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J-'s mind awakened,
though “ to order all things after the counsel of his own will’ were not the right and prerogative of God.
Inconsistent as was this state of feeling with true piety, it did not lead J— to suspect that there was any thing radically defective in his Christian character. But God designed that this dispensation should be blessed to his eternal well-being. The removal of his sister led him to think much upon the subject of death. One day, as he sat meditating upon that solemn event, the thought darted into his mind, " Are you this moment ready to die ?" This inquiry awoke him in an instant, as it were, from a sleep. He felt that he was not prepared to die. The more he reflected upon himself, the more he shrunk from the thought of appearing before God in judgment. He was led to ask himself, how this was? As a Christian he ought to be prepared for this event. Yet when he looked in upon himself, he felt that he had no prop, no stay ; that there was nothing for hope to lean upon. He became dejected and melancholy. He strove still more earnestly to keep the pure and perfect law of God. He watched all his actions, and scrutinized all his motives. But the more he looked inward, and tried to live entirely to God, the more he saw his own sinfulness, and felt plunged into the depths of despondency.
At length he conversed with several Christian friends, told them how wretched he felt, and assured them that he looked upon death with the greatest dread and horror. They did not seem to understand his difficulty. One advised him to fast one day in every week, and spend that day in prayer to God, for a preparation to die. Another told him, he thought, as a Christian, he ought not to distress himself with apprehensions about death; that when the event came, God would take away his fears, and give him the
grace of dying. A third advised him to spend a portion of every day in thinking upon the subject of death ; and thus, by familiarizing his mind to it, he would find his fears to fall off. But he derived no sort of satisfaction or comfort from this counsel, or the expedients suggested. While he was trying " obediently to keep God's holy will and commandments,” and bending all his efforts to this point, his mind was “ like the troubled sea when it cannot rest.'
The only relief that he found was in dismissing all
thoughts about religion. Hence he fell into the habit of performing all his religious duties in a heartless and mechanical way.
He repeated his prayers and went to church without thinking much about God, or heaven, or hell. But at times, and especially on communion seasons, the realities of eternity would rise most vividly before him, and wrap his soul in midnight darkness. At such times, he felt all the bitterness and anguish of a wounded spirit. He did not yet know his malady, nor how to obtain relief. His only resource was to resolve to live more holy.
Thus several years passed away. A part of the time his attention was diverted from his own wretchedness by the intellectual efforts in which he was engaged. But having completed his collegiate course, and enjoying a season of comparative leisure, he was led to study the word of God, with a view to find relief to his mind. To this he joined prayer. By degrees the light began to dawn upon his mind. At first, it was like the faint streaks of morning on the eastern sky. But soon it kindled into the broad light of day. He now saw what his difficulty was. He had been trying to save himself; to work out justification by a righteousness of his own. While he theoretically embraced Christ as his Saviour, he had no realizing sense of entire dependence upon him. When he thought of dying and appearing in judgment, he immediately began to summon around him his virtues, and to consider what excuse he could render for his delinquencies and failure of duty. And this is what troubled him and filled him with despair. He saw he could not answer for one of a thousand of his faults ; and his heart died within him, as well it might, when he thought of standing before the piercing gaze of an infinitely holy God.
But now his views were entirely changed. He saw that the sinner was to be saved - • by grace through faith,
and that not of himself, but that it was the gift of God.” And feeling that he was a sinner, a lost and ruined sinner, he came to the feet of Jesus, and begged him to save him by grace alone. He now saw that his imperfect obedience was not at all to be taken into the account of his justification ; that he was to be “justified freely by grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
And now looking unto Jesus, he could behold the grisly king of
terrors, and feel no alarm. He could contemplate the judgment hour and still feel tranquil. His hope now was —not that he should be justified when he stood before the Judge, because he was less sinful than others, though it was his constant study to avoid all sin—but that when he stood arraigned before that awful tribunal, Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, would appear as his advocate, and throwing over him the mantle of his own perfect righteousness, would claim him as the purchase of his blood, and on that ground demand for him an admission into the courts of blessedness.
Having surrendered himself unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ, he felt that he might hush all his fears to repose by this inquiry of the apostle" Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Therefore, being justified by faith, J-felt that he had peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. He now began to understand those parts of God's holy word which speak of divine comfort, of peace, of rest, and of joy: yes, he now went on his way rejoicing “ with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” And all this change was produced by the fact, that he had now surrendered himself up to the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour and everlasting friend. There were times when his mind was clouded and his hopes obscured; but he invariably found, when at such times he humbled himself low at the feet of Jesus, and rolled upon him all his sorrows and his sins, the darkness soon passed away, and the bright beams of glory again shone upon his path.
I HAVE now stated what I conceive to be essential qualifications, in order to confess Christ acceptably in the ordinance of confirmation. In the statements I have made, you see that I deem a change of heart, and conversion to God, as necessarily implied in the profession which you will take upon you by this solemn act. To be in a fit state to ratify your baptismal engagement, you must be a
Appeal to the undecided.
partaker of that “ inward and spiritual grace,” by which there is effected " a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness."
In the prayer that precedes the imposition of hands, the bishop approaches God, and supplicates divine mercy on you on the implied fact that you have been “regenerated not only with water, but with the Holy Ghost ;” and that you have obtained “ the forgiveness of all your sins." By the profession that is made in this ordinance, you bind yourselves to all that is pledged and implied in baptism,
which is to follow the example of our Saviour, Christ, and to be made like unto him, that as he died and rose again for us, so should we who are baptized, die from sin and rise again unto righteousness, continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living."
Before I bring this lecture to a close, allow me to inquire, am I not addressing some who have been listening to all this instruction, that do not expect to be among
those who will surrender themselves to Christ on the coming Sabbath, but who still feel almost persuaded to be Christians? If there be any such before me, I would say, hearer, you are standing on awfully dangerous ground ! While you are deliberating, the sentence that cuts you off may go forth never to be recalled! You know your duty ; the way of salvation has been opened before you ; the boon of everlasting life has been laid at your feet. You cannot depart from this assembly to-night, impenitent and unpardoned, undecided and undetermined whether you will serve the Lord, without rejecting the counsel of God against your own soul.
Something seems to tell me that there is a soul in this assembly that has not yet given itself up to Christ, and that will perish for ever. Eternal God! what shall I say to that soul? I have proclaimed, upon the authority of thy word, that there is an awful hell, into which the wicked shall be cast. I have told it that there is a bright and glorious heaven, into which the pardoned and purified will enter ; that Christ waits to shed upon its darkened vision his celestial light; that eternity is approaching, and death coming with rapid strides, and will soon lay his iron hand upon the mortal tenement it inhabits ; I have pointed it to
Appeal to the undecided.
the dread judgment bar, where, when it arrives, if not found clothed in the Redeemer's righteousness, it will be banished for ever from the presence of God and the Lamb! And what more can I say? Eternal God direct me; I know not what to say! An immortal, never-dying soul, as yet undetermined to surrender itself to Christ, is now before me, and in all human probability will perish for ever!
Methinks I hear, from the portals of the sky, another and the last invitation, “ Come, for all things are ready!”
Do you hesitate? Hark! the doors are even now closing; another moment, and it will be too late! 0, merciful heaven! the door is shut,--the day of grace has gone !
I would by no means be understood to say in reference to any individual here, that his day of grace has actually passed: but I do say that if I have not been reading to you from the book of the recording angel, the statement I have made will soon be read there. The eye of some passing angel will read this brief notice of your end, “ He rejected the invitation of mercy; he refused to submit to Christ, and has gone down to the bottomless pit to drink for ever the wrath of God.”
Oh, my dying hearer, if thou art the man, if thou art unreconciled to God, if thy heart has not yet been surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ, may the Eternal Spirit smite thy soul this very hour with pungent conviction on account of sin ; may the pillow on which thy head will be placed tonight seem planted with thorns; and may
comfort never again visit thy troubled bosom till it comes from a sense of pardoned sin, and a persuasion that God is reconciled to thee through the atoning blood of Jesus ! May the Spirit of the living God point thy eye to that scene which will soon burst upon thee, and lead thee feelingly to exclaim,
“ Great God, what do I see and hear!
The end of things created!
On clouds of glory seated :
Prepare, my soul, to meet him !"