings, or their perseverance, (which is nearly the same thing,) is here put as a sort of condition upon which they were to inherit the promise or obtain their eternal reward. It is a thing which enters essentially into the plan of salvation; and hence was to be cheerfully submitted to.

And since it is the will of God that we should suffer, we should always bear our afflictions with patience. We should lie calmly in Jehovah's hands from day to day, and from year to year. We have need of patience to quiet our repining disposition, and to buoy us up under suffering. And hence we should never think of relinquishing our faith because we are persecuted and afflicted on account of it. It is the will of God, and when we have done this we shall receive the promise.

5. But one of the most powerful incentives to perseverance is found in the speedy coming of Jesus Christ. "For yet a little while," says the apostle, "and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." The coming here spoken of is no doubt the second coming of the Son of God at that "day" which I heretofore explained. The apostle referred immediately to that germinant, typical and providential coming of the Savior for the destruction of Jerusalem. This awful event was soon to occur, and the persecutions which the early christians sustained from the Jews be thus put at an end. But the great fullness of the coming spoken of, is the final, real and personal appearance of Jesus Christ. That grand coming, when they that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and the astonished world shall tremble before his judgment

seat.

The final advent of Jesus to many and even good people, is a subject of great terror and distress. "How can I sustain the sight of the rising dead-the flaming skies-the burning world-the de

'Lecture XXV., page 290.

scending God! How can I bear the shock of dissolving elements, or stand the searching gaze of the omniscient eye!" Such meditations should indeed alarm and terrify the guilty, but should never agitate the souls of believers. The most glorious hopes of our religion stand connected with that event. Christ at his second coming is to appear without a sin-offering for the salvation of them that wait for him. "We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." "We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body." "Henceforth," says Paul, “there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." He is then to come as the Great Deliverer, to receive "the bride” the purchase of his blood in the mansions which he has gone to prepare. He will come to relieve his suffering people from all their trialsto rescue the persecuted, the oppressed, the down trodden and the sorrowful from all their woes. And night, and destruction, and the curse, and tears, and death, shall be taken away from them for ever. "The hope that such a day shall come, Makes e'en the exile's portion sweet.”

What then, my brethren, though our motives in interesting ourselves for the good of others be misconstrued, and subject us now to the scorn and ridicule of our fellows? What, though our religion expose us to the deepest ignominy and earthly suffering? The time of redemption is drawing nigh. The time is coming, when "our righteousness shall be brought forth as the light, and our judgment as the noonday." Though we be crushed to the dust beneath the iron heel of the oppressor, God will yet avenge us of our adversaries. Our prayers, and tears, and sincerity, and piety, will yet have their due of praise. "Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them ?" "Yea," saith the Savior, "I tell you that he will avenge them speedily." "For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry?"

Yet a little while. The sufferers whom Paul addressed had the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state just before them. They were to live to see the sceptre of their oppressors broken. So in the age in which God has permitted us to live, Christ's final and personal coming is an event but a little distance in the future.

The probability is that there are some here present who shall not taste death before they shall see the Judge coming in his glory. Movements in the political, intellectual and moral worlds indicate that this is a very critical and mysterious age. The rapid and wonderful advances of the human mind-the new experiments of moral power and machinery-the evident decrepitude of the most powerful superstitions-the rapid conversion of the Jews-added to a universal and unaccountable impression that we are just on the verge of some great crisis, betoken something which God only knows, and which time only will reveal. Many too, whose wisdom and piety we are bound to respect, and who have made the study of prophecy the business of their lives, express it as their deep and honest conviction that "the end" is near at hand. Yet a little while, and the sighs which now swell the bosoms of believers shall be changed into shouts of halleluia. Yet a little while, and the heavens shall bend with the descending God, "and the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High." Why then should we despair or disbelieve? Rather ought we to cling the closer to our leader, as the battle grows hotter and our afflictions increase. With Christ for our captain we cannot be dismayed. Soon-soon the conflict shall be over. A few more pains and then shall be the last. A few brave strokes more and the victory is won for ever. Yet a little while and it shall be said to Zion, Behold thy God!

6. The apostle still further encourages his brethren to steadfastness, with the consideration that their faith and confidence would be the means of preserving them when the Lord would come to execute his judgments upon the Jewish nation. "The just, moreover, shall live by faith." This was an old and established principle; and in the succeeding chapter the writer adduces passages from the histories of the most celebrated Old Testament saints in which it is very strikingly illustrated. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab, and a host of others of whom the world was not worthy, have tested the correctness of the principle" the just shall live by faith." On account of this preserving grace which ever attends faith in God, Paul encouraged his brethren to persevere. And it is a very remarkable. fact, that not one christian life was lost in the sore seige and destruction of Jerusalem. Every Jew perished, or was taken captive; and all apostates from Christ perished with them. But all the christians escaped. And so wonderful was their escape, that it has been ascribed by some to the special interference of Christ, and by others to the warnings and directions of angelic visiters.

Knowing then that there is a particular preserving grace associated with our faith in God, and that it will work deliverances for us where without it we would sink and be ruined, how strong is

the encouragement to persevere? If we give up this sheet-anchor, we must encounter the driving storm and the angry sea without compass or star to guide us; and our inevitable fate will be, to be wrecked, or lost, or engulfed in the deep. Hence says the Word, "if any man draw back, (hazard such a shipwreck of faith,) my soul shall have no pleasure in him."

7. "But we are not of them," says Paul," who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." He here congratulates his brethren upon his own conviction that none of them would apostatize, but go on to final and full salvation. This is another way of encouraging them to perseverance. He thus enlisted their feelings of self-respect and their desires to retain the good opinions of their friends on his side and in favor of their steadfastness. Reading this remark, and finding that the apostle had so much confidence in them as to believe they would be faithful, they would naturally be encouraged to set about the work of maintaining that course of conduct which was thus expected of them. Christianity addresses itself to the tenderest and noblest sensibilities of our nature. And wherever there is any moral force and energy left in the depraved man, it is right that we should endeavor to engage it in the effort of christian duty.

And may I not hope the same of you, my brethren, that you are not of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul? Dare I not indulge the expectation that I will meet with you, who have been these several years the objects of my constant ministerial solicitude, when I come to appear in that kingdom which I hope through Christ to obtain? Brethren, I expect to meet you in heaven. Some from under my ministry who were your friends and your relatives have already crossed the Jordan. With you, I expect to find them in a better world. And whether our stay together be long or short, whether you die first or I, whether I close my career among you and lie down with you in the same grave-yard, or deposit my mouldering ashes in some far distant place; still I shall look to see you (6 where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." Do not disappoint me; do not disappoint yourselves, by giving up your religion. Whatever be the sufferings you may be called to endure, whatever reverses, privations or crosses lie in your path, never-never renounce the faith. Your past fidelity, your heavenly possessions, your augmented reward, the will of God, the speedy coming of Christ, the weight of settled principle, and the reasonable and ardent expectation of friends, all combine to keep you faithful to your Savior. Let these things have their due regard, and be encouraged to press forward. If tempted to give up the contest, just think upon the shame you would thus bring upon yourselves-the glories you would lose-the wrath you would be compelled to endure, and at once uproot the thought, and rush with renewed energy for the prize.

« AnteriorContinua »