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nature. Now conscience we do believe to have ever been that widespread principle which hath attained dominion over every thinking, living, and immortal creature, so that no man hath been born out of the region of conscience.
But this is not all whereby God hath made the heathen responsible. He hath spread before them the fair works of his creation. Now we might speculate very unsatisfactorily and very inconclusively concerning the amount of information which the heathen should obtain out of the volume of nature, unless God himself had given us information thereupon. But the Bible tells us expressly concerning this matter, that “that which is known of God is manifest in them”—that is, the heathen“ for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse."
But supposing that this information thus to be gathered by the exercise of man's reason on the works of nature, were altogether insufficient to give information of God's nature and attributes, he has opened unto them another book, the book of providence, and there, by a continual and most kind manifestation of himself, he hath been directing them into a spiritual knowledge of Him who made them and sustains them. And here, again, would we fall back on Bible testimony: God “ hath not left himself without witness in that he did us good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” These are words addressed (mark you) to the heathen : but this was insufficient for them.
Therefore God dealt still further with the heathen: he sometimes came out of his dark chamber, and did manifest himself so to the world that one would suppose it could hardly have missed to recognize his interposition. He poured forth his judgments on them ; he rained down fire from heaven, so that the cities of the plain were consumed thereby; he opened the windows of heaven, and he broke up the foundations of the great deep, so that the world, because of its apostacy and its atrocious wickedness, was overflowed by the deluge: and herein was God giving to all after-times testimony of his interposition as the Governor, as well as the Maker, of the universe.
Now when all these trials had been made during a long series of ages, and had altogether failed, and man knew nothing of his
Maker, and recognized none of the foot-prints of Deity, and paid no service, and offered no worship, to the Holy One; then God commenced the making of a direct revelation of himself, and he began to deal with one separate nation upon new and formerly untried principles. He came as at Sinai, and there, visibly and with all glory and solemn accompaniment, did he deliver the book of his law, and there did he prescribe rites and observances, pregnant with meaning, and all giving information concerning the great plan which God had devised for the restoration and the eternal glory of man's fallen race. Henceforth the Jews did not take their place with the surrounding nations, and had not a common lot with the people about them; but they became distinguished and parted off, and surrounded by a hedge of privileges. There God committed to them his own truth, and they became the depositaries of revelation; and all the services which were bound upon them, and all the burdens and ceremonials through which they had to pass, were just so many visible and legible books wherein they might read what God had ordained for their posterity. But all the while they did not understand these things ; they were far away from all spiritual worship, they were far away from all spiritual intelligence of the law; and they made to themselves a mere idolatry of external things: they were as superstitious as their neighbours, but in a
Then did God commence a new way with mankind, not only by a direct revelation, such as the Jews enjoyed, but one that was complete; not consisting in type, imagery, and prediction, but having all the fulness and the substance of the entire accomplishment. In the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God hath given us full information upon these two points: he has told us concerning sin, what is its true nature, that it consisteth in the transgression of the divine law, that it has nothing to do as to its character with more or less, that it is a thing hideous in itself, and hateful unto God. He hath surrounded it with the utmost solemnities, so that we no longer dare trifle with sin,' no longer deal with sin as though it were a small matter; for God hath taught us, in the Gospel of his grace, how it caused the Eternal One to come down from his glory, to become as one of us, to be subject to all distresses and all disgraces, to anguish, agony, and death, just because sin was so tremendously evil that in no other way could it be atoned for and trampled under foot. Then, God having given us information concerning the way of pardon and peace, and having exhibited
himself in a new character, he has shown himself, not, as under the Old Testament dispensation, the Lord of Hosts, mighty and powerful, putting down all hinderances and opposition ; but he has exhibited himself as a kind and gracious Father, yearning over his poor wandering children, who has spared no expense, but who is infinitely liberal in the dispensation of the treasures of his grace, that he might reconcile them to himself, and keep them evermore in the circle of his own unchanging favour.
Now herein God hath been completing that which was imperfect unto the former dispensation ; for in the Gospel of Jesus Christ we find the substance, whereas the Jews possessed only the shadow. They had books of revelation, written by the mind of the Spirit, and, it
were, with the very finger of God: but we have the canon of inspiration complete; we have our Bible, wanting no part, having the New Testament as well as the Old; having the life of Jesus, all the circumstances concerning the office, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, before us; having the full promulgation of the truth by the servants whom he sent forth to teach hy word of mouth, and to leave their letters unto the church, to be as a perpetual and a most precious inheritance to all God's believing people.
But, beloved, mark you, all the while, how there hath been an increase of responsibility. All this while God hath been applying clear information of himself; hath been coming down, as it were, to the level of our darkened understanding; hath furnished us with all truth, and with all evidence. He hath given us the external and the internal evidence: he hath shown us, in the history of the world, a confirmation of his own word; and he shows, in the inner chamber of our own heart, the suitableness of the remedy, and a full and a complete knowledge of the disease.
Now, we cannot stand at the judgment as the heathen would, nor even upon the low level which was occupied by the Jew: but we must go to judgment with all our accountableness upon us; we must go to judgment as those unto whom God hath committed the perilous blessing of a preached Gospel ; perilous to the unheeding, the careless, and the unconverted, for it will just go to the mighty enhancement of their everlasting condemnation. They cannot plead that they were ignorant; they cannot plead that they received imperfect communications ; for God hath given to them all that they needed to know, and hath richly and abundantly bestowed on them all the means of grace. With a gathering of these external privileges to themselves, they have risen to a new standard of judg
ment; for, with the imparted gift, there hath come an increased accountableness; and they must be judged according to the character of that which God hath imparted to them. At the great àssize, when Jesus, unto whom all judgment hath been committed, shall occupy the prepared seat, and before whom the books shall be opened, then shall stand forth these witnesses: Providence all providential gifts and bestowments; the kind, gracious, and liberal things which God hath been doing to all the race of man: so that there shall not rise up one from the face of this broad earth but hath been a recipient of bounty, hath been sustained with food; and whose breath-drawing has been under the care and kindness of the Lord.
But not general providence only, in which all have participated, but the biography of every man shall furnish forth instances of special interposition; the hand extended to supply and to relieve; the arm outstretched to defend and to deliver; mercy coming most opportunely, at a most unlooked-for time, and under circumstances the most unexpected: these, forgotten by us, shall be remembered by the Lord, and they shall occupy page after page in that book that shall be opened to the confusion of the unbelieving and unrepenting
But this is not all. It would be well for those who shall stand in judgment if this were all they have to account for-lost privileges and neglected mercies. God will call forth, not only his own interventions of providence, but his interventions of grace: the sermons they have heard, the Sabbath days they have spent, the messages God hath sent to them, and all the words of kindness which have come down from their Father; these will be the witnesses against them. And if, all the while, the heart hath been unchanged ; if it hath remained in its obduracy; if there hath been no turning to God; no yearning after the things of heaven, then, that which should have been the savour of life unto life,” shall, in the fearful language of our text, be unto such an one 66 the savour of death unto death.”
But let us go on, as we proposed, in the second place, and speak of this matter as IT RESPECTS THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF EVERY ONE UNTO WHOM THE GOSPEL IS PREACHED. We are sure that none of God's people shall be lost: that which in his eternal councils he hath devised must go forward, unhindered and unchecked by all human opposition, to its final accomplishment.
The apostle testifies concerning himself and those who were his colleagues in the work of preaching the word, “ We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life life.” The
of God shall be accomplished; the preached Gospel shall effect its design. Now, concerning the purpose of mercy, concerning the word being “ life unto life," we do not now speak. We know very well that those whom God is bringing unto himself, those who are to be the heirs of eternal glory, shall, by these means, be brought to glory; that saved souls shall attribute all their blessedness unto the word that was ministered to them through the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is with respect to the more awful words of the message, which come in the way of warning, that we desire to fix your attention. If it be not received it is “ the savour of death unto death.” It is something separate and distinct from the responsibility of which we have spoken.
In the first place, it is something altogether separate and distinct from that enlarged amount of accountableness which belongs to those who live, not only as heathen having conscience, or as Jews having an imperfect revelation, but as Christians, having an entire communication of God's purposes. It is something separate from this, namely, the worse condition in which the preached Gospel leaves those who have heard it.
Now this belongs, in some sort, to all the inhabitants of the land in which Christ has been preached. It belongs in some sort to those who have their dwelling-place in christianized countries. They can hardly miss to hear something of the Gospel, if they have ever, in all their life long, wandered into a church ; though the minister shall not preach Christ, though his sermon shall have been a cold piece of barren morality, yet they cannot have remained during the service without hearing something of salvation. Therefore, they do not go forth from that hearing the Gospel, imperfect and circumscribed though its amount be—they do not go away just what they
But this is a very rare case.
It is seldom indeed that a man shall hear the Gospel but once in his life-time: he has grown up with a certain familiarity with an established form of faith; it is not with him as it is with the heathen, who has been taught by his father to bow down to the idols of wood and stone, and has bounded all his privileges within the little compass of his country's super