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part of this congregation. On considering the way of life which most of you follow, we find but too much cause for this awful conjecture. But should we see you, without alarm, run headlong into the abyss from which you cannot be delivered by never-ceasing lamentations and tears? No, my brethren, we will redouble our entreaties, we will make fresh exertions to press on your minds these important truths.
zeal, this fervour; these indispensable duties of religion, the essential characters of a Christian, is it not true that they are not the acquisitions of a moment, of an hour, of a day? Is it not true, that, to attain this happy state, there must be time, labour, and repeated endeavours; consequently, that a transient thought on a death-bed, and in the last periods of life, is quite inadequate to so great a work? Is it not true, that the Holy Spirit, in extending his assistance, requires that we should ask his aids, yield to his entreaties, and pay deference to an evangelical ministry? Is it not true, that he abandons to themselves those who resist his work; that it is thence concluded in the Scripture that we need his grace for our sanctification; and that we ought to work out our salvation with so much the more diligence? Is it not true, that mercy has restrictions and bounds, that it is promised to those only who conform to the covenant of grace, that those conditions are not a momentary repentance, a slight recourse to mercy, a superficial desire to partici pate in the merits of Christ's death; they imply such a total change, renovation of heart, and transformation of the soul, and in such sort, that when one is not in a state to conform to the conditions, we are no longer within the sphere of evangelical promises. Is it not true, in short, that those truths are not founded merely on arguments, on a chain of conse quences, and remote principles? But they are demonstrated by sound and incontestable experience. Hence we ask you once more to ad
The first thing we require of you is to enter into your own heart, to do justice to yourselves, to confess that most of you are in the awful situation we have attacked; that you are nearly all guilty of delaying conversion. I know that the human heart has its evasions, and that conscience has its depths. But, after all, you are not so far blind as to believe that, while carried away as some of you are with avarice, others with ambition; some with voluptuousness, others with slander; and some with a haughtiness which nothing can bend; living, as most of you do, resident in a city where you find all the temptations of vice in high life, and all the facility in the haunts of infamy, you are not so far blinded as to think that you are in a state of regeneration, while persisting in this course. And, as I supposed before, that no one of you is so far infatuated as to say, I have made my choice, I am resolved to cast myself headlong into the pit of destruction, and to be a victim of eternal vengeance; as no one of you has carried infatuation to this extreme, I am right in concluding, that nearly all of you rely on a fu-mit the force of our arguments, and to do justure conversion. Begin here, begin by doing tice to the evidence we have adduced. justice to yourselves on this point. This is the first thing we require you to do.
Thirdly, what we also require is, that you should acknowledge the inefficacy of sermons The second is, to recollect the arguments we with regard to you, the little effect they comhave urged in our preceding discourses, against monly have, and consequently the little influthe delay of conversion, and confess their force. ence which ours (and especially those last In the first, we addressed you as well-informed delivered) have produced on your conduct. and rational beings; we proved from the human There is not a week, but some vice is atconstitution, that conversion becomes either tacked;-not a week, but some one ought to difficult or impracticable in proportion as it is be corrected;-not a week, but some evident deferred. In the second, we addressed you as change ought to be produced in civil and reliChristians, who acknowledge a revelation re-gious society. And what do we see? I apceived from heaven; and we endeavoured to peal to your consciences; you regard us as prove these truths by that revelation;-by the declaimers, called to entertain you for an hour, character of the economy of the Holy Spirit; to diversify your pleasure, or to pass away the by the nature and conditions of the new cove- first day of the week; diverting your attention nant; capital points of faith, fundamental ar- from secular concerns. It seems that we asticles of religion, which you cannot evade, if cend our pulpits to afford you amusement, to you have the smallest shadow of Christianity. delineate characters, implicitly submitting to To-day we have directed all our efforts to ena- your judgment, academic compositions; to say, ble you to comprehend the same things by clear, "Come, come and see whether we have a fercertain, and indisputable experience. Over- tile imagination, a fine voice, a graceful geslooking, therefore, every thing which concerns ture, an action agreeable to your taste." With us in particular, and our weakness, which we these detestable notions, most of you establish acknowledge and feel, do justice to our proofs; your tribunal, judging of the object of our seracknowledge their force; and inquire, whether mons: which you sometimes find too long, someyou have yet any thing further to object. times too short, sometimes too cold, and someSeek, examine, investigate. Is it not true, times too pathetic. Scarcely one among you that bad habits become confirmed with age? turns them to their true design, purity of heart, Predominate in the heart? Take possession of and amendment of life. This is the success of all the intellectual powers, and transform them the sermons you have heard. Should we think selves, so to speak, into our nature? Is it not our discourses more happy? We should be too true, that habits of piety are not acquired in- credulous did we expect it. It must be acstantaneously, in a moment, by a sudden wish, knowledged, my brethren, that all we have and a simple emotion of the soul? Is it not said on the delay of conversion, has been of true, that this detachment from sensible objects, little avail with regard to most of you. Phithis giving up the world, this self-denial, this losophy, religion, experience,-all leave you
much the same as you were before. This is the third thing you ought to confess.
When you have made these reflections, we will ask, what are your thoughts? part will you take? What will you do? What will become of all the persons who compose this congregation? You know, on the one hand, that you are among the neglecters of salvation; you see, on the other, by evidences deduced from reason, Scripture, and experience, that those who thus delay, run the risk of never being converted. You are obliged to allow, that the most pathetic exhortations are addressed, in general without effect; and, meanwhile, time is urgent, life vanishes away; and the moment in which you yourselves must furnish a test of these sad truths, is just at hand. Do all these things make any impression on your minds? Do they give any stroke at the unhappy security in which you live? Do they trouble the false repose in which you rest? Have they any influence on your lives?
I know the part you are going to take; that, unable to think of them without horror, you are going to banish them from your mind, and efface them from your memory. You are going, on leaving this place, to fortify yourselves against this holy alarm, which has now, perhaps, been excited; you are going to talk of any subject but those important truths which have been preached, and to repose in indolence; to cause fear and trembling to subside, by banishing every idea which have excited them; like a man in a fatal sleep, while his house is on fire; we alarm him, we cry, "Rouse from your stupor, your house is on fire." He opens his eyes, he wishes to fly for safety; but falling again into his former lethargy, he becomes fuel to the flames.
this vacuity of life might be excused in a youth following the impulse of nature, before he has had time to reflect, yet games, diversions and theatres, do but ill accord with gray hairs; and that, at least, he should devote the remains of life, to the service of God, and the advancement of his own salvation.
My brethren, my very dear brethren, think, O think that the situation of your minds does not alter these grand truths. You may forget them, but you cannot change them. Whether you may think of them or not, they still subsist in all their force. You may indeed shut your eyes against the abyss which is under your feet; but you cannot remove it, you cannot avoid it, so long as you disregard our warnings, and resist our entreaties.
If your salvation is dear to you, if you have yet the least sensibility, the smallest spark of love to God-if you have not resolved on your own ruin, and sworn to your own destruction, enter into your hearts from this moment. Let each, from this moment, take salutary measures to subdue his predominant propensity. Withdraw not from this temple, without being firmly resolved on a change of life.
Consider that you were not sent into the world, to aggrandize and enrich yourselves; to form attachments which serve as unhappy ties to hold you on the earth; much less to scandalize the church, to be high-spirited, proud, imperious, unjust, voluptuous, avaricious. God has placed you here in a state of probation, that you might become prepared for a better world. Consider, that, though the distractions of life may frequently call a considerate man to be engaged in the world, in defiance of his wishes; yet there is nothing so unworthy as to be, like most of you, always dissipated, always devoted to pleasure. Consider, that though
Examine yourselves on these heads; let each make them the touchstone of his conduct; let him derive from them motives of reformation; let the time past suffice to have gratified his concupiscence; let him tremble on considering the wounds he has given his soul, and the dangers he has run, in delaying to the present hour.
Is it forty, fifty, or sixty years since I came into the world? What have I been doing? What account can I give of a period so precious? What virtues have I acquired? What wicked propensities have I subdued? What progress have I made in charity, in humility, and in all the virtues for which God has given me birth? Have not a thousand various passions divided the empire of my heart? Have they not all tended to enslave me? O miserable man! perhaps my day of grace is past: perhaps in future I may knock in vain at the door of mercy: perhaps I may be numbered with those of whom Christ says, "Many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able:" perhaps the insensibility I feel, and the resistance which my unhappy heart still makes, are the effects of divine vengeance: perhaps my time of visitation is past: perhaps God spares me only in life to make me a fearful example of the misery of those who delay conversion: perhaps it is to me he addresses that sentence, "Let him that is unjust be unjust still, and let him that is unholy be unholy still." But, perhaps I have yet a little time: perhaps God has spared me in life to afford me occasion to repair my past faults: perhaps he has brought me today into this church to pluck and save me from my misery: perhaps these emotions of my heart, these tears which run down mine eyes, are the effects of grace: perhaps these softenings, this compunction, and these fears, are the voice which says, from God, "Seek ye my face:" perhaps this is the year of good-will; the accepted time; the day of salvation: perhaps, if I delay no longer, if I promote my salvation without delay, I may succeed in the work, and see my endeavours gloriously crowned.
O love of my Saviour, bowels of mercy, abyss of divine compassion! "O length, breadth, height, depth, of the love of God, which passeth knowledge!" resolve this weighty inquiry; calm the agitation of my mind; assure my fluttering soul. Yes, O my God, seeing thou hast spared me in life, I trust it is for salvation. Seeing thou seekest me still, I flatter myself it is for my conversion. Hence I assume new engagements, I ratify anew the covenant I have so often violated; I pledge to thee anew the vows I have so often broken.
If you act in this manner, your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. For what is it that God requires of you? Why has he created you out of nothing? Why has he given you his Son? Why has he communicated to you his Holy Spirit? Is it to destroy you? Is it to
damn you? Are you so little acquainted with selves in some sort as saints, when they can althe Father of mercies, with the God of love? lege some one who surpasses them in wickedDoes he take pleasure in the death of the sin-ness. In short, we are going to prescribe the ner? Would he not rather that he should re- best precautions to people, who expose both pent and live? their flanks to the enemy of their salvation; and who in the midst of beings, leagued for our everlasting ruin, live in the same security as if the profoundest peace prevailed, and as if they were walking in the only way which leads to eternal felicity.
Again, if it were only with regard to people of this character, for whom we have so just a cause to fear miscarrying, we ought to enrol ourselves in the little number, that associating ourselves among the disciples of wisdom, according to the example of Jesus Christ, we might hope to say to God as he did, "Behold me, and the children which God hath given me," Heb. ii. 13; Isa. viii. 18. But when I consider the limits in which the greatest saints among us include their virtues, the scanty bounds which comprise their duties, I am afraid they will revolt against the doctrine of my text. And you, who carry piety to the highest degree, are you fully prepared to enter into the spirit of the exhortation which St. Paul addresses you to-day? You, who on the pressing entreaties of Eternal Wisdom, which says, "give me thy heart," feel hard conflicts with yourselves not to bestow on an only son sentiments which you owe solely to the giver, you have not yet carried divine love to the most eminent degree: it is not enough that you inspire your son with the fear and love of God, you must acquire the disposition of the father of the faithful, who obeyed this command; "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and offer him for a burnt-offering," Gen. xxii. 2. You who, rather than abjure the truth, have sacrificed one part of your fortune, you have not carried divine love to the highest degree; you must acquire the disposition of those extraordinary men, some of whom were stoned for religion, others were sawn asunder, others were killed with the sword, others wandered about in sheep-skins, and in goat-skins, others were afflicted and tormented. These are the grand models, on which St. Paul wished to form the piety of the Hebrews, when he addressed them in the words of my text: it is on the same models we would wish to-day to form your piety. "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us: and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
These are the consolations which follow the exhortations of the prophet, and the words of my text. For after having said, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near;" he draws this conclusion, to which I would lead you, which has been the design of these three discourses, and by which I would close the subject. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." And, lest the penitent sinner should be overburdened with the weight of his sins,-lest, estimating the extent of divine mercy by his own contracted views, he should despair of salvation, I will add this declaration from God himself, a declaration which admirably expresses the grandeur of his compassion: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways; for, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts." Now to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
HEBREWS xii. 1.
Wherefore, seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us; and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
My brethren, the Holy Spirit proposes to us in the words we have read, distinguished duties, excellent models, and wise precautions. "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us." These are the distinguished duties. "We are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses." These are the excellent models. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us." These are the wise precautions.
I frankly acknowledge, my brethren, that on comparing the design of my text with the character of some among my hearers, I am in doubt whether I ought not to suspend the thread of my discourse; and whether the difficulty of success should not deter me from attempting the execution. We come to preach perseverance I. They have peculiar references to the Heto men, of whom so great a number live in su- brews, to whom they were addressed. These pineness, and to whom it is much more proper Hebrews had embraced the Christian religion, to say, Return unto the testimonies of the Lord, at a time of general exclamation against the than Continue to follow them. We come to pro- Christians. They were very sincere in the propose the most excellent models, the example of fession of Christianity; but there is a difference the Abrahams, the Moseses, the Davids, of between sincerity, and the constancy to which whom so great a number hitherto propose to the disciples of Jesus Christ are called, particuthemselves, if I may so express myself, only larly when the church seems abandoned to the negative models; I would say, who make it all fury of its persecutors. The grand design of their glory in not being altogether so bad as the the apostle in this epistle, was to inspire them worst of the human kind; they consider them-with this constancy, and to prevent the fear of
These words may be considered in two different points of view; the one respects the Hebrews, to whom they were addressed, the other respects the whole Christian community.
punishments from causing them to fall into apostacy.
This design is apparent, from the illustrious character he gives of the Lord Christ, to whom they had devoted themselves by embracing the Christian religion. He is not a mere man, not an ordinary prophet, not an angel; but the Lord of men, and of angels. "For God," says the apostle at the commencement of this epistle, "who spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels, said he, at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?" Heb. i. 1-5.
This design is farther apparent, as the apostle apprizes the Hebrews concerning the difficulty, and even the impossibility of obtaining mercy after an abjuration accompanied with certain aggravating circumstances, which time does not permit me here to enumerate. The sense is asserted in these words: "It is impossible for those, who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they fall away to renew them again unto repentance," Heb. vi. 4-6. To "fall away," here signifies, not the repetition of a criminal habit we had hoped to reform, (and who could expect salvation if this were the meaning of the apostle') but professing again the errors we had renounced on becoming Christians, and abjuring Christianity itself.
This design appears likewise, from the care the apostle takes to exalt the Christian economy above that of Moses: hence he infers, that if the smallest offences, committed against the Levitical economy, were punished with rigour, there cannot be punishments too severe for those who shall have the baseness to abjure Christianity. “If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries," Heb. x. 26, 27. The sin into which we wilfully fall, does not mean those relapses, of which we spake just now, as the ancient fathers believed: whose severity was much more calculated to precipitate apostates into the abyss from which they wished to save them, than to preserve them from it. But to sin wilfully, in this place signifies apostacy; this is the sense of the words which immediately follow the passage. "He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Heb. x. 28, 29. The whole is descriptive of apostacy. The Jews,
having prevailed with any of their nation, who had embraced Christianity to return to Judaism, were not satisfied with their abusing it; they required them to utter blasphemies against the person of Jesus, and against his mysteries, as appears from the ancient forms of abjuration which the learned have preserved.
All these considerations, and many more, of which the subject is susceptible, demonstrate, that the grand design of St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, was to prevent apostacy, and to prompt them to confess the truth amidst the most cruel torments to which they might be exposed by the profession. This is the design of my text. "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us; that is, let neither persecutions the most severe, nor promises the most specious, be able to induce you to deny Christianity, nor any consideration deter you from professing it.
On this first design of the apostle, we shall merely conjure those, with whom there may remain some doubt as to the horrors of apostacy, and the necessity imposed on all Christians either to leave the places which prohibit the profession of the truth, or endure the severest tortures for religion; we shall conjure them seriously to reflect on what we advance; not to content themselves with general notions; to compare the situation of those Hebrews with that in which some of the reformed Christians are placed; to compare the abjurations required of the first, with those required of the latter, the punishments inflicted on the one, with those inflicted on the other; and the directions St. Paul gave the faithful of his own time, with those which are given to us. If, after sober and serious investigation, we still find casuists who doubt the doctrine, by affirming, that those of our brethren, who still remain in France, ought to make their choice, between flight and martyrdom, we will add no more; feeling ourselves unable to persuade men, with whom arguments so strong are incapable of conviction.
Perhaps some of you think, that we insist too often on the same subjects. But we frankly avow, that, so very far from thinking we preach too often, it seems to us we by no means resume them sufficiently. We are also fully resolved to insist upon them more powerfully than we have ever done before. Yes! while we shall see the incendiaries of the Christian world, men, who under the name of the meek and lowly Jesus cherish the most ambitious and barbarous sentiments, holding the reins of government in so large a space of Europe, making drunk, if I may use an expression in the Revelation, and an expression by no means hyperbolical, "making drunk the kings of the earth with the wine of their fornication:" while we shall see edicts issued anew, which have so often made to blush every one who has a vestige of probity in the community from which they proceed; while we shall see fresh faggots kindled, new gibbets erected, additional galleys equipped against the Protestants; while we see our unhappy brethren invariably negligent to the present period in which they promised to give glory to God, alleging, as an excuse, the severity of the persecution, and the fury of the persecutors; that when peace shall be restored to the churches, they will return to devotion; while we see a
IV. We shall point to the different classes of persons who compose this congregation, the various consequences they should draw from this doctrine, and the sentiments with which it should actuate their minds.
million of men bearing the Christian name, contenting themselves to live without temple, without public worship, without sacraments, without hope of having on their death-beds the aids of ministers of the living God to comfort thêm against that terrific period; while we shall I. We shall remove what is equivocal in see fathers and mothers, so very far from send- the term perseverance, and in the expression, ing into the land of liberty the children, whom "let us run with patience the race that is set they have had the weakness to retain in the before us." We may take the term in a double climates of oppression, have even the laxity, sense; or, to express myself more clearly, there shall I say, or the insanity to recall those who are two ways in which we may consider the have had courage to fly; while we shall see ex- course Jesus Christ prescribed to his disciples. iles looking back with regret to the onions of We will call the first, losing the habit of ChrisEgypt, envying the condition of those who tianity; and the second, doing actions incomhave sacrificed the dictates of conscience to patible with its design. By the habit of Chrisfortune: while we shall see those lamentable tianity, we mean that disposition of a believer, objects, we will still enforce the doctrine of St. in consequence of which, notwithstanding the Paul in the epistle whence we have selected weakness he may feel in virtue;-the defects the text. We will still enforce the expressions with which he may have cause to reproach of the apostle, and in the sense already given. himself;-and the daily warfare between the "Take heed, lest there be in any of you an flesh and the Spirit, or even some victories evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the which the flesh may obtain over the mind;living God. It is impossible for those who all things considered, he gives God the preferwere once enlightened, and have tasted of the ence to the world and the flesh; and has a heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the consciousness in his own breast, that divine Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word love prevails in his heart over every other of God, and the powers of the world to come, love.-We may also turn aside from the course if they fall away, to renew them again to re- prescribed by Jesus Christ to his disciples, by pentance, seeing they crucify to themselves doing things incompatible with the design of afresh the Son of God, and put him to an open Christianity. It would discover a defective shame. Let us hold fast the profession of our knowledge of man to conclude, that he has lost faith without wavering; for if we sin wilfully a habit the moment he does any action conafter that we have received the knowledge of trary to it. One act of dissipation no more the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice constitutes a habit of dissipation, than a single for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of duty of piety constitutes the habit of piety; judgment, and fiery indignation which shall and we have no more reason for inferring, that, devour the adversaries. He that despised because a man has discovered one instance of Moses' law died without mercy under two or attachment to the world, he is really earthlythree witnesses; of how much sorer punish-minded, than we have to say, that, because a ment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, man has discharged a single duty of piety, he who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, is really a pious man. In what sense then, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, does the Holy Spirit exhort us to persevere? wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, Is he wishful to preserve us from doing any and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace." thing incompatible with the design of ChrisAnd in our text, "Seeing we also." To what tianity? Is he wishful to preserve us from do these words refer? To what the apostle losing the habit? had said a little before respecting the faithful, who, for the sake of religion, "had been stoned, had been sawn asunder, had been killed with the sword:" after enumerating these, he adds, "Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
2. Enough having been said concerning the first sense of the text which regards but few Christians, we shall proceed to the second; which concerns the whole body of Christians, who are still in a world which endeavours to detach them from the communion of Jesus Christ. St. Paul exhorts them to "run with patience the race that is set before them;" that is, to persevere in fellowship with him. Perseverance is a Christian virtue. On this virtue shall turn the whole of our discourse, which shall be comprised under four classes of obser
I. We shall remove what is equivocal in the term perseverance, or running the race.
II. We shall enforce the necessity of perse
III. We shall remove certain systematical notions which excite confusion in this virtue. VOL. II.-35
Doubtless, my brethren, his design is to preserve us from doing any thing contrary to the object of Christianity; because it is by a repetition of this sort of actions that we lose what is called the habit of Christianity. That disposition of mind, however, which induces a Christian to fortify himself against every temptation, is a mean rather to obtain the virtue which our Scriptures called perseverance, than perseverance itself. When we say, according to inspired men, that, in order to be saved, we must endure to the end, we do not mean, that we should never in the course of life have committed a single fault; but that, notwithstanding any fault we have committed, we must be in the state just mentioned; that, all things being considered, we give God the preference over sensible objects, and feel divine love in our hearts predominant over every other love. Where indeed should we be, if we could not be saved without undeviating perseverance, without running with patience the race in the rigorous sense, I would say, so as never to commit an action incompatible with the design of Christianity? Where should we be, were God to scrutinize our life with