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power of love. Every thing that is truly spirit, this power attracts to a spiritual, central point, a point of rest; to its original, to the Father of spirits. And as the stone, thrown into the air, does not attain its resting place until it reaches the ground from which it was taken, so nothing, which can be properly called spirit, is able to find repose, until it rests in the central point of the world of spirits, in God. All ye, who are here assembled, ye future priests and administrators of the mystery of the Gospel, are ye-spirit? If ye are, then let me ask you, do you experience this great attracting power of spirits? Does it draw you without intermission to the central point of the spiritual world? Can you find no rest until you find it in God? If you must acknowledge that you are not spirit; if the concealed attraction of earth draws down your heart along with your body to the dust; then murmur no longer because the Bible calls you flesh; you are flesh.
2. Yet, mortal, however deep your degradation may be, as represented in the Gospel, you may be raised as high as you have sunk low. Lift up your hearts, ye who love the Redeemer, and pray; so shall ye be partakers, through Christ Jesus, of the divine nature. The sacred oracles assure us of this; and the whole plan of redemption as recorded in the Gospel, what is it, but a plan for the elevation of human nature to a likeness with God?2 The Spirit that giveth life is poured forth by the Prince of life upon fleshly natures, and Jesus Christ affirms, 'I live, and ye shall live also.' He has promised to his faithful ones,-I, and the Father will come unto you and make our abode with you.'-—And shall the mortal man, shall the fragile tenement in which both the Father and the Son have made their abode, be given over to corruption? Oh this wonderful testimony within the faithful heart;-see, that which was old hath passed away; everything hath become new, as soon as thou art loved in the Son of God's love! Who, besides the Spirit of God, could leave such a testimony within the breast of man? The same conscience which condemns thee can never acquit thee. It is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, which implants the conviction within thee, that thou art one with them.- Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom;'-such freedom as bursts
1 For a further illustration of the power of christian love, see Note M, at the close of the Sermons.
2 See Note N, at the close of the Sermons.
the bars of death, and cries,- Death, where is thy sting?' you have the key to that mysterious passage of the Redeemer, in which he declares, "The hour is coming and has come already, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and they who hear shall live." Yea it has come already, it is now,—the resurrection from the dead; for wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the seed planted of an unending life.
'Your body,' says the apostle,' is indeed dead on account of sin'; but the spirit is life on account of righteousness. If now the Spirit of him who hath raised Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, then the same Being who hath raised Christ from the dead, also giveth life to your mortal bodies, for the very reason that his Spirit dwelleth in you." The Spirit which the Lord pours out upon his own, is the same by which he has overcome death; and the same Spirit triumphs over death in us also; and our frail tabernacles it will build anew, and invest them with glories like the glories of the body of Jesus. Wherefore, elevated as no mere mortal ever was, the Saviour stands and cries, Whoso believeth in me shall never die; he hath been translated from death to life!' Has it already been your experience, beloved, that you have tasted of all joys and have found none of which you can say, these will satisfy me forever? Your experience of the vanity of this world's good, has been as it should be. There is only one kind of joy, in which the soul is interested, and of which I never become weary. This is the joy and the peace which the testimony of our adoption by God brings with it. Oh ye, who are yet afar off, believe it, there are, yea there are, in the life of the faithful Christian, not only minutes and hours, there are days and months and years, which he could wish to be prolonged to all eternity, and he would never be weary of them. There is a richness in these periods, and a fullness in them, a life and a stillness, an activity and a deep repose, and a steadiness, which fills the whole soul, and which no one can adequately understand, but one who has felt them. And the voice of the faithful Christian bears audible testimony,- We have tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.' In what they already enjoy here below, they have a foretaste of the future world.
1 John 5: 25. See Note O, at the close of the Sermons. 2 Rom. 8: 10, 11.
From this you will understand why, in our text, the children of God are called heirs of God; and why the Spirit, which is imparted to them, is called the surety of the future inheritance. The apostle says in the subsequent context, that they who have faith have received the first fruits of the Spirit. Now the first fruits of a harvest are followed by the full harvest. In these first fruits Christians are fully assured, how rich a harvest is preserved for them in heaven, when they shall behold in glory, what they now hope for in weakness. But so long as you remain destitute of that degree of faith, by which you may taste the powers of the world to come; so long, Christians, as you are not made happy men by the power of your faith, tell me, how can you explain the words of your Redeemer, when he says that the man, who has faith, has already pressed through death and has passed unto life?" Tell me, does there not appear to be a sacred intimation, in these words of Jesus, that the idea of faith involves something more, decidedly more, than that poor and starveling principle, which is all that your experience comprehends? But whoever of you in this christian assembly can say, we have felt the powers of the world to come, since we have exercised faith; we have experienced the first fruits of the Spirit, which will one day be followed by the whole harvest; we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, and have thus received an earnest of our heavenly inheritance; whoever can say this, to you heaven is secure beyond a doubt. Ye happy ones, to you there remaineth not a solitary doubt, that heaven shall be your home. When the hour shall arrive, that last hour, when they who love you shall surround, with tearful eyes, your dying bed, then, oh ye happy ones, ye shall need no consolation from others; a consolation strong and clear shall spring up from the deeps of your own breast; your eye shall look upward steady and serene, and your last word shall be,-I know that my Redeemer liveth.'
And now tell me, ye who have never received this surest pledge of eternal life, have you indeed no knowledge of it? How then will you stand up in the last struggle? He who knows nothing by experience of the grace of Christ, is represented by Luther as repeating this stanza :
1 John 5: 24. See also 1 John 3: 14.
I live, but ah! how long,
Why then, I ask with wonder, why
Do I thus live in ease and joy?
You on the contrary, who, through the grace of God, feel warranted in saying of yourself, I know in whom I have believed,'-why will you remain downcast and fearful? Whoever has received such a pledge of eternal life as you have, is entitled, says Luther, to sing,
I live, and I can tell
How long my life will last;
I die, and know full well,
How I shall die and whither go
The Lord hath made me clearly know:
Why then, I ask with wonder, why
In sadness do I droop and die?
In harmony with these sentiments, I will close my discourse to day, this feast-day for the dead, with two questions. To you, who bear about in your breast no earnest of future bliss, and have no protector, standing ready to intercede for you at the judgment; to you I put the query, Friend, how can you live in ease and joy?' But to you, who have obtained pardon; to whom God hath given through Christ Jesus the first fruits of his Spirit, for a pledge of eternal life; to you who can say in faith, I know that my Redeemer liveth;' I put the question, Why do you droop in sadness so often and so deeply?'
May the Spirit of God be shed abroad in us all more and more richly; and in him and through him, may we all receive the cheering testimony, that we are the adopted children of God in Christ Jesus! 2
1 I know when I shall die, for I die every day, and every hour to the world.
2 See Note P, at the close of the Sermons.
THE REPENTANCE AND PARDON OF THE THIEF ON THE CROSS.
THE words which will lead our devotions to-day, are found recorded in Luke 23: 39-43. "But one of the malefactors which were hanged with him, reviled him, saying,- If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.' Then the other answered and reproved him, saying,-Dost thou not fear God, since thou also art in the same condemnation? And we indeed are justly in it, for we have received what our deeds deserve; but this man hath done nothing amiss.' And he said to Jesus,- Lord, think on me, when thou comest in thy kingdom.' And Jesus said unto him,- Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise,"
A narration, rich in all kinds of edifying thought. We will first inquire, what the passage contains that may elevate our spirits; secondly, what, that may abash them; thirdly, what it contains that is apt to be misunderstood; fourthly, what, that is fitted to console.
First, then, we will inquire what the passage contains that may elevate our spirits. He who once commanded the waves in a storm, hath been brought down low to the dust. In him hath been fulfilled the ancient prophecy,' He was of all men the most despised and scorned; full of sorrows and sicknesses; he was so despised that we hid our faces from him.2 They have scourged him on the back; they have spit upon him, even in his Godlike face; they have smitten his kingly head with a reed; they have erected his cross between two malefactors; they have stripped him of his garments and left him nothing but his crown. Scourged, spit upon, smitten, naked and crowned with thorns, there he hangs;-and yet, even under his cross, a sea of malice is foaming up with invective against him. Oh it has contained a fearful truth, that old prophetic word,— 'I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart is in my body like melted wax; my strength is dried up like an earthen vessel; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; thou hast placed me in the dust of death."3
For an Analysis of this Sermon, see Note Q, at the close of the Sermons. * Isaiah 53: 3. 3 Psalm 22: 14, 15.