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In connexion with this I make one further remark. You well know, that, in view of death, sinners often lament their want of religion. Sometimes their anxiety rises to desper. ation, and cannot be witnessed by others without the most painful emotion. Now, let me ask, did you ever know a christian lamenting, on his dying bed, that he was a christian?—lamenting, that he had made a humble, unreserved surrender of himself to the will and service of his Creator? Among the millions, that have died in christian countries, point me to a single one, who, in death, retracted his christian faith ; who regretted, that he had chosen God for his portion, and Christ for his Saviour, and desired recovery, only that he might testify before the world his repentance for the virtue and piety of his past life.—No, the very mention, the recollection of that covenant, which has been established between God and himself, serves to brighten his countenance, and to soften those shades of death, which hang upon his visage.
IV. From that view, which has been taken of the subject, we perceive, that, without religion, it were better to be any thing, than a rational being. Your reason and conscience, let me remind you, will survive the most durable objects of the material universe. Like these, they will not wax old, nor be impaired by time; nay, the revolutions of eternity will but add to their activity and comprehension. There will be a clearness of perception hitherto unknown. Your relation to God, the nature of human obligation, and the difference between virtue and vice, will be subjects neither of investigation nor cavil. Reason unbiassed will, in every period of duration, and in all parts of the universe, boldly condemn vice, and declare itself on the side of virtue. The friends of holiness will then experience that peace and overflowing joy, which arise from an intimate and near view of its obligation and good desert, and of the unchangeable approbation of its Author. The conflict, on the other side, which is now maintained in sinners, between reason and inclination, between the conscience and the heart, will then become intolerable, when reason shall have acquired immortal strength, and vice unchangeable dominion. Our Sa. viour, in describing future punishment, is pleased to speak of " chains and darkness,-a burning lake,-a place prepared for the devil and his angels.” How far this language is literal, I pretend not to say. But, we may well conceive, that the suffering of reprobates will be sufficiently great, to justify this language, even if the body should have no share in the pain. Remorse of conscience, we have been reminded, in this discourse, has in the present life, driven persons to desperation. It is impossible to tell how far this remorse may be increased after death, when the organs of moral vision shall become more powerful and discriminating. A consciousness of unworthiness, of turpitude, of folly, and irretrievable loss, will accompany the sinner, in whatever part of the universe,-in whatever part of eternity he may exist. Even if he could escape the eyes of God, there is another immortal enemy, whose upbraidings he can not escape; I mean his own reason and conscience; I mean himself. Fly where he will, his reason goes with him; and its reproaches will always be felt with undiminished sensibility.
Lastly. We cease to be surprised at the great effort, which the gay and thoughtless often make to keep up their spirits ;—in their own language, to expel the glooms,-to banish sorrow. These glooms and this sorrow are very likely to be the result of solitary and calm reflection. On such occasions, reason begins to speak, and her voice becomes distinct and audible. The sinner is alarmed; he dreads this assiduous monitor. "I hate him (said Ahab ;) for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil.” Scenes and employments must be devised, in which the passions will be interested, and reflection silenced. But this tumultuous state of the feelings cannot be always preserved, nature herself will not endure it. Nay, reflection may obtrude itself, in the midst of splendid and loud festivity. “In the midst of mirth, the heart is sorrowful: and the
end of that mirth is heaviness.” Who could have been less exposed to care and anxious thought; who could have been in a better condition to enjoy a night of revelling, undisturbed, than Belshazzar, when he had “ made a feast to a thousand of his lords, and was drinking wine before the thousand; when he sent for the golden vessels, which had been taken from the house of God, and suffered his lords, his wives, and concubines to drink in them. Yet in that same hour, came forth the fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick, upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand, that wrote. And the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote, one against the other."
But, whether conscience can now be silenced or not, the time is coming, when there will be no amusement,—no expedients for effecting this. Its twinges, of which the sinner is so much afraid, are premonitions of something to come. They are the gentlest corrodings of a worm, which never dies; they are scintillations of that fire, which never can be quenched.
My hearers, in order to be secure, we must be christians :-in order to be rational, we must be pious: peace must be restored between the intellects and the heart. We must cease to be our own enemies; to expose ourselves to our own reproaches. “ For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things.”
Consequences of neglecting the great salvation.
HEBREWS, ii. 2 & 3. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every trans
gression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation : which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them, that heard Him.
Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world. He is incapable of disappointment; nor does he ever adopt any new measure by way of experiment. He never enters on the execution of any purpose, which he had not formed, before the universe began. Though to our view, his government has a different aspect at different periods, it is really uniform. The parts, though various, are so connected and proportioned as to constitute a system, in all respects, worthy of the Being, from whom it proceeds. That which happens in any age, has relalation to what precedes, and to what follows. The Mosaic dispensation had respect, on the one side, to the fall of man: on the other, to the coming of Jesus Christ. It was not de signed to be perfect in quality, nor eternal in duration. « The law made nothing perfect; but was a shadow of good things to come.”
The apostle institutes in the context, a comparison between the religion of Moses and that of Christ. “ The word, spok en by angels,” was the law, as given at Mount Sinai. If it be asked, why the law is said to have been given by angels; 1 answer, that many of these celestial spirits, there is reason to believe, were present, as witnesses and ministers to that great transaction. This seens to be intinated by the Psalmist, “ The chariots of God are twenty thousand; even thousands of angels : the Lord is among them, as in Sinai.” By the martyr Stephen it is expressly declared, that the Jewish people received the law by the disposition of angels;" and by St. Paul, that “ the law was ordained by angels in the hands of a Mediator.” In what manner, their aid was given, we know not; but that they were present, and in some way auxiliary to the great event, is made sufficiently clear by the passages cited.
If this word, thus given, was firm, saith the inspired wri. ter;-if the commands of Moses could not be broken with impunity; and if those, who violated them were, in a very strict and examplary manner, punished; how shall we escape, ,
if we neglect a religion, introduced by God's own Son, and propagated by the miraculous interposition of the Holy Ghost?
Similar to the text is another passage in the same epistle ; “If he that despised Moses' law died without mercy, under two or three witnesses, of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing ?"
It is evident, that the apostle meant to infer, not only that God will be punctual in executing the threatnings of the gospel, because he was so in executing those of the law; but likewise, that the doom of sinners, who reject christianity will be more severe than was theirs, who rejected the relig. ion of Moses, in proportion as christianity has superior excellence.
I shall endeavor to show briefly; 1. That God signally manifested his displeasure against those, who were disobedient