The GOSPEL TRUTH
Charles G. Finney
"Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men: for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God," Acts xx. 26,7.
I speak to-night, as you are aware, from these words at Dr. Campbell's particular request. Much as I have laboured as an Evangelist, and numerous as are the times I have been called to part with those amongst whom I have been preaching, yet I have never hitherto allowed myself to address them from this text, or, in fact, from any other portion of the chapter in which it is found; and when Dr. Campbell asked me to preach from it, I told him I did not feel as if I could. There are so many affecting things grouped together in this chapter, respecting the Apostle, that I have been afraid, lest, if I preached from the text, that some one should think I meant to compare myself, in some point, with the Apostle. Nothing, however, could be further from my thoughts.
The first inquiry to which we are naturally led by the text, is, What is intended by the assertion of the Apostle, that he is "pure from the blood of all men?" This may be explained by a reference to what we find in Ezekiel iii. 17, and elsewhere the same sentiment occurs expressed in similar terms: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die; because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul."
Here, then, is the principle involved in the language used by the Apostle. The reference to "blood" of course is figurative, and must be regarded as the blood of the soul. To be guiltless or clear of the blood of men is to be clear of the charge of unfaithfulness to them. The Apostle means that he is not to blame if those who have sat under his ministry are lost. He has discharged his duty, and such as were lost were themselves answerable. In further remarking from these words, the following is the train of thought I design to pursue:
I. THE SOUL IS OF INFINITE VALUE.
II. IT CANNOT BE LOST, WITHOUT INFINITE GUILT TO SOMEONE.
III. I SHALL NOTICE SOME OF THE CONDITIONS UPON WHICH THOSE WHO ARE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SOUL WILL OR WILL NOT BE FOUND CLEAR OF THEIR BLOOD IF THEY ARE LOST.
IV. I SHALL OFFER SOME GENERAL REMARKS.
With respect to the infinite value of the soul, it is a theme so vast, that whenever the mind gives itself up to dwell upon it, it seems to be overcome with the attempt to conceive of so vast a thing. It is a thought familiar to you all, that everything that is really valuable must either belong to the mind itself or to something which is valuable as a means of promoting the welfare of mind. Nothing can be valuable in itself but the well-being of mind. If you take all mind out of the universe, what is there left that is valuable? All things, painful and pleasureable, belong to mind, and especially is this true of moral agents. It is, of course, of their souls I speak; for of mere brute beasts, as we know but little, we can say but little about them. When we speak of the souls of men we refer to what we know to be immortal. They must live for ever; when they have once begun to be, they will never cease to be. Beginning to be they will grow older and older, live onward and onward, as long as God shall live. Think of that! But I must not extend here.
Another consideration is, that, from the very nature of mind, it must be either happy or miserable, and one of these must be ever increasing in quantity. The capability of the finite mind is for ever increasing. By a natural law, this must be the case. The means of its happiness or misery,--its thoughts, knowledge, character,--all these things are developing onward and onward for ever and for ever, and consequently the power of mind,--its capacity for enjoyment or misery,--is always enlarging, and its cup is ever full in a future world.
But I must not enlarge on this thought. I dwelt at considerable length on it one evening when I preached on "The Infinite Worth of the Soul," and for that reason I shall not enlarge on it, but proceed in the next place to suggest some thoughts which I then suggested. When we consider the fact, that from the point where we commence existence the soul goes on enlarging in capacity either of enjoyment or misery,--that this capacity is ever full, and goes on increasing as long as eternity endures, it is easy to see that a period must arrive when the amount of enjoyment or suffering, which can be predicated of any individual soul, is greater in amount than can be computed by the aggregate mind of all the creatures of God. Were every finite mind merged in one, and that mind put forth its utmost conception, it could neither compute nor conceive of an amount so great either of enjoyment or suffering as will actually be enjoyed or suffered at some period of its existence by every immortal soul in the universe, and this is only the beginning of joy or sorrow; for when any one individual, say the last that has gone to heaven, has enjoyed more than all heaven had enjoyed at the commencement of its bliss, or than all the inhabitants of heaven could conceive of up to that time; still beyond roll the waves of eternity, onward and onward, and the soul has not one moment less to exist than at first: and stretch your conceptions as you may, to the utmost limit of finite capacity, and still enjoyment or suffering has but begun, and there is no computing it; it is ever increasing in quantity, yet never infinite, though vast beyond comprehension. If you are to live forever, and your existence runs on till the elements are melted with fervent heat, and the universe is rolled together as a scroll, and passes away with a great noise,--the time must come when you can say of yourself, looking back o'er the lengthened ages through which you have lived,--the vast cycles which have rolled away,--remembering all your sorrows or joys,--you may say, "I have either enjoyed more or suffered more now, in my own personal experience, than all the creatures of God had enjoyed or suffered when I came to this place. But when you have said that, a soul in heaven might say, Why I know more of God now than all heaven knew, when I came here! Just think of that! Think that the youngest child in this congregation must arrive at a period of its existence, when looking round on the vast throngs which surrounds the heavenly throne, it will be able to say, "I am older now than the aggregate age of all the children of God and of all angels in heaven, when I first came here. I am older than they all then were. I have had more experience and know more about God than they all then knew. Yes! I have received mercies and favours from God Himself now, more than they all had received when I came here, and they all have been progressing as fast as I have, and they are as far a head of me now as they were then, and yet I myself, perhaps the last of all that came here, I know more of God than they all knew, I am older than they all were when I came here. My cup of joy, which is always full and running over, has run over more than they all had enjoyed before I came here" Well, what of that? You have only just begun. Right beyond is an eternity still just as real,--just as extensive as it was the moment you entered here. The waves of life are rolling, and rolling, and rolling,--there is neither shore, nor bound, nor bottom, nor height, nor depth,--there is an infinity on every side.
Paul,--how many years has he been in heaven, with his spiritual children gathered around him--all those who were converted under his ministry? Thousands of them could now tell him, "Why I know more, a thousand times, about God and about heaven. than you and all the church of God knew, when I came here." Go forward to any period; let any computation be made. Let your mind stretch itself to the utmost limits of its capacity--what then? You have only set your foot on the threshold of Eternity, and are no nearer the end. When your cup has enlarged and enlarged, so that oceans and oceans and oceans have been enjoyed and overflowed--what then? You are rising and rising and rising, but as God is absolutely infinite, you will continue to rise; but notwithstanding you are always rising towards Him, you will always remain infinitely below Him.
Now turn it over on the other hand to the individual who goes on sinning and sinning and sinning. There was the first sin,--there was a time when sin first took hold of him, and remorse caused the first pang in his little conscience,--when his little mind was pressed, and he resisted,--when the tear was forced into his little eye, and his little conscience twinged. Ah! that was the first twinge, but by-and-by he sinned and sinned and sinned again and again, and so he went on till now. Think of such an individual launching into Eternity, where all restraint on his sinfulness is taken off. His bodily appetites and propensities which he sought to indulge, are now no more. His friendships are gone forever. He has received all the good he ever will receive. He has passed God's mercy, rejected His Gospel, abused His Spirit, and is sinning still. With increasing vigour he rushes on in his awful course. Ah! think of the many twinges, sorrows, agonies, and hours of remorse even in this world; but in a future world where conscience will do its duty perfectly, where there will be no diverting it, where the eyes will be opened to the truth, and cannot be shut, but must behold the everlasting loss of the soul, where he blasphemes God and looks upwards sinning on and on. Ah! sinner, think! You will be able to say, "I have now committed a greater number of sins than all the sinners in hell, and in all the rest of the universe had, before I was born! All the devils in hell put together, and all the wicked men in hell at the time I came here, had not committed so many sins in the aggregate, as I have myself since I have been here. This period certainly must arrive. To be sure, the others have gone far a head of you still; but notwithstanding this, what I have said of you is perfectly true. Ah! who can tell the deep agonies and tears,--who can compute or conceive of them! What but an infinite could look at them without being overcome and wailing out through the agony of eternal despair to think they were not holy. There is no contemplating the idea of immortality from any point of view, or believing in it without its weighing upon the spirit. What mortal can look at it?--what angel or other being can look at its vast and infinite import, without feeling as if his nerves were on fire with such a conception? But I must not enlarge upon this, or I shall keep you here all night.
In the next place, not one of these souls of such great and infinite value can be lost, without somebody incurring infinite responsibility and infinite guilt. God is, in a three fold sense, the owner of these souls. He created them all--He has preserved them all--and when they had sold themselves, He redeemed them all by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore He has a three-fold claim on them, and if they cost Him so much, He will not see them lost without making an inquisition for blood. The souls of those He thus redeemed cost Him far more than the material universe. He spoke, and the energy of His word gave existence to the material universe, and created system upon system. He could thus people space with worlds and systems, but He could not thus easily redeem the sinful myriads who were spiritually dead, and who incurred the penalty of His Divine law, and this could not be done by His simple fiat. Oh! no. This is a different work. It cost Him much, indeed, to redeem these souls. The Word which called them into existence was powerful and infinite; but to redeem them, to release them from the penalty of the Divine law, to make an atonement, to throw open the door of mercy, so that God could be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly--this was a great work, and cost the Son of God more than thirty years intense suffering and labour, missionary labour, trouble, persecution, misapprehension, and finally, it cost him life!--He must die an ignominious death, and go down to the grave with the accusation of blasphemy resting upon Him. Ah! under the charge of blasphemy, the Son of God must die!--Under the charge of blasphemy, for you and for me? God the Father, must give His only begotten and well-beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased, to die. What a sacrifice was this! What a view we have here, of His amazing self-denial. Think of that. To see the whole family of heaven, every creature in heaven, with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,--all combining to carry on, with the greatest self-denial, this effort to save the souls of sinful and perishing men! What a testimony is this to its value! What are we to think of God's opinion of the value of the soul? Think what self-denial! Think of the Father, as it were, fitting out His only begotten and well-beloved Son, as a missionary to this world. Just think of it! What must the inhabitants of heaven have thought to see Him fitted out as a missionary to save this dying world! We talk about missionaries, and self-denial, and get up meetings when missionaries are going off, to express our sympathy, to sing hymns to God, and pray together, and give them our blessing and our prayer,--but what must have been the state of things when it was published in heaven for the first time, that the Son of God was going a missionary to this world to save these rebels by His blood? You would suppose that there would have been tears in heaven--there would have been tears of grief and unspeakable joy,--astonishment of the angelic hosts at the love of God, wonder at the whole thing when published in heaven, as a new thing; for it must have been, at some time or other, a new thing,--it must have filled them with astonishment and joy and sympathy unutterable. How many millions of hearts were then drawn into sympathy with this wonderful undertaking.
Now, mark; God has made provision for the salvation of every immortal soul, although it was condemned to die. Every man is enjoined to take care of his soul. He is asked what he will you give in exchange for it, and reminded that it will profit him nothing to gain the whole world, if he loses it. Every man is bound to look well to it, and make it his first business to secure it from eternal death. He is to seek first "the kingdom of God and His righteousness," and everything else shall be thrown in. He shall lose nothing by it, if he is careful not to lose his soul. This charge He has given to every man solemnly. Take care you do not lose it, while God thus prizes it infinitely, and has given His Son to die for it. He loves it with an everlasting love, but He cannot save it without your concurrence. You are free; and He must have your consent,--your heart,--your sympathy. Take care that you do not lose it. It is impossible for Him, from the nature of the case, to save it without your co-operation and consent. Take care, then, set about it. Let it be your first great concern to take care of, and to save this immortal soul!
He has also given us charge in respect to the souls of those around us. This refers especially to ministers: "Son of man," He says, "I have set you as a watchman to the house of Israel;" you must "hear the word of My mouth, and if I say to the wicked man, Thou shalt surely die, if thou warn not the wicked man to flee from his way, and he flee not, he shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hands: but if thou warn him, and he flee not, he shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at his hands, and thou shalt deliver thy soul." He has also given a solemn charge to the Church in this point, to watch over, to pray, to warn, to exhort, and labour for the souls of those around them. Christian parents, teachers, brothers, sisters,--all classes of Christians: "What I say unto you, I say unto all,--watch;" and not only watch for your own souls, but see what can be done for the souls of those with whom you have to do. Again; God has charged all men to love their neighbours as themselves, and to care of their souls, as well as their own. Every person,--even the wicked man,--is bound to love his neighbours, and to see to it that he never neglects his own soul, or the souls of those who may be under his influence.
But I pass, in the third place, to notice in a few words, the conditions upon which all who have this responsibility may be clear of the blood of souls. This cannot be said of us, unless we have do all that we consistently can do. If we neglect our own souls, we are guilty of our own blood; and if we do not do our duty to others, we are also guilty of theirs.
I shall now advert, in a few words, to the different classes of persons, and the duties of their different relations. Ministers and teachers must be "instant in season and out of season," teaching the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; labouring in a right way, and with a right spirit; laying themselves on the altar, and not shunning to "declare the whole counsel of God;" selecting such truths as the people seem most to need; powerfully appealing to the hearts and consciences of those amongst whom they live. They are bound also, to live in such a manner as to show everybody that they themselves believe and practise what they preach to others. We must live the truth out of the pulpit, as well as declare the truth in the pulpit, and preach by our spirit, temper, life, and all that we do, that we may be clear of the blood of souls.
But there are other classes who have also serious responsibilities with regard to this matter: Church officers should consider their responsibility. Let them remember it is great, and that they cannot be made clear of the blood of souls if they do not sustain their important relation as they ought to sustain it.
Again: take parents, and see how great are their responsibilities. Only think of their exerting a greater influence over their children, perhaps, than all the world besides. They will do more for or against the souls of their children than, perhaps, everything else combined; and if they do not do their duty, their hands will be red with the blood of their children at that day. See that unfaithful mother's hands,--how red they are! What! has she been murdering her children? or, to say the least, has she been neglecting to labour for the conversion of her children? What has she been about? I have not time, of course, to descend into all the relations of life; but let what I have said suggest to you the relations of Sabbath-school teachers and missionaries, brothers, sisters, friends, young converts, and older Christians. Let me say to all of you, that you have each of you great and peculiar responsibilities, and no man can be guiltless of the blood of souls who does not do his duty, labouring faithfully, as God has given him opportunity and power to present God's offers of salvation to men. But, of course, it is especially expected of ministers, that they shall warn, exhort, and rebuke with all long-suffering.
But having said thus much upon the three leading thoughts, I shall now proceed to make some general remarks. And the first remark is this,--to have a clear conscience is a point of inestimable importance. What an infinite consolation to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, must be reflection, that nothing has been omitted that enlightened benevolence demanded for the salvation of immortal souls,--that nothing has been done which enlightened benevolence forbade, to throw obstacles in the way of their salvation,--that He has consulted His infinite intelligence, and in all things done the best that Infinite power and love could do to prevent the loss of any immortal soul. So that when God looks around upon the universe, and beholds the sufferings of the wicked,--when He listens to their wailings, just think of the consolation He will have of being able to exclaim, "I am clear of their blood,--I call the universe to record that I am clear!" This must be one of the great objects of the general Judgment, that God,--if I may use such an expression,--may clear up His character and vindicate His conduct in the presence of the entire universe, and bring it with one consent to pronounce a sentence of deserved condemnation upon the wicked!
It is easy to see, that so complicated is the vast machinery,--so little do we know of the vast multitude of the things which make up this world's history, and the history of the universe,--that now we cannot, of course, pronounce upon God's conduct any further than that our limited intelligence declares He must be right. At a period when there will be time enough,--when suns and moons have ceased to rise and set,--when years have ceased to mark the cycles which roll away, --when men have ceased to die, and shall put on immortality, and have time to consider the matter,--God, having recorded in His infinite mind all the facts, bringing up all the transactions of the entire universe, will then explain in a clear light all the reasons which have actuated Him in our creation, preservation, and in all His providential arrangements. All His disinterestedness and self-denial will come out. Every mouth will then be stopped,--everything will be cleared up, so that it shall not be possible for any being in the universe to open his mouth and add another word as to the propriety of what has been done: "Every mouth shall be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God!" Now, if this be so, when God has disclosed it all, and brought home to the intelligence of the whole universe the question of what is right in the case, and has received unanimous consent of the entire universe of his creatures that He is infinitely far from the least fault in this matter,--when he has placed the thing in such a light that there can be no doubting as to anything He has done,--as to His propriety, benevolence, and affection,--then He will know that they know as He now knows, and will eternally know, that He has done all that infinite love and power could do, to save those souls to which He attaches a value so infinite.
Again; suppose God's conscience condemned Him, and suppose that He being a moral agent and could accuse Himself of anything which was unbecoming, any want of faithfulness or benevolence, or of anything which His infinitely pure mind could pronounce wrong? It would fill that infinite mind of His with unutterable regrets, sorrow, and pangs of remorse, to see eternity rolling onward and onward, and the amount of misery accumulating, and accumulating, and accumulating, till no mind but His could comprehend the extent of it; and if He could only accuse Himself of the least wrong in all this, it would fill his own mind with a pang that would really make an infinite hell. There will, however, be no such thing, but right over against this there will be the eternal consciousness of being clear; and when it is found that the souls are lost, and the inquiry is made--Here is murder! Ten hundred thousand millions of immortal souls--yes, more in number than can be computed!--Here is murder! murder! Those souls are slain! Who has done this! Who has committed all these murders? God the Father says, "I am clear,"--and the Son says, "I am clear,--and the Holy Ghost says, "I am clear!" and now inquisition must be made, Who has been guilty of this deed? What deeds of death are here! What dreadful things are done! Who has done them?
Once more: Paul said to those to whom he had preached, that they knew very well from their own observation that he was clear of their blood, and he called on them themselves to witness to it, and to make a record of it. I call upon you to take knowledge, and record the testimony, that I may use it in the solemn judgment--that I may take with me your testimony, and confront you with it then, that I may be clear of the blood of you all.
Again: this parting, on the other hand, must be dreadful indeed to a minister who has been unfaithful--who has, on his conscience, a direct and powerful accusation of his unfaithfulness. Suppose it says, "You have been seeking your own popularity and filthy lucre. You have been indolent. You have truckled to a false and most pernicious public sentiment, and bowed down to an ungodly fastidiousness. You have not rightly represented God and Christ. You have concealed things which you feared would give offence. You have been seeking your own character, reputation, and advancement, more than the honour and glory of God. Why, suppose he was obliged to confess this, while his conscience strongly accused him of it! Oh! how would he feel to die confessing this? What would he say on meeting those souls in the solemn judgment? How solemn it must be for Paul or any minister to meet right face to face the masses to whom they have proclaimed the whole counsel of God! What a meeting his must be! Oh! beloved, we shall meet again, directly at the bar of God: and what shall we meet for? I, to give an account of my ministry, and the manner in which I have dealt with your souls, and you to give an account of the manner in which you have received or rejected the counsel of God; and now, beloved, are we prepared for the trial, when the Judge of all the Earth shall sit on his great white throne and come forth so terrible a majesty?--when heaven and earth shall flee from his presence, the books shall be opened, and the dead shall be judged out of those books? The sea shall then yield up its dead. Whenever I have been at sea these words have come home to me with solemn emphasis. In a few days I shall be again on the bosom of the mighty deep, and they will, doubtless, occur to me again and again.
Ah! it will be a solemn time both for ministers and for hearers, for saints and for sinners, for parents and for children, for old and for young! Each must give an account for himself, and what a responsibility is this! I have been a pastor now, as I said on Monday, about eighteen years, besides labouring a great deal in the capacity of an Evangelist; and thousands have sat under my ministry; here and there I have known them pass into eternity before me; but thousands and thousands will also come after me; we must all be congregated on that day: and I know very well it is one thing to appeal to men, but vastly different to walk right up to the Almighty and take his judgment on the entire matter. When it comes to this--when all the secrets of our hearts are laid open to the bottom of our deepest thoughts, and brought out and exhibited--when every motive of my heart, when every sermon is thoroughly scanned, and every circumstance and thought of every day! Ah! that will be a solemn time for me, when scores of thousands in America and in Britain will face me! But I am not going to say all that Paul said.
It must be an awful thing for congregations to meet their ministers,--those who have had pastors and those who have had occasional preachers,--it must be an awful thing for them to meet! Just think of it. I have often thought that the relation of pastor and people is one of the most solemn relations of life. Just think what it will be for ministers to meet their people. God will surely make inquisition for blood. He must require this at some one's hand. Who is to blame? Will God see this, think you, and make no inquiry about it? Who has done this deed, shed this blood, and helped to fill the courts of hell with moanings and lamentations?
As I have said, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost will say, "We have not done it." The Prophets and Apostles will say, "We have not done it." Who then has done it? First, the sinner himself; secondly, unfaithful ministers; thirdly, unfaithful deacons and other office-bearers in the Church; fourthly, unfaithful parents; unfaithful children have done it; unfaithful brothers and sisters have done it; unfaithful Sabbath-school teachers have done it,--all unfaithful men have contributed towards it. See them there! They are dripping with blood! It is clear who has done it; you need not ask who it is, every man can see that for himself. Who has done it? Those on the left hand, there--they are the men! There they are; does it need proof? See that murderer standing over his victim with the weapon reeking in his hand; he has done the deed, and the blood is still upon him! Ah, see that unfaithful minister coming up; he cannot lift up his head. He has come with those who have sat under his ministry, and heard his pretty oratory, seen his graceful gestures, and his trimming to please their fancy. Ah! there comes that ungodly minister! How afraid he was to say hell, or to let us know there was such a place! Do you recollect how he trimmed and opposed this thing[,] that thing and the other? Do you recollect how he was almost always against all reform and all progress in religion? Do you remember it? Here them talk. Ah! that was our minister; see how he looks down; what is he afraid of? Is he afraid to see the eye of the Judge, as it glances through and through him? Ah! that unfaithful minister pretended to preach the Gospel! He pretended to deal faithfully with our souls; but how much blood there is upon him! What and awful thing it must be!
I have hundreds of times, in my own experience, been greatly searched with the truths which I have preached myself; and in reading the Bible I have been thousands of times pressed close by such passages as these, to look them right in the face and say, Am I clear of their blood? And in looking over the many fields where the providence of God has called me to labour, I have heard of this man and of that man being dead; how has it led me to exclaim, Have I done my duty to that man?--was I faithful to him, or was I indolent, ambitious, and unfaithful? I have often thought of this, and I speak it not boastingly; I can say so far as concerns myself, that I have never kept back what I thought the people needed most of all, either because I was afraid of them on the one hand, or from any other reason whatsoever. I never had courage to keep it back. People have said to me, How dare you preach as you do? How dare I preach as I do? Why I dare not preach any otherwise. I have not the courage to disobey God, and rush to the judgment covered with the blood of the souls of men. No, I have no such courage as that. Which should I fear, God or man? How much intellect must a man have who fears rather to walk up to the sinner and tell him the truth, than to walk up to God and give an account of his unfaithful stewardship? Why, such a man must be an infidel. Afraid of man rather than of God!
When we shall meet in the judgment, those who have been sinners will find themselves utterly without excuse, and they will have observed that their blood must be upon their own heads. It is also clear that there is somebody guilty,--cruelly gulty,--of not praying and labouring for them as they ought to have done. Whatever occurs at the judgment, I have often wondered whether the strong feelings which must then exist will find vent in the natural expression of them. I have often wondered whether,--when the unfaithful minister, for instance, meets the multitude with whom he has dealt unfaithfully,--whether they will really be allowed to hurl their curses upon him. If they are in their senses, they will be wicked enough, and have reason enough! But will the Judge allow them? They will, perhaps, have more reason to curse him than all the world besides,--more reason to say to him, Oh! thou most cursed amongst men, hast thou not trifled with thine office, and with our souls? Did we not look up to thee, as a teacher of religion, and yield ourselves up in confidence to thee, and now thou hast led us to hell! Oh! if such feelings as must exist are allowed to find expression, is it too much to say that they will hiss, and groan, and gnash their teeth at that man to all eternity!
But let me turn this over! What a meeting it will be, when Ministers, Prophets, Apostles, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Joshua, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all the minor Prophets, all the Apostles, shall assemble in heaven; I have thought a great many times of the wonderful convention that assembled once during the time of our Saviour's residence upon earth. It was the most wonderful meeting probably that ever took place in the universe. We read that Christ took James and Peter and John, and went up into a mountain, and was transfigured before them; and his raiment became white as snow, and there appeared also Moses and Elias,--the two great representatives of the Old Dispensation. There was Moses, the great deliverer of the Law. There, too, was Elijah, the great representative of the race of Prophets; and Jesus Christ, the Head and Captain of the Lord's hosts, and the Saviour of the world! with whom Moses and Elias, of the Ancient Church (the Old Dispensation), were commissioned to attend this convention, and the three Apostles, Peter, James and John. What an assembly! And they spoke with Christ about His advent, and what He should accomplish by His death and His resurrection. What a sight was that! No wonder the thing was so overcoming to these representatives of the Church Militant! The Church on earth, as represented, was quite overcome. They could not stand such glory as was caused by Christ being transfigured before them, and by the sight of the two representatives of the Church triumphant in glory. They were confounded. They said it was good for them to be there. They were intoxicated with joy, and said, "Let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias; for it is good to be here." The poor Apostles were hardly able to bear so much: it almost bewildered them. We are told they knew not what they said.
Now just think, beloved, for a little, of how it will appear by-and-by. There had been Moses greeting for thousands of years those who had come to heaven through his instrumentality. All knew Moses; and, doubtless, when any saint goes to heaven in these days, as soon as he can get a little time from gazing on the wonders and glories of Jesus, he searches out him amongst the crowds of ancient worthies. Whitefield, too, is gone, and with and after him the crowds who sat where you now sit, when he was standing where I now stand, and they will doubtless know each other. What a happiness for them all, to meet and mingle their joys,--pastors and people, evangelists and the multitudes to whom they have preached,--the whole of the Church of God will be gathered home. Since I have been in London, how many I have heard of departing for a better world! There is Dr. Pye Smith, and several other ministers, with whose names and works I had become acquainted in America, but they are gone, and others are following on and on; fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, have been taken even from the midst of this flock since I have laboured amongst you. What a glorious idea, that when we meet there it will not be to part,--that is, those of us who have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,--we shall meet, to say farewell no more!
The last three verses of the chapter I did not read: "When he had thus spoken,"--after he had preached his sermon,--"he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship." What a beautiful parting it was! How deeply affecting it must have been, when we take into consideration all the circumstances of the case!
But I must not detain you longer; I have only to say this, before I sit down. May I not ask you, with all humility, who have been my hearers since I have been in London, as a matter of justice, to record to-night this fact,--that according to the best of my ability I have dealt faithfully with your souls? May I?--may I not challenge you to bear this testimony in your conscience; and let it be borne in mind till the solemn judgment, that so far as I have had ability I have kept nothing back which I thought you needed, and which I have had ability and time to say? I do not say this boastingly, as God is judge between us; but I fear that some of you I shall have to leave in your sins! But do let me ask, Have you not begun the work of preparing for the great judgment? You have heard the solemn appeals and warnings which have issued from this pulpit,--will you not think and act? Will you, my dear friends, rid me of all responsibility by saying, "Yes! yes!--and if I perish it is not your fault, you have dealt faithfully with me, and I consent that it may be recorded in heaven, at the solemn judgment, that you are clear."
I want to be able to carry this, not in my own conscience only, for I know that my record must be carried on high. It is in vain for me or you to justify ourselves; the record must be on high. Probably I may see none of you, it is certain I shall see but few of you again till the solemn judgment. Ah! what a meeting must that be!
It is not my custom to preach farewell sermons, but to tear away, and let God do the judging and recording, and seal it up to the solemn judgment. The last leaf of the transactions connected with my ministry here is just about to be folded and put away; the last record is just about to be made and put away, laid aside among the records of eternity, to be exhibited when you and I shall stand before God,--when there will be no darkness, no excusing, no shuffling, no false pleas, no false thing, but oceans of light will be poured upon you.
May God search my own heart and prepare me for that solemn season! May He prepare you for it too! And now may I be allowed to call on heaven and earth to record upon your souls that, so far as I have had ability, I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, the Gospel, and the law as the rule of life; and opened to you, as far as I have been able, the gate of mercy, and shown you the heart of Jesus, and will you have Him? I must not say another word.
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