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brings to the ear the motives to repentance and the message of salvation: it places the man within the hallowed influence of consecrated time and under the droppings of the sanctuary. How many circumstances favorable to salvation, thus cluster round this hallowed day! How appropriately may we apply to it the language of the apostle; "Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation: To day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
There are moreover some seasons in the life of almost every individual, when the kingdom of God, in an especial manner, has come nigh unto him. These cannot all be minutely described, or accurately specified. There are hours of reflection which sometimes arrest the most careless and light hearted in the midst of their thoughtlessness and mirth. The smile passes from the cheek, and is replaced by the sober expression of deep thought. The gush of merriment from the heart is checked, and the flow of solemn reflection succeeds. The tone of laughter dies away on the tongue, and the language of anxious inquiry bursts from the trembling lip. It is an hour of meditation-it may be of solitary meditation. The individual is alone with his God. The witching influence of gay companions is unfelt: the charming notes of the world are unheard and the heart awakes to better feelings, to more serious thought. The Bible may lie within his reach. Almost unconsciously he lays his hand upon it. He opens the sacred page. He reads with unwonted interest and attention. The wandering thoughts that usually haunt him when perusing divine truth, do not disturb him now; but he reads with deep and all-absorbing interest. The word touches his conscience. It may be he has opened to the page, wheron are inscribed "the terrors of the Lord;" and he trembles under the sound or his eye may have rested on the sweet invitations of the gospel, and he half inclines to accept without farther delay: or the touching story of a Savior's love and death may have arrested his attention, and almost melted his yielding heart, and bowed his half subdued will. O! what an hour! How alive with all that is most dear to man! The Spirit's still small voice is wispering to that sinner's heart. It is the harvest time--the summer season with his soul. He has begun to think; he sees his danger: he feels the need of a Savior: he is almost persuaded to be a Christian. But alas! the world rushes in his hour of retirement has past: his season of reflection ended: his Bible is closed and laid aside, and he may weep, when it is too late, that he neglected this favored hour for embracing the offers of the gospel, and securing the salvation of his soul, Besides these seasons in the history of individuals, there are also circum stances, connected with the progress of religion in the world, which render some periods more than usually favorable for seeking God. Jehovah is pleased, at sundry times and in divers places, to bestow an unwonted efficacy upon the means of grace. He sheds down the influences of his Spirit, that fall upon the hearts of his people, as dew and showers upon the face of the earth.— As, after a long drought, all the plants of the field are parched and ready to perish, but revive and bloom in renewed verdure and beauty, under the cool, ing influence of summer showers: so the church, become cold and barren from the long absence of the dews of the Spirit, revives under the opening windows of mercy, and shines forth in more than pristine beauty and grace. The
altars of prayer smoke with the offerings of willing hearts, the clouds of incense roll up to the skies, the tithes are poured into the storehouse, and God opens the windows of heaven and pours down a rich blessing. The shower descends not only on "the sunny hill of Zion," but it waters also all the plain around. Sinners feel its influence. The house of prayer is more frequented. The means of grace are more diligently sought after and prized. The preaching of the word, clothed with "the demonstration of the Spirit and of power," touches the conscience and affects the heart. God himself speaks in his sanctuary. He speaks from the lips of his ministering servants. He encourages their hearts he strengthens their hands and makes them rejoice, as them that labor not in vain, nor spend their strength for naught. By and by the enquiry is heard, What must I do to be saved? It breaks from many lips. Their anxiety has become too overwhelming to allow sinners to sit longer in silence. They must arise and seek the way to Zion. With trembling hearts they set their faces thitherward, with faltering step they press onward, faint, and almost ready to give up the pursuit; till by and by they catch a glimpse of the cross; the eye of faith fastens on a bleeding, dying Savior, and the burden rolls off. Joy takes the place of mourning. The garments of praise are put on for the spirit of heaviness: their tears are dried, and with cheerful rejoicing hearts they unite themselves with the people of God.
Such seasons God has been pleased often to grant to his people. They are as the summer time and the harvest months to the church. But they are also periods of awful responsibility to the sinner, who passes through them unconverted. He has rejected more than ordinary means of grace, has resisted the strivings of the Spirit, and hardened his heart, and closed his ear against the still, small voice of God. He has seen others yielding to the commands and invitations of the gospel. The circle of his friends and companions has been broken up for some, once eager as himself in the pursuits of earth, have forsaken all their old objects of attachment, and chosen Christ. His own heart may have been affected, when he saw them pressing into the kingdom of God; but he has not followed their example. Meanwhile the summer is flying: the harvest is coming rapidly on; the cloud of mercy may soon roll away, the voice of the Spirit be hushed, and the heavenly dove wing its flight; yet he is unconcerned. O! if the whole season of refreshing should pass unimproved, and he be called from earth, ere another such opportunity should visit his soul, how bitter must be his reflections, as, in reverting from a dying bed to the scenes of mercy through which he has lived, he shall mourn, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, but I am not saved."
II. I proceed to notice, secondly, the danger of suffering such special seasons of grace to pass unimproved. My limits will not allow me to dwell upon the topic, nor indeed is it necessary. For a moment's reflection must teach every thinking mind the jeopardy of neglecting such favored hours. It was a neglect of this kind that excluded the foolish virgins from the bridegroom's supper. They neglected to procure the oil for their lamps, till so late an hour, that the doors were forever shut before they were ready to enter. This also robbed Esau of his birthright and blessing. He sought a place for repentance,
but it was too late, and therefore found it not. So it is with sinners under the moral government of God. There are hours of mercy, when they may grasp the promise and make eternal life their own. If these are neglected they must bear the painful consequences. If they waste the fleeting sands of life in frivolous amusements, or unprofitable cares, they will reap accordingly. If the season of youth be devoted to mirth, they cannot complain that old age finds them without stay or staff. If health and reason be frittered away upon trifles, they cannot wonder that the sick-bed and dying pillow should be planted with thorns. If the holy light of the Sabbath beam upon them in vain; if their hours of deep and solemn meditation leave no lasting impression: if the descending influences of God's own Spirit move not to active effort, where is the power that will break their slumber? where the voice that can speak in tones loud enough to awaken them God's from their lethargy? where the influence sweet enough to lure them on to heaven? They surely cannot hope for a more favorable season, when the world shall unbind its chain and leave them unmolested to seek after God. Besides no future hour can find them as they are at present. Every day they continue in sin, they are sinking deeper in the snare, and the chains of ungodly habits ar e riveting upon them. The seasons of mercy, through which they have passed have left some impression. They have been as the rolling tide. If its flow has not set them towards the heavenly shore, its ebb has swept them out farther upon the fathomless deep. The heart of man must receive some impress from all the scenes of human life. God has so constituted it for wise purposes. It must either be hardened or melted under the beams of grace. The wax melts, but the clay hardens under the sun's ray; the reed bends, but the oak grows more inflexible, before the autumnal blast. So when the sun of righteousness beams, the heart that does not melt, hardens; and when the breath of the spirit passes over, the will that does not bow, becomes more obdurate. Here, in a word, lies the danger of neglecting such seasons of spiritual improvement. If neglected, they not only increase the sinner's responsibility and guilt, but they also harden him against the influence of future seasons, and thus leave him in a more hopeless and desperate situation than they found him, and thereby the last state of the man becomes worse than the first.
In leading your minds to the practical remarks, suggested by this subject, I notice, 1. Its application to the young. You, my young friends, are highly favored of God. You have all the means of salvation in your hands, and you are now at that point in your probation, when religion invites your acceptance on the most favorable terms. Cares will multiply, and temptations will increase as you travel onward. O! improve then the present moment, to secure the salvation of the soul. Youth is the time when we lay up knowledge for after life. If a man waste his youth in idleness, it will cost him a mighty effort to repair his loss in after life. Let your youth then be devoted to the persuit of the best of all knowledge-the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, which is life eternal. Suffer this season to pass, and you may sigh in vain, amid the cares of middle life and the weakness of old age, for the leisure of
youth, in which to secure the soul's salvation. Be assured the direction of wisdom, as well as the Bible, is, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth."
2. I notice in the next place, the application of this subject to those impeni. tent sinners, who have passed through revivals of religion unconverted. Yours is indeed a most perilous situation. How many warnings of the Bible, how many admonitions of conscience, how many strivings of the spirit have you resisted! Ah! fellow sinner, would you but pause and reflect on the season of harvest through which you have passed, without gathering any fruit into your garner well might you tremble lest your soul be left portionless in eternity. And has the summer ended, while you are not saved? Can you then be unconcerned? Awake, awake, without delay, lest the winter of death set in upon you unawares, and your hopes be forever quenched in despair. True, you have resisted the mighty operations of God's grace, but still you are spared -still there is space for repentance. O! lift up the heart then in prayer for pardon and like the man who has neglected the most favorable juncture of affairs, use double diligence lest you finally fail of the kingdom of God.
3. The subject speaks a note of warning to every impenitent sinner. These seasons of grace, these hours of mercy are all passing away. The summer is well nigh spent, the harvest is rolling on; he that would reap its fruit, must speedily thrust in his sickle. Life's sands are fast running out; youth, manhood, and age are fleeing like shadows across the plain; the tabernacle is fast crumbling and ready to perish: the Sabbath, with its hallowed privileges, the means of grace, and the refreshings of the Spirit will soon reach us no more. Soon we shall be forever beyond their sound and influence. And are you still in impenitence? Still secure in sin? What madness. Surely your soul is in jeopardy every hour while you delay: for there is but a step between thee and death. O! impenitent sinner what art thou doing? Lay aside thy earthly gold: dash down that cup of pleasure: trample that laurel under thy foot and lay up treasure in heaven, and drink of the water of life, and put on an incorruptible crown. Delay not thy choice, for there's but a moment in which to make thy decision. All these earthly baubles will not quiet the pangs of thy death bed, or alter the terms of the judgment, if on looking back on a mispent life, conscience shall thunder in thy ear-The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and thou art not saved. Not saved! what then hast thou? Not saved! then art thou lost: and "what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul."
BY REV. DAVID MAGIE,
CARELESSNESS ABOUT RELIGION UNREASONABLE. ACTS xviii. 17. And Gallio cared for none of these things.
MAN differs from the beasts that perish, by possessing a capacity for thought and reflection. He alone of all the creatures on earth, is able to contemplate his own destiny, to weigh the consequences of present conduct, and thus to choose the good and refuse the evil. The entire world in which he lives, cannot set limits to his investigations. If so disposed, he can push his researches into Eternity itself, and dwell upon scenes which are to transpire long after his own body shall have been laid away in the dust.
But man is distinct from angels above him, as well as from animals below him, for he has the concerns of two worlds to attend to. His nature is compounded, made up of body and soul, and consequently there are two classes of objects which claim his regard-two interests neither of which he is at liberty to neglect. Besides making provison for a residence on earth, he has upon his hands the more important work of laying up a treasure in heaven. In order to fulfil the high purposes of his existence, he must not only be diligent in this world's business, but fervent in spirit serving the Lord.
By most men, however, one of these interests, and the one too of confessedly greatest moment, is lamentably overlooked. They are careful to prove their newly bought oxen, to examine their recently purchased farms, and to drive forward the affairs of their merchandise, but this is all, or nearly all they think of. Instead of making the salvation of the soul a matter of deep and daily concern, their chief inquiry is, what shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed! That part of their nature which likens them to brutes is provided for, but that which likens them to angels and to God, is forgotten.
Such a man, at least so far as religion is concerned, was Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia. He acted very discreetly, and as an honest, upright judge, in deciding that the difference between Paul and his accusers, was not of a character to require the interposition of any civil court. But we cannot commend his prudence or discretion in "caring for none of these things." As a magistrate he did right in driving the vindictive Jews from his tribunal, but as a man he was deeply in fault for turning from such a subject with a cold and philosophical indifference.
But the thing which has been, is now. In a majority of cases it would seem that the men of our day, do not give to religion enough of care and thought, fairly to ascertain whether it has any special claims to their serious and immediate regard. Speculatively, perhaps, they admit that there is a hell; but they take no pains to avoid that place of torment. They grant that there is a heaven; after all they will not be persuaded to make one persevering effort to gain its bright and unfading crown. Religion floats loosely on the mere surface of the mind, without ever descending to touch the heart, or influence the conduct.
Now, is this carelessness to the interests of the soul, and of the world to come, reasonable? My object is to show that it is not.
1. Religion involves considerations deeply interesting, in themselves consi