« AnteriorContinuar »
your soul. You are ever walking on the precipice of eternity, and any moment—the next for aught you can tell you may fall over it. Eternal duration alone, apart from the consideration whether it is to be spent in torment or in bliss, is an awful idea. You are to live somewhere FOR EVER. Should this matter be allowed to lie forgotten among the thousand unconsidered subjects ? Should it be treated with indifference, excite no reflection, produce no anxiety? How can you help being anxious ? Ought you not to be anxious ? Going on step by step to eternity, should you not pause, ponder, and say, "Whither am I tending?” The rational course is, either to disprove your immortality, or seriously to reflect upon it: either to persuade yourself that, though you live as a man, you shall die as a brute, or else to act as an immortal being : either to profess the gloomy negation of atheism, or else to prepare for everlasting existence. The careless infidel is more consistent than the unanxious, nominal believer in revelation : for a man to express his belief that he is immortal, and yet to care nothing about immortality, is the most monstrous inconsistency in the universe. Ought you not to be anxious ?
But this is not all. Consider your history ; look back upon your past life ; pry into your heart; examine yourself. Would not reason, even if there were no Bible, discover to you much in your conduct that you must condemn. Admitting there is a God and you believe there is does not conscience tell you of many duties omitted, and many sins committed ? This is discerned by the dim taper of your own reason; but let in the broad day-light, the bright sunshine of Divine revelation, and then what alarming defects, what appalling transgressions are seen! Think of a God so holy, that the heavens are unclean before him, and his angels charged with folly ; a law so perfect, that a sinful feeling violates its precept and incurs its penalty : what, then, must be your sinfulness in the sight of God! Try yourself, not by your own self-love, nor by man's erring judgment, nor by the opinions of flattering companions, but by the infallible standard of God's holy word; and from such an ordeal you must return with the awful declaration sounding in your ears, “ Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” It is not hyperbole, but sober truth, to say that your sins are more in number than the hairs of your head. Why, if there had been but one sin in all your life, there would have been just cause for solicitude. That one sin should break your peace, disturb your sleep, and imbitter your enjoyments, by the solicitude it awakened, till there was reason to hope it was forgiven. That one sin would bring upon you the condemnation of God's righteous law, and would be a cause of more just anxiety than the discovery of the most fearful diseases in your body, or the greatest losses in your property. What, then, should be the solicitude awakened by sins innumerable, committed in childhood, youth, and manhood, against God and man, in opposition to reason and conscience, in despite of the Holy Scriptures, and the remonstrances of ministers and friends? What! going on to eternity with all this load of sin upon the conscience, and yet without solicitude ?
Consider your mortality! Your breath is in your nostrils. You are not certain of another moment. The concerns of your immortal souls, the means of grace, the opportunities of salvation, the interests of eternity, ever hang on the passing instant, are all suspended upon the brittle thread of human life, and are dependent upon the frail tenure of a beating pulse. You know not that your term of existence is long enough to enable you to read through this book. Now, if death, which is ever following after you, were the end of your existence, there would be no room for anxiety: at any rate none for the anxiety which prompts to preparation; whatever reason there would be for dread and dismay: but death is not the end, it is but the gate into eternity. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Annihilation would be fearful enough:
to plunge into the gulf of oblivion, to cease to be for ever, how horrible! But how much more horrible eternal consciousness, attended with eternal torment! Did you ever weigh the import of that most awful of all words, HELL? Death is a terrific monosyllable : from the cold touch of this last enemy all sentient beings recoil with horror. But death is only as the dark, heavy, iron-covered door of the prison, which opens to, while it conceals, the sights and sounds of the dungeon. Oh that first moment after death! what disclosures, what scenes, what feelings come with that moment! And that moment must come, may come soon. Should you not be anxious ?
Your want of anxiety, if you are really without it, is a proof of your want of religion, and of all meetness for eternity. A religion without anxiety is no religion at all. It is impossible to be saved without being anxious to be saved : solicitude to be saved is the first step towards salvation. It might as soon be conceived that a man could be saved in his sins, as in his carelessness and indifference. The first and most natural inquiry of every one who is really in earnest about his soul, is, 6 WHAT SHALL I DO TO BE SAVED ?” What intense solicitude is breathed in that most solemn inquiry! Can any man know how holy God is, how strict the law is, how evil a thing sin is, how great a blessing salvation is, how glorious heaven is, how dreadful hell is, and how awful eternity is, and not, if his mind is really and seriously directed to these subjects, be anxious? It were more rational to imagine a man could have his property, his liberty, his life hanging in suspense, and yet feel no solicitud., than to be truly religious, and yet have no anxiety about his soul. The concern of some, who have been awakened to serious reflection, has been so great, that it has for a while disordered their intellect: this is excessive, and has arisen from want of clear knowledge of what can relieve their solicitude : but there never yet was one who was truly saved, who did not bear with him along the road to glory the burden, though not an un
relieved one, of a deep solicitude about his eternal welfare.
The anxiety of others on your behalf, ought to make you anxious for yourself. It would be improper, except in the same figurative sense as pity and other emotions are ascribed to God in the Scripture, to ascribe anxiety to him; but in this sense we may. God is solicitous about you; he has looked upon your soul, and its fallen state, with deep and infinite concern; his Divine compassion has yearned over you; he has felt such anxiety for you, as to send his Son to die upon the cross for you, his Spirit to renew and sanctify you, his Bible to instruct you, and his ministers to warn you. Jesus Christ has been so anxious for you, that he has actually died for you upon the cross, and commissioned his servants to make known to you his love. The Spirit is anxious for you, and is ever striving with you in the Bible, and your conscience. Angels are anxious for you, and are waiting to become ministering spirits to your salvation. Devils are anxious to prevent your etertial happiness; which shows the greatness of your danger, and the just ground you have for alarm. Ministers are anxious for you, and labour, and pray, and preach for your conversion. Your parents, if pious, are anxious for you, and are supplicating, amidst tears and waiting and watching, for your salvation. Friends are anxious for you, and are writing and talking to you about your soul's concerns. The church of God is anxious for you, and is interceding for you with the God of all grace ;-and you, you only, are without anxiety. Is not this surprising and affecting, that you alone should be indifferent to your salvation ; that you should remain torpid and careless at the centre of this universal and deep solicitude.
Your very want of solicitude should be a cause of anxiety to you. You must be convinced that there is ground for it. You cannot be so utterly ignorant of the nature, importance, and claims of religion, as not to know that there is much in it both calculated and designed to produce a serious thoughtfulness. There have been moments, one should think, when the subject would force itself upon your attention, as one pre-eminently deserving the consideration of a rational and immortal creature; when, by some alarming sermon, or by some impressive event, or by some faithful warning, it would speak to you as a messenger from heaven, and with the voice of God; when an incipient pensiveness was stealing over the soul, and filling the whole field of vision with the realities of eternity:--but your earthly-mindedness soon suppressed all this; the transient thoughtfulness subsided, and the current of your volatility, arrested for a short season, flowed onward in its course with its usual impetuosity, and you are now as far from any thing serious as ever. Astounding spectacle! A rational creature, anxious about a thousand things, yet not anxious about the soul! Agitated, perplexed, inquisitive about little matters of a mere passing interest, which the next day will be forgotten; and yet neglecting that great subject, which swallows them all up, as the ocean does the drops of rain that fall upon it. Your health, your property, your prospects, your friends, any thing, every thing, but your soul, and your soul's salvation, seizes and carries you away! So that you see you can be serious. You cannot plead in excuse for yourself, any natural inability, any paralysis of the powers of the mind, any utter incompetency for being occupied with such matters. Nor can you offer in defence of yourself, the excuse, that anxiety would be unavailing, that it would be only a useless self-torture, a tantalizing effort, which would be for ever reaching after an object, which as regularly receded from you. No. You can think, and reason, and desire, and hope, in reference to religion, as in reference to any other subject; nor is there any subject in which enlightened, well-directed, persevering solicitude would be so sure of gaining its end, as in reference to this. None shall seek in vain here, who seek aright. God has pledged his promise, his oath, for the salvation