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the longer it is persisted in. If repentance is now irksome to think of and difficult to commence, will it not become more irksome and difficult through the inveterate power of sin, more and more confirmed by delay ? May not God be provoked to cut you off, and death overtake you and prevent your purpose, even if it be real ? Now all this is very possible, and very dreadful to think of; yet it has happened to thousands, and there is no reason can be given, nor any assurance offered, why it may not happen to every delaying sinner present, who is in this wise parleying with destruction.
As to the last resort of the resolved sinner, in renouncing religion and becoming the advocate of infidelity, words are insufficicnt to express the greatness of his folly. For by this he completely shuts the door against hope for ever, there being hope for the sinner no where but in the gospel.
The highest stretch of thought, the most unbounded imagination of the nature and properties of the Supreme Being, which man can indulge, present no hope, can draw no conjecture even, of what awaits us after death, without aid from Revelation. The infidel, therefore, or rejector of the gospel, for they are the same, does in fact extinguish, as to himself, the light of life; and all that he can possibly gain by it is, relief for the present from the fear of hell. This is the very utmost—but with this, remember, he renounces any possible expectation of heaven, and thus brings his being down to a level with the beasts that perish. But, my hearers, there is such a thing as religion, let who will disbelieve it. There are such places as beaven and hell, in spite of all the efforts of all the infidels that have been since Adam. Yes, and there are such things as death and judgment too, to which the hardiest unbeliever must come, as well as the humblest Christian. And there are everlasting burnings for sin, which infidels cannot quench, and eternal joys for righteousness, which neither unbelievers nor devils can deprive them of, and which these shall never taste. Well, then, is it enjoined upon Christians, to exhort one another continually against the deceitfulness of sin, and the following arguments may serve to enforce this duty, and as an application of the subject.
In whatever light the careless and the thoughtless, the young
and the gay, the libertine and the infidel, may choose to view sin—to the Christian it presents but one aspect. To him it is the thing which God abhors ; which he has expressly forbidden, and will everlastingly punish. To him it is the cause of all the misery that is in this world, both to himself and to others; and will be the cause of all the horror and despair which the finally impenitent must endure for ever in the torments of hell. If, therefore, he is worthy of the name of Christian, if he possesses a spark of that benevolence and good will towards his fellow creatures, which is the spirit of religion, he will not remain listless and unconcerned for the multitudes of immortal souls all around him, who are madly driving down the broad and beaten road of everlasting destruction. He will not be content with his example merely, but, by every prudent and affectionate remonstrance and persuasion-by every argument of reason and religion, will endeavour to prevail with those he has access to or influence over, to see their danger and to escape from it.
Another consideration to enforce this duty upon Christians is, that their own experience both entitles and enables them to perform it with effect.
The Christian is obliged to know something of sin and its deceits, from dear-bought experience. He must have felt its strength, detected its cunning, proved its misery, and learned how to resist and overcome its power. Upon whom then more properly can this duty be laid, than upon those who are thus qualified by experience, to warn, exhort, and instruct otherswho are prompted by feeling, and furnished with knowledge, to guide the unwary and inexperienced, through the snares and pit-falls of temptation, acting upon depraved and unmastered passions.
A third argument to enforce this duty, is to be drawn from the returns the Christian owes to his God and Saviour, for his own deliverance from the deceitfulness and power of sin.
We love him because he first loved us, says every true disciple of the LORD JESUS Christ. But, if a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar, says the apostle, for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen. What higher proof, then, can be given
of hatred, that is, of unconcern for, of indifference to our brother, on the one hand—or of love, that is, of regard for, of affectionate interest in him, on the other, than the neglect or performance of this Christian duty. Moreover, Christians pray continually, thy kingdom come. But the kingdom of God is the reign of righteousness, the prevalence of true religion, which can only come to pass by the defeat and destruction of sin, in its power over man.
Do we, then, wish our prayers to be heard and answered ? Do we truly desire the present and eternal welfare of our children, relations, brethren, friends, and fellow-creatures ?-Are we in earnest working out our own salvation ? Let us remember, my brethren, that it is an indispensable part of it to exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy—to the only wise God our Saviour-Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen,
WICKEDNESS THE CAUSE OF BLINDNESS.
Daniel xii. 10, latter part.
“And none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”
WHETHER we consider these words as an elucidation of an effect by assigning its cause, or as an appointment of that wisdom which ruleth over all, their importance to us is just the same, my brethren. Their truth is confirmed by observation and experience of human conduct, and the warning and instruction to be drawn from them is directly practical. Opposition to the gospel is here assigned to its true cause, the wickedness of man, and an opposite conduct is set forth as the consequence of a serious consideration of revealed truth.
The improvement I shall endeavour to make of the text, therefore, will be, to show, by some examples, how it comes to pass that the practice of wickedness shuts the understanding against the reception of divine truth. And on the other hand, wherefore it is, that a virtuous life disposes the mind to receive and the heart to embrace the gospel, and, then, conclude with some practical inferences from the subject.
And none of the wicked shall understand ; but the wişe shall understand.
I. First, I am to show by some examples, how it comes to pass, that the practice of wickedness shuts the understanding against the reception of divine truth.
With whatever variety of natural disposition we may come into the world, my brethren, (and I am disposed to think that it is very great,) as fallen creatures, our ultimate character will depend entirely upon the care and pains taken to form it. That the seeds of sin manifest themselves very early in all, is, unhappily, too true, and, therefore, the greater responsibility is laid upon those who have the care and charge of young persons committed to them. For though the corruptions of our nature manifest themselves from the first, yet the rich provision of divine grace, giving effect to careful instruction, watchful restraint, and judicious correction, is fully competent to subdue and root out those corruptions, to cherish and mature good dispositions, and fortify the mind to resist the temptations and perfect the virtues of active life. And even where this has been neglected there is yet no excuse or license for wickedness; for when reason is matured and men undertake the direction of their own actions, it is incumbent on them to reflect upon the end they have in view, on the just purposes of the present life, and on the the unspeakable interests of the life that is to come. These are proper subjects for the exercise of the rational faculties, and are in such a sense duties of the highest obligation that there is no accountable being who does not, in some way, and to some extent, pass them in review. And though the difficulty and the danger of making a wise choice is greatly enhanced by the previous neglect, yet the same divine grace is still present to lend its salutary and effectual aid in favour of religion and virtue. The practice of wickedness, then, is always matter of choice, and hence it is that the wicked and the righteous are contrasted in the text and throughout the Scriptures by the folly or the wisdom of their respective pursuits. None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.
This is fully exemplified in the profligate and debauched of all ages. However acute their understandings may be in other things, however well informed their minds may be in general, yet on this subject it is literally true, that they have eyes and see not, ears have they yet they hear not, and hearts but they understand not. The natural, indeed, the inevitable tendency of a vicious disposition is, to corrupt the principles and subvert the judgment. Spiritual things cannot be discerned, however clearly propounded ; and having lost all relish for any thing above sense, the claims and the duties, the hopes and the fears of religion are foolishness unto them. How often do we see it the case, my hearers, when these high, and holy, and awful things are proposed to such persons, that they can by no means be made to comprehend them, they cannot even be