Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

ted to assemble here. The terms of this promise, you observe, are peculiar, and in none of the commentators have I been able to discover a clear, and to my own mind, a satisfactory interpretation. To all there are some insuperable objections, and the full consideration of the subject would, therefore, occupy more time than I could venture to appropriate at present. I think that I shall be able to offer you an elucidation of this promise in many respects new to you, and in all respects important.

One prominent reason, however, why I dismiss the consideration of the promise which concludes the epistle is, that the subjects already discussed this evening are rich in the practical remarks to which they naturally give rise; and though I shall not be able to go to the extent I desire, yet as the great object of preaching is to carry truth to the heart, I propose to confine your attention through the remainder of this discourse to topics of deep and vital practical importance.

And first I remark the possibility of being zealous for the truth, and strenuous in its support, and yet being cold and indifferent to that which is dishonourable to God and ruinous to the souls of men.

What a wonderful exemplification of this is there in the case of the members of the Church of Pergamos, and in what vivid colours does it depict the self-deception which men practise on themselves. To be zealous for the truth, and to stand out manfully in its defence, is a Christian duty imperative as it is obvious; but the consistency of Christianity requires, that truth defended at one point should never be left open to the attack of the enemy at another. Who that looks at this subject will not view

the serious deficiency which existed in the Church of Pergamos? Its members stood firm against the most terrific persecutions, and would brave the stake of the martyr, sooner than to forsake the faith and to deny the name of Christ. This threw a wellearned splendour around their character, but it was a splendour which had a dark and dismal reverse. They looked with apparent indifference on those in their own body who were seeking to sap the very foundations of their faith, and taught in the insidious wiles of Balaam, were seeking to draw them from their firmness by slower and more wary means than their outward opposers. You, my friends, may hold as pure a faith as was ever held on earth, and the very pride of your hearts, as well as convictions of right, might make you despise opposition and dare the terrors of martyrdom, and yet you yourselves may live in the continual indifference to errors and abuses of a practical kind, which indicates a deficiency in the true spirit of the Gospel. You see around you a world which lieth in wickedness; you behold the ungodliness of those by whom you are surrounded, and you look upon it with an eye of cold indifference, and you feel within you the vain applauses of a self-satisfaction, because you do not run to the same excess of vice and immorality and disgrace and crime. It is the vain and selfish impression of your minds, that this is no immediate concern of yours. But permit me to tell you, brethren, that the possession of a faith, however pure, can never shelter you from the deep criminality of indifference to the vice and immorality and ungodliness by which you are surrounded. In the prophecy of Ezekiel it is written, as addressed to one who was about to give a faithful record of the people—“Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry for the abominations that are done in the midst thereof." There were multitudes in that city who satisfied themselves in the mere abstracted purity of their religion; but they had not around them the sacred splendour of a pure benevolence, and when the destroying angel marched through the city of Jerusalem and left his line of desolation, these men and these women of indifference to ungodliness, felt the prowess of his arm; but they were spared monuments of mercy, who sighed and cried for the abominations that were done. Does the wickedness of those by whom you are surrounded; does the awful perishing condition of thousands who are in your very eyes, excite no sympathy for them, no efforts to rouse them, and no crying and tears to God on their behalf? Take it for granted, ye who are called Christians and yet are indifferent—take it for granted, that though in your speculative faith, like that of the Church of Pergamos, no flaw can be found to exist, your deficiency is in zeal for the honour of your God and love for the souls of your fellows; and if with that indifferent disposition you should even for your faith dare to be bound to the stake and perish in the flames, you would chance to be most awfully mistaken. Your souls would but feed on ashes, and instead of a crown of glory, the kindled flame which you braved would only be the introduction to that which is quenchless. Let every one before me learn from the history of the Church at Pergamos, that indifference to sin in others puts

[ocr errors]

in jeopardy their own individual welfare; and that unless they repent God will fight against them with the sword of his mouth, and the sentence of his mouth will appoint them portions with the unbelievers.

Again: From the whole tenor of the epistle to the Church of Pergamos, we learn the awful danger of worldly compliances. This is one of the most impressive lessons taught us by this history. It is an emphatic interrogatory of the Scriptures—“Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God ?" And it is one of the dark crimes standing against multitudes who, as far as speculation goes, refuse to deny the name and the faith of Christ, that they give way to the seductions of the world, and do not maintain that elevated standard of Christian consistency and separation from the world which the seriousness of the Christian profession absolutely demands. Oh, how does the experience of hundreds bear me witness, that worldly compliance has been the fruitful cause of apostacy from God. I am constrained to say, that it is the besetting sin of many professing Christians. They make the vain and unrighteous attempt to mingle together the opposing services of God and mammon, and they hold it lawful to engage in a variety of pursuits and practices and pleasures, which directly or indirectly are opposed to the laws of God and the sobriety and verity of the Christian character. Those who call themselves Christians are not as generally as they should be, a separated people; they are not as devoted to God as the solemnity of their profession demands; and instead of presenting themselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, they live unto themselves, and with a fatal inconsistency run into the follies and vanities and amusements of the world, just as those who make no such large pretensions. I know that here I tread on ground which is at once repulsive. What harm can there be, it may be asked, in professing Christians pursuing the same round of pleasures which make up so much of the happiness of others ? Stop, my friends; if there is a single individual here disposed to argue in this way, let him beware, for he is treading in the very steps of Balaam, the son of Peor. Do you not know that one step from the line of sobriety and consistency, though it may not in itself be ruinous, is nevertheless preparatory to another? Do you not know that worldly compliances drew the people of Israel to idolatry, and thus accomplished in a measure the unrighteous plans of Balaam, when all the embattled hosts of Balak could not stand against them in the field? Do you not know that in the Church of Pergamos what the very horrors of

persecution could not produce, was nevertheless accomplished by the slow and insinuating measures of those who taught that these worldly compliances were matters of indifference? And do you not equally know, that in both these cases, the wrath of God fell heavily on the people? Yes, my friends, and when there is one among you who feels a disposition, by ungodly arguments, or unmeasured ridicule, or plans of varied enticement, to induce those who make a profession of religion to join in your pursuits and pleasures-you act, whether you know or whether you know it not, whether you believe it or whether you believe it not,—you act upon the very counsel given by Balaam to Balak; and those whom, in the

« EdellinenJatka »