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that in his better days he had been in almost all evil, and had hated instruction and despised reproof. The infidels and idolaters, in the days of Jeremiah the prophet, turned their back unto the true God, and would not even acknowledge him as their creator and preserver. They faid to a stock, Thou art our father; and to a stone, Thou haft brought us forth :" but in the time of their trouble, when all support failed them, they would repair to God, and say, “ Arise and save
Cases of the like nature are not unfrequent now. There are many under gospel light, who appear to live regardless of religion. If they believe its general truth, yet they feel not its particular and present importance. They devote themselves to the pleasures and interests of the world, and give the momentous concerns of eternity no place in their hearts. They make no profession of religion ; and the duties of it they practise no farther than their worldly designs require. They seldom attend on the appointed worship of God's house, and perhaps as seldom address their maker in a more private manner. They are pleased with the conversation of those, who talk lightly about reli. gion; and they readily embrace the licentious opinions which they hear, because these pacify their troubled consciences, and quiet their guilty fears, in the course which they are pursuing. If they do
openly reject religion, yet they fondly admit doubts of its truth, or, at least, of the truth of its more important doctrines, and never take the trouble to enquire, what religion really is, on what ground it stands, or what is their own character. Thus they pass carelessly along in the calm seasons of life. But if you were to visit these persons in a time of sickness, when they had the
sentence of death in them, and even despaired of life, I am confident, you would find many of them in a different state of inind. You would not hear them talk fo doubtfully about the truth, or so lightly about the importance of religion, as they used to do. You would not perceive them seeking comfort in annihilation, or in promiscuous falvation. Their final destiny now appears too near, and too folemn to be trifled with. They wish for a hope, which can rest on a solid and permanent foundation. How much foever they have despised prayer in time past, they now direct their thoughts and desires to the mercy of God as their only hope. How indifferently foever they have spoken of the gospel, they now see no where else to go for the words of eternal life. How much soever they may have ridiculed the men of prayer, they now folicit a share in the interceffions of such men.
How much foever they have neglected the altar of God, they now with to lay hold on the horns of it, and, if they must die, to die there.
This, indeed, is not the case of all dying finners. Some die suddenly, fome in the distraction or ftupor of disease, and some in habitual hardness of heart. But it is the case of many;
and we rarely meet with a case which is the reverse of it ; I mean the case of one, who, in the near expectation of death, will disavow all regard to religion, glory in his wickedness, or place full confidence in his licentious principles. The most daring infidels, and the most boasting universalists have been known to fhudder at the gates of death, to distrust their former opinions, and seek refuge in the grace of the gospel
. Even a Voltaire, who in the most audacious manner profaned God's altar in his life, fought to lay hold on the horns of
it at his death. Though he employed his keenest wit to wound the gospel of Christ, yet he wished to die a Christian; and, it is faid, would have de clared himself fuch, had he not been dissuaded by the atheists who attended him.
Whether Joab's flight to the altat was accompà. nied with a repentance, which entitled him to anercy, we cannot say ; nor can we, in any case, determine the result of death-bed fears, relentings, confessions and prayers. The terrors of another world, opened to the near view of the guilty, may extort the language of repentance and faith, when there is no hatred of fin and love of truth in the heart. Balaam, who loved the wages of unrightcousness, yet defired to die the death of the right
The scripture often speaks of the convictions and fupplications of dying finners, as being of doubtful ifsue. “ What is the hope of the hypocrite,” says Job, “ when God taketh away his foul ? Will God hear his cry, when trouble cometh upon him? Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?” “ Beo caufe I have called and ye refufed,” says wisdom, “ I also will laugh at your calamity ; I will mock when your fear cometh. They shall call, but I will not answer, because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord." There is, however, more hope for such relenting finners, than for those who die in obftinate infidelity and unfeeling Atupidity. For though remorse is not repentance, yet there is no repentance without it. If the finner repents at all, he must first be awakened to conviction of, and self-condemnation for his fins.
The cafe, which we have been considering, affords as some useful inftrucions.
1. We have here the teftimony of finners and anbelieverstothe truth and importance of religion,
Though they all deny its importance in practice, and many of them deny its truth in words, yet there are times, when, notwithstanding all their prejudices and all their enmity againk it, they de, clare in its favour, and thew a desire to obtain a Ihare in its hopes and comforts. This teftimony is of real weight ; it deserves much credit.
It is a testimony, grounded an experience. They have made trial of irreligion, and they find, that this will not give them hope and comfort in the time, when they are most needed.
It is a testimony against themselves ; and fure by it must be a strong conviction, which constrains them to condemn their former avowed fentiments, and their paft manner of life.
It is a testimony given at a time, when they are most likely to judge rightly and to speak hone eftly. It is given in a time of affliction, and in the near view of another world. If ever they will think foberly and juftly on such a subject, it must be now. The croud of worldly business, the distraction of earthly cares, the profpect of temporal honours and richęs, the feductions of ir, religious company, the fascination of fenfual pleasures are now over and likely to return no more. The lufts and passions, which used to hur. ry them along in their favorite pursuits, and blind them to the dangers before them, have now fub. fided. Pride, ambition, avarice and carnality have ceased to operate ; for their objects are thrown out of fight. New fcenes open to their view. They are no more to return to this world ; they are foon to enter on another. They ftand bea tween both, and look back on the one which they have passed, and forward on that which is before them. They fee a mighty difference between them.
They feel, that to prepare them for the future world, other and better tempers are recessary, than those which they have indulged here. They are convinced, that the passions, which have gov. erned them, must be inconsistent with enjoyment in a world, where these passions will find no correspondent objects. They know their destiny will soon be fixed, and this is no time to trifle. In such a situation, it may be presumed, they will judge more impartially, than in the bustle of worldly scenes.
If men, who have despised religion in health and prosperity, do generally, or at least frequently, defire and seek its comforts, when they come into the situation now defcribed, we must believe it to be true and important. If there were comfort to be found else where, men, who have lived in opposition to religion, would not refort to it in this extremity. The controversy between Christians and infidels ; between the godly and the profane concerning religion, is only in this life. It is terminated at death. The latter, in the near view: of this momentous change, give up the dispute, and, in their judgment, come over to the side of the former, and wish to find comfort in that, in. which others have found it already. “Death is an honeft hour, and faithful to its truft."
There is, in the nature of man, a principle, which condemns his enmity to religion. Where is the man, but who would choose, that his children should be pious ? Where is the man, who would prefer to put his son or his daughter under the care of an infidel or libertine for an education ? Where is the man, who was ever heard to glory in the wickedness, dissipation and licentiousness of those, who were to inherit his substance, and to continue the remembrance of his name? Where