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But those truths necessary to be understood, in order to become a true disciple of Christ, are plain and simple. They could not be more so. The moral law of God, our only rule of duty, is comprehended in the ten commandments; which common sense cannot fail of understanding. The sum of the ten commandments, as given by Christ himself, is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." Every child knows what it is to love his parents. But it is just as easy to know what it is to love God. Repentance and faith are the
terms of salvation proposed in the gospel. Every child knows what it is to be grieved when he has done wrong; and what it is to rely with confidence and affection upon his parents for a supply of all his wants. The meaning of repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, as illustrated in the Bible, is not less obvious to the child in divine knowledge.
But, my hearers, your advantages for forming a decision on the subject of religion, do not stop here. You hear the gospel preached by men set apart to the sole business of expounding and inculcating its truths and you have one day in seven to devote exclusively to this object. You then, that have lived seven years, have had one whole year for this important business; and you that have lived twenty-one, have had three; and you that have lived forty-two, have had six; and you that have lived seventy, have had ten ;-ten whole years of hallowed time, for deciding the simple question, whether you will be, not only almost, but altogether Christians; whether you will serve God with an undivided heart, and live and die in the faith of Jesus.
In addition to these numerous advantages for forming a decision, the Divine Spirit is waiting to aid you. And he warns and beseeches you to become reconciled to God. The Spirit and the Bride say, Come.-Come, for all things are now ready. No more preparations then are to be made on the part of God; and no motives more constraining are to be set before you. No other law, more holy, just, and good, enforced by higher and more powerful sanctions, is to be published from another Mount Sinai; no other more awful array of thun
derings, and voices, and lightnings, and earthquakes, is to attend its promulgation; no other gospel of brighter promises is to come forth from the sanctuary of heaven; no other Saviour of more prevailing worth is to appear on the altar of sacrifice, or on the throne of intercession; no other heaven, of richer and more enduring glories, is to excite your hopes; and no other hell, of deeper and more lasting woes is to alarm your fears. All are placed before you now; and you are called upon by every possible motive to decide without delay. Indecision is therefore unreasonable. But,
2. This unreasonableness must appear further evident, from a consideration of the immense importance of religion.
Notwithstanding all the evidence that the religion of Christ is of divine authority, and all the advantages enjoyed in a Christian land for understanding it; there are multitudes who read about it, and hear its truths preached all their days, without ever sitting down to its examination, and deciding for themselves upon its importance. Their belief in its first principles is so little the result of reflection, and is so indefinite, that it scarcely deserves the name.
Even their belief in the existence of God is not founded on evidence which they have seen and contemplated; but it is taken up as a còmmon opinion, handed down from their fathers. But do they really believe in the existence of such a God as the Bible reveals? What would be thought of the man who should affirm, that he believed the world would be burnt up to-morrow, while at the same time he was pulling down his barns to build greater; and saying to his soul, 66 Soul, take thine ease; thou hast much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry?" He would be pronounced a madman, or a base hypocrite.
What better can be said of those impenitent men, who affirm that they believe in the God of the Bible,-that God who declares that he is "angry with the wicked every day," and that "their feet stand on slippery places;" while at the same time, they live as if God were at peace with them, and their feet planted firm on the everlasting hills? Ask them if they do not deem religion important; and they answer
promptly in the affirmative.
But you have the mortification to see, that it is the answer of a child who repeats his part, because it is his part. They answer too promptly for serious, heart-felt conviction. Perhaps they grant every thing you ask, in order to pass easily over the unwelcome subject; and by conciliating your good opinion, keep you from coming to that personal appeal which they so much dread. They acknowledge that religion is an excellent thing,—in as cold and heartless a manner, as if it were something in which they had no personal concern. They do not regard it as equally the concern of every son and daughter of Adam; but associate it with their minister, or with the church,-as in some degree professional. They do not regard it as the business of every situation; but as sacred to special occasions; -not as the business of their whole life; but the thing of a moment, to be embraced once for all-just as much of it as they think necessary to carry them to heaven.
But religion cannot be thus treated with safety or impunity. It does not deserve such treatment. Aside from its claims to divine authority, and simply on account of its effects on the worldthe change of character which it has wrought in multitudes-the support it has given them in all their trials to the last sinking hour-and the hope of full immortality which it has then inspired,—on these accounts, if on no other, it well deserves the examination of every rational man. Whence these great effects on the human character and condition? is a question that no thinking man would leave untouched and undecided, if he were not blinded by prejudice and hardened by sin. The infidel lays claim to reason ;-here is matter for reason. Tell me the reason of this change-from the tyger into the lamb-from the murderous persecutor into the chief apostle of the gentiles.
The moralist lays claim to humanity. What is this, that healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up all their wounds ?—that breathes peace on earth and good will to men?
But religion has yet still higher demands upon your attention. Consider its origin. It does come from heaven-from Him who cannot lie. And if such be its origin, it is just what it professes to be the "one thing
needful." It would not come clothed with the dignity and enforced by the authority of Jehovah, if it were not all-important. As sure as Jehovah does not trifle and sport with the happiness of his creatures, this cannot be. The Creator has not turned the eyes of the whole universe to this province of his dominions-this dim speck of earth-to witness a mock-show of transactions that have only the semblance of importance. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." It is not said, that the angels rejoice over the rise and prosperity of an empire. No-it must be something of more moment to fill their disinterested minds with transport ;—even the conversion of a sinner-the salvation of a soul. Angels know the importance of such an event. And therefore it is that they rejoice.
Religion is every thing, if it be true; and it is nothing, if it be false. If Christ died at all, it was for an object whose importance can be measured only by the destinies of eternity. If there are any joys laid up for the righteous, they are joys which it hath not "entered into the heart of man to conceive:" and if there is any wrath in store for the wicked, it is "the wine of the wrath of God, poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation."
You cannot, then, make the question of religion a matter of small moment. It is every thing, or it is nothing. All is at stake, or nothing. There is no middle ground: and no wise man will rest till the point is decided. It behooves every one, then, to be fully persuaded in his own mind,-to settle down for ever on one side or the other of this momentous question. "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him."
If any of you mean to die without religion, but you do not,—no, you do not. If then you mean to live without it, your first step should be to prove it unimportant, that you may throw it away at once, and thus free yourselves from its restraints. This you I cannot do: and the very idea of being engaged in such an attempt would fill you with horror. Admit the shadow of a thought to come across your mind, that possibly the scene of Calvary is a fable, and it would chill you to
the heart, to see the world thus stripped of its hope, and the universe
of its glory.
Since, then, you cannot determine to reject religion entirely, you seem to allow it some importance. But, I repeat it, if it is any thing, it is every thing. Indecision, therefore, on the subject of religion is altogether unreasonable. It is madness to be only almost persuaded. This leads us to consider,
II. The DANGER of indecision in religion.
1. It hardens the heart, and thus renders a favourable decision less and less probable.
The man who lives year after year, no more than almost persuaded to be a Christian, is not waiting for more light. Still he waits, though he cannot tell why. He perhaps wonders that he can rest a moment in uncertainty-talks of his delay as a calamity, and not as a crime— and resolves, over and over again, that henceforth he will be in earnest. He is often about to embrace religion-often on the point of coming to Christ. Many things move him; but nothing governs him. Such a man has many seasons of particular sensibility. A text of scripture troubles him, or a sermon affects him. But they are soon forgotten. He is struck to the heart by the death of a friend, and mingles his tears with the clods that cover him. He goes silently away; and while he keeps in view the chilling images of that cold, dark, narrow bed of corruption; and perhaps paints to his mind the whole scene of death and burial, and considers how it will soon be thus and thus with him,— he is almost ready to resolve that he will give himself no rest, till he is sure that he shall die in peace and sleep in Jesus. But all in a few days is forgotten, or remembered as a dream when one awaketh.
And now, what is the effect of this indecision ?-of these half-formed resolutions, these seasons of sensibility that pass away like the morning cloud and the early dew? Do they soften, or do they harden the heart? Is a man the better, or is he the worse for them? I am not pleading for insensibility. "O that our head were waters, and our eyes fountains of tears, that we might weep day and night" over the hardness of human hearts! But is it not a fact, that the acutest sensi