Page images

then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians : if they save us alive, we shall live ; and if they kill us, we shall but die. These men, putting their lives in their hands, threw themselves on the mercy of those, from whoin they had no reason to expect any favor. Death was before them, and they said, we shall but die. While they were forming this resolution, the Lord was marvellously, and miracuously, effecting their deliverance and safety. They went to the Syrians without having one condition to propose, not knowing but their lives would be immediately taken, and that too in a cruel manner; but to their great surprise, there was not an enemy in the camp. All their wants were abundantly supplied at once.

This remarkable account is fitted to remind us of the resolution which the sinner forms of turning unto God, when brought to see and feel the necessity of his case.

It also reminds us of the manner, in which the returning sinner approaches to God, without having one condition to propose; resigning his everlasting portion into the hands of one whom he has offended.

It is true, the cases are not, in all respects, parallel ; but it must be acknowledged, that the resolution formed by these men is a striking picture of the resolution of the returning broken-hearted sinner. In their case, nothing farther is brought into view than the disorder of their bodies ; their distress for want of food, and their exposure to temporal death. But returning sinners have been made sensible of a malady in their souls ; and whatever way they turned their eyes, eternal destruction was before them. We have no occasion to decide the moral state of these men.- Whatever this might be, they formed the same resolution with respect to their temporal safety, which sinners ought to form, with respect to their eternal safety. In the extremity of their distress, they resolved to throw themselves upon the mercy of the Syrians, from whom they had no ground to expect favor : Sinners are bound, from every consideration, to cast themselves upon the mercy of God, whom they have highly provoked, but who has made ample provision for their reinstatement in his favor, and given his word that he will abundantly pardon, as soon as they return. Surely sinners, who act.freely, and always in view of motives, ought to be as solicitous to secure the interest of their immortal souls, as these unhappy men were to obtain relief for their bodies. This truth is so obvious, that it must commend itself to their consciences. They are then invited to a serious consideration of the following points :

1. The present condition of impenitent sinners involves certain death, or the loss of their souls.

II. The only wise and safe step is to surrender themselves unreservedly into the hands of God.

III. If they do this, the God of all grace will effect their deliverance and bring salvation to them.

The interesting occurrence before us, recorded by the Holy Spirit for our instruction, presents the case of those, who saw death staring them in the face, whatever way they turned their eyes. But temporal death, though it assail us in the most awful shape, is not to be compared with another death of which the Scriptures abundantly speak. I refer to the death of the soul; which is an evil infinitely more to be deprecated than to pine away with hunger. What is the death of the soul ? Not its annihilation, or ceasing to exist, but its losing all hope, all restraints, and sinking into everlasting horror and wretchedness. The soul is capable of experiencing this death ; and, according to the testimony of God, is exposed to it; yea, more, it is an evil which is inevitable without repentance. To this immense loss the Saviour referred in the following words :-" What is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?" When a soul dies, or when a sinner loses his soul, he ceases for ever to be a prisoner of hope, and plunges into a state of endless despair. He is banished from all good, and separated unto all evil. This is the second death. Annihilation, dreaded as it is, is not to be compared with such an evil. But the present condition of impenitent sinners involves the certainty of this death, no less than the condition of the lepers involved the certainty of their famishing with hunger. We are, then, brought to contemplate an awful fact, and one on which no impenitent sinner, unless his conscience has become seared, can dwell without trembling. That there is no ground to question the fact now stated, is evident from divine threatenings.

The reality and awful import of these threatenings should be seriously pondered. What did God say to Adam, when stating to him what would be the inevitable consequence of his disobedience? In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die :- or dying, thou shalt die. The import of this first threatening to man is, In the day thou sinnest, thou shalt be for ever undone, as to help in thyself, or in any other creature. Thou shalt sink into a state, which will be hopeless. This was particularly addressed to Adam, and through him, as a federal head, to all his posterity. Accordingly we find the divine denunciation afterward was— The soul (meaning any person) that sinneth shall die. The momentous question may then be put :-Have we not all sinned? Have we not all broken the divine law ? Are we not all under the curse? Admitting this as truth, which cannot be denied, it will follow, that our present condition, if we are in a state of nature, is such as should awaken all our anxieties. We are undone, and for ever undone, as to any help in ourselves, or in any

As transgressors of the divine law, we are threatened with eternal death, and by the Holy Legislator himself. He regards his violated law, as being infinitely more important than we are, or even the whole created system. " It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail." Let us, then, look which way we will, eternal death stares us in the face. If we have not taken refuge in Christ, the threatenings of an infinitely holy God stand with all their force against us. He is bound, by his word, to render "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” The wages of sin is death. This is the testimony of God. Certainly, then, our present condition, if we are living in sin, involves the certain loss of our souls, no less than the condition of the lepers, while the famine prevailed, involved the certainty of their perishing with hunger.

created arm.

one answer

The same truth, respecting the condition of sinners, is evident from the state of their hearts. Does not the Holy Spirit represent them, as being dead in trespasses and sins? In all those, who are under the power and dominion of sin, the work of ruin has already begun. They carry death in their souls. They now have the same temper of heart, which is possessed by those who have died in their sins, and are already beyond the reach of hope; and differ from them in no other respect, than that they are in a state of probation, and under great restraints. Wbither are the corrupt propensities of their hearts leading them, and rapidly leading them? To this inquiry, there can be but

they are leading them on to interminable wo! Looking, then, to the state of their hearts, we are compelled to say, their present condition must issue in their everlasting ruin. When we see a person languishing in the last stage of a consumption, or whose body is nearly consumed with a cancer, the impression is deeply made on our minds, that death is unavoidable. No less strongly do the hearts of all sinners, while such, indicate the approach of eternal death.

Further, all unbelievers are represented, in God's word, as being now in a state of condemnation. Look at the following plain testimony of Christ : He that believeth not is condemned already; because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. For the same reason he


The wrath of God abideth on him. This is the uniform language of the sacred Scriptures, respecting the state and condition of all who live in unbelief. If impenitent sinners would attend seriously to their case, they would find themselves no less exposed to the rigour of the law, than if Christ had never died; they would even see, that the law has greater demands on this account. They may be compared to a criminal, who has had his trial, been found guilty, and has received sentence of death. The Lord has written their characters, . and their sentence, as with sunbeams. Though at present wholly occupied with worldly pursuits, and busy here and there, they want not evidence of their alarming condition.

In faithfulness, I must add another affecting thought :-all unbelievers have taken their stand among God's enemies, and if they remain there, their destruction is as certain as the truth of God. In the great struggle between sin and holiness they have chosen their side. They belong to a kingdom which is destined to be overthrown; and all its adherents, of every grade, must inevitably perish in its ruins. The word has gone out of the mouth of the Lord. Can it then fail ? Can the wicked hope to succeed against the arm of the Almighty! Their present condition, standing as they do among the enemies of Jehovah, is as certainly connected with the loss of their souls, as the condition of the unhappy men, in the text, having nothing to allay their hunger, was connected with the death of their bodies.

In this awfully exposed situation, what can they do? This interesting question will be answered by showing,

II. That the only wise and safe step is to surrender themselves unreservedly into the hands of God.

They must act the part of the famishing lepers. Like them, they have an

important decision to make; a decision which must prompt them to act in view of danger, and to act without delay. The resolution of these distressed men, as it was immediately followed by corresponding actions, furnished evidence of their having an irresistible convịction of the necessity of their case.

So pungent was this conviction, that it aroused them; and they felt that what could be done, must be done immediately. It was certain death to remain where they were, or to go into the city, and it could be no more than certain death to go to the Syrians, who were their avowed enemies; and, at that time, thirsting for their blood. They resolved on the latter; not knowing how they should be disposed of, and yet it being the only course which presented to "their anxious minds the least gleam of hope.

The condition of sinners, as to their immortal souls, is, at least in some respects, similar to that of these men. It is certain death to remain where they are, in a state of unbelief and impenitence-and it is certain death to attempt merely to work out a righteousness of their own. They are now in "the broad way that leadeth to destruction;" and urged onward by powers of earth and hell; and should they arouse, and make resistance, relying on their oron strength, or on any created arm, it would be wholly without avail. They would still be in the same “broad way.” Their only alternative is to turn and make an unreserved surrender of themselves to the mercy of that God, whom they have offended. Nowhere else can help be found for perishing sinners.

But what state of feelings would be implied in their coming to this resoIation? What do they believe? Of what truths are they now convinced ?One thing of which they have gained a full conviction is, that their case is deplorable. They realize, that they must inevitably perish, if they remain where they now are. They see nothing but death before them. They have taken their last morsel—and see that in themselves there is no help. This is one conviction they have. Nor is this all.—They see they have no claims. If they go to God for relief, they see they must go, as sinners, and justly condemned. They must go with an entire consciousness of having acted the part of God's enemies, and, on this account, loathing and abhorring themselves. It is a feeling common to sinners, that they must make themselves better before they submit to God. They are looking for some course, which they may take, as preparatory to their submitting. But the only thing which will recommend them, as sinners, is a sense of utter vileness and unworthiness. How did the repenting prodigal feel? “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” This feeling is an entire renunciation of all claims.

When sinners surrender themselves unconditionally to God, they leave it with him to dispose of them, as he sees best. They are calm and happy, when, in their feelings, they take this ground. They have no conditions to offer-no reserves to make. The famishing men, whose deplorable condition, whose painful struggle of mind and firm resolution are kept in view to impress truth and duty upon sinners, counted the cost before they decided on casting themselves upon the mercy of the Syrians. All they had to say was, “If they save us alive, we shall live ; and if they kill us, we shall but die.”' In like manner, when a sinner surrenders himself unreservedly to God, he casts himself upon his mere mercy. No conditions does he state. But here the selfish, unsubdued heart recoils. The prayer of sinners who are in some degree awakened, but who are not humbled, is of the following import ;“Lord, we will give up all to thee, if we can only first have satisfactory evidence that our souls shall be saved.This, however, is consistent with perfect selfishness. They demand other evidence than the word of God furnishes, that he will save them, before they can feel willing to submit themselves to his disposal. What greater or more assuming condition could they state ? They have no confidence in God, no love for his character, no faith in his promises, unless he will now make some extraordinary manifestation of his kindness to them. An infinite favor they demand, before they can confide in him, and devote themselves to his service. They seek their own interest, and nothing else. Selfishness is supreme. But is this the submission which the gospel enjoins ? Do such feelings resemble the self-denying religion of the Lord Jesus, who gave his life for his people ? No candid mind will hesitate to answer. Could the unhumbled sinner know, that God would treat him according to his real deserts, he would, at once, abandon all thought of submission. He is not prepared to leave it with a holy God to do with him as he sees best.

He is not prepared for any other decision than to have his own will granted. Often is the nature of this submission exemplified among men in the expression of their feelings, with respect to worldly concerns. When, in their dealings with each other, there is a collision of interests, they contend earnestly for their respective claims. The points in dispute, in which they feel a deep interest, they pretend to submit to the decision of impartial judges, but when the result is known, they betray the unreconciled state of their minds. But where there is true submission, the whole matter is left. The sinner, in giving up himself to God, acknowledges ill-desert, renounces claims, and casts himself on divine

mercy, without


conditions or If he save me, I shall live, and if he cut me off, I shall but have the just reward of my iniquities. In view of his wretched case, he says, “ Not my will, but thine be done.” So taught the Saviour—" He that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.” The only wise and safe course, then, for lost sinners, is to make an unconditional surrender of themselves to God. They must go as they are, and acknowledge themselves aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, in a lost and helpless state, and leave it with Him, who cannot err, to decide what shall be done. Nor will this be in vain. For,

III. The God of all grace will effect their deliverance, and bring salvation to them.

The distressed men, whose state and conduct are kept in view, to illustrate the nature of submission, formed their resolution, not knowing but that they should be immediately put to death. They had no assurance, nor even the least evidence, of the contrary. But, when they came to the camp, to their great surprise, not an enemy was to be seen. They had all fed. The Lord, who holdeth the hearts of all men in his hands, had discomfited them. “ He


« PreviousContinue »