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All is gross and earthly; and a worldly life is tacitly reconciled with a Christian name and profession.
Nor can I forbear to add that the GENERAL INDIFFERENCE TO PRACTICAL RELIGION, which prevails in our age, may be traced back in a great measure to the same cause.
Men are so accustomed to put off the concerns of their salvation, and to disregard really spiritual religion, that they at length learn to draw a regular and well-defined line between merely decent and reputable persons, and those who lead a seriously religious life; and to proscribe the latter as extravagant and hypocritical. Men proceed satisfied with such a practical indifference to the infinite value of their souls, as would be quite impossible to every reasonable mind, if a fatal perseverance in the course had not made it habitual. What! could it be possible for them to admit, as they do, their immortality and accountableness, the holiness of God's law, the awful sanction of eternal death suspended on the violation of it, and their actual state of guilt as sinners, and yet be insensible, and yet lay aside all habitual regard to religion? What! could they walk, as they do, on the borders of the grave, observe the uncertainty of life, witness the sicknesses and deaths of persons younger and stronger than themselves, and see that men generally die as they have lived,
and yet still pass on in the journey of life careless and unconcerned? What! could the world acknowledge the necessity of repentance and faith in Christ and a new life, and the importance of attending to these duties without delay, and the almost impossibility of attending to them on a death-bed, and yet put off from year to year the pressing and indispensable concern? What inconsistency is here! What absurd conduct! What thoughtlessness! What presumption! What madness! Do men act thus in their temporal concerns, in those which regard their health, their property, and their worldly interests? No. The same person who puts off every thing as, to eternity, will hazard nothing as to time, will seize every advantage, will begin without an instant's, delay, will watch
every favourable circumstance, will forego no single advantage. What then can account for his pursuing a conduct so totally different, in concerns so incomparably more momentous ? It is his natural corruption, strengthened by habit, which has blinded, and which leads him captive. He has acted on temporal interests, till he has forgotten eternal. Men around him shut their eyes to future realities. He only does the same. He is quite easy and undisturbed in his state. If any thing threatens to break in on this security of mind, he avoids it as an enemy. He chooses his own ways, and
will walk after the imaginations of bis evil heart. He does' not fear to impose on God and on himself; though at times he more than su spects that the hour will come when he will be awakened to his mistake, and will find it irrecoverable.
But the time will not admit of our pursuing this important part of our subject into all the details of which it is capable. I will therefore, my brethren, leave to your individual reflections, the further application of the general principles that have been laid down; and will proceed to consider,
III. THE EXTENT AND MAGNITUDE OF THAT CONVERSION TO GOD WHICH IS THEREFORE NECESSARY.
For the separate examples of corrupt habits which have been adduced, are only so many particular specimens of the general state of man. Perverted habits universally prevail; and they have altered our depraved nature, but have altered it still for the worse. The facility which is acquired in any kind of action by the repetition of it, remains as the law of the human frame; but is become through our moral depravity the instrument of our ruin. Men indeed often complain of habit, as if it were something external, and which irresistibly enslaves them ; but the complaint is unreasonable. The fault is in man himself; if a prin
ciple conferred on him for his good, becomes the occasion of his destruction. This is the case here. Men are almost infinitely different from each other in their particular pursuits, objects, tastes, sentiments, characters; but they all' agree in this, that they are carried atong by the current of evil habits. Some are profligate and some more decent; some are high in station and some low; some are skilful and learned, and some ignorant; some are proud, and some covetous; some are mean, and some ambitious; some have a pretence of piety, and some are openly irreligious: but all by nature forget God, love the world, depend on their own understanding, follow the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and neglect the concerns of their salvation. All have the carnat mind, all the unenlightened and dark understanding, all the hard heart, all the death in trespasses and sins. Much of this consists in what we are now considering. Men acquire an aptness, a readiness, a pleasure in their sinful pursuits. Inveterate habits are thus insensibly formed. The reasons for the unlawful indulgence offer themselves to their thoughts on all occasions, and each time with increased force and persuasiveness. Thus God and Christ and spiritual religion are systematically, though sometimes imperceptibly, excluded, and men proceed in a worldly or a wicked state of the affections,
pursuits, and condict; whilst every step makes their sinful careei' more natural, and lessens the counteracting influence of conscience and duty.
What then can turn and renew man, lying, as he does, in such a condition? His sins are not acts, but symptoms; not separate transgressions, but habits; not mistakes, but designs; not casual or incidental circumstances, but the constant and direct course of life. The very light which is in him is darkness. A state of sin and a state of holiness are not like two ways running parallel by each other, and just parted by a line, so that a man may step out of the one into the other'; but like two diverging roads to totally opposite places, which recede from each other as they go on, and lead the respective travellers further and further apart every step. What then is to bring man back to God: What to break the force of custom? What to change all the intellectual habits and social usages of the sinner? What to set him at war with himself, to make him strive against the very bent and inclination of his soul, to induce him to 'lay violent hands, as it were, on bis own tempers and course of conduct, and to fight with the man with whom he was in concord before? What is to stop him in his rushing down the precipice? What to awaken him in his profound lethargy? What to be the