« ÎnapoiContinuați »
THE HIDDEN GOSPEL.
REV. J. VAUGHAN,
TRINITY CHURCII, CHELSEA.
* But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.”—2 CORINTHIANS, iv. 3.
How solemnly affecting to a Christian's mind are those two simple words, a lost soul! They seem to say, “ Ask not where that poor soul is to be found, for it is lost. Once it was God's own child, once Jesus died for it, but it is lost. No father owns it; no angel loves it now.
It has been taken far away from us, and we shall see it no more. A long while we mourned over it, but now eternity has closed over it; it is lost for ever; the last day will come when the Father will make up his jewels, but that one has dropped from his crown. He will read out of the Lamb's book of life the names of the redeemed, but for him, there is found no record. The family of Christ meet together round the throne, and many a happy spirit-ten thousand times ten thousand-swell the hallelujahs ; but one voice is silent for ever."
And is it possible, brethren, that at this moment there may be before me here one of these poor lost souls—one, with whom, when we part on earth, we shall never meet again through eternity? Does the heart-searching inquiry rise up in any breast, “ Am I sure that at this very instant God has not written on my soul that awful word lost ?” And shall we not, by God's help, try to say one word to-day to that unhappy soul, ere it be too late ; lest, wandering on, hour by hour, and step by step, dark and blinded, he shall stray beyond the reach of a Saviour's call; and when he dies, his blood shall be required at our hands ? Shall we not try to put forth one hand to lift the veil which Satan has cast between your God and you? As we must answer for it before God's judgment-seat, it shall be our single end and fervent prayer, with such plain and affectionate and unwearied boldness, to preach to you Christ crucified, that if indeed our Gospel be hid to you, we at least may be innocent of your crime ; and upon your own souls shall be the guilt. And O that never on some solemn day, the Almighty may call on us, your ministers, the very same who once spoke to you the winning language of the Redeemer's love, to stand forth the witnesses against your souls; to bear record before men and angels, how often God called and ye refused-he stretched forth his hands, and no man regarded. O spare us that tremendous part of the duty of every messenger of heaven the becoming the accusers of their rebellious people at the bar of the Almighty! Yet, believe it, brethren, as a most assured fact, that an hour will come at last, when we shall have to give in an account before God, of every word which in his name we have spoken to you; and for your eternal weal or woe, we shall stand together before his throne; this very sermon will be there ; and (solemn thought!) of one I shall have to say, “ This man believed, Lord;" and of another, “ he believed me not." But alas, for me, in that hour, if I shall not be found to have preached to you Christ faithfully! Alas, for you, if it shall have been to you a hidden Gospel. I do not believe that in all this congregation there is a single soul against which the irrevocable word is now gone forth. “Lost !" Miserable souls, dying souls, perishing souls, we fear, we know there are : dying they are, but not dead-perishing, but not yet lost.
Whoever you are,
the Saviour is waiting at this moment with his hand upon the latch to open the door of heaven to you. O we would not believe for a thousand worlds that there could be in the whole earth, a single soul of which we must say, “ That soul is lost." No; never, whilst the Saviour pleads at God's right hand; never, while there is a drop in Judah's fountain ; never, till the archangel's trumpet sounds, can there be one sinner so lost, but that now, in his day of grace, if he will return unto the Lord with weeping and penitence, his tears, for Jesus' sake, may wash out the characters of death; and God will write upon his living soul, “He was lost, and is found.”
But still, brethren, while we feel assured in the mercy of our God, who would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth, that no final decree of banishment is gone out against any of you; we do not wish to hide it from you, that your souls even now, may be, and are, in imminent danger of that everlasting separation from him. You have gone from mountain to hill, till you have well nigh forgotten your resting-place. Are you not fast losing yourself in the wilderness ? Are you not growing cold in your soul? Are you not far off from God? Are you not already on the verge of some deep fall, if not of final perdition? O we are very fearful lest the passing away of a single moment might make all the difference to your soul; and that which at this present instant, while life still lasts, we would not for all worlds pronounce of you, the next we might have to stand over your grave and write it as your epitaph, “ Lost, lost for ever!" For those who are strangers to the spiritual life of the Christian here, to his fears, his conflicts, his peace, his hope, must be strangers hereafter to the heavenly inheritance. If lost to grace, you must be lost to glory. And, brethren, the being lost is not a thing of an hour ; there are no sudden changes in God's ways; there is no momentary fallings into perdition. Hell is but the bottom of a ladder which you go down by a thousand steps. Are you sensible each day of an increasing disrelish for spiritual things? Is the feeling of sin less painful to you? Are you living in a more worldly, careless frame of mind. Do the troubles of life vex you? Is there less of the spirit of prayer and communion in it? Is there a rising up of the pride of your soul against the simple doctrines of faith? Then of you, in Scripture language-to you already that final state to which by your present course you are so quickly hastening, we say, You are lost; lost certainly for a season ; and lost it may be-God forbid; it depends upon yourself, but it may be lost for ever. The poor sheep that has strayed so far from the fold, and which will not hear the Shepherd's voice, though it has not yet fallen into the pit, is a lost sheep still.
Now the apostle, in the text, lays down one certain evidence by which we may judge whether we are in this awful condition of soul. The sign of a lost state is a hidden Gospel ; “ If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.” That “if,” opens to us a very solemn contemplation ; it tells us, that under the preached Gospel word, there may be sitting a blind and God-forgetting soul. The light may be all around you, and you may have no eye to see the prospect which it discloses. There may be the voice of warning, or of mercy, sweeping closely by you; but your soul, untenanted of God, may send forth no echo of the Spirit to answer the call. Yes, brethren, sabbath by sabbath you may come up to the house of God, morning by morning, and every night; you may read, you may hear, you may speak of Jesus ; and all the while, in Gospel light, and under Gospel privileges, there may be some souls amongst you, that shall be lost, lost! A condemnation multiplied as deep as there have been seasons wasted, and convictions stifled, and invitations spurned. Each hiding of the Gospel in your soul will have heated sevenfold the furnace of God's vengeance.
What then are we doing? It is fearful to the minister of God to remember that he stands before you no less for death to every uncontrite soul, than for life and peace to the penitent: that the same words, which, under God's blessing, may be ministering now to the comfort and edification of one man, to another, undistinguished by any outward appearance and unconscious of it himself, they are going on to swell his condemnation : for the name of Jesus is never heard in a Christian congregation, without driving the two classes which compose it into wider and wider separation. The worldly are left more earnal; the Christian more spiritual. The very light which beams so much gladness in one soul, will have darkened with its radiance another: and each man, whether he will it so or no, must leave this house to-day, a being nearer either to heaven or to hell. For 0 it is an awful thing to hear the Gospel ; for if it is hid, it is hid to them that are lost. It is the great touchstone of the soul; God's trial of the heart.
How do you receive the Gospel? Now we must be careful to understand that God has not marked out by any irreversible decree, certain persons to whom his Gospel shall be hid ; neither has he (which would be the same thing) appointed some men to perdition, and therefore, for that end, debarred their minds from receiving the light of the truth. The fact seems to be this, that wherever we read of God's hidings, they are judicial; under the allurement of Satan, you begin to devote yourself to some pursuit or pleasure of the world. Gradually you become absorbed by it: prayer is interrupted, grace is stopped, the voice of God is stifled, sin creeps over the soul; there is a spiritual slumber; a film of prejudice is formed upon the mind; it loses all its zest for true religion; some favourite indulgence, some habit of secret sin, some pride, some wilful ignorance, the world, in some of its many shapes, comes in between
you and God, and casts its dark shadows over your soul. You run into deeper and deeper corruptions ; you are far off from God, you are lost, and then, and not till then, in judgment God permits your mind to lose its power of moral discrimination. Your sin blinds you; you call evil good, and good evil; you fear the Gospel ; you hate the Gospel, as you listen to it. Your mind wanders away into a thousand distractions. You see in it nc beauty, no love, every thing is preferred to it, for it is “ hidden.” Thus the biding of the Gospel is the last stage in the sinner's progress ; it goes just before destruction; for what hope remains when the very remedy is made a poison to us? It is
the drawing away of grace, the shutting up of God's love: the soul, deserted and dark, wanders about a little while in the paths of sin, then dies and is lost. Brethren, do not delay for one instant, to put the question to your own heart, Is the Gospel hidden to my soul?
And here I can imagine some humble child of God to make answer, “Yes, I fear it is : there is a depth in it which my mind is never able to fathom; there is a height in it to which I can never reach. I have so very faint and imperfect an idea of the Saviour's love, I can realize it so little, and, above all, my inconsistencies of life are so many, that I fear it must be a hid Gospel to me; I could never be what I am, if I lived indeed in the light of the truth." Then to such an one I would say, but has it shewn to you your sins? Has it led you to depend on Christ? Is Christ “all your salvation and all your desire, although he make it not to grow?" In the midst of all the darkness of your soul, and though you cannot pierce the many clouds of mystery which enwrap you, and though you cannot yet, perhaps, receive many of those difficult doctrines which others do, and though all your knowledge be only that you know not, yet can you rest on Jesus as your Saviour? Do you catch glimpses of his cross, and at moments hope you see your own sins there? Then this moment it is enrolling itself to your view. It is the very outspreading of the light which is throwing so deep a darkness over the surrounding ignorance which remains to you. And it will grow, grow, till all is day; till not one "hidden" thing is left, till the last veil which hangs between heaven and you is rolled
shall be made perfect in glory. And another will be writing down hard things against himself, saying, “ Yes, but I feel so very little comfort, surely if I really knew the Gospel, I should have peace;" and so brethren, you will have it presently. But the Gospel has two offices, it wounds before it heals ; it condemns before it comforts. And if God is now making it open to you its terrors, you want no other evidence that he will soon cause it to disclose to you its rich and abundant consolation. That heavy sense of sin and weakness, so far from accompanying a hid Gospel, are always the signs of its entrance into the heart. But, brethren, there is much comfort in Christ, and in store for you. You have seen but half of a Saviour's work; you have thought of Him offended, jealous, departing, judging. Now, try your faith; think of him returning, reconciled dying, pleading, pitying, remembering, loving you. There is nothing at this instant which need separate your Saviour and you. He desires to be no distant, no “hidden" friend to you.
On the other hand, we can suppose another of a very different kind to be saying within himself, “ This can be no hid Gospel to me,
for have I not lived amongst Christians all my days? Have I not been constant in my attendance on every means? Have I not been partaker of both the sacraments? And so you may; you may have been placed in the most favoured society; you may have enjoyed every external advantage ; you may have made use of every ordinance; and from all you may go away each time with your heart also blinder and darker than before. “ But am I so foolish and ignorant,” he may say, " that what a mere child can comprehend, I, who for years have devoted myself, my mind, to the subject, can still be supposed never to have understood ?" “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." “ But
I do know the Gospel," he will reply: “I can talk familiarly on every doctrine; 1 am master of all its schemes; I am well known as one most conversant with sacred Scripture ; there is nothing in the whole Bible hid from me." Yet you may not know the Gospel. The fuller the head, the emptier often the heart; the richer the outward fruit, often the more famishing the soul; the more of Christ professed, often the less of Him known experimentally. again, that man will plead, “ but look at my life, see how many prayers, how many pious deeds, what correctness, what forgiveness when I was injured, what affection to all around me.” Yes, but what has been the motive which determines an action in God's sight? Has "the love of Christ" constrained you? “But I do love the Gospel," he may urge, “I like to listen to it; I am fond of it.” Ah! here, brethren, rests the issue. Of what nature is your love of the Gospel? Do you like the pearl because of its setting, and not for the jewel's sake alone? Are you fond of what you find round the Gospel—the good esteem, the quieting of your conscience by having the Gospel which you attend ever ready to put as a balance to the world which you love, the pleasing of friends, or ever, of the easily got character of being a religious man, and the distinction which obloquy itself can give; not to mention the many lesser charms of taste, and feeling, and eloquence, and fashion, which may adorn the Gospel which you profess to love? Remember that all this while the Gospel, for every saving purpose, may be as "hidden" from you as it was the first day you heard it preached. There may be none of its power on your heart; it may be all but another form of worldliness; an excitement, a smoothing over of the surface of things ; a compromise, a vain delusion, a lie in your right hand.
Brethren, let me come a little closer to you. In your secret moments, when you are in your chamber and are still, does religion follow you there? Is it the stay of your mind ? Does it guide you in the world? Has it become an influential principle in your heart, leading you to self-denial, to separation from the world, to great humility and gentleness, and to much affectionateness? Is it your feeling every day and every hour, “ I am bought with a price ; I am not my own ?" And have you found peace in Christ? Have you a good hope that you have obtained an interest in his salvation? Do you see your title in his cross? Can you appropriate the promises ? Thus are you indeed feeding on the “ hidden manna. Is his word more precious to you than rubies ? Are you convinced of an intimate communion with Him? Do you
your anchor cast within the veil? Have you entered the holiest ? Have you
found that path which the vulture's eye hath not seen? Is “ the secret of the Lord” with you?
And now, brethren, once more, before we part, we desire to put on record in the eternal books another Gospel message to your souls. We know that in the simple act we are immeasurably increasing your responsibility, at the hand of every member of this congregation-young and old, rich and poor-God will hereafter require it. The day, the hour, the spot, the name, the soul, the words—all will be written down, all will be read before the world : and we believe that in that awful hour to some of you their very words may be the bitterest which ever sounded in their ears. But, brethren, we must deliver our own snuls before God. Hear, then, the last, the fullest message in all God's legacy of love to you : “ The Spirit and the bride say, come; and let him that hearein