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We shall be wise always to bear with us the remembrance of the irrepressible, inevitable, unendurable power of conscience. It is a part of our being. It will accompany us beyond the grave. It will be our companion forever. Its accusations we can never elude. Its testimony we can never corrupt. The bonds under which it holds us we can never evade. Before its tribunal we must stand for ever. Its condemnation is the sentence of God. Place us in security ever so complete against human laws, this holds us in adamantine chains. Be our offences ever so secret from man, before conscience they are in clear light as before the eye of God. The prisoner in the dungeon, the prince on the throne, the beggar cast out in distress and sorrow, and the rich man amid his millions of wealth, are equally under its power. We must do right. If not, the fires of conscience within us, and the justice of God upon us, bind us to eternal punishment. And when the stain of guilt is upon the conscience, nothing can ever wash it away, save the atoning blood of Christ. He that believeth not must be damned.--Rev. Edwin Hall, D.D.
THE SINNER A ROBBER.
1. Great numbers can accuse him of robbery. For he robs God of services due him, Christ of faith and love, and the Holy Spirit of due regard. He robs his family of religious influence, the world of an holy example, the church of power he might employ in her service.
2. He commits robbery upon his best friends. Other robbers spare their friends, but not the sinner. He has no greater friends than the Father of mercies, and the kind Saviour, and the everblessed Comforter. But he invades the rights of them all.
3. And he robs them of the most precious things. The most valuable jewels in the sight of the above named friends, are the affections of the human heart. But the sinner hesitates not a moment to appropriate them all to himself. God is despoiled of them all.
4. He is a very bold robber. His crimes have been denounced by the Supreme Magistrate of the universe, and the most terrible penalties have been recorded, and have been set before his eyes, and made to ring in his ears. Indeed he has been, at times, not a little scorched by sparks of the Divine vengeance against his robberies; but he braves every threatening, and boldly faces every danger attending his course.
5. A most persevering robber is the sinner. He began very young, and kept steadily on through all the years of childhood and youth. Many reach manhood and go down into the vale of years, robbing all the way through. Nothing stops them. Promises, threatenings, mercies, judgments-all alike fail to stop the steady perseverance of the robber I am describing.-NewYork Evangelist.
"TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?" OR, THE CHURCH MEMBER IN DOUBT AND DISTRESS.
"FROM that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”—John vi. 66–68.
THE text sets before us two classes of men, and the different decisions which they formed in regard to an adherence to the person and precepts of Jesus Christ.
There comes a time in the moral history of every individual, when a determinate decision is to be formed, either to separate himself from Christ, walking no more with him, or to apply to him more earnestly, cleave to him more closely as the soul's Redeemer. Happy are those who, when the hour of temptation comes, and the question is urged, "Will ye also go away?" can honestly answer as did Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."
There is a class of persons who are seldom or never made the subjects of direct address and appropriate instruction from the sacred desk. It consists of those within the enclosures of the church who have come to an intelligent conviction that they have neither part nor lot in the kingdom of Christ. We do not remember to have heard a single discourse which was suited to the condition of such. No treatise with which we are acquainted addresses such exclusively, and furnishes them with that information which is specially appropriate to their case. Often do
the ministers of religion insist on the danger of self-deception, and paint, as do the Scriptures, the fearful doom of the hypocrite. Frequently do they exhibit the tests of Christian character, and unfold the rules and evidences by which any man may pronounce upon his pretensions to the Christian name. But the persons of whom we now speak are by no means self-deceived, neither are they acting the part of hypocrisy. By the employment of those very tests with which they are furnished, have they been led to decide unfavorably concerning themselves. They write gloomy things against themselves. They have come to feel that they are not, and never were true Christians. They have abandoned their hope. They are not a little disheartened because of their condition. They know not what to do.
When men of the world who have never professed to be any thing besides are addressed, they feel that their own state differs from such in many material points. They are already within the church. They are reputed to be Christians. At times they may be ready to wish that they were out of the church, occupying the same place which they did before they entered it. They are inclined to think that it would be better for themselves if it could be so. But now that they are already known as the professed disciples of Christ, many things combine to perplex them concerning the course which it would be proper for them to pursue. Shall they publicly confess that they are strangers to religion? Shall they withdraw from the church, erase their names from its records, and hereafter neglect its ordinances? This they fear to do, though at times they are almost forced to the act. Shall they remain as they are; pass through the forms of religion with conscience against them; organize their lives on the general principle of a reputable morality, and for the rest abide the issue? Their condition demands our profound concern. If the truth were known, many more would be found in this state than we have ever imagined.
To such as are ready to admit that they belong to this description of persons, I would say,
1. In the first place, look diligently, cautiously, intelligently into the reasons which lead you to such a decision. Is it with good reason, or otherwise, that you so judge in reference to yourself? It is possible that you are mistaken in your judgment, and need only to be corrected. Perhaps your gloomy opinion may be the result of a constitutional cautiousness of mind, or improper conceptions of the gospel of Christ, or depression of the animal spirits in consequence of bodily infirmity, disease, or other cause. The mere absence of all hope does not render it certain that you have no good ground to hope. There may be the very best evidence of Christian character where there is no happy hope, just as truly as there may be a confident hope where there are no evidences to justify it. Doubts concerning one's own piety often indicate a healthy condition of the conscience. They
imply anxiety and discrimination, and a desire to know the truth; and when compared with their opposite, a self-confident and presumptuous habit, are infinitely to be preferred. Great sensibility to pain is not the most dangerous symptom in disease.
A deep feeling of unworthiness is no evidence that you are not in your right place. You are mistaken if you suppose that any other feeling is becoming in one who hopes to be saved only by the mercy of Jesus Christ. You may possess the most profound sense of your personal unworthiness, and be ready to admit that all others are better than you; that there is no one more undeserving the privilege of being admitted to Christian ordinances: this feeling may be daily deepening and extending, and of itself presents no good reasons which should debar you from the table of Christ. You have been subject to great misapprehension, if you have ever supposed that you should feel otherwise, or have wished to feel otherwise; for no other feeling is becoming in one who trusts in the cross of Christ.
It may be, therefore, when better informed on these points, and exercising a more impartial discrimination, that you will find much reason to hope on your own account. On the other hand, if it be true that upon an intelligent survey of the evidences of Christian character; after making all possible allowances and exceptions in your favor, which a sound and pious judgment will permit; after the most careful and honest scrutiny into the motives and emotions of your heart, you come to the rational conviction that you have never been renewed by the Spirit of God; then to you I say,
2. Be grateful to God that your eyes have been opened to see your true condition before it was too late. This is a mercy which few appreciate. We have reason to believe that of those who enter the church on earth with hearts deceived and unchanged, few are ever brought to true and saving repentance. We think we see many reasons why it must be so. Many influences there are, whose natural effect is to perpetuate that de lusion and confirm that impenitence. There is the manner in which that entrance was effected. It was upon examination. Those in whose piety and judgment all confidence has been reposed, pronounced favorably upon their qualifications for admission to Christian fellowship. These persons were questioned by the teachers of religion; the elders of the people looked into their experience, and they were ready to welcome them to the table of Christ. In consequence of this, it is not to be denied that there is a sense of security which is likely to endanger and ruin such as were self-deceived, when official judgment was thus given in their favor. Deceived they will, on this account, be likely to remain.
There is another influence at work which tends to the same result. There is a public separation made between the church. and the world. It is visible; it is recognized by all the appeals
which are made by God's ambassadors. By a very natural process, there is a corresponding distribution and partition made by such persons, each for himself. The professed disciple appropriates to himself whatever is designed for the consolation and blessedness of the people of God. Whatever is said concerning the guilt and danger of impenitence, and the necessity of conversion, is conducted off from himself to those who are confessedly in an impenitent state. Such appeals were not designed for him. They were intended for the great body of unbelieving men. There is a shield over his heart and conscience, through which the arrows of the Lord do not pass. A sense of security is generated by this habit, which we have reason to fear is but seldom effectually disturbed. Not as likely is he, on this account, to apply the truth which is really appropriate to his case.
Besides all this, there is the certain effect produced upon the character by a participation in Christian ordinances, and the enjoyment of peculiar privileges. Very solemn it is to sit down at the table of Christ. It is a very solemn thing to put to one's lips the cup which symbolizes the blood that was shed for our salvation, and to eat of the bread which reminds us of the body which was pierced and broken on the cross. What scene more impressive, more awful, more tender, more fitted in every way to subdue and break the heart, can ever occur in the present life? We look in vain for any thing more powerful to affect us than this. But what if one participates therein with a heart unchanged? Is there not an effect produced upon his character which is absolutely fearful? Does he not acquire a power of resistance to truth, and love, and motives, which leave us little to hope? While his sense of security has been deepening, has not his heart really been growing hard proportionably fast? We cannot doubt it. We cannot conceal it from ourselves that there are reasons why those who are admitted to the number of God's people with hearts deceived and impenitent, will probably continue in that state forever. We cannot but tremble when we admit the probability, that of those who eat and drink unworthily, very few are ever awakened and converted.
Therefore it is that we say to you who have been brought to an intelligent conviction, that you have no evidences of conversion, though in the bosom of the church; that you have reason to thank God for his mercy in having dispelled your delusions, broken up your security, and brought you to a knowledge of yourself. You might have slept on, and deceived yourself as do others, till life was all over. The Spirit of God has not deserted you. You are not given up to believe a lie. God is still waiting to be gracious to you; and the proof of it is already before you for your encouragement.
3. It is important for you to understand, in the next place, that you cannot retreat to the world. You cannot go back; you can not exclude yourself from the church. Upon this point there