Слике страница
PDF
ePub

cence; and the scenes of Calvary as a pompous show, an unmeaning display, and a gorgeous parade, they will not repent. This single reason would account for the fact that, men will not repent of their sins.

5. A fifth cause is found in absorption in the things of this world. How can a man repent whose mind is wholly occupied with the business of gain? It fills all his time; engages all his energies; taxes all his powers. The world addresses him a thousand times where the gospel does once, and with prodigious advantage. It is with him in his family ; amid his friends; in his counting room; in the sanctuary ; in solitude; on the sabbath ; and in all the periods when other men find leisure for reading or devotion. How can a man repent, whose soul is engrossed with the wily policy of ambition; who seeks office, fame, applause? On whose favors flatterers hang, and around whose steps thousands are offering the incense of adulation? Whose very business is a species of evading the right road of honesty, and traveling in just such a devious path as the sinner loves to tread ? How will the man repent who is wholly engrossed with the toils of professional life? Every moment calls him from the great work of the soul, and demands his time in the business of his calling? How will she repent who gives her life to amusement ? Will she enter the theater, or the gay circle with the tear of penitence on her cheek, or her eyes red with grief for sin ? Will she seek her closet, and her Savior, and bedew his feet with tears, as a preparation for the scenes of gaiety, and of song? And when such scenes engross the soul, I wonder not that the command of God is unheeded, and the ways of impenitence still loved. I wonder not that repentance is postponed from youth to manhood—from manhood to old age—and again in old age is still deferred to some future time. Now is the time for innocent pleasure, is the language of the young, and not the time of sorrow—forgetting that there is no innocence but in the love of God, and no true enjoyment but in the hopes of religion. Now is the time to attend to my great affairs of life, says the man in middle life--forgetting that there is no affair of life so great as that of religion, and that to provide for future years may be to lay up gold to be used by some thankless heir, a wretch, ruined by this very gold, when he is in the grave, and when to him gold may be valueless. Now is the time, we hear even from the faltering lips of old age, for me to enjoy the results of a life of industry, and to find repose in my declining years—when he has no repose, and his last energies are admonishing him to prepare to die.

I repeat, I wonder not that men do not repent. And I add, that all this is so absorbing, so well arranged, so interwoven with all the business of this life, so adapted to every passion, to every age, to every employment, that it bears indubitable marks of being under the guidance of some presiding spirit of evil. It is part of one great plan, bearing the impress of one master mind of wickedness, and arraying all the mighty passions of men, and all the offices and employments of life, in one gigantic enterprise against God. See how these things meet a man on every hand, oppose all our appeals, stand alike to resist the impression when the law speaks out its thunders, and when “the gospel, in strains as sweet as angels use, whispers peace.” These temptations arise from all that is winning and attractive in the eyes of men. In moments of seriousness, when the mind is disposed to thought, and half resolved to repent, some new form of vanity, or some new scheme of gain, with gaudy colors, will burst upon the view, and at once, all serious thought is banished. In times of deep anxiety, some friend invites the sinner to a scene of amusement; or derides his thoughtfulness; or calls him a Methodist or a Puritan; and ashamed of religion, he snaps the silken cord that was drawing him to God; thrusts back the hand that was dissolving the chains of the world ; puts out the sun that began to shed his beams on his path; and covers with a frown the countenance of God which had begun to beam benignantly on his return. All these temptations come under the influence of the tenderest earthly friends. The authority of a father may recal him from the place of prayer, and demand his continuance in the ways of sin. The example and entreaties of a brother, or a sister, or the loved and tender voice of a mother, often check all seriousness; and her hand, awful abuse of a mother's power, opens new sources of pleasure, and demand

presence of a daughter, while even in advancing years she seeks the insipid and senseless joys of a gay and misguided world.

6. A sixth reason why men do not feel their guilt, is found in the ascendency and power of some plan of unfinished crime; in some scheme of known and deliberate wickedness that requires months or years for its completion. To repent now would demand that the man should break off that plan, arrest his gains, or stifle his ambition.

He is now engaged in a successful, an overflowing scheme of gain or gratification. Some passion he fully resolves to indulge, even at the expense of virtue and his soul. Some scheme of vengeance he intends to fill up and accomplish, even should he die in the attempt.

Some work of supplanting a rival, and of humbling a foe, he intends to effect—though by the toil of years, and at the peril of his soul. Thus the man engaged in the slave-trade ; in the traffic of ardent spirits ; in unlawful speculation ; in unjust gains in merchandise; in a career of licentious pleasure ; in the hall of gambling ; in the business of rapine, murder and blood, intends to complete bis scheme; and in vain does conscience now lift its voice, and the heavy thunders of justice echo from heaven ; or even damnation roll its terrors along his path. Now

there is no voice of tenderness or of justice-no appeal to his conscience, his fears, or bis hopes that can reach his heart.

Yet nothing is further from this man's feelings than an intention never to repent. No man has more good designs ; none more pious purposes ; none more heavenly resolves. Good intentions are made every day, renewed each periodical season of his life, with the solemnity and regularity of the mile-stone that moves not, but will tell you how far you have gone, and how near you are to your journey's end. There he stands, filled with good resolves; fired with noble purposes always for future years, and if intentions constitute goodness, one of the best of men. Little do I wonder, that God grants to so few men repentance unto life. In all the catalogue of crimes of which mortal men stand accused, I deem this state of mind least to be envied, and lying least near the fountains of mercy. I love an honest man I was about to say honest even in sin. But who can love a man whose purpose now is to rebel against God; to devote his strength and talent to the business of setting aside the plain demands of conscience and of duty, with a cold unfeeling resolve-a biting sarcasm on the claims of the Almighty—to abuse his patience as long as he can, and then give to him the tears of the crocodile for doing what he always meant to do; and the whimpering grief of enfeebled age, when the hands are no longer strong enough for purposes of evil, and the palsied tongue can no longer caluminate his name.

The work of evading the demands of the gospel is therefore one of time, and toil, and skill. The obstructions which the gospel meets every time it is preached, are the accumulations of centuries, and the result of no small part of the plans of men. It is the profoundest scheme in this world of sin, the most gigantic enterprise that men ever formed, to go through this world, committing sin every day, and yet evading remorse of conscience ; indulging in guilty passions, and yet escaping the thunders of law, gaining as much of the world as a man pleases, and yet not harrowed in his solitary moments by the accusings of conscience; paşa sing amidst the blightings of God's indignation, and yet not terrified; and hearing all the time the

appeals of mercy and yet not moved. Never was there so vast a scheme of wickedness, so complicated, elaborate, and compacted on any other subject. Philosophy bere has lent its aid ; poetry its charms ; eloquence its appeals ; false theology its alliance; learning its skill; age its experience; and youth its ardor, in forming plans to oppose the obvious claim of the gospel. And it is complete. While this influence governs sinner, what cares he for the groans of Jesus Christ; or the offers of mercy; or the judgment seat of God; or the glories of heaven; or the pains of hell ? What cares he that we appeal to him by every thing that is sacred in heaven, and

terrible in despair ; that

[ocr errors]

the

is tender in love, and bleeding in mercy, or that is infinite in the 3* interests of his own soul, or terrible in the future scenes of woe? tits To all these appeals he is indifferent. His Protean scheme meets

all this. He has heard it a thousand times; and a thousand times *3 been practicing the art of hearing it with unconcern. He has learnst: ed to meet God at every point, to parry the gospel at every tum; ce and to go from the sanctuary as coolly as if he had listened to an ad

dress to sepulchral monuments. In this unholy work men pass their

lives; and some of their last efforts in sinking to the grave, are to *3 frame excuses for pot repenting and turning to God. I marvel not,

that no man was ever renewed to repentance but by the Spirit of God; and I love to leave my ministry there, and to feel that there is one power that can crush the excuses of the sinner at once, and bend him weeping at the feet of mercy. It is a work worthy of God. And assuredly, if there is any doctrine whose necessity is laid in the wickedness of man, it is that the Holy Ghost alone will ever renew the sinner's soul.

Such are the obstacles which prevent men from feeling their guilt. 2 These must be taken away, and I proceed to show how this niay be Li done. The ministers of religion must be qualified not merely to de* claim, but convince; not only to weep and plead, but to stand up

against philosophic men and convince them they are wrong: to show that the fatalism of the Stoic, and of the better kind of deists; the sensuality of Epicureans, and of the mass of infidels; and the dogmas of a theology founded on ancient and false philosophy, are as much in the face of true science as they are of the bible. If in this pursuit we are drawn into the regions of metaphysics, the fault is not ours but that of those who led us there. If the singer, like hunted game, will flee to dens and hiding places, we must follow him; and he should be the last to complain that we preach to him metaphysics. It must be proved to men that they are wrong. The time has gone by when declamation can be substituted for argument. Dark dogmas, however pompous, statuary, and solemn, will not supply the place of evidence in an age of light. Men will think and reason, and draw their own conclusions; and this must be fully understood by the ministry. Man must be made to feel that God's view of sin is just

. That what he has expressed is the true measure of human guilt

. That the dying agonies of the Redeemer were but a fair expression of the guilt of men. That God has a right to affix the penalty to crime, and to declare that these shall go away into everlasting punishment. Men must be roused, and severed-howerer rudely--from earthly things ; and hurried onward, and thrown into the deep solemnities of a universe, where the God of justice reigns

, where every thing is full of God, and where voices from earth and heaven and hell, mingle, and fall on his ear, and tell him

[ocr errors]

1

to hasten away from his delusions, and be prepared to die. Man must be brought to a willingness to arrest his plans of wickedness where they are ; to abandon the unfinished scheme; to stop in his career of pleasure; to relinquish a plan of gain however flattering, and a scheme of ambition however imposing, and pause, and turn to the living God. The purpose must be one that shall be executed now. Like an honest man, he who has been meeting God with the ironical and sarcastic purpose to repent at some future time, must resolve to do it now, and just as he is: resolve to forsake every sin, and devote himself to the serious work of repentance.

This is the work to be done. We admit that if done it will not be by mere human power, but by the Spirit of God. Still it is done under the influence of a system of truth, adapted in the highest degree to remove the obstacles, and to find its way to the soul of man. That truth, it is the business of the ministry to wield. Under that truth, these obstacles are to be taken away, and he is the most skillful preacher who so understands the human heart and the power of the gospel, as to adapt the message to the varying forms of iniquity, and make the sinner tremble and weep before God, in view of sin. Our next object is to show, What the state of the soul is, if these obstacles be removed; or what capacities or susceptibilities it has, on which the call to repentance may be made to act. Here I must be brief. And it is not needful at great length to present this part of our subject. I remark then,

1. That man is endowed with reason. Reason coincides with the doctrines of God, when fairly presented; and when reason is convinced, and its suffrage is secured in favor of truth, no small advance is made in the work of the gospel. When a man is convinced of what you say; when he sees all the arguments which in other minds have produced conviction, and when his understanding accords with yours, the way is prepared for any impression which the truth is fitted to produce. When you have convinced the man of pleasure, that he will waste his estate or health ; a young man, that he is in danger of intemperance, or ruin; or a magistrate, that the cause you plead is one of justice or of law; or a man of property, that you are poor and unfortunate, and that your helpless wife and children are perishing with want; when you have convinced a man's sober judgment that his country calls him to the field of blood, you are prepared to make any thrilling appeal, and to excite all that is tender and philanthropic in his bosom. Thus the gospel addresses men, and it expects that those who proclaim its truths shall be able to convince men, that the bible is a revelation from heaven. It expects that they will go forth conscious, that they are called to preach a system which supposes that men are rational, and that the system is one that will bear the test of the science of all ages; of all the arts of criticism; all the advances in

« ПретходнаНастави »