"Present your case," says the LORD. "Submit your arguments," says the King of Jacob.
we most want to know as dependent, struggling, sorrowing, sinning, dying men. The idols of the heathen were valueless; they could not tell "things to come hereafter;" they were utterly ignorant; they had no voice to answer the most urgent and pressing questions which men were asking. Those great and profound inquiries which we are now putting are beyond the reach of nature and of man. Nature, at the demand of science, can shed no light at all on the most sacred problems, the solution of which is everything to us. It makes no sign, it leaves us as we were. Its teaching is as consistent with one conclusion as with the opposite. Man, unaided by special illumination, can reach no certainty, can attain to nothing like assurance; he can guess, can argue, can hope, but he cannot know. God alone, the Author of our being, the Lord of our life, the Arbiter of our destiny, can tell us whence we came and whose we are and whither we go. He can tell us "things to come hereafter," and much else which it is as urgent that we should know. He makes plain and sure to us the truth concerning -
I. THE ORIGIN, SUSTENANCE, AND GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD.
II. OUR HUMAN NATURE. That it is not what it was when it came forth from his creative hand; that it has fallen through sin; that there is a way back which is a way up, toward himself and his favour.
III. HIMSELF - HIS NATURE, CHARACTER, AND WILL.
IV. THE FUTURE.
1. Future things here.
2. The great future - the fact of another life, of a day of account - eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. - C.
Produce your cause.
Homilist.The text implies —
I. THAT THE SINNER HAS SOME REASONS FOR THE EVIL COURSE HE PURSUES.
II. THAT THESE REASONS HE IS BOUND TO STATE BEFORE HIS MAKER. "Bring forth your reasons." Why bring them forth?
1. The question of a sinful course of conduct is a public question. The sinner has no right to say that his conduct concerns no one but himself.
2. Because it is the only way of exposing their moral absurdity. They will scarcely bear to be stated. Bring them out and they will frighten you.
III. THAT HIS MAKER WILL GIVE THE STATEMENT OF THEM HIS ATTENTION.
1. His readiness to attend" to them shows that your conduct towards Him will not bear investigation.
2. His readiness to attend to them shows the existence of mediation. He does not attend to the reasons of the lost.
3. His readiness to attend to them shows His infinite condescension.
1. The great Searcher of hearts may come into the midst of such as are given to the love of present things, and say, "Produce your cause." What such will bring forward is this: they are not persons addicted to any particular vice; they are amiable, kind, sincere; they live without strife with men; they live without hostility towards God. But they have great love for things as they are: they are powerfully influenced by things seen and temporal; they are contented with their earthly portion; and they seldom have any strong concern or desire about the things not seen and eternal. Their cause is that of listlessness about the things of the soul, of an unwillingness to admit what seem to be melancholy thoughts, as they cast a shadow over a fair scene of earthly comfort, with which they feel that they can remain content. It is that of the orderly members of society, towards whom our respect and our affection are so soon drawn. It seems almost unkind to wake up such out of their soft sleep. But God says, "Bring forth your strong reasons" to justify such a life. And reasons are given. It is so pleasant to be a peace, that we care not to be disturbed. Yes, if there were to be no sudden shock of death: if this loved world were to continue unchanged: if there were no cunning enemy plotting while the careless sleep: if there were no holy service to be done for God, no brotherly counsel to be given to man! But love of ease is no strong reason to justify a careless career, which is to end in unrest for ever. You may say, we are of the quieter sort; and may we not float in the eddies of life, without being hurried on by the current of evil? Why cannot our religion be of the passive order? But the answer comes at once, Are you so safe as you endeavour to think? Is there really the calm which your spirits in their drowsiness think there may be? There are, no doubt, beautiful Christian graces which bloom best in the shade. But do not such daily open their petals, and breathe out fragrance towards heaven? The cause of the careless, or the worldly-minded, of such as sit still in sloth as to spiritual concerns, will not stand in the judgment.
2. How much less will that other man prosper, whose cause may be thus produced. He is a man willing to admit that much may be said in favour of a religious life. Up to a certain point he is prepared to accept and to carry into effect the duties which rise because of a man's relation to God who made him. But religion has been made to ask too much: is pressed too indiscriminately upon every period and transaction of life. The law of God cannot be observed, and therefore it ought to be powered, or adapted to the condition of modern thought and feeling. The man will not pretend to justify all he does. But his strong reasons are that it cannot be otherwise. He lives in a world where perfect obedience is not to be expected. Other men sin, and their sinning involves sin in him. He is made with passions which do and will take fire, when temptation finds its convenient seasons. He is ready to listen to advice how he may avoid the grossest sins; but he is not prepared to care about opinions concerning a holiness which he never hopes to reach. Behind these strong reasons men entrench themselves, and seem to keep the conscience untouched by the arrow from the Lord's bow. The cause so produced wants one great feature; there is no real sorrow for sin. The blame of sin is skilfully shifted from the sinner to his God. "Why hast Thou made me thus?" is the complaint which such a man makes. It is considered a misfortune rather than a fault, that he has not obeyed the commandment of the Lord. How can God justify a man who thus blames his Maker! How can a man justify himself, when it shall be brought out against him that if he had hated sin it might have been forgiven, if he had resisted sin it might have been overcome in the strength and according to the grace which God gives. Such reasons to support a cause will be weak in the day of the Lord.
3. A man will say, My life is not right, my conscience is not quiet, my position is not safe; but what am I to do? The religion of many so disgusts me that I have no faith to follow them. The opinions vary so much among those who call themselves Christ's servants that I am at a loss what to believe. My cause is bad: but which shall I accept as a better? And my reasons for remaining as I am are strong, from the difficulty as to whether I may not move and only sink lower. And such arguments satisfy a man for a time: they excuse, if they do not justify. But are they really sound? Is it true that there are no sincere followers of Jesus? Is it true that there are no saving truths which stand out as a rock, notwithstanding all that party spirit has done to hide it by party walls? Is Christ so covered that He cannot be found? I boldly assert that no such difficulties exist. There are, it may be, hypocrites everywhere. Sincere Christians are inconsistent and weak in many things; but salvation, God's grace, Divine life in the soul, is a real thing. The sinner who searches for a perfect Church or a perfect Christian, and stands aloof from Christ because such things are not to be found, may have grounds for finding fault with his neighbour, but he has no strong reason by which to defend himself. Such a cause, so supported, must fall to the ground, when the truthful test of God's own touch shall show what manner of cause it was.
4. But it is time to produce another cause: that of a man who holds the truth in unrighteousness; who is orthodox in creed and incorrect in life; who has the form of godliness, but denies the power thereof. It is the case of many to be found in the house of God on each Sabbath day: professors of Christ, but followers of the world, its vanities, or its sins. Such men bring no objections against the truth or service of God; but they do not savingly believe, they do not honestly serve. Religion with them is a thing without life. They have a horror of over-zeal. The reasonable man is earnest. He is calm and self-contained; but he has been strongly moved at the sight of sin, he has been deeply moved by the power of grace, and he cannot but give himself, body, soul, and spirit, to do his Lord's will. He, too, can produce his cause and bring forth his strong reasons. Is it not reasonable that, when God works by the Holy Ghost upon a sinner's soul, the effect should be felt and seen t Conclusion — The believer has his strong reasons. He says the time is short, and the work is great. He says sin is too terrible to be trifled with: salvation is too great a thing to be dealt with carelessly. The devil is in earnest — Jesus is in earnest — the wicked are in earnest; why should the Lord's people hang back, as from a cause they doubt or a conflict about which they feel afraid? And these reasons have the solidity of truth and the power of truth. They commend themselves to a man's judgment the more he weighs them well and the nearer he comes to the day of death. Let us all be warned. It is not a question about one man taking another man's advice. It is a far higher matter than a triumph of believer over unbeliever. As those who would not part when the Lord comes, — as those who cannot envy each other a place in heaven, inlet us give diligence to make our calling and election sure."
(J. Richardson, M. A.)
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