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own views may be fully understood, he describes them in writing, and hands the writing to his son. But in regard to the first duty on the list, the father makes a very special charge. Putting his finger on it and pointing it out again and again, he tells the son with deep emphasis, that this service must be attended to whatever else is omitted. Now, suppose the son goes
his and performs every duty but this one. At length he comes to give in his account, and he does it with a great deal of self complacency, as if nothing further, could with propriety be required at his hands. Ah, cries the disappinted father, this is all well, as far as it goes, but how came you to neglect that first duty ? You surely could not suppose that fidelity in these other matters, could atone for the total neglect of that.
Now God is such a Father, men are such sons. T'hey have a list of their duties. At the head of these stands religion. They are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. But they attend to every thing else, and neglect this. Their bodies are clothed, their houses are made comfortable, their debts are paid, all the claims of good citizenship are regarded, but God, and the soul, and heaven, and hell are lost sight of. Ah this is the boasted wisdom of the world. Well is it called foolishness with God.
4. Every man's truest and firmest friends desire that he should become a Christian.
Is it unsuitable to include God among these friends ? Listen then to his language. In one place he entreats, () do not this abominable thing that I hate. In another, he expostulates, why do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not? In another, he encourages, let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, who will abundantly pardon him. While in another place he threatens, he that be. lieveth not shall be damned.
Think of the angels too. What is it that excites their interest as they wing their way on errands of mercy to this lower world? Upon what objects do they gaze with holy delight, as they pass over our cities, and towns, and villages ? o, it is the penitent sinner that excites their regard. No matter how lowly he is in his own eyes, or how humble the cottage in which he lives, angels notice with intense interest, his tears of godly sorrow.
Pious relations also feel a deep interest in this matter. You can never know but by experience, how deep is the solicitude of a godly father, who sees bis children growing up to trample the blood of the covenant under their feet. Words cannot express the feelings of a Christian mother, who enters day after day into her closet, exclaiming, what my son, what the son of my womb, and what the son of my vows. No language can describe the burden which lies up. on the heart of some pious affentionate wife, whose husband is never seen to kneel in prayer by her side. These are things which must be felt in order to be understood.
Nay, we may go a step further, for bad men often wish to see their friends pious. The following case once occurred, a shrewd and intelligent father had embraced the cold and cheerless scheme of infidelity, while the wise of his bosom was a meek and devout Christian. They had a lovely daughter, who was suddenly brought to the borders of the grave. The father was sitting in an adjoining room conversing with a friend, when they were both summoned to the bed side, to witness the closing scene. As they stood by the pillow of deaththe father, the mother, and this friend, the daughter raised her anxious eye to him who had been the instrument of her existence and said, Father I am about to die; do you wish me to die in the principles which you have taught me, or in those which my mother has taught me? This was a solemn question to the infidel parent. To waver now was virtually to abandon ground which he had long been occupying. But conscience even in this case was on the side of truth. Die, said he, my daughter, die in the principles which your mother taught you.
Yes, Hume himself would have said the same thing. Many a skeptical father and gay mother could be found, who would be grieved beyond measure to see a blooming and beautiful daughter giving herself up to the service of God. They would deem religion a poor appendage to the ball room, or the fashionable party. But let mortal disease invade the fair form of this same daughter, and bring her down pale and languid to her last bed, and their feelings wauld probably be entirely changed. The Bible, and the minister of the gospel, and prayer are not deemed out of place now. Ah, this is nature, in her extremity, coming to invoke the aid of religion. And shall she be branded with weakness for so doing?
5. The wisest and best men of every age have treated religion as a mat. ter of high importance.
We do not ask you to call any man father on earth, or to pay any undue deference to mere opinions, by whomsoever such opinions are held. The reli. gion of the Bible stands on a thousand times stronger basis than this. But who, that knows any thing of the world, is not aware that multitudes are governed almost altogether, in matters of this sort, by the authority of great names? The literary fame of some of the champions of infidelity has gone far to hide the enormity both of their creed and their conduct. But after all we need not fear to put the question at issue upon this ground alone. Immense as is the stake we hesitate not deliberately to make it, and we call upon the careless and unbelieving world to bring forth their strong array of bright and splendid names against God and religion. Let us stop a little to decide this point.
On our part we might refer for legislative wisdom to Moses, for sublime and lofty conceptions to Isaiah, for tender and moving pathos to Jeremiah, for pure doctrines and precepts to the Son of Mary, for close and manly argument to Paul, and for untiring benevolence, to all the Prophets and Apostles. But perhaps unbelievers will refuse to admit such testimony. Men of this stamp may be disposed to say of all such evidence, thou bearest record of thyself, thy record is not true. For the sake then of not seeming to take any advantage, we give up these names. Neither will we rely upon such cases as those of Solomon, and Daniel, and Nehemiah, though one of them was a king, another a statesman, and the third a courtier, and neither a minister at God's altar.
We are then to look about in the world to see on which side of this great question wisdom and virtue and goodness lie.
The great Lord Bacon is a host in himself. The early youth of this man, gave very striking indications of his future greatness, and he lived to scatter more light upon almost every field of knowledge, than was ever done by any uninspired man before. No other age can boast such a man. Now what did Bacon think about religion ? Let the whole careless and skeptical world hear it, and be checked. “A smattering of philosophy may lead a man to infidelity, but a thorough insight into it will bring him back to the truth. The first principle of right reason is religion, and for my own part, I dare not die with any other thoughts." Thus felt, and thus spoke one of the profoundest men the world has ever seen.
Sir Isaac Newton is another name to which we turn with confidence. This man moved in an exalted sphere, when he counted the stars and measured the planets, and became as familiar with the face of the heavens, as the husband. inan is with the surface of the fields over which he daily treads. But to speak of Newton as a philosopher merely, is not to tell half his worth. He delighted to look above the innumerable worlds and systems hanging in the immensity of space, to Him who made, and who governs them all. This man appears most truly great, when we see him laying down the telescope and taking up the Bible, when he turns aside from viewing the stars, to worship the babe of Bethlehem, and when he comes down from the proud eminence to which his talents
had raised him, to kneel at the foot of the cross. Does the careless world know that the great Newton was such a man?
The case of the celebrated Dr. Johnson, is equally in our favor. No name stands higher in English literature than that of Johnson, and from his decision in all matters of taste in criticism, it would be deemed almost presumptuous to take an appeal. But did this gigantic mind ever tremble and quail before the powers of the world to come? Yes, Johnson himself felt the need of religious consolations. You can scarcely conceive what an impression the things of eternity sometimes made upon his heart. He meditated, he reasoned he read the Bible, he wept, he prayed, and it was only the light of evangelical truth cheering his soul, that enabled him to die in peace and triumph. Thus ended the days of this wonderful man.
We might tell you too of the child-like piety of a Boyle, the refined taste of an Addison, the acute discrimination of a Locke, the strict conscientiousness of a Hale, and the unwearied compassion of a Howard. But we pause and ask for counter testimony. Exhibit a catalogue of the men, who have trampled religion under foot, and lived as if there were no God, and no judgment bar. Who are they? What are the enduring monuments of their wisdom ? What the unfading traces of their goodness? There is Voltaire, with his dying breath cursing the companions of his folly, at one moment calling upon Christ for help, and at another blaspheming the name of the Nazarene. There is Paine, afraid to be left one moment alone in the dark, and at last a poor bloated, forsaken wretch, yielding up his soul in an agony of despair.
Yes, and there is Hume too, the philosophic Hume, scarcely less an object of pity, not to say contempt. He plays at whist on his dying bed, and endeavors to keep his sinking courage up, by pitiful jests, on the very borders of the grave.
I beg you to weigh these cases. Then listen to Francis Newport, and hear him exclaiming just as the breath was leaving the body, "O, the insufferable pangs of hell and damnation." Contrast this with the last moments of the devout Payson. Hear him cry out, “ The battle is fought, the battle is fought, and the victory is won, the victory is won forever.” Then go and decide whether carelessness is reasonable. If it is wise and prudent to forget God, language has lost its meaning, death is an eternal sleep, and damnation is a dream."
6. Once more, the sorrows and death of Christ rebuke the apathy and indifference of inen.
No one denies that there was such a man as Jesus Christ-if as Josephus says,
it be lawful to call him a man-that he lived a blameless and benevolent life, and at last was put to death on the cross. The inost careless man in the land will go as far as this. Now, if no more was true, we find enough in the history of the Savior's life, in the labors he performed, in the tears he shed, and in the agonies he bore, to melt any heart, not made of adamant. But if Jesus was Divine, if he died for a lost world, if there is no hope but in his blood, the case becomes interesting beyond all description.
Look at him as he preached, and toiled, and suffered, and mark the contrast between his anxiety and man's indifference. What multitudes are light aud frivolous and gay; while he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? Thousands of men can be found who never pray at all; but Jesus could spend every hour of a long and lonely night in prayer. They chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, but he was a companion of the afflicted. Why this difference? How is it that the Savior should have had such an overwhelming load of care upon him, and the very men for whom he bore it all, be merry and thoughtless ?
See the holy sufferer. His cup was bitter, but rather than a world should die, he would not put it from his lips till it had been drained to its very dregs. 'The work must cost him his life, but his ardor was such, that he cried out, how am I straightened till it be accomplished ? Follow him through his last
agony, and say, is it any wonder that angels lay down their harps, to look into this amazing subject?
Besides, what an influence has the story of Christ's life and death exerted on the state of the world? No book that was ever written has been read by such multitudes, or with such deep and solemn interest as the Gospel of God our Savior.
No other history has awakened such emotions, or led to the putting forth of such efforts. While thousands have this precious volume in their hands, only to treat it with indifference, it finds its way to the garret of the poor widow, reaches the heart of the weather beaten sailor, visits the prisoner in his dungeon, and turns the heathen from his dumb idols.
Now in view of these several considerations, is there a man on earth who can lay his hand on his heart, and attempt a vindication of his own careless
Look at the subject in whatever light you please, and you cannot fail to see that it demands serious attention. Only go so far as to allow that the Bible may possibly be true, that there may be an eternal heaven and an eternal hell, and indifference to its communications is folly of the highest kind. But to believe in the reality of these things, and yet make light of them, is conduct for which we can find no appropriate name. It is not weakness, it is wisdom to be serious.
A good man was once asked, why he spent so much time in reading meditation, and prayer. He replied by simply uplifting his eyes and hands to heaven, and saying with great solemnity, "Forever, forever, forever!" This was reason enough for his seriousness, and so it is for the seriousness of any
No one ever got some just idea of eternity, and of his own unpreparedness for that awful state, without having anxieties awakened in his bosom, such as he never felt before. It must be so in the very nature of the case. Let a deer be once smitten by the archer, and you will find it forsaking the herd and retiring into some quiet thicket, where it may bleed and die alone.
Contemplate facts as they occur. There is an active, enterprising man of business. Once he moved along among the gayest of the gay, but his heart has since been touched by the Spirit of the living God, and he now feels a load there which he neither knows how to carry, nor throw off. You may see him walking with downcast eyes and thoughtful step from the house of God to his own dwelling. His very aspect as he passes from one room to another, and the effort he makes to appear cheerful as he takes his wonted seat at the table, or the fireside, tell with sufficient plainness that there is agony in his soul. Oh, he has learnt that he is a sinner, and must be pardoned or lost.
Yonder too is an amiable intelligent youth. A few days since his feelings were as light and buoyant as the very air he breathed; but now he is borne down to the dust by an apalling consciousness of having offended God. What a change has taken place in so short a time! His countenance, his conversation, his deportnient are all altered. Morning and evening, and perhaps at noonday, his seat in the family circle is empty, and were you to pass by his closet door, you might find hiin on his knees confessing his sins, and crying to God for mercy:
The Bible has become his companion, and prayer his employment. Ohi, is there any thing little or despicable in such feelings? An atheist may laugh at tears aud prayers with perfect consistency, but no one else can.
If a man believes the Bible, he must grant that seriousness, deep and daily seriousnesss is rational.
Permit me then to place this whole subject by the side of your consciences, and ask you to decide at once, whether you will be careless any longer.You will not pretend that real happiness lies in the path which you are now pursuing. Your thoughtless indifference to the concerns of death, judgment, and eternity, may do for the bright and sunny portions of human life. But tell me plainly, does it answer for the silent and lonely hours of midnight? Has it any power to cheer and elevate the spirits while walking through a grave yard ? Can it shed light upon the soul in the last struggle of dissolving nature ? This
you will not pretend. If you are ever to enjoy genuine peace of mind, in the dark and stormy season of human life, you must open your hearts to the tranquilizing and subduing influences of the gospel.
But let me beg you to make no delay. Not long since a graduate of one of our colleges was heard to say, I have finished my collegiate education, I will now devote two years to the study of a profession, then I will take one year to see what there is in that mighty thing they call, religion. Yes, so proposed this blooming, careless youth, but God had far other results in view. Before this design was half accomplished, the unhappy young man suddenly fell sick, was seized with delirium, and died without hope. Oh my friends, my young friends, if ever you mean to consider this subject, begin now. The longest life is not too long to make your peace with God, and lay up an everlasting treasure in the heavens. Before closing, I make you one more offer of pardon and eternal life.
In the name of Him who bled and died for a lost world, I assure you,
if you will repent and believe the gospel, you shall never perish but have everlasting life. Jesus Christ has authorized me to tell you, that there is boundless efficacy in his blood. He has no pleasure in your death. His heart is as full of compas, sion, as when he hung expiring on the cross. Only forsake your sins, and put your trust in Christ, so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
Vain man, thy fond pursuits forbear;
Repent!-thy end is nigh!
Oh, think before thou die !
Thy sins-how high they mount !
How stands thy dread account?
His time, there's none can tell :
To heaven-or to hell !
Shall crawling worms consume :
Sin kills beyond the tomb,
Sinners, it speaks to you:
And mercy will ensue.