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situation with respect to his future life. And these warnings, as perhaps was proper, come the thicker upon us the farther we advance in life. The dropping into the grave of our acquaintance and friends and relations; what can be better calculated, not to prove (for we do not want the point to be proved), but to possess our hearts with a complete sense and perception of the extreme peril and hourly precariousness of our condition : viz. to teach this momentous lesson, that, when we preach to you concerning heaven and hell, we are not preaching concerning things at a distance, things remote, things long before they come to pass; but concerning things near, soon to be decided, in a very short time to be fixed one way or the other? This is a truth of which we are warned by the course of mortality; yet, with this truth confessed, with these warnings before us, we venture upon sin. But it will be said that the events which ought to warn us are out of our mind at the time. But this is not so.
Were it that these things came to pass in the wide world only, at large, it might be that we should seldom hear of them, or soon forget them. But the events take place when we ourselves are within our own doors; in our own families; amongst those with whom we have the most constant correspondence, the closest intimacy, the strictest connexion. It is impossible to say that such events can be out of our mind; nor is it the fact. The fact is, that, knowing them, we act in defiance of them ; which is neglecting warnings in the worst sense possible. It aggravates the daringness : it aggravates the desperateness of sin: but it is so, nevertheless. Supposing these warnings to be sent by Providence, or that we believe and have reason to believe and ought to believe that they are so sent, then the aggravation is very great.
We have warnings of every kind. Even youth itself is continually warned that there is no reliance to be placed either on strength or constitution, or early age : that, if they count upon life as a thing to be reckoned secure for a considerable number of years, they calculate most falsely; and if they act upon this calculation, by allowing themselves in the vices which are incidental to their years, under a notion that it will be long before they shall have to answer for them, and before that time come they shall have abundant season for repenting and amending ; if they suffer such arguments to enter into their minds, and act upon them, then are they guilty of neglecting God in his warnings.— They not only err in point of just reasoning, but they neglect the warnings which God has expressly set before them. Or, if they take upon themselves to consider religion as a thing not made or calculated for them; as much too serious for their years; as made and intended for the old and the dying ; at least as what is unnecessary to be entered upon at present, as what may be postponed to a more suitable time of life : whenever they think thus, they think very presumptuously. They are justly chargeable with neglected warnings. And what is the event? These postponers never enter upon religion at all, in earnest or effectually. That is the end and event of the matter. To account for this, shall we say that they have so offended God, by neglecting his warnings, as to have forfeited his grace? Certainly we may say that this is not the method of obtaining his grace; and that his grace is necessary to our conversion. Neglected warnings is not the way to obtain God's grace; and God's grace is necessary to conversion. The young, I repeat again, want not warnings. Is it new? is it unheard of? is it not, on
? the contrary, the intelligence of every week, the experience of every neighbourhood, that young men and young women are cut off? Man is, in every sense, a flower of the field. The flower is liable to be cut down in its bloom and perfection, as well as in its witherings and its decays. So is man : and one probable cause of this ordination of Providence is, that no one of any age may be so confident of life as to allow himself to transgress God's laws : that all of every age may live in constant awe of their Maker.
I do admit that warnings come the thicker upon us as we grow old. We have more admonitions both in our remembrances and in our observations, and of more kinds. A man who has passed a long life has to remember preservations from danger, which ought to inspire him both with thankfulness and caution. Yet, I fear, we are very deficient in both these qualities. We call our preservations, escapes, not preservations, and so we feel no thankfulness for them: nor do we turn them into religious cautions. When God preserved us, he meant to warn us.—When such instances, therefore, have no effect upon our minds, we are guilty before God of neglecting his warnings. Most especially if we have occasion to add to all other reasons for gratitude this momentous question, What would have become of us, what would have been our condition, if we had perished in the danger by which our lives were threatened ? The parable of the fig-tree (Luke, xiii. 6) is a most apt scripture for persons under the circumstances we have described. When the Lord had said, “Cut it down : why cumbereth it the ground ?” he was entreated to try it one year longer ;. and then, if it proved not fruitful, to cut it down. Christ himself there makes the application twice over (verses third and fifth), “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” If the present, or if the then state of our conscience and of our souls call
reflection, then are they very guilty indeed, if such preservations leave no religious impression upon us : or if we suffer the temporary impression to pass off without producing in us a change for the better.
Infirmities, whether they be of health or of cay, and weakness, are warnings. And it has been asked, with some degree of wonder, why they make so little impression as they do? One chief reason is this. They who have waited for warnings of this kind, before they would be converted, have generally waited until they are become hardened in sin. Their habits are fixed. Their character has taken its shape and form. Their disposition is thoroughly infected and invested with sin. When it is come to this case, it is difficult for any call to be heard ; for any warning to operate. It is difficult; but “with God all things are possible.” If there be the will and the sincere endeavonr to reform, the grace of God can give the power. Although, therefore, they who wait for the advances of age, the perception of decay, the probable approach of death before they turn themselves seriously to religion, have waited much too long, have neglected, and despised, and defied many solemn warnings in the course of their lives; have waited, indeed, till it be next to impossible that they turn at all from their former ways : yet this is not a reason why they should continue in neglect of the warnings which now press upon them; and which at length they begin to perceive: but just the contrary. The effort is great; but the necessity is greater. It is their last hope and their last trial. I put the case of a man grown old in sin. If the warnings of old age bring him round to religion, happy is that man in his old age, above anything he was in any other part of his life. But if these warnings do not affect him, there is nothing left in this world which will.
We are not to set limits to God's grace, operating according to his good pleasure ; but we say there is nothing in this world, there is nothing in the course of nature and the order of human affairs,—which will affect him, if the feelings of age do not.
I put the case of a man grown old in sin, and, though old, continuing the practice of sin : that it is said, in the full latitude of the expression, describes a worse case than is commonly met with. Would to God the case was more rare than it is! But, allowing it to be unusual in the utmost extent of the terms, in a certain considerable degree the description applies to many old persons. Many feel in their hearts that the words
grown old in sin” belong to them in some sense which is very formidable. They feel some dross and defilement to be yet purged away; some deep corruption to be yet eradicated; some virtue or other to be yet even learnt: yet acquired : or yet however to be brought nearer to what it ought to be than it has hitherto been brought. Now, if the warnings of age taught us nothing else, they might teach us this: that if these things are to be done, they must be done soon; they must be set about forthwith, in good earnest, and with strong resolution. The work is most momentous ; the time is short. The day is far spent: the evening is come on : the night is at hand.
Lastly, I conceive that this discourse points out the true and only way of making old age comfortable ; and that is, by making it the means of religious improvement. Let a man be beset by ever so many bodily complaints, bowed down by ever so many infirmities ; if he find his soul grown and growing better, his seriousness increased, his obedience more regular and more exact, his inward principles and dispositions improved from what they were formerly, and continuing to improve ; that man hath a fountain of comfort