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the invalids at the pool of Bethesda, one would expect to see them strive, who should first step in. Instead of which, every age has witnessed a general indifference. From the days of Noah to the present time, all the preachers of righteousness have had occasion to exclaim, in plaintive language, "Lord, who hath believed our report:" and the great God hath condescended to use the words of disappointment and grief: "All day long I have stretched forth my hands to a disobedient and gain saying people."
These examples indeed prove inattention to religion in general, rather than to christianity in particular. But un der this latter economy it will be more easy to find those who do, than those, who do not, neglect salvation.
1. This neglect is undeniably chargeable on the openly immoral on them, who profane the holy and reverend name of God;—on them who desecrate the sacred things, displayed in the bible;-on them, who by impurity defile the temples of the Holy Ghost;-on them, who love to be found among the wicked, and with them to expel reason and drown conscience. To say that such persons neglect the great salvation, does not sufficiently express their feelings on the subject. They view it with sincere aversion. The salvation of saints consists much in the presence of God. "The multitude of them that are saved, shall walk in the light of his countenance, they shall behold his face in righteousness." Would this be heaven to those, of whom we are speaking? Would they, who blaspheme God, readily unite in the devout extacy of those, who exclaim, "Ho ly, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty ?" Could they be happy with God, who are conscious, that no society is so delightful to them, as that in which God is least regarded, and his laws most daringly violated?
But neglect of salvation does not necessarily imply this unblushing, undissembled vice. Though there is great resemblance between the text and another passage in the same epistle, which we have already quoted, they are not perfectly alike. "If he, that despised Moses' law died without mer
cy, of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God!" Here the sacred writer speaks of marked and violent opposition to the christian religion. But our text does not. It speaks only of neglecting the great salvation:-it speaks of that indifference, that inattention, which, even in christian countrics, passes without dishonor or animadversion. It is not, you see, a few great sinners only, whose condition is perilous: it is not they exclusively who have disturbed and astonished the world by daring transgression; it is not the Cains, the Pharaohs, the Ahabs, and Jezebels alone: it is the statesman, who sacrifices a quiet conscience to his own ambition; it is the husbandman, who loves his well cultivated acres, more than the heavenly inheritance; it is the scholar, in whose heart literary fame usurps the place of God: it is that gay young person, whom the world censures for nothing, but too little prudence, and too much good nature; it is the man of calculation and industry, who can think of no object, beyond the grave, so hideous, as present poverty and so inviting as wealth;-it is in fine every person, who loves not our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Habitual levity is as truly a mark of reprobation as a course of conduct decidedly immoral; though the same degree of criminality is not proved in both cases.
Now, if the neglect of salvation is so general, no expostulation can be more interesting and terrific, than that in the text, "How shall we escape?" Will you attempt to escape by proving the gospel not true? What an arduous; what a daring enterprise! You must prove that Moses was not a divinely commissioned leader;-that he wrought no miracles ;-that the law had no relation to the gospel;--that the ancient prophets, whose predictions are, at this moment, receiving their completion, were not inspired;--that Jesus of Nazareth was not a teacher, sent from God;that he performed no works, which were above human power; that his apostles performed none, but were all impiously employed to deceive mankind. Can all this be proved? Can you even persuade yourselves, that the
book, which we call Holy Scriptures, had no divine origin, and that nothing is to be feared from its threatnings? No; you do not, in this way, even hope to escape. The awful majesty of the Bible terrifies you.
If you dare not deny christianity you will perhaps become its panegyrist. It is, you say, a noble, a sublime, a benevolent religion. It was announced to our first progenitors. All nations were governed in subserviency to it. It was introduced by a divine Saviour, and propagated by miraculous power. It declares, that God is love; it proclaims peace on earth and good will towards men. In the eternal blessings of such a religion, the whole human family, you believe, will finally partake.
So did not reason the author of our text. From the same premises, he drew a precisely opposite conclusion. He did not say, the salvation of the gospel is a great salvation ; therefore it will embrace all: but how shall they escape who neglect it? The emotions, excited by contemplating the sublimity, the magnitude, and the benign nature of the christian religion, must be joyful, or otherwise, according to the light, in which it is viewed. In the obedient believ er, it produces joy; in the awakened sinner, it excites hope; but to the determined transgressor, it speaks no language, but that of terror. It is a benevolent religion; it will, in this quality, never be exceeded by any other; therefore, they, who are not reclaimed by it, must perish. It is a benevolent religion; and therefore, all they, who reject it, must suffer an aggravated punishment.
The reasoning of the ancient Jews was similar to that, which we endeavor to confute. They believed, that the children of Abraham, after having experienced so great mercies, would never be abandoned. On the same principle, as that of our text, God said to them, "You only have, 1 known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities." On the same principle will Tyre and Sidon be punished with less severity, in the day of judgment, than those cities, where Christ preached and exerted his divine power.
Let us consider, therefore, whether we can endure to perish in that wonderful manner, in which it is declared, that the despisers of the gospel shall perish. How hard it is to endure intense pain for a single week! How slowly passes the time! How exceedingly long appears every day! But the oracles of God set forth the punishment of impenitent sinners as being exceedingly severe, in its degree. The strongest language, the most frightful imagery is used to describe it. These descriptions are familiar to us. The profane use the language of these descriptions contemptuously. But even they cannot deliberately consider it withIt is not in man to anticipate, without emotion, interminable ages of weeping, wailing, darkness and despair. Yet it is told us by a God of truth, and even by a God of mercy, that such will be the doom of the ungodly. Let us bring this matter home to ourselves. These declarations are not the less true, nor the less interesting, because they were made many hundred years ago. They are now made to us as really, as they were to those, who first heard them, and who beheld our Saviour's gesture, visage and divine majesty, when they were uttered.
To give additional solemnity to these considerations, let it be remembered, that ours will be no common punishment should we die in our sins. We shall be distinguished among reprobates :-distinguished by an unusual load of infamy and pain. Consider for a few moments: How early was divine truth poured in upon our minds! how early were we taught the first principles of the gospel! How many events took place in youth, calculated to arrest the attention, and which, perhaps, for a while really did this! With what increasing clearness, did we, in after years, perceive the necessity of religion! With what solemn language has the Bible warned us! With what tender, affecting, penetrating expressions has it addressed us, that we might be melted, allured, and persuaded! In what a glaring light have the sacred writers displayed the world of spirits! How has conscience remonstrated, and the Holy Spirit reproved
and excited us! All these things will be brought to view at the day of judgment, and will be the subjects of perpetual self reproach. "How then shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" But there is now a season for escaping: not if we persevere in sin; not if we reject the counsel of God against ourselves; but if we repent of sin, and submit to the gospel. Without this, the question through eternity, will be, not "how shall we escape?" but how shall we endure? "Who can dwell with devouring fire? Who can inhabit everlasting burnings?". May God of his infinite grace, deliver us from making the inquiry, in the regions of