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danger of devouring fire. Let him remember, that in displaying his guilt, and in denouncing his danger, his minister is using the only possible means of saving him from both. The physician heals a pestilential disease by the administration of bitter remedies. Still they are remedies, and will accomplish the cure. Were he to substitute for them all the sweets of Hybla, the patient, though he might please his palate, would lose his life. The surgeon heals an ulcer, or a fracture, by exploring it, with a hard hand, a painful probe, or a searching caustic. All these are uncomfortable; but, were he to neglect them, the wound would mortify, and the limb perish.
Every truth concerning a sinner, except this, that there is hope that he may cease from sin, and those truths which depend on this by an inseparable connection, is, and cannot fail to be, painful. Still these very painful truths are the means, without which there is no hope that he will ever cease to be a sinner. To do him good they must be told to him, and plainly, without disguise, concealment, or softening. The preacher must not, indeed, end his work here, but must also spread before him all the hopes and consolations furnished to the penitent in the Gospel. But he must do this work; and the sinner must consent to have it done, unless he intends to be lost for ever.
V. Hearers are by this text solemnly warned to obey the truths thus preached without delay.
Hearers have two great duties, with regard to the preaching of the Gospel, enjoined upon them by God; to receive such preaching, and to obey it without delay.
The Bereans have this honourable testimony borne concerning them by the Spirit of God, "that they received the
word with all readiness of mind," that is, they were willing to be told the truth; and, to satisfy themselves whether the truth was told them, "they searched the Scriptures daily, to see whether" it was the truth or not. This was a glorious and happy character, and merits the imitation of all to whom the Gospel is declared. There are those who are impatient of all honest disclosures of evangelical truth, and who regard the
preacher, when delivering it, with hatred and anger. But, in spite of the natural opposition of the human heart to the truth of the Gospel, it is my firm belief, that no preaching is in this country so popular as that which is strictly evangelical. The manifestation of the truth commends both itself, and him who preaches it, so effectually to every man's conscience, that the natural opposition of the human heart is not unfrequently silenced and overcome. Even the selfishness of the sinner is unwittingly embarked, and not unfrequently on the side of the preacher. The sinner often, perhaps usually in a well instructed congregation, knows what is the truth; and is completely satisfied, that truth alone can ever do him good, and prove the means of salvation; whereas error, he equally well knows, can only flatter him here, to destroy him hereafter. Besides, there is something so venerable, excellent, and even awful in the honest preaching of the Gospel, as to make a sinner afraid and self-condemned whenever his heart rises in anger against the faithful preacher. Even Felix was not angry with Paul; but regarded him, though a prisoner, with high veneration. Whatever is the cause, this is certain, that no preacher, who does not preach evangelically, is, in most parts of this country, long held in high estimation, or relied on as a religious man. But an evil of another kind is still found here, and found abundantly. Sinners hear and respect the preacher; acknowledge the truth of his doctrines, and confess the importance of obeying them nay, they usually, or at least in many instances, intend to obey them but here they stop.
Let me appeal to this assembly for the truth of these observations. Have not most of you, who now hear me, at some period of your lives thought seriously about your salvation? Have you not believed yourselves to be sinners standing in absolute need of repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ? Have you not designed to begin this great business, and to escape from the wrath to come? What then hindered you from proceeding to accomplish it? You were not ready. You were too deeply immersed in business, or too intensely devoted to pleasure.
In the mean time, you saw life lengthen before you through
days and years enough to furnish you with a thousand future seasons of repentance. To one of these many seasons, far more suitable for the purpose, in your view, than the time present, you concluded to postpone the work; resolving, when the happy period should arrive, to begin it in earnest. Days and years have, through the mercy of God to you, flowed on; but have you found this happy season?
My brethren, the world is filled with those who say to repentance, to faith, to holiness, to Christ, to God, "Go thy way "for this time, and when I have a convenient season I will "call for thee." To procrastinate the business of salvation is the real madness, the crying sin of man. "Procrastination "is the thief," which steals away not only our time, but our hopes, our souls, our all. Ourselves and those around us, however contentious in other things, are agreed wholly in this, that we will delay that which alone ought never for a moment to be delayed. "Behold, now," saith the Apostle, "is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation!" "Behold, now," we reply, "is the time of business! Behold, now is the day of amusement!" But the accepted time, the day of salvation, is to-morrow; a season always one day before us, and never overtaken.
Can this conduct, my brethren, be justified? Can it consist with wisdom, with duty, and with common sense? "Hear, "ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see." Is not the attainment of eternal life the only end for which you live? And shall the only end of life be postponed to its close? Judgment and eternity, heaven and hell, hang on this little period. Shall it be wasted in blowing bubbles, in picking straws, in gathering cockle shells? Will you sit down to eat, and to drink, and rise up to play when God is commanding you from heaven "to do what your hand findeth to do with your might; and declaring, that there is no work, nor device, "nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither you go. "When Christ is calling on you to strive to enter in at the "strait gate, and assuring you that strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life; and that wide is "the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth unto destruction.
"Is it a time to bustle, and toy, and trifle, when hell is naked "before you, and destruction hath no covering;" when the door of life is ready to be shut, and the voice of mercy to sound no more for ever?
But when is the work of salvation to be begun? Is it to be begun to-morrow, the next year, or at some distant period? "Boast not yourselves of to-morrow, for you know not what a day may bring forth." Allow, what you have no right to expect, that these promised seasons will all arrive, and find you here. Will you be at all better disposed to begin it then than now? Why are you now indisposed? Because your hearts are opposed to repentance, and absorbed in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. At every future period, your opposition to repentance will be stronger, and your absorption in the world and its lusts more entire. "Now, therefore, while it is called to-day, harden not your "hearts as in the provocation."
You, with all men, condemn the procrastination of Felix; but, while you condemn it, you act it over again. Where is he now? What would he give, what would he not give, to have the day return to him, in which Paul preached before him in so faithful a manner? His interest, under this preaching, was the same with yours under the faithful preaching of your own ministers. Procrastination ruined him for ever; continued, it will ruin you. Whenever, therefore, your preacher comes out to address you with independent honesty and sincere affection, and sets your sins and duties, your danger and safety, before you in the strong light of the Gospel; whenever you, at the same time, acknowledging the truth and importance of all his solemn declarations, begin to postpone your obedience and salvation to a future day, let each of you recite to himself, When "Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled; and answered, 'Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will "call for thee."" Thus he acted and perished. If I act in the same manner, I shall perish also.
THE PURITY OF THE MINISTERIAL CHARACTER.
A Sermon preached at the Ordination of the Rev. Moses Stuart, as Pastor of the First Church and Congregation in Newhaven, March 5, 1806.
MATTHEW v. 13.
"Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."
THESE words are a part of Christ's sermon on the Mount, and immediately follow the Beatitudes. From the place which they hold in this wonderful discourse of our Saviour, it will naturally be supposed that they are of peculiar importance. They are addressed to his disciples, a considerable part of whom were afterwards Apostles, and most, if not all, of the others, were ministers of the Gospel. It is, however, undoubtedly directed to all Christians, and is true of them all; but it is particularly applicable to Ministers of the Gospel, such as most or all of those were, to whom it was immediately addressed, and peculiarly to the Apostles, who were ministers in a higher sense than any others.
To these ministers it is declared by the Redeemer that they