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ery, it may be, they will despair of mercy too. But it is by no means certain that they will have such a warning. Death may come by surprize. And should they have ever so much warning, still if they remain of the same dilatory and self-flattering spirit, death will come by surprize, because they do not expect it. The suddenness of death is owing, not so much to the manner in which it comes, as to the temper of the person on whom it comes. “He that being often reproved, hardens his heart, will suddenly be destroyed,” let destruction come how it may. The only way to prevent a sudden death, is to live in expectation of death and in readiness for it. If a servant say in his heart, my Lord delays his coming, and thus encourage himself to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink and be drunken, the Lord of that servant will come at a time when he looks not for him, and at an hour, when he is not aware, and will appoint his portion with unbelievers. But blessed are the servants, whom the Lord, when he comes, shall find watching and doing the work appointed them. And whether he come in the second or third watch and find them so, blessed are those servants.
5. Our text intimates that when death comes, the sinner will have different apprehensions of things from what he had before. “ Madness is in his heart, while he lives”-no longer. Death will awaken him from his dreams and bring him to his senses, open his eyes and restore him to his sight.
When he comes to the verge of life, stands on the brink of eternity, and sees death behind ready to push him headlong into the gulf of wo, if he then have his reason, he will be convinced, that madness was in his heart while he lived. He will have different views of sin—of the world—of his vain pleasures and amusements—of the value of time-of the worth of his soul, and the importance of religion; and will be amazed that he had not such views before. And yet his new views, instead of leading him to repentance, may urge him to despair. Who can conceive the distressed condition of an awakened, but hopeless sinner, lying on a death-bed, and looking into eternity ? “Now he thinks of nothing, but that he is going to appear before his Judge, and receive the just rewards of his wickedness. He sees the Judge already clothed with wrath, and forms in his tormented breast the whole process of the last judgment. If he sleep, he dreams of judgment and condemnation ; and when he wakes, he believes his dreams forebode his fate. Thus restless and uneasy, thus void of comfort and hope, without faith to receive pardon, or confidence to ask it, does the wretched sinner sometimes expire, and see his hope expire before him."
But whatever may be the sinner's apprehension on a death-bed, it is certain that when he is gone to the dead—when he finds himself in the world of punishment, he will be sensible, that sin was madness—that time was precious—that repentance was wisdom, and delay was presumption—that the world was vain, and his soul of infinite value. How anxious was the rich man in torments for the salvation of his brethren, though, while he lived, he had no concern for his own. How earnestly will some plead for admission into heaven, after the door is shut, though they took no thought for an entrance, while the door was open. Esau, for one morsel of meat, sold his birth-right, and aliénated the blessing which accompanied it; but afterward, when the blessing was gone, he sought it with tears. This example the apostle improves as a warning to us, that we despise not our privileges and opportunies, but look diligently lest we fail of the grace of God.
We have illustrated the serious thoughts suggested in the text, and will now subjoin some reflections, and conclude.
1. It is very obvious, that the recovery of a sinner to a virtuous and holy temper and life cannot lie merely with himself, but must be a work of divine grace. Madness does not, in its own nature, tend to reason, nor does vice tend to virtue. And if the hearts of the sons men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts, they will not come to themselves without a divine motion, nor fill their own hearts with good, without a heavenly influence. As a man who is mad will not argue himself into a sound mind, so neither will a man whose heart is full of evil, originate in himself an effectual opposition to this evil. If he has in him a prevailing inclination to sin, he has not at the same time a prevailing inclination to holiness and virtue. So that the recovery of every habitual sinner must depend on some influence foreign to himself. He needs doctrinal instructions, providential warnings, and internal excitements, to put him on the use of any means for obtaining a better disposition of mind; and he needs the grace of God to give efficacy to the means and to form in him the good disposition. The apostle speaks of the new creature as God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works.
2. It is matter of great thankfulness, that God has placed sinners under a possibility and hope of being recovered from their dangerous malady. He has given them his holy word—has appointed the stated preaching of this word-sends them the private admonitions of friends-warns them by solemn events in his providence, and strives with them by the motions of his Spirit. And however incapable they are of themselves to effect their own recovery; yet under these advantages they may do something—they may apply the means in their hands; and in the diligent application of these means they may hope for those energies of divine grace, which will renew them to a sound mind.
3. As the madness of sinners is of the moral kind; as it consists not in the want, but in the perversion of reason, so they are subjects of reproofs, counsels and instructions. It is therefore our duty to address ourselves to them in these ways, that we may bring them to a right use of their reason. It is the direction of the apostle, “Exhort one another daily, while it is called to day, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.' If we would be faithful to warn and rebuke the ungodly, we doubtless might reclaim some. And he that converteth a sinner from the error of his ways, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. If a neighbor should lose his reason, we should look upon him with pity, and should spare no means in our power which had a hopeful tendency to his recovery, even though the success might be doubtful. But are there not some, who are under a more dangerous insanity? Let us not forget these. Of some have compassion, making a difference; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.
4. What reason have many to be thankful for affliction-for sickness-for poverty-for worldly disappointment. How often are these the means of bringing mad sinners to their reason. The prodigal who went away from his father, and spent his substance in riotous living, was brought to himself by means of a mighty famine, which reduced him to want and distress. When sinners are holden in cords of affliction, God opens their ears to instruction. It is of great importance that they attend to the admonitions of Providence and the excitements of the Spirit. If hereby they are brought to any sober and rational sentiments, there is hope that they may recover themselves from their dangerous malady. Let them seek an acquaintance with themselves; know the plague of their hearts; reflect on the madness of their past life; contemplate the fatal consequence of continuing in it; cultivate the hopeful beginnings which appear; avoid whatever might plunge them again into their distracted state, and commend themselves to the grace of God which is able to heal their souls and give them perfect soundness. If after they have begun to emerge from a state of folly and madness, through the knowledge of the truth, they should relapse into it, the latter end will be worse with them than the beginning.
UNREASONABLE DEMANDS IN RELIGION EXPOSED AND CONDEMNED.
MATTHEW XXVII. 41, 42.
Likewise also the chief priests, mocking him with the scribes and
elders, said, he saved others ; himself he cannot save : If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross; and we will believe him.
The manner of our Saviour's death was the most painful that can be imagined ; and his sufferings, great in their nature, were heightened by some peculiar circumstances.'
In the day of affliction it is no small consolation to have our . friends around us, and to observe their tender sympathy with us. Of this consolation our Lord was deprived. When his enemies had seized him, his disciples all forsook him. One had before, betrayed him; another now denied him; and the rest stood at a distance. The heart of an enemy will sometimes melt at the sight of the misery which he inflicts; but the enemies of Jesus, far from being softened into compassion by his sufferings, took from thence occasion to inflict and mock him more. “ They who passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying; ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days; save thyself, and come down from the cross.” And the chief priests with the scribes and elders, imagining that his pretensions to the mes