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1. Christians may understand how to account for the fact already noticed, that there are some for whom they can not pray. Even while they are walking with God, and trying to pray for particular individuals, they may find themselves utterly unable to do so; and this may be the explanation. I would not, however, in such a case, take it for granted that all is right with myself, for perhaps it is not; but if I have the best evidence that all is right between myself and God, then I must infer that God has forsaken that sinner and does not wish me to pray any longer for him.
2. Sinners should be aware that light and guilt keep pace with each other. They are augmented and lessened together. Hence the solemn responsibility of being under the light and the strivings of the Spirit.
While enlightened and pressed to duty by the Spirit, sinners are under the most solemn circumstances that can ever occur in their whole lives. Indeed, no period of the sinner’s existence through its eternal duration can be so momentous as this. Yes, sinner, while the Spirit of God is. pleading and striving with you, angels appreciate the solemnity of the hour—they know that the destiny of your soul is being decided for eternity. What an object of infinite interest! An immortal mind on the pivot of its eternal destiny—God debating and persuading—he resisting, and the struggle about to be broken off as hopeless former. Suppose, sinner, you could set yourself aside and could look on and be a spectator of such a scene. Were you ever in a court of justice when the question of life and death was about to be decided? The witnesses have all been heard—the counsel have been heard—it is announced that the jury are ready to deliver their verdict. Now pause and mark the scene. Note the anxiety depicted in every countenance, and how eagerly and yet with what awful solemnity they wait for the decision about to be made; and with good reason—for a question of momentous interest is to be decided. But if this question, involving only the temporal life, is so momentous, how much more so is the sinner’s case when the life of the soul for eternity is pending!! O how solemn while the question still pends—while the Spirit still strives, and still, the sinner resists, and none can tell how soon the last moment of the Spirit’s striving may come!
This ought to be the most solemn world in the universe. In other worlds, the destinies of the souls are already fixed, It is so in hell. All there is fixed and changeless forever. It is a solemn thing indeed for a sinner to go to hell, but the most solemn point in the whole duration of his existence is that one in which the decision is made.
O what a world is this! Throughput all its years and centuries we can not see one moment on whose tender point, there hangs not a balancing of the question of eternal life or eternal death! And is this a place to trifle? This a place to be mad and foolish and vain? Ah, no! it were more reasonable to trifle in any other world than in this. The awful destinies of the soul are being determined here. Heaven sees it and hell too, and all are filled with solicitude, swelling almost to agony; but you who are the subjects of all this anxiety—you can trifle and play the fool and dance on the brink of everlasting woe. The Psalmist says:
“I heard the wretch profanely boast,
Till at thy frown he fell;
His honors in a dream were lost,
And he awoke in hell.”
God represents the sinner as on a slippery steep, his feet just sliding on the very verge of an awful chasm—God holding him up a short moment, and he trifling away even this short moment in mad folly. All hearts in heaven and in hell are beating and throbbing with intense emotion: but he can be reckless! O what madness!
If sinners duly estimated this danger of resisting the Spirit, they would be more afraid of it than of anything else whatever. They would deem no other dangers worthy of a moment’s thought or care compared with this.
Again, it is a very common thing for sinners to grieve away the Spirit long before death. So I believe, although some, I am aware, are greatly opposed to this doctrine. Do you doubt it? Think of almost the whole Jewish nation in the time of the Saviour, given up to unbelief and reprobacy abandoned of the Spirit of God; yet they sinned against far less light and of course with much less guilt than sinners now do. If God could give them up then, why may He not do so with sinners now? If He could give up the whole population of the world in Noah’s time when he alone stood forth a preacher of righteousness, why may He not give up individual sinners now who are incomparably more guilty than they, because they have sinned against greater light than had ever shone then? O it is infinitely cruel to sinners them selves to conceal from them this truth. Let them know that they are in peril of grieving away the Spirit beyond recall, long before they die. This truth ought to be proclaimed over all the earth. Let its echo ring out through every valley and over every mountain-top, the world around. Let every living sinner hear it and take the timely warning!
Again, we see why so few aged sinners are converted. The fact is striking and unquestionable. Take the age of sixty, and count the number converted past that age. You will find it small indeed. Few and scattered are they, like beacons on mountaintops, just barely enough to prevent the aged from utter despair of ever being converted. I am aware that infidels seize upon this fact to extort from it a cavil against religion, saying, “How does it happen that the aged and wise, whose minds are developed by thought and experience, and who have passed by the period of warm youthful passion, never embrace the Gospel?” They would fain have it, that none but children and women become religious, and that this is to be accounted for on the ground that the Christian religion rests on its appeal to the sensibilities, and not to the intelligence. But infidels make a most egregious mistake in this inference of theirs. The fact under consideration should be referred to an entirely different class of causes. The aged are converted but rarely, because they have grieved away the Spirit—have become entangled in the mazes of some loved and soul-ruinous delusion, and hardened in sin past the moral possibility of being converted. Indeed, it would be unwise on the part of God to convert many sinners in old age; it would be too great a temptation for human nature to bear. At all the earlier periods of life, sinners would be looking forward to old age as the time for conversion.
I have already said what I wish here to repeat—that it is an awfully interesting, moment when God’s Spirit strives with sinners. I have reason to know that the Spirit is striving with some of you. Even within the past week your attention has been solemnly arrested, and God has been calling upon you to repent. And now are you aware that while God is calling, you must listen—that when He speaks, you should pause and give Him your attention? Does God call you away from your lesson, and are you replying—O, I must, I must get my lesson? Ah, your lesson! and what is your first and chief lesson? “Prepare to meet thy God.” But you say, “O the bell will toll in a few minutes, and I have not got my lesson!!” Yes, sinner, soon the great bell will toll—unseen spirits will seize hold of the bell-rope and toll the dread death-knell of eternity, echoing the summons—Come to judgment; and the bell will toll, toll, TOLL! and where, sinner, Will you be then! Are you prepared? Have you got that one great lesson, “Prepare to meet thy God?”
In the long elapsing ages of your lost doom you will be asked, how and why you came into this place of torment; and you will have to answer, “Oh, I was getting my lesson there in Oberlin when God came by His Spirit, and I could not stop to hear His call! So I exchanged my soul for my lesson! O what a fool was I!!”
Let me ask the people of God, Should you not be awake in such an hour as this? How many sinners during the past week have besought you to pray for their perishing souls? And have you no heart to pray? How full of critical interest and peril are these passing moments? Did you ever see the magnetic needle of the compass vacillate, quiver, quiver, and finally settle down fixed to its position? So with the sinner’s destiny today.
Sinners, think of your destiny as being now about to assume its fixed position. Soon you will decide it forever and forever!
Do you say, Let me first go to my room, and there I will give myself up to God? No, sinner, no! go not away hence in your sin; for now is your accepted time—now—today, after so long a time—now is the only hour of promise—now is perhaps the last hour of the Spirit’s presence and grace to your soul!18
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