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sin dies not, but thrives, and grows; and other and still other germs of evil gather around the aceursed root, till, from that single seed of corruption, there springs up in the soul all that is horrible in habitual lying, knavery, or vice. Long before such a life comes to its close its poor victim may have advanced within the very precincts of hell. Yes, the hell of debt, of disease, of ignominy, or of remorse, may gather its shadows around the steps of the transgressor even on earth; and yet these-if holy scripture be unerring, and sure experience be prophetic-these are but the beginnings of sorrows. The evil deed may be done, alas! in a moment in one fatal moment; but conscience never dies; memory never sleeps; guilt never can become innocence ; and remorse can never, never, whisper peace. Pardon may come from heaven, but self-forgiveness may never come.
Beware, then, thou who art tempted to evil-and every being before me is tempted to evil-beware what thou layest up for the future; beware what thou layest up in the archives of eternity. Thou who wouldst wrong thy neighbour, beware! lest the thought of that injured man, wounded and suffering from thine injury, be a pang which a thousand years may not deprive of its bitterness. Thou who wouldst break into the house of innocence, and rifle it of its treasure, beware! lest, when a thousand ages have rolled their billows over thee, the moan of its distress may not have died away from thine ear. Thou who wouldst build the desolate throne of ambition in thy heart, beware what thou art doing with all thy devices, and circumventings, and selfish schemings ! lest desolation and loneliness be on thy path as it stretches into
the long futurity. Thou, in fine, who art living a negligent and irreligious' life, beware! beware "how thou livest; for bound up with that life is the immutable principle of an endless retribution-bound up with that life are elements of God's creating, which shall never spend their force, --which shall be unfolding and unfolding with the ages of eternity. Beware! I say once more, and be not deceived. Be not deceived; God is not mocked; God, who has formed thy nature thus to answer to the future, is not mocked; his law can never be abrogated ; his justice can never be eluded ; beware then-be forewarned; since, for ever and for ever will it be true, that whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap! !
GALATIANS vi. 7. Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for
whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap..
The views which are usually presented of a future retribution are characterized, as I have observed in my last discourse, rather by strength than by strictness of representation. The great evil attending the common statements of this doctrine, I shall now venture to say, is not that they are too alarming. Men are not enough alarmed at the dangers of a sinful course. No men are ; no men, though they sit under the most terrifying dispensation of preaching that ever was de vised. But the evil is, that alarm is addressed too much to the imagination, and too little to the reason and conscience. Neither Whitfield, nor Baxter, nor Edwards,—though the horror produced by his celebrated sermon“ on the justice of God in the damnation of sinners" is a matter of tradition in New England to this very day—yet no one of them ever preached too much terror, though they may have preached it too exclusively; but the evil was that they preached terror, I repeat, too much to the imagination, and too little to the reason and conscience. Of mere fright there may be too much; but of real rational fear there
never can be too much. Sin, vice, a corrupt mind, à guilty life, and the woes naturally flowing from these, nerer can be too much dreaded. It is one thing for the preacher to deal in mathematical calculations of infinite suffering ; to dwell upon the eternity of helltorments; to speak of literal fires, and of burning in them for ever; and, with these representations, it is easy to scare the imagination, to awaken horror, and a horror so great as to be at war with the clear, calm, and faithful discriminations of conscience. With such means it is easy to produce a great excitement in the mind. But he who should, or who could, unveil the realities of a strict and spiritual retribution ; show what every sinner loses; show what every sinner must suffer, in and through the very character he forms; show, too, how bitterly every good man must sorrow for every sin, here or hereafter; show, in fine, what sin is,' and for ever must be, to an immortal nature, would make an impression more deep, and sober, and effectual.
It is not my purpose at present to attempt any detail of this nature, though I shall be governed by the observations I have made in the views which I am to present, and for which I venture to ask a rational, and calm, and most serious consideration.
The future is to answer for the present. This is the great law of retribution. And so obviously necessary and just is it; so evidently does our character create our welfare or woe ; so certainly must it give us pain or pleasure, as long as it goes with us, whether in this world or another world, that it seems less requisite to support the doctrine by argument than to save it from evasions.
There are such evasions. No theology has yet come up to the strictness of this law. It is still more true that no practice has yet come up to it. There are theoretical evasions, and I think they are to be found in the views which are often presented of conversion, and repentance, and of God's mercy, and the actual scenes of retribution; but there is one practical evasion, one into which the whole world has fallen, and so dangerous, so momentous in its danger, that it may well deserve, for one season of meditation, I believe, to engross our entire and undivided attention. · This grand evasion, this great and fatal mistake, may be stated in general terms to be, the substitution of something as a preparation for future happiness, in place of devoting the whole life to it, or to a course which is fitted to procure it. This erasion takes the particular form, perhaps, of an expectation that some sudden and extraordinary experience may, at a future time, accomplish what is necessary to prepare the mind for happiness and heaven ; or that certain circumstances, such as sickness and affliction, may, at some subsequent period of life, force the growth of that which is not cultivated now, and may thus remedy the fearful and fatal neglect; or it is an expectation—and this is the most prevalent form of the error—that old age or death, when it comes, will have power to penetrate the heart with emotion, and subdue it to repent. ance, and prepare it for heaven. The subject, yet, it must be feared to be the victim-of this stupendous error is convinced that in order to be happy eventually he must become pure; there is no principle of indulgence, there is no gospel of mercy, that can absolve him from that necessity-he must become pure; be must be pious; his nature must be exalted and re