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many are the reflections, so many the proofs, will work the like miracle in your favour? Say that the faith and repentance, without which rather, how many presumptive arguments are we can find no access to the throne of grace in opposed in the first part of our discourse to a a dying hour, consist not in a simple desire to hope so preposterous. be saved, in a superficial recourse to the merits We conclude, that nothing is so doubtful as of Jesus Christ; they include, in their notion, | a tardy repentance; that nothing is so unwise the renunciation of the world, the abandoning as the delay of conversion.
We farther conof our crimes, and the renovation of heart, of clude, that, in order to receive the aids of which we have just spoken; and, that, without grace, we must live in continual vigilance; in this faith, there is no grace, no mercy, no sal- order to become the objects of mercy, we must vation.
have both repentance and faith; and the only I know that there are tender conversions; sure tests of having these virtues, is a long that faith has degrees; that piety has a begin- course of pious offices. In the ordinary course ning; that a Christian has his infancy; and that, of religion, without a miracle of mercy, a man at the tribunal of a merciful God, the sincerity who has wasted his life in sin, whatever sighs of our repentance will be a substitute for its he may send to heaven at the hour of death, perfection. But do you call that a growing has cause to fear that all access to mercy will conversion, do you denominate that faith, do be cut off. you take that for repentance, which is the re- All these things appear very clear, my bremorse of a conscience alarmed, not by abhor- thren; nevertheless, the wicked love to deceive rence of sin, but the fear of punishment; not by themselves; they affect rationally to believe the a principle of divine love, but a principle of things of which they are only persuaded by ca. self-love; not by a desire to be united to God, price; and they start objections, which it is of but by horror, excited by the idea of approach- importance to resolve; with this view we proing death, and the image of devouring fire? ceed to apply the whole of this discourse. Farther, is it not true, that to what degree so
APPLICATION. ever we may carry evangelical condescension, it is always evident, that faith and repentance We find people who readily say, that they include, in their notion, the principles, at least, cannot comprehend these things; that they canof detachment from the world, of renunciation not imagine the justice of God to be so severe of vice, and the renovation of heart, the neces- as we have insisted; and the conditions of the sity of which we have pressed.
new covenant to be so rigorous as we have afThis being established, it seems to me that firmed. truth is triumphant; having proved how little What are the whole of these objections but ground a man, who delays conversion, has to suppositions without foundation, and frivolous rely on the mercy of God, and expect salva- conjectures? “There is but an appearance: I tion. For, after having lived in negligence, by cannot imagine: I cannot conceive.” Would what unknown secret would you form in the you, on suppositions of this nature, risk your soul the repentance and faith we have describ- reputation, your honour, your fortune, your ed, without which, access to the mercy of God life? Why, then, risk your salvation? is excluded? Whence would you derive these The justice of God is, perhaps, not so rigovirtues From your own strength, or from the rous, you say, as we have affirmed. It is true, operations of the Holy Spirit? Do you say from that it may be so. If God have, by himself, your own strength? What then becomes of some covenant of grace not yet revealed; if he your orthodoxy? What becomes of the doc- should have some new gospel; if God have preirine of human weakness, and of the neces- pared some other sacrifice, your conjectures sity of grace; of which pretext you avail your- may be right. But if "there is no name under selves to defer conversion? Do you not per- heaven whereby we can be saved, but that of ceive how you destroy your own principles, our Jesus,” Acts iv. 12; if there is no other and sap with one hand, what you build with blood than that shed by this divine Saviour; if the other?
“God shall judge the world according to my Recollect farther what we established in our gospel,” Rom. ii. 16; then your arguments fail, first discourse on the force of habits. And how and your salvation is hopeless. can you presume that a habit formed by a thou- Farther, what sort of reasoning is this? sand acts; a habit in which a man has grovel- "There is but an appearance: I cannot conled and grown old, should be changed in a mo- ceive: I cannot imagine.” And who are you ment? How can you dream that a man who that reason in this way? Are you Christians? has wasted so many years in sin; a man accus- Where then is that faith, which ought to subtomed to regard the world as lois portion, and jugate reason to the decision of revelation, and virtue not as valuable, except as a final re- which admits the most abstract doctrines, and source; how can you think that such a man the most sublime mysteries! If you are allowed should be converted in a moment! Ah! and in to talk in this way, to reply when God speaks, what circumstances in an expiring old age, to argue when he decides, let us establish a new when the senses are dulled, when the memory religion; let us place reason on the throne, and fails, when reason is disturbed with reverie, and make faith retire. The doctrine of the Trinity when the vivacity of nature is extinguished, or obstructs my thought, the atonement confounds indeed, on the approaches of death, wlien the me, the incarnation presents precipices to me, mere idea of“ the king of terrors," agitates, af- in which my reason is absorbed. If you are frights, and confounds hini? Nothing then, disposed to doubt of the doctrines we have admost assuredly, but the extraordinary grace of vanced, under a pretext that you cannot comthe Holy Spirit can convert such a man. But prehend them, then discard the other doctrines; what assurance have you that the Holy Spirit I they are not less incomprehensible.
I will go farther still; I will venture to af- thing mercy with you, but that which permits firm, that if reason must be consulted on the a universal' inundation of vice? portrait we have drawn of God's justice, it per- You still say, if the conditions of the new fectly accords with revelation. Thou canst covenant are such as you have laid down, it is not conceive how justice should be so rigorous; then an arduous task to become a Christian, and I cannot conceive how it sbould be so in- and consequently very difficult to obtain salvadulgent. I cannot conceive how the Lord of tion. But do you think, my brethren, that we the universe should be clothed with human are discouraged at the difficulty? Know you flesh, should expose himself to an infuriated not, that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the populace, and expire on a cross; this is the way, that leadeth unto life?" Matt. vii. 14. greatest difficulty I find in the gospel. But be know you not, that we must "pluck out the thou silent, imperious reason; here is a satisfac- eye, and cut off the hand?” ver. 29. Surtory solution. Join the difficulty which thou mount the most dear and delicate propensities; findest in the administration of justice, with dissolve the ties of tiesh and blood, of nature that which proceeds from thy notion of mercy; and self-attachment. Know you not, that we the one will correct the other. The supera- must“crucity the old man, and deny ourselves.” bundance of mercy will rectify the severity of xvi. 24. Know you not, that “we must add justice; for the severity of justice proceeds from to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to the superabundance of mercy.
knowledge patience, to patience brotherly kindIf the people who talk in this manner; if ness, to brotherly kindness charity, and to chathe people who find the divine justice too se- rity godliness," 2 Pet. i. 5. vere; if they were a people diligently labour- But you add, that few persons will then be ing to promote their own salvation; if they de- saved; another objection we little fear, though, voted an hour daily to the work, the difficulty perhaps, it would have been unanswerable, had would be plausible, and they would have ap- not Jesus Christ himself taught us to reply.parent cause of complaint. But who are these But is this a new gospel? Is it a new doctrine complainants? They are people who throw the to say, that few shall be saved? Has not Jesus reins to their passions; who glory in their infa- Christ himself declared it I will address mymous intrigues; who are implacable in hating self, on this subject, to those who understand their neighbour, and resolved to hate him dur- the elucidation of types. I will adduce one ing life: they are votaries of pleasure, who type, a very distinguished type, a type not spend half the night in gaming, in drunken- equivocal but terrific; it is the unhappy multiness, in theatres, and take from the day the lude of Israel, who murmured against God, part of the night they have devoted to dissipa- after being saved from the land of Egypt.tion: they are proud, ambitious men, who, un- The object of their journey was Canaan. Deut. der a pretext of having sumptuous equipage, i. 35, 36. God performed innumerable miraand dignified titles, fancy themselves autho- cles to give them the land; the sea opened and rized to violate the obligations of Christianity gave them passage; bread descended from heawith impunity. These are the people, who, ven to nourish them; water issued from the when told if they persist in this way of life, deaf rock to quench their thirst. There was that they cannot be saved, reply, that they can- but one in which they failed; they never ennot conceive how the justice of God should tered into Canaan: there were but two adults, treat them with such severity. And I, for my among all these myriads, who found admission. own part, cannot conceive how God should What is the import of this type? The very treat you so indulgently; I cannot conceive thing to which you object. The Israelites rehow he should permit the sun to enlighten present these hearers; the miracles represent thee. I cannot conceive how he, who holds the efforts of Providence for your salvation; the thunder in his hand, can apparently be an Canaan is the figure of paradise, for which you idle spectator of thy sacrileges. I cannot con- hope, and Caleb and Joshua alone were admitceive how the earth does not open beneath thy ted into the land, which so many miracles had feet, and, by its terrific jaws, anticipate the apparently promised to the whole nation. What punishment prepared in hell for thee by the do these shadows adumbrate to the Christian divine vengeance.
world? My brethren, I do not dare to make You say again, that this mercy, of which the application. I leave with you this object we draw so magnificent a portrait, is conse- for contemplation; this terrific subject for seriquently very circumscribed. But say rather, ous reflection. how is it that you dare to start difficulties of But you still ask, “why do you preach to us this nature? God, the blessed God, the Supreme such awful doctrine? li subverts religion; it Being, has formed you of nothing; has given drives people to despair." Great risk, indeed, you bis Son, has offered you his Spirit, has and imminent danger of driving to despair, the promised to bear with you such as you are, men whom I attack! Suppress the poison, rewith all your intirmilies, with all your corrup- move the dagger, exclude the idea of death tions, with all your weakness; has opened to from the mind, until the recollection of their you the gates of beaven; and being desirous to sins shall drive them to the last extremity:give you himself, he requires no return, but the But why? The characters whom we have deconsecration to him of your few remaining scribed, those nominal men of apathy, those indays on earth; he excludes none from paradise, dolent souls, those hearts sold to the world and but hardened and impenitent inen. How then, its pleasures, have they weak and delicate concan you say that the mercy of God is circum- sciences, which we ought to spare, and for scribed! What! is it imposible for God to be whom we ought to fear, lest the displays of dimerciful unless he reward your crimes? Is no- vine justice should produce effects too severe
and strong! Ah! unhappy people, even to a man is more than converted; and, in that mention difficulties this naturo. If you rash conclusion, you would have us offer him were already stretched on a dying bed; already the highest place in the mansions of the blessed. come to the close of a criminal course; if hell But wo, wo to those ministers, who, by a had opened beneath to swallow you up; if you cruel lenity, precipitate souls into hell, under had no resource but the last efforts of an ex- | the delusion of opening to them the gates of piring soul, then you would be worthy of pity. paradise. Wo to that minister, who shall be But you are yet alive; grace is offered; all the so prodigal of the favours of God. Instead avenues of repentance are open to you; “ the of speaking peace to such a man, “I would Lord may yet be found:” there is not one cry aloud; I would lift up my voice like a among you, but may call upon him with suc- trumpet; I would shout,”* Isa. lviii. 1. “I
Yet you devote the whole of life to the would thunder; I would shoot against him the world; you confirm the habits of corruption; arrows of the Almighty; I would make him and when we warn you, when we unmask your "suck the venom," Job vi. 4. Happy, if I turpitude, when we discover the abyss into might irradiate passions so inveterate; if I which you precipitate yourselves by choice, might save by fear; if I might pluck from the you complain that it is driving you to despair
! burning, a soul so hardened in sin. Would to God that our voice might be exalted But if, as it comrnonly occurs, this dying like thunder, and the brightness of our dis- man shall devote to his conversion but an excourse be as that which struck St. Paul on the hausted body, and the last sighs of expiring road to Damascus; prostrating you, like that life; wo, wo again, to that minister of the gosapostle, at the feet of the Lord! Would to pel, who, by a relaxed policy, shall, so to speak, God that the horrors of despair, and the fright- come to canonize this man, as though he had ful images of hell, might fill you with salutary died “the death of the righteous! Let no fear, inducing you to avoid it
! Would to God one ask, What would you do? Would you that your body might, from this moment, “ be trouble the ashes of the dead? Would you delivered to Satan, that the spirit might be drive a family to despair? Would you affix a saved in the day of the Lord,” i Cor. v. 3. brand of infamy on a house? --What would I
It rests with you, my brethren, to apply these do? I would maintain the interests of my truths; and to profit by the means which Pro- Master; I would act becoming a minister of vidence this day affords for your conversion. Jesus Christ; I would prevent your taking an If there yet remains any resources, any hopes anti-Christian death for a happy death; I would for the man who delays conversion, it is not profit by the loss I have now described; and with ministers of the gospel to point them out. hold up this prey of the devil as a terror to We are not the plenipotentiaries of our reli- the spectators, to the family, and to the whole gion; we are the ambassadors of Christ; we church. have explicit instructions, and our commission Would you know, my dear brethren, which prescribed. God requires that we publish his is the way to prevent such great calamities? covenant, that we promise you every aid of Would you know what is the accepted time to grace, that we open the treasures of mercy, implore forgiveness, and to derive the Holy that we lead you to heavenly places by the Spirit into your heart It is this moment, it is track, sprinkled with the blood of the Saviour now. “Seek ye the Lord while he may be of the world. But each of these privileges found.” Yes, he may be found to-day: he has conditions annexed, the nature of which may be found in this assembly; he may be you have heard.
Comply with them, repent, found under the word we are now speaking; give your conversion solid, habitual, and effec- he may be found under the exhortations we tive marks; then the treasures of grace are give in his name; he may be found in the reyours. But if you should persist in sin (to tell morse, the anguish, the emotions, excited in you truths to-day, which, perhaps, would be your hearts, and which say, on his behalf, useless to-morrow,) if you should persist dur-seek ye my face.” He may be found in your ing life, and till the approaches of death, and closets, where he offers to converse with you the horrors of hell shall extort from you protes in the most tender and familiar manner: he Lations of reform, and excite in you the sem- may be found among the poor, among the sick, blance of conversion, we cannot, without doing among those dying carcases, among those livviolence to our instructions, and exceeding our ing images of death, and the tomb, which solicommission, speak peace to your souls, and cit your compassion; and which open to you make you offers of salvation.
the way of charity that leads to God, who is These considerations must exculpate minis- charity itself. He may be found to-day, but ters of the gospel, who know how to maintain perhaps to-morrow he will be found no more. the majesty of their mission, and correspond Perhaps, to-morrow you may seek in vain; perwith their character. And if they exculpate haps, to-morrow your measure may be full; us not in your estimation, they will justify us, perhaps, to-morrow grace may be for ever at least, in the great day, when the most secret withdrawn; perhaps, to-morrow the sentence things shall be adduced in evidence. You are which must decide your eternal destiny shall not properly acquainted with our ministry.- be pronounced! You call us to the dying, who we know to have Åb! who can estimate the value of a mobeen wicked, or far from conforming to the ment so precious! Ah! who can compare his conditions of the new covenant. This wicked situation with the unhappy victims, that divine man, on the approach of death, composes him- vengeance has immolated in hell, and for whom self; he talks solely of repentance, of mercy, "time is no longer!” Ah! who, on withdrawand of tears. On seeing this exterior of con- i ing from this temple, instead of so much vain version, you would have us presume, that such conversation and criminal dissipation, would
not prostrate himself at the footstool of the Di- to-day in this pulpit. In illustrating the words vine Majesty; weeping for the past, reforming of the text, it was not sufficient that we demonthe present, and taking salutary precautions for strated, in our preceding discourses, from reathe future. Ah! who would not force him by son and Scripture, the folly of the sinner, who broken sighs, by fervent prayers, by torrents of delays his conversion; it was not sufficient that tears, never to depart! 'Who would not say, philosophy and religion have both concurred to and more with his heart than with his mouth, prove, that in order to labour successfully at “Stay with me, Lord; I will not let thee go, the work of salvation, we must begin in early until thou hast blessed me," Gen. xxxii. 20; life, in the time of health, and in the days of until thou hast vanquished my corruption, and youth. We will prove it by experience; we given me the earnest of my salvation. The will demonstrate it by sad tests and instances time of my visitation is almost expired; I see it, of the truths we have delivered; we will proI know it, I feel it; my conversion requires a duce to you awful declarations of the wrath of miracle; I ask this miracle of thee, and am re- heaven, which cry to you with a strong and solved to obtain it of thy compassion.
tender voice, “ Seek ye the Lord while he may My brethren, my dear brethren, we have no be found, call ye upon him while he is near." expressions sufficiently tender, no emotions suf- These witnesses, these tests, these examples ficiently pathetic, no prayers sufficiently fer- shall be adduced from persons, who once stood vent, to draw you to these duties. Let your in your present situation; acquainted with the zeal supply our weakness. If we have bran- will of God, warned by his servant, and living, dished before your eyes the sword of divine as St. Peter expresses himself, “at a period, in vengeance, it is not to destroy you, but to save which the long-suffering of God awaited them,” you; it is not to drive you to despair, but to in- 1 Pet. iii. 20. And you, even you, Christians, duce you “to sorrow after a godly sort, and must one day become what they now are, with a repentance not to be repented of," 2 awful examples of the wrath of God; eternal Cor. ji. 10. It is incumbent on each of you monuments of his indignation and vengeance; who hear, and regard what I say, to participate unless your eyes, opened by so much light, unin these advantages. May you, from the pre- í less your hearts, impressed by so many motives, sent moment, form a resolution to profit by an unless your consciences, alarmed by the dreadopportunity so precious. May the hour of your ful judgments of God, shall take measures to death, corresponding with the sincerity of your prevent the sentence, already prepared in his resolutions, and with the holiness of your lives, eternal counsels, and whose execution is at the open to you the gates of heaven, and enable door. you to find in glory that God, whom you shall But does it not seen
to you, my brethren, have found merciful in this church. God grant that we undertake a task too arduous, when you grace so to do. To Father, Son, and Holy we engage to prove, from experience, that the Spirit, be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
long-suffering of God is restricted; and that, by
delaying conversion, we risk the total frustraSERMON LXXXI.
tion of the work? You have already alleged, I am aware, an almost infinite number of sinners,
who apparently subvert our principles; so many ON THE DELAY OF CONVERSION. servants, called at the eleventh hour, so many PART III.
hearts, which grace has changed in a moment;
so many penitents, who, in the first essays of Isalah lv. 6.
repentance, have found the arms of mercy open;
and whose happy success consoles, to the preSeek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye sent hour, the imitators of their crimes. upon him while he is near.
We shall hear your reasons, before we proEXPERIENCE, my brethren, is a great teacher; pose our own. We would leave nothing beit is a professor which adduces clear, solid, and hind, which might occasion a mistake, in which indisputable proofs. Reason is an admirable it is so dangerous to be deceived. Our disendowment, given us as a guide in our re- course shall turn on these two points: first, we searches after truth. Revelation has been happi- shall examine the cases of those sinners which ly added to reason, to correct and guide it; but seem to favour the conduct of those who delay both have their dificulties. Reason is circum- conversion; then we shall allege, in the second scribed, its views are confined, its deviations place, those which confirm our principle, and frequent; and the false inferences we perceive make a direct attack on security and delay. it deduces, render doubtful its most clear and I. We shall examine the case of those sinevident conclusions. Revelation, however ve- ners, which seem to militate against what we nerable its tribunal, however infallible its de- have advanced in the preceding discourses. cisions, “is foolishness," says the apostle, “to All that we then advanced, may be comprised the natural man;" it is exposed to the glosses under two heads. We said, first, that in order of erroneous crítics, to the difficulties of here to acquire the habit of piety, there was but one tics, and the contradictions of infidels. But way, the daily exercise of all its duties. We experience is without exception; it speaks to affirmed, secondly, that the period of mercy, the heart, to the senses, and the understand is restricted; and that we risk a total exclusion ing; it neither reasons nor debates, but carries when we offer to God only the last groans of conviction and proof. It so commands the expiring life. We founded our first proposition consent of the Christian, the philosopher, and on the force of habits, and on the nature of the even the atheist, that nothing but mental de Holy Spirit's economy, who, for the most part, rangement can revoke its decisions in doubt. abandons to their own turpitude, those that re
This is the grand instructer that must preach sist his grace. This was the subject of our first sermon, and the second part of the other. We power, which converted them in a moment? established our second proposition on the new | Why should I make myself a perpetual martyr covenant, which offers us mercy, solely on con- to forward a work, which one of those happy dition of repentance, faith, and the love of God; moments shall perfectly consummate? These consequently, which renders dubious the state are the first difficulties, and the first examples, of those, who have not bestowed upon those you adduce. virtues, the time adequate to their acquisition. You oppose, in the second plea, the case of These are the two principal heads, which com- those sinners, who, after committing the greatprise all that we have advanced upon this sub- est crimes, have found, on the first efforts of ject.
repentance, the arms of mercy open for their You may also oppose to us two classes of reception. 'Of this class, there are many in the examples. In the first class you may arrange Scriptures; the principal are that of David; those instantaneous conversions and changes, that of St. Peter; that of St. Paul; and that of which grace has effectuated in a moment by a the converted thief, which has a nearer consingle stroke; and which apparently destroy nexion with our subject than any of the others. what we have advanced on the force of habits, | These are names, which the wicked have conand the nature of the economy of the Holy tinually in their mouths; and it must be acSpirit. In the second class, you will put those knowledged, that they are distinguished monuother sinners, who, after the perpetration of ments of divine mercy. It would seem that enormous crimes, have obtained remission by a you may deduce from them this consequence, sign, by a prayer, by a few tears; and who af- that to whatever degree you may have carried ford presumptive hopes, that to whatever ex- vice, there is some ground to expect pardon cess we may have carried our crimes, we shall and salvation. never exceed the terms of mercy, or obstruct After so many examples of divine mercy, reception at the throne of grace. Let us con- sinners will readily say, how is it that you sider the difficulties which may be drawn from alarm us with so many fears? Why draw so both these sources.
many terrific portraits of the justice of God? You adduce first those sudden conversions, And why exclude the sinner, however corrupt, those instantaneous changes on the spot, with from the throne of grace? I who may have a out difficulty, labour, and repeated endeavours. secret intrigue, scarcely suspected, very far of this class, we have various examples in from being known to the world, shall I have Scripture. We have Simon, we have Andrew, more difficulty in obtaining mercy than David, we have James the son of Zebedee, and most who committed adultery in the face of all Isof the apostles, whom Jesus Christ found cast- rael? I who may ve absented myself for a ing their nets into the sea, and engaged in the time from the true church, shall I have more humble trade of fishing, or collecting the tri- difficulty in obtaining mercy than_St. Paul, bute; and who were instantaneously, and on the who persecuted the saints; or St. Peter, who spot, endued with divine thoughts, new desires, openly denied his Master, and in his Master's and heavenly propensities; who, from the mean- presence? I who have not directly robbed, but est artisans became the heralds of the gospel; have been contented with acquiring goods by formed the noble design of conquering the uni- means clandestine indeed, but at the same time verse, and subjugating the whole world to the sanctioned by example, by custom, by the empire of their Master.
usages of fraud, and art; by palliated lies, and With this class, may also be associated the oaths contrary to truth, but essential in the example of Zaccheus; who seems to have been employment to which I am providentially callrenovated in a moment, and to have reformeded; shall I be more culpable than the converton the spot, and without the previous duties ed thief who robbed on the highway? What of piety, a passion the most obstinate, which should hinder me then from following those grows with age, and from which scarcely any personages in vice during life, reserving time one is converted. He assumed a language un- to throw myself into the arms of mercy, and heard of in the mouth of a merchant, and es- imitate their repentance, in my last hours. pecially a covetous merchant: “The half of Have you, sinners, said enough? Are these my goods I give to feed the poor; and if I have all your hidden things of dishonesty, and all the taken any thing from any man by false accusa- frivolous pretences in which you are cradled tion, I restore him fourfold,” Luke xix. 8. To by the demon of security? See then to what the same class you may add those thousands tends your religion, and the use you make of of persons who changed their faith and reform- our Scriptures. The Holy Spirit has there ed their lives, on the first preaching of the delineated the lives of those illustrious men apostles.
who once were vessels of honour in the Lord's After so many trophies erected to the power house; he has "surrounded you with a cloud of grace, what becomes of your arguments, you of witnesses,” for animation in your course, say, on the force of habits, on the genius of the by the example of men like yourselves, who Holy Spirit's economy? Who will dare to main- have finished it with joy. He has also left lain, after the adduction of these that habits of you a history of their defects, to excite you to piety may not be acquired without labour, fa- vigilance, saying to every sinner, take care, if tigue, and the duties of devotion? Why may I those distinguished saints stumbled, what will not promise myself, after devoting the most of thy fall be when thou shalt relax? If those my life to pleasure, to have the same power main pillars have been shaken, what has not over my heart as Zaccheus, the apostles, and the bruised reed to fear? If the cedars of Lefirst converts to Christianity? Why may I not banon have been ready to tumble, what shall expect the irradiations which enlightened, the be the destiny of the hyssop of the wall? To aids which attracted, and the omnipotent I those reflections you are deaf; and to deceive