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attend to the end of things. “ Wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do well. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse,
; and rebel, ye shall be destroyed: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it,” ver. 16–20. They are severely checked and reproved, who go on securely in an evil way: not considering how displeasing such a course is to the Divine Being. “ These things hast thou done, and I kept silence. Thou thoughtest that I was such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thee. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver,” Ps. I. 21, 22.
And in the New Testament, says St. Paul, “ Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith : prove your ownselves,” 2 Cor. xiii. 5. And, “ If any man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself: but let every man prove his own work. Then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another,” Gal. vi. 3, 4. St. John is directed by our exalted Lord to write in this manner to the church of Ephesus: “ Remember therefore, from whence thou art fallen: and repent, and do the first work,” Rev. ii. 5. And St. Paul observes: “ If we would
" judge ourselves, we should not be judged,” or condemned, “ by the Lord," 1 Cor. xi. 31.
4. Which brings us to another argument for this practice: that God will hereafter try and judge us, and all men.
There is a day appointed for reviewing the actions of all mankind: and then every one will receive according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. This should be of great force to persuade us to think on our ways now, and seriously to recollect our past conduct ; that all'instances of misbehaviour may be blotted out, and corrected by the tears of unfeigned and timely repentance, and by hearty reformation and amendment.
5. There is a great deal of reason to apprehend that we shall be induced to think on our ways some time before our departure out of this world.
If ever we are brought into troubles and distresses, or have near apprehensions of death and judgment, then these reflections will be unavoidable, and these thoughts will disturb us, when the benefit will be uncertain. It must therefore be prudent to think on our ways in time, freely and voluntarily, and by a speedy and effectual repentance and amendment, to lay a foundation for pleasing reflections, and comfortable prospects, in a day of affliction, or at the time of death.
6. Lastly, let us attend to the great advantages of thinking on our ways.
It is a likely mean of repentance, of amendment, and of improvement in every thing good and excellent: we shall then know ourselves : we shall see the evil of sin, and be very sensible of the sad consequences of continuing therein : we shall turn from it, and carefully keep God's commandments to the end, without any more deliberately and wilfully forsaking, or turning aside from them.
This is the lesson of the text, and of what follows: “ I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” Which last words, God willing, shall be the subject of our meditations the next opportunity.
THE UNREASONABLENESS OF DELAYS IN THINGS OF RELIGION.
I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.
Psal. cxix. 60.
THIS psalm is equally admirable for justness and piety of sentiment, and for exactness and elegance of composition. The prevailing principle running throughout, is a high esteem and veneration for the revealed will of God: which under some expressions of law, word, statutes, ordinances, testimonies, or some other phrase of like import, is mentioned in almost every verse of the psalm. Notwithstanding which, and the length of the meditation likewise, it is not chargeable either with tediousness or tautology. But there is a great and surprising variety, and the attention of the reader is kept up from the beginning to the end.
Indeed the variety is such, that it is somewhat difficult to make a summary of its contents, or represent in brief the several thoughts with which it is filled. However it may in general be said, that the Psalmist often professeth the regard he had for the divine law: and he aims to recommend to others the serious and diligent study of it, and a sincere and constant practice of all its precepts, as the only way to true blessedness. He declares the great and frequent ex
perience he had of support and comfort from it in his distresses and afflictions. He vows perpetual obedience and conformity to it, notwithstanding the discouragements he might meet with from the world about him, and the multitude, or the greatness of transgressors. He prays also for farther instruction in God's word, and help to keep it to the end. The psalm is suited to comfort the dejected, to assist those who aim at the greatest perfection in virtue, to quicken the slothful and indolent, and to awaken sinners, and reclaim them from their wanderings.
The words of the text are more especially adapted to some of the last mentioned cases.
In the preceding verse he declares, that he had “ thought on his ways :" the result of which was, that he was thereby disposed and enabled to amend them: and “ I turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” He adds here a very happy and commendable circumstance of that conversion, or alteration for the better: it was speedy, and immediate. “I made
“ haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.”
Having lately explained and recommended to you the duty of consideration, or “ thinking on our ways:" I now intend to recommend the imitation of the Psalinist in this circumstance, speediness of amendment wherever any thing has been amiss. The want of which is, probably, one of the most common failings which men are incident to. There are few, or none, but have some convictions of the evil of sin, and some perception and persuasion of the excellence and necessity of real holiness. They are aware that sin, unrepented of, must be of fatal consequence: and that without holiness no man can attain to the happiness of a future state. They
a intend therefore and hope to be truly holy in time. They would not die in sin, nor continue in it always.
No, they propose to repent of it, and forsake it. They design to humble themselves greatly for all their transgressions, and to turn themselves from them to a sincere obedience to all God's commandments. But the time for putting these resolutions in practice is not yet come, and they hope it may be well done hereafter. This is very different from the example in the text. Which, that all may be disposed to follow and imitate,
I. I will in the first place mention some considerations, showing the evil of delays in the things of religion.
II. I will consider those pleas and excuses which some make for delaying to reform, and their objections against immediate compliance with the commands of God.
III. I intend also at the end to offer some motives and
arguments, tending to induce men to perform what is their duty.
1. In the first place I shall mention some considerations, showing the evil of delays in the things of religion.
1. A sinner's delaying repentance and amendment is an act of great imprudence, and such as men are not ordinarily guilty of in other matters.
It is, I say, great imprudence to delay to reform; because it is a thing of the utmost importance, upon which depends our everlasting concerns, our happiness or misery in another state. Is not the condition of an habitual sinner extremely Viazardous ? Every one must own, that whilst a man is in any evil course, allowed of and indulged, he is under the displeasure of God. And if he die in that state and course, he is miserable beyond redress. The only way of averting the displeasure of God, and escaping future misery, is that of sincere repentance. And how imprudent must it be to defer that a moment ? Should not every discreet and thoughtful person desire to be in a safe condition, rather than in a state of great danger?
Should we not then be all ready to embrace the pardoning mercy of God, now offered to us, by confessing and forsaking our sins, as he requires ! He will, then,“ receive us graciously, and love us freely,” Hos. xiv. 2, 4.
2. We ought seriously to consider the shortness and uncertainty of life. Can it be reasonable to defer a thing which we own ought to be done, when we are not certain that we shall have another opportunity of doing it? For we cannot depend upon to-morrow, not knowing what the present day may bring forth. All do not arrive at old age, or any other of the advanced periods of life. Numberless are the dangers to which we are exposed. And the strongest and most healthy may be taken off by sudden accidents.
Suppose death to make gradual approaches. Yet we are not certain what pains, what indispositions they are, that shall bring on the dissolution of soul and body. They may be such as shall immediately and utterly unqualify us for settling any of our affairs relating to this life, or making any preparations for another. How inconvenient then, how unsafe, how unwise must it be, to defer this important concern to a distant, unknown, and uncertain futurity!
3. You defer repenting and giving up yourself to God for the present, in hopes of doing so hereafter. But repentance will be more unlikely hereafter than now.
There cannot, I apprehend, be any reason to think it should be more likely in some future time, than the pre
sent. But there are many reasons to suppose
You are not sure of having such calls to repentance as you now have, even supposing the continuance of life. You now enjoy means of virtue and holiness: and earnest and frequent calls and invitations are made to you. But it may not be always so. Your worldly affairs may place you in some other situation, where the like means are not to be had, which are now afforded you. Or, if the principles of religion do not now make a deep and abiding impression upon your minds, you may be prevailed upon by some worldly
, considerations, to forsake and abandon the ordinances of divine worship, and all the usual means of awakening, reforming, and reclaiming sinners. For these, and other the like reasons, the scripture speaks of " an accepted time,” and a“ day of salvation,” Is. xlix. 8, which it is of importance to improve, and very dangerous to neglect, 2 Cor. vi. 2.
If the ordinary means of holiness and salvation are tinued, what reason is there to think that you should be at any time hereafter better disposed to improve them than you are now ? Is there not rather a great deal of reason to fear, lest the heart should contract some hardness by a long continuance in sin ? And if reasonable and forcible arguments do not now sway and prevail, they will be so far from influencing more hereafter, that they will affect much less than at present. Besides, by delaying and deferring you contract a habit of delaying, and do it with less remorse. Your first put-offs and excuses, perhaps, are not made without a good deal of uneasiness: and you are almost ashamed, or even confounded, when you make them : and
make them : and your heart afterwards smites you for it. But having time after time excused and deferred compliance with the reasonable demands that have been made of you, you become more assured and confident; and such demands are for the future put off with little or no scruple, or concern of mind.
Moreover, it is a vain thing to imagine, that you may outlive temptations; and that the time may come, when there shall be no longer any impediments or obstructions of repentance and amendment. For there always will be temptations, suited to every age of life, which will have a powerful influence upon those who are not fully devoted to God, and have not attained to the government of their passions. If sensual pleasure be a bait that seduces and ensnares men in the early days of life, riches, and honour, and preferment are as taking with men of worldly minds, in the more advanced, and the very latest periods of life.