« PrécédentContinuer »
clear duty, instead of extenuating the crime, proves that it is crime; and it is on account of that bad and immoral state of mind that the unconverted stand guilty before both God and man. Had the sinner chosen to be converted, that is, had his will been inclined or determined to the change, it would have taken place long ago; yea, the very moments his will had been turned effectually, he would have found the power of God working within his soul. But he would not come unto Christ; and he knows it. He knows that he never has yet felt his heart determinately fixed upon that conversion which God requires. This is what, I think, you will be conscious you have never felt. You cannot but know that you never did calmly and fully resign and commit yourself to the hand of Christ. Although you are conscious that you have often heard his command to repent and believe the gospel; although you have often felt convinced that you were a sinner, and in danger of eternal perdition; although you have all along known, and perhaps secretly confessed, that you are bound to repent and seek the salvation of your soul; yet this very act of choosing to do so, and proceeding to put your choice into execution, you have never done. But, on the contrary, you have trified with the great business, delayed it, and excused yourself, perhaps in some very subtle and sophistical manner, for this hesitation and reluctance. Now, this is the very state of mind which the Scripture represents, as proving those who are in it guilty of that sin of sins—unbelief. The Saviour says, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."* When he mourned over the people of Jerusaler, just before his death, he reproached them with this:
* John v. 40.
"How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"* Now, could he or would he have laid this at their door, if there
sonable and valid excuse ? Assuredly he would not. He could not have reproached them if they had not been, in this respect, highly culpable. And is it possible you can deem it any other than a very grave and awful matter, never yet to have solemnly willed to be changed in heart and character, when called to it by so high an authority, when urged to it by a clear sense of your sin and danger? Surely you must not merely admit the fact that it has been so, but that it involves very deep guilt, so to have neglected your soul's salvation, or so to have persisted in a course that you knew was opposed to the will of Jesus Christ. When there ought to have been a perfect agreement, an absolute identity, between your will and his on the matter, there has been the most direct opposition. He would, but you would not. Yea, when he expressed his will in the plainest language, and enforced it in the most commanding manner; when he even condescended to add entreaty the most affectionate and urgent, to admonition the most solemn and awakening; still you did not coalesce, nor feel at all more inclined to comply, but resolutely held out, or drew back, to the indulgence of your sinful heart, under cover of some excuses as vain as they were delusive
Unconverted reader, let me entreat you to look back, and consider how very often you have distinctly detected this opposition of your will to the Saviour's, and always maintained your resolution, always retained the secret decision of your will still to continue as you were. It is grievous is think that this has been the case every time God has made a direct and distinct appeal to your conscience, every time you have been sensible of the authority of his word in any powerful command to repent, every time a light has been inwardly granted, either to show the way to the cross by repentance, or the way to perdition by disobedience. So that if you have been a hearer of the gospel, or religiously educated, you must, many hundreds and thousands of times, have felt the divine authority and love of your Saviour weighing in your mind against the fascinations of a sinful state; and just so many times you have, by distinct acts of your will, chosen to go on in your unconverted state. Your present condition, then, is one of much guilt. There is a vast aggravation of criminality in those acts of your will which have decided against the light of truth, against the plain commands of your Saviour, against the powerful attractions of his love. It is said, “That servant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes."'* Can you deny that a clear case has been made out against you of a resolute and fixed purpose of will to remain opposed to the command of your Saviour? He says, ** Repent.” You have virtually said, “I will not." He says, “ Be converted." You say, “ I will not be converted.” And on this ground, therefore, you stand clearly and fully convicted before God.
* Matt. xxiii. 37.
6. I am well aware that many of the unconverted, and especially such as have enjoyed Christian instruction, are disposed to plead in extenua. tion of their unwillingness, that they cannot give
* L: ke xii. 47.
themselves grace; and that such is the nature of their sinful state, that they cannot change for the better, and that they cannot will otherwise than they do. I believe this is a very prevalent excuse with the unconverted of a certain class, and that it is an indication of a state of mind greatly hardened and alienated from the fear of God. This is an attempt to throw off the responsibility from themselves, and to insinuate that their being unconverted is rather their misfortune than their sin. If this is the view or feeling of any reader of this treatise, I hope he will patiently allow me to expostulate with him upon the extreme improbability of the issue of his case proving as he may expect: and for this reason, that the Scripture nowhere admits that the unwillingness of the sinner is to be palliated or excused in any degree, or charged upon any one but himself. So that, supposing his plea even appeared plausible, and did not admit of any satisfactory reply on the ground of reason, still Scripture is so much, so universally against the plea, that he might, on that ground alone, be sure there was a fallacy in it; and that if it were acted upon, and looked to for a valid defence at last, it would utterly fail. But the very fact of God's threatening those that refuse ; of his having severely punished many who have done so; his assurance that they will at last be without excuse; and the further fact, that we often see a fearful retribution inflicted upon those who have refused, through the power of a guilty conscience, and in their own agonizing sense of the moral wrong that they have perpetrated in refusing; these considerations alone would form a strong presumptive evidence, amounting to a sufficient proof, that there must be a delusion somewhere in that man's mind, who feels disposed to throw the responsibility of continuing in impenitence from himself, either upon the laws of his nature, or the sovereignty of God. Such considerations might be sufficient to induce him to abandon so insecure a refuge for his conscience, and lead him to the conclusion, that God will assuredly be justified when he speaketh, and be clear when he judgeth.*
But may not the unconverted himself perceive the very essence of the fallacy he indulges ? Is there not room for a direct appeal to his own consciousness? He knows that he cannot sincerely plead any constraint upon his will. That which arises from the evil habits he has indulged, is properly no constraint, but a cherished desire; no violence done to his will, but a distinct preference the will itself gives to that of which he affects to complain as a grievance and a necessity. Is he not conscious of the very same freedom of choice in rejecting the command of God, as in complying with any sinful propensity? Is he not just as much at liberty when he prefers to continue in his unconverted state, swayed as he is by the motives which incline to a life of sin, as when he resolves to eat his food, to attend to his business, or to pursue his pleasures ? Surely he must admit, that he is conscious of acting in all these cases under the impulse of the same free-will. What right, then, can he have to select one case, and endeavour in that to rid himself of all responsibility, by pleading the weakness of his will to do what is right, and its strength to do what is wrong? If he is a free agent in one of these acts, so he is in all. The bad inclination or the
* Ps. li. 4.