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characteristic of falling away, after having been once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift.
You now perceive, my brethren, that all these characteristics may be found separately among men of our own age. But should there be a man in whom they all unite; a man who has known and abjured the truth ; who has not only abjured, but opposed and persecuted it, not in a moment of surprise, and at the sight of racks and tortures, but from a principle of enmity and hatred ; do you not think he would have
1 just cause to fear that he had committed the unpar. donable sin ?
To collect the whole in two words, and in a yet shorter way to resolve the question, “ Is it possible now to commit the unpardonable sin?” I answer; We cannot commit it with regard to every circumstance; but, in regard to what constitutes its essence and atrocity, it may be committed; and though men seldom fall so deeply, yet it is not impossible. Few complete the crime ; but many commit it in part, and in degree. Some imagine themselves to be guilty, by an ill-founded fear; but a much greater number are daily going the awful road, and, through an obstinate security, unperceived. They ought of course, to reject the thought of having proceeded to that excess; but, at the same time, to take precaution, that, in the issue, the dreadful period may never come, which is nearer, perhaps, than they imagine.
APPLICATION. What effects shall the truths we have delivered produce on your minds ? Shall they augment your pride, excite vain notions of your virtue, and suggest an apology for vice, because you cannot, in the portrait we have given, recognise your own character ? Is your glory derived from the consideration, that your depravity has not attained the highest pitch; and that there yet remains one point of horror, at which you have not arrived? Will you suffer the wounds to corrode your heart, under the notions that
they are not desperate, and that there is still a reme. dy? And do you expect to repent, and to ask forgiveness, when repentance is impracticable; and when all access to mercy is cut off.
But who among our hearers can be actuated by so great a frenzy? What deluded conscience can enjoy repose under a pretext, that it has not yet committed the unpardonable sin ? Whence is it, after all, that this crime is so dreadful ? All the reasons which may be assigned, terminate here, as in their centre, that it precipitates the soul into hell. But is not hell the end of every sin? There is this difference, it must be observed, between the unpardonable sin, and other sins, that he who commits it is lost without resource; whereas, after other sins, we have a sure remedy in conversion. But, in all cases, a man must repent, reform, and become a new creature; for we find in religion, what we find in the human body; some diseases quite incurable, and others which may be removed with application and care : but they have both the similarity of becoming incurable by neglect, and what, at first, was but a slight indisposition, becomes mortal by presumption and delay.
Besides, there are few persons among us....there are few monsters in nature....capable of carrying wickedness, all at once, to the point we have described. But how many are there who walk the awful road, and who attain to it by degrees? They do notarrive, in a moment, at the summit of impiety. The first essays of the sinner, are not those horrid traits
, which cause nature to recoil. A man, educated in the christian religion, does not descend, all at once, from the full lustre of truth to the profoundest darkness. His fault, at first, was mere detraction; thence he proceeded to negligence; thence to vice; next he stifies remorse; and, lastly, proceeds to the commission of enormous crimes : so he who, in the beginning, trembled at the thought of a weakness, becomes insensible of the foulest deeds, and of a conduct the most atrocious.
There is one reflection with which you cannot be too much impressed, in an age, in which Jesus Christ approaches us with his light, with his Spirit, and with all the advantages of the evangelical economy; that is, concerning the awful consequences of not improving these privileges, according to their original design. You rejoice to live in the happy age, which so many kings and prophets have desired to see. You have reason so to do. But you rejoice in these privileges, while each of you persists in a favourite vice, and a predominant habit ; and because you are neither Jews nor heathens, you expect to find in re. ligion, means to compose a conscience, abandoned to every kind of vice : this is a most extraordinary and almost general prejudice among christians. But this light in which you rejoice....this Christianity, by which you are distinguished....this faith, which constitutes your glory will aggravate your condemnation, if
your lives continue unreformed. The Pharisees were highly favoured by seeing Jesus Christ in the flesh, by attesting his miracles, and hearing the wisdom which descended from his lips; but these were the privileges which caused their sin to be irremissible.' The Hebrews were happy by being enlightened, by tasting of the heavenly gift, and the powers of the evangelical economy; but this happiness, on their falling away, rendered their loss irreparable.
Apply this thought to the various means, which Providence affords for your conversion; and think what effect it must produce on your preachers. It suspends our judgment, and ties our hands, if I may so speak, in the exercise of our ministry. We are animated at the sight of the blessing which the gospel brings; but, when we contemplate the awful consequences on those who resist, we are astonished and appalled.
Must we wilfully exclude the light? What effects have the efforts of Providence produced on you? What account can you give of the numerous privi
leges, with which Heaven has favoured you ? Think not that we take pleasure in declamations, and in drawing frightful portraits of your conduct. Would to God that our preaching were so received, and so improved, as to change our censures into applause, and all your strictures into approbation. But charity is never opposed to experience. So many exhortations, so many entreaties, so many affectionatę warnings, so many pathetic sermons, so many instructions, so many conflicts to save you from vice, leave the proud in his pride, the implacable in his hatred, the fashionable woman in full conformity to the world, and every other in his predominating sin. What line of conduct shall we consequently adopt ? Shall we continue to enforce the truth, to press the duties of morality, and to trace the road of salvation, in which you refuse to walk ? We have already said, that these privileges will augment your loss, and re. double the weight of your chains. Must we shut up these churches ? Must we overturn these pulpits ? Must we exile these pastors? And making that the object of our prayer, which ought to be our justest cause of fear, must we say, Lord, take away thy word; take away thy Spirit ; and remove thy candlestick; lest, receiving too large a portion of grace, we should augment the account we have to give, and render our punishment more intolerable.
But why abandon the soul to so tragical a thought? Lord, continue with us these precious pledges of thy lovingkindness, which is better than life, and give us a new heart. It is true, my brethren, a thousand objects indicate, that you will persist in impiety. But I know not what sentiment flatters us, that you are about to renounce it. These were St. Paul's sentiments concerning the Hebrews: he saw the efforts of the world to draw them from the faith, and the almost certain fall of some : in the meantime he hoped, and by an argument of charity, that the equity of God would be interested to prevent their fall. He hop
ed further; he hoped to see an event of consolation. Hence he opened to the Hebrews the paths of tribulation in which they walked with courage. He called to their remembrance so many temptations refuted, so many enemies confounded, so many conflicts sustained, so many victories obtained, so many trophies of glory already prepared ; and proposing himself for ą model, ḥe animated them by the idea of what they had already achieved, and by what they had yet to do. Call to remembrance, says he, the former days, in which ye endured so great a fight of afflictions, part
l ly, whilst ye were made a gazing stock, both by re. proaches and afflictions, and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. Çast not away, therefore, your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward, Heb. x. 32, 33, 35. We address the like exhortation to each of our hearers. We re. mind you of whatever is most to be admired in your life, though weak and imperfect, the communion you have celebrated, the prayers you have offered to hea. . ven, the tears of repentance already shed. And you, my brethren, my dear brethren, and ho,
. ņoured countrymen, I call to your recollection, as St. Paul to the Hebrews, the earth strewed with the bodies of your martyrs, and stained with your blood ;.... the desert populated with your fugitives;... the places of your nativity desolated ; your tenderest ties dissolved ;....your prisoners in chains, and confessors in irons ;....your houses rased to the foundation; and the precious remains of your shipwreck scattered on all the shores of Christendom.
Oh! Let us not cast away our confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. Let not so many conflicts bę lost; let us never forsake this Jesus to whom we are devoted; but let us daily augment the ties which attach us to his communion.
If these are your sentiments, fear neither the terrors nor anathemas of the Scriptures. As texts, the most consolatory, have an awful aspect to them who