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righteously to indulge the love of his heart towards the human race, and He offers a free forgiveness to all who seek it penitently and humbly, looking unto Jesus, and trusting in Him alone.
Let me tell you in a word, too, however, that there are contingencies that must be taken into the account. I have stated what is absolutely required under the most favourable circumstances; and without repentance towards God, and without faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, through which a man obtains the blessing of God, there can be no entrance into heaven. Do you ask me what the extras possibly might be? Just write them down on the tablets of your memory, First, exposure to reproach and contempt for Christ's sake. The Lord has forewarned us of it. "Marvel not," says he, “if the world hate you." Now, perhaps, on this subject your feelings are peculiarly sensitive. It has been your study to have the good word of every body. Write it down as distinctly as possible, that, from the day you determine to save your soul, you may be exposed to reproach and contempt.
Secondly, put down as a contingency, abandonment by relatives and friends. Our Lord tells us, that, under certain circumstances, a man's foes shall be those of his own household. He tells you that one of the results of his coming into this world would be the setting of parents against children, and children against parents, a father-in-law against his son-in-law, and the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law. Now yours, it may be, has been a very happy domestic circle. You are the only one of that entire circle that has ever thought as you are thinking, and the step you take may lead to their rejection of you. Put it down as a possibility.
Add this to the figures, -partial injury in property and circumstances. The principles which you will adopt, you will find, will bring you into conflict with some with whom you have previously worked in harmony. Supposing you should be in some employment of others, your conscience will have a peculiar sensitiveness upon the subjects of honesty and of truthfulness; and it comes within a possibility that you may be given to understand very soon that sanctimoniousness on your part cannot be tolerated. They expect you to be what they advertised for, "a pushing young man,” and it will not do to have qualms of conscience. Or you have begun in some small way of business, endeavouring to provide for yourself and fainily; and those who support you are mainly the gay and the dissipated; and you have associated with them; but you have abandoned them, and they have resolved that they will abandon you. Just write it down, as a possibility, amongst the extras—persecution for Christ's sake ; imprisonment for Christ's sake; death for Christ's sake. And now add up the two columns, and look at the total ; and a very natural question arises, Is it really worth so much ? the price demanded is high. Either the requirements are exorbitant, or what you may have to tell us of the advantages must indeed be very great. My brethren, I hesitate not to say, that if, in addition to all that will be absolutely required of every man—-repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ—all that I have stated as possibilities, the extras and contingencies were also demanded ; if, from the hour of your decision for God, your name was to be cast out as evil, your relatives and friends were to abandon you, you were to be injured in your property and prospects of life, if a persecution that consigned you to a dungeon, and ultimately to the scaffold, were to follow,-if only, all through, and to the very end, you could say, with truth, “ Christ in me the hope of glory,” you would be immeasurably the gainers. If you ask me to be more explicit than these general terms indicate as to the advantages, I will attempt it for a moment. You will have peace with God, perfect peace, —" the peace of God which passeth all understanding,” will keep your hearts and minds in his knowledge and in his love. If you have known what it is to fear the frown of God, and to look forward to futurity as being to fall into the hand of God as into a consuming fire, you may, by contrast, form some idea of what it is to have the clouds dispersed and the smile of God resting upon you. You shall have freedom from the tyranny of sin and of Satan, no longer led captive by the devil at his will. I cannot promise you the good things of this life, as they are designated—wealth and honours. I cannot promise you long life and uninterrupted bodily health and vigour. I can give you one great promise, that God will keep: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things,” needful for you, "shall be added unto you.” This I can promise you in God's name,----you, a man born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards,—that in your hours of sorrow you shall have support ; that in your seasons of affliction you shall have the presence of God to cheer you; that it will be scarcely a figure of speech, that underneath and round about you shall be the everlasting arms, and that, when the hour comes which, ere long, each one of us must see, the hour of death, there will be a rod, and a staff, and a guide, for you through the valley; and, after death, brethren,there is a silence in Scripture as to the details,- ,-a future blessedness. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” There are just little indications to cheer us up. “Sorrow and sighing shall flee away." There shall be no death; there shall be no sin ; God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. But as to the details, this Book, true to itself, does not refer to them. I have always regarded it as one of the internal evidences of the truth of revealed religion, that no attempt is made fully to describe the happiness of heaven. All false religions have made the attempt. The Koran of the Mahomedan, the Shaster of the Hindoo, have done so; so that, had I one or the other before me, I could, without any very great stress of the imagination, picture to my mind all the happiness that awaited me in another state of being, through the thousands and millions of years assigned for the enjoyment of that happiness. But I should not like to know all about the heaven that awaits me after death, the horizon of it could not be very widely extended, if my present vision was sufficiently strong to see it; and the sea of glory in which our spirits shall bathe could not be very deep, if I had now a hand strong enough to throw a line and plummet which could fathom its profundity. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
Another question is proposed, and I close. Am I able to pay the price Is it not above my ability ? Brethren, if any one doctrine declared in this volume is prominent and earnest, it is the truthfulness and sincerity of God: "He hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner." He makes the offer of salvation to every one of you. He gives a call to repentance to each one of you who has broken his laws; the invitation is, “ Whosoever will, let him come.” But do you ask me, “How am I to begin ? " Yield to the spiritual influence which is now resting upon your heart. Be true to the convictions of an enlightened and awakened conscience. Put away sin. Forsake evil companions. Begin to me to a human body yonder, and you tell me it is a corpse. You say, it is breathless. I understand you. It is breathless, lifeless. But yonder is a man dead in trespasses and in sins. He is prayerless. I understand it, if prayerless, graceless. But you tell me there is some hope, for you have just put to the lips of that human body a glass, and you are certain that that glass is dimmed with breath. You have examined the heart, and there is a slight pulsation. There is life where there is breath. And, blessed be God, there is life where there is a praying spirit. Yield to that Spirit which prompts you to pray. You will pray in the Spirit, and with the Spirit; and remember He is the Spirit that helps our infirmities. Mark me, the great work of the Spirit is to bring the sinner to Jesus. The office of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. He takes of the things which are Christ's, and reveals them unto us. You will use what are called the means of grace ; but do understand words, as I have already said, in reference to religion intelligibly. In all other subjects you never confound the means with the end. Alas, that men should do it in religion! They tell me that they have been to the means. I want to know whether they have been to Jesus, to the Saviour, to trust in Him.
Come, then, with whatever sense of guilt there may be in your conscience. Come now in spirit to our God, through the sacrifice of his Son; and remember He justifies the ungodly.
“ Just as I am, without ono plea,
Amen, and God grant it for us all.
PREACHED ON SUNDAY EVENING, DECEMBER 6TH, 1857,
BY THE REV. R. W. DIBDIN, M.A.,
AT WEST STREET EPISCOPAL CHAPEL, ST. GILES'S.
"How long halt ye between two opinions ?”—1 Kings xviii. 21. THkse were the words of the prophet Elijah. He lived in the days of that very wicked king, Ahab, King of Israel-a kingdom which was begun when the ten tribes revolted under Jeroboam, in the reign of Rehoboam, King of Judah. They revolted not only from their lawful king, but also from the King of kings; and forsook the service of Jehovah to serve idols, the work of men's hands-yea, to worship devils ! so great was their wickedness, encouraged by Ahab, that very abominable king. Here we notice, my brethren, what it is to have a bad king, and what a blessing it is, like us, to have a good sovereign. Ahab was a wicked man himself, and the cause of wickedness in others; and if you read history, you will find that the wickedness of the people, in different ages and nations, that has brought down the judgments of Almighty God has been, in a great number of cases, owing to the wickedness of their rulers, who have led the way in the path of wickedness, and thus opened the door for the judgments of heaven. It was so in Samaria. Elijah, the prophet of the Most High, was sent, therefore, to declare the judgment of God upon them; and it came in such a form, that there was no mistaking the supernatural agency of God in the matter. “As the Lord God of Israel liveth,” saith he," before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” Oh, think-especially in such a fervid land as that-of the effect of the withholding of the gracious dew of heaven and of the refreshing showers from the earth! For three years, or nearly so, it continued ; and in the third year the prophet Elijah showed himself to Ahab.
It may be well to read the passage in which the context stands. Commencing at the 17th verse you read, -" It came to pass, wheu Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel ; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim." He picks him out -Thou, and the people who follow you ; therefore you have troubled Israel. You are the troubler, the ringleader in rebellion :-“Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table. So Abab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, “ How long halt ye between two opinions ? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.” It has always been so; the Devil has always had more prophets than the Lord. There have always been false teachers in greater numbers than true teachers. Although in some ages, nations may make a nearer approach to an exception to the general rule, as our own age and nation happily, yet it is true now; taking the teachers together, Satan hath many more than the Lord Jesus Christ. We must not forget that there are the whole of the Popish teachers; these are a large number. And not only these, but also Socinian teachers; not a very small number, I am sorry to say. Then there are other kinds of talse teachersSwedenborgians, Mormonites; to say rothing of those who eat the bread of a Protestant Church, and are doing the work of the Pope and the Devil. Then avowed Infidel teachers; they are many. Shame it should be so !
At this very moment when we are gathered together in this sanctuary to worship Jesus, there are in this metropolis thousands gathered together to worship human reason, and
to hear meu get up and say, the Bible is a lie, and Christ is not God! Now, when you add all these false teachers together, you will find now, as it was then, that Satan liath more than Jesus; alas! that it should be so.-"Let them, therefore, give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under; and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under. And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord : and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under, And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud : for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” There are some persons who think it wrong to mix anything like irony or sarcasm in religion, especially in preaching; and I think there may be too much of it; but, you see, it is not without inspired authority, that something of the kind may be used on fitting occasions. Certainly, this was a very humorous speech of the Prophet Elijah. What a thing to say to these poor men in their ignorance,-perhaps your god is sleeping, or, it may be, he is talking, and you must speak louder in order to get his attention! There is no harm in a laugh at the right time and in the right place. There is a great deal of wickedness in many men's laughter, such laughter as you sometimes hear with ribaldry and oaths; all such laughter is madness. There is a time to laugh, and there is a time not to laugh. Now, here was a time to ridicule these people. It was no laughing matter with them, though; they were very serious upon the matter, and instead of being amused, as some might be amused, by this taunting speech of the prophet, they took his advice, —" And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.” Very shocking! but at the same time very instructive. These men were in earnest ; a vast deal more so than many Christians are. After all, you see, they meant what they said; they acted according to their profession. We think it, and properly think it, a very foolish thing that men should suppose they please God by cutting themselves with knives, or that they could prevail with him by shedding their blood. At the same time, these men showed their sincerity, and that is not a bad thing in the right place. Let us avoid their superstition; but let us imitate their sincerity and their zeal.
“And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the son of Jacob, unto whom the Word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord : and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, .and laid him on the wood, and said, fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.” What is all that water for ? Not very necessary for a burnt offering, some might think, and rather an unpropitious beginning. It was to show the people that there was no mistake this time, that there was no collusion, no contrivance, no trick. I have no doubt, whatever, that if it had not been for the pouring of these barrels of water, it would have been said among infidels in the present day—“Elijah imposed upon the people. The fact is, he lighted it himself in some way that they did not understand.” But here you see it was actually drenched with water; in order to show what came to pass afterwards, that the fire which descended from heaven “licked up the water," as the expression is. And then, when the people saw that the fire did, indeed, descend from heaven, and that Jehovah was pleased to own his servant Elijah, they cried out with one voice, “ Jehovah, he is God, Jehovah, he is God” The Lord showed his power, and the people ackuowledged it, and they acknowledged his Prophet.