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your taste? In things like these you may discover an index of the heart; perhaps more accurately detect the ruling passion of the soul, than in things more commonly regarded religious. Would you know a man's real character, you must see him at home, where he acts out himself— must follow him into the affairs of common life. But my principle needs no further illustration. True religion and undefiled is not only to preach, pray, talk and profess well, but to act well in every situation in which Providence places us. The subject demands a personal application.
The kingdom of heaven is not about us, but within us.
Our works testi
Who can stand the test?
fy of what spirit we are.
The subject affords an occasion for the following remarks:
1. We err in supposing we are acting a less important part because a less conspicuous one. It is as important, and generally more difficult to suffer the will of God than to do it-to exemplify religion in the shades of poverty than on the summits of opulence and honor. He is the best christian, the most useful and the most honorable, who acts best his part where he is.
2. Because we are to look for a portraiture of religion in the common toils, cares, afflictions, and intercourse of life, this affords no excuse for the neglect of duties more directly religious. Men live right because their hearts are right. The upright step is guided by the honest heart; the liberal hand nerved by that charity which seeketh not her own. Diligence in business is but a common result of fervency of spirit in serving the Lord.
3. The subject enforces the duty of acting well our part where we are. Our circumstances are no doubt best suited to develop and form our characters. God knows what kind of discipline we need to mature and fit us for heaven.
4. Finally, we infer the fearful and lasting influence of the events of this life. Time is the parent of eternity. Our eternal destiny is suspended on the character we form amidst the common scenes of life. Every particle of time is big with eternal consequences. Every single and in itself insignificant event, goes to determine our eternal destiny. How solemn a thing, then, it is to live! We often hear it said, "it is a solemn thing to die." And so it is, but a more solemn thing to live in such a state as this. For it is life, not death, which forms our character-which fits us for heaven or for hell. Death is but the opening of the book which life has filled up. Death puts the sickle into the hands and introduces us to the field which life has made ready for the harvest. If we live well we need have no fears that we shall not die well.
THE PRECIOUSNESS OF THE SOUL'S REDEMPTION.
"For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever."-PSALM xlix. 8. THE carelessness of mankind at large, on the familiar subjects of death and eternity, is equally surprising and alarming;-surprising, because the world dwindles to a point in comparison with the immensity of worlds around us; and all its joys and sorrows, when weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, are lighter than vanity;-alarming, because earth alone is the theatre on which preparation is made for unseen worlds; and neglect of that preparation is followed by consequences, at once fearful and irreparable. The whole structure of the divine administration under which we live is framed with reference to man's salvation; the instructions of the Bible, the teachings of natural religion, the dispensations of Providence, the monitions of conscience, and the ordinances of the Gospel, are all intended to purify and elevate his affections, and fit him for scenes of perfect happiness and transcendent glory. When this gracious intention of heaven is forgotten, and these means of spiritual improvement are perverted, to the hardening of the heart, it is to the last degree alarming.
Nor can the fact of "the carelessness of mankind at large" be questioned. The observation of every day demonstrates it. Who seeks first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? Who denies sleep to his eyes and slumber to his eyelids, that he may secure the Great Salvation? Are not men everywhere mad upon
their idols? so that when God looketh down from heaven, he is constrained to say, "they are all gone out of the way—there is none that doeth good, no not one!"
Never let it be forgotten that "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force;"-that whosoever will enter the strait gate must strive, even to agony ;-that whosoever will win the crown must bear the cross;-and whoever will gain the victory, must fight the battle with principalities and powers. Eternal life is the prize to be won; hard conflict, involving self-denial and heroic devotion to God, alone secures it.
What more surprising and alarming then, to one who calmly surveys, with an eye of faith, the character and certain destiny of sinful man, than the prevailing indifference on the momentous question-What shall be done for the redemption of the deathless spirit?
The soul's redemption is the subject before us. As presented in the text, it naturally divides itself into four parts, viz:
I. The object; II. The nature; III. The quality; and IV. The closing up of this redemption.
I. The object, of this redemption. It is the redemption of the Soul. The soul is that spiritual and immortal principle in man, which distinguishes him from the beast. This is the primary import of the term. Sometimes it is used by the inspired writers in a secondary, or figurative sense; as when the Psalmist declares the eye of the Lord to be upon them that fear him," to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine;" and when he speaks of the enemy as "persecuting his soul to take it, and treading down his life upon the earth." Reference is here clearly had to animal life. This figurative use of the term is justified by the fact, that whenever the soul leaves the body, animal life becomes extinct. The co-existence of the immortal principle with the body, is essential to human life.
Still, the soul and animal life, are not to be identified. "Fear not them," saith Christ, "which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." The death of the body forbids not at all the continued existence of the immortal principle. Though united, they are distinct; and when separated, each follows the laws impressed on it by the Great Creator, the one bursting forth into a boundless sphere of activity, the other returning to the dust whence it was taken.
It has been thought by some, that the term is used in its secondary or figurative sense, in the text; and it must be confessed, that the connexion in which it stands, favors, though it does not establish, this construction.
To show the vanity of trusting in wealth, and boasting of the multitude of riches, the Psalmist says, "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him;" "that he should still live forever, and not see cor
ruption." This is a complete argument, proving the insufficiency of any amount of gold to prevent death. Our text is thrown in between the two parts of this argument as parenthetical, and unconnected with it; nay, as a thing entirely distinct from it. Contemplating the certain triumph of death over the body, the mind of David seems to repose for a moment on the fact, that there is a redemption for the Soul, which may be secured if laid hold of in season, though the animal life perish, without a possibility of ransom. It is as if he had said: "Man that is born of woman is of few days.' Die he must. Dust shall return to dust. No wealth can bribe, no prayers can move, no eloquence can divert the king of terrors. But the Soul, which is in the body, may be rescued from the death which threatens to involve it, and this redemption is precious." It will be noticed that the last clause of the verse sustains, and even requires, this mode of interpretation. For the body, though reduced to its original elements, shall rise again, and be re-moulded and adapted to the tenantry of the immortal spirit. And if by "the redemption of the soul," were meant the resurrection of the body, then it would not be true that "it ceaseth forever"-for the body shall live again and flourish in immortal youth. This, therefore, could not have been the psalmist's meaning. But, when he said, "The redemption of the soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever," he had his mind fixed on the immaterial and incorruptible Spirit-which, however associated with matter, is not dependent on matter, and often displays more vigor of conception, more force of reasoning and more strength of affection, while the body is emaciated by disease and grappling with death, than at any other period of its earthly existence. Its consciousness shall never cease. Its understanding shall forever enlarge. Its power of voluntary action can never be taken away. Its recollections will never die. The energies of reason will never languish. Conscience will be ever enthroned amid its kindred faculties, and the affections will gather strength while eternity endures. Such is the Soul, whose Redemption is precious, and at death, ceaseth forever! We are to consider,
II. The nature of this redemption.-It delivers man from the curse of God's holy law; and, whatever of guilt, shame, or suffering, is included in that curse, is removed from him, whenever his redemption is completed.
1. He is redeemed from the guilt, or power of sin. By nature, he is a child of disobedience, and a child of wrath. Carnally minded, he is at enmity with God. Though he possess traits of character that endear him to his friends, and command the respect of all who know him, yet there is no love of God dwelling in his heart, and no submission to Divine authority, and no cheerful yielding to the discipline of Providence; but on the contrary, he throws off from him the restraints of divine Law, triumphs
over conscience, and stands forth, a rebel confessed, against the Divine administration.
The Glory of God, though it ravishes heaven, is alien from his thoughts. His eye discerns no beauty in the Chief of Ten Thousand. The songs of the upper world have no music for his ear. His hand takes no strong hold on enterprises of God-like benevolence; his heart beats responsive to no calls of duty, which promise Him not personal and immediate advantage; nor does his spirit soar on high, to participate the pleasures of the Holy. Whether he eat or drink, sleep or wake, labor or rest, cultivate his mind or neglect it, his object is self-gratification, not the smile of Jesus, nor the approbation of God."
In a word, sin has entire dominion over him; not perhaps in its most hateful forms, but in the form best suited to his views of personal interest. He cares not what law of God he breaks, if he may but enjoy impunity; nor does he care how much dishonor he throws on God, if self-gratification may be secured. Self is the idol of his heart, worshipped not less complacently and perseveringly than impiously.
Redemption breaks down this unhallowed dominion of sin, delivers the soul from bondage and sets it at liberty, enlarges its vision, elevates its aims, diffuses through it the warmth of celestial fire, brings it into communion with the spirits of just men made perfect, and with God himself, and says to it authoritatively, “Go, and sin no more."
2. He is redeemed from the shame of sin. Is there not degradation and shame in wearing the yoke of a Master, burled from heaven, and scathed by the lightnings of God's wrath? in turning away from the Glory ineffable, and plunging into the deeps of the pollution of selfishness?
It cannot be denied. And this degradation of the sinner is voluntary. His course of life, his companions, and pleasures, are those of his own choice-forced upon him by no power on earth or in heaven, outside himself.
I do not mean to say, that he is always flagitiously wicked; nor that shame always attaches to him in the eyes of his fellow man. It is not so. Many seeming virtues may adorn his intercourse with the world, and earth's honors may cluster thick about him. But, I do mean to say, that every sinner would riot in indulgence, but for restraints laid upon him by superior Power, and that it is no purity of his heart, that holds him back from the lowest depths of debasement.
"As face answereth to face in water, so does the heart of man to man." Circumstances of education, social disposition, conventional laws, and surrounding religious influences, operate both kindly and powerfully, oftentimes, to control the waywardness of the heart, while the governing principle remains the same as in the votary of vicious indulgence, who glories in his shame.