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5thly. At this time, also, we are affectingly required to ask ourselves the following questions.
First. What reason can we give for spending our life, as we have, in many instances, actually spent it.
Can you, my hearers, render to your consciences an excuse, with which they will be satisfied, for the manner in which you have lived during this period; a reason, which they will admit, why you have continued in sin; neglected your salvation; hazarded the eternal welfare of your souls; and put them on the risk of final perdition; a reason, why you have not obeyed GoD with all the heart; yielded yourselves to Him, as his children, in the covenant of peace; besought him with all humility of mind, with strong crying, and many tears, to pardon your manifold sins; turned to the Lord Jesus Christ with a sincere repentance, and faith in his blood; and consecrated your hearts and your lives to the service of GoD, and "your generation, according to His will?" Can you find a reason why you have wasted this year, with all the Sabbaths, privileges, and blessings which it contained; a reason, which you will be willing to allege before the bar of GOD; a reason, which he will admit; a reason, which will stand you in stead in that trying hour?
Second. Let me ask for you, What have you gained by living this year?
Are you less sinful? Are you more sober-minded? Are your consciences more tender? Do you think more frequently and solemnly, on death and the judgment; on the immense importance of life, as the day of probation; on the amazing nature of eternity, as the season of reward? Have you formed and retained useful resolutions of speedy repentance and amendment of life? Have you begun to ask God to save you, or to look to Christ for redemption? Have you considered whether you have souls to be saved; or once thought, during the preceding twelve months, that then was peculiarly "the accepted time?" Are you wiser, or better, than when the year began? Are you nearer to heaven? Have you gained any thing, which your minds can now recall; and which you will be willing to rehearse beyond the grave?
Third. Let me further ask you, What you have lost?
This question let me also answer. If you have not gained the things, which I mentioned under the last question; you have lost a year, with all the hopes and blessings which it brought on its wings. The bounties of God's Providence have been bestowed on you in vain. The proffers of his grace have been made to you in vain. In vain have the glad tidings of the gospel been proclaimed to you. In vain has the Sabbath dawned on you with peace and hope; the sanctuary invited you to the mercy seat; the sun in his successive circuits warned you how fast your days were fleeting away; the bell tolled the knell of those around you, to warn you of your own approaching death; and GoD and man, earth and heaven, laboured together, that you might live. All these blessings you have lost; and for the loss of none of them can you give an account.
Fourth. What is now your condition?
Search your souls, and see. Determine to know the worst of your case. This is the first step towards rendering it better. Probe your wounds to the bottom; lest they ulcerate beyond the hope of a cure. Inquire solemnly into all that you have done, and into all that you have left undone. What do your consciences testify? Can they say of you, as the spirit of grace said of Paul," Behold he prayeth." Do they testify, "That some good thing is found in you towards the Lord God of Israel?" Or are you yet" without hope, and without GOD in the world?"
Fifthly. What are your prospects?
These will in a great measure depend on your plans. What are those plans? Is there among them a sober, determined scheme of obtaining salvation? Is the time fixed on, at which you will begin the great work of self-examination; at which you intend to ask, "What you must do to be saved?" at which you intend" to arise, and go to your Heavenly father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee; and am no more worthy to be called thy son."" Have you began to feel, that you are sinners; ruined by your apostacy, condemned by the righteous law of GOD, and advancing daily towards the
"burnings of devouring fire." Are you fully satisfied, that "there is salvation in no other, but Christ ;" and that "his blood only can take away sin?" Have you determined to quit "the broad and crooked road, which leadeth to destruction;" to desert your evil companions, your dangerous haunts, and your still more dangerous practices? Has the path to heaven, strait and difficult as it is, begun to seem a desirable road for the journey of your life? Have you considered the glorious world, to which it leads, and to which it is the only way, as your own future, eternal habitation; and determined, as an earnest of your arrival there, speedily to renew the joy of angels and saints over your repentance? Or is the world still your God, your portion, and your all.
Sixthly. What will be the end of your life?
At no distant period, all your years will come to an end. Your "feet will then stumble on the dark mountains," and your eyes be closed in the iron sleep. Your souls will then leave the bodies, which they here inhabited, and will "return to God who gave them," to have "every work, with every secret thing, brought into judgment." When from a dying bed you come to take a retrospect of all you will then have done, suffered and enjoyed, in this world; what, in your view, will probably be the amount? Will your whole life, like the year that is now closing, appear like a tale that is told; not only momentary, but vain; idle; a mere amusement; a day, in which you have fluttered and sported in the sunbeams, to no useful end; without providing for a peaceful death, a comfortable account, or a happy eternity. Will it then appear, that the means of grace have all been squandered by you; and that the day of salvation, that sweet and accepted time, has been laughed, slept, and sinned away? "Oh that you were wise; that you understood these things; that you would consider your latter end."
A SERMON FOR THE NEW YEAR.
PREACHED JANUARY, 1807.
JEREMIAH Xxviii. 16.
Therefore thus saith the Lord, "Behold, I will cast thee off from the face of the earth; this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord."
HANANIAH, the son of Azur, of Gibeon, a prophet of a false and wicked character, in the days of Zedekiah, king of Judea, thought proper to oppose the prophet Jeremiah. In the course of this opposition he denied the truth of his predictions; and declared, that God had revealed to him the disappointment and overthrow of Nebuchadnezar, the ruin of his expedition, and the liberation of the Jews from his yoke. All this he falsely declared. God had not sent him; but he made the people of Jerusalem "to trust in a lie." In consequence of this evil conduct, God sent to him the prophet Jeremiah with this message: "Hear now, Hananiah. The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore, thus saith the Lord, behold, I will cast thee off from the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die."
There is something peculiarly solemn and affecting in this remarkable prediction; and I cannot help believing, that it may be made a profitable subject of our contemplations. To bring death near to us; to recall our own personal interest in this mighty change, the close of our residence in the present world, and the means of our introduction into another; the termination of
our connection with the body, and the commencement of our separate existence; the end of time, and the opening of eternity: has ever been a duty solemnly urged by divines and moralists, and is plainly and powerfully commanded in the Scriptures. The indefiniteness of the subject, as thus enjoined, is, probably, one great reason, why the injunction has so little influence. Death is, undoubtedly, and is acknowledged to be, near; and we as well as others must unquestionably die. But our death may be postponed to a comparatively late period; and ten, twenty, or fifty years, may intervene. Of all these we feel in the main secure. With this stock before hand, we feel rich, and strong; consider ourselves as having much time laid up in store; and conclude, that we may safely, if not lawfully “take our ease, eat, drink, and be merry." Hence the solemn warning, which, like a knell, tolls the signal of our departure, is lost in deaf ears; and the pungent reproof loses its point against hearts, shielded with this adamantine defence.
But were the divine able to come to us in the name of the Lord; and to tell us, with the dictates of Omniscience, that this year we should die; his messages would undoubtedly assume a new and impressive character, and claim a regard hitherto unknown. What he cannot thus do, we clearly may in some measure do for ourselves. We cannot determine, indeed, that this year will end our present life, and consign us to the tomb; that it will finish our probation, and bring us to the judgment; but we can, with no uncommon effort of thought, suppose these events certainly to happen, during this period. We can behold ourselves laid on the bed of sickness, within the next twelve months; closing our eyes in death; separated from the body; ascending to the bar of God; giving our final account; and entering upon the "recompense of reward." We can suppose ourselves solemnly warned by a prophet of GOD, as was Hananiah, that within the year, which is begun, we shall die.
Were some one of this assembly thus certainly to be informed by an undoubted message from heaven, that this was his own future lot; what would be his views, his emotions, his pursuits, du