Imágenes de páginas

you ever allow yourselves in any practice which you knew to be unlawful, without feeling an inward struggle and strong reluctance of mind before the attempt, and bitter pangs of remorse after the commission? Though no eye saw what you did ; though you were sure that no mortal could discover it, did not shame and confusion secretly lay hold of you? Was not your own conscience instead of a thousand witnesses ? Did it nor plead with you face to face, and upbraid you for your transgressions? / Have not some of you perhaps, at this inftant, a sensible experience of the truths which I am now pressing upon you ? In these days of retirement and self-examination, did you not feel the operation of that powerful principle? Did not your fins then rise up before you in sad remembrance ? Has not the image of them pursued you into the house of God? And are not your minds now stung with some of ihat regret which followed upon the first commission ?

My brethren, there is no escaping from a guilty mind. You can avoid some evils, by mingling in lociety; you can avoid others, by retiring into solitude ; but this enemy, this tormentor within, is never to be avoided. If thou retirest into solitude, it will meet thee there, and haunt thee like a ghost. If thou go. est into society, it will go with thee; it will mar the entertainment, and dah the untasted cup from thy trembling hand. Whilst the finner indulges his vain imagination; whilst he solaces himself with the prol pect of pleasures rifing upon pleasures never to have an end, and says to his soul, Be of good cheer, thou hait happiness laid up for many years, a voice comes to his heart that strikes him with sudden fear, and

[ocr errors]

turns the vifion of joy to a scene of horror. Whilst the proud and impious Balshazzar enjoys the feast with his princes, his concubines, and his wives; whilst he carouses in the consecrated vessels of the fanctuary ; in a moment the scene changes; the hand-writing on the wall turns the house of mirth into a house of mourning; the countenance of the king changes, and his knees smite one against another, whilst the Prophet, in awful accents, pronounces his doom ; pronounces that his hour is come, and that his kingdom is departed from him.

It is in adversity that the pangs of conscience are most severely felt. When affliction humbles the native pride of the heart, and gives a man leisure to reflect upon his former ways, his past life rifes up to view; having now no interest in the sins which he

committed, they appear in all their native deformity, - and fill his mind with anguish and remorse. Men

date their misfortunes from their faults, and acknowledge their fin when they meet with the punishment. The sons of Jacob felt no remorse when they sold their brother to be a save; they had delivered themselves from the foolish fear that he was one day to be greater than they; they congratulated themselves upon the mighty deliverance. But the very first misfortune which befel them, h little rough usage in a foreign land, awakened their guilty fears, and they said one to another, “ We are verily guilty " concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish « of his soul when he besought us, and we would not s hear, therefore is this distress come upon us.”

But that the prosperous finner may not presume upon impunity from the lashes of a guilty mind, and

to show you that no situation, however exempted from adversity, and that no station, however exalted, is proof against the horrors of remorse, I shall adduce two remarkable instances of persons who felt all the horrors of a guilty mind, without meeting with any judgments to awaken them. The first is that of Cain, referred to in the text. When the offering of Abel ascended acceptable and well-pleasing to God, Cain was seized with envy; from that moment he meditated vengeance against him, and at last imbru. ed his hands in the blood of his brother. There was then no law against murder; and if antecedent to law there is no original sense of right and wrong implanted in the mind; if conscience, as some affirm, was not a natural but an acquired power, the mind of Cain might have been at ease; he might have enjoyed the calm and the serenity of innocence. But when he was brought to the tribunal of conscience, was his mind at ease? Did he enjoy the calm and the serenity of innocence? No. He cried out in the bitterness of remorse, “ My punishment is greater 6 than I can bear.” What punishment did he complain of? There was then no punishment denounced against murder, and the Lord expressly secured him from corporal punishment. But he had that within, to which all external punishments are light. He was extended on the rack of reflection, and he lay upon the torture of the mind. Hell was kindled within : him, and he felt the first gnawings of the worm that never dies.

Another remarkable instance of the dominion of conscience, we have in the history of Herod. John the Baptist, the harbinger of our Lord, sojourned a

while in the court of Herod. This faithful monitor fpared not fin in the person of a king, but reproved him openly for his vices. Herod, although he dislik, ed, yet he respected the Prophet, and feared the multitude, who believed in his doctrines. But on Herod's birth-day, when the daughter of Herodias danced before him, he made a sudden vow, that he would grant her whatever Me desired. Being instructed of her mother, she asked the head of John the Baptist. One of the common arts by which we de ceive our consciences is to set one duty against another. Hence fin is generally committed under the appearance of some virtue, and hence the greatest crimes which have ever troubled the world, have been committed under the name, and under the show of religion. Such was the crime which we are now considering. The observance of an oath has, among all nå. tions, been regarded as a religious act; and here a fair opportunity offered itself to one who only waited for such an opportunity, to make religion triumph at the expence of virtue. If Herod had no inclination to destroy the Prophet, and no interest in his death, his conscience would have told him that murder was an atrocious crime, which no consideration could alleviate, nor excuse; it would have told him that vows, which it is unlawful to make, it is also unlawful to keep; but Herod was already a party in the cause; he determined to get rid of his enemy; he satisfied his conscience with some vain pretences, and gave orders to behead the Baptist. But were all his anxieties and forrows buried with the Prophet ? No: the gráve of the Prophet was the grave of his peace. Neither the splendour of Majesty, nor the guards of state, nor the noise of battle, nor the shouts of victo.. ry, could drown the alarms of conscience. That mangled form was ever present to his eyes; the cry of blood was ever in his ears. Hence, when our Saviour appeared in a public character, and began to teach and to work miracles, Herod cried out, in the horrors of a guilty mind, “ It is John the Baptist 66 whom I flew; he is risen fron: the dead.”

How great, my brethren, is the power and dominion of conscience! The Almighty appointed it his vicegerent in the world; he invested it with his own authority, and said, “ Be thou a God unto man." Hence it has power over the course of time. It can recall the past; it can anticipate the future. It reaches beyond the limits of this globe ; it visits the chambers of the grave; it reanimates the bodies of the dead; exerts a dominion over the invisible regions, and summons the inhabitants of the eternal world to haunt the flumbers, and shake the hearts, of the wicked. Tremble then, O man! whosoever thou art, who art conscious to thyself of unrepented sins. Peace of mind thou shalt never enjoy. Repose, like a false friend, shall fly from thee. Thou shalt be driven from the presence of the Lord like Adam when he finned, and be terrified when thou hearest his voice, as awful when it comes from within, as when it came from without. The spirit of a man may suftain his infirmity; but a spirit wounded by remorse who can bear ?

The second thing proposed, was, to show you the deliverance which the Gospel gives us from remorse, by means of the “ blood of sprinkling." This expression alludes to the ceremonial method of expia

« AnteriorContinuar »