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and who hath required this at your hands ? Doth God require of you to change your own heart, to renew the Holy Spirit in your own soul, and to sanctify your own corrupt nature? Wherefore, then, resort to this deceit of sin ? Do you in this judge what is right? or do you not again greatly err, not knowng the Scriptures ? But hath not God, whose sole prerogative it is, promised to work this renewal in you? Hath he not provided means to that end, and instructed you how to use them ? What are repentance, faith, prayer, the divine word, the holy sacraments, but means of
grace for the renewal of sinners ? and hath not God promised his Holy Spirit to them that ask him ? How say you, then, that you cannot supply the requisites to a spiritual change ?
You cannot command the seasons, either the kindly influence of the sun and of the rain upon the fruits of the earth ; but do you, therefore, neither plant, nor sow, nor labour, for the meat that perisheth? And is the provision made for the nourishment of your souls, by the bread of life, less certain and more unmanageable than the seasons on which the nourishment of your bodies depend? Hath not the Sun of Righteousness risen upon you with healing in his wings ? and are not the rain and the dew of God's heavenly blessing upon his holy word and precious promises made over to you in Christ Jesus? Alas ! my friends, why of yourselves judge ye not what is right, and, by an instant resort to the means of grace, labour for that bread which endureth unto everlasting life?
God hath opened a new and living way to his heavenly kingdom, through his only begotten Son. He hath called you to the knowledge of this grace by the gospel; he invites and commands you to believe his word and obey his laws, as the condition of eternal life. What you could not do for yourselves he hath accomplished for you, and laid your help upon one who is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.
Cast away from you, therefore, my dear hearers, these refuges of unbelief, and awake to the truth of your condition, as redeemed beings on probation for eternity, with means and mercies equal to all your wants.
Say not thou, it is through the Lord that I fell away : for thou oughtest not to do the things which he hateth.
Say not thou, he hath caused me to err: for he hath no need of the sinful man.
The Lord hateth all abomination ; and they that fear God, lode it not.
He himself made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his counsel;
If thou wilt, to keep the commandments, and to perform acceptable faithfulness.
He hath set fire and water before thee; stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wilt.
Before man is life and death ; and whether him liketh, shall be given him.
For the wisdom of the Lord is great, and he is mighty in power, and beholdeth all things.
And his eyes are upon them that fear him, and he knoweth every work of man.
He hath commanded no man to do wickedly, neither hath he given any man license to sin.
* Ecclus. xv. 11–20.
THE FOLLY AND WICKEDNESS OF EXCUSES AGAINST RELIGION.
ST. LUKE xiv, 18.
" And they all, with one consent, began to make excuse."
The consideration of the reception which the gospel has me with in the world, presents a very profitable and awakening reflection. That the present life is but the prelude to another and more important state of being, seems the most indelible impression which the human mind has retained; and, in their anxiety to penetrate its nature, extent, and mode of application to themselves, men have exhausted the resources of ingenuity and superstition. Reasonably, therefore, might it be inferred, that when information on this point, possessing every character of certainty, was tendered to them, it would be most eagerly received and implicitly relied upon. Yet the history of the world, my brethren and hearers, is one widely extended record to the contrary. Under every dispensation of light from heaven, the great majority of mankind have preferred darkness; and, turning their ingenuity in another direction, have again exhausted it, in framing excuses for the perverseness of their unbelief.
Particularly remarkable, my hearers, is this unreasonable opposition to the light of life, under the full, final, and satisfacfactory discoveries concerning time and of eternity, which God hath made to the world by his only begotten Son. A future and endless state of being, in the re-union of soul and body, is certified even to sense, by the resurrection and ascension into heaven of the man Christ Jesus ; while the purpose it is to answer, of judgment and retribution, according to the deeds done in the body, is the awakening, the equitable, and reasonable ground of personal interest and superlative concern to every soul of man. Yet, how superficial is the effect of this merciful disclosure of the connexion between time and eternity
among ourselves? How readily do men patch up excuses to quiet an uneasy impression, and put off till to-morrow the business of to-day? Yea, how daringly is this miserable subterfuge of sin disregarded by many, and the tremendous sanctions of eternity scoffed at and trodden under foot ?
There is, however, another point of view, which magnifies, if possible, the unreasonableness of the neglect with which it is treated. The gospel unveils our deadly malady at its source, in a heart estranged from God, through sin ; it sets forth the deep corruption of our nature in terms confirmed by our own experience; it declares the cause and the consequences of our alienation from God; it exhibits the provision made for our recovery and restoration; it offers the most effectual means for the renewal of our hearts and the sanctification of our nature through the gift of the Holy Ghost, and it invites every man to come and take of the water of life frcely, in the means of grace therein provided.
And there is yet a third feature in this gracious provision of light, and life, and love, which stamps the neglect of its high discoveries with unpardonable malignity. The gospel is not only the full disclosure, to us, of what was otherwise inaccessible to our sin-ruined faculties, on the high and anxious interests of eternity, but it is the manifestation of the highest love for our souls-of the deepest interest in our welfare and of the most unsearchable wisdom, in providing for our present and everlasting good, which God could vouchsafe to a world of sinners; and is, moreover, the single, the one only way whereby to regain his favour and attain the life and immortality therein brought to light.
This, my brethren, is a fair and moderate state of the case between the gospel and the world. Yet it is such a one, that, were it not sustained by the uniform testimony of eighteen hundred years, it might be stigmatized as a most outrageous libel upon human nature ; but, supported, as it is, by the threefold testimony of prophetic inspiration, recorded experience, and existing condition, it calls loudly upon all who are trifling with God and endangering their souls, under any pretence whatever, to awake to their condition to consider their obligations under this
manifestation of grace and truth-to test their particular views by the standard of God's word—to weigh the reasons and motives of their conduct in the balance of the sanctuary; and to act, in this momentous concern, with the care and diligence of rational, redeemed beings, who have an eternity of happiness or misery revealed to them, as the fruit of the present short and uncertain life.
God only knows, my dear friends, how long I may be permitted to warn and exhort, and you to hear and disregard. My earthly tabernacle is fast wearing out, and gives many intimations that it must, ere long, be dissolved. Death too, hath been busy among us of late ; warnings have flowed thick and fast around : while, therefore, we have space granted us, let us mutually endeavour to improve it, by considering seriously the weight and worth of those various excuses which blind and harden the heart, and bar out sinners from the needed and offered mercy of God.
That what I may find to say on this subject may be the more profitable to all, I shall observe the following order :
FIRST, the excuses themselves.
THIRDLY, what it is that we desire to be excused from, and, then,
CONCLUDE with a short application of the subject:
Whatever change may have taken place in the external circumstances of Christianity, none has or can take place in its unchangeable nature and most gracious purpose. In like manner, whatever change may have taken place in the external condition of mankind, however they may have advanced in knowledge, and improved in the arts and accommodations of civilized, life under the light of the gospel, yet no change has taken place in the original nature and corrupt disposition of the being for whose benefit it is provided, and before whom all its unspeakable blessings are spread out, and to whom the invitation is put forth, to come and partake of this heavenly feast. He is still the same fallen creature, to be saved only by