« السابقةمتابعة »
BY REV. J. MANNING SHERWOOD, NEW-YORK.
THE GOSPEL A SAVOR OF LIFE OR OF DEATH.*
“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see ; and that they which see might be made blind."'--Joan 9: 39.
The gospel we preach is life or death—salvation or enhanced perdition to all who come within the scope of its influence. As a system of moral truths and influences, designed and fitted to accomplish a stupendous moral result, the gospel is never nugatory; it makes its impression ; its mission is made to honor its Author in the line of mercy or of wrath. Every person that hears the gospel is made wise by it unto salvation, or is plunged into deeper spiritual darkness-is converted, sanctified, and finally elevated by it to the felicity and glory of heaven, or he is confirmed in his wickedness, and thrust down into a deeper hell.
Here is a fact, a startling and momentous fact, for us to ponder who preach the gospel, and for you to ponder who hear it.
Christ came into this world expressly to save sinners. He has done all that is necessary to bring about so blessed a result. He has taught the world the way of life. He has made an allsufficient atonement for sin. He has established the preaching of the gospel, and whatever other means are necessary to bring sinners to repentance. He has sent the Holy Spirit into the world, and removed the last obstacle out of the way, and done all that can be done to secure the gracious end for which he came into the world and died upon the cross.
And now he leaves that system of truths, agencies, and influences, to operate in the world and work out its amazing results, according to the fixed principles of God's government and the laws of the human constitution. And there is no power beneath the throne of the Eternal that can arrest the workings of this moral system, or prevent its achieving for each one of all the millions upon whom it acts a destiny of fearful interest and magnitude.
It is to the simple fact involved in this matter that Christ refers in my text. His coming into the world is as really for judgment to those who reject him as it is for mercy to those who receive him. The mission and death of Christ in behalf of sinners; the revelation of God's will contained in the Bible
; the institution and operation of the means of grace; and the put
It is due to the Editor to say that he very reluctantly consents to the publi. cation of this discourse, at our particular request.-PUBLISHER Nat. Pr.
ting forth of those spiritual and providential influences with wbich God pursues men in this life, as a matter of fact, are as certain to result in the enhanced guilt and ruin of some, as they are in the salvation and final blessedness of others. This is the natural and necessary result of Christ's coming into the world, and of the preaching of the gospel. And these results will follow wherever the gospel goes. " It will prove a savor of death unto death in every case where it fails to prove a savor of life unto life.
There prevails, a sad and often fatal delusion just on this point. Thousands cherish and act on the notion that they can have to do or not to do with the gospel, just as they please; · that it is optional with themselves whether the gospel shall influence their course and effect their destiny or not; that if they choose they can think and live, and die, and exist hereafter, just the same as if Christ had not come into the world, and there were no gospel to claim their faith and obedience. They are independent of the gospel ; they hold their understanding, their affections, their character, their actions, their destiny in their own hands, and they'll believe what they please, and shape their own course, and control their own being, and work out their own plans and wishes, and notbing shall binder them. But this is a mistake. It is a moral impossibility, since Christ has come into the world, to get beyond the scope or to resist the power of his mission. His coming into the world to save sinners is the foundation-fact of your probationary being—the foundation fact of all God's present dealings with you—the foundation-fact of all the agencies and influences that are operating to form your character and determine your destiny for the coming world. The mission of Christ is therefore necessarily influential upon every soul of man for good or for evil-for life or for death eternal. You are shut up to faith in the gospel-salvation from sin and death by the cross of Christ, or you must take the fearful penalty due to those who despise the amazing grace of God the Saviour. It is not possible for you to breathe, or think, or act out of that sphere which the gospel of Jesus Christ permeates in every line of thought and influence, character and destiny, and in which its power as a moulding and controlling moral force is supreme and universal.
Men may disbelieve and reject the gospel; they may shut their eyes to keep out its penetrating light; they may barden their hearts against its influence, and thereby escape conviction and a troubled conscience. They are at liberty to do this. But will this suffice to deliver you out of the hands of Jesus Christ? suffice to leave you as free to work out the great problem of life as if this were not a gospel world ? suffice to save you from that accumulated and overwhelming weight of guilt and wrath wbich is threatened agaiust the unsaved i Will there be no advancement in the line of depravity; no enhancing
of guilt; no increase of moral distance from God; no treasuring up of wrath and the worst elements of future retribution and misery, as the consequence of resisting and overcoming the entire system of grace? The fact is—and it is one that ought to weigh on us all and never be out of mind—that the gospel is as influential upon those who perish under it, as it is upon those who are saved by it; as influential in the line of spiritual development and moral character; as influential in working out the problem of life, and upon all the great questions at issue at the bar of God. The gospel acts as really, as universally, and as effectually upon the one class as upon the other; and it achieves results as stupendous and as lasting. It only operates in different directions, and secures results opposite one to the other. While the gospel is light to the saved, it is moral darkness to the lost. While it imparts life to the believer it plunges into a deeper death the unbeliever. While it attracts and assimilates to God the soul that it renews and sanctifies, it repels and drives to the utmost boundary of spiritual alienation those who resist it, and makes them tenfold more the children of the Devil.
This is manifestly the doctrine of Christ as he speaks in the text: "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind.” It was not the object of Christ's coming into the world to blind and ruin sinners; this result is wholly incidental. Nor is the gospel of necessity a blinding and ruining power to any man; it becomes such only when it is resisted and perverted. Judgment is not used in the text then in the sense of condemnation, for Christ expressly declares elsewhere that he came not to condemn sinners. He speaks simply of the effects or results of his coming into the world. He came from God to teach the way of life and to die for sinners, and as the result of his coming some will welcome the truth and be saved, wbile others, refusing the light of his teaching, and rejecting the benefits of his mediation, will be made more blind and wicked than they would otherwise have been, and so will perish under aggravated condemnation.
The coming of Christ, therefore, and the preaching of the gospel, are simply the occasion, not the responsible cause, of the enbanced blindness and damnation of those who finally perish. God forbid that the gospel should be blamed or held responsible for a result so fatal and appalling. The gospel is honestly meant to save men. It is wisely adapted to this end. It is preached and made powerful to accomplish it. And every sinner who is taught the gospel would be saved by it if he did not resist; salvation would be the uniform and blessed effect and fruit of the gospel, did it every where act on willing and obedient hearts. God never influences sinners contrary to the truth ; he never puts forth an influence to barden the arts and blind
their eyes against the truth. Sinners are blinded and hardened by means of the gospel ; but the fault is theirs, not God's, not the truth's—theirs, and God holds them responsible for a result so much against the design and spirit and nature of the system of salvation. It is altogether owing to the perversity of their hearts and their active resistance to the truth, that any sinners perish under the gospel. They must therefore take the consequences. Such is the gospel-such the nature of all moral influence-and such are the laws of our being, that if a remedial measure, like that of redemption, fail of its end through the wicked and obstinate resistance of those who are the subjects of it, it will serve greatly to aggravate the evil and sin it was designed to cure.
And there is no avoiding this terrible consequence. The process and the result upon the lost in the line of darkness and enhanced perdition, are as natural, as legitimate, and morally inevitable as the opposite process and result upon the saved, in the line of light, glory, and blessedness. God will not interfere to counteract the legitimate tendencies, or to defeat the legitimate results of those moral truths, instruments, and agencies which he is employing for the salvation of men.
The gospel wields a mighty agency and influence wherever it goes, and achieves the most important result on the character and destiny of all who come under the sway of its power; but the respon. sibility of determining the character of the result produced is wholly man's. He may convert the entire influence and agency of the gospel upon him into a blinding and hardening power, and a means of ruin and wrath. If he will hate and shun the light, God will not interfere to ward off that moral blindness which is the certain effect of truth resisted. If he will neglect so great a salvation as the gospel offers, God will not step in between him and that enhanced perdition which is the necessary consequence. Men are treated as free and accountable beings under the gospel. They are bound to receive and obey it They are not at liberty to neglect it, and forego the blessings it offers. It lays upon them a tremendous responsibility which they cannot shuffle off or evade. They cannot fail of life under it without incurring the guilt of eternal ruin.
We have tiine to note but three of the fatal tendencies of the gospel up in those who reject it.
1. The first is in the line of MORAL INSENSIBILITY. When a sick man is past feeling, or has lost the power of consciousness, the physician begins to despair. So when sinners come to be insensible under the affecting exhibitions of truth; when the gospel has lost its power to ronse their moral feelings, and sin binds the heart with its icy fetters, they are nigh to perdition. And this moral lethargy is induced, sooner or later, upon all who habitually resist the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a common and legitimate effect of continued violence offered to the truth
and to our own moral nature. Man is a creature of amazing sensibilities, and powerful feelings; and the gospel is adapted to work upon these ; and they must be moved or he will never repent. Tbe gospel comes down to him warm with the love of that infinite heart which pities and seeks to save him ; but he repels its tender appeals, its affecting motives, its subduing influences. He meets all that is moving and melting in the gospel in the spirit of opposition. He stifles his feelings, overcomes his convictions, and bluntz the edge of truth. And he repeats this many times, till be comes at length to hear the gospel with perfect indifference, if not with positive aversion.
Is it not a fact, over which thousands of pastors have mourned, that sinners who grow old in our sanctuaries, in resisting the gospel, become more and more insensible under the preaching of the Word ? Sermons that moved them once, move them no longer. Years ago, under the power of a special appeal, or by the affecting scenes of a revival, they could be made to show some signs of life. But what appeal touches them now? What scene has interest enough to melt their stubborn heart?
lift up your voice and cry to them never so earnestly, but they do not liear you. You may preach to them in words that burn with emotion, but they rebound from their heart as if it were a wall of adamant. You mar lay hold of them with the truth to pull them out of the fire, but their only response will be, “ A little more sleep---time enough yet.”
Now the gospel has been" a savor of death into death” to such. They have passed through a process which leaves their spiritual nature blasted, and the gospel nothing to act upon that has hope or life in it. They have arrived at that point where they can breast the whole mighty tide of redeeming influences without emotion and without effort.
The very heathen show sensibility in matters of religion. The dim light of nature alarms their fears. They are anxious concerning the future. They perform the rites of their false faith often with affecting interest and solicitude. The very "devils," we are told, "believe and tremble.” They cannot be stupid or indifferent in view of what God is, and in view of what he is doing in this world of ours to save sinners. But in the sanctuaries of this gospel world, how many sinners are there this day who are stupid and dead! The gospel fails to impress them with the solemnity of its affecting discoveries ; it fails to awaken in them the desire to be saved; it fails to convince them of sin and their need of Christ; it fails to secure any heartfelt interest in the matter of their own eternal destiny. They are just as much at their ease as if no gospel were sounding its message of life in their ears. With the Bible unfolding the wondrous system of mercy; with the gospel urging its powerful appeals upon reason, feeling and faith ; with all the means which minister to salvation doing their utmost