Page images
PDF
EPUB

cious for ever, but his mercy will avail those nothing who have dammed up its streams.

Much is made of that text where Christ is said to have gone by his Spirit, and preached to the spirits in prison. It seems impossible that any one should have gathered from this text that Christ went and preached to the inhabitants of hell. When Peter wrote they were spirits in prison : but he does not say they were when Christ preached to them by his Spirit. Indeed, we are assured that this took place at a time when once the long-suffering God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing. During this time, that holy man, inspired by the Spirit of Christ preached to them, and they continued disobedient. Now they are spirits in prison.

For argument's sake, let us suppose that Christ did go and preach to the inhabitants of the pit. What would he preach? Doubtless the same doctrines which he preached on earth. He would demonstrate to them that the fire should never be quenched, nor the worm die. He would assure them that they should by no means come out thence till they had paid the uttermost farthing. He would repeat to them the divine decree, “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” Could he contradict what he had preached to them on earth?

Provided he did preach to them the same doctrines which he delivered on earth, what would be the effect? Would those be profited by his preaching there who rejected him here? Would those who perished from Nazareth be any better pleased with divine sovereignty and election, than when they led Christ to the brow of the hill to cast him down, because he taught these doctrines? Would those who condemned the Prince of life, those who platted the crown, and those who drove the nails, and then went down to hell-would they now choose him as their Redeemer ? Have the flames of the pit melted the hard heart ? Shall we wait till men have known the bitterness of being damned, before we recommend Christ to them? Brethren, have any tidings reached you from the pit? The preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ—what effect does it have in the infernal prison? Does any revolting spirit ground his arms? Are any hosannahs to the Son of David heard to resound through the vaulted caverns of hell? My brethren, falsehood is inconsistent with all truth, and always finds its way beset with contradiction and absurdity. Embrace the truth, and it is consistent and can be defended without an effort.

Much is said about Christ's descending into hell, ana great exertions made to prove that this is the only hell. It is true that the same word sometimes means the grave, and sometimes the place of misery. It is worthy of remark, however, that words are used in the latter sense not used in the former. The grave is never called a lake of fire, or a furnace of fire, or a place of outer darkness. If we should admit, what is not true, that sheol in Hebrew, and hades in Greek, mean nothing more than the grave, we should lose nothing. The question is settled in texts where these words are not used.

And what if it could be proved that Christ descended to the bot. tomless pit? There was a divine promise that his soul should not be left in hell. The wicked have no such assurance. He is not there now.

If Christ went to hell, it is not said that he went to redeem its prisoners. We are not told that he bore home to heaven with him any of the spoils of hell. We are not told that he conveyed thither a drop of water to cool the parching tongues.

Much is said of Christ's restoring all things, and destroying the works of the devil. These texts, they say, settle the point that all will be saved. It is surprising how men will reason when they have first resolved how they wish a thing to be. Suppose a rebellion break out in a human government, and some brave general be sent to restore order, would this imply the indiscriminate pardon of all the rebels ? If he should imprison some, and execute others, and intimidate others, so that the rebels grounded their arms and forsook the standard of revolt, we should

say

that order is restored. So Christ must reign till he has put all his enemies under his feet. Then he is to give up the mediatorial kingdom to the Father. There is nothing said about his pardoning them all. Every knee shall bow to him; but it is not said that every enemy shall be brought to love him. A conquered enemy bows to his conqueror. Every one shall confess him to be Lord; but it is not said that all shall love him, and elect him as their Lord. His enemies shall feel and confess his power, and be trodden under his feet. During his reign they shall be cast into prison, and he, as Mediator, wil go out of office, leaving them in bonds. The works of the devil are destroyed when his plan is frustrated, his hopes cut off, his emissaries ashamed, and his kingdom demolished. His works are destroyed when he and all his coadjutors are safely secured in hell. Then order is restored in the divine gov.

men.

ernment, and is the better secured if some are made the everlasting monuments of his wrath.

Much is made of those texts where Christ is said to be a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, where he is called the Savior of the world, and where he is said to be the Savior of all

The evident meaning of these texts is, That Christ died for men and not for devils; for our world in distinction from any other.

That he died for sinners of one nation as well as another; for Jews and Gentiles.

That he made an atonement adequate to the pardon of all men ; so that whosoever will may come and take the water of life freely. And

That he does save from temporal evils, and from present deserved wrath all men. Through the merits of Christ, the basest of all men are allowed a probation, are kept out of hell while the offers of pardon can be made them, and they have opportunity to form their character for eternity.

In connection with these texts, we find woes and curses denounced against those who reject Christ, making it manifest that finally all will not be interested in his blood. The context in each verse limits its meaning. For instance, in that text where Christ is said to be the Savior of all men, it is added, “especially of those that believe.” Now if all, believers and unbelievers, are to reach heaven at last, how could Christ be in any special sense the Savior of believers ? But if all men are saved by him from many temporal evils, and believers from eternal misery, the text is plain. And provided honesty and prayer be our commentaries, the other texts are equally plain.

Instead of sinners being redeemed from hell, the dreadful probability is, that their miseries will endlessly increase. That they will continue to be disobedient and refractory, there is no room to doubt. Restraint being removed, they will doubtless feel and display more desperate wickedness than in the present life ; and we cannot believe that God will release them from obligations to obey and love him, because they have become less disposed. The same law which is binding on us, will be in full force in hell. If, then, God continue to mark iniquity against them, and to punish that iniquity, their torments must for ever increase. And this doctrine we seem to be taught, when we are told that death and hell shall be cast into the lake of fire. Instead, then, of their prospect brightening, it will darken. The clouds that hover round the pit will become more and more impenetrable for ever; as often as they raise their eyes their hopes will sink. This dreadful point I will not press.

Now, my readers, if I have advocated the truth, the saints will love it; but if I have advocated error, those will love it who know not God and who obey not the gospel. This is always a fair touchstone of truth. Whatever sentiments we embrace, if we would recommend them, we must do it by a holy life. On whichever side of this question the truth lies, there will be seen the most holiness ; for truth has a sanctifying influence, while error has the contrary effect. Several instances have happened within our day, of men murdering themselves and their families, having first embraced the opinion that all would be happy beyond the grave. I confess I feel afraid of sentiments that can so steel the heart, that a man can embrue his hands in the blood of his children. And if you please to term these extreme cases, look at those which are common. Where do you find the most religion, the most benevolence, the most humility, the most prayer, the tenderest conscience, the most meekness, and the most heavenly-mindedness ?—in those who embrace, or in those who reject the doctrine of unlimited punishment? Where you see these effects, there is truth ; and where there is error, these effects are not seen.

SERMON LII.

THE PRESENCE OF GOD THE GLORY AND THE GUIDE OF HIS

PEOPLE.

EXODUS XXXIII. 16. For wherein shall it be known how that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

AFTER the disgraceful affair of the golden calf, which resulted in the death of three thousand of the men of Israel, Moses as usual interceded with God that he would forgive and would still love his people. God at length so far regarded his intercessions as to say that Moses might still lead the people to the land of promise, and added, “Mine angel shall go before thee.” But to that man of God this was not enough, and he still interceded that God himself, and not a created angel, might guide him to the promised rest. From this last and inimitably eloquent plea we extract the text: “For wherein shall it be known how that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us ?

So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.”

Finding himself so far successful, Moses was not yet satisfied, but asked permission to see the divine glory. And God, having put him in the cleft of the rock-and covered him with his hand, made all his goodness pass before him and proclaimed himself gracious to whom he would be gracious, and merciful to whom he would show mercy. Here we might stay to remark, that the glory of God is his goodness. Moses asked the Lord to show him his glory, and God made his goodness to pass before him. We might remark again, that goodness never appears so inviting, as when exhibited in the shape of grace and mercy. And further, that God is a sovereign in these exhibitions of his glory. He will be gracious to whom he will, and will show mercy to whom he will. We might learn too from the context, that in our present state we cannot bear a full view of the divine glory. When we ask God to show us himself, we may well beseech him to first cover us with his hand, or hide us in the cleft of a rock. It is more

« PreviousContinue »