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can we be satisfied with any life but a life of watchfulness and prayer, when we reflect that when that day comes, it will be too late to cry for mercy? The REDEEMER will then be the Judge, and there will then be no daysman betwixt us', none to speak for us, if our pardon have not been sealed in heaven before that day.
These are great and awful thoughts, yet founded in truth and reality ; and if we put them by for the present, we may do so, as we have no doubt already too often before; yet surely “God's Spirit will not always strive with man,” and to any one of us, for aught we know to the contrary, each warning may be the last.
I Job ix. 33.
NECESSITY OF PRACTICAL CONVERSION.
EZEKIEL xxxiii. 11.
“Say unto them, As I live, saith the LORD God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?”
Our attention can scarcely be too often called to the necessity of deep and practical repentance, also to the consideration of men's great unwillingness, nevertheless, to yield their hearts to it: I intend, therefore, on the present occasion, under the Divine blessing, to direct your thoughts to this same all-important subject, by offering some practical reflections on the great truth revealed to us both by Prophets and Apostles, that our heavenly LORD and Master " desireth the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live.”
And how this consideration ought in all reason to affect usthe consideration, I mean, of Almighty God's tender anxiety for our everlasting good-how this ought to touch us, first in the way of warning, and then of encouragement, is what I now desire, with the aid of God's HOLY SPIRIT, to press on the hearts and consciences of serious persons. As to the warning contained in this high doctrine, it seems obviously and inevitably to result from it, that our spiritual and everlasting condition is in some mysterious manner placed within our own power—that if we die, spiritually and eternally, it will be our own doing, the
consequence of our own wilful presumptuousness and miserable folly.
People sometimes think, or at least talk as if they thought, and perhaps more often still act, though unconsciously, on the notion, that they are in God's hands for good or for evil ; that it is useless for them to strive or take any pains about things spiritual ; that like clay in the potter's hands, they are made for honour or dishonour by some unchangeable irrevocable decree. This view of our condition is sometimes called Calvinistic, Predestinarian, and other such names, but I apprehend the root of it lies deeper than such terms would seem to imply; it is a view far more agreeable to our present fallen nature, and therefore far more commonly cherished by us all, than we are ourselves aware of, because it soothes and flatters our indolence, now, alas ! natural to us; and whatever soothes and flatters our indolence we are sure to give ear to, more or less, I suppose,
all of us.
Hence it is that the case is not a rare one for people to speak and argue very vehemently against what they call Predestination and Calvinism, and yet all the while live without care or anxiety about their own spiritual condition; as if they were quite safe and secure, and need scarcely seek, much less strive to enter in at the strait gate. Far better and wiser would it be for Christians to consider their condition, not as a matter of philosophical speculation, but in that practical way in which the Bible and the Church uniformly represent it to us, viz., as a condition of trial and probation to each one of us. We are, indeed, surrounded with mysteries, mysteries which we can no more solve or explain than we can reach the stars which we see surround our earth in a clear night. But at present these great things concern us not; we have, in fact, neither time nor faculties for them ; we have a work to do which must be done “ daily, whilst it is called to-day;" and that work is the work of repentance the getting rid of all that is amiss in us, the growing and increasing in all that is pure and holy.
Vain, therefore, and worse than vain, is the notion which we all so readily cherish--that our spiritual condition is not within our own power—that the ALMIGHTY will do with us as HE pleases, without regard to our own exertions. Certainly, He
will do with us as He pleases, or as the Apostle says emphatically, according to the counsel of His own will.” But then it is His irrevocable will and counsel, that “without holiness" man shall be admitted to His beatific presence.
He wills not indeed that any should perish; yet, as it immediately follows, unless by coming to repentance, in what way can we escape perishing? He has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, yet if men turn not from their evil ways, they must and will die; it is not God's choice, but their own, for themselves.
For that is another great matter of warning implied in the great doctrine we are now considering, that we have before us no alternative, but either to turn or to perish. “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel ?” Hence we are taught, most plainly and decisively, that there is no middle
but that we must either turn or perish. And if a person should ask what is meant here by turning turning, that is, from our evil ways ; I suppose no seriously reflecting mind would be at a loss for the answer, at least to itself.
Let a person calmly and seriously call himself to account, looking back on past years, and forward on what he supposes are before him; let him calculate (if he will) that he shall live to be seventy, or seventy-five, or eighty years old, and that he shall enjoy his health and faculties to the last ; then let him think whether, when all is over, and he has gone on to the last as he is going on now, he shall be fit and prepared to meet his God, and to be admitted into the society of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. And let him not flatter himself with superficial notions or popular delusions, but put it solemnly to his own heart and conscience, whether the way in which he is going on now, is or is not in all respects such as becomes a baptized and sworn Christian ; such (I say) as becomes one who is adopted into God's family, whose home is in heaven, who has at the baptismal font taken a solemn leave of all earthly hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, and pledged himself to desire only so to pass through things temporal, as that finally he may not lose the thingseternal. If we, my brethren, find, on looking on ourselves and our present way of life, that it is not, in all respects, suitable to these our strict vows and lofty privileges, let us know assuredly, that to us the affectionate warning of our Father in Heaven is addressed, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?” O Church and body of CHRIST, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven, notwithstanding all your great and blessed privileges, why will ye die ?
If then we would not die, that is, would not be eternally shut out from the favour and mercy of the LORD ALMIGHTY, there is but one alternative, we must turn; that is, whatever sin, negligence, or ignorance, we now allow ourselves in, in whatever respect we are now going on amiss, we must vigorously, resolutely, and systematically set ourselves, (as the Catechism says)“ to lead a new life,”-in that respect to be different from what we have been and are.
The state of the heart and conscience may be ascertained by what appear perhaps small things, but which to a rightlyjudging mind, and in the sight of ALMIGHTY GOD, are not small; and this, not merely because they are signs and tokens of a corrupt state of heart altogether, but also, because they are in each particular case gross offences; though possibly from their not often occurring to the recollection, or from some other cause, they do not appear to the conscience in this evil light.
Let me mention a few instances, by way of illustrating the kind of delusion against which I would warn you.
Many persons, even religiously disposed, continue for years and years cherishing a sort of smothered dislike, in fact more or less of unkind or uncharitable feeling, towards some neighbour or other, whom they never can think well of. Now this is an evil
way of going on—a way to be turned from and got out of with all speed. For whatever other people may be, we at least cannot be what Christians ought to be, if we harbour
any towards another, inconsistent with genuine Christian love and good-will. The question for us is, not what other people are, but what we ought to be.
Again, many decent respectable persons, to all appearance, never pray to God in His holy habitation. Whether it is so in dissenting meeting-houses I cannot say, but too surely it is matter of common observation, that many who call themselves