The Young Man's Friend and Guide
Through Life to Immortality

John Angell James (1785—1859)

"You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward
You will take me into glory!" Psalm 73:24


"How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!" 1 Kings 18:21

The scene to which this passage of the Jewish narrative refers, is one of the most sublime and important to be found in the whole range of history, being no less than the great trial between true and false religion in answer to the challenge of Elijah, which terminated so gloriously in the complete triumph of the former. A strange and almost incurable propensity to idolatry had ever been evinced by the Israelitish race, obviously springing from that depravity of their nature which made them long for deities congenial to their own corrupted taste. The spirituality and purity of the true God offended them. They could not be content with a religion of which faith was the great principle of action; but coveted objects of worship which could be presented to the senses, and which would be tolerant of their vices. Among the idol-gods of antiquity, Baal sustained a distinguished place. Such is the power of example, especially when it falls in with our corrupt inclinations, that the Jews, notwithstanding the revelation they had received from God, and the care he took to preserve them from the abominations of the surrounding nations, often forsook the worship of Jehovah for idols, or attempted to incorporate idolatry with Judaism.

The kingdom of the ten tribes was in this respect the most guilty. Ahab, one of the wickedest of their monarchs, had married Jezebel, the daughter of the king of the Zidonians, by whom Baal was worshiped. Through the influence of this wicked woman, the worship of Baal was diffused to an enormous extent in the kingdom of Israel. Against this abomination the prophet Elijah, with the dauntless courage of a reformer, set himself in determined opposition. After reproving the monarch, and rousing against him the malignity of Jezebel, who sought his destruction, he sent a challenge to Ahab, to put the claims of Baal and Jehovah to a fair and decisive test. The challenge was accepted—the decision was to be sought by each party preparing a sacrifice, and calling upon their God to answer by fire; and the scene of contest was Mount Carmel. It was an magnificent spectacle; the question to be determined being—to whom rightly belonged the throne of Deity. There on one side were Baal's priests arranged in troops, to the number of one hundred and fifty, patronized by the monarch and his wife, full of confidence, and flushed with hopes of victory.

On the other appeared one man, to the eye of sense solitary, unbefriended, unpatronized, unprotected. But that solitary man was Elijah, the prophet of the Lord Almighty. Strong in the Lord and in the power of his might; assured of the triumph that awaited him, he surveyed calm and undismayed the array of priests, the frown of Ahab, and the malignant eye of Jezebel flashing fury and revenge. What dignity was in his looks, and what majesty in his deportment! The congregated thousands of Jewish spectators witnessed, in awful silence, the preparations. Heaven, with serene confidence, and hell, with dread and dismay, watched a scene, which not only for that occasion, but for all time, was to decide whether Jehovah or Baal was the true God. How much was at stake; what interests were involved; what a question was to be decided! One can imagine all nature was hushed in dread suspense; that the waves of the Mediterranean ceased to roll; that the winds of heaven were still; that the forests of Carmel were listening. The prophet towards the close of the day put an end to the suspense. Advancing to the assembled multitude of Israelites, he said, "How long will you halt between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; if Baal, then follow him. You are not yet in conviction quite alienated from the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; yet your allegiance is shaken, and you are divided in opinion and practice between Jehovah and Baal. Your irresolution is as guilty; and your indecision is dishonorable and wicked. You worship Baal. I worship God. I am here to prove which has the rightful claim to your fidelity and obedience. Upon that which I now propose, I will rest the issue of the present contest. Let each party prepare a sacrifice, and call upon his God; and the God who answers by fire, let him be considered as the true God."

You know the sequel; and I drop the narrative, only turning back for one moment to dwell upon the indecision of the people—they halted between two opinions. You wonder at their indecision, and condemn them with language of severest reprobation; and very justly so. But do you not in this also condemn yourself? Are not you undecided in a case which, if not so palpable to the senses, is no less plain to the judgment?

But before I describe the nature, and pronounce the character of your indecision, let me set before you the opposing parties in reference to which it is maintained. On the one hand there is the Lord God Almighty, the Jehovah of the Jews, under the fuller and clearer manifestation of himself as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; there are his ministers demanding the acknowledgment of his claims; and there is presented his service—the faith, hope, and love of the gospel.

On the other side are the Baals of this age, in all the various forms under which they are the objects of human idolatry. It is true you are not called, invited or disposed—to bow the knee to idols of wood, stone, or metal, either engraved or molten, either in the crude images of barbarous worship, or the grotesque and monstrous creations of Hindoo polytheism, or the fascinating forms of classic mythology.

These, however, are not the only way in which idolatry may be practiced. What, in fact, have ever been the objects of false worship, but the evil qualities and passions of man's fallen nature, visible embodiments of his own lusts and pleasures exalted to the skies, to be there seen invested, as on Olympus of old, with all charms and splendors; or sent down to the infernals, to receive the stamp of their authority and malignity, so to come from either place with a sanction and a power to make men wicked.

Everyone has a God, and if man does not love and worship Jehovah, he will make a deity of his own image, and this deity cannot surpass himself. Survey, young men, the idols which you are called upon from many quarters to worship, and between which and the only living and true God, (O unutterable folly and sin!) you are hesitating.

Among them, sustaining a high place, is the idol of SENSUALITY, This goddess is decked out with all that can pollute the imagination, inflame the passions, or excite the propensities of a youthful heart. Before this image multitudes of devotees of both sexes bow the knee and offer the most costly sacrifices of property, health, principle, and reputation.

Near her is the bewitching and smiling image of WORLDLY PLEASURE, with the sound of music, the song, and the dance, alluring the giddy and thoughtless to its orgies, and throwing the spell of its fascinations over the imagination of multitudes who go merrily to their ruin.

MAMMON, the despicable deity of wealth, is there, glittering with gold, and offering riches to his eager followers as the reward of their diligent and faithful adherence. His liturgy is the cry of "Money! Money! Money!" His sacrifices, notwithstanding his large promises of happiness, are the time, the bodies, the souls, the principles, and the comfort of his worshipers; and his officials are the greedy speculators and commercial adventurers of our country and our age.

There is also the Baal of INFIDEL THOUGHT, with false philosophy as his high priest to conduct the ceremonial; by his promises to free the intellect from the shackles of superstition inviting the youthful aspirants after mental liberty to come into his service.

Near this is the shrine of HUMAN KNOWLEDGE—evil only when raised above the place of faith, piety, and virtue. When thus exalted above Scripture, it is a deceiving, corrupting idol—the false goddess of a Pantheon of Vices.

Nor must we leave out the idols of FALSE RELIGION, the chief of which is Popery, the anti-Christ of the Apocalypse, "the Man of Sin," described by the apostle, as "sitting in the temple of God, exalting itself above all that is called God." This idol, taking the name of Christ as its designation, assuming the cross as its symbol, and boasting of an apostle as its first minister; enriched by wealth, venerable for antiquity; dignified by learning; decorated by sculpture, architecture, and painting; and adding the abysmal policies, and most serpentine craft, to all these other dangerous qualities, has fascinated countless millions! And, notwithstanding the monstrous absurdity of its doctrines, the blood-stained page of its history, and its hostility to the liberties of mankind, is now putting forth the most arrogant claims, and making the most audacious attempts for the conquest of our country.

Such are the principal idols which oppose themselves to the King, eternal, immortal, invisible—as the claimants of your heart! Such are the objects which have induced an indetermination in your minds whether you shall serve them—or your Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor.

By 'the undecided in true religion' I do not intend the confirmed infidel, profligate, scoffer; or those who live in total and absolute rejection of true religion. These are not undecided; they are in the fullest sense decided; they have made up their minds, though unhappily on the wrong side. They have chosen their god, and are the determined and devoted worshipers of Baal; they have decided against God. They have hardened their hearts, seared their consciences, and perhaps outlived all misgivings upon the subject, except it be an occasional qualm in the season of death or sickness.

They congratulate themselves upon their having thrown off all the weaknesses and fears of Christianity, and upon their being now enabled to pursue their downward course unchecked by the restraint of conscience. Unhappy men, blind, and glorying in their blindness; benumbed in all their moral faculties, and exulting in their stupidity! With every tie cut, which held them to piety and truth, they account it a privilege that they are drifting unobstructed to destruction—determined to be lost, and rejoicing that nothing bars their path to the bottomless pit!

The 'undecided man', generally, is the irresolute man, the man thinking of two things, but absolutely choosing, with full and practical purpose, neither. The double-minded man, or, as the word is in the original, the two-souled man, the man who is ever floating between two objects—now carried by force of the tide towards one, and then towards the other. This indecision is manifested in many towards true religion. Perhaps the subject of indecision will be better understood if we consider its opposite, and show what is meant by, decision.

By decision in true religion I do not mean merely the choice of a creed—or a decision between conflicting theories of religious opinions. This is all very well and proper, and to a certain extent involved in the state of mind which I am recommending. A man ought not to be undecided in regard to religious doctrine. It is incumbent upon him to make up his mind on the question at issue between the advocates and opponents of theological matters. These things are important, and his opinions should be formed and fixed upon the ground of satisfactory evidence; and his mind being once made up, he should hold fast what he believes to be truth, and not allow his convictions to be shaken by any sophistries, and plausibilities brought against the views he has espoused.

True religion, however, is something more than opinion; more than ecclesiastical denominations; more than ceremony and forms. It is not only light—but life. Its center is not in the head—but in the heart. It is a thing of the will, affections, and conscience—as well as of the intellect and memory. It is a deep conviction of guilt in the sight of God; a humbling sense of the corruption of our nature; true faith in Christ as the great atonement; peace through belief in the gospel; supreme gratitude and love to God; a spiritual and heavenly mind; and a holy life. It is the mind of Christ; the image of God; His word laid up in the heart as the rule of the inward and outward life; a God-wrought, heaven-descended, eternally-living thing!

To be decided, then, is the intelligent, deliberate, voluntary, entire, and habitual, yielding-up of ourselves, through faith in Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to God; to enjoy his favor as the chief good, to make his will our fixed supreme rule, and his glory the chief end of our existence. It is making God the supreme object; salvation the supreme business; eternity the supreme aim. Not merely talking about it, wishing it, intending it—but conscientiously doing it. Such a man says, "I have made up my mind, I am resolved, I am for God, for Christ, for eternity—my heart is fixed!" To be undecided is to be in a state of hesitancy, irresolution, unfixedness. An undecided man is occasionally impressed; at other times in a state of total indifference. His judgment inclines to true religion, and sometimes nearly draws his heart. He goes out half-way to meet it—then turns back again. Now he looks towards true Christians as the happiest people—then he hankers after the company and amusements of the people of the world. He cannot quite give up religion—nor can he fully embrace it. He has occasional impressions and wishes—but no fixed, deliberate choice.

In this hesitating, undecided, irresolute state of mind, very many are to be found. Yes, indecision is fearfully common; perhaps, among those whom I now address, the most common state of mind. Comparatively few are decidedly pious. Still fewer, I hope and believe, decidedly infidel or immoral. The bulk are midway between the two—hesitating, halting, turning away from the one, but not turning to the other. How shall we account for this? It is not for the lack of adequate information on the nature of the two claimants and the justice of their respective claims. Of this you have all possible and necessary particulars in the Scriptures. You are not left to the 'dim twilight of nature' and the deductions of your own weak and fallible reason. The sun of Scriptural revelation has risen upon you in full-orbed splendor—and, walking amid its noon-tide glory, you see on every hand the character and the claims of God. You know not only there is a God—but who and what he is. You are not destitute of natural ability—you are not hindered by Divine sovereignty—there is no invincible power of natural depravity—you cannot plead a lack of time, means, and opportunity—you do not justify and perpetuate it on the ground of Scriptural difficulties, nor on the inconsistencies of professors. Sometimes you may feel inclined to plead these things, but the plea is soon given up. No, the CAUSES subsidiary to the power of inward corruption are the following:

Many do not properly consider the necessity of decision—and the sin of hesitation. The subject has never seriously engaged their attention. Then it is high time it should! Begin now! God demands it, reason demands it, the importance of the matter demands it. On what is decision so necessary as on true religion? This is the business of the soul, of salvation, of eternity.

Not a few are lacking in moral courage, they know what they ought to be and to do. But they have friends whose frown they dread, or companions from whose laugh they shrink. This is very common. And thus multitudes flee from the frown of man—to take shelter under the frown of God; satisfy their friends—by the sacrifice of their souls; throw away true religion and salvation—to escape from a jest; and make themselves the laughing stock of devils—to avoid the ridicule of fools! Young men, will you be jeered out of heaven and salvation? What! be turned from your eagle flight to immortality—by the ridicule of owls and bats!

In many cases, some one besetting sin keeps from decision. That one sin exerts an influence over the whole soul and all its purposes—benumbing its energies, beclouding its moral vision, bewildering its steps, and enfeebling its efforts. Such people could give up all but that one sin—but that one sin they cannot part from. How melancholy, how dreadful, to be willing to perish for that one sin! Rather than pluck out that right eye, or cut off that right hand, to suffer the loss of the whole body! How infinitely better and more noble would it be, by one mighty struggle, aided by Divine grace, to burst that chain, and decide for God! Consider well, if this is not the cause of indecision in your case—and if it is, perceive the necessity of your resolutely and immediately directing your most vigorous efforts to remove that hindrance. When you have mastered that mightiest of your spiritual foes, you may then hope that the greatest obstacle is surmounted—and that the subjugation of your other enemies will be a comparatively easy conquest. But until that is done, nothing will be done to purpose; and he who has been halting between two opinions, and wavering in his practice, will be halting and wavering still.

There are some who, like Felix, have trembled, and dismissed the subject until a more convenient season. They give neither a direct negative, nor a direct affirmative, to the solicitations of judgment and conscience; but put them aside by saying, "I will think of it when I have opportunity—I am busy now."

Here and there one and another goes farther still; they intend, actually intend, to be decided at some time or other. They forget—the uncertainty of life—the frailty of human resolutions—the thousand incidents that are continually rising up to occupy and divert attention—the ever-increasing improbability of coming to a decision if the subject is postponed from the present moment—and above all, the demand of God for immediate decision. Now, is the accepted time—now, is the day of salvation. There is a world of importance in that seemingly insignificant word, "Now". Millions have been ruined for both worlds by overlooking the momentous significance of the all-eventful, "Now". Rhetoric might be employed; sermons might be preached; volumes might be written; to enforce the import of that monosyllable, "Now". Remember that, "he who is now good, will in all probability become better; he who is now bad, will become worse; for there are three things that never stand still—vice, virtue, and time!"

Perhaps as a hindrance to decision might be mentioned—mistaken views of what is requisite to come to this state of mind. Two opposite errors are indulged—some people throwing out of consideration the free agency of man, and others the sovereign grace of God. The former supposing that man can do nothing, attempt nothing—but wait passively for the Spirit of God. The latter, on the contrary, believing that man is and does everything in religion without God, never seek by prayer, nor expect by faith, the aid of the Divine Spirit. Both are wrong, and therefore both fail. In all things, both in nature and in grace, God's doings and man's doings go together. Man works and God works. Man's efforts are not superseded by Divine grace, nor Divine grace superseded by man's efforts. This dualism which pervades all things, is especially conspicuous in the Bible, and has its culminating point in the conversion and sanctification of the human soul, as set forth in that wonderful passage—"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that works in you to will and to do of his good pleasure."

Having stated the causes of indecision, I now go on to consider its CHARACTERISTICS.

Is it not IRRATIONAL? What is reason given us for, but to examine all things that concern us, to weigh evidence, to discriminate between things that differ, to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. When man uses his faculties thus, he does what he was designed to do, and answers the end of his being. When he does not, but allows himself to be swayed and bent different ways, and to float upon uncertainty, he forfeits the great prerogative and most distinguished advantage of his reasonable nature. "Indeed, unless reason gives us a fixedness and constancy of action, it is so far from being the glory and privilege of our nature, that it is really its reproach, and makes us lower than the horse or the mule, which have no understanding—for they act always regularly and constantly themselves, under the guidance of instinct—a blind but sure principle."

There are two things equally distant from sound reason—to decide without evidence—and to remain undecided amid abundant evidence. To be undecided in true religion comes under the latter condemnation. The irrationality of indecision is also in proportion to the importance of the matter to be determined. Young men, I appeal to your understanding against this extreme folly. What? Is true religion the only matter on which you will not make up your mind? Religion, which all nations have confessed by their rites, ceremonies, and creeds—to be man's supreme interest? Religion, which comes to you in God's name and asserting his claims? Religion, which affects your own well-being for both worlds? Religion, which relates to the soul and her salvation, eternity and its unalterable states? Religion, the highest end of your existence, and the noblest goal of your reason?

What! Is this the matter to be left in a state of unsettledness and hesitancy, when such means and opportunities are furnished for coming to a conclusion? When the Bible, with all its evidences, doctrines, promises, and precepts, is ever in your hand—appealing to your intellect and heart, your will and conscience, and even your imagination? When the pulpit and the press are ever calling your attention to the subject, and aiding your inquiries? Undecided whether you shall be saved or lost for eternity? Whether you will answer or defeat the end of your existence? Whether you will run counter to God's design in bringing you into being, or fall in with his merciful purposes concerning you? Do you call this reason? Don't talk of your rationality. Don't boast of your high intellect in pursuing literature, science, or the arts. The man who remains undecided in true religion, who has not settled this question (of God, the soul, salvation, and eternity) is, whatever stores of knowledge he may have acquired, or whatever opinion he may have formed of himself, a learned maniac, a philosophical lunatic, a scientific idiot!

I go further, and say that indecision in true religion is CONTEMPTIBLE. Whatever may constitute the 'beauty of character', decision is its power. There is something noble and attractive in the spectacle of an individual selecting some one worthy object of pursuit, concentrating upon it the resources and energies of his whole soul; holding it fast with a tenacity of grasp, and following it with a steadiness of pursuit, which the ridicule of some, the frowns of others, and the ignorant surmises of all, cannot relax; clinging the closer to it for opposition, gaining courage from defeat, and patience from delay.

Where such decision is displayed in a bad cause, there is something grand about it. Hence some have fancied that in this way Milton has thrown too much majesty over the character of Satan. In opposition to this, how despicable is indecision. Foster, in his inimitable "Essay on Decision of Character," has set forth this in a very striking manner. "A man without decision of character can never be said to belong to himself; if he dared to say that he did, the puny force of some cause, about as powerful, you would have supposed, as a spider, may make a capture of the hapless boaster the next moment, and triumphantly exhibit the futility of the determinations by which he was to have proved the independence of his understanding and his will. He belongs to whatever can seize him; and innumerable things do actually verify their claims on him, and arrest him as he tries to go along; as twigs and chips floating near the edge of a river are intercepted by every weed, and whirled in every little eddy. Having concluded on a design, he may pledge himself to accomplish it, if the hundred diversities of feeling which may come within the week will let him. As his character precludes all forethought of his conduct, he may sit and wonder what form and direction his views and actions are destined to take tomorrow; as a farmer has often to acknowledge that the next day's proceedings are at the disposal of winds and clouds."

True as this is in reference to everything, it is most true in reference to religion. Never, is indecision so contemptible as in reference to it. In such a career and in reference to such an object, to be the slave of accidents; the poor tame victim of every little incident that can arise; the prey of every insignificant yelping cur that can drive you here and there with his biteless bark! O shame, shame upon your understanding, to say nothing of your heart and conscience, when with such a subject as true religion to consider and settle, you can allow not merely the most magnificent objects which the world can present, but innumerable contemptible and sinful littlenesses—to shake your resolution—to invalidate your purpose—and to keep you halting between two opinions!

t is the last and lowest degree of despicableness for a man thinking about glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life—to allow himself to be brought to a stand, and made to hesitate and halt, by matters of insignificance. What would have been said of the man who in ancient times hesitated whether he should become a competitor for the Olympic crown—or for some paltry office in a Grecian village? Or what judgment should we have formed of Columbus, if, when meditating the discovery of a new world, he hesitated whether to embark on the Atlantic—or to engage in picking up shells on its shores? But what are these instances of folly and littleness, compared with that of the man who halts between the infinite and eternal blessings of true religion—and the pleasures, acquisitions, and possessions of this world?

Indecision in true religion is UNCOMFORTABLE. If reason is given us to decide upon modes of action, and if in the matter of true religion, revelation furnishes us with rules of action—it is most natural we should decide, and altogether unnatural we should remain for another hour in a state of wavering and unsettledness. What is natural is easy, graceful, and pleasant—and what is unnatural is always awkward and painful. The natural state for the mind to be in, is first inquiry, and then decision. No mind can be serene and peaceful in a state of suspense and incertitude. May I not appeal to universal experience for proof, that a man who is going alternately backwards and forwards; ever divided in opinion; now determining one way and now another; now fixed in purpose, then unsettled and altering his plan; now resolute, now hesitating; and who has thus found no ground to rest upon, cannot be happy. This is true in reference to everything. A mind thus at odds with itself, even in little things, cannot but be very uneasy; and he therefore who would consult his own comfort, should by much self-discipline, endeavor to rid himself of this instability of action, this infirmity of purpose.

I would not, young men, inculcate the opposite evil of inconsiderate and reckless conduct; a headlong course of action, begun without examination, and continued without reflection; and which, even when discovered to be wrong, is persevered in without alteration, merely for the sake of perseverance, and of unwillingness to confess a mistake. This is not rational decision, but blind impulse and unreflecting obstinacy.

The decision I recommend is a habit of patient investigation, united with a capability of weighing evidence, and followed by a prompt and resolute determination to do, and to do immediately and perseveringly, the thing which ought to be done. Acquire an ability to say in matters of right—"I must, I can, I will." There is a wonderful potency in these three monosyllables. Adopt them as the rule of your conduct.

But I am considering the unhappiness of indecision in regard to true religion. I repeat the assertion made in reference to other characteristics, the more important the subject is about which this indecision is maintained, the greater must of course be the uneasiness which it produces. And as true religion is the most momentous of all subjects, so the uneasiness resulting from it must be the greatest. But even here the uneasiness also varies with circumstances. An amiable youth who has not fallen into vice, and has kept within the boundaries of virtue, but who yet has not given his heart to God and made true religion his supreme business, cannot have poignant remorse, as if he had been guilty of profligacy; but even he is uncomfortable—for he knows he is not a Christian. His conscience disturbs him; letters from home make him uneasy; awakening sermons alarm him; in the company of the pious he is not at home; his neglected Bible, given him perhaps by a mother's hand, silently reproaches him. He is not happy. How can he be in such circumstances? He resolves, breaks his resolution, and adds to his uneasiness the guilt of broken vows.

This indecision is sometimes attended with serious aberrations from the path of sanctity and regularity, though not perhaps of morality. In such cases, the mind of a youth whose heart is not hardened, is often in a state of still more painful disquietude and perturbation. It is an impressive truth—that ease of mind, quietness, or rather insensibility of conscience—belongs often rather to the decidedly wicked, than to the undecidedly good. For the former may have hardened and stupefied his conscience so far that it lets him alone; but he who sins and repents, and then sins again, in a continued circle, is sure to be followed in his miserable round with the reproaches of his memory and the lashes of his conscience. "His good fits are but the short intervals of his madness, which serve to let the madman into a knowledge of his own disease; whereas it would in some kinds of lunacy be much more for his satisfaction and content, if he were always demented." O the misery of that man whose life is spent between sinning and repenting; between the promptings of conviction and the impulses of inclination; between the difficulty of forming resolutions, and the guilty consciousness of breaking them; between hopes ever frustrated by disappointment, and fears ever realized by experience. Indecision is its own punishment.

This indecision is in the highest degree SINFUL. You can see this clearly and impressively, with regard to the Israelites whom the prophet addressed on Mount Carmel. What a crime to hesitate for a moment between Baal and Jehovah—to be undetermined whether to serve that speechless idol, or the living and true God. You wonder at their stupidity; you are incensed at their impiety. You take sides instantly with the prophet against the people. His zeal is not too burning; his indignation is not too severe; his irony is not too cutting for the occasion. How horror-struck you would be to witness such senseless impiety.

But how much less wicked is your conduct, though of course far less gross and revolting—in hesitating whether you shall serve God or any of those idols of the mind, worldly pleasure, infidelity, covetousness, or sensuality? The idols of the heathen are, as I have said, but the vices of the human heart personified, embodied, and made perceptible to the senses. Human lusts and passions are the archetypes of them all; the one is the abstract form of the idol—the other the concrete form of the idol. And how much less guilty is it to bend the knee to an idol—than to bow the heart to a vice?

Dwell upon God's divine glory, his infinite majesty, his ineffable excellence, his boundless, inconceivable beauty, and every attribute of his glorious nature. "To Him all angels cry aloud—the heavens and all the powers therein. To Him cherubim and seraphim continually do cry, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! The glorious company of the apostles praise Him. The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise Him. The noble army of martyrs praise Him. The holy church throughout the world does acknowledge Him"—and there are you, a poor frail youth, halting between two opinions, and hesitating whether you shall serve Him or Baal. O what an ineffable insult to God! Every Christian on earth cries out—Shame! Every angel in glory cries—Shame! Every page of scripture cries—Shame! While God himself, indignantly and dreadfully, completes the cry of reprobation, and says, "Be astonished, O heavens, at this—and be horribly afraid!"

Consider then, the crime against God which you are guilty of while undecided. He desires and demands immediate surrender to his claims. Yield yourselves unto God, at once, is his imperative injunction. To hesitate whether you shall serve him, is to be undetermined whether you shall be the friend or foe of God, the loyal subject of his government, or a traitor to his throne—whether you shall love or hate him, reverence or despise him, dishonor or glorify him. Every attribute of his nature makes indecision sinful, every gift of his hand aggravates the sin, every injunction of his word increases the aggravation.

Indecision is DANGEROUS. The Israelites found it so after hesitating and halting between two opinions, whatever slight transient impression was produced by the scenes of Mount Carmel, they went over to the wrong side, bowed the knee to Baal, and, as the punishment for their sin, were carried into captivity. Indecision on true religion is a state of mind fraught with most imminent peril; for when long persisted in, it generally ends in decision upon the wrong side. It gives time for the wicked and deceitful heart to collect and concentrate all its forces of evil, emboldens evil companions to ply with redoubled energy their temptations, encourages Satan to multiply his machinations, and to complete all, provokes God to say, "My spirit shall not always strive with man. He is tied to his idols, let him alone. Woe be unto him when I depart from him." Every hour's delay increases the peril, and exposes you to the danger of being left by God.

But there is danger in another view of the case—you are entering life, and are exposed to all the hazards enumerated in the last chapter; and is indecision, I would ask, a state of mind in which to encounter the dread array? Is it in this halting and unsettled condition that you would meet the perils of your path? Why, it is like a soldier going into battle without having settled which army he shall side with, and which general he shall fight for. Even the decided youth, who has fully made up his mind on the great subject; who has put on the whole armor of God, and is defended at all points with right principles, good resolutions, pious habits, and well-formed character—even he finds it difficult sometimes to stand his ground against the mighty foes of truth, piety, and virtue. Even he who, grasping the sword of the Spirit, and opposing the shield of faith to the darts of his enemies, exclaims, with heroic voice, "I am for God and true religion," and who by his very decision and firmness drives back the assailants of his steadfastness—even he is often severely tried. How then can the irresolute, the halting, the vacillating, stand? What a mark is he for every foe! What a target for every arrow! His indecision invites assault, and prepares him to become an easy prey to whomsoever will aim to capture him.

But this is not all. There is a danger of DYING in this undecided state. Life is uncertain. Your breath is in your nostrils. A fever, an inflammation, an accident, may come upon you any day, and leave no time for reflection, no opportunity for decision. Death often springs upon his prey like a tiger from the jungle upon the unwary traveler. Millions are surprised by the last enemy, in an undecided state. They are shot through the heart, with the question upon their lips, "Shall I serve God or Baal?" and are hurried into the presence of the Eternal Judge himself to have it answered there. Dreadful, most dreadful! To meet God, and in and by his presence to have a full exposure of the guilt and folly of hesitating between his service and that of sin! What a question to come from the God of Glory to the poor, naked, trembling, and confounded soul, "Are God and Baal so nearly alike, that you should have halted between two opinions, which you would serve?"

Mark this, in God's view there is no such thing in reality as indecision, this word is used not to express things as they are, but as they appear. In fact there are, in point of religion, but two classes of men, the converted and unconverted. The undecided man belongs to the latter class no less than the infidel and the profligate; only he may not have gone to such an extent of actual sin, and may feel more the unhappiness of his situation, and the desirableness of changing it. But the choice of God's service has not been made, and he will be dealt with as belonging to the class of those who are against him. Indecision is utterly inconsistent with the character of the godly, the terms of salvation, and the hope of eternal happiness! God will not allow of neutrality, and considers every man who is not decided for him—as decided against him, and will treat him as such. No matter that such a man feels the weight of sin's fetters, and the galling burden of its yoke—no matter that he sometimes feels a desire to escape from its bondage, and makes some feeble and occasional efforts to effect his emancipation, nothing will be of avail to his salvation, but an entire surrender of the heart to God, and a complete and voluntary yielding-up himself to his service, as the supreme business of life. There is no promise in all God's word to the unstable and wavering, no hope held out of his safety, no healing balm provided for his conscience, no middle condition in which he can take his lot between the decidedly good and the decidedly bad.

And now what remains but that I call upon you to renounce your indecision, and in the language of intelligent, deliberate, and settled purpose, to say with Joshua—"Let others do what they will, as for me—I will serve the Lord." Reject Baal, and surrender to God, without compromise and without delay. You cannot have two masters. You cannot have two Gods. You cannot harmonize sin and righteousness, nor reconcile a life of piety and a life of worldliness. You must be one thing or the other. Religion, if not the first and great thing with you—is nothing. To be undecided in such a business is the most irrational state of mind in the whole range of mental conditions.

Look inward upon your own immaterial, immortal, wondrous spirit, craving after appropriate and adequate sources and means of happiness—the question is, whether you shall satisfy or mock its insatiable cravings. Look up at the eternal God, your Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, and the everlasting Paradise of ineffable delights he has prepared for those who love him—the question is, whether you will submit to his claims, enjoy his favor, bear his image, inhabit his high and holy place—or wither away forever under banishment from his presence, and the effect of his curse. Look down into that abyss of woe which divine justice has made ready for those who don't serve God—the question is, whether you will escape that dreadful retribution upon sin and unbelief, or endure its intolerable burden forever and ever. Look onward to the ever-rolling ages of eternity; that interminable existence whose perspective no eye but the Omniscient One can reach—the question is whether that endless being shall to you be an ocean of bliss or a gulf of torment and despair.

Undecided on such questions? How must holy angels wonder at the folly of mortals, hesitating whether they will inherit their bliss! How must the apostate spirits—those once dignified but now degraded beings, marvel with uttermost astonishment, that sinful men in danger of their misery should hesitate about escaping from it. Infidels, scoffers, and men of profane minds, may scoff at these appeals to the dreadful realities of eternity—just as many a felon once made himself merry and seasoned his mirth with vulgar jokes about the gallows. Miserable wretch, he found at last that execution was a dreadful reality, with which the most hardened ruffian could no longer trifle.

I believe, and therefore speak, and by arguments no less weighty than these drawn from eternal realities, I implore you to remain no longer undecided. But clearly understand and bear in recollection what it is I require. It is not, as I have said, merely the adoption of any particular set of religious opinions; nor merely joining any particular body of professing Christians; but repentance towards God—faith in our Lord Jesus Christ—and a character formed, and a life regulated, by the Word of God. Every known sin must be abandoned, and every Christian virtue practiced. Evil companions must be forsaken, and your associates be chosen from the godly and virtuous. If there be loftiness and nobleness in decision of character, it is most lofty, most noble, when shown with regard to true religion.

You need not go for instances of this, and for the admiration which they are calculated to afford, to such examples as Foster brings before you in his inimitable essay, to examples selected from history, to Marius sitting amid the ruins of Carthage, to Pizarro, to Richard III, to Cromwell—nor even to those drawn from the records of Scripture, to Daniel, and to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—or to those supplied by Christian martyrology, to John Huss and Jerome of Prague—nor to those borrowed from the annals of philanthropy, to Howard, to Wilberforce, and Mrs. Fry; these are all grand, impressive, beautiful—but they are not the only ones that may be cited; nor are they those which are the most appropriate for you to contemplate, or which perhaps will have the greatest weight with you.

Look at that manly, pious young man, who has left the shelter and protecting wing of his father's house and home, and is now placed in a Manchester warehouse, and surrounded by fifty or a hundred fellow shop-men, among whom he finds not one to countenance him in the maintenance of his religious profession, and the greater part of whom select him, on account of his religion, as the object of their pity, their scorn, their hatred, or their contempt. Among them are infidels, who ply him with flippant and specious cavils against the Bible; pleasure-takers, who use every effort to engage him in their parties, and their polluting amusements; men of light morality, who assail his integrity; a few lovers of science and general knowledge, who endeavor to allure him from true religion to philosophy. How fearful is his situation, and how perilous! Usually it would be better to leave it, for how few can hold fast their integrity in such a situation! But there he—this decided, this inflexible, this noble-minded youth—stands firm, unyielding, decided. He is neither ashamed nor afraid—he neither denies nor conceals his principles. At proper times, before some of these laughers, he bends his knees and prays; in presence of that jeering set, he opens his Bible and reads; from that pleasure-taking company he breaks off, amid their scoffs, to go to the house of God. He bears the peltings of their pitiless storm of ridicule or rage, unruffled in temper, unmoved in principle, and only casts upon his persecutors a look of gentle pity, or utters a mild word of admonition, or silently presents the prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He keeps, by his firmness, the whole pack at bay. A secret admiration is bestowed upon him by others, while even those who hate him most are often astonished at his inflexible resolution, and it may be that one and another at length say to him, "We must go with you, for we see God is with you." Talk of decision of character! There it is in all its force, beauty, and utility. I know of no case in God's world in which it is exemplified with more power than in that. It is a rich manifestation of divine grace, by which alone it is maintained. It is a sight on which angels might look down with delight, and in respect to which God is ever saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant." It is not martyrdom literally, but it is so in spirit; and such a youth ranks with confessors, who bear witness for Christ amid "cruel mockings." In persecuting times that noble youth would have died for true religion upon the scaffold or at the stake.

Young men, behold your pattern. This is the decision for which I call upon you—and I call upon you to copy it without procrastination. You ought not to dare to delay any more than to deny. Every moment's hesitation is a moment of rebellion. You have no more right to halt, than you have to refuse. God's claim is upon you now, and your next business after reading this chapter, is to rise and yield yourselves to God. When Pyrrhus attempted to procrastinate, the Roman ambassador with whom he was treating, drew a circle round him on the earth with his cane, and, in the name of the Senate, demanded an answer before he stepped across the line. I do the same—the place in which you read this chapter is a circle around you, and before you lay down the volume, I demand, in the name of God, an answer, whether you will serve him or Baal.

Put me not off with the excuse that it is an important matter and requires deliberation. It is important, most momentous, and on that account requires instant decision; and as to deliberation, how much do you require? A year? A month? A week? What! to determine whether you shall serve God or Baal? You have hesitated too long, and another moment's deliberation is too much. Do not excuse procrastination by the allegation that it is God's work to change the heart. It is, but it is yours also. The Spirit of God is striving with you while you read this. All the influences necessary for salvation are this moment submitted to the appropriation of your faith. Do not turn away with the purpose and the promise of coming to a decision at some future time. Future time! Alas! there may be no future for you! Upon the present hour may be suspended your eternal destiny! The instant of your reading this may be the determining point, for tomorrow you may die, or be given up by God to hardness of heart. I press you, therefore, for immediate decision.

Oh! what a scene is now before you! How solemn and how momentous! In what transactions, amid what spectators, with what results and consequences have you been engaged while perusing this chapter! Three worlds, heaven, earth, and hell, are at this moment feeling an interest in you, as if your eternal destiny hung upon the appeal now made to you. Amid the prayers of anxious parents; amid the labors of earnest ministers; amid the sympathies and solicitudes of the Church of Christ; and rising still higher, amid the eager hopes of angels, waiting to minister to your salvation, and the jealous fears and dread of demons no less eager for your destruction; and, above all, under the watchful notice of the glorious Redeemer waiting to receive you among his disciples; you have been urged to decide for God and true religion, against any and everything that can be put in opposition. What shall be your decision?

It is recorded of an American preacher that while he was once urging similar claims on his audience, and demanding who would be decided, he paused; a solemn silence ensued, which was at length broken by an individual who had been inclined to infidelity, rising, and with strong emotion simply saying—"I will!" The point was that hour decided. From that moment he became a determined, consistent Christian. Young men, who will imitate this example, and say in the hearing of Him to whom the audible voice is unnecessary, "I will!" That determination, uttered in sincerity, will go up to heaven and engage it in a chorus of praise over your decision, will go down to the bottomless pit and exasperate the host of darkness with the shame and the rage of a new defeat, and go through eternity with you as the source of infinite delight. Let this then be your resolution, "I will!"