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terrogate his conscience particularly in relation to this latter point. It should be his unceasing effort to discover, whether his progress in years is marked by a growing conviction of the demerit of sin as an evil committed against God.
We may likewise take occasion from this subject, to say a word to impenitent sinners. It has been shown, that all moral error, properly viewed, is a sin against Jehovah. And O! that we could cause this solemn truth to tell upon the heart and conscience of every one in our audience to day, who has hitherto lived unimpressed by any just sense of his accountability to his Maker! Yes, dear hearers, we would have you to realize, that whenever you commit an offence, no matter under what circumstances, you injure not only yourselves, or your fellow men, but the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity. Were you only persuaded of this, you would not-you could not-act as you have thus far done. O! did you always consider, that the Deity is a close and vigilant observer of your ways—that he is thoroughly conversant with your whole moral history—that you are exposed to his keen inspection amid the gloom of a starless midnight, as well as in the brightest sunshine-that, besides marking all your outward misdeeds, he surveys the deepest operations of your minds, and knows full well those transgressions of his law, from which you are restrained only by a regard to public opinion, or the dread of some personal injury—did you seriously believe, and duly ponder this unquestionable fact, you would inevitably become new beings—a great and glorious change of character would at once ensue. then assure you, that what we have now said, is as true as there is truth on earth or in heaven. You are amenable to the Sovereign of the universe for every thing that
you do, or even wish to do. No moral act of your lives, no purpose that ever dawned in your souls, has been seen with indifference by him. Each act and each purpose have been put down in the volume of his remembrance, as violations of his pure and righteous law. We caution thee, sinner, against merely asking, when pressed by some urgent temptation, “What harm will be occasioned by doing this thing? Shall I thereby injure either myself or my neighbour?” Remember that the proper question to be submitted to thy conscience, in every case, is, “ Can I do this thing, and yet not disobey any clear indication of the divine will? May I venture on this course without doing a great wickedness, and sinning against God?"-And O! may thy Maker grant thee grace thus to act, through the merits of Jesus Christ, his Son! Amen.
1 SAMUEL XXVIII. 16.
“ Then said Samuel, Wherefore, then, dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is
departed from thee, and is become thine enemy."
Saul ascended the throne of Israel with fair and flattering prospects. The Jews had grown weary of the theocratical form of government, under which they settled in Canaan, and become clamorous for a human sovereign. Their demand was at length complied with, and they hailed with enthusiasm the son of Kish, who was desigualed by lot to the regal office. His personal qualities were favourable to his popularity in a comparatively rude and uncultivated nation, for we are told that he was 6 a choice young man;" that “there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he;" and that “ from his shoulders and upwards he was higher than any of the people." His intellectual endowments, too, seem to have been of a highly respectable order. Every thing, in short, appeared to promise an honourable and a happy reign. But circumstances soon presented a different aspect. Saul, elated with prosperity, forgot bis obligations and his accountability to the Most Higli, and hurried into a succession of fatal errors. Of these, the first was his assumption of the sacerdotal office, at Gilgal, when, impatient at the delay of Samuel, he determined, in express contravention of the Mosaic law, to offer sacrifice with his own bands. Another was his disobedience to a particular and positive injunction of heaven, respecting his conduct towards the Amalekites, when he reserved a part of the spoil which he had taken from that discomfited people. A third, was his unmanly and impolitic, not to say iniquitous, treatment of David, which led to a train of disastrous events, and wrought ultimately his own overthrow, and the exaltation of his rival. One calamity prepared the way for another, until the situation of Saul became truly desperate. The Philistines, the ancient and inveterate enemies of Israel, availed themselves of the opportunity afforded by the schism between him and David, to invade Judea. The unhappy monarch was filled with consternation. The host of the invaders was formidable; his own subjects were divided; and he trembled for the issue of the impending contest. In his distress, he began to lift an imploring eye to heaven, for pity and succour.
But “the Lord answered him not; neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.” And what was the expedient to which be then resorted? Miserable man! he said to his attendants, “Seek me out a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her.” Such a step on the part of Saul, was lamentable evidence that an awful change had taken place in his moral sentiments and feelings. There was a time when he regarded with becoming contempt and abhorrence, the wretched pretenders to necromancy and supernatural powers, who abounded in Palestine as well as in other countries. We are informed, that he had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards ont of the land.” Had any friend, gifted with the true spirit of divination, then assured him that a period was coming in which he would himself be induced to consult one of the very impostors whom he was so laudably endeavouring to expel from his dominions, what would he have thought of the prediction? He would doubtless have treated it, as Hazael, the Syrian captain, subsequently treated a well-known prophetic intimation of Elisha—“What! is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? But Hazael was ignorant of his own heart, and so was Saul.
It often happens, that men in adversity betake themselves to some friend, whose counsels they once found judicious, but whom, in their prosperous circumstances, they were disposed to neglect. Hence the object for which the Jewish king proposed to visit the sorceress, whom he instructed his servants to seek out for him. He had been accustomed, in the early part of his reign, to rely on the advice of Samuel, in all cases of emergency. But as he saw his power increase, and felt himself more firmly seated on his throne, he began to entertain a higher opinion of his own judgment, and was the less inclined to confer with an old friend, who sometimes made free to tell him of his faults. Samuel finally withdrew from court, and closed his career in retirement at Ramah. The voice of the prophet was now sealed in death. The grave had received the mortal remains of bin whom all Israel, and the monarch himself in bis better days, looked up to as an inspired instructer and counsellor. Saul, in the wane of his fortune, as disasters thickened around him, and the gulf of ruin seemed to yawn before him, felt the absence of his once revered and confidential adviser. Fully persuaded that the spirit outlives the decay of the body, he did not despair of being able to obtain an interview with the departed seer. His situation was a dreadful one, and he resolved upon this last and fearful experiment as the best that the crisis allowed.
It is far from being our plan, on this occasion, to enter into a minute consideration of the remarkable circumstances which attended the nocturuial visit of Saul to the witch of Endor. The opportunity, indeed, would be as good a one as could be desired, for the display of frivolous researchi, and the exercise of a puerile imagination. Some of our auditors, too, would probably be quite content to spend half an hour in listening to a detail of the various hypotheses adopted by biblical expositors in respect to this subject. But, carions man, we have a higher object in view, to-day, than your amusement. We shall therefore beg to be excused from any nice disquisitions relative to the story of the witch of Endor, and would simply observe, that we cannot accord with the opinion of those who conceive that the whole transaction was a mere joggle, effected by the legerdemain of a wicked female, practised in the art of imposing on the weak and superstitious; nor again, with the opinion of those who imagine that the apparition was Satan, who assumed the form of Samuel, in order the better to achieve the ruin