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is the man, who, if he thought himself dying, would not recommend to his children a religious and blameless life? And where is the man, who, if he had lost a virtuous son, would not take comfort in the character which he sustained, and in the hopes which he left?—The consciences of men witnels within them, that religion is a reality ; not a fiction-a folemn truth ; not a trifle.
2. We see the wisdom of an early and immediate attention to religion.
If even ungodly men desire, at least, to lay hold on the horns of the altar, and, when they see that they must die, wish to die there, then let every one Ay to the altar now, and lay hold on the hope of mercy, which is there held up to him.
How much soever you defpife religion now, the time is coming, when you will wish for a share in its comforts. You perhaps can live indifferent to religion ; but do you really think, you can die so? If others have been convinced of its importance, when they were dying, so probably will you ; therefore attend to it now. You may then feel this conviction, and yet die in your guilt. It is not every kind of conviction, that produces repentance, and ensures pardon. And no conviction is more doubtful in its issue, than that which is awakened by the immediate apprehension of death. With this conviction despair often mingles to defeat its efficacy. The testimony of dying finners to the truth and importance of religion, should call your attention to it in this calm season, when you are beft able to understand the nature of it, and to prove by correspondent fruits the fincerity of your choice.
You have a better altar at which you may take refuge, than that to which Joab made his flight. That yielded no protection to the presumptuous Vol. V.
finner. Joab fled thither ; but still he must die, For you there is an altar, to which you can fly and find fafety. The blood which Chrift fhed on the cross, applied by faith, will cleanse from all guilt-from the guilt of the greatest fins. « Through him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be juftified by the law of Mofes." He came to save the chief of finners, and through him “ the mercy of God is unto all and upon all that believe, and there is no difference.”
Are you convinced of your violation of God's law? Do you hear its threatenings? Do you perceive them pointed against you? Do you feel your insufficiency to expiate your guilt, and evade the divine sentence? What will you do ?-Lift up your eyes, and behold the altar, which God has erected-behold the facrifice which is offered thereIt is the facrifice of God's own son, who bare your fins in his body on the cross, that you might live through him. He through the eternal fpirit offered himfelf without spot to God ; and his blood can purge your conscience from dead works, and deliver your souls from the wrath to come.
Listen to the calls of the faviour ; u Look unto me, and be ye faved. Come to me, and ye fhall find rest to your souls.” Hear the exhortations of his meflengers ; "Repent and be converted, that your fins may be blotted out, and times of refreshing shall come from the prefence of the Lord. Repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance; and ye shall receive the forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are fanctified. Attend to their argument ; “God is in Christ reconciling the world to himfelf not imputing their trefpaffes, and he hath committed to us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did befeech you by us ; we pray you in Chrift's stead, be ye reconciled to God; for he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
You see what a glorious hope is set before you. . Arife now, flee to the altar of atonement, and lay hold on eternal life.
3. You are here warned not to take any en couragement in a sinful life from the confidence and security, in which some wicked men seem at present to live ; for fooner or later, these very men will condemn themselves. Other wicked men have done fo ; and so will they, and so will you, if you live like them.
When you look round on the world of man. kind, you see thousands pursuing a course very different from that, which the gospel prescribes ; and you can observe in them nothing, which indicates a diftruft of their own fafety. If you converse with them, you hear many of them justify their manner of life, and talk in terms of great indifference about a life of strict religion. Some of these appear to be men of discernment in other matters; and you ask, “ why should they not be capable of judging in matters of religion ? If they fufpe&t no danger in their course, why should we?” But this is a presumptuous way of reasoning and acting. Why judge you not of yourselves what is right ? 'Prove all things ; hold fast that which is good. Call no man your master on earth; for you have a master in heaven. Make not wicked men your guides, for however wise they may be in worldly matters, in the concerns of religion the god of this world has blinded their minds. But if you are disposed to give weight to their opinions, see what their opinions are, in seasons when they are most likely to judge right. Observe how they feel, and hear what they say, in the near views of another world. If they then condemn their own irreligious sentiments and manners, be not you governed by them.
Perhaps you have never seen these men in that folemn situation. But others of the same character have been in it ; and they discovered a sense of the importance of religion. It is probable many of these will do the fame. Never follow the ex. ample of those, who, you think, will condemn this very example in those serious hours, when their judgment will be most impartial. Never pursue a course, which, you know, you must condemn, when you come to the end of it. The example of good men you may wisely follow, for your own conscience now approves it, and will approve it in the review. You have heard and read of many, who condemned their own ungodly life, as they were entering into another world: but you never heard or read of a man, who in that situation condemned a religious life, as what appeared foolish and vain, or as what gave him fear and anxiety. Many good men have died in fear ; but their fear arose from a diftruft of their own hearts ; not from a distrust of reli. gion. They never suspected, that religion was a vain thing ; much less that it was a dangerous thing ; their only concern was, left they had not fully embraced it, and cordially yielded to its influence.
You see, then, where your interest and safety lie. They lie in the religion which the gospel teaches. This
is not a vain thing ; it is your life. The falvation of the soul is the one thing need
ful. This is offered in the word of God, and the terms of it are there stated. It is by a compliance with the terms, that you are to secure the benefit. The terms are repentance of past fins, application to the mercy of God through a dying faviour, and a life devoted to God in holy obedience. Thus only can you enjoy peace in life, hope in death and happiness in eternity. In favour of such a choice you have the testimony of good men, and of wicked men too ; you have the testimony of the word of God, and of your own conscience. Embrace now the pardon and salvation offered you; and trust not in a flight to God's altar, when you see the avenger of your crimes close at your heels, left, when your guilty hands attempt to lay hold on the horns of the altar, you be taken thence, that you may die ; or if you resolve to perish there, still you perish in all your guilt.