Imatges de pÓgina
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that I have no friends in heaven, and none that are interested for me there. Tell me not that angels do not guard my path waiting at last to waft me to my final home. Tear not away this fond staff which supports the feebleness of riven humanity. Pluck not this little treasure from the bosom of neglected poverty. Wrest not this crutch from the tremulous hand of affliction. Quench not this star which illumes the darkness of the grave. Hush not those silvery voices which ever whisper to my soul" come to glorycome to glory!" If my creed is vain, still let me live and die in its warm and soft embrace. Still let me revel on the thought, that angels eyes are on me. And when I die, I shall have the triumphant hope, that when I pass through the waters they shall not overflow me !

But whilst this doctrine is full of comfort for the pious, it is full of reproof for the careless and impenitent. The angels have ever been actively engaged and deeply interested in the work of man's salvation. Before the Savior's Advent, they performed a prominent part in all former dispensations. Since then we have accounts of many and important services which they rendered, in order to have the plan succeed and sinners saved. Though they had no personal interest at stake, yet their benevolence and sympathy was so strong, that they could not remain unconcerned or inactive. They look with interest upon the doings of the sinner, and tune their harps to songs of joy when one returns in penitence to God. And if the angels are so much concerned for the redemption of sinners, should not sinners themselves be made to feel some anxiety on the subject? Shall the orders of glory be in agony for the sinner's recovery, and he alone remain listless and unmoved? Has he nothing to win, or nothing to lose? Poor even to beggary, and starving, whilst everlasting riches and fulness are offered, and yet not be moved to put forth his hand and partake? Sinner, look at the deep anxieties which angels feel for your salvation, and be alarmed and reproved. Are not the reasons for your awakening and diligent endeavors to be saved tenfold stronger than those which have awakened so great an interest in heaven? Can you rest while all those shining ones are in agitation for the good of your soul? Is not your eternal all at stake? I pray you then, be admonished. And may the Spirit of the living God breathe upon your deadness, and give you life, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

LECTURE IV.

THE CLAIMS OF THE GOSPEL AND HOPELESSNESS OF NEGLECTING IT.

Hebrews ii. 1—4. Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things

which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was slead fast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him ; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.

STRICT arrangement would be likely to include this passage in the preceding chapter. The apostle had just been arguing that Christ was superior to the angels; here we have a practical application of that proposition to the great purpose for which he wrote. This is done first by way of exhortation, and secondly by way of argument. Our attention shall first be taken up with the exhortation—" Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard.”

The things here spoken of doubtless mean, what was spoken by the Son, as declared in the opening of the first chapter. This seems to be clearly intimated in what follows, where Paul speaks of " so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord.” “ Salvation” is a term used in the Scriptures sometimes with a more restricted, and at others with a more compendious meaning. In the text it is obviously intended to signify the Gospel, in its widest sense.

We then understand the apostle to exhort to a diligent attention to the Gospel of Christ. We are to listen to its instructions and inform ourselves of its teachings. This is a matter which the generality of men are only too prone to neglect. Lamentable indeed is the indifference and inattention manifested toward the communications of the Savior. There is scarcely a subject, however inconsiderable or trifling, so little regarded as the message of salvation. When an essay or treatise is written on some scientific subject, it is ardently sought for and greedily devoured. When some new work of fiction or romance is issued, youth and beauty, at the expense of repose-sighs—and tears, pore with incessant eagerness

over its sickly and corrupting pages. - When literary lectures are given, the audiences are generally thronged; when theatres are opened, there is scarcely room to accommodate the multitudes who press in; whilst all is attention and intense anxiety to catch from the speaker's lips each word and syllable which is uttered. But let a serious work, or a scriptural dissertation be published, and it is soon sent away to the topmost or some obscure shelf to moulder beneath the thick dust of neglect. Let a sermon be preached, and except by a man distinguished for his eloquence, or by some peculiarity in the doctrines which he teaches, the congregations are ordinarly small—the attention is languid—and the principal portion of the hearers are found possessed of such extremely treacherous memories, as to leave the sanctuary without being able so much as to recollect the text, much less the leading thoughts, doctrines, or duties presented.

Quite a different state of things and course of conduct is made the subject of exhortation in the text. Men are to hear the Gospel with care-candor—and deep solicitude. The simple but sublime fact, that it is a message of grace from the supreme Sovereign of the universe to a province of perishing rebels, entitles it to such attention and regard. The infinite glory it reveals, with the transporting prospects which it holds out to the smitten sinner, strongly present its imperious claims, and press them upon us with peculiar emphasis. It is altogether the gospel's most righteous due, that we should study the blessed truths which it contains, and familiarly acquaint ourselves with the sublime doctrines which it teaches.

But this giving “the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard,” implies something more than the mere outward hearing of the Gospel. It also conveys the idea of the diligent and conscientious practice of those sacred teachings. We are to give the more earnest heed to the practical observance of the things which we have heard. The religion of Jesus is a practical religion. And whether we contemplate the end at which it aims-the means which it employs or the morality which it teaches, this stands out as a bold characteristic. The simple hearing of the word with the outward ear, whilst the heart remains unmoved, will profit nothing. “ Not every one that saith Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of the Father which is in heaven.” The mere theoretical knowledge of the truth, without its

practical application to our feelings-lives—and general conduct, is of but little consequence. As well might we excuse the murderer because he knew that if he killed his neighbor he would be banged, as to expect reward from God simply because we listened to his word without obeying it. The very devils have a more full and comprehensive acquaintance with the will of God than the wisest saint; but devils do not practice obedience thereto, and what does their knowledge avail them. There must be a conformity of all the feelings of our hearts, and of the whole deportment of our lives to the teachings and requisitions of the Gospel. And “if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."

But now for the arguments by which this exhortation is enforced. Why give this diligent and earnest attention to the things which we have heard? What motives are urged for the study and practice of the precepts of religion? The first reason why we should earnestly attend to the Gospel, is drawn from the loss which the

nego ligent must inevitably sustain. We must give heed, “lest at any time we should let them slip.” Notwithstanding all that has been done for our salvation, there is still a possibility of our coming short of eternal life. It is not absolutely certain because a Savior has been provided, that all will be saved-or because a Gospel has been proclaimed, all will reap its benefits. Like the waters of the stream, the season and the privileges of salvation will glide away from the careless, and the messages of truth fade fruitlessly from their memories, leaving their souls in darkness profound as though not one single ray of heavenly light had ever reached our benighted world. The fact that Jesus came from heaven to speak to the fallen progeny of Adam will not save us, unless we heed his instructions. And though the consolations of the Gospel are free and abundantthough the waters of life are sending forth their purling streams through all the earth, making glad the solitary place, filling the desert with fragrant bloom, and waking up the voices of thanksgiving and praise at every advance—though the angel of mercy as he fits along the course of time cries to every successive generation, “ Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters;" yet shall we pine away and die unless we give the most earnest heed. Though the Divine messenger has visited our prison—thrown open its massive doors—broken the chains that bound us and rung the joyful tid. ings in our ears, Go forth to light, and life, and liberty! Yet shall

we sink to the grave beneath our irons, unless we heed and obey the voice. All the instructions—comforts—benefits and great redemption of the Gospel will pass by the negligent, without inspiring one glad hope, or imparting the least substantial joy.

If then there be anything in the Gospel deserving of our consideration; if there be any virtue in its provisions—anything substantial in its comforts—anything desirable in the ineffable joys and holy associations of the heaven which it holds out to our hopes, surely there is reason for giving it our attention. To neglect it, all this must be lost. And it is in consideration of this incalculable loss the loss of Jesus and of heaven, that we are to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard.

But this is not the only motive which the apostle urges for obedience to his exhortation. He refers also to the positive and inevitable punishment which the negligent must incur. "For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard bim, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will." Paul's argument here is of that kind which logicians term “argumentum a fortiore." He first affirms a thing which his readers admitted to be true under adverse and unpromising circumstances, and thence argues that the same fact is far more credible under likelier circumstances. If transgression and disobedience received their merited punishment in inferior and imperfect dispensations, as they really did; how confidently may it . be inferred that sin and neglect of duty will be justly punished in the more complete and holy economy of the Gospel? If the angelic ministry was steadfast, and its neglect provoked the wrath of God, how shall we escape if we neglect the ministry of the Son of God?

In order then to the more effectual elucidation of the apostle's meaning, it will be important for us to dwell a little upon the point, that the Gospel scheme is a superior scheme—a great salvation. Upon this point I have already had occasion to make some observations. But there are still a few additional considerations to which I will here refer.

'Lecture First.

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