Page images

stantly on public worship; they think themselves very good characters. They are' whole, and need not a physician; safe, and look not for a Saviour. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? Jer. xvii. 3. Does not the experience of every day confirm these words of the prophet? What maze has such windings, what cavern has such dark retreats ? what whirlpool has such dangerous deeps and violent motions as the human heart ? It is bad to have an enemy ary where ; it is worse to have one preparing schemes of mischief in your own house : but it is the worst of all, to have a secret plotting, and active working foe, within your own bosom. Though you may not be a base liar, a bold blasphemer, a beastly drunkard, or an impious scoffer; if the heart be not right with God, all must be wrong. Now look within, and see. Do not take this matter upon trust, but upon trial. I venture to declare, you will find every dark chamber of the heart, full of idols and abominations. Take the word of God as your light, and pray for the Holy Spirit as your guide, that you may examine those regions of the world within, to which you have been a stranger. Look into the imagination, and see what swarms of vain and sinful thoughts are there. Look into the under

[ocr errors]

of God's decrees. Hark! a messenger knocks at the door. This night thy soul is required of thee! Instead of taking thy ease, now go take thy trial. Amidst all the stores prepared for the perishing body, what provision hast thou for the immortal soul? Alas, poor wretch! thou hast had no shelter for it, but a refuge of lies; no clothing, but filthy rags; no food, but empty husks.* O miserable condition, for the soul to be hurried uupardoned, unpurified, and unprepared, into the presence of a righteous and allseeing Judge !

II. Let what has been said be applied to promote self-examination and humility.

1. If such, as hath just been described, is the state of the impenitent, let me intreat you, reader, to examine whether it be your present condition.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John, i. 8. And believe me, there is no kind of deception, into which you are so likely to fall, and which is so dangerous, as self-deception. When you are warped against it, do not imagine the caution is unnecessary. A well known writer has justly observed, “ That it is as easy to deceive ourselves without perceiving it, as it is difficult to

Boston's Fourfold States.

deceive others without being preceived." Consider what Christ says to the church at Laodicea; Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and misera. ble, and poor, and blind, and naked. Rev. ij. 17. Do you

desire to know how it is that men deceive themselves, as to their own state ?

1. They call things by false names, and dress them in false colours.

Sin, though in itself black as hell, is whitened over with fine words and fair pleas. The most extravagant and inischievous outrages are softly termed the frolics of youth. Vain conversation, bubbling into frothy levity, or breaking out into filthy lewdness, is called harmless mirth. A compliance with idle fashions and dangerous amusements, is called seeing and knowing the world. Drinking, gaming, swearing, and sabbath-breaking, are a gay life. On the other har.d, pious men are named four bigots, or sly hypocrites. Religion is termed a melancholy thing ; and a strict regard to it, madness. . Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness ; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Isa. v. 20. Beware you do not fall under this woe. Let every disguise be torn way. Be willing to know

standing, and see what errors, prejudices, and delusions are there. Look into the conscience, and see what records of long forgotten sins, which must soon be read against you, are preserved there. Look into the affections, and see what storms of anger, fumes of pride, and flames of lust rise there. A little time spent in close selfexamination may do you more good than read. ing a thousand books. Sometimes an instance, or a fact drawn from life, may not only bring with it great evidence, but also fix the attention and fasten on the memory.

66 A few years ago, two pious weavers were conversing together, and complaining of the trouble which they found from vain and evil thoughts, in the solemn duties of religion. Another person of the same business overheard them, and rushing forth said, I always thought you two vile hypocrites, but now I know it from your own confession. For my part, I never had


such vain and wicked thoughts in my

life. One of the men took a piece of money out of his pocket, and put it into his hand, add. ing, this shall be yours, if after you come from church the next time, you can say you had not one vain thought there. In a few days he came, saying, here, take back your money, for I had not been five minutes in the church, before I began to think how many looms could be set up

in it.” It is for want of watching over the heart with godly jealousy, that so many are insensible of their sins. We see myriads of motes in a room when the sun shines, not one of which was beheld before.

2. If such as hath now been described, is our condition, what cause have we for deep humiliation.

Thus saith the Lord, I planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed; how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me? Jer. ii. 21. Lord, what is man! where shall we find the fruits of righteousness in their season ?

Where now are holy love, cheerful resignation, and perfect obedience? Ah! it is mercy that has spared, year after year, the cumberer of the ground, for justice might have cut it down, and cast it into the fire.

God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. Where is the image of God, which consisted in knowledge and true holiness ? Where is the glory which adorned the soul as it came out of the hands of its Maker? Lord, what is man! How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed ! in place of the divine inage, are seen the black marks of iniquity.

Could you enter a temple in ruins, without

« PreviousContinue »