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death, that to be in Christ is to be in peace. The experience of thousands since has confirmed the truth of their sentiment, and another conspicuous example of it is afforded in the dying experience of the subject of this tract. He felt that to be in Christ is to be in peace, and he showed that love and joy are the companions of that peace.
He fell asleep in Christ, and is with his Lord in the enjoyment of the rest promised to the pious dead, because he had felt the vital change which the gospel effects, through the mighty working of the grace of God. There is no solid peace in a dying hour for any unregenerate soul. The tranquillity of the unbeliever at that period is full of deceitfulness, a prelude to the confusion and agony of conscious perdition, “the torrent's smoothness ere it dash below.” But the serenity of the renewed mind, in the awful hour of dissolution, is true and real, because Divine ; that mind leans for repose on a hope that maketh not ashamed, and it feels the blessed force of that old question so often asked by the saints of God,“ When He giveth quietness, who can make trouble?”
Let each one who may receive this record of Lord Ducie's change in life, and peace in death, ask whether that can be a cunningly devised fable which does such things for mortals ? Whether, if the gospel be true and Divine, it does not challenge from us all the most serious, earnest, and devout attention ? Whether its facts and doctrines, its invitations and appeals, its warnings and promises, do not concern us quite as much as they did him of whom we have been speaking ? Whether his case be not a representative instance of what the word of Christ and the Spirit of God will do for us if we pray and believe ? Whether the consequence of neglecting the great salvation will not be terrible in proportion to the magnitude of the blessing refused ? Whether the guilt of not believing in the only begotten Son of God be not equal in degree to the misery which follows it, and most righteously cause that misery?—whether the uncertainty of life, and this very example of a man cut off in the midst of his days, be not a loud call to every one of us at once to apply our hearts unto wisdom ?—and whether these be not words that demand from us the most hearty and personal application :—“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of God. Marvel not that I
unto you, ye must be born again.” J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, AND
PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON: AND W. INNES, BOOKSELLER, SOUTH HANOVER STREET, EDINBURGH, London: J. & W. RIDER, Printers, 14, Bartholomew Close.
There are very many who, when the claims of God and the indispensable necessity of vital religion are urged upon their consideration, meet the arguments which are addressed to them in terms like these: “I freely admit the truth of all you say to
I have not a doubt that the Bible is the word of God; that the Saviour whom it reveals is the only Saviour; that my soul needs salvation ; and that unless I would be lost for ever I must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can I deny that it is my duty to devote myself to the service of God; neither do I dispute that they are truly happy who engage in that service. I do intend to give to these things the serious attention they deserve; but I can scarcely do so now. I hope, however, that a convenient opportunity is coming, by-and-by, and then it shall be the object of my most strenuous endeavours to obtain salvation.” Such is, in substance, the reply of thousands to the expostulations of christian friendship and the appeals of the gospel ministry. They dare not give a point-blank refusal to the invitations and precepts of the gospel, but still they are disinclined to comply with them. There are sacrifices which they see to be involved in the service of Christ, from which they shrink back with strong repugnance. And it is thus they endeavour to make a compromise with conscience. They will comply with her injunctions at some future day.
It is the design of these pages to remonstrate earnestly and affectionately with those who may be conscious that they are cherishing the disposition which has been described. We wish to show them that it is wrong; that the grounds on which it is cherished are most delusive ; and that the consequences of its indulgence may be fatal. As a profound thinker has remarked in connexion with this very subject, “ There is no more fatal betrayer than a right and excellent principle adopted, but consigned to future time and more favourable inclination for being carried into action. The consciousness that you are certainly keeping a good resolution, only deferred to await a more convenient season,' will help you to indulge a fallacious security, while every season for accomplishing it is passing away.”
We would first of all press on such persons the question,Are you quite sure that you are justified in the assumption on which you tacitly proceed, that you have a right to postpone your pursuit of salvation and your submission to the Divine will? Does not God's law require the immediate, entire and ceaseless consecration of all our faculties and affections to His service ? Is there anything about it to warrant the persuasion that we may withhold, even for a single moment, the slightest act of obedience to His commands ? Nor is the Gospel less urgent and comprehensive in its requirements. It speaks of no to-morrow, as the time when its overtures of mercy are to be received: its time is TO-DAY. To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not
hearts.” “ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “Seek
the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near.” It describes the sinner's ruin in terms which are manifestly intended to arouse him to flee without delay from the wrath to come; it expatiates on the value of the blessings of salvation in such a way as to fill the soul with ardent desires for their immediate enjoyment; and it declares that every moment the sinner refuses to repent and believe, he stands exposed to the extreme displeasure of Heaven, and is heaping up against himself “wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Clearly then you have no right to say, "I will leave the consideration of these things till I find a season more convenient.” It is your bounden duty to attend to them now.
We should ask such persons again,—"Are you sure that another assumption on which you proceed is well-founded—that of the continuance of your life till the time on which you have fixed as the time of religious decision? You know that you can obtain salvation only in life, and that there is no day of mercy beyond the grave. You know that should you die without being saved, your soul must be lost for ever. Ought you not then to be fully persuaded that you will live through the time that is to intervene between the present and the period which
have fixed upon as the time when you will begin with all earnestness of purpose to seek salvation ? Have you then such a persuasion ? Has that God, in whose hạnd alone is the soul of every living thing, given to you some special assurance, that whilst disease and death are the lot of so many around you, your life shall certainly be prolonged ? or do you speculate on the probability of continued life, and say, “ It is most likely I shall live till then, and so I will let these things wait till I am more free to give them the attention they deserve ?” It is probable, that, if you are young and healthy, you will be spared for many years to come; but that is all you can say—it is probable. And who has not seen most impressive instances in which all probabilities were entirely set aside, and the young and the vigorous were borne away to an early grave ? You may be able now to recall some case of this kind, which at the time produced upon you the most powerful impression. There was a friend whom you dearly loved, and whose state of mind respecting religion you had reason to believe very much resembled your own; who was light-hearted and careless; and who, whilst cherishing a feeling of respect for religion, was still determined to enjoy for a season longer the pleasures of the world. You heard that, with scarcely any time for thought and preparation, your friend had been cut down by the stroke of death. The tidings came like a thunderbolt; and you were filled with consternation and alarm. You followed the lifeless remains to the house appointed for all living; but as you did so, you could scarcely help considering what was the probable doom of the disembodied soul. You were glad, however, to dismiss the thought; for, willing as you were to hope the best, you felt that you had only too much reason for fear. You stood by the grave; and as you did so there seemed to proceed from its depths a voice of solemn power, which
heard above the wail of weeping mourners, and above the voice of the officiating minister, as he proclaimed, “ Ashes to ashes, dust to dust;" and that voice, unheard perhaps by all but yourself, warned you, by all that was dear and by all that was tremendous, by the prospect of everlasting life and the dread of everlasting death, to put off your spirit of delay, and to be deluded no longer! And is it possible, that with remembrances and lessons like these, you can still will leave till a distant date the thought of my salvation ?” How strongly would you deprecate the folly of the man, who, when his house was enwrapt in flames, should refuse to comply with the loud and earnest calls which were addressed to him to accept the means of deliverance, because he thought that for a little longer the apartment which he occupied might resist the fury of the devouring element! You would call that man mad, who, whilst his vessel was gradually sinking, should still fold his arms in security, and refuse to enter the friendly life-boat
which had come to his assistance, because he thought his bark might brave a little longer the tempest in which it had been wrecked. Who would not be horror-struck at the apathy of the man who could sit in peace at the most splendid banquet, whilst there was a naked sword suspended over his head by a brittle hair, which might at any moment be snapped in sunder ? But the folly of all these is outdone by the folly of him who stakes the welfare of his immortal soul on the continuance of that life which is fragile and evanescent as the morning flower.
There is a third inquiry which we would urge on the attention of the procrastinator. Suppose you should be spared to that time which you have fixed on as the time of decision, have you any reason to believe that you will then be more disposed to attend to the great concerns of
salvation than you are now? You think that you will be able to dismiss and recall at pleasure the thoughts and emotions which are awakened by the great realities of eternity, and that it will be only to say, " Now, I will think of these things,” and in a moment they will rise before you in all their magnitude. It is perfectly true that by an act of will you may direct your thoughts to any subject you choose;
but there is the question, “ Can you calculate on the will to attend to the claims of religion when that convenient season shall come? Have you not been often struck, both in the examination of the phenomena of your own mind, and in your observation of others, with the power of that principle called habit ? You are daily performing many things with scarcely a thought, solely because you have formed the habit of doing them. You see its influence in things which are, morally considered, indifferent; but in nothing is its power more strikingly exemplified than in connexion with what is wrong. The strength of evil habit is proverbial. Is it likely, then, that a long course of indulgence in sin, and neglect of the gospel, and resistance of convictions, will leave you, we will not say more favourably disposed to the service of God than you are at present, but as favourably disposed as now?
Is it not at least probable, that by the time in question you will be even more averse to religion than you are at this moment ?
Might we not appeal to experience? You can, perhaps, remember a season in your past history when you were powerfully awakened to a sense of the vast importance of salvation. The great question, “ What must I do to be saved ?" was forced on your attention as it had never been forced before. Your first impulse was to seek for mercy at once,
Your awakened conscience would not allow you to think of even an hour's delay. But as you reflected further, and as there rose up before you
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.