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NEGLECT OF WARNINGS.
DEUT. XXXII. 29.
Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that
they would consider their latter end !
There is one great sin, which, nevertheless, may not be amongst the number of those of which we are sensible, and of which our consciences accuse us : and that sin is the neglect of warnings.
It is our duty to consider this life throughout as a probationary state: nor do we ever think truly, or act rightly, but so long as we have this consideration fully before our eyes. Now one character of a state, suited to qualify and prepare rational and improveable creatures for a better state, consists in the warnings which it is constantly giving them; and the providence of God, by placing us in such a state, becomes the author of these warnings. It is his paternal care which admonishes us by and through the events of life and death that pass before us. Therefore it is a sin against Providence to neglect them. It is hardiness and determination in sin ; or it is blindness, which in whole or in part is wilful; or it is giddiness, and levity, and contemptuousness in a subject which admits not of these dispositions towards it, without great offence to God.
A serious man hardly ever passes a day, never a
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But it will be said, that y n us are out of our mind 10 so. Were it that these te world only at large, it
hear of them, or soon se take place where we our-0.3 hers; in our own families;
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the fact. The fact is,
svertheless. Supposing these
warnings to be sent by Providence, or that we believe, and have reason to believe, and ought to believe, that they are so sent, then the aggravation is very great.
We have warnings of every kind. Even youth itself is continually warned, that there is no reliance to be placed, either on strength or constitution or early age : that, if they count upon life as a thing to be reckoned secure for a considerable number of years, they calculate most falsely: and if they act upon this calculation, by allowing themselves in the vices which are incidental to their years, under a notion that it will be long before
, they shall have to answer for them, and before that time come they shall have abundant season for repenting and amending: if they suffer such arguments to enter into their minds, and act upon them, then are they guilty of neglecting God in his warnings. They not only err in point of just reasoning, but they neglect the warnings which God has expressly set before them. Or, if they take upon themselves to consider religion as a thing not made or calculated for them; as much too serious for their years; as made and intended for the old and the dying; at least as what is unnecessary to be entered upon at present, as what may be postponed to a more suitable time of life : whenever they think thus, they think very presumptuously. They are justly chargeable with neglecting warnings. And what is the event? These postponers never enter upon religion at all, in earnest or effectually. That is the end and event of the matter. To account for this, shall we say, that they have so offended God by neglecting his warnings, as to have forfeited his grace ? Certainly we may say that this is not the method of obtaining his grace, and that his grace his necessary to our conversion. Neglecting warnings is not the way to obtain God's
grace: and God's grace is necessary to conversion. The
young, I repeat again, want not warnings. Is it new? is it unheard of? is it not, on the contrary, the intelligence of every week, the experience of every neighbourhood, that young men and young women are cut off?. Man is, in every sense, a flower of the field. The flower is liable to be cut down in its bloom and perfection, as well as in its withering and its decays. So is man: and one probable cause of this ordination of Providence is, that no one of any age may be so confident of life as to allow himself to transgress God's laws; that all of every age may live in constant awe of their Maker.
I do admit, that warnings come the thicker upon us, as we grow old. We have more admonitions both in our remembrances, and in our observations, and of more kinds. A man who has passed a long life has to remember preservations from danger, which ought to inspire him both with thankfulness and caution. Yet I fear we are very deficient in both these qualities. We call our preservations escapes, not preservations ; and so we feel no thankfulness for them : nor do we turn them into religious cautions. When God preserved
he meant to warn us. When such instances, therefore, have no effect upon our minds, we are guilty before God of neglecting his warnings. Most especially if we have occasion to add to all other reasons for gratitude this momentous question, What would have become of us, what would have been our condition, if we had perished in the danger by which our lives were threatened? The parable of the fig-tree (Luke, xiii. verse 6), is a most apt Scripture for persons under the circumstances we have described. When the Lord had said, “ cut it down : why cumbereth it the ground ?”
he was entreated to try it one year longer; and then, if it proved not fruitful, to cut it down. Christ himself there makes the application twice over (verses 3d and 5th), “ except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” If the present, or if the then, state of our conscience and of our souls call up this reflection, then are we very guilty indeed, if such preservations leave no religious impression upon us : or if we suffer the temporary impression to pass off without producing in us a change for the better.
Infirmities, whether they be of health, or of cay, and weakness, are warnings. And it has been asked, with some degree of wonder, why they make so little impression as they do? One chief reason is this: they who have waited for warnings of this kind before they would be converted, have generally waited until they are become hardened in sin. Their habits are fixed. Their character has taken its shape and form. Their disposition is thoroughly infected and invested with sin. When it is come to this case, it is difficult for any call to be heard ; for any warning to operate. It is difficult; but “ with God all things are possible.” If there be the will and the sincere endeavour to reform, the grace of God can give the power. Although, therefore, they who wait for the advances of age, the perception of decay, the probable approach of death, before they turn themselves seriously to religion, have waited much too long, have neglected and despised, and defied many solemn warnings in the course of their lives ; have waited indeed till it be next to impossible that they turn at all from their former ways: yet this is not a reason why they should continue in neglect of the warnings which now press upon them, and which at length they begin to perceive ; but just the contrary.