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with which they abound, and which they ad- | delay of conversion; when we prove from the dress to all those who presume to delay con- force of habits, that it is difficult, not to say version. We should have to repeat this cau- impossible, for a man aged in crimes, to be tion of the prophet, “ To-day if ye will hear converted at the hour of death; it appeared his voice harden not your hearts,'' Ps. xcv. 7. to you, that we shook two doctrines which are A caution he has sanctified by his own exam- in fact the two fundamental pillars of your ple, “I made haste, and delayed not to keep faith. thy commandments,” Ps. cxix. 60. We should The first is the supernatural aids of the Hohave only to address to you this reflection, ly Spirit, promised in the new covenant; aids made by the author of the second book of which bend the most rebellious wills, aids Chronicles: “ The Lord God of their fathers which can surmount in a moment all the diffisent to them by his messengers, because he had culties which the force of habit may oppose to compassion on his people; but they mocked conversion. the messengers of God, and despised his words, The second doctrine is that of mercy, access and misused his prophets, until the wrath of to which being opened by the blood of Christ, the Lord arose against his people till there was there is no period it seems but we may be adno remedy. Therefore he brought upon them mitted whenever we come, though at the close the king of the Chaldees, who slew the young of life. Here is, in substance, if I mistake men with the sword. And had no compassion not, the whole of what religion and the Scripupon young men or maidens, old men or him tures seem to oppose to what has been advancthat stooped for age. They burned the house ed in our first discourse. If we make it thereof God, and brake down the wall of Jerusa- fore evident, that these two doctrines do not lem, and burned all the palaces thereof with oppose our principles; if we prove, that they fire,” 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, &c. We should contain nothing directly repugnant to the cononly have to propose the declaration of Eter- clusions we have drawn, shall we not thereby nal Wisdom, “Because I called and ye refused, demonstrate, that the Scriptures contain noI will laugh at your calamity, and mock when thing but what should alarm those who trust your fear cometh,” Prov. i. 26. We should to a tardy repentance. This we undertake to have but to represent the affecting scene of Je- develope. The subject is not without difficulsus Christ weeping over Jerusalem, and say- ty; we have to steer between two rocks equaling, “O that thou hadst known, at least in ly dangerous; for if, on the one hand, we this thy day, the things that belong to thy should supersede those doctrines, we abjure the peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes," faith of our fathers, and draw upon ourselves Luke xix. 41. We should have but to say to the charge of heterodoxy. On the other hand, each of you, as St. Paul to the Romans: “De- if we should stretch those doctrines beyond a spisest thou the riches of his goodness, and certain point, we furnish a plea for licentiousforbearing, and long-suffering, not knowing ness: we sap what we have built, and refute that the goodness of God leadeth thee to re- ourselves. Both these rocks we must caupentance? But after thy hardness and impeni- tiously avoid. tent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath The first proofs of which people avail themagainst the day of wrath, and revelation of selves, to excuse their negligence and delay, the righteous judgments of God,” Rom. ii. 4, and the first arguments of defence, which they &c. And elsewhere that God sends strong draw from the Scriptures, in order to oppose delusion on those who believe not the truth, to us, are taken from the aids of the Spirit
, probelieve a lie, 2 Thess. ii. 8. We should have mised in the new covenant. “Why those but to resound in this assembly, those awful alarming sermons?" say they. “Why those words in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “If we awful addresses, to the sinner who defers his sin wilfully after we have received the know- conversion! Why confound, in this way, reliledge of the truth, there remaineth no more gious with natural habits." The latter are sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking formed, I grant, by labour and study; by perfor of judgment, and fiery indignation, which severing and uninterrupted assiduity. The shall devour the adversaries,” Heb. x. 26. For former proceed from extraneous aids; they are if the mercy of God is without bounds, if it is the productions of grace, formed in the soul by ready to receive the sinner the moment he is the Holy Spirit. I will not, therefore, invaliinduced by the fear of punishment to prostrate date a doctrine so consolatory; I will profit by himself before him, why is this precise day the prerogatives of Christianity; I will devote marked to hear the voice of God?" Why this my life to the world; and when I perceive myhaste: Why this exhausting of resources and self ready to expire, I will assume the characremedies? Why this strong delusion? Why ter of a Christian. I will surrender myself this refusal to hear the tardy penitent? Why to the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and then this end of the days of Jerusalem's visitation? he shall, according to his promise, communiWhy this heaping up of the treasures of wrath? cate his powerful influence to my heart; he Why this utter defect of sacrifice for sin? All shall subdue my wicked propensities, eradicate these passages, my brethren, are as so many my most inveterate habits, and effectuate, in a sentences against our delays, against the con- moment, what would have cost me so much tradictory notions we fondly forın of the divine labour and pain. Here is an objection, which mercy, and of which we foolishly avail our- most sinners have not the effrontery to avow, selves in order to sleep in our sins.
but which a false theology cherishes in too All these things being hereby evident and many minds; and on which we found nearly the clear, we stop not for farther explication, but whole of our imaginary hopes of a death-bed proceed with our discourse. When we em conversion. ployed philosophical arguments against the To this objection we are bound to reply. We proceed to make manifest its absurdity, 1. you not perceive, on the contrary, that the By the ministry God has established in the youth who learns his catechism with care, bechurch. 2. By the efforts he requires us to comes a good catechumen; that the candidate make, previously to our being satisfied that we who profoundly studies divinity, becomes an have received the Holy Spirit. 3. By the able divine; and that the Christian, who endeamanner in which he requires us to co-operate vours to subdne his passions, obtains the vicwith the Spirit, when we have received him. tory over himself? Hence, the Holy Spirit re4. By the punishment he has denounced against quires you to use exertions. Hence, when those who resist his work. 5. By the conclu- we exhorted you to become genuine Christians, sions which the Scripture itself deduces from with the same application that we use to beour natural weakness, and from the necessity come enlightened merchants, meritorious offiof grace. Here, my brethren, are five sources cers, acute mathematicians, and good preachof reflection, which amount to demonstration, ers, by assiduity and study, by labour and apthat every man who draws consequences from plication, we advanced nothing inconsistent the promised aids of the Spirit, to live in luke- with the genius of our religion. Hence, he warmness, and to flatter himself with acquir- who draws from the aids of the Holy Spirit ing, without labour, without difficulty, without conclusions to remain inactive, and defer the application, habits of holiness, offers violence to work of salvation, offers violence to the econoreligion, and is unacquainted with the genius my of grace, and supersedes the design of the of the Holy Spirit's economy:
ministry God has established in his church. The ministry established in the church, is This is our first reflection. the first proof that the aids of the Spirit give We have marked, secondly, the efforts that no countenance to lukewarmness, and the de- God requires us to use to obtain the grace of lay of conversion. Had it been the design of the Holy Spirit, when we do not account ourthe Holy Spirit to communicate knowledge, selves as yet to have received them. For it is without the fatigue of religious instruction; fully admitted that God required us, at least, had it been his design to sanctify, in a moment, to ask. The Scriptures are very express. “If without requiring our co-operation in this any man lack wisdom let him ask of God," great work, why establish a ministry in the Jam. i. 5; “seek, and ye shall find; knock, church? Why require us in infancy to be and it shall be opened,” Matt. vii. 7. And, if taught“ line upon line, and precept upon pre- we are required to ask, we are also obliged to cept," as Isaiah expresses himself, Isa. xxxviii
. use efforts, however weak and imperfect, to 10. Why, as St. Paul says, require us after- obtain the grace we ask. For, with what face ward to " leave the principles of the doctrines can we ask God to assist us in the work of of Christ, and go on to perfection?" Heb. vi. 1. salvatiori, when we deliberately seek our own Why require, as the same apostle says, that destruction? With what face can we ask God we proceed from “milk to strong meat?" not to lead us into temptation, and we our1 Cor. iii. 2. Why require to propose motives, selves rush into temptation, and greedily riot and address exhortations? Why are we not in sin? With what face can we ask him to enlightened and sanctified without means, extinguish the fire of concupiscence, when we without ministers, without the Bible, without daily converse with objects which inflame it? the ministry? Why act exactly in the science We ought, therefore, to conduct ourselves, of salvation, as in the sciences of men? For, with regard to the work of salvation, as we do when we teach a science to a man, we adapt with regard to life and health. In vain should it to his capacity, to his genius, and to his me- we try to preserve them, did not God extend mory; so God requires us to do with regard to his care: nature, and the elements, all con
“Faith comes by hearing,” says St. spire for our destruction; we should vanish of Paul," and hearing by the word,” Rom. x. 17. our own accord; God alone can retain the
Being ascended up on high, he gave some to breath which preserves our life. Asa, king of be apostles, and some prophets, and some evan- Israel, was blamed for having had recourse to gelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the physicians, without having first inquired of the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the Lord. But should we not be fools, if, from a ministry (mark the expression,) for the edify- notion that God alone can preserve our life, ing of the body of Christ,” Eph. iv. 11, 12. we should cast ourselves into a pit; abandon Perceive you not, therefore, the impropriety ourselves to the waves of the sea, take no food of your pretensions Seeing it has been God's when healthy, and no medicine when sick? good pleasure to establish a ministry, do you Thus, in the work of salvation, we should do not conceive that he would have you regard it the same; imploring the grace of God to aid with deference? Seeing he has opened the our endeavours. We should follow the examgates of these temples, do you not conceive that ple of Moses, when attacked by Amalek; he he requires you to enter his courts? Seeing he shared with Joshua the task of 'victory. Mohas enjoined us to preach, do you not conceive ses ascended the hill, Joshua descended into that he requires you to hear? Seeing he re- the plain: Joshua fought, Moses prayed: Moquires you to hear, do you not conceive that ses raised his suppliant hands to heaven, Johe likewise requires you to comprehend? See-shua raised a warrior's arm: Moses opposed ing he commands us to impress you with mo- his fervour to the wrath of Heaven, Joshua tives, would he not have you feel their force? opposed his courage and arms to the enemy of Do you think he has any other object in view? Israel: and, by this judicious concurrence of Show us a man, who has lived eighty years praying and fighting, Israel triumphed and without meditation and piety, that has instan-Amalek fled. taneously become a good divine, a faithful Observe, thirdly, the manner in which the Christian, perfected in holiness and piety. Do ) Holy Spirit requires correspondent co-operation
ON THE DELAY OF CONVERSION. [Ser. LXXXI
. 31. Here, the asserted your weakness, and the aids of the
willing, but the flesh is weak:” here is the Our fourth reflection is derived from the principle of Jesus Christ. “God worketh in threatenings, which God denounces against you to will and to do:” here is the principle those who refuse to co-operate with the eco- of St. Paul. “Work out your salvation:” nomy, of grace. The Spirit of God, you say, here is the consequence. Are you, therefore, will be stronger than your obstinacy; he will actuated by a spirit of orthodoxy and truth, surmount your propensities; he will triumph when you exclaim against our sermons' Are over your opposition; grace will become vic- you then more orthodox than the Holy Ghost, torious, and save you in defiance of nature.-- or more correct than eternal truth? Or rather, Nay, rather this grace shall be withdrawn, if whence is it that you, being octhodox in the you persist in your contempt of it. Nay, ra- first member of the proposition of our authors, ther this Spirit shall abandon you, after a become heretics in the second? Why orthocourse of obstinacy to your own way. He re- dox in the principle, and heretics in the consumes the one talent from the unfaithful ser- sequence? vant, who neglects to improve it; and, accord- Collect now, my brethren, the whole of these ing to the passage already cited, God sends on five arguments; open your eyes to the light, those, who obey not the truth, strong delusion communicated from all points, in order to corto believe a lie, 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11. Hence, rect your prejudice; and see how superficial St. Paul draws this conclusion: “Stand fast, is the man who draws from human weakness, and hold the traditions which ye have been and the aids of the Spirit, motives to defer contaught, whether by word, or by our epistle.” version. The Holy Spirit works within us, it And elsewhere it is said, “That servant who is true; but he works in concurrence with the knew his lord's will, and did it not, shall be word and the ministry, in sending you pastors, beaten with many stripes,” Luke xii. 47. And in accompanying their word with wisdom, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews af- their exhortation with unction, their weakness firms, "That it is impossible for those who with power: and you--you who have never
read this word, who have absented yourselves / 12. Content thyself with adoring the goodfrom this ministry, who have not wished to ness of God, who promises thee assistance, and hear these discourses, who have paid no defer- deigns to surmount by grace the corruptions ence to these cautions, nor submission to this of nature. But, while thou groanest under a power, would you have the Holy Spirit to con- sense of thy corruption, endeavour to surmount vert you by means unknown, and beyond the and vanquish thyself
; draw from God's prolimits of his operations? The Holy Spirit mises, motives for thy own sanctification and works within us, it is true: but he requires instruction; and even when thou sayest, I ain that we should seek and ask those aids, making nothing, I can do nothing, act as though thọ efforts, imperfect efforts, to sanctify ourselves: whole depended on thyself, and as though thou and would you wish him to convert you, while couldest “ do all things." you neglect to seek, while you disdain to ask; II. The notion of the aids of the Holy to say the least, while you give up yourselves Spirit, was the first source of illusion we havo to inaction and supineness? The Holy Spirit had to attack. The notion of the mercy of works within us, it is true; but he requires that God is a second, on which we shall also prowe act in concert with his grace, that we ceed to reflect. « God is merciful,” say they, second his operations, and yield to his entrea- “the covenant he has established with man, is ties: and would you wish him to convert you, a covenant of grace: we are not come to the while you harden yourselves against his voice, darkness, to the devouring fire, and the temwhile you never cease from grieving him? pest. A general amnesty is granted to the
The Holy Spirit works within us, it is true; wicked. Hence, though our conversion be debut he declares that, if we obstinately resist, fective, God will receive our dying breath, he will leave us to ourselves; he will refuse the and yield to our tears. What, then, should aids he has offered in vain; he will abandon us deter us from giving free scope to our passions, to our natural stupidity and corruption; and and deferring the rigorous duties of conversion, you, already come to the crisis of vengeance, till we are nothing worth for the world?” to the epoch for accomplishing his wrath, to Strange argument! Detestable sophism, my the termination of a criminal career, can you brethren! Here is the highest stage of corruppresume that this Spirit will adopt for you a tion, the supreme degree of ingratitude. What new economy, and work a miracle in your do I say? For though a man be ungrateful, favour? The Holy Spirit works within us, it he discovers sensibility and acknowledgement, is true; but thence it is concluded in our Scrip for the moment at least, on the reception of a tures, that we ought to work, that we ought favour. Forgetfulness and ingratitude are octo labour, that we ought to apply to the con- casioned by other objects, which time and the cerns of salvation our strength of body, our world have presented to the mind, and which facility of conception, our retention of me- have obliterated the recollection of past favours. mory, our presence of mind, our vivacity of But behold, in the argument of the sinner, a genius: and you who devote this mind, this manæuvre of a novel kind; he acquires the ungenius, this memory, this conception, this happy art of embracing, in the bosom of his inhealth, wholly to the world, do you derive gratitude, the present and the future; the fafrom these very sermons sanction for an indo- vours already received, and those which are lence and a delay, which the very idea of those yet to come. "I will be ungrateful beforehand. talents ought to correct? If this be not wrest- I will, from this instant, misuse the favours I ing the Scriptures, if this be not offering vio- have not as yet received. In each of my acts lence to religion, and subverting the design of of vice, I will recollect and anticipate the fathe Spirit in the discovery of our natural weak-vours which God shall one day give; and I ness, and the promised aids of grace, we must will derive, from this consideration, a fresh be proof against the most palpable demonstra- motive to confirm myself in revolt, and to sin tion.
with assurance." Is not this extreme of corEnough, I think, has been said, to establish ruption and ingratitude the most detestable? our first proposition, that the aids of God's But it is not sufficient to attack this system Spirit confirm the necessity of discharging the by arguments of equity and decency; this would offices of piety, in order to acquire the habit; be to make of man a portrait too flattering, by and that the difficulties adduced, are all con- inducing a belief that he is sensible of motives verted into proofs, in favour of what they so noble. This would effect the wicked little seemed to destroy. These are also, according more than saying, you are very ungrateful if to us, the pure divinity, and the truths which you persist in vice. The author of our religion ought to resound in our protestant auditories. knew the human heart too well, to leave it Happy, indeed, were the doctors, if, instead of unopposed by the strongest banks. Let us multiplying questions and disputations, they extend our hypothesis, and demonstrate, that had endeavoured to press these important those who reason thus build upon false princitruths. O, my soul, lose not thyself in abstract ples, on assurance of mercy, to which they have and knotty speculations; fathom not the mys- no possible claim. Hence, to find a compasterious means which God adopts to penetrate sionate God, they must “ seek him while he the heart. “The wind bloweth where it list may be found, and call upon him while he is eth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but near.” canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it Here a scholastic method, and a series of goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” questions discussed in the schools, would perJohn jii. 8. “Pride goeth before destruction, haps be acceptable, did we address an auditory and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Prov. xvi. of learned doctors, ready to oppose us with 18.
“Before destruction the heart of man is their arguments and proofs. But we will not haughty, and before honour is humility,” xviii. disturb the repose of these disputes and con
ON THE DELAY OF CONVERSION. [SER. LXXXI. troversies; we will reduce all we have to ad-1 I confess, my brethren, that I discuss these vance to terms the most plain, and questions subjects with regret. I fear that those of other the most simple, and ask two things—Is the communions, who may be present in this asmercy of God offered in the gospel, offered ab- sembly, will be offended at this discourse; and solutely and without conditions. And if it publish, to the shame of the reformed churches, have prescribed conditions, are they of a na- that it is still a disputable point with us, wheture, to which you can instantaneously con-ther the renunciation of vice, and adherence to form on a death-bed, after having run a crimi- virtue, ought to be included in the notions of Ral career? Here is a second question. faith, and in the conditions we prescribe to
On the idea you may form of these ques- penitents. “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not tions, will depend the opinion you ought to in Askelon," 2 Sam. i. 20. There are ignorant have of a man, who clairs admission to the persons in every society: we have them also in throne of mercy, after a cissipated life. For our communion. There are members in each if the gospel is a definitive covenant, requiring denomination, who subvert the most generally nothing of man; or if its requisitions are so received principles of their profession: we also easy, that a wish, a tear, a superficial repent- have persons of this description. There are ance, a slight recourse to piety, is sufficient, none but captious men; none but fools: none your argument is demonstrative, and our mo- but degenerate protestants, presume to enterrality is too severe. Profi: by a religion so ac- tain those relaxed notions of faith and repentcommodating; cease to anticipate an awful fu- ance. turity; and reduce the whole gospel to mere A good protestant believes with our sacred request for grace. But, if the gospel is a con- authors, that" he who confesseth and forsaketh ditional covenant; and if the conditions on his sins, shall find mercy,” Prov. xxviii. 13. which grace is offered, are of a nature that re- That with God there is forgiveness, that he quire time, labour and application; and if the may be feared,” Ps. cxxx. 4." That God will conditions become impracticable, when deferred speak peace unto his people, and to his saints; too long, then your argument is false, and your but let them not turn again unto folly," Ps. conduct altogether absurd.
lxxxv. 8. A good protestant believes, that Now, my brethren, I appeal to the con- "faith without works is dead; that it worketh science of the most profligate sinners, and to by love; and that we are justified by works,” casuists minutely scrupulous. Can one ration- Jam. ii. 21–26. A good protestant believes, ally hesitate to decide on the two questions that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, in orAnd will it be difficult to prove, on the one der that men may bring forth fruits meet for rehand, that the gospel, in offering mercy, im- pentance,” Matt. iii. 3. 8. A good protestant poses certain duties; and, on the other, that we believes, that "there is no condemnation to reduce ourselves to an evident incapacity of those who walk not after the flesh, but after compliance, when conformity is deferred? the Spirit,” Rom. viii. 1, 2. That "sin shall
I. Say that the gospel is a definitive cove- not have dominion over us, because we are not nant, and you save us the trouble of attacking under the law, but under grace," Rom. vi. 14. and refuting an assertion which contradicts it- A good protestant believes, that "without hoself—for the very term covenant, implies a mu- liness no man shall see the Lord:” that "neitual contract between two parties; otherwise it ther fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, would overturn a thousand express testimonies nor effeminate, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor of Seripture, which we avoid reciting, because drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shail we presume they are well known to our au- enter the kingdom of God," 1 Cor. vi. 8, 9. dience.
If this were not the true definition of faith II. The whole question then is reduced to and repentance; if faith and repentance were a this, to know what are the stipulated condi- mere wish to participate of the merits of Jesus tions. We are all agreed as to the terms. Christ; if, in order to salvation, we had but to This condition is a disposition of the soul, ask grace, without subduing the corruptions of which the Scriptures sometimes call faith and the heart, what would the gospel be? I will sometimes repentance. Not to dwell on terms, venture to affirm, it would be the most impure we ask what is this faith, and what is this re- of all religions; it would be a monstrous econopentance, which opens access to the throne of my; it would be an invitation to crimes; it grace? In what do these virtues consist? Is the would be a subversion of the law of nature. whole implied in a simple desire to be saved? Under this supposition, the basest of men might In a mere desire to participate in the benefits have claims of mercy: the laws of God might of the passion of Jesus Christ? Or, if faith and be violated with impunity; Jesus Christ would repentance include, in their nature, the renun- not have descended from heaven, to save us ciation of the world, the forsaking of sin, a from our sins, but to console us in the commistotal change of life, an inward disposition, in-sion of crimes. A heathen, excluded from the ducing us to accept all the benefits procured by covenant of grace, would be checked in his riot the cross of Christ, does it not prompt us sin- by fears of the most tremendous punishment; a cerely, and with an honest mind, to detest the Christian, on the contrary, would be the more crimes which nailed him to it? In a word, is it encouraged to continue in sin, by the notion of sufficient for the penitent to say on a death-bed, a mercy ever ready to receive him. And you, “I desire to be saved; I acknowledge that my Celsus, you Porphyry, you Zosimus, you JoRedeemer has died for my sins;" or must he lian, celebrated enemies of the Christian name, subjoin to these confessions, sentiments propor- who once calumniated the infant church, who tioned to the sanctity of the salvation which he so frequently accused the first Christians with demands; and eradicate the crimes, for which authorizing licentiousness, you had reason to Jesus Christ has made atonement?
complain, and we have nothing to reply. So