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At other times it suggests that retreat is easy in the carecr of sin, and may be resorted to if iis progress be inconvenient.
Is it so ? The very contrary is true. Every step we advance renders it more and more difficult to return.
Then it urges us forward with the delusive idea that it is time enough to repent in old age. But does it say, what indeed is true, that for ought you know, you may die to-morrow? No; and herein is its deceit.
It dwells upon the mercy of God; but is silent upon the subject of his justice.
What think you now of the human heart? Can you question its deceitfulness, or that it is deceitful above all things? How then will you treat it ?
Think meanly of it. Surely, with such a picture before you, you will not talk of the moral dignity of human nature; because this would be to talk of the dignity of falsehood and imposition.
Seek to have it renewed by the Holy Ghost. It is a first principle of religion, that the heart must be renewed, and here you see the need of it. It is not only the conduct which is bad, but the heart, and therefore it is not only necessary for the conduct to be reformed, but the very nature must be regenerated. It is the heart which imposes upon the judgement, and the judgement which misleads the conduct; and, therefore, the root of the evil is not touched until the disposition is changed.
Suspect the heart, and search it. Treat it as you would a man who had deceived you in every possible way, and in innumerable instances had been proved to be false. Continually sus
pect it. Always act under the supposition, that it is concealing something that is wrong. Perpetually examine it. Enter the house within you; break open every door; go into every apartment; search every corner; sweep every
Take with you the lamp of revelation, and throw a light on every hiding place.
Watch the heart with all diligence, knowing that out of it are the issues of life. You would observe every attitude, every movement, every look of an impostor who had fixed his eye upon your person and property. Thus treat your hearts. Let every thought, every imagination, every desire, be placed under the most vigilant and ceaseless inspection.
Place it in the hand of God to keep it. “My son, give me thine heart,” is his own demand. Give it to him, that it might be filled with his love, and kept by his power. Let it be your daily prayer,
“ Lord, hold thou me up, and I shall be safe ; keep me by thy power through faith unto salvation."
On transient devotions.
The church, (said Saurin,) had seldom seen happier days, than those described in the nineteenth chapter of Exodus. God had never diffused his benedictions on a people in richer
abundance. Never had a people gratitude more lively, piety more fervent. The Red Sea had been passed ; Pharaoh, and his insolent court were buried in the waves; access to the land of promise was opened : Moses had been admitted to the holy mountain to derive felicity from God the source, and sent to distribute it amongst his countrymen : to these choice favours, promises of new and greater blessings yet were added ; and God said, “ Ye have seen what I have done unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you. unto myself. Now, therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people, although all the earth be mine." The people were deeply affected with this collection of miracles. Each individual entered into the same views, and seemed animated with the same passion; all hearts were united, and one voice expressed the sense of all the tribes of Israel ; -- all that the Lord hath spoken we will do." But this devotion had one great defect-it lasted only forty days. In forty days, the deliverance out of Egypt, the catastrophe of Pharaoh, the passage of the Red Sea, the articles of the covenant; in forty days, promises, vows, oaths, all were effaced from the heart, and forgotten. Moses was absent, the lightning did not glitter, the thunder-claps did not roar, and “ the Jews made a calf in Horeb, worshipped that molten image, and changed their glorious God into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.”
Here, my children, was a most melancholy instance of transient devotion. Alas! that such
instances should be so common. Alas! that Jehovah should so frequently have to repeat the ancient reproach, and his ministers have to echo, in sorrowful accents, the painful complaint, “ O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? () Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it passeth away.” Nothing, however, is more common than such fugitive impressions. Disappointment of the bitterest kind, is very frequently experienced, both by pareuts and ministers, in consequence of the sudden turning aside of those young persons, who for a while seemed to run the race that is set before us in the word of God. At one time they appeared to be inflamed with a holy ambition to win the prize of glory, honour and immortality; we saw them start with eagerness, and run with speed; but after a while we met thein returning to the barrier, leaving us in the bitterness of our spirits to exclaim, “ Ye did run well, what did hinder
The religion I am now describing is not the hypocrisy of the pretending Christian, nor is it the backsliding of the real one; it goes further than the first, but does not go so far as the last. It is sincere of its kind, and in that it goes further than hypocrisy : but it is unfruitful, and in that it is inferior to the piety of the weak and revolting Christian. It is sufficient to discover sin, but not to correct it; sufficient to produce good resolutions, but not to keep them; it softens the heart, but does not renew it; it excites grief, but it does not eradicate evil dispositions. It is a piety of times, opportunities, and circumstances, diversified a thousand ways,
the effect of innumerable causes, but it expires as soon as the causes are removed. · Inconstans was a youth who had enjoyed a pious education; he discovered many amiable qualities, and was often impressed by the religious admonitions he received; but his impressions soon wore off, and he became as careless about his eternal concerns as before. He left the parental roof, and was apprenticed; and his parents having taken care to place him in a pious family, and under the faithful preaching of the word, he still enjoyed all the external means of grace, and still, at times, continued to feel their influence. His attention was oftentimes fixed when hearing the word, and he was sometimes observed to weep. On one sion in particular, when a funeral sermon had been preached for a young person, a more than ordinary effect was produced upon his mind. He returned from the house of God pensive and dejected, retired to his closet, and with much earnestness prayed to God, resolved to attend more to the claims of religion, and to become a real Christian.. The next morning he read the Bible, and prayed, before he left his chamber. This practice he continued day after day. A visible change was produced in his deportment. His seriousness attracted the attention and excited the hopes of his friends. But, by degrees, he relapsed into his former state, gave up reading the Scriptures, then prayer; then he reunited himself with some companions from whom for a season he had withdrawn himself, till at length he was as unconcerned about salvation as ever. Some time after this Inconstans was seized with a fever.