« AnteriorContinua »
exposed to the curse of almighty God; and, dying in your present state, must perish forever.
One question more let me recommend, and I will conclude this part of the subject : If I shonld die in an unconverted state, and perish forever, can I endure the wrath of an offended God? If you can ; why, then, let every man help his neighbour, and every one say to his brother, Be of good courage ; laugh at death; set judgment at defiance; and make a jest of an hereafter . but if not, pause and think. ....
Who can forbear remarking the cowardice of wicked men; bow, even in this world, these bold spirits are cut down with a little affliction. Those who trifle most with hell, and whose lips are so full of damnation, that it becomes, in their mouths, a mere matter of bravado, how do they sink under the first touch of God's indignation. Gaal and bis company could eat and drink, and curse Abimelech at a distance ; but when Abimelech draws near, lo! they are covered with dismay.
Oh profane character! Can thine bands be strong, and thine heart endure in the day that he shall deal with thee? If you cannot tell how to endure the sufferings of life, what will you do in the hour of death ? How, especially, will you grapple with the bitter pains of eternal death? If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, how wilt thou contend with horses ? and if, in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, how wilt thou do in the swellings of Jordan? Such, or nearly such, my hearers, will be your own reflections, if, upon your bed, you commune with your own hearts to any good purpose.
But I proceed,
There is nothing more dreaded, by unconverted sinners, than solitary reflection; and therefore, nothing more necessary. They are like a person whose affairs are going to ruin, and who feels a strong reluctance to enter into a thorougb examination of his accounts. And wherefore? Because such an examination would destroy his present peace, and he would be under the necessity of making a full stop. To avoid this, he puts far from him the evil day, and cherishes a
PORTANCE OF A SERIOUS COMPLIANCE WITH IT.
vain hope that things are not so bad as they appear. But, as in this case the longer a thorough examination is deferred, the deeper he sinks ; so it is in the other. Let me request your attention to a few observations on this part of the subject.
1. There are things that you have doubted, or acted as if you doubted, which, if you would but retire and converse with your own heart, you would find it to be true. You have acted, but in too many instances, as though you doubted whether you were accountable and immortal creatures ; and as though an agreeable subsistence in the present world were the only thing that should concern you. But, if you be not accountable to him that made you, how is it that sin, which is unknown to every creature but yourself, should, nevertheless, be accompanied with remorse? Is there not a tribunal erected within your own bosom, that forebodes a judgment to come. If there were no hereafter, why that dread of death, and that fearful looking-for of judgment, in the hour of threatening affliction? Oh sinner! you shall not be able to plead ignorance at the bar of heaven : your own heart, depraved as it is, will bear witness against you.
2. There are things to which you are apt to object, in God's deal. ings with you, which, were you to commune with your own bearts, would be found to be unobjectionable. If you are told of the strictness of God's holy law, and that nothing short of truth in the inward parts can answer to its requirements, you think it hard, and feel disposed to complain of the grievousness of his yoke : but ask your own hearts, would you be contented with any thing less from a fellow-creature ? Perhaps you are a parent, or a master ; and what if your chil
; dren or servants were, through fear, ever so assiduous; if you knew they bad no love for you, would you be satisfied ? Or, perhaps, you are a husband. If the partner of your life were alienated from you, and attached to another, though, through fear of your displeasure, she were studious to the utmost to oblige you in ber outward deportment, would this satisfy you? Would you not disdain to accept of her services, unless you could have her heart with them? You must know that this is the truth. Out of your own mouth therefore, will the Lord judge you.
Again : If you are told of God's awful threatenings against sin, your spirits rises against him, and you are ready to accuse bim of cruelty : but ask your own heart, if you would spare one that bad treated you as you have treated bim ? If you had a son, and, with all the tenderness of a father, nursed him, fed him, clotbed bim, and instructed him ; and if, when he arrived at years of maturity, instead of behaving towards you with filial obedience and gratitude, he should prove undutiful, malignant, false, and do all he could to ruin you
and your family, would you not give him up to bis evil courses, and let him take the consequences of his behaviour ? Or should you, from paternal pity, be disposed to pass over his transgressions; and should a common friend, with your approbation, intercede on his behalf, entreating him to beg your pardon, assuring bim of your readiness to forgive the past; if, in addition to bis former crimes, he continued to despise the overtures of mercy, what would you do with him? Or should he, when overwhelmed with troubles of his own procuring, affect to be sorry for wbat he had done, and write to you in the strain of humble confession, praying you to deliver him this once, and vowing how different his conduct should be towards you in future ; if, as soon as his troubles had subsided, be were to return again to his former courses; what would you do with him ? Alas, all this, and a thousand times more, have you done against the best of Fathers, the God in whose bands your breath is, and whose are all your ways ! Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, house of Is
O rael, Is not my way equal ? are not your ways unequal ?
3. One reason of your knowing so little of your heart-sins is, your communing so little with your hearts. You go on in a hurry of business, and the state and temper of your heart is overlooked; and, being naturally disposed to flatter yourself, you imagine it to be much better than it is. You may be governed by the love of this world, yea, and be very covetous; so much so, that all who know you may perceive it ; and yet you do not perceive it yourself, but are ready to be offended with any person who tells you of it. You think yourself as good as your neighbours, and flatter yourself that your sin is not so very great.
• It is true,' say you, failings, as all men have, but, thank God, I never was guilty of
I have my
such things as many are.' So said the Pharisee in the parable, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men : and so said the wicked priests, in the days of Malachi, What have we spoken so MUCH against ? O my hearers, commune with your hearts, and you will find them to be very different from your present thoughts of them.
There is one thing in particular, which, perhaps, never struck attention, your total want of love to God. This is the sin of your nature, and the fruitful parent of all other sins. God requires the whole heart; as, indeed, he justly may, for he is worthy of it; but you have no heart to give him. It is preoccupied, and that with such things aś are contrary to God. All your actual sins are but little, compared with this. They have been committed only at different times ; but this is a tide, deep and large, that flows without cessation or interruption. Those are the fruits ; but this is the poisonous root from which they spring. If you loved God, you could not love the world, and the things of the world, as you do. You could not blaspheme his name, neglect his worship, or trample on his laws ; and all with unconcern. Neither could you feel towards your neighbour as you do in many instances. AH bitterness, and wrath, and malice, and evil speaking ; all envy towards them that are above you, and pride, oppression, and unfeeling treatment, towards them that are beneath you ; all arise from a want of the love of God; for be that loveth God, will love his brother also.
All unconverted sinners, I believe, retain a good opinion of their hearts, however they may differ in expressing it: which is evidently owing to their ignorance of its deceitfulness and desperate wickedness. Some make no secret of it. It is true,' say they, ' I now and then swear, when in a passion, and get too much liquor once in a while; but I mean no evil; my heart is good.' Others who have been brought up under evangelical preaching, are ashamed of this language, and would despise the ignorance of the person who should use it. They will not deny in words that their kearts are bad; howbeit they mean not so. By heart they understand, they know not what, something distinct from intention disposition, or desire Theretore they are sometimes heard to say, ' It is true, I am not
converted; but I desire to be, so. I cannot say, I love Christ
i but I wish I did.' This is the same thing as saying, My heart is good. If I be not a converted man, it is not my fault. I am wil. Jing at any time, if God would but convert me.' But all this is false and delusive. If you were willing to return to God, by Jesus Christ, there is nothing in heaven or earth that stands in your way. The truth is, you love your sins too well to part with them for Christ or heaven ; and have no desires after conversion for its own sake, but merely as a something, which, at times, you think you could submit to, rather than suffer eternal damnation. Whoever neglects to commune with bis own beart, it is necessary
you, that you may know your true character ; of which, with all your advantages, you are bitherto totally ignorant.
Even in the concerns of men with men, there is much blindness to their own motives, and deception in forming a judgment of their own conduct ; which is owing to a want of looking into themselves. A thousand things are defended by persons, in company, which, were they to retire alone, and commune with their own bearts, they would be obliged to condemn. In how many instances have contentions been cherished, and half a neighbourhood either brought in as witnesses, or in some way implicated in the contest, wbich might all have been decided in a quarter of an hour, if the party bad only retired alone, and asked himself this question : Have I done to my neighbour what I should have wished him, in like circumstances, to have done to me?
4. There are things on account of which you may value yourselves, and of wbich you may make a righteousness, that, if you were to retire alone, would be found of a very opposite pature. It is possible, you may have been in the babit of reading a chapter in the Bible, once a week, or oftener, in your family; of frequenting public worship; of giving away something to people who are poorer than yourself; and of sbunning public houses and riotous assemblies. It is possible, likewise, that you may consider this as the way to heaven, and, from hence, lay your account with being bappy in the world to come. But, if you look into your heart, you may find that the motives which have influenced you have been such as God can never approve ; and, if so, instead of justifying,