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have not seen its extent and spirituality, nor felt its strictness and severity ; hence they perceive not the evil and malignity of sin. They have no sense of the deep depravity, and desperate wickedness of their hearts. They consider not they must be convinced, regenerated, and converted, by the powerful operations of the Holy Spirit, in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. From hence, we see that the preaching of the law, in all its spiritual extension, is absolutely necessary to a proper preaching of the gospel.
A Third remark is, that all the security and confidence in the gospelised world, that persons indulge about the goodness of their state, results from their inattention to, and ignorance of the law. Perhaps it may be here enquired, how shall it be discerned, when person's security and good opinion of themselves, arise from an insensibility of the law. The answer is easy.-Sometimes the security suggests the thought, it is an easy thing to get to heaven. Notwithstanding it is expressly said, straight is the gate and narrow is the way, that leadeth thereto. In others, their quietude and hopes proceed from a feeble knowledge of the evil of sin. They consider it not so dreadful a thing in its nature and effects as represented. They believe not the ministers of the gospel, and what is more, they believe not God. Blindness of mind creates security of heart, and security is the fruitful womb of foolish confidences and delusive hopes.
There is a disinclination in sinners to attend to God, their souls and things spiritual, hence ignorance broods upon their hearts, and stupidity gives them support. O proud, thoughtless and self-conceited sinners, you compass yourselves about with sparks of vanity, and this will be your fate at the hand of God, that you must lie down in sorrows.
Let us beware, my brethren, lest we be burled into the gulf of destruction, whilst we are securely expectiug eternal felicity. How awful must it be for a poor creature flowing along in the defights of life, and living sumptuously every day ; carnal pleasure and mistaken hopes filling up his whole time ; fire prospects entertain him, till we hear of him lifting up his eyes being in torment. O what a reverse of fortune ! Stript of all your pleasures, joys and prospects in a moment, and unexpectedly doomed to exquisite and everlasting anguish and horror. Behold for a moment the exalted professor, towering on the pinacles of hope, whose house stands high upon the sand of his own imagination ; the little assault of death, sweeps away his foundation, and plunges him into that gloomy world, out of which there is no Tedemption.
Q my brethren, let us attend and beware of security ; St. Paul was shook from his foundation. May God grant that we may be all shaken from the fatal grounds of security,
THE NATURE AND USE OF CONVICTIONS.
ActS xvi. 29, 30.
Then he called for a light and sprang in, and came trembling
and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, sirs, what must I do to be saved ?
VARIOUS have been the conjectures and opinions of divines, eminent for learning and experience, and also among common and sensible christians, about the nature and use of those distresses and exercises which frequently take place, previous to regeneration, commonly called convictions. As to ignorant and wild enthusiasts upon this head, who have no intelligible judge ment, or any decisive sentiments upon the subject, a rational christian ever passes them by with neglect, yet with a tenderness of feeling for their weakness and infirmities. In no christian country, has the doctrine of previous or legal convictions, been so particularly attended to as this. And the discussion of the subject was conducted, with what now appears to be unchristian warmtli, about sixty years ago.
Some have believed that all convictions were, as they express it, saving convictions, and a person under concern about his state, it was a sure evidence that he was in a state of grace. Others have found, by abundant experiments, that there have been multitudes of convictions, tirat fell short of conversion. Allow me to lay down this as a principle, that convictions are not absolutely necessary as previous to conversion ; yet they usually take place in adults under the gospel. God displays his sovereignty in a remarkable manner, in the effectual calling of his people, not only converting thein of all ages and characters, but also in . a variety of ways, and by a variety of means. Some are regenerated in infancy, others in early childhood, by whom little can be exhibited in the process of their conversion. May I be indulged here to deliver, what has long been a private opinion of my own, that those who are regenerated in infancy or childhood, often pass through in early life, a series of convictions, very similar to others, and receive comfort and hope in the usual way. • We have only feeble and uncertain accounts of convictions and
conversions, under the old testament dispensation ; yet we have most ample information of their pious experiences, godly exercises and trials, and that many of them were eminent saints. In our Saviour's time, we have a very slender account of the conviction and conversion of the Apostles, only that they were called and became his disciples. And it is probable, some of them were good men previous to this event. After the outpouring of the Spirit in the days of Pentecost, we have retails of a more particular nature on this head. Peter's hearers were pricked at the heart, and enquired, what they should do to be saved. The Apostles directed and instructed them, and they became converted and comforted. And this is the history of many others, both as individuals and companies.
The relation of St. Paul's conversion, has been the subject of much attention and dispute. Its reality was never controverted, .but its mode has originated various opinions. The principal ques
tion of difference has been, whether he was instantaneously converted, when struck down on the way to Damascus, or whether he was for three days under legal convictions. Great
names, learning and experience, and distinguished christians, have arranged themselves on both sides of this question. And it remains to this day, a“ lis sub judice," an unissued determination. Every one enjoys his own sentiments. The decision of the controversy either way, affects no point of religion or experience. For my own part, I think he was three days under convictions, and was not converted until the time Ananias, “put“ ting his hands on him, said, brother Saul, the Lord, even “ Jesus that appeared to thee in the way as thou camest, hath “ sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled “ with the Holy Ghost.” Though St. Paul's conversion was wholly of the unusual, or as sonic say, miraculous kind, yet it is very observable that of all who were affected by the heavenly light, none appears to have been converted afterwards but the Apostle. This single instance might prove, that there may be terror, alarm and convictions, where conversion does not ensuc.
Among the histories of convictions in the new testament, I have selected the case of the jailor, for our present meditations. In the history of his exercises, various things are observable.
First, It is highly probable he was well acquainted with the reasons of the imprisonment of Paul and Silas. He was an officer of the court ; heard all the pleadings and the whole of the trial; and perhaps he might have heard them before in their preaching in the city, which became the occasion of their prosecution ; what feelings of mind might have been excited in his breast by these great commations in the city, or whatever his apprehensions might have been respecting the truth of their doctrine, yet, as a thorough paced court officer, hackneyed in the service, he executed all the adjudications against these good men, he scourged them with all Roman severity according to the decree, put them into close prison, and strongly fastened their feet with staples and fetters, and all was perfectly secure. The jailor had so performed his business, that he concluded, it was safe for him to go to sleep.