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it is impossible to quicken them unto repentance; and that no more remaineth unto them 66 but a certain fearful looking for of judgment” to come, and the expectation of those torments of which the fears are but the sad beginning.
This is a dreadful picture. But those, if any such hear me, who have attended the sick or the dying; who have endeavoured to quicken to repentance men dead in trespasses and sins; will but too surely bear me witness that the case which it represents is not exaggerated or uncommon. There are those who, having long neglected prayer, are at length, even when roused to a sense of their danger, unable so to compose their thoughts as, in an orderly and acceptable manner, to ask mercy from their offended Creator. There are those who appear to have lost even the perception of right and wrong; men so long accustomed to evil that the very thoughts of Heaven are more painful to them that those of hell! How often do we meet with aged men who, tottering on the brink of the grave, pursue the sinful follies of youth, not for any pleasure they derive from them, but to shut out, by their means, the more dismal thoughts of futurity! how often those who tremble at the wrath to come, without resolution to attempt an escape from it, and by whom the calls of religion are answered in no other light than as coming to torment them before the time!
* St. Luke xix. 42. St. Mat. xiii. 15. 1 St. John v. 16. Heb. x. 27
And these had once their day of grace! these once experienced the blessed visits of God's Spirit! these once heard the voice of their Father most lovingly calling them to repentance! Yea, for these Christ died, and for these, had not themselves rejected the privilege, the gates of Heaven would have rolled back on their starry hinges, and there would have been joy for their reception among the angels of God Most High!
Oh, my brethren, while yet you feel within you a wholesome remorse for sin, a desire to escape from its snares, and those other gracious tokens of God's presence in the heart by which we are moved and enabled to amendment, delay not for a moment to profit by that acceptable time, and to make, while it is called to-day, the day of salvation your own. They are grievously deceived who fancy that, because they are now able to repent, they may repent when they please. The ability, it should never be forgotten, the ability comes from God alone; and the same God whose spirit now strives in our hearts to overcome our evil nature, has solemnly threatened that His “Spirit shall not always strive with men !"*
Lastly, let us admire the wisdom and power of the Most High, who can make even such men as I have described the instruments of His exalted pleasure; the means of declaring His name through the earth, and His ministers for good to those whom He sees fit to favour. Not only was the obstinacy of Pharaoh turned into a means of perfecting more entirely the deliverance of the oppressed nation of Israel; to the Egyptians themselves their sufferings were, eventually, most beneficial, inasmuch as their land was freed thenceforth from a race whose power, and number, and different origin had long made their presence obnoxious and dangerous ; and since, thenceforth, for above six hundred years, the neighbour nations of Egypt and Israel, as if mutually awed by the judgments which had separated them, remained (a solitary instance in the history of the world) in unbroken peace with each other.
* Gen. vi. 3.
But this is not all! The exemplary punishment to the wicked is a blessing to all those who receive the solemn warning which it conveys. Where the history of Pharaoh is known, his name is a lesson to men how they disobey the will and slight the judgments of their Maker; and we know not how many millions, from the north and south, and east and west, have been snatched from the wrath to come by the merited sufferings of this one unhappy tyrant !
ON THE DECREES OF GOD.
(Preached in the Cathedral of St. Asaph, 1819.]
ST. LUKE xix. 42. If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the
things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes !
THESE are the affecting words of our Saviour on His last visit to Jerusalem, when, attended by the mighty multitude of those Galileans who had seen His mi. racles, He entered as the Son of David and the King foretold by the prophet Zechariah into that city and temple of His earthly and His Heavenly Father, which were shortly after destined to flow with His blood, and to be given up, in consequence,
, to the vengeance of God, and to be a curse to all posterity. As thus attended He came down the steep descent of the Mount of Olives, which overlooks Jerusalem, “ He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes ! For the days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and
shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
This was not the only instance in which our Lord uttered the like complaint of the disobedience of His people, and the like prophecy of their approaching calamities. Within a few days after, in the temple, He foretold that of all those goodly buildings not one stone should be left on another; and He exclaimed, with the same affectionate earnestness and compassion, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate." *
How truly these prophecies were fulfilled the writings of the heathen and of the Jews themselves instruct us. Within forty years after the crucifixion of our Lord, the Romans came against the city at the time of the passover, when the great multitude of the nation were gathered from all parts within its walls. They literally “cast a trench around it, and kept it in on every side,” suffering no man to go in or out ; insomuch that, for the famine which arose, the bodies of the slain were cut up and devoured, and women ate their own chil.
* St. Matth. xxiii. 37, 38.