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future period cease to dazzle? Will the charms of pleasure, to which they are now devoted, cease to entice! Will the heights of honour, at any future period, cease to inflame their imaginations and awaken their ambition? Alas! every day, by adding new force to their passions, places new obstacles in the path of piety and virtue: every indulgence of sinful passion rivets more closely its chains. Sensual desires and emotions, long indulged, become so deeply and intimately incorporated with the soul, that it is almost as difficult to renounce them, as for the Ethiopian to change his skin and the leopard his spots. With these considerations, then, forcing themselves upon us, will we cherish the absurd, may I not say, the insane hope, that at some future period the world will present to us fewer charms, and our passions diminished strength ?
Admit for a moment the reasonableness of these expectations. What is the business before us? Is it one of easy, of mere human achievement? Look at the work to which we are called; no less than that of renovating corrupt nature, of crucifying the body of sin. How closely and firmly riveted to the heart are the passions and indulgences which must be renounced! How holy and exalted the virtues which must be acquired! How universal and strict the acts of obedience which must be performed ! How many temptations will assail our hearts, weak, and disposed to yield to them! Let us bring home to our minds these considerations, and we shall be satisfied that, in the business of salvation, we shall need support and strength incalculably beyond those which our own powers will afford. And are we sure that, at any future period, the omnipotent
Being whose merciful forbearance we now disregard, and whose mercy and grace have been so long resisted, will afford us those divine succours, without which we can do nothing, without whose co-operating energy our own resolutions will be ineffectual? Hath not the sacred voice of his justice declared, that his Spirit shall not always strive with the disobedient and impenitent? that he who, being often reproved, hardeneth his heart, shall be utterly destroyed, and that without remedy? Salvation is promised to the present season ; the mercy and
grace of God are awarded to the faithful only in improvement of present privileges. « Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation."* “ T'o-day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”+
Those who neglect the great business of salvation are indeed seldom totally indifferent to its infinite importance. They hope to enter upon it in earnest at some future season. At present it is postponed; because the pressure of business, and the prosecution of their favourite plans and pleasures, render it difficult to attend to it. And have they then ascertained the precise period to which the merciful forbearance of God will extend the term of their probation? While they are employing the time which he allots them for the momentous purpose of securing their eternal interests, in frivolous or criminal pursuits or pleasures, or in those which respect only the present short period of their existence, what presumption to cherish the hope that the great and Almighty Being whose grace and mercy they are thus neglecting and contemning, will extend the term of 2 Cor. vi. 2.
| Heb. iv. 7.
their probation to the precise season (if that season is likely to come) when, having accomplished all their worldly plans, and gratified all their sensual desires, they will begin to think in earnest of serving him to whom their best days, their whole life, should have been devoted! Wouldst thou, O man, thus sport with a fellow-mortal in whose power thou wast placed ? and wilt thou thus mock the eternal God?
Even they who profess to be the servants of the Lord, and to make things eternal the supreme objects of their attention, often postpone to a more convenient season the necessary work of relinquishing some indulgence, of controlling or subduing some passions, of moderating some worldly desire or pursuit, which they are sensible alloy the purity of their virtue, and thus endanger their salvation. Alas! my brethren, in all spiritual matters-(different is our course in worldly concerns) -but in all spiritual matters, the future and not the present seems to be the convenient season. Thoughtless that we are! Have we then secured ourselves against those numerous casualties, those formidable foes, that so often defeat the projects of man, and bring down to the dust his towering strength? While every day witnesses some of our fellow-mortals suddenly cut off from the prosperous scenes of life; while the spoiler throws his deadly shafts among the companies of the young, coursing gayly in the circle of pleasure-among those who, in the fulness and the ardour of mature strength, are thronging the paths of worldly aggrandizement and ambition-as well as among the ranks of those who, tottering under the infirmities of age, must soon let go their feeble hold on life; while, perhaps, from our very side, a friend, a relative is summoned to his dread account-sinks unwarned into the tomb; will we coolly calculate on length of days? will we postpone to some future period a preparation for that eternity on whose brink we are standing? How infatuated are we! to presume still longer on the forbearance of that God whose mercy we are contemning, and to delay securing the interests of that immortal soul which perhaps this night his indignant justice may require of us !
Yet a little while, heavenly Father, forbear to execute upon us the just sentence of thy wrath ; and, in mercy, awaken us to an immediate and serious attention to the things that belong to our eternal peace, ere they be for ever hidden from our eyes--ere we sleep that last sleep, the sleep of death!
Matt. xxv. 10.
And the door was shut.
The church at this holy season calls with more than usual frequency and solemnity to repentance: Her faithful members she exhorts to more than customary acts of humiliation and self-denial, and to a particular acknowledgment at the throne of God, of those infirmities, and imperfections, and sins, from which the best in this probationary state are not exempt: for “there is no man that liveth and sinneth not."
She also feels a deep solicitude that her solemn calls may awaken those who have hitherto slumbered secure in their iniquities; who, liable to the just wrath of an offended God, with fatal indifference cry to their conscience, Peace! and though on the brink of the abyss of perdition, are sporting in their sins.
Alas! her calls are seldom availing: often they do not even penetrate the hardened heart: and more frequently the compunction, the apprehension, the good resolutions which they excite, are dissipated by the soothing solicitations of present pleasure ; and sinners delay-yes, they delay the work of repentance to a season more convenient;