Congregational Sermons Vol.3 No.1
OF THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT.
He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corrupion, but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting." - GAL. vi. 8.
The term "flesh" has obtained a wider signification than it previously
had; and, corresponding to this, the phrase of our text, "the desires of the
flesh" has obtained a proportionally wider range of application. These desires,
in fact embrace one and all of the enjoyments which are competent to the
natural man while he is in the body. Had the species remained innocent, there
would have been nothing, either in these desires or enjoyments, that would have
either thwarted the will of God, or carried any forgetfulness or disinclination
towards God along with them. But as the matter actually stands, it is far
otherwise. With the desire that we have for what is agreeable, there mingles no
desire and no liking towards God. With the enjoyment that we have in it, there
mingles no remembrance and no pleasure in God. The thing is desired for itself-
in itself the heart rests, and terminates, and has full complacency; and the
enjoyment is in every way as much detached from the thought of God, as if the
belief of God had no place in his creed, or as if God Himself had no place in
creation. Now this is not merely true of the grosser appetites of nature. It is
true of every appetite which has for its object something separate from God; of
every appetite which points to any one thing that the world has to offer, while
God is not recognised as the giver of it, or as having that superior claim upon
our affections which the giver has over the gift;of every appetite in the
prosecution of which and the indulgence of which, the mind may all the while be
away from the consideration of God. Now this applies, not merely to the desires
of the epicure, and of the voluptuary. It belongs as essentially to all the
other desires of unrenewed nature. There may be as little of God, for example,
in the delights of literature, as there is in the delights of sensuality. If it
be true that it is He alone who doeth the will of God that endureth for ever,
the one may be as little connected as the other with the eternal life of our
text. Both may be equally fleeting in their duration; and both may pass away
with the vapour of our present life, when it passeth away. They may end when
the body ends; and thus it is, that many generous as well as many grovelling
desires, that the propensity of the heart to power and glory or to the objects
of lofty ambition, may, as well as the lowest propensities of our animal
nature, come under the brief but comprehensive description of "the desires of
Recollect then, that in this extended sense, we employ the term flesh throughout the whole of our discourse. All the desires which it is competent for a man to feel, who has no care, and takes no interest about the things of God or of another world, are the desires of the flesh. All the enjoyments of which man is capable, apart either from the duties or the delights of religion, are the enjoyments of the flesh. They may or they may not be the enjoyments of a shameless and abandoned profligacy. The line of demarcation between flesh and spirit, is not that by which the dissipations of life we separated from its decencies - but that by which all the desire that we have towards the enjoyments of our present life, in sense and in the creature, but apart from God,is separated from the desire that we have towards the enjoyments of the spiritual life with God in Heaven. A man may be wholly occupied with the former desire, and be wholly devoid of the latter - in which case he is of the flesh and not of the spirit; or, to make use still more of the phraseology of scripture, he is carnal and not spiritual; or he walks by sight, and not by faith; or he is one of the children of this world, and not one of the children of light; or, finally, he minds earthly things, and neither his heart nor his conversation is in Heaven. Now to answer this deseription of character, it is not necessary, that he shuld be immersed in vice and in voluptuousness. He may recoil from these; and yet the world in some other of its varieties may have the entire mastery of his affections, and it be the alone theatre his hopes and his interests and his wishes. the earthly thing is which engrosses him, we may not be able to specify; and yet it may be very sure that earthly things are all which be minds, and that to the pleasure and the pursuit of them he ie wholly given over. In the judgment of an earthborn morality he may not be at all criminal; and yet, in his tastes and tendencies and practical habits, he may be altogether carnal.
The next thing which requires to be understood, is what is meant by "sowing to the flesh." Let it be observed then, that the act of indulging its desires is one thing, and that the act of providing for the indulgence of them is another. When a man, on the impulse of sudden provocation, wreaks his resentfuL feelings upon the neighbour who has offended him he is not at that time prepariug for the indulgence of a carnal feeling; but actually indulging it. He is not at that time sowing, but reaping, such as it is, a harvest of gratification. But when instead of tasting the sweets of revenge, he is employed in devising the measures of revenge, and taking counsel with the view of putting some scheme of it into operation - he is no doubt stimulated throughout this process, by the desire of retaliation; but it is not till the process has reached its accomplishment, that the desire is satisfied, it is thus that the sowing and the reaping may be distinguished from one another. We are busied with the one, when busied with the preparatory steps towards some consummation which we are aimng at; and we obtain the other in the act of consummation.
This distinction may serve to assist our judgment, in estimating the ungodliness of various characters. The rambling voluptuary, who is carried along by every impulse, and all whose powers of mental discipline are so enfeebled that he has become the slave of every propensity, lives in the perpetual harvest of criminal gratification. If with him the voice of conscience be ever heard, amid the uproar of those passions which war against the soul, it only serves to darken his intervals of vice - when, on the assault of the next temptation, and the coming round of the next opportunity, it is again deafened and overborne as before, amid the mirth and the riot and the recklessness of profligate companionship. It is not to such a man, that we should look as our best example of one who sows. We should rather look to another who is equally immersed in vice, but with more of steadfastness and self-command in the prosecution of it - who can bring intelligence and cool deliberation to bear upon its objects - who can patiently take his stand; and calculate upon his advantages; and, after the disguise and preparation of many months, can obtain the gratification of an unhallowed triumph over some victim of artifice. To the eye of the world, and with the general decency of his regulated habits, he may have a more seemly character than the unbridled debauchee. But if to disobey conscience, when scarcely heard amid the ravings of a tempest, be a humbler attainment in the school of impiety, then to stifle conscience in the hour of stillness and circumpection - if it be not so hardy a resistance to the voice of duty, when she calls unheeded along with a crowd of boisterous assailants as when, with the cool and collected, energjes of a mind at leisure, she is firmly bidden to the door - then, though both these wretched aliens from God be surely posting to the place of condemnation, if there be degrees of punishment in hell, even as there are degrees of glory and enjoyment in heaven, we leave the question with yourselves, whether he in the present instance who has most been occupied in sowing, or he who has most been occupied in reaping, shall be made to inherit the deepest curse, or have the heaviest vengeance laid upon him.
But it is more useful still, to contemplate this distinction in the walks of reputable life; and for this purpose, we may notice a very frequent exhibition of it among the members of a prosperous family. A daughter, whose whole delight is in her rapid transitions from one scene of expensive brilliancy to another - who sustains the delirium of her spirits among the visits, and the excursions, and the parties of gaiety, which fashion has invented for the entertainment of its unthinking generations - who dissipates every care, and fills up every hour, with the raptures of hope or the raptures of enjoyment, among the frivolities and the fascinations of her volatile society - She leads a life, than which nothing can be imagined more opposite to a life of preparation for the coming judgment or the coming eternity. Yet she reaps rather than sows. It lies with another to gather the money which purchaseth all things, and with her to taste the fruits of the purchase. It is the father who sows. It is he who sits in busy and brooding anxiety over his manifold speculations, wrinkled perhaps with care, and sobered by years into an utter distaste for the splendours and the insignificancies of fashionable life. He provides the elements of all this expenditure, yet in the expenditure itself may have no enjoyment whatever. On all his habits there may be imprinted one unvaried character of regularity - punctual in hours, and temperate in enjoyments, and exemplary in all the mercantile virtues, and with no rambling desire whatever beyond the threshold of his counting-house, and engrossed with nothing so much as with the snug prosperity of its operations.
In the business of gain, there is often the ruffling of an occasional breeze ; and the one who is so employed is, to make use of a Bible expression, "sowing the wind." In the business of expenditure there is often the fury and agitation of a tempest; and the other who is so employed is, to make use of another Bible expression "reaping the whirlwind." The habit of both is alike a habit of ungodliness. Giddy and unthinking in the latter; but certainly not more hopeless, than the settled ungodliness of the former - where system, and perseverance, and the deliberate application of the whole heart and the whole understanding, are given to the interests of the world - where every thought of seriousness about the soul, instead of being lost for a time in the whirl of intoxicating variety, is calmly and resolutely dispossessed by thoughts of equal seriousness about a provision for the perishble body - where wealth has become the chosen and adopted divinity of the whole life; and, in place of Qod who endureth for ever, every care and calculation are directed to a portion, frail as our earthly tahernacles, and fleeting as the vapour that soon passeth away.
But there is still another word that needs explanation. The term corruption in this passage is expressive, not of moral worthlessness as it frequently is, but of decay or expiration. The meaning of it here is in precise contrast to that of the term incorruption, in the place where it is said that this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality. Where it stands in this verse, it is expressive, not of a moral property, but of a physical one. The corruption that is spoken of in the text, is simply opposed to the eternal life that is spoken of in the text. It is not here designed to affirm the wrongness of any carnal pursuit, but the instability of its objects. We are only translating the text into other language, when we say that all the harvest which is reaped by him who soweth unto the flesh cometh to an end - whereas he who soweth to the spirit will reap a harvest of pleasures which shall be for evermore. So that the lesson here is quite the same with that of the apostle John "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Now that we have finished these various explanations, the first lesson which we urge from the text, is the vanity of this world's ambition. We elsewhere told in plainer language, not to love the world, neither the things that are in the world. To gratify our affection for these things, is to reap of the flesh, all which the flesh, even, itt its most extended sense, has to bestow upon us. To provide again for this gratification, is to sow unto the flesh: The man sows, when, under the impulse of a desire after earthly things, he plies and prosecutes his measures for the attainment of them. He reaps when he does attain. Were it not for a strange anomaly in the moral nature of man, this distinction could not have been better exemplified, than by him who first labours, with the whole heart and strenuousness of his soul, after the money which purchaseth the objects of this world's gratification; and then gives himself up to the harvest of indulgence. But whar mars and confounds the distinction in this instance is, that, when man devotes himself to the acquisition of that money which purchaseth all things, it is not always with the view of purchasing. Wealth is often prosecuted without that view. An independent charm is annexed to the bare possession of it. Apart altogether from its power of command over the enjoyments of life, it has become with many an object in itself of the most passionate and intense ambition. All the pleasure of the chace is keenly felt in the pursuit of it, and all the triumph of a victory as keenly felt in the attainment of it; and this without any regard to that harvest of subsequut enjoyment, into which it has the power of ushering its successful votaries. It is thus, that, aAthougb the mere shadow and representative of enjoyment, it has at length infatuated its worshipers into a higher relish for itself, than for all the enjoyments of which it is the minister - so that, instead of a handmaid to the gratification of our appetites, itself has become with many the object of an appetite more domineering than them all; and wealth apart from all its uses and subserviencies, now stands to their imagination in the place of a mighty and dispensing sovereign, to whom they render the devotion and the drudgery of all their services.
In those cases, however, where wealth is the terminating object, there is still the process of sowing - even that process of diligence and of busy devisings, by which the schemes of this earthly ambition are carried on. Only the harvest, instead of consisting in any ulterior things which wealth can purchase, consists in the mere acquisition of the wealth itself. In the walks of merchandise, were we to look to the minds and the motives of its most aspiring candidates, would we often see that it was not what comes after the wealth, but the wealth itself which both set them agoing and keeps them agoing. They maybe sowing, not unto the lust of the flesh, not unto the lust of the eye, not unto the pride of life, all of which are opposite to the love of the Father. But still they are sowing; and to that too, the love of which is equally opposite to the love of the Father. They who are seeking treasure for themselves, instead of seeking to be rich towards God, are in fact sowing unto the flesh, for they are sowing unto that which terminates with the body. They are so wing unto that. which is altogether corrupt - understanding by this term altogether transitory. They are sowing unto that on which death, in a few little years, will put its impressive mockery. They are rearing their chief good on a foundation that is perishable. They are labouring for one portion only, which will speedily be wrested from them by the gripe of a destroyer who will leave them without a portion, and without an inheritance for ever. They are labouring for a part in this world's substance, and in the possession of it, verily they may have their reward. But, in regard to the substance which endureth, as for it they have never laboured, so it they never will acquire. They have sought to be arrayed in perishable glory, and perhaps will find a little hour of magiiifleence.on earth, ere they bid their everlasting end to its infatuations. But that hour will soon arrive; and Death may leave all Iponeasions untouched, but he will lay his rude and resistless hand upon the possessor. The house may stand in castellated pride for many generations, and the domain may smile for ages in undiminished beauty; but in less perhaps than half a generation, death will shoot his unbidden way to the inner apartment, and, without spoiling the lord of his property, he will spoil the property of its lord. It his way to tear the parchments, and the rights of investiture from the hand of their proprietor; but he paralyzes and unlocks the hand, and they fall like useless and forgotten things away from it. It is thus that Death smiles in ghastly contempt on all human aggrandizement. He meddles not with the things that are occupied, hut he lays hold the occupier; and this to him is as entire a deprivation, as if he trampled all that belonged to him into powder. He does not seize upon the wealth but he lays his arrest upon the owner. He forces away his body to the grave, where it moulders into dust, and, in turning the soul out of its warm and well-loved tenement, he turns it adrift on the cheerless waste of a desolate and neglected Eternity.
We are not told here that it is wrong to sow unto the flesh. This may be, this is a doctrine of the Bible; but it is not the doctrine of this particular verse. It does not prounounce on the criminality of the pursuit - but just on the evanescence of its objects. It simply tells us that the good attained by sowing unto the flesh is temporal; and to this the whole experience of man bears testimony. He cannot look upon general history, without perceiving the rapid movement of one generation after another. He cannot live long in the world, without perceiving the fall of acquaintances upon every side of him. He cannot have a circle of relatives around him, without the lesson of death being brought home to his feelings, by the touching incidents of his own domestic history. Should he still persist in associating either durability or magnitude with his earthly interests, - this may prove a moral or an intellectual derangement in himself; but it proves nothing against the affirmation, that, in sowing unto the flesh, he will of the flesh reap only corruption. As he grows older in years, he may grow more inveterate in delusion. As he draws towards the termination of his earthly existence, he may cling with more intense affection to its vanities. As the hour of his eternal separation from the world approaches, he may grow in the estimation of its value; and adhere more tenaciously to all its objects, and to all its interests. This proves him to be the child of infatuation; but against the truth of the Bible, it proves nothing. It may bespeak the virulence of some great spiritual disease, which hath overspread our species. It may demonstrate, that, in reference to a great and awfully momentous truth, we labour under all the obstinacy of an habitual blindness. But the truth itself remains unshaken; and on every individual who is born into the world, it will be most surely and most speedily realized.
The second lesson, founded on these explanations of our text, that we would, propose, is the unprovidedness of all those men for eternity, whose affections are settled upon the world, and who possess not one wish or one practical interest beyond the limits of its sensible horizon. That indeed is a meagre theology which would look upon the outcasts of human society, as the only outcasts from Heaven; and which would represent the path that leadeth unto spiritual and everlasting life, to be so gentle and so accessible that few do miss it, instead of representing it as that arduous and narrow path, of which our Saviour hath said that there be few who find it. Itis a woeful delusion, and we fear the undoing of many an immortal spirit, that nought will shut us out of Paradise, but such literal and flagrant offences against the law of rectitude, as would degrade us beneath the average character of those decent and respectable and neighbour-like families by whom we are encompassed; and that if we but acquit ourselves with tolerable fairness upon we are fit for being translated when we die, among the choirs and the companies of the celestial. Now it is true, that we may stand exempted from all gross and outrageous delinquency. We may fulfil all the honesties of social intercourse. We may even have more than the average share of its humanities. The cordialities of domestic affection may, by the mechanism of our sentient nature, flow through our bosoms, in a stream as warm and as kindly as does the blood that circulates through our veins. And to many of the graces of private life, there may be added the activities of public life and of patriotism - the pulse of high and honourable feeling - the blush of unviolated delicacy - the ingenuousness of nature's truth - the sensibilities of nature's tenderness. And withal, there may be a taste most finely and, feelingly alive, if not to those spiritual beauties which irradiate the character of the Godhead, at least to those sensible beauties wherewith the face of our goodly creation bath been decked so profusely by his hand; and there may be science, and imagination, and towering intellect, and sublime thoughts of truth and of the universe, and all the virtues which the happiest constitution can engender, and all the philosophy which loftiest genius can achieve. Now we would put it to your own sense and experience of our common nature, if you think it impossible, that a man so gifted shall breathe the element of irreligion; that, from morning to night, the God, amid the glories of whose workmanship he all the day rejoices, shall be to him like an unknown or a forgotten thing; that satisfied, and in full occupation with the business ,of the peopled region in which he dwells, he should cast not one look beyond the death to which his footsteps are carrying him, should heave not one aspiration through the illuminated concave that is above his head; and that thus the Being, who hath graced and invested humanity with all that so proudly or so pleasingly adorns it, should he habitually and wholly disregarded by him, whom the hand of the Almighty Sovereign hath called forth, and exalted into the noblest of its specimens. And if indeed a creature so accomplished, might nevertheless live and die in ungodliness, then let us not, be deceived into fatal security, by the virtues of an average world. They one and all of them may consist with alienation from God; and utter strangers to the spirit, or to the things of that spiritual economy which He has instituted, they may, throughout all their rounds of business or companionship or pleasure, be sowing only unto the flesh, and making this earth this perishable earth the scene of all their joys and of all their expectations. We charge them not with crime - yet, if immersed in earthliness as to have lost all practical sensibility to God, we must refuse their Christianity. The whole drift and tendency of their affections are to the things which are beneath. The effort, anxiety, the perpetual longing of their hearts, toward the accommodations and the interests of time; They are carnally minded which is death. they sow unto the flesh, and of the flesh they shall reap corruption.
1. And this is the consummation of their present not because they have lived either, in profane or in profligate wickedness, but simply because they have lived without God - because they have made earth their resting-place; and, altogether pleased with what is perishable, the general habit of their souls has marked them to be citizens of earth and not of heaven - with this world as the alone repository of their interests and hopes, without one pilgrim sigh, and far less one pilgrim step, towards the land of Eternity. Were you to put it to their choice, whether, if all was prosperous here, it was not here that they would like to live for ever - it might bring the state of their affections to the test, and decide the question of their being carnal or spiritual men. Let the proposal be made, that, with health and fortune and friendship, and the bloom of perpetual youth and the blessings of joyous companionship and an affectionate family, there should withal be the elixir of immortality poured into your cup; and on the face of this goodly world, so full of sweets and of sunshine, you should be permitted to expatiate for ever. Tell me, if, on these terms, you would not cleave with fondest tenacity to your present habitation; and be willing to live all recklessly as heretofore of the God that upholds you? Would you not be glad to take everlasting leave of your Maker; and, could you only be spared the encounter of that hideous death which disembodies the soul and conveys it to the land of spectres, would you not consent far rather to sojourn and to spend your eternity in this more congenial land? In other words, would you not prefer that God and you should be everlastingly quit of each other - rather than. be wrested from your tenements of clay; and deprived of your footing on that territory,. where alone those earthly enjoyments are to be found, that are suited to your earthly nature? Tell me if you could not forego even heaven and all its psalmody to be fairly let alone; and, for the sake of a lasting and undisturbed inheritance in this smiling world, would you not agree that God should withdraw Himself in eternal oblivion from your thoughts, and that you should be eternal outcasts from God's spiritual family?
You may plead in apology, that, in choosing for earth rather than heaven, you just make the universal choice of nature; but it only proves the truth of this great Bible pos1tion, that Nature is in a state of exile from God - and that there is indeed a wide disruption between the planet on which we dwell, and the rest of God's unfallen creation. It only proves that you are yet of the flesh and of the spirit; and that you have not made that transition by which the affections are carried upward from the dust of this perishable world, that upper sanctuary where Christ sitteth at right hand of God, and where God sitteth on a throne that is at once a throne of grace and of righteousness. Be assured if so, that you are not state which it will do to die in. There will be no such earth as the one that we inhabit - after the present economy is dissolved; and succeeded by heaven where all is sacredness and seraphic ecstasy, and a hell where all is the defiance and the desperation of rooted and resolved and implacable ungodliness. Such a middle region as the one we at present occupy;where the creature enjoys himself amid the cares not for the giver, cannot long be tolerated. It is an anomaly on the face of creation, and will as such be swept away. And meanwhile the processes of our text are those which connect your doings here, with one or other of the two destinies hereafter. " If you sow unto the flesh you will of the flesh reap corruption. If you sow unto the spirit you will of the spirit reap life everlasting."
We have hitherto used the term corruption in the sense it has in the text - that is the property of being perishable and so transitory; and, ere we conclude in a few words with the common sense - of the term as denoting the moral property of being criminal or faulty, let us just make one remark which at present we cannot afford to expatiate on. It is this - that the man who soweth unto the flesh, or in other words labours to secure some earthly enjoyment, that he should reap only corruption, or reap only that which at length passes away from him and ceases any longer to be - why this is in perfect keeping with all the analogies of nature and human life. It is the proper result of the course on which he hath entered. It is in conformity with all that takes place in other paths of activity and exertion - where it is found that as is the aim so is the accomplishment. The schoolboy seeks for amusement, and he finds it - he gets the one thing his heart is set upon but not another thing - he gets not the acquisition of a fortune for example. The daughter of many graces and many accomplishments seeks for distinction in the circle of fashion, and that may be realised; but you would never look, for the result of such an aim or such an enterprise, to distinction in the circle of politics. The citizen looks forward in perspective, and labours in the walk of busy merchandise, for the sum which he thinks will satiate the ambition of his nature - this he may reach, but - not surely an eminence of literary fame. And so of every other landing-place to every other path of exertion. As is the seeking so is the finding. The man of business does not get a name in philosophy. The man of letters does not get to the pinnacle of affluence. The man of victory in war, does not obtain the glory which is achieved by the man of discovery in science. And so, to use a designation comprehensive of them all, the man of the world realises some one or other of the world's objects; but he does not realise the things or the interests of heaven. Verily he hath his reward. He gets what he sought for, and has no right to complain if he do not get what he never sought for. He reaches the appropriate termination of his path. Time and Eternity are both set before him; he made choice of time, and he hath sped accordingly. His eternity is a blank; and it were in violation all the analogies of human experience if it were otherwise. It is thus, if we had time to illustrate the lesson a little farther, that a flood of light may thrown upon the position that - not because a man's actions are criminal, but simply because his affections are earthly - not because in the deeds of hand there has been ought of the violent but wse in the desires of his heart there has been of the spiritual - not because he hath done should disgrace him in this world of sins soon to pass away, but simply because neither sought after a place nor laboured in the work of preparation for that world of saints which is to remain in brightness for ever - On these grounds alone, and without the imputation of any notorious delinquency at all, there is many a most respectable citizen, who, viewed in reference to his capacity as an immortal creature, lives all his days in a state of utter negation and nakedness; and who, when overtaken by death, will find himself on the margin of an unprovided eternity, with nought in its mighty and unexplored vastness before him but the dark imagery of desolation and despair.
But the final issue of such a life as he hath spent in the world, is something additional to a mere shortness from heaven. There is further included in it the positive wretchedness of hell: And ere the reason and the conscience can be reconciled to such a consummation as this, it is not enough to make out that he has been all along sowing to that which is corrupt in the sense of that which is transitory; but that further, he is chargeable with that which is corrupt in the sense of that which is morally reprehensible and wrong. The great difficulty of a gospel minister lies in convincing of this, our amiable and virtuous but withal worldly men. Our chief encounter in society, is with a meagre and superficial imagination of guilt. Men know not what they have done, that should land them in so frightful a consummation, as the hell of the New Testament. They understand not how it is, that any sin of theirs should have lighted up those fires which are to burn everlastingly. They will admit that they have failings; but surely nothing commensurate to a vengeance so relentless and so relentless and interminable as this. There may be some desperadoes in wickedness - there may be a few of stouter and more stubborn hardihood than all their fellows - there may be men of fiend-like atrocity, whom the children of this world so little resemble, that the world at large would shudder at them - these may be the befitting inmates of that dire -and dreadful Pandemoniun, where the spirits of the accursed dwell. But surely the kind and the courteous and the companionable men of our own daily walk and our own familiar neighbourhood, with whom we exchange the visits of hospitality and the smiles of benignity and goodwill - you would not assimilate their guilt, with, that of the daring outcast, who passes through life in utter recklessness of all its duties and of all its decencies. This cause of the peace which men feel about their eternal prospects is distinct from the former. It is a juridical principle that is quite current among men, and lends a mighty reinforcement to the apathy of Nature. They are at peace, because they do not see that theirs is at all a guilt so grievous as to bring down upon it the burden of a grievous condemnation - and so a peace which we fear is no peace.
There is indeed in all this a very complete illusion. For a man to be execrated as a monster in society, he must have outraged the duties of that relation in which he stands to his fellow-men. Now of all these he may have acquitted himself in a very tolerable way; and yet there is another and a distinct relation, to which also belong peculiar duties of its own, and which he may have altogether neglected - we mean the relation in which he stands, not to the beings of his own species, but to the Being who made him. He may have discharged himself of all that he owes to his fellows upon earth, and yet have been utterly unmindful of what he owes to God in heaven. He may have felt the force of all those moral and sympathetic affections, which bind men together into a community below - and yet felt no attraction whatever to Him who is the great Parent and Preserver of the human family. There might be many a close and kindly reciprocation of mutual esteem, and mutual tenderness, and all the virtues of good neighbourhood, among our selves; and yet the whole of this terrestrial society, he in a state of utter disruption from Him who is at once the source and the centre of the created Universe. It is just as if a stray planet, might retain its cohesion, and its chemistry, and all those laws of motion and plastic influences which would continue to uphold many of the processes of our present terrestrial physics; butwhich loosed from its gravitation to the sun would drift waywardly in space, and become an outcast from the harmonies of the great mundane system. Now this is precisely what the Bible affirms of the spiritual world. The men of this planet have broken off their affinity to God. They retain many of their wonted affinities for each other; but they have made disruption and a wide and general departure from God. They have yet a terrestrial ethics with the graces and moralities of which some are so richly adorned, as to shine in beauteous lustre before the eye of their fellows; while others, even in reference to these earth-born virtues, are so marred and mutilated, that they are looked upon by all as the objects of a revolting deformity. Of the great principle - of the celestial Ethics, both may at the same time be alike destitute. It is experimentally true, that the man of compassion and the man of cruelty, with hearts so differently affected by the sight of distress, may be in the same state of practical indifference towards God. It is in the spirit of a sound philosophy, as well as of a sound faith, to affirm that Humanity, with all her complexional varieties of character between one specimen and another, may be throughout impregnated with the deep spirit of ungodliness. This is the representation of that scripture which speaketh to us from heaven; and to this, we believe, that every enlightened conscience upon earth will re-echo. It charges not injustice upon all. It charges not gross and abominable licentiousness upon all. It charges not open or scandalous profaneness upon all. But it charges ungodliness upon all. When brought to the bar of civil or criminal law, when brought to the bar of public opinion, when brought to the bar of social or conventional morality amongst men, you may be fully and honourably acquitted. Yet when to the bar of a higher jurisprudence, there may be laid and most rightfully laid upon you, the burden of an overwhelming condemnation. It is then and then only that ungodliness stands forth as an article of the indictment against you. It is then the Being who made you takes up His own cause, and appears in support of His own controversy. It is then that question is made, not of the claims men have upon you, hut of those peculiar and transcendental claims which God has upon you. It is then that you are met with the question - "What have you done unto God ?" In reference to the moralities of your human companionship below, there is perhaps not one earthly tribunal before which you might not stand in the attitude of proud integrity. In reference to that transcendental morality, which relates the thing that is formed to Him who bath formed it-there is the overthrow of every pretension and man's boasted righteousness melteth utterly away.
Now it is man's blindness to this principle, which forms one main ingredient of the false and the fatal peace that is so general in our world. There is blindness to the jurisprudence of the upper sanctuary, as well as blindness to the futurities of the unseen state. The two together have the effect of a most deadly opiate; nor are we to wonder if our species have been charmed thereby, into so profound a spiritual lethargy. - And thus it is, that, though the creatures of a fleeting and fantastic day, we tread on earth with as assured footstep, as if, instead of its shortlived tenants we were to be everlastingly its lords. And the laugh, and the song, and the festive gaiety, and the busy schemes of earthliness, all speak a generation fast locked in the insensibility of spiritual death. Nor do the terrors of the grave shake this tranquillity - nor do the still more awful terrors of the judgment-seat. That day of man's dissolution which is so palpably at hand, and which sends before it so many intimations, fails to disturb him. That day of the world's dissolution, when the trumpet shall be sounded, and the men of all generations shall awake to the high reckonings of eternity, and this earth and these Heavens shall be involved in the ruins of one mighty conflagration, and the wrath that now is suspended in this season of offered mercy shall at length break forth into open manifestation on all the sons and daughters of ungodliness - this day, which when it cometh, will absorb every heart in one fearful and overwhelming interest - now that it only is to come, and is seen through the imagined vista of many successive centuries, has no more effect than a dream of poetry. And, whether from the dimness of nature's sight to the futurities of the spiritual world, or from its slender apprehension of that guilt which in the sacred eye of heaven is so enormous - certain it is, that men can travel onward both to the death and to the judgment, and say peace, peace, when there is no peace.
The awfulness of the first of these events, even death, bears in it experimental proof to God's intolerance of sin. If He indeed felt our guilt, as as we feel our danger, if His displeasure were a thing as slight and as gentle as our alarm - why s0 dreadful a visitation upon our species as death - a thing unknown to angels, and from which the whole of sentient nature shrinks as at the approach of most unnatural violence. If God be as much at peace with the world, as the world is at peaceful conplacency with itself - why keep up so so hostile a dispensation against it ? - or if of as trivial account in the estimation of as it is in the estimation of human society should it have brought down such a vengeance upon earth, as to have smitten it with the plague of mortality throughout all its borders; and swept off to the hideousness of the grave, all the life and beauty and intelligence of its successive generations. That surely is no trifle, which has turned this bright and blooming world into a vast sepulchral abode for the men of all ages. Its moaning death-beds, and its weeping families, and its marred and broken companionships - these are all emphatic testimonies to God's hatred of moral evil; for that sin brought all this calamity upon the world, is a principle announced to us in scripture - and it is the only principle which resolves to us the mystery of death. And when the same scripture announces that after death cometh the judgment - O let us not give in to the treacherous imagination; that He who hath made such fell exhibition of severity in the one, will in the other but manifest and indulge his tenderness. But let us be very sure, that, as death is to every unrepentant sinner but the beginning of his sorrows, so judgment will be to him as a second death.
We shall be happy, if, as the fruit of these observations, we can convince any of you, that, apart from crime, apart from literal transgressions of the divine law, there maybe the utmost spiritual destitution in the mere earthliness of our affections - the most entire unfitness for heaven above, simply because our heart's delight and desire are set upon the world that is below - an eternity wholly unprovided, because the pleasures and the provision of time are all that we seek and all that we care for. There is a juridical principle, that nothing will condemn us at the bar of our final reckoning, but crime; and then that mere carnality, in the general sense of the word, is no crime. Now it is not a crime in the eye of human jurisprudence; but in the eye of the divine jurisprudence it is the most enormous of all. It is the preference of the creature to the Creator, and will terminate in the gloom of everlasting deprivation and despair, after that Creation, in its present power to engage and to gratify, shall have passed away, and we shall have to do with the rebuke and the resentment of Creation's Lord who endureth for ever. O be persuaded, then, of your need of a gospel; and give up from this time forward your indifference and contempt for it. Be assured that the great apparatus, of a Mediator, and a Sacrifice, and a risen High Priest, and an Intercession to reconcile, and a Spirit to sanctify - be assured that all this was not uncalled for; and now seek unto Him who is able to change you from the carnal to the spiritual, to crucify those affections which have their objects on earth and are now so vigorously alive, and to quicken within you such new affections as have their objects in Heaven, and without which Heaven can never be the place our abode, and just because it cannot be the of our enjoyment.
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