Page images

attendants return indeed, but the bridal procession has passed by ;-the bridegroom is now at the altar ;—the portal of the temple is closed. The tardy virgins knock, imploring admission“ Lord, Lord, open to us :"_He hears their request; but what is his reply?- Mark it !Verily I say unto you, I know you not."

Now, apply this parable, and the impressive warning preceding it, to the case in point,—the condition of the slothful and feeble Christian, who hopes, by a protracted and ultimate repentance, to make amends for past misconduct.

The simple virgins are referred to the venders of the commodity of which they stood in such pressing need—“ Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves ;" and the time has been when, even in the Christian Church, pardon and absolution were matters of bargain and salearticles of gainful traffic. A powerful hierarchy, (with whose civil and political claims I intermeddle not, but whose religious errors and corruptions, as well as the errors of every other party, must sometimes be referred to, in vindication of truth) that hierarchy, which in the days of ignorance and superstition acquired such unlimited dominion over Christendom, established a lucrative

bank, supplied from the superabundant goodness of martyrs and confessors ; from which fund they plentifully administered to the deficiencies of such deluded votaries as were willing to purchase remission and security by liberal donations to the clergy. This folly will now be thought sufficiently glaring; and yet among many, who deride such weakness and credulity, a kindred superstition may be found. Enthusiasm, of whatever school, is as blind and credulous as popery. He who thinks to make compensation for fraud and dishonesty by indiscriminate zeal in disseminating the Bible, and propagating a faith which does not influence his own conduct, and he who resorts to the merits of Christ, to atone for sin, not abjured and abandoned, but for obstinate and continued disobedience, is as far gone in credulity, and adopts as gross an error, as the believer in transubstantiation, or the purchaser of papal indulgences. Surely that doctrine is far from “ the truth as it is in Jesus," which, quite forgetting all His lessons of morality, disclaims and despises moral virtue, as arrogant self-righteousness ;-wildly dreaming that all will be set right at last, by sending for a Gospel minister, and crying, “ Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out,”—partaking the sacrament—hearing the absolution of a fellow-sinner

-and then, by a kind of juggler's trick, the shackles of sin are to fall off, and the ransomed soul find shelter and safety under the shadow of His wings, who is still irreverently styled, as he was of old reproachfully by the Pharisees, " the friend of sinners.” Yes, the Lord our righteousness is, in the fullest sense, “ the friend of sinners,"— for he came to call them to repentance; but to those who observe not this call, who repent not in time to turn from their evil deeds, he decidedly professes, “ I know not whence ye are ;-depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity."

Purposes and intentions of future amendment, without an immediate and vigorous endeavour to reform, are but mockery of God. An orthodox faith, without concurring holiness of life, is an exhausted lamp, affording neither kindly heat, nor useful light. " But,” cries the confident disciple of the predestinarian school, “ that lamp will be re-illuminated by a flash from heaven, and burn brighter at the last :- All who are ap

pointed unto life, will, sooner or later, hear the • call; and however careless or licentious a believer

may have been, yet, if he be a chosen vessel, the unction of the Spirit will be abundantly shed abroad in his heart, though in his very last moments, and his soul made meet for the inheritance of the saints.” The power of God none will dispute ;-He may, if He please, work this, as He may every other miracle ; but what ground have we to expect that He will ? He works no miracles now, to propagate his Word, to convince the infidel, or reform the profligate : He leaves them to the appointed methods of his grace, to the ordinary courses of his providence. His call is daily and hourly repeated-by blessings, by chastisements, by sickness, by sorrow, by dangers, by deliverances. He cries aloud by his Prophets and Apostles; He reasons and entreats by the Stewards of his mysteries. In the person of his Son, He bids us ask, that we may receive, seek that we may find; but He no where engages that the wretch who, through life, only promised and resolved, shall, on the eve of dissolution, receive unmerited illumination, obtain unconditional remission, and at once, by a miraculous translation, be placed within that shrine of salvation, which, during all the days of his vanity, had been in vain open to receive him.

I confess I have no confidence in these instantaneous conversions. At any rate, is it not presumption, is it not madness, to build our tower of strength on the treacherous sand of enthusiasm, when the eternal rock of Truth is immediately before us, offering us a secure and immovable basis?

Will you, then, leave the expiring sinner to his fate, without one effort to save ? Mercy forbid! The sickness, apparently mortal, “ may not be unto death ;" possibly, the Lord may raise him up, and grant him yet another hour of trial : at least, the surrounding spectators may be moved and awakened. Let us, then, “do the work of an Evangelist” to the last,—be instant “ in season, out of season,"—instruct, comfort, and support, as we may. And here I publicly pledge myself, or those who, in my stead, may supply the deficiencies of age, to be always ready at the call of contrition. This point, however, need not be pursued here ;-I am not now in the chamber of the dying—I stand in the house of the Lord ;-surrounded by those who are yet sound and alert in mind and body: such it is my duty to warn that “now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." Before that time

« PreviousContinue »