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gelist is, “ He saw, that he was condemned." The sentence was immediately followed by punishment; I mean by remorse, so intolerable, that the unhappy sinner could no longer endure it. By violent means he disengages himself from a burdensome life, to ascertain whether any future pains can be greater, than the anguish of mind, by which be is now tormented.
In ages and places, less remote, the power of conscience has been displayed in a similar manner. Sometimes selfreproaches are loudly uttered. Instances are not wanting of persons, who, having, by flagitious means, acquired, and for many years, enjoyed wealth and influence, have been rebuked by their consciences so suddenly and efficaciously, that they not only disclosed crimes, of which they had never been suspected, but implored the merited punishment. Others, in a state of mind, more dangerous and desperate, have imitated the perfidious disciple, and procured death by their own hands, that they might at once know the worst of their destiny.
There are other effects of self condemnation, less powerful, indeed, but more common. To the view of every person, two rival interests are displayed. Reason, religion, and a well directed conscience are on one side ; and they always speak the same language. On the other, are indolence and all those evil passions, which are seated in the human breast. If the three powerful monitors, first mentioned, could be effectually silenced;could reason, conscience,and religion be induced forever to withdraw their claims, men might, by obeying no law, but that of appetite, be as happy in brutal pleasure, as the very brutes themselves. But, before these monitors can be silenced, much time and effort must be employed; much conflict must be maintained, and many wounds received. It was, long since, asserted, the way of transgressors is hard." The truth of this has been severely felt by many, while forming an attachment to particular vices. Persons of dissipated and prodigal habits, have many hours, when reflection is painful, and even existence is irksome. It is not easy for a
man to bring himself to abandon all claims to a rational and moral nature. Even pride will remonstrate against so base a relinquishment. A man cannot easily be induced deliberately to say, “ As for the dictates of reason and the obligations of morality ;-all that is sublime in the one, or beautiful in the other, I renounce forever. Ye rational beings, whether angels or men, with you I will no longer lay claim to alliance. Whatever pleasures you have, either in possession or prospect, they shall be exclusively your own. From this moment I cease to be a competitor.” But so long as reason is not renounced, it will support the claims, both of christian morals and christian piety. He that wastes his time, follows his passions, or neglects his soul, acts as certainly against his own judgment—his own conviction of right and wrong, as against the commands and principles of divine revelation. Infinite responsibility is attached to the possession of intellectual and moral powers. Whether time or eternity is regarded, reason demands a life of sobriety, caution, and self denial. Now, is it possible, that a man should be otherwise, than miserable, who is forever at war. fare with himself: who pursues habitually the very course, which he condemns ? In the full enjoyment of youth and of health unimpaired, in the midst of gay, splendid and fashionable vices, many persons,-even those, who have been thought as happy, as vice could make them, have even wished to exchange their species ;-have wished to be divested of their rational nature, that they might be no longer tormented with the anticipation of a judgment to come! Individuals, who have rendered themselves conspicuous by ridiculing serious religion, calling its sorrows moroseness, and its joys enthusiasm, have been alarmed even by the sound of a shaken leaf, and have fled to scenes of dissipa. tion, as their only retreat from terror.
We shall now make several reflections by way of improvement.
I. If there are such qualities, as virtue and vice, it is infinitely important, that the distinction between them should be
perceived. This power of discerning the line, which separates them, is, therefore, a most important part of our moral constitution. But the natural tendency of a thoughtless sinful life, is to enfeeble this power, to prevent it from forming right decisions, and to render the heart insensible to its dictates. If the moral sense, that guide, which God has graciously appointed to direct human feelings and conduct, is either destroyed, or blinded, or corrupted, the whole life will be marked with doubts, confusion and guilt. To this our Saviour seems to have had reference in the following words, “If the light, which is in you, be darkness, how great is that darkness.” II. As the moral sense is impaired by habitual vice,—as men accustom themselves to act, without regard to reason or the divine law, moral distinctions are forgotten, and a general apathy prevails on religious subjects. To remove this apathy by fixing the mind on these subjects, by causing it clearly to perceive moral distinctions, and the eternal obligations of virtue and holiness, is the first effect produced by divine influence in regeneration. The sinner is led to apply to his own heart and actions, that immutable law, which is binding on every intelligent being. His surprise, anxiety, and terror, result from contemplating his character, his obligations, and his danger. He perceives what is right, and is conscious, at the same time, of possessing a strong inclination to that, which is wrong. “I was alive without the law once,” saith the apostle; “but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” No person, in a similar state of mind, can doubt, that there is a perfect agreement between reason and the divine law, or deny, that the latter is holy, just, and good; but he “sees another law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin and death.” The anxiety, felt by persons in these circumstances, natura. y results-perhaps, from their perception of danger. III. It has been asserted, in this discourse, that reason and religion are always found on the same side, and speak
the same language. For the truth of this I make a deliberate and solemn appeal to all present. In religion, what is implied? It is implied, that our present characters should be formed on the principle of the soul's immortality ;-that we labor chiefly for that “meat, which endureth to everlasting life.” I ask, whether it is, or is net, the, dictate of reason, that our estimate of objects, and attention to them, should be apportioned to their value ?—and whether our present precarious, fragile existence should engross our thoughts, or be regarded only in subordination to that eternity, which is to come? Is there a person present, that will say, the greater is to be sacrificed to the less; that a thousand years should be preferred to a million, and that the short space of human life should be preferred to both ?.It is implied in religion, that we love God. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart.” If this demand appears extravagant, or absurd, permit me to ask, whether it is rational to love virtue and virtuous men ?- Whether it is rational to love those most, who have most virtue? If so, whether we may not be required to love supremely Him, whose moral attributes are without limits, or imperfection? - It is implied in religion, that our hearts should be rendered penitent and contrite, in view of sin. “ Thus saith the High and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity. To this man will I look, even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” When one friend is perfiduous to another, when a parnt has been abused by his children, when a man has inalted or oppressed his neighbor, what is always deprnded of the injurious party? Acknowledgements, ex ressing sincere and ingenuous regret. Is it as great a crue to offend God as man? Why then do you object to se gospel, that it calls sinners to repentance ? It is implie în religion, that the sinner not only repent, but he conved; i. e. that he should have, not merely some temporr, regret and pious relentings, but that such feelings
uld become habitual and permanent;—that an alteration Ci character should be effected, comprebending a change
in his pursuits, in the objects of his love and aversion.
It is, lastly, implied in religion, that the sinner should immedi. ately“ break off his sins by righteousness, and his iniquities by turning to the Lord.” For how long a time should we think it reasonable to allow a state criminal to retain the disposition, which led him secretly to plot, or openly to attempt the subjugation of his country? For how long a time should any rational being have license to remain hostile to virtue, and to the best interests of the universe ? If one week, why not a month; if one month, why not a year; if one year, why not forever? Religion, let it be observed, recognises nothing, as conversion, which is not followed by a virtuous life. But how it is possible, that a dishonest man should too suddenly become honest,—that a profligate man should too suddenly become sober and temperate,—and that any singer should too suddenly become an upright servant of God; is more, far more, than reason will enable us to perceive. The fact is, that religion requires of man no dispositions, or moral qualities, but such as unbiassed reason condemns him for not possessing.
There are two other occasions, on which the difference between virtue and vice, between piety and irreligion, is very apparent. Christian virtue will endure examination. He, whose life evinces such virtue, is nothing disconcerted at being scrutinized by the irreligious. If he is asked why he has respect to all God's conmandments; Why he loves the Saviour ; Why he subdues his own passions; and labors, to bring every thought into Optivity to the obedience of faith; he may be surprised at the restion, but can never want a reply, “ Jacob shall not now ashamed; neither shall his face wax pale.” He treads firm, and finds, that there is no trembling in the ground benea his feet.Whereas, the sinner hates nothing so much, as -ional ex. amination. He feels himself to be vulnerable à
every point. Whenever you make an appeal to his reason, , is perturbated. Knowing, that reason is against him, he drea, her reproachful glare, and angry frown.