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promised through the merits of the sacrifice which has been made for sin; we ought rather to remember, that such sin as this is what is pronounced in scripture to be “a crucifying of the Son of God afresh, and a putting of him to an open shame."* And although the impossibility of renewing to repentaice," spoken of in that place, may reasonably be interpreted by other places, as expressive of great difficulty, rather than of strict impossibility: yet is there in this an awful caution against the abuse of the mercies of God, which is likely to be “ a treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath "
ought to be sufficient to guard against apostacy, to recollect the pains of repentance attendant on a re. turn. For whoever conceives of this as what is possi. ble, without sensibility to the guilt of past sin; and without lamenting it, in a prostration of soul before a holy God; has not a just conception of the condi. tions, on which his mercy is held out in the Christian covenant
How different are the sensations which attend the looking back on whatever portion of life may be past; with the consciousness, that no part of it has been spent in forgetfulness of God, and the slavery of sin! It is true, that in the mind of the humble Christian, this will never produce self-complacency; but on the contrary, will occasion thankfulness to the grace of God, to which alone all glory should be ascribed; and not only so, but with some degree of painful sensibi. lity, under the recollection of the many instances, in which errour might have been avoided, or neglected opportunities have been improved. Still, with this qualification, it is lawtul, as for St. Paul, so likewise for every follower of his doctrine, to rejoice in having
bought a good fight, and kept the faith.”+ And this will especially become a privilege, in proportion, as in the instance of that apostle in the place referred to, the warfare of life will be drawing to its end. For
while it lasts, our confidence of the final issue will suffer abatement from the consideration of that inconstancy of human virtue, which enforces the admoni. tion" Let him who thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."* But if there were no more consolation from the retrospect of a well spent life, than that of gilding the prospect of a happy close of it; this would be enough to make religion outweigh “ the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season.”+
If the present life only be taken into the account; it will be found to have been a great gain, in regard to the ease and the substantial satisfaction of it, to have subjected it to the fear of God. This gives a sure and invariable rule to act by; on every question which concerns, not the gratification of the present moment merely, but permanent respectability, with all the advantages attending it: And under disappointments and disasters, it secures a retreat to the unbosoming of sorrows to the gracious Being, who often makes his visitations the means of unexpected mercies; and who never visits, but with a view to the temporal or the eternal good of the person suffering. If there be wanting this safe directory of the conduct, and this sure source of consolation; the heart is left to the government of passions, which are painful in themselves, and ruinous in the consequences to which they lead. In the career which they open, gratification ends in satiety and disgust; while the fear of disappointment is that “ sorrow of the world which worketh death."
I proceed to the last improvement; which is a solemn call on any who may be living in the disregard of their Baptismal Covenant, to renew the violated engagements of it, and to maintain them inviolate for the time to come: and here is included, not only the liv. ing in notorious and scandalous sin, but an habitual forgetfulness of the great Being, in whom all our works, involving responsibility of conscience, should be begun, continued, and ended. In every such case, there must be conversion, or there can be no salvation. Far from there being any benefit, on account of having been once in Christ; the only result of this, is the louder call to repentance, and the greater necessity of its being sincere and deep.
* I Cor. x. 12.
† Heb. xi. 25.
# 2 Cor, vii. 16.
Let it be remembered, that the point here treated of is not simply the obligation lying on all men, to lead a religious life; but the extraordinary measure of obligation which should press on the conscience, because of the promise made in baptism. From this some think themselves relieved by the circumstance, that the promise was made in their name, without their consent, and when they were incompetent to the giving of it. But let us consider how far this plea would hold, in a concern of the present life. Let a pa. rent, for the securing of an inheritance to his child, be supposed to engage for him that he shall perform certain acts, in themselves not only lawful, but eminently honourable: this to be a condition of retaining the benefit; the magnitude of which is incalculably disproportioned to what is exacted from the person benefited. In such a case, the forfeiture would not be the less just, because the party had no voice in the establishing, or in the consenting to the terms. Now our condition under the Baptismal Covenant answers exactly to the supposition. An heavenly inheritance is the benefit in contemplation: it lies with ourselves to perform or to refuse the conditions of the stipulation; but in making the choice, we should be aware of the awful penalty which attaches. The argument presumes the party's admission of the truth of “ life and immortality" therein “ brought to light;" and of an assurance being given of the pardon of sin, not to be gathered from nature, nor from any circumstances in our condition. If indeed a man have made up his mind to consider these things as a delusion; it must be acknowledged, that no promises, grounded on a false presumption, can be binding. But before he act on so eventful a persuasion; let him examine his heart, to ascertain
how far he may have been seduced to his unbelief, through that fault of the natural man by which it “ hates the light, neither cometh to the light, lest its deeds should be reproved."* There is strong presumption of this, in the practice of any known sin; in the rule of any corrupt passion; and even in such attachment to this passing world, as makes it desirable to lose the habitual recollection, of being always under the omniscient eye of God.
Whatever may be the vain conceptions of such persons; the Scriptures consider them not only as sinners, but as apostates. For them “ there remains no more sacrifice for sin;”+ that is, none besides the one which they have departed from and profanedfor this is the sense of the expressions in the place referred to; and accordingly to which sacrifice they may still return, although not without contrition for past.unfaithfulness. And unless there be such return, there remains for them as the same passage testifies
.“ a fearful looking of judgment.”+
Finally-addressing myself to all present, I exhort them so to estimate the baptismal privilege, as to be aware of the great danger of a forfeiture; and in this event, the urgent necessity of a renewal. Thus will they act up to the spirit of that place in the first epistle of St. Peter,|| wherein he contemplates the pale to which baptism is an admission, as represented by the ark, which saved Noah and his family from perishing by water. The sentiment is applied in a very edifying strain by our Church, in one of her prayers preceding the act of baptism; in which she asks of God, that in like manner, the person who is the subject of it,
may be received into the ark of Christ's Church, and being stedfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, as finally to come to the land of everlasting life.”
John iji. 20. + Heb. x. 26. #y, 27. lii. 21.
Importance of correct Faith. -Question of the Dale of the
Creed. -- Belief. --- In God, &c.” And in Jesus Christ, &c.” " Who was conceived, &c.”_“ Suffered, &c.". " He descendrd, &c."." He ascended, &c."- " He sit tech, &c."-" I believe in the Holy Ghost"_" In the Holy Catholick Church"-" The Forgiveness of Sino“ The Resurrection, &c."-Summary of the Creed.-Exhortation.
We have the following wise admonition of St. Peter: “ Be always ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”* And the sentiment is applicable to every article of faith, which contributes to the sustaining of that blessed hope. It is not uncommon to perceive levity and indifference, affected on subjects of religion; so as to evidence the opinion, that ignorance in this line is rather a merit, than a defect. It must be acknowledged, that much foreign matter is sometimes mixed with Christian doctrine; so that certainty is often boasted, concerning what we can in the present life know in part only; and that in consequence, human speculations so swell the size of the subject of Christian faith, as rends to produce and to countenance the evil. If the result of this should be a sincere desire of separating the chaff from the wheat; doubtless it will be found, that under the venerable name of religious truth, much is obtruded, with which it is not the duty of a Christian to be acquainted; and perhaps, of which it is even desirable to him to be ignorant. But the errour here complained of, is that alluded to by St. Paul, where he speaks of build.
. i. 3. 15.