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The aspect, exhibited by the spirit of corruption, is indeed less forbidding: but the mischiefs, which it does, are not in the end less dreadful. Every seducer, every tempter, is at the bottom an enemy, and a villain : and nothing can be more false than the

professions, made by men of this character.

4. Persons, under conviction, are always in danger of falling anew into hardness of heart.

" He saith I will return into my house, from whence I came



At first, and for a time, he despaired of gaining a final victory over the man whose soul he inhabited; and in this despair, leaving him to himself, wandered into the desert. But, after looking in vain for a new victim, he began to indulge fresh hopes of re-occupying his former residence. Accordingly he determined to return and make it his permanent abode.

The first victory, which is gained when the soul becomes convinced of its sins, is far from being final. It is a happy beginning; and if followed by vigorous and unremitted efforts, is a propitious prelude to future success. But he who rests here, and feels as if he had already attained, or were already safe, is ruined of course. He is become convinced of his guilt, and has thus advanced a necessary step towards eternal life. But he has not turned to God; and without this conversion all, which is done, will be nothing.

Probably every person, who is under a strong conviction of his guilt, is assailed by many temptations. Either he will distrust, and despair of, the divine mercy; or he will be induced to trust presumptuously in his own righteousness, or to feel satisfied of his ability to save himself; or he will settle down in a state of sloth; or he will be persuaded to procrastinate the work of repentance; or he will yield himself up to the guidance of erroneous teachers, or search out for himself erroneous doctrines; or he will depend on impulses, and other vain dictates of a wild imagination. In these circumstances some individuals strenuously resist both the allurements and the terrors. Others become victims to them. The former overcome; the latter fall and often irrevocably.

Of the truth of the observations which I have here made, the conversation of persons in a state of conviction furnishes evidence but too decisive. A minister of the Gospel is by his office made a witness, to a great extent, of the secret feelings of the heart in persons thus situated. The very things, which have been here mentioned, I have myself heard in such conversation ; and have seen the subsequent conduct. Without hesitation, therefore, I pronounce the observations to be true.

How important, then, is it, that every individual in such a state should be aware of his danger; watch incessantly against his enemies; and resist them without intermission. How indispensable is it, that he should pray always with all prayer for the grace

of God, to save him from temptation, and rescue him from utter ruin. Let every such person, present, be awake, alive, and alarmed by a sense of his exposure, and tremble at the thought of being overcome by his destroyers.

5. The soul, from which convictions of sin have been finally banished, is more perfectly prepared to become the seat of abso. lute wickedness, than before these convictions began.

And, when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished."

An empty house is vacant for the reception of a new inhabitant. A house, swept, is rendered clean, to make his residence agreeable. A house, garnished, is with pleasure prepared to welcome such an inhabitant; and designed to exhibit the respect with which the original tenant regards his new guest, and the open testimonies of honour which he is disposed to render to him. It will be remembered, that all this preparation is voluntary on the part of the owner; and is all designed for the convenience, and pleasure of the new occupant. It proves there. fore, that such an occupant was expected, and intended to reside where all these preparations had been made.

Thus, after the conflict with sin, and the fears of danger, are over, the soul becomes quieted of all its former apprehensions, and inactive as to all future resistance. The work, though not done, is ended; and the struggles, though they have failed of

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their purpose, are given over. The soul has ceased from its opposition; and, considering the effort as too laborious, and the self-denial as too great, relinquishes the conflict, with scarcely a hope of resuming it at any future period. Satisfied, that with ten thousand, it is unable to meet him, that cometh against it with twenty thousand, it languishes away its energy, and settles down into a state of hopeless torpidity. It began to build, but was not able to finish.

From this time it recedes visibly from the solemnity and coneern, which it before manifested about its sins and its salvation; and becomes gradually hardened in iniquity, and alienated from God. Ordinarily, this progress is not without its interruptions ; without checks of conscience; without restraints of the Spirit of Grace. With some irregularities it is, however, continual. It is too constant, too rapid, and too hopeless; and but too often does the man conclude to make no further efforts, and to bid adieu to every prospect of eternal life.

6. The soul, from which convictions are finally banished, becomes far more sinful, than before its convictions began.

" Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in, and dwell there : and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

Seven is here but for an indefinite number; and may be considered as standiug for many. It was, also, regarded by the Jews as a perfect number; and may therefore denote, in the present case, the worst; or the number, the most fitted to complete the wickedness and ruin of the man. At the least, it denotes a greater number than one; and, in proportion, a greater series of temptations and dangers. These seven, are also, universally more wicked than the original tenant of this impure habitation ; more absolutely possessed of the fiend-like character, than himself. From each his danger is of course greater : from all, how great, how dreadful! What a house has this become! With what inhabitants is it filled! To what purposes is it destined! In what uses is it employed! Such, however, is the real state of the man in question.

The soul, in this case, has overcome with many struggles, and against many motives, its strong sense of guilt, and its distressing apprehensions of danger. In this conflict the man bas hardened his heart, and blinded his eyes. He has been exposed, perhaps, to the ridicule of his companions, to the deceitfulness of their sophistry, and to the baleful influence of their example. The calm, contemplative, safe, fireside he has left for the haunts of sense and sin; his sober, virtuous friends for the company of seducers ; and the instructions of piety for the snares of pleasure. From the remonstrances of conscience he has retreated to the noise and gaiety of licentious sport ; from the house of God to the theatre and the gaming table ; and from the path of life to the broad and crooked road, which leads him to destruction. The fears and distresses, which a little while since compelled him to solemn thought, and temporary external reformation, he forces away by joining with others in their contempt and derision.

of the praise, or approbation, of God he now becomes regardless; but of that of his companions in iniquity he is more and more ambitious. A little while since, their commendation would have awakened in his mind nothing but alarm. Now he dreads nothing so much as their censure. They are at once, his instructors, his rulers, and his example. Once he hoped, that he should resemble the Redeemer; hare the same mind, which was in hion, and talk as he talked. Now his sole wish is to be like them. Henceforth his progress is only downward! From the commission of one sin he is of course led to another; and from those, which are less, to those, which are greater. If life lasts, he becomes in the end a profligate here, and an heir of distinguished wretchedness beyond the grare. If he does not go to the most horrid and abandoned lengths; it is because God exercises more kindness to him, than he to himself,

Orien a person of this description becomes ambitious to be, and to she'r himself, the first in erery proposal, device and ca. rer of sin, and in every band of sinuers In the indulgence er this spuit he usually makes it his print business to appear as

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an open opposer of religion, a despiser of good men, a reviler of the Scriptures, a contemner of the Sabbath, a ridiculer of the Sanctuary. Not unfrequently might he with justice be addressed, as Elymas, the sorcerer, was by St. Paul : full of all subtlety and all mischief ; thou child of the devil; thou enemy of all righteousness ! wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" His station he voluntarily takes in the front of the host; and ventures into the thickest of the battle. Too far, therefore, does he advance, to think of retreating. His pride, his self-consistency, make him regard this subject only with disdain ; and push him on to every hostile effort against his Maker. After some time spent in this manner, he learns habitually to feel, as if embarked in a continual warfare, and as if always in arms.

Thus, instead of being influenced, deceived, and controlled, by one fiend, he is spurred and goaded on by a band of fiends ; is kept always vigorously active in iniquity, violently at war with God, and in a steady direction of all his energy against truth and salvation.

Last, and most dreadful of all, as he has finally resisted with gross insult the most benevolent efforts of the Holy Spirit to win him from guilt, to restore him to holiness, and to entitle him to endless life; as he has crucified afresh the Son of God, accounted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and put him to open shame; as he has despised the riches of the goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, of God, and after his hardness, and impenitent heart has treasured up wrath against the day of wrath; he is forsaken by that Spirit, to whom he has done this despite, forgotten by that Redeemer, whom he has thus requited, and given up by that Father of all mercies, against whom he has thus finally rebelled, to a reprobate mind. Henceforth he is only endured as a vessel of wrath, fitted for destruction. At first a partial, then an open Infidel, exiled from the Sanctuary, scorning the Scriptures, and making a mock of sin and holiness alike, it becomes impossible, that he should be renewed to repentance. No more sacrifice for sin remaineth for him; but a fearful looking for of judgment, VOL. II.


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