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lead us to repentance. And, if we do not now, at least in this our day, fix and determine our choice of principles, we shall soon, very soon, unless death prevent it, advance into old age, full of years and full of follies, bending together beneath the weight of infirinities, and the burden of our sins. And surely at this last period of life, inconsistency of principle and practice appears in its utmost deformity. It always carries with it an air of absurdity and imprudence, and, therefore, is always unlovely : yet the errors of youth have something to plead in their favour : the ordinary deviations of manhood do not strike us with horror: but levity of sentiment and profligacy of conduct in advanced age, and amidst the decays and ruin of nature, is something which human nature even shudders and recoils at. “ The hoary head,” says the wise preacher of old, “is a crown of glory, if it be “ found in the way of righteousness :" but if, on the contrary, it be found in the way of sin ; if gray hairs bè covered with the cap of folly, and the wrinkles of age be the companions of levity in the one sex, or of debauchery in the other; it then becomes an object, which the virtuous turn away from with disgust, and the gay and vicious behold with derision and contempt. But the censure of this world, whether it be that of the virtuous or profane, is of small
weight, when compared with the heavier burden of self-condemnation. And self-condemned a man grown gray in sin will be, when, finding himself on the confines of eternity, he feels himself wretched and helpless, ashamed of the past, without enjoyment in the present, and without hope in the future. For, let a man's past sentiments or views have been heretofore what they will, at that awful moment, every thing will apo pear to him in its just and proper colours. The tinsel glitter of life, which dazzled his eyes in the day of folly, will disappear, and present nothing to his view but the legible characters of all is vanity. In vain will his weeping friends endeavour to console him. In vain will the man of God speak comfort to his soul. His conscience will write bitter things against him, which no powers of language can assuage. He will see what he has lost through his folly; he will feel what he has found :-an eternity of bliss for ever lost; an eternity of torment approaching! Is it possible for human reason to bear the thought ? " The spirit of a man will “ sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit “ who can bear?” When men of the greatest charity and candour behold such an object as this in his last moments, they can only take up the same lamentation that our Saviour did when he beheld Jerusalem; they can only weep over
him, and say, “ Oh! that thou hadst known, “ eten thou, at least in this thy day, the “ things that belong to thy peace! But now “ they are hid,” for ever hid, “ from thine “ eyes!”
, God grant that this may never be our case ! And in order to prevent it, let us, in this our day, chuse the things that belong to our peace. Behold! life and death are set before us, blessing and cursing: this day, therefore, let us chuse life, that both we and our seed may live. Let us remember, that short is the day which remains for us to work out our salvation : and if we do not take heed, soon and suddenly will that night of approaching dissolution overtake us, in which no man can work. We shall then find it labour enough to close our final account: to collect the scattered fragments of human resolution, without adding to it the painful recollection of our past lives, or the sorrowful regret for our mis-spent hours. Let us, therefore, whilst we have yet time, employ every moment in the discharge of our duty, whether it relates to God, our neighbour, or ourselves. Finally, in the language of inspiration, “ Whatever our -“ hand findeth to do, let us do it with all our “ might: knowing that there is no work, noč “ device, nor knowledge in the grave, whither we are all of us speedily going.”
SERMON LXV. "
Preached at Finchley, May 19, 1793, in Consequence
of His Majesty's Letter in Favor of the
EMIGRANT CLERGY of France.
Matt. vii. 12.
IVhatsoever ye would that men should do unto
you, do ye even so to them : for this is the law and the prophets.
A S mercy and compassion are the darling at a tributes of the great Governor of the universe, in the exercise of which he is said chiefly to delight; so it may be observed, that the religion which the blessed Jesus came down from heaven to establish in the world, has particularly recommended those amiable affections, and made them the distinguishing characters of a Christian; that as God, the great author of every good and perfect gift, originally designed the welfare
of his creatures, and created them in order to be happy; so man likewise, in imitation of the Deity, after whose image he was formed, might carry on the same glorious work, extend his care and compassion to his fellow-creatures, and exercise those amiable dispositions, which the allwise God implanted in his nature, as the fairest transcript of his own perfections. Accordingly we find, that mercy is the great duty of Christianity, laid down in almost every page of the Gospel, enjoined by the strongest motives, and enforced by the most prevailing example. And the exercise of this duty was the constant business and delight of the Author of our religion, thereby giving a more powerful sanction to his commands, and with greater force and efficacy pressing upon mankind their obligations to be merciful, from a sense that he, their Lord and Master, was the completest pattern of mercy and compassion.
It must be owned, indeed, that this virtue was not so peculiar to the Christian dispensation, as to receive its obligations solely from the example of our great Lawgiver, or from the cominands with which he has enforced it. The law of mercy is a law written in their hearts, engraven by the finger of God himself, and again renewed and strengthened by the revelation to