To the Careless Sinner
When the Apostle Paul stood before Felix, governor of Judea (Acts 24), he took the opportunity to preach the gospel. “But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.’” Acts tells us that, previous to Paul’s testimony, Felix already possessed “a more exact knowledge about the Way (the Christian faith),” so we know he was not ignorant of the gospel. Yet he sent Paul away, perhaps thinking he had plenty of time to consider his spiritual state. As far as we know, he never did. Philip Doddridge writes of this sort—“the careless sinner”—and pleads with them to think again.
When I invite you to the care and practice of religion, it may seem strange that it should be necessary for me affectionately to plead the cause with you, in order to your immediate regard and compliance. What I am inviting you to is so noble and excellent in itself, so well worthy of the dignity of our rational nature so suitable to it, so manly and so wise, that one would imagine you should take fire, as it were, at the first hearing of it; yea, that so delightful a view should presently possess your whole soul with a kind of indignation against yourself that you pursued it no sooner. “May I lift up my eyes and my soul to God! May I devote myself to him! May I even now commence a friendship with him—a friendship which shall last for ever, the security, the delight, the glory of this immortal nature of mine! And shall I draw back and say, Nevertheless, let me not commence this friendship too soon: let me live at least a few weeks or a few days longer without God in the world?” Surely it would be much more reasonable to turn inward, and say, “O my soul, on what vile husks hast thou been feeding, while thy Heavenly Father has been forsaken and injured? Shall I desire to multiply the days of my poverty, my scandal, and my misery?” On this principle, surely an immediate return to God should in all reason be chosen, rather than to play the fool any longer, and go on a little more to displease God, and thereby starve and wound your own soul even though your continuance in life were ever so certain, and your capacity to return to God and your duty ever so entirely in your power, now, and in every future moment, through scores of years yet to come.
—Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 32–33.
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