"Not every one who says Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."--MATT. vii: 21.
IN our Lord's introductory address, usually styled "the Sermon on the Mount," he laid down the ground on which he discriminated between wise and foolish men. "Those," he says, "who hear these sayings of mine and do them," I will liken to wise men." Those who hear these sayings of mine," says he, "and do them not, I will liken to foolish men." The wise he compares to a man who dug deep and founded his house on a rock. The rains descended, the winds blew, and the foods came and beat on that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock. The foolish he compares to a man who built his house on the sand. The rains descended, the winds blew, and the floods came and beat on that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. The difference between the wise and foolish was not that one class heard while the other did not, nor that one class believed while the other did not, but that one class did what was required in the teaching of Jesus, while the other did not. The whole matter turned on doing and not doing what the Lord commanded. The matter of being accounted wise or foolish did not turn on the orthodoxy of their views, on Trinitarianism or Unitarianism, Calvinism or Arminianism, but on doing the will of God. The matter does not turn on some abstruse question of theology, metaphysical distinction, or speculation of learned men, nor does it turn on the understanding of learned, difficult, and mysterious terms, requiring great depth of profound learning, but on doing or not doing the commandments of God.
Every man ought to be most devoutly thankful that the question of our being put down with the wise or foolish does not turn on something beyond our control, but on something over which we have control. It does not turn on understanding something that we can not comprehend, or even something difficult to comprehend, nor on receiving some influence that we can not obtain, nor on our Savior or our heavenly Father doing something that he will not do, nor yet on our doing something that we can not do, but on our doing commandments that are not grievous, but easy--something that we can do, and perfectly in the bounds of reason. The question does not turn on what we think, how we feel, what we have experienced, our dreams, the sights we have seen, or the strange sounds we have heard, but on doing the will of God. Those who do his commandments shall enter by the gates into the city and have a right to the tree of life.
The theme of this discourse is, therefore, doing and not doing the will of God; or, in other words, it will be shown that the Lord requires man to do something in order to be saved. He does not save men in doing nothing. It will not be shown in this discourse what that something is that a man must do in order to being saved; but the abstract proposition that he must do something will be discussed. To illustrate the main principle involved, three different theories will be here stated:
1. One of these theories starts out by affirming that "God unchangeably ordains whatever comes to pass." This is followed by the additional affirmation that "the number of the elect is so definite that it can neither be increased nor diminished." If a preacher of respectability, talent, and fair acquirements were to preach the theory just stated for twelve months, in any community in this country, he would find a few who would believe it. What would be the result when they believed it? They would sit down, fold their hands, and do nothing. Inquire, Why is it that they do nothing? They will reply, We have no ability to do any thing. God ordained whatever comes to pass before the world was, fixed the destinies of all men and angels, and we are waiting for him to solve the problem, and, in his good time, show whom he has elected. Thus these continue to do nothing, waiting for the Lord to show whether they are of the elect or not. If they are of the elect, they believe that the Lord, in his own good time, will bring them in by his irresistible power and save them. If they are not of the elect, they can not be saved, though they may pray and fast in sackcloth and ashes till the trumpet sounds.
2. Another theory starts out differently from the one just described, maintaining that salvation is conditional; that God saves men on the condition of faith. But it immediately proceeds to inform us that a man can not believe till God sends power or influence from himself to the heart, and gives him faith or makes him a believer. The advocate of this theory takes great pains to prove that faith is an immediate gift of God. Many, on hearing this theory, believe it. What is the result when they believe it? Precisely the same as in the other case; they sit down, fold their hands, and do nothing. Inquire of them, Why is it that you do nothing? The reply is, that we can do nothing till the Lord gives us faith. We are waiting for the direct gift of God--faith; and when the Lord gives us faith we expect to be saved on the condition of faith.
3. Another theory starts out with the proposition that God will save all men ultimately. But few men ever get fully settled in the belief of this theory. Many will tell you that they have tried to believe it, that they wanted to believe it, but never could believe it without some lingering doubt. They generally come as near to it as the man who argued it dogmatically for an hour, but concluded by saying that he would give his oxen to know it. What is the result where men make the nearest approach to believing this theory? The same as in the other cases; they sit down, fold the hands, and do nothing. Approach them and ask, Why is it that you do nothing? They reply, that we can do nothing in this matter of our salvation, nor need we, for the Lord will save us all, whether we do any thing or not, whether we belong to any church or not, or even believe on the Lord that died for us.
Now, here are three theories, starting out very differently, but resulting in the same thing--leading those who believe them to do nothing. Large books have been written and read on these theories, and men have studied them till their heads ached, and then were grieved that they did not understand them. They have said to themselves, "If I can not be saved until I understand these theories, I can never be saved." The truth is, that it is useless to trouble a man's brain with these or any similar theories. No matter whether you can see through them or not, whether you can understand them or not, any theory that leads men and women to disobey God is wrong. Any theory that leads men and women to do nothing, when God has commanded them to do something, is sinful. The theories alluded to, and many more that might be mentioned, puzzle the minds of men, cause them to study and wonder, but lead the people all the time to do nothing--to disobey the Lord. These are unquestionably of evil tendency and sinful. They not only have no salvation in them, but are in the way of the salvation of men.
But the reader is now ready to demand Scripture--that he does not desire to trouble himself with the theories of men. To the Scriptures, then, shall reference be made. Mark x: 17, there is an account of one coming to the Savior and saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" If the Lord had intended to teach that men can not do any thing, it is a little remarkable that he did not insert it in his reply to this man. He would have simply replied, "You can not do any thing." This would have settled the matter in all time to come; but he did not so reply. The Lord said, "You know the commandments," at the same time repeating them, as given by Moses. The man replied, "All these have I kept from my youth." The Lord replied, "One thing you lack." What was that one thing? "It was grace," says a man. No, sir, it was not grace. The Lord had extended to him the same grace as he had to all other men. "It was the influence of the Spirit," says another. That can not be, for the Lord would not withhold from him the influence of the Spirit, and then cut him off from eternal life for the want of that influence. Not only so, but the influence of the Spirit was doing as much to save him as any other man. It was something which the Lord required the man to do himself. When he heard what it was, he concluded that he would not do it. The Lord then decided (though it is said "he loved him") that he would not have him for his disciple. Do you say it was hard or uncharitable to reject him simply because he would not do that one thing? You ought not, for in refusing to do that one thing, he made a square issue with the Lord. The Lord required one thing to be done. He refused. This was clearly refusing to be governed by the Lord. On this account, the Lord rejected him, and for the same reason he would reject any other man or an angel of heaven. He would not do what was required in the sayings of Jesus, and the Lord likened him to a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The last account of that man is that he went away sorrowful. The question of his acceptance turned on his doing or refusing to do that one thing. Be careful how you refuse to do even one thing commanded by the Lord.
Take another example. On the great Pentecost, the apostle, for the first time, opened out under the last commission--delivered his first discourse after the full endowment from heaven, as Jesus had promised, to guide his apostles into all truth, and, at the close, a cry came up from the multitude, from the lips of those who heard and were pierced in their hearts, "Men, brethren, what shall we do?" Here, as in the case of the man just mentioned, the very first thing is the question about doing. Why did not the apostles tell them that they could not do any thing? Because it was not true. They could do something. The apostle proceeded, and, in one sentence, told them what to do. They did what he commanded, and the Lord received them--likened them to wise men, who heard his sayings and did them. There were many present on that day who heard, but refused to do what the Lord commanded. The Lord did not receive one of these. He counted them foolish men.
Take one more example, as found, Acts 9. Young Saul was on his way to Damascus, persecuting the saints. On arriving near to the city, he and his associates had such a visitation as they had never witnessed before. A great light from heaven shone round about them, and a voice was heard, exclaiming, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Young Saul lifted his voice, and inquired, "Who art thou, Lord? "The Lord replied, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest." Saul again inquired, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Here comes the same question about doing. Why did not the Lord reply, "You can not do any thing?" For the best reason in the world. It was not true that he could not do any thing, but it was true that he could do something. The Lord commanded him to rise, and said, "Go into the city, and there it shall be told you what you must do." When the Lord says a man must do a thing, it is not worth while for preachers to argue that he can not, ought not, or need not. Ananias was sent to Saul to tell him what he must do. He told him what he must do. He hesitated not, but did what he was commanded to do, and the Lord received him. He counted him a wise man. He heard the sayings of Jesus, and did them.
One more example will be sufficient for the purpose of this discourse. We learn, Acts 16, that Paul and Silas came to Philippi to introduce the Gospel there, but, at first, received but little attention. A few obscure individuals gave some heed to the things that were spoken. A woman, possessed of an unclean spirit, followed after them for days, crying, "These be the servants of the most high God, who show to us the way of salvation." Paul never went to persons possessed of unclean spirits, spirit-rappers, spirit-mediums, or table-tippers, to get revelations. He had revelations of a higher order than they know any thing about, and, being grieved, he, in the name of Jesus Christ, commanded the unclean spirit to come out of her, and the spirit came out. Her masters, who were carrying her around and making a matter of gain from her magic arts, laid hold of Paul and Silas, and drew them into the market-place, before the rulers. And having brought them to the magistrates, they said, "These men, being Jews, greatly disturb our city; and teach customs which it is not lawful for us to receive." The magistrates rose up in the midst of the clamors of the multitude, rent off their clothes, and commanded them to be beaten with rods. When they had laid many stripes on them, they cast them into prison, and charged the jailor to keep them safely. Receiving such a strict charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison, the doors were opened, and the manacles fell off the prisoners, and they were all loosed. The jailor, awaking from sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword, and was about to kill himself. But Paul cried with a loud voice, and said, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here." And calling for lights, he sprang in, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Here comes the same question: What must I do? It is not, How must I feel? What must I experience? nor, What must the Lord do? but, What must I do to be saved? They proceeded to speak to him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house; in doing which, they told him what he must do. He rose and did what was commanded, and the Lord received him--likened him to a wise man. He was so anxious to do what the Lord commanded, that he did not wait till morning, but went the same hour of the night. This shows the importance then attached to doing the sayings of the Savior.
To these another class of Scriptures may be added, showing that this principle of doing the will of God runs through the entire Christian life; that it is not something confined to becoming a Christian, but will extend to the resurrection of the dead--to the eternal judgment. Matt. xxv: 31--The Lord says, he will say to those on his right hand, "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." What does the Lord give as the reason of this grand reception? "For," says he, "I was an hungered, and you gave me meat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me." What was the reason of all this? It was something they had done, and, because they had done these good deeds, the Lord will say, "Come, you blessed of my Father." They appear not to understand how they had done these good deeds, and he explains that, inasmuch as they had done these things to his servants, they had done them to him, or that, in doing those charitable deeds to his servants, they had done them to him, and he makes them the reason for the final reception in the great day.
Turn to John v: 28, and read the word of the Lord: "Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." What is here laid down as the reason for coming forth to the resurrection of life? Having done good. They that have done good, to the resurrection of life. What is the reason here assigned for coming forth to the resurrection of condemnation? Having done evil. They that have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation. This is the great turning point--doing good and evil.
To whom is Jesus the author of eternal salvation? Heb. v: 9--Paul says: "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him." To obey him is to do his commandments. The question turns on doing his sayings.
On whom will the Lord take vengeance, when he comes in judgment? 2 Thess. i: 7, 8--Paul says: "And to you, who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." What is the reason here assigned for taking vengeance? Knowing not God and obeying not the Gospel, or not doing the commandments or the sayings of Jesus.
Among the last words of God to man, he says: "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me to give to each one according as his works shall be."--Rev. xxii: 12.
Some man is ready now to file a bill of objections. "I see now," says he, "the whole tendency of your teaching. You make man his own savior. He does every thing himself, and thus saves himself. This robs God of his glory, the Savior of all praise, the work of the Spirit and the grace of God of having any participation in man's salvation. The creature, by his own acts, saves himself. If he should get to heaven on this ground, in heaven he would forever shout praises to himself, that he had done the work and saved himself."
If this objection could be made stronger, it should be done, for the object is not to annihilate a shadow, but to meet the objection in its full force and most formidable proportions. In order thus to a full elucidation of the subject, it must be explained that there are two parts in this great work of saving man--a human and a divine part, or a part that man performs and a part that God performs, and that neither part, alone, will save man. We must have the human and the divine parts together to accomplish the great work. These two parts are not only found in the kingdom of favor, but also in the kingdom of nature. They run through all of man's temporal pursuits in this life. Some illustrations may be found of the principle here involved in those pursuits. Suppose, for illustration, A and B are ready to commence farming in the spring. They have land precisely alike in quality and quantity. They walk out together and view the premises, and enter into a conversation touching the forthcoming operations. Mr. A proceeds to present his theory for the coming spring and summer. He says: "The Lord is infinite in goodness. He is also infinite in love. He loves me better than any earthly parent can love a child. He is also infinite in power. He has all power. He can cause a crop to grow without my feeble and imperfect works. His love and goodness are so great that he is willing to give me a fine crop without my working. As he has the power and is willing, I argue that he will give me a crop without work. I intend to stand off and let the Lord do the entire work, and then I will give him all the glory. I will not rob him of his glory by plowing, sowing, planting, and cultivating." Mr. B says: "I have no doubt about either the infinite power or goodness, but I have some doubt about its being his will to give me a crop without work, and not much doubt either, for I am very certain he will not give me a crop without work. I remember of reading in his good book, that I should eat my bread in the sweat of my face. I intend to work, plow, plant, sow, cultivate; to toil faithfully and honestly, believing the Lord will give me a crop. These two men proceed according to their programme, the one working and the other going about preaching on the attributes of God, and arguing with his neighbors against works. Thus they continue till about the 1st of November. A company, who have been listening at their arguments and noticing the different courses pursued by them, walk out to see what the Lord has done for these two men. They look over the farm where the man had been honestly and faithfully at work all the season, and find that the Lord has blessed him abundantly, crowned his labors richly--every thing abounding all around him. But what has the Lord done for the man who has been preaching and disputing with his neighbors about the attributes of God all season and not working? He has carpeted his farm over with weeds, briars, and thistles, and you involuntarily say, "Served him right." What made the difference? When the Lord gave one, capacity to work, he did the same for the other. When he gave one, good rich land, he did the same for the other. When he sent the sun to shine on the one, he sent it to shine on the other. When he sent rain on the one, he sent it on the other. What, then, made the difference? The difference was, that one worked and the other did not work. Who had ground for giving God glory? The man that worked--that joined the human and divine part together. The Lord blessed him and not the other. In precisely the same way, it will turn out with those who do and those who do not the will of God. Those who do not will be likened to foolish men.
Suppose you were to visit a man that you knew twenty years ago, and who then had no property, but you find him with his broad acres of rich land, his storehouses filled, and abundance of every thing. You inquire of him, how he came by all this. He explains, that by his close application, industry, good management, and economy, he had secured it; but, on being seated at his table, before eating, he returns thanks to the Lord. You inquire of him: What do you mean, sir? Did you not tell me that you made all you possess by your close application, industry, good management, and economy? "I did," he replies. "Why, then, did you give thanks to God for it and not to yourself, seeing that by your own works it was acquired?" I see," continues he, "that I shall have to explain the matter to you. There are two parts in this matter, a human part and a divine part. For the sake of making the distinction, I call what I do myself the human part, and the part the Lord does the divine part. When you were inquiring how I obtained my property, I supposed, as a matter of course, you had reference to my own personal efforts in obtaining it; but when I gave thanks I was looking at the Lord's part, without which my own part would have amounted to nothing, and I gave thanks to the Lord, as if he had laid the loaves on my table. Or if you would have me elaborate the matter more fully, the Lord created me and capacitated me for business. He created the lands I own. He sends the rains, causes the sun to shine, gives the seasons, and causes every thing around me to grow and prosper. When I view all this stupendous part, and compare it with the small part which I do myself, my part sinks into such utter insignificance, that my heart rises in gratitude to God, as if I had done nothing myself. This is what I mean by the human and the divine part."
These two parts run all through the temporal as well as the religious departments. What would all our hard toiling, plowing, planting, sowing, and cultivating amount to, if the Lord did not send the rain, the sunshine, the season, and cause the growth? It would all avail nothing. So absolutely dependent are we on our heavenly Father. These two parts run through the entire system the Lord has ordained to save man. There is a human and divine part--a part for man to do himself, and a part which the Lord does for him. These two parts go hand in hand. Neither will go without the other. Now, please make out a list, and make it as large as possible, of what you have done yourself, and let us compare it with the divine part.
Do you say, "I have believed on the Savior of the world?" Well, it did not require much time nor labor to do that. In a land where the Gospel is preached, and a man hears it, it requires a greater effort to resist than to believe the Gospel. In the act of believing, a man renders no equivalent for any thing, but simply does that which was perfectly reasonable and consistent, easier to do than not to do--to believe the divine testimony which God has given concerning his Son Jesus. A man certainly ought not to speak of it as a great labor he has performed, to believe the truth of God. He would be very unreasonable not to believe, and certainly would not be saved. Still, it is no hard or difficult work to believe.
"But I have repented," says a man. That is certainly well, for he could not have been saved at all if he had not repented. "Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." Still, there is not much work in repentance. Repentance can be performed in a short time. Thousands have repented in a single day. Repentance is like this: A man, going from one place to another, takes a wrong road. When he learns that he is wrong, inquires whether he can not pass across, shorten the distance, and get into the right road. He is told that he can not; that the only chance there is of getting right is to turn back. When he gets back to the right road, he claims great credit for the work he has done in going back and correcting himself. It would be difficult to see that he has performed any great work, or that he should have any special credit, but it is easy to see that he would have been a great simpleton if he had not gone back when convinced that he was wrong. No man can speak of repentance as a work of merit, a great work, or a work that can purchase salvation; yet man could not be saved without it.
Another man exclaims, "I have confessed the Savior." That is well; for he says, "Whoever confesses me before men, I will confess before my Father and before the angels." "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved; for with the heart man believeth to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation." It is no great honor to the Savior to have sinful mortals confess him, but a great honor to the sinner to sanctify his lips in confessing the Savior of men. Still, that confession was no great work; it is made with one breath. It costs nothing, and requires but little time. There was no work in that. It ought not to be mentioned when speaking of work.
"But I have been immersed," exclaims another. There was not much work in that; it required very little time, and was attended with very little inconvenience. It was a mere circumstance, when speaking of work. There was nothing in it to merit any thing, or to be mentioned in the shape of work. Under ordinary circumstances, in an hour from the time of starting, a man is through with immersion. There can be no merit in this.
"But I have prayed, and prayed much," exclaims another. Indeed! and do you mention that as any great work you have done? You have asked for the things you needed, and obtained them. That is certainly getting things on very liberal terms. But much as you have asked, it is very probable that you have obtained more blessings that you never asked for, than you ever obtained even by asking! But it is most astonishing that the ingratitude of the human heart should ever become so great that we should mention our prayers as any great thing we have ever done. But prayer is no equivalent for any blessing. Many a poor beggar asks for the pittance he gets many times where you ask once for the rich gifts of heaven which you enjoy, and never refers to his much asking. Asking for blessings renders no equivalent, but we must be ungrateful beyond degree if we ask not for the blessings of heaven. "You receive not, because you ask not." It is certainly kind, merciful, and liberal in our heavenly Father to give when we ask, and certainly ungrateful in us to refuse to ask; but surely our asking returns no equivalent any more than the asking of the beggar. When we are speaking of the work we have done, we ought not to mention our prayers; they merit nothing; they are no works.
"I have done a vast amount of going to meeting," says one. That is very well; but he should not mention that as any great work done; there was no other place he could have gone to and enjoyed so much; he could not have been so happy anywhere else. It is no great work for a man to go where he wants to be, and where he has the greatest happiness. It does not amount to much when a man goes to meeting if he has to be hunted up by the preacher, overseer, or deacon, persuaded, entreated, and exhorted to go to meeting when he does go. It might be as well for him not to go as to go; the heart is not in it, and his going is not free and voluntary; it is pretty much a matter of constraint. But the true disciple goes to the house of the Lord of preference. He longs to see the hour come, that he may go up to the house of the Lord and greet his brethren. "One thing have I desired of the Lord; and that is, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, and inquire in his temple." We speak not of going to meeting as a part of the good works we have done, but as an item of what we have done in seeking happiness in this world. We could have done nothing that would have rendered a greater amount of happiness in this life. It is no great work, then, any more than the attending of other places of enjoyment.
"But I have communed many times in my life." That was well; but you certainly do not mention that as any great work you have done. If you are truly a child of God, walking in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace; if you love our Lord Jesus Christ, you certainly do not look on it as a work to commemorate his death. You might esteem it a great privilege to sit at the Lord's table and meditate on the death of the Savior--the great sin-offering of his own most precious blood, with which he entered heaven, the true holy place, to appear in the presence of God for us, and not a work, a mere duty, an obligation, but a most gracious privilege. It is the place where the children of God come into the most intimate union with their Lord and Redeemer. They meditate on his great love for us as displayed in his wonderful sufferings--the crown of thorns, the nails that pierced his hands, the spear that pierced his side, the blood that ran down, like water, on the ground. This should be the highest delight of a Christian; it is the nearest possible approach he can make to the Savior in this world. But it is nothing that should be mentioned as any great work we have done; and certainly no merit in it, but a great ingratitude if not done.
Another man exclaims, "I have paid a vast amount of money." That is all very well; but has he not paid as much for tobacco, to carry an election, or some other point in worldly ambition, or for the pride of life? If he has, which yielded the largest amount of happiness in this life? Certainly he will say what he expended for religion. But please inquire into this matter a little. What does a person want money for? The reply is, "To secure the necessaries of life and the greatest amount of happiness." Very well; has he ever expended the same amount in any other way that returned so large a revenue of happiness? Is he not happier to-day, in view of what he has expended in religion, than in view of the same amount expended in any other way? Would he have any of it back again? He certainly would not. If the Lord shall please to give him composure at death and right reason, do you think he would then have any of what he has contributed back? Would he have it expended in any other way? He certainly would not. The amount, then, he has given to the Lord has rendered him already a larger revenue of happiness than the same amount expended in any other way, and will still render a larger amount of happiness at death than the same sum otherwise expended. We can not say much, then, even in view of the money contributed, of the works we have done. The human part even here has been very small. Sum up and put all a man has ever done, or can do, together, and make it look as large as possible, on the one hand, and then turn and see what the Lord has done on the other; or look at the divine part. Let us now survey the other side.
Of what does the divine part consist? What has the Lord done? The Lord has given us existence. This is a wonderful gift. The man who is not grateful for his existence must think meanly of himself. It is a wonderful thing to have an intelligent human existence; to be capacitated and endowed as man is. This one item, in the divine part, looms up so grandly that it overshadows all the human part.
But the Lord has not only given us existence, but given it in the grandest period of the world since creation's dawn. What period has there ever been in which existence was so desirable as the present? Improvements and facilities for human happiness and usefulness abound all around us. A man, so to speak, can live more and do more, in a short life-time of fifty or sixty years, than he could in eight or nine hundred years before the flood. The means of securing the comforts of life, the beautiful countries, the stupendous improvements, the means of travel, transportation, of communication, etc., are inconceivable. The facilities for learning, knowledge, etc., in general, are immense. The means for Bible knowledge; the manuscripts, translations, histories of the Bible, of the Church, of men, and of the world; the critical works, commentaries, concordances, lexicons, icons, etc., are so abundant, that if a man does not learn something, he must be stupid in the extreme. The fields the Lord now opens to men of enterprise, in all the great departments in life, are great and inviting beyond any thing in any other age of the world. We should bless God for existence in this grand period of the world.
But when we had sinned against Heaven, forfeited all, and were lost--without God, and without hope--the Lord had mercy on us, and opened up a way, new and living, whereby we could return to him and obtain pardon. In pity, in infinite compassion, he looked down on us and extended his Almighty hand to lift us up and give us glory and honor. "Know you not," says Paul, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that, though he was rich, for our sakes he became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be made rich." From riches, and glories, and honors, he descended to the abodes of wretchedness, sorrow, and woe, to lift us up and crown us with glory and honor. He condescended so low that he had not where to lay his head. When we come to this, all we have ever done sinks into insignificance and nothingness.
Then follow the Savior during his mission, and see him stooping to the poorest, the lowest, and humblest, in acts of mercy and compassion, kindness and benevolence. Be hold his deep sympathy, his great love, his divine pity--none were too low, too humble, or too degraded for his divine compassion. Then look at the great and commanding displays of supernatural power, the mighty miracles, in attestation of his divine mission: the blind saw, the deaf heard, the dumb spoke, the lame walked, the dead rose, and the poor had the Gospel preached to them. "The works that I do, they testify of me," said he. The vast multitude, in the open blaze of daylight, are fed by miracle; the sea is calmed, and the furious winds subside at his mandate. When he dies, there is a great earthquake: the rocks rend, and darkness spreads down over the whole land, from the sixth to the ninth flour. The vail in the temple is rent from the top to the bottom, as if to symbolize, that the way into the true holy place was about to be opened. Men in all directions are overwhelmed and filled with most profound awe. But even now, after the body is dead, they fear that something will come from it, and, with caution, place an armed guard of sixty men over it. A great stone is rolled to the entrance of the tomb, in which it is laid, and the governor's seal placed on it, with the charge, "Make it as secure as you can." His friends are disheartened. The enemies are exultant. They feel that they have gained a victory. But the question is not settled yet. He has only so far gone through the programme, precisely as he said he would before he died, and died the precise death he predicted. But he said he would rise again the third day. His enemies remember that he said this, but do not believe it. All they do is to guard against deception--against the body being stolen, and a report put in circulation that he has risen. The predicted time for his resurrection comes. The grand test is at hand--the decisive trial. Will he rise? Early on the morning of the third day, as the day began to dawn, an angel descended and rolled away the stone from the entrance of the tomb. The Lord rose from the dead, and, as if the Almighty determined a still fuller demonstration and attestation, a vast number of others--it may be, old saints, whose bodies rested about Jerusalem--rose, also, after his resurrection, and were seen of many in the holy city.
By the time you view these scenes, on the divine part, or in "the wonderful works of God," what think you of the human part--of all man does or can do? But the story is not near told. Follow on till the Lord ascends to heaven, is crowned Lord of all; till he sends the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth, inspires the apostles, endues them with unerring power, sends them into all the world to preach the Gospel to every creature, gives them the Gospel, through them opens the door of the kingdom of God, receives men and cleanses them from all their pollutions in the blood of the Lamb; takes away the guilt, the condemnation, and justifies sinners--those who had forfeited every thing--and receives them as children, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. He then extends to them line upon line, precept upon precept, saying to them, Come, my dear children, let me take you by the hand; I will never leave you nor forsake you, but will grant you grace and glory, and withhold from you no good thing. I am able to hold you up; to keep you from falling; I will be a strong tower round about you, realizing to you continually that the everlasting arm is underneath. In all your trials, afflictions, and fears, I will be a father to you, and you shall be my children. Call on me and I will hear you.
Such are a few of the consolations he furnishes as we pass along through this life. Then, when we come to the end of the race, to the conclusion of this life, and are called on to bid adieu to all that is dear on earth--father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, son, daughter; when the most tender fleshly ties are to be cut asunder and all earthly relations severed forever; when houses, lands, moneys, goods, chattels; in one word, when all kinds of worldly interests are to he surrendered; when the body itself is sinking, and the cold hand of death approaching; when the earthly powers are all failing, and even life itself is fading away, and the summons comes to cross the river, and the Lord reaches his hand and says, "Come, ye blessed of my Father enter into the joys of your Lord"--little will we think of all we have ever done. Thus, beyond the "rolling river," when he shall send a convoy of his blessed angels to escort us to Abraham's bosom, to the paradise of God, to a state of rest, of comfort, till the resurrection morning, the immensity of the divine part, the work of the Almighty Father, for man, will begin to show up grandly.
But beyond this again, when the grandest day, since creation's dawn, shall come; when the world, as in the days before the flood, shall be rushing on its wild career, suspecting nothing, suddenly the ears of all nations will be saluted by the voice of the archangel and trumpet of God, announcing the grand summons, "Arise, you dead, and come to judgment." The graves will be opened, and all that are in their graves will come forth: they that have done good, to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation. The saints will not simply be raised from the dead, or restored to what they were before they died, but changed, from mortality to immortality, from dishonor to a glorified body, like the glorified body of the Lord himself. God gives to every seed its own body, not as it was when sown, but the glorious body of the resurrection, a glorified, or immortalized body. When we think of this part of the work of our heavenly Father, all we ever did sinks out of sight. This prepares us for the interesting and glorious associations of the angels, the redeemed, happified, and glorified, in the heaven of heavens, in the presence of God and the Lamb.
But there is still another chapter in the work of the Almighty Father. His infinite hand fitted up the new heavens and new earth. When the old world, or the world before the flood, was filled with violence, polluted and corrupted so as to be beyond the reach of repentance, beyond the reach of all moral power, the Lord destroyed it by water. When the world that now is, shall culminate in crime, hardness of heart, and rebellion against God, the Lord will baptize it not as he did in the days of Noah, in water, but in fire. This prepares the way for the "new heavens and new earth," which the Lord shall fit up for the saints, in which righteousness shall dwell. When we are contemplating the divine part, then, we must take into the account this stupendous work of fitting up the new heavens and new earth. This all belongs to the divine part. Man has no agency or instrumentality in it.
There is, however, one more chapter in the divine part. The new Jerusalem, which John saw descend from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride for her husband, belongs to the divine part. "I saw," says John, (Rev. xxi: 2), "the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride for her husband. And I heard a loud voice out of the throne, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and GOD-WITH-THEM shall be their God. And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, nor shall mourning, nor crying, nor pain be any more; because the former things are passed away." In view of this and what has preceded of the divine part, what shall we say of the human part? Certainly it will not hinder us from ascribing the blessing and the glory, and the honor of our salvation to God and the Lamb forever and ever.
What we do, or can do, is but little; but our most gracious Father can do much. We are weak, but he is strong. We are poor, but he is rich. We may, then, in the language of the Old Book, say, "Not to us, not to us, but to thy great name be all the honor and glory, O Lord of hosts." When we look to a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; a rest remaining for the people of God; a city whose maker and builder is God, where all tears shall be wiped away, and there shall be no more sorrowing, nor any of the causes of sorrowing; where our hearts shall never ache; where the weary are at rest and the wicked cease from troubling; where peace, joy, and love shall abide forever and ever; where we shall see Jesus, whom we have loved, praised, and adored, and dwell with him forever, in the presence of the Father, we shall say, It is enough.
In view, then, of the great things the Lord has done and proposes yet to do for the children of men, and the small amount he requires of man, what can be said to those who have never taken interest enough in these wonderful matters to take the first step, or do the first thing, of that small part required of man in order to his salvation? Can it be possible that men will live in a land of civilization, churches, preachers, and Bibles; in a Gospel land, and hear that Jesus died for them; that he rose from the dead, and will judge the world in righteousness, and utterly disregard his authority? Can they, will they hear and know, that he stands all the day long, stretching forth his hand to a disobedient people, and inviting them, by all his tender mercies, to come to him and live? Shall he appeal to them by all his love, his goodness, and compassion to come to him and live, and will they, in hardness of heart, impenitence, and unbelief, turn away and refuse to have his grace? While the Lord holds up before their eyes a history of the people before the flood, of the Egyptians and Sodomites, and warns them, by their terrible example, shall it fail to reclaim them? Shall the men of Nineveh, of Tyre, and Sidon, and the Queen of Sheba rise in the judgment and condemn the men of our time? Be warned by the fate of the people before the flood, the Egyptians, those of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, the Jews and all the nations and peoples who have turned away their ears from the counsel of heaven, and turn to the Lord. Be warned by the terrors of the Lord, by the eternal judgment and the eternal condemnation of the wicked; be warned by the value of your precious soul and the imperishable glories and honors to be awarded at the appearing and kingdom of Jesus Christ. Be warned by all the nearest, dearest and most sacred interests of humanity; by all your relations in this life; the love you bear to fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, as well as the community in which you live and which you owe your influence and means, in a liberal degree, to elevate, ennoble and save.
You will, to some extent, be held amenable in the last judgment, for the moral and religious condition in which you leave the community where you lived. If you never try to make yourself any better, not even so much as confessing the name of Jesus, or by any direct act, indorsing his religion, you will be held accountable for insubordination to the Lord and the life you have wasted in opposition to the will of God, that ought to have been spent in doing good. Think of these things and turn, while it is called To-day. Be entreated by all the tender mercies of our God, his goodness and compassion, to turn and live. To-day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, but bow your will to the will of God.