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who, neither warned by the past, nor alarmed for the future, purposes on to the last, and dies the same. Such is the life which numbers of men lead in the world, spending the prime and vigour of their life in vain pursuits; letting all their religion evaporate in empty resolutions, till, ini an hout in which they are not aware, the warning is given : at midnight is the cry made, and, when they seek to enter in with the bridegroom, the door is shut!
That you may understand the expressions made use of in thë text, I must recal to your remembrance, that in the language of Scripture; the period of our probation is called a time, a season, or a day. There is an accepted time, there is a season of merciful visi tation, there is a day of grace; which, if we let slip the night cometh, in which no man can work, in which we shall grope for the wall like the blind, in which we shall stumble at noon-day as in the night, and be in desolate places as dead men. This does not arise from a defect of mercy in God, from a defect of merit in Christ, or from a defect of grace in the Holy Spirit ; it arises from ourselves, and from the nature of things. Almighty God hath appointed this life to be our state of probation. He hath set apart a time to fix the character for eternity. When therefore, by repeated acts and by long habits, this everlasting cha. racter is fixed, no alteration can succeed. To give an instance that may have occurred to the observation of you all ; you have seen, or you have heard of crimis nals who have been trained up from their youth in the practice of vice, who have advanced from losser to greater crimes, who have been punished according to law, who have been imprisoned, and who have been banished, who have returned from banishment, and for greater crimes have been condemned to die, who from some artifice or incident have escaped in the critical moment, and who, instead of being reformed by all these punishments, have fallen into the same crimes again, and even grown bolder in wickedness. There have indeed been instances of great sinners, who
of life, * ; Lefore you them
have turned penitents, and been good Christians ; but it is much to be questioned if there be any such instances among those who have been long sinners, who have committed iniquity, not by fits and starts, but upon a fixed and determined plan, who have spent in the service of sin all the fire of youth and coolness of age.
Having explained to you the meaning of the phrase used in the text, Lefore proceeding further, take next a view of life, and you will see, that a great part of men let slip the accepted time and day of salvation till it be ton late. It is the happiness of most men in countries where the Christian religion is professed, to receive a good education, and to be trained up from their youth in the principles of religion, and in the practice of virtue, But when this period of discipline is over, when a man sets out in life, and becomes big own master, he frequently becomes a different person in that different state, and looks upon the good habits of his yonth as some of those childish things which he ought now to put away. If his education has been severe and rigorous ; if his parents restrained him in that gaiety of heart and flow of the spirits which is the portion of youth; if he pined in his closet, whilst his equals in age frequented those entertainments which can be enjoyed with innocence, he then generally goes to the other extreme, and plunges with a precipitant step into all the follies and vices of the age. The prisoner having got loose, grows wild and extravagant. Being formerly shut up, he now wants to know the world, and, in order to this, ventures on forbidden paths, resigns the reins of conduct to inclination, and gives a loose to all his desires. Having found his former principles to be inconsistent with the enjoyment of life, he confounds his early prejudices with true piety ; for which cause he throws off religion altogether ; he becomes a patron and defender of vice ; he laughs at every thing that is serious; and perhaps out of contempt to this day, in which we as semble together to worship the God of our fathers $ VOL. II.
out of contempt to the sacred rites of his country, which all wise heathens hath revered ; out of contempt to the venerable institutions of our holy religion, spends this day in dissipation and profaneness, and open impiety.
But, not to draw the character with such' black stains, let us suppose men at that period passing their days in folly rather than in vice, at the head of every idle scheme, first in every fashionable amuse. ment, and, as the Scripture happily expresseth it, “ walking in vain show." Behold them making amusement one of the cares of life ; spending those precious hours, which no power can ever recal, which no future labour can ever compensate, spending those precious hours in vanity and folly, whilst all along they forget the business of their salvation, and are no more affected with the prospect of a world to come, than with a tale that is told. But whilst thus they dance round in a circle of folly; whilst they solace themselves with the prospect of pleasures rising upon pleasures, never to have an end, and say in secret to their souls, “ To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant ;" whilst, like the fuolish virgins, they slumber and sleep in the arms of this Delilah, at midnight is the cry made, O inan, thy hour is come! And the trembling soul takes its departure unawares and unprepared to God the judge of all !
To guard you against the fatal error which has an. done its thousands, allow me to recommend to your practice the necessity of instant repentance and refor. mation. In the first place, No time is so proper as the present ; secondly, If you delay, your reformation will be difficult; thirdly, If you delay long, it may become altogether impossible.
In the first place; then there is no time so proper as the present.
The prodigal son exhibits to us a scene which we often see realized in life: A young man, who had been educated in the paths of virtue, declining from these paths, and going astray into forbidden ground, from the fond expectation of meeting with some strange, vast, unknown happiness in the gratification of sensual desire. In the course of this unhallowed pilgrimage, he gives loose reins to his mind, he indul. ges every wandering inclination, he denies himself nothing that his heart wishes for. At last he comes to himself, he sees the folly of his ways, he repents, he resolves, he amends. Such a change of life we can easily conceive. In his former situation, he knew not what he did, he was transported by passion, he went headlong down the torrent. But when once he began to reflect, he found that that was the critical moment of life, which, if he had neglected, his return would have been more difficult. In his former situation, he went forward in the path which seemed right in his own eyes, without looking back. He did not act against the admonitions of conscience, he did not think at all. But if, after his eyes were opened to discern the state of wretchedness and guilt into which he had fallen ; if, after this, he had returned to folly again, it would have been much more difficult to restore him by repentance. Let this then be your conduct ; whenever you come to the knowledge of your sins, whenever you perceive any thing amiss in your lives, seize the favourable moment, as the proper time to reform.
What is it, I beseech you, that you do by delaying? You allow corruption time to strengthen and fortify itself; you give temptation double force, by yielding to it, not from surprise, but with deliberate consent; you weaken the power of conscience, that check which God appointed to you in your evil courses; and, with your own hand, you throw obstacles in the way of your conversion. You now see you are sinfuland undone ; you now resolve to repent and amend ; you are now setting out in the path which leadeth to life; you are not far from the kingdom of God: but if you resolve, and perform not; it, when you are once engaged, you draw back; you then fly off from the path of life to the way of destruction ; you throw yourself farther from the kingdom of God than if you had never
set out. At once, then, at once make your escape from the allurements of sin ; break the chains by which you are held ; cut off all the avenues and approaches to the sin that beset you ; give no time to the enemies of your soul to collect their strength ; by faith and repentance now enter into the way that opens into the heavens ; when you say, with sincere purpose of heart, " I will arise and go to my Father," in that momentarise and go to thy Father ; now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.
In the second place, By delaying, your conversion will become extremely difficult.
Thou sayest; O man! that thou wilt repent in some future period of time ; but thou knowest not the danger of such a resolution. It is amazing to think with what ease we can impose upon ourselves. In spite of all his boasted wisdom, man is more simple than the beast of the field. Do you consider, my friends, that delaying from day to day, and from year to year, that postponing the work of your salvation to some future period of time, is little better than a fixed determination that you will never begin it at all ? . Do you reflect, that the time to come, if it eyer comes, will be the same to you then, that the present time is to you now? There will occur the same difficulties to deter you, the same plea: sures to allure you ; the same dangers to terrify you, Objects will then bé as present, and strike the senses as strongly as ever; and the time of reformation will still be to-morrow. Nay, it will then be more difficult. to be saved than it is now. You will have more sins to repent of; more bad habits to subdue ; a more corrupted nature to put off. It is a remarkable fact, and deserves your most serious attention, that, among all conversions recorded in Scripture, there is not one of a sinner who delayed his repentance. Among all the returning penitents there mentioned, there is not one in the situation of a Christian, who daily hears the Gospel without its having any effect upon his life. Zaccheus Opon hearing Jesus Christ proclaim the glad tiding