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with those ordinances; at least, that they should comply with them at present. Impressions, it is allowed, are desirable, provided it be truth or duty that is impressed; otherwise, they deserve no regard but, be they as desirable as they may, the want of them can never justify our living in the neglect of known duty. Nor are they at all adapted to show us what is duty, but merely to excite to the performance of that which may be proved to be duty without them. We might as well wait for impressions, and conclude, from the want of them, that the time is not come for the performance of other duties, as those of baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Some are kept from a public profession of Christ's name by mere mercenary motives. They have relations and friends that would be offended. The fear of being disinherited, or injured, in some sort, as to worldly circumstances, has made many a person keep his principles to himself, till such time as the party whose displeasure he fears shall be removed out of the way. This is wicked; as it amounts to a denial of Christ before men, and will, no doubt, expose the party, if he die without repentance for it, to being denied by Christ before his Father, at the last day. Lord, said one, I will follow thee, but let me first go and bury my father. -Let me first go and bid them farewell who are at home, says another; Jesus answered, Let the dead bury their dead, follow thou -No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
4. It is this plea that keeps us from a thorough self-examination, and self-denial. The importance of being right in the sight of God, and our liability to err, even in the greatest of all concerns, render a close and frequent inquiry into our spiritual state absolutely necessary: It is a dangerous, as well as an uncomfortable life, to be always in suspense; not knowing what, nor where we are, nor whither we are going. There are seasons, too, in which we feel the importance of such an inquiry, and think we will go about it, we will search and try our ways, and turn from our sins, and walk more closely with God. Such thoughts will occur when we hear matters urged home upon us from the pulpit, or when some affecting event draws off our attention from the present
world, and causes us to reflect upon ourselves for our inordinate anxiety after it. We think of living otherwise than we have done; but, when we come to put our thoughts into execution, we find a number of difficulties in the way, which too often deter us, at least, for the present. Here is an undertaking that must first be accomplished, before I can have time; here is also a troublesome affair that I must get through, before I can be composed; and then, here are such temptations that I know not how to get over just now: if I wait a little longer, perhaps they may be removed.' Alas! alas! thus we befool ourselves; thus we defer it to another time, till the impressions on our minds are effaced, and then we are less able to attend to those things than we were at first. As one who puts off the examination of his accounts, and the retrenchment of his expenses, till, all on a sudden, he is involved in a bankruptcy ; so do multitudes, in the religious world, neglect a close inspection into the concerns of their souls, till, at length, either a departure from some of the great principles of the gospel, or some foul and open fall, is the consequence.
5. It is this principle that keeps us from preparedness for death, and thus being ready when our Lord shall come. There is nothing that Christ has more forcibly enjoined than this duty: Be ye ready, for at such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.— What I say unto you I say unto all, watch. Why do we not im mediately feel the force of these charges, and betake ourselves to habitual watchfulness and prayer, and self-denial, and walking with God? Why are we not as men who wait for the coming of their Lord? Is it not from a secret thought, that the time is not come ? We know we must die, but we consider it as something at a distance; and thus, imagining that our Lord delayeth his coming, we delay to prepare to meet him, so that when he cometh he fiudeth us in confusion. Instead of our loins being girt, and our lights burning, we are engaged in a number of plans and pursuits, to the neglect of those things, which, notwithstanding the necessary avocations of life, ought always to engross our supreme attention. Let us next proceed to consider,
II. THE EVIL NATURE, AND DANGEROUS TENDENCY OF THIS PRÒ
I need not say much to prove to you that it is a sin. science of every one of you will assist me in that part of the work It is proper, however, in order that you may feel it the more for cibly, that you should consider wherein its evil nature consists.
1. It is contrary to the tenor of all God's commandments. All through the scriptures we are required to attend to divine things immediately, and without delay. Work while it is called to-day; the night cometh when no man can work.—To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.-While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.-Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
God not only requires us, in general, to do what we do quickly, but calls us to serve him particularly under those temptations or afflictions which we find placed in our way. The terms of discipleship are, Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow me. He does not call upon us to follow him barely when there are no troubles, nor difficulties to encounter, nor allow us, when those difficulties occur, to wait a fairer opportnnity; but to take our cross, as it were, upon our shoulders, and so follow him. It would be of use for us to consider every situation as a post in which God has placed us, and in which he calls upon us to serve and glorify him. If we are poor, we are required to glorify God by contentment; if afflicted, by patience; if bereaved, by submission; if persecuted, by firmness; if injured, by forgiveness; or if tempted, by denying ourselves for his sake. Nor can these duties be performed at other times; to put them off, therefore, to another opportunity, is the same thing, in effect, as refusing to comply with them at all.
2. To put off things to another time, implies a lurking dislike to the things themselves. We do not ordinarily do so, except in things wherein we have no delight. Whatever our hearts are set upon, we are for losing no time till it is accomplished. If the people of Judah had had a mind to work, as is said of them on another occasion, they would not have pleaded that the time was not come. Sinful delay, therefore, arises from alienation of heart from God; than which nothing can be more offensive in his sight.
But, farther, it is not only a sin, but a sin of dangerous tendency, This is manifest by the effects it produces. Precious time is thereby murdered, and valuable opportunities lost, and lost be yond recal!
That there are opportunities possessed, both by saints and sinners, is plain from the scriptures. The former might do abundantly more for God than they do, and might enjoy much more of God and heaven than they actually enjoy; and no doubt it would be so, were it not for that idle, delaying temper, of which we have spoken. Like the Israelites, we are slothful to go up to possess the good land. Many are the opportunities, both of doing and enjoying good, that have already passed by. O! what Christians might we have been before now, had we but availed ourselves of all those advantages which the gospel dispensation and the free exercise of our religion afford us!
Sinners also, as long as life lasts, have opportunity of escaping from the wrath to come. Hence, they are exhorted to seek the Lord while he may be found and to call upon him while he is near. Hence, also, there is a door represented as being at present, open; which the master of the house will, one day, rise up and shut. The fountain is described as being at present, open for sin and for ancleanness; but there is a period approaching when it shall be said, He that is filthy, let him be filthy still! It seems scarcely in the power of language to express the danger of delay in terms more forcible and impressive than those which are used in the above passages. Nor is there any thing in the idea that clashes with the scripture doctrine of decrees. All allow that men have opportunity, in natural things, to do what they do not, and to obtain what they obtain not; and, if this can be made to consist with an universal providence, which performeth the things that are appointed for us; why should not the other be allowed to consist with the purposes of him who does nothing without a plan, but worketh all things after the counsel of his own will? A price is in the hands of those who have no heart to get wisdom.
O thoughtless sinner! trifle no longer with the murder of time time, so short and uncertain in its duration; the morning of your existence; the mould in which you receive an impression for
eternity, the only period in which the Son of man has power to forgive sins! Should the remaining part of your life pass away in the same careless manner as that has which has already elapsed, what bitter reflection must needs follow! How cutting it must be to look back on all the means of salvation as gone for ever; the harvest past, the summer ended, and you not saved!
Suppose a company, at the time of low water, should take an excursion upon the sands near the sea shore suppose yourself of the company suppose, that, on a presumption of the tide's not returning at present, you should all fall asleep suppose all the company, except yourself, to awake out of their sleep, and, finding their danger, endeavour to awake you, and persuade you to flee with them for your life: but you, like the sluggard, are for a little more sleep, and a little more slumber: The consequence is your companions escape, but you are left behind to perish in the waters, which, regardless of all your cries, rise and overwhelm you! What a situation would this be! How would you curse that love of sleep that made you refuse to be awaked, that delaying temper that wanted to indulge a little longer! But what is this situation compared with that of a lost soul? There will come a period when the bottom of the ocean would be deemed a refuge; when, to be crushed under falling rocks and mountains, instead of being viewed with terror as heretofore, will be earnestly desired! Yes, desired, but desired in vain! The sinner who has neglected the great salvation will not be able to escape, nor hide himself from the ace of him that sitteth upon the throne, nor from the wrath of the Lamb.
My dear hearers! Consider your condition without delay God says to you, To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. To-day may be the only day you have to live. Go home, enter the closet, and shut to the door; confess your sins; implore mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ; Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him !