Imatges de pàgina



ACTS XVIII. 12-17.

And when Gallio was deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, &c. &c.

FROM the carelessness of Gallio, the Roman governor of Achaia, we have taken occasion to consider and illustrate that spirit of indifference to religion, which is too common and observable in all times and places.

I shall now, as I proposed, shew the unreasonableness and danger of indulging this careless temper in a matter of such immense and universal concern as religion.

If there be such a thing as religion, it is a matter of infinite importance. It cannot be indifferent in itself; and a spirit of indifference to it, must be unreasonable in its nature and fatal in its consequences. It is impossible, that a thinking man should enjoy a settled peace of mind on any principles, but those of religion; because on no other can he feel himself safe. Set these aside, and all before him is darkness, confusion and horror.

I pity the unhappy man, who disbelieves the government of a Deity and the immortality of the soul; for what comfort can he find under the adversities of life, or in the approach of death?

There is no throne of grace for him to resort to-no future hap piness for him to anticipate. Annihilation is his refuge from the terrors of conscious guilt. But it is a gloomy refuge. He runs to it, not because he loves it, but only because he prefers it to the punishment which his sins deserve. He is like a man who leaps. from his chamber window, when his house is on fire; not because he wishes to hazard a fall, but because he would escape destruction in the flames.

But alas! poor man, he is not sure of this sad exemption from future misery. Here is a wonderful fabrick, which exhibits every mark of wisdom, goodness and design. It came into existence somehow or other. Whatever supposition he may make to quiet his fears, still he must fear there is a God who formed, and who supports it. And if there is a God who made the world, and made him a rational being, he must fear that this God, in some future period, will call him to an account for his conduct, and punish him for his wickedness. Let him flatter himself as much as he pleases, still, if he opens his eyes, he will see reason to fear, that a day of retribution will come, and sin will be punished. Yea, even though he could be sure, that there were no God, and that the world and every thing which belongs to it were the effects of mere chance, he has no security from misery. The same chance, which has brought him into existence here, may bring him into existence elsewhere. The same contingence of events which has subjected him to many troubles in this world, may cast him into a condition eternally and completely miserable in another. What satisfaction, then, can a mortal have, but upon the firm belief, that there is a holy, wise, just and merciful Being, who made and governs the world-that there is a way in which he may secure the favour of this Being-that he has been instructed in, and has complied with, the terms of his favor-that consequently he shall be forever happy, when life shall end, and all his connexions with mortality shall be dissolved? A wise and prudent man, as he regards his own peace and happiness, will endeavor to be well settled in the principles of religion-to understand what it requires and what it forbids, and what fears and hopes it sets before him.

He will submit to the influence of this religion, and give diligence to ascertain his interest in its promises.

Such a general contempt of all religion, as Gallio discovered, is an infatuation, of which we should hardly think the human mind capable. You condemn his carelessness. But enquire whether you are not guilty. You believe there is a God, a future state, and an eternal retribution. You believe the gospel to be a Divine revelation and to contain the words of eternal life. But do you feel and act, as if you believed these things? You wonder at the carelessness of the infidel, who disbelieves the truth of religion, and yet neglects to examine it. May not he, in his turn, wonder at you, who profess to believe the truth of religion, and yet live in a practical neglect of it?

You say, you believe the divinity of the gospel. On this ground permit me to argue with you, and evince the danger of a careless manner of life.

1. Seriously consider what it is that you are careless about. It is not wealth or honor-it is not food or raiment-it is not health or life. It is something greater than all these. It is your eternal salvation.

You are placed here on probation for another state of existence. Happiness or misery is before you, according as you acquit yourself in this probation. Is not this a serious thought ?— You are soon to die. Death terminates your probation, and brings you to a judgment, which will fix your condition for eternity. You must hereafter stand before the righteous Judge. You are careless now. Will you be so then? What defence will you make? What intercessor will you find? To which of the saints will you turn? Angels and men and your own conscience will condemn you. The compassionate Redeemer, who once wept over careless sinners, will not interpose for you, there. He will be the Judge. The scripture, in reference to the final judgment, speaks of the wrath of the Lamb. Guilty and impenitent souls will be sentenced to everlasting punishment. What this punishment will be, we can at present but imperfectly conceive. But destruction from God's presence-a lake of fire burning with brimstone-torment in this flame-a worm that dieth not, and a

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fire that is not quenched-weeping and gnashing of teeth, are expressions of solemn meaning, and of awful import. The distant possibility of such an issue of a careless and impenitent life, ought to arouse every sinner from his guilty slumbers. Especially, when he considers;

2. That he is now exposed to this issue.

Your time of trial is but short. The day of retribution draws near. Though now you carelessly sleep away the precious hours on which the happiness of eternity depends, you know not, but at the next hour, you may open your eyes in the world of despair. Can you think of this, and be careless still? You hope for time yet in reserve, but you know not what shall be on the morrow. It is presumption beyond all description to risk your eternal salvation on the continuance of so precarious a life.

3. Consider what circumstances you are placed under, and how these will aggravate the guilt of a careless life.

The negligent heathen may plead, that he had but an imperfect knowledge of duty and of the means of happiness. A future state, the forgiving mercy of God, the way of salvation for sinners through a dying Saviour, had not been revealed to him. He will be beaten with few stripes. But your case is widely different. You have the word of God in your hands. Life and death are set before you. Το you the wrath of God on the one hand, and the grace of God on the other, are revealed from heaven. You have assurance of pardon on repentance-you have the offer of Divine assistance on your seeking it-you have repeated invitatations and warnings-the word, the providence, the Spirit, the ministers of God urge your attention to your eternal interest. How will you excuse a careless life? You have known your Lord's will. If you prepare not to meet it, you must be beaten with many stripes.

4. It may be proper to consider, that there are no means better adapted to awaken you, than those which God is using with you.

You well know, that you must apply yourself to the great work of salvation, for you cannot be saved in carelessness and indifferBut what means of excitement do you expect, other than those which you have? Do you need instruction? The word of


God is able to make you wise unto salvation. Do you need conviction of your sinful state? The gospel gives you the most perfect rules of trial. By these is the knowledge of sin. Do you need ardent desires of future happiness? There are promises of fulness of joy and everlasting pleasure in God's presence. you need encouragement? Through Jesus Christ is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. He came to save them who are lost. Do you need an impressive sense of your danger in a state of impenitence? The gospel reveals the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and assures you, that without repentance, there is no way of escape. Would you be assured, that God is merciful to forgive the penitent? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for you, how shall he not with him also freely give you all things?-Do you doubt whether a careless life will end so miserably as you have been told? Look into God's word-consult you conscience-consider the tears, the entreaties and the sufferings of the Saviour. Why did he weep over sinners-why did he warn them to flee from the wrath to come-why did he die for their salvation, if there were not some amazing danger before them? Think what agonies he endured; how the heavens were wrapt in darkness, the earth seized with convulsions, and the rocks torn from their seats, while he was suffering for your sins. And then say, if these things were done in a green tree, what will be done in the dry?—Do you need a nearer view of the punishment which awaits you? Think it not remote. You know not what shall be on the morrow. Your life is a vapor.—Do you doubt whether sin tends to misery? Consult your experience. Have you never felt the painful consequences of your own misconduct? Have you never seen men reduced to wretchedness by their obstinacy in vice? Have you never been stung with remorse for your sinful actions?-Do you plead in excuse for your negligence, the impotence of your nature? God's grace is sufficient for you. He gives his Holy Spirit to them who ask him.

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You presume perhaps, that God will sooner or later interpose to awaken you by some special operation of his Spirit. It may be so. But if you rest in this presumption, consider,

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