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And in the New Testament, Christ, though he came down from heaven to save sinners, tells us expressly, that unless we do something on our part; that is, unless we believe and repent; we shall still perish. The man, who is desirous of saving a favourite vine, can only dig about it and manure it: after all his pains, it may not bring forth fruit: and if it does not, though it be his favourite vine; though in the language of scripture, it be the man of his right hand, yet he must suffer it, however reluctantly, to be cut down, that it cumber not the ground. Thus, in spite of the repeated endeavours of Christ to save his favourite city, Jerusalem, it was, if I may be allowed the expression, beyond the power of infinite mercy to save it. The Saviour of mankind could only weep over it, and say, “ Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest “ the prophets, and stonest them which are sent
unto thee, how often would I have gathered
thy children together, even as a hen gathereth “ her chickens under her wings, and ye would “ not! Therefore, behold, your house is left “ unto you desolate.” From hence, then, we may clearly infer, that God, though he is not willing that any should perish, will not, however, save any but such as are willing to be saved : he will not take away human freedom, and force us into life: he will not impel us, like the arrows in
the hand of the giant, by a resistless and uncontrolable force: he hath set life and death before us, and leaves the choice to ourselves.
Since, then, my friends, happiness or misery, since eternal happiness or misery is depending on our choice, let us take care that we chuse aright. For, however the business or pleasure of the present moment may divert our attention or beguile our thoughts, it nearly concerns us all to think of these things; to reflect a moment and be still; to commune with our own hearts, and, after the maturest deliberation, to fix and determine our choice.
And this deliberation should not, as is too commonly the case, be deferred under pretence of a more convenient season: for be assured, . there is no season so convenient as the present: to-day is our's; to-morrow is not so. The voice which this day invites you in the name of God to accept of life, may soon be heard no more: and
you, to whom life is this day offered by that voice, may, before to-morrow's sun rise, be incapable of accepting the offer: chuse ye, therefore, this day, whom ye will serve. “I call heaven « and earth to record this day against you, that “ I have set before you life and death, blessing “ and cursing: therefore chuse life, that both “ thou and thy seed may live."
Many an unhappy man has been ruined, before he has ever thought of chusing his principles at all. Too gay for thought, or too busy for reflection, he hurries along through life, without any fixed object in view; without allowing himself time even to consider, whither the path he is in will lead him. And thus, without any apprehensions of what he is doing, though in a matter of the last importance, the poor, thoughtless, unsuspicious wanderer runs forward to his ruin. He never thinks at all, till it is too late to think : he never chuses his way of life, till he finds himself at the end of his journey.--And then, all amazed and terrified, he sees his danger and his folly together; he chooses to live well, when, alas! he can live no longer.
Thank God, this is not yet our case! God in mercy has still given us time for thought and reflection; this day life and death are once more set before us, blessing and cursing: this day, therefore, let us consider, chuse, fix, and determine, which of the two we will embrace.
This deliberation and choice is necessary for all men, in all conditions. But I would recommend it in a more particular manner to the young; who, as the Prophet expresses himself, require line upon line, precept upon precept, to
guard them from ruin ; to whom, therefore, I have not ceased, for more than twenty years, to whom, therefore, I shall never cease, on all occasions, to renew and repeat my exhortations, in every form which seems likely to fix their volatile and unsettled minds, and to induce them to remember, their Creator in the days of their youth.
You, then, who are just entering into life, would do well, before you begin your course, to consider, how you may be able to run it with joy. Guilt excepted, you are in the state of our first parents, when issuing from paradise. The wide world is all before you : it has its pleasures, and it has its torments : it has its blessings, and it has its curses. Stand still therefore a moment, and consider what path of life you ought to chuse, that you may attain the one and avoid the other.
You are at present happy. Your hearts are as yet good, your amusements innocent, your minds unspotted : your days are spent in ease and cheerfulness, and your nights in peaceful slumbers.
And it is your innocence that makes you happy. It is the innocence of our early years.
that makes us always think of them with joy. We were then undisturbed with the anxious cares of the world, and unstained with its guilt, and therefore always look back with delight to the hours of youth, and may justly be said still to take pleasure in them.
You that are now in that happy period of life, may be assured, that it is your innocence alone that makes you happy. Preserve, therefore, that innocence as you advance in life, and you
will be happy still. Hold it fast, and never let it
go: let not your heart reproach you so long as you live. In the words of the Psalmist,
Keep innocency, and take heed to the thing that is right: for that,” and that only, “shall bring a man peace at the last.”
But think not that you can preserve this innocence long, without some knowledge of the dangers you will have to encounter in life: to the harmless simplicity of doves you must add something of the wisdom of the serpent, if you mean to be happy. For there is a smiling world before you, which will attack your unsuspecting hearts with all its flattering allurements; the charms of novelty, the gaiety of pleasure, the hopes of ambition, the prospect of advantage. These you may enjoy with innocence and mo