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you, that ye have not the love of God in you. “The world hateth me, and he that bateth me hateth my Father also. The carnal mind is enmity against God.”
The same truth is evident from the necessity of regeneration. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God!" But why? Because, my brethren, love to God is essential to an admission to that kingdom, and a participation in its joys. Love is the animating principle of that kingdom, the golden bond which unites all its happy subjects to each other, and to him who sitteth on the throne. This imparts to their obedience all its worth ; to their praise all its harmony; to their joy all its sweetness and perpetuity; to their communion with God, and each other, all its confidence and bliss—and because men are by nature destitute of this, therefore they must be born again, or they cannot enter the mansions of holiness and joy; and if admitted, they would pine and perish even there for want of every thing congenial to their tastes and feelings.
The impenitence and unbelief of men prove them destitute of love to God; for did they love him whom they have offended, they would surely mourn over and forsake their sins, and joyfully accept the offers of his forgiving love., But, to make the argument more personal, permit me to ask the impenitent, Where are the evidences of your love to God? Does it show itself by any of those marks which ever indicate love to any object? When any thing carthly engrosses your affections, does it not occupy your thoughts? Does it not give direction to your powers of mind and body? Does it not assume the throne in your souls, and compel every opposing principle to bow to its supremacy ? Does not the friend think often and tenderly of his absent friend, and long for the time when they shall meet again and reciprocate the testimonies of mutual affection ? Does not the votary of ambition exert every nerve to gain power and secure the applause of his fellow-men ? Does not the miser lay his plans and put forth his energies to increase his treasures ? If God is the object of your supreme affection, will you not think often of him, with love and veneration ? Will you not rejoice that he is ever present? Will you not see his beauty in all that is lovely? His grandeur in all that is sublime? His majesty in all that is venerable ? His purity in all that is holy? If he permits you to approach his throne, if he invites you to communion with him, will not your bosom thrill with joy? Will it not be the paramount object of your exertions, while you live, to please and honor him ? Will not your dearest wishes and fondest hopes centre in the everlasting enjoyment of his love? But is it thus with you? Do you love to think of God ? Do you love to reflect that his eye is ever over you, and that you are surrounded by his presence ? Or do you feel more at ease, when you forget that he is near ? Have you not often, have you not habitually gazed on the beauty and grandeur of his works, without one suitable thought of the Creator? When and where has he beheld you joyfully bending at his footstool ? May he now behold his love reigning in your hearts, directing your energies, and causing you to rejoice in the light of his countenance, and to hook forward with inexpressible emotions to an abode in his heavenly presence ? Answer, O conscience, in the name and in the presence of the heartsearching Judge! Ah, sinner, may not an Omniscient Savior say, as to the Jews, know you, that the love of God is not in you?
Again, as the love of God is not the reigning principle in the hearts of unregenerate men, so the law of God is not the rule of their lives. This follows as an inevitable consequence. For supreme love to God is the sum of all that his law requires. Wherever therefore this is habitually wanting, the whole life is evidently an habitual violation of the law. A man may do many things which the law requires, without any regard to that law, and of course without obeying it; for God looketh on the heart. Thus a man may have a native tenderness, or honesty, or mildness, or he may assume the appearance of these amiable qualities ; and he may thus be led to the practice of kindness and charity, to integrity and honor in his intercourse with men, and to a placable and forgiving deportment; all useful and lovely in themselves, and certainly required by the law of God. Yet in all this there may be no true obedience to that law, no special regard to the authority of God. The mind may still be carnal and the sentence of inspiration concerning it, that “it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Natural sensibility, deference to the opinions of men, the desire of earthly good, the fear of present or future suffering, are all principles which may lead to a course of conduct in some measure conforınable to the law of God, yet very different from that supreme love to him, which his law demands. Under the influence of these principles, a character may be formed containing many worthy and amiable traits, and its possessor may move along cheered by the smiles of his fellow-men, unconscious of any fatal defect, while yet he may be living without God in the world, and in the day of decision, the finger of Omniscience may wri e on all that men have admired, Weighed in the balance, and found waiting!
A radical defect in the obedience of such is often indicated by its want of universality. The kind and charitable person is often a lover of pleasure, more than a lover of God. The honest and upright man is often one who loves the world and the things of the world, so that the love of the Father is not in him. The mild and placid boso!n, that is not ruffled by passion, nor haunted by malice, may be the seat of the most chilling and atheistical indifference to the honor of God, and the eternal interests of men. In all sucli' cases, whatever wears the semblance of obedience to God is not real; for if his authority were paramount in the soul, the character would be uniform.A little self-examination might teach such persons that they are without God in the world. For they do not study his word as their rule of life. They do not ask its counsel in their perplexities. They do not appeal to it as the last resort.
But if the moral, the amiable, the exemplary, among the unregenerate, da not make the law of God their rule of life--much less do the avaricious, the dishonest, the profane, and the licentious. Nothing is more evident than that all who are habitually guilty of gross sin, have cast off the authority of their Maker, Sovereign, and Judge. Their sin is open, going before them to judgment.
Again, if the love of God does not reign in the hearts of unregenerate men, and if the law of God is not the rule of their lives, then it is plain that they neither seek his glory as the great end of their being, nor his favor as their supreme happiness. To glorify God and to enjoy his favor, is the twofold end of man's existence ; combining in itself his most sacred duty and his most precious interests. And he who disregards it, commits treason against God, and suicide upon his own soul. But if men do not take the law of God as the rule of their lives, certainly they do not seek to glorify him! No: they rebel against him, and their rebellion shows itself, in the only possible way-by disobedience. And if his love does not reign in their hearts, they certainly cannot desire, nor seek, nor could they enjoy his favor. No: they love and serve the creature more than the Creator.
The gratification of self is the unworthy end to which they prostitute their immortal powers, and for which they barter immortal happiness.
And now let me ask, what more is necessary to constitute a character, in all its essential elements and all its prominent features, atheistical? What direct and immediate influence does the presence of the Eternal exert on such men? Through the influence of society around, their passions may be restrained, and their characters inodified by these great truths. But suppose, for one moment, there were no God, and that public opinion, the customs of society, and the habits and feelings of all around, were just what they now are-would not these men live just as they now do ? Are they not, thens without God in the world ?
But, secondly--As unregenerate men deny God a throne in their hearts, as they refuse to love, obey, and honor him, so he casts them out of his favor : and they are without God as their guide in life, their refuge in death, or their portion in eternity.
As his creatures, his tender mercies are over them, for they are over all his works. As accountable beings in a state of trial, to whom salvation is offered, and by whom God will manifest the greatness of his mercy or display his wrath, and make known his power, he bestows on them many favors, he prolongs their lives, and supplies their wants. He bears with their transgressions, offers them a full and free, a complete and eternal salvation ;.sends his Spirit to strive, commissions conscience to warn, allures by mercies, and accuses by his judgments. But in all this he expresses no approbation of their conduct, gives no testimonies of his special favor. On the contrary, he frowns on all their evil ways, and is angry with them every day! The hour hastens, when, unless a change of heart and life prevent, they will find they have only treasured up“ wrath against the day of wrath”--that in the sunshine of mercy, they have ripened for judgment—and that abused goodness is the most abundant source of self-condemnation to the damned ! For a season, they may enjoy the bounties of Providence, forgetting the great Author of all; and virtually saying, Who is the Lord, that we should obey his voice? But ere long he will say, Give an account of thy stewardship. Then to the fading honors and fleeting pleasures of time must succeed eternal infamy and wo. Surely, they are without God in the world !
They do not look to God, the only wise, to be their guide. They do not ask of him wisdom to direct--and he leaves them to the way that seemeth right in their own eyes, though the end thereof is death. On the ocean of life, they will not take the Savior as their pilot, nor his word as their chart; nor will they seek the propitious breathings of his Spirit ; and of course the current bears them wide of the haven of eternal rest; they are bewildered by the mists of error, and tossed by the storms of passion, and wrecked at last on the shores of a hopeless and miserable eternity. Are they not without God ?
The offers of salvation made to them, and pressed upon them by motives the most affecting, and still rejected, or put off to a more convenient season, cease at length to be heard with interest, or to leave an impression. The Spirit of grace, at times, almost persuading the sinner to be a Christian, often grieved, and always resisted, at length is withdrawn for ever. Every good impression made on the heart, by mercies or afflictions, by promises or threatenings, by warnings of conscience, or striving of the Spirit, and erased by any means, leaves it harder and less susceptible of impression than before, until the most pointed truths fall upon it, as arrows of reed on the rock of adamant. Then hope bids the man farewell for ever. For though he may still live, his judgmnent lingereth not; his damnation slumbereth not: he is forsaken of his Maker ; he is without God in the world!
Death is inexpressibly solemn. But where God is loved, and honored, and obeyed, his promises support the soul, his presence is its solace, in this trying hour. The light of his countenance irradiates the dark valley, and though heart and flesh fail, he is the strength of the heart and its portion for ever.But he who lives without Gorl, must die without God,-- And shall I trace the progress of the immortal spirit as it enters on the retributions of eternity without God ?- becoming, as its powers expand, more sinful, mcre odious to God, and holy beings, and itself; sinking deeper, and deeper, and deeper still, in infamy and wo! O righteous God! who can describe how fearful a thing it is to fall into thy hands, when thou arisest to vindicate injured mercy and rejected grace!
Surely, to live without God is criminal and unhappy ; to die without God, gloomy and dreadful ; to spend eternity without God, awful and insupportable.
Who of us is now living without God? Who of us has never been born from above ? has never come penitent and huinble to the foot of the cross ? Who of us has lived to this hour without loving God supremely, or obeying his law as the rule of life, or seeking his glory and his favor as the great end of life? Who? Searcher of hearts, thou knowest-impenitent sinner, thou art the man.-- Thou art living without God. And unless a great and speedy change prevent, thou wilt die without Gud;--and, dying without God, O what an eternity awaits thee!
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