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they belong to the class whose character and circumstances it is now our office to describe. Their emotions under it have been transitory and ineffective, being a promise without a performance, and leaving the soul, after all, in barrenness and in death. Under the ministry of the Jewish prophets, such was frequently the result. When they bore the word of the Lord in messages of terror, or of love, and when they lifted up their voice to instruct, to warn, or to encourage, they sometimes seemed to overpower with their might, and to leave their bidding resistless ; but when the sound had died away, or when the novelty of impression was past, the forms of evil were again reared, and crime and violence and blasphemy reigned in the undiminished horror of their sway. Hear the fact, as stated respecting the ministry of the prophet Ezekiel : “ Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against (or concerning] thee by the walls, and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument, for
they hear thy words, but they do them not. The Saviour mentioned how the case would be under the ministry of the gospel, in his memorable parable of the sower, along with the causes of it. “ A sower went forth to sow: and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came, and devoured them up. Some fell
upon stony places, where they had not much earth; and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth : and when the sun was up, they were scorched ; and because
l they had no root, they withered away. And
, some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them.-When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away
that which was sown in his heart. This is he that received seed by the way
side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while ; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word ; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”+
Under the appeals and arguments of those who have gone forth as the ministers of reconciliation, amidst the difference of effect exhibited, there has been a common exemplification of that which is descriptive of the character before us. I most anxiously entreat your attention to it. Men have seemed to be awakened, to be softened, to be overpowered, to fall before the energy of earnestness and the majesty of truth, to pay homage to the message of heaven, and put forth the pledges of the impressions and results that message would produce; and after a season, all these stirrings of the heart have sunk down into the slumbers of reckless indifference. Of many alleged conversions, sorry am I to believe, as I do believe, this has been the end. In most of our congregations these sad cases are to be found. I know enough of mine,—and there are not a few belonging to it who ought to be cut to the heart while I say it, and with that design and hope do I speak thus plainly, I know enough of mine, to know that persons may be pointed out, who in days gone by, were shaken under the administrations of the sanctuary, wept, prayed, promised, vowed, said they would come to the cross, would crucify the flesh, and would live to God, nay, were almost impatient for the act of public dedication ; but who have gone back, and drank the anodyne of this world, and are now as insensible to the claims of the world to come as if no hand had ever lifted the veil to disclose its wonders to the mind. To the heart of him who speaks, there must indeed be a pang when he thinks of hopes that are blighted, and labours that are put to shame; but deeper
* Fzek xxxiii 30 32. + Matt. xiii. 3—7, 19--22.
; be the pang to them whose consciences bear home the charge, because in spite of privilege, and in reverse of promise, their“ goodness has been but as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it has gone away!"
Although other topics might perhaps be urged with advantage, in connexion with the nature and exciting circumstances of the disposition, we pass them by, that,
notice THE EFFECTS OF THAT DISPOSITION ON THE INTERESTS OF THOSE WHO ARE
THE SUBJECTS OF IT.
It is with reference to certain effects that the language of the text is put in the form of pathetic inquiry : “ O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee?" -The thought is solemn, that intelligent creatures indulge no dispositions, and are placed in no circumstances, but what have some subsequent moral influence, prejudicial or advantageous, on their character, and bear upon the judicial decisions in which their being is to be eternally consummated. Were this truth more distinctly remembered, and more adequately felt, how many evils would be avoided, how many benefits would be secured, how different would be the course of human thought and life, and how far higher would men rise in the attainments of purity and
excellence! To produce on you the desirable impression, is the end now placed in view, and two remarks as to the disposition are therefore presented to your serious regard.
1. It assists to render the mind insensible to religion.—The conduct of the Jews would afford several striking illustrations of this fact; but we direct attention at once to the general truth. Persons who have felt this “goodness,” are peculiarly liable to self-deception on the subject; they often mistake, and are willing to mistake, their emotions for the evidences of genuine conversion, and therefore reject the idea that any
further change needs to be produced; so that the appeals by which they may be visited are systematically and fatally evaded, as having no concern with them. And when there is not the existence of this positive delusion, it is a fact with respect to such, that the instrumentalities employed by God become less influential by repetition, and that the former uselessness of events and appeals, proved by the departure of the feelings to which those events and appeals gave rise, interposes greater difficulty to the work of re-excitement, and more secures the mind against being so aroused and perturbed. The susceptibility is exhausted and deadened, and will no longer answer to what awakened it before. The providences of God, public, relative, and personal, come with less power; the warnings of sickness, and the contemplations of