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Am I not speaking to some whom God has thus blessed, to some who have had, it may be, one, two, three, four or more young persons, at different times-young relations, young friends—come up to this great city, placed under their direct influence ? How anxious a moment is it for a truly pious relative, when a young friend from the country comes, perhaps to spend the first sabbath in a Christian family! Accustomed probably to sabbaths very differently spent ; accustomed to find pleasure on that sacred day, yet not to find pleasure from its hallowed duties and sacred exercises ; the young relative comes to your house, he sees how you are living, he sees how you spend the sabbath. Nothing morose, nothing unkind, nothing puritannical ; but yet something Christian, something lovely, something excellent. The Bible, with its sacred truths, gives the order of the day, the conversation at the table is on the things of God: heaven seems to come down to earth. Here a Christian family is seen living together for eternity; the streams of living water refresh and invigorate. What is the consequence ? the youth sees a sight he never saw before, he wonders what it is; he cannot perfectly understand it. He is anxious to know what makes the difference between this family and the one he has left; for he sees that Christianity is something more than a form ; and he sees it in its power, its loveliness, and its force, as well as in its truth. There, there, the opportunity is embraced-perhaps little is said in the way of direct application; it may be a pious book is put into the hands of the youth, or a few remarks are offered, or an interesting fact is stated ; and the young man leaves that house wondering at those things which he has now, probably for the first time, seen and heard. He sees what Christianity is, and in many cases he is led, through infinite mercy, to embrace it.
But let us suppose another case; it may be some careless, thoughtless creature, who has been the grief of all his family, who has almost broken his father's heart, or already actually “ brought down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave,” such an one is brought providentially before you, an opportunity is presented for saying something to him. Hitherto you have found him quite unwilling to listen; but now, it may be, he is in trouble and is willing to hear; you
go in prayer and speak in love, kindness is the key to the human heart; that is the key, (I speak it with reverence) with which God himself unlocks the hearts of men.
“ Thou conqu’rest all-beneath, above;
“ Devils by force, but men by love.” You have an opportunity-you reproach not the poor transgressor, you speak not unkindly to the poor outcast, you tell him of his faults, but you do it in the spirit of kindness; at length, perhaps, he is willing to listen, he sees his error, he bemoans his past evil courses, and possibly in the day of judgment you may have to bless God that ever that opportunity was given you to speak to him, and still more that a desire was given him to improve by what you said ; the wicked forsaking his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, he turned to the Lord, and He had mercy upon him, and to our God, and He abundantly pardoned.
I am very much disposed to think, (though I have no actual scriptural authority for the supposition, therefore I give it merely as supposition) but I am very much disposed to think that Stephen, the proto-martyr of the Christian church-when he saw, standing before him, Saul of Tarsus, holding the clothes of those who were about cruelly to murder him for the sake of Jesus—that Stephen took that opportunity for special prayer to God for that young man: and it will not at all surprise me, to find, amid the discoveries of the eternal world, that Saul of Tarsus—subsequently “ Paul the great Apostle of the Gentiles," —under God, owed, ultimately, his conversion to the prayers of the dying Stephen-that one evidently so far off might be brought nigh—that he who now was so bitter an enemy might become a friend of the crucified Redeemer.
But we must turn from all this, and notice
III. The opportunity lost. Oh! brethren, do we not know something of this ? cannot each of us remember some instance in which we resolved to say a word for our blessed Lord ? we fully intended to do it, perhaps, when, travelling by a public conveyance, we were called to mix with persons who were evidently worldly, we had the opportunity of speaking a word for our God; but we had not the heart to seize it. Can you not remember hearing the name of the [No. 2.]
blessed God, your maker, saviour, sanctifier, profaned ?you thought you would speak about it-you knew you ought to do it; yet you hesitated. Not that you ought to go and rudely attack persons, or ill-naturedly to reprove them; no!-but where you have had the opportunity-where the party has evidently appeared not unwilling to listen—where you might have spoken : but alas! you did not. Oh! I confess to you, sometimes when I have attempted to seize such an opportunity--when I have thought how I would introduce the subject unexpectedly, my moment for doing good has been over and gone, and passed away before I was aware. At other times, when, through God's grace, I have been enabled to seize the passing moment, and to improve it, О how I have afterwards rejoiced to see the benefit and advantage which have followed.
I remember several years back, travelling one night outside the mail with a man who was evidently worldly and wretched. I had watched for several hours for an opportunity, but I feared I should have none. At length, as we were approaching town, a remark was made of this sort, “Sir, I think you are a clergyman.” I acknowledged And now
was my time; and, through God's mercy, I seized the opportunity; my reply was this, "Yes, Sir, you are not mistaken, I am; and, if you will allow me, I will tell you
what you are.” He turned quickly round, and asked, “ Did I know his name.”. _“ No." " Had I enquired any thing of the coachman, or of those who were travelling with us.”_"No." “ But," I said, “perhaps I shall offend you."
“ No, Sir," said he, " tell ine what you were going to say; I like all Christian ministers plainly to speak the truth.” Thus encouraged, I continued, “ then, Sir, I will tell you what I was going to say: Sir, I believe you are a man that once knew the power
and comforts of religion, but that you are a man that has lost those comforts and that power: I see you are wretched, and I more than fear it is because you are living in sin." He burst into tears, and replied, “Sir, in God's name, it is all perfectly true, but how could you possibly know it of a stranger ?”
My reply was simply this, “I will tell you how I know it; I heard you at such a part of the journey speak of such and such a minister in London and elsewhere, whom
you had heard and of whom you spoke like a man who had known something more than the mere shell of religion ; you spoke like a man who had felt something of its power while attending on its services. This led me to know that you once enjoyed something of the comforts of true religion; I saw by your deep sigh, I saw by your very look that you were wretched, and from several expressions that fell from your lips. But how did I know you were living in sin? At such a place, Sir," I continued, “ you addressed yourself to a young woman, that waited on the passengers, in a very unchaste and improper manner; at another place you swore two most dreadful oaths; I put this before you,” said I, " and see if I have not given a correct description.” He held out his hand—“Sir, God has sent you to me." I never saw him to speak to him but that once; I know nothing of his subsequent history, nor do I know even his name.
The moment was given me, and through the mercy of God I seized it. But I am ashamed to say~ I grieve to say, many times, by delaying the performance of the duty, the moment has passed away, and the opportunity in which it could only be performed, has been lost for ever.
Oh you that are Christians ever bear in mind that you are called to be “lights in the world." It was said, concerning that great and memorable man, Burke, that it was impossible to be standing for a few minutes even under a pent-house, under covert from the rain, without discovering the greatness of the man. Oh Christians! let it be impossible for men to mix with you even in the most trivial matters of human life without finding out wliat you are, while
you your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Brethren, one of the brightest lights of the Irish Church, (a man whose name can never be mentioned without honour) I mean the illustrious Archbishop Usher, when he was dying gave this as the great burden of his heart, “God forgive me my sins of omission, God forgive me my sins of omission!” And where is the man among uswhere is the Christian among us, but must join with the pious Archbishop in bemoaning his sins of neglect? Oh! brethren, is it true, that out of Christ there is no salvation
for a fallen, a rational, an accountable being like man? Do we believe that there is no hope but in Christ Jesus the Saviour ? And have we friends or relations, kindred, acquaintances, or connexions, who are far from Him? And can we be content to live with them, to sit down to our meals with them, to pass away life with them, and yet never seek for an opportunity of bearing our testimony, or never seize a moment so given us through infinite mercy, for discharging this high and sacred duty, which we owe to God and to them? If we can contentedly remain inactive while they thus perish through neglect, the Lord have mercy upon us, and give us a better spirit, and teach us the solemn duty, so important and so imperative, of redeeming the time--of buying up the opportunity. Ob! my beloved brethren, hastily passing through this mortal life on our way to life eternal, may we, through God's mercy, open our arms and take others along with us ;while we say, by the tenor of a holy life, “come along with us and we will do you good, for we are travelling to the place of which God has said, He will give it us.' And ever remember that time is very short ; that opportunities occur, and then hastily pass away, in some instances, never to occur again. Therefore, “whatever thine hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; remembering that there is neither work nor device in the grave wither thou goest."
Now to God the Father, &c.
N.B.- This discourse was taken down in short-hand by Mr. HARDING, with my permission ; and has been by me corrected for the press. Many of my Sermons having been surreptitiously obtained, and dishonestly published without any permission from me, either asked or given, I take this opportunity of saying, that I cannot be held answerable for any printed discourses to which I have not myself affixed, (as I do to this sermon,) my name and residence.
THOMAS MORTIMER, B.D. Myddleton Square, Pentonville,
July 17th, 1837.
LONDON : PUBLISHED BY W. HARDING, 11, Red Lion
AND 14, Gray's IyN TERRACE.
Printed by C. Roworth and Sons, Bell Yard, Temple Bar.