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SERMON IX.1212   Preached, March 20, 1691.

2 Corinthians, iv. 3.

But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.

WE have shewn (and the matter is in itself plain) how these words relate to those that go before; that, in as much as it is the design of the faithful ministers of Christ, in the course of their ministry, to commend themselves to the consciences of men in the sight of God:. and that the great things that they deal with men about, are therefore supposed to be such as do carry in them a self-recommending evidence to men’s consciences, as you have heard they do; that in this state of the case, things being thus, if yet the gospel do remain an hidden gospel, those to whom it is so, must be lost souls; and that is it, which is with us the ground of discourse from these words, to wit,

Doctrine. That the gospel being hid to them, who continually live under it, is a very sad token of their being lost; it was propounded in speaking of this to open to you.

1. In what sense the gospel may be said, and is here meant to be hid.

2. To shew what this being lost must mean.

3. What connexion there is between these two,—The gospel being hid to any, and their being lost. And then the use will ensue.

The first we have shewed already, what is meant hereby, the gospel’s being hid. We are now next to shew you.

2. What this being lost doth signify. In general, it is not an external or temporal ruin that is here spoken of, but a spiritual and eternal one: it is the soul’s being lost, and lost for ever, which is manifestly the thing here meant; that being lost, which doth certainly ensue upon blindness of mind, infidelity, and exclusion of the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, as the following words shew; and which, therefore, shews that it must be a spiritually eternal ruin that is here meant. But that being the meaning 137in the general, we must know that men may be lost two ways; that is either actually, as it is with them who are al ready in hell, on whom the infernal pit hath already shut its mouth; or else as they are liable and tending to such a ruin. And it must be in this latter sense that they are spoken of as lost here, to whom the gospel is an hidden gospel. It is spoken for the warning of survivors, and to make such look about them that do as yet live fruitless lives, and are unimpressed under the gospel, which in the name of the eternal God is from time to time preached to them. And nothing is more ordinary, either in scripture or in common speech, than to speak of men as lost who are in visible tendency unto destruction, though they are not yet actually destroyed. Now for this liableness to be lost, or this tendency to destruction that is here manifestly meant, and in respect whereof those here spoken of may be said to be lost; that may again be twofold: that is, either it may be such a liableness to destruction as is common to the apostate children of men as such: or else that liableness to destruction which is special with some more than others, or as having somewhat peculiar in it which renders their case worse than the common case. In the former sense all the apostate world is spoken of as lost; all the apostate world that remains yet unreconciled, unconverted; “The Son of Man came to seek and save that which Js lost.” Matthew xviii. 11. Every unconverted sinner is in this sense a lost creature. And so indeed they may be said to be all lost; Luke xix. 10. the whole apostate world yet continuing in their apostacy; upon a double account, 1st. In wickedness; and 2nd. Under wrath.

1st. In wickedness. So all unconverted sinners are lost creatures, lost in sin; nothing is indeed more ordinary than to speak of a wicked person (even as he is such) under the notion of a lost person. Even among pagans themselves, of a very wicked man, a debauched person, they say he is perdite nequam, and that he is a man perdidissimus moribus; a flagitious person is a lost person, and the word that is commonly used in the Greek in profane authors (as you have it used again and again in Scripture too, Asotos and Asolia) signifies one that is lost, or one that is unsaved, or cannot be saved. So all the ungodly world is lost in sin and wickedness; which sin is death began, being in its prevailing power over them, they, being under the dominion of it, are dead. “To be carnally minded is death,” that is, to be 138under the dominion of a carnal mind is death; he is a dead man, he is a lost man that is under the dominion of a mind habitually carnal, not capable of savouring divine things, the things of the Spirit. Rom. viii. 5, 6. “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Eph. ii. 1. who were dead, lost in death. Death hath a present and actual dominion over all this apostate and unreconciled world; reigns over it in conjunction with sin. That is not to be understood barely of liableness to natural death, that is a low diminishing sense of that reign of death spoken of Rom. v. The restitution of that life is meant which was lost in Adam’s transgression, by which not only did men become not only mortal but sinful: not only mortal as to their bodies, but sinful (and so under death) as to their souls; which was also the plain meaning of their being all dead; “The love of Christ constrains us, because we thus judge, that if Christ died for all, then we were all dead.” 2 Cor. v. 14. An universal death stretching its wings over all this world, and covering it with a deadly shade every where; and all were alienated from the life of God, destitute and forsaken of the divine, the vital presence; God departed and withdrawn and gone, as he is from this apostate world yet unreconciled: and so are all said to be lost in wickedness, perdite nequam, as the common phrase is.

2dly. All were lost in wrath too, or under wrath; “The wrath of God being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” Rom. i. 17. who hold the truth in unrighteousness, as men universally do. And so, in this double respect, men being generally said to be lost; lost in sin, and lost under divine wrath; the phrase of their being lost is so applicable to them as the like phrase would be to any man in this case, supposing these two things to concur in the particular case of any man; 1st. That he is a person dreadfully diseased, that some mortal disease is upon him that is likely to be the end of him very soon; and 2nd. That he is an offending criminal besides, that he hath fallen under the sentence of the law that condemns him to die. When these things concur in any particular person’s case, that is, he is a most dangerously diseased person, hath a mortal disease upon him, and that he is under a sentence and doom to die at the same time; who would not say the man were lost? It is a great question whether his disease or the halter will dispatch him soonest. But he is lost the one way or the other: so it is with the 139apostate world; they are lost in sin; this is their disease which carries death in it. “To be carnally minded is death;” these men carry their own death about them wherever they go: and then they are under a doom besides; that is, all the impenitent unbelieving world lie under a doom, under a sentence. “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Rom. viii. 1. What doth this imply, but that there is condemnation to all the rest, only those are excepted from condemnation who are in Christ, walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit? all the rest then are condemned men, dead men, all lost? This is one notion wherein those not actually destroyed, or on whom the infernal pit hath not already shut its mouth, may yet be said to be lost, as being liable to be lost, and as in a visible manifest tendency to destruction, that being continually impendent and approaching. But then,

Besides this common case wherein men may be thus said to be lost, there is somewhat special in the case of some that renders their case far worse than the common case; so as that if all may (in the forementioned respects, till redeeming mercy have taken place in reference to them). be said to be lost, they much more, as having somewhat in their case much more dismal, much more frightful than is or can be in the common case of unreconciled sinners merely as such. You would think the case to be very dismal of Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by vindictive flames that caught hold of them from heaven: hell rained down upon them (as it were) out of heaven, fire and brimstone and an horrible tempest. Yet our Lord tells us of some whose case was much more dismal than that of Sodom and Gomorrah; some that were under his own preaching, under his own ministry, from day to day he was preaching grace and life among them in that gospel which was designed the savour of life unto souls. Many that heard it were surprised and admired, “wondering at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth.” Luke iv. And yet even among these, there were some whose case was worse by far, and more dreadful than that of Sodom and Gomorrah; and it is easy to apprehend in general wherein. I shall not descend to particulars now, but reserve that to a further place afterwards in our discourse. It is very evident that among those that are lost in the sense and intendment that hath been mentioned; that is, as being liable to perish, and whose destruction is approaching and impending; 140among these some are yet, though lost, recoverably lost, others are irrecoverably, of the common case of the apostate world as such; though it be said of them they are all lost, yet they are recoverably lost; that is, if you consider no more than the common case as such; for there are proper apt means appointed for recovery and salvation which may probably have their effect upon them, their blessed effect, to recover and save them. And though there be degrees, very different degrees of danger, some may be more in danger, some are less so; yet the case admits of very vast difference when the gospel first comes among a people, and when it hath long continued among them.

(1.) When it first comes among them, here are the proper apt means set on foot for the saving that which was lost: the Redeemer approacheth them, makes his first trial upon them: Have you a mind to be saved, have you a mind to accept of a Saviour, of a Redeemer, to put yourselves under his shelter, and under his government, which you must do at the same time? Here are hopeful appearances in these men’s cases. It is true the Redeemer comes to them as a company of lost creatures; but he comes on purpose to propose to them the certain means and methods of their being saved. And you that now have a mind to fall in with the Redeemer, you may have him; you must then take him to be yours, and give up yourselves to be his: and if this agreement on your part be cordial and vital, and you are in good earnest in it, you are safe in the midst of danger; yea, though you live in surrounding deaths that do ingulf and are ready to swallow up, and are sure to swallow up all that do not so. But consider here,

(2.) That a people among whom the gospel hath long continued, and it may be with happy success as to many, many have been gathered in; but there are also such as yet stand out: they have heard the words of grace sounding in their ears often, which have sounded to them like a tale that is told. All that hath been said to them of the Son of God’s having come down into this world to die a reconciling sacrifice for lost sinners, that he might bring about union and peace and friendship between the offended Majesty of heaven and them, hath made no more impression on them than so many breaths of air would do upon a rock. Sure the case is far worse with these men than the common case of sinners, as such, can be supposed to be. There may be even of these yet some whose case is not altogether desperate; we do not know what wonders the power of grace may yet 141work, but there may be among these some also that are lost irrecoverably, upon whom an irrevocable doom is past; so as that repentance is hid on both sides, both from God’s eye and theirs; they will never repent, and he will never repent: they have an heart that can never repent, and God hath passed his doom that he will never repent. And now as touching this case, that such a case there is, plain Scriptures put us out of all doubt; some that are never to be for given in this world, nor in the world to come. I need not tell you for what crime. “All sin and blasphemy shall be for given to men, excepting that one, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall never be forgiven in this world, nor in the world to come.” Matt. xii. 31. But I say as to their case, who may be thus said to be irrecoveraby lost, while they yet are on this side hell, whether it may be known to others, or even to themselves that they are so lost, I shall say nothing now; I have spoken my mind to that very publicly another way in that book called “The Redeemer’s Tears;” and may say somewhat more to it in the use, before I pass from this subject. But that there are some (I say) so irrecoverably lost, while they as yet are under the gospel is out of all doubt; whether they can know it, or others know it, which is less to be supposed, I shall say no more now. But concerning them, of whom this is not to be said of them, that they are irrecoverably lost, though their case be much worse than the common case: yet there may be degrees in it of greater, and less probability of their yet being wrought upon to their recovery and salvation. And that we shall come to and consider by and by, when we speak of the connection between these two, the gospel’s being hid, and their being lost.

But as to the import and meaning of the phrase here, it is plain it doth chiefly refer to the latter sort of men, that is, that are lost in a worse sense than the common case doth amount to. It is not to be supposed that men’s being lost in the common sense, can be the thing here intended in this scripture, “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” why, all are lost! it must therefore be meant in a peculiar sense. It is evident then he doth not speak here of men’s being lost in that sense wherein all are lost by nature; but he speaks of them that live under the gospel, and are not yet recovered and saved by it, whether these may be said to be recoverably, or irrecoverably lost; yea, or no; whether it be the one or the other of them, the thing 142is sad; and because the determination is so very distinct, how to bring a determining line between those that are, under the gospel, lost irrecoverably, and them that are lost recoverably; and since we cannot tell among all, those who belong to the one rank, and who belong to the other rank, and it may be no one person can tell concerning himself, that he doth most certainly belong to that more horrid view of such as are lost irrecoverably; therefore we shall only take the matter indefinitely concerning those that are lost, in a worse sense than men in general can be said to be. And so we pass on in the next place,

3. To shew the connection between these two, the gospel being hid and such men being lost; for I told you, in the doctrine that the gospel being hid unto such, is a sad token of their being lost, that I may state this connection to you; you may in the general take this for a ground, that those are to be reckoned the significant tokens that do belong to the thing they betoken, either as causes or effects of it; or whatsoever things are connected with one another as cause and effect, the one of these doth significantly betoken the other. Now that connection which there is between these two, the gospel’s being hid, and the soul’s being lost, is a connection of cause and effect. And this connection may be mutual and interchangeable; that is, something of the gospel’s being hid may be the cause of the soul’s being lost; and again, the soul’s being lost may be the cause of the gospel’s being hid. And so they may change places; they may be alternate, as it were, in the matter; they may be mutual causes and effects to one another. We shall consider,

1. The connection between these two the former way, that is, the gospel’s being hid being the cause why they are lost. And if it be hid it must needs endanger their being lost by a casual contribution that it hath thereunto, whether we can say they are recoverably lost or irrecoverably; the gospel’s being hid to them is a cause of it, a manifest cause of it; if they are at last lost; into this it most manifestly results, the gospel was hid from them. If it be always hid they are surely lost; if it be so hid that at length the veil be done away, it will appear, that though they were lost they were not remedilessly lost, but upon a two-fold account the gospel’s being hid must be the cause of the soul’s being lost. 1st. As the gospel’s being hid doth include in it the want of somewhat that’s necessary to salvation; and, 2ndly, as the gospel’s being 143hid doth include somewhat in it that promotes their destruction. These two ways the gospels being hid is the cause of their souls being lost.

1. As it carries in it the want of somewhat that was necessary to salvation is the gospel hid to them, then they must want that without which they cannot be saved so long as the gospel is hid to them. The knowledge and belief of gospel truths, the acceptance of gospel offers, and subjection to gospel commands, are things without which they cannot be saved. But while the gospel is hid to them these things must be wanting: they must want the saving knowledge of gospel truths; they must want true acceptance of gospel grace and offers; they must want entire and sincere obedience to gospel commands; and without these they will be lost: these they can never attain to while the gospel remains hid; while it is an hidden gospel all things contained in it may be represented to them, but they are all so many parables, they understand nothing of the meaning of them; all that is said to them is only as a story told to a man asleep, or between sleeping and waking, and whereof there is no more perfect sense begot in their minds than there is of any thing that you mutter to the ear of a man asleep. They cannot believe what they do not understand, and they cannot accept those offers that depend upon truths which they do not believe; and they can never yield obedience to those commands which stand in conjunction with such offers, and their obedience and subjection thereunto must be in equal connection with their acceptance of those offers. I cannot take Christ to be my Saviour, but I must take him to be my Lord at the same time; and he that takes him to be his Lord, doth it without despair; but with hope that he shall be entertained by him, and treated by him as a Saviour. But nothing of this can be where the gospel is hid, and while it remains still an hidden gospel. So all this, while these souls do yet continue lost souls, even for this very cause, for this as the cause, that the gospel being an hidden gospel doth imply the want of things necessary to salvation. But also,

2. The gospel’s being an hidden gospel doth imply also that which manifestly tends to promote their destruction. And under that head two things do come to be considered, indisposition on their part, and provocation on God’s part; and both these growing so much the more, by how much the longer they continue void of impression under the gospel.

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(1.) An indisposition on their part to all the duty they are to do, and to all the advantages they are to use and enjoy in order to their salvation; they grow more and more in disposed the longer they live under the gospel as an hidden gospel. It is necessary, in order to their salvation, that they should exercise “repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” But they grow more and more indisposed to these, by how much the longer they continue under the gospel as an hidden gospel to them; and that in several respects.

1. The great things contained in the gospel that should influence them hereunto, they grow from time to time less and less considerable to them: what should have influence to the turning of a soul through Christ to bring him to exercise “repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” grows from time to time less considerable. These mighty weighty motives are contained in the gospel. Sinner, if thou dost not turn thou diest! If thou dost not fall into a closure with the Son of God as thy Redeemer, Saviour, and Lord, thou art a ruined creature to all eternity. Lo, here is a glorious heaven before thee, that will be the reward of thy gospel obedience. Here is a place and state of torment, a fiery gulf, a flaming hell before thee, and in view too, that must determine thy place, and the state of thy eternal torment and punishment if thou turn not, if thou do not obey the gospel, if thou becomest not a serious penitent and sincere believer, a faithful dutiful subject to God in Christ. Here, are the great considerations which the gospel presents men with, to influence their turning, their renovation and conversion to God through Christ. Now the longer men continue under the gospel, while it yet continues an hidden gospel to them, the less do these considerations signify with them from day to day; because the force of them hath been spent upon them (as it were) heretofore, and now they signify little, still less and less. Such considerations as these, though they are the weightiest and most important that can be imagined, yet they have been blown upon; and, saith the obdurate sinner, I have learned long ago to make light of these things; and, what? do you tell me of these things now? These are the greatest things that can be told them, or mentioned to them. But these things they have learned long ago to make very little of, so as they can say, in case you talk of heaven to me now, pray what doth it signify more now than it did ten or twenty years ago? Is 146heaven grown a better thing than it was seven or ten years ago? and I made light of it then. And is hell grown a more terrible thing now than it was seven or ten years ago? and I made light of it then; and, pray, why cannot I as well do so now? These considerations, which should have the mightiest power upon the spirits of men, they still-signify less and less, when they continue long under the gospel, while it remains still an hidden gospel to them; for these are blown upon, and men have taught themselves to make light of them, and to have them signify little or nothing to them:—if you cannot speak to me of somewhat greater than heaven and hell, eternal blessedness and eternal misery, you move not me, for these things I have heard and made light of long ago. And,

2. The longer the gospel is hid, the minds of men grow the blinder, as if there be no ability to face the sun without prejudice; the longer you face it the more your prejudice will be. There is a way of beholding that glorious light which shines in the gospel without prejudice, and with the greatest advantage, its beams being refracted as they are allayed by grace; and so it is not an amazing astonishing glory, but a cheering, reviving heart-exhilarating glory, that shines through the glass of the gospel dispensation. But if the gospel be so hid from men that it cannot be thus looked upon, then their minds grow blinder and blinder. The sun hath put out their eyes, as the god of this world is said to do in the very next verse. It is a very dreadful thing to be struck blind with gospel light; but that is the case with many,—gospel light strikes them blind, and their minds grow Jess and less receptive, the longer they remain under this gospel without effect, without receiving the proper impressions of it. The proper impression of it would contemper the eye to the object, the visible power to that glory that clothes the object; but while nothing of this is done, the longer the light of the gospel shines, the less perspicuity there is in the eye of their minds; it is less perceptive, less capable of taking it in. And,

3. Conscience is grown weaker; and so they are more indisposed to all the duties, and the use of the advantages that are requisite to their salvation. Conscience, it grows weaker, and is more debilitated for the doing its proper office. The context shews us plainly how the state of this case must be understood; that is, that in the ministration of this gospel, they, whose work it is, do apply themselves 146to the very consciences of men in the sight of God; and that truth which they preach carries in it (as you have heard) a self-recommending evidence to the consciences of men. Hereupon there is a close grappling between such truth and conscience; for they do apply themselves in the sight of God, in preaching such truths to the consciences of men, that they do, and that they must do; truth then is insinuating, and gets within; as it must be supposed to do-when it is held in unrighteousness. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, (Rom. i. 18,) who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” They that hold the truth in unrighteousness do hold it; it is got within them. Then, I say, there is a close and immediate grapple and tug between truth let in, truth intermitted, and conscience; but they have got the victory. Truth, so far as conscience receives it in, is engaged against corrupt inclinations, against vicious appetites, against a carnal heart that is averse and disaffected to God. Here lies the grapple between truth in the conscience, and the power of corrupt inclination in the heart. Well, vicious inclination hath got the victory; every such victory makes the next easier; every former victory makes way for a following one, with so much the greater facility; and conscience having been baffled once by the power of corrupt and carnal inclination can the more easily be baffled again. As you know, if there be two combatants engaged with one another in a very close tug and grapple, he that is conquered and receives the foil hath spent a great deal of his strength, and is grown weaker, and so is the more easily thrown again if there succeed another grapple. So it is in this case, when men have once brought conscience to yield, when they have succeeded so far in the design of mortifying conscience, further conquest is the more easy; for (as it hath been heretofore told you upon some occasion) when these two are engaged against one another, carnal inclination in the heart, and light in the mind, or conscience, they being opposite one to another, and mutually engaged one against another, the one must die; either conscience must be mortified, or corrupt inclination must be mortified. And whereas, the design, intendment, and tendency of gospel truth is to in force a mortification of corrupt inclination; but the gospel is hid and doth not prevail in order thereunto, then the other part is doomed to death. There can be no consent, no yielding to it, that corrupt inclination 147should die: then that of course must be yielded to, let conscience die; if there must be a mortification, let it be upon conscience, and not upon appetite, not upon corrupt inclination, let that live, and let conscience die. And so much now is done towards the killing and mortifying of it; and so it grows weaker and weaker still, by how much the more the resistance to a gospel yet hid hath been continued and kept on foot. And so the indisposition grows more and more, the longer the gospel is hid; and so there is so much the more likelihood to be a being finally lost. That such will be finally lost, are in the way, and tending to it apace, in the concurrence of such things as do now meet in their case; as we would say of a vessel in a storm, and as was said of that wherein the Apostle Paul was, all hope that they should be saved was taken away; Acts xxvii. 20. No hope left of being saved. You may suppose such a concurrence in such a case, that there shall appear very little hope; here are so violent storms upon the soul that hath abandoned and surrendered itself, against conscience, to the government of lust and corrupt inclination.

And here is the Spirit of God gone; as we shall have occasion to show more hereafter. And here is the devil let loose upon a man. “In whom the god of this world hath blinded their eyes.” Any one that looks upon this endangered vessel would say the ship were lost, it doth not obey the helm; for so the man doth not whose conscience hath no power over him, doth not govern him; she doth not answer the helm; she falls from the helm; she is lost, would we say of such a vessel. The storm is violent upon it; corrupt inclination grows stronger; God is gone, and the devil hath seized it, and taken possession, and is putting out the eyes of the poor creature as fast as he can. The man is visibly lost. We do not know what miracles God may work; we know not what he may do, but in all appearance the man is lost.

There are other things to be said concerning the growing indisposition upon such a soul, as to the things that are necessary to its being saved; and many things that will show the provocation grows on God’s part while this indisposition is growing on man’s part. And, take all together, and it seems a very hopeless case, if it be not altogether desperate. Truly there is very little hope left in such a case, that they should be saved at length to whom, the gospel doth thus remain hid.

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