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who persisted to the close of life, in maintaining what might be called a medium between temperate and intemperate habits. But we are sure, that for one who has succeeded in the experiment, thousands and tens of thousands have failed. And we, moreover, affirm, that every person, no matter what may be his strength of mind, who accustoms himself to approach the limitaries of temperance, is always in danger of overstepping his prescribed bounds. Indeed, a close observer of human nature—we mean Dr. Dwight has said, "The man who drinks spirits regularly, ought to consider himself as having already entered the path of habitual intoxication," If any one should tell us, that this language is far too strong, we have a brief answer at hand. The remark, if erroneous, is at least an error on the safer side. In entire abstinence from ardent spirits there is security; in any thing short of this there is peril.
To the youth in our audience, we would particularly utter, on this occasion, an admonitory voice. We would earnestly and affectionately caution you, dear hearers, againt trusting in your own hearts, when inclination, or the solicitations of your companions, would tempt you to lay your hand on the intoxicating glass. Have a care, O young man, how you confide in the strength of your own resolutions, as a bulwark against the encroachments of intemperate habits. Avoid, as you would a nest of rattlesnakes, every haunt of debauchery. When the lovers of drink invite you to join them, let your determined language be, "O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly mine honour, be not thou united!"
But intemperance is by no means the only evil habit, the abandonment of which is as difficult, as its continuance is fatal to all the high interests of man. We might easily adduce many other instances in illustration of the general
truth for which we contend, that the individual who trusts in his own heart, for the ability to tread the steep and lofty paths of virtue, undertakes a foolish experiment. Time, however, will not permit us to multiply examples. We rest the proof of our position on the inveterate progressiveness of habit—a fact familiar to every one who has the least knowledge of human nature. Moralists in all ages have admitted and deplored it. Indeed, they have frequently expressed themselves on this subject, in language scarcely less strong and emphatic than that of the prophet, who says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”
With one or two general reflections we shall now close our discourse.
It was intimated, at an early period of our remarks, that the text is a passage of Scripture, from which Christians themselves may extract useful instruction. To you, then, brethren, we would first say a word. Our subject is calculated to make you humble. Indeed, of what can you be proud? Of your riches? Of your intellectual attainments, or personal endowments? Of your moral excellences? Of your pious performances?—Why, you owe them all to Jehovah; and you have abundant reason to be ashamed and mortified that you have felt so little gratitude to him for these various indications of his benignity. Beware, too, of trusting in your own hearts, for they are "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." True, they have been sanctified to a certain extent by the Spirit of God. But they retain a measure of imperfection, so that when you would do good, evil is present with you. It becomes you, therefore, to be constantly on your guard. When you recollect that even a David and a Peter were taught by bitter experience, the folly of self-confidence, you must
admit that it is the part of wisdom to act under a deep and an abiding sense of your own weakness. Live in habitual dependence on the grace of God. He has promised that that grace shall be sufficient for you. It flows from the fountain of his own fulness, and is inexhaustible. "When I am weak (says Paul) then am I strong." This language may sound paradoxical; but it breathes the essential spirit of practical Christianity. The individual who feels most truly the force of his Redeemer's saying, "Without me ye can do nothing," has the best right to exclaim with the apostle whose words we have just quoted, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me."
To those who are just beginning to feel a personal interest in religion, (if there be such in this assembly,) we would say, a conviction of your own inability to merit the divine favour, is the first step in the path to heaven. So long as you are destitute of this conviction, your hopes of acceptance with God are utterly fallacious. Renounce, we entreat you, every thought that you can be saved through works of righteousness performed by yourselves. Go, penitent sinner, to the cross of Christ, and learn to plead his merits alone as a ground of salvation. O! then shalt thou hear from the lips of divine Mercy, those cheering words, "Thy sins are forgiven thee."
To those who are still indifferent and callous in respect to the concerns of religion, (and it were an excess of charity to doubt that there are such in this assembly,) we would say,-Your condition, dear hearers, is truly a lamentable—an awful one. You trust in your own hearts to do for you, what they are entirely insufficient to perform. We "speak the words of truth and soberness," when we tell you that you are the victims of a delusion which has proved the ruin of many a soul now in hell,
and which, if not speedily abandoned, will accomplish your destruction also. Believe us, if you are saved at all, it must be through the merits of the Son of God. In him is your only hope. Go to the bar of your Maker, and solicit acceptance on the ground of your own deserts. Ah! he will take you at your word. Yes, self-righteous man, you shall be weighed in the balances of heaven, and found wanting. The language of Jehovah to the waiting executioners of his justice, will be, "Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Finally, to all in this assembly-Christians, serious inquirers, impenitent sinners, old and young-we would say,-Trust not in your own hearts. To do so, is folly in the extreme. "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall....Let not him that girdeth on his harness, boast himself as he that putteth it off."
GENESIS XVIII. 25.
"That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
THUS it was that Abraham interceded with Jehovah in behalf of Sodom. The divine intention to visit with a fearful overthrow, the degenerate inhabitants of that city, had just been communicated to him. He was anxious to avert, if possible, the impending calamity, and, therefore, ventured to converse with God on the subject. He was aware, that nothing could be said in extenuation of the guilt of the Sodomites. Their depravity was so extreme —their desert of some signal chastisement so glaring— that not a word could properly be uttered to screen them from the wrath of heaven. But the benevolent patriarch indulged the hope, that there might be a few pious persons remaining even amid the awful wickedness of Sodom, and it occurred to him, that possibly the place might be spared on their account. This was the only plea which ⚫ the circumstances of the case seemed to permit him to urge. He accordingly drew near to his Maker, and thus commenced his address: "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous should