Thomas Carlyle.

The Christian treasury, Volume 2 online

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3. We have all need to refy upon the oandoor,
kindness, and aid of each other. The claim
will not be made in vain. The cultivation of
brotherly love, and the prudent exercise of
brotherly intercourse^ will greatly strengthen
and console us.

4. Let us charge ourselves to use all means
for attaining to higher degrees of vital godli-

ness, eoimimMnvm with €rod, dependence on the
atonement and grace of our blessed Redeemer,
and dtentlking the infinenoes of the Hdy

6. How diligently should we cultivate the
exercises of devotion — ^loidy, penitent, constant
prayer — not only at r^^ular seasons, but in
the way of ejaculation and mental habit !


** An eriland adulteroat generation leelrofe mftcr a rign; anA
there ifaall no sign be given to it, bat the dgn of the pR>-
f bet Jonatt Cor as Jbnai wai three da jt and three nights-
in the whale's belly, to shall the Son of nun be ttiree
days and three nights in the heart of the earth."— Matt
Thb exact point of this laymg of oar Lord, aad tiie^
general instruction it is fitted to convey, are oom>
monly mined, from not attending to the droom*
stances in which it was uttered, and not percetring
tiie design with which it was spoken. It is iatrodaced
by oar Lord as a reply to certain Scribes and Phazi>
sees, who came expr e ss ing a desire to see a sign from
him. Tfadr presenting such a request at so advmoed
a stage of his earthly ministry, after mnltltadei ^
the most astonishing woaderi and miraooloas cores
had been publicly performed by his hands in all parta
of the country, implied their dissatisfaction with these
as proofii of his divine oonmiission, and intimated a
wish to see something that might more properly de-
serve the name of a sign. And as the sign sought
is elsewhere (Ifatt xvL 1; Lake xL 16) oaDed «a
sign from heaven,** it woald seem thai what they
aetoalty desired as a condition of tiieir belitfiBg on
Christ, was some immfdiate, glorious manifestation
in his &Toar from aboTe - such, perhaps, as the Shech-
inah of old, which they imagined would certainly be
granted to him, if he were indeed the Messiah, and,
which, if giren, would at once dispel their doubts and
seouie thdr belief.

It was not posrible that a request, proeeeding from
such a state of mind as this, could meet with a &Tour
able reception from Christ In making it, they were
disparaging the testimony raised by all the mighty
works which he had already performed; the very
works which andent prophecy had foretold would
accompany him as the sore signs of his Messiahship;
and, indeed, at the very time that they were demand-
ing this otiier sign, tiiey were givfaig vent to the hot^
rid suspioion, that he was assisted in ddng some, at
least, of those mighty deeds by the power of Beelae-
bub, the prince of the devils. They at onoe showed
themselves to be labouring under the most obdurate
blindness, in slighting the signs which, in sudi great
numbers, he had already produced, and were gniUy of
intolerable presumption in prescribfaig the hind of
sign which they would r^;ard as alone sui&oient to
entitle him to their belie£ Christ, therefore, could
plainly give them no countenance in their request.
His answer must have possessed the character of a
rebuke— not of an enoonragement; and to suppose, as
is commonly done, that in his reference toJonah bav-

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ing been bo long in the fiflh^s bellj, and himaelf going
to be 80 long in the bowels of the earth, he pointed
I especially to the safe deliyeiance in the one case,
and the glorious resurrection in the other, as what
might, in the fullest sense, be considered a sign from
I heaven, is to give a turn to the answer quite unsuited
to the circumstances. Had such been the purport of
our Lord's allusion and reply, it would haye substan-
tially granted what they sought. One sign only, in-
deed, he would haye promised, but that, to use the
words of Calvin, "as good as all: with this alone let
them be content, that as Jonas, after having e8ci4>ed
from the depths of the sea, preached to the Ninevites,
^so they also should hear the voice of a prophet raised
from the dead.**

I It is not, however, to Jonah's safe deliverance from
the belly of the fish, and afterwards doing the work
^f a prophet, but simply to the fact of his being there
that our Lord alludes. Nor is it to his own resurrec-
tion from the dead, after having been confined for a
•certain period in its mansions, and resuming his great
, work, that he directs their thoughts. He speaks only
•of his descent into the lower parts of the earth, and
thus points in the very opposite direction to that on
which their expectations were fixed. " A sign from
iieaven ! (he virtually says to them) will nothing but
that satisfy you that I am the messenger of Heaven,
■and as such entitled to your homage and regard?
\ Will you receive no Messiah, attend to no prophet,
. but one who comes to you surroimded with a blaze
of heavenly glory, and attended by ministrations of
angels ? Your own Scriptures, if read aright, are
, sufficient to expose your error, and put to shame your
jocredulity. Jonah, whom you justly reverence as a
^' true prophet, and who was received in that character
even by a Heathen city, carried with him thither no
^such attestations in his favour as you expect from
me; so far from it, he had but newly escaped from
I that ' belly of hell,* to which divine justice had for
I a season sent him, in chastisement for his sins: yet
I the Ninevites listened to his preaching, wisely looldng
: more to the truth of his message t&an to the circum-
stances of his person. And I— so completely do ye
I misunderstand the nature of my mission, and miscal-
I culate regarding the drcumstavces that are to mark
the execution of it — must pass through a still deeper
process of humiliation than Jonah. The signs, as to my
personal condition, which are to discover themselves
in me, are to grow darker, and not brighter; they are
to be derived, not from the highest heavens, but from
the lowest depths — from the very regions of the dead;
yet am I not the less on that account the ambassador
of Heaven, and possessing, as I do, credentials of a far
higher kind than any that were to be seen in Jonah,
be assured that if you reject me, the inhabitants of
the Heathen city, who repented at his preaching, shall
rise up in judgment to condemn you.**

This, we conceive, is the purport of our Lord*s an-
twer, and the precise object of his reference to Jonah.
He meant to tell them that they were looking en-
tirely in the wrong direction for an undoubted seal of
his divine commission; and that the circumstances in
which he appeared, and the nature of the work to
which he was bound, required that he should bear

upon him the signs, not of heavenly splendour, but,of
profound humiliation. Any other sign — any sign such
as they expected— would have been a false one; it
would have given a wrong impression of his character
and work, and served to encourage them in the car-
nal views they cherished respecting the Messiah. He
had no want of signs, in the proper sense, to manifest
who and what he was; but they were signs which
did not so much distinguish his person as revealed his
character and work; and when so many deeds of
miraculous working had proceeded from his hand,
testifying how great, how fruly divine a work of heal-
ing and recovery he had come to do among men, he
justly charged them with hypocrisy in not being able
to discern the signs of the times, and mocked their ex-
pectations of a sign from heaven, by presenting them
with a counter-sign from the heart of the earth. The
perfect similarity in prineipUf also, between his case
and that of JoniUi— both having been made to bear
so remarkably the signs of God*s displeasure at the
very time they were charged with a divine commission
—should the more easily have reconciled the Jews to
the absence of a sign fr^m above in the case of Christ ;
and their belief in the mission of Jonah, and the re-
pentance of the Ninevites at his preaching, could only
serve to show how utterly inexcusable it would be in
them, if, with so much more now to carry their con-
victions and subdue their hearts, they should still
reject the call of Heaven, and perish in their sins.

It requires no great discernment io see this in the
case of those Scribes and Pharisees; but the error
into which they fell was the natural ofispring of a
carnal heart; and under a somewhat dififerent form
is constantly repeating itself. There are two different
ways eq>ecially in which it is often appearing in our

1. It appears in those who, instead of looking to
the message of the Qospel, and appljnng their hearts
faithfully to the things which it sets before them, fix
their eye upon something in the circumstances of the
bearers of it which is difierent from what they con-
ceive it should be, and which they deem sufficient to
excuse their neglect or rejection of the message itself.
The doctrines pressed upon their acceptance may be
ever so well fitted to commend themselves to tiieu:
conscience, and the duties to which it calls them may
be ever so necessary and important— but they have
some £Etult to find with the instrument through which
it is conveyed to them, or the manner in which it is
delivered; and therefore they will give themselves no
concern aiboui the matter. It is not enough for them
that divine Truth descends from heaven to present
herself to their embrace; she must come attired in
the precise form and dress which they concmve suited
to her lofty origin, otherwise they will not so much I
as give her an audience ! It is not enough that the
call to repent, and to do things meet for repentance,
is heard by them, and inwardly responded to by the
voice of conscience, and approved by every consider-
ation of xeason and propriety — ^if it is not also accre-
dited to their outward senses by becoming signs of
honour and authority, they will scornfully resist its
demands ! What folly and infatuation in men of
reasonable minds ! As if the shell were more than

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the kernel H oonteliif— or the Toioe of HeaTen were
only to be listened to when it speaks in eocents sadi
as please and gimtify the ontwrnrd ear. Snze]j,whai
that Yoioe cries, the first and grand consideration
should always be, what does it ay— not Ihow, with
what particular tone, or with what attendant dream-
stances! And whenever there is really the Toioe of
God, speaking in a messenger of his appointment, or
throogh an instroment of his choice, no one will re-
main ignorant that it is so wlio deals faithfoUy by it
<" If he tptU <2o His will, he wiU know of the doctrine,
whether it be of God.'*

2. The same error, howerer, still more fre<iaently
i^ppears in a rejection of the daima of the Gh>spel as
a whole, or of some of its particular parts, firom its
wanting a certain kind or amoont of eridenoe whieh
is pre-snpposed to hare been eaential to it, if it
redly pooessed divine authority. The Scribee and
Pharisees would not own Christ as a heavenly mes-
senger, from the s{gns he actoally diowed; but they
professed their readiness to do so if he produced a
sign of a different kind— a sign from heaven. The
people at large would not believe upon him, beoaose
he had saved so many from mortal disease and death
during the period of his active ministry; but if he
could have saved himself from the doom of impending
destruction, when hanghig on the cross, then they
would have believed. So, the n aj^ w ard will of man,
in its mad controverqr with the will of Ck>d, is ahrays
ready to take exception against the means he gra-
dously employs to overcome it, and pitdies upon
something else, something of its own, whidi alone it
will condescend to regard as satis&ctory. It has the
audadiy of prescribing to its Ifaker, and instead of
humbly sitting down to weig^ the grounds on which
he challenges its belief and obedience, it presump-
tuously insists upon certain terms of its own as indis-
pensable. If Jesus of Nazareth had really been the
Son of Gt>d, certahi unbelievers have said, and indeed
still say, then all his own countrymen would doubt-
less have believed on him — he vronld never hacve
been rejected by the great migority of these; and his
Gospel, if salvation really depended upon the recep-
tion of its truths, would not have been confined to a
small portion of mankind, but would assuredly have
been conmiunicated by a merdfiil €k>d to the whole
worid. What is this but impiously to prescribe to
GK>d? to demand certain signs on his part before he
is entitied to receive any faith or oonfidenoe on ours?
It presumes to do what no one who knows the proper
standingof a creature will ever dream of doing— -to
search the mind of the Lord, and act the part of his
counsellor; while it leaves unexamined the many
clear and infallible signs by which he has approved
the cause and testimony of Jesus, and which have
never faOed, when calmly and seriously considered,
to draw forth anew the confession of the centurion:
"Verily, this man was the Son of God.** It is with
these we have to do - not attempting to say what
should have been, or to meddle with matters too high
for us; but with the simplidty of littie children
searching the record which God has seen fit to give
to us, and to deal in earnest with the reaUties it un-
folds. If we do this, we shall find in such facts as

Christ's rejection by the Jews, and the partial qnread
of his Gospel, but new evidences of the truth of hie
Word; tor they are wbMi this itself has led us to ex-

Again, how often, when we come down to particu-
lars, do many excuse thsmsdves from receiving a
certain doctrine, OTpractisnig a certain duty, becansa
it is not revealed with all the fulness, or inculcated
with all the plainness and frequency with which ther
imagine it would have been if truly of Gh>d! In thw
way men have excepted against the fundamental doo-
trines of grace, because tiiey think they can somehow
explain away the terms in which these are unfolded,
or because they do not meet with them in some por>
tions of Scripture where they would have expected
to find them. Or men deny, for example, the divine
authority of the Christian Sabbath, and their obliga-
tion to set i^Mfft one day in seven for special s^vice
to the Lord, because they allege, if soch were the
win of God, it would have stood out more distinctiy
and plainly expressed in New Testament Scripture
than it actually does. But who art thou that wouldst
Actaie to God how he is to disdose his will, or pro-
pose tiie requfeements of his service ? The question
for thee to consider is, not how it might have been
done so as to render all evasbn hnpossible onthepart
of those who seek for it, but. Is it not done so dis-
tinctiy that it may be deariy enough gathered by all
who are honestly desirous to ascertain his mind and
will? What humble, spiritual, child-like Christian
MIm to derive fr<mi the Bible the doctrines of grace ?
What genuine disdple of Jesus, treading in the foot-
steps and breathing the spirit of his Master, does not
hail every returning Sabbatii as it comes round, with
the words of the Psalmist: ''This is the day God has
made; in it win we rejoice and be glad?** For those
who seek excuses in regard to what they diould either
believe or practise, there win be no difficulty in find-
ing them;— but for those, on the other hand, who-
would walk humbly with thek God, and are content
to look at the signs which he himself has furnished
for their guidance and instruction, there is, blessed
be his name, a sure and sufficient light to direct them.
** For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just
shan walk in them; but the transgressors shaU fiOl


I HATB just returned from witneesing tlie exe-
cution of two feUow-sinners and fellow-inunor-
tab, whose lives were considered forfeited to the
laws of their country, and for whom, it wa»
said, there could be no meroy in this world. I
had witnessed executions before, but nnder
very different views and feelings ; for then 1
knew not mysdif as a sinner, exposed to a more
terrible sentence than I have now seen executed.
On this occasion I was forcibly reminded of
these words of our Saviour : ** Think ye that
they were sinners above all men that dwelt at
Jenisalem f I teU you. Nay : but, except ye
repent, ye shall aU likewise perish.** — Luke xiii

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4, 5. There were, no doabt, many present at the
awfdl scene I have ^ust witnessed who pitied
and sympathized with the unhappy sa£&rers,
1 yet could not but own the justice of the sen-
I tence. But how few, whUe acquiescing in the
! laws of man, felt their own real situation in the
I sight of God, or anticipated the day when there
must be a public execution of the divine sen-
tence against all who break his hiwand die
without repentance ! Looking at the thousands
assembled even with more concern than I looked
at the criminals under the^bbet, that question
occuired to my mind : " What went ye out for
to see 1" Here is a vast multitude sathered
together to witness the most awful and solemn
scene that can be witnessed in Uus life — ^the
infliction of death upon nnners — sin itself
ripened into death; or, in another view, the arch-
enemy of man, the great tyrant, seizing his prey,
4ind going off with them to eternal torments.
But how little of the reality is perceived or felt
by the spectators! How few look through the
veil of death, or follow these immortal beings
i into the etenial world ! Here I see indiffer-
ence—there is rude mirth; many countenances
look really pleased — there is a jester making
sport at deaU), and ever and anon I hear pro-
-hne oaths and blasphemies. Who that has
witnessed such a scene as this can hesitate to
pronounce the exhibition decidedly injurious
to the public morals f The effect produced is
anything but what should be desired by our
governors. Tlie motive may have been good
that directed such public punishment of erimi-
nals; but experience has abundantly shown
that the effect is anything but good upon the
mass assembled. I said to myself. My soul,
stand apart from this giddy, thoughtless, im-
pious crowd, and in the presence of thy Maker
sift this mekncholy scene— trace out tiie cause
of Uus pitiable eatastn^e. Whence is it that
my eyes witness, both in the sufferers and in
the spectators, that which fills me with pain,
even with honor, at the thought of what all
will soon experienoe, when death has borne
them away to the reality of their eternal state !
See, the criminals stana before the multitude
of their fellow-men ! How unhappy they look I
How every one that looks at them seems to
reproach them ! Behold, one of them has
beckoned with his hand, and wishes to speak !
Listen, to hear a word from the lips of a man
in full health, who in a few mcnnents will be
in the eternal worid I Surely this is a word of
truth spoken as from the grave, in this world
of deceit, sinning, and sufiering ! The younff
man stands forth, and with an earnest voice and
streaming eyes warns, entreats, and implores all
who hear hun, and who witness his sufferings,
to walk not in the ways of wicked men. Qee
how his bosom heaves with anguish — how his
spiritwritheswith an inward convulsion! What
a picture he presents of that Scripture : " Sin
when it is finished bringeth forUi death V He

pauses to recover his breath, and sighs from his
inmost soul, while again he pleads to flee frt>m
sin; even while the rope is adjusted and hb
arms are pinioned, and he resigns himself to the
inevitable sentence, as if he would say, ** Let my
sufierings warn you of the end of sin; and see
all of you that its wages are death." If human
justice has these terrors, what must be the
features of the divine! Look on this scene,
ye who trample under foot God's commands — |
who say,There is no eye to see — who make even
a mock at sin, and declare that judfi:ment will
never overtake it. Look, I beseedi you, on
these wretched victims. Litoxicated once by
the flattering pleasures of sin, infatuated by the
idea of impunity, and fearing neither God nor
man, they were led on blindrold by their souls* t
enemy step by step, till they reached this enor- 1
mity of crime, and promised themselves impu-i
nity or escape in lK>th worlds. Is not Satan,
whom they have served, a hard master ! Is not
his service deadly thraldom! Does their master
repay them thus ! Is it thusSatan will reward
all his servants ! Can he give them no conso-
lation ! Does he even mock and deride them,
and exult in their ruin ! O my soul, rejoice that
thou hast abjured his service I O my God, give
these unhappy men to abjure it, though at the
eleventh hour t Grant them that repentance
for their sins, not only that sin for which man
punishes them, but all those against thee which
thou wilt punish if nnrepented of; and let them
feel, by the aid of thy Spirit, a firm faith in the
efficacjr of the atoning blood of Christ 1 OThou
that didst make bare thine arm in the salvation
of tiie dying thief, have pity upon these mur-
derers, have pity upon their youth, and for the
glory of thine own name, disappoint Satan of
his wished-forprey, and make them yet monu-
ments of mercy!

But while I was praying thus the cord was
drawn, the attendants were descending and
leaving them to their fate; the bolt was drawn,
and I saw them struggling and convulsed for a
few moments-— thenuey were still — the crowd
was awed — the men were launched into eter^
nity I My meditations turned upon myself! I
thought of John Bradford's saying, when he
saw any one taken to'execution — ^ There goe$ John
Bradfordybui for the grace of Ood,** Now, my soul,
think what is thy state better than theirs!
Onoe thou hadst entered the path that might
have led thee even to this issue. Satan is per-
haps even now deceiving thee concerning some
cherished sin— drawing thee out by little and
Uttle, but hiding from thee the end. Start not
at the suggestion; for thy self-oonfidence may
warrant it Kemember the subtlety of thy
watchful foe. *Tia true thou hast won some
victories by that grace which has wrought
mightily in thee, xou have detected some of
his dengns and machinations^ and by feath
hast overcome hitherto; but hast thou con-
stantiy been on thy wat^-tower ! hast thou

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Ilaever been sipping of the poisoned cup, nor
venturing on the enemy's ground, nor sleeping
at thy post, nor putting down thy weapons!
. Alas ! these are painful recollections of narrow
I escapes. Let me be more watchful that I enter
I not into temptation; let me awake to righ-
I teousness and sin not; let me run the race that
is set before me, looking unto Jesus — looking
I so stedfastly unto Jesus as to obtain his sup-
^ port, his intercession, that my faith may never
fail, but that I may so run as to win the prize,
even Christ himself, the author and finisher of


I my faith !


I i His seat is vacant at table— it is vacant at the fire-
! ' side— it is vacant at the altar. A thousand afflicting

I I incidents remind his parents that he is ^one; but.
I often as this saddening thought recurs, it is so^ened

t and transformed by the cheering recollection that
i he is gone to glory; and the lull heart almost disbur-
j I dened of its sorrows, responds to the songs of holy
' ; resignation : —

** Why should we mourn departed friendi,
Or ftUrt at deatu't alarms ?
'Tis but the voice thct Jecui leudt
To call them to bis arms."

Dehghtfol idea ! Supported by this, I have seen
the parents of a much endeared child fitting with
composure beside his bed of death.

They were parents familiarized with sorrow. Once
they liad been blessed with an ample fortune and a
numerous offspring. But the hand of God had been
upon them. Stripped of the|one j bereaved of the other,
they were left in the decline of life, naked and defence-
less, like the trunk of an aged oas, whose leaves and
branches have been swept away by the pitiless storms
that have beat upon it. One little son, the child of
their old age, alone renudned to them. His brethren

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleThe Christian treasury, Volume 2 → online text (page 53 of 145)