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that it is indeed very hard for men to be converted and saved. If you deem it so easy a matter as to be the occasion of little or no anxiety, your views and those of God are very widely different.

3. The fact that men continue in sin in decided opposition to their obvious interest, shows the difficulty of conversion.

The interests at stake are infinite. They are well understood. And this great change is known, is admitted, to be an indispensable preparation for eternity. From infancy up to this hour, the testimony of the last Judge has thrilled your heart, and agitated your conscience ;-“Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And yet, with all this knowledge, under all these sober convictions, both of duty and interest, you persist in your waywardness, you run on in the path of death, and to all appearance, are soon to leap the tremendous precipice. But if there were no difficulty in taking up the religion of Christ, would you, with thousands upon thousands, thus go down to death without God and without hope? Are

you, in other matters than religion, wont to be thus reckless of personal interest and happiness? And would you thus sacrifice peace, and hope, and heaven, if not urged and borne along by an influence you find it very hard to counteract ? Would you go with the multitude that tread the broad road, did it really seem to you equally pleasant and easy to enter the straight gate ?

Again ; that it is very hard to be converted and saved is evident,

4. From the testimony of observation. The world's history con. firms the statement of Christ, that “wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” But why this so general wreck of immortal interests? The fact itself shows that in the business of conversion and salvation there is some mighty obstacle to be surmounted.

The testimony from observation is rendered more plain, by a reference to particular cases in the history of men. They have failed of saving conversion, often under the most favorable circumstances. Look at the Jews, who received gospel truth from the lips of its divine author; and who had visible proof that the whole was from God, in his multiplied miracles. Look at the thousands who heard, without repentance, the heavenly message, as announced by inspired apostles. Look at Agrippa and Felix, who once heard with intense interest the preaching of Paul. Look at the fields that have shared largely in visits of the quickening Spirit. Have they produced only plants of righteousness? Look at that worldling of fifty or seventy years, who learned to pray while sitting in his mother's lap, and who to the present hour has lived impenitent under all the influences of the gospel. Obow

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servation recurs at once to numerous cases like these. But men could not—would not-thus live impenitent-they would not die unholy in sucit circumstances, if conversion implied no obstacles to be surmounted.

Again; we have evidence that it is very hard for men to be converted and saved,

5. From human experience the experience of both saints and sinners.

This testimony exists in different degrees of clearness in the case of different individuals. But no true Christian can probably recollect having come into the kingdom without a conflict-a conflict that seemed to hold his immortal interests in dark suspense. It was hard for him solemnly to review his life, and search his heart, and canvass his prospects for futurity. It was hard to admit the honest testimony of God as to his guilt and ruin. Iti was hard to listen to the rough lectures of conscience, and look at the realities revelation threw upon his eye. It was hard to admit frankly the justice of God's claims, and yield to the subduing influence of the Spirit, and sink down at the feet of his Sovereign, to be saved, if saved at all, as a matter of mere mercy from the throne. It was hard perhaps to check his enthusiasm for pleasure, or wealth, or fame. It was possibly hard to break up. some endeared connections, and abandon some favorite pursuit, known to be inc insistent with Christian discipleship. It was hard to get loose from the grasp of his arch-enemy. And as he recurs to the severe, and perliaps protracted conflict, he looks upon it as a miracle of divine grace that he has the prospect of heaven. Even his Christian life is a warfare, and every step towards the hill of Zion is the result of conquest. What then must have been the character of the warfare and the victory, when the strongholds of sin and Satan, in the heart, were first assailed and carried by the Holy Ghost?

To the same effect is the testimony derived from the experience of the unrenewed. I might with safety appeal to those who hear me, and leave the question to their decision. Have you not found it hard to take up seriously the subject of preparation for judga ent and eternity? Have you ever found the convenient time ?—ever been free from embarrassments ? Reasorr and conscience have sustained throughout the claims of the gospel; but have they maintained a ready and decided ascendancy? Have you not found difficulty in checking the common waywardness and folly of youth, and the worldliness of opening manhood, and above all, that fear of man which bringeth a snare ? Have you not been sometimes alarmed at your complete captivity to passion or appetite? Can you not recur to hours of deep thought and solemn purpose—hours when, under the action of conscience, and rex elation, and possibly the Holy Spirit, you felt that something must be

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done effectually and soon to escape merited wo? And why were not those hours, so fruitful in promise, hours of repentance, and pardon, and salvation? What mean those stifled convictions, and broken vows, and cherished hopes of a more convenient season ?- what, but that a sinner, the moment he looks seriously at religion as a personal and practical matter, is appalled by an array of difficulty ? Trace back your experience on this subject to earliest childhood; and tell us if ohstacles have not steadily accumulated, throwing you farther from repentance and hope, and deepening the gloom that has settled upon your prospects. And point us to a single page in your history that, of itself, holds oul any rational prospect that you will ever be converted and saved.

II. After this varied and concurring proof of our leading proposition, we very naturally inquire, with interest, for the ground of all this difficulty. What are the embarrassments so formidable and threatening! Right views on this point are manifestly essential to right notions of human responsibility.

1. Conversion and salvation are not rendered hard, by any serious difficulty in sufficiently understanding the subject of religion.

God has adapted his communication to the intellect of those addressed. The Bible was designed to be a light to your feet and a lamp to your path. And to question its adaptation to your capacity, is to question both the benevolence and wisdom of God. Indeed it is a revelation, only so far as it may be understood. And where is the obscurity? It has indeed its sublime and mysterious truths ; but even these are plainly thrown out before the world as facts--facts to be cordially admitted, though not fully comprehended. And where do you not find subLimity and mystery even in the material creation, and in the system of divine providence ? “Behold,” says God, “I set before you the


of life and the way of death.” And who does not discern the difference? Who need be a stranger to his duty? Who, with the gospel in his hand, can fail to perceive his ruin, and the only method of relief? Who cannot learn the nature of repentance and faith ?—the leading terms of pardon? You cannot plead ignorance as an apology for continuing in sin. Conscience says, no.

And the Savior and Judge himself declares, “ This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.”

The difficulty is not,

2. That God has thrown any embarrassment in the way of conversion. All his arrangements are of the opposite character and tendency. And he has brought into steady action a powerful system of moral influence for counteracting the perverse spirit of man, and restraining his wayward steps, and hedging up his path to ruin. He has given you

conscience for this purpose. He has given you the gospel and the
varied religious institutions for this purpose. He has visited you with
mercies and judgments for this purpose. And in urging your repent-
ance by such means, he has dealt with you in perfect sincerity and
frankness, as well as infinite kindness. The very suspicion of God's
exerting some mysterious and irresistible influence against your repent-
ance is flagrant injustice to his nature as a God of love, and can be re-
garded by him only with infinite displeasure.

The difficulty is not,
3. That religion is a matter in which men have no capacity at all

to act.

They are subjects of God's moral government; and they have all the powers necessary to a perfect moral agency, and a full accountability. The manner in which they are treated by their Sovereign--the manner in which they are addressed throughout the Bible, is evidence of this. Their very consciousness affords decisive evidence of this. The fact that they do constantly act, though they act wrong, is evidence that they have the power of free moral action. You have intelligence, will, and conscience. And such faculties are the foundation of accountability; and while they exist, you can never rid yourself of the obligation to do right. It is your very nature to be active beings; and religion has made all its arrangements in perfect harmony with this feature of your character. Even the grace that brings down the lofti. ness of man, and breaks or melts the heart of stone, and throws into it something of the purity and peace of heaven, never interferes with any thing necessary to a perfect power of free moral action. It can surely aid your action, without suspending your activity. It can allay your prejudice and cnmity, and kindle in your soul the love of God, and lodge a spirit of devoted loyalty in the heart, without prostrating for a moment one intellectual faculty, or interfering a moment with your responsibility. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."

Which leads me to remark,

4. That the difficulty in question lies in the obstinate depravily of the heart.

In proof of this our text is directly in point : “There is no hope : no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go." in a fearfully degenerate state. Their repentance was sought with great urgency. They were alternately invited and warned, blessed and scourged. Prophets bewailed their obduracy.

Jehovah proclaimed their “neck an iron sinew, and their brow brass.” And even themselves perceived, and felt, and frankly confessed their obstinacy. They became fully aware of the great secret of their prolonged apos

Israel was

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tacy. And they fixed the difficulty of conversion to God just where we have said it lies, in the inveterate depravity of the heart. “I have loved strangers, and after them will I go." They felt the justice of God's claims, and the pressure of their obligations. They had resolved, over and over again, to yield to his demand and return to their duty. But they were in bondage to their lusts. They knew and acknowledged it to be a willing captivity; and yet it was so complete and firm as to drive them to utter despair. Without a single apology for their sins, they settled down to the gloomy apprehension, that they might never gain the mastery over their corruptions, and exhibit the character of true penitence at the feet of their Sovereign. They uttered not a syllable concerning any want of knowledge; they had not the most distant suspicion of there being any thing in God's arrangements to embarrass their repentance and salvation; they never dreamt of any defect or incompetency as regards the power of moral action. They frankly acknowledged the true ground of difficulty--they loved strangers ; they had an inveterate aversion to the character, and law, and worship of God.

Here is a plain illustration of the ground on which men of every age have found it hard to be converted and saved. It has been hard just in proportion to the obstinacy of the will, and the strength of their depravity. They have loved themselves; they have loved the world ; and could not part with their idols for God and heaven. The

young ruler loved his possessions; and when called to part with them for Christ, went away grieved. Agrippa loved the parade of royalty ; and could not yield to reason and conscience, though almost persuaded to be a Christian. Felix had his sensual indulgences as well as honors, which he could not relinquish, though convictions of duty and forebodings of wrath pressed upon his mind and urged repentance. The objection with them all lay in the unyielding perverseness of the heart. And it is the precise difficulty every sinner meets when agitating the subject of conversion and eternal life ; and the very difficulty under which thousands of awakened sinners adopt the despairing language of Israel, There is no hope: no.

The subject furnishes lessons of very plain practical instruction. It shows,

1. The reality and nature of thepsinner's dependence in religion.

Israel was in a corrupt and ruinéd state ; and they were led to despair of recovery through their own strength. But not more forlorn was their case than that of a fallen world at large. If ever a sinner is raised from the horrible pit” to holiness and happiness, it is not

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