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for the last assent, the divine signal, waiting till the sovereign arbiter says, Strike now, and once for all.-An impenitent sinner, smitten by "the pestilence that walketh in darkness," once said. “I will not die!” “No," said the miserable comforters that stood around, "you shall not.” But convulsions came on, and the awful scene was soon ended, without the sigh of repentance, or the slightest symptom of contrition. Take another instance. A few years ago, a gentleman of wealth in London, on his dying bed, felt so strong an aversion to dying then and leaving his wealth behind him, that he hastily rose from his sick-bed, went out, and walked in his yard, exclaiming “ he would not die !” But the unhappy man's strength being speedily exhausted, his affrighted friends carried him back to his bed, where he soon after expired, and probably the sooner for his mad effort to resist the summons. Alas! he knew nothing of conversion, and was destitute of faith in Him who promises eternal life to repenting sinners.
Reader, then, let me press upon your attention, let me affectionately urge home upon your heart, the most serious consideration of this sentimentI will even call it this fact that all those who have never passed through a divine change of heart, a true repentance and an unfeigned conversion of the soul by the mighty power of the Spirit of Godall who were never born again, and raised from a death in sin to newness of life in Christ Jesus, are in the hands of a righteous God, and are held back from the destruction they have deserved only by his sovereign pleasure. The sole reason why you, if still unconverted, are kept from the place of punishment, is because God is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."*
Let us now return again to the question with which we set out. Can any unconverted person assure himself that he shall not be eternally lost? Can you? It is difficult to imagine that any can entertain the slightest hope that he shall escap“, especially when he feels that he cannot annul the authority which says, “He that believeth not shall be damned. “Except ye repent, ye shall all perish.”! The unquestionable truth of Christ's words being admitted, it seems impossible for any unconverted person to find a single ray of hope or shadow of a reason for expecting that his eternal state should be otherwise than desperate. Whether he may entertain any vague notion of impunity for his sin, of mercy uncovenanted, of the improbability of God's fulfilling such threatening's as the Bible contains, of punishment hereafter being only temporary, or of forgiveness at the eleventh hour; whether he entertains such notions or not, it seems quite sufficient to say that he has no authority for any of them; and even in his own view, the very best or most probable supposition of final impunity or escape from punishment, can afford but a forlorn hope. All these suppositions are mere spider's webs, and can supply no solid ground of confidence. The sooner they are abandoned, the better for his soul's safety and peace. If Le prefers substance to shadow, divine authority
o the quicksands of human opinion and speculation, he will admit at once that nothing is more clear from the Bible than that no unconverted man can escape the wrath to come; and therefore he, while such, can possess no evidence, no, not even
the shadow of evidence, against the statement that he himself is in a lost state, and, continuing in that state, will be lost, wholly lost, irretrievably and forever lost!
All that has been hitherto pressed upon the reader's attention in this chapter relates entirely to the unconverted. Their guilt, misery and danger have been briefly pointed out. The writer cannot, however, pass from these observations without expressing the deep anxiety he feels, lest any one should avoid the application of this most solemn part of the subject, through a mistaken opinion that, though just in itself, it is wholly inapplicable to him. Some reader may, perhaps, be induced to entertain such a thought. The very representation already given of the situation in which an unconverted sinner stands, may possibly prove so startling and alarming, that some readers may perhaps seek refuge from it in the thought, that they may possibly be already converted, and that, consequently, what has been said may, after all, not be applicable to their case. If such a thought should arise in the mind of any reader, he will allow me affectionately, but earnestly, to entreat him not to come to that conclusion lightly or hastily. Perhaps you are not quite sure: you may be mistaken. You surely are mistaken if you are resting on the pleasant thought of your religious education, your speculative belief of the gospel, your habits of attention to religious ordinances, your early discipleship, your freedom from gross vice, or your blameless life. All these, or any one of them, as a ground of hope that you are already converted, will supply me with a sufficient reason for entreating you to read on. Do not, I beseech you, shut the book at this part, and say
“It is for a different class of persons, it does not belong to me.” Perhaps you may find that it is expressly for you. If you should be really converted, the re-examination of your state can do you no injury whatever, but may do you much good. You will be confirmed by examining your conversion to the bottom: you will then only be established in your happy state. But if there should be any room to doubt its reality, if you should not be able to show that you have undergone that conversion which Christ requires, then to dismiss the subject at this point, to refuse now to proceed in the perusal of this book, may be to thrust, or even scornfully to dash,“ the cup of salvation” from you, just as God was putting it into your hands. O, be entreated not to act thus! It may prove a subject of bitter, unavailing, everlasting regret. A disinclination to read a treatise which proposes to discuss a subject so interesting and important to every human being, underthe supposition that it is needless or inapplicable, is a strong presumptive evidence of your being in an unconverted state, and renders it the more necessary that you should be warned of your danger. The very disinclination to proceed would prove an awful insensibility, and ought to excite in you a fear that you deeply need the instruction that is here offered you. I entreat you, therefore, now to resolve to go on, and read through this whole treatise : or if you are still indisposed to do this, then, at least, as my only hope of doing you good, let me entreat you to turn to those short parts which are addressed to the mistaken and the self-sufficient ; for in these you may find something to convince you that there is the most urgent reason, in your present state of mind, why you should read the whole.
THE MEANS WHICH GOD HAS APPOINTED, AND ORDINARILY EMPLOYS, IN THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS.
1. “ Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways."* No direct means of conversion can be of any avail, until your are brought to serious and deep reflection upon your present state. If it is true that you are yet an unconverted person, this is a condition which calls for immediate consideration, and that of the most solemn and serious kind, for it is a state of condemnation. You are under a sentence of exclusion from God, from heaven and eternal happiness. If you were in a situation of temporal danger, danger to your person, or to your worldly interests, you would reflect much upon it. If you were threatened with bodily injury, with alarming disease, with distress in your circumstances, you know perfectly well that these things would make you very uneasy, deprive you of your rest, and prompt you to reflections and efforts by which the evil might be avoided or remedied. You would not be careless or indifferent, if you were told that an assassin waited to destroy you in the road you had to travel. You would not be at ease, if you felt that you had contracted the infection of some dreadful disease. You could not enjoy either pleasure or food, if you had reason to fear that some fatal catastrophe was about to befall you in your temporal affairs. And shall the greatest of all evils be threatened, threatened by an authority not to be * Haggai i. 7.