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hold; and that He whose Spirit will not always strive with man, may be so far provoked by their present contumacy as to abandon them henceforward to a reprobate mind, and weary them no more with His mercy and His offers of salvation. And this, if any thing has that power, may induce them while the day of grace yet lasts to have mercy on themselves, to estimate the things which are seen at no more than their proper value, and to pay that attention which is just and reasonable to the unseen things of eternity.
The last cause of this neglect of unseen and eternal things is a confirmed habit of sin. Of the unfortunate persons who are thus tied and bound, it may be said that they have rendered themselves absolutely incapable, without a more than usual share of Divine assistance, of entertaining spiritual thoughts at all, or even of judging of that religion which the Son of God brought down from Heaven. By Christ's own testimony it was needful that a man should do His Father's will, in order that he might learn of the Christian doctrine whether it were true; and we find by daily experience, that he who knows his whole life to be displeasing to God, and yet, from long habit, has neither the power nor the desire to change it, is on this very account indisposed to direct his thoughts either to the joys or to the sorrows of immortality. His affections are of the earth, earthly; the songs of angels and the glories of intellectual existence, have no charms for him ; and if the narrow gate of life were even
now expanded wider for his admission, he would only miss and regret the indulgence of his recollected appetites, amid the splendours of God's house and the pure gales of Paradise. Or, shall the terrors of the Lord be urged to him? He trembles like Felix, but like Felix he turns away! He cannot forsake his darling habits, though he already experiences a foretaste of their bitter consequences; and he cries out to God's Spirit, as the evil spirit cried out to God's Son, “ art thou come to torment me before the time?"*
Of such as these who are now grown old in iniquity, there are some it may be feared who are, humanly speaking, beyond the reach of any help but prayer. But the less hardened it may not be useless to remind of those glorious promises of the Gospel, which hold out hopes of success to them who, even at the eleventh hour, repent and seek forgiveness; to remind them that to forsake their evil habits will be a task the more difficult the longer it is delayed, and that the most rooted habit may yet give way to a steadfast determination of will, to a reasonable retirement from the objects which most enslave them, to hearty and persevering prayer, and to that prevailing help of the Most High, which, where prayer is, will never long be absent.
But of all these victims of delusion, of him who disbelieves, or altogether disregards the Gospel, of him who, admitting its truth and its importance, defers its necessary cares to a future and indefinite
* St. Matt. viii, 29.
period; of him who is so immersed in sin that he has neither eyes nor affections for the concerns of his soul and the blessings or terrors of Christianity; for all these different symptoms of the same internal weakness and corruption, the cure is, in a great degree, the same. As they all err from a too great attention to the objects which, in the present life, surround them, it should be the endeavour of them all, by attendance on the outward means of instruction and of grace, by a study of the Scriptures, by a participation in the solemn ordinances of religion, by a steady and resolute contemplation of the evidences, the commandments, the promises, and the threatenings of the Gospel, to impress their souls with the comparative littleness of all earthly prospects, and with the constant recollection of that event which is, every moment, approaching nearer to all of us, and which will enable us all, though perhaps too late, to estimate both temporal and eternal things at their real value.
We read of a certain youth in the early days of Christianity, (those periods of historic suffering and heroic patience and legendary wonder to which I have already ventured to call your attention)-we read of a Christian youth on whom his persecutors had put in practice a more than common share of their cruel ingenuity, that by his torments (let those who will, or can, go through the horrible details) they might compel him to deny his Lord and Saviour. After a long endurance of those pains they released him in wonder at his obstinacy. His
Christian brethren are said to have wondered too, and to have asked him by what mighty faith he could so strangely subdue the violence of the fire, as that neither a cry nor a groan escaped him. “It was, indeed, most painful,” was the noble youth's reply; " but an angel stood by me when my anguish was at the worst, and with his finger pointed to Heaven.” Oh thou, whoever thou art, that art tempted to commit a sin, do thou think on death, and that thought will be an angel to thee! The hope of Heaven will raise thy courage above the fiercest threatenings of the world; the fear of hell will rob its persuasions of their 'enchantments, and the very extremity of thy trial may itself contribute to animate thy exertions by the thought that the greater thy endurance now, the greater will be thy reward'hereafter. The wildest temptation must shortly have an end; the fiercest flame must burn out for want of fuel; the most bitter cup, when drunk to the dregs, will trouble thee no
These things are temporal, and hasten, while 1 speak, to pass away; but the hope which is visible to the inward eye of faith is unfading, eternal, heavenly. Bear up, a little while bear
in the cause of immortality! If thy trial is intolerable, it will by so much the sooner have an end. Thy heart may break, but thy good angel points to Heaven, and One, greater than the angels, will, ere long, fulfil His promise, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life!"
ON THE PRESENCE OF GOOD ANGELS.
[Preached before the University of Oxford, 1818, and at
2 KINGS vi. 16. Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they which be
with them. In a war between the kings of Syria and Israel, the prophet Elisha had, on various occasions, given warning to the latter sovereign of the enterprises of his enemy. The plans of the invader being thus repeatedly defeated, he determined to revenge himself on the person whom, with good reason, he apprehended to be the cause of his disasters, and he despatched a body of strong men by night to surprise Elisha in Dothan. Accordingly, the sacred historian informs us, “when the servant of the man of God was risen early and gone forth, behold an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servants said unto him, Alas, my master, how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they which be with them. And Elisha prayed and said, Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."