صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

intemperance, or lust, what were then the feelings of your souls? Did not then the Deity speak to your souls in the secret, but powerful voice of conscience? When, at the sacred solemnity of the Christian passover, you refused to join in communion with the faithful, by partaking of the paschal lamb, when you kept away from that celestial banquet—from that bread of life, of which, if a man eat, he shall lire for erer, did you feel no agitation of mind, no compunction of soul for your neglect ? Did you behold

your brethren in Christ approach to that altar, and there receive the Holy of Holies, without feeling the reproofs, the condemnation of your own conscience ? Oh! your Lord called aloud to you and said, where art thou? Your eyes were opened, and you saw that you were naked; and if you refused to obey the voice of God, still it was heard by you, speaking in your inmost soul, and reproaching you with blindness and ingratitude. If, on the other hand, you have dared to approach with a soul defiled by guilt, with consciences polluted by iniquity, or affections fixed on objects displeasing to God; if, like Judas, you have betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss, even now do you feel the sting of reproach; your Saviour whom you have crucified, still calls you to benefit by that precious blood which your iniquities have spilt.

If, after renewing your allegiance to your God, you have relapsed into sin, and forfeited his grace, still he pursues you. The shepherd of your souls calls and invites you, though fleeing from him, to return to mercy; to seek peace for your souls. A voice is heard within you, crying out :-“ Return from the ways of guilt and wretchedness, to the pastures of innocence and joy :” a secret disquietude preys upon your souls, and einbitters all your pleasures. Should there be one amongst you, my dear friends, who is so hardened in guilt as to be insensible to the voice of God and the goads of conscience, as to imagine that he possesses tranquillity, while at variance with his God, oh! deplorable indeed is his situation, who, like to one in the delirium of a fever, attempts his own destruction, unconscious of his danger. Let him not, however, pretend that he is abandoned by God. Ono! If he feel not now, as heretofore, the pungency of remorse, the agonies of a soul wounded by sin ; if he experience not the solicitations of his much offended Lord, it is because he has barricaded his heart against the approaches of divine grace; he has shut his ears against the voice of God, and his gracious invitations ; for he cannot say that he has not often felt the reproach of conscience, and the call of heaven, which he obstinately disregarded. For the goodness of God waits not till the sinner has waded deep in the ocean of iniquity, but in the first moments of guilt admonishes him of his misfortune, and calls him to repentance. Instead of destroying the presumptuous wretch who has dared to rebel against his sovereign Lord, he makes the first advances towards reconciliation, and offers him grace and strength to surmount every obstacle ; but if the sinner reject these endeavours of a loving parent, adding repeated provocations to his first offence, the God of mercy does not abandon him. No: he repeats his invitations—he redoubles his entreaties; he calls, presses, and conjures the strayed sheep to return to the fold, to experience the care of the true shepherd. He follows the deluded wanderer through all the windings of his guilt, meets him at every turn, and by every interior and exterior means—by every general and particular inducement, tries to win him to the acceptance of grace and mercy. O you

who have to bewail the obstinacy of your conduct, have not you experienced this goodness of your God, through every scene of guilt with which your lives have been diversified ? When obstinately bent upon pursuing where passion has invited, has not the God, who made your hearts, wished to draw them from sin, by mixing an alloy of bitterness with

your

fondest

enjoyments, and forbidden you to indulge in sinful pleasures with unmingled gratification? Has he not said to you, “ Turn to me, deluded wanderer; turn from seducing pleasures, in which there is nothing but vanity, and affliction of spirit ; turn from criminal delights, which give death to your soul, and end in hell. Behold, I stand at the gate and knock. (Rev. iii. 20.)” Yes, my friends, even at this moment, he urges you to break the chains which hold you in confinement; to tear yourselves away from every dangerous engagement, every fatal connection; to extinguish the flame of unlawful passion, which consumes your soul; to enter into yourselves, and once more enjoy true liberty, unshackled by every human respect, every earthly fear, and every earthly affection. He sweetly invites you to come to him, oppressed by the weight of sin, under which you groan ; with all your iniquities, by which you are broken down, even to despondence, promising that he will refresh you, and give rest to your wearied souls. As he did to Saul, he now cries to youWhy dost thou persecute me? I am Jesus whom thou persecutest ; it is hard for thee to kick against the goad. (Act. ix. 5.) On you he calls, who, by your evil example and disedifying lives, oppose the work of God, and hinder the propagation of his faith, the diffu

[ocr errors]

sion of his charity; on you, who proceed in a life of indolence and spiritual sloth, and though attending to every earthly concern, neglect or despise the concern of salvation. Upon you he calls, who, knowing what is your duty, refuse, from insensibility or pride, to practise it.

Say not that God has forsaken you ; pretend not that he has consigned you to desperation and misery everlasting. If you perish, you fall by your own hand; why then will you die, oh house of Israel? The good shepherd, Jesus, the Father and Bishop of your souls, is still in pursuit of his lost sheep, nor will he cease his endeavours to recover you, and bring you back to the pastures of security and peace, till you are irrevocably fallen into the jaws of the infernal wolf; that is, till, rejecting his mercy, you die in your sins! Be then no longer callous, my brethren, to his repeated solicitations and endeavours ; compel not the God of mercy, by your reiterated contempt and unrelenting malice, to cast you from his sight for ever, into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. viii. 12.)

The pleasures which first seduced you from your everlasting lover, and which still keep you away from him, do not afford that satisfaction you expected, nor even the delight which novelty might give them ; your God has em

« السابقةمتابعة »