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look with unclouded eyes on the scenes of eternity. They know their hearts are destitute of holiness. Their first expedient, then, is a resolve to reform their lives, to desert their evil habits, to attend on the means of grace diligently, and in this manner prepare for heaven. But a little experience shows how futile are all these resolutions; for a few months, perhaps days, witness them swept away, and the soul as guilty as before under the dominion of sin. Thousands on earth, who are now regardless of religion, and ten thousands in hell, could once adopt, with feeling, the language of Paul, "When I would do good, evil is present with me: how to perform that which is good, I find not."
4. The strength of sin overpowers our desire of future happiness. -There can he no doubt that every man who believes in a future state desires that state should be happy-especially that those who have clear views of the nature of the joys of heaven and the miseries of hell are sincere in desiring that they may "die the death of the righteous, and their last end be like his." And we do not believe that the most hardened profligate, or the most obstinate infidel that ever expired in a Christian land, in the full exercise of reason, did not in his heart, whatever he might have uttered with his lips-did not in his heart desire to be found on the day of judgment among the people of God. This desire, however it may be concealed, exists in the heart with an awful sincerity.
Now what prevents the attainment of their desires? The way to eternal life is open and you may search the universe for an obstacle, and you will not find one, unless in the heart of man. If the gate of life is blocked up, it is blocked by the strength of sin; and if every moral agent who has heard of the Gospel does not find his wishes for eternal happiness accomplished, there is no truth in the Bible, unless he is drawn to hell by the strength of sin-by a love to sin which is stronger than his love of endless felicity. Every soul that fails of heaven, will fail of it because his attachment to sin is stronger than his attachment to happiness. We may invent excuses and palliations for the loss of the soul, but after all, the plain truth will at last beam forth to our confusion and despair, that love of sin-voluntary, habitual, unyielding love of the dominion of sin-a willing submission to the strength of sin, is the sole cause of our destruction.
This faint view of the strength of sin has not been exhibited for a mere matter of speculation, but as a truth in which we are all deeply interested. This sin, whose strength we have delineated, has dominion over every one of us who has not been sanctified by the Holy Spirit; and God, who cannot lie, has declared that unless we break from its dominion-unless we trample on its authority-unless we control its influence in our hearts, we shall never enter into the kingdom of heaven.
BY REV. M. L. P. THOMPSON, D., D.
PASTOR OF FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, BUFFALO.
THE GREAT PROMISE.
"And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."-MATT. xxviii. 20. (PREACHED BEFORE THE AMERICAN BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR FOREIGN MISSIONS, AT PROVIDENCE, R. I., SEPTEMBER 8, 1857.)
THE natural process of our minds, on reading this text, is first to consider Jesus-to look with adoring wonder to Him from whose lips such remarkable and gracious words proceeded: then our thoughts are turned to the little company of faithful and favored men to whom Jesus spoke, hearing not for themselves alone, but for us also, and for all that should come after them, having like faith to theirs; and finally, we ponder the words, and try to understand their meaning, and to get the weight of them on our hearts.
Who speaks? To whom does he speak? What does he say? And what should be the influence on us of his words?
Such, brethren, shall be the plan of my discourse. I desire to speak to you as on my knees, as it seems to me, Jesus would have me speak, and, as well as I am able, the things which he would have me speak, and which he himself would speak if he were personally present in our assembly.
It is not by hearing new things that we are to have our missionary spirit improved; but by gaining a deeper impression and sense of old things. We do not need that a dealing should be had with our natural intellects, but with our spiritual understanding
and our hearts.
It is my becoming and proper office, as your preacher, therefore, to seck to "stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance,
that you may be mindful," when this hour is past, not of my words, but "of the words which were spoken before" by the Lord himself.
The eleven were in Galilee, waiting for Jesus in a certain "mountain where he had appointed them." In due time their faith and patience were rewarded. They saw him and worshipped him. "And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
It has been suggested by some that these words may not have been spoken by our Lord on that mountain in Galilee; that Matthew, in the brief conclusion of his Gospel, recorded them without necessarily implying that they were spoken at that particular place or time, and that the real scene and occasion when they were uttered was in the Mount of Olives, near to Bethany, on that more interesting and awful occasion when, having given his final instructions to the disciples," he lifted up his hands and blessed them, and while he blessed them, was parted from them, and taken up into heaven."
There might possibly be something gained, through the influence of association, by adopting this view, and regarding the words of the text with the words of that loving benediction which were yet upon the Saviour's lips when he was taken up, as the last words which were uttered by him previous to his ascension. What is mainly important, however, is to prove that Jesus uttered such words, and whether on a mountain of Galilee or in Olivet; whether some days before he ascended, or only a moment before, is comparatively of little consequence to us.
Having laid his commandment on the disciples to go and disciple all nations, Jesus added this for their assurance," And lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
I. Let us, then, consider who speaks-Jesus. What we want, my brethren, is to fix upon our minds a full impression of the true divinity of this gracious utterance. We want to feel that it is no less a being than very God who speaks to us, else the words lose their power, and our interest in them ceases. We want this voice "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world," to come to us clear and definite, and unmistakable from the highest glory. We want it to fall upon our ears and upon our hearts from the very throne of the kingdom. It is not enough for us to know that Jesus is God, as we know ten thousand other things by a mere intellectual perception of them, which fails to bring them nigh to us, and to invest them with real and substantial forms. We want to know it in the living consciousness of our
inmost souls, as we are sure the eleven knew it when they heard him speak, when they stood there on the mount, and he talked with them, and when they saw him ascend up into heaven, until a cloud received him out of their sight. They could say, in their epistles to the churches, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, of the word of life, (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us,) that which we have seen and heard declared we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us." That is what we want, fellowship with them -fellowship with them in the knowledge of that peculiar experience which they had as companions of the Lord and eye-witnesses of his glory. We want to know and to feel that Jesus is God, having life in himself, and able to give life to as many as he will: that "it is even he that sitteth on the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in; that bringeth the princes to nothing, and that maketh the judges of the earth as vanity." What we want, before the words of Jesus in the text can fill us with joy as they should, and with strength and confidence, and courage as they should, and constrain us to all holy obedience as they should, is the grace to get upon our souls the full power of that other utterance of his, as we are sure it came upon the soul of his servant John in Patmos: "I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
If Jesus be not God, if he be not the Almighty, if he be not Lord of all things, Lord of heaven and Lord of earth, then there can be no binding force in his commandment, nor any ground of confidence to undertake so mighty an enterprise. We need the full sense of his divine authority, and his divine power, to constrain our consciences, and to strengthen our hearts and our hands. What less than this could have been availing for the first disciples? What less can be availing for us? Disciple all nations! Make the faith and worship of Jesus universal! Are we with this Gospel to subdue the world, until "every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father;" until the kingdoms of the world shall become his kingdoms, and he shall reign from the rising of the sun until the going down thereof? Is this the commandment? And shall it be undertaken? Can it be accomplished? Never, if Jesus be not God; but if Jesus be very God, then yes. If Jesus be God, it is his right to require this of his servants; and if he be God, the work can and will be accomplished.
JESUS IS GOD. His resurrection from the dead has crowned
him. This, in the thought of his own mind, is the very ground and reason of the commandment. "He came and spake unto them, saying-All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, go ye, therefore, and disciple all nations." Because I am God, and have authority to send you, Go. Because I am the Almighty, and have power to prosper you, Go! Go! because I am the Lord God Almighty, whom ye are bound to serve, and who is able both to defend his servants, and to crown their labors with success.
We need not listen to Isaiah, as with prophetic finger pointing to the manger at Bethlehem, he exclaims, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." We need not dwell upon the vision that he saw of "the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted, while his train filled the temple, and the seraphims stood and cried one unto another, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory; and then take testimony of John, that it was the glory of Christ that Isaiah saw. We need not study that saying in John's gospel-" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made which was made;" and then go and gaze with that same John into the opened heaven, on the heavenly host adoring God, and on the company of redeemed men from the earth casting their crowns at his feet, and saying, Thou art worthy to receive glory, and honor, and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created;" or listen with him to that new song which they sing "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and glory, and honor, and blessing." It is enough to see Jesus risen from the dead. In the hour of his last agony, "the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him now deliver him if he will have him; for he said, I am the son of God." Jesus did not come down from the cross. He did more than that. He died, and recovered himself from death. He descended into the grave, and returned again. To have come down from the cross would indeed have been a sign which might well have overwhelmed his enemies, and filled them with terrible conviction of his divinity. But that was not the sign which he gave. A more convincing sign was reserved for them, and for the world-even the sign of his resurrection from the dead, the third day, according to his word, declaring him to be the Son of God more mightily than all the miracles he had ever wrought before, and than any miracles, while living, he might have wrought. Oh, had Jesus leaped from that cross to which accursed hands had nailed him,