« ПредишнаНапред »
be reserved to judgment. We read with astonishment and rapture of a Saviour, but not of a Saviour appointed for them. He took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham. Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; but apostate spirits never enjoyed such a blessing. They heard their brethren, the multitude of the heavenly host, when they sung,“ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.” It must have echoed through the infernal regions, and filled them with envy and indignation not to be described. No ima. gination can conceive what they must have felt, on hearing the gospel preached to the children of men ; and seeing multitudes flocking to Jesus, and healed and saved by him, while not one proclamation of peace and pardon was made to them, and no more notice taken of them, than if such miserable creatures did not exist. They are prisoners, then, without hope. Such also are all those among men, who have died without repentance and pardon; and they are a multitude, we fear, greater than any man can number. There is a great gulph between heaven and hell, which can never be passed. If there were but the least glimmering of hope, that, after a million of ages, some blessed messenger of good tidings would come, and preach deliverance to the captives, it would be some alleviation. I had almost said, they would cease to feel their pain at the report of such deliver. ance. But, alas! the gloom is impenetrable. Millions of
ages pass away, and ten thousand millions after that period, and there is no more prospect of an end of their misery, than at the first hour when it began. How dreadful is their condition! We can
hardly help fancying that we hear their doleful shrieks, and horrid execrations of themselves, and one another; and yet it will not deter multitudes from dancing merrily on in that road which they are assured will lead them to endless destruction.
But leaving these unhappy characters, I proceed to inquire who are prisoners of hope?
First, all who are alive upon the earth. When we see a person who appears to be near death, in a fever or some other dangerous distemper, and one and another give them up as irrecoverable, Stay a little,” we say : “ they are certainly very ill, but they are not dead. Who can tell but they yet may recover? While there is life there is hope." We may apply this to the soul, and spiritual distempers. If we look at the world lying in wickedness, and especially at those who are sitting in Pagan darkness, we are ready to consider them as lost, and to conclude, that we are not to entertain a thought about their salvation. For how shall they believe in Christ, of whom they have not heard? But we should not be too positive and peremptory in our decisions. Who can tell what mercy God may have destined for them? Who dares say, but that, before they die, he may give them an opportunity of hearing the gospel ? If I had, therefore, an opportunity of speaking to Turks and Heathens, though they are far off from God, though they have even lived in the most licentious wickedness, though they be grown old in the devil's service, and be bowed down under the weight of years and of sin, yet, as while there is life there is hope, I should think myself warranted to say to them all, “ Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope.”
But those who possess the means of grace are more particularly to be considered as prisoners of hope. I can with greater confidence address you, who hear the blessed gospel; for to you is the word of this salvation sent. You seldom pass a day, I hope never a sabbath, without some message from God, some call or invitation, or intreaty, or some intimation that he is waiting to be gracious. You have, perhaps, hitherto received the grace of God in vain ; and all the sab. baths and sermons which you have been favoured with, have been altogether fruitless. Notwithstanding all the cultivation bestowed upon you, you only cumber the ground. But still you are not cut down. The gospel is not removed. The sentence is not yet gone forth, “ Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.” What you now hear and feel, is a blessed proof of it; and while the means of grace are continued, we hope that in some blessed hour they may be effectual. While the angel troubles the waters, who can tell but you may be healed ? An arrow shot at a venture may pierce your hearts ; and some sermon, perhaps this very sermon which you are now hearing, may be made the means of your conviction and conversion. Many of you, that never prayed to God in your lives, nor ever had a serious thought about your souls, or sin, or salvation, may, before you leave this house, be led to ery out with sincerity and earnestness, «r God be merciful to me a sinner." This is not im. possible. Therefore, I beseech you,
“ Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope.”
But I consider these words as especially applicable to those who feel religious impressions. With regard to such, the degree of hope rises much higher. I obe
served, that we despair not of any member of this congregation. Though they were never serious for an hour in their lives, yet we may hope that a time to favour them may come. But as to you, that season is come already. You, I mean, whom the Spirit has convinced of sin, who see, and are humbled at the sight of your wretched captivity, and have been some time secretly sighing for deliverance. I speak to you, who feel what an evil and dangerous thing it is to sin against God, and who would not continue a day longer at a distance from him.
I am addressing you who loathe yourselves for your wickedness; who cannot be happy unless you be saved from sin, as well as from hell ; and who are daily wishing that you might be washed in the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. Your case is emphatically hopeful. I look round upon you with pleasure,and say to myself, “ There sits a prisoner of hope. He is not yet at liberty ; but I believe that he will soon be delivered. Christ is coming towards him, preaching deliverance to the captives; and the holy Spirit seems to have begun a change in him, which already appears in the seriousness of his conduct. There is another who longs to be a Christian : He mourns as if his heart would break at the remembrance of his sins, though he has not courage to tell any one of it. He had, indeed, often before, resolved to be a servant of God; and, for a day or two, did nothing but weep, and pray for this mercy. But this concern was not lasting; the first temptation drove it away. Now, however, he is enquiring the way to Zion again, with his face thitherward; and by his eagerness and haste, he seems to be fleeing for refuge; and determined to lay hold on the hope set before him.” I say, when I look round, and see persons who, we have good rea. son to believe, are thus affected and affiicted, I hesitate not a moment to invite them, in the comfort. able words of the text, “ Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope.”
III. We proceed to inquire what is this strong hold?
I doubt not but you have all anticipated my reply. At the first mention of the text, you knew that it was Christ; and you have probably thought me unnecessarily tedious in bringing you to him.
Well then, I now set him before you ; and invite you, not merely to look at bim, but to turn to him. Various are the similitudes by which Christ is represented in scripture; and we sometimes apply to him under one character, and sometimes under another, according as our circumstances and conditions may vary. Thus, for example, when we are languishing under some spiritual distemper, the whole head sick, and the whole heart faint, we hasten to Christ as a physician ; and are glad to find that he knows the name and nature of every disease, and the safest and speediest methods of cure. When we feel ourselves confined in a noisome dungeon, and have wearied ourselves with many fruitless attempts to escape; or in other words, when we are miserable to think how far we are from God, and know not how we can posa sibly get nearer, it is a pleasure to hear of Christ as a door of hope, or as the way, and the truth, and the life. Sometimes we rejoice in him as a prophet to enlighten our eyes; sometimes, as a priest, to make reconciliation for our iniquities; sometimes, as