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fatal moment, have committed the unpardonable sin. Such suspicions, you tell me, have often covered your prospects with darkness.
I confess that, where this difficulty exists, if it do not lead to the suspicions which you have noted, it may very easily end in some other conclusion of despair. There are some minds which, from habit or constitution, must necessarily encounter it: minds, which take their present tone from their last associates ; which retain an impression from the last object of attention, to give way to the next, and which are never uniform in their character for a single day. In such a case we should look for this complaint. Retirement is, indeed, always important in all instances of religious inquiry; but in this, most particularly, we should urge a seclusion from any temporal objects or occupations, which are not within the sphere of indispensable duty; and an unremitted confinement of attention to the great subject of salvation. The same advice we should give, where irresolution arises from the slightness of the impression made on the mind.
In either case, the consciousness of irresolution is painful, and often discouraging in the extreme. The awakened sinner, in the first hour of alarm, determines with much earnestness, that he will not permit his thoughts to be diverted from the great concern of eternal life. Some intrusive
trifle engages his attention : but he returns from his wanderings to seriousness again, ashamed of himself, and perhaps uneasy for the consequences. The same process takes place again and again. Irresolution becomes a habit; and the sinner loses all confidence in the bare possibility of a happy issue. Or, where such is not the result, the mind acquires an unprofitable restlessness, and becomes almost incapable of fixedness of thought. Some extraordinary power would appear necessary, to impart an habitual seriousness, by altering the very shape and texture of the mind.
This picture is strengthened, when we recollect the reviews which such a man takes of the past. When, it may be, at the very time of his arrival at a point of renewed seriousness, he remembers that he had reached this point more than once before, and had been led from it again to perfect listlessness and indifference: when he can remember, too, exactly similar operations of his mind; and, as if he had recorded his thoughts at the time, he is able to ponder them over, and to see in them the very state which distinguishes him now. No train of reflections can be more discouraging than those which follow, where retrospections of this character are fully indulged. Without even an active conviction of sin, he may feel the dull influence of anticipated lethargy stealing over his spirits; and all effort seems a mockery, alike to his soul, and his God.
I cannot weep! I dare not pray!
I cannot tear those bands apart. The original fault, in this melancholy case, consists in the defective nature of the resolutions which were so often broken. I have already said that it is possible to resolve with such a vehemence of feeling, as entirely to overlook our natural weakness; and, in the ardour of our determination, utterly to forget the strength of our foes. Thus we may offer our prayers for divine aid, while we are so self-confident that there is very little sincerity in the petition. We may imagine that we possess the two ingredients of a successful resolve, reliance on God, and self-determination; while there lurks within the heart all that could keep us apart from spiritual assistance, and when even a very little pains would enable us to detect an unhallowed and presumptuous confidence,
Resolutions are often formed in a season of affliction; and the state of mind which prompted them, may bring no better issue than the last. There is no condition in which we are more liable to deceive ourselves, than that of temporal adversity. The partial subduement of passion, which personal grief has effected, is mistaken for meekness; the diversion of thoughts from objects of recent attention, is a fancied change of taste and desire ; a sense of care and dreariness takes the name of some Christian
and the mourner already imagines himself to have made an easy transition from worldliness to piety. Or, if he do not assume so bold a conclusion, the resolutions which he forms are entirely dependant on the intensity of his sorrow; and his expectations of success are derived from the same source.
This is a sad misapplication of the leadings of an afflictive providence ; which were designed, not to achieve his salvation by any special influence in themselves, but to direct him to faith and repentance.
But what is to be done, where a sense of irresolution and moral weakness produces an influence so discouraging? Is there reason for despair? By no means. All this is a sad proof of human helplessness : but it is no evidence against the power
of Christ to save. Such a one should feel humbled; but not disheartened. The recollection of the past should only furnish a strong argument for implicit reliance on the Saviour; while it should teach him to lean no more on himself: and the very feelings which it might produce in the bosom, if they were rightly applied, would be salutary. He might see that his case is indeed desperate; but that it is only a desperation in his own resources. It furnishes a reason why he should hope no more from mere human efforts ; but it presents, too, a plea for the entire surrender of the soul to Jesus. “0, I can do nothing!" exclaims the agitated and desponding spirit, as he comes down from his exertion and labour. True: you can do nothing. The word of God has affirmed this before you admitted it; you are brought only to an experimental conviction of what you would not before believe. Receive, then, more readily the converse your position: Christ can do all things for you. Surrender, therefore, your heart to him now, when the lesson of your own insufficiency is so plainly and painfully pressed upon you. Behold! The Redeemer is emphatically denominated the STRENGTH of them that believe : and the very invitation of the gospel is to the sensibly weak.