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cation. Parents will not have their hearts wrung with agony over prodigal children ; nor wives and children be starved and abused by profligate husbands and fathers; and our property and lives will be safe. No person under the influence of gospel principles will rob you of your property or good name, or burn your house, or commit violence upon your person.
The only effectual remedy for the numerous evils we deplore in society then is, the diffusion of a knowledge of the word of Christ. Let the Bible, therefore, be put into the hands of every family. Let competent and faithful ministers of the gospel be stationed in every part of the land, to proclaim, illustrate, and enforce the truths of the Bible. Let the dissemination of religious tracts on important truths of the Bible be generally encouraged. Let means of education be provided for the ignorant and destitute; and in every school let the principles of the Bible be taught and inculcated. Let Sabbath Schools be every where established and patronised: and teachers be faithful to the pupils committed to their charge. Let parents and heads of families be faithful in the religious education of their children and household. Let every thing in society which turns men away from the instructions of the word of Christ, and prejudices and hardens them against them, be discountenanced. And let all these means be used with a sense of dependence on the Holy Spirit to give them efficiency, and with prayer for his influences to accompany them. Such a course will meliorate the character and condition of society, and correct the moral eyils we deplore; and this alone will do it. Every friend of man, therefore—every friend to the peace, order, and happiness of society, will be an efficient friend to institutions for inculcating and diffusing a knowledge of the word of Christ : while, on the other hand, the man who would hinder the influence of Gospel principles, is alike the enemy of his country and his God.
Acts xxiv. 25. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled ; and answered, Go thy way, for this time, when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
Felix was a Roman governor over the province of Judea. Paul was his prisoner, delivered to him by the Jews to be judged. He had already been subjected to a partial trial, but the cause was postponed for a farther hearing. In the mean time, from motives of curiosity, Felix sent for him that he might hear him concerning the faith in Christ. It was on this occasion that Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to
In perusing this portion of sacred history, we are forcibly struck with the boldness and fidelity of this apostle. He was placed in circumstances of no ordinary temptation. Felix was a man of distinction, high in office and authority, and accustomed to be addressed only in the style of the most fulsome adulation. He was a man of profligate character, notorious for his injustice and licentiousness. Paul was his prisoner, and completely in his power. In such circumstances, how powerfully must the apostle have been tempted to humor the prejudices, and flatter the pride of the Roman governor. Had he been governed by the maxims of worldly wisdom, how carefully he would have selected his topic of discourse, how cautiously he would have avoided the least allusion to the vices of Felix, lest he should excite his displeasure, and bring down upon himself the weight of his vengeance. But Paul was not governed by the maxims of worldly wisdom. He acted under the influence of a nobler principle. He knew to whom he was responsible, and he feared God more than man. Duty, in his view, was a higher consideration than personal safety. He never made it his object to please men. To honor God, and to promote the salvation of his fellow-men, were the great objects to which he constantly aimed. Influenced by these motives, he was raised above the fear of man.
He thought little of the perils to which he was exposed. He thought little of the grandeur and dignity of the Roman governor. His mind was occupied by more weighty considerations. He thought of death and judgment, and an eternal state of retribution. He saw before him a sinner doomed to die, and he felt it to be his duty to make one effort to rescue him from the perdition to which he was hastening. He was acquainted with the character of his hearer, and he selected a topic suited to his case. Felix was an oppressor and an extortioner, therefore, he reasoned of righteousness. He laid open the law of God, and showed the obligation which rests upon all men, to do to others as they would that others should do to them. He descanted on the guilt and fearful condemnation of those who disregard the rights of their fellow-men, and who delight in acts of cruelty and oppression. Felix was a libertine. Paul, therefore, reasoned of temperance, or (according to a more literal translation,) of continence. He laid open the law of purity and its awful sanctions. And to enforce his reasonings, he appealed to the judgment to come. He pointed his hearer to that solemn day, when God will judge the world in righteousness, and reward every man according to his deeds.
This solemn and pungent discourse of the apostle was not without effect. Felix trembled. He was pricked in the heart. He felt that he was a sinner justly condemned and exposed to the wrath of Heaven. He saw that he must repent or perish ; and, for the moment, he was half persuaded to abandon his vices and yield to the claims of the gospel. But his proud heart resisted. His corrupt inclinations pleaded for longer indulgence, There was now an awful struggle between his heart and his conscience; and, to end the strife and soothe the pangs of remorse which had seized upon his soul, he resolved to waive the subject for the present promising to give it, at some future time, all due consideration. Accordingly, he said to the apostle, “ Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”
We have no evidence that this convenient season ever arrived, or that the resolution with which he quieted his conscience was ever fulfilled. The probability is, that having resisted the Holy Ghost, he was given over to a reprobate mind, and was suffered to walk in the way of his own heart, and the sight of his own eyes, till he had filled up the measure of his sins.
The experience of Felix, my hearers, has been the experience of thousands. There are few individuals who have enjoyed the privileges of the gospel, upon whose minds the truth has not at times made a powerful impression. Most men have seen the time when they have trembled like Felix. But how many, like him, have yielded to the strength of a sinful inclination, and stifled the convictions of conscience with the promise of future repentance. This disposition to procrastinate a preparation for death is deep-rooted in the human heart, and forms a striking trait in the character of men. It is seen in the child, in the man of middle age, and in the gray-headed sinner. All are looking forward to a more convenient season, and flattering themselves with the hope of future repentance. This is the fatal spell which is ruining the world. It is the deadly opiate which is lulling men into the sleep of death,
It will be my object, in this discourse, 10 urge the duty of immediate repentance. And this I shall do, by presenting to your minds three considerations.
I. Nothing is gained by delay.
I. Nothing is gained by delay. Here permit me to appeal to my impenitent hearers, and to ask, What do you expect to gain?
Do you expect at a future time to be more able to repent than you are at present? What more ability do you need? And what new powers do you expect to possess ? God has endued you with understanding to perceive the rule of duty, with conscience to feel obligation, and with will to choose between good and evil. Possessing these powers, you are complete moral agents, and have all the ability to obey the commands of God, that you ever will have, or ever can have ; and if you cannot repent now, it is certain that you never can.
Do you expect to be more willing to repent at some future time, than you are now? What reason have you to flatter yourselves with this presumption? Do you find that your inclinations are changing for the better? Are your hearts becoming more susceptible of religious impressions, or more open to the influence of evangelical motives? Does continued impenitence tend to break the force of sinful habits, and create a relish for the service of God? On the contrary, are not your hearts daily becoming harder ? is not your aversion to holiness increasing ? and are not your habits in sin becoming more and more inveterate ?
Do you expect that, at a future period, you will find fewer and less powerful temptations to encounter? This is a delusive hope. The adversary will never grow weary in his attempts to ruin you; and the farther you proceed in sin, the more completely you fall under his power. You are
advancing into an enemy's country, and every step you take renders your retreat more difficult and more hazardous.
Do you expect that, at a future period, there will be fewer crosses to take up, in entering upon a religious life? Go, ask the aged ; they will tell you, that crosses multiply as life advances, and that no period, in this respect, is so favorable to the commencement of a religious course as the period of youth.
Do you expect that you shall hereafter find stronger inducements to repent than you do at present? What stronger inducements can be presented to your minds than have already been presented? You are now urged to repentance by all the motives which can be drawn from the world that now is, and that which is to come. You are urged by the command of Jehovah, by the dying love of the Savior, by the scenes of death and judgment, by the glories of heaven, and by the terrors of hell. And is not this enough? Is it not enough to know that you must live for ever; that you are sinners against God, and must repent or perish ; and that the eternal state of your souls depends on the decision which you shall make in this little space of uncertain time? If you are not persuaded by these motives, what motives could influence your minds ?
Do you expect, that at a future period more powerful means will be employed to effect your conversion? What more powerful means
can be employed? You now enjoy all the means which God ordinarily blesses to the salvation of men. The very means which you enjoy, and which you have hitherto resisted, have been made effectual to the salvation of thousands. You have the Bible in your hands, you have heard the gospel preached from your childhood, and you have been warned by solemn and affecting dispensations of Divine Providence. If these means produce no effect upon your minds, you have no reason to suppose that any means will be effectual. No—" If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”.
Do you expect that God will hereafter be more willing to save you? Can you
flatter yourselves with such a vain delusion? Can you believe, that persisting in a course of disobedience is the way to propitiate the Divine favor, and to render God willing to save you? Is he not of “
purer eyes than to behold iniquity ?" and has he not declared that he is “ angry with the wicked every day?" Depend on it, God will never be more willing to save you than he is now. - Behold, vow is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. Today, il ye will hear his voice, harden noi your hearts. Come, for all things are now ready.” God is willing to save you now: but that he will be hereafter you have no evidence. Before to-morrow your probation