Imágenes de páginas

You may

none do anything to fit you for heaven ; none will make the sorrows of perdition more easy to be borne.

It will not save you to cultivate the graces of manner, or the accomplishments of life; to become more learned in the sciences, and a better critic of tie productions of art; to make yourself more moral before men ; to break off your external sins, or to put on the “ form of godliness without its power." cultivate a bramble, but it will not be a rose; a rose, but it will not be a bird of Paradise ; a bird of Paradise, but it will not be a gazelle ; a gazelle, but it will not be a beautiful woman. You may polish brass, but it is not gold; and may set in gold a piece of quartz, but it is not a diamond :-and just as certain is it that none of the graces of native character which you can cultivate will ever become true religion. The evil lies deeper than this, and must be healed in another way. How this is may be explained hereafter. My point now is gained if I have shown you that the Christian way of salvation justly assumes as its basis that our race is by nature destitute of holiness; and if you are convinced, as I would wish you to be convinced, that it is not by works of righteousness which you have done that you can be saved.



ACTS xvi. 30.-"What must I do to be saved ?"

In the last discourse I endeavoured to show that God's plan of saving men is based on the fact that the race is by nature destitute of holiness. I illustrated this by showing that it is not meant that the race is held to be guilty of the sin of Adam; or that it is necessary in order to salvation to suppose that the sinner is as bad as he can be ; or that he is guilty for not doing that which he has no power to do; or that there are no amiable qualities in the minds of men by nature, or that there is nothing that may, in any way, be commended. I showed that it is meant that there is in the heart by nature no real love to God; no just appreciation of his character; no pleasure in the principles of his government; no desire to please him.

This is the condition, I suppose, in which the gospel finds man ; this certainly is the assumption in regard to man in the way of salvation revealed in the gospel. This being supposed, the Scripture plan has, at least, consistency and meaning; this being denied, it has no consistency and no meaning. You cản make nothing out of the gospel except on the supposition that “ Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ;” except, in his own language, it be admitted that he “came to seek and to save that which was lost.He is not, then, in the path of salvation who does not feel and admit that he is a sinner, and who is not prepared to receive salvation as it has been provided for sinners.

We advance a step, then, at the present time, by considering the state of mind which exists when one, impressed with these truths, begins to feel that something must be done to save his own soul; the condition when one enters on the inquiry what he must do to be saved. I may not be able to state all that will be necessary on this part of the subject in this discourse, but I would hope to be able to show you that this inquiry is at least rational and proper, and that it starts questions not beneath the attention of any.

To give some general order to the remarks which I propose to make, I shall endeavour, in the first place, to describe the state of mind to which I refer; shall then state some of the causes which produce it; and then notice some of the perplexities and embarrassments which the mind in that condition experiences.

That is an epoch in a man's life when, from a former condition of carelessness and unconcern, he is first led to ask the question what he must do to be saved ? A new inquiry has come before him, evidently in every way worthy of his attention as a man, and yet in some respects as difficult as it is momentous. It is evidently a great subject, and may involve great changes in his character and plans of life, and it lies far without the range of the ordinary inquiries which come before the minds of men. The word savedsuggests thoughts which do not enter into his ordinary investigations; the word howstarts questions which have not entered into other matters which have occupied his attention. How a man may accumulate property; how he may gain honour ; how he may become learned, accomplished, influential ; how he may ward off the attacks of disease, and how he may defend himself if in danger, are points which he may have often considered, and on which he may have definitelyformed opinions. How he is to be saved is another inquiry altogether. For this is a different question from that about becoming rich, graceful, or honoured; and the knowledge which he has gained on one of these points does not afford him any clue in his inquiries on the former topic. For how shall the knowledge of the best way of acquiring property aid a man in answering the question how he shall be saved ?

The state of mind which I am describing is that which exists when this inquiry first comes up for consideration. It may be characterized by the single word seriousness ; or by the phrase a disposition to thought and reflection. There may be as yet a very slight sense of personal sinfulness, and almost or quite none of danger ; but there is the feeling now that religion is of importance, and that it is at least worthy of inquiry-inquiry as to its truth, and as to the method of salvation which it proposes. There is a conviction hitherto unfelt of the worth of the soul, and a feeling that that should have a degree of thought and attention not before bestowed upon it. Religion somehow occupies more of the attention ; it is suggested more frequently ; it is not so easily disposed of; it is more likely to return after the mind has by a slight effort been diverted from it to other things; it seems to come before the mind with more importunate claims than it has done before.

The power of reflecting on the past, the present, and the future, is one of the highest endowments of man, and nowhere is that power more appropriately exercised than on the subject of religion. We think on the past, and derive valuable lessons from what we have seen and experienced, and from what has occurred to others, to guide us in that which is to come; we think on the present--on what we are—on our characters, duties, and relations, and inquire what we should be in those relations; we think on that which is to come, and inquire what we are yet to be. Thought has no limit. The past, the present, and the future; the distant, the vast, and the incomprehensible; the real and the imaginary; time and eternity; death and life; earth, hell, and heaven ; God, angels, devils, and men; the living, and the dead; nature and grace ; sin and redemption ; man here and man hereafter,-all are within the proper range of thought, and all may suggest thoughts about our personal salvation.

Thought gives birth to new plans, new hopes, new prospects in the lives of men. It leads to permanent revolutions of character'; to the exchange of wild and visionary schemes for those of soberness and reality; to corrections of follies, to enlargement of views, and to the formation of generous and noble purposes. No man is likely to be injured by calm and serious reflection ; none can be by the questions which true religion suggests.

There are inquiries pertaining to religion which are worthy of thought, and which have been so regarded by the profoundest thinkers of our race. Some of the most careful and laboured investigations to which the human mind has given birth have had reference to religion ; suggested by the single inquiry how a man can be saved. Much of the profound reasoning of Socrates, Plato, Cicero, Seneca, Bacon, and Locke, like all that we have of Paul's writings, had reference to religion. More minds have been employed on this inquiry than on any other one subject in which men have been interested, and the inquiry has been pursued with a zeal and ardour such as has been felt on no other. The inquiries which religion suggests are sufficiently various, dignified, and important, to be worthy of the most careful leflection of every man.

Is there a God? Is there an hereafter? Is the soul immortal? Is there a way by which sin can be paidoned, and by which a sinner can be saved ? Has God devised a plan by which a sinner can be justified, and are there conditions on which the benefits of that plan are proposed to men ? Does the Bible contain the record of the way by which a sinner may be saved; or if not, where may such a record be found? Is the. Christian religion true ? If so, what are its claims, hopes, privileges ? What is the way of salvation which is revealed, and how may one be assured that he is walking in that way?

And there are personal questions which demand thought. What has been the character of our lives? What are our hopes for the future? How are we regarded in the view of the holy law of God; how by the Author and Administrator of that law? Are we living in accordance with the purpose for which we were made? Are we prepared for our exit from this present life? Have we done all that we ought to do; all that our consciences require us to do; all that we have ourselves deemed it desirable to do, that we may be ready for our departure ?

The state of mind which I am endeavouring to describe is that in which these inquiries begin to assume something of their proper magnitude. This will not always, indeed, be manifested by assuming the position of an avowed inquirer on the subject of religion. It will be rather, perhaps, in some such ways as these :-conscious seriousness when the subject of religion is alluded to, accompanied with a feeling of its importance such as has not been usual in the mind; a willingness to examine the arguments in favour of religion, and a growing interest in them as addressed to the understanding; an increasing conviction that this world is not a satisfactory portion for the soul, and a disposition to inquire whether the universe has not something better in reserve; a disposition to reflect on the past life-more now on its faults than on its virtues--more on the neglect of duty than on the performance of duty--more on the internal feelings than on the external conduct - more on the thoughts and the motives than on the outward deeds--more on the treatment of God than on the treatment of men --- and more on the now conscious want of holiness towards God than on personal amiableness and morality. You seem to be far less perfect than you supposed you were. You see more errors of judgment; more aberrations from what your conscience tells you you should be; more things in which the motives were doubtful or wrong ; more cases in which there was an improper indulgence of passion and criminal desire. Your temper has been less amiable; your treatment of your father less respectful, and of your mother less kind; your compassion for the suffering and the sad less tender; your charities less generous ; your principles of life less scrupulously exact than you had supposed. You begin to feel, as you have not heretofore done, that you are a sinner; and the inquiry is springing up in your mind as one that claims attention, that

« AnteriorContinuar »