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-is present. It was a persuasion of this that, under declensions in religion. It is said of led David to pray, “Remember not against Jehoshaphat, that he walked " in the first me the sins of my youth.” For he can easily ways of David his father.” This is an intishow us that he remembers them. He can mation that his first ways were his best : that write bitter things against us, and make us the king never equalled the shepherd. This possess the iniquities of our youth. He can / is awful. But the case is not peculiar to him. bring back old sins by afflictions; and he can | Backsliding is no uncommon thing. For it bring back old sins by convictions. He can should be remembered that where there are tell us all things that ever we did. Trans-no gross and scandalous deviations from the gressions committed forty years back, he can path of duty, there may be many secret revive, even in their aggravations and cir- alienations of heart from God; and where cumstances, with all the freshness of recent iniquity does not abound, the love of many guilt. And it is well to be convinced of this may wax cold. Let us imagine the Supreme truth, in a way of mercy, and while we can Being, by his ministers, addressing such chaapply for pardon. For he will certainly con-racters as these :vince every impenitent sinner of it hereafter, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth in a way of justice, when he will publish to -I remember thy simplicity. One motive the world all the private wickedness of his influenced and decided you. If God was heart and life, and fill him “with shame and pleased and glorified, and you could enjoy his everlasting contempt."
smiles and his presence-it was enough; and Thirdly. It is well to be informed of what the applause or censure of worms was less we once were, and to be led back to our for- than nothing and vanity. You rejoiced that mer history and experience. It is useful for you were “counted worthy to suffer, shame a preacher sometimes to cry in our ears, and for his name;" and binding the reproach of remind us of our natural state; that we may the cross as an ornament upon your brow, “ look to the rock whence we are hewn, you said, If this be to be vile, I will yet be and to the hole of the pit whence we were more vile. One thing you desired of the digged." It is needful for him to remind us | Lord, and that you sought after-it was a of the dispensations of Providence which have participation of the portion of his saints. attended us in former years:
Therefore, regardless of all other things, you
prayed, “Remember ine, O Lord, with the " Why should the wonders He has wrought
favour thou bearest unto thy people: O visit Be lost in wonder, and forgot I"
me with salvation; that I may see the good It is well for us to raise our Ebenezers, and of thy chosen: that I may rejoice in the to inscribe upon them, “ Hitherto hath the gladness of thy nation, and glory with thine Lord helped me." Such memorials God him- ( inheritance." You did not think of stipulatself prescribes. “O my people, remember ing for any thing else—with this, having only now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and food and raiment, you could learn to be con. what Balaam the son of Beor answered him tent. But, alas! since this period, how often from Shittim, unto Gilgal; that ye may know have you looked aside after the friendship of the righteousness of the Lord. And thou the world! how often have you yielded a little shalt remember all the way which the Lord of your firmness to avoid the reproach of the thy God led thee these forty years in the wil- cross! It is not sufficient for you now to derness, to humble thee, to prove thee, to have “God for your portion"--you are miseknow what was in thine heart, whether thou rable unless you are in a fair way of adding wouldest keep his commandments or no."- house to house, and joining field to field. A It is desirable to bring back to the mind our little disappointment in worldly things fills former frames and feelings in religion. We you with fretfulness and despondency-as if need every thing that is favourable to self- all was gone or going--and, like Jonah, you examination and self-knowledge. We ought sometimes exclaim, when a gourd withers, to be able to judge of our progress, or of our “[ do well to be angry even unto death." declensions, in the divine life. The state of - I remember thy attachment to the means our souls in particular circumstances and of grace. O how you loved his word: it was seasons should be secured, that after the your meditation all the day!-How welcome lapse of years, it may be reviewed. A com- was the preaching of the Gospel! Then a parison of our present, with our former ex- trifling indisposition; a little rain or cold; periences, will in some instances encourage; the unseasonable calling of a friend did not and in more condemn.
keep you from the courts of the Lord-nor But we need reproof. It will be profitable did you hear half asleep. How you prized for us to afflict our souls. “The sacrifices the Sabbath! How you numbered the interof God are a broken spirit: a broken and a vening hours that should draw it on! How contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." you hailed it when it arrived—“This is the
This brings us, II. To consider those words day which the Lord hath made: we will reAS APPLICABLE TO CHARACTERS.
joice and be glad in it!" And O how preAnd First. They will apply to Christianscious were those seasons in which, around
the table of a crucified Saviour, you received | admonitions given to the declining Churches: the dear memorials of his dying love! In the “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, reception you said — His flesh is meat in- because thou hast left thy first love. Rememdeed! and his blood is drink indeed!" and in the ber therefore from whence thou art fallen, review " I sat down under his shadow with and repent, and do the first works; or else I great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my will come unto thee quickly, and will remove taste!" Then Christians appeared like an thy candlestick out of his place, except thou gels. How attractive, how edifying, was the repent. Be watchful, and strengthen the communion of saints! If two of you walked things which remain, that are ready to die: towards Emmaus, you took sorrowful and for I have not found thy works perfect before sweet counsel together; the Redeemer was God. Remember therefore how thou hast your theme and your companion ; and when received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. you came to the village whither you went, If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come you said one to another, “ Did not our heart on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know burn within us while he talked to us by the what hour I will come upon thee.” Lay way, and opened to us the Scripture !" And these things to heart. Say, “() that it was when alone, was not your meditation of him with me as in months past." Carry thy case sweet, and therefore frequent ? Could you to the Scriptures; to the cross of Christ; to not say, with David, “ How precious are thy the throne of grace; and pray—“Create in thoughts unto me, O Lord; how great is the me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit sum of them! If I should count them, they within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy are more in number than the sand : when I salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit am awake, I am still with thee."
Open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show I remember thy holy and active zeal :- forth thy praise. Wilt thou not revive us how you abounded in the duties of obedience; again, that thy people may rejoice in thee? how you daily asked, “Lord, what wilt thou Show us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy have me to do?" How dissatisfied you were salvation.” in the service of God, unless you could " draw Secondly. The words will apply to those near even to his seat;" how the bitterness of who promised fair in their youth, and are now repentance made you loathe sin; at what an become irreligious. Many a fine morning awful distance you kept yourselves from its has been overspread with clouds, and followapproach; how you shunned “the very appear-ed by foul weather. Many a tree in spring ance of evil;" how, when the name of God has been covered with blossoms, which have was blasphemed, you could not sit “ like a never settled into fruit. And thus it has man in whose mouth there are no reproofs,” been with many a youth who has discovered but spoke for God, and defended his cause; amiable and pious propensities. Thus it was how “ jealous" you were “for the Lord of with the young man who came to our Lord hosts;" how your bowels yearned over pe- as an humble inquirer concerning eternal rishing sinners; how you longed to teach life: it is said, “ When Jesus saw him, he transgressors the way in which you were loved him.” Thus Joash was remarkable for walking; how you seized every opportunity early goodness; and was preserved in it to invite others to taste and see that the Lord during the lifetime of the excellent Jehoiada ; is good; how to relations, friends, neighbours, but, upon the death of his guardian, he was you said, “Come with us, and we will do you drawn aside by evil company and counsel. good; for the Lord hath spoken good con- And, from this and various other causes, there cerning Israel!"-I need not proceed. Such are many young persons in the same condiis the change.
tion now. And has God deserved it ? Have you gain-1 Perhaps you say—“But we are not vicious ed by these declensions from him? Flave and profligate." So far it is well. And oh you not compelled him to say, “Have I been that this was true of all! but, alas! we have a wilderness unto Israel-a land of darkness? swearers now, who in their youth feared an O that they had hearkened to my command oath; we have sabbath-breakers now, who in ments! then had their peace been as a river, their youth revered the sacred hours; we and their righteousness like the waves of the have sceptics and scoffers now, who from a sea !"
child knew and admired “the Scriptures, How dreadful is it that, when' every thing which are able to make us wise unto salvarequires our advancement, we should be sta- tion." You say, “We are not like them." tionary! that, when means und ordinances, But they were not thus drawn aside all at once; mercies and trials, unite to urge us forward ; they became wicked by degrees. This is that, when our obligations to God are daily I always the course of sin. They “proceed increasing, and the day of account every hour from evil to evil:" they “wax worse and approaching—we should not only stand still worse." The way to hell is down hill; once --but even draw back!
| in motion, it is easy to go on, and you know Surely it is high time to awake out of not where you shall stop. You say, “We sleep! Declining Christian! attend to the are not like them." But let me, my dear
young friends, ask you Are you not much, takes it as kindness—" I love them that love less piously inclined than you once were ? me, and they that seek me early shall find Have you not exchanged a lovely teachable- me." He will guide you with his counsel, ness of mind, for conceit and self-sufficiency? and afterwards receive you to glory. Should a tenderness of conscience, for an insensi- life be spared to a late period, it will only exbility of mind, which the word can seldom tend your course of usefulness, and with pleamove? Have you not given up private prayer? | sure you will look back upon a life of mercy Have you not lost much of your veneration and grace, of communion with him, and dedifor the pious and the good? Cannot you trifle cation to him. Found in the way of righteouswith what once made you tremble? Are you ness, he will view your hoary head as “a not beginning to "walk in the counsel of the crown of glory.” When the days come in ungodly;" to stand in the way of sinners;" | which many will say, “We have no pleasure,” to "sit in the seat of the scornful?"
it shall be otherwise with you. Under the Ah! had you proceeded in the good course decays of nature, and the loss of friends of in which you were once engaged, ere now which time has robbed you; when every thing you might have been far advanced and esta- earthly has become distasteful: and you are blished; ere now, actions would have produced made to "possess months of vanity, and weahabits, and habits have yielded pleasure. risome nights are appointed unto you"-with What can be more distressing, than your de- humble boldness you may plead, “Cast me clensions from the good ways of God, to your not off in the time of my old age; forsake pious friends; to your godly ministers! O me not when my strength faileth. O God, how does it grieve them to see you breaking thou hast taught me from my youth: and over the barriers of a good education, and re- hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. solving that the prayers, and tears, and vows Now also, when I am old and gray-headed, O of your connexions shall be all in vain! Mi- God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy nisters viewing you with hopeful pleasure as strength unto this generation, and thy power they buried the aged and the honourable, to every one that is to come." And he will were saying-Well, others are coming for- answer you: "Even to your old age I am he; ward, and will be the pillars of our bereaved and even to hoary hairs will I carry you: Í churches: " instead of the fathers shall be have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, the children.” Your parents were beginning and will deliver you." to say to each other--We shall soon be laid low in the dust-but these our loved offspring shall be a seed to serve him. Now a death DISCOURSE XXVII. . has spread over all their hopes !-especially when they reflect, that-you are likely to
THE MISERY OF CONTENDING go greater lengths in error and wickedness than others; and that you will be reclaimed
WITH GOD. with much more difficulty than those who | Wo unto him that striveth with his Maker! never did such “despite to the Spirit of
Isaiah xlv. 9. grace."
THE life of man is held forth by various But Thirdly. There are some who in their images: and it is worthy of our observation early days are truly devoted to the service that they will apply equally to the righteous and glory of God. To you, my dear young and the wicked. For instance, friends, the words are applicable—not in a The Christian is a traveller--and so is the way of reproach, but honour-not in a sinner; only the one is journeying to heaven, way of rebuke, but encouragement. And and the other to hell. what we wish you to observe is this that The Christian is a husbandman-so is the early piety is peculiarly acceptable to the sinner. Both sow: only the one “sows to God of your lives and mercies. He takes it the flesh, and shall of the flesh reap corrupkind- wonderful condescension ! O touch- tion; while the other sows to the Spirit, and ing motive !-he takes it kind: “I remember shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of The Christian is a soldier—and we read in thine espousals, when thou wentest after me the Scripture of his commander, his enemies, in the wilderness, in a land that was not and his armsp of his " fightings without," and sown."
of his “feudl within ;" of his toil, and of his You are forsaking the world, and willing triumph. But if the life of the Christian be to follow him whithersoever he goeth. You a warfare, so is the life of the sinner. There are pressing through a thousand allurements is however this difference between them. The and seductions to reach him, and to say, kneel- one wages a good warfare, and is crowned ing at his footstool, “Whom have I in heaven with glory and honour—the other is engaged but thee? and there is none upon earth that | in a cause the most infamous, and covers himI desire beside thee." You give him the self with shame and confusion. The one is first-born of your days, the first-fruits of your sure of victory--the other is certain of defeat. reason and affections-And I say again-he The one fights for God --but the other against
him and “Wo unto him that striveth with own righteousness, and save ourselves; if we his Maker!"
endeavour to rear a shelter, instead of repairI. LET US MENTJON SOME INSTANCES IN ing to the only refuge provided—we are striyWHICH THE SINNER STRIVES WITH GOD. | ing with God. In the Gospel God says, “Come
II. CONSIDER THE WO WHICA HIS OPPOSI. and let us reason together;" but the singer TION NECESSARILY ENTAILS UPON HIM.
says, “ Depart from us: we desire not the And, O! let me beseech you this evening knowledge of thy ways." The language of to hear, not only with seriousness, but with the Gospel, as a token of willing submission, self-application, that while I am endeavouring is, “ Kiss the Son"—the language of the sinto lay open this crime, and this curse, you ner is, “We will not have this man to reign may individually ask yourselves, in the pre- over us." The language of the Gospel is, sence of God, whether you are chargeable “Go and wash in Jordan seven times; and with the one, in order to determine whether be clean"—the language of the sinner is, you are exposed to the other.
“ Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of DaI. Let me specify some INSTANCES IN WHICH mascus, better than all the waters of Israel! THE SINNER MAY BE CONSIDERED AS STRIVING may I not wash in them and be clean?" No. with God. And here 1 hardly think it worth And the reason is, that your cure can only while to mention atheism, which opposes his come from God, and he has determined to very being, and tries to banish him from the save you in his own way: he has revealed world which he has made. Some indeed have only one remedy ; to this the promise is made; supposed that a speculative atheist is an im- to this he requires you to submit; and if you possibility. I have often thought that if such refuse this method, and think of becoming a monster can be found, he is to be found, not your own physician, you are at variance with in a heathen but in a Christian country. How God. And even after persons have some sefar God may give up a man " to strong delu- rious concern about their souls, they find it sion to believe a lie," who has despised and no easy thing to yield up themselves unrerejected the advantages of revelation, it is servedly to this sovereign plan. Such is the not for us to determine-but “if the light pride of reason, and the force of legality; that is in thee be darkness, how great is that such a difficulty is there in relinquishing all darkness!"
apprehension of some worthiness and strength It is undeniable however that we have a of their own; and such a disposition have they multitude of practical atheists. That is; we to make themselves better before they rely have thousands who live precisely as they on the Saviour, that they are often detained would do if they believed there was no God; long in opposing this gracious scheme, till and are no more influenced by his presence increasing conviction compels them to acquiand perfections, than if they were persuaded esce. And, though the force of it be subdued, the Scripture was “a cunningly devised something of the old leaven remains in the fable.” Yea, they not only live “ without God people of God all through life. in the world," but they live against him! Thirdly. The sinner strives with God by Wherein ?
violating the dictates of conscience. ConFirst. They strive with him by transgress-science is the Divinity in man. And how ing his holy and righteous law. And this is often, and how faithfully, has it addressed done, not only by the commission of those you! “O do not that abominable thing sins which it forbids, but also by the omis- that I hate'”-and yet you did it. “Aban sion of those duties which it enjoins. The don that vicious course : its steps take man that does not love his neighbour and hold on hell'”_and yet you pressed forward. strive to do him good, is therefore criminal, “Beware of that irreligious connexion : • evil as well as the man who robs and oppresses communications corrupt good manners: a him. This law is also broken by the desires companion of fools shall be destroyed'”-and of the heart, as well as by the actions of the yet you complied with their enticements. life. It is so spiritual as to apprehend mur- And O! what labour have you had to lull der in angry words, and adultery in wanton conscience asleep, that you might steal forth looks. Now every instance of disobedience and pursue your iniquities undisturbed! How is a contention with God; a daring struggle hard have you often found it to subdue the to determine whether we shall be governed by uneasinesses which have sprung from its rehis will or by our own.
proaches and condemnation! And sometimes, Secondly. The sinner strives with God by in struggling with you alone, has it not been opposing the Gospel. The Gospel is a scheme ready to gain the victory, till you went forth of mercy designed to glorify God in the sal and called in to your assistance-your comvation of man, and is made known “for the rades, and your dissipations, and thus rallied obedience of faith.” It calls us to repentance. and reinforced, you have renewed the contest, It calls us to renounce our own righteousness. and again “done despite unto the Spirit of It calls us to flee for refuge to the Saviour of grace?" sinners. If, therefore, we go on in our im- Fourthly. The sinner strives with God by penitency; if we endeavour to establish our refusing to resign himself to the dispensations of his providence. By various blessings and vealed will of God, “who will have all men indulgences, in his person, in his family, or to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of in his business, God would attach his heart to the truth.” Persons may endeavour to justify himself. Hence the Apostle says, that “the their opposition in some cases, because those goodness of God leadeth to repentance:" it who are labouring to do good are not of their ought to do so : it is the design and the ten- community, and walk not with them"-but, dency of it-But the sinner frustrates this surely, it becomes them to be exceedingly design and tendency-yea, he does more-he cautious in their conclusion, and to weigh the turns it into an encouragement to sin. He is admonition of Gamaliel : “ Refrain from these evil because God is good; and the mercies, men, and let them alone: for if this counsel which should serve as so many “cords of love" or this work be of men, it will come to nought; to draw him to God, he employs as so many but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it: weapons of rebellion against him! " Because I lest haply ye be found even to fight against sentence against an evil work is not executed God." speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of And be it remembered, that men will be men is fully set in them to do evil. Let favour judged not according to their success, but be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn according to their intention. God may overrighteousness: in the land of uprightness will rule their rage for good, and make all their he deal unjustly, and will not behold the efforts to subserve the cause they oppose majesty of the Lord."
but as this was not their design, it will not be God tries other means. He sends a suc- their exculpation. It was " in their heart" cession of disappointments and afflictions. to prevent the diffusion of truth, and the inThese are designed to wean him from the Auence of the Gospel : and God deals with world-but " he holds fast deceit, he refuses them accordingly. He “looketh to the to return." They are “ to hedge up his way heart;" and will punish them in proportion with thorns"—but he breaks through them, to the good they would have hindered, and and wanders on. By these God arms him- the evil they would have spared, had they self to awaken his fears, and drive him back— been successful. For “wo unto him that but " he rushes upon the thick bosses of his striveth with his Maker!" backler." God strikes-and he strikes again! II. No WONDER SUCH A WO IS HERE DE“O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? | NOUNCED—for this striving with God is, thou hast stricken them, but they have not First, A practice the most shameful and grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they ungrateful. What would you think of a child have refused to receive correction: they have who should strive with his father, reproach made their faces harder than a rock: they his character, counteract all his designs, and have refused to return."
endeavour to injure his concerns ?-But such He fixes the bounds of our habitations; ar- is your conduct towards God. “Is not he ranges all our affairs; leaves nothing to thy Father, that hath made thee?” What chance. And upon this principle we “ should would you think of a person who would set learn, in whatsoever state we are, therewith himself against a benefactor that had never to be content." For God cannot err. But given him the least ground of provocation, the sinner murmurs and complains; he quar- and had always been doing him good? But rels with the allotments of Providence; he such is your conduct towards God. He has wishes to rectify the Divine proceedings preserved your souls in life. His air you God has not properly disposed of him, or of have breathed. From his table you have others-and the common sentiment is, that been fed. He has given you all things richGod has placed him too low, and others too ly to enjoy. high; indulged him too little, and others too Has he not therefore reason to be astonishmuch.
ed at your baseness and ingratitude ? “Hear, Again. The sinner strives with God by heavens; and give ear, 0 earth: for the the persecution of his people. For such is Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and the intimate and inseparable union between brought up children, and they have rebelled him and his followers, that in whatever degree against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and you endeavour to injure them, you oppose the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not him: he considers it as done against himself: know, my people doth not consider." " for he that toucheth them, touches the apple It is, Secondly, a practice the most unreasonof his eye." Therefore said our Lord and able and absurd. For observe-in all the inSaviour, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou stances in which you oppose him, he is aimme?"
ing to promote your good: his design is to Finally. He strives with God by trying make you wise, to make you holy, to make to hinder the spread of his cause. He who, you happy; and the advantages of compliance by fraud or force, would keep the Gospel from will be all your own. Besides, entering a neighbourhood, or, by reproach or Can you do without him?-Can you do threatening, would discourage people from without him .in life? In death can you do hearing it, is in avowed opposition to the re-without him? Who else can pardon you?