« ElőzőTovább »
think of. And if it be easy to you, it is, as I observed before, in the same sense, that it is easy to a dead body to rot. Your strength to do evil is your real weakness, or, which is the same, the strength of your disease.
Again, if you believe the christian religion, you believe the glorious doctrine of redemption through Jesus Christ; you believe that he, the Father's great co-equal Son, assumed our nature, passed through the various hardships of life, and died upon a cross for you ; and all this out of pure unmerited love. And is it no difficulty to neglect him, to dishonour him, to slight his love, and disobey his commands ? Does this monstrous wickedness never put you to a stand ? Degenerate and corrupt as you are, have you not such remains of generous principles within you, as that you cannot, without great violence to your own hearts, reject such a Saviour? Does not at leasť a spark of gratitude sometimes kindle in your hearts, which you find it hard to quench entirely ? Does not conscience often take up arms in the cause of its Lord, and do you not find it hard to quell the insurrection ? Alas ! if you find little or no difficulty in treating the blessed Jesus with neglect, it shews that you are mighty giants in iniquity, and sin with the strength of a devil.
Again ; If you believe the christian religion, you must believe that regeneration, or a thorough change of heart and life, and universal holiness, are essentially necessary to constitute you a real christian, and prepare you for everlasting happiness. And while you have this conviction, is it not a hard thing for you to be only christians in name, or self-condemned hypocrites, or to rest contented in any attainments short of real religion ? Is it an easy thing to you to keep your eyes always shut against the light, which would shew you to yourselves in your true colours ? to keep such a close guard, as never to let the mortifying secret pass, that you are indeed but a hypocrite, and to harden yourselves against the portion of hypocrites, which will ere long be distributed to you?
Finally, If you believe christianity, or even natural religion, you believe a future state of rewards and punishments ; rewards and punishments the highest that human nature is capable of. And is it not a hard thing to make light of immortal happiness, or everlasting misery? Since you love yourselves, and have a strong innate desire of pleasure and horror of pain, how can you reconcile yourselves to the thoughts of giving up your portion in heaven, and being ingulfed forever in the infernal pit ? Or how
can you support your hope of enjoying the one, and escaping the other, while you have no sufficient evidence ? Can you venture so ini portant an interest upon an uncertainty, or dare to take your chance, without caring what might be the issue ? Are you capable of such dreadful fool-bardiness? Do you not often shrink back aghast from the prospect ? Does not the happiness of heayen sometimes so strongly attract you, that you find it hard to resist? And do not the terrors of hell start up before you in the way of sin, and are you not brought to a stand, and ready to turn back ? The pit of hell, like a raging volcano, thunders at a dis. tance, that you may not fall thereinto by surprise. You may perceive its fames, and smoke, and roarings in the threatenings of God's law, while you are yet at a distance from it. And is it easy for you to push on your way, when thus warned? O! one would think, it would be much more easy and delightful to a creature endowed with reason and self-love, to abandon this dangerous road, and choose the safe and pleasant way of life.
I might multiply instances under this head : but these must suffice at present. And I proceed to ask,
3. Is it not hard for man to live in a constant conflict with himself? I mean with his conscience.
This obstacle in the way to hell has appeared in all the former particulars : but it is so great, and seemingly insuperable, that it deserves to be pointed out by itself. When the sinner would continue his career to hell, conscience, like the cherubim at the gates of paradise, or the angel in Balaam's road, meets him with its flaming sword, and turns every way, to guard the dreadful entrance into the chambers of death.
When a man goes on in the thoughtless neglect of God, and the concerns of eternity, or indulges himself in vice and irreligion, conscience whispers, “ What will be the end of this course ? thou shalt yet suffer for this. Is it fit thou shouldest thus treat the blessed God, and the Saviour Jesus Christ ? Is it wise to neg·lect the great work of salvation, and run the risque of eternal ruin ?" I may appeal to sinners themselves, whether they do not often hear such remonstrances as these from within ? Indeed, in the hurry and bustle of business and company, and the headlong career of pleasure and amusement, the voice of conscience is not heard. But you cannot always avoid retirement; sometimes you must be by yourselves, and then you find it hard to close up and guard all the avenues of serious thought. Then conscience in
sists upon a fair hearing, and enters many a solemn protestation against your conduct, warns you of the consequence, and urges you to take another course. Whatever airs of impious bravery you put on in public, and however boldly you bid defiance to these things, yet, in such pensive hours, do you not find that you are cowards at heart? Is not conscience like to get the victory? Are you not obliged to break out into the world, and rally all its forces to your assistance, that you may suppress your conscience ? Now, how hard a life is this! The life of the sinner is a warfare, as well as that of the christian. Conscience is his enemy, always disturbing him ; that is, he himself is an enemy to himself while he continues an enemy to God. Some, indeed, by repeated violences, stun their conscience, and it seems to lic still, like a con, quered enemy. But this is a conquest fatal to the conquerors. O! would it not be much easier to let conscience have fair play, to pursue your own happiness, as it urges you, and leave the smooth, down-hill road to ruin, from which it would restrain you ? Conscience urges you to your duty and interest with many sharp goads, and will you still kick against them? O! do you not find this hard ? I am sure it would be very hard, it would be impossible to a creature under the right conduct of reason and self-love. And before you can be capable of performing this dire exploit with ease, you must have acquired a prodigious, gigantic strength in sinning. This is what the mightiest saint upon earth could not dare to do. No; he owns conscience is his master : long did he resist, but now he must submit : and he would not incur the displeasure of his conscience for all the world. O! that we were all weak in this respect! My time will allow me only to add,
4. Is it not a hard piece of self-denial for you to deprive yourselves of the exalted pleasures of religion ?
You love yourselves, and you love happiness, and therefore one would reasonably expect you would choose that which will afford you the most solid, refined and lasting happiness, and abandon whatever is inconsistent with it. Now religion is a source of happiness. Yes ; that dull, melancholy thing, religion, which you think perhaps, would put an end to all your pleasures, and which, for that reason, you have kept at a distance from ; relig. ion, which its enemies will tell you has made some intolerably precise, and dead to all the joys of life, and turned others mad and melancholy ; religion, I say, will afford you a happiness more pure, more noble, and more durable than all the world can give. Religion not only proposes future happiness beyond the comprehension of thought, but will afford you present happiness beyond Whatever you have known' while strangers to it. The pleasures of a peaceful, approving conscience, of communion with God, the supreme good, of the most noble dispositions and most delightful contemplations ; these are the pleasures of religion. And ask those who have enjoyed them, those whom experience has qualified to be judges, and they will tell you with one voice, " There are so pleasures comparable to these." Besides, religion has infinitely the advantage of other things as to futurity. Those pleasures which are inconsistent with it end in shocking prospects, as well as pale reviews. But religion opens the brightest prospects ; prospects of everlasting salvation and happiness ; prospects that brighten the gloomy shades of death, and the awful world beyond, and run out infinitely beyond our ken through a vast eternal duration. My heart is so full of my subject, that I must borrow the. more expressive words of another, to give it vent.*
“ Let the proud Witling argue all he can,
When the storm thickens, and the thunder rolls ;
And when disease obstructs the labouring breath,
Grace their last moments, nor desert their dust." Such, my brethren, is religion; the highest, the most substantial, and most lasting happiness of man. And is it not a painful piece of self-denial to you, to give up all this happiness, when nothing is required to purchase it but only your choice of it ! Is not this doing violence to the innate principle of self-love and desire of happiness? Can you be so stupid, as to imagine that the world, or sin, or any thing that can come in competition with religion, can be of equal or comparable advantage to you? Sure your own
See a Letter to Mr. Hervey by a physician, prefixed to his Meditations,
reason must give in its verdict in favour of religion. And is it not a hard thing for you to act against your own reason, against your own interest, your highest, your immortal interest, and against your own innate desire of happiness ? Do you never find it any difficulty to live for years in i he world, without once tasting the sweets of the love of God, or the pleasures of an applauding conscience ! Is it not hard, that while others around you, in the use of the very means which you enjoy, are made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, and are animated to endure the calamities of life, and encounter the terrors of death, by the prospect of everlasting glory, while they are now often lost in extatic wonder, while surveying the things that God hath laid up for them that love him : I say, is it not hard, that you should be destitute of all these transporting prospects, and have nothing but a fearful expectation of wrath and fiery indignation, or at best a vain self-flattering hope, which will issue in the more confounding disappointment? Is not this really hard ? Must it not be a difficulty to you to live at this rate ?
And now, sinners, will you with infernal bravery break through all these obstacles, and force a passage into the flames below ? Or will you not give over the preposterous struggle to ruin yourselves, and suffer yourselves to be saved ? ! let me arrest you in your dangerous career, as the voice which pronounced my text did St. Paul; and let me prevail upon you for the future to choose the highway to life, and take that course to which God, conscience, duty, and interest urge you.
Io that indeed you will meet with difficulties ; it is a narrow and rugged road; and it will require hard striving to make a progress in it. But then the difficulties you have here to surmount are in the road to hapo piness, with which therefore it is worth your while to struggle ; but those in the other are in the road to destruction ; and your striving to surmount them, is but striving to destroy yourselves forever. It may be worth your while to labour and conflict hard to be saved ; but is it worth while to take so much pains, and strive so hard to be damned ? Besides, the difficulties in the heavenly road result from the weak, disordered, and wicked state of human nature, as the difficulty of animal action and enjoy ment proceeds from sickness of body : and consequently, every endeavour to surmount these difficulties tends to heal, to rectify, to strengthen, and ennoble our nature, and advance it to perfection. But the difficulties in the way to hell proceed from the