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and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon him." One moment a "long-suffering" God makes his appeal to our fears, by painting the miseries of hell, another moment he encourages our hopes by unveiling the joys and glories of heaven. "He will render to every man according to his works; to them who, by patient continuing in well doing, seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth wickedly." Now he rebukes our madness in rushing deliberately upon destruction, again he gently admonishes our indifference and sloth. The language of our text may be considered at once an appeal to our fears and our hopes: it ministers severe reproof to our criminal unconcern, and furnishes the most encouraging intimation of mercy to those who diligently hear and obey. "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?"
The condition of the sinner, while he remains insensible of his danger, is frequently compared to that of a man under the influence of sleep. "Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." The man who thoughtlessly wastes his time, and opportunities; who lives from
day to day "without repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ," or any deep concern about his future welfare, is evidently the "sluggard" whom the text addresses. It is no matter how diligent he may be in other pursuits, while he neglects the "one thing needful," he is the most inexcusable idler; in the estimation of sound reasoning and inspired truth "he is laboring in vain, and spending his strength for naught and in vain. What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
May the Spirit of life from Christ Jesus the Lord breathe savingly on those "who are dead in trespasses and sins, while I attempt,
I. To shew in what respect security in sin may be compared to a "sleep," and,
II. Evince the guilt and danger of indulg ing this security.
1. In the season of sleep the members of the body, in a great measure, cease to act and perform their respective offices. The eyes are closed against the light of the natural sun, and do not direct the man in discharging the duties of life: The ear is shut against the voice of instruction, and deaf to the alarms of approaching danger: The tongue is hushed in silence, and is neither the instrument of ascribing glory to God, nor imparting knowledge to man. Thus it is with those who are spiritually asleep;
who remain "dead in trespasses and sins." All the powers af the soul are suspended from spiritual action: The understanding has no suitable conceptions of the great God, of his character, or perfections, or law : it does not realize that justice which "will by no means clear the guilty:" nor that holiness" which cannot look upon iniquity" without abhorrence: It rather imagines the living God "to be altogether such an one as" ourselves, and approving our transgressions. The heart has no desires after Him, nor delight in Him who is perfection itself; who is the only source of blessedness and joy: It experiences no real pleasure in meditating on his promises or perfections, as they are clearly revealed in the works both of creation, and redemption. The memory, depraved and prostituted, is shamefully treacherous in relation to things spiritual and divine. While an unmeaning tale, an empty novel, or some ill natured report is faithfully retained, how speedily are forgotten truths which concern the glory of God, and our own everlasting welfare! "Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet," saith the Lord, "my people have forgotten me days without number."
2. In natural sleep the time passes imperceptibly away. The person lost in agreeable slumbers makes no account of moments, or hours, or evenings. He neither reflects on the time that is gone, nor does he anticipate the morning which approaches. The
man thus profoundly asleep is a striking representation of the unconvinced, thoughtless sinner. "His accepted time, his day of salvation" passes insensibly away. Slumbering in the cradle of security, or dandled on the lap of sensual ease and enjoyment, he permits all the opportunities which are afforded for securing his salvation to pass unimproved. He scarcely thinks upon the days, and months, and years of his life which are already spent, or looks forward to death, and judgment, events which are certainly and rapidly approaching. Intoxicated with his present enjoyments, or future prospects he occasionally addresses himself in the flattering language of the rich man related in the parable, "soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry, thou hast much goods laid up for many years." He thus insensibly advances from childhood to youth, from youth to manhood, and from manhood to old age: When he has arrived at the period of forty he imagines himself as young, and is no less devoted to the pursuits, or pleasure of the present life, and regardless of his future destination, than at twenty: When he has attained to the age of fifty, or sixty, or seventy, he still amuses himself with the hope of multiplied years, and postpones the great work of salvation. He fondly flatters hinself that "to morrow shall be as this day," and the next year as the present year, "or much more abundant."
3. The person asleep is unmoved by any VOL. 4.
dangers which surround and threaten to injure him. The thief may enter his house, the murderer may approach, thirsting for his blood, the flames may be kindling over his head, or the lightnings blazing fearfully around; but he is neither alarmed nor disturbed. An awful image of the sinner who is stupidly inattentive to every warning given, or obstinately refuses to return and live. He disregards alike the terrors of divine wrath, and the entreaties of mercy.Grace may invite, and expostulate in language the most soothing and insinuating; justice may denounce her curses in a manner the most awful and alarming, without any lasting effect. If, like the Roman governor, he trembles for a moment; if conscience, by her powerful voice, should succeed to startle him from his delusive repose, he endeavors to dismiss these unwelcome fears by postponing the work of repentance until a more convenient time, and afterwards becomes more secure, more hardened in transgression than ever.
4. Natural sleep, however profound or quietly enjoyed, must ere long he disturbed. It is no matter how securely the person rests; it is no matter how agreeably his imagination entertains him with ten thousand pleasing dreams, the light of the morning at last approaches, and irresistably breaks the enchantment: Neither shall the security of the sinner last for ever, but dismay, and confusion and destruction must be his latter