THE DOOM Of THE INCORRIGIBLE SINNER.
PROVERBS xxix. 1. He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
A Proverb is a system of wisdom in miniature: it is a pertinent, striking observation, expressed in a few words, that it may be the more easily remembered; and often in metaphorical language, that it may be the more entertaining. A collection of proverbs has no connection, but consists of short, independent sentences, each of which makes full sense in itself; and therefore, in explaining them, there is no need of explaining the context; but we may select any particular sentence, and consider it separately by itself.
Such a collection of wise sayings is that book of the sacred scriptures, which we call the Proverbs of Solomon. .Wise men in all ages, and in all languages, have often cast their observations into the concise significant forms of proverbs ; but the sages of antiquity, especially, were fond of this method of instruction, and left legacies of wisdom to posterity, wrapt up in a proverbial dress ; many of which, particularly of the Greek philosophers, are extant to this day. Solomon chose this method of recording and communicating his wise observations as most agreeable to the taste of the age in which he lived. The sacred memoirs of his life inform us, that he sfiake three thousand fixoverbs. 1 Kings iv. 32. Of these the most important and useful were selected jrobably by himself, and afterwards by the men of Hezekiah > that is, by persons appointed by Hczekiah to copy them off; and they are conveyed down to all ages in this cabinet of precious jewels, the Book of Proverbs.
Among the many significant and weighty sayings of this wisest of men, the solemn monitory proverb in my text deserves peculiar regard: He that being often refiroved, hardeneth his neck, thai! suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.*
The request of a friend, and my fear-, that this proverb may have a dreadful accomplishment upon some of my hearers, have induced me to make it the subject of your meditations for the present hour. And O! that the event may shew I was divinely directed in the choice!
This proverb may be accommodated to all the affairs of life. In whatever course a man blunders on, headstrong, and regardless of advice and admonition, whether in domestic affairs, in trade, in politics, in war, or whatever it be he pursues by wrong measures with incorrigible obstinacy, it will ruin him at last, as far as the matter is capable of working his ruin. To follow the conduct of our own folly, and refuse the advantage we might receive from the wisdom of others, discovers an uncreaturely pride and self-sufficiency; and the career of such a pursuit, whatever be the object, will always end in disappointment and confusion. In this extent perhaps, this adage was intended by Solomon, who was a good economist and politician, and well skilled in the affairs of common life, as well as those of religion.
But he undoubtedly intended it should be principally referred to matters of religion. It is especially in these matters it holds true in the highest sense; that he that being often refiroved, hardeneth himself, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
He that being often refiroved—This is undoubtedly our character. We in this congregation have been often reproved, and that in various forms, and by various monitors. We have been reproved from heaven and earth, by God, nv-n and our own consciences ; and, I might add, by the irrational creation, and even by infernal spirits.
• He that being often reproved—This in the original, is aman of reproof).■ and it may either signify as our translators understand it, " a man often reproved;" or it may mean, "a man often reproving ;" that is, a man that often reproves others, if he harden his own neck, while he pretends a great zeal to reduce others under the yoke of obedience, he shall suddenly be destroyed, Sec. But the first sense appears more pertinent and natural, and therefore in that view I only consider it.
Men of various classes have reproved us. It is the happiness of several of us to live in families where we are often reproved and admonished with the tender, affecting address of a father and a master, who are deeply concerned that their children and domestics should be their companions in the heavenly road, and be effectually warned from the alluring paths of sin and ruin. And have not our affectionate mothers often become our monitors, and gently, yet powerfully reproved us, with that. forcible eloquence which could only proceed from the heart of a woman and a mother ;—or if our parents have been cruelly deficient in this noblest office of love, has not God raised up unexpected reprovers for us, in a brother, a sister, or perhaps a poor despised slave? And who can resist the force of an admonition from such an unexpected quarter ?—And have not some of us found an affectionate, faithful monitor in the conjugal state; a husband or a wife> that has reproved the vices or the negligence and carelessness of the otheV party ; and, by striking example at the least, if not in more explicit language, given the alarm to greater diligence and concern in the affairs of religion and eternity ? Such are powerful, though modest and private assistants to the ministers of the gospel, and O! that they had but more assistance from this quarter! To encourage the few among you that improve the intimacy of this near relation for so important and benevolent a purpose, let me remind you of St. Paul's tender excitement to this duty, given one thousand seven hundred years ago: What knotvest thou, O ivije! Whether thou ehatt save thy husband? or how knoivcst thou, O husband! Whether thou shall save thy wife? 1 Cor. vii. 16. The tender names of husband and wife have so much force in them, as may irresistibly constrain us to perform all the kindest offices in our power to those who bear them.' But 0! to save a husband! to save a wife! to save those dear creatures from everlasting misery! how great, how important the kindness! and by so much the more pleasing, by how much the dearer the persons are to whom it is shewn! But to return—If we are not so happy as to be agreeably surrounded with such honest reprovers in our own houses; yet, blessed be God, we live in a neighbourhood where we may meet with one of them here and there. Has not a pious friend or a neighbour dropt a word now and then in conversation which might have served, and perhaps was intended, as a serious admonition to you? Alas! have you Vol. ii. 28
never had a friend in the world, who has sometimes taken- occasion to talk solemnly and pungently with you about the neglected concerns of your souls ? or at least, has not his example been a striking lesson to you? Alas! is it possible one should live in this congregation, without enjoying the benefit of a reprover? Sure there are still some among us to bear their testimony against sin, and espoused the. deserted cause of religion. But if the friends of religion have been silent, (and indeed they are generally too modest in this respect) yet have you not sometimes received an accidental undesigned reproof even from the wicked I just as Caiaphas once prophesied of the death of Christ, audits blessed consequences. Not to observe, that their eagerness and indefatigable industry in pursuing their pleasures, whether they place them in honour, riches, or sensuality, and in serving their guilty lusts, in spite of all restraints, may serve as a pungent reproof of your lukewarmness and carelessness in the pursuit of the pleasures of religion and immortality, so much more noble and interesting. But I say, to take no notice of this, have they not at times rebuked you in more direct terms? Have they not twitted and reproached you to this purpose, "I thought you, that pretend to so much sanctity, would not dare to venture upon such a thing." Or, "see the saint, the communicant, the presbyterian drunk—see his fraud and villany—see him as vain and frolicksome as his neighbours; sure, we that make no such profession, may take such liberties, since such saints do so."— Such reflections as these, my brethren, however sarcastical and malignant, blind and bitter, have all the keenness of the sharpest reproof. And O! that none of us may ever give any occasion for them ! but if offences should come to occasion them, may our hearts always feel their force! Thus may we derive good out of evil; be warned from sin by sinners: and restrained in our career to ruin by those who are themselves rushing into it !—But though all around you, both saints and sinners, should refuse to be your monitors, how many solemn warnings and reproofs have you had from the pulpit! You have heard many ministers of Christ, who have been your solemn admonishers in the dread name of their Master. And it is now eleven or twelve years since I have began to discharge the painful and unacceptably office of a reprover of sin and sinners among you.—And what kind and liberal assistance have I received in my office, from the ether side of the vast ocean, in the many excellent books which Brit
ish piety and charity have furnished us with! Our friends, whose voice cannot reach you, have sent over reprovers into your houses; reprovers that speak particularly to the poor, especially to the neglected slaves. In short, I know no spot of America so happy in this important respect, as Hanover.
Thus have you been reproved by men from all quarters. And certainly so loud, so general, so repeated an admonition, even from men, must have great weight. But who can resist an admonition from heaven ! Surely, if Jehovah, the great Sovereign of the uerse, condescends to be your reprover, you must immediately take the reproof, and set about a reformation. Well, this office he has condescended to sustain. He has himself become your monitor : and that in various ways, both mediately and immediately : mediately by his word and providence; and immediately, by his blessed Spirit, whose office it is to rcfirovc the world ofain. John xvi. 9.
The word of God has reproved you; has honestly laid before you the destructive consequences of sin, and denounced the divine displeasure against you on its account. All its commands, prohibitions, and dissuasives of various forms, arc so many friendly warnings and admonitions to you. He conveys his reproofs through your eyes and ears, when you read and hear his word; and sometimes I doubt not, he has made the hardest heart among you feel his rebukes, and tremble under them. In short, you must own yourselves, that if any of you go on obstinately in sin, and perish, it will not be because the word of God did not act a faithful part towards you, but because you presumptuously disregard its most solemn and affectionate Warnings.
Again: God has often reproved you by his providence. His providence has kindly chastised you with personal and relative afflictions ; with sickness and pains, bereavements, losses, and disappointments. Providence has admonished you with the striking voice of sick beds, dying groans, ghastly corpses, and gaping graves in your families or neighbourhoods, or perhaps in both. How many among us, in a few years have been brought down to the gates of the grave, that they might enter into a serious conference with death and eternity, which they were so averse to in the giddy, unthinking hours of health and hurry of business! And what narrow escapes, what signal unexpected deliverances has Providence wrought for you in those seasons of danger and distress, that you might enjoy a longer space of repentance! How many of our friends and neighbours have sickened and died, For the admonition of survivers ! Providence has pitched upon one here and there, that was wont to sit among us in our religious assemblies, and made him an example and a warning to the rest. They are gone before, to shew us the way; and put us in- mind that our turn also will soon come.* Sickness and death, expiring agonies, pale corpses,
The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave,
The deep damp vault, the darkness, and the worm—-
These are very solemn monitors; and that heart is hard indeed, that does not feel their reproof.
The providence of God has also reproved us, in common with our countrymen, by the public calamities that have hovered over or fallen upon our land and nation; and particularly by the ravages and desolations of war. Providence has commissioned Indian savages and French papists to be our reprovers, and loudly admonished us with the horrid roar of cannons, the clangour of martial trumpets, and all the dread artillery of ruin and death. "What ear among us has not heard, what heart has not trembled, at this terrible warning!
Tiius, and in a thousand other ways, has Providence concurred with the word, and feelingly reproved us with its fatherly rod.
* Our dying friends come o'er us like a cloud,
To damp our brainless ardours, and abate
That glare of lif.- which often blinds the wise.
Our living friends are pioneers, to smooth
Our rugged pass to death ; to break those bars
Of terror and abhorrence nature throws
Cross our obstructed way ; and thus to make
"Welcome as safe, our port from every storm.
Each friend by fate snatch'd from us, js a plume
Pluck'd from the wing of human vanity,
Which makes us stoop from our aerial heights,
And, dampt with omen of our own decease,
On drooping pinions of ambition lowcr'd,
Just skim earth's surface, ere we break it up,
O'er putrid pride to scratch a little dust.
And save the world a nuisance. Smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands full of love;
For us they languish, and for us they die:
And shall they languish, shall they die in vain ?—
Shall we disdain their silent, soft address;
Their posthumous advice, and pious prayer?
Senseless as herds that graze their hollow'd graves,
Tread under foot their agonies and groans;
Frustrate their anguish, and destroy their deaths? Votr so,
And we should always remember, that the hand of Providence is the hand of God, whatever instruments he is pleased to use.
- But has he not often laid aside all instruments, and reproved you more immediately by his Spirit? Has not his Spirit been long and frequently striving with you; reproving you of sin; alarming you with apprehensions of your danger: exciting in you good resolutions, and serious thoughts of reformation? Has not the blessed Spirit at times borne home the word upon your hearts with unusual power, and roused your conscience to fall upon you with terrible, though friendly violence ?—Which leads me to add,
You have been your own monitors ; I mean your consciences have often admonished and warned you ; have whispered in your breasts, that " this course of vice and irreligion will not do : this carelessness and indiflerency in the concerns of your souls, this stupid neglect of God and eternal things, will not end well." Conscience has often honestly pronounced your doom: "Thou art a guilty, wicked creature, under the displeasure of God. Thou art destitute of true vital religion, and hast no title to the divine favour. If thou die in this condition, thou wilt be undone forever." Thus has conscience warned you; and you have, no doubt, some times sweated and agonized under its chastisements. Though you have preposterously laboured to bribe it, or suppress it by violence ; yet it has still borne at least a faint testimony for its Master, and against you. Thus you always carry a reprover in your own bosoms wherever you go : and though every mouth around you should be fcilent, this will speak, if you do but attend, and give it fair play.
I may add, that even the irrational creation is your monitor; and in silent, but forcible language, remonstrates against your conduct. Can you hear the musicians of the air in every bush warbling out grateful anthems to their Maker, without being convicted of your guilty silence in his praise? Can you see the sun invariably rolling in the path first marked out for him by his Maker and Lord, without feeling yourselves reproved for your numberless deviations from the path of duty? Do not the regulated, stated revolutions of the seasons, and of night and day, sensibly reprove your neglect of the returns of your hours of devotion? In short, does not all nature cry out against you? Is not every thing you see obedient to its Maker's laws, but man I Man, who should claim the precedence in obedience, as he is appointed lord of the lower creation.*
Nay, even infernal spirits, those everlasting enemies of man and goodness, may serve as your reprovers. Can you think of their unwearied roaming over the earth, in quest of souls as their prey, and their industry and toil to do mischief, without blaming your own negligence to save your souls, and do good? And could you but hear the lost ghosts of your own race, who are now shut up in the infernal prison, bursting out into despairing cries, and bitterly accusing themselves for their presumption and security, their lazy delays, misimprovement of time, and neglect of the means of grace, while upon earth ; how loud and striking a warning would this be to you, who are now walking in their steps!
Thus, my brethren, I have given you a brief list of your many monitors. And who can stand the united reproofs of such a multitude? Who dare set himself against the admonition of earth, heaven and hell ; of God and all his creatures? Must you not all yield to the warning?
Solomon supposes, in my text, that a man may be often reproved, and yet harden hit neck; that is, obstinately refuse submission and reformation. A stiff neck is a metaphor often used in scripture, to signify-an unyielding incorrigible spirit, resolute in disobedience, in spite of all restraints; in spite of advice, dissuasives and reproofs. And to harden the neck, is to confirm one's self in disobedience, in opposition to admonition; or to refuse to reform, and strengthen one's self in the refusal, in spite of all the means of reformation. It is to cherish obstinacy,
• How natural are these reflections of that preat and (rood man, Doctor Watts!
With steady course thy shining sun
Keeps his appointed way i
And all the hours obedient run
The circle of the day.
But, ah ! how wide my spirit flies,
And wanders from her God! ,
My soul forgets the heavenly prize,
And treads the downward road!
The raging Are and stormy s ea
Perform thine awful will;
And every beast and every tree,
Thy great designs fulfil .
While my wild passions rage within,
Nor thy commands obey i
And flesh and sense, enslav'd to sin,
Draw my best thoughts away. Lykic Poius
to despise reproof, and resolve to follow a headstrong impetuous self-will at all adventures.* The metaphor is taken from an unmanageable, sullen ox, that will not bend his neck to the yoke, nor kindly draw under it; but stiffens his neck, that it may not bear it; and hardens it, that it may not feel it: and the lash and the goad do not break his obstinate spirit, nor reduce him to willing subjection. Thus, nothing but a sullen and senseless beast can represent the stupid, unreasonable conduct of that man who hardens himself in sin, against the strongest dissuasives and reproofs from God and his creatures.
And is not this the character of some of you? I am very unwilling to presume such bad things of any of you ; but I must at least put it to your consciences to determine, whether it be so or not i This you may know by this single inquiry, whether you have reformed of those things for which you have been reproved? or whether you still obstinately persist in them, in opposition to the most striking admonitions? The profane and profligate among you have often been reproved for your vices ; your drunkenness, swearing, lying, contempt of sacred things, and other immoralities : but do you not still obstinately persist in the practice of them ? You have often been reproved for the neglect of the worship of God in your families, and the souls of your domestics; what warm remonstrances have you heard upon this head ! And yet, have you not prayerless families, prayerless mornings and evenings still? Have you not been solemnly warned of the danger of neglecting or carelessly attending upon the means of grace? And yet you are negligent and careless still! Have you not been earnestly admonished for your presumption and security, your entertaining high hopes of future happiness, and that you are genuine christians, at random, without honest trial and repeated self-examination? And yet do not some of you still persist in this stupid, pernicious tonduct? Alas! how ignorant of your own true character! How unwillingly are you dragged to the bar of conscience, there to be tried, and hear your sentence! How ready are you to flatter yourselves with pleasing expectations, though in reality contrary to the declarations of eternal truth! And how secure and
* That this is die meaning of the metaphor, will appear from a particular survey of those passages of scripture, where it is used either in the original, or in our translation. Exnd. xxxii. 5, 9. and xxxiii. 3. Deut. ix. 6.13. aodx. 16. and xxviii. 48. 2 Chron. xxx. 8. and xxxvi. 13. 2 Kings xvii. H. Neh. ix. 16, 17,29. Psalm lxxv. 5. Isa. xlviii. 4. Jer. via. 26. and Xvii. 23- and xix. 15. Acts vii. 51,
thoughtless are yoii about the great concerns of religion and eternity! how lukewarm and inactive in the duties you owe to God and man, and in your endeavours to work out your salvation! But have you not been solemnly warned of the pernicious consequences of this cause? How often have you been honestly told, that this is not the narrow and rugged road of virtue and religion that leads to heaven! How often have you been warned of the danger of mistaking external formalities for vital religion, and a mere profession of Christianity for the heart-experience and constant practice of It ! And yet do not some of you indulge this destructive mistake still? Have you not been often reproved for contenting yourselves with a dead, fruitless faith, an empty speculation, or historical belief; with transient unwilling fits of servile repentance, that produce no reformation; and the counterfeit appearances of other graces and virtues? I say, have you not often been reproved for contenting yourselves with these, instead of that lively, operative, heart-affecting faith, that kindly, ingenuous, voluntary repentance, and thorough reformation, and those other active, practical graces and virtues, which are required in the gospel, as essential constituents of a true christian, and absolutely necessary pre-requisites to everlasting life? And yet you wilfully indulge the delusion still, and are unwilling to admit conviction, and discover the truth! How often and how solemnly have you been reproved for your excessive eagerness and avarice in the pursuit of this vain world, and your stupid neglect to lay up for yourselves treas■ ures in heaven, and to be rich towards God! And yet, is not this enchanting world your favourite, and the idol of your hearts still? And are you not still careless what will become of you through an everlasting duration, in an infinitely more important world? That one expostulation from Christ himself might have been an irresistible rebuke to you, What shall it firofit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? But, alas! have you not stood out against this, and a thousand other pungent admonitions? Have you not often had the dreadful guilt and danger of making light of Christ and his precious gospel, of delaying your conversion to some uncertain herealter, and of presuming upon the mercy and patience of God, exposed to your view in a striking light? And yet you have still persisted in the practice, in spite of reproof and conviction. I might easily multiply instances on this head; but these must serve as specimens at present; and I shall only add this general rule for your farther conviction, that whatever sin you indulge yourselves in, whatever duty you omit, whatever grace or virtue you live destitute of, in opposition to the conviction of your own minds within, and of the reproofs and admonitions of God and man from without, you are then guilty of hardening your neck.
And if this be the case, how many of you are involved in this guilt? Lay , your hand now upon your heart, and say, does not conscience whisper, or perhaps clamour, " Guilty! guilty !" It is strange, it is unaccountable, it is horrible, that there should be such a monster upon earth, on whom the repeated reproofs and warnings of God and his fellow creatures have been thrown away; and who dares singly to stand it out against the whole uerse! But, alas ! are there not many such monsters among us? To reprove them again is a very unpromising and almost desperate attempt; for they have been so inured to it, that they are hardened against it, and set it at defiance. Yet duty and compassion constrain us to make the attempt once more: for O ! we cannot yet give them up as altogether desperate, nor resign them with willing hands as a tame prey to ruin. I know no other way to bring them out of danger but to make them sensible of it. And this I shall attempt, in illustrating the remaining part of the text, which informs you of the plain truth, that he that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, or broken, and that without remedy; or," and there is no cure."
The stiff neck .that will not bend to the yoke of obedience, must be broken ; and its own stiffness renders it the more easily broken: for it is not easy to break what is yielding and pliable; but even the resistance of the stiff neck occasions its own ruin. It may harden itself into insensibility under reproof: but O ! it cannot harden itself into insensibility under divine judgments. It may refuse the easy and gentle yoke of the divine law ; but divine justice will forcibly impose its iron yoke upon it, and constrain it to bow till it be broken. This is the doom of the obstinate incorrigible sinner: thus shall he be destroyed and broken to pieces.
But this is not all: he shall suddenly be destroyed, suddenly broken. Sudden ruin is aggravated, because it strikes a man into a consternation, overtakes him unawares, surprises bim at a disadvantage, when unprovided with any methods to escape; and VOL. ii. 29
also tears all his pleasing hopes from him: and by how much the higher the hopes from whence he falls, by so much the deeper he is iDgulfed in misery.
Sudden ruin is the certain and natural consequence of a man's incorrigible obstinacy, in spite of admonition. He must be ruined because he will not be warned, nor forsake the path that leads to destruction. He will even take his own way at all adventures, and no man can help it: and therefore he must be destroyed. He must also be suddenly destroyed, because he would hope for safety in spite of warning; suddenly broken because he would not foresee the blow. Till he feels the stroke, he would not believe it was coming; and therefore his destruction is sudden, surprising, and confounding. This is the natural end of fool-hardiness and obstinacy, in spite of all restraints and admonitions: and there is no help for it: such obstinacy and presumption is an incurable disease, that excludes all remedy. This is implied in the last part of the text:
He shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy; or, as it might be more literally rendered, "and there is no cure, or medicine, or healing." There can be no preventive medicine to such a self-willed, head-strong creature ; because he will not apply it; and pushes off every friendly hand that would apply it. And there can be no healing or restorative medicine applied; for the breach, when made, is desperate, and admits no cure. The stiff neck is broken in pieces, so that it never can be healed. Then the patient, so obstinate before, would most willingly apply a remedy: but O ! it is too late.
Reproofs and admonitions from God and men, and our own consciences, are the great means to recover sinners: and while these are ineffectual, no other can possibly have any effect. How can he be reclaimed from sin, who will sin in opposition to all restraints I In opposition to the checks of conscience, and the strivings of the holy Spirit within, and the united dissuasives and re" bukes of Providence, of the word of God, and of all his friends from without! Neither God nor all his creatures can reform and save such a wretch, while he continues proof against all the means of reformation and salvation. It is unavoidable, that be should suddenly be destroyed; and there is no help for it; he must be given up as an incurable. The whole uerse may look on, and pity him; but, alas! they cannot help him; he has the instrument of self-murder in his own hand; and he will not part with it, but uses it against his own life, without control; and none can take it out of his hand: that is, none can give his free will a new turn, but that God whom he is daily offending, and who is therefore not obliged to obtrude such a favour upon him.
This is the unavoidable doom of the man that being often reproved hardeneth his neck. And since this is the character of some of you, have you not reason to fear and forebode this tremendous doom? Let me reason a little with you for your farther conviction.
Your danger will appear from these two considerations, that if you always continue in your present condition, proof against all admonition, you must be destroyed without remedy: and that there is dreadful reason to fear, you always will continue in your present condition.
That if you live and die in your present condition, you must be destroyed without remedy, is lamentably evident from what has been said.—It is the declaration of the wisest of men, inspired from heaven ; he that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be broken, and there is no remedy. It is one of the proverbs of this wisest of men. Now a proverb is a wise remark, made after long observation, and frequently exemplified in the world. Therefore when we consider Solomon here not only as speaking an inspired truth, but pronouncing a proverb, it is as if he had said, "This I have collected from long experience, and careful observation of mankind, and the course of Providence; this is daily exemplified in the world without exception; this all ages may regard as a sure and important truth, and I record it among my immortal proverbs for their warning, that he that being often refiroved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and there is no remedy." A proverb being a familiar observation upon the common occurrences of the world, it follows far. ther, that the accomplishment of it is a common thing, that falls under every man's notice, to his full conviction; and therefore Solomon, by inserting this remark among his Proverbs, intimates, that the sudden and remediless destruction of an incorrigible sinner, is a familiar event that falls under every man's notice, and which no man can dispute, without disputing the common sense and experience of mankind. Thus certain, irreprovable sinners * thus common is your doom, if you continue in your present condition: it is certain, it is common, even to a proverb. And if you still go on in your present course, you will at last become a hissing, a by-word, and a proverb to all the world.—Your destruction, as I observed, is unavoidable and remediless, according to the nature of things: it is the natural, spontaneous, and inseparable result and effect of incorrigible obstinacy. You resolutely set your free wills, which are not under the control of any creature but yourselves, upon your own ruin : and what then remains but that you must be ruined ! To ruin you must go, though attended with the prayers and tears of the saints, and checked by their friendly admonitions, enforced with those of God himself. They cannot help you against your wills. What can keep you from ingulfing yqurselves in destruction, when you break through all restraints from God and the whole creation? You reject the only means of cure: and must you not die as incurables! If the Spirit of God strives with you in vain ; if conscience check and admonish you in vain; if Providence uses its chastising rod in vain; if sickness, and death, and graves preach in vain ; if Bibles and good books are put into your hands in vain; if ministers, and friends, and neighbours, and the dearest relatives, advise, and persuade, and warn, and reprove in vain; if heaven, and earth, and hell, if God and all his creatures admonish in vain; what hopes can yourselves entertain of your salvation '. what better means can you desire! what other means can you expect! can you hope to be reformed and prepared for heaven, when these means, the best, the onjy means that ever were used with sinful creatures, and which have proved effectual in the most discouraging cases, have no effect upon you ! Judge yourselves, whether your destruction is not unavoidable in your present condition.
And that you will always continue in your present condition, is, alas! but too probable. You have continued in it all your life past : and is not this a dreadful presumption that you will continue in it all your life to come! Can you expect better means than you have had ? Or are your hearts become more soft and pliable now, when hardened by Ai obstinate course of incorrigible impenitence, that you should hope the same means will have greater efficacy upon them in time to come than formerly? Are you as sure of twenty or thirty years before you, as that you have enjoyed twenty or thirty years in time past! Is God the less provoked, by how much the longer you have offended him, so that you have more encouragement to expect the assistance of his grace hereafter than formerly? Are you now any more out of danger of being judicially hardened and given up of God, than ten years ago? And are you the more sure of his favour, by how much the more you deserve his wrath? Arc the habits of sin grown weaker through inveteracy and long indulgence? Does the work of your salvation grow easier by delays, and by your having fewer days for work! Does conscience gain strength upon you, by your repeated violences; or the spirit of God work the more powerfully, the more you resist and grieve him! Does your being" inured to the gospel, give it greater force upon you! If the happy change of your present condition be probable, the probability must depend, in human view, upon such absurdities as these. But can these be the foundation of probability? Noj but of the greatest improbability. The truth of the case is, your condition is growing more and more discouraging every day; and you are approaching fast towards a fixed, unchangeable state of incorrigible obstinacy in wickedness. Ten years ago, it was much more likely, in human view, that you would have been converted ere now, than it now is, that you will be converted in ten years to come. In short, the only ground of hope concerning you, is not at all from the appearance of things in human view, but merely from the free and sovereign grace of God. I may say of your salvation, what Christ said of the salvation of the rich, with men that is impossible: that is, according to the ordinary way of judging among men, who can judge only by appearances, and who count those things likely or unlikely, possible or impossible, which seem to be so in their own nature: according to this rule of judging, there is no reason at all to hope for it: it is quite desperate. But taith God all things are possible: he can and sometimes does act contrary to appearances and the natural tendency of things; and astonishes his creatures with unexpected and surprising wonders. Thus, veteran, obstinate^sinners! he may yet deal with some of you. Omnipotence may yet take you in hand, disarm all your resistance, and cause you to feel those admonitions you have made light of. This, perhaps, God may do. But O! it is an anxious, dreadful peradventure; for you must know, though he sometimes singles out an hardened sinner of your class here and there, to make him the illustrious trophy of the power of his grace, yet this Is not his usual way: he does not commonly work upon such rough, unsuitablei materials. He generally pitches upon the young and pliable, upon those that have not been long inured to the gospel, nor
hardened in sin. Therefore, even this, which is your only ground of hope, can afford you but a trembling, anxious hope. Notwithstanding this, you have reason to fear that you will die as you have hitherto lived, hardy, resolute, incorrigible sinners. And ii so, you know your dreadful end; you shall suddenly be destroyed; your stiff neck shall be unexpectedly broken ; and there will be no help, no remedy.
And if you are indeed in so much danger, will you not now lay it to heart, and endeavour to escape while you may? Alas! shall this admonition also, this admonition for your disregarding all past admonitions, be lost upon you like the rest? O! will you not at length take warning, before it is too late ! Perhaps the voice that now warns you, may not long sound in your ears. But O ! let me find this day, that those whom I have reproved in vain for so many years, regard me at last, and submit and yieldThen, and not till then, you will be safe from the vengeance denounced in this alarming proverb, He that being often reprovei, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that vithou: remedy.