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GEORGE C. BECKWITH
DANGER AND FOLLY OF DELAY.
ACTs xxiv. 25.-Go thy way for this time; when I have a contenient season, I will call for thee.
Here is a specimen of human folly. When Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled" under his bold and pungent appeals; but, while conscious of his guilt, fully apprised of his danger, and urged by the strongest motives to instant compliance with the terms of the gospel, he coolly resolved on persisting in sin, and postponing repentance to such a time as he should himself deem convenient.
Impenitent sinner! do you not see in this example an image of yourself? Reflect. Do you purpose never to repent ? Do you really mean to die in your sins ? No; you expect one day to accept that gospel which you have heard and slighted so long. Against this delusive expectation, so fatal to thousands and millions, we have often warned you; but you heed not our warnings, because you fondly hope to find a season for repentance more convenient than
No matter what excuses you plead for this delay. I shall not stop now to examine them, or even to inquire why you put off this grand business of life, and leave your immortal interests afloat on the uncer. tainties of a future season. I wish to learn how you contrive, while living in sin, to cherish the hope of ever preparing for heaven. If unwilling to repent now, what reason have you to expect that you will ever repent ?
1. The state of mind which leads you to hope for a more convenient season, is the main obstacle to your salvation. It is the nucleus of all your sins; the sheet-anchor that holds you in rebellion against God; and, till you renounce it, he must look upon you as a determined robel. You may imagine, that your purpose to repent some time or other is a virtual compliance in prospect with his demands ; but what does he require of you? To repent next week, next year, in old age, in sickness, on the bed of death, just when it may chance to suit your convenience or your wishes ? No; God insists on immediate repentance; and your delay is direct disobedience to his plain and oftrepeated commands. Your purpose to repent, not now, but at some future day, is the very point which he requires you to abandon ; and if you entrench yourself in this purpose, you take the readiest way to seal your everlasting rain. If unwilling to repent now, you are in faet unwilling to repent at all; nor would you, with your present disposition, repent in old age, in sickness, amid all the agonies of death, amid the brightest glories of heaven, or the deepest horrors of hell!
2. But delay will only aggravate this state of mind. It is increas ing your rotactanee to repent. Repetition confirms all our habits. So with the voluptuary, so with the miser, so with the devotee of ambition, so with every class of transgressors; and you need not trace their progress far, to discover that sinful habits grow with our growth and strengthen with our strength. Is the delaying sinner exempted from this law of oar nature? Can he continue impenitent withoutincreasing his reluctance to repent? Is not every day, every hour, bringing him nearer and nearer to a degree of obstipacy that will prove
fatal to his soul ?
3. Meanwhile the external obtacles to repentance are multiplying. The world, the flesh and the devil are daily augmenting their power over the heart, and twining eround the sinner cords more and more difficult to be broken. Business, cares, pleasures, temptations of every sort are thickening along his path.
Delaying youth! if you cannot surmount the obstacles which now obstruct your return to God; if you cannot now deny your sinful appetites and passions; if you cannot now break from your irreligious associates, and stem the tide of influences adverse to your immediate conversion, when will you? Are not these and similar obstacles con tinually increasing? While the world is thus gaining every day a stronger hold on your heart, do you expect ere long to break away from her enchantments ?
Will the pleasures of youth soon pass away? Very true; but they will be followed by cares still more urgent and absorbing. Most of you are already too intent on worldly schemes to think much, if at all, of your souls. Engaged on your farm, in your shop, your study, or your counting-room, you find no time, you feel no disposition to repent. Will continuance in such a course prepare you for repentance? Ask the student long devoted to his books, or the miser grown gray in search of wealth, or the devotee of ambition still eager in the ebase of honor and power. Do you find them more disposed than formerly to accept the overtures of redeeming love?
4. But delay will render the work of repentanee more difficult, by increasing your guilt, and confirming your habits of sin. Your transgressions are more numerous now than they were one week ago; and every day, every hour, every moment is adding to their number and aggravation. Your habits of impenitence may eventually become inveterate. Sinful habit is often well nigh invincible. It is not a mushroom that springs up in the night, and may be cut down at a blow in the morning, but a sturdy oak winding its roots around the rocks, lifting its head above the clouds, and there bidding defiance to the peltings of the storm, to the fury of the tempest, to the hottest and heaviest thunderbolts of heaven.
If you know the power of habit, would you think to overcome it by continued indulgence? Would you attempt to reclaim the drunk ard by allowing a still freer use of ardent spirits ? But no better reasou have you to suppose, that continuance in sin will prepare you to repent. When
you shall have wasted the morn of your days and the vigor of your powers amid the vanities of earth; when age shall have marred your enjoyments, your passions become torpid, and there shall be no more treasure to gain, or honors to win, do you hope to find in the vale of life both a season more convenient, and the work of repentance more easy? Fatal hope ! it has ruined millions more perhaps than all other excuses put together.
But you sincerely intend to repent. Alas! so did many a sufferer now in hell; and this very purpose just lulled him to sleep, and kept him asleep till he awoke in perdition. If unwilling to repent now, quiet not your fears with the hope of repenting at some future day. That day may never come; and if it should, it would probably find your reluctance to repent strengthened almost into obstinacy, all the obstacles to your conversion increased, your iniquities multiplied, your habits of sin fearfully confirmed, and the work of repentance thus rendered so difficult as to be well-nigh hopeless.
5. All this time, the only means of conversion are losing their power over you.
Know you not what means God has provided for this purpose? The light of nature, the dictates of reason, the whispers of conscience, the instructions of the Bible, the services of the sanctuary, all the privileges of the Sabbath, the warnings of Providence, the ex. ample and admonitions of pious friends, the various channels through which divine truth reaches the understanding, the conscience, and the heart;
all these are means of grace designed to encourage your repentance and salvation.
Now, is not delay continually diminishing the effect of these means upon you? Do they now affect you as deeply as they once did? How long then before you will utterly destroy their power over you? When will you feel their transforming influence? After continued resistance shall have hardened your heart into adamant? In old age ? In sickness ? On the bed of death? That is indeed an honest hour, full of terror to an impenitent soul; it makes even the infidel turn pale; it sent dismay to the heart of Hume and Voltaire ; it wrung tears from the eye of Paine himself; it will probably recall your sins, and set before you the dread realities of eternity; but will it prepare you for heaven? A death-bed hope, in nine cases out of ten, is a fatal delusion!
All the motives of the gospel, too, are losing their influence over you. These come thronging upon you from three worlds. When reading your Bible, or musing in solitude on the things that belong to your everlasting peace, or listening to the pungent appeals of some faithful preacher, or passing through the scenes of a powerful revival, or bending over the death-pillow or the fresh grave of one dearest to your heart, or stretched, to all appearance, upon your own dying beddid you never at such times feel the motives of the gospel pressing you to an immediate acceptance of its offers ?
You will not deny it; but have you not withstood all these motives till they have ceased to affect you? Can you not now stand unmov. ed in view of death and judgment, of heaven and hell? Gladly would I urge some new motives to arouse or melt you; but whither can I go for stronger than those you have so often resisted? Heaven, earth, hell, all have been tried; the universe can furnish no more.
And do you expect any more means or motives ? Are you waiting for another Bible, for another Savior, for another God, for new terms of salvation, for stronger motives to repentance? Will God reveal a heaven of more surpassing glory to allure you, or a hell of deeper horrors to alarm you? What then is to reach your heart? What can bring you to repentance? Will your vows so often broken, your conscience so long stifled, all the means of grace continually abused,