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Thy Christ is made so light of.
IT may seem a Wonder that ever Men, who have the Use of their Reason, should be so foolish as to make light of Things of infinite Importance. But the Causes are such as these—
1. Some Men understand not the Meaning of the Words in which the Gospel is expressed; and how can they value what they do not understand? Tho’ we speak to them as plainly as we can, yet they have so estranged themselves from God, and the Concerns of their Souls, that they know not what we say. It is with them as if God in just Judgment had said, With stammering Lips and another Tongue will I speak to this People.
2. Some understand the Words we speak, but not the Matter, because they are carnal. For the natural Man receiveth not the Things of the Spirit of God, for they are Foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. The Things of the Spirit are not well known by bare Report, but by spiritual Taste, which none have but those that are taught by the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the Things that are freely given to us of God.
.3.. Carnal Minds apprehend not a Suitableness in these spiritual and heavenly Things, and therefore set light by them. Tell them of everlasting Glory, and they hear you, as if you, as if you was persuading them to go 12 and play with the Sun. The Affairs of another World are out of their Element, and therefore they have no more Delight in them, than a Fish would have in the pleasantest Meadow, or a Swine in a Jewel. They that are after the Spirit, may mind the Things of the Spirit; but they that are after the Flesh, do mind the Things of the Flesh.
4. The chief Cause of slighting Christ and Salvation, is a secret Root of Unbelief. Whatsoever Men may pretend, they do not really believe the Word of God. They are taught in general to say, the Gospel is true; but they never saw the Evidence of its Truth, so as to be firmly persuaded of it; nor have they got their Souls settled on the Infallibility of God’s Testimony; nor have they considered the Truth of the particular Doctrines revealed in Scripture. O Sinners, did you but really believe the Gospel Account of the Evil of Sin, of your Need of Christ, and what he hath done for you, and what you must be, and do; if ever you are saved by him, and what will become of you for ever, if you remain in Disobedience; 1 dare say this would cure the Contempt of Christ, and you would not make so light of your own Salvation! But Men do not believe, while they say so, and even while they themselves think so. There is in them an evil Heart of Unbelief, which makes them depart from the living God. Tell any Man he shall have a Gift of ten Thousand Pounds, if he will but go some Miles for it; if he believes you; he will go; if he believes not, he will not go. And if he will not go, supposing her is able, you may be sure he does not believe. I know a slight Belief may consist with a wicked Life; but a sincere Belief is inconsistent with so great Neglect of the Things that are believed.13
5. Christ and Salvation are made light of, because of Men’s Hardness of Heart. The Heart is naturally hard, and grows harder by Custom in Sin, especially by long Abuse of Mercy, Neglect of the Means of Grace, and resisting the Spirit of Grace. Hence it is that Men are turned into such Stones. And till God cure them of the Stone in the Heart, no Wonder if they feel not what they know, .nor regard what Preachers say, but make light of all. ’Tis hard preaching a Stone into Tears, or making a Rock to tremble. When Men’s Hearts are like the Highway, that is trodden to Hardness; or like the Clay, that is hardened in the Fire; when no Mercies can melt them to Repentance; when they have Consciences seared with a hot Iron; then it is no Wonder if they be past Feeling, and work all Uncleanness with Greediness, so as to make light of Christ and everlasting Glory. O that this were not the Case of too many of our Hearers ! Had we but living Souls to speak to, they would hear, and feel, and not make light of what we say. I know they are naturally alive, but they are dead in Trespasses and Sins. Were there but one Spark of the Life of Grace in them, the Doctrine of Salvation, by Jesus Christ would appear to them to be the weightiest Business in the World. O how confident should I be to prevail with Men, to mind the Concerns of Eternity more than Time, if they had but Life, and Sense, and Reason! How deplorable is the Condition of their Souls, who are fallen under this fearful Judgment of spiritual Deadness, and Blindness, and Hardness of Heart!
6. Multitudes make light of Christ and Salvation, because they are wholly sensual. The Concerns of another World are out of Sight, and so far from 14 their Senses, that they cannot regard them; but present Things are in their Eyes, and in their Hands. There must be a living Faith to prevail over Sense, before unseen Things will be duly regarded. Sense works with great Advantage, and therefore powerfully opposes Faith, where Faith itself is found; and no Wonder if it carries all before it, where there is no true and lively Faith to resist it, and to lead the Soul to higher Things. They, in the Text, who made light of Christ and Salvation, went their Ways, as it is added, one to his Farm, another to his Merchandise. Men have Houses and Lands to look after, Wife and Children, Body and outward Estate, and therefore they forget that they have a God, a Redeemer, a Soul to mind. These worldly Things are near at Hand, and therefore work naturally and forcibly; but the other are thought to be a great Way off, and therefore too distant to work on their Affections. Their Bodies have Life and Sense, and therefore if they want Meat, or Drink, or Cloaths, will feel their Wants, and make them known, and never rest till they are supplied. Men cannot make light of their bodily Necessities; but their Souls being spiritually dead, are insensible of their Wants, and will therefore be as quiet, when starving and languishing to Destruction, as if all were well and Nothing ailed them. Thus poor People are so attentive to their bodily Wants, as if they had Nothing else to mind; having their Trades and Callings to follow, and so much to do from Morning to Night, they can find no Tune for Christ and Salvation. Jesus would teach them, but they have no Leisure to hear him. The Bible is before them, but they 15cannot spare Time to read it. A Minister is in the Town with them, but they cannot go to ask him, What must we do to be saved? And when they do hear, their Hearts are so full of the World, they cannot mind what they hear, nor is there any Room to pour into them the Waters of Life. The Cares of the World choke the Word, and it becometh unfruitful. No Man can serve two Masters, God and Mammon. If any Man love the World, the Love of the Father is not in him. Men will set light by Christ and Salvation, while they so highly value any Thing upon Earth. This is the Ruin of many Thousand Souls! It would grieve the Heart of any serious Christian, to see how eagerly this vain World is every where followed, and the World to come neglected. To compare the Care Men take fur the World, with the Care of their Souls; and the Time they spend about the World, with the Time they employ for their Salvation. To see how the World fills their Mouths, their Hands, their Houses, their Hearts, while Christ hath little more than a bare Title of Respect. To come into their Company, and hear no Discourse but of the World. To come into their Houses, and hear and see Nothing but for the World, as if this World would last for ever, or would purchase them another. If I ask the Ministers of the Gospel how their Labours succeed? They tell me, “People continue still the same, and give up themselves wholly to the World, so that they mind not what we say to them, nor will give a full Entertainment to the Word: and all because of the deluding World.” And O that too many Ministers themselves did not make light of that Christ whom they preach, thro’ being drawn away by the Love if this World! In a Word, Men of a worldly 16Disposition judge of Things according to worldly Advantages. Thus Christ is despised and rejected of Men, they hide as it were their Faces from him, and esteem him not, they see no Form, nor Comeliness, nor Beauty, that they should desire him.
7. Inconsideration is another Cause why Men make light of Christ. They do not soberly attend to the Truth and Importance of Soul-Concerns. They suffer not their Minds to dwell so long upon them, till they procure a due Esteem, and deeply affect their Hearts. If these Things are assented to, but not closely considered, how should they have their proper Influence? While Men have Reason given them to think and consider of the Things that most concern them, and yet they will not see it, this occasions their making light of such Things, and treating them with Contempt.
. 8. Christ and Salvation, are made light of, because Men remain insensible of their Sin and Misery. Their Eyes were never opened to see themselves as they are; nor their Hearts truly humbled in the Sense of their own Wretchedness. If this were done, they would soon be brought to value a Saviour. A Heart broken for Sin can no more make light of Christ and Salvation, than a hungry Man of his Food, or a sick Man of his Physician. When Sin and Guilt are groaned under, as an intolerable Burthen, then Nothing will serve the Turn but Christ. Till Men are deeply humbled, they can part with Christ and Salvation for a Lust, for a little worldly Gain, for that which is less than Nothing. But when God hath inlightened their Consciences, and broken their Hearts, then they would give a World for Christ; then they count all Things but Loss for the Excellency of the Knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord. 17 When they are once pricked in their Hearts for their Sin and Misery, then they cry out, Men and Brethren, what shall we do? When they are awakened by the Word or Providence of God, then they will ask with the Jailor, Sirs, what must we do to be saved? Thus God will bring Men low by Humiliation, before he bring them to Salvation.
9. Men take occasion to make light of Christ, because the Gospel is grown common to them. They hear of it every Day, and the Frequency dulls their Affections. Were it a Rarity, it might be more regarded; but now they plead, “We have these Things every Day.” They make not light of their Meat and Drink, their Health or Life, because they possess them every Day. They make not light of the Sun, because it shines every Day; at least they should not, for the Mercy is the greater by its Constancy. Yet Christ and Salvation are made light of, because they hear of them often. Pearls are trod in the Dirt, where they are common. The heavenly Manna is counted dry. The full Soul loatheth an Honey-Comb, but to the hungry Soul every bitter Thing is sweet.——Once more;
10. Christ is made light of, either because Men think he is theirs already, or because he may easily be theirs at any Time. It is true, that Grace is free, and the Offer is universal, where-ever the Gospel is preached. And it is true, that Men may have Christ whenever they are willing to comply with his Terms. But if you are not willing now, how can you think you shall be willing hereafter? If you can make your own Heart willing, why not do it immediately? Can you do it better, when Sin hath more hardened it, and God may have given you over to yourself? O Sinners, you might do much, tho’ you are not able of yourselves to come in; if you would 18but now subject yourselves to the Working of the Spirit, and set in while the Gales of Grace continue! Did you know what a hard Thing it is to be so much as willing to have Christ and Grace; when the Heart is given up to its own corrupt Bias, and the Spirit hath withdrawn its former Influences, you would not be so confident of your own Strength to believe and repent, nor would you from such foolish Confidence continue to make light of Christ. If indeed it be so easy a Matter, as you imagine, for a Sinner to believe and repent at any Time, how comes it to pass that it is done by so few, while Multitudes perish in their Impenitence, amidst all desireable Helps and Means? It must be allowed that the Thing is very reasonable and easy in itself to a pure Nature; but while Man is spiritually blind and dead, the Things are scarcely possible to him, which are ever so easy to others. To gracious Souls, it is the easiest and sweetest Life in the World, to live in the Love of God, and the Thoughts of that Life to come, where all their Hope and Happiness lieth. But it is as easy to remove Mountains, as to bring carnal Hearts to this. These Men however condemn themselves; for if they think it so easy a Matter to repent, and believe, and so have Christ and Salvation, they have then the less Excuse for neglecting what they thought so easy. O miserable impenitent Souls! What think you to reply, when God shall ask you, “Why did you not repent, and “love your Redeemer above the World, when you imagined you could easily do it at any Time?”
Are such as these the Causes why Multitudes make light of Christ and Salvation? How great then is the Folly, and how contemptible are the Judgments of all carnal Men, and how little need have we to 19be discouraged by their Sneers or Insults! That Man must be foolish or mad, that knows no Difference between Dirt and Gold. And it is the Height of Folly and Madness, to set light by Christ and Salvation, and be daily toiling for the Dirt of this World. And yet how lamentably prone are many weak Persons to be ashamed of Godliness, if such Fools or Madmen do but deride them for it; and to think hardly of a holy Life, if such as these do but rail at it! On the contrary, if you perceive any setting light by Christ and Salvation, let their Wisdom and Words be light in your Esteem, and hear their Reproaches of a holy Life with the tender Compassion with which you would hear the Ravings of a Madman.
Are the best Ministers of the Gospel despised, and do they complain of the ill Success of their Labours? Wonder not, since the Ministry of Apostles succeeded no better, tho’ they had Miracles to second their Doctrines. If any Preachers could have shaken and torn in Pieces the Hearts of Sinners, they could have done it. If any could have made all cry out, as some did, What shall we do? it would have been Apostles. It is not therefore for Want of good Preachers, that Men make light of Christ and Salvation. The first News of Pardon for Sin, and the Hope of Glory, and the Danger of everlasting Misery, would turn the Hearts of Men within them, if they were as tractable in spiritual Matters, as in temporal. But, alas! it is far otherwise. Let it not seem strange to Ministers, nor let them be too much discouraged by it, if, when they have said all that they can desire in Order to win the Hearts of Men to Christ, the greatest Part still slight him, and tho’ they bow the Knee to him, and honour him with their 20Lips, yet basely prefer every worldly and carnal Pleasure or Profit before him. While it it thus with many, blessed be God, it is not thus with all.
But before we, that are Ministers, enquire after this great condemning Sin amongst our Hearers, we should take Care that we be not guilty of it ourselves. God forbid, that having undertaken the sacred Office of revealing the Excellencies of Christ to the World, we should make light of him ourselves, and slight that Salvation which we daily preach. The Lord knows we are all of us so defective in our Esteem for Christ, and do our great Work so negligently, that we have Reason to be ashamed of our best Sermons; but should this Sin prevail in us, we are of all Men most miserable. I love not Censoriousness, Brethren; yet I dare not befriend so vile a Sin in myself, or others, under Pretence of avoiding it; especially when there is so great a Necessity first to heal it in us, who make it our Business to heal it in others. O that there were no Cause to complain that Christ is made light of by those that preach him!—Are not Studies neglected?—Are not Ministrations lifeless and formal?—How little is done out of the Pulpit, for reproving Sin, and saving Men’s Souls?—Is there not a perpetual Neglect of those Things in which the Interest of Christ consists; even the healing. reforming, and enlarging his Churches?—Are not many made Preachers before they are Christians, and therefore, by their own covetous and worldly Lives, lose the most precious Advantages for doing good to Souls? If such Ministers believe the Scriptures which they preach, methinks their studying and preaching should fill them with Terror.21
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