« EdellinenJatka »
to you ; and though, through a discipline of too much lenity, they escape excommunication, yet never can they escape the anathemas, which God in his word denounces against unworthy communicants.
We mean here people of another character. It is he, among christians, who doth not live in the practice of all sins, but who doth reserve some, and some of those which, says the gospel, they who commit shall not inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. vi. 10. This man doth not with a brutal madness.commit such crimes as harden him beyond reflection and remorse, but he hath a sincere desire to a certain degree to correct himself. He takes time enough to prepare himself for the Lord's supper, and then he examines his conscience, me ditates on the great truths of religion, the justice of its laws, the holiness of every part, and the rich present, which God bestowed on the church in the person of his own Son. He is affected with these objects, he applies these truths to himself, he promises God to reform : but, a few days after the communion, he not only falls into one or two vi. cious actions, but he gives himself up to a vicious habit, and persists in it till the next communion, when he goes over again the same exercises of devotion, which end again in the same vices, and so his whole life is a continual round of sin and repentance, repentance and sin. This is a second sort of people, whose devotions are transient.
3. But, of all devotions of this kind, that, which needs describing the most, because it comes nearest to true piety, and is most likely to be confounded with it, is that which is excited by the fear of death, and which vanishes as soon as the fear subsides.
The most emphatical, the most urgent, and the most pathetical of all preachers is death. What can be said in this pulpit, which death doth not say with tenfold force,? What truth can we explain, which death doth not explain with more evidence? Do we treat of the vanity of the world ? So does death; but with much more power. The impenetrable veils which it throws over all terrestrial objects, the midnight darkness in which it involves them, the irrevocable orders it gives us to depart, the insurmountable power it employs to tear us away, represent the vanity of the world better than the most pathetical sermons. Do we speak of the horrors of sin ? Death treats of this subject more fully and forcibly than we; the pains it brings, the marks it makes upon us while we are dying, the grave to which it turns our eyes as our habitation after death, represent the horror of sin more than the most affecting discourses. Do we speak of the value of divine mercy? Death excels in setting this forth too; hell opening under us, executioners of divinevengeance ranging themselves round our bed, the sharp instruments held over us, represent the mercy of God more fully than the most touching discourses. No sermons like these! When then a sickness supposed to be mortal attacks a inan, who hath knowledge and sentiment enough to render him accessible to motives and reflections, but who hath not either respect enough for holiness, or love enough for God thoroughly to attach himself to virtue, then rises this morning cloud, this early dew that goeth away.
I appeal to many of you. Recall, each of you, that memorable day of your life, in which sudden fear, dangerous symptoms, exquisite pain, a pale physician, and more than all that an universal faintness and imbecility of your faculties seemed to condemn you to a hasty death. Remember the prudence you then had, at least appeared to have, to make your salvation your only care, banishing all company, forbidding your own children to approach, and conversing with your pastor alone. Remember the docility with which, renouncing all reluctance to speak of your own faults, and all desire to hear of those of other people, you respectfully attended to every thing we took the liberty to say, we entered on the mortifying subject, you submitted to the most humbling and circumstantial detail, you yourself filled up the list with articles unknown to us. Recollect the sighs you uttered, the tears you shed, 'the reproofs you gave yourself, yea the odious names by which you described yourself. Remember the vows, the resolutions, the promises you made. What are become of all these fine projects of conversion and repentance, which should have had an influence over ali your life? The degree of your piety was regulated by the degree of your malady. Devotion rose and fell with your pulse. Your zeal kept time with your fever, and as the one decreased the other died away, and the recovery of your health was the resurrection of sin. This man, this praying man, this holy soul, then full of pious ejaculations and meditations, is now brim-full of the world. You are the original of the portrait in the text, and your piety is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that goeth away.
· II. .We have seen the nature, now let us attend to the insufficiency of this kind of devotion. Let us endeavor in this second part of our discourse to feel the energy of this reproof. O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning @loud, and as the early dew that goeth away. .
J. On a day like this, in which we have par.' taken of what is most tender in religion, and in which we ought to yield to the soft feelings, which religion is so fit to excite, let us advert to a singular kind of argument proposed in the text against transient devotions, that is, an argument of sentiment and love.
Certainly all the images, which it pleaseth Godto use in scripture to make himself known to us, those taken from our infirmities, our passions, our hatred, or our love, all are too imperfect to represent a God, whose elevation above man renders it impossible to describe him by any thing human. However, all these images have a bottom of truth, a real mean. ing agreeable to the nature of God, and proportioned to his eminent and infinite excellence.
God represents himself here under the image of a prince, who had formed an intimate connection with one of his subjects. The subject seems deeply sensible of the honor done him. The prince signifies his esteem by a profusion of favors. The subject abuses them. The prince reprehends him. The subject is insensible and hard. To reproofs threatnings are added, and threatnings are succeeded by a suspension of favors. The subject seems moved, affected, changed. The prince re. ceives the penitent with open arms, and crowns his reformation with a double effusion of bountiful donations. The upgrateful subject abuses them again. The prince reproves him again, threatens him again, and again suspends his liberality. To avert the same evil the selfish ingrate makes use of the former method, avails himself of the influence, which the esteem of the prince gives him, and again he obtains forgiveness. The prince loves this violence : but the perfidious subject knowing his goodness returns to his ungrateful behavior as often as his bountiful Lord yields to his own incli
nation to mercy and esteem, and thus becomes equally barbarous, whether he seems affected with the benevolence of his prince, or whether he seems to despise it. For, my brethren, it is much less difficult to separate ones self wholly from a faithless friend than to conduct ones self properly to one who is faithless only by fits. These equivocal reformations, these appearances of esteem are much more cruel than total ingratitude, and open avowed hatred. In an entire rupture the mind is presently at a point : but in such imperfect connections as these a thousand opposite thoughts produce a violent conflict in the mind. Shall I countenance ingratitude, shall I discourage repentance? I repeat it again, though this image is infinitely beneath the majesty of God, yet it is that, which he hath thought proper to employ. 0 Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O sudah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew that goeth away. O Ephraim, o Judah, why do you rend my heart asunder by turns with your virtue and your vice? Why not allow me either to give myself entirely to you, or to detach myself entirely from you? Why do you not suffer me to give a free course either to my esteem or to my displeasure? Why do you not allow me to glorify myself by your repentance, or by your ruin? Your devotions hold my hand: your crimes inflame my anger. Shall I destroy a peqple appealing to my clemency ? Shall I protect a people trampling upon my laws. O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.
2. Consider secondly the injustice of these devotions. Though they are vain, yet people expect God to reward them. Hear these words, they seek