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tites; your sottish devotion to amusement and pleasure. What is to be the end of this career? Will it prepare you for death? Will it enable you to leave the world with hope and to give up your account with joy? Will it become the foundation of your acquittal in the judgment; or open for you the gates of heaven; or fit you for the blessings of immortality? How deplorable will it be to die at the end of such a life! How dreadful, to recite before your Judge an account, made up of amusements! How melancholy, to remember in the future world, that for amusements the soul was lost forever!
He, who must die, ought certainly to be always ready for death. As he cannot foresee the hour, in which he must leave the world, common prudence, as well as the command of God, requires him to be prepared for this event at every hour. "Am I ready?" is a question, which you are bound to ask, every day you live. Are your sins forgiven? Have you besought the Lord with strong crying, and many tears, to forgive them, and to save you from endless woe? Are you penitent, believing and prayerful? Have you chosen God as your God; Christ as your Saviour; and the Spirit of truth as your Sanctifier? Have you confessed Christ before men? Or, if not, are you now prepared to make this confession? Or, on the contrary, are you still sinners; strangers to the covenant of promise; without God, and therefore without hope in the world? Are you prayerless; thankless; impenitent; unbelieving; possessed of hard hearts and blind minds? Is the world your God; your portion; your all? Is it true, that you have never, even asked God to save you; and that heaven has never known a single petition from your lips enter its delightful, walls for your eternal life?
When the great curtain, which hides the invisible world from your sight, shall be drawn, will you behold, unveiled to your eyes, the gates of glory, opening to receive you; a smiling Judge, ready to acquit you; and the spirits of just men, made perfect, waiting to hail your arrival? Or will you meet an angry Judge; a dreadful condemnation; a world of sorrow; and a host of miserable companions, hailing your approach to their own melancholy doom?
Look forward to the events of a year to come; and tell me what emotions it must excite in your minds to remember at the close of it, that during this period you began to renounce your sins; to trust in your Redeemer; to obey your God; and to commence your journey towards the regions of immortal life? What transports would spring up in the hearts of your parents, to know that all their fears, and all your dangers, were terminated, because you had chosen the one thing needful, the good part, which will never be taken from you? How delightful would it then be to find your conflict ended, and your victory won; to see yourselves fairly entered into the straight and narrow way; and nothing remaining, but to continue your progress? Think what it must be to possess the hope, and joy, of sanctified minds; to become children of God, and followers of the Redeemer; to make all virtuous beings your friends; and to commence the divine career of glorifying your Creator, and doing good to the universe, throughout an interminable existence? What a period would such a year be! How long to be remembered on earth! How rapturously to be celebrated in the ages of heaven!
To encourage yourselves in this noble and evangelical pursuit, call to mind that God, to you, is now a God at hand, and not a God afar off. Behold his hand is not shortened that it cannot save; nor is his ear heavy that it cannot hear. He is now ready to receive, and welcome, you to his kingdom, his forgiveness, and his everlasting love. "Come unto me," says the merciful Saviour of mankind, "all ye that labour, and are heavy laden; and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you; and learn of me: for 1 am meek, and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest to your souls: for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
On the other hand, how distressing will it be, if a season so inviting, so plainly the best which you will ever enjoy, should roll on all its days, and weeks, and months, in vain. How distressing, that fifty two sabbaths should shine with their benevolent beams upon your heads, and illumine your paths to the house of God, only to increase your condemnation? How painful is the reflection, that all these golden days will be lost! that they will
be wasted in gratifying passions which warp, and in pursuing pleasures which steal, your affections from God. How melancholy is the thought, that the last of these sabbaths may find you in the grave; the house of God see your seat empty, to be filled by you no more; and those, whom you leave behind, follow your departed spirits with fears, and sighs, and sorrows, and mourn over your unhappy end without consolation and without hope. Oh that ye were wise! that ye understood these things! that ye would consider your latter end!
THE DANGER OF LOSING CONVICTIONS OF CONSCIENCE.
MATTHEW xii. 43-45.
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
Then he saith, "I will return into my house, from whence I came out," and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits, more wicked than himself; and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be, also, unto this wicked generation.
THESE words are a part of a discourse, addressed by Christ to certain of the Scribes and Pharisees. In consequence of the pungent sermon which he had uttered, after they had charged him with casting out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons, they demanded of him a sign from heaven: i. e. a proof of his Messiahship. Their application for this sign seems to have been made, partly with a design of putting a stop to the distressing reproofs of Christ, and partly with the hope of confounding him by disproving his pretensions. In his reply, Christ refuses them any other sign, beside that of Jonas, the prophet; whose temporary burial in the fish strongly typified that of Christ in the earth. Then, resuming the same forcible strain of rebuke, he uttered several very solemn and awful threatenings, and concluded his remarks with the text. A more dreadful picture of the guilt and danger of these men, and of all who are like them, was never drawn.
This passage of Scripture is apparently a parable. It may be a literal representation of facts. But there is nothing in the phraseology, which requires us to understand it in this sense. Whether considered as a simple, or symbolical, representation, it conveys to us, in substance, the same truths. Our sole concern lies with the things, which the Saviour designed to communicate, whether the facts or the persons were real or parabolical, is to us of no importance.
There is scarcely a more extraordinary paragraph in the Scriptures than this. Interpreters have extensively, and as I believe justly, considered it as a representation of the state of a sinner, in some degree affected with a sense of his guilt, forming resolutions of amendment, and making some attempts towards Evangelical reformation; but finally relinquishing them all, and returning again, like the dog to his vomit, and like the sow, that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire. Our Saviour subjoins, "So shall it be, also, unto this wicked generation."
Plainly, therefore, this parable is a description of the moral state of the Jews, to a considerable extent, at the time when it was spoken. In every age, and every country, where the Scriptures are known, there are persons, whose moral condition is the same with that of these Jews; persons of a hard heart, and a guilty life; who yet feel at times, and in some degree, their guilt and their danger. These persons usually form some designs, and even some resolutions, to repent. In many instances, however, they return to their former, sinful life with new, more guilty, and more hopeless dispositions. Of all such persons this parable is no less a just description, than of those Jews, whom they so strongly resemble. To these (for it is believed, that some of them may be found in this assembly) it is now solemnly addressed.
It is hardly necessary to say, that the representation is forcible and affecting, beyond example; and demands, not merely the solemn and profound, but the alarmed and eager attention of all men; especially of those, who either are, or are in danger of being in the situation, here described. I think of no method, in which I may unfold, or impress, the things, contained in it, more