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and yet safe course, and produce sufficient authority for it, you may take it : but, for my párt, if I teach you what I learn in my bible, I can give you no other directions ; nor do I expect to be saved in any easier way myself. And therefore, if you will choose another, you must be answerable for it. Remember I warn you against it, and would not be accessary to it for ten thousand worlds.
Now, if this course must be taken, I ask when, do you think, must it be begun ? Will you appoint tomorrow, or next year, or old age, or a sick bed, for that purpose ? Alas! you may never live to see that time. Before then you may drop into destruction, as rotten fruit fall to the ground by their own weight.' There
this present fleeting now, is the only time you are sure of; and consequently, this is the only proper time to begin this course. Now then, now, while my voice is sounding in your ears, form the resolution, and carry it into immediate execution. Bear it home upon your hearts to your houses, and there let it dwell until the great work is done. O! that you did but know its importance and necessity ! then you could not delay it one moment longer.
And now, if you have any regard for the God that made you, for the Lord that bought you, or for your own everlasting happiness, take this course immediately - If you have any need of excitements, take the following.
1. Consider your present dangerous situation. You hang over the pit of destruction by the slender thread of life, held up only by the hand of an angry God, as we hold a spider, or some poisonous insect, over a fire, ready to throw it in. You are ripe for destruction, and therefore in danger every day, every hour, every moment, of falling into it. You are as fil for destruction as a murderer for the gallows, or a mortified limb to be cut off. Such polluted vessels of wrath must be thrown out of the way into some dark corner in hell, that they may no more encumber or disgrace the more honourable apartments of the universe. And is this a situation in which it becomes you to be merry, and gay, and thoughtless, and eager after the trifles of time? O! does it not become you rather to be on your knees at the throne of grace, and vigorously pressing into the kingdom of God?
2. Reflect with how much long-suffering God has endured you, notwithstanding all your audacious and repeated provocations. One would think one day's sinning against so holy and gracious a God, by a creature so deeply obliged to him, would
make your case desperate, and that the evening of such a day would be the hour of your execution. But he has patiently borne with you for days, for months, for years, perhaps for scores of years. And all this time he has followed you with his blessings every moment, and granted you the means of preparation for glory. And yet you have been thoughtless, disobedient, ungrateful, rebellious still. How justly then may he inflict punishment upon you! And how industriously will his goodness and severity, his mercy and justice, be displayed in his treatment of you! What could you have desired more, in point of time, opportunity, persuasives, than you have enjoyed? Will it not then appear evident, that your destruction is entirely of yourself, and that, as I have told you before, God and his throne will be guiltless forever?,
Consider how dreadful will be your punishment, if you should perish at last by your present wilful negligence. My text tells you what will be the design of your punishment; it will be to shew the wrath of God, and make his power known. Such will be your punishment, as will be fit to shew that it is almighty power that inflicts it, and that it is an almighty God who is angry with you. It will be his professed design to display the dreadful glory of his vindictive attributes upon you, particularly his justice, as the supreme Magistrate of the universe : and even his justice deserves to be displayed ; for justice is not that ugly, grim, horrible thing, which criminals imagine. In a ruler, especially in the supreme and universal ruler, justice is not only a majestic and terrible, but it is a lovely, amiable, ingratiating attribute, essential to his character, and to the public good, and so it appears to all competent judges; that is, to all who are not self-flattering criminals, and therefore parties. The display of this attribute, therefore, upon proper objects, is necessary, to give a full view of the Deity to the world ; to represent him as he is.
Now, whatever attribute of nis he intends to display in any of his works, he always does it in a manner worthy of himself. When his design was to display and glorify his creative power, wisdom, and goodness, see! what a stately, well-furnished universe he spoke into being! What a magnificent, God-like building! When his design was to shew the riches of his grace towards our guilty race, what wonders did he perform! What inimitable exploits of condescension and love! His only begotten Son must become a man, must struggle with all the calami. ties of life for three-and-thirty long and painful years, must expire in torture upon an ignominious cross, and redeem the guilty with the blood of his heart. This was Godlike love and grace indeed, beyond all example. O! Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity ? Micah vii. 18. He is as much distinguished from all other beings by the wonders of his love and grace, as by the eternity of his existence, or by that wisdom which planned the universe, or that power which produced it out of nothing. When in prosecution of the same design, he intends to give a farther display of the riches of his glorious grace upon the vessels of mercy, what godlike provisions hath he made for them! Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things he hath prepared for them. He hath prepared for them a city, such a glorious residence, that he is not ashamed to be called their God. He is not ashamed to own the relation, because he has acted up to the character, and worthy of himself. Heb. xi. 16. And when his design is to shew his avenging wrath, and make his punitive power known ;. when it is to shew what Godlike punishments he can inflict, such as may, by their terror, declare him to be the author, and serve as loud warnings to all present, and, perhaps, future creations, to deter them from the breach of his sacred laws; and when the subjects of the punishment are strong capacious vessels of wrath, fit for nothing but destruction ; I say, when this is the case, what Godlike vengeance will he execute! what signal, unexampled punishment will he infict! The design of punishment, which is not the reformation of the criminal, but the benefit of others, and the display of his perfections, require that he give a loose to all the terrors of his power. And what miracles of misery, what terrible illustrious monuments of vengeance will that perform and erect! As far surpassing all the punishments inflicted by mortals, as the creation of the world out of nothing exceeds all the works of human art.
And are you proof against the energy of such considerations as these? Then you are dreadfully fitted for destruction indeed ! For the strongest persuasives to deter you from it, which God himself can reveal, or the human mind conceive, have no weight upon you !
But may I hope that I shall succeed at least with some of you this day to fly from this tremendous destruction, into which you are this moment ready to fall ? Alas! it is hard, if even a stranger cannot prevail with so much as one soul, in so large an assembly, and in a point so reasonable, and so strongly enforced by your own interest. But I nust leave this warning with you, and if you do not remember it now, you will remember it millions of ages hence, when the remembrance of it will torment you with intolerable anguish.
There are sundry in this assembly, I doubt not, who, by comparing their dispositions with the nature of heavenly happiness) may make the welcome discovery, that they are, in some measure, prepared for it. To such happy souls I have time only to say, that if this be your character, you may be sure that imniense happiness shall be yours : your present heavenly temper is a certain pledge and earnest of it. You may be sure God would never make you fit for it, and then exclude you from it.
And, on the other hand, if you find that the dispositions of hell are subdued in you, assure yourselves God will not doom you to it. Can you think he would gain your hearts and allure your love, and then bid you depart from him, to languish and pine away with the eager anxious pantings of disappointed bereaved love? Will he doom you to reside forever among those whose works you detest, and whose society you abhor ? No ; he will thoroughly prepare you, and make you holy, and then advance you to dwell forever in that presence which you love, in the element of holiness ; to breathe in that clear refined air ; to live in that wholesome climate, so agreeable to your constitution; to be employed in those services in which you delight ; to enjoy that sublime and delicate happiness which you relish, and to converse in that society which you affect, and which is of the same temper and spirit with you. And for that blessed region may we all be prepared, and there may we all meet at last, to enjoy that endless felicity which awaits those who firmly put their confidence in God, through Jesus Christ ! Amen.
THE NATURE AND NECESSITY OF TRUE REPENTANCE.
ACT'S XVII. 30. And the times of this ignorance God winked at :
but now commandeth all men every where to repent.
WE here find St. Paul in as learned an assembly as perhaps he ever appeared in. We find him in Athens, a city of Greece, famous all over the world for learning ; a city where Socrates, Plato, and the most illustrious philosophers of antiquity, lived and taught. We find him in the famous court of Areopagus, or Mars-Hill, where the wisest men and best philosophers of this wise and philosophical city were met together ; in the same court where Socrates, the most likely candidate in all the heathen world for the honours of martyrdom, had been accused and condemned, and for very much the same crime, namely, introducing a foreign religion, and bringing the gods of the country in contempt. And how does the apostle conduct himself in these critical circumstances? Why, instead of amusing them with a learned harangue : instead of confirming them in their idolatry, and vindicating himself, by publicly professing, with poor Socrates, that he worshipped the gods of the country, and sacrificed at the established altars ; instead of this, I say, the apostle boldly, though in a very handsome and genteel manner, exposes their superstitions, calls them off from their idols to the worship of the one true God, the Maker and Ruler of heaven and earth ; and, having asserted these fundamental articles of natural religion, he introduces the glorious peculiarities of revelation, and preached Jesus Christ to them, as the Saviour and Judge of the world.
In my text he inculcates the great gospel duty of repentance as binding upon all mankind, (philosophers and judges, as well as the illiterate vulgar) in Athens, as well as in the most barbarous countries of the earth.
The times of this ignorance God winked at. By the times of ige norance, he means the times previous to the propagation of the
gospel in the heathen world, who for many ages were sunk in the · most gross ignorance of the true God, and in the most absurd and impious superstition and idolatry, notwithstanding the loud remonstrances of the light of reason, and the various lessons of