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Be persuaded then, sinner, no longer to lie still in security ; but arise, call upon thy God: if so be that God will think upon thee, that thou perisk not. Lazarus ! come forth. Awake, thou that aleepest, and arise from the dead ; and Christ shall give thee light. Linger not, lest eternal death overtake thee. Methinks I see him just at thy heels, for thy damnation now of a long time slum. bereth not. Arise, come forth at the call of the gospel ; otherwise, how wilt thou stand the shocking terror of that final alarm, Awake, ye dead, and come to judgment ? But I must conclude with my hearty wish, That the hour may come, and O! that this may be the hour, in which the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.-Which gracious prediction may the God of grace accomplish upon us all, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
THE WAYS OF SIN HARD AND DIFFICULT.
ACT'S 19. 6. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
YOU often hear of the narrow and rugged road of religion, which leadeth unto life ; and some of you I am afraid, have not courage enough to venture upon it. You rather choose the smooth, broad, down-hill road to vice and pleasure, though it leads down to the chambers of death. It must be owned, that a religious life is a course of difficulties, a hard struggle, a constant conflict ; and it is fit you should be honestly informed of it : but then it is fit you should also know, that the difficulties arise not from the nature of religion, but from the corruption and depravity of the nature of man in its present degenerate state. A course of religion is disagreeable, is hard, is difficult to mankind; just as a course of action is difficult to the sick, though it is easy, and affords pleasure to those that are well. There are difficulties in the way of sin, as well as in that of holiness, though the depravity of mankind renders them insensible of it. This is the view of the case I would now lay before you. There is a sense, in which it is true, that it is a hard thing to be a sinner, as well as to be a saint: there are huge difficulties in the way to hell, as well as in the way to hearen. And if you are insensible of them, it is owing, as I just obVOL. II.
served, to the corruption of your nature, and not to the real easiness of the thing in itself. It may be easy and pleasing to you to sin, just as it is easy to a dead body to rot, or pleasing to a leper to rub his sores. But to a reasonable creature, in a state of puria ty, with all his powers uncorrupted, it would indeed be an unpleasing, a hard, a difficult thing, to take that course which is so easy and so delightful to you ; as it is hard and painful for a liv. ing man to suffer the mortification of his limbs, or for a healthy man to make himself sore. If it be hard, in one sense, to live a life of holiness, it is certainly hard, in another sense, to live a life of sin ; namely, to run agaiast conscience, against reason, against honour, against interest, against all the strong and endearing obligations you are under to God, to mankind, and to yourselves : or, in the words of my text, it is hard for you to kick against the pricks.
This is a proverb, in use among various nations, which has received a sanction from heaven in this text. It is used by Pindar, Euripides, and Æschylus, among the Greeks ; and by Terence, among the Latins : and from the sense in which they use it, we are helped to understand it. To kick against the pricks, is an allusion to a lazy or unruly plough-horse, or ox, that when pricked with a goad, an instrument used in ploughing, in sundry places, instead of a whip) refuses to go on, and spurns and kicks against the goad, and so wounds himself, and not the driver. In such circumstances, it is much harder to kick against the goads, and resist, than to go on ; if he goes on, he need not fear the goad; but his resistance only hurts himself. It is to this that the phrase alludes; and it signifies a resistance injurious to the person that makes it, when it would be both easy and advantageous to obey.
Hence we may learn the precise sense in which it is used by the mouth of Christ, in this pungent address to Saul the persecutor, whom we now know under the higher name of Paul, the apostle.
Saul, animated with a furious, misguided, though honest zeal, against the disciples of Jesus, was noy on his way to Damascus in pursuit of them; and had a commission from the highest court of the Jews to apprehend them : a commission which he was impatient to execute. This, in human view, was a very unpromise ing bour for his conversion ; now it appears more likely that vengeance will arrest him as a criminal, than that grace will prevent him as a vessel of mercy. But 0! what agreeable exploits of
grace has Jesus performed! At the first introduction of his religion, it was fit he should single out some great sinner, and make him a monument of his mercy, for the encouragement of
Therefore he surprises this fierce persecutor in his daring career, darts the splendours of his glory around him, and pierces him to the heart with this irresistible expostulation, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Saul, in a trembling consternation, replies, Who art thou, Lord ?. He thought he was only bringing to justice a parcel of contemptible, blasphemous secta. ries, unworthy of toleration ; and little did he think that his persecuting zeal reached so high : little did he expect to hear one crying from the throne of heaven, Why persecutest thou me ? But Jesus feels and resents the injuries done to his people, as done to himself. The head sympathises with its members ; therefore he answers, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. And then follows my text, It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 9. d. “ Since it is Jesus, whom thou persecutest, the injury done to me, will only rebound upon thyself: I am infinitely advanced beyond the reach of thy rage ; and even my people, who now seem in thy power, can suffer no real or lasting injury from it in the issue ; for under my management, all things shall work for their good ; but thy persecuting fury shall prove ruinous to thyself, as the wild ox that spurns and kicks against the goad hurts himself and not the driver.” Thus, as I told you, this proverb signifies a resistance injurious to the person resisting, and harmless to him against whom it is made. And is not this hard ? Is it not an arduous, preposterous exploit, to break through the strong restraints of the innate principle of self-preservation, and ruin one's self by a blow intended against another, beyond the reach of injury? This, one would think, is a piece of folly and cruelty, of which a being that has the least remains of reason or self-love, would be incapable.
This proverb may signify more : q. d. I am Jesus whom thou persecutest ; Jesus, the Lord of glory : Jesus, the Saviour of sinners : Jesus, who has died for such sinners as thee ; Jesus, who is all love and mercy, excellency and glory; Jesus, who has given thee such sufficient evidence of his divine mission, and the truth of his religion ; and canst thou persecute Jesus ? O! is this an easy thing to one that has the least reason or gratitude ? Art thou able to break through such strong and endearing obligations? Is it not hard for thee to spurn against one so great, so glorious, so gracious and condescending? Must not this be a horrid exploit of wickedness beyond thy power ?
That I may the more fully illustrate the striking thought suggested by my text, I shall point out to you some seemingly insuperable obstacles in the way to hell, or some dire exploits, which, one would think, would be too hard for you to perform, which yet you must perform, if you persist in a course of sin.
1. Is it not a hard thing to be an unbeliever, or a deist, in our age and country, while the light of the gospel shines around us with full blaze of evidence ?
Before a man can work up himself to the disbelief of a religion attended with such undeniable evidence, and inspiring such divine dispositions and exalted hopes, what absurdities must he embrace! what strong convictions must he resist! what dark suspicions, what boding fears and misgivings, what shocking peradventures and tremendous doubts must he struggle with ! what glorious hopes must be resign ! what gloomy and shocking prospects must he reconcile himself to ! what violence must be offered to conscience! what care must be used to shut up all the avenues of serious thought, and harden the heart against the terrors of death and the supreme tribunal ! How painful a piece of preposterous self-denial to reject the balm the gospel provides to heal a broken heart and a bleeding conscience, and the various helps and ad. vantages it furnishes us with to obtain divine favour and everlasting happiness! How hard to work up the mind to believe that Jesus, who spoke, and acted, and suffered, and did every thing, like an incarnate God, was an impostor, or at best a moral philosopher ! or that the religion of the Bible, that contains the most sublime and God-like truths, and the most pure and perfect precepts of piety and morality, is the contrivance of art. ful and wicked men, or evil spirits ! These, brethren, are no easy things. There are many sceptics and smatterers in infidelity, but few, very few, are able to make thorough work of its or commence staunch unbelievers. The attempt itself is a desperate shift. A man must have reduced himself to a very sad case indeed, before he can have any temptation to set about it. He has by his wilful wickedvess, set christianity against him, before he can have any temptation to set himself against christianity : and when he proclaims war against it, he finds it hard, yea, impossible, to make good his cause. He may indeed put on the airs of defiance and triumph, and affect to laugh at his enemy, and at times may be half persuaded he has really got the victory. But such men find the arms of their own reason often against them, and their own conscience forms violent insurrections in favour of religion, which they cannot entirely suppress ; so that they are like their father, whatever they pretend, they believe and tremble too. Alas! that there should be so many unhappy companions in this infernal cause, in our country and nation. They find it hard, even now, to kick against the goads : and O! how much harder will they find it in the issue ! Their resistance will prove ruinous to themselves ; but neither they nor the gates of hell shall prevail against the cause they oppose. Christianity will live when they are dead and damned, according to its sentence. It is a long-tried bulwark, that has withstood all the assaults of earth and hell for near 6000 years, and has still proved impregnable. Infidels may hurt themselves by opposing it ; as an unruly stupid ox, their proper emblem, may hurt himself, but not the goads, by kicking against them. 12. Is it not hard for men to profess themselves believers, and assent to the truths of christianity, and yet live as if they were infidels !
A professed speculative atheist, or infidel, is a monster that we do not often meet with : but the more absurd and unaccountable phenomenon of a practical atheist; one who is orthodox in prin. ciple, but an infidel in practice, we may find wherever we turn : and it would be strange if none such have mingled in this assem. bly to day. To such I would particularly address myself.
If you believe christianity, or even the religion of nature, you believe that there is a God of infinite excellency ; the Maker, Preserver, Benefactor, and Ruler of the world, and of you in par. ticular; and consequently, that you are under the strongest, and most endearing obligations to love him, and make it your great study and endeavour to obey his will in all instances. Now is it not strange, that while you believe this, you are able to live as you do? How can you live so thoughtless of this great and glorious God, who bears such angust and endearing relations to you? How can you withhold your love from him, and ungratefully refuse obedience ? Is not this a hard thing to you? Does it not cost you some labour to reconcile your consciences to it? If this be easy to you, what champions in wickedness are you ! how mighty to do evil! This would not be easy to the mightiest archangel : no, it is a dire archievement he would tremble to