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The Sabbath, also, neglected perhaps, and forgotten, or wantonly violated, profaned, and spent in idleness, sleep, business, and sin; would now claim a high importance, a heavenly distinction. "This is the day," would he naturally exclaim, "which the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it; I will take the cup of salvation, and pay my vows. To-day," let me "not harden my heart, lest I perish," as those," whose carcases fell in the wilderness. Behold, now is the accepted time! Behold, now is the day of salvation!" Let me now "do what my hand findeth to do, with my might; for there is no work, device, knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither I go."
What would keep this man from the house of God? Would he suffer an ordinary dress, a slight indisposition, a cold or showery day, to stand between him and heaven? What would withdraw his mind from the solemn service of the sanctuary? Would his heart wander after his covetousness, or his pleasures? Would he complain of the style, or the utterance, of the preacher? Would he turn away his ear from the message of God, the warning of destruction, the voice of pardon, or the promise of life; because it was announced by a plain man, and in an ungraceful manner? When the messenger of Christ came to him, with the tidings of peace, reconciliation, the resurrection of life, and eternal glory; would he find leisure, or inclination, to scrutinize his dress, his air, and his accomplishments? Would he not, on the contrary, forgetful of all things else, look to the mercy-seat; to behold a dying and risen Saviour, and an efficacious atonement; and to hear the sound of forgiven sin, and the voice of an approving God? Would he not cry out, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My heart and my flesh cryeth out for the living God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house. Behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. A day, spent in thy courts, is better than a thousand: I would rather be a door-keeper in the house of God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness. The Lord God is a sun, and shield. The Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man, that trusteth in thee!"
Christians, also, before objects of neglect, perhaps of contempt, and derision, pitied as weak and credulous, and despised as destitute of sense and spirit, would now become possessed of an importance wholly new. To"walk with wise men," he would learn from God himself, was the way to become wise. As companions, as friends, as instructors, as examples, he would seek their aid, countenance, and direction. To them would he, of course, unbosom all his sins, and fears, and sorrows. From them would he seek and find direction concerning the path, in which he wished to walk; companions, to cheer and encourage his journey; and motives, to persevere to the end. By them would he find his sorrows soothed, his fears allayed, and his hopes brightened; and in them would he find that tenderness, that evangelical sympathy, which "weeps with such as weep, and rejoices with such as rejoice," blending itself with all his interests, and mingling tears, and smiles and joys, with his.
These men also he would consider as the only rational inhabitants of the present world. He would see and acknowledge, that they, and they only, had lived to good purpose; had fulfilled the end of their being; had secured themselves from disappointment, shame, and ruin, in the future world, and "laid up in store a good foundation for the time to come." Hence in his eye they would claim a total superiority over all others; and would be regarded with a respect and estimation totally singular.
Wicked men, on the contrary, however regarded by him during his former life, would appear of necessity as fools and madmen. All their boasted sagacity and worldly wisdom would in his view be nothing but specious distraction; all their bustle about wealth, fame, office, power, splendour, and sensuality, would appear like the scrambles of bedlam. "What profit," would he exclaim, "is there in the things, of which" these miserable wretches must one day "be ashamed? for the end of" all "these things," as pursued by them, "is death." Of course their arguments, allurements, example, and authority, would all vanish; and themselves, and their works, pursuits, and enjoyments, would be written down by him "vanity and vexation of spirit." Nor would
their numbers at all increase their weight or their influence. He would naturally remember, that "the way" of destruction “is broad," as well as "crooked, and multitudes have ever gone in thereat:" and he would infinitely rather rest peacefully and safely in the ark, with the little family of Noah, while "the windows of heaven were opened, and the fountains of the great deep were broken up ;" than to perish in the general ruin of a world, with all its millions of inhabitants.
In the mean time, with what feelings would he regard Eternity? How solemnly would he fix his eyes on a dying bed; and mark the king of terrors in his still and awful approach to summon him away? With what emotions would he cast his view forward beyond the grave, and see the Judge ascending the last tribunal; the judgment in a sense begun; the books opened; and himself called to a final "account of all the deeds done in the body?" Still beyond, would rise in amazing prospect the boundless ocean, upon the shore of which he would feel that he was now standing, ready to launch on its unfathomable waters, bound on a voyage of endless duration, and of importance, which cannot be measured. In eternity all his concerns would lie. Time to him would soon be no more. Its last suns would be rolling through the heavens; and its evening would be preparing to finish the little day of life. With time he would feel but one concern; and that would be to employ its remaining hours in diligent preparation for eternity.
With such views, what would be his conduct? His closet would summon him, with Daniel, "three times a day to bow his knees before the Father of all mercies," to confess his sins; acknowledge the divine goodness to him; and ask humbly for the forgiveness of his sins, and the salvation of his soul. With the Bereans, he would "search the Scriptures" daily for "the words of eternal life." With David, he would be glad when they said unto him, “Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord."
In all his concerns with his fellow men, he would labour "to do justly, and to shew mercy ;" and in all his concerns with God, to" walk humbly before him."
In a word, he would strive to become a reasonable being, to act as an intelligent creature; an heir of eternity; a candidate for life everlasting.
I say, he would thus act. By this I mean, however, that, if he were not a sot, a fool, a madman, such would be his conduct. That such it ought to be will, I presume be acknowledged by all who hear me.
But, if this would be, and ought to be, the conduct of a man solemnly warned by GoD, that within a year he should die; let us examine our own situation, and see how far our conduct ought to resemble his. If the resemblance be great and essential, and the difference trifling and insignificant; then it will follow, that what would be his duty and wisdom; must be ours.
We are not, indeed, thus solemnly and directly admonished of the time of our departure by the voice of a Prophet: but we are taught with irresistible certainty, by the Word and Providence of God, that within this year we may, not improbably, die; and that within a little period we shall certainly die. Of the four hundred mortal beings, who are now before me, several will in all probability go to the grave, and to the judgment, before another sun shall have rounded the year. How many we know not who they will be, we know not. The uncertainty concerning each should make each feel, that the case may be his own. No one is probably more interested in this affecting subject than the preacher himself. It becomes me, therefore; it becomes every one of those who hear me; to bring the case home, to ourselves; to lay strong hold on all the consequences; and "so to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom,"
The first great question, here to be asked, is, Are we ready to die? This is to be answered by asking again, Is our peace made with God? Are our sins forgiven? Are our souls interested in the merits of Christ? Have we embraced him with the faith of the Gospel? Have we repented of our sins; Have we turned to GOD with all the heart? If we can answer these questions in the af VOL. II.
firmative, it will be well with us; and we have already secured the great end of our being.
But if not, what ought to be our conduct? Can we look at this subject; can we ponder death and the grave, judgment, and eternity, heaven and hell; with coldness and indifference? Have you ever thought what it is to die; to appear before God; alone, unembodied; to be tried, and judged, and sentenced, and “rewarded, according to your works?" Have you considered the suspended state of an immortal mind; the exposure of eternal interests to final ruin; the immense hazard of a cold and stupid, a worldly and guilty, probationer for eternal life and death? Have you weighed, have you reckoned up, what it is to lose heaven, and to be sent down to hell? Are you prepared to enter eternity with all your sins on your heads? Can you flee from the presence, the power, and the hand, of GOD? Can you evade the search of his all-seeing eye? Can you " abide in the day of his anger, and stand in the time of his indignation?" When is your preparation to shun the dangers before you, to escape from a guilty, rebellious character, a fearful condemnation, and final perdition, to begin? Have you resolved on the time? Is it at hand? If it is i "go on and prosper;" and may "the Lord lift upon you the light of his countenance, and be gracious to you!"
If not; let me propose to you a time for this solemn purpose. You have just ended a year, which God has given to you, that you might obtain salvation. You are commencing through his mercy and long suffering a new year, allotted, so far as you will be permitted to enjoy it, for the same end. All your preceding years are lost; not gone merely, but wasted with a dangerous and fatal prodigality. It is time, that you began to husband your day of grace, and to save the remainder of the accepted time.
This day let God be a witness of your first determination to renounce iniquity, and turn to him; to repent of your sins; to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to yield yourselves to him as a faithful and free-will offering. Let this new year bring you to a new, humble, obedient, and spiritual life. Let your "old