Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

conquerable, habit. This it is which we define as being made to possess the iniquities of one's youth ; and which we set before the young as most emphatical in its warning that they seek the Lord ere the evil days come. The grace of God may act on you in the maturity or decline of life, and prevail to the arresting you in the downward path of worldly-mindedness. We do indeed tremble for you; we cannot but tremble for you, if, deliberately reckoning on the chances of life, and the procrastinated strivings of the Spirit of God, you resolve on deferring what you hold it your duty to do. We tremble for you, because we know too well in what these purposed delays most frequently issue; and that thousands upon thousands, who might have gained entrance into heaven, had they only hearkened to early admonition, have gone down into the pit of the unbelieving, through daring to put off what they felt must at some time be done.

But nevertheless we own that your case is not hopeless. In nothing is God so wonderful as in his long-suffering : and you may yet be borne with—borne with in the vanities and gaieties of youth-borne with in the errors and indifference of riper years : and the day may come when disgust with a world which cannot satisfy, or startled by visions of another state of being, you will strive to throw off the service of sin, and prepare yourselves for the solemnities of death and judgment. And can you think that if this actually occurred, so that you entered into the invisible world without having sought pardon of the Mediator-can you think that you will be so circumstanced as though from the first you had taken part with the righteous; and that enjoying the earth's pleasures, and then securing the joys of heaven, you will then have the advantage over those who throughout have mortified the flesh with its corruptions and lusts ? O, you little know what tyrants and task-masters you are arming against yourselves, in those habits which you thus deliberately resolve on forming. You little know how thoroughly you are providing that the days which are to be given to the stupendous work of securing happiness through eternity, shall be days of painful conflict, frequent defeat, uncertain hope, inconsiderable progress; and all because “ the strong man armed” will have so long kept his goods in peace, that the endeavour to dispossess him, if finally successful, will to the last be fiercely withstood. But thus it must be: by beginning at once-now, whilst the conscience is not yet seared, and the sensibilities not blunted, and the passions, though in the fulness of their strength, not unmanageable through lengthened indulgence, you may, by God's grace, find the ways of wisdom to be ways of pleasantness, and enjoy the peace

which passeth all understanding, take delight in obedience, and reach the gladdening and triumphant assurance, that nothing shall separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. You may gradually so subdue the evil nature, that in spite of the struggles of indwelling sin, you shall feel yourselves new creatures, and recognize that the work must be of God, and therefore cannot be overthrown. But if, on the contrary, you give God nothing but the dregs of life, O if we could then see you, we know we should find you complaining bitterly of the want of assurance; owning that it had become so natural to you to yield to temptation, that with all your vigilance you constantly yielded unawares; declaring, that at best you hung in doubt as to your final state, so feeble were your resolutions, so frequent your backslidings, so clouded your prospects.

And if we could hear the ex

clamations, wrung from you in solitude, when lamenting the habits which drew you to unrighteousness, we believe that they would be such as these : “ Would that we had remembered thee, O God, in earlier days; for now thou writest bitter things against us, and makest us to possess the sins of our youth.”

We would add to all this, that however genuine and effectual the repentance and faith of a late period in life, it is unavoidable that the remembrance of misspent years will embarrass those which you consecrate to God. Even with those who have begun early, it is a constant source of regret they began not earlier. What then shall be said of such as enter the vineyard at the tenth hour, or the eleventh, but that they must be haunted with the memory of prostrated powers, and scattered strength, and dissipated time; and that however laborious and self-denying through the few moments yet left on earth, they must sorrow poignantly and frequently over sins for which they can make no amends, wrongs which they cannot repair, and opportunities which they cannot recal, though now convinced of their wickedness and led to repentance. There are, perhaps, many whom their example has injured, whom they either taught or encouraged to do wrong: and of these many, some are already in the grave, having gone before them as witnesses to judgment; others are hardened in iniquity, and when warned of danger only laugh at being led different ways by the same guide. Will not this cause a continued and fearful remorse? Will it satisfy the man that he has escaped ruin himself, and that he shares not the perdition which he has been instrumental in bringing on others? And besides this, if the time spent in sin had been spent in God's service, how many might he have won from unrighteousness! How, in place of causing or accelerating their everlasting misery, might he have been privileged to instruct numbers in the faith, and to lead them to Christ as the way, the truth, and the life! Will not this, too, occasion constant, though fruitless regrets ? Every encouragement given to irreligion or profligacy will be there as a possessed thing, not to be shaken off. Every witty saying, whose reward was in the plaudits of the mirthful company, and whose purport was the putting contempt on solemn and awful truths, will be there a possessed thing, not to be shaken off. Every lost opportunity of warning transgressors of the evil of their way; every blessing received from God's bounty, but not employed in his glory; ever affliction sent in loving-kindness, but which tended not to repentance; every refusal to side with those striving to stem the torrent of iniquity—all will be there a possessed thing, not to be shaken off. They may all have been pardoned: that precious blood, which prevails to the taking away of every sin might have been applied to the prodigal who has returned after many years of wandering, so that he is washed and cleansed in God's sight: but they will live in the reproaches of conscience, when blotted out of the book of remembrance. And we again tell the young amongst you, that if they defer giving heed to the things of religion till the latter days of life, and are then in great mercy permitted to find place for repentance, all their indifference, and carelessness, and obduracy, cling to them with most powerful tenacity; so that, even when enabled to trust in Christ as a propitiation, they will be unable to throw from them the burden of remembered misdoings. Abused privileges which are not to be recalled-injuries wrought by an evil example, for which no equivalent can be offered—the countenance which has been afforded to unrighteousnessman

these will assuredly hamper and harass them even when freely forgiven. Thus, will they not, however confident of a final entrance into heaven, will they not be frequently compelled, in their communings with God, to pour forth the pathetic complaint" Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth?”

We woula further observe, in order that we may afford yet one more motive to the young, that by lengthening the period of irreligion, and therefore diminishing that of obedience to God, we almost place ourselves amongst the last of the competitors for the kingdom of heaven. We are well assured that we shall be judged hereafter by our works, and that in proportion to our progress in piety will be the recompense we receive at the resurrection of the just. It must therefore follow, that if we devote but a fraction of our days in the striving for the reward promised to Christ's servants, there is an almost certainty that only the lowest of those rewards will come within our reach. We do not deny that he who starts late in the Christian race, may, by God's blessing on extraordinary earnestness, outstrip others who have been long, but tardily, pursuing the heaven-ward path. But such a case as this will be necessarily uncommon : for, if we have not exaggerated the possession of the iniquities of youth, it is evident, that he who begins to serve God in the decline of his days, begins at a vast disadvantage : he can expect to advance but slowly, to be often at a stand, and often driven back. He made his election at first for the pleasures of sin; and though he has been taught the folly of the choice, and graciously allowed to choose again, he may not hope to soar as high in happiness as though all along it had been his preference. So that the iniquities of youth will hang like lead on the wings of his soul, restraining its ascendings, and forbidding it reaching those loftier points in immortality which might have been attained by a longer striving. And though you may now think little of this, reckoning that so long as heaven be entered at all, it is comparatively indifferent what place is obtained, you may be sure that when the grace of God takes possession of the heart, it will infuse a holy ambition, and make you eager for the brighter crown and the richer heritage. In the days of your carelessness, you may be abundantly satisfied with being even the least in the kingdom; and indeed, we are unable to imagine the blessedness of the very least. (0, who shall measure the separation between the lowest of those who enter, and the highest of those who are shut out!) But in the days of your repentance and obedience, there will be, with every sense of the vast privilege of being even the least, a desire to press towards the mark, and to stand amongst those who shall be specially glorious at Christ's second appearing. And when you feel that the enjoyment of earthly pleasures has been purchased by the sacrifice of the nobler prize of eternity, and that the years in which you neglected God and served sin produce an effect on the countless joys of hereafter, both in diminished happiness, and a lower station, and feebler splendour; aye, when you perceive that all the actions of your past life, the indifference and rebellion, and especially at its outset, when you sowed the seeds of evil habits that these are pressing upon you with a weight which keeps you down in the contest for the glories of the invisible world; and that this early conduct cleaves to you as a burden not to be thrown off, impeding your every effort as a candidate for the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard ; yea, we say, that then, whatever your present feelings, you will own mournfully, and with a bitter fee£ng of self-reproach, that with the ability to soar high in everlasting majesty God has made you to possess the iniquities of your youth.

1

But we cannot dwell longer on the warning which our text furnishes to the young. We come now, in the last place, to remark, briefly, on THE EXPLANATION WHICH IT AFFORDS OF PROCEEDINGS WHICH MIGHT OTHERWISE SEEM AT VARIANCE with God's MORAL GOVERNMENT. We are to consider that Job spoke what we may call matter of fact, whether or no he judged rightly in the view he took of his own case. Job was a righteous man; exemplary beyond any on earth in all that constitutes and adorns godliness: yet he supposed, that the grievous afflictions with which he had been visited, might be in recompense for the sins of early days, when he had not yet dedicated himself to God, or not with that entireness which the service demanded. But, at least, we have no right to suppose that the account proceeds on a wrong principle. We rather conclude the principle to have been correct, whatever might be said of the individual application. The principle is, that the sins which righteous men have committed during the season of alienation from God, are visited upon them in the season of repentance and faith ; so that they are made to possess, in suffering and trouble, those iniquities which have been quite taken away, so far as their eternal penalties are concerned. We account the principle to be one of great importance, because men are apt to taunt Christianity with ministering encouragement to sin; just as though there were impunity to believers in Christ, whatever the offences they commit. It is in this way that the instance of David has furnished occasion of cavil and objection—the murderer and the idolater being supposed to escape without punishment, nothing being required but the simple acknowledgement of his crime. But there is a vast mistake in supposing that the righteous may sin with impunity. It certainly was not thus with David : David had grievously offended, and David grievously suffered. As the result of a genuine repentance he was indeed graciously forgiven, so that his name was not blotted out of the Lamb's book of life: but through the remainder of his days he was harassed with affliction in its worst possible shapes : family troubles and public feuds occasioned him continual disquiet: among his children there was rebellion, incest, murder; among his subjects, treason, famine, and pestilence : the sword departed not from his house, nor anguish from his heart. No one, we think, can read his history and deny, that through many years God wrote bitter things against David, and made him possess the iniquities of his youth.

And what was thus true in the case of David, we may believe to be also true with regard generally to the servants of God. It is a common observation, that more trouble falls to the lot of the righteous than the unrighteous ; and it is the common explanation of this fact, that “ whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” Now we doubt not the correctness of this explanation, so far as it goes: but we cannot think, that the only end for which the righteous are distinguished in calamity is, that they may be disciplined for immortality. We remember what God said to the children of Israel by the mouth of the prophet Amos : “ You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I wili punish you for all your iniquities.” It is evident he here makes the peculiar relationship in which his own people stood to him, the reason why their every offence should be visited. Had not the Israelites been selected from the earth's.

families, it is implied, that in the present life, at least, they would have been cailed to a less strict reckoning for misdoing. It was a thing necessarily to be observed, that sin lost nothing of its heinousness in God's sight, because it was committed by a nation on whom he had set his especial favour. What was hateful his enemies was, if possible, still more hateful in his subjects; and, therefore, because Israel was first in privilege, must Israel be signal in punish ment. In like manner we seem warranted in believing that peculiar troublo falls on the righteous, because they are righteous, and because, therefore, God's honour is intimately concerned in their being visited for transgression. The wicked who die in their wickedness will be punished at the judgment. There will be no need to appeal to what they suffered on earth, in proof that their wickedness was hateful in God's sight. They are to possess throughout eternity the iniquities of their youth; and all orders of intelligences will learn from their doom, that their iniquities, if not followed by any temporal chastisement, were not overlooked by the Governor of the universe.

But the case is very different with the righteous : they are to be aquitted through Christ's merits at the judgment, and assigned at once to the gladness of the purchased inheritance: there will be, therefore, no opportunity beyond the grave for the display in their case of God's hatred of sin, and the inflexible character of his retributive government. If God is to be shown as displeased with the iniquities of his own people, as well as of his enemies, it must be seen in this life : and hence we suppose it true that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth ;" not only because chastening prepares for glory, and therefore proves love; but also because the chastening is a consequence of sin in those whom God loves : and therefore the consequences must be experienced on this side the grave. Never let it be thought that a dissolute youth and a profligate manhood escape with impunity, if succeeded by a righteous old age. If you entered thoroughly into the histories of individuals and families, we believe you would find, that where the earlier years have been given to sin, and the later to godliness, these later have been ordinarily years of disquiet and calamity: you will then have no room to wonder at the affliction which you have seen literally heaped on the righteous; and you will think there was something vastly more equitable in the distribution which gave the most grief to the most piety. But you have not kept in mind that there are special reasons why God should make the righteous to possess the iniquities of his youth. It is in these that we find our explanation of dealings which might otherwise seem opposed to an impartial moral government. We regard the extraordinary afflictions of good men as so many proofs that God takes note of their sins; and that though, when these sins are confessed, he is faithful and just to award their forgiveness, he is so resolved on demonstrating his hatred of evil, that he inflicts temporal penalties where he has remitted the eternal. “ Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God: thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions,” is David's account of God's dealings with Moses, and Aaron, and Samuel; and applies equally to those to which the righteous in our own day are subjected. And when we observe men of piety so visited of God, that all his billows and streams go over them--thwarted in their plans, spoiled of their comforts, sorrowing for their children; and contrast their state with that of irreligious men, with whom every thing seems to flourish—"they are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men"-we

« ÎnapoiContinuați »