« 上一頁繼續 »
which such intermediate discipline had extorted from us. dost thou now offer us a complete pardon, in so easy a way, as only to say to us, wash and be clean, as only to call us to come unto thee by Christ?"Surely, christians, instead of complaining of this as a hardship, we have reason to own it as a great additional favour.- -Whither indeed should we go, but unto God? And where should we dwell safe and happy, but under the shadow of his wings? And how could we have presumed, or indeed how could we have borne, to have come to him, otherwise than by Christ?It is true indeed, that if we would enter into a treaty with this Prince of Peace, we must give up our sins: But what are these, but the tyrants of the mind, whose reign is our servitude, whose death is our deliverance !And what though we must give up our own righteousness too, as to any dependance upon it for our justification before God; is there a soul among us, that would dare to stand, or fall according to the perfection of that? And is there an experienced christian, that does not know that there is a secret unutterable pleasure in submitting to the righteousness of God*; and a wise and rational transport of soul, in receiving the rich grace given us in Christ, to make us complete in him; far beyond the vain joy of that distempered dream which represented us to own imagination, as rich and honourable, righteous and happy, in the midst of poverty and shame, guilt and misery? Surely If we should hold our peace, when such a salvation is proposed to us in such a method as this, it might almost be expected that the very stones would cry out, to upbraid our ingratitude‡.
2. Let us seriously examine, whether we have "come to God by Christ, and so are interested in this great salvation."
To each of you, my friends, that hear me this day, is the word of this salvation sent§; and that you have received the offers of it, will, on the whole, be matter of everlasting joy, or of everlasting sorrow. The word of God assures us, that there are comparatively few, that receive saving benefit by it, Many are called, but few are chosen. And does it not alarm you? Methinks, if there were only a few out of a considerable number, that missed it, each should be ready to tremble for himself: If we knew but one soul in all this assembly should finally lose it, we might each of us cry out with great solicitude of spirit, if in any degree unassured with regard to ourselves,
+ Luke xix. 40.
*Rom. x. 3.
+ Col. ii. 10.
Lord is it I*? And how much more now?
Are there any of
you that must say, "I do not certainly know, whether this salvation will be mine or not?" How can you bear the uncertainty? Let me charge it on your consciences that you enter into the enquiry. Have you come unto God by Christ? -I ask not so much, Whether you believe the existence of God, and the truth of christianity? This is a faith, which you may carry down with you to the habitation of Devils, who themselves also believe and tremblet?I ask not so much, whether you have ever felt some desires after an interest in God through Christ? In this respect, as well as in others, there is a Desire of the slothful that kills him, while it serves only to increase his present disquietude and his after punishment. But I ask, what is on the whole your choice? What are your cares, your hopes, and your joys? Do they centre in God? Do they arise from communion with him through Christ? Do you experimentally know, what it is to come to his throne, to submit your revolted souls to his government with delight? To wait the signal of his will, as the rule of your actions; to enjoy, or at least earnestly desire, the visits of his grace, the effusions of his love on your hearts? Is prayer your pleasure, or is it your burden? Do you regard the word of God as an invaluable treasury, or is it to you as a sealed book? You have a thousand traces of the sublimest devotion and piety there: Can you relish them? Can you find any considerable resemblance between yourselves, and those holy souls, whose characters are there recorded and approved? You call yourselves christians: But do you know Christ, and do you love him, and do you cordially approve of the methods of his saving grace? Do you know what it is, to come and lay down your guilty souls, as under the effusions of his blood; to strip yourselves of all the pride of nature, that your nakedness may be clothed with his glorious righteousness? To bow to his sceptre as his obedient subjects, and rejoice that you have such a Governor? And do you feel the necessity of a daily application to him, as your great covenant-head, on whose influence you live, and by whose spirit you must perpetually be actuated, to the purposes of a divine life?These, these are the decisive questions; and let me intreat you to hear what conscience has to reply to them.
And permit me once more to ask you, if you are yet uncertain, as to this important article, how it is that this uncer
Mat. xxvi. 22.
† James ii. 19.
+ Prov. xxi. 25.
tainty sits on your minds? Are you easy under it? Do you carelessly defer the enquiry from one day to another; or purposely decline it, because you are afraid of some consequences which may disturb you? Or do you renew your examinations again and again, searching for those scriptures, and waiting for those parts of our public discourses, which may pierce deepest, and try your souls to the utmost; still above all begging, that God would search them; and renewing your humble entreaties, that you may know the very worst of your state, and be at length brought unto him through Christ, though it were by the most painful way, that any of his servants have ever trod ?
As to some of you, perhaps, the case may require discussion: But I believe there are others, to whom it would be no long labour. I fear, even while I am yet speaking, conscience must witness against some of you, that you are utter strangers to such a temper, and that you never came unto God by Christ. And therefore,
3. "Let those who are conscious to themselves, that they have never come unto God by Christ, be engaged seriously to reflect on the danger of their present condition."
I know, the corruption of our hearts strongly inclines us, to think as favourably as possible of ourselves, and eagerly to grasp the feeblest reed, which may give some present, though most precarious, support to our hope: And I know, Satan would favour the delusion to the utmost, because he is aware, there is but a short time in which he need labour to do it; so that if he can amuse you a few days, you are his prey for ever. It is our business, as ministers of the gospel, to counter-work these deceivers. O that God would teach us to do it effectually! "Sinner, thou art convinced in thy conscience, that thou art a stranger to the temper and character described; that Thou art the man who hast sat, perhaps many years, under the sound of the gospel, and to this very day hast never come unto God by Christ. And dost thou hope for salvation by him, while this is the case? It is a most arrogant and pernicious hope. I solemnly declare unto thee this day, Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter. Dost thou hope? On what foundation is it? Shew me one promise in the whole book of God, that speaks pardon and peace to an impenitent unbelieving sinner. Wilt thou say, Christ is able to save to the uttermost? He is indeed so; and yet it is no contradiction to declare, that as things now
Acts viii. 21.
stand, he cannot save thee: For he cannot deny himself; he cannot overthrow the whole tenor of his gospel, and make himself The minister of sin*. You know, he has expressly said, If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sinst; nay, He that believeth not shall be damned. You know he has foretold, that he will another day publicly say, As for those mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me§: And that so much more dreadful condemnation awaits them, than fell on the transgressors of Moses's law, though they Died without mercy, that It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for such. And will your hopes still stand, while all this dreadful artillery is planted directly against them? Shall the earth be forsaken for thee, and the rock be removed out of its place**? Rocks should much sooner be removed, and all the earth left desolate, than the whole constitution of the gospel shall be overthrown, lest thou shouldst perish. You would not take poison, in hope that God should work a miracle to preserve your life. Yet you might more reasonably expect this, than the other; because it would not so directly contradict any of the perfections of God, or any of his declarations. The matter is brought to a very short issue; and it requires no penetration, or labour of thought, to see it. If the gospel be not true, there is no foundation for expecting this salvation at all; but if it be, you are cut off from any hope of it, while you continue thus; and you are, even whilst I speak, on the very borders of hell.
And now, disarmed as you are of all these unavailing hopes, sit down and enter deeply into your present circumstances. "The Son of God became incarnate, and lived and died to procure salvation for such guilty creatures as I: And I have heard of this salvation; but I have no share in it. To this very hour The wrath of God abideth on mett. A storm of vengeance is arising around me, and I am excluded from the only ark in which I could be safe. Excluded by what? Why, to make it so much the more grievous, by my own folly." If we were to take upon us absolutely to pronounce concerning any of you, that you were excluded from the offers of gospel grace, you would no doubt resent it highly; as you reasonably might, Much more, were it in the power of a fellow mortal to deprive you of all share in this great salvation, might you cry out of it
Gal. ii. 17. Heb. x. 28.
+ John viii. 24.
Mark xv. 16. **Job xviii. 4.
Luke xix. 27. tt John iii. 36.
as a most hellish cruelty. You would not for the world do this wrong to another. if it were in your power. What, murder an immortal soul? You would tremble at the thought. But you tremble not at the thing. It is what you are doing, while you are rejecting the gospel. And will you never have compassion on your own poor bleeding souls, till the last incurable wound is given? Yet a little, a very little while, O sinners, and you will lift up your despairiug eyes in the midst of your torments, and behold this salvation afar off*. And alas, in how different a view will it then appear, even to the most indolent, and most presumptuous of you all? And how will it rend your very souls to think, "It was offered to me, and I would not accept it?" And what a doleful echo will there be amongst you, when you, and ten thousand more miserable creatures, are crying out "There was an almighty Saviour provided for sinners, and yet we are lost for ever; and are sunk so much lower than others, because we heard of him, and despised him!"
4. Let such sinners, as are awakened to a sense of their danger, be invited and persuaded, in the strength of divine grace, to come unto God by Christ."
All the awful and terrifying things we say, are dictated by the sincerest and tenderest love to your souls; and nothing can be farther from our intention, than to Come to torment you before the timet. Did we know, that your day of grace was past we would spare these unwelcome pains; and would rather permit you to sleep on and take your rest. But these are moments of hope, sinners, though you make them moments of extreme danger: And though there be no hope for you, while you continue to reject Christ, yet if you accept him, you have nothing to fear; but This very day, if you this day entertain him, shall salvation come to your house. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation §; and after so long a time, it is yet called to-day. Once more, and as to some of you, it may be for the last time, is the proclamation again made amongst you, Christ Is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him; and those that come, he will in no vise cast out¶ And do you not hear the proclamation with pleasure? And will you not obey it, as Worthy of all acceptation**.
What if the scene were changed, and the proposals were addressed to those wretched creatures who are now in hell?
Luke xvi. 23.
+ Mat. viii. 29.
Luke xix. 9. ** 1 Tim. i. 15.
§ 2 Cor. vi. 2.