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and scarcely will he believe the friend who points out his homeward way.

It is the hope of future repentance, which reconciles the sinner at present, to his guilty course. But his hope is attended with great uncertainty. Every step in his progress increases the difficulty, and lessens the probability of his return. New temptations meet him to entice him along; and new embarrassments are thrown behind to obstruct his retreat. His way forward is down the hill ; to return he must climb the precipice. By habit his mind becomes more inclined to evil, his imagination more fascinated to pleasure, and his conscience more callous to reproof. Long accustomed to procrastinate, he can procrastinate still, and do it with greater facility, and with less regret, than at first. The

prospect of a future season and a better opportunity still flatters and beguiles him. That dai. ly he is growing older, and death drawing nearer, he well knows; but never does he feel himself so old or infirm, but that he fancies he may hold out some time longer ; and his intended repentance is limited within the time which he expects to live. Thus by repeated resolutions, and continued delays, he deadens a sense of religion, and becomes hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. In the mean time, he cannot tell, but the grace of God may withdraw its kindly influences, and the provi. dence of God withhold its wonted protection ; unexpected death may break his penitential purposes, or stupidity of conscience extinguish his serious sentiments.

Thus his way is dark and doubtful. He enters upon it without light, and walks in it without a guide. He knows not whither he shall wander, nor to what lengths he shall proceed ; what temptations will decoy him, nor what snares will intangle him. He has departed from the way of peace, nor can he

be sure that he shall find it again. “ His own ini. quities shall take the wicked himself, he shall be holden in the cords of his sins; he shall die without instruction, and in the greatness of his folly, he shall go astray.”

2. Let us consider the hypocrite, who, without integrity of heart, assumes the external form of religion. His way is dark and slippery.

He believes that there is such a thing as religion, and that it is a matter, in which he is really concerned. He views a future state as certain, and preparation for it as immediately important. He thinks of death as a change which is near, and which, whenever it comes, will place the sons of men in a state vastly different from this, in a state of endless happiness or woe. “ His heart is, indeed, full of love to this world ; but, since he must leave it, he wishes to have a good hope in the view of another. Death is a terror to him ; but die he must; and he desires to die the death of the righteous, and like him to finish his days in peace. He is sure he should enjoy himself, and his earthly treasures much better, if he could only free his mind from this painful bondage to the fear of death—this troublesome apprehension of the wrath to come. He applies him. self to obtain that easy and tranquil state, which seems so desirable. He has no more love to reli. gion, than he used to have. Terror only has awakened him from his guilty slumbers. It is not the temper of godliness ; it is only the pleasure of a good hope, which is the immediate object of his de. sire. Under the influence of this desire, he exam . ines the nature of religion ; but forms lax and partial notions of it: He attends, with diligence, to some religious duties; but chooses those which cost him little selfdenial: He avoids gross immoralities; but is not so scrupulous in smaller matters : He makes a good profession, and does as much as he Vol. II.


thinks necessary to support a fair character: Invit. ed by some new appearance of zeal, and by a prospect of having his conversion soon sanctioned, he, perhaps, joins himself to a new sect : He there hears things spoken which flatter his spiritual pride : He magnifies his good works, and shuts his eyes against his evil ones ; especially against the corruptions of his heart : He compares himself with some others, and fancies the comparison turns much to his advantage. So the Pharisee trusted that he was righteous, because he fasted often, abstained from a. dultery and extortion, and was not so vile as he thought a certain publican to be ; selecting, for the comparison, a man whom he despised; though really a much better man than himself. Thus the hypocrite, partly by sinking the christian character below what it ought to be, and partly by exalting his own above what it really is, acquires a hope, that his future interest is secure.

But still his state is darkness. He gains his hope by. selfdeception, and maintains it by selfflattery ; not by an impartial examination of his heart and a distinct knowledge of his character. The hope which he obtains, is not the precious metal which brightens in the trial; it is a rotten substance, which shines only in the dark. Amidst his presumptuous confidence, there is usually a secret suspicion, that all within is not sound. There is a jealousy and distrust of himself. There is a consciousness of some partiality, precipitancy and unfairness in the judgment which he has made. His heart does not feel right. There is not that deep, calm, sensible pleasure, which accompanies godly sincerity, and pure, unaffected religion. The hope, which springs spontaneously from an honest and good heart, is substantial and satisfying. The laboured, artificial , hope of the hypocrite, is hollow, empty and unsound. It will not bear the touch. Like the fruit

of Sodom, it looks fair to the eye, but when it is handled, it turns to smoke and ashes.' The honest christian examines and proves himself, whether he is in the faith. He adopts the humble prayer of the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and try my heart ; see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” The hypocrite distrustful of his case, glides over it superficially. Like a man of suspicious worldly circumstances, he is a. fraid to look into his affairs and adjust his accounts, to compare his debts and credits, his means and ex. penses, lest he should find himself hastening to bankruptcy. A painful suspicion, now and then, intrudes itself and demands a reckoning; but he dismisses the intruder with fair promises, and consoles himself with new flatteries.' Thus he passes through life in darkness and uncertainty. His hope springs from ignorance of himself and religion ; it is attended with distrust and anxiety, and will issue in painful disappointment.

We proceed, 3. To consider the wicked man in another point of light ; as believing the great truths of natural re. ligion, but discarding revelation.

His way is covered with darkness. He has no light to direct his eye or guide his steps. With respect to the nature, condition and means of future happiness, an awful uncertainty attends him. Theré is no ground on which his faith can stand; no support on which his hope can lean.

He believes there is a God, a providence and a future life. He believes men are moral and account, able beings, who will hereafter be treated in some measure according to their characters. So much, he thinks, is taught by reason. But the gospel, con: sidered as a revelation from God, he rejects as useless, and incredible. Its moral precepts he ac. knowledges to be good; but the doctrines of salva

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tion through a dying Saviour-- of renovation by the influence of the Holy Spirit--of eternal life as a gift of sovereign grace--and of everlasting punishment as the wages of sin, and the desert of unbe. lief-these he will not receive, nor own the authority of the book which contains them. They are too opposite to his pride and selfconceit, to his worldly affections and Aleshly lusts, to obtain a place in his creed.

Now what does this man gain by rejecting the gospel ?-He only gives up the hopes of religion : He neither cancels its obligations, nor annihilates its terrors.

Every man, who has just sentiments of morality, must know, that he is under obligations to virtue ; and every man who is acquainted with himself, must confess that he has, in many instances, violated these obligations, and therefore stands guilty be. fore God; and every man, who has any rational apprehensions of the Deity, must acknowledge, that vice is contrary to his nature, and deserving of his wrath. If we set aside the gospel, yet it still remains a truth-a truth founded in the principles of reason and nature, that the sinner is exposed to punishment.

The gospel has not created any new danger, or contrived any new punishment, which without it would never have existed : But it has warned then of their real danger, and pointed out the way of de. liverance. It teaches us, that God is rich in mercy to those who call upon him, that he will pardon and accept repenting sinners, how guilty soever they have been, that he will assist by his grace those who frame their ways to turn to him. Our hope in God's mercy it confirms by explicit promises, and espe. cially by the discovery of a Saviour who died to take away the sin of the world.

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