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expect a convenient season for repentance, it declining life, and the languor of old age? or that they shall find it, as others have done, on the bed of sickness, or on the bed of death?"
I have never heard that Christians have any better reasons than these for delaying repentance: and, if they have not, though the sophistry of Felix deserved to be laid open, the respect I owe to those who now hear me, will not permit me to imagine that such sophistry" as this, can want to be exposed.
It will be to better purpose to set before you,
III. In the last place, the issue of this too natural alliance between procrastination and vice, in a FINAL IMPENITENCE; of which the case of Felix, again, affords us a striking example.
When I have a convenient season, says he to Paul, I will call for thee. This season came, and Paul attended; to what effect, we shall now understand.
When Felix dismissed him from his presence, he insinuated, nay perhaps thought,
that he should have a disposition hereafter to profit by his religious instructions. But time and bad company quieted his fears and a favourite vice inspired other motives for the interview, than those of religion. For he hoped, says the historian, that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.
The case, we see, is well altered. trembled before at Paul's charge against him of rapine and extortion: he would now exercise these very vices on Paul himself. Such was the fruit of that convenient season, which was to have teemed with better things!
But this is not all: For, after two years Portius Festus came into Felix's room; and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.
Felix then had his preacher within call for two whole years: time sufficient, one would think, to afford the opportunity of many a lecture concerning the faith of Christ. Yet, though he communed with Paul oft, it does not appear that his conferences with him turned on this subject. What he wanted to
draw from him was, not truth, but money' and, when this hope failed, he was little concerned about the rest. Nay, the impression which Paul had made upon him was so entirely effaced, that he left an innocent man in bonds, for the sake of doing a pleasure to the Jews. But he had his reason still for this unwonted courtesy. For their complaints were ready to follow him (as indeed they did) to the throne of Cæsar; whither he went, at last, unrepentant and unreformed, to encounter, as he could, the rigors of imperial justice; just as so many others, by the like misuse of time and opportunity, expose themselves to all the terrors of divine.
Not but there is yet this advantage in the parallel on the side of Felix. He neglected to use the space of two years, which was mercifully allowed him for the season of reformation: but how many Christians omit this work, not for two only, but for twenty, forty years; nay, for the whole extent of a long life; and never find a convenient season for doing the only thing, which it greatly concerns them to do, although with the astonishing delusion of always intending it.
To conclude: We have seen that procrastination serves the ends of vice; and that vice,
in return, is but too successful in pleading the cause of procrastination: leaving between them this salutary lesson to mankind, "That he who seriously intends to repent to-morrow, should in all reason begin to-day; to-day, as the Apostle admonishes, while it is called to-day, lest the heart, in the mean time, be hardened through the deceitfulness of sind."
a Heb. iii 13.
PREACHED DECEMBER 19, 1778.
1 JOHN V. 11.
And this is the record that God hath given to us, eternal life; and THIS LIFE IS IN HIS SON.
WE are indebted to the Gospel for the knowledge and hope we have of eternal life; this important doctrine having, first, been delivered by Jesus Christ, and only by him, on any proper grounds of authority. This then is the record, or the substance of what the Gospel testifies and affirms, That God hath given to us eternal life: and this life, adds the Apostle, IS IN HIS SON: that is, he procured this blessing for us; he is not only the teacher, but the author of eternal life.