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THE PICTURES OF CONSCIENCE.
voice, and hurried your thoughts away to some more pleasing object? And has not the truthful witness been compelled to be silent, because you would not hear? Yet the secret within the breast has been like a festering wound, never quite healed; you have felt it still burning and smarting. The picture in the conscience has only been covered over, not blotted out. You have refused to look at it, but could not efface it. It may be you have gone further, and tried to laugh off your feelings, or plunged deeper into sin, with the determination to confound conscience, to sear, and if possible to kill it. But you cannot always escape from painful reflection; and when the still and solemn moment comes, or the hour of pain, affliction, and alarm, then you know the terrible picture of the past only requires the light of conscience to shine upon it, and then it all again appears upon the imperishable tablet of your memory.
3. Does not your own reason assure you that it is better, wiser, and happier now to know the utmost of your sinfulness, while mercy may yet be found, rather than try to hide the truth from yourself, till it shall be forced upon you by that new and resistless power which conscience will receive, when it shall be commanded to present before you all the pictures of your past life in such accuracy and minuteness that they cannot be denied, but when there will be no repentance, or none that will be availing, and when shame and condemnation will be the only purposes for which they must be brought to light ?
The tradesman who suspects that his affairs are going wrong does himself no good service, but the greatest disservice, if he shrink from the examination of his accounts, and neglect all means of retrieving them. So it is with sinners. No good can come of trying to conceal our sins from our own consciences and from God. This will not blot them out. " He that covereth his sins shall not prosper ; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy," Prov. xxviii. 13.
4. Another great truth, shining with Divine light, and clothed with Divine authority, claims your attention. God has made gracious and ample provision for the pardon of all your transgressions, and for the perfect deliverance of your conscience from the heavy and galling burden of your sins. The redemption of your soul from the curse due to your transgressions has engaged the mind of God. He has sent his Son • into the world, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and even the very chief has found mercy; for " with the Lord there is plenteous redemption," Psa. cxxx. 7. The terms on which forgiveness of all your sins is offered to you are the most gracious, and in accepting them Jesus Christ demands of you neither price nor penance, neither merit nor righteous
beginning God's way sinner. cand
ness of yours : “ Repent and believe,” are his words; and “ he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," Mark xvi. 16. The Saviour has satisfied all the claims of the Divine law-has paid a price of infinite value; and you may read the glorious truth for every believer : “ The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin," 1 John i. 7. Does the guilt of tranggression defile your conscience? Here is that which can effectually purify your soul. Does the dread of meeting again the accusing recollection of all your offences, with all their aggravations, rob you of peace, and fill you with fear? Here is the Divine remedy, the effectual antidote: to them that believe in Jesus Christ, God says, “ Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more," Heb. viii. 12. It is not conceivable that words should be plainer, or more appropriate to your case:they contain all that your soul needs to make it pure, happy, and safe.
The return of guilty fears, the dread of Divine judgment, the beginnings of the wrath to come, can be avoided only in one way,
that is, God's way ; not in your own way. He has appointed to receive you as a sinner, only through his beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord. No man can come to God but by him. Through him, by faith in him, you are assured of forgiveness, acceptance, and life everlasting. Why should you delay to lift up the desire of your heart to God, trusting in the merits and intercession of Jesus Christ? A sinful heart may shrink from approaching so holy and glorious a Being; but are not promises from God himself enough to remove fear, and encourage hope? Is not the unspeakable gift God has bestowed upon the world enough to convince you of his sincerity, of his love, and of his willingness that you should be saved ? Fear no refusal from Him who willeth not the death of a sinner--from Him who says, “Why will ye die ?" But take the name of Jesus as your sole plea, the blood of Jesus as your sole offering, and implore forgiveness through that precious blood of Jesus which never has been, and never can be, pleaded in vain. The throne of God's grace is as open to you as to any other. The same blessings of pardon, acceptance, and reconciliation await you which others have found, whose consciences once were as dark and guilty and uneasy as your own, but which are now the abode of peace and joy in believing. All is kind solicitation and promise on the part of the Saviour. He does not merely say he will accept, but he says he will in no wise cast him out that corneth unto him, John vi. 37. Go to the throne of grace, and plead the name of Jesus, and all the guilty pictures of thy conscience shall disappear.
COMMON CASES: ARE THEY YOURS? “ Tue heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked : who can know it?" is the solemn declaration of Scripture, Jer. xvii. 9; and perhaps the deceitfulness of the heart is seldom more clearly shown than in the coin mon excuses persons make to justify their neglect of religion ; excuses which will not even bear the test of conscience now, much less avail when we stand at the bar of a heart-searching God.
Speaking to a fisherman on the depravity of the heart by nature, he said, “ Perhaps you think us fishermen a bad set.” “Well, I fear very few are on the road to heaven, as they neglect the house of God, and appear careless about eternal things.” “All I can say,” he replied, " is, that I have been in other parts, and we are not half so bad as those at B- or Y—," “But one leak, my friend, will sink a ship, and one sin will as certainly ruin a soul as a million, unless it be repented of and given up, and pardon be sought through the blood of Christ."
It is a common case; men“comparing themselves among themselves, they are not wise." How many make the sins of others an excuse for their own! Reader, perhaps you are doing so. If so, pause, reflect; and ask, Will this justify ine in the sight of a holy God? If not, why rush blindly to destruction ? .“ Awake to righteousness, and sin not.”
Take another case. Mr. and Mrs. T— are hard-working,
labouring people; Mrs. T— tried to justify their neglect of religion by saying, “ Why, you see we make no profession, and therefore we cannot be so bad as those that do, and yet act contrary to it.” “Do you think if a man were tried for stealing, the judge would let him off if he pleaded in excuse, that he never professed to be honest ? You know he would not; and can you think your plea will serve you in the day of account ?” Mr. T- observed, * You have put the matter in a right light, and we ought not to neglect our souls.”
This, too, is a common case. How many delude themselves with the idea, that because they make no profession of religion, therefore they are not so accountable as those who do! Reader, is this your case? Are you thus deceiving yourself? Remember you are accountable for the use or abuse of every religious privilege within your reach. Think you, that your forgetfulness of God and of his word, your neglect of prayer, your disregard of the sabbath, and of the house of God, will all be forgiven because you make no profession ? No, you cannot seriously think so. You love not Christ, you care not for his gospel, and how can you escape if you neglect so great salvation?
Take another case. Mrs. G- had a pious father, and once seemed somewhat impressed with the importance of religion; but she married an ungodly man, and such an association led her astray; she has cast off ali restraint, and is living without God. But she must try to justify her neglect. When the writer called to press the claims of God upon her, she said, "I have seen much of your religious people, and have long made up my mind that all religion is a delusion, for ninety-nine out of every hundred professors are hypocrites.” “Do you admit, then, that one in a hundred may be truly religious, and walking in the way to heaven ?" "Yes, I believe there may be one, but not more." “ Then your conclusion is wrong; for if there were only one truly religious person in the universe, it would not only prove that religion is not a delusion, but that one would condemn the whole world, even as one family condemned all others in the days of Noah," Gen. vi. and Heb. xi. 7.
She seemed convinced of her error, but being driven from one refuge of lies, she flew to another. “You know," she said, " we can do nothing of ourselves. God must call us, and when he calls me, I shall be religious.” “Nay, Mrs. G-, I believe God has repeatedly called you by his providences and by his word. When you followed your departed parent to the grave; when neighbour after neighbour has been cut down by the hand of death ; and when on the bed of sickness, your own life was despaired of; did not all these things loudly say, Prepare to meet thy God?' and does not God say in his word, 'Now is the
believe the gospel,'-' Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find ;'--for God will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?' As wise would it be for the farmer to expect a crop of wheat, where he had neither prepared the ground nor sown the seed, as for the sinner presumptuously to wait for God, instead of humbly waiting upon him in the diligent use of the appointed means, such as prayer, searching the Scriptures, and attending his house. It is easy thus to try to shift the responsibility, but you cannot shift the guilt, nor escape the punishment, if you neglect God's plain commands."
Reader, this too, is a common case. Is it yours? Are you among the number of those who justify their neglect of religion because some may be hypocrites ? or are you presumptuously waiting for, instead of earnestly seeking God? Resect upon your state; consider well your position ; read Prov. i. 24, etc., and ask, “Will my reasons for neglect satisfy the Lord at his appearing, and save my soul from condemnation? If not, how vain, how foolish to persist in your present course! “Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?" saith the Lord, Ezek. xxxiii, 11.
Yet one more case. F-, a labouring man, was worldlyminded and negligent of religion, though by no means a scoffer; he would listen with some attention to God's word, acknowledge its truth, and the folly of neglecting its cominands; but when reasoned with on his own state, he would say, “I do not mean always to live as I do now, I shall repent by and by; for I should be sorry to die as I am.” Repeatedly was he warned of his danger in putting off so important a matter, and urged at once to seek the Lord, who has said, “ He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy," Proy. xxix. 1. Mark the result! He was taken ill on a Wednesday evening, suffered excruciating pain, and on the Saturday following he died, apparently as he had lived, without God, and without hope. His wife, a pious woman, said, “I watched over him very anxiously; I read, I talked, I prayed, and I wept, but all to no purpose; his pain of body seemed so great, he could think of nothing else;" and she continued, weeping as she spoke, “ It is not his death I feel so much as I do about his poor soul.”
This, too, is a common case. How many, like poor F-, mean to repent, yet, from one cause or other, delay, day after day, month after month, till death comes unlooked for, and they are hurried, unprepared, into the presence of the Almighty Judge, whose mercy they have so long slighted! Procrastinating reader, learn a lesson from this solemn fact. Delay on soul matters is especially dangerous. Flee therefore from the wrath to come; go to the Saviour; confess your sins, pray for his mercy; and do it now, to-day : to-morrow may be too late.