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it, to torment you before the time. But I can assure you upon the best authority, of Jesus Christ himself, that if you now give him that reception which his character requires, he will receive you into favour as though you had never offended him, and make you forever happy. Therefore, come ye poor, guilty, perishing sinners, fly to the arms of his mercy, which are opened wide to embrace you. Cry for the attractive influences of his grace, which alone can enable you to come to him, and let there be joy in heaven this day over repenting sinners upon earth !
THE DOOM OF THE INCORRIGIBLE SINNER.
PROVERBS XXIX. l. He that being often reproved, hardeneth hie
neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
Proverb is a system of wisdom in miniature : it is a pertinent, striking observation, expressed in a few words, that it may be the more easily remembered ; and often in metaphorical language, that it may be the more entertaining. A collection of proverbs has no connection, but consists of short, independent sentences, each of which makes full sense in itself; and therefore, in explaining them, there is no need of explaining the context; but we may select any particular sentence, and consider it separately by itself.
Such a collection of wise sayings is that book of the sacred scriptures, which we call the Proverbs of Solomon. «Wise men in all ages, and in all languages, have often cast their observations into the concise significant forms of proverbs ; but the sages of antiquity, especially, were fond of this method of instruction, and left legacies of wisdom to posterity, wrapt up in a proverbial dress ; many of which, particularly of the Greek philosophers, are extant to this day. Solomon chose this method of recording and communicating his wise observations as most agreeable to the taste of the age in which he lived. The sacred memoirs of his life inform us, that he spake three thousand proverbs. 1 Kings iv. 32. Of these the most important and useful were selected probably by himself, and afterwards by the men of Hezekiah ; that is, by persons appointed by Hezekiah to copy them off ; and they are conveyed down to all ages in this cabinet of precious jewels, the Book of Proverbs.
Among the many significant and weighty sayings of this wisest of men, the 'solemn monitory proverb in my text deserves peculiar regard : He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shal! suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.*
The request of a friend, and my fear., that this proverb may have a dreadful accomplishment upon some of my hearers, have induced me to make it the subject of your meditations for the present hour. And () ! that the event may shew I was divinely directed in the choice !
This proverb may be accommodated to all the affairs of life. In whatever course a man blunders on, headstrong, and regarde less of advice and admonition, whether in domestic affairs, in trade, in politics, in war, or whatever it be he pursues by wrong measures with incorrigible obstinacy, it will ruin him at last, as far as the matter is capable of working his ruin. To follow the conduct of our own folly, and refuse the advantage we might receive from the wisdom of others, discovers an uncreaturely pride and self-sufficiency; and the career of such a pursuit, whatever be the object, will always end in disappointment and confusion. In this extent perhaps, this adage was intended by Solomon, who was a good economist and politician, and well skilled in the affairs of common life, as well as those of religion.
But he undoubtedly intended it should be principally referred to matters of religion. It is especially in these matters it holds true in the highest sense ; that he that being often reproved, hardeneth himself, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
He that being often refiroved- This is undoubtedly our character. We in this congregation have been often reproved, and that in various forms, and by various monitors. We have been reproved from heaven and earth, by God, men and our own consciences ; and, I might add, by the irrational creation, and even by infernal spirits.
• He that being often reproverl—This in the original, is a man of reproofa ; and it may either signify as our translators understand it, “ a man often reproved;" or it may mean, " a man often reproving ;" that is, a man that often reproves others, if he harden his own neck, while he pretends a great zeal to reduce others under the yoke of obedience, he shall suddenly be destroyed, &c. But the first sense appears more pertinent and natural, and therefore in that view I only consider it.
Men of various classes have reproved us. It is the happiness of several of us to live in families where we are often reproved and admonished with the tender, affecting address of a father and a master, who are deeply concerned that their children and domestics should be their companions in the heavenly road, and be effectually warned from the alluring paths of sin and ruin. And have not our affectionate mothers' often become our monitors, and gently, yet powerfully reproved us, with that forcible eloquence which could only proceed from the heart of a woman and a mother ;-or if our parents have been cruelly déficient in this noblest office of love, has not God raised up unexpected reprovers for us, in a brother, a sister, or perhaps a poor despised slave ? And who can resist the force of an admonition from such an unexpected quarter ? —And have not some of us found an affectionate, faithful monitor in the conjugal state ; a husband or a wife, that has reproved the vices or the negligence and carelessness of the other party ; and, by striking example at the least, if not in more explicit language, given the alarm to greater diligence and concern in the affairs of religion and eternity ? Such are powerful, though modest and private assistants to the ministers of the gospel, and 0! that they had but more assistance from this quarter ! To encourage the few among you that improve the intimacy of this near relation for so important and benevolent a purpose, let me remind you of St. Paul's tender excitement to this duty, given one thousand seven hundred years ago : What knowest thou, O wife! Whether thou shalt save thy husband ? or how knowest thou, O husband! Whether thou shall save thy wife ? I Cor. vii. 16. The tender names of husband and wife have so much force in them, as may irresistibly constrain us to perform all the kindest offices in our power to those who bear them. But 0! to save a husband ! to save a wife ! to save those dear creutures from everlasting misery ! how great, how important the kindness! and by so much the more pleasing, by how much the dearer the persons are to whom it is shewn! But to return-If we are not so happy as to be agreeably surrounded with such honest reprovers in our own houses ; yet, blessed be God, we live in a neighbourhood where we may meet with one of them here and there. Has not a pious friend or a neighbour dropt a word now and then in conversation which might have served, and perhaps was intended, as a serious admonition to you? Alas ! have you VOL. II.
never had a friend in the world, who has sometimes taken occa. sion to talk solemnly and pungently with you about the neglected concerns of your souls ? or at least, has not his example been a striking lesson to you? Alas! is it possible one should live in this congregation, without enjoying the benefit of a reprover Sure there are still some among us to bear their testimony against sin, and espoused the deserted cause of religion. But if the friends of religion have been silent, (and indeed they are generally too modest in this respect) yet have you not sometimes received an accidental undesigned reproof even from the wicked ? just as Caiaphas once prophesied of the death of Christ, and its blessed consequences. Not to observe, that their eagerness and indefatigable industry in pursuing their pleasures, whether they place them in honour, riches, or sensuality, and in serving their guilty lusts, in spite of all restraints, may serve as a pungent re
proof of your lukewarmness and carelessness in the pursuit of , the pleasures of religion and immortality, so much more noble
and interesting. But I say, to take no notice of this, have they not at times rebuked you in more direct terms? Have they not twitted and reproached you to this purpose, “ I thought you, that pretend to so much sanctity, would not dare to venture upon such a thing." Or,“ see the saint, the communicant, the presbyterian drunk-see his fraud and villany--see him as vain and frolicksome as his neighbours ; sure, we that make no such profession, may take such liberties, since such saints do so."Such reflections as these, my brethren, however sarcastical and malignant, blind and bitter, have all the keenness of the sharpest reproof. And O! that none of us may ever give any occasion for them ! but if offences should come to occasion them, may our hearts always feel their force! Thus may we derive good out of evil; be warned from sin by sinners : and restrained in our career to ruin by those who are themselves rushing into it !- But though all around you, both saints and sinners, should refuse to be your monitors, how many solemn warnings and reproofs have you had from the pulpit! You have heard many ministers of Christ, who have been your solemn admonishers in the dread name of their Master. And it is now eleven or twelve years since I have began to discharge the painful and unacceptably office of a reprover of sin and sinners among you.-And what kind and liberal assistance have I received in my office, from the Other side of the vast ocean, in the many excellent books which Brit
ish piety and charity have furnished us with ! Our friends, whose voice cannot reach you, have sent over reprovers into your houses ; reprovers that speak particularly to the poor, especially to the neglected slaves. In short, I know no spot of America so happy in this important respect, as Hanover.
Thus have you been reproved by men from all quarters. And certainly so loud, so general, so repeated an admonition, even from men, must have great weight. But who can resist an admonition from heaven ! Surely, if Jehovah, the great Sovereign of the universe, condescends to be your reprover, you must immediately take the reproof, and set about a reformation. Well, this office he has condescended to sustain. He has himself become your monitor : and that in various ways, both mediately and immediately : mediately by his word and providence ; and immediately, by his blessed Spirit, whose office it is to reprove the world of sin. John xvi. 9.
The word of God has reproved you ; has honestly laid before you the destructive consequences of sin, and denounced the divine displeasure against you on its account. All its commands, prohibitions, and dissuasives of various forms, are so many friendly warnings and admonitions to you. He conveys his reproofs through your eyes and ears, when you read and hear his word; and sometimes I doubt not, he has made the hardest heart among you feel his rebukes, and tremble under them. In short, you must own yourselves, that if any of you go on obstinately in sin, and perish, it will not be because the word of God did not act a faithful part towards you, but because you presumptuously disregard its most solemn and affectionate warnings.
Again : God has often reproved you by his providence. His providence has kindly chastised you with personal and relative afflictions ; with sickness and pains, bereavements, losses, and disappointments. Providence has admonished you with the striking voice of sick beds, dying groans, ghastly corpses, and gaping graves in your families or neighbourhoods, or perhaps in both. How many among us, in a few years have been brought down to the gates of the grave, that they might enter into a serious conference with death and eternity, which they were so averse to in the giddy, unthinking hours of health and hurry of business! And what narrow escapes, what signal unexpected deliverances has Providence wrought for you in those seasons of danger and distress, that you might enjoy a longer space of repentance! How