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sufficient reason for diligent attend- take the guage of this world's misery, ance on these appointed ordinances. we are blessed with a real knowledge It is required as of Divine authority; of a gracious and effectual remedy. and should be performed as a matter We proceed then to touch briefly of duty. But there is also another the reasons which operate gradually to line of thought worthy of our atten- turn the affections of men from the tion upon this point, and that is, the things which are seen and temporal, motives by which men are led there; to the scriptural annunciation of those what are the circumstances of our better realities which are not yet seen, case which give to a thinking and but which are eternal. serious-minded man the tendency to And first of all, we feel that here seek the house of prayer and of reli- we are afflicted. The real experience gious instruction ;-and to consider of this life exhibits much of trial, disthese briefly will be our present ob- appointment, distress, and positive sufject.
ing. No man has lived long in this We are aware that many persons world without discovering this. It is have become habitual attendants on evidently the very character of this christian worship without knowing existence ;-life is marked and chawhy they are so. They have not thought racterized not by its enjoyments but on the subject; and therefore as they by its sorrows. There are those who do not question the truth of our sys- strive to disregard this, who harden tem, they submit to it, and join the themselves, who endeavour to drown crowd of nominal worshippers; but thought, by seeking eagerly such enwith these at present we shall not joyment as circumstances will yet occupy ourselves. We would rather permit; and still, as the power and consider what are the real reasons the means of enjoyment diminish, they which present themselves to an in- cling to the scanty remnant that quiring mind as inducements to seek remains, and drain the cup of earthly after religious knowledge,-after more delight to the very dregs; and yet at knowledge of the Author of our being the very time probably they are strugand of His will, than we are naturally gling with real and severe afflictions and intuitively possessed of ;--that is in their own persons or circumstances, in fact, what are the circumstances of or in that of others,—and are comthis our present condition, which, pelled to feel that there is a character when we come to consider them se- of chastening and correction in their riously, press upon us the necessity present lot, against which it is vain to of looking beyond this scene of our contend. The Omnipotent has them present experience, and make us in His hand, in His mighty grasp, and listen eagerly to the declaration of is forcing them to recognize His conanother and a better world. To follow trolling agency. Now to a thinking man out this inquiry is to dive into the it is no light matter to perceive that feelings of every heart that is at all this is the very character of our exalive to the real state of things; to istence here; to see that all the exertouch it in its tenderest point, and to cise of prudence and forethought will set out for inspection the real springs not ward off misfortune and trial; nor of its distress. Oh, how thankful all the exercise of temperance on our ought we to be, that while we thus parts, or skill on the part of others,
avert disease and suffering. How Secondly. But a little calm and can this be? Why is it so? Why deliberate examination into the state am I called into being to make one of the heart, soon discloses to us a of a rational and moral world; and still stronger reason for seeking God to be in it the child of affliction and as our Teacher and our Help in trouof sorrow? What are the extraordi- ble. We find that we are sinful,nary peculiarities of this state in that there is evidently a principle of which I find myself, that some con- corruption and ungodliness in our trolling agency is pressing me on to nature, which renders personal holisuccessive scenes of trial and distress, ness on our own parts impracticable, so that it may be said, “Deep calleth and leads us as a matter of direct and unto deep : all thy waves and thy deliberate choice and forethought, to billows are gone over me?” These con- things which are diametrically oppo
This is a siderations alone would operate with site to that which is good. a serious person to lead him towards sad discovery when it is made practhat hallowed spot which seemed to tically for ourselves, and seriously promise light and instruction. And thought of. Many can talk of it, and if he who felt himself oppressed by are willing to admit the notion geneaffliction, and could not fully explain rally; but we speak of the serious exto himself the nature of his dispensa- amination of the heart—the calm, tion, was told upon anything like quiet, rational, inspection of its desires good authority that there was a book, and tendencies. The results of such and an appointed teacher and ex- an inquiry are most distressing. We pounder of its contents, who could find that long before we have reached open to him the mystery of his Maker's the years of thought and caution, the providential dealings with him,- unholy passions have grown into there surely he would be found pa- might, have demanded and secured tiently waiting for instruction ; and the dominion; and that before we if he was told, that there, at that spot, could suspect their tendency, they in that book, God would meet and have established in us habits, that bless those who seek Him, surely our better reason condemns but canthere he would go, and opening to
not control; and we find the conscithe invisible God the fulness of his ence already laden with guilt, incursorrow, would say in the bitterness of red even in those earlier years, which his soul, “Shew me wherefore thou scarcely cost us a thought before,contendest with me. Is it good unto and the corrupted propensities renthee that thou shouldst oppress, that dered too strong by early yielding thou shouldst despise the work of and indulgence, to be curbed by any thine own hands?” And this is ac- means in our power. “ The Ethiopian tually the case. It is to get light upon cannot change his skin, nor the leothis present afflictive dispensation,-it pard his spots ;' neither, without more is in order to understand the meaning than human aid, can he do good who of God's providence, that many a
is accustomed to do evil. Bid the man turns in the hour of darkness, angry man eject that whirlwind from and doubt, and discomfiture, towards his heart. Bid the unholy man bridle the place of religious teaching, and that eager look. Bid the covetous waits upon the Gospel ministry. man scatter with a liberal hand his
hoarded wealth; the vain man cease The soul feels ignorantlý but earto seek applause, or the drunkard to nestly after God. How shall I reach forsake his draught. The thing is this Almighty Being for advice or impossible in his own strength. His guidance ? Can He, will He, help tendency to the reigning evil is iden- me? Is it possible for Him to look tified with him. It is his character, upon a corrupted being, and give it' is his nature,—it is himself. And him holiness and peace? Can the where is he to obtain an extrinsic defect, the extraordinary and incominfluence that shall curb this nature- prehensible defect of this my rebel that shall effectually set the nature, be remedied ? and may there against himself? And where shall yet be hope for this conscious being, he obtain the willingness to seek a which, with all its faults, I cannot but disposition contrary to that in which believe to be immortal ? Shall I be he delights. Alas, it cannot be; the eternally a sinner, and eternally dealt secret history of many who know that with as a sinner, or does another exthey are wrong, but seek not to the re- istence hold out the prospect of a medy, will shew how vain were such an holy and renovating relief ? It is in expectation. Men are the sordid slaves such a state of mind that men see the of their earthly and unholy propen- wisdom of coming up to the house of sities, bound down to them by a hard prayer and religious instruction. The bondage, and serving with rigor in a present misery of guilt, and the openprofitless and penal labour ;-for the ing prospect of retribution, drives them wages of transgression is hard. to that spot where they begin to
And what an awful thing it is thus imagine it possible that deliverance to know oneself by clear conviction may be obtained ; and there are those to be a sinner, with at the same time in the house of God, like the cripple an increasing apprehension of the at the pool of Bethesda, waiting for holiness and righteousness of God ;- the moving of the waters; and there to think rightly of Him in whom we they have waited long. The burden live, and move, and have our being; of conscious guilt, and of unsubdued who holds all things in His hand, and, sinfulness, is on them. They see whose power can readily make all the that till this is removed there can be creatures subserve the
of no hope; and their anxiety is gaining His justice and His wrath. It is strength, lest this state of evident unindeed a distressing situation to stand fitness for the presence of God should convinced of guilt before a holy sin
be irremediable. They are beginning hating God, knowing ourselves to be to inquire after pardon,- after a unfit for His presence and glory, cleansed heart and a renewed nature; knowing, as far as we can know any- and to hope that while human strength thing of Him naturally, that He can
cannot offer it, they may find it yet not be the Holy God that He most in God. assuredly is, if we are to be happy in But, Thirdly. A third reason for sin, and if a corrupted soul is to be inquiry, and for submission to inadmitted with all its bad passions and struction, presses upon the considedesires into His presence.
Then the rate mind, and with daily increasing inquiry comes up in the heart, What force. We are dying men ;—a few must I do? Where must I turn? years must unquestionably remove us
from this world. If we have reached the judgment;" and let the conviction forty years, it is scarcely probable in seriously lay hold of a man, that his the nature of things that we shall see experience of this life, his human pilforty more ; and surrounded as we grimage, is coming suddenly to a close. are, by evils seen and unseen,-open Let him see himself shut up by the to invisible influences of the most ravage of an incurable disease, or the deadly kind, liable to accidents daily, slow but certain effect of some injury, which may at a moment put us out to inevitable death ; and let him dwell of life,—it is not probable that we upon the thought, “I must surely shall see such a period; it is very die.” How it harrows up the soul. probable, on calculation, that our What a tremendous situation it aplife may be very much shorter. And, pears to live in! How calculated to now, what is death? When we come wring from him a cry of despair. How to look at it, as it is, without the many are there whose feelings would certain light of Scripture, what aspect be wrought up to agony by the sudden does it wear? Is it not something prospect of an inevitable death, with very awful and unnatural ?-some- the load of unforgiven sin for a whole thing from which all our innate feel- life upon their consciences. ings revolt? Does not it administer And the interval of a few years alarms, to think of the decay, the makes no difference in the character breaking up and failure of this animal of the case. It delays but does not machine, and its corruption in the alter the decision. If sin lies at the dust of the earth, and the passing door it will certainly be inquired into, away of the rational spirit into some and visited by a just God whenever other sphere of existence? And is the period of removal comes, hownot that alarm and shrinking justifi- ever near or however distant. The able ? Do men without right re- only effect therefore of a probable inligious principle look calmly at the terval of a few years, in altering the event as a part of the lot of their
case, is, that it may hold out the existence, and feel satisfied with it, opportunity of seeking and finding and calculate on it as on a regular some way of deliverance from the step in their progress-a night-sleep- guilt and power of sin, some escape after which they shall wake to the from the horror of an otherwise inbreaking of a brighter day? No such evitable condemnation. Now there thing. On the contrary, they look are those who are so using their opat it, and shudder, and turn pale, portunity, those whom affliction has and multitudes will not look at it at led to think, who have seriously conall. They look away. They plunge sidered their moral circumstances, into scenes of bustle and excitement and ascertained their guilt; and they purely to put it away from them. have looked forward to death as a But bring the thought powerfully certain event at some time not far home upon the mind,—"This night hence, and not an improbable event thy soul may be required of thee.” even within a very short period of Let the natural and rational reasons time; and they have seen the exibe understood and brought forward gencies of their case to be so awfully for that assertion,—“It is appointed great, that from the very bottom of unto men once to die, and after that their heart they have yearned after
some prospectof peace and hope. How will cease from folly ; I will go
and shall I meet this terrible event? With will wait seriously on this ordinance of what plea can I go comfortably out instruction. It may be, that my
God of this world into another? Where will give me a blessing. Worse than shall I find a ray of light to cheer I am, as to my lot at death, I cannot the gloom of my downward way into well be, for I see that I am ruined. the grave, with a reasonable prospect Serious consideration shuts up the of happiness beyond ? This very question entirely, and tells me that in thought brings many to serious and myself I am undone. Here, howsteady attendance on the ordinances ever, if any where, in the range of of scriptural instruction. They find means before me, here I may yet that the powers of natural reason will find hope. I have good reasons, the do nothing; that within the range further I inquire, to believe that God of unassisted human effort or inquiry has spoken by the Scriptures; and if no hope appears. Accurate examina- so, that He does, as those sacred tion of the foundations of the question Scriptures tell me, speak by the will aggravate but will never diminish preaching of them. Then here I will conscientious distress. The question, wait. I will hearken what the Lord How shall guilty man be just with
God will say concerning me.
I will God? finds no answer but in the page
bow before the footstool of Omnipoof revelation. And, consequently, tent goodness, an afflicted, sinful, there are those, who having tried all dying creature. I will be willing, as other ways, and found them vain, far as my corrupted heart will yield, have come to this determination ; I will be willing to receive instruction. As a sinful and dying man, having I feel the evil of iny former habits ; shortly to leave this present existence the deadening influence of the world ; and go before my Judge, I will go up
the unfitness for serious thought and to that place of solemn meeting where prayer; the instability of my mind it is said that the revealed Word of towards God and goodness; the
eagerGod is dispensed under the sanction ness and readiness of my affections of His promised blessing. There and my attention towards evil ;-yet nothing presents itself contrary to
here is my only hope. Hopeless my common sense and my best feel- misery envelopes me on every side; ings. There men
seem to devote and there is no way of retreat, except themselves seriously to an occupation it be through the christian Scriptures, worthy of their highest powers, and
unto the shelter of that Great Being in a way in no respect repugnant to whom naturally I dread, but who is my sound and deliberate judgment; declared in them to be a God of and there many appear to obtain real grace, forgiving iniquity and transconsolation in a hope full of immor- gression and sin, and offering to the tality. However contrary then these penitent sinner the glories of eternal habits may be to the way in which I life. Blessed, blessed state. Happy have formerly passed my time-away indeed is that man who has reached which I know too well to have been this point, and who waits in the house wrong, however my indulged propen- of God with deliberate conviction, sities plead for still further indulgence, satisfied that there only he can find I will pause in my unholy career; I hope.