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Do I deceive myself, my brethren ? I think I see the audience quicken their attention. This last reflection seems to suit the taste of most of my hearers. I think,1 perceive, some reaching the right band of fellowship to me, and congratulating me for publickly abjuring this day a gloomy and melancholy morality, more likely to drive sinners to despair than to reclaim them.
How, my brethren, have we preached to you so many years, and you after all so little acquainted with us as to imagine that we have proposed this reflection with any other design than thai of shewing you the folly of it? Or rather are you so little acquainted with your religion, with the spirit of the gospel in general, and with that of my text in particular, as to derive consequences diametrically opposite to the design of inspired writers? And where, pray, are these barbarous men ? Where are these messengers of vengeance and terrors ? Where are the casuists, whose maxims render the road to eternal life inaccessible? Who are the men, who ihus excite your anger and indignation? What! Is it the man, who hath spent fifty or sixty years in examining the human heart; the man who assures you that after a thousand diligent and accurate investigations, he finds impenetrable depths of deception in the heart; the man, who from the difficulty of his own examinations derives arguments to engage you not to be satisfied with a superficial knowledge of your conscience, but to carry the light of the gospel into the darkest recesses of your heart; the man, who advises you over and over again that if you content yourselves with a slight knowledge of yourselves, you must be subject to ten thousand illusions, that you will take the semblance of repentance for repentance itself, that you will think yourselves rich and increased with goods, while you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, Rev. iii. 17. Is this the rigid casuist, who offends and irritates you ?
Perhaps it is the man, who tells you that, in order to assure yourselves that you are in a state of grace, you must love God with an esteen of preference, which will engage you to obey him before all his creatures; the man, who, judging by innumerable evidences that you prefer serving the creature more than the Creator, Rom. i. 25. concludes from this sad phenomenon that you have reason to tremble: The man, who advises you to spend at least one week in recollection and retirement before you partake of the Lord's supper: the man, who would have you purify your hands from the blood of your brethren, and your heart burning with hatred and vengeance, and on that account placed in a catalogue of murderers' hearts, according to the spirit of the gospel: the man, who forbids you to come to the Lord's supper while your wicked courses are only suspended instead of being reformed, and while your cruel csactions are only delayed instead of being entirely left off? Perhaps this is the man! Is this the rigid casuist, who offends and irritates you?
Or, probably, it is the man who hath attended you three, four, or balf a dozen times in fits of sickness, who then saw you covered with tears, every time acknowledging your sins, and always calling heaven and earth to witness your sincere intention to reform, and to change your conduct, but who hath always seen you immediately on your recovery return to your former course of life, as if you had never shed a tear, never put up a prayer, never made a resolution, never appealed to heaven to attest your sincerity: the man, who concludes from such sad events as these that the resolutions of sick and dying people ought always to be considered as extremely suspicious ; the man, who tells you that during all his long and constant attendance on the sick he hath seldom seen one converted on a sick bed (for our parts, my brethren we are mournsul guarantees of this awful fact) the man alarmed at these frightful examples, and slow to publish the grace of God to dying people of a certain class; I say, probably, this is the man, who offends you! Is not this the cruel casuist, who provokes you ?
What! Is it the man, who sees the sentence of death written in your face, and your house of clay just going to sink, to whom you appear more like a skeleton than a living body, and who fears every morning lest some messenger should inforın him that you was found dead in your bed, who fears all this from your own complaints, what am I saying ? from your own complexion, from the alarms of your friends, and from the terrors of your own family ; the man who is shocked to see that all this makes po impression upon you, but that you live a life of dissipation and security, which would be unpardonable in a man, whose firm health might seem to promise him a long life; the man who cries to you, awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light, Eph. i. 11. improve the remainder of life, the breath wbich, though it leaves thee to totter, prevents thy falling down dead. Is this the man, the rigid casuist who offends and irritates you ? Such maxims, such discourses, such books, such sermons, are they the systems of morality, which confound you, and drive you to despair ?
After all, where are the sinners, whom these casuists have driven to despair? Where are those tormented and distracted consciences ? For my part, I see nothing, turn my eyes which way I will, but a deep sleep. I see nothing but security, lethargy, insensibility. How is it possible that the history of our text, that the language of Jesus Christ, Woman, thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace, that the voice of eternal truth should incline you to raise objections full of error and illusion ? Is there no difference between your case and that of this penitent woman, none between Jesus Christ and your casuists? Is there any thing in which they agree? The cascist conversing with this penitent was a prophet, a prophet! he was a God, who searched the reins and the hearts, who saw the bottom of her soul, and who penetrated through all the vails, with wbich a frail human heart is covered, and beheld the truth of her conversion and the genuineness of her grief: but you, my brethren, you have no such casuists, and we can judge only by external performances, which ascertain your state only on condition that they proceed from your heart. Our penitent lay prostrate at the feet of the Lord of religion, who could save her if he pleased, by extraordinary means, and who could deliver her from death and hell by a singular effort of power not to be repeated : but your casuists are servaots, who act by commission, under express directions and orders, and who have no right to announce peace till you answer the description given in the royal instrument. Such ministers, whatever assurances of grace and pardon they affect to give, ought never to calm your consciences till you have exactly conformed to the orders of their and your sovereign master. Our penitent came to ask pardon in a free and voluntary manner, while she was in perfect health, all her actions were unconstrained and spontaneous : but you wait till death hales you to the tribunal of Gud, you loiter till the fear of eternal flames fright you away from such pleasures as you continue to love, and to which you would most likely return again, did not God spare you the shame by not giving you an opportunity. The penitent in our text did all she could in her circumstances to express the truth of her repentance, there was no sacrifice so dear that she did not offer, no victim so valuable that she did not stab, if I may use such an expression, with the knife of repentance, no passion so inveterate that she did not eradicate, no marks of love for her Saviour so tender that she did not with all liberality express. Behold her eyes flowing with tears over the feet of Jesus Christ, behold her hair dishevelled, her perfumes poured out, behold all the characters of sincerity, which we have observed in our first part. Is there any one mark of a true conversion, which she does not bear? But you, how many artifices have you ? How many actions of your lives, which we must not be allowed to state to you in the true point of light ? How mamy tempers in your hearts, which must not yet be touched ? Here, it is an enemy, the bare sound of whose name would increase your fever, and hasten your death. There it is an iniquitous acquisition, which you reserve for your son to enable him to take your name with greater honour, and to support with more dignity that vain parade, or rather that dost and smoke in which you have all your life involved yourself. Our penitent dever deceived Jesus Christ : but you have deceived your friend a thousand and a thousand times. Our penitent wept over the odious parts of her life, and, far from being too proud to confess her sins, gloried in her confession while she blushed for her crimes; but your eyes, on the contrary, your eyes are yet dry, and it is Jesus Christ, who is yet weeping at your feet, it is he, who is shedding tears over you, as formerly over Jerusalem, it is he who is saying, O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! Luke xix. 42. Psal. lxxxi. 13. It is not then to you, but it is to your kind of repentance that sentences of absolution ought to be refused. The repentance of the unchaste woman was exactly conformable to the covenant of grace, to the genius of the gospel, and to the end of the mission of Jesus Christ. Hence from the mouth of the Saviour of the world proceeded, in spite of her former libertinism, in spite of the cruel censure of the pharisee, and in spite of the murmuring of the guests, these comfortable words, Woman, thy sins are forgiven thee. Woman, thy faith hath saved thee. Go, depart in peace.
Here, my brethren, the evangelist finishes the history of the penitent woman; and here we will finish this discourse. There is, however, one circumstance, which St. Luke hath omitted, and
which, if I may yenture to say so, I wish he had recorded in the most severe and circumstantial inanner. What were the future sentiments of this woman after the courageous steps she had taken at her setting out? What emotions did absolution produce in her soul? What effects in her conscience did this language of the Saviour of the world cause, Woman, thy sins are forgiven-thy faith hath saved thee-go in peace! But there is nothing in this silence that ought to surprize us. Her joy was not a circumstance that came under the notice of the historian. In the heart of this frail woman converted and reconciled to God lay this mystery concealed. There was that peace of God which passeth all understanding, that joy unspeakable and full of glory, that white stone, and that new name which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. May you receive it, my brethren, that you may know it ! May the grief of a lively and bitter repentance wound your bearts, that mercy may heal and comfort them, and fill them with pleasure and joy! God grant us this grace! To him be honour and glory forever. Amen.
OF WILLIAM COLLIER.
Respected Brethren and Friends,
THE season of the year at which this Society celebrates its Anniversary, is calculated to impress our minds with a sense of the frailty of life and of our accountability at the judgment seat of JESUS CHRIST, when our existence will no longer be marked by the commencement or close of years. Since our last meeting an important portion of that precious time allotted to us on earth has passed away-it is gone forever! And how little the knowledge of Redemption which we have acquired? And how little, comparatively, have we done to promote that koowledge among our fellow creatures, the year past? But, although we have much to confess and lament on our part, we have much more to be grateful for on the part of our kind preserver and gracious Benefactor. We are mortal! All flesh is as grass. God is eternal. The word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
It is for the promotion, especially among the poor and wretched, of such a gospel as this; a gospel which involves our persooal, domestic and civil interests, in their highest possible consideration, that we are convened in this place on this occasion. The report of my labours communicated to the Society at their adjourned meet ing on the 12th of February, 1822, was, with the approbation of the directors, published in the Christian Watchman, on the 4th and 11th days of last May. Several ministering brethren, and others, have spoken to me of that publication in terms calculated to cncourage labours of this kind, as being, especially, useful among the poor and ignorant inhabitants of such a city as this. Early in the spring of last year the Rev. Amos BINGHAM engaged in ministerial labours under the patronage of the Boston Society for Missionary purposes ; and it was their wish that we should be united in our services as much as circumstances in Divine proridence would permit. Accordingly on the 15th day of March, I commenced my labours in connexion with that faithful and industrious minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our attention was directed particularly to the west part of the city. There we became acquainted with a Mr. , with whom we deposited a considerable num