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had been unable to perceive before, so pictured to him the influence which these were to have upon his future destiny, as to awaken apprehension and stir up within him fearful expectations of the end to which they were bringing him – « Felix trembled.”
But is it the unrighteous, the intemperate only, who have cause to be thus alarmed? Would that even these might be excited to a true perception of the ruin which is impended over them, that they might be awakened to hear the voice of God whilst it is speaking to them; for “neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor thieves, por covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God;"> but they will not. Like the deaf adder they have shut their ears against “the voice of the charmer, charming never so wisely." They will neither listen to the reproofs of conscience, nor the admonitions of the word of God. The thunders of the divine law are muttering their denunciations over them ; but, besotted in their transgressions, no fearfulness is awakened within them. The fierce lightnings of divine wrath are ever glaring upon them ; but, shut up in the haunts of iniquity, and blinded by the intoxicating influence of temporal pleasure, they perceive them not. “They are sowing to the flesh, and they shall reap corruption." “ They are sowing to the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” Alas! for them, my hearers, that they should thus labor for “the wages of unrighteousness !"
In how many instances, however, have their iniquities been baptized into the common allowance of Christian men! - And, as to be judged by this rule, how many, who are now at ease in Zion, have reason to be alarmed at their state, in view of the prospect which is thus opened before them, and upon whom fearfulness and trembling should take hold, as if the terrors of death had come over them! They are willing indeed - most willing to admit, that “the adulterers, the thieves, and drunkards” shall not inherit the kingdom of God; but flatter themselves that none of these baser vices can attach to them. Alas! that they would not think the same of “the covetous, the revilers, and extortioners," -- that they would not, at least, judge themselves after the same rule by which they are governed in their judgment of others. It would break up the delusions of many - it would awaken them from the deep slumbers of spiritual death - it would save them
- it would save them in that day, when the secrets of all bearts shall be disclosed, and God shall judge them according to their works. And what shall serve to produce this effect with them ? - Ah! what “refuges of lies” do they discover! -- with what thoughtless indifference do they “cry peace to themselves, when there is no peace!" And, how do they banish from their apprehensions the most salutary convictions of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment !” A Paul may be heard reasoning with them. They trembled perhaps for awhile ; but then, in that language of Felix, they say to him, “Go thy way for this time, when I have a more convenient season I will call for thee;" and thus they lie to conscience and the Holy Ghost, and cheat themselves to their own everlasting undoing.
Indeed, my hearers, there is not an individual amongst us who has not reason to tremble, if he has not already “fled for refuge” under a conviction of his condemnation and guilt ; “to lay hold on the hope” which in the Gospel is “set before" him, in view of his final condition; and could you, - which God in mercy grant you soon may, - could you but see yourselves, your deep depravity, your utter alienation from God, and the ruin which has thus been involved on you, as the Gospel has revealed them, you would not go up into your beds to rest until your transgressions were pardoned, and you had concluded your peace with God. "Felix trembled :" it may be that, in so doing, he did more than you ; yet, we have no knowledge that Felix repented." The devils also believe and tremble.” It may be therefore, that they likewise do more than you, yet their sorrow can never save them. How then, my unbelieving and impenitent friends, how shall you who do less — who do not even fear the judgments of God, nor tremble at his word – how shall you hope to be saved ?
3. But, it is every one that trembles in the view of his sinfulness, as being convinced of the perfect righteousness which was required of him, and under a fearful apprehension of the issues to which the judgment will bring him, as illustrated in this instance of the text, and which we are now to consider in the third place, to whom these awakenings are of any avail. There is no one who is not at some period more than ordinarily excited in the view of his condition — with whom the HOLY Spirit does not particularly strive - to whom the fearful results of the final judgment do not bring some misgivings of conscience - and in whom repentings are not kindled, and some resolutions of a new and a better life. But, their goodness, , alas! is too often, like " the early cloud, and as the morning dew, which soon passeth away." Whilst apprehension continues, they are sincerely penitent. Whilst Paul reasons, they tremble. But the world soon hushes their alarms. They have no fears beyond the preacher's denunciations. They say to him, therefore, “Go thy way," and, if admitting the justice of his claims, they add " for this time;" hoping, it may be in truth, that there will be some. “ more convenient season, when they will call for him.” It is surprising that they are not able to see the fallacy of this, and that one moment's reflection does not suffice to convince them, that the very same principle, whatever it may be, which induces a rejection of those claims upon them now, and calls for a postponement of their present duty, will act with tenfold power to-morrow, and with a far greater show of reason conduce to the same result.
The reasoning of the Apostle to Felix, and the reasoning of the ministers of God, under like circumstances, at all times, is based upon the most weighty considerations, and backed by the most powerful inducements which can ever be exhibited to the rational mind; and, though the force of this reasoning is verily increased by every additional transgression, and every day's delay in submitting to its influence, yet, such is the constitution of the human mind, that its susceptibilities of being acted on by it, are proportionably diminished as a successful resistance is opposed to its present claims. Here then, in that habit of procrastination which every day's indulgence increases, -in the utter uncertainty which, of necessity, attends the fulfil
ment of deferred resolutions, both as it respects the disposition of the mind, and the opportunity afforded, -in the overwhelming force of present obligations, and, in the fearful consequences of an ultimate failure of being actuated by them, in all these things motives of infinite extent, and of infinitely combined influence, are found urging, almost compelling repentance; showing, at least, beyond the possibility of objection, why it should not be for one single moment delayed. But yet, in the hardness of his heart, and sustained only by the long-suffering mercy and compassion of God, the sinner regards it as a matter to be dispensed with at pleasure, and says, in effect, to the great Being who is thus urging his demands upon him, only in the exhibition of his grace, “Go thy way for this time, when I have a more convenient season I will call for thee.”
In youth, when the appeal is defended by all the tenderness • of parental regard, when the plea of affection is uttered in
those terms of strongest endearment, “My son, give me thy heart;" the answer is, “ Go thy way; I will rejoice in my youth, and my heart shall cheer me in the days of my youth ;" in future days, when the world shall have lost its relish, and I can see no longer any pleasure in it, then “I will call for thee.” Alas! Jest those days should not come! In most instances they do not. But, when they do, what is their character, and how are they improved ?
Manhood brings. along with it the solicitudes of life. The whirl of business and of pleasure precludes the possibility of reflection. The whole soul is absorbed in schemes of mere temporal ambition. The world, with its vainest dependances is worshipped, and God in all his glory is despised. A philosopher without study, the man becomes a fool; to defend his folly, he ridicules religion, he scoffs at religious men; wise in his own conceit, the preaching of the cross is become foolishness to him ; and, to fill up in his own character the fatal picture of St. Paul, he too often “by wisdom, knows not God.” “God is not in all his thoughts."
By degrees, the shadow of life advances — the frost upon bis head is thickened - the sands in his glass run low - and
how do they leave him ?-a Christian ?- a child of God! better prepared than he once was to admit his claims ? - more alive to a sense of his obligations ?- more fully assimilated to the glorious likeness of his almighty Father? - more deeply sensible of the solemn issues of his approaching trial ! — and fitted as by his privileges and opportunities might be expected of him-fitted for the change which is awaiting bim? No, my hearers, no. They too often leave him an infidel, with the full measure of ingratitude to proclaim his enormous guilt — with the utmost weight of transgression, to sink him, without mercy, into the depths of hell. “O my soul ! come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united !”
And where, my hearers, in conclusion, let me ask you, where, in the midst of this perversity of human nature, for the picture assuredly is a true one, is wisdom to be found? where, but in the humble obedience of him, who afixes to life its proper value, regarding the world only as a probationary scene, and turning to full account, in their bearing upon eternal destiny, the pleasures and the pains, the mercies and the judgments which are incident to its most uncertain and changeful conditions ? The multitude say, by their conduct at least, if they do not declare it in their words, “To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant;" with the rich fool, they pull down their barns and build greater, and there bestow all their fruits and their goods, and then say to their souls, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." They admit not
” the unwelcome thought, that the time is, when they must be taken from them; and, secure in their possessions, they reply
; therefore to the voice of admonition, “Go thy way for this time, when I have a more convenient season I will call for thee.” Affection may be heard earnestly entreating them not to make man their confidence, but they heed it not. The word of God brings home to them the remonstrance, "To-day, after so long a time – to day, if ye will hear his voice, harden
- , not your hearts ;" but they are not aroused by it; and then