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are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He is evidently set
you are suicides ; suicides of your souls ; destroyers of immortal life. What sentence ought you then to pass on your conduct; on yourselves? Awake from this sleep of stupidity, sottishness, and death. Resume your reason. Return to your God; to repentance, faith, and hope, to holiness and heaven. Retire to your closets, shut your doors, and “pray to your father which is in secret.” Let heaven, for the first time, hear a fervent, honest prayer ascend for the forgiveness of your sins. Give to good men here, and to angels there, a hope, that their joy shall be renewed over your repentance. Let God be able to say concerning each of you, “ Behold he prayeth.”
Betake yourselves to the Word of life. Search the Scriptures. Ponder the descriptions of your character; the threatenings against your sins; the invitations to repentance and reformation ; the infinite love of the Saviour ; the abounding compassion of GOD; the glorious mission of the spirit of grace; and the bright and luminous hopes of immortal life. Think what you will be, if impenitent; what you may be, if you please ; and what you will be if you repent. Weigh endless life with the loss of the pleasures of sin, and endless death with the enjoyment of those pleasures ; and carefully cast up the difference. Think how you
would feel, if a messenger from heaven were to announce to you your certain and final damnation; and then call to mind, that you are daily announcing this tremendous allotment, by your own continuance in sin. Lo! life and death are set before you. "Choose you, therefore, this day, whom you will serve;" God or the World. Choose whether you will go down to perdition, or ascend to everlasting life: and may Infinite Mercy enable you to make a choice, in which you will find peace and consolation throughout eternity. Amen.
A SERMON FOR THE NEW YEAR.
PREACHED JANUARY, 1809.
LUKE xiii. 6-9.
He spake also this parable. “A certain man had a fig-tree, planted in his vineyard : and he came, and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come, seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none : cut it down ; why cumbereth it the ground? And he, answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well ; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down."
This parable seems to have been addressed originally to the Jews. They had been long a peculiar object of divine cultivation; and at the time, when the parable was delivered, were eminently unfruitful. A sentence of excision was gone out against them ; but was stayed in its execution by the heavenly Vine Dresser : by Him, who said, “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee!" by Him, who wept over the future miseries of this devoted nation, at the very time when they were preparing to imbrue their hands in his blood. Accordingly, God waited upon them to be gracious ; and came many years, seeking fruit, and finding none. At length, however, he destroyed them with a terrible destruction by the Roman armies, under the command of Titus. From the date of this fact, they have been dispersed among all the nations of men ; cast out of the Church ; and given up to hardness of heart.
But, although this parable has a primary reference to the Jews, it is plainly intended to have a reference much more extensive, and therefore much more important. It was spoken for their admonition: it was written for ours. It was originally addressed to the Jews. Through the Gospel it has ever since been addressed to Christians. Every person, who lives under the Gospel, is here exhibited as a tree, planted by the hand of God in a vineyard, in a soil, and in circumstances, naturally rendering it fruitful; as cultivated with attentive care ; and as reasonably expected to bring forth fruit. The fruit expected, also, is figs ; pleasant, healthful, and useful. Of these trees, however, some are represented as being, notwithstanding all these advantages, absolutely barren ; and as thus disappointing, repeatedly, the expectations formed by the Owner of the Vineyard. After waiting long, and looking frequently, to find fruit on them, he pronounces them to be not only useless, but nuisances; and directs them to be cut down, and cast out of the Vineyard, as mere “cumberers of the ground." The Vine Dresser, however, solicits for them a little longer respite, in order to bestow on them a greater measure of care and cultivation; but if, with these peculiar advantages, they should still continue barren; even he consents, that they should be destroyed. The following doctrines are therefore, I think evidently, contained in the Text.
1st. Mankind, under the Gospel, are placed by God in circumstances, peculiarly fitted to make them fruitful in righteous
Fig-trees, planted in a rich soil, and carefully cultivated, will yield fruit, if they will yield it at all.
2dly. When God has waited a reasonable time, and finds them barren, and useless, in the world, he determines to destroy them.
“ Behold these three years I come, seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none : cut it down : why cumbereth it the ground ?”
Three years are certainly a sufficient period to determine whether a tree, of mature growth, will yield fruit, or not. By
this period we are plainly taught, that the time, during which God waits upon sinners, is a sufficient one to decide this point.
3dly. By the intercession of his servants the patience of God towards sinners is prolonged, until there is no more hope concern. ing them.
“ And he, answering, said unto him, "Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and, if it bear fruit, well; and, if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.'"
4thly. The means of Divine cultivation furnish important hope
Otherwise the observations in the two last quoted verses would have no meaning.
That all these Doctrines are contained in the text, as well as that they are all true, is so obvious, that efforts to render them more so would be made to no purpose. My proper business, therefore, will be to make a direct application of them to this Assembly.
1st. This Congregation consists of those, who have been born, and educated, under all the privileges of the Gospel.
All those, who are before me, have been born in a Christian land. From the morning of Life, you have all received a religious education. You have been taught to read from the beginning; and thus have enjoyed the privilege of an open, and daily
, . access to the Bible, for divine knowledge. The venerable and affecting instructions of parents have been given you, from the time, when you were first able to receive them. From the same period, you have had the privilege of beholding the life and conversation of good men; and have daily seen them in a manner too evident, and too unexceptionable, to be questioned, "adorn the doctrine of God, their Saviour.” The Sabbath, peculiarly the day of grace, eminently the accepted time; the divine seagon, in which all good things descend upon this unhappy world; has been made known to you in the amplest manner;
and returned, weekly, to shower its blessings upon your heads. Weekly, has the Sanctuary opened its peaceful doors, to invite your feet, and allure your hearts, into the presence of a forgiving God.