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forbearance and long-suffering of God produce no effect upon sinners, but that of confirming them in their wicked courses, he may well, in his own good time, let fall the blow so long delayed by his mercy, and make them signal and memorable examples of his justice.
Dreadful indeed it is to think, that it should be possible for us in any case so to offend God, as to make him our enemy. If without his continued friendship and support we cannot walk uprightly nor securely for a single hour, what will become of us, if he should set his face against us, and leave us utterly in the power of those, who desire our destruction, and lie in wait for our souls? But can God indeed ever become our enemy? Strictly speaking, no: not in disposition. God hateth nothing that he hath made, nor desireth the death of the very worst of sinners; but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live. Yet, when he has employed such means, as ought to be sufficient to reclaim the sinful soul, and turn it to himself; when he has reiterated his warnings, has offered all his means of grace, and urged all his motives to obedience, and all are rejected; must we not expect, that he will turn away his face in anger, and discontinue every gracious influence
and aid ? When the hardened sinner scoffs at his messages of penitence and peace, and turns from religion with a contemptuous Get thee from me, see my face no more, is it too much to suppose, that the Lord will answer him finally, as Moses answered the King of Egypt; Thou hast spoken well; I will see thy face again no more?
We know that there is a sin against the Holy Ghost, and that it is a sin unto death. What is its precise nature we are not informed; but we ought on that account to be the more fearful lest we fall into it unawares. There is good reason to believe, that it is of this kind, to sin obstinately against the suggestions of the Spirit, and to resist the means of conviction and conversion. Wilful opposition against Divine Truth is the highest degree of this sin; blasphemy against the Holy Spirit ; a disparaging of his power, as put forth in confirmation of the Messiahship of Jesus. But when the truth of the Gospel is felt and acknowledged, opposition against grace is hardly less dangerous. There is, in that Gospel, every imaginable motive to holiness; the mercies of the Lord, and his terrors; his precepts, and his promises of
5 Exod. x. 29.
besides this, he is continually admonishing the sinner, and inviting him to turn and be saved ; seldom perhaps by the ministers of his Word, for obstinate sinners, if they be not too careless to come and hear that Word preached, are afraid of being told the truth-yet from some quarter or other they are sure to hear it; and if from no other, their consciences will sometimes remind them of heaven and hell. Or they are warned by sickness, and by secret thoughts of penitence and reformation, which pass across their minds like the shadows over the earth; glimpses of holiness and peace, which God in his mercy suggests to them, but which they dismiss and disregard. There may be, and probably will be a time, when he will bear with them no longer; but will withdraw his warning and restraining grace, and leave them to their own exorbitant affections, and to the bias of their own perverse and evil hearts. Deserted by God, bereft of his grace, confirmed in impenitence, they are placed without the pale of forgiveness, and become vessels of wrath. If the truth of the Gospel be confirmed by the Holy Spirit; if it be the same Holy Spirit which puts into our hearts all good desires, then undoubtedly a Christian, who sins against the known law of the Gospel, and the clear conviction of his conscience, sins against the Holy Ghost, and is in a greater or less degree guilty of that offence, which caused Pharaoh to perish in the hardness of his heart.
True it is, that no degree of sin can be positively said to be unpardonable. We cannot pretend to mark out the precise degree and extent of obstinacy, at which the divine favour and forbearance will cease; nor whether it will then cease finally, in any particular instance. Yet it is a fearful thing to think, that it is possible to fall, through our obduracy, into such a state of hopeless alienation from God, that he will leave us to ourselves, to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
I entreat you to lay these reflexions to heart, and to consider, whether you never manifest any degree of that unhappy perverseness which has now been described. It is not merely by a determined resistance to the means, which God employs to instruct and convert us; it is not merely by a determined perseverance in open wickedness, that we may evince our hardness of heart, and tempt him to leave us to ourselves; but it is the same offence in kind, though less heinous
6 Heb. ii. 13.
in degree, wilfully and habitually to neglect any opportunity, or mean of grace, which is provided for us by the Giver of all spiritual gifts. Apply this to yourselves, ye who profane the Sabbaths of the Lord, who absent yourselves from his sanctuary, and from the preaching of his Word. Apply it to yourselves, ye who neglect that most holy and comfortable Sacrament, which was appointed by the Lord himself to strengthen and refresh you; the commemorative symbol of that sacrifice by which you are saved; and the channel to convey that grace, without which
salvation will not be final. How can you tell, what degrees of strength and comfort he offers
in that holy ordinance, or, consequently, in what degree you withstand his mercy, and defeat his purpose? Take care, that you do not go on, from year to year, in a course of disobedience and neglect, which must inevitably tend to harden your heart, rendering you less susceptible of spiritual aid and comfort, and therefore less likely to obtain it.
May the Lord give us grace to know, before the day of our visitation, the things which concern our peace! May he conduct us, as willing and obedient children, to himself; softening the hardness of our hearts by all, or any of the