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Our subject reveals the case of those who are convicted of the right, but cannot be persuaded to do it.
For example, on the subject of temperance, he is convicted as to duty—knows he ought to reform absolutely, but yet he will not change. Every temperance lecture carries conviction, but the next temptation sweeps it by the board, and he returns like the dog to his vomit. But mark this—every successive process of temperance—conviction and temptation’s triumph, leaves him weaker than before, and very soon you will find him utterly prostrate. Miserable man! How certainly he will die in his sins!
No matter what the form of the temptation may be, he who, when convinced of his duty, yet takes no corresponding action, is on the high-road to perdition. Inevitably this bondage grows stronger and stronger with every fresh trial of its strength. Every time you are convinced of duty and yet resist that conviction, and refuse to act in accordance with it, you become more and more helpless; you commit yourself more and more to the control of your iron-hearted master. Every fresh case renders you only the more fully a helpless slave.
There may be some young men here who have already made themselves a moral wreck. There may be lads not yet sixteen who have already put their conscience effectually beneath their feet. Already you have learned, perhaps, to go against all your convictions of duty. How horrible! Every day your hands are growing stronger. With each day’s resistance, your soul is more deeply and hopelessly lost. Poor miserable, dying sinner! “He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy!” Suddenly, you dash upon the breakers and are gone! Your friends move solemnly along the shore, and took out upon those rocks of damnation on which your soul is wrecked, and weeping as they go, they mournfully say. “There is the wreck of one who knew his duty, but did it not, Thousands of times the appeals of conviction came home to his heart, but he learned to resist them—he made it his business to resist, and, alas! he was only too successful!”
How insane the delusion, that the sinner’s case while yet in his sins, is growing better, As well might the drunkard fancy he is growing better because every temperance lecture convicts him of his sin and shame, while yet every next day’s temptation leaves him drunk as ever! Growing better! There can be no delusion so false and so fatal as this!
You see the force of this delusion in clearer light when you notice how slight are the considerations that sway the soul against all the vast motives of God’s character and kingdom. Must not that be a strong and fearful delusion which can make considerations so slight outweigh motives so vast and momentous?
The guilt of this state is to be estimated by the insignificance of the motives which control the mind. What would you think of the youth who could murder his father for a sixpence? What! you would exclaim, for so mean a pittance be bribed to murder his father! You would account his guilt the greater by how much less the temptation.
Our subject shows the need of the Holy Spirit to impress the truth on the hearts of sinners.
You may also see how certainly sinners will be lost if they grieve the Spirit of God away. Your earthly friends might be discouraged, and yet you might be saved; but if the Spirit of God becomes discouraged and leaves you, your doom is sealed forever. “Woe unto them when I depart from them!” This departure of God from the sinner gives the signal for tolling the knell of his lost soul. Then the mighty, angel begins to toll, TOLL, TOLL! the great bell of eternity: one more soul going to its eternal doom!13
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