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upon them, but
the house God for mere amusement, and hear the gospel with as much levity and indifference, as if they knew it were a cunningly devised fable, which could . have no influence upon their future state; yet they will sooner or later feel the evil effects of their criminal stupidity and presumption. God told Ezekiel, that his vain and contemptuous hearers should reap the bitter fruits of their sin and folly, in despising his solemn messages. "Lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.” And Christ forewarned his unbelieving hearers, that his word would not be lost
prove the ground of their final condemnation. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shali judge him in the last day.” Whenever sinners come within the walls of the sanctuary they are under a moral necessity of embracing the gospel, or of rejecting the counsel of God against themselves, which is the most critical and interesting situation they can possibly be in, this side of eternity
5. Įf the gospel tries the hearts and forms the characters of those who hear it; then sinners may easily and insensibly fit themselves for destruction, Many seem to think, that the gospel will do them no harm unless they openly and violently oppose it. They flatter themselves, if they never say any thing against it, by way of complaint or contempt; but, on the other hand, treat it with respect, acknowledge it to be divine, and hear it with decency, they are in the fair way to salvation. They verily believe, that the Jews were
highly criminal for their violent opposition to Christ, and the doctrines he taught; and they view. all open infidels and scoffers as walking in the same broad road to destruction. But they mean to shun such shocking. examples, and pursue a more wise and prudent course as long as they live. They intend to sit and hear the gospel with as much patience as possible, and never suffer their hard thoughts and inward enmity to break out into open violence to Christ, or to those who preach is his name. And so long as they constantly and seriously hear the gospel, they fondly hope it will prove a saving benefit to them. But this is a gross and dangerous delusion. Internal opposition to Christ is as fatal to the soul as external; and will as infallibly destroy it. How many serious, and apparently well disposed persons, sit under the gospel from sabbath to sabbath, with secret opposition to Christ, and to the way of salvation through his mediation and atonement? They see no form nor comeliness in him, wherefore they should desire him; but heartily hate his person, his doctrines, and his terms of mercy, which is a silent and insensible way to destruction. So long as sinners thus sit under gospel preaching, and hear and hate, hear and hate, hear and hate, they are constantly preparing, whether they realize it or not, to unite in the feelings, and share in the torments, of the incorrigible enemies of God, who shall lie down in everlasting sorrow.
6. We learn from what has been said in this discourse, that all who hear the gospel may know, before they leave the world, what will be their future and final state. God has given them a glorious and infallible sign. He has clearly exhibited the great and amiable character of the divine Redeemer, and told them, if they look at it and love it, they shall live; but if they
look at it and hate it, they shall die? They have only to determine how they have felt or do feel in the view of the Saviour, and draw the inference justly in order to know with certainty, whether they are friends or enemies to God, and prepared to enjoy his favour, or feel his displeasure forever. If they love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, they may assure themselves, that because he lives, they shall live: but if they remain conscious of hating the Lord Jesus Christ, they may assure themselves, that because he lives, they must die, His character will be forever exhibited to the view of all intelligent creatures, and those who view it with complacency and delight, must be perfectly blessed; but those who view it with directly opposite feelings, must be completely and forever miserable.
GOD LOVES THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.
PROVERBS viii, 17.
THIS is the language of divine wisdom, speaking throughout this chapter. It is not, however, very easy to determine whether divine wisdom is here to be taken in a figurative, or literal sense. pose, that Solomon uses the term wisdom here, and in other parts of this Book, to denote true religion; or that wisdom, which is from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Some suppose, that the wisdom speaking in the text, is Jesus Christ, who is called the wisdom of God. But some are more inclined to think, that wisdom is here personified and denotes God himself, who is often represented by one of his essential attributes, as the Almighty, Holy one, &c. These several expositions of wisdom very nearly coincide, so that we cannot deviate from truth, by adopting either of them, though we may not exactly hit the precise meaning of the sacred writer. But I choose to consider God as speaking in the text, and saying, “I love them that love me.” The plain and obvious import of this declaration is,
That God loves none but such as first love him. To illustrate this subject, I shall,
1. Show what kind of love God exercises towards them who love him.
II. Consider what is implied in men's loving God.
III. Inquire why God loves only such as first love him.
I. I am to show what kind of love God bears towards them who love him.
There is the love of benevolence, and the love of Gomplacence. These two kinds of love are of the same nature, but distinguished by the objects upon which they terminate. The love of benevolence terminates upon percipient being, and extends to all sensitive natures, whether rational or irrational, whether they have a good, or bad, or no moral character. God desires and regards the good of all his creatures, from the highest angel to the lowest insect. His benevolence is bounded by nothing but an incapacity to enjoy happiness and suffer pain. He is good to the evil and to the unthankful; yea, he is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. Every creature has a share in his benevolent affections and his benevolent exertions, in exact proportion to his worth and importance in the scale of being. He so loved the whole wicked world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. His love of benevolence extends to sinners, as well as to saints, to the worst, as well as to the best of mankind. But his love of complacence is wholly confined to moral beings, who are possessed of moral excellence. Nothing but virtue, or goodness, or real holiness is the object of his complacence. He loves holiness in himself, and wherever he finds it in any of his creatures. He sees it in all those who love him, and therefore hc loves them, not only with benevolence, but with complacence. When he says in the text, “I love them that love me,” he means to declare, that he feels that complacency towards those who love him, which he