THE STATE IN WHICH THE GOSPEL FINDS MAN.
Matt, xviii. 11.—■"The Son of man is come to save that which was lost."
All men, with exceptions too few to be taken into the general account, have some scheme of salvation. The exceptions relate to the very few cases where individuals are in a state of despair ; or where, either from physical disease, or from some perverted view of the truths of religion, they have abandoned all hope of happiness in the world to come. With these very few exceptions, there are none who do not expect to be happy beyond the grave. The proof of this is plain. It is found in the composure with which men look at eternity ; the indifference which they manifest when warned of a coming judgment; the cool and unperturbed spirit with which they pursue the things of this life, whether they are serious things or mere trifles; the unconcern which they evince when told of eternal sorrows. It requires the utmost strength of human hardihood when a v criminal looks with no paleness of the features, and no trembling of the limbs, on the gibbet where he is soon to be executed ; and no man could look on eternal sorrow with a belief that it is to be his own, and be unmoved. When we see men, therefore, wholly unconcerned about their eternal state ; men, though professing to believe that there is a place of future woe, wholly unalarmed and unmoved, the fair inference is, that not one word of the statements about future woe is believed, and that they have some secret scheme by which they hope to be saved at List. Either by works of righteousness which they have done ; or in virtue of the native amiableness of their character; or because they have done no injury to others ; or because they believe that it would be wrong for God to consign them to an eternal hell; or because they confide in what they regard as the illimitable compassion of God, they expect to be saved, and, therefore, give themselves no trouble about it. It is not, it cannot bo human nature to believe that eternal pain is to be our portion, and still to sit unmoved. Still less can men believe this and be cheerful and gay. Every man, therefore, must have sorne secret scheme by which he hop:s to be saved.
Yet, there can be but one method of salvation that is true. If the Christian plan is true, then all others are false; if they are true, then that is false. If there are other schemes by which man can be saved, then there was no need of the Sacrifice on the cross, and the scheme proposed in the gospel is an imposture. The admission, then, that the Christian religion is true—an admission which sinners often so readily and so thoughtlessly make—is a condemnation of all other systems, and shuts out all who are not interested in the plan of the gospel from all hope of heaven.
On this account, if on no other, therefore, it cannot but be a matter of importance to know what the plan of salvation proposed in the gospel is. The previous discourses have been designed, in part, to prepare the way for this by considering certain states of the mind in regard to religion ; by removing certain difficulties felt by men on the subject, and by stating certain presumptive claims which Christianity has on the attention of men. It seemed proper to do this before attempting to show specifically what the plan of salvation revealed in the gospel is ; and having done that, the way is now prepared for a more definite statement of the scheme of salvation proposed in the gospel, or the mental process through which a sinner passes when he embraces the plan. In doing this, I wish to take out this scheme from all others, and to show what it is, so that a man who asks what he shall do to be saved, may understand what, according to this scheme, is to bo done ; what is required of him ; what hindrances he will meet, and what encouragements will be held out to him : what, in one word, according to this scheme, is the method by which God proposes to bring a sinner to heaven.
I begin, of course, with a consideration of the state in which the gospel finds man; and the general statement which I make on this point is, that God's plan of saving men is based on the fact that the race is by nature destitute of holiness. If this were not so, there would have been no necessity for the scheme. Men would have possessed full capability of saving themselves. If men before or since the promulgation of this plan had any elements of holiness in their character, or any traits which could by their own skill be wrought into a texture of righteousness; or if there was remaining in the human soul any germ of goodness which could by culture be developed into holiness; or if there was any slumbering spark of piety that needed only to be uncovered and fanned into a flame, then the design of interposing in the manner revealed in the gospel would have been unnecessary, and would not have occurred. For then all that would have been needful would have been to leave the race to themselves, with only such moral encouragement as would stimulate them to effort, or with such aid as would enable them to unfold the germ of piety in the soul, as they now cultivate the intellectual powers, or as they cultivate a plant from a seed sown in a garden. This is very far from being the gospel scheme.
But it is of the last importance that we should understand what is meant when it is said that God's plan of saving men is based on the fact that the race is destitute of holiness. There are things which men try to do in religion which they cannot do, and are, therefore, not required to do; there are instructions given to men seeking to be saved, which the nature of the human mind forbids any one to follow, and which ought not to be followed ; there are statements made on this point which no man can believe to be true, hard as he may try to think them true, and much as he may endeavour to blame himself because he does not; there are acts for which a man thinks he ought to condemn himself, when after all his struggling he cannot work himself up to feel one particle of guilt; and there are doctrines which men are sometimes taught that they ought to believe, which are so obviously and palpably false, that in trying to believe them they become disgusted with the entire system, and renounce the whole together. After all the efforts which men make to credit absurdities, there are things which the human mind can believe, and those which it cannot; there are things which we can repent of, and those which we cannot. In a certain state of mind, and under a certain kind of teaching, a man often works himself up into a belief that he ought to feel guilty, when he cannot; and often blames himself in this respect, when he ought to feel that he is acting perfectly right. And so, on the other hand, there are cases where a man resists the conviction of guilt when he ought to feel it, and does just as much injustice to his own nature by refusing to be penitent, as he did in the other case by trying to repent. How, then, is it man who wishes to be saved to regard himself on this point ? What is he held to be guilty of ? what not ?
In the answer to these questions, I shall, first, state to you what you are not to regard yourselves as guilty of; and then, secondly, what is to be regarded as the real state of the soul by nature in respect to God and religion. I can most conveniently, and with no want of respect for you, use the style of direct address.
(1.) First, then, you are not held to be guilty of the sin of Adam, nor is repentance for that, in any proper sense, to enter into your repentance if you are saved according to the way of salvation provided in the gospel. I do not mean by this that you are not involved seriously in the consequences of his apostacy— for, except in the notion of personal guilt in the matter, 1 would go as far as any man in holding that you are so ; but that you are not to regard yourselves as personally blameworthy on account of what he has done, and that you need not try to feel, and that you are not to reflect on yourselves if you cannot feel that you are. If a man ever does work himself up into the belief that he is guilty, or blameworthy, or responsible for the sin of Adam, it is simply a delusion of his mind : harmless in some respects, but hurtful so far as he supposes that any piety grows out of it—for no true religion grows out of a falsehood, and so far as it tends to modify his views of the character of God. In a sound and healthy state of the mind, it is impossible that a man should feel gujlty or blameworthy for any sins but his own. He may be affected in his person, character, happiness, or property, and in some sense in his reputation, by the sin of another; he may greatly regret it, and may weep over it as a calamity, and may feel himself humbled by it on account of his relation to the offender; but he can never feel in regard to it as he does in regard to his own sins; he can never weep for it as he does in view of his own personal guilt. God, in the constitution of the human mind, has fixed bounds on this subject more impassable than are those which restrain the ocean. You feel guilty for your own sins; you do not, you cannot for the sin of another. The feeling with which you regard your own sin, and the feeling with which you regard the sin of another, are as distinct as any two classes of feeling possible, and they can never be confounded, and they are not to be intermingled in a plan of salvation. I believe that the Bible does not hold you to be blameworthy, or responsible, or in the proper sense of the term guilty, for the sin of Adam, or of any other man. I am certain that your conscience does not hold you thus guilty. It is a simple matter of fact that you cannot make yourself feel guilty of that, however much you may try to, and however often you may be told that you must. The act was his act, not yours ; the disobedience was his, not yours; the responsibility was his, not yours. It took place nearly six thousand years before you were born: you were not there ; you had no agency in it whatever—and you cannot make yourself feel personally guilty for it, and are not to try to do so in the matter of salvation. You may lament it—may feel its effects—may weep over those effects ; but you are not to lament this, to feel this, to weep over this, as a personal crime—■ for you cannot do it. That is a separate feeling—limited and bounded as distinctly as any feeling which the mind ever has, and never going outside of the consciousness of personal criminality. I shall endeavour to show you that you have enough to lament and weep over, without attempting to burden yourself with this. Settle it, then, as an elementary principle in the way of salvation, that repentance must be limited to personal guilt, and that you can feel condemned only for your own sins— not for the sin of another.
\ (2.) You are not to suppose that it is necessary in order to salvation, that you should feel that you are as bad as you can be. I am saying that the plan of salvation in the gospel is based on the idea that the race is destitute of holiness:—but I am not saying that it is based on the idea that the sinner is as bad as he can be, or that it is necessary to true repentance that he should suppose that he is. I do not know that it could be affirmed of any one of our race that has yet lived, that he was in all respects, at all times, and in all his relations, as wicked a man as he could have been, any more than it can be affirmed of any one, the Saviour excepted, that he was in all respects, and at all times, as good as he could be. 1 am sure that this is not true of the great mass of those to whom the gospel is preached, and who do exercise true repentance : and I do not mean to say to you, therefore, that in order to be saved, it is necessary that you should feel that you are as bad as you can be. It is simply not true. You might be much worse. You might be more profane, more sensual, more proud, more irritable, more covetous. You might have deeper feelings of malignity against God, and deeper hatred for man. You might be openly corrupt as well as corrupt at heart; and you might be more corrupt at heart than you are. There are in the soul of the most abandoned man some remains of decency—I do not say of holiness—that might be obliterated, so that he would be worse than he is ; there is in the most debased and wretched female, now an outcast, some lingering of a generous and noble feeling—I do not say of love to God—that might be quenched, so that she would be more depraved than she is. It is true that under deep conviction— under very highly wrought feeling—and when the floods of remembered guilt come rolling over the soul, the sinner does sometimes feel that he has been as bad as he could be, and that all the past in his life has been the blackness of the deepest criminality with nothing to relieve the picture. But this is the prompting of feeling—perhaps an unavoidable feeling in the case ;—it is not the conviction of the sober judgment. And it
is true, perhaps, that convicted sinners try sometimes to make themselves feel so, and suppose that they ought to feel so ; hut they should be told that it is not true, and that all real piety is based on truth, not on pious falsehood. It is true, indeed, that under the deepest conviction which an awakened sinner ordinarily feels, it may with propriety be told him that he is worse at heart than he really supposes himself to be ; that there is a depth of depravity in his soul which has not yet been seen or developed, and that he might dread the revelation of the truth ; but it is not true that it is necessary in order to be saved that he should work himself up into the belief that he is as bad as he can be, or that he should charge upon himself sins of which he has never been guilty.
Nor, for the same reason, is it necessary that you should regard yourself as worse than all others. It is true that Paul felt that he was " the chief of sinners," and it is true that a similar conviction may come over the minds of others. But this is not necessary to genuine repentance, simply (a) because it is not tt ue in the case of the great mass of those who become really penitent; and (b) because it is not necessary to true repentance that we should compare ourselves with others in any respect. Genuine repentance, and a just view of ourselves, are not based in any degree on such a comparison with other men, but must arise from the contemplation of our own character as compared with the law of God.
(3.) When we say that the plan of salvation in the gospel is based on the supposition that the race is destitute of holiness, it is not meant that in any of its arrangements it is implied that the sinner is guilty for not doing that which he had no power to do. The sense of guilt is, by the constitution of the human mind, as accurately limited in this respect as it is in the eases already referred to. A man can no more feel guilty for not doing that which he had no power to do, than he can for what is done by another. In all cases where there is, in the common sense of the term, a want of ability, there is no obligation, and there can be no sense of guilt if the thing is not done: and no method of reasoning can change this conviction of the human soul. There is no way by which you could convince a man that he is under obligation to create a world, or to remove a mountain, or to raise the dead; or by which you could convince him that he is guilty if he does not do it. And so, for the same reason, and to the same extent precisely, there is no method of reasoning by which you can convince a man that he is under obligation to believe if he cannot believe, or to love if he cannot love, or to repent if he cannot repent, or to obey if he cannot obey; or by which you can make him feel the genuine compunctions of guilt if, under these circumstances, he does not believe, repent, love, and obey.* He may profess to be convinced, but he is not convinced; he may fancy that he feels guilt, but ,he does not feel it. The human mind was not so made as to be approached in that manner, and religion makes its advances in the world in accordance with the laws of the mind, and not against them. Obligation is limited by ability ; and the consciousness of criminality is always bounded by the feeling that we have omitted to do what we might have done, or have done what we had the power of abstaining from doing.
(4.) When we say that the gospel plan of salvation is based on the fact that the race is destitute of holiness, we are not to be understood as teaching that there are no amiable qualities in the minds of sinners, or that there is nothing that can in any sense be commended. Of the Saviour it is said respecting a young man who came to him, and who afterwards showed that he had no real piety, that " beholding him, he loved him" (Mark x. 21); and with all the real, and genuine, and ardent piety of John, there is no reason to believe that it was solely on this account that the Saviour loved him. It is not improper to suppose that Peter, and some of the other apostles, had as sincere love to the Saviour as John had, and that they were willing to make as many sacrifices for him as the " beloved disciple" would, and that they as cheerfully laid down their lives for the Master as he would have done ; but it is not improper to suppose—■ i indeed we cannot help believing—that there was a native I modesty, gentleness, meekness, amiablencss in the character of John that bore a strong resemblance to these traits in the mind i of the Saviour himself, and that made him peculiarly the object i of endearment. So it may be, so it is, of others. It is not asserted by the friends of the Christian religion, that there is no morality, no parental or filial affection, no kindness or compassion, no courteousness or urbanity, no love of truth, and no honest dealing among unconverted men. The friends of religion cannot be blind to the existence of these qualities in a high degree in society, nor are they slow to value them, or to render them appropriate honours. Yet they suppose that all these things may exist, and may diffuse a charm over society, and promote many of the ends of social life, and still that there may be an utter destitution of all right feeling toward God. They suppose that it is possible that a man may be very kind to the poor, and
* The reference here, perhaps it need hardly be said, is to natural and not to what is called moral inability. My views on this subject are more fully given in a subsequent discourse.
very just in his dealings with others, and still have a heart of pride, and selfishness, and envy, and be an entire neglecter of God; that a man may be upright in his intercourse with his neighbours, and have no right feelings towards his Maker ; that a youthful female may be very accomplished, and very gentle, and very winning in her manners, and yet never pray, or in any proper way acknowledge God. Yet, when the heart is under the deepest convictions for sin—when crushed and broken by the consciousness of guilt, as that of the most amiable and gentle person may be, whether male or female—it is not necessary that the mind should be blind to these qualities, or that the convicted sinner should " write bitter things against himself" on account of them. He is no worse for having possessed them, and if they will not save him, they will at least not be charged against him as a fault.
With these necessary metes and bounds on the subject, which it seemed proper to state, I proceed now to illustrate the general statement that, in the plan of salvation, God regards men as destitute of holiness. The remainder of this discourse will be occupied with a statement showing in what respects this is true.
The foundation and the sum of all that I have to say is, that you are destitute of true piety towards God. Whatever else you may have, there is nothing that can be construed as holiness of heart; nothing that is properly the Divine image in the soul. But, lest you should suppose that I am using a mere theological technicality, I would explain this as meaning that there is in your heart no real love to God; no true desire to honour him; no just appreciation of his character; no confidence in him as your Creator; no proper regard for his will; no pleasure in the principles of his government; no desire to please him. This view does not deny to you the possession of much that is amiable and kind in other respects; it simply denies that there is in you " any good thing towards the Lord God of Israel."
It is undeniable that it is on this view that the whole plan of salvation is based, and that that plan has grown out of this view, and is adjusted to it. If it. had been supposed that man Were not fallen, no plan of salvation would have been provided, for none would have been necessary any more than for the angels of heaven ; if it had not been supposed that the race is by nature entirely destitute of holiness, then the plan, if one had been formed, would have been wholly different from what it is now. If it had been presumed that there was any germ of goodness in the soul, then the plan would have been to develop that germ—as we now seek to expand the intellectual powers . by education. If it had been supposed that the amiable qualities of the mind were in any sense of the word true piety, or could he transmuted into piety, then the plan would have been to attach these qualities to religion, or to embody them in some form of religion. If it had been supposed that there were some remains of piety dormant in the soul—some slumbering and almost smothered spark of goodness—■that needed only to be brought out and fanned to a flame, then the scheme of salvation would have been simply a device to accomplish that object. But it is not so : it is impossible to explain the plan of salvation on the supposition that it is so. The way of salvation in the gospel does not contemplate that You may take the supposition that man is destitute of holiness, and that he is so regarded by the Author of the scheme, and you can explain every part of the arrangement as having grown out of that supposition—just as you can explain the science of the healing art on the supposition that man is liable to disease, and can explain it on no other. If you do not admit that supposition in regard to the character of man, you can explain nothing in the gospel ; you can see no propriety in any of its arrangements. By a simple glance at the subject, you can see what I shall more fully explain hereafter, that on this supposition all that is said in connexion with that plan about the atonement—the new birth—the work of the Holy Spirit—the doctrine of justification by faith, has a place and a meaning: what place what signification, have they on any other supposition ? The way of salvation, as revealed in the gospel, is adjusted to the idea that the race is destitute of holiness, and to no other view of the character of our race. I lay this, therefore, at the foundation. If this is not so, the whole plan is uncalled for and unmeaning, and, therefore, having taken a wrong view of human nature in the starting point, is false throughout. You can never make anything of Christianity on any other supposition than that this is a fallen race, and that the race is wholly destitute of holiness; but on that supposition it has at least the merit of being an admirably adjusted scheme, as it will be easy to show you hereafter. You can never hope to see the beauty or the fitness of Christianity as a way of salvation until you admit and feel that whatever else you have, you have by nature no true love towards God.
In the expansion and application of this view there are several things which follow, and which it is important to state in order to put the mind into possession of the exact truth, and to confirm what has been just said.
First. In the way of salvation it is assumed that your morality is not holiness. It was not in the case of the young ruler whom, on that account, Jesus loved; it was not in the case of Saul of Tarsus, who said of himself, referring to his character before his conversion, " touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless," Phil. iii. 6. It is not in your case. It is another thing altogether than religion. Your morality relates to man; not to God. It has, in your own mind, even, no reference to God. It leads you to no act of devotion to him; to no prayer, to no desire to learn his will, to no worship in your family or in your closet. You do not yourself, even, pretend on this account to be a religious or pious man. You do not profess to be; you do not ally yourself to those who are pious; you do not expect to be ranked among their number ; you would be surprised if you were—either by man or God. You would either receive it as a witticism if you were called a saint, or would regard it as intended to be an insult. You have never pretended to perform the proper act of a religious man; and you would be greatly surprised if a religious man should address you as a brother believer. Your morality is very valuable in some respects, but it has a very limited sphere considering all your relations ; and, though amiable in itself, it may exist in connexion with other things that are far from being amiable. Will you surfer me to show you, by a very plain illustration, how this is ? A company of boys are playing on a common. They are blithe, merry, happy. They are kind to each other, and true to each other, and faithful to each other. If one falls into danger, all are ready to help him ; if one is unfortunate, all sympathize with him; if one is prospered, all rejoice. They do not steal from each other; they do not slander each other; they do not cheat each other. If one makes a promise to another it is faithfully kept; if a bargain is made, the most scrupulous rules of honesty are observed. But they are all truants. They have broken away from the restraints of home; are there contrary to the wishes of their parents, and in direct violation of their commands. They refuse to return home at the time when they are commanded to; and if at home th3y manifest no regard for a parent's will or comfort. What do you think of them ? Does their system of morality among themselves prove that they love their parents, or are entitled to the favour of their parents? Does it prove that they are not to be regarded as truant, and treated accordingly? Suppose that one of them is charged with disobedience to his parents. ' Oh,' says he, ' we are very kind, and honest, and truthful among ourselves. I have injured no one of my playmates; I am esteemed to be honourable and upright ; I am among them strictly moral.' Exactly so; but how does this prove that he is not guilty of crime against a parent ? Just as much, fellow-sinner, as your morality proves that you are not a sinner in the sight of God—and no more.
Second. In the way of salvation in the gospel, it is assumed that your amiable traits of character are not holiness, and that they cannot be construed as religion. Why should they be any more than the innocence of the lamb, or the gentleness of the dove ? They have no more reference to religion in your own mind; they do nothing to make you religious. They do not lead you to prayer, or to a religious life, or to the worship of God, or to the love and imitation of the Saviour—more meek, and gentle, and amiable by far than you can pretend to be ; nor do they lead you to prepare for the world to come. Besides, you may not be as amiable as yon think you are. Others may see things in you which you do not see; and God may see more than all. Your real character may have been little tested, and you may yet be in circumstances ■where you yourself may be surprised to find how much pride, and envy, and irritability, and pervcrseness, and petulance, and selfishness, there was lurking in your own soul.
Thirdly. In the way of salvation in the gospel, it is assumed that your personal accomplishments are not religion; and that they do not prove that you have any holiness of heart. It assuredly does not demonstrate that you are a child of God, whatever praises it may elicit from men, if you can sing well, or dance well, or play well on an instrument of music; if you are fitted to adorn the most polished circles, or if by the grace of movement, or the charms of conversation, you attract the admiration of all. Some of these things are well in their way, and are desirable; but why should any one deceive himself in regard to them ? They are not religion; they cannot be made to be religion.
Fourthly. It is assumed in the way of salvation in the gospel, that there is no native germ of goodness or holiness in your heart; that there is none implanted by baptism that can be so developed or cultivated as to become religion. Holiness, if it ever exists in the human soul, is to have a beginning there. It is not there by nature. You may cultivate your intellectual powers, hut the result will not be religion; you may cultivate amiableness of temper, hut it is not religion; you may cultivate gracefulness of manner or of person, but it is not religion; you may cultivate morality, but it is not religion. And so of baptism. It has its advantages, and they who have been baptized should bless God for it; but it is not given to man, whether clothed in sacred vestments or not—to man, though ministering at the altar, and in the name of God, to implant a principle of grace, or a germ of piety in the soul. God's Spirit alone creates life there; and it is done through the instrumentality of truth, and not hy an outward ordinance. Baptism has imparted nothing to you that can be certainly cultivated into piety, or that will grow into the love of God.
And, fifthly, then it is assumed in the way of salvation in the gospel, that your heart is evil. It has by nature no religion. It has nothing which can grow up into religion; nothing which can be a substitute for it. It is proud, selfish, vain, worldly, polluted, wicked, unlike God.
This may seem to be a dark picture, but it lies at the foundation of the way of salvation as revealed in the gospel; and on this sad fact the whole plan is based. All men, as is supposed in this plan, have failed to yield obedience to the reasonable requirements of the law of God. The violation of that law is held to be the first act of a child when he becomes a moral agent; the continued act of his life, unless he is renewed ; the last act on his dying pillow. His whole career is regarded as one act of rebellion, because he is selfish, neglects God, is proud, is cherishing enmity against his Maker, and is opposed to all efforts to produce better feelings. In innumerable instances, this want of holiness, this destitution of love to God, goes forth in acts of falsehood, impurity, blasphemy, theft, murder, adultery, oppression, and implacable individual and national war. In support of this view of the character of man, the sacred Scriptures assert the naked fact, claiming to be the testimony of God. The Bible has, moreover, recorded, under Divine guidance, the history of the world for more than two-thirds of its continuance, and presents no exception to this melancholy account of men. Profane writers, with no reference to any theological debate, and nine-tenths of them with no expectation that their testimony would ever be adduced to settle questions of divinity, have presented the £ame fact. Not one solitary historian, though coming from the midst of the people whoso deeds are recorded, and designing to give the most favourable representation of their character, has exhibited a nation bearing any marks of holiness— an individual that is like God. The world, the wide world, is apostate; and he must be worse than blind that would attempt to maintain that man by nature is fit for the kingdom of heaven.
On this broad fact, wide as the world, and prolonged as its history, the Christian way of salvation is based. Here is an apostate province of God's empire. Rebellion has come upon the earth, though not as it came among the ranks of heaven. There it cut off a fixed number, all mature in wisdom and in strength. It would not spread; it could not be extended to successive tribes. Here it poisoned a fountain. It was amidst God's works at first, but a little spring, pouring into a rill, but soon swelling to creeks, to rivers, to lakes, to oceans. An incalculable number would descend from the first pair of apostates, and with prophetic certainty it could be foretold that not one of their descendants would escape the contagion to the end of time, however long the apostate world might stand. To all ages it would be the same. On each mountain, in each valley, in each cavern—on each extended and fertile plain—in all lands, barbarous or civilized—under every complexion in which man would appear—white, black, copper, olive, or mixed,—it would be the same. Crime would be heaped on crime; whole nations would bleed; whole tribes would wail; one generation of sinners would tread on another generation, and then themselves expire—and all die as enemies of the God that made them.
We need not embarrass ourselves by inquiring how this came upon us, or why this is so. It is the fact with which we are concerned, not the mode. The grand question is not why this is so ; or why this was permitted; or how we can reconcile it with the goodness of God, but how shall we escape f When a man is struggling in a current of mighty waters, it does nothing to facilitate his escape to be able to determine how he came there; nor would it help him if he could satisfy his own mind on the question why God ever made streams so that men could fall into them, and did not make every bank of granite or iron so that it would not give way.
The grand question is, how shall we escape ? You will not escape if you remain in your present condition. Indifference is not safety; and unconcern is not salvation. It is not the way to be saved to give one's self no concern about it, or to suffer things to pass on as they are. If you remain as you are with a sinful and depraved heart—with no love to God—what can befall you but ruin ? Without holiness you cannot be tit for heaven. For what world are you preparing ?
It will not save you to murmur and complain at your lot, or to find fault with the Divine arrangements, or even reverently and devoutly to call these things mysterious. Scepticism saves no one from danger ; murmuring saves no one ; a sneer saves no one; contempt saves no one; nor docs it save any one to call a truth a mystery. None of these things make you a better man; none do anything to fit you for heaven; none will make the sorrows of perdition more easy to be borne.
It will not save you to cultivate the graces of manner, or the accomplishments of life ; to become more learned in the sciences, and a better critic of ti.e productions of art; to make yourself more moral before men ; to break off■ your external sins, or to put on the " form of godliness without its power." You may cultivate a bramble, but it will not be a rose; a rose, but it will not be a bird of Paradise; a bird of Paradise, but it will not be a gazelle ; a gazelle, but it will not be a beautiful woman. You may polish brass, but it is not gold ; and may set in gold a piece of quartz, but it is not a diamond:—and just as certain is it that none of the graces of native character which you can cultivate will ever become true religion. The evil lies deeper than this, and must be healed in another way. How this is may be explained hereafter. My point now is gained if I have shown you that the Christian way of salvation justly assumes as its basis that our race is by nature destitute of holiness; and if you are convinced, as I would wish you to be convinced, that it is not by works of righteousness which you have done that you can be saved.