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3. Again those who are converted in early childhood will do less injury to the canse of their Master when they engage in the active business of life, than if their converson were delayed till they arrive at adult years. There are few christians who do not often find reason to mourn over injuries done to the cause of Christ by the manner of their lives. Of many christians it may without doubt be said with truth to their death, “they have done more hurt than good.” This arises very much, if not chiefly, from injurious habits formed and established while in impenitence. One had the habit of covetousness firmly established before conversion, and now it is his besetting sin. The world look on and exclaim, “ There is one of your professors of religion, as close-fisted as any man on earth.” Thus his habit is made the occasion of their stumbliug and destruction, and dishonors Christ. Another christian is the subject of some other bad habit which gives offence. But let conversions take place in childhood, and let the habits be formed after the christian model, and these injurious effects will not be seen.
4. The amount of good performed during any given portion of life will be greater in proportion as conversions take place earlier. Not only will the time for doing good be increased by early conversions, but the power of doing good will also be augmented. Good habits occupy the ground which otherwise would have been occupied by evil habits. But this consideration is of little importance compared with the increase of holiness which will thus be secured.
5. Another thing which renders early conversions of great importance to the cause of Christ is the fact, that thus opportunity is afjorded the christian of choosing and preparing himself for that employment in which he can do the most good. How many christians who commenced living for Christ after they were settled in life, are now bitterly lamenting the necessity of spending the remainder of their days in a business which they would not have chosen had they become pious earlier. Many, whose natural talents are such as would lay the foundation for eminent usefulness in the ministry, are plodding along in an employment unfavorable to the exercise of extensive influence, because they chose their occupation without reference to the will of Christ, and entered upon his service when it was too late to change. How many churches that are now destitute of one to break to them the bread of life, might have been enjoying the regular ministrations of pious pastors! How many that are bowing down to idols might have now been singing he praises of the Lamb had early conversions been common in the last generation !
6. The early conversion of the children of pious parents is important, because, the anciety of the parents for their children will thus be lessened, and consequently they will be able to devote more of their thoughts and strength to efforts for the conversion of others. How much is the usefulness of christian parents impaired by those consuming cares and anxieties which are preying upon their hearts, in view of the dangers to which their unconverted children are exposed! And how mueh more efficient might they be in the service of Christ, could they put forth their desires and efforts for the salvation of those areund them, unencumbered by the sad reflection, that their own children are still out of the ark of safety!
7. The last consideration we present as a motive to effort for the conversion of children is, that in this way only can the full cffect of christian family example be brought to bear upon the impenitent morld. The example of an individual is powerful, but how much more powerful is that of a fumily. But what becomes of the family influence where the children grow up in impenitence and remain unconverted till they go out from under the parental roof? It is impossible so to train up a family in impenitence that the conduct of the children shall not, to a greater or less extent, prove a stumbling block to the world. An ungodly parent witnesses the vicious practices of the children of christians, and does not see but his children are as well governed and obedient as theirs. Oh! it is enough to cause the truly pious heart to bleed to think of the injury which religion sustains from the scandalous conduct of the children of pious parents. And all this because they are unconverted. They neither do good themselves nor allow their parents to do it.
In view of these considerations we ask christian parents, can you look upon yourselves as faithful to your Master while you are not earnestly seeking the early conversion of your children? Would you have a large portion of the time and influence of your children rescued from the service of the devil and consecrated to Christ, would you see them engaging in those employments in which they can do most for their Saviour, -would you be free yourselves from anxious forbodings in reference to your children, and thus be able to engage with a cheerful heart in doing good,-especially, would you have the example of your family, while under the parental roof, tell on the side of Christ, -do you earnestly desire these things? Then surely you will not spare any effort which promises to prove effectual in bringing them into the fold of the good Shepherd.'
"It is time for thee. Lord, to work, for they have made void thy law."PSALM cix. 126.
This remarkable psalm contains a full expression of christian sentiment on a variety of important subjects. The most prominent thought contained in it, presented under various aspects, is the unspeakable excellence of the divine law. David's piety appeared in the deep interest he felt for the honour of this law, for he was tremblingly alive to every violation. His were no ordinary feelings, rivers of waters run down mine eyes because men keep not thy law; while his love in all its freshness and strength centered upon its glorious Author, his tears flowed for the sins of the people. The prevalence of iniquity filled him with solicitude for the cause of God, for when iniquity abounds the love of many waxes cold. Despairing of help from man he turns to God. In the text there is a fact stated by way of complaint, they have mady void thy law; and a desire expressed that God would arise in his glory and put forth his power for the vindication of his honour. Or, it may be simply a declaration ;-if so, it might be understood as referring to a work of judgment in which the vio. lators of the law would be punished. But it is generally supposed to relate to a work of mercy in converting sinners from the error of their ways. Then it would teach us this sentiment, that the work of God often commences in a time of great declension.
It is thus explained by the Assembly of Divines, " the prophet showeth, that when the wicked have brought all things to confusion VOL. XIX. NO. VII.
and God's word to utter contempt, then it is God's time to help and send remedy.” We shall keep this sentiment in view in illustrating the text.
I. When do men make void God's law ?
It is obvious the Psalmist refers to a period of more than ordinary sinfulness. There was something in the tone of public sentiment, in the state of public morals, which peculiarly affected him and led him to present the case to God. Such a state of things is thus described by the prophet. None calleth for justice, nor any pleaded for truth. Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar of'; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
To make void, is virtually to annul, to destroy the force of, to render ineffectual. It is an expression that usually has reference to an act passed, or to an instrument containing the terms of a contract.
1. To make void the law of God is to deny its authority and obligation.
The divine law is a transcript of the divine character and is an expression of the will of its Author. It was written by the finger of God. They who reject the Scriptures as a revelation from God, make void the law. There are those who acknowledge its excellency and reasonableness, who even admit its authenticity, and still deny its divine authority. It is not merely because it secures the interests of civil society, nor yet because it defines the rights and protects the property of men in their various relations that it is called good, but because it is the standard and the instrument of holiness; all those who make light of the penalty, who do not tremble at the divine word, make void the law.
2. To obscure or explain away its meaning, is to make void the law. There are those who do not assail the authority, who, nevertheless neutralize the force, of the law. They put a false construction upon it. This includes all errorists. There is a true interpretation. The law was given to be obeyed, of course to be understood. The exercise of unbiassed reason, with the aid of the lights of history and the former experience of others, together with fervent prayer, and above all the teaching of the Spirit, will lead to the true meaning: If any man will do the will of God, die shall know of the doctrine. The decisions of the judgment are greatly influenced by the state of the heart. The common refuge of error that the powers of the human mind are limited, will be swept away. The limitation of reason, may be the cause of imperfect views, but cannot be an excuse for erroneous views. Error is more the sin of the heart, than the fault of the head. A right heart will find the truth.
The Bible is made up of doctrines, of prohibitions, and of precepts; all of which are enforced by penalties. As a love for the truth, and a right state of feeling will lead to a discovery and approval of the truth ; so an unhumbled heart will dispose one to pervert the right ways of the Lord. Hence it will be found true that a man who has fallen into one error, is wrong on other points. If we may put our own construction on one part of the Bible, we may on another, and thus it will be made to speak according to fancy, or prejudice, or selfishness, and we shall not be held by its claims, nor awed by its penalties. Large portions of nominal Christendom make the law void. Its true spiritual meaning is obseured, its direct influence weakened.
3. There are some who make void the law by traditions. This was true of the Jews in Christ's time. Addressing the scribes and Pharisees, who laid great stress upon the traditions of the Elders, the Saviour says, " ye have made the commandment of God of none effect, by your trailitions.
Nor was this method of setting aside the law confined to the Scribes and Pharisees. It has prevailed extensively in the Romish Church. Nor there only. Human authority is often set up against divine. Not unfrequently do error and immorality find countenance in opinions expressed by commentators and church courts. Many sentiments have gained currency, which weaken moral obligation, and neutralize divine truth.
When the authority of the Bible is let down, the public conscience will sleep, the love of many who profess godliness will wax cold, religion will exert but a feeble influence on those without, places of amusement will be frequented, the passions will seek indulgence, the young will be impatient of restraint, daring impiety will abound, men will cast off fear, and restrain prayer, profaneness, intemperance and sabbath-breaking will become frequent and open. An apathy which neither judgments nor mercies break up, settles upon the public mind; the ministrations of the gospel are ineffectual, the feasts of Zion are deserted, while haunts of sin and halls of mirth are thronged.
II. The only hope of the Church, at such a time, is in God. It is lime for THEE, Lord, to work
The minister is often discouraged. The church has declined in spite of all his prayers and exertions. Notwithstanding his ministrations, iniquity has increased; while he has stretched out his hand no man regarded ; as he surveys the wide desolation, the prevalance of error, the rush into sin,the recklessness of the young, the idolatry of the world, knowing the inveteracy of habit, the unbelief of the heart, the artifice of Satan, he is ready to despond. He is often tempted to ask, can these dry bones live? He has