« AnteriorContinuar »
shuts up the character of the individual, either to condemnation or to acquittal. What inay be the nature of the human lot between death and the resurrection, God alone knoweth: but cer-tainly death brings the “ end of all things" into real contact with him who suffers it. As he is in death, so will he appear in the judgment. He will rise to receive either salvation or condemnation. "Then shall every man be rewarded according to his works.” What a solemn thought is this—“ The end of all things is at hand."
The Christian will not shrink from it. “I may be within a year, a month, a day, an hour, of eternity! Within the duration of a few hours, I may quit forever all the interests of this world, all the sources of outward good, and the means of outward joy! I may stand as in a moment before the bar of God; I may be encircled by that blaze of light before which the disguises of hypocrisy will wither away! I may be confronted by that eye which pierces at once to the soul, and which spears at one instant ten thousand accents to the heart! Am I prepared for that scrutiny? Am I rcady for that judgment? Is all safe with
soul? Is all well and happy in my present intercourse with God?'
These are considerations very affecting to a Christian; and these are questions from which he will not turn away. A true Christian is indeed a wondrous character. He is allied to God, and he knows the nature and strength of that alliance.
He is one who knows the foundation on which he stands to be a rock, against
adverse wave shall beat in vain. He is a child of God, made such by the sovereign grace of God; “ chosen in Jesus Christ;" called from the mass of an ungodly world to be adopted into the family of heaven, and to be made there a joint heir with Christ, of honor, and immortality, and joy. He is sanctified and set apart for God, and his body is become the temple of the Holy Ghost! His sins are pardoned; his name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life; he is training up amidst many trials for final glory; and " though it doth not yet af pear what he shall be, yet he knows that when his Saviour shall appcar, he sha!l appear with bim in glory.” Hence he is fully persuaded that his main interests lic secure in Christ, unassailable by any power either of earth or hell. “ All things are his, and he is Christ's, and Christ is God's." Such a man may reasonably conteinplate in peace the near approach and the full results of death. To him the approach of eternity and the ruin and wreck of the present system, is a contemplation
very solemn indeed, but very joyful. He must lose to gain; he must die to live. The bankruptcy of carth must precede to him the heritage of heaven. This sustains the Christian under the closer inspection which he makes of the frailty of human things. IIe is not a gloomy philosopher who mocks the sufferings of his fellow, and who loves to live amidst images of woe. No; he is deeply serious. He looks forth upon the wide world, as Noah might have gazed upon the swelling waves of the deluge. He was doubtless appalled by the dark scene of utter dessolation; but he knew his own safety—“God had shut him in;" and the ark could not founder; the promise of God was the pledge of its safety.
Thus the Christian contemplates, if with awe, yet in peace, the breaking up of all human schemes, and societies, and pleasures, and gains, and losses. Ile anticipates the wreck; but he feels himself to be in the ark. In Christ he is secure, and he smiles amidst the spreading blackness of the storm. “The end of all things is at hand!" •Be it so, I am prepared for it; my accounts with earth and heaven are settled; I am not afraid; my home and my heritago are with God.'“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies; who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, and who is even now at the right hand of God." •Lost in myself; worthless; yea, verily “a worm, and no man,' in my own esteem; yet am I in Christ a child and heir of God and glory; and under the shelter of that covenant, I am privileged to say, “ Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” Yea, blessed be God, I thus know the firmness of the ground on which I stand. I know I shall not be disappointed.'
Such is the confidence of the Christian. It is not the security of enthusiasm. It is not the dream of spiritual pride. It is rather faith in the power, the integrity, and the grace of God.
II. But let us go on to consider more particularly the practical influence of the declaration, The end of all things is at hand.” “ Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer."
Sobriety, watchfulness, and prayer, are indeed at all times the Christian's duty and interest; but they have a very close and direct connection with the shortness of time, and the near approach of eternity.
Ist. Sobriety of mind is that temperate use of all earthly things,
and that moderate estimate of their worth, which disposes the Christian rather to detach his affections from present objects, than to be inordinately excited by them. The near view of eternity peculiarly assists him in this moderation as to worldly enjoyments. The time is short: the end of all things is at hand. Of what real value then are those objects which will soon disappear from his view. Of what value are those gratifications which in a few flecting years or months will be powerless any longer to please. He considers life as a pilgrimage, and these enjoyments as but the accommodations of an ind. They are not his heritage; they are not his own: he is but a tenant at will, and may to-morrow be dispossessed of them all.
2d. Prone however to be misled by his senses, he feels the necessity of incessant watchfulness. “Be ye therefore sober, and watch.” His natural love of ease, his reluctance to self-denial will but too readily dispose him to adopt the theory, rather than the practice of sobriety. Hence it becomes his duty to be ever vigilant over his own spirit, to examine candidly and constantly the actual habit of his mind; to watch diligently lest he act inconsistently with his professed principles; lest the world exert an undue influence over his heart; lest self-delusion put him off his guard, and open his bosom to the inroads of temptation, to the willing suggestion of his spiritual foes, and to the inordinate cares of the present life. "Be sober,” saith St. Peter, “ be vigilant, for your adversary, the devil, goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist steadfast in the faith;" and he who is aware of the frequency of temptation, and of his own weakness and inconstancy in its resistance, will the more perceive the importance of this vigilance. “Watch," said our Saviour, "lest
“ ye enter into temptation.” The power of evil is proportioned to its contiguity. When distant, it is more easily resisted; when ncar, it more efficiently entangles the heart. To watch against its approach, is, therefore, to resist it with success. How much sorrow and bitterness of recollection would have been spared to the souls of believers, if vigilance had ever secured them against the approach of a danger, which when contiguous, they had not power to resist. Who can tell the full value of a mind which is habituated to watch the rising movements of evil; and to give notice of the first intimations of sin!
This wakeful spirit will receive much vigor and encourage
ment from the anticipation of the near approach of the day of God. The recollection of eternity is ever powerful to brace the resolution of the timid, and to stimulate the indolence of the slothful. "Watch, for ye know not the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh.” He is certainly coming, and his coming will be as a thief in the night. Wait, then, for his appearing. Watch the intimations of his approach.
3d. But the Apostle directs believers to connect this sobriety, and this vigilance with PrayER. Indeed prayer is the only source of this sobriety and this watchfulness of mind. The brightest impressions fade from the soul if they are not renewed continually by the grace and blessing of God. Hence prayer to the Christian the very life and health of his soul. When our Saviour said to the Apostles, watch” he added, “and pray;" and here St. Peter enjoins, " watch unto prayer;" that is, “ pray without ceasing.” And truly, every Christian has too well proved the value and the sweetness of prayer, to doubt of the prudence of this advice. Prayer is to him, intercourse with God, the confession of sin, the confidence of faith, the interchange of love, the leaning of the heart upon the power and grace of Jesus Christ. A real
A Christian is never long happy, if long retained from prayer. His heart is dull; his joy is diminished; his peace is broken; his prospects overclouded, if he restrains prayer before God. Prayer is not to him the servile effort of conscience, the calculation of interest, the command of custom; but rather the breathing forth of his sondest wishes, and of his highest hopes, to his Father and his God! In prayer he forgets the world, and remembers Jesus! In prayer
he pleads before God the promises of everlasting truth, and is refreshed by the overflowings of divine grace and love! Love is the master-principle of religion; and hence, prayer is the willing homage of the heart. “My soul thirsteth for Gud.” “ As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul aster God.” How intense is this desire thus expressed by the Psalmist, and it is the true and legitimate notion of prayer.
And the connection of prayer with the near view of eternity is very evident. It is by prayer that all vivid impressions of religion are maintained upon the heart. And nothing tends more powerfully to form these impressions than the contemplation of invisible things!“ The end of all things is at hand!” Therefore live in prayer, and let "your conversation be in heaven, from whence you look for the coming of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
My fellow Christians! use, then, the recurring periods of time for this great and important end, to impress upon your minds the vanity of eartbly things, and the absorbing importance of those that are heavenly and eternal! Look back upon any past year, and retrace the abounding mercies of God. Look forward and remember the uncertainty of the future! Ere another year has run its course, you may have done with the interests of time! Live, then, in sobriety, and watchfulness, and prayer. Be preparing daily for your last hour. 6 Blessed are those servants whom when their Lord cometh he shall find watching!" Gird yourselves afresh for his service, and renew with diligence the race which he has set bcfore you! How inconceivably glorious are those realities to which he has directed your attention! “Eye hath
“ not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him; but he hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” Walk then, worthy of God, who hath called you into his eternal kingdom and glory. If life be spared, let the future time be a season of greater devotedness, of livelier zeal, of warmer love, of more diligent watchfulness, of more ardent prayer! Consider more distinctly than you have ever yet done, the relationship which exisis between you and God. “ You are not your own, but bis, bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodics and spirits, which are his."
Endeavor, for this end, more fully and powerfully to bring your minds into contact with eternity. It is emphatically said of Moses, that “ he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” When God is present to the soul, it shrinks from that which is low, and sordid, and earthly, and selfish. Under the conviction of his friendship, the Christian will rise above the petty objects of time and serise, and long to “ be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light!" He will long to conduct himself suitably to bis high calling, and to imitate that Saviour, " whose he is, and whom he serves." My brethren in Christ, surely the recollection of that mercy which; against all our deserts, and above all our fears, bath united us to Christ, and made us heirs of eternal felicity; surely the recollection of this mercy is entirely calculated to raise the tone of our morality; to make us indefatigable in duty, “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Shall the men of the world