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ACTS XXIV. 25. Go thy way for this time; when I have a con
venient season, I will call for thee.
Thus answered Felix when Paul “reasoned of righteousness, and temperance, and judgment to come.” So impressive was the expostulation, that, as we are told, “Felix trembled ;” and yet so strong was his love of indulgence and ease, that, though shaken by the terrors of conscience, he could say, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”
This, my friends, is not a solitary instance in the history of human conduct. Felix, the easy sensualist, the self-indulgent worldling, the negligent excuser of himself, has more followers, we must fear, than Paul, the fearless preacher. There are more to resist the voice of conscience than to urge its reproof.
Yet there are times of admonition—even though the lips of every other teacher were silent—there are times of God's admonition that come to all. The events of life, or the fears of death, sometimes arouse the most careless. The stern call of adversity compels attention; or the time of escape from danger, of relief from sickness, or of full and overflowing pros
perity, touches with ingenuous feeling the minds of the most thoughtless. There are seasons, too, of more than ordinary reflection. The conviction, sometimes comes with power-we hardly know whence it comes ---that our life is hasting away, and that but little time is left to fulfil its duties, and to secure its better hopes ; or else' conscience-like the preacher in our text--conscience comes forth from its prison of long confinement and silence, and reasons with the guilty heart of righteousness, and temperance, and judgment to come, till it trembles. Alas! that these eventful hours and moments should glide away like other moments and hours of life, and be lost in the tide of com mon affairs and events! Yet it is even so. The greatest and most solemn feelings of the human heart may pass away, and leave no deeper trace than its most idle fancies. Felix trembled ; and Agrippa afterwards said in the same judgment-hall, to the same preacher, “ Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian;" and yet these declarations are not the record of the lives of these men, but the record of one awful moment, Again the world rushed in with its cares and pleasures; again indulgence pleaded and pride flattered; and the moment—the moment of promise and of peril-Was lost,--lost never to be recovered ; never to be recalled, perhaps, till the great judgment shall reveal its unspeakable solemnity and consequence. ;
And do you ask how it is that the most precious moments of our earthly existence are thus lost; how it is that the embryo purposes of duty are destroyed; how it is that what are seemingly the very epochs of our improvement; how it is that the fairest signals of hope become the monuments of our shame and con
demnation? I anster, in the language o al perience and of all seripture, the reason is to be found in the plea of delay. his sex beranse my one resolves upon sinning and suffering the penaky. butë is because every one is promising future amades It is not because the human beart our belly and is peratively silence the strong monitions of conscience, but because it can evade then-because it can ses so each one of them, successireis, “Go thy way for thes time. Go thy way, not for ever," that were tre faz. ful to say ;-" not for ever-oh bo: I l call thee berk again; when there is a convenient season I will call for thee; but go thy way for this time.”
Let us, then, endeavour to spread out a little this plea of delay, and consider in some particulars its nature. 31) In the path of transgression the traveller is always in straits of difficulty, which urge him forward. His way on either side is hedged up, and to his own apprehension he is always put under the necessity of proceeding. Now this would render him extremdy uneasy, and would be quite intolerable, indeed, if the case were never to be any better. But though he is tushing on in a narrow and headlong passage, he always descries a point before him, where, to the eye of his imagination, the path becomes wider; some fair and tranquil spot, where he will have leisure to pause and consider. There is never—there never was there never will be a course of sinful indulgence, or of sinful neglect, but it has, and for ever will have, marked out somewhere in its progress, the more convenient season. There is always a period, but it is never present-there is always a period coming when temptation is to intermit its power; when the everbesetting obstacles to present duty are to be withdrawn. It is true," says the victim of procrastinatios, “it is true that religion is a thing which ought to be attended to, and must be; it is true, for instance, that this act of piety, or benevolence, ought to be performed, or that extravagance or indulgence ought to be laid aside, but a number of circumstances," he says,
for the present render it particularly inconvenient. In a little time things will change for the better, and then the master shall most assuredly be attended to."
Or else some eril habit—this very procrastination, indeed, becomes a habit, and one of the most fatal but some habit of sensual rice is stealing upon the man, who ret maintains an outward decency; and he intends to maintain it. So man in the world less intends to become the victim of violent passion, and sile profligacy. But now is not the convenient season to reform. When this time of trouble or of provocation has passed by, for which, at present, he says, “ some solace is needed, or some indulgence is lawful,” then the eril is to be manfully resisted. Or perhaps the subject of duty is viewed on a larger scale. There are many who feel that they ought to do much more to prepare for a future state than they have been wont to do. They feel that they are not yet Christians; that religion is not with them the concern of chief interest; that prayer is not their pleasure; that God is not the supreme object of love, and fear, and obedience. Something is yet to be done. They are yet to pray, and to care for the soul. They do not intend to leave the world in total neglect of the great and sublime purpose for which they were sent into it. They dare
not meet the God of life and of judgment thus: But for the present, the cares of this world, or the deceita: fulness of riches, or the lusts of other things, choke the feeble purpose, and render it fruitless. The plea* sures of youth awhile plead for delay in religion ; then the business of manhood takes up the excuse; and bequeaths it, in turn, to the infirmities of age. All circumstances admit the promise; none favour the performance of it. There is a time of leisure and tranquillity for meditation and prayer; there is a convenient time; but it is for ever to come. In futurity with these persons — in futurity, not in present action-is all the hope of salvation. But futurity is eternal. It can promise for ever, and never be required to perform.
Such is the plea of delay. Let us now proceed to consider, in the next place, how it ought to be regarded. And here let me observe, that I am not speaking in this discourse merely to a class of persons who, in the language of our pulpit, are called sinners : I would speak to all, be they called sinners or Chris-. tians, who are conscious that they are delaying to do anything which they ought to do. And there are three characters under which, I think, this habit of mind will appear to you. The plea of delay is one fraught with guilt, delusion, and danger.
I. First, it is a plea fraught with guilt. It is an inexcusable plea. It is by the very acknowledgment of him who employs it-it is emphatically pleading guilty: for it implies the knowledge of duty, and the deliberate purpose to violate it. It is not sinning through haste, ignorance, or mistake. It is not sinning, and afterwards confessing it; but it is a case in