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Are we then without motives to prepare for such a scene as this ? As we must first pass through the ordeal of a judgment before it can be realized to us, shall we neglect to make ready for that awful trial when “we shall be weighed in an even balance, that God may know our integrity ?” The very impossibility of escaping this trial is of itself a sufficient motive to prepare for it; but surely the motive is infinitely heightened when if we escape condemnation, the result must be, not merely an escape from the horrors of eternal death, but an exaltation to the glories of eternal life. The motive too is further enhanced when we recollect that our rejection at the judgment will not simply be the loss of heaven, but the everlasting possession of “a worm that dieth not, and a fire that shall not be quenched.”
The motive presses yet stronger still upon us when we consider that we have it in our own power to attain to the one, and that the fault therefore rests entirely with ourselves if we are doomed to undergo the miseries of the other. With the blessed assistance of God's grace, which is never denied to our earnest solicitations, we are abundantly able“ to work out our own salvation ;" for “ they that sow in righteousness shall reap in mercy,” but “they that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.” “
“ Why will ye die, O house of Israel," asked the Almighty himself, through the mouth of bis prophet, and would he have thus addressed “his people Israel,” if they had not been in the way of becoming their own destroyers ? Would he have so addressed them if they had not possessed the means of salvation within themselves, by soliciting and retaining his Holy Spirit, and with this divine aid of turning from their transgressions?
If we have a full and sufficient motive to prepare for a judgment to come, we surely can have no sufficient motive for not preparing ourselves for it. Why then do we so frequently neglect to make this preparation ? Is it only because we do not like to abstain from those forbidden indulgences of the flesh which are so gratifying to our degraded nature, that we neglect to perform this one thing needful ? But shall the motives of a momentary interest prevail over those of an eternal one? Shall we merge, as it were, the joys of eternity in those of time, and stake our everlasting happiness upon the cast of an instant ? “The wages of sin is death,” death eternal --not an utter extinction of being, but a midnight of perpetual horrors, an exclusion from all enjoyment, an incapacity for any sensations beyond those of misery and anguish ; but“ the gift of God is eternal life.” This gift is bestowed upon all who ask it worthily. For “ him that cometh to me,” said our blessed Redeemer, “I will in no wise cast out.” Who then
would hesitate between the alternative of light ineffable and outer darkness ? The choice is witho urselves. We must, however, not only make the choice, but also confirm it by the conduct of our lives. This brings us to the last division of our subject. Namely, the dangers of delaying our preparation for the last judgment.
The shortness and uncertainty of life is in itself an argument sufficiently powerful to awaken us from our dreams of security, and to keep our ears constantly open to the warning voice of the Judge, “if, therefore, thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." I shall not, however, stay to apply this argument now. I have already drawn your attention to it in several past discourses, it will be my endeavour, therefore, on the present occasion, to show the danger of delaying our reformation from those difficulties which arise as we encrease in years against our putting our better resolutions into earnest and availing practise. In youth, as we must all know from our own experience, we can easily adopt habits, and almost as easily relinquish them. The unsettled temper of the mind at this early period, and the continual flux of new and dazzling objects, naturally keep it unsteady to any settled principle of action. In proportion as we advanced in years, so we become familiarized with those objects, whilst our choice
of principles becomes less difficult and more certain. Our habits acquire a tone and confirmation. They fix within us by degrees, and the older we grow the deeper the root strikes. We cling to them at length, because it is grievous to part with them. We cherish them, because we ascribe to them most of our worldly delights ; and we hesitate to relinquish them, because they have so grown with our growth, and strengthened with our strength, that the difficulties of doing it discourage and confound us. But the more we shrink from these presumed difficulties, the less shall we eventually be able to overcome them. If we forbear to “lay the
. axe to the root of the tree,” and only lop the branches, it is merely encreasing the evil by imparting additional vital energy to the trunk. The longer we forbear, the less shall we be able to act effectually in the work of reformation; and if it be delayed too long, there can be
1 no more striving: “whatsoever, therefore, thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.” To put off then the work of reformation to any indefinite period is rash and presumptuous; but to defer it until age come upon us is worse than both.
Arguing from the stubborn operation of habit upon the human mind, it will appear that the winter of existence is by no means a season
generally favourable to reformation. For shall we think that it will require less endeavour to dislodge from the mind and heart those worldly associations of desire and thought, which have occupied the term of a life, than it did to fix them there? It will in most cases take a longer time to subdue than to imbibe a habit ; if, therefore, we leave all our bad ones to the latter period of our days, how are we likely to have time to eradicate them, even if their expulsion were practicable ? Shall we imagine, during the few years of decay that we may be spared to wander here, when the faculties are all impaired and every day losing their power, that we can at once sweep away all the habitudes of perhaps a long life, and of a life too chiefly spent in acquiring and supporting them ? If we have accustomed ourselves for more than half a century to think only of things below, do we imagine that by a mere act of volition we can in a moment change this carnal mind, and set our affections on things above? We must subdue the dispositions of our hearts before we can bring them to this spiritual temper. And suppose we leave it until we have not energy remaining equal to this conflict with ourselves, what must then become of our hopes ?
We all know that in proportion as the faculties of the body decay those of the mind also languish. With faculties impaired, the body bowed