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his riches, his titles, his grandeur, and the deplorable situation, and to execute the chiwhole universe united for his aid, can afford merical projects of conversion? him no consolation: a man so situated knows In the third place, we will suppose that you the vanity of the world better than the great- shall, by the peculiar favour of heaven, be viest philosophers, and the severest anchorets: sited with one of those mild complaints, which hence he may detach his heart. We would conduct imperceptibly to the grave, and unateven wish that the Deity should accept of such tended with pain; would you then be more hapa conversion, should be satisfied with one who pily disposed for conversion? Are we not daily does not devote hintself to virtue, till the occa- witnesses of what passes on those occasions? sions of vice are removed, and should receive Our friends, our family, our self-esteem, all the like sinner at the extremities of life; it is unite to make us augur a favourable issue, certain, however, that all these suppositions whenever the affliction is not desperate: and are so far from favouring the delay of conver- not thinking this the time of death, we think sion, as to demonstrate its absurdity.—How also it ought not to be the time of conversion. can we presume on what may happen in the After having disputed with God the fine days hour of death? Of how many difficulties is of health, we regret to give him the lucid inthis illusory scheme susceptible! Shall I die tervals of our affliction. We would wish him in a bed calm and composed? Shall I have to receive the soul at the precise moment when presence and recollection of mind? Shall I it hovers on our lips. We hope to live, and avail myself of these circumstances to eradi- hope inflames desire; the wish to live more and cate vice from the heart, and to establish there more enroots the love we ad for the world; the kingdom of righteousness?
and “the friendship of this world is enmity For, first, who is to guarantee that you shall | with God.” Meanwhile the affliction extends die in this situation? Po how many disastrous itself, the disease takes its course, the body accidents, to how many tragic events are you weakens, the spirits droop, and death arrives not exposed? Does not every creature, every even before we had scarcely thought that we substance which surrounds you, menace both were mortal. your health and your life? If your hopes of Fancy yourselves, in short, to die in the conversion are founded on a supposition of this most favourable situation, tranquil and comkind, you must fear the whole universe. Are posed, without delirium, without stupor, withyou in the house? you must fear its giving out lethargy. Fancy also, that stripped of way, and dissipating by the fall all your expec- prejudice, and the chimerical hope of recotations. Are you in the open field you must very, you should know that your end is near. fear lest, the earth, opening its caverns, should ask whether the single thought, the sole idea, swallow you up, and thus elude your hope. that you shall soon die, be not capable of deAre you on the waters? you must fear to see priving you of the composure essential to the in every wave a messenger of death, a mi-work of your salvation? Can a man habitunister of justice, and an avenger of your luke- ated to dissipation, accustomed to care, dewarmness and delay. Amidst so many well-voted to its maxims, see without confusion and founded fears, what repose can you enjoy? If regret, his designs averted, his hopes frustrated, any one of these accidents should overtake his schemes subverted, the fashion of the world you, say now, what would become of your vanishing before his eyes, the thrones erected, foolish prudence? Who is it that would then the books opened, and his soul cited before the study for you the religion you have neglected? tribunal of the Sovereign Judge? We have Who is it that would then shed for you tears frequent occasions to observe, when attending of repentance? Who is it that would then quench the sick, that those who suffer the greatest anfor you the devouring fire, kindled against guish, are not always the most distressed about your crimes, and ready to consume you? Is a their sins, however deplorable their state may tragic death a thing unknown? What year be, their pains so far engross the capacity of elapses undistinguished by visitations of this the soul, as to obstruct their paying attention kind? What campaign is closed without pro- to what is most awful, the image of approachducing myriads?
ing death. But a man who sees himself apIn the second place, we will suppose that proaching the grave, and looks on his exit unyou shall die a natural death. Have you ever disturbed with pains; a man who considers seen the dying? Do you presume that one can death as it really is, suffers sometimes greater be in a proper state for thought and reflection, anguish than those which can arise from the when seized with those presages of death, acutest disease. which announce his approach? When one is But what shall I say of the multitude of seized with those insupportable and piercing anxieties attendant on this fatal hour? Physipains which take every reflection from the cians must be called in, advice must be taken, soul? When exposed to those stupors which and endeavours used to support this tottering benumb the brightest wit, and the most pierc- tabernacle. He must appoint a successor, ing genius? To those profound lethargies which make a will, bid adieu to the world, weep over render unavailing, motives the most powerful, his family, embrace his friends, and detach his and exhortations the most pathetic To those affections. Is there time then, is there time frequent reverses which present phantoms and amid so many afflictive objects, amid the tuchimeras, and fill the soul with a thousand mult of so many alarms; is there time to exalarms. My brethren, would we always wish amine religion, to review the circumstances of to deceive ourselves? Look, foolish man; look a vanishing life, to restore the wealth illegally on this pale extended corpse, look again on acquired, to repair the tarnished reputation of this now dying carcass: where is the mind his neighbour, to repent of his sin, to examine which has fortitude to recollect itself in this his heart, and weigh those distinguished mo
tives which prompt us to holiness? My breth- | ready, that the subject is too grave and serious
any one presume to attack them, let the doce
filled the duties of life, fought the good fight,
and have nothing to do but to put forth the APPLICATION.
hand to the crown of righteousness. " There First, you should reduce to practice the ob- is no fear,” say they, “ of the death of such a servations we have made on conversion, and Christian; he was an Israelite indeed, he was particularly the reflections we have endeavour- an honest man, he led a good life.” But what ed to establish, that in order to be truly rege- is the import of the words, he led a moral life? nerate, it is not sufficient to do some partial a phrase as barbarous in the expression as erservices for God, love must be the reigning dis-roneous in the sense; for if the phrase mean position of th heart This idea ought to cor- | any thing, it is that he has fulfilled the duties rect the erroneous notions you entertain of a of morality. But can you bear this testimony good life, and a happy death, that you can nei- of the man we have just described; of a man ther know those things in this world, nor should who contents himself with avoiding the crimes you wish to know them. They are, indeed, accounted infamous in the world; but excluvisionaries who affect to be offended when we sively of that, he has neither fervour, nor zeak, press those grand truths of religion, who would nor patience, nor charity? Is this the man, disseminate their ridiculous errors in the church, who, you say, has led a moral life? What and incessantly cry in our ears, “ Christians, then is the morality which prescribes so broad take heed to yourselves; they shake the foun-! a path? Is it not the morality of Jesus Christ dation of faith; the doctrine of assurance is a | The morality of Jesus Christ recommends si doctrine of fanaticism."
lence, retirement, detachment from the world. My brethren, were this a subject less serious The morality of Jesus Christ requires, that and grave, nothing would hinder us from ridi- you "be merciful, as God is merciful; that culing all scruples of this nature. “Take heed you be perfect, as your Father which is in heato yourselves, for there is fanaticism in the ven is perfect.” The morality of Jesus Christ doctrine:” we would press you to love God requires, that you " love God with all your with all your heart; we would press you to con- heart, with all your soul, and with all your secrate to him your whole life; we would in- mind:” and that if you cannot fully attain to duce you not to defer conversion, but prepare this degree of perfection on earth, you should for a happy death by the continual exercise of make continual efforts to approach it. Here repentance and piety. Is it not obvious that you have the prescribed morality of Jesus we ought to be cautious of admitting such a Christ. But the morality of which you speak, doctrine, and that the church would be in a de- is the morality of the world, the morality of plorable condition were all her members adorned the devil, the morality of hell. Will such a with those dispositions. But we have said al- morality enable you to sustain the judgment
of God. Will it appease his justice? Will it to become genuine Christians, as we endeavour close the gates of hell? Will it open the gates to become profound philosophers, acute matheof immortality! Ah! let us form better ideas maticians, able preachers, enlightened mer. of religion. There is an infinite distance be- chants, intrepid commanders, by assiduity and tween him, accounted by the world an honest labour, by close and constant application. man, and a real Christian; and if the love of This is perhaps a galling reflection. I am God' have not been the predominant disposi- not astonished that it is calculated to excite in tion of our heart, let us tremble, let us weep, most of you discouragement and fear: here is or rather let us endeavour to reform. This is the most difficult part of our discourse. The the first conclusion we deduce from our dis- doctrines or truths we discuss being unwel
come, and such as you would gladly evade, we The second turns on what we have said must here suspend the thread of this discourse, with regard to the force of habits; on the that you may feel the importance of our minismeans of correcting the bad, and of acquiring try. For, after having established these truths, the good. Recollect, that all these things we must form the one or the other of these cannot be done in a moment; recollect, that to opinions concerning your conduct, either that succeed, we must be fixed and firm, returning you do “ seek the Lord while he may be a thousand and a thousand times to the charge. found,” and endeavour, by a holy obstinacy, to We should be the more struck with the pro- establish truth in the mind, and grace in the priety of this, is, as we said in the body of this heart; or that you exclude yourselves from discourse, we employed more time to reflect salvation, and engage yourselves so afore in on ourselves. But most people live destitute the way of destruction, as to occasion fear lest of thought and recollection. We are dissipated the Spirit of God, a thousand and a thousand by exterior things, our eyes glance on every times insulted, should for ever withdraw. object, we ascend to the heavens to make new What do you say, my brethren? Which of discoveries among the stars, we descend into these opinions is best founded? To what end the deep, we dig into the bowels of the earth, do you live? Does this unremitting vigilance, we run even from the one to the other world, this holy obstinacy, this continual recurrence seeking fortune in the most remote regions, of watchfulness and care, form the object of and we are ignorant of what occurs in our your life? Ah! make no more problems of a own breast. We have a body and a soul, truth, which will shortly be but too well estanoblest works of God, and we never reflect on blished. what passes within, how knowledge is acquir- Ministers of Jesus Christ, sent by the God ed, how prejudices originate, how habits are of vengeance, not to plant only, but also to formed and fortified. If this knowledge served root out; to build, but also to throw down; merely for intellectual pleasure, we ought at Jer. i. 10, to "proclaim the acceptable year of least to tax our indolence with negligence: but the Lord,” Isa. Ixi. 2, but also to blow the being intimately connected with our salvation, alarming trumpet of Zion in the ears of the we cannot but deplore our indifference. Let people ; awaken the conscience; brandish us therefore study ourselves, and become ra- the awful sword of Divine justice; put in full tional, if we would become regenerate. Let effect the most terrific truths of religion. In us learn the important truth already proved, prosperous seasons the gospel supplies us with that virtue is acquired only by diligence and sweet and consoling passages; but we should application.
now urge the most efficacious, and not stay to Nor let it be here objected, that we ought adorn the house of God, when called to extinnot to talk of Christian virtues as of the other guish a fire which threatens its destruction. habits of the soul; and that the Holy Spirit Yes, Christians, did we use concerning many can suddenly and fully correct our prejudices, of you, any other language, we should betray and eradicate our corrupt propensities. With the sentiments of our hearts. You suffer tho out a doubt we need his aid— Yes, O Holy only period, proper for your salvation, to esSpirit, source of eternal wisdom, however cape. You walk in a dreadful path," the end great may be my efforts and vigilance, what thereof is death,” and your way of life tends ever endeavours I may use for my salvation, I absolutely to incapacitate you from tasting the will never trust to myself, never will I “offer sweetness of a happy death. incense to my drag, or sacrifice to my net," It is true, if you call in some ministers at the never will I lean upon this “bruised reed,” close of life, they will perhaps have the weaknever will I view my utter insufficiency with ness to promiše, to the appearance of converout asking thy support.
sion, that grace which is offered only to a genuBut after all, let us not imagine that the ine change of heart. But we solemnly declare, operations of the Holy Spirit are like the fa- that if, after a life of inaction and negligence, bulous enchantments celebrated in our ro- they shall speak peace to you on a death-bed, mances and poets. We have told you a thou- you ought not to depend on this kind of prosand times, and we cannot too often repeat it, mises. You ought to class them with those that grace never destroys, but perfects nature. things which ought not to be credited, though The Spirit of God will abundantly irradiate“. an angel from heaven should come and preach your mind, if you vigorously apply to religious them.” Ministers are but men, and weak as contemplation; but he will not infuse the light others. You call us to attend the dying, who if you disdain the study. The Spirit of God I have lived as most of the human kind. There will abụndantly establish the reign of grace in i we find a sorrowful family, a father bathed in your heart, if you assiduously apply to the tears, a mother in despair: what would you work; but he will never do it in the midst of have us to do? Would you have us speak hodissipation and sin. We ought to endeavour nestly to the sick man:" Would you have us
tell him, that all this exterior of repentance is / You are now precisely at the age for salvation, a vain phantom without substance, without you have all the necessary dispositions for the reality? That among a thousand sick persons, study of religious truths, and the subjugation who seem converted on a death-bed, we scarce- of your heart to its laws. What penetration, ly find one who is really changed? That for one what perception, what vivacity, and consedegree of probability of the reality of his con- quently what preparation for receiving the version, we have a thousand which prove it to yoke of Christ. Cherish those dispositions, be extorted? And to speak without evasion, and improve each moment of a period so prewe presume, that in one hour he will be taken cious. “Remember your Creator in the days from his dying bed, and cast into the torments of your youth,” Eccles. xii. 1. Alas, with all of hellWe should do this—we should apply your acuteness you will have enough to do in this last remedy, and no longer tritle with a surmounting the wicked propensities of your soul whose destruction is almost certain. But heart. And what would it be, if to the deprayou forbid us, you prevent us; you say that vity of nature, and the force of habit, you such severe language would injure the health should add, the grovelling all your life in vice? of the sick. You do more; you weep, you And you aged men, who have already run lament. At a scene so affecting, we soften as your course, but who have devoted the best of other men: we have not resolution to add one your days to the world: you who seek the affliction to another; and whether from com- Lord to-day, groping your way, and who are passion to the dying, or pity to the living, we making faint efforts in age to withdraw from talk of heaven, and afford the man hopes of the world, a heart of which it has possession: salvation. But we say again, we still declare what shall we say to you? Shall we say that that all these promises ought to be suspected; your ruin is without remedy, that your senthey can change neither the spirit of religion, tence is already pronounced, that nothing now nor the nature of man. “Without holiness remains but to cast you headlong into the no man shall see the Lord,” Heb. xii. 14. abyss you have willingly prepared for yourAnd those tears which you shed on the ap- selves' God forbid that we should thus beproach of death, that extorted submission to come the executioners of Divine vengeance. the will of God, those hasty resolutions of We address you in the voice of our prophet. obedience, are not that holiness. In vain " Seek ye the Lord while he may be found.” should we address you in other language. Weep at the remembrance of your past lives, You yourselves would hear on your dying bed tremble at the thought, that God sends strong an irreproachable witness always ready to con- delusions on those that " obey not the truth. tradict us.- _That witness is conscience. In Oh! happy docility of my youth, whither art vain does the degenerate minister endeavour thou fled Ah! soul more burdened with corto afford the dying illusive hope; conscience ruption than with the weight of years: Ah! speaks without disguise. The preacher says, stupidity, prejudice, fatal dominion of sin, you “Peace, peace," Jer. vi. 14; conscience re- are the sad recompense I have derived from plies, “ There is no peace to the wicked, saith serving the enemy of my salvation. my God,” Isa. lv. 21. The preacher says, But, while you fear, hope; and hoping, act: “ Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye at least, O! at least the span of life, which lift up, ye everlasting doors,” Ps. xxiv. 7. God may add, devote to your salvation. You Conscience cries, " Mountains, mountains, fall have abundantly more to do than others; your on us, and hide us from the face of him that task is greater, and your time is shorter. You sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of have, according to the prophet, “ to turn your the Lamb,” Rev. vi. 16.
feet unto the testimonies of the Lord,” Ps. But, () gracious God, what are we doing in cxix. 59. But swim against the stream; this pulpit? Are we come to trouble Israel? ter in at the strait gate." Above all, -above Are we sent to curse? Do we preach to-day all, offer up fervent prayers to God. Perhaps, only of hell, only of devils? Ah! my brethren, moved by your tears, he will revoke the senthere is no attaining salvation but in the way i tence; perhaps, excited to compassion by your which we have just prescribed: it is true, that misery, he will heal it by his grace; perhaps, to the present hour you have neglected: it is surmounting by the supernatural operations of true, that the day of vengeance is about to the Spirit, the depravity of nature, he will give succeed the day of wrath. But the day of you thoughts so divine, and sentiments so tenvengeance is not yet come. You yet live, you der, that you shall suddenly be transformed yet breathe: grace is yet offered. I hear the into new men. voice of my Saviour, saying, “Comfort ye, To the utmost of our power, let us reform. comfort ye my people, speak ye comfortably There is yet time, but that time is perhaps to Jerusalem,” Isa. xl. 1. I hear the delightful more limited than we think. After all, why accents crying upon this church, “Grace, grace delay? Ab! I well see what obstructs. You unto it,” Zech. iv. 7. “How shall I give thee regard conversion as an irksome task, and the up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Is- state of regeneration as difficult and burdenrael? How shall I make thee as Admah? How some, which must be entered into as late as shall I set thee as Zeboiin? Mine heart is possible. But if you knew—if you knew the turned within me, my relentings are kindled gifl of God!-- If you knew the sweetness felt together. I will not execute the fierceness of by a man who seeks God in his ordinances, mine anger: I will not return to destroy who hears his oracles, who derives light and Ephraim," Hos. xi. 8, 9. It speaks peculiarly truth from their source:--If you know the joy to you, young people, whose minds are yet free of a man transformed into the image of his from passion and prejudico, whose chasto hearts Maker, and who daily engraves on his heart have not yet been corrupted by the world. I some new trait of the all-perfect Being:-If
you knew the consolation of a Christian, who we called your attention, the study of man? seeks his God in prayer, who mingles his voice What is more proper to confound such a man, with the voice of angels, and begins on earth than to tell him, as we then did, your brain the sacred exercises which shall one day con- will weaken your age; your mind will be filled stitute his eternal felicity:- If you knew the with notions foreign to religion; it will lose joys which succeed the bitterness of repent with years, the power of conversing with any ance, when the sinner, returning from his fol- but sensible objects; and of commencing the ly, prostrates himself at the feet of a merciful investigation of religious truths? What is God, and receives at the throne of grace, from more proper to save such a man from his prethe Saviour of the world, the discharge of all judices, than to remind him, that the way, and their sins, and mingling tears of joy with tears the only way of acquiring a habit is practice; of grief, repairs by redoubled affection, his that virtuo cannot be formed in the heart by a lukewarmness and indolence: If you knew single wish, by a rash and hasty resolution, the raptures of a soul persuaded of its salva- but by repeated and persevering efforts; that tion, which places all its hope within the veil, the habit of a vice strengthens itself in proporas an anchor sure and steadfast, which bids tion as we indulge the crime? What, in short, defiance to hell and the devil, which antici- is more proper to induce us to improve the pates the celestial delights; a soul" which is time of health for salvation, than to exhibit to already justified, already risen, already glorifi- him the portrait we have drawn of a dying ed, already seated in heavenly places in Christ man, stretched on a bed of affliction, labouring Jesus,” Eph. ii. 6.
with sickness, troubled with phantoms and reAh! why should we defer so glorious a task: veries, flattered by his friends, terrified with We ought to defer things which are painful death, and consequently incapable of executand injurious, and when we cannot extricate ing the work he has deferred to this tragic peourselves from a great calamity, we ought at riod? I again repeat, my brethren, if you were least to retard it as much as possible. But this attentive to the discourse we delivered, if the peace, this tranquillity, these transports, this desire of salvation drew you to these assemresurrection, this foretaste of paradise, are they blies, there is not one among you that those to be arranged in this class Ah no! I will no serious reflections would not constrain to enter longer delay, O my God, to keep thy com- into his heart, and to reform without delay the mandments. I will “reach forth," I will purposes of life.
press towards the mark for the prize of the But it may appear to some, that we narrow high calling,” Phil. iii. 14. Happy to have the way to heaven; that the doctrines of faith formed such noble resolutions! Happy to ac- being above the doctrines of philosophy, we complish them! Amen. To God, the Father, must suppress the light of reason, and take Son, and Spirit, be honour and glory for ever. solely for our guide in the paths of piety, the Amen.
lamp of revelation. We will endeavour to afford them satisfaction: we will show that reli
gion, very far from weakening, strengthens the SERMON LXXXI. reflections which reason has suggested. We
will prove, that we have said nothing but what
ought to alarm those who delay conversion, ON THE DELAY OF CONVERSION.
and who found the notion they have formed of the Divine mercy, not on the nature of God,
but on the depraved propensity of their own Isaiah lv. 6.
heart, and on the impure system of their lusts.
These are the heads of this discourse. Seek ye the Lord while may be found, call ye
You will tell us, brethren, entering on this upon him while he is near.
discourse, that we are little afraid of the diffiIt is now some time, my brethren, if you culties of which perhaps it is susceptible; we recollect, since we addressed you on this sub- hope that the truth, notwithstanding our weakject. We proposed to be less scrupulous in ness, will appear in all its lustre. But other discussing the terms than desirous to attack thoughts strike our mind, and they must for a the delay of conversion, and absurd notions of moment arrest our course. We fear the diffidivine mercy.
We then apprised you, that culty of your hearts: we fear more: we fear we should draw our reflections from three that this discourse, which shall disclose the sources,—from the nature of man,-from the treasures of grace, will aggravate the condemauthority of Scripture,—and from actual ex- nation of those who turn it into wantonness: perience. We began by the first of these we fear that this discourse, by the abuse to points; to-day we intend to discuss the second; which many may expose it, will serve merely and if Providence call us again into this pul- as a proof of the truths already established. pit, we will explain the third, and give the God! avert this dreadful prediction, and may finishing hand to the subject.
the cords of love, which thou so evidently emIf you were attentive to what we proposed ployest, draw and captivate our hearts. Amen. in our first discourse, if the love of salvation 1. The Holy Scriptures to-day are the source drew you to these assemblies, you would de- from which we draw our arguments to attack rive instruction. You would sensibly perceive the delay of conversion. Had we no design the vain pretensions of those who would in- ; but to cite what is positively said on this subar deed labour to obtain salvation, but who always ject, our meditation would require no great efdelay. For what, I pray, is more proper to forts. We should have but to transcribe a excite alarm and terror in the soul, negligent mass of infallible decisions, of repeated warnof conversion, than the single point to which ings, of terrific examples, of appalling menaces,