« הקודםהמשך »
are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy ; for behold your reward is great in heaven: for in like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.”
It now remains for us to consider the second position of the text, that“ if we be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are we bastards and not sons.” : This argument is conclusive against those who imagine that the Almighty dispenses his judgments unequally when he loads the righteous with afflictions, and leaves the impenitent wicked comparatively free. As, however, these latter reject the blessed offerings of his grace, they are excluded from bis“ heavenly benediction," and often left to fill up the measure of their iniquity without being diverted from their evil courses by temporal judgments. They are abandoned to the workings of a reprobate mind, because they have withdrawn themselves from God's adoption of them to eternal life ; and thus proved themselves to be “bastards and not
The Almighty does not visit them with his salutary chastisements, because they have become altogether incorrigible ;-because, by wantonly persevering in sin, in defiance of his denunciations against it, they have ceased to acknowledge those reciprocal relations of filiation and paternity which exist between the righteous and their God. But "what if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, has endured with much long-suffering, the vessels of his wrath fitted for destruction ?”? Will this prove their security against the wrath to come ? It will be, indeed, a dearly bought privilege to be exempt from suffering in time, only to suffer in eternity; and this must be the lot of those who will not come to Christ that they may have life.” Let not such imagine that God will be merciful to them hereafter, because he has forborne to afllict them here. His very forbearance is often their curse. As they have despised the visitations of his grace, he leaves them to the suggestions of their own depraved wills, allowing them to advance to the terrible issues of their guilt, unchecked, save by the silent appeals of conscience, and to heap upon themselves destruction, when the “terrible day of the Lord shall corne.”
As they have withdrawn from his paternal direction, he no longer feels for them as sons, and therefore withbolds those parental chastisements which are so eminently calculated to make us “ wise unto salvation." This is the conclusion to which the Apostle's words in the text directly lead us; and it is abundantly confirmed in many other parts of Scripture. The wicked, therefore, under this view of God's forbearance, cannot have any just ground for glorying in their present impunity ; neither can the righteous for grieving at the tribulations which may come upon them ; since there is an existence beyond the confines of this perishable world, and there are rewards and punishments to be distributed hereafter which shall endure for ever, and which can only be finally determined by the events of this life. Let the faithful in Christ, too, remember the Apostle's assurance, that “if they suffer, they shall also reign with him.” “Therefore, , my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
We are not, however, from St. Paul's argument, to infer that the Almighty universally forsakes the wicked, for in that case we should all be abandoned,“ since all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" and through the mouth of his prophet he encourages “the wicked to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and to return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon.” It is to irreclaimable sinners, only, that the final words of the text can apply ;-to such as have excluded themselves from all hope in Christ, by living without him in the world—by setting themselves up as idols for their own homage, and exhausting that worship in self-idolatry, which alone is due to their Creator and Redeemer. Although, therefore, the wicked are included among those who have become “the children of God by adoption and grace,” it is to be recollected, the only conditions upon which they can continue in that adoption, and “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free,” are, a return from their wickedness; submission to the determinations of heaven; obedience to God's laws; faith in Christ, and charity towards men. If we utterly fail, either from negligence or wantonness, in acting up to the terms of that covenant of mercy whereby we have been exalted from the wretched condition of bondmen under sentence of eternal death, to that of free children under the grace of eternal redemption, then shall we be counted “ bastards and not sons ;” and, as such, we can have no participation in that inheritance which the ransom paid by our blessed Saviour for mankind, has procured for those who turn to him as their “strong hold,” and build all their hopes of immortal happiness upon the prevailing merits of his death. Let us then rejoice, “though now for a season, if need be, we are in heaviness through manifold temptations ; that the trial of our faith being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
It has been now seen that the apparently unequal distribution of God's temporal blessings or judgments affords no reasonable ground either for the sinner's rejoicing or the just man's discontent. If we suffer tribulations here, enduring them with that meekness and resignation to the Divine will, of which the blessed Jesus, whilst upon earth, furnished us with such an illustrious example, they will prove to us an ordeal of mercy, which, when we have faithfully passed it, will bring us before the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort,” purified in heart, and regenerate in spirit. Like the returning prodigal, we shall be invited to his bosom, and be made partakers of the blessings of his kingdom.
If, even under the most awful trials, our lamentations are sore and bitter, this is virtually to arraign the justice of a Divine dispensation. God afflicts to humble us. He expects that the affliction should be borne meekly and patiently, because it is a just and proper application of paternal discipline ; — because the chastening was designed to teach us wisdom ; to prepare us against the day of his appearing in judgment; to withdraw our souls from the fleeting things of time to those which shall endure for ever; to induce us to cast all our care upon him, and not