« ElőzőTovább »
ger? Where, how, whence may I obtain deliverance ?" If you are not desirous seriously to attend to this inquiry, it will be to no purpose for me to solve it : to you it will appear as a solemn trifle, or an impertinent episode. But if you will lay it to heart, if you will, as it were, give me your word that you will pay a proper regard to it, I shall enter upon the solution with the utmost alacrity, I assure you
then, in the first place, your case is not yet des. perate, unless you choose to make it so ; that is, unless you choose to persist in carelessness and impenitence, as you have hitherto done If you now begin to think seriously upon your condition, to break off from your sins, and attend in good earneșt upon the means appointed for your salvation, there is hope concerning you ; yes, miserable sinners ! there is hope that this year, which now finds you in so deplorable a state, will introduce you into another, under the blessing of Heaven, safe from all danger, and entitled to everlasting happiness.
I presume you all know so well the external means you should use for your salvation, that I need not particularly direct you to them. You all know that prayer, reading, and hearing the word of God, meditation upon divine things, free conference with such as bave been taught by experience to direct you in this difficult work ; you all know, I say, that these are the means instituted for your conversion : and if you had right views of things, and a just temper towards them, you would hardly need instruction or the least persuasion to make use of them. But to give you such views, and inspire you with such a temper, this is the difficulty. O! that I knew how to undertake it with success! I can only give you such directions as appear to me proper and salutary ; but it is the almighty power of God alone that can give them force and efficacy.
You must learn to think, to think seriously and solemnly upon your danger, and the necessity of a speedy escape. You must retire from the crowd, from talk, dissipation, business, and amusement, and converse with yourselves alone in pensive solitude.
You must learn to think patiently upon subjects the most melancholy and alarming, your present guilt and depravity, and your dreadful doom so near at hand, if you continue in your present condition. The mind, fond of ease, and impatient of such mortifying and painful thoughts, will recoil, and fly off, and seek for refuge in every trifle : but you must arrest and confine it to these disagreeable subjects ; you must force upon it this medicinal pain, as you often force your stomach, when your health requires it. There is not any moroseness in this advice ; no illnatured design upon your pleasure and happiness. On the other hand, it is intended to procure you more pleasure and happiness than you can possibly obtain any other way : it is intended to prevent many sorrowful days and years, nay a complete eternity of misery. The alternative proposed to you is not, whether you shall feel the bitter anguish of repentance, or not ; whecher you shall be pensive and serious, or not ; whether you shall think upon gloomy and alarming subjects, or not : This is not at all the state of the case; for you must feel the sorrows of repentance : you must be thoughttul and pensive ; you must confine your minds to subjects of terror : you must, whether you will or not ; it is utterly unavoidable. But the only alternative proposed to your choice is, whether you will voluntarily submit to the kindly, hopeful, medicinal, preventive sorrows of repentance in this state of trial, which will issue in everlasting joy ; or be forced to submit to the despairing pangs, and useless destructive horrors of too late a repentance in the eternal world ; which will only torment you, but not save you ; which will be your punish. ment, and not a mean of your reformation, or a preparative for happiness. Whether you will confine your thoughts for a time to the contemplation of your present miserable circumstances, while hope eradiates even the darkest gloom of discouragement, and the gospel opens such bright and inviting prospects beyond those melancholy views that now first present themselves to your thoughts ; or whether you will choose to pine away a doleful eternity in sullen, intense, hopeless porings upon your remedi. less misery, in pale reviews of past folly, and shocking surveys of endless ages of wo before you. This is the true scale of the case ; and can you be at a loss what choice to make! Does not the voice of reason, the voice of conscience, of self-interest and self-love, as well as the voice of God, direct you to choose a few seri. ous, sad, solemn, sorrowful, penitent hours now, rather than to invert the choice and to purchase a few hours of presumptuous ease at the expense of a wretched, despairing eternity ? O choose life, that you may live. While you indulge a trifling levity of mind, and a roving dissipation of thought, there is no hope you will ever seriously attend to your most important interest, or use the means of grace in earnest. Hence it is that I have made it so much my VOL. II.
endeavour to day to make you serious and thoughtful. To enforce this, let me repeat what I think cannot but have some effect ; especially as it comes not from the priesthood, but the court ; and from a courtier as eminent as England ever boasted.
Ah! my friends! while we laugh, all things are serious round about us. God is serious, who exerciseth patience towards us : Christ is serious, who shed his blood for us : the Holy Ghost is serious who striveth against the obstinacy of our hearts : the holy Scriptures bring to our ears the most serious things in the world; the holy sacraments represent the most serious and awful matters : the whole creation is serious in serving God and us : all that are in heaven and hell are serious :—How then can we be gay ?
I pray you, my dear brethren, yield an immediate compliance. Do not delay this great affair for another year, till you are sure you shall live another year. You may perhaps have time enouga before you to work out your salvation, if you immediately begin to improve it : but, if you loiter, you may perish for want of time : the riches of the world will not be able then to redeem one of those precious hours you now squander away.
Let me now make you one of the most reasonable, salutary, and advantageous proposals that heaven itself can make to you : and that is, that you endeavour to enter upon this new year as new creatures. Let the old man with his affections and lusts die with the old 1 year. Let the time past of your life more than suffice you to have wrought the will of the flesh. What profit had you then in those things of which you should now be ashamed ? How shocking the thought that your old guilt should follow you into the new year, and haunt you in future times ! O begin this year as you would wish to end your life! Begin it so as to give hopes that your future time will be so spent as to render death harmless, and even welcome to you.
Let the possibility suggested in my text have due weight with you : This year you may die.
But perhaps some of you may be inverting this consideration, and whispering to yourselves, “ This year I may not die :" and therefore there is no immediate necessity of preparation for death. But what if you should not die this year, if you still delay the great work for which your time is given you ? Alas! if you persist in this, one would think it can give you but little pleasure whether you die this year or not? What end will your life answer,
but to add to your guilt, and increase your punishment ? What safety can another year afford you, when you must die at last? What valuable end do you intend to answer in future life? Do you purpose to spend this year as you have your past years ? What ! in offending your God ! abusing his mercies ! neglecting the precious seasons of grace ! hardening yourselves more and more in impenitence ! adding sin to sin, and treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath ! Is it worth your while to live for such horrid, preposterous purposes as these? Can you wish for another year with these views ? Could you venture to pray for it? Will the prayer bear to be put into words ? Come, put on the hardiness of an infernal ghost, that you may be able to support yourselves under the horror of the sound. “ Thou supreme Excellence ! Thou Author of my being, and all my powers! Thou Father of all my mercies! Thou righteous Judge of the world ! I have spent ten, twenty, or thirty years in displeasing thee and ruining myself; but I am not yet satisfied with the pleasures of such a cone duct. Grant me, I pray thee, another year to spend in the same manner. Grant me more mercies to abuse ; more time to mispend ; more means of grace to neglect and profane.” Could you now fall on your knees, and present such petitions to Heaven ? Surely you could not. Surely your frame would shudder ; nay, would not the heavens gather blackness, and the earth tremble at the sound! But have your temper and practice no language ? Language expresses the thoughts and intentions of the mind; and are not the habitual temper and practice a more certain discovery of the thoughts and intentions than mere words ? words, which may be spoken without a thought, or in a passion, and which may soon be heartily retracted? But the temper and
practice is a steady and sure rule of judging, and decisive of a man's predominant character ? Therefore, while your temper and practice are agreeable to such a prayer: that is, while you are disposed to spend your time that God gives you in sin and impenitence, you are perpetually insulting Heaven with such petitions, and that too in a manner much more expressive and strong than if you should utter them in words. And can you quietly bear the thought of this horrid blasphemy, which you are constantly breathing out against Heaven ? Can you wish and pray for another year for this purpose ? What though you should not die this year? Will this exempt you from death in another, or from the punishment of a mispent life? Alas! no ; this will only render
you a greater criminal, and a more miserable wretch in eternity. One year of sinning will make a dreadful addition to your account.
Therefore conclude, every one for himself, • It is of little importance to me whether I die this year, or not ; but the only important point is, that I make a good use of my future time, whether it be longer or shorter.' This, my brethren, is the only way to secure a happy new year : a year of time, that will lead the way to an happy eternity.
LUKE X. 20. Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits
are subject to you ; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. *
THIS is the answer Christ gave to his disciples, when return. ed from their mission, flushed with victory over the most mighly and most malignant enemies, the infernal powers. they, even the devils are subject to us, through thy name. This they probably mentioned with a tincture of vanity, and were secretly proud of their new power, which their Master had given them. Though they owned it was his gift, they gloried in it, as conferring some new honour and dignity upon themselves. And probably like the rest of their countrymen, their heads were filled with notious of the temporal kingdom of the Messiah, and his conquests over the other nations of the earth in favour of the Jews ; and inferred that they should have an irresistible power over their enemies on earth, from the power they had been ena. . bled to exercise over evil spirits, so much more mighty, and seemingly unconquerable.
Their Lord and Master, among other things in his answer, checks this secrer vanity, and points out to them a superior cause of joy. Rejoice not in this ; that is, rejoice not so much as you do, rejoice not principally in this, that the spirits (that is, evil. spirits) are subject to you ; but rather rejvice, 'cause your names are written in heaven ; as if he should say, “Though you may
* A sermon preached at Hanover, in Virginia, Jan. 14, 1759.