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suitable to be kept in view in all our undertakings, more awakening in a thoughtless hour, or more cheering to an upright heart.
I have only to request, by dear brother, that you will excuse the freedom of this plain address. I have not spoken so much to instruct you in things which you know not, as to remind and impress you with things which you already know. The Lord bless you, and grant that the solemnities of this day may ever be remembered both by you, and your people, with satisfaction. AMEN.
The pernicious Influence of Delay in Religious
HAGGAI i. 2.
Thus speaketh the Lord of Hosts, saying, This peo
ple say, the time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built.
WHEN the children of Judah were delivered from their captivity, and allowed by the proclamation of Cyrus to return to their own land, one of the principal things which attracted their attention was the re-building of the house of God, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. This was a work which Cyrus himself enjoined, and which the hearts of the people were much set upon. It was not however to be accomplished at once; and as the worship of God was a matter of immediate and indispensable concern, they set up an altar, on which to offer sacrifices, and offerings, till such time as the temple should be built.
In the second year after their return, the foundation of the Lord's house was laid ; but opposi. tion being made to it by the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin, the work ceased all the days of Cy rus, until the reign of Darius, commonly distin. guished by the name of Darius- Hystaspis. During this period, which seems to have been about fourteen years, the people sunk into a spirit of indifference. At first they desisted from necessity ; but afterwards, their attention being turned to the
building and ornamenting of houses for themselves, they seemed very well contented that the house of the Lord should lie waste. For this their temper and conduct, the land was smitten with barrenness ; so that both the vintage and the har. vest failed them. God also raised up Haggai and Icchariah to go and remonstrate aga nst their su. pineness ; and the efforts of these two prophets were the means of stiring up the people to resume the work *
The argument which the people used against building the house of God, was, that the time was not come. . It is possible they waited for a counter order from the Persian court ; if so, they might have waited long enough. A work of that. nature ough: to have been prosecuted of their own accord ; at least they should have tried.
It did not follow, because they were hindered once, therefore they should never succeed. Or, perhaps, they meant to plead their present weakness and poverty.Something like this seems to be implied in the fourth verse, where they are reminded that they had strength enough to build and ornament houses for themselves. It looks as if they wished to build, and lay by fortunes for themselves and their families, and then, at some future time, they might contribute for the build. ing of the house of God. There is something of this procrastinating spir
. it that runs through a great part of our life, and is of great detriment to us in the work of God. We know of many things that should be done, and cannot in conscience directly oppose them; but still we find excuses for our own inactivity, While we adinit that many things should be done which are not done, we are apt to quiet ourselves with the thought that they need not be done just
* See the iii, iv, and y. chapters of Ezrae
now.The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built.
In disco rsing to you upon the subject, brethren, I shall take notice of a few of the most remarkable cases in which this spirit is discovered,-and then endeavour to shew its evil nature, and dangerous tendency.
In respect to the CASES, OR INSTANCES, IN WHICH IT IS DISCOVERED, a small degree of observation on mankind, and of reflection upon the workings of our own hearts, will furnish us with many of these, and convince us of its great influ. ence on every description of men, in almost all their religious concerns Particularly,
First, It is by this plea that a great part of mankind are constantly deceiving themselves in respect to a serious attention to their souls' concerns. The concerns of our souls are doubtless of the last importance; and there are times in which most men not only acknowledge this truth, but in some sort feel the force of it. This is the case especially with those who have had a religious education, and have been used to attend upon the preaching of the gospel. They hear from the pulpit that men must be born again, must be converted, and become as little children, or never enter into the kingdom of God. Or the same things are impressed upon them by some threatening affliction, or alarining providence. They feel themselves at those times very unhappy ; and it is not unusual for them to resolve upon a sacrifice of their former sins, and a serious and close attention in future to the affairs of their souls. They think, wbile under these impressions, they will consider their ways, they will enter their closets, and shut to the door, and pray !!'o the Lord that he would have mercy upon them ; but alas, no sooner do they reire fan the house of God, or recover from their affliction, but the impression
begins to subside, and then matters of this sort become less welcome to the mind. They must not be utterly rejected, but are let alone for the present. As conscience becomes less alarmed, and danger is viewed at a greater distance, the sinner by degrees recovers himself from his fright, and dismisses his religious concern in some such manner as Felix did his reprover ; Go thy way for this time, and when I have a convenient season I will send for thee.
'It is thus with the ardent youth. ---In the hour of serious reflection, he feels that religion is of inportance; but his heart, still averse to what his concience recommends, rises against the thought of sacrificing the prime of life to the gloomy du. ties of prayer and self-denial. He does not re. solve never to attend to these things, but the time does not seem to be come.
He hopes that God Almighty will excuse him a few years at least, and impute his excesses to you thful folly and im. becility. It is thus with the man of business.-There are times in which he is obliged to retire from the hurry of life ; and at those times, thoughts of another life may arrest his attention. Conscience at those intervals may smite him for his living without prayer, without reflection, with. out God in all his thoughts; and what is his rem. edy? Does he lament his sin, and implore mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ? No, nor $0 much as promise to forsake it immediately ; but this he promises, that when this busy time is over, and that favourite point is gained, and those intricate affairs are terminated, then it shall be other. wise.--It is thus with persons in single life, they will be better when they get settled in the world, m.it is thus with the incumbered
parent, looks forward to the time when her family shall get off her hands; yea, it is thus with the drunko ard and the debauchee, wearied in their own way,