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EZEKIEL, XXXIII. II.
As I live, faith the Lord God, I have no pleafure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways: for why will ye die?
HAT the means of Salvation God has
kindly put into our hands, frequently become, through our guilty inattention, the inftruments of ruin; that the weapons, by which we are to withstand the enemies of our fouls, are often, with malicious eagerness, turned against ourselves, and plunged, with deadly force, into our own bofoms, is a truth fanctioned by obfervation, and confirmed by experience. We believe Religion to be true, and the recompence of it, certain; and if we die in our fins, that we fhall utterly perish: but we fupprefs the bitterness of the reflection,
by designing to repent" before we go hence;" so that the intention of repentance, strange as it may feem, encourages us in our fins inftead of forfaking them in heart and life, we continue in them without apprehenfion, and become hardened by habit; we fuffer the imaginary privilege of a future repentance to fuperfede the prefent neceffity of exemplary behavior, and devout affections, and thereby to invalidate the power of Religion, and the influences of Grace.
Impenitence, alas! fuggests fo many treacherous arguments for continuing in fin, that, though it is eafy to obviate them, they generally take fuch firm hold of the mind, as to render it deaf to the voice of reafon, and impregnable against the ftrength of Revelation. The grand enemy of our fouls baits his deceitful hooks, with the lure of pleafure, and mingles his deadly potions, with the oblivion of remorfe. We may indulge ourfelves in fin, he infinuates, with fecurity; we may repent hereafter, and then will fatisfaction be made to God's juftice: when the appetite is fatiated with gratification, and the paffions are weakened by excefs, felf-denial will have loft
its mòrtifications, and repentance be deprived of its feverity.
Such is the fnare in which the thoughtless, and the profligate, are entangled! The time of repentance, God knows, feldom comes; it is scarce thought of, till it is too late; till ficknefs feizes, or death arrefts us. Repentance consists in a change of difpofition, and in amendment of life; and what change can be wrought, when we are enfeebled with a lingering diforder, or distracted with racking pain? what amendment can take place, when the term of life is expiring, and the feafon of death is at hand?
That a man may repent on a deathbed is, perhaps, true in itself, but, unquestionably, dangerous in its confequences. The Scriptures affure us for our comfort, that, "when "the wicked man turneth away from his "wickednefs that he hath committed, and "doeth that which is lawful and right, he "fhall fave his foul alive." And is this to encourage us to delay our repentance? Because some were called at the eleventh hour, fhall we prefumptuoufly extend that inftance to ourselves? God no fooner called, than they
answered, faying with Samuel, "speak, Lord, "for thy fervant heareth." How often, on the contrary, hath he called us by the gracious whispers of his Spirit ; how often hath he commanded us, by the awful threatenings of his Justice," to repent and turn to him?" He defigned the privilege of repentance to be the means of bringing us to himself; and shall we perversely frustrate his intention, by making it the means of alienating us the more from him?
But the danger of delaying our repentance will appear still greater, by confidering that death may interpofe betwixt us, and the season we appoint for it. That we are fubject to his empire we know, and we cannot but know, from our own constitutions, and the unceasing inftances of mortality. But the time when he will exercise his power, God hath not thought fit to discover to us, that we might not have the shadow of pretence to live in the commiffion of fin. We fee people around us called hence, without the leaft degree of warning, who have not fo much time allowed, as once to implore God's mercy, for the forgivenefs of their offences. From the number of