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AN ADDRESS TO PRACTICAL UNBELIEVERS.
PROFESSED infidels are doubtless few, when compared with those who are practically such; that is, those who, while they profess to believe in the truth of divine revelation, yet in works deny it, and contradict their profession. Which is the most odious character in the sight of God, I will not undertake to say; but the professed infidel is certainly the most consistent character, as his practice corresponds to his professed belief. Practical unbelievers profess to believe in the scriptures as a revelation proceeding from God; how inconsistent then is their conduct! and, if their profes. sed belief be well grounded, how awfully dangerous is their condition!
Permit me with plainness to address such. Those scriptures which you profess to believe as divinely true, declare, that “ except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Can you then rest in an unregenerate state, and give yourselves no concern, while you are sensible that you are in this state, and have never experienced the renewing influences of the Spirit of God? These scriptures again declare, that, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” and “ he that believeth not shall be damned.” And can you, acknowledging that you believe this, yet live in security without having repented of your sins, with such a repentance as the scriptures require; and by faith, a faith which works by love, and brings forth fruits of holiness in the life, embrace the Lord Jesus Christ? The scriptures declare to us, that “ without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.” What, then, according to your own belief, will become of you,
who neither practise nor love holiness?
You profess to believe yourselves constantly under the all-seeing eye of a holy and jealous God, who is a consuming fire unto the workers of iniquity, and who hath delared that “there is no peace to the wicked;" and accountable to him for all your actions. Can you, with such a belief, provoke him from day to day with your unlawful deeds? Such conduct put into words, how would it speak? Lord I believe, that I am constantly under thine observation, that thou art a holy, sin-hating, and sin-punishing God, and that thou wilt bring me into judgment, and punish me for mine iniquities; but, nevertheless, I will still continue in sin, dare thy power, and tempt thy vengeance. How inconsistent, and how shocking is such conduct!
You profess to believe in the immortality of your souls, that there is a future state of eternal happiness and misery, and that
in a few years at most, and perhaps in a few days, you must visit this eternal world, stand at the bar of God, and receive your irreversible sentence; and yet you are entirely absorbed in the things of this world, to the neglect of eternity!
The scriptures represent to us a heaven of unutterable bliss, and, notwithstanding all the glorious representations given, declare, that “ eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” You acknowledge a belief of these things, and yet by your actions prove that you disregard them as much as if they were idle tales. Do you believe that there is a hell of torment, in which God will eternally confine the wicked, and that here, as the scriptures represent, their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched; that from hence the smoke of the torment of its miserable inhabitants, “ ascendeth up for ever and ever,” and that they have no rest day nor night, but shall drink of the wine of the wrath of almighty God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation? Do you believe these things, and yet, in defiance of this belief and all these horrors, sustain the very characters which the scriptures teach, shall have their eternal portion in this place of torment? How is such a belief, and such a character, to be reconciled with your being rational creatures?
The scriptures declare, “ that neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God:” they declare, that “the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” You profess to believe the scriptures to be true. Out of your own mouth therefore are you judged, and, according to your own professed belief, you fornicators, you adulterers, you thieves, you covetous, you drunkards, you revilers, you extortioners, you profane swearers, you have no title to the kingdom of God.
What awful inconsistencies of character do you practical unbelievers sustain, and, according to your own professed belief, how dangerous must be your situation! To what shall you be exhorted? to become infidels in profession as well as practice? contradict reason? counteract conscience? persuade yourselves that there is no hereafter? that death is an eternal sleep? Ah! it is in this fatal manner, that practical unbelievers too often seek to escape from that mental uneasiness, which is produced by a life at war with their principles. But as you value your souls, take the course which is the opposite of this. Instead of striving to accomodate your principles to your life, conform your life to your principles. It is your practice, and not your faith, that requires to be altered: Let your conduct and your creed be rendered harmonious, by acting as you believe. You believe the scriptures; act agreeably to them, and you shall have that “ peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” But delay not this important change, lest the opportunity to make it be lost forever. The mansions of eternal woe are peopled with delaying sinners. Fervently implore the assistance of God, and, in his strength, without the loss of a moment, enter on the discharge of your duty. “ Kiss the the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
TIE NECESSITY OF REPENTANCE, IN ORDER TO ENJOY THE
HAPPINESS OF HEAVEN.
Christ declares, that “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The original word for repentance (ustavoc) signifies a change of mind. Hence, repentance may be defined to be a change of mind or disposition, and from this will flow as its fruit a change of conduct. True evangelical repentance, therefore, is a holy change of mind, accompanied with a correspondent holy change in the conduct. The true penitent sorrows for, hates, and forsakes sin ; he loves and follows after holiness.
Such a change of heart and life, is absolutely necessary in order to be admitted to the happiness of heaven. It is an incontrovertible truth, that God is a holy God, that heaven and all its enjoyments are holy, and that nothing that defileth shall enter there. It is, moreover, a dictate of reason and experience, that there is a necessary connexion between a relish for any enjoyment, and deriving happiness from that enjoyment. We cannot take pleasure in a feast, let it be ever so sumptuous, if through sickness or the want of appetite we loathe it. Hence, our reason teaches us, that a holy nature is absolutely necessary, in order to derive bappiness from holy enjoyments. We must have an appetite for holiness, we must love it, our supreme delight must be placed in holy enjoyment; and, by consequence, we must hate sin and sinful enjoyments before we can, agreeably to all the dictates of reason and experience, enjoy the happiness of heaven. Does impenitent man, then, possess a holy nature? Are holy exercises and enjoyments, the love, the service, and fruition of God, his supreme happiness? or is the reverse the fact? If the former be true, that man naturally, and without repentance, places his supreme felicity in the love, service, and enjoyment of God, then there can be no necessity of repentance; but if the latter be true, then it must inevitably follow, that without repentance or a change of disposition and practice, he cannot be happy in heaven. Without consuming time in detailing proof, we may confidently assert, that this is a truth abundantly evident from the word of God, and confirmed by history and observation; that in our natural state we do not love, but on the contrary hate, holiness; have no desire of communion with God, nor take delight in serving and enjoying him. The conclusion is obvious, that we must repent; we must hate what we now love, and love, delight, and place our supreme felicity in exercises and enjoyments which we now hate, before we can be admitted into heaven, or be happy there. We are not only, while impenitent, unworthy a seat in those blissful mansions; but entirely unfit, and absolutely disqualified for it; so that we could not be happy, even if admitted there.
This is an important matter, which merits our most serious consideration. Many fancy they are going to heaven; that is, they have a hope of it, let them live here as they please. But unless they repent, it will be to hell, let them go where they will. Were it possible for them to force the gates of heaven, even there they would find hell.
Let us, for a moment, suppose it possible that without repentance, and, consequently, without a relish for holy exercises and enjoyments, we could be admitted into heaven ; from the nature of things, can we suppose that we should enjoy any happiness there? No! our sinful appetites would loathe the holy food, and we must pine away at the heavenly feast. The chief happiness of heaven consists in communion with God. “ Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Could those enjoy communion with God who do not love him? How could those who now esteem the law of God an intolerable restraint, and his service a grievous burden, be happy in being entirely subjected to this law, and forever engaged in his service? How could those be happy in the immediate presence of God, who now hate to think of him? The nature of sin is to make us flee from God; thus Adam when he had sinned, bid himself in the garden from the presence of the Lord. A sight of the spotless purity of Jehovah, in contrast with his own sinful defilement, would overwhelm the sinner, and make the bottomless pit comparatively a desirable refuge. God has appointed one day in seven as a Sabbath, and has commanded us to keep it holy; but how many are there that cannot endure to spend one day in seven even in atteinpting holy exercises, in convers. Vol. II.
ing with God and their own souls? Is it reasonable that such could be happy in keeping an eternal Sabbath holy to the Lord? Are there not many who seldom or never bow the knee at the throne of God's grace, and who esteem his worship an irksome task? Could such be happy in prostrating themselves in humble adoration before the throne of his glory, and forever employing themselves in his worship and service?
Instances of this kind might be multiplied, but these are sufficient to show the fallacy of the hope which many persons entertain about their happiness in a future state. It is the voice of reason, as well as inspiration, “ that without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” and that except ye repent with such a repentance as includes a change of mind, a love of God and holiness, and a hatred of sin, ye must perish.
OF APOSTATE ANGELS.
No. III. In a state of warfare, it is of great consequence to be able to ascertain the resources and strength, the number and views of those to whom we are opposed. The christian fights under the banners of the Captain of Salvation, and must dispute every inch of ground. “ His adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.”
Fallen Angels, who are the enemies of men, were created, originally, with the powers, the honours, and the purity of those who stood. Their fall, although no where fully narrated, is every where supposed, and clearly demonstrable from the word of God. The prophets, describing the disgrace and ruin which they beheld gathering in thick tempestuous clouds around wicked princes, drew allusions from the disgrace and ruin which had overwhelmed apostate angels in irreparable destruction. “ Angels” are mentioned by the apostle Jude, as beings, “ who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation.” The apostle Peter assures us, that “ God spared not the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." An expression of scripture, denominating the evil one, “ the prince of the power of the air,” gives countenance to a Jewish tradition, that the air is inhabited by fallen spirits, who there range at large, pursuing their pernicious purposes. This, however, is perfectly consistent with the other declaracion.