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tives, or by motives of mere inclination, to change their employment, their habitation, or their station of life. These occasions afford excellent and invaluable opportunities for correcting and breaking off any
vicious habits which we may have contracted. It is when many associations, which give strength to a sinful habit, are interrupted and dissolved by the change which has taken place, that we can best resolve to conquer the sin, and set out upon a new course and a new life. The man who does not take advantage of such opportunities when they arise, has not the salvation of his soul at heart: nevertheless, they are not to be waited for.
But to those sudden changes which we recommend, will it be objected that they are seldom lasting? Is this the fact? Are they more liable to fail, than attempts to change gradually ? I think not. And there is always
this difference between them. A sudden change is sincere at the time: a gradual change never is such truly and properly: and this is a momentous distinction. In every view, and in every allowance, and in every plea of human frailty, we must distinguish between what is consistent with sincerity, and what is not. And in these two methods of setting about a reformation, by reason of their different character in this respect, the first may, though with fear and humility, expect the help of God's aiding Spirit, the other hardly can. For whilst not by surprise and unpremeditatedly we fall into casual sins, but whilst by plan and upon system we allow ourselves in licences, which, though not so many or so great as before, are still, whenever they are indulged, so many known sins; whilst, in a word, though we imagine ourselves to be in a progress of amendment, we yet deliberately continue to sin, our endeavours are so corrupted, I will not say by imperfection, but by insincerity, that we can hardly hope to call down
upon them the blessing of Almighty God.
Reformation is never impossible ; nor, in a strict sense, can it be said to be doubtful. Nothing is, properly speaking, doubtful, which it is in a man's power to accomplish ; nothing is doubtful to us, but what is placed out of the reach of our will, or depends upon causes which we cannot influence: and this
is not the case with reformation from sin. On the other hand, if we look to experience, we are compelled, though with grief of heart, to confess, that the danger is very great of a man, who is engaged in a course of sin, never reforming from his sin at all. Oh, let this danger be known! Let it stand, like a flaming sword, to turn us aside from the road to vice. Let it offer itself in its full magnitude. Let it strike, as it ought, the souls of those who are upon the brink, perhaps, of their whole future fate; 'who are tempted; and who are deliberating about entering upon some course of sin.
Let also the perception and convincement of this danger sink deep into the hearts of all who are in such a situation, as that they must either reform or perish. They have it in their power, and it must be now their only hope, by strong and firm exertion, to make themselves an exception to the general lot of habitual sinners. It must be an exception. If they leave things to their course, they will share the fate in which they see others, involved in guilt like themselves, end their lives. It is only by a most strenuous effort they can rescue themselves from it. We apprize them, that their best hope is in a sudden and complete change, sincerely begun, faithfully persisted in; broken, it is possible, by human frailty, but never changed into a different plan, never declining into a compromised, partial, gradual reform; on the contrary, resumed with the same sincerity as that with which it set out, and with a force of resolution, and an earnestness of prayer, increased in proportion to the clearer view they have acquired of their danger and of their want.
THIS LIFE A STATE OF PROBATION.
Psalm cxix. 71.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I might learn thy statutes.
O the various views under which human
F the various views under which human
life has been considered, no one seems so reasonable as that which regards it as a state of probation ; meaning, by a state of probation, a state calculated for trying us, and calculated for improving us.
A state of complete enjoyment and happiness, it certainly is not. The hopes, the spirits, and the inexperience of young men and women are apt, and very willing to see it in this light. To them life is full of entertainment: their relish is high, their expectations unbounded. For a very
few years it is possible, and I think barely