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by continued indulgence? Would you attempt to reclaim the drunkard by allowing a still freer use of ardent spirits? But no better reason have you to suppose, that continuance in sin will prepare you to repent. When you shall have wasted the morn of your days and the vigor of your powers amid the vanities of earth; when age shall have marred your enjoyments, your passions become torpid, and there shall be no more treasure to gain, or honors to win, do you hope to find in the vale of life both a season more convenient, and the work of repentance more easy? Fatal hope! it has ruined millions, more perhaps than all other excuses put together.
But you sincerely intend to repent. Alas! so did many a sufferer now in hell; and this very purpose just lulled him to sleep, and kept him asleep till he woke in perdition. If unwilling to repent now, quiet not your fears with the hope of repenting at some future day. That day may never come; and if it should, it would probably find your reluctance to repent strengthened almost into obstinacy, all the obstacles to your conversion increased, your iniquities multiplied, your habits of sin fearfully confirmed, and the work of repentance thus rendered so difficult as to be well-nigh hopeless.
5. All this time, the only means of conversion are losing their power over you. Know you not what means God has provided for this purpose? The light of nature, the dictates of reason, the whispers of conscience, the instructions of the Bible, the services of the sanctuary, all the privileges of the Sabbath, the warnings of Providence, the example and admonitions of pious friends, the various channels through which divine truth reaches the understanding, the conscience, and the heart; all these are means of grace designed to promote your repentance and salvation.
Now, is not delay continually diminishing the effect of these means upon you? Do they now affect you as deeply as they once did? How long then before you will utterly destroy their power
over you? When will you feel their transforming influence? continued resistance shall have hardened your heart into adamant? In old age? In sickness? On the bed of death? That is indeed an honest hour, full of terror to an impenitent soul; it makes even the infidel turn pale; it sent dismay to the heart of Hume and Voltaire ; it wrung tears from the eye of Paine himself; it will probably recall your sins, and set before you the dread realities of eternity; but will it prepare you for heaven? A death-bed hope, in nine cases out of ten, is a fatal delusion!
All the motives of the gospel, too, are losing their influence over you. These come thronging upon you from three worlds. When reading your Bible, or musing in solitude on the things that belong to your everlasting peace, or listening to the pungent appeals of some faithful preacher, or passing through the scenes of a powerful revival, or bending over the death-pillow or the fresh grave of one dearest to your heart, or stretched, to all appearance, upon your own dying bed— did you never at such times feel the motives of the gospel pressing you to an immediate acceptance of its offers?
You will not deny it; but have you not withstood all these motives till they have ceased to affect you? Can you not now stand unmov. ed in view of death and judgment, of heaven and hell? Gladly would I urge some new motives to arouse or melt you; but whither can I go for stronger than those you have so often resisted? Heaven, earth, hell, all have been tried; the universe can furnish no more.
And do you expect any more means or motives? Are you waiting for another Bible, for another Savior, for another God, for new terms of salvation, for stronger motives to repentance? Will God reveal a heaven of more surpassing glory to allure you, or a hell of deeper horrors to alarm you? What then is to reach your heart? What can bring you to repentance? Will your vows so often broken, your conscience so long stifled, all the means of grace continually abused,
all the motives of three worlds thus far resisted-will these, so powerless hitherto, will these hereafter soften your heart into penitence?
I know you hope for heaven; but whence that hope? From the word of God? Encouragement enough does it give to the believer, but not a solitary promise to the delaying sinner. Gladly would I speak some peace to your soul; but how can I cry, Peace, peace, when God hath said, There is no peace to the wicked? Gladly would I promise you a more convenient season for repentance; but did Felix find such a season? Did Esau? Will you? Alas! the Bible assures you, "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of saltation," and solemnly forewarns you, "He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." Which leads me to observe,
6. By delay you may grieve the Holy Spirit to depart from you. He will not always strive with the delaying sinner; and you may provoke God to withdraw his influences entirely, and leave you to take your chosen course. Then may you embrace such errors there are such errors-as will ruin your soul. You may even deny the existence of God, and spurn all his offers of mercy, and laugh at his direst threatenings, and shut your eyes against all the realities of a future state, and sin without remorse or fear, and lull your conscience into slumbers so deep, so deathlike, that eternity alone can break them.
Is all this fiction? No; I have been describing the actual history of a man who once became almost a Christian. The Spirit of God strove with him powerfully; he was deeply convicted of sin; his conscience smote him till he thought its stings too terrible to be borne; and in a paroxysm of anguish, in a delirium of agony, he prayed the Spirit to depart, and leave his troubled bosom at rest. That prayer was heard; and when he rose from his knees, the Spirit had fled forever, conscience ceased to sting, and the man went
down to death, apparently with no remorse for the past, and with scarce a fear for the future.
But you hope to recall the aggrieved Spirit of God, whenever you please! So thought this very man, and so hoped a youth who in time of a revival appeased his conscience and fears by resolving to repent at a future time. He went so far as even to write his resolution, and fix the time. That time began to draw near, but disease came a little before it, and death stared him in the face. Now he thought of his resolution, read it with solemn interest, bathed it in tears, longed for the feelings he once had, and prayed for the Spirit to return; but the insulted Spirit came not at his call, and that youth died in utter despair!
Delaying sinner! are you not taking the same course? Should you come to such a death-bed, you may call in vain for the Spirit so often grieved. You may call too late. The Spirit may have taken his everlasting flight; and the Savior himself may then say, "Because I called and ye refused, and set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof, therefore will I laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh as desolation, and destruction as a whirlwind."
7. Let all these considerations be riveted more deeply on your mind by the shortness and uncertainty of life. Your life is at best but "a vapor, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." Hold your breath twenty minutes, and your soul is in hell! Your whole eternity is suspended on the thread which any one of a thousand accidents may cut in a moment, and let you sink into the abyss !
Can you still be at ease? Can you swing securely over eternal burnings? Can you-will you-DARE you cling to the hope of a You more convenient season? Has God promised such a season? hope for it! So have millions, and perished by the delusion. You hope to live! So do many on the bed of death. Are you young and
vigorous? Be it so; but may not death still be aiming at your vitals? Do you purpose to repent next year, next month, next week, or even to-morrow? This very night you may be in eternity; and of what use will be your purpose to repent, when you may be lifting up your eyes in torment?
Will you then stake your immortal interests on a delusion so fatal as the hope of a more convenient season? Shall no considerations arrest you? Will you still sleep in sin, on the brink of hell? While God is warning you, and the Savior inviting you, and the Spirit perhaps moving on your heart, and angels waiting to rejoice at your repentance, and dangers thickening around you, will you still persist in rebellion, and harden your heart against every motive to repentance? Will you, can you shut your ears against the wailings of the pit, the songs of heaven, and the sweet voice of redeeming love? If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself; but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it."