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speak with much more confidence on this point, proportion as it is confirmed. We see in the and on the necessity of acquiring instruction in human body, that a man, by distraction or inorder to conversion, than to supersede the ob- dolence, may suffer his person to degenerate to ligation of loving God, because it would de- a wretched situation : if he continue,'his rogate from the dignity of man, who is obliged wretchedness increases; the body takes its to love his benefactor; from the dignity of a mould; what was a negligence, becomes a Christian, educated under a covenant which necessity; what was a want of attention, bedenounces anathemas against those who love comes a natural and an insurmountable impernot the Lord Jesus ; from the dignity of a Pro- fection. Let us apply these principles to our testant, who cannot be ignorant how all the subject, and avail ourselves of their force to divines of our communion have exclaimed dissipate, if possible, the mistakes of mankind against the doctrine of Rome on the subject of concerning their conversation and their virtues. penance.
Habits of the mind are formed as babits of the Recollect, my brethren, that we are agreed tody; the mental habits become as incorrigible upon this point; recollect in the subsequent as those of the latter. parts of this discourse, that, in order to conver- First, then, as in the acquisition of a corposion, we must have a radical and habitual love real habit, we must perform the correspondent to God. This principle being allowed, all that actions, so in forming the habits of religion, of we have to say agoinst the delay of conversion, love, humility, patience, charity, we inust becomes self-established. The whole question habituate ourselves to the duties of patience, is reduced to this; if in a dying hour, is at the humility, and love. We never acquire these extremity of life, if in a short and fleeting mo- virtues but by devotion to their influence : it incnt, you can acquire this habit of divine love, is not sufficient to be sincere in wishes to attain which we have all agreed is necessary to sal- them; it is not sufficient to form a sudden resoration; if it can be acquired in one moment, lution; we must return to the charge, and by then we will preach no more against delay: you the continued recurrence of actions pursued act with propriety. Put off, defer, procrasti- and repeated, acquire such a source of holiness nate even to the last moment, and by an extra- as may justify us in saying, that such a man is ordinary precaution, never begin to seek the humble, patient, charitable, and full of divine pleasures of piety till you are abandoned by the love. Have you never attended those powerpleasures of the world, and satiated with its ful and pathetic sermons, which forced convic. intainous delights. But if time, if labour, are tion on the most obdurate hearts? Have you required to form this genuine source of love to never seen those pale, trembling, and weeping God, the necessity of which we have already assemblies? Have you never seen the bearers proved, you should frankly acknowledge the affected, alarmed, and resolved to reforin their folly of postponing so important a work for a lives? And have you never been surprised to single moment ; that it is the extreme of mad- see, after a short interval, each return to those ness to defer the task to a dying hour; and that vices he had regarded with horror, and nethe prophet cannot too highly exalt his voice glect those virtues which had appeared to him in crying to all who regard their salvation, co amiable? Whence proceeded so sudden a • Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call change? What occasioned a defection which ye upon him while he is near.
apparently contradicts every notion we have This being allowed, we proceed to establish formed of the human mind? It is here. This on two principles, all that we have to advance piety, this devotion, those tears proceeded upon this subject. First, we cannot acquire from a transient cause, and not from a habit any habit without performing the correspondent formed by a course of actions, and a fund acactions. Language, for instance, is a thing ex- quired by labour and diligence. The cause tremely complex. To speak, requires a thou: ceasing, the effects subside! the preacher is sisand playful motions of the body, a thousand | lent, and the devotion is closed. Whereas the movements to form the elements, and a thou- actions of life, proceeding from a source of sand sounds to perfect the articulation. All worldly affections, incessantly return, just as a thege at first are extremely difficult; they ap- torrent, obstructed by the raising of a bank, pear quite impossible. There is but one way takes an irregular course, and rushes forthi to succeed, that is, to persevere in touching the with impetuosity whenever the bank is rekeys, articulating the sounds, and producing moved. the movements; then what seemed at first im- Farther, we must not only engage in the ofpossible becomes surmountable, and what be- fices of piety to form the habits, but they comes surmountable is made easy, and what is must be frequent ; just as we repeat acts of once easy becomes natural: we speak with a vice to form a vicious habit. Can you be igAuency which would be incredible were it not norant, my brethren, of the reason? Who does confirmed by experience. The spirits flow to not feel it in his own breast? I carry it in my the parts destined for these operations, the own wicked heart; I know it by the sad tests channels open, the difficulties recede, the voli- of sentiment and experience. The reason is tions are accomplished; just as a stream, whose obvious; habits of vice are found conformable waters are turned by the strength of hand and to our natural propensity; they are found alaid of engines, falls by its own weight to places ready formed within, in the germ of corrupwhere it could not have been carried but with tion which we bring into the world. We are vast fatigue.
shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin,' Ps. Secondly, when a habit is once rooted, it be- li. 7. We make a rapid progress in the career comes difficult or impossible to correct it, in lof vice. We arrive, without difficulty, at pervery im
fection in the works of darkness. A short | sume an absolute ascendancy. This principle course suffices to become a master in the school suggests a new reflection on the sinner's conof the world and of the devil; and it is not at duct who delays his conversion; all surprising, that a man should at once be portant reflection, which we would wish to come luxurious, covetous, and implacable, be- | impress on the mind of our audience. In the cause he carries in his own breast the princi- early course of vice, we sin with a power by ples of all these vices.
which we could abstain, were we to use vioBut the habits of boliness are directly op- lence; hence we flatter ourselves that we shall posed to our constitution. They obstruct all preserve that precious power, and be able to its propensities, and offer, if I may 30 speak, eradicate vice from the heart, whensoever we violence to nature. When we wish to be shall form the resolution. Wretched philosocome converts, we enter on a double task : we phy still; another illusion of self-attachment, must demolish, we must build; we must de- a new charm of which the devil avails himself molish corruption, before we can erect the for our destruction. Because, when we have edifice of grace. We must level mortal blows long continued in sin, when we are advanced at the old man, before the new can be revived in age, when reformation has been delayed for We must, like those Jews who raised the walls a long course of years, vice assumes the soveof Jerusalem, work with the sword in one reignty, and we are no longer our own mashand, and the tool in the other;' Neh. iv. 17, ters. equally assiduous to produce that which is You intimate to us a wish to be converted; not, as to destroy that which already exists. but when do you m an to enter on the work?
Such is the way, and the only way, by To-morrow, without farther delay. And are which we can expect the establishment of you not very absurd in deferring till to-morgrace in the heart; it is by unremitting labour, row? To-day, when you wished to underby perseverance in duty, by perpetual vigi- take it, you shrunk on seeing what labour it lance. Now, who is it; who is there among would cost, what difficulties must be surmountyou that can enter into this thought, and not ed, what victories must be obtained over perceive the folly of those who delay their yourselves. From this change you divert your conversion? We imagine that a word from a eyes : to-day you still wish to follow your minister, a prospect of death, a sudden revolu- course, to abandon your heart to sensible obtion, will instantaneously produce a perfection jects, to follow your passions, and gratity your of virtue? O wretched philosophy! extrava- concupiscence. But to-morrow you intimate gance of the sinner! idle reverie of self-love a wish of recalling your thoughts, of citing and imagination, that overturns the whole sys- your wicked propensities before the bar of tem of original corruption, and the mechanism God, and pronouncing their sentence. 090of the human frame! I should as soon expect phism of self-esteem ! carrying with it its own to find a man, who would play skilfully on an refutation. For if this wicked propensity, instrument without having acquired the art strengthened to a certain point, appears invinby practice and application ; I should as soon cible to-day, how shall it be otherwise to-mor. expect to find a man who would speak a lan- row, when to the actions of past days you shall guage without having studied the words, and have added those of this day! If this sole idea, surmounted the fatigue and difficulty of pro- if this mere thought of labour, induce you to nunciation. The speech of the one would be defer to-day, what is to support you to-mora barbarous subject of derision, and unintelli- row under the real labour? Farther, thero gible; and the notes of the other would be follows a consequence from these reflections, discords destitute of softness and harmony. which may appear unheard of to those who Such is the folly of the man who would be are unaccustomed to examine the result of a come pious, patient, humble, and charitable in principle; but which may perhaps convince one moment, by a simple wish of the soul, those who know how to use their reason, and without acquiring those virtues by assiduity have some knowledge of human nature. It and care. All the acts of piety you shall see seems to me, that, since habits are formed by him perform, are but emotions proceeding actions, when those habits are continued to an from a heart touched, indeed, but not convert-age in which the brain acquires a certain coned. His devotion is a rash zeal, which would sistency, correction serves merely to interrupt usurp the kingdom of heaven rather than take the actions already established. it by violence. His confession is an avowal It would be sufficient in early life, while the extorted by anguish which the Almighty has brain is yet flexible, and induced by its own suddenly inflicted, and by remorse of con- texture to lose impressions as readily as it acscience, rather than sac contrition of heart. quired them; at this age, I say, to quit the acHis charity is extorted by the fears of death, tion would be sufficient to reform the habit. and the horrors of hell. Dissipate these fears, But when the brain has acquired the degree calm that anguish, appease these terrors, and of consistency already mentioned, the simple you will see no more zeal, no more charity, no suspension of the act is not sufficient to eradi. more tears; his heart, habituated to vice, will cate the habit; because by its texture it is disresume its wonted course. This is the conse- posed to continue. the same, and to retain the quence of our first principle; we shall next ex- impressions already received. amine the result of the second.
Hence, when a man has grovelled a consiWe said, that when a habit is once rooted, Jerable time in vice, to quit it is not a suffi. it becomes difficult to surmount il, and altoge- cient reform; for him there is but one remedy, gether insurmountable, when suffered to as that is, to perform actions directly opposed to
those which had formed the habit. Suppose, tions, and that each action would be equal to for instance, that a man shall have lived in that we wished to destroy, avarice for twenty years, and been guilty of 3. A man may suddenly reform a habit on ten acts of extortion every lay. Suppose he the reception of new ideas, and on hearing shall afterward have a desire to reform; that some truths of which he was ignorant before, he shall devote ten years to the work; that he I also acknowledge; but this proves nothing shall every day do ten acts of charity opposite to the point. We spoke of a man born in the to those of his avarice; these ten years (consj. bosom of the church, educated in the princi. dering the case here according to the course ples of Christianity, and who has reflected a of nature only, for we allow interior and super- thousand and a thousan.d times on the truths of natural aids in the conversion of a sinner, as relig.on; and on whom we have pressed a we shall prove in the subsequent discourses), thousand and a thousand times the motives of would those ten acts be sufficient perfectly to repentance and regeneration ; but, teing now eradicate covetousness from this man? It hardened, he can hear nothing new on those seems contrary to the most received maxims. subjects. You have heard that habits confirmed to a cer- 4. A man may, I allow, on the decay of his tain degree, and continued to a certain age, are faculties, suddenly reform a bad habit; but never reformed but by a number of opposite what has this to do with the renovation which actions proportioned to those which had form- God requires? In this case, the effect of sin ed the habit. The character before us has vanishes away, but the principle remains. A lived twenty years in the practice of avarice, particular act of the bad habit yields to weakand but ten in the exercise of charity, doing ness and necessity, but the source still subsists, only ten acts of benevolence daily during that and wholly predominates in the man, period ; he has then arrived at an age in 5. In fine, a man whose life has been a coo. which he has lost the facility of receiving new tinued warfare between vice and rirtae; but impressions. We cannot, therefore, I think, with whom vice for the most part has had the affirm that those ten years are adequate per ascendancy over virtue, may obtain in his last fectly to eradicate the vice from his heart. Af- sickness, the grace of real conversion. There ter all, sinners, you still continue in those ha- is however, something doubtful in the case ; bits, aged in crimes, heaping one bad deed conversion on a death-bed being difficult or upon another, and flattering yourselves to re- impossible; because between one unconverted form, by a wish, by a glance, by a tear, with- man and another there is often a vast differout difficulty or conflict, habits the most inve- ence; the one, if I may so speak, is within a terate. Such are the reflections suggested by step of the grave, but the other has a vast a knowledge of the human frame with regard course to run. The former has subdued his to the delay of conversion. To this you will habits, has already made a progress, not indeed oppose various objections which it is of impor- so far as to attain, but so far as to approach a tance to resolve.
state of regeneration : this man may, perhaps, You will say, that our principles are contra- be changed in a moment: but how can be, dicted by experience; that we daily see per- who has already wasted life in ignorance and sons who have long indulged a vicious habit, vice, effectuate so great a change in a few and who have renounced it at once without re- days, or a few hours ? We have therefore peating the opposite acts of virtue. The fact proved our point that the first objection is desis possible, it is indeed undeniable. It may titute of force. happen in five cases, which, when fully ex- You will, however, propose a second: you amined, will be found not at all to invalidate will say, that this principle prores too much, what has already been established.
that if we cannot be saved without a fund and 1. A man possessing the free use of his fa- habit of holiness, and if this habit cannot be culties, may by an effort of reflection extricate acquired without perseverance in duty, we himself from a vicious habit, I allow; but we exclude from salvation those deeply contrite have superseded the objection, by a case ap- sinners who having wasted life in vice, have parently applicable. We have cautiously an. now not sufficient time to form a counterpoise ticipated, and often assumed the solution. We to the force of their criminal habits. speak of those only, who have attained an ad- This difficulty naturally presents itself to the vanced age, and have lost the facility of ac- mind; but the solution we give does not so quiring new dispositions. Have you ever seen properly accord with this discourse; it shall persons of sixty or seventy years of age re. be betier answered in the exercises which nounce their avarice, their pride ; some fa- shall follow, when we shall draw our arguvourite passion, or a family prejudice? ments from the Scriptures. We shall then
2. A man placed in a hopeless situation, and affirm that when a sinner groans under the under an extraordinary stroke of Providence, burden of his corruption, and sincerely desires may instantly reform a habit, I grant; but conversion, God affords his aid, and gires him that does not destroy our principles. We supernatural power to vanquish his sinful prohave not included in our reflections those ex- pensities. But we shall prove, at the same traordinary visitations which Providence may time, that those aids are so very far from counemploy to subdue the sinner. When we said tenancing the delay of conversion, that no conthat the reformation of a vicious habit would sideration can be more intimidating to him require a number of acts which have some who presumes on so awful a course. For, my proportion to those which formed it, we sup- brethren, our divinity and morality give each posed an equality of impressions in those ac- l other the hand, the one heing established upon
the other. There is a wise medium between this illusory scheme susceptible! Shall I die her sy, and I know not what absurd and ex- in a bed calm and composed ? Shall I have travagant orthodoxy; and as it is a bad maxim presence and recollection of mind ? Shall I so to establish the precepts, as to renounce the a: ail myself of these circumstances to eradicate doctrines of Jesus Christ, it is equally perni. vice from the heart, and to establish there the cious to make a breach in his precepts, to con- kingdom of righteousness? firm the doctrines.
For, first, who is to guarantee that you shall The aids of the Holy Spirit, and a conscious- die in this situation ? To how many disastrous ness of our own weakness, are the most power. accidents, to how many tragic events are you ful motives which can prompt us to labour for not exposed ? Does not every creature, every conversion without delay. If conversion, after su!istance which surrounds you, menace both a life of vice, depended on yourselves, if your your health and your life? If your hopes of heart were in your power, if you had sufficient conversion are founded on a supposition of this command to sanctify yourselves at pleasure, kind, you must lear the whole universe. Are then you would have some reason for flattery you in the house? you must fear its giving in this delay. But your conversion cannot be way, and dissipating by the fall all your exeffectuated without an extraneous cause, with. pectations. Are you in the open field ? you out the aids of the Spirit of God; aids he will must fear lest, the earth, opening its caverns, probably withhold, after you shall have de. should swallow you up, and thus elude your spised his grace, and insulted it with obstitacy hope. Are you on the waters? you must fear and malice. On th head therefore, you can to see in every wave a messenger of death, a form no reasonable hope.
minister of justice, and an avenger of your You will draw a third objection from what lukewarmness and delay.
Amidst so many we have already allowed. that a severe afflic- well-founded fears, what repose can you enļtion may suddenly transform the heart. To joy? If any one of these accidents should over
this principle, we shall grant that the prospect take you, say now, what would become of your of approaching death may make an impression foolish prudence? Who is it that would then to undeceive the sinner ; that the veil of cor- ! study for you the religion you have neglected? ruption raised at the close of life, may induce Who is it that would then shed for you tears a man to yield at once to the dictates of con- of repentance ? Who is it that would then science, as one walking ha tilv towards a pre- quench for you the devouring fire, kindled cipice, would start back on removing the fatal against your crimes, and ready to consume bandage which concealeil the danger into you? Is a tragic drath a thing unknown? What whicb he was about to fall.
year elapses undistinguished by visitations of 0:1 this ground, I would await you, breth. this kind ? What campaign is closed without
Is it then on a death-bed, that you found producing myriads ? your hopes ? We will pledge ourselves to In the second place, we will suppose that frove, that so far from this being the most you shall die a natural (leath. Have you ever hapoy seaso.), it is exactly the reverse. The seen the dying? Do you presume that one can rei ctions we shall make on this subject, are be in a proper state for thought and reflection, much more calculated to strike th mind than when seized with those pri sages of death, those alrea ly a lvanced, which require 90ne which announce his approach? When one is penetration, but it suffices to have eyes to per- seized with those insupportable and piercing ceire the force of those which now follow. pains which take every reflection' froin the
We will not ab-oluiely deny the possibility soul? When exiinsed to those si upors which of the fact on which the objection is inded. benuinb the brightest wit, and the most piercWe allow that a nian, who with composure of ing genius ? To those profound lethargies mind se-s the decay of his earthly house, and I which render unavailing, motives the most regards leath with attentive eyes, may enter powerful, and exhortations the most pathetic? into the requisite dispositions. D-ath being To those irrquent reverses which present considered as near, enables him to know the phantoms and chimeras, and fill the soul with world, to discover its vanity, emptiness, and to- à thousand alarms? Vy brethren, would we tal insuficiency A man who has but a few always wish to deceive ourselves ? Look, foolmoments to live, and who sees that his honour, ish man; look on this pale extended corpse, his riches, his titles, his grandeur, and the look a rain on this now dying carvass : where whole universe unted for his aid, can afford is the inind which has fortitude to recollect it. hin no consolation : a man so situated knows self in this deplorable situation, and to execute the vanity of the world better than the grcat. the chimerical projects of conversion? 26 philosophers, and the sever-st anchorets: In the third place, we will suppose that you henc: he may detach his heart We would ahal!, hy the peculiar favour of heaven, be vi. even wich that the Deity should accept of suca 811'd with one of those mili complaints, which a conversion, should be satisfied vith one who conduct imperceptibly to the grase, and unatdues not devote hiinsels 10 virtue, ull the oc-tended with pain; would you then be more asuuns of vice are removed, and should re- happily disposed for conversion? Are we not ceive the like smer at the extremities of life; daily witnes:es of what passes on tho e occait is certain, however, that all tour suppoj. sions? Our frievis, o ir fain ly, our self-esteem, tions are so far fr im favouring the delay oi ail unite to make us a gur a favouralle issue, conversion, as to demonsrate its absurdity.-- woenerer the tictico 3 not desperate: and How can we presume on winnt may happen in I not thinking this the ime of dcath, we think the hour nf death? Of how many dificulties is also it ought not to be the time of conversion
After having disputed with God the fine days Now, we are fully eonvinced that those of of health, we regret to give him the lucid in- you who know how to reason, will not dispute tervals of our affliction. We would wish him these principles ; I say those who know how to receive the soul at the precise moment when to reason; because it is impossible, but among it hovers on our lips. We hope to live, and two or three thousand persons, there must be hope inflames desire; the wish to live more found some eccentric minds, who deny the and more enroots the love we had for the clearest and most evident truths. If there are world; and the friendship of this world is among our hearers, persons who believe that enmity with God.' Meanwhile the affliction a man can effectuate conversion by his own extends itself, the disease takes its course, the strength, it would not be proper for them to body weakens, the spirits droop, and death ar-reject our principles, and they can have no rives even before we had scarcely thought that right to complain. If you are orthodox, as we we were mortal.
suppose, you cannot regard as false what we Fancy yourselves, in short, to die in the have now proved. Our maxims have been most favourable situation, tranquil and com- founded on the most rigid orthodoxy, on the posed, without delirium, without stupor, with inability of mian, on the necessity of grace, on out lethargy. Fancy also, that stripped of original corruption, and on the various objecprejudice, and the chimerical hope of recove- tions which our most venerable divines have ry, you should know that your end is near. Topposed to the system of degenerate casuists. ask whether the single thought, the sole idea, Hence, as I have said, not one of you can claim that you shall soon die, be not capable of de- the right of disputing the doctrine we have priving you of the composure essential to the taught. Heretice, orthodox, and all the world work of your salvation? Can a man habituated are obliged to receive them, and you yourto dissipation, accustomed to care, devoted to selves have nothing to object. But we, my its maxims, see without confusion and regret, brethren, we have many sad and terrific conhis designs averted, his hopes frustrated, his sequences to draw; but at the same time, conschemes subverted, the fashion of the world sequences equally worthy of your regard. vanishing before his eyes, the thrones erected,
APPLICATION. the books opened, and his soul cited before the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge? We have First, you should reduce to practice the obfrequent occasions to observe, when attending servations we have made on conversion, and the sick, that those who suffer the greatest an- particularly the reflections we have endeaguish, are not always the most distressed about youred to establish, that in order to be truly Their sins, however deplorable their state may regenerate, it is not sufficient to do some parbe, their pains so far engross the capacity of tial services for God, love must be the reigning the soul, as to obstruct their paying attention disposition of the heart. This idea ought to to what is most awful, the image of approach correct the erroneous notions you entertain of ing death. But a man who sees himself ap- a good life, and a happy death, that you can proaching the grave, and looks on his exit un- neither know those things in this world, nor disturbed with paing; a man who considers should you wish to know them. They are, death as it really is, suffers sometimes greater indeed, visionaries who affect to be offended anguish than those which can arise from the when we press those grand truths of religion, acutest disease.
who would disseminate their ridiculous errors But what shall I say of the multitude of in the church, and incessantly cry in our ears, anxieties attendant on this fatal hour? Phy. Christians, take heed to yourselves; they sicians must be called in, advice must be shake the foundation of faith; the doctrine of taken, and endeavours used to support this assurance is a doctrine of fanaticism.' tottering tabernacle. He must appoint a suc- My brethren, were this a subject less serious cessor, make a will, bid adieu to the world, and grave, nothing would hinder us from ridi. weep over his family, embrace his friends, and culing all scruples of this nature. • Take heed detach his affections. Is there time then, is to yourselves, for there is fanaticism in the there time amid so many afilictive objects, | doctrine :' we would press you to love God amid the tumult of so many alarms; is there with all your heart; we would press you to time to examine religion, to review the cir- consecrate to him your whole life; we would cumstances of a vanishing life, to restore the induce you not to defer conversion, but prewealth illegally acquired, to repair the tar- pare for a happy death by the continual exernished reputation of his neighbour, to repent cise of repentance and piety. Is it not obvious of his sin, to examine his heart, and weigh that we ought to be cautious of admitting such those distinguished motives which prompt us a doctrine, and that the church would be in a to holiness? My brethren, whenever we devole deplorable condition were all her members ourselves entirely to the great work; when- adorned with those dispositions. But we have ever we employ all our bodily powers, all our said already, that the subject is too grave and mental faculties ; whenever we employ the serious to admit of pleasantry. whole of life it is scarcely sufficient, how then My brethren, if any one preach to you anocan it be done by a busy, wandering, troubled, ther gospel than that which has been preached, and departing spirit? Hence the third diff. let him be accursed. If any one will presume culty vanishes of its own accord; hence we to attack those doctrines which the sacred anmay maintain as permanent, the principles thors have left in their writings, which your we have discussed, and the consequences we futhers have transmitted, which some of you have deduced.
have sealed with your blood, and nearly all of