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teristics of incorrigible sinners, and to inquire what there is in their condition to excite the solicitude and sympathy of Jesus Christ.
In the first place, I am to specify somB OP THE MORE OBVIOUS CHARACTERISTICS OP INCORRIGIBLB MBN. It
may be some such have come up to the house of God this evening : and yet I am not about to be so presumptuous as to pretend to lift the veil, and predict who of all this assembly will be finally rejected of God. This God alone can, or has a right to do. He could disclose to us who, as he looks over these seats, and tell us before the time who, of all this people, will remain unmoved and incorrigible to the last. He could tell us where they sit; and to what families they belong, and what business they follow, and their age, and name: and, if we mistake not, it is easy for us to see, that there are several classes of people, who, to say the least, are greatly exposed to unyielding impenitence, and who give fearful indication of final ruin. This
may be affirmed, in the first instance, of men of a sceptical turn of mind. Such men are very apt never to become pious. They are not absolutely infidels; but they have a very unsettled state of mind. When their consciences are oppressed, and the truth of God perplexes them, they find relief in doubt and uncertainty. They are not sure that one religion is not as good as another, and have not made up their minds whether all that is said about vital godliness and a change of heart is true. When they are alarmed, and partially convinced of their sins, they run from their convictions into some soul-destroying error, and come as near as they can to infidelity: and then, again, when their convictions pass away, for the sake of satisfying their consciences they go back to the plain truths of the Bible. And thus they vacillate between truth and error, so that it is difficult to the last degree to arrest and impress their minds, and altogether very improbable that they will ever become the children of God.
Another class of persons who are rarely made the subjects of grace, are those of notoriously loose and vicious habits. The man whose habits are secretly vicious, is far enough from the probable sphere of divine grace. But the man whose pleasures are professedly low and grovelling, who has, for example, become the prey of intemperance, or of impetuous and licentious passions, and whose unrestrained propensities goad him on to unblushing crime, already bears the mark of premature ruin. The conscience of such a man is necessarily benumbed and seared, and the best feelings of his soul are prostrated. Those natural and generous sentiments on which the Spirit of God usually operates, are so far destroyed; that even now he seems a vessel of wrath, fitted to destruction.
It may also be remarked, that men who are in the habit of making light of sacred things, and trifling with God, seldom become men of piety. If they can scoff at religion, if they can deride its conscientious disciples, there is little reason to believe they will ever become its disciples themselves. A shrewd observer of human nature remarks, “ Men may alter, and become that which they hate, but not often do they become that which they despise." If you see a man who can boast of his profanity, who can glory in turning the Sabbath into a day of business or amusement, who blesses God that he is no Christian, and no hypocrite; you may greatly fear that he will carry his contempt of
divine things to his dying pillow, and never become fit for the kingd m of God.
In the same melancholy multitude are likewise found, all those who are ardently and eagerly attached to the world. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for such persons to become the followers of Jesus Christ. If they are rich, they have too much to forsake ; if they are poor, they have too much to gain. Excessive worldliness, merely, will probably drown them in destruction and perdition. They will be apt to indulge themselves in fraud and falsehood, in duplicity and management that are inconsistent with Christian rectitude. They will be very apt to hold unlawful gains, or pursue an unlawful business ; and it will cost them too much to forsake all and follow Christ. And even though they be men of acknowledged integrity, yet when wealth is the object that fills the eye, and fires the heart, and engrosses the thoughts, and employs the hands, and occupies the time-O how little reason is there to hope that they will lay up treasure in heaven!
There is another class of men who exhibit fearful symptoms of deep degeneracy, and they are those whose chosen companions are the guilty enemies of God and all righteousness. Men cannot habitually associate with those who are destitute of all moral principle, and have no fear of God before their eyes, without partaking of their character. Eternal Truth has declared, “ He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but the companion of fools shall be destroyed."
Those persons also give strong indications of being incorrigible, who have become hardened under religious privileges. The truth of God is generally quick and rapid in its saving influence upon the souls of men. It is much more likely that a man will become pious during the first year of a serious attention on faithful preaching, than that he will ever become pious after having sat under faithful preaching for a series of years. Such persons have no serious, tender susceptibility of soul : instruction does not teach them; admonitions and reproofs will not move them; mercy and judgment do not move them. Of all these God has said, “ He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Still more hopeless are those who have outlived conviction, and resisted the Holy Spirit. I have seen many such persons, and after the progress of years they appeared to be abandoned to incorrigible obstinacy. Where the Spirit of God has been again and again rebutted and grieved away, and the mind is left unconcerned, it usually plunges deeper and deeper in stupidity and guilt. Especially is this apt to be the case, where persons have survived three or four powerful revivals of religion without being reconciled to God: when divine, influence has been descending around them, like showers, and amid all the living verdure they have remained like barren trees, and cumberers of the ground, there is too much reason to apprehend the severe denunciation against the barren fig-tree, “ No fruit grow on thee henceforward and for ever."
There is one class of persons more whose condition is as hopeless as that of any we have mentioned; I mean, the hypocrite and self-deceiver. They are those who, if they deceive others, are under strong temptation to deceive themselves; and if they deceive others, they will probably cling to their delusions. Very few are farther from the prospect of heaven than these ; nor is it probable
they will be roused from their dream, except hy the voice of the archangel and the trump of God.
Persons of this general description, like the Jews over whom the Saviour wept, appear to be the incorrigible enemies of God. We say not that they are beyond the reach of mercy; but who would venture to express any very strong expectation that they will ever become the humble followers of Jesus Christ ? Who rather does not often fear, that he shall one day see them fall into the hands of an angry God? It was the certainty, nay, the near prospect of this, that excited that solicitude and tenderness to which our text refers, in the conduct of Christ, when he drew near to Jerusalem and wept over it.
« Unto you
We proceed, therefore, in the second place, to inquire, WHAT THERB 18 IN THE CONDITION OP SUCH PERSONS TO EXCITB THB SYMPATHY AND SOLFCITUDE OP CHRI8T,
Christ is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." His heart is as kind and affectionate, and as full of compassion now, as when he bled on the cross, and prayed for his murderers. The same spirit which led him to weep over Jerusalem eighteen hundred years ago, would lead him now, if he were on earth, to weep over incorrigible sinners wherever they are found. Nor are there wanting, beloved hearers, causes for this solicitude, whatever view we take of the character or condition of such incorrigible men.
One of these is, their determined rejection of offered mercy. This, dear hearers, was the grief of the Saviour as he wept over Jerusalem. The Jews were his peculiar people; his kindred according to the flesh. first,” says the Apostle Peter, “ God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." But, “ He came unto his own, and his own received him.” · No, they would not receive him. Jesus himself knew this; he felt it: it was like a dagger to his heart; and when he thought of them he wept. So it is with all incorrigible men; deliberately and to the last they reject the Son of God : nothing will persuade them to accept his offered mercy: they will not come to him that they might have life. They neither desire nor are willing to receive the salvation of the Gospel. They hate and despise the person and the truth of the Redeemer; and, though offered on the most reasonable terms, they refuse to accept his mercy. And never is the Saviour so much grieved as when he is thus rejected. For his love they are his enemies. Him they reject, who, from compassion to our own ruined race, left the bosom of his Father, emptied himself of his glory, became a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and died on the cross. He invites them to the arms of his mercy; he pledges them a warm and welcome reception to the bosom of his love; but they will not
There is nothing in his person, there is nothing in his truth, there is nothing in this joyful sound of pardon and peace through the blood of his great atonement, there is nothing in the promise of eternal life to engage their affections, or charm or subdue their obduracy. Well is he represented as weeping over such sinners. Never does he consider himself treated with such foul ingratitude and indignity, as when men thus despise the offers of his love. He might be incensed with displeasure; he might be irritated with indignation : but it is much for his amiable and beloved character to be wounded and grieved.
He laments over their blindness; he weeps over their infatuation; and, if it were not in vain, would still cry, “ Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Again, Christ weeps over them for their perversion of the means of grace. It was this that drew tears from his eyes, and lamentation from his tongue, as he stood over that ill-fated city. Time was when they might have been the holiest and happiest men on the earth; but they had abused and misimproved all the means of grace and salvation ; and now their day of grace was past, and their opportunity of repentance bad come to an end. And, dear hearers, what more affecting consideration can address itself to the heart of infinite love, as he surveys the melancholy condition of incorrigible sinners, than this ? The Sabbaths that might have smiled with mercy, and that might have sanctified and fitted them for heaven, are gone. The sermons that once interested them, and almost persuaded them to be Christians, and that might have become the means of God to salvation, have left them senseless and hard as a stone. The goodness that once moved and melted them has now lost all its charms, and seeks to win them in vain. The judgments that once agitated them with terror, and that might have appalled and subdued their obduracy, now only irritate and confirm their iin penitence. The hopes that once began to dawn upon their minds, and that might have thrown a soft and composing light over their mourning, are now turned to presumption or despair. The Spirit of God, which once filled them with all the bitterness of remorse, and all the restless anxieties of conscious guilt, and that might bave made their bodies temples for himself to dwell in, has gone out from these chambers of wickedness, and left them empty, swept and garnished for the repossession of some foul spirit, who has entered in and dwells there. The very means best calculated to awaken, and convince, and save them, have the most served to harden and destroy thein : instead of being a “ savour of life unto life," they have become “ the savour of death unto death.” Instead of finding some avenue to their hearts, they have shut them, and locked them fast for ever. Instead of dissolving, they have only rivetted and made it more immoveable. And under all these kind and powerful influences, they have gone farther from light and farther from heaven.
And tell me, who would not weep? What more affecting spectacle beside the abodes of despair, than an immortal being thus abandoned to the only means of holiness and heaven, and given up to undisturbed and irretrievable repose in sin? Opportunities of the sweetest promise are fled, never to return. All the means and motives in the richest treasury of heaven are exhausted : and this heir of immortality is miserable and poor; his mind is blighted and barren : the sun has risen upon him, the rains have descended; but it is desolate, it is burnt over, never to be reclaimed: and these invaluable means of salvation are now probably taken away and given to others. And what wonder if the bitter lamentation should be wrung from the Saviour’s bosom, as he beholds these, his incorrigible enemies : “ () that thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace: but now they are lid from thine eyes!"
Another source of the Saviour's commiseration is, their utterly depraved character. Their rejection of the Gospel, and their abuse of the means of grace
and salvation, have exerted a powerful and mournful effect upon their state of inind. It is not enough to say that they have become exceedingly sinful, because this is true of all mankind. Not only are they like other men, dead in trespasses and sins, but they are, as it were, entombed in and putrescent with iniquity. Not only is every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts evil, only evil continually, but it is under the worst direction, and beyond control. They conduct themselves like men who rush on in their courses of iniquity with absolute recklessness: their wickedness is become depraved and incurable, 80 that nothing will ever alter or ameliorate it. And need I say that the benevolent and holy Saviour looks down upon such a collection of his creatures with compassion ? O it is a mournful survey; and the sight affecteth his heart: and he feels much as he felt when he came within sight of Jerusalem, and turned his thoughts towards that polluted city, that sink of corruption, those depths of disgrace and ignominy, that mass of fermenting iniquity, whose heavy exhalations were constantly ascending towards heaven. O “ how has the gold become dim, and the fine gold changed!" How is this beautiful vase dashed and broken! How is the soul, that image of its Maker, that ray from the eternal fountain of intelligence and love-debased, defiled, despoiled, and undone! Ah! how melancholy and affecting the view to see the immortal mind thus poisoned and ruined, without a symptom of reformation or hope of recovery ! I know it is true that the Son of God looks upon sin with abhorrence; but it is also true that he looks upon it with pity. He contemplates the character of an incorrigible sinner much as an anxious father, for example, would reflect on the character and course of a heedless, prodigal son, who had turned his back on God, and had given himself up to corruption and disgrace. He would be displeased and irritated ; but O, most of all would he be depressed, and weep.
And let us not forget with what peculiar emotions Jesus Christ looks on sin, and how much more afflicting it is to him than to any other being in the universe. Do good men sometimes feel grieved and oppressed, and are they sometimes surprised with feelings of solicitude when they pass over portions of this corrupt earth, and behold scenes which sink and degrade the character of their fellow-men? What, then, must be the feelings of that holy Saviour, before whom the heavens are not clean, when he reflects upon the iniquity of the incorrigible sinner! He alone appreciates it: he alone measures its turpitude ; and full well he knows how to weep over it. Long before the world began it affected his mind, and laid heavy upon his heart. The spirit that brought him from the throne of heaven to the shame and infarny of our nature, to the cross and the grave, is peculiarly fitted to feel for their guilty, perishing character. Amid all the reproofs and threatenings that have dropped from his lips, he has never lost his tenderness for them; he has borne with them from year to year, and from age to age, and bears with them still. All that infinite wisdom and love could constantly do to shew them their transgressions, and induce them to wash in the fountain of atoning blood, he has done. And now to see them so vile and degraded, and after all that he has done, wrapped in sin, 0 it breaks his heart : he weeps over them: and many a time even now, exalted and glorified as he is, would he retire from the honours and praises of his throne, to some celestial bower in Paradise, and weep, if tears could melt the adamantine hearts of his incorrigible enemies.