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for us to conceive what a spirit can be without life: but you may have some understanding of it, if you consider that there is even in this world a life which is no life; with which when death is compared, it is preferred, and often chosen, as the better of the two. Many there. are to be found, who live only to feel misery; who breathe only to utter sighs and groans: and when the body is thus overloaded with infirmity, the faculties of the mind are of little use. When the strength of the body is gone, the spirit is also broken, and no longer capable of exerting itself any further, than barely to be sensible of its own suffering. What is such a life as this, but a daily death? And if we were to say of such a person, that he dies every day, the meaning of the expression would immediately be understood by those who are made acquainted with the case, We are then to conceive, that the spirit which loses eternal life, lives only to suffer and to be miserable. It lives, but without the powers and comforts of life. It is separated from Christ, the Light of the world; and having lost him, finds nothing but the darkness of despair. It is separated from the Spirit, whose name is the Comforter, and its misery can find no alleviation. Being thus divided from the Light and Spirit of the
Lord, the divine presence can be manifested to it only as a consuming fire, such as God is said to be to the wicked: it will never be blessed with a prospect of that place which Christ hath prepared for his disciples: it will never be admitted to the society of angels, and just men made perfect; but will be sent away to join the blaspheming crew of fallen angels; and be tormented with those, for whom torment was made. These are some of those terrors of the Lord, by the preaching of which the apostles persuaded men; that is, persuaded them to repent, and fly from the wrath to And perhaps, they that hear me now may think it necessary they should repent: perhaps they form a resolution that they will repent. So did Felix; and thought he might find a proper season for it; but that season never came: "Go thy way, for this time, (said he to Paul,) when I have a convenient season I will call for thee." Thus it generally happens: for, as Felix never found a time, so the man who doth not enter upon a new course of life, the moment he is convinced that such a course is necessary, never enters upon it at all: if he suffers himself once to cool upon the subject, all things are against him, and he will never be warm any more: if he can put off
his repentance, he will never repent at all: and I will give you my reasons, why I think he will
1. Man brings with him a corrupt nature into the world: he is more inclined to evil than to good. One bad example can draw him further into a life of wickedness, and prevail more for his destruction, than twenty good ones for his reformation. One corrupting discourse from a seducing companion will instil more evil into his mind, than twenty demonstrations from the pulpit will be able to overcome: this is my first reason.
2. When sin becomes habitual to the mind, the case is daily altering for the worse. There is a double disadvantage; sin grows stronger, and the mind grows weaker: on which account, he who does not resist his sin to-day, will be less able to do it to-morrow. It is the same with sin as with sickness. All men know, that in the case of bodily sickness, it is of the utmost importance to seize the first opportunity of a cure. Some trifling remedy may be sufficient now; but after a few days, not all the remedies in the world; and so the case is a lost one.
3. The Scripture represents it as an impossi bility to change a habit of evil for a habit of good:
first to be broken up by the plough; then it is to be sown; then follow the blades of corn; at first they are tender, and remain long upon the ground before the ears of corn are found upon them. This is a process which begins in the spring, and is not finished till late in the summer. It is thus with the Christian; the fallow ground of his heart must be broken up by true contrition, before the seed of God's word which falls upon it can spring up, and bear fruit. Yet there are some people, who think they can be Christians all at once, when they please to find time for it. You never heard of a field that was ploughed, and sown, and full grown, and fit to be reaped, and all this in one day and you never yet saw a Christian, who attained all at once to the life of grace. At the creation of the world, plants grew up instantly at the word of God; but no farmer of any sense expects that such a thing will happen now. So, at the beginning of the gospel, Paul, by a miracle of which he had no expectation, and against his own will, was a complete Christian in a few days: but the like is not to be expected now, any more than that God should raise up the fruits of the earth as he did at the creation of the world. As he would be a foolish husbandman, who should neglect
neglect his land, and let the weeds grow till midsummer, and presume that God will give him a crop by a miracle at the harvest; so must he needs be a foolish Christian, who puts off the great work of reformation to the close of his life, till the opportunity, and the accepted season of grace, is lost: who thinks the good seed of God's word may take effect in a heart, where sin has been striking its roots deeper and deeper every year: who thinks, that the religion of Christ may be learned at a time of life, when few men, who had not learned them before, would be able to learn their letters who can flatter himself, that he may be entitled to the reward of good works, after his life has been spent in filling up the measure of his iniquities.
Christian reformation then is a work of time; and the man who puts it off to another day will not be reformed at all, unless by a miracle of grace; which he hath no reason to expect; whose vain presumption is a tempting of God to transgress the laws of his justice, in favour of an impenitent sinner, who hath so long trifled with the offers of his mercy and goodness. Repentance, at whatever season it comes, is the gift of God; and St. Paul makes it very doubtful whether God will grant it at all times, even