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Paul was Ijiiig one night asleep on Lis bed, he saw a vision of a man, who spoke to him, and said, " Come over into Macedonia and help us." As soon as he awoke, he resolved to obey, the call, and very soon set oflf on the journey. As he went along through that ignorant and heathen country, he came to a city called Philippi. There he remained some days to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. When the Sabbath day came round, he went out upon the banks of a river on which the city stood, and joined with a small company of people who met there to pray. Among those who came to take part in that worship was a woman named Lydia. She invited Paul, and another disciple of Jesus, whose name was Silas, to go with her to her own house in the city, and remain there. There also they prayed. Just as they were going to prayer, a servant maid, who was possessed of an evil spirit, and who did many curious and cunning things, came where they were. She followed them about from place to place. She cried aloud, saying, " These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show unto us the way of salvation." For (148)
THE GREAT QUESTION. 149 several days did she continue this, and greatly troubled and grieved these men of God. At last St. Paul, wearied in patience, turned upon her, and commanded the evil spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her; and immediately he came out. Before this she had brought much gain to her masters by her cunning tricks and curious prophecies. She was, therefore, of no more value to them. This enraged her masters against these good men. They caught them, and dragged them before the magistrates. They charged them with troubling the peace of the city, and raised a great excitement against them. The magistrates stormed in fury, and rent their clothes. They had them severely beaten, then shut up in prison, and loaded with chains. See now these servants of the Most High God, lying in their dungeon, bound hand and foot. They are strangers in a strange land ; without friends, without credit, without one to feel for them. Yet they do not complain. They even rejoice that they are worthy to suffer for Christ. They know that the Lord is on their side. But the prisoners are there locked safe in the strong walls. No one can come and let them loose. The officers think there is nothing more to fear. At last the sun goes down ; the noise and excitement of the city cease, and the people all go to their rest. Silence reigns over the city.
The jailer sleeps soundly on his bed, with a sword resting by his side. The clock strikes twelve, but still he sleeps. Presently God stretches out his arm from on high. Suddenly there is heard something like the crash and roar of distant thunder. The foundations of the prison are shaken ; the doors are thrown wide open, as if by some sweeping tempest; the chains with which the prisoners are bound 13*
150 SERMON XII. fall from them, and they walk at liberty in their cell. It is an earthquake. The keeper of the prison, in terror, leaps from his bed, and is about to kill himself with the sword ; for he knew, if the prisoners escaped, he must die. But St. Paul saw him, and cried out, " Do thyself no harm, for we are all here." Then the keeper of the prison sprang forward, and fell trembling before these men, and said, "iSVrs, ivhat muist I do to he saved f My unconverted friends, I wish to show you this day, why you should wake up from your careless sleep in sin, and cry out, " Sirs, what must we do to be saved?" You are in a far more dangerous state than the alarmed jailoi at PhiHppi. 1st. You are unconverted. I do not mean by unconverted, that you are swearers, and drunkards, and dreadful sinners. I hope you have more respect for yourselves, your children, and your friends, than this. If there be any such here, may God speak to you this day with the voice of an earthquake. When I say you are unconverted, I mean that you have not repented of sin ; that you have not chosen Christ hy faith, as the Saviour of your soul ; that you lack that " one thing,'' — true religion, — without which you can never go to heaven. In this unconverted state you are under the condemnation of God. The Bible tells us that at death the unconverted will sink down into a burning pit. There are only two paths, in which we all tread as we travel to the eternal world. The one leads to heaven, and the other to hell. Every unconverted man among you is travelling in that path which leads to the unquenching fires. You go forward every hour. You do not stop a moment. Every step you take brings you nearer to the last and fatal step. Did any earthly danger, half aa
THE GREAT QUESTION. 15l terrible as this, hang over your head at this moment, no persuasi\)n would be necessary to make you fly for your lives. Suppose some great and wise physician should come and stand where I do now, and say to you, in great alarm, that a dreadful pestilence, such as the cholera, was coming
on like the wind. Suppose he should assure you that it would creep into every door and every bed, and bring down every man, woman, and child, to the grave. Would you not obey his warning at once, when he said, "Arise, and make your escape ?" Who would not fly for his life ? But you are in a more fearful state than this. God himself has warned you that there is but a step between you and the devouring flames of his wrath. And yet you sleep on in sin as if you had no cause of alarm. You are just as indiff'erent about it as if it were an idle tale. Oh ! I beseech you, by the terrors of the Lord, awake and cry out in your soul, " What must I do to be saved. 2d. You must soon be cut off from all hope of being saved. Look around you in the world. Does not every object that meets your eye, say to you, " Thou shalt die ?" Does a day pass over your head that this truth does not sound in your ear? Where are the people that you used to meet and talk with when you were boys and girls ? How large a congregation would be here, if all you once knew and loved, but who now sleep in the dust, could be with us ! There would be no room in this house to hold them. It will soon be so with you all. Every one of us will, before long, join that great congregation of the dead. Like a mother who cannot bear to be parted from her children, the earth is constantly opening her bosom to receive us back again. Aftd, qhj how frail and uncertain is life ! We know not
152 SERMON XII. when death may come. We can tell the time for the going and returning of the seasons. AYe can tell when the wild goose, the pigeon, and the martin, will pass from us into other climes. We know when the leaf of the tree will bud forth, and when it will wither and fall. We know when the corn will shoot out of the earth, and when it will be gathered into the granary. But it is not so with death. " Man knowcth not its time." But this one thing we know — that you must die. We know that you are dying noiv. The moment you began to live, that moment you began to die. While I speak to you, I am dying. While you listen, you are dying. The very breath you now draw, to make your life longer, shortens it. Ever}^ hour you live and labour to fix yourself firmer in the world, brings you nearer to the grave. Every sound you hear, every sight you see, tells you that death is near. Why will you not consider this ? You may shut your eyes against the solemn fact ; but this will not keep it oiT. You may try to drive out the thought of it from your minds, but the very attempt will but bring it the nearer. Oh ! remember that nothing but a thin wall of flesh stands between your soul and the burning pit. A thousand things are every day taking place around you to break through this wall. You do not take a step in life, nor eat a morsel of food, nor draw a single
breath, which might not, if God please, cause your death. Y^ou have heard of the volcanoes, or burning mountains, in South America. Some men were once travelling through that country to see what sort of a land it is. They saw some of these mountains burning out at the top, just as if the fires X)i the eternal pit had overflowed, and were boiling up and belching out their flames and brimstone. Of course, they did not go near to them. One day they
THE GREAT QUESTION. 153 climbed to the top of a very high mountain, "which had once burned in the same way. But it did not seem to be burning then, and had not burned for many years. They found there a great chasm, or pit, more than a hundred yards across, and more than a mile deep. One of these men was anxious to see how it looked far down in the cavern, and also to know how deep it was. He was a brave and daring man. So he persuaded the others to fasten a rope round his body, and let him down as far as they could into the dreadful chasm. They all trembled and shuddered at the very thought. But they did it. While he was there dangling at the end of the rope, between heaven and hell, he looked back to the top to see how far he had gone down. And what do you thhink he saw ? He saw that the rope had worn almost in two, and that he was hanging, as it were, by a single thread. He looked below, and far down beyond the reach of sight was the horrible chasm, black as midnight and fearful as hell. He gave signs to his friends above to draw him up. Every attempt but wore the rope more. They did all they could, but, alas for the poor man ! it was too late. The rope continued to wear against the rocks. He watched it as thread after thread snapped. A thousand times did he ask himself, " What must I do to be saved ?" He would have given worlds to have been safe at the top. See him there, unconverted sinner, hanging by that single thread. Hear him curse his own folly. Listen to his cries for help. He shuts his eyes against the danger. He tries to make himself believe that the rope may not break. But this does not save him. No power on earth can save him. Look at this poor man. Tell me, who is he ? Unconverted sinner, tlm is you, hanging, by a single thread, over the burning, bottomless pit of hell. Let but
154 SERMON XII. the iron hand of death snap that thread in sunder, and you are gone, never more to see the face of a friend, never more to hear the voice of mercy, never more to ask, *' What must I do to he saved?" Oh! dying sinner, lift up your heart to Jesus now^ before you leave these seats, and cry out to him, in the bitterness of your soul, "What must I do to be saved?"
3d. When you come to stand before God in judgment, it will be too late to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" The bed of death, and the throne of God, are not the places for doing what is necessary to save you. It is nc time for a man to begin to plough and sow his fields when the harvest has come. It is no time to begin a day's journey when the night has set in. It is no time to send for the physician when the chills and spasms of death are on you. It is no time to spring to your doors to lock them when the enemy has broken in, and stands over you with a sword pointed at your heart. So it will be too late to do the work of salvation when you are in the arms of death, or at the bar of God. It is easy to put off the work of salvation from youth to manhood, and from manhood to old age. It is easy to go on promising from year to year. But some of these days the time will come when it will bo too late. It is not so easy to repent of sin when excited with fever, or sinking with sickness. The work is not so light and trifling that it can be done any moment you please. Even if there are some cases when men may repent and be saved, in the hour of death, it may not be so in your case, you ought not to run the dreadful risk. You may not be in your right mind in the hour of death. A minister of the gospel told me that he was once sent for to see a young man who was thought to be dying. He found
THE GREAT QUESTION. 155 nim triumphing in the hope of glory. He seemed to be perfectly willing and ready to die, though he had never before been a professing Christian. There was another minister of Jesus Christ with him, and they both rejoiced with the dying young man in his assurance of hope. His parents and friends all watched round his bedside with mingled delight and grief, ready to give him back to God. The ministers took leave of him, expecting that, before the rising of the next sun, he would be in heaven. But not hearing of his death, the gentleman who related this to me went back in a day or two. To his surprise he found the young man greatly improved. But not a word' did he say about Jesus and heaven. At last the minister reminded him of his joyful hopes in the prospect of death. What do you think was the reply of the young man ? Said he, " I do not remember any thing about it, sir. I have never known any thing of the hopes of a Christian. I never expressed any such hopes." How are we to account for this ? Simply by the fact that the young man was out of his right mind, when he was thought to be dying His joyous hopes, his triumphs, were nothing more than the excitement ^^ fever and delirium. Unconverted sinner, it may be so with you. The work of salvation is too important, too solemn, to be put off until death, to be then forced and hurried through. A man who had reached a good old age, and was much loved by all who knew him, was laid upon the bed of death.
He thought in his heart, "• how dreadful it is to go into the presence of God to be tried for my soul !" He was alarmed by the thought. He aent for his pastor. As soon as he went into his room, he said to him, " Why have you not told me of my gu^H and danger?" The pastor answered,
156 SERMON XII. *'I have preached to jou many a sermon. I have warned you of approaching death. I have told you of hell, and of heaven, and what you must do to be saved." "Oh, yes," said the awakened, but dying sinner, "but I always thought you were preaching to others." "I see now that I was the man ; and now it is too late. I am sinking under a load of guilt. I have spent more than fifty years in neglecting and hating God. I used to think I was ready to die ; but I did not see how wicked I was. Now I see it too late. Oh ! if I could live only one week ! only one week ! That is all I ask. I would spend every moment of it m ivorh to save my soul. But it is too late. I cannot. I am dying." Yes, it was too late. He asked what he should do to be saved ; but it was too late. His pastor prayed for him ; but it was too late. He directed him to Christ ; but it was too late. The ghastly stare of death sat upon his countenance. The brittle thread of life broke, and his soul hurried away, without hope and peace, to the judgment bar, to settle its accounts with God for eternity. Now, my unconverted hearers, whom are these warnings intended for ? For the bold blasphemer ? For the ignorant heathen ? For some dreadfully wicked man you know? For the prisoner about to die on^ the gallows ? For none but such as these ? I tell you, in God's name, they are intended for you. They call you to wake up from your sleep of sin ; to think of your danger in God's sight ; to think of the thousands who are daily dying ; to remember how short your day of grace is, and how uncertain the hour of your death, and how unfit a time that is to work the work of salvation. When you go away from this place, remember that you may never see the light of another Sabbath day ; never hear the sound of another sermon ; never
THE GREAT QUESTION. " 157 look upon another Christian congregation listening to the preaching of God's word ; never have another opportunity of falling on your knees, and saying, " Lord Jesus, what must I do to be saved?" CM. " What must I do," the jailer cries, " To save my sinking soul V " Believe in Christ," the word replies,
** Thy faith shall make thee whole." Our works are all the works of sin, Our nature quite depraved ; Jesus alone can make us clean ; By grace are sinners saved. Come, sinners, then, the Saviour trust, To wash you in his blood ; To change your hearts, subdue your lust, And bring you home to God. Questions. — 1. What did St. Paul dream as he was asleep one night? 2. Did he go over into Macedonia? 3. What did he do there ? 4. What did the people do to him ? 5. What happened vrhen he was in prison ? 6. What great question did the jailer ask him ? 7. What is the first reason why we should ask the same question ? 8. What the second ? 9. What the third ? 10. When should we ask this question ? 11. Why should we ask it now?
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