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view, and you will see him affected, devout, and appalled ; follow him in life, and you will find that these truths have no influence whatever on his conduct.
But are we not mistaken concerning Felix ? Did not the speech of St. Paul make a deeper impression upon
him than we seem to allow ? He sent the apostle away, it is true, but it was for this time only, And who can censure this delay? We cannot be al, ways recollected and retired.
The infirmities of human nature require relaxation and repose. Felix could afterwards recal him. Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season, I will send for thee.
It pains me, I confess, my brethren, in entering on this head of my discourse, that I should exhibit in the
person of Felix, the portrait of whom? Of wicked men? Alas ! of nearly the whole of this assembly ; most of whom seem to us living in negligence and vice, running with the children of this world to the same excess of riot. One would
suppose, that they had already made their choice, having embraced one or the other of these notions, either that religion is a phantom ; or that, all things considered, it is better to endure the torments of hell, than to be restricted to the practice of virtue. No indeed, that is not their notion. Ask the worst among them. Ask whether they have renounced their salvation? You will not find a single soul, who will say, that he has renounced it. Ask them again, whether they think it attainable by following this way of life? They will answer, No. Ask them next, How they reconcile things so opposite, as their life, and their hope ? They will answer, that they are resolved to reform, and by and by they will enter on the work. They will say, as Felix said to St. Paul, Go thy way for this time ; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. Nothing is less wise than this delay. At a future period I will reform. But who has assured me, that at a future period I shall have opportunities of conversion ? Who has assured me, that God will continue to call me, and that another Paul shall thunder in my ears?
I will reform at a future period ! But who has told me, that God at a future period will accompany his word with the powerful aids of grace? While Paul may plant, and Apollos water, is it not God who gives the increase? How then can I flatter myself, that the Holy Spirit will continue to knock at the door of my heart, after I shall have so frequently obstructed his admission ?
I will reform in future! But who has told me, that I shall even desire to be converted ? Do not habits become confirmed, in proportion as they are indulged? And is not an inveterate evil very difficult to cure ? If I cannot bear the excision of a slight gangrene, how shall I sustain the operation when the wound is deep?
I will reform in future ! But who has told me, that I shall live to a future period ? Does not death advance every moment with gigantic strides? Does he not assail the prince in his palace, and the peasant in his cottage? Does he not send before him monitors and messengers ;....acute pains, which wholly absorb the soul ;....deliriums, that render reason of no avail; deadly stupors, which benumb the brightest and most piercing geniuses ? And what is still more awful, does he not daily come without either warning or messenger ? Does he not snatch away this man without allowing him time to be acquainted with the essentials of religion ; and that man, without the restitution of riches ill-acquired ; and the other, before he is reconciled to his enemy ?
Instead of saying, Go thy way for this time, we should say, Stay for this time. Stay, while the Holy Spirit is knocking at the door of my heart; stay while my conscience is alarmed ; stay, while I yet live ; while it is called to-day. Thy arguments confound my conscience : no matter. Thy hand is hea. vy upon me : no matter still. Cut, strike, consume; provided it procure my salvation.
But, however criminal this delay may be, we seem desirous to excuse it. Go thy way for this time ; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee It was Felix's business then, which induced him to put off the apostle. Unhappy business! Awful occupation! It seems an enviable situation, my bre: thren, to be placed at the head of a province, to speak in the language of majesty ; to decide on the fortunes of a numerous people, and in all cases to be the ultimate judge. But those situations, so happy and so dazzling in appearance, are extremely dangerous to the 'conscience! Those innumerable concerns, this noise and bustle entirely dissipate the soul. While so much engaged on earth, we cannot be mindful of heaven. When we have no leisure, we say to St. Paul, Go thy way for this time ; wheń I have a convenient seuson I will call for thee. 5 Happy he, who amid the tumult of the most active life has hours consecrated to reflection, to the examination of his conscience, and to ensure the one thing needful! Or rather, happy he, who, in the res pose of the middle classes of society....placed between indigence and affluence....far from the courts
of the great....having neither poverty nor riches 'according to Agur's wish, can in retirement and quietness see life sweetly glide away, and make salvation, if not his solé, yet his principal concern!
Felix not only preferred his business to his salvation, but he mentions it with evasive disdain. When I have a convenient season I will call for thee.. When I have a convenient season. Might we not thence infer, that the truths, discussed by St. Paul, were not of serious importance ? Might we not infer, that the soul of Felix was created for the go. "vernment of Judea ;. and that the grand doctrines of righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come, ought to serve at most but to pass away the time, or
merely to engross our leisure ? When I have a con' venient season.
Ah! unhappy Felix, what hast thou to do of such vast importance ? Is it to execute the imperial commission? But art thou not a subject of the King of kings, in whose presence Cæsar himself is but à worm of earth ? Has not God given thee a soul to improve, virtues to acquire, and an eternal' kingdom to conquer? Was it to immerse thyself in sensual pleasures ? But how canst thou taste those pleac sures, after the terrific portrait of a future judgment, which has been exhibited to thy view ? Does not the voice of St. Paul perpetually resound in thy ears ; and, like a fury obstinately attending thy steps, does it not disturb thy indolence and voluptuous delights ?
Suspending here, the course of our meditation, let us close by a few reflections on the truths we have delivered. We have affirmed in the body of this dis course, and with the greatest propriety, that we should commence the application with regard to ourselves. St. Paul here communicates an important lesson to all ministers of the gospel. His sincerity, his cou. rage, his constancy, are perfect models; on which every faithful pastor should form himself, Let us fol- . low, my most honoured brethren, this illustrious model. Let us be followers of him even as he was of Christ. Like him, let us never temporize with the sinner. Like him, let us speak of righteousness to the covetous; of temperance to the voluptuous; of a judgment to come to the great of this world, and to all those whom objects less terrific are incapable to alarm. Let us never say, peace, peace, when there is no peace.
Let us thunder, let us expostulate, let us shoot against them the arrows of the Almighty's wrath ; nor fear the Felixes and Drusillas of our age. Here is our vocation.: Here is the charge which God now delivers to every one who has the honour of succeeding Paul in the order of the miniştry· But how shall we discharge the duty ? What murmuring would not a similar liberty excite among our hearers? If we should address you as St. Paul ad dressed Felix ; if we should declare war against you individually ; if we should unmask the many myste. ries of iniquity in which you are involved ; if we should rend the veil which covers so many dishonourable practices; you would interrupt us; you would retaliate on our weakness and infirmities; you would say, Go thy way for this time ; carry elsewhere a ministry so disgustful and grating.
We would wish fully to accommodate ourselves to your taste.
We would wish to pay all deference to your understanding, and respect even a false delicacy. But if we exercise this indulgence towards you, permit us to expect the same in return, and to make for the moment this chimerical supposition.
You know the character of St. Paul ; at least you ought to have known it. If you are unacquainted with it, the discourse he delivered, in the presence of Felix, is sufficient to delineate its excellence. Suppose, instead of the sermon you have heard, that $t. Paul had addressed this assembly. Suppose, instead of what we have now advanced, this apostle had preached, and filled the place in which we now stand. Suppose, that St. Paul, that sincere preacher; that man, who, before Felix and Drusilla, reasoned of righteousness, temperance and a judgment to come. Suppose he had preached to-day before the multitude now present : let us speak ingenuously. What sort of application would he have made ? What subject would he have discussed? What vices would he have reproved? What estimate would he have formed of most of your lives? What judgment would he have entertained concerning this worldly spirit, which captivates so great a multitude ? What would he have said of that insatiable avarice in the acquisition of wealth, which actuates the general mass; which makes us like the grave incessantly crying, give, give, and never says, it is enough?