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and the impenitent, before his Judge, must be 6 speechless."
Let us come to experience. Of all kinds of knowledge that which is gained by trial and practice is the most certain, and, it should seem, there lies no appeal from our own experiments. We will then examine our subject in the experience of three sorts of sinners. In the first instance we inquire of a true and real penitent. He once lived in sin, as some of you do now. He now lives in the daily exercise of faith and repentance, and he well remembers the whole history of his own life. Had you, good man,
first discovered your condition, any thing to say in your own defence? In that day when a judgment-seat was erected in your own bosom, when your sin was 6 set in order before your eyes,'
,” when reason, and religion, and conscience would be heard, had you any excuse fit to be urged in your own behalf? On the contrary, wast thou not "confounded," and didst thou not determine
never to open thy mouth any more because of thy shame?” There was no thunder and lightning, no diseases and death, no 66 heaven and earth fleeing away," no “dead standing before God," no “great white throne,” no 6 books opening,” no “lake of fire ;" there was nothing but the cool exercise of reason and conscience, and yet you 5 sat alone and kept silence,” and ** put your mouth in the dust, if so be there might be hope. And yet you was a young man, in perfect health, with a long life before you to be filled up with good actions : but if you were “speechless," if you could find neither a reason for continuing to sin, nor an apology for having dared to do so, how is it possible that impenitent men should have any thing to say in their own behalf at the day of judgment?
Examine a second class of signers, who, to use the language of a Prophet, are taken, and are 66 ashamed as the thief is ashamed when he is found." Hear Pharaoh after all his vain boasting : “ Moses, I have sinned. The Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat him that there be no more thunder, and I will let you go.” This a true picture of many a sinner in a
storm. In a fine day, “ Who is the Lord that I should serve him? I know not the Lord, neither will I obey his voice. In a tempest, when the severlasting king bringeth forth lightnings, and rain, and wind out of his treasures, the heathen are dismayed at the signs of heaven," and then, “ call Moses and Aaron ; the Lord is righteous, and we are wicked.” What? Is the Lord more righteous, more powerful in a tempest than in a fine day? Is not wickedness as reasonable in a storm as in a calm ? Are not 'thunderings and lightnings guardians and protectors of reason? The sinner, in spite of his pretended ignorance knows they are, and trembles for himself, because he is in an unreasonable state. This is not being speechless : this is worse: this is pronouncing sentence on himself. Observe Belshazzar at a “ great feast, drinking wine” with 6 a thousand of his lords, and his wives, and concubines,” and singing profåne songs in honour of idolatry and debauchery. A hand writes three words in unknown characters on the wall, and he becomes “ speechless." 66 The king's coun. tenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.” Observe Judas. pented himself,” carried back the price of his treachery, said, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood, and departed, and went and hanged himself." There are a few such cases recorded, and they may serve to direct us in regard to other cases not recorded, and whether the consciences of sinners be awakened in this world or not, they serve to convince us, that whenever conscience doth awake, it will perform the same just but dreadful office; so true is that saying, “ The wicked shall be silent in darkness, for by strength shall no man prevail.” Let us not deceive ourselves : we may escape in this life, but at the last day a voice more terrible than the thunder that roused Pharaoh, recollection more keen than that of Judas, a hand more powerful than that which wrote the sentence of Belshazzar, will publish to every impenitent sinner, " Thou,” thou also 66 art weighed in the balances and art found wanting. Thou hast not humbled thine heart, though thou
kpowest all this : the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.” If such men as Belshazzar aud Pharaoh be struck dumb, what can he say, who hath lived under the light of the Gospel ? Certainly he will be speechless."
Once more, consult your own experience, if indeed you have ever attended to what passes in your own bo
Even men who live in sin, have moments of reflection, and, we may venture to affirm, the language of all such reflections is, “ O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of face, because we have sinned against thee. Evil is come upon us, yet made we not our prayer before God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand thy truth." Where is the man, who can stand up and justify a life of sin? Who would be so rash as to aggravate his offences by attributing wicked actions to righteous principles ? On what dangerous ground must a man go, who endeavours to reason in favour of a judge, who should give the rewards of virtue to a wilful sinner: who should
to an ignorant and wicked wretch, in the last day, in the hearing of the whole world, “ Well done,” blind blasphemer; well done, " covetous, boasters, proud, fierce, despisers of those that are good ;" well done, “ traitors, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God;" well done, " wicked and slothful servants,” you have borne a noble testimony to truth; I am an hard man, I do reap where I sowed not,” you “ought” not “ to have put my money to the exchangers, enter” you “ into the joy of your Lord!" Such a perversion of justice as this might open your mouths; but it would strike all heaven dumb, and every angel and every good man would be “speechless!” There was a proverb among the Jews of great meaning, and it was sometimes used by wicked people: " Had Zimri peace, who slew his master ??! So Jezebel said to Jehu, and Jehu might have properly retorted, Had Jezebel peace, who slew Naboth ? Had Ahab peace, who 5 did sell himself to work wickedness” as 16. Jezebel, his wife, stirred him
?” Hath any man peace in the practice of sin ? Hear a decision once for all. “ The wicked man travelleth with pain all bis days. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt."
Let us not resist the kind intention of Jesus Christ in describing the hopeless condition of an incorrigible sinner at the last day; for he meant, by describing the horror of such a state, to excite us to avoid it. Such is the love of God to us, that he hath addressed the whole Scripture to our senses, and reason, and feelings, in order to engage self-love in the cause of truth and goodness. Let us profit by this dispensation of mercy, and to this purpose, let us simplify the present subject, by so stating it that it may be understood, and by so enforcing it that its motives may be felt now upon the spot without delay.
We affirm, incorrigible sinners will be without excuse at the last day. The last day seems a great way off, and excuses are doubtful ; let us therefore fix the excuse, and prove that incorrigible sinners are inexcusable now. When the servants in the Parable said, " Come, for all things are now ready, they all with one consent began to make excuse." We said, such people were inexcusable. Why? What is required of them? Strictly speaking, you are not required to obtain the end, but only to make use of the means. God hath connected the means and the end: the first is our duty, the last comes of course. God requires us to examine the Gospel whether it be worthy of credit: if we examine the Gospel impartially, we believe it: if we believe, we obey : if we obey, obedience is pleasant, and we persevere : if we persevere, we “ receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.” The proper language therefore of excuse is, Excuse my not examining the Gospel ; excuse my not so much as trying the truth or falsehood of it, and do not tax me with injustice or imprudence for my conduct. We do not think it is in the power of any man to examine fairly the Gospel of Christ, and coolly to aflirm, that there is not even a likelihood of its being true. Now if the Gospel be only likely to be true, we are able to prove that we are bound by every tie of justice and prudence to make it
the rule of our faith and practice. Yes, if we are not able to prove the truth and goodness of the Gospel beyond all possibility of suspicion and doubt, and if we could only prove that it was very likely to be true; even in this case all rules of prudence would join to render the negligent inexcusable. If it be likely, that I at the last day should be in the “ speechless” condition of the man without the 6 wedding garment,” I ought to do every thing in my power to avoid a condition so shameful. The man, who says, the Gospel is not at all probable, hath not examined it, and we defy him to show any tolerable reason why he censures what he hath not examined. We do not say, he will be inexcusable at the last day; we say he is inexcusable now. To convince you of this, let us hear him.
This is the language, “ I pray thee have me excused: I have bought a piece of ground: I have bought five yoke of oxen: I have married a wife :" I am engaged in the necessary affairs of life, " and therefore I cannot
There are two things remarkable in these excuses; the one is, that people of this sort pretend to act on principles, and assign reasons for their conduct: the other is, that the reasons assigned are true facts, but imply a falsehood, by supposing the duties of religion to be inconsistent with the duties of life. Doth religion refuse a liberty of marrying? No: “marriage is honourable in all.” Doth religion refuse to allow time for attention to business? No: “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds, for riches are not forever.” There are two sorts of employments in life, the first lawful, the last unlawful. There is nothing in religion inconsistent with lawful business; but on the contrary, religion is necessary to the dispatch of it. Surely an industrious, sober, frugal, just, and pious man is better prepared to discharge all the duties of life than a man of opposite character. Religion indeed is inconsistent with unlawful business : but so is reason, common sense, and the good of society. If a man says, “ I pray thee have me excused, for I must needs go" and defraud a minor, rob a widow, remove a land-mark, intoxicate one neigh