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and preach to him, as it were, over the shroud and the coffin, we take the course which ought to be, on all just calculations, the most effectual. It is not that we depreciate that which he prizes, for this might rouse his indignation and leave him to count us no fair judges of the things which he sought. We give him the whole benefit of the supposition that there is an actual worth in all the objects of his pursuit; at least, we will not inflame all his prejudices by entering into debate to show that they are barren and unsatisfying. We ply him simply with the fact that these things are but temporal in respect to him, whatever they may be in themselves; and though he might show a languid attention if we referred only to some great change which was to pass over the universe, ought he not to hearken with the most excited and interested feelings as we derive the temporal character of all material good from the certainty of his own dissolution? We will not argue with the sensualist in the midst of the fascinating objects wherein he delights; we will not argue with the miser whilst the gold is glittering before him; we will not argue with the philosopher as the broad arch of the heavens fixes his study; but we will argue with them all amid the graves of a churchyard, filled with the dead of all ages and of all ranks. Knowing, as ye must know, that what happened to those whose epitaphs ye have just been reading must happen to yourselves, will ye resort to the pursuit of riches, or of pleasure, or of science, or of honour, just as though you had no demonstration that “the world passeth away, and the fashion thereof?" Will ye not rather, though ye be not affected as the vision rises before you of the pillars of the universe tottering, and of one terrific flame enwrapping the heavens and the earth—will ye not withdraw from the sanctuary with the conviction as to all visible things that “they shall perish; as a vesture shalt thou change them: they shall wax old like a garment?"
Let us now turn briefly to the other part of the Psalmist's assertion. We have examined the statement as to the perishable character of all created things; let us now see how he addresses the Creator, and sets bis eternity in contrast with the finite duration of all the works of his hands. He first describes God as the author of all created things: “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the workof thy hands." And then, after declaring their ephemeral character, he adds, “But thou shalt endure; thou art the same, thy years shall have no end." Thou, O God, art indeed eternal. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” We speak of other things besides God as eternal-of “eternal happiness," “eternal life,” but it is only when we use the term of God that we use it in its large and unqualified sense ; it is only of God that we can affirm the absence of all beginning as well as of all end. Other beings besides God may have never to end, but none other has never commenced. And we must again call upon you to observe the augusiness and sublimity of the fact that the Almighty is to remain unchanged and unchangeable when the
heavens grow old, and san and stars are dim with age. We know not of what mighty revolutions this material universe has already been the scene; but there are indications of vast successive changes, requiring periods which almost baffle our calculations, and forcing us to travel back, till we are almost lost in remote time, in order to imagine their occurrence ; and then we have to go forward, expecting fresh revolutions, and endeavouring, though vainly, to anticipate a season when the present system shall give place to a different; so that even the material universe seems constructed for a period which defies our arithmetic. We know, indeed, that there must have been a time when God was literally alone; but the further we investigate the farther does the time appear to recede; and we know also that there is to come a time when “the heavens shall be rolled up as a scroll,” but on their bright and glorious face we can read as yet no signs of antiquity. And, nevertheless, immense as the duration is which is thus to be assigned to the material universe, it is a mere point and nothing in the existence of God; so that when the mighty period shall have waned to a close, God is only to be what he was and where he was before that “beginning" in which he “created the heavens and the earth." I know not how to convey to you my thoughts of the grandeur of God as depicted by this fact. Well might the prophet say of him, “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” We are in the habit of contrasting, as we before said, what we reckon transient with what we reckon comparatively permanent. We speak of the shortness of human life, and we appeal mournfully to the tree of the forest, which endures, perhaps, for centuries, whilst we are limited to three score years and ten. The tree lives but an inconsiderable time, if we compare its age with that of the mountain on whose side it grows; the mountain itself may be but of recent formation if compared with the rocks on which it is based; and these rocks may be but as of yesterday in comparison with the heavens, by whose revolutions we strive to reckon up their age. But let man decay, let the forests wither, let the mountains subside, let the rocks crumble, yea, let the very heavens cease from what wt are wont to call their everlasting march, and God will bave undergone no change throughout this immeasurable series of revolutions ; “ I am that I am" when this series commenced, “I am that I am" when this series shall bave closed.
But though eternity is thus to be affirmed of God in a sense in which it cannot be of anything besides, there are beings and things which are eternal in the ordinary acceptation of the word. We may speak of the visible world as temporal, and of the invisible as eternal, because we are to inhabit the one only for a time, and the other for ever. Whatever these worlds may be in themselves, or to other orders of being, we have ererything to assure us that to our own race they wear but the two great characters of temporal and eternal, of probation and retribution, the one continued through a short space, the other indefinitely protracted. In the very same sense that “the things which are seen are temporal,” in the sense that we possess them, procure them, and enjoy them for a time, in that sense are “the things which are not seen eternal,” even in the sense that we possess them, procure them, and enjoy them for ever.” If you have the riches which are seen, they are but tem
poral, for you must part with them at death; if you have the riches which are not seen, they are eternal, for you shall never be deprived of their possession. If you suffer pains here, they are temporal; they shall end, if not before, yet with the close of life. If you suffer pains hereafter, they will he eternal; there is to come no moment of rest or of cessation. For ever is the light of God's countenance to shine on the redeemed, for ever is the Lamb to be with them, for ever is a river of pure delights to flow through their inheritance ; aud oh! for ever are the wicked to be banished from their Maker, for ever is the smoke of their torment to ascend, for ever is to continue the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Alas! here are things of which it must not be said, “ As a vesture shalt thou change them; they shall wax old like a garment.” And do ye believe this? Are ye thoroughly persuaded that the present and the future are distinguished by the characters of temporal and eternal ? Then what meaneth this devotion of your energies to what is earthly and perishable? What meaneth this setting of the affections upon shadows and upon baubles ? What meaneth this languor and indifference in religion? My brethren, the grand object of practical Christianity is to gain its rightful ascendancy for invisible things. It is here that the struggle lies. Faith and sense, these are the contending parties, and ye are under the dominion of the one, or of the other-judge ye which; but let no one call himself a believer in the reality and superiority of invisible and eternal things, when he is manifestly engrossed with visible things. This were a direct contradiction both in nature and experience. It is not thus in the affairs and transactions of life. And faith, we wish it well observed by you, faith is precisely the same principle in common things and in sacred. There is nothing mystical, nothing unintelligible, about the faith required of us in the Gospel. “To believe,” when applied to God's Word, means nothing more and nothing less than “to believe” when applied to man's word. It is in no respect whatsoever a different mental act, neither will it be followed by different results.
We would, therefore, in conclusion, impress upon you the importance of diligently examining whether or no you actually believe the Bible. We quite feel that you may regard this as a very strange injunction, seeing that you bear the name of Christian, and unreservedly acknowledge the inspiration of Scripture. But again and again would we tell you, that what would not pass for faith when the testimony is human ought not to pass for faith when the testimony is Divine. The truths of the Bible are of such a nature that there can be no evidence of our believing them except our obeying them. Do ye believe in the happiness of heaven? Not unless ye are trying to secure it. Do ye believe in the wretchedness of hell ? Not unless ye are striving tn escape it. You might be able to give me a very satisfactory account of the evidences of Christianity; you might be able to arrange an admirable demonstration from prophecy, and morals, and history, and internal testimony, of the truth of Christ's mission; but we beseech you not to confound two things which are often confounded, the believing and the knowing the reasons for believing. It seems strange, but nevertheless it is quite possible, that a man may be able to prove a thing, and yet, after all, not believe it.
And be not ye, therefore, satisfied that ye are not unbelievers, uubelievers though ye have been baptised in Christ's name, brought up in Christ's church, and are accustomed to profess yourselves his disciples, unless ye are living as those whose treasure is above, and whose conversation is in heaven. It was thus with St. Paul. He counted all things but loss; he despised alike the applauses and the insults of the world. He was neither attracted by earthly pleasures nor daunted by earthly pains. And why? Because he “looked not at the things which are seen, but at those which are not seen.” He walked by faith; he made a full surrender of all earthly objects; he believed what God told him as to the future. And it will be the same with ourselves. Only let us believe that “the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal,” and every energy will be given (God grant it may !) to the securing through Christ an entrance into the “inheritance which fadeth not away;" "we shall so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal."
THE CHRISTIAN'S HEAVINESS AND REJOICING.
DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, NOVEMBER 7TH, 1858, BY THE
REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE MUSIC HALL, ROYAL SURREY GARDENS.
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations."-1 Peter i. 6.
This verse to a worldly man looks amazingly like a contradiction; and even to a Christian man, when he understands it best, it will still be a paradox. “Ye greatly rejoice,” and yet "ye are in heaviness.” Is that possible? Can there be in the same heart great rejoicing, and yet a temporary heaviness? Most assuredly. This paradox has been known and felt by many of the Lord's children, and it is far from being the greatest paradox of the Christian life. Men who live within themselves, and mark their own feelings as Christians, will often stand and wonder at themselves. Of all riddles, the greatest riddle is a Christian man. As to his pedigree, what a riddle he is! He is a child of the first Adam, “an heir of wrath, even as others." He is a child of the second Adam: he was born free; there is therefore now no condemnation unto him. He is a riddle in his own existence.
“ As dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed.” He is a riddle as to the component parts of his own spiritual frame. He finds that which makes him akin to the devil-depravity, corruption, binding him still to the earth, and causing him to cry out,“ O wretched man that I am;” and yet he finds that he has within himself that which exalts him, not merely to the rank of an angel, but higher stilla something which raises him up together, and makes him “ sit together with Christ Jesus in heavenly places.” He finds that he has that within him which must ripen into heaven, and yet that about him which would inevitably ripen into hell, if grace did not forbid. What wonder, then, beloved, if the Christian man be a paradox himself, that his condition should be a paradox too? Why marvel ye, when ye see a creature corrupt and yet purified, mortal and yet immortal, fallen but yet exalted far above principalities and powers—why marvel ye, that ye should find that creature also possessed of mingled experience, greatly rejoicing, and yet at the same time, “ in heaviness through manifold temptations."