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angels, and devils too, observe what attention we pay to the heavenly message, and what effects are produced by it. Angels gladly carry the news of good impressions; and upon the conversion of sinners they gladden heaven with the tidings; and if angels could weep, (as the Lord of angels did) if would be at the folly and madness of sinful men disregarding the proposals of salvation. This time of hearing is an important time,-more important than many apprehend. To many a person it may seem a matter of indifference whether he hears the word seriously and attentively, or suffer his imagination to rove; but certain it is, that by every sermon a man hears, he is taking a step nearer to heaven or nearer to hell; he is either receiving a benefit to his soul, or he is hardening his heart.
May not these words be emphatically addressed to the AGED, "at least in this your day." Verily it may be said to the aged people, " Now, or never," hear ye, the word of God, lest ye should die in your sins.
Thirdly and lastly. It is a matter of grievous lamentation when this opportunity is lost.
Our Lord when he thought of it wept; he wept when he uttered these words, "If thou hadst known, even thou-but now they are hid from thine eyes." The calamities of the Jews, which he clearly foresaw, were extremely great; they were unparalleled in the history of nations; the world, with all its troubles, never saw the like before, nor ever will again; the discord, the malice, the famine, the disease, the self-murders, the burnings of houses, and falling of buildings, the death of multitudesall contributed to form that sum of unspeakable calamity which our Lord foresaw, and the prospect of which made him weep. But fearful as this destruction was, yet the misery of damned souls in hell will be far greater; yea, the sufferings of each individual soul, will at some future period, have
been greater than the sum total of all the sufferings, endured by the hundreds of thousands who perished in Jerusalem!-O think of eternity; think of thousands and thousands of years past, and thousands and thousands more to be added to their number; yea, millions of ages,-as many millions of ages as there have been drops of rain from the beginning of the Creation; as many millions of ages as there have been leaves upon all the trees, or sands upon the sea-shore ;-and supposing all these to have come, and to be past-yet, eternal ages more are still to succeed. The capacious mind of Him who was himself, from eternity, could not but weep when he contemplated these distant objects; and, surely our hearts must be as hard as stones, if we can think of them without feeling compassion both for ourselves and for others.
But when may it be said that these things are hid from men's eyes?
In the first place, when the means of grace are removed. The Lord threatened the church of Ephesus, when she left her first love, that "the candlestick (or lamp) should be removed out of its place;" the lamp signified the ministry of the Gospel in the church. When the Lord removes the preaching of his Gospel from a particular place, in town or country, it is an awful event. How often has it happened in such cases that a faithful minister has been succeeded by a poor blind guide; thus also it frequently happens, in the course of human affairs, that persons have been removed from places where they heard the Gospel faithfully preached, to situations where it was not to be heard. There are
many servants who hear the word in consequence of their living in pious families; but by and by they are removed, and either attend no place of worship at all, or if they do, hear not but error: then, alas! are these things hid from their eyes. Many there are who, having no love for the Gospel, make no scruple of removing, for the sake of convenience, to situations where the Gospel is not preached, and
then these things by their own negligence are hidden from their eyes. And, in large congregations, perhaps a Sabbath does not pass, on which some persons are not hearing the truth for the last time; so that, though they may perhaps live many years after, yet they hear the Gospel no more! It is an awful thought to ministers, and ought to be so to all their hearers.
Again, these things may be said to be hidden from men's eyes when the heart becomes hard and insensible; and this is no uncommon thing. "Take heed," said the Apostle of the Gentiles, "lest your hearts be hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin." Many hearers of the word become "Sermon-proof." They have heard the solemn truths of the scripture so frequently, and to so little purpose, that, at length, they make no impression at all We rarely hear of the conversion of persons at an advanced period of life, who have long heard the Gospel in vain. Yet, this is not impossible, for nothing is "too hard for the Lord." Habits of sin dreadfully harden. When conscience has long remonstrated in vain, it ceases to remonstrate; and an offended God, whose patience is wearied out, may justly say to the confirmed sinner, as to Ephraim of old-" Ephraim is joined to idols-let him alone!"
Above all, it may be truly said, and with an awful emphasis, that these things are hid from men's eyes, when life is closed ;-closed, alas, before the great business of life is finished, or even begun ; and, O how soon, and, sometimes, how suddenly does life close? for "what is it, but a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." How many instances are there of persons suddenly removed, some, it may be, sitting at the table, others walking in the streets, and others while lying on their beds, who retired to rest in usual health. And what security have you or I, that this may not be the case with us? And should not sudden death prove our lot, how often does it happen that the
body is visited with such distracting pains, as entirely to prevent any serious thoughts! How often does fever almost totally incapacitate the mind for reflection! Restlessness, attention to medicine, to sleep, and so on, so occupy the mind, that after all, death comes at an unexpected moment; and when death closes the scene, then are these things hid, for ever hid from our eyes. Upon such occasions, no doubt, pious relations would weep, as Christ wept upon this occasion; and how bitter must be such sorrow. O thou my wife, my husband, my child? hadst thou but known the things that belonged to thy peace; but, I fear, that now they are hidden for ever from thine eyes. This is the bitterness of sorrow the very "gall of bitterness." But when a relation or a friend dies" in the Lord," we feel immediate consolation, assured, that our loss is his eternal gain;—I am mourning but he is rejoicing. On the contrary, if there be reason to fear the worst, ministers too must bitterly lament, and say, "We have all the day long stretched out our hands to a gainsaying people." "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed!" But, if others lament this catastrophe, how must the lost soul herself lament it! this will be the very emphasis of suffering in the eternal world! O fool that I was, how did I spend my time? What was I doing all the days of my life? How came I to neglect my Bible? How could I shut my ears to the calls of ministers and friends? What wretched trifling will this life appear when the business of life was wholly neglected, and the amusements of sense occupied my time! Many a soul will say-O had I" spent my time in reading my Bible and in prayer, instead of spending it in vain conver sation, amusements, and dress, I might have avoided this misery; but now, these things are hid from my eyes."
Thus I have endeavoured to shew you; 1. that there are things which belong to our peace; 2, that there is a limited time in which the knowledge of
these things may be acquired; and 3. that it is a matter of deep lamentation when they are neglected and are hid for ever from men's eyes.
To conclude. As these are things necessary to be known, let none then plead for ignorance, or foolishly pretend that they know enough already. This is the language of many, but it is a sure proof that as yet they know nothing as they ought. If there are things that belong to our peace, and they must be known, Do we apply our hearts to wisdom? Do we know them?-especially our state by nature, and the means of salvation by Jesus Christ? Is there a limited time in which they must be known? O then, seize the golden opportunity. Why should not men be as wise for eternity, as for time?-for their souls as well as for their bodies? In the management of human affairs, we seek to improve the proper season. The husbandman does this, the mechanic, the tradesman, the merchant, have all their proper seasons, and they attend to business, if they are wise men, at those proper seasons. O let us do so, in those things that belong to our peace; let us not neglect the Bible, or the means of grace, or prayer. We have now another Sabbath evening to spend; let us spend it profitably; let not these golden hours be lost in folly, but, while it is called to-day, let us hear the voice of the Son of God, and live.
Finally. Let those rejoice and be thankful who have attended to these things, so that the great affair is settled; the great business of life is accomplished! O give praise to God for his goodness. Upon such an occasion, Christ rejoiced, and said, "Father, I thank thee, Lord of heaven and earth, that though these things are hidden from the wise and prudent, they are revealed unto babes, even so, Father, for it seemed good in thy sight;" let us praise God for his special, distinguishing grace, and give him glory, and for evermore. Amen.