« VorigeDoorgaan »
sified those promises which you have made to your God; who have turned back to the paths of vanity and sin. Oh! with what terrible certainty do such prove that conviction does not always terminate in a true conversion!
And suppose not, my brethren, that it is improper to attribute these fading convictions to the Spirit of .God. "Wherever they fail," I here use the words of the excellent Dr. Owen,* "Wherever they fail, and come short of that real conversion to which they have a tendency, it is not from any weakness and imperfection in themselves, but from the sins of those in whom they are wrought. Common illumination and conviction of sin have a tendency unto sincere conversion. They have so, in the same kind as the law hath to bring us to Christ. Where this end is not attained, it is always from the interposition of an act of stubbornness and wilfulness in those enlightened and convicted. By a free act of their own will, they refuse the grace which is further tendered to them in the gospel."
IV. What are the chief points of distinction between those legal convictions which have been experienced by many who are lost, and those evangelical convictions that are peculiar to the children of God? A legal conviction arises from a sense of God's justice, and power, and omniscience. He who feels it, cries out, I have exasperated that justice which burns to the lowest hell; I have offended that terrible majesty from which I cannot flee; I have sinned before Him who, every where present, has seen and marked all my transgressions.' All this is
felt by him who is under evangelical conviction; but his chief sorrow arises from the consideration of other attributes of God: the divine goodness, holiness, and disaffection to sin. He exclaims, I have abused the tenderness of a Father, and outraged infinite goodness; I have offended purity, which would have sanctified me; and indulged in that which is the object of God's displeasure.' The one traces the malignity of sin principally by itstendency to produce the death of the soul, and in the agonies of the lost; the other chiefly studies it in the sufferings and death of the Son of God. The one is burdened with the fear of punishment, the other with the sense of his desert of it. The one groans under the presages of wrath, the other at his want of holiness. The one cries, There is not a beam of mercy;' the other, There is not a spark of grace.' The one anxiously looks around for immediate comfort; sometimes seeking it from the world, sometimes endeavouring to stupify his conscience by sinful diversion, sometimes applying to himself a promise in which he has no concern, and thus extracting poison from a flower of paradise: the other, though he longs for comfort, will receive it only from that Spirit who first convinced him of sin; smitten by the law, he will be healed only by the gospel; his eye, like Heman's, is fixed upon the God of salvation; the joys of the world cannot satisfy him; the good opinion of others is insufficient for his peace; he waits God's leisure, and carefully examines whether the comfort offered him in the word belongs indeed unto him. The one endures but for a season; legal conviction is like an earthquake by which the world is shaken for a time, after which it returns to its former stability: the other is perma
nent. Evangelical conviction never leaves us while we remain upon earth. It shall never leave the Christian till he casts aside the body of flesh, and in heaven sings the praises of his Redeemer.
1. This subject teaches us the deep guilt of those who strive to stifle those convictions of sin that are produced in the hearts of their acquaintance and friends. Such persons "do despite to the Spirit of grace," and unite with the prince of darkness in opposition to God and the souls of men. You may succeed; by derision, by reproach, by seduction, you may quench the light which begins to break upon the soul of your awakened companion; you may lead him to perdition; but you shall have your reward: in the judgment-day his blood shall be required at your hands, and through eternity he will pursue you with his curses for the irreparable injury you have done unto him.
2. This subject tenderly and solemnly admonishes those who have stifled the convictions which they once felt. Unhappy men! you once appeared "not far from the kingdom of heaven; you once excited our expectations that you would abandon your disgraceful servitude to sin and Satan, and devote yourselves to the Lord. But though the Spirit showed a readiness to heal you, you have slighted him; though he spoke to you with authority from heaven, yet you drowned his voice; though he moved upon your heart, yet you resisted his influences; and you now stand upon your murdered convictions, declaring by your conduct that you will retain your sins, and that you will not regard any thing that God saith against them, though he speak to you in all the majesty of his glory, and appear before you armed with his thunders. Unhappy
men! you have trifled with him through whose influences alone you can be rescued from guilt and misery, and the probability of your final perdition is much greater than it was before you quenched the Holy Spirit.
3. This subject consoles and admonishes those who are under convictions of sin. Fear not the pangs of godly sorrow; it is the Spirit of grace who convinces you, that he may be your Comforter. Though you are pained, it is by him who is love and tenderness: he might have abandoned you to hardness of heart, till you were plunged into despair. The wounds of your heart, and the tears which you shed, are a proof that he has not entirely forsaken you. Feel that your present situation is most solemn the convictions of the Spirit will end in sound conversion, or a curse. Still wait upon God without murmuring, if he does not immediately bestow comforts; he has long waited upon you. Look to the same kind Spirit who has wounded you to heal you; supplicate for renewing as well as comforting grace: without a divine nature, there will be no divine peace. Beware of false opinions: men in distress of mind, like persons drowning and catching at every thing that promises relief, are ready to embrace sentiments that promise them refreshment, which are unwarranted by the word of God, and which in their cooler moments they would reject. Beware of unbelieving hearts and unbelieving friends; they are, to persons in your situation, evil counsellors and miserable comforters. Beware of the temptations of Satan, who, as he formerly attempted to lull you to security, now will bid you despair. Beware of substituting your performances in the place of the Redeemer, and seeking peace
from a formal round of duties, instead of the blood of atonement. Still persevere, and the Spirit who now applies the law to your conscience, will show you the grace of the gospel.
VOICE FROM THE TOMB.
HEBREWS xi. 4.
He being dead, yet speaketh.
It is of Abel, the first of the human race who fell beneath the stroke of death, that St. Paul makes this declaration. He was the comfort and the hope of his parents; on him their heart and their expectations were fixed. They fondly believed that he would yet live long upon the earth; that he would cheer them amidst the infirmities of age; that he would watch by them in their closing hours, smooth the pillow of sickness and of pain, and perform for them the last sad offices of affection. But soon were these dear anticipations withered; early were these cheering hopes blasted for ever. For in the bloom of life, in the vigour of his powers, he was torn from their reluctant arms, and they left to bend in anguish