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warnings, of terrific examples, of appalling menaces, with which they abound, and which they address to all those who daringly delay conversion. We should have to repeat this caution of the prophet, To-day if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts, Psalm xcv. 7. A caution he has sanctified by his own example, I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. Psa. cxix. 60. We should have only to address to you this reflection, made by the author of the second book of Chronicles: The Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people ; but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people till there was no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees who slew the young men with the sword. And had no compassion upon young men or maidens, old men or him that stooped for age. They burned the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all the palaces thereof with fire, 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, &c. We should only have to propose the declaration of Eternal Wisdom, Because I called and ye refused, I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh, Prov. i. 26. We should have but to represent the affecting scene of Jesus Christ weeping over Jerusalem, and saying, O that thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace ; but now they are hid from thine eyes, Luke xix. 41. We should have but to say to each of you as St. Paul to the Romans: Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not
knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgments of God, Rom. ii. 4, &c. And elsewhere that God sends strong delusion on those who believe not the truth, to believe a lie, 2 Thess. ii. 8. We should have but to resound in this assembly, those awful words in the Epistle to the Hebrews : If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and the fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries. Heb. X. 26. For if the mercy of God is without bounds, if it is ready to receive the sinner the moment he is induced by the fear of punishment to prostrate himself before him, why is the present day marked as the precise period to hear his voice? Why this haste? Why are resources and remedies exhausted? Why this strong delusion? Why this refusal to hear the tardy penitent? Why this end of the days of Jerusalem's visitation? Why these treasures of wrath? Why this defect of sacrifice for sin ? All these passages, my brethren, are as so many sentences against our delays, against the contradictory notions we fondly form of the divine mercy, and of which we foolishly avail ourselves in order to sleep in our sins.
All these things being hereby evident and clear; they require no farther explication. Let us proceed with our discourse. When we einployed our phiļosophical arguments against the delay of conver
sion; when we proved from the force of habits, that it is difficult, not to say impossible, for a man aged in crimes, to be converted at the hour of death; it appeared to you, that we shook two doctrines which are fundamental pillars of faith.
The first is the supernatural aids of the Holy Spirit, promised in the new covenant; aids which bend the most rebellious wills, aids which can surmount in a moment all the difficulties wbich the force of habit can oppose to conversion.
The second doctrine, is that of mercy, access to which being opened by the blood of Christ, there is no period it seems but we may be admitted whenever we come, though at the close of life. Here is, in substance, if I mistake not, all that religion and the scriptures seem to oppose to what has been advanced in our first discourse. If we make it therefore evident, that these two doctrines do not oppose our principles; if we prove, that they contain nothing directly repugnant to the conclusions we have drawn, shall we not thereby demonstrate, that the Scriptures contain nothing but what should alarm those who trust to a tardy repentance. This we undertake to develope. The subject is not without difficulty ; we ' have to steer between two rocks equally dangerous : for if, on the one hand, we should supersede those doctrines, we abjure the faith of our fathers, and draw upon ourselves the charge of heterodoxy. On the other hand, if we should stretch those doctrines beyond a certain point, we furnish a plea for licentiousness : we sap what we have built, and refute
ourselves. Both these rocks we must cautiously avoid.
The first proofs of which people avail themselves; to excuse their negligence and delay, and the first arguments of defence, which they draw from the Scriptures, in order to oppose us, are taken from the aids of the Spirit, promised in the new covenant. “ Why those alarming sermons?” say they. “Why those awful addresses to the man, who merely defers his conversion? Why confound, in this way, religious with natural habits?” The latter are formed, I grant, by labour and study; by persevering and uninterrupted assiduity. The former proceed from extraneous aids; they are the productions of grace, formed in the soul by the Holy Spirit. I will not, therefore, invalidate a doctrine so consolatory ; I will profit by the prerogatives of Christianity ; I will devote my life to the world ; and when I perceive myself ready to expire, I will assume the character of a Christian. I will surrender myself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit ; and then he shall, according to his promise, communicate bis powerful influence to my heart ; he shall subdue my wicked propensities, eradicate my most inveterate habits, and effectuate, in a moment, what would have cost me so much labour and pain. Here is an objection, which most sinners have not the effrontery to mention, but which a false theology infuses into too many minds; and on which we found nearly the whole of our imaginary hopes of a death-bed conversion.
To this objection we must reply. We shall manifest its absurdity, 1. By the ministry God has estaVOL. VII,
blished in the church. 2. By the efforts he requires us to make, previously to our presuming that we have received the Holy Spirit. 3. By the manner in which he requires us to co-operate with the Spirit, when we have received bim. 4. By the punishments he has denounced against those who resist his work. 5. By the conclusions which the Scripture itself deduces from our natural weakness, and from the necessity of grace. Here, iny brethren, are five sources of reflection, which will demonstrate, that every man who draws consequences from the promised aids of the Spirit, to live in lukewarmness, and to flatter himself with acquiring, without labour, without difficulty, without application, habits of holiness, offers violence to religion, and is unacquainted with the genius of the Holy Spirit's economy.
The ministry established in the church, is the first proof that the aids of the Spirit give no countenance to lukewarmness, and the delay of conversion. Had it been the design of the Holy Spirit to communicate knowledge, without the fatigue of religious instruction; had it been his design to sanctify, in a moment, without requiring our co-operation in this great work, why establish a ministry in the church? Why require us in infancy to be taught line upon line, and precept upon precepl, as Isaiah expresses himself? Isa. xxxviii. 10. Why, as St. Paul says, require us afterward to leave the principles of the doctrines of Christ, and go on to perfection ? Heb. vi. 1. Why require, as the same apostle says, that we proceed froin milk to strong meat ? 1 Cor. iii. 2. Why require to propose motives, and address exhortations ?