« PreviousContinue »
fect the most terrific truths of religion. In seasons of prosperity, the gospel supplies us with sweet and consoling passages, but we should now urge the most efficacious; we should not stay to adorn the house of God, when called to extinguish a fire which threatens its destruction. Yes, Christians, did we use concerning many of you, any other language, we should betray the sentiments of our hearts. You suffer the only period, proper for your salvation, to escape. You walk in a dreadful path, the end thereof is death, and your way of life tends absolutely to incapacitate you from tasting the sweetness of a happy death.
It is true, if you call in some ministers at the close of life, they will perhaps have the weakness to promise, to the appearance of conversion, that grace which is offered only to a genuine change of heart. But we solemnly declare, that if, after a life of inaction and negligence, they shall speak peace to you on à death bed, you ought not to depend on this kind of promises. They ought to be classed with those things which ought not to be credited, though preached by an angel of heaven. Ministers are but men, and weak as others. You call us to attend the dying, who have lived as most of the human kind. There we find a sorrowful family, a father bathed in tears, a mother in despair: what would you have us to do? Would you have us speak honestly to the sick man? Would you have us tell him, that all this exterior of repentance is a vain phantom without substance, without reality? That among a thousand sick persons, who seem converted on a death-bed, we scarcely find one who is really chang
ed? That for one degree of probability of the reality of his conversion, we have a thousand which prove it to be extorted ? And to speak without evasion, we presume, that in one hour he will be taken from his dying bed, and cast into the torments of hell ? We should
we should apply this last remedy, and no longer trifle with a soul whose destruction is almost inevitable. But you forbid us, you prevent us ; you say that such severe language would injure the health of the sick. You do more ; you weep, you lament. Ata scene so pathetic, we soften as other inen : we have not resolution to add one affliction to another; and whether from compassion to the dying, or pity to the living, we talk of heaven, and afford the man hopes of salvation. . But we say again, we still declare that all these promises ought to be suspected; they can change neither the spirit of religion, nor the nature of man. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord, Heb. xii. 14. And those tears which you shed on the approach of death, that extorted submission to the will of God, those hasty resolutions of obedience, are not that holiness. In vain should we address you in other language. You would indeed hear on your dying bed an irreproachable witness always ready to contradict us.-That witness is conscience. In vain does the degenerate minister endeavour to afford the dying illusive hope, conscience speaks without disguise. The preacher says, Peace, peace, Jer. vi. 14.
Conscience replies, There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God, Isaiah lv. 21. The preacher says, Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, Psa.
xxiv. 7. Conscience cries, Mountains, mountains, fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that silleth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, Rev. vi. 16.
But, 0 gracious God, what are we doing in this pulpit ? Are we come to trouble Israel ? Are we sent to curse ? Do we preach to-day only of hell, only of devils ? Ah! my brethren, there is no attaining salvation but in the way which we have prescribed : it is true, that to the present hour you have neglected: it is true, that the day of vengeance succeeds the day of wrath. But the day of vengeance is not yet
You yet live, you yet breathe : grace is yet offered. I hear the voice of iny Saviour, saying, Comfort yc, comfort ye my people, speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem. Isa. xl. 1. I hear the delightful accents crying upon this church, Grace, grace unto it. Zech. iv. 7. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah ? Hon shall I set thee as Zeboim ? Mine heart is turned within me, my relentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger : I will not return to destroy Ephraim. Hos. xi. 3, 9.-It speaks peculiarly to you young people, whose minds are yet free from passion and prejudice, whose chaste hearts have not yet been corrupted by this world. You are now precisely at the age for salvation ; you have all the necessary dispositions for the study of religious truths, and the subjugation of your hearts to its laws. What penetration, what perception, what vivacity, and consequently what preparation for receiving the yoke of Christ. Che.
rish those dispositions, and improve each moment of a period so precious. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Eccles. xii. 1. Alas, with all your acuteness you will have enough to do in surmounting the wicked propensities of your heart. And would not the force of habit exceedingly aug. ment the depravity of nature, should you
continue in vice?
And you aged men, who have already run your course, but who have devoted the best of your days to the world: you who seek the Lord to-day, groping your way, and who are making faint efforts in age to withdraw from the world a heart of which it has possession : what shall we say to you? Shall we say that your ruin is without remedy, that your sentence is already pronounced, that nothing now remains but to cast you headlong into the abyss you have willingly prepared for yourselves? God forbid that we should thus become the executioners of Divine vengeance. We address you in the voice of our prophet, Seek ye
the Lord while he may be found. Weep at the remembrance of your past lives, tremble at the thought, that God sends strong delusions on those that obey not the truth. Oh! happy docility of my youth, whither art thou fled? Ah! soul more burthened with corruption than with the weight of years ; Ah! stupidity, prejudico, fatal dominion of sin, you are the fatal recompence I have derived from serving the enemy of my salvation.
But, while you fear, hope: and hoping, act : at least, O! at least devote the span of life, which God may add to your salvation. You have abundantly
more to do than others; your task is greater, and your time is shorter. You have, according to the prophet, to turn your feet unto the testimonies of the Lord. Psalm cxix. 59. You have to swim against the stream, to enter in at the straight gate. Above all,--above all, offer up fervent prayers to God. Perhaps, moved by your tears, he will revoke the sentence ; perhaps excited to compassion by your misery, he will heal it by his grace ; perhaps, surmounting by the supernatural operations of the Spirit, the depravity of nature, he will give you thoughts so divine, and sentiments so tender, that you shall suddenly be transformed into new men.
To the utmost of our power, let us reform. There is yet time, but that time is perhaps more limited than we think. After all, why delay ? Ah! I well see what obstructs. You regard conversion as a tedious task, and the state of regeneration as difficult and burdensome, which must be entered into as late as possible. But if you knew-if you knew the gift of God! If you knew the sweetness felt by a man who seeks God in his ordinances, who hears his oracles, who derives light and truth from their source. If you knew the joy of a man transformed into the image of his Maker, and who daily engraves on his heart some new trait of the all-perfect being. If you knew the consolation of a Christian, who seeks his God in prayer, who iningles his voice with the voice of angels, and begins on earth the sacred exercises which shall one day constitute bis eternal felicity! If you knew the joys which succeed the bitterness of repentance, when the sinner, returning from his