Sermon XII

SERMON XII.

* THE STRUGGLES OF A CONVICTED SINNER.

Mark X. 22, 23.—"And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved; for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"

Matt. viii. 21, 22.—"And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead."

Luke ix. 61, 62.—" And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

Every one who has become a Christian has been conscious of a struggle of greater or less intensity, and of longer or shorter duration, before he found peace in believing. This struggle arises from the conviction of duty and the sense of guilt and of danger, on the one hand, and the love of the world and of sin, in some form, on the other. The intensity and the duration of this struggle will be varied much by the character of the individual ; will be modified much by his time of life or by the kind of instruction which he receives; will be intense as his love of sin may be intense and his conviction of its guilt may bo intense, and protracted as the love of sin and the world has been made strong in his heart.

The cases to which I have referred in opening this discourse are, each of them, an illustration of this thought:—a few of the many to be found in the New Testament, and all of them having a counterpart in the application of the gospel to the hearts of men in every age. The first is that of a rich young man—a man full of ardour, of many amiable qualities, and a sincere inquirer on the subject of religion—whom the Saviour required to give up his wealth, and consecrate it to God if he would follow him; and the struggle in his case was between his conviction of the necessity of religion and his love of his possessions. The second was that of a man whom the Saviour called to follow him, but who asked that he might first go and bury his father; and the struggle in his case was between his conviction of a duty which he owed to Christ and a desire to be saved, on the one hand, and a strong domestic tie—one of the strongest that can he conceived of—and a supposed pressing duty, growing out of that, on the other. The third was a similar case—that of a man who expressed a willingness to follow him, but who merely asked a delay that he might go, before he gave himself up to be a follower of Christ, and take a proper leave of his own friends and family connexions:—a parting struggle between his love of those friends and the love of the Saviour. In all these you will perceive essentially the same conflict of mind:—the command of Christ, his invitations and appeals, a strong sense of duty, a conviction of the necessity of religion, on the one hand; and some form of earthly attachment, some worldly engagement, some desire of respite and delay, some yet unsundered tie binding to the world, on the other. This is the subject to which, at the present time, I propose to ask your attention: in other words, I wislj to describe the struggles of a sinner under conviction of sin before he yields to the claims of the gospel. I shall endeavour to describe that struggle, and to show the reasons why a sinner in that state is not converted. In doing this, I shall seek to point out the nature of the struggle; the causes which produce it; and some illustrations of it as a mental operation, and as preventing the conversion of the soul to God.

The struggle may be described, in general, in one word. It is a conflict between a conviction of duty, and an unwillingness to do it; between a sense of what is right, and an inclination to do wrong; between a feeling that God ought to be obeyed, and the love of sin and of the world which prevents obedience. It is a conflict which shall have the mastery—conscience or pleasure; benevolence or selfishness; religion or the world. The person referred to is sensible of the evil of the course which ha is pursuing, but is not prepared to abandon it; he is convinced that he is a sinner, but is not willing to forsake his sins; he is unhappy in the pursuit of the world, but is not wholly ready to become a Christian; he feels in some degree the force and the reasonableness of the commands of Christ, and has some desire to be his follower, but he loves the world, as the rich young man did his possessions, or he has some strong worldly tie which he cannot yet sever, as he did who pleaded that he might go and bury his father, or he who asked that he might be suffered to bid farewell to those at his house. Two opposite things, both very powerful in their nature, are brought into conflict, and produce an agitation of the soul, as when counter currents of air meet in the sky, driving the clouds on each other and causing fierce tempests and storms, or as when a mighty river rolls down into the ocean, and meets the ebbing tide when driven onward by a mighty wind. Thus we have seen the clouds meet together on the hills, driven from the east and the west, heaving in wild commotion. And thus, too, it is at the mouth of some great river, as navigators tell us of the river Oregon, where on the ono side a vast and rapid volume of waters is rolled toward the ocean, and on the other the mighty sea rolls its waves in towards the descending volume. They meet on the bar, and then occurs the strife of contending currents. Rarely are the waters so smooth that a vessel may enter the mouth of the river safely, and often the mariner, unable to enter, is compelled to turn the prow of his vessel and stand again out to sea. So often in the soul of man. There are contending passions. There is in each an unwillingness to yield. There is a long and fearful struggle before either gives way, and the soul finds peace.

The causes of this struggle or conflict may all be resolved into the one fact, that there is now a deeply-felt conviction of duty and of danger coming into conflict with passion, pride, selfishness, worldliness, and the conscious opposition of the heart to a holy God.

On the one hand, there is the strong conviction of duty, and a sense of sin and danger more or less deep. The nobler powers of our nature, long torpid, are awakened into energy, and demand that the world and sin shall be abandoned, and that God shall be obeyed. Those powers of the soul that were designed to prompt to duty, and to lead to the service of God, had been long inactive. The conscience had become insensible to the obligations of religion. Duty was neglected without exciting compunction. The lessons of early piety were forgotten. The Bible was disregarded; the Sabbath was devoted to business, to light reading, to amusement, to sin; the sanctuary was entered reluctantly, and only by constraint of parental authority, if at all, or in accommodation to the wishes of a wife or mother, or from respect to the decent proprieties of life; the gospel was heard without feeling and without interest; its solemn warnings were unheeded, and its invitations slighted; and the great interests of the soul were wholly neglected. The world was pursued as the grand end of living; plans of gain were formed and pressed earnestly to their completion; or the life was devoted to gaiety, without any fear of death, any apprehension of the coming judgment. In such a state, sin and the world had gained a victor}■, and the soul was held in the chains of a servitude that was loved, and where the great powers of our nature had even ceased to struggle. Sleep, like the sleep of death, had crept silently over these faculties, and all was calm, and " Satan led the sinner captive at his will."

But these slumberings are now broken. The eyes have been opened on the reality of things. The spell has been dissolved. The voice of God is heard addressing the soul, and the aroused conscience now demands that attention shall be given to that voice. A new class of thoughts are summoned before the mind, and they come in such a way that the soul cannot but regard them. The law of God, forbidding all sin, with its severe and terrible sanctions; the demands of conscience; the evils of ingratitude ; the dreadful condition of a heart that is as hard as adamant; the fearful state of one living without God and without hope ; the terribleness of a death without religion ; the guilt of having disregarded God, and of having trampled on the blood of his dying Son; the crime of having grieved the Holy Spirit, and of having slighted the means of grace; the memory of violated sabbaths and abused mercies; the sins of the past life— pride, selfishness, envy, lust, sensuality ; the guilt of having disobeyed a parent, or of having ridiculed his religion,—these and kindred topics now occupy the attention, and the mind can no longer calm them down as it did in past years, for some mysterious, invisible agency is pressing them upon the soul.

But, on the other hand, there are antagonist feelings as numerous, and, at present, as strong. There is the love of sin and of the world. There is the reluctance to be known to be serious. There is the dread of derision. There is the innate distaste for religion, and the long-cherished contempt for the gospel, and hatred of the name of Jesus. There is the pride which makes one unwilling to be seen by others reading the Bible, and the pride which makes one unwilling to pray, though alone. There is some fondly cherished plan pertaining to the world, which has been long in maturing, and which is now in the process of speedy completion. There are habits of sin which have been long indulged, from which it is now not easy to break away. There are associations of friendship or business pertaining to this world which it is difficult to sunder. There are bonds which unite to the world of gaiety and vanity, which it would require much moral courage, and much strength of resolution, and, I will add, much of the grace of God, to dissolve.

Hence the struggle—the warfare. The command of God ; the sense of duty; the conviction of guilt; the apprehension of the wrath to come; the pleadings of the gospel ; the love of Christ;

the dread of death; the feeling that the heart ought to be given to God, on the one hand:—on the other, the love of sin, of the world, of vanity—the power of sinful passion long indulged, the friendship of the gay and the worldly, the love of ease, the pleadings for delay, and the dread of shame—these coming into conflict with the others, and keeping up the straggle in the soul;—now one almost seeming to gain the ascendancy, and now the other;—at one moment, and under the pressure of truth, the soul " almost" ready to surrender and yield to God, and, at another moment, the world and sin near to getting the ascendancy, and the soul almost free from anxiety and from serious thoughts;—now "almost persuaded to be a Christian," and now about as near being persuaded to give up the subject altogether, and to become a thorough infidel or atheist.

This occurs when a sinner is pondering the question whether he shall become a Christian or not. I speak of the great features of the struggle, without meaning to say that the conflict is always thus strongly marked, or that it is always fierce and protracted. I am saying that with greater or less intensity, or with greater or less duration, such a struggle must exist between the claims of God and sin—between the love of the world, and the duty of giving the heart to God.

I may be speaking to some, however, who would call all this the language of "cant" and mysticism, and who, not finding this laid down in the books of mental philosophy that they have studied, and not having experienced it in their own lives, may be ready to say with a sneer, that such a conflict must be peculiar to our holy religion; that is, as they in such a case would use the phrase, that it evinces a disordered state of mind; or a mind not well balanced; or a disturbed condition of the nervous temperament; or a process which no well-disciplined intellect would go through with ; a state to which no soul that is manly, independent,■self-controlling, would submit. It maybe useful, therefore, to offer a few illustrations, to show that this is neither the result of weakness nor disease; and that a man, when he becomes a Christian, is acting under mental laws in reference to religion with which wo are familiar everywhere.

Iu referring now, as was proposed, to some illustrations of this struggle, I would observe—

(1) It may occur, substantially, among the heathen. Whereever there is a human being, there may be a conflict between a sense of duty on the one hand, and the love of sin on the other; between conscience and passion ; between the claims of religion, and the love of the world. Araspes the Persian, as described by Xenophon, said, in order to excuse his treasonable designs, " Certainly, I must have two souls; for plainly it is not one and the same which is both evil and good; and at the same time wishes to do a thing and not to do it. Plainly, then, there are two souls; and when the good one prevails, then it does good, and when the evil one predominates, then it does evil." So also Epictetus says, " He that sins, does not do what he would; but what he would not, that he does." So Ovid, " Desire prompts to one thing, but the mind persuades to another. I see the good, and approve it, and yet pursue the wrong." These were heathen minds. Araspes and Ovid certainly had never heard of Christianity; and though Epictetus might have heard of it, yet he was a heathen still, and there is no evidence that the sentiment which he uttered was shaded or modified in the slightest degree by any reflex influence of Christian truth. And yet, can any one fail to see the same laws of mind working, and the same developments of the state of the soul, as in the passages from an eminent Christian which I will now copy ? " That which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." " It is no more I that do it, hut sin that dwelleth in me." " To will is present with me ; but how to perform that which is good, I find not," Rom. vii. 15, 17, 18. Had Araspes, Epictetus, Ovid, been seated as learners at the feet of the apostle Paul ? No ; they had been seated as learners at the feet of Nature, and had contemplated the human soul as it is under all forms of religion, and experienced a conflict in their own minds—a struggle between sin and duty, which may exist anywhere. That conflict is more common and more decided under Christianity, only because the light of truth there is more intense and more widely diffused. But can you fail in these extracts to see the same laws working which exist where the sinner is convicted of sin, and is struggling with the question whether he shall yield to the claims of duty and of God ?

Under the influence of such conflicting feelings, I doubt not that the struggle of mind which I am describing may exist at all times extensively in the heathen world. It is the acting out of human nature—the development of man, a fallen being, yet a moral agent, under the government of a holy God,—and is an important means everywhere of restraining him at least from sin, if it does no more for him. We cannot doubt that, constituted as man is, there was in many an ancient Grecian, Persian, or lloman youth, and is now in the bosom of many a young man in China, in Arabia, and even in the islands of the South Sea, and in Caffraria, a long and arduous conflict between the low and gross passions of the soul, and the claims of morality, justice, honour, and truth—the claims of God still speaking to the conscience and the heart.

(2) But this occurs not only among the heathen : it occurs in Christian lands among those who never become truly converted, and who, indeed, do not regard the struggle as having any connexion with religion. There are few of the young in whose bosoms there is not such a struggle. It occurs when the question is asked by a young man whether he shall obey the nobler powers of his nature, and be virtuous, respected, and honoured, or whether he shall surrender himself to some base passion that is gaining the ascendancy in his soul, and that threatens to make him the miserable victim of vice. It occurs between every virtue that can reign in the human bosom, and that can adorn human nature, and every vice that can establish itself in our nature, and render us debased, degraded, brutalized, besotted, poor, and dishonoured. Take a single instance—alas, how common and how sad often the issue of the conflict! It relates to the way in which habits of intoxication are contracted. Can any one ever become a victim of intemperance without going through such a conflict—often a long and fearful struggle— between his convictions of duty ; his self-respect; his early anticipations and hopes, and the fearful passion that is striving so successfully to gain the mastery over him ? There is a point in the lives of those who become confirmed inebriates, in which this question comes fairly before the mind, and in which the struggle is fearful. The love of the intoxicating cup—that unnatural yet fascinating propensity—has begun to be formed. Habits have been commenced which it is difficult to abandon. Friendships have been contracted for those who meet to indulge in the social glass, which it would not now be easy to dissolve. These habits and these friendships are now becoming stronger and stronger, and the prospect of their being firmly rivetted on the soul is daily becoming more and more certain. It may be perfectly clear that a little further indulgence will be followed with certain ruin. There is, on the other hand, the impending ruin of reputation ; the dread of poverty and disgrace ; the apprehended loss of peace ;—there are the rebukes of conscience ; the solemn commands of God ; the counsels and entreaties of parents and friends;—there is the dread of the drunkard's death, and the fear of the retribution beyond the tomb,—all these, in the sober moments, come with power to the soul, and often produce a fearful struggle. I believe that no man, young or old, is perfectly safe from the danger and the horror of intemperance, but he who wholly and absolutely abstains from the intoxicating bowl—for there has been no class of human virtues hitherto that has constituted a perfect security where there has been indulgence;—but still, it is true, that just at the point of conflict now under consideration any man might be, if he would, saved from danger; but if he yields here, he may be gone for ever. On the great river that flows west of the Rocky Mountains to the ocean—the river already referred to—there is a place where the waters are compressed into a narrow channel, and where the river suddenly falls many feet, pitching and tumbling over the rocks. This passage, though not wholly free from danger, is, however, not unfrequently made with safety in a small boat. But then commences the danger. The boat, having shot down that narrow passage, is often seen to stop suddenly, and to lie without motion on the bosom of the waters. It neither goes forward, nor backward, nor towards either shore. It seems for the moment to be consciously deliberating whither it shall go. Soon ■ it begins to move, at first so gently that the motion is scarcely perceptible, not forward, but in a circular direction—so gently, however, that one who knew not the perils of the place would feel no alarm. But then commences the fearful struggle. Every oar is plied; every nerve of the oarsmen is stretched; every effort possible made at the bow and the stern to turn the boat from that fatal current. But always in vain. It goes round, and round, and round, in spite of death-like exertions, increasing in rapidity as the circle grows smaller, until, having reached the centre, in an instant it disappears for ever. Rarely is it that a fragment of the boat is seen afterwards, or that a body that is lost is recovered. So there is a point in a man's life where there seems to be, and where there may be, calm deliberation, and where safety is yet possible—where the man in danger may pause and reflect, and be saved. Though there have been temptations, yet you would hardly say that there was a tendency now in any direction of ruin; you would say that the man might be safe. But soon that point is past, and there is a movement, slight at first, and then the current sweeps on to ruin. Do not suppose that they who perish by intemperance—or by any other vice—perish without a struggle. It is after many a struggle, when too late; it is after many a conflict, when the power that sweeps them in is too great to be resisted. Men perish by this vice, and by other vices, after many anxious moments; after many resolutions formed to abandon the course; after many tears; after many wakeful nights; for the enemy has laid hold on them with a strong grasp—like the sweeping whirlpool — and they cannot now escape.

I refer to these cases to show that all mental struggles and conflicts, all anxieties of soul, are not confined to the subject of religion. It is in every portion of the world, in reference to every vice and every temptation. There are more struggles in respect to worldly matters—more mental conflicts—more distressing agitations of the soul, than occur on the subject of religion; and rarely does any man perish under the control of any vice, who has not at some period had a most fearful conflict with his passions, and felt most deeply that he was in danger, and cried most earnestly for help.

(3) But such a struggle does occur on the subject of religion; and to illustrate this was the design in referring to these cases. It occurs, as I remarked in the outset of the discourse, in the case of all those who become the children of God, and who find ultimate peace in the gospel. The great question comes up for final decision, whether the gay world, so fascinating and alluring, shall be pursued or abandoned; whether the desire of worldly honour and ambition shall be exchanged for a good conscience and the hope of heaven; whether the paths of vice shall continue to be trod, or shall be forsaken for better paths ; whether the voice of reason, of conscience, and of God, shall be obeyed, or whether all the solemn dictates of truth shall be disregarded. This is no slight struggle. It is often one of the most fearful in which the soul ever engages, as it is the most important in its issues of any in which man is ever concerned. Before the minds of youthful females the question does come up, under the influences of the Spirit of God, not whether they shall abandon the world in the sense of taking the veil, and immuring themselves in a nunnery—for the gospel never asks a human being to agitate that question;—but whether the gaieties of the world shall be exchanged for the sober pursuits of piety; the love of outward adorning, for the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; a desire to be admired on earth, for a desire to appear in the robes of salvation on the banks of the river of life; a wish to be loved by friends here as the great end of existence, for a wish to be loved by the Saviour of the world. Before the minds of young men the question does come up whether the pursuits of gain, of pleasure, or ambition, shall be exchanged for the pursuits of religion; whether the passions which have reigned in the heart shall be sacrificed to the principles of the gospel; whether all that is attractive to the youthful eye and heart shall be made subordinate to the self-denying duties of the cross, and /

whether this world shall be made subordinate to the world to come. It is not a question whether this world shall be abandoned in the sense that life shall be spent in a monastery, or in caves and solitudes—for the gospel never proposes that question to any class of men ; but it is a question whether the world shall be abandoned as the great object of pursuit, and the soul be devoted sincerely and wholly to God; whether all forms of vice shall be forsaken; whether all associations contrary to the gospel shall bo broken up; whether the understanding and the heart shall be subjected to the teachings of the Saviour; whether God shall be all in all. That is a question which does come before the mind; and that question must be decided in one way, and one only, by all who become true Christians; it is decided in another way by all who do not.

I have thus endeavoured to describe the struggle or conflict in the mind of the convicted sinner. The reasons why such a sinner is not converted, or the obstacles which hinder his conversion, are plain and apparent. All the facts in the case can be explained by a reference to the love of sin; to the power which the world has on him; to the strength of some mighty passion; to the influence of companions ; to the dread of shame ; and to an unwillingness to renounce the world, with its vanity and lusts. The sinner himself, in that state, might perhaps, in certain moods of mind, be disposed to attribute the fact that he is not converted to God himself; to say that he could convert him if he would; to resolve the matter into the Divine sovereignty and decrees; and to seek peace in the reflection that he has nothing to do, and that, as the whole matter is in the hands of God, if he is to be saved he will be; or if not, no efforts of bis own can be of avail. It is not necessary now to consider the points which arise out of such suppositions; for, whatever may be the truth in regard to them, it is needless to advert to these, for there are other causes amply sufficient, as we have seen, to explain the fact that the sinner in that state struggles long, and is not converted.

A very interesting inquiry, on which there is no time now to enter, presents itself here. It is, in what way can an agitated and struggling mind, such as I have described, find peace ? What do the laws of our mental constitution demand in order that these agitations should be canned down, so that there may be permanent happiness ? And what has the gospel plan of salvation devised and presented to men as adapted to meet these laws of our being, and to give peace to the mind in such a state ? This inquiry will open some very interesting views about the laws of our mental structure, and introduce us at once to the provisions made in the gospel to give peace to a soul troubled and agitated by the remembrance of sin,—a soul struggling between the conviction of duty on the one hand, and the lingering and powerful love of the world on the other. The inquiry cannot be entered on now. There are a few reflections which follow from what I have said, which I desire to suggest in conclusion.

(1) One is, that we may learn why it is that a sinner is ever so long under conviction of sin before he is converted. The old theologians, with little elegance of phrase I admit, but endeavouring to express what they regarded as a valuable thought— though it was, in fact, in some respects, a practical error and illusion—speak much of what they call a " law-work on the soul:" by which they seem to have meant a protracted period of painful and distressing conviction of sin—a long season of gloom, and sadness, and conflict—before the heart is converted ; and they appear to have supposed, not only that this was necessary from the nature of the mind and of religion, but that the conversion would have evidence of genuineness, and the religion of the soul itself be valuable and thorough, just in proportion to the depth of this gloom, and the severity and duration of the struggle. But never was there a greater delusion. There is no occasion for gloom at all in such a case, for the offer of pardon meets a sinner the moment he is willing to accept of it; and the only occasion for the conflict and struggle which I have described— be it longer or shorter—is, that the sinner will not surrender to the convictions of duty, and yield himself to God. The struggle arises from his pride, and selfishness, and obstinacy, and love of the world; the gloom is only that which the mind must feel when it will not submit to plain and manifest truth and duty. There is no value or moral worth in any such conflict, any more | than there is in any other conflict with conscience and a sense I of duty; and this struggle no more enters into religion, or gives a value to religion, than the obstinacy of a child enters into the I character of obedience to a parent. There is no necessity for | such a protracted and gloomy struggle in becoming a Christian. , Yield at once, as the apostles on the banks of the sea of Galilee did when the Saviour called them ; yield as the jailer at Philippi did when told what he must do to be saved; yield as Saul of Tarsus did when the Saviour called him in the way to Damascus, not " conferring with flesh and blood;" yield as a frank and openhearted child who has done wrong submits to the authority of a father,—and this long and dreaded " law-work" on the soul, this

season of deep melancholy and gloom, would be unknown. But treat the commands of the Saviour as the rich young man. did who had great possessions, and who was unwilling to abandon them ; or let your love for the world be so strong that you cannot part with it, and beg to be permitted to return to it, as he did who asked that he might go and bury his father before he gave himself to the Saviour, or he who asked that he might go first and bid them farewell at his house—and, unless your serious convictions of sin and duty pass away altogether, such a conflict is inevitable, and it will be continued until there is a surrender of the soul unconditionally to God.

(2) Another thought is this: that if the views which I have submitted to you are correct, then undoubtedly not a few would long since have been true Christians if they had offered no resistance to the clear convictions of duty. Many a time have your consciences checked and rebuked you. Many a time have you had serious thoughts. Many a time have you felt that you ought to be Christians. Many a time have you felt that the world was vanity, and that sin was an " evil and bitter thing." And many a time have you been on the very borders of the kingdom of God—in such a state that the Saviour would have said of you, as he did of one in his own time, " Thou art not far from the kingdom of heaven ;" and that you would have said, as Agrippa did, " Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." An influence has been setting in upon your souls, which would long since have brought you into the kingdom of God, if you had yielded to it, and had honestly done what you felt to be right. God addressed you; Christ appealed to you ; your conscience summoned you to forsake your sins; your parents, your pastor, your wife, your child, your bosom-friend tenderly admonished you; darkness, solitude, morning, evening, midnight—memory, hope, fear—the obligations of gratitude, the desire of happiness, the dread of death, and the fear of the dark unknown world,—all, under the Divine Spirit, pressed the subject of religion upon your attention, and summoned you to the service of the Redeemer. Others were thronging into the kingdom of God, and your conscience urged you to follow them, and as they found peace by yielding, so might you have done also. That you are not now a Christian is not to he traced to any such fact as that there is no mercy for you, or that God is not willing to save you, or that Christ did not die for you, but to the fact that to all these things you have offered a steady resistance. When perhaps eight years of age, you would have been a Christian, if you had yielded even to those childish convictions of duty, and had prayed to the Saviour; when twelve, fifteen, or twenty, there were considerations enough pressed upon your attention to induce you to be a Christian, and you often struggled against your convictions ; at thirty, at forty, perhaps up to seventy, there have been times when your mind has been troubled, and when your conscience has urged the claims of religion, and when if you had simply yielded to what you knew and felt to be right, you would have found the peace, which the gospel gives.

(3) Another thought is this: It is a hard and difficult thing, in many respects, for a sinner to destroy his own soul. A great work has to be done before a sinner can be sent down to eternal ruin. The path which he treads to the world of woe is a path of conflict, not a path of peace. The life of a sinner is a warfare. God means to throw obstacles in the way to his ruin. He means to check, restrain, and rebuke him ; he means to set his duty and interest before him ; he means that the appeals of reason and conscience, of heaven and earth, should ring loud, and long, and constant in his ears. We speak much of the Christian conflict, and of the struggle in the Christian's soul, and we describe not a fictitious, but a real warfare. But there is a conflict as real and as fierce in the sinner's soul before he can be lost. The Christian makes no war on himself, on his conscience, on his parents, on his pastor, on his God and Saviour. The sinner does on all. He fights his way down to hell. He wages a warfare on his reason, on his conscience, on his God, on his Saviour, on his pastor, on his father, mother, sister, wife, on his own convictions of what is right and of what is for his interest, and must achieve a dreadful victory over them all before he is sent to hell. God will not suffer him to be lost without such a conflict, and when he goes down to eternal woe it is as the result of a most miserable triumph—binding his brow not with the laurel, but with the deadly nightshade—a triumph over conscience, and reason, and every noble principle of his nature. How strange that men will engage in such a conflict, that they will not yield at once to conscience and to God, and find peace!

(4) Another, the last thought, is this: If a sinner is finally lost, he has but himself to blame. I assert that his own conduct will account for it irrespective of anything else. I assert that the reason why he will perish is not that no provision was made for his salvation; that no interest was felt for him in heaven; that he was never apprized of his duty or his danger; that he was never in a state in which he could have been saved,—but that he resisted the conviction of duty ; that he struggled against conscience and against God; that he trampled on the precious blood of the atonement, and that he " resisted the Holy Ghost." Sinner, w hen you perish—oh, may God avert that!—but when you perish, if you do, nor God, nor men, nor angels, will bear the blame. The dreadful responsibility will rest for ever on your own soul, and the word that may yet give you the most deep and lingering agony in the world of woe is the word—

SELF-DESTROYED !