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it. I remain at the pool until the troubling of the waters.”
Nothing is more easy than to deceive a mind in the situation in which we have supposed this to be. Exhausted by its own vain exertions, wearied, and watching for some mystical effect ; the most foolish pretexts will bring on a relapse into indolence and inactivity. The reflections which serve to direct the attention from all possibility of danger, might frequently be read in such language as the following: “God must surely eye me with favour, while I am waiting in patience for his will. And if he do not now grant me the object of my prayer, he will see the virtue of this patience, and remember me in his own good season.” Do you not see how much that is pharisaical pervades all this ; how much of an unhumbled and legal temper; and what erroneous conceptions of the true state of the heart? Do you not see how carelessness and indifference are misnamed? How the sinner arrogates to himself a Christian virtue which is inseparable from faith in Jesus Christ, and builds upon it the expectation of divine favour?
The prevalent mistake which is founded on the scriptural expression, " a day of power,” betokens a gross ignorance of the scheme of redemption. It supposes a particular period assigned by eternal counsel, in which alone the Holy Spirit is
willing to work in the heart of the sinner ; that period independent of any state of mind in which the sinner may be; and that until then, all desire or prayer must be unavailing. I need not detain you by an explanation of this error, in its source, and in its bearings. A single remark on a misconstrued phraseology will be sufficient. All the time of the Saviour's administration in what is called his exalted state, in contra-distinction from what is called his “ day of humiliation,” is denominated his “day of power.” The time at which the sinner first believed, may be considered as that in which divine power renewed his heart. Yet it is said to every sinner, “ Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” Be assured, then, that if he be anticipating some imaginary period, in which God is more willing to accept him through Jesus Christ, he has embraced an error, which, the longer he holds it, will the more widen the distance between him and the Saviour. God demands the whole heart this very moment ; and every instant, during which it is detained from him, sends up an additional report against the delinquent.
To all this class of self-excusings, I would apply the remark of one, who, on a bed of illness, being asked, “ if he was waiting God's pleasure,” answered, “waiting implies being ready.” There is pointed truth in this. He who only professes to be waiting, depend upon it, is not ready. There may be very little difference between his state of mind and that of him who stands aloof from salvation with an apology which, if it do not indicate contemptuousness, argues a most sinful indifference, “I hope my time will one day come.”
There is another expression, corresponding with those I have already mentioned, and equally common : “ I have done all that I was directed to do; I now remain until God shall do his part.” If the utterer would take pains to examine the feelings with which this is said, he would see that they are liable to the same severe charge which we have applied to other excuses ; ignorance that is wilful, petulance, or a temporizing policy. It is of little importance which of these, while their tendency is to keep the sinner beyond the hope of salvation. Could it ever be said of any suppliant, “ You have done all that was demanded at your hands, and yet God has resolved to withhold his promised blessing ?” May we ever, with impunity, impeach his veracity ?
Much of the language which I have thus quoted, composes a part of that cant phraseology (if the term be permitted) so general in partial religious impressions. It is always founded on error: and it is either the cause or the effect of greater repugnance to the doctrines of the cross.
It is indeed surprising what caprices and what follies, in the heart of the sinner, are brought to light, in the condition which I am describing : what inconsistent notions ! what absurd expectations ! what impertinences ! what perverse ideas of God! what wanton impeachment of his holy character! And has such a man a claim upon the spiritual mercies of his Maker?- the very thing which he fancies to be his!-And is God under an obligation to hear him?—the very thing he imagines him to be!
Adieu, my dear sir. Dare to examine the dispositions of your mind. Tender it to the scrutiny of an Omniscient Being. Pray, and act consistently with such a prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."*
I am yours, &c.
* Psalm cxxxix. 23, 24.
Common misconceptions.—Mistaken idea of a propriety in de
lay.--Any delay or suffering, the fault of the sinner.- Mistake relating to the necessity of a certain preparatory process. Scripture examples.-Errors relating to the duty and acceptance of prayer.--"I am not yet prepared.”—“ I am not holy enough.”—The inconsistency of such complaints.Apprehended insensibility.- Analogies and illustrations.Want of more clear views of sin.—Exact degrees of conviction not necessary, nor even possible, to be observed.-Why conviction is more difficult to be effected in a man of strict morality.—The gospel invites, without reference to the degree of conviction, upon the ground of universal and most urgent necessity.
MY DEAR SIR,
If a heathen, who did not well understand the first principles of the gospel, were awakened to some sense of his guilt, we might expect him to
“ What shall I do to be saved ?” But, suppose a man, whose home is in Christendom, and who has been imbued with a theoretical knowledge of the truths of Christianity, yet is ignorant of its power in his own experience; suppose him, for the first time, to make the fearful discovery of his lost condition, and of the neces