Page images
PDF
EPUB

avenger of your lukewarmness and delay. In so many well-founded fears, what repose can you enjoy? If any one of these accidents should overtake you, say now, what would become of your foolish prudence? Who is it that would study for you the religion you have neglected? Who is it that would shed for you tears of repentance? Who is it that would quench for you the devouring fire, kindled against your crimes, and ready to consume you ? Is tragic death a thing unknown ? What year elapses undistinguished by visitations of this kind ? What campaign is closed without producing innumerable instances ? In the second place, we will suppose

sball die a natural death. Have you ever seen the dying? Do you presume that we can be in a proper state of thought and reflection, when seized with those presages of death, which announce his approach ? When we are seized with those insupportable and piercing pains which take every reflection from the soul? When exposed to those stupors which benumb the brightest and most piercing genius ? To those profound lethargies which render unavailing, motives the most powerful, and exhortations the most pathetic ? To those frequent reveries which present phantoms and chimeras, and fill the soul with a thousand alarms? My brethren, would we always wish to deceive ourselves? Look, foolish man, on this pale extended corpse, look again on this dying carcass : where is the mind which has fortitude to recollect itself in this deplorable situation, suppose that

that you

you shal}

and to execute the chimerical projects of conversion?

In the third place, we will be visited by the peculiar favour of Heaven with one of those mild complaints, which conduct imperceptibly to the grave, and unattended with pain ; and that you shall be happily disposed for conversion. Are we not daily witnesses of what passes on those occasions ? Our friends, our family, our self-esteem, all unite to make us augur a favourable issue, whenever the affliction is not desperate : and not thinking this the time of death, we think also it ought not to be the time of conversion. After having disputed with God the fine days of health, we regret to give him the lucid intervals of our affliction. We would wish him to receive the soul at the precise moment when it hovers on our lips. We hope to recover, and hope inflames desire; the wish to live gives a deeper root to our love of the world; and the friendship of this world is enmity with God. Meanwhile the affliction extends itself, the disease takes its course, the body weakens, the spirits droop, and death arrives even before we had scarcely thought that we were mortal.

Fancy yourselves, in short, to die in the most favourable situation, tranquil and composed, without delirium, without stupor, without lethargy. Fancy also, that stripped of prejudice, and the chimerical hope of recovery, you should know that your end is near. I ask whether the single thought, the sole idea, that you should soon die be not capable of depriving you of the composure essential to the work of

your salvation? Can a man habituated to dissipation, ac

customed to care, devoted to its maxims, see without confusion and regret, his designs averted, his hopes frustrated, bis schemes subverted, the fashion of the world vanish away, the thrones erected, the books opened, and his soul cited before the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge? We have frequent occasion to observe, when attending the sick, that those who suffer the greatest anguish are not always the most distressed about their sins, however deplorable their state may be, their pains so far engross the capacity of the soul, as to obstruct their paying attention to what is most awful, the image of approaching death. But a man who sees himself approaching the grave, and looks on his exit undisturbed with pain; a man who considers death as it really is, suffers sometimes greater anguish than those which can arise from the acutest disease.

What shall I say of the multitude of cares attendant on this fatal hour ? He must call in physicians, take advice, and endeavour to support this tottering tabernacle. He must appoint a successor, make a will, bid adieu to the world, weep over his family, einbrace his friends, and detach his affections. Is there time then, is there tiine amid so many afflictive objects, amid so many acute emotions ; is there time to examine religion, to review the circumstances of a vanishing life, to restore the wealth illegally acquired, to repair the tarnished reputation of his neighbour, to repent of his sin, to reform his heart, and weigh those distinguished motives which prompt us to holiness? My brethren, when we devotè ourselves entirely to the great work ; when we employ

[ocr errors]

all our bodily powers, all our mental faculties; when

; we employ the whole of life it is scarcely sufficient, how then can it be done by a busy, wandering, troubled, and departing spirit ? Hence the third difficulty vanishes of its own accord : hence we may maintain as permanent, the principles we have discussed, and the consequences we have deduced.

And we are fully convinced that those who know how to reason 'will not dispute these principles; I say, those who know how to reason; because it is impossible, but among two or three thousand persons, there must be some eccentric minds, who would deny the clearest and most evident truths. If there are among our hearers persons who believe that a man can effectuate conversion by his own strength, it would not be proper for them to reject our principles, and they can have no right to complain. If you are orthodox, as we suppose, you cannot regard as false what we have proved. Our maxims have been founded on the most rigid orthodoxy, on the inability of men, on the necessity of grace, on original corruption, and on the various objections which our most venerable divines have opposed to the system of degenerate casuists. Hence, as I have said, not one of you can claim the right of disputing the doctrines we have taught. Heretics, orthodox, and all the world are obliged to receive them, as they have nothing to object. But we, my brethren, we have many sad and terrific consequences to draw: but at the same time, consequences equally worthy of your regard.

APPLICATION.

First, you should reduce to practice the observations we have made on conversion, and particularly the reflections we have endeavoured to establish, that in order to be truly regenerate, it is not sufficient to do some partial services for God, love must be the predominant disposition of the heart. This idea ought to correct the notions you entertain of a good life, and a happy death, that you can neither know those things in this world, nor ought you to wish to know them. Those visionaries also who are offended when we press those grand truths of religion, who would disseminate their ridiculous errors in the church, and incessantly cry in our ears, “Christians, take heed to yourselves ; they shake the foundation of faith; there is poison in the doctrine."

My brethren, were this a subject less serious and grave, nothing would hinder us from ridiculing all scruples of this nature. “Take heed to yourselves for there is poison:" we would press you to love God with all your heart; we would press you to consecrate to him your whole life; we would induce you not to defer conversion, but prepare for a happy death by the continual exercise of repentance and piety. Is it not obvious that we ought to be cautious of admitting such a doctrine, and that the church would be in a deplorable condition were all her members adorned with those dispositions? But we have said already, that the subject is too grave and serious to admit of pleasantry.

« PreviousContinue »