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fugitive and vagabond' over the unoccupied earth? No hand of man can touch thee. That brand, impressed upon thy blood-stained forehead, is God's own pledge for thy preservation! Ah! I know it; I know it: but he only reserves me for his own vengeance ! Go where I may, I am an outcast and a vagabond. The voice of my brother's blood cries to me from the ground, and the dark scowl of heaven above me proclaims me shut out from the face of God. ‘My punishment! my punishment! It is indeed greater than I can bear.'
Sin has proved a heavy burden to the Son of God. From a great number of our ruined family God has been graciously pleased to lift this burden ; but he has done so only by transferring it to another. Without such a transference, their relief had been impossible. Upon their shoulders it was bound by the cords of eternal justice, and nothing short of full legal satisfaction can loose them.
- The wages of sin is death, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.' As the substitute of elect sinners, however, God provided his own Son; and having by his incarnation qualified him for assuming the heavy load, he placed it on his shoulders. “Like lost sheep we have all gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all. This load of sin was, in the strictest sense, an infinite one. It was imputed guilt, indeed, but it was the sin of many; and, if one sinner sink under his own to everlasting destruction, what was the weight of his burden of whom it is said, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world?'
It is not necessary to adopt the dogma of universal redemption, in order to show that such a load was an overwhelming one. The groans and tears, the agony and death of an Almighty Saviour, is proof sufficient that its pressure would have sunk all creation into hopeless ruin. “He was in the form of God,' and ' upholdeth all things by the word of his power;' yet it wasted his sinless frame, bowed his fearless spirit, and ground him down to the dust of death. Look at him as he walks through the earth! His outward circumstances are mean and depressed, ‘his visage is more marred than that of any man, and his form more than the sons of men. 'He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.' Look at him in Gethsemane ! The dews of a cold night fall on his uncovered head, and his hallowed person lies prostrate on the cold damp ground. No hand of man touches him, but such is the pressure of internal agony, that a bloody sweat bursts from every pore, and in anguish of spirit he exclaims, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!' Look at him on that cross, where he hangs a sacrifice for sin! His hands and side are streaming with blood, his parched lips are tantalised with a draught of bitter gall, his enemies curse him, his friends stand aloof from him, his guilty fellow-sufferers mock his misery: His soul is poured out like water; all his bones are out of joint; his heart is melted like wax in the midst of his bowels,' his head hangs down upon his bosom, and, as he resigns his spirit into the hand of God, it is with the melancholy exclamation, the most affecting that ever fell from
human lips, "My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?' •Surely,' said the centurion, trembling, when he witnessed this event, and the circumstances attending it, “Surely this was the Son of God.' And well may we tremble when we think of the burden that crushed him and
say, • If these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?' 'Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.'
It is a constant burden to the believer. His guilt, indeed, has been cancelled, and one part of the weight removed; but this very
circumstance has quickened his sense of the malignity of sin, and rendered the remains of it in his bosom an intolerable burden. These remains also involving him constantly in new guilt, and subjecting him to the frequent renovation of penitential sorrow, constitute a source of pain and wretchedness to which the impenitent sinner is a stranger. Now the features of sin appear to him in their true character and full relief, and every view that he obtains of it tends immensely to aggravate its weight. It is a self-imposed burden, and therefore deserves no sympathy. • Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know, therefore, and see that it is an evil thing and bitter that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God.' It is a dishonourable burden, and adds shame to his misery. Like the badge of infamy, like the bloated face and wasted frame of dissipation, it confounds his soul to look at it, and he blushes to ask commiseration, or apply for a cure. • Thou shalt remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done.' It is, in short, a nauseous burden, a dead body bound to a living one. It stinks in his nostrils, it pollutes the air which he breathes, it infects the sound part of his frame; and sick of its presence, as well as groaning under its weight, he cries out, in pain and self-loathing, O wretched man that am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?'
Labouring and heavy laden' is the condition of all that are invited to the Saviour, but “labouring and heavy laden' so long as they abide in this weary world, continues to be still descriptive even of those who have found rest in him : “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.' Often indeed do they realise the conscious relief arising from the thought that their sins are forgiven them;' but the reflection that pardoned though it be, every sin was an act of base ingratitude towards the tenderest of fathers—a deadly stab to the kindest of brothers, and especially that it has been repeated so often, after these convictions were awakened, gives a weight to the believer's sorrow altogether overwhelming. To the cross he looks for ease, and there he obtains it; but he sees there his blessed Saviour writhing in agony to obtain his release, and again he 'mourns for him as one that mourneth for his only son, and is in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. Others may own sin to be an evil; he feels it to be so. Others may mourn its painful effects; he sighs and groans under the loathsome cause. ‘Iniquities, I must confess, prevail
into his service, and rendered it an instrument in accomplishing his most stupendous designs; and these not only purposes of judgment and self-vindication, but even the richest displays of grace and mercy. This, however, has not been without a sacrifice on the part of Deity, that will continue to be the object of amazement to all worlds, and to endless ages. What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.' And can you, sinner, carry, without trembling, and even bind more firmly to you, that which presses with such a load on the breast of the Almighty_which hangs as a dead weight on all his operations, and has been removed out of the way of his grace and mercy only by an exertion, and a sacrifice at which all intelligent creation stands aghast? Can you do so, when you remember that you have brought upon him this fearful load, and that every additional sin of yours adds to his burden? "Is it a small thing that ye weary man; but will ye weary my God also ?' O, what a contrast! Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.'
It is a burden to the whole creation of God. Like an incubus it presses upon every part of it, impedes its free and regular motion, and extinguishes its sources of happiness. Under its weight millions of angels are held down in chains of everlasting darkness, and man lies prostrate, ruined both in body and soul. It has pressed the bloom from the cheek of youth, forced the sweat from the brow of manhood, and brought down the gray hairs of age with sorrow to the grave. It has extinguished the light of man's intelligent mind, rendered his heart like an adamant stone, trod out the spark of divinity which once burned in his breast, and reduced him, who was made in the image of his Maker, to the level of a brute or a devil. So entirely is the spirit sunk in the flesh, so completely is the better part overpowered and paralysed, that, like a body already covered with the turf, and mouldering in the dust, man can neither raise a look towards his original dignity, nor put forth an effort for his own recovery.
Man, however, is not the only sufferer in this lower world. All creatures connected with him feel the pressure. They pine with hunger, sink under his diseases, and suffer, in his service, hard labour, torture, and death. The earth itself reels under the load, and groans from its inmost bowels. Its strength is wasted by sin, its fruitfulness impaired, and its fair and beautiful face has been turned into a waste and howling wilderness. Often has it been drenched with blood; once was it deluged with water. Some of its fairest portions have already been scorched with fire of sin's kindling, and the time is coming when the whole shall be wrapt in flames, and reduced to a heap of ashes. Ah! sinner, you little think what a weight you pull down upon your guilty head, when you trifle with the smallest sin. A child may lift a sluice that shall let out a weight of water which no power of man can stop, and which shall sweep embankments, fields, and
hamlets for miles before it into complete desolation. By one man, and one offence, sin entered into the world, and death by sin ;' and, saving a few that the hand of God has snatched from the wreck, a whole world, with all its generations of men and dependent creatures has been crushed into a mass of ruins. “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.' And in a little the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.'
It is a heavy burden to the conscience of the awakened sinner. All are pressed down by the weight of sin, but few are conscious of the heavy load. So deadening has been its pressure, that in most cases it has extinguished all sense of its own weight; and, though its consequences are often keenly felt, sooner may you expect to hear groans and sighs from the silent grave, than complaints of its spiritual burden from the soul that is dead in trespasses and sins. Even divine wrath itself is lightly estimated, and few seem to be afraid of drawing down upon themselves its overwhelming weight. 'I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright. No man repented of his wickedness, saying, What have I done ? Every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.' This state of insensibility, however, God can easily dispel. He has but to touch the conscience, and the dead mass is quickened into the vitality of poignant conviction. Conscious guilt, like a mountain of lead, descends upon the awakened and prostrate soul, and crushes it down into the depths of self-condemnation. Every sin then seems “the weight of a talent,' and all creature help unavailing against its overwhelming load. Thou writest bitter things against me, and causest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.' •If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, O Lord, who could stand ?'
· Fools make a mock of sin. Its indulgence is to many the frequent occasion of shameless joviality, and the wrath of the Almighty, denounced against it, is often employed to give point to their ungodly merriment; but ah! how easy is it for him to change that mirth' into “heaviness ! He requires not to banish them immediately to Tophet, and consign them to its everlasting flames. A short hour's experience of the agonies of conviction is a hell upon earth--a lifetime of such self-indicted torment is more than flesh and blood can bear. “O rebuke me not in thine anger; chasten me not in thy hot displeasure ; for thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. Look at that poor wretch! His heart was set upon a few pieces of silver, and no sacrifice seemed too great for the gratification of the hellish lust. For this he threw up the most honourable service, and betrayed the best of masters. See! he has just accomplished his treachery, and got possession of the wages of iniquity : but he has no sooner touched it than it seems to burn him to the very bone. The guilt of innocent blood twines like a millstone round his neck, and drags him down to the depths of the pit. His life is insupportable ; his guilty gain is untenable ; he flings it from him, confesses his crime, and rushes into eternal destruction. • What aileth thee,' thou solitary and gloomy outcast, that walkest as 'a Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them by living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.'
THE PREMILLENNIAL ADVENT.*
'To awaken the attention of the church to a subject so intimately blended with her privileges, duties, and hopes, as the second coming of Christ, must always be beneficial. So far from distracting attention from the first coming, we find scripture presenting the two advents in near and influential connection, like the stars in a binary constellation, so commingling their radiance as to be seen and contemplated together (Heb. ix. 28); the actual glories of the second advent are interspersed with the memorials of the humiliation and suffering of the first (Rev. i. 7); while the darkest scenes of the advent that is past are gilded with the reflected glories of the advent that is to come (Matt. xxvi. 64); and the very institution which commemorates that death which was the great design of the former, is so constructed as to introduce the latter (1 Cor. xi. 26). Enthusiastic excitement on this subject may have proved inimical to holy practice. But this is not the native tendency of the scriptural exhibition of it. Living christianity cannot be exemplified and matured unless under the combined influence of a faith that reclines on the past coming, and a hope that looks forward, with outstretched neck,' to the second. As the vital air cannot discharge its functions if any one of its ingredients is wanting, or is present not in its due proportions, so, without the faith of the first coming, christianity would effervesce into visionary enthusiasm, and without the hope of the second, it would stagnate into inert despondency. Ye came behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' "The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men, (first coming,) teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world;' and how are these important lessons to be acquired ? Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.'
At all times beneficial, there are some times when the discussion of this subject is eminently seasonable. Such a time is the present. When the doctrines commonly called Premillennial are propagated with indefatigable zeal and earnestness within the pale of churches generally sound in the faith, and by men of influence for their moral, literary, and religious reputation, it is a great service plainly and faithfully to warn the church how extensively these views affect and imperil the fundamental doctrines of christianity and the first principles of bible interpretation. This is the important service which
* Christ's Second Coming: will it be Premillennial? By the Rev. David Brown, A.M., St James's Free Church, Glasgow. Second edition, carefully revised and corrected, with large additions, Svo, pp. 199.