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Chapter I. Application of the foregoing meditations concerning the glory of Christ — first, in an exhortation unto such as are not yet partakers of him.
That which remains is, to make some application of the glorious truth insisted on unto the souls of them that are concerned; and what I have to offer unto that end I shall distribute under two heads. The first shall be with respect unto them who are yet strangers from this holy and glorious One, — who are not yet made partakers of him, nor have any especial interest in him. And the second shall be directed unto believers, as a guide and assistance unto their recovery from spiritual decays, and the revival of a spring of vigorous grace, holiness, and obedience in them.
For the first of these, although it seems not directly to lie in our way, yet is it suited unto the method of the Gospel, that wherever there is a declaration of the excellencies of Christ, in his person, grace, or office, it should be accompanied with an invitation and exhortation unto sinners to come unto him. This method he himself first made use of, Matt. xi. 27–30; John vii. 37, 38, and consecrated it unto our use also. Besides, it is necessary from the nature of the things themselves; for who can dwell on the consideration of the glory of Christ, being called therewith to the declaration of it, but his own mind will engage him to invite lost sinners unto a participation of him? But I shall at present proceed no farther in this exhortation, but only unto the proposal of some of those considerations which may prepare, incline, and dispose their minds unto a closure with him as he is tendered in the Gospel. As, —
1. Let them consider well what is their present state with respect 420unto God and eternity. This Moses wisheth for the Israelites, Deut. xxxii. 29, “Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” It is the greatest folly in the world to leave the issues of these things unto an uncertain hazard; and that man who cannot prevail with himself strictly to examine what is his state and condition with respect unto eternity, does never do any good nor abstain from any evil in a due manner. Remember, therefore, that “many are called, but few are chosen.” To be called, is to enjoy all the outward privileges of the Gospel, — which is all you unto whom I speak can pretend unto; yet this you may do and not be chosen; — even among those unto whom the word is preached, they are but few that shall be saved. In the distribution made by our Lord Jesus Christ of the hearers of the word into four sorts of ground, it was but one of them that received real benefit thereby; and if our congregations are no better than were his hearers, there is not above a fourth part of them that will be saved, — it may be a far less number; — and is it not strange that every one of them is not jealous over himself and his own condition? Many herein deceive themselves until they fall under woeful surprisals. And this is represented in the account of the final judgment; for the generality of those who have professed the Gospel are introduced as complaining of their disappointments, Matt. xxv. 41–44 [10–12?]. For what is there spoken is only a declaration of what befell them here in the close of their lives, and their personal judgment thereon.
2. Take heed of being deluded by common presumptions. Most men have some thoughts in general about what their state is, and what it will be in the issue; but they make no diligent search into this matter, because a number of common presumptions do immediately insinuate themselves into their minds for their relief; and they are such as all whose force and efficacy unto this end lies in this, that they differ from others, and are better than they; — as that they are Christians, that they are in the right way of religion, that they are partakers of the outward privileges of the Gospel, hearing the word, and participating of the sacraments; — that they have light and convictions, so as that they abstain from sin, and perform duties so as others do not; and the like. All those with whom it is not so, who are behind them in these things, they judge to be in an ill state and condition, whence they entertain good hopes concerning themselves; and this is all that most trust unto. It is not my present business to discourse the vanity of presumptions; — it has been done by many. I give only this warning in general, unto those who have the least design or purpose to come to Christ, and to be made partakers of him, that they put no trust in them, that they rely not on them; for if they do so they will eternally deceive their souls. This was a great 421part of the preparatory ministry of John the Baptist, Matt. iii. 9, “Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father.” This was their great comprehensive privilege, containing all the outward church and covenant advantages. These they rested in and trusted to unto their ruin; herein he designed to undeceive them.
3. Consider aright what it is to live and die without an interest in Christ, without a participation of him. Where this is not stated in the mind, where thoughts of it are not continually prevalent, there can be no one step taken in the way towards him. Unless we are thoroughly convinced that without him we are in a state of apostasy from God, under the curse, obnoxious unto eternal wrath, as some of the worst of God’s enemies, we shall never flee unto him for refuge in a due manner. “The whole have no need of a physician, but the sick.” Christ “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance;” and the conviction intended is the principal end of the ministry of the law. The miseries of this state have been the subject of innumerable sermons and discourses; but there is a general misery in the whole, that few take themselves to be concerned therein, or apply these things unto themselves. Let us tell men of it a thousand times, yet they either take no notice of it, or believe it not, or look on it as that which belongs unto the way and course of preaching, wherein they are not concerned. These things, it seems, preachers must say; and they may believe them who have a mind whereunto. It is a rare thing that any one shall as much as say unto himself, Is it so with me? And if we now, together with this caution, tell the same men again, that whilst they are uninterested in Christ, not ingrafted into him by faith, that they run in vain, that all their labour in religion is lost, that their duties are all rejected, that they are under the displeasure and curse of God, that their end is eternal destruction, — which are all unquestionably certain, — yet will they let all these things pass by without any farther consideration.
But here I must fix with them unto whom I speak at present, — unless there be a full conviction in them of the woeful, deplorable condition of every soul, of whatever quality, profession, religion, outward state it be, who is not yet made partaker of Christ, all that I have farther to add will be of no signification. Remember, then, that the due consideration hereof is unto you, in your state, your chiefest concernment in this world: and be not afraid to take in a full and deep sense of it; for if you are really delivered from it, and have good evidence thereof, it is nothing unto you but matter of eternal praise and thanksgiving. And if you are not so, it is highly necessary that your minds should be possessed with due apprehension of it. The work of this conviction is the first effect of true religion; and the great abuse of religion in the world is, that a pretence of it 422deludes the minds of men to apprehend that it is not necessary: for to be of this or that religion, — of this or that way in religion, — is supposed sufficient to secure the eternal state of men, though they are never convinced of their lost estate by nature.
4. Hereon consider the infinite condescension and love of Christ, in his invitations and calls of you to come unto him for life, deliverance, mercy, grace, peace, and eternal salvation. Multitudes of these invitations and calls are recorded in the Scripture, and they are all of them filled up with those blessed encouragements which divine wisdom knows to be suited unto lost, convinced sinners, in their present state and condition. It were a blessed contemplation, to dwell on the consideration of the infinite condescension, grace, and love of Christ, in his invitations to sinners to come unto him that they may be saved, — of that mixture of wisdom and persuasive grace that is in them, — of the force and efficacy of the pleading and argument that they are accompanied withal, as they are recorded in the Scripture; but that belongs not to my present design. This I shall only say, that in the declaration and preaching of them, Jesus Christ yet stands before sinners, calling, inviting, encouraging them to come unto him.
This is somewhat of the word which he now speaks unto you: Why will ye die? why will ye perish? why will you not have compassion on your own souls? Can your hearts endure, or can your hands be strong, in the day of wrath that is approaching? It is but a little while before all your hopes, your reliefs, and presumptions will forsake you, and leave you eternally miserable. Look unto me, and be saved; — come unto me, and I will ease you of all sins, sorrows, fears, burdens, and give rest unto your souls. Come, I entreat you; — lay aside all procrastinations, all delays; — put me off no more; — eternity lies at the door. Cast out all cursed, self-deceiving reserves; — do not so hate me as that you will rather perish than accept of deliverance by me.
These and the like things does the Lord Christ continually declare, proclaim, plead, and urge on the souls of sinners; as it is fully declared, Prov. i. 20–33. He does it in the preaching of the word, as if he were present with you, stood amongst you, and spake personally to every one of you. And because this would not suit his present state of glory, he has appointed the ministers of the gospel to appear before you, and to deal with you in his stead, avowing as his own the invitations that are given you in his name, 2 Cor. v. 19, 20.
Consider therefore, his infinite condescension, grace, and love herein. Why all this towards you? Does he stand in need of you? Have you deserved it at his hands? Did you love him first? Cannot he be happy and blessed without you? Has he any design upon you, 423that he is so earnest in calling you unto him? Alas! it is nothing but the overflowing of mercy, compassion, and grace, that moves and acts him herein. Here lies the entrance of innumerable souls into a death and condemnation far more severe than those contained in the curse of the law, 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16. In the contempt of this infinite condescension of Christ in his holy invitation of sinners to himself, lies the sting and poison of unbelief, which unavoidably gives over the souls of men unto eternal ruin. And who shall once pity them to eternity who are guilty of it? Yea, but, —
5. Perhaps, if you should, on his invitation, begin to look to Him, and resolve to come to him, you are greatly afraid that when it comes to the trial he will not receive you; for no heart can conceive, no tongue can express, what wretched, vile, and provoking sinners you have been. That the Lord Christ will receive unto him such as we are, we have no hopes, or that ever we shall find acceptance with him. I say it is not amiss when persons come so far as to be sensible of what discouragements they have to conflict withal, what difficulties lie in their way, and what objections do arise against them; for the most do perish in a senseless stupidity, — they will not consider how it is with them, what is required of them, nor how it will be in the latter end; — they doubt not but that either they do believe already, or can do so when they please. But when any come so far as to charge the failure of their acceptance with Christ on their own unworthiness, and so are discouraged from coming unto him, there are arguments for their conviction and persuasion, which nothing but the devil and unbelief can defeat. Wherefore, that which is now proposed unto consideration in answer hereunto, is the readiness of Christ to receive every sinner, be he who or what he will, that shall come unto him. And hereof we have the highest evidences that divine wisdom and grace can give unto us. This is the language of the Gospel, of all that the Lord Christ did or suffered, which is recorded therein; — this is the divine testimony of the “three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost;” and of the “three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, the water, and the blood:” all give their joint testimony, that the Lord Christ is ready to receive all sinners that come to him. They who receive not this testimony make God a liar, — both Father, Son, and Spirit. Whatever the Lord Christ is in the constitution of his person, — in the representation of the Father, — in his office, — in what he did on the earth, — in what he does in heaven, — proclaims the same truth. Nothing but cursed obstinacy in sin and unbelief can suggest a thought unto our minds that he is not willing to receive us when we come unto him. Herein we are to bear testimony against the unbelief of all unto whom the gospel is preached, that come not unto him. Unbelief 424acting itself herein, includes a contempt of the wisdom of God, a denial of his truth or faithfulness, an impeachment of the sincerity of Christ in his invitations, making him a deceiver, and will issue in an express hatred of his person and office, and of the wisdom of God in him. Here, then, you are shut up, — you cannot from hence take any countenance unto your unbelief.
6. Consider that he is as able to save us as he is ready and willing to receive us. The testimonies which he has given us unto his goodness and love are uncontrollable; and none dare directly to call in question or deny his power. Generally, this is taken for granted by all, that Christ is able to save us if he will; yea, who shall question his ability to save us, though we live in sin and unbelief? And many expect that he will do so, because they believe he can if he will. But indeed Christ has no such power, no such ability: he cannot save unbelieving, impenitent sinners; for this cannot be done without denying himself, acting contrary to his word, and destroying his own glory. Let none please themselves with such vain imaginations. Christ is able to save all them, and only them, who come to God by him. Whilst you live in sin and unbelief, Christ himself cannot save you; but when it comes to the trial in particular, some are apt to think, that although they will not conclude that Christ cannot save them, yet they do, on various accounts, that they cannot be saved by him. This, therefore, we also give testimony unto in our exhortation to come unto him, — namely, that his power to save those that shall comply with his call is sovereign, uncontrollable, almighty, — that nothing can stand in the way of. All things in heaven and earth are committed unto him; — all power is his; — and he will use it unto this end, — namely, the assured salvation of all that come unto him.
7. Consider greatly what has been spoken of the representation of God, and all the holy properties of his nature, in him. Nothing can possibly give us more encouragement to come unto him; for we have manifested that God, who is infinitely wise and glorious, has designed to exert all the holy properties of his nature — his mercy, love, grace, goodness, righteousness, wisdom, and power — in him, in and unto the salvation of them that do believe. Whoever, therefore, comes unto Christ by faith on this representation of the glory of God in him, he ascribes and gives unto God all that glory and honour which he aimeth at from his creatures; and we can do nothing wherewith he is pleased equal unto it. Every poor soul that comes by faith unto Christ, gives unto God all that glory which it is his design to manifest and be exalted in; — and what can we do more? There is more glory given unto God by coming unto Christ in believing, than in keeping the whole law; inasmuch as he hath more eminently manifested the holy properties of his nature in the way of salvation by 425Christ, than in giving of the law. There is therefore no man who, under gospel invitations, refuseth to come unto and close with Christ by believing, but secretly, through the power of darkness, blindness, and unbelief, he hates God, dislikes all his ways, would not have his glory exalted or manifested, choosing rather to die in enmity against him than to give glory to him. Do not deceive yourselves; it is not an indifferent thing, whether you will come in unto Christ upon his invitations or no, — a thing that you may put off from one season unto another: your present refusal of it is as high an act of enmity against God as your nature is capable of.
8. Consider that by coming unto Christ you shall have an interest in all that glory which we have proposed unto you; for Christ will become yours more intimately than your wives and children are yours; and so all his glory is yours also. All are apt to be affected with the good things of their relations, — their grace, their riches, their beauty, their power; for they judge themselves to have an interest in them, by reason of their relation unto them. Christ is nearer to believers than any natural relations are to us whatever; they have therefore an interest in all his glory. And is this a small thing in your eyes, that Christ shall be yours, and all his glory shall be yours, and you shall have the advantage of it unto your eternal blessedness? Is it nothing unto you to continue strangers from, and uninterested in, all this glory? to be left to take your portion in this world, in lusts, and sins, and pleasures, and a few perishing trifles, with eternal ruin in the close, whilst such durable substance, such riches of glory, are tendered unto you?
Lastly, consider the horrible ingratitude there is in a neglect or refusal to come in to Christ upon his invitation, with the doleful, eternal ruin that will ensue thereon. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Impenitent unbelievers under the preaching of the gospel, are the vilest and most ungrateful of all God’s creation. The devils themselves, as wicked as they are, are not guilty of this sin; for Christ is never tendered unto them, — they never had an offer of salvation on faith and repentance. This is their peculiar sin, and will be the peculiar aggravation of their misery unto eternity. “Hear, ye despisers, wonder, and perish.” The sin of the devil is in malice and opposition unto knowledge, above what the nature of man is in this world. Men, therefore, must sin in some instance above the devil, or God would not give them their eternal portion with the devil and his angels:— this is unbelief.
Some, it may be, will say, What then shall we do? what shall we apply ourselves unto? what is it that is required of us?
1. Take the advice of the apostle, Heb. iii. 7, 8, 13, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in 426the day of temptation in the wilderness. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” This day, even this, is unto you in the tender of grace the acceptable time; — this is the day of salvation. Others have had this day as well as you, and have missed their opportunity; — take heed lest it should be so with you also. Now if any one should write it down, or peculiarly commit it to remembrance, “This day there was a tender of Christ and salvation in him made unto my soul, — from this time I will resolve to give up myself unto him,” and if you form your resolutions, charge your consciences with what you have engaged, and make yourselves to know that if you go back from it, it is a token that you are going to ruin.
2. Consider that it is high time for you to make somewhat of religion. Do not hang always in suspense; let it not be a question with yourselves, whether you have a mind to be saved or no. This is as good a time and season for a resolution as ever you are like to have whilst in this world. Some things, nay, many things, may fall in between this and the next opportunity, that shall put you backward, and make your entrance into the kingdom of heaven far more difficult than ever it was; and the living in that uncertainty at best, which you do, of what will become of you unto eternity, is the most miserable kind of life in the world. Those who put far from them the evil day, and live in the pursuit of lusts and pleasures, have somewhat that gives them present satisfaction, and they say not, “There is no hope,” because they “find the life of the hand” [Isa. lvii. 10]; but you have nothing that gives you any prevalent refreshment, neither will your latter end be better than theirs, if you die without an interest in Christ Jesus. Come, therefore, at length, unto a determinate resolution what you will do in this matter. Christ has waited long for you, and who knows how soon he may withdraw, never to look after you any more?
Upon occasion of the preceding Discourse concerning the Glory of Christ, I thought it necessary to add unto it this brief exhortation unto faith in him, aiming to suit it unto the capacity of the meanest sinner that is capable of any self-consideration as unto his eternal welfare. But yet, a little farther to give efficacy unto this exhortation, it will be necessary to remove some of those common and obvious tergiversations that convinced sinners do usually betake themselves unto, to put off a present compliance with the calls of Christ to come unto him; for although it is unbelief alone, acting in the darkness of men’s minds and the obstinacy of their wills, that effectually keeps off sinners from coming unto Christ upon his call, yet it shrouds itself under various pretences, that it may not appear in its own ugly form. For no sin whereof men can be guilty in this world is of so horrible 427a nature, and so dreadful an aspect, as is this unbelief, where a clear view of it is obtained in evangelical light. Wherefore, by the aid of Satan, it suggests other pleas and pretences unto the minds of sinners, under which they may countenance themselves in a refusal to come to Christ. See 2 Cor. iv. 4. Any thing else it shall be, but not unbelief; — that they all disavow. I shall therefore speak unto a few of those tergiversations in this case which are obvious, and which are exemplified in the Gospel itself.
First, Some do say, on such exhortations, What is it that you would have us to do? — We hear the word preached, we believe it as well as we can, we do many things willingly, and abstain from many evils diligently; what is more required of us? This is the language of the hearts of the most with whom in this case we have to do. And I say, —
1. It is usual with them who do something in the ways of God, but not all they should, and so nothing in a due manner, to expostulate about requiring of them more than they do. So the people dispute with God himself, Mal. i. 6, iii. 8, 13. So they in the Gospel who esteemed themselves to have done their duty, being pressed unto faith by Christ Jesus, ask him with some indignation, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” John vi. 28. If what we do be not enough, what is it that you require more of us? So was it with the young man, Matt. xix. 20, “What lack I yet?” Be advised, therefore, not to be too confident of your state, lest you should yet lack that one thing, the want whereof might prove your eternal ruin.
2. The things mentioned, with all of the like nature, which may be multiplied, may be where there is no one spark of saving faith. Simon Magus heard the word, and believed as well as he could; — Herod heard it, and did many things gladly; — and all sorts of hypocrites do upon their convictions perform many duties, and abstain from many sins: so as that, notwithstanding this plea, you may perish for ever.
3. Where these things are sincere, they belong unto the exercise of faith; they may be after a sort without faith, but faith cannot be without them. But there is a fundamental act of faith, whereby we close with Christ, whereby we receive him, that is, in order of nature, antecedent unto its acting in all other duties and occasions; — it is laying the foundation; other things belong to the building. This is that you are called on to secure; and you may know it by these two properties:—
1. It is singular. So our Saviour tells the Jews, John vi. 29, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” The act, work, or duty of faith, in the receiving of Christ, is a peculiar, singular work, wherein the soul yields especial obedience 428unto God; — it is not to be reckoned unto such common duties as those mentioned, but the soul must find out wherein it has in a singular manner closed with Christ upon the command of God.
2. It is accompanied with a universal spiritual change in the whole soul, 2 Cor. v. 17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Wherefore, if you would not choose rather to deceive and ruin your own souls, come to the trial whether indeed you have received Christ in such a singular, transforming act of faith: do not on such pretences want a compliance with the word of exhortation proposed unto you. But, —
Secondly, Some will say, they know not how to proceed in this work. They can make nothing of it; they have tried to come to this believing, but do still fail in what they design; they go on and off, but can make no progress, can come to no satisfaction; therefore they think it best to let things go in general as they are, without putting themselves to farther trouble, as unto any especial act of faith in the receiving of Christ. This is the language of men’s hearts, though not of their mouths, another shelter of unbelief, — and they act accordingly; they have a secret despondency, which keeps them safe from attempting a real closure with Christ on the tender of the Gospel. Something may be offered unto this distempered frame of mind.
1. Remember the disciples that were fishing, and had toiled all night, but caught nothing, Luke v. 3, 4. Upon the coming of Christ unto them, he requires that they should cast out their nets once more; Peter makes some excuse, from the labour which they had taken in vain all night; however, he would venture once more, on the command of Christ, and had an astonishing draught of fishes, verses 5–9. Have you been wearied with disappointments in your attempts and resolutions? Yet cast in your net this once more, upon the command of Christ, — venture this once more to come unto him on his call and invitation; you know not what success he may give unto you.
2. Consider that it is not failing in this or that attempt of coming to Christ, but a giving over your endeavours, that will be your ruin. The woman of Canaan, in her great outcry to Christ for mercy, Matt. xv. 22, had many a repulse. First, it is said, he answered her not a word; then his disciples desired that he would send her away, that she might not trouble him any more; whereon he gives a reason why he would not regard her, or why he could justly pass her by; she was not an Israelitess, unto whom he was sent; — yet she gives not over, but pressing into his presence, cries out for mercy, verse 25. Being come to that issue, to try and draw out her faith to the utmost, which was his design from the beginning, he reckons her among dogs, that were not to have children’s bread given unto them. Had she 429now at last given over upon this severe rebuke, she had never obtained mercy; but persisting in her request, she at last prevailed, verses 27, 28. It may be you have prayed, and cried, and resolved, and vowed, but all without success, as you suppose; sin has broken through all: however, if you give not over, you shall prevail at last; you know not at what time God will come in with his grace, and Christ will manifest his love unto you as unto the poor woman, after many a rebuke. It may be, after all, he will do it this day; and if not, he may do it another: do not despond. Take that word of Christ himself for your encouragement, Prov. viii. 34, “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” If you hear him, and wait, though you have not yet admission, but are kept at the gates and posts of the doors, yet in the issue you shall be blessed.
3. The rule in this case is, Hos. vi. 3, “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know.” Are you in the way of knowing Christ in the use of means, hearing the word, and sincere endeavours in holy duties? Though you cannot yet attain unto any evidence that you have received him, have closed with him, nothing can ruin you but giving over the way wherein you are; for then shall you know, if you follow on to know the Lord. Many can give you their experiences, that if they had been discouraged by present overwhelming difficulties, arising from their disappointments, breaking of vows, relapses into folly, they had been utterly ruined; whereas now they are at rest and peace in the bosom of Christ. On a great surprisal, Christ lost at once many disciples, and they lost their souls, John vi. 66, “They went back, and walked no more with him.” Take heed of the like discouragements.
Thirdly, Some may say, yea, practically they do say, that these things indeed are necessary; they must come to Christ by believing, or they are undone; but this is not the season of it, — there will be time enough to apply themselves unto it when other occasions are past. At present they have not leisure to enter upon and go through with this duty; wherefore they will abide in their present state for a while, hearing and doing many things, and when time serves, will apply themselves unto this duty also.
1. This is an uncontrollable evidence of that sottishness and folly which is come upon our nature by sin, — a depravation that the apostle places in the head of the evils of corrupted nature, Tit. iii. 1–3. Can any thing be more foolish, sottish, and stupid, than for men to put off the consideration of the eternal concernment of their souls for one hour, being altogether uncertain whether they shall live another or no? — to prefer present trifles before the blessedness or misery of an immortal state? For those who never heard of these things, 430who never had any conviction of sin and judgment, to put the evil day far from them, is not much to be admired; but for you who have Christ preached unto you, who own a necessity of coming unto him, to put it off from day to day upon such slight pretences, — it is an astonishing folly! May you not be spoken unto in the language of the Wisdom of God? Prov. vi. 9–11. You come to hear the word, and when you go away, the language of your hearts is, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep;” we will abide a little while in our present state, and afterward we will rouse up ourselves. Under this deceit do multitudes perish every day. This is a dark shade, wherein cursed unbelief lies hid.
2. Consider that this is the greatest engine that Satan makes use of in the world among them that hear the word preached unto them, for the ruin of their souls. He has other arts, and ways, and methods of dealing with other men, — as by sensual and worldly lusts; but as unto them who, through their convictions, do attend unto the preaching of the word, this is his great and almost only engine for their ruin: There needs no haste in this matter, — another time will be more seasonable, — you may be sure not to fail of it before you die; however, this present day and time is most unfit for it, — you have other things to do, — you cannot part with your present frame, — you may come again to hear the word the next opportunity. Know assuredly, if your minds are influenced unto delays of coming to Christ by such insinuations, you are under the power of Satan, and he is like enough to hold you fast unto destruction.
3. This is as evil and dangerous a posture or frame of mind as you can well fall under. If you have learned to put off God, and Christ, and the word for the present season, and yet relieve yourselves in this, that you do not intend, like others, always to reject them, but will have a time to hearken to their calls, you are secured and fortified against all convictions and persuasions, all fears; one answer will serve for all, — within a little while you will do all that can be required of you. This is that which ruins the souls of multitudes every day. It is better dealing with men openly profligate, than with such a trifling promiser. See Isa. v. 7, 10.
4. Remember that the Scripture confines you unto the present day, without the least intimation that you shall have either another day, or another tender of grace and mercy in any day, 2 Cor. vi. 2; Heb. iii. 7, 13; xii. 15. Take care lest you come short of the grace of God, miss of it by missing your opportunity. Redeem the time, or you are lost for ever.
5. As unto the pretence of your occasions and business, there is a ready way to disappoint the craft of Satan in that pretence, — namely, to mix thoughts of Christ and the renovation of your resolutions 431either to come or to cleave unto him with all your occasions. Let nothing put it utterly out of your minds; make it familiar unto you, and you will beat Satan out of that stronghold, Prov. vii. 4. However, shake yourselves out of this dust, or destruction lies at the door.
Fourthly, It is the language of the hearts of some, that if they give up themselves unto a compliance with this exhortation, and go seriously about this duty, they must relinquish and renounce all their lusts and pleasures; yea, much of their converse and society, wherein they find so much present satisfaction, as that they know not how to part with them. If they might retain their old ways, at least some of them, it were another matter; but this total relinquishment of all is very severe.
Ans. 1. The Jesuits, preaching and painting of Christ among some of the Indians, concealed from them his cross and sufferings, telling them only of his present glory and power; so as they pretended to win them over to faith in him, hiding from them that whereby they might be discouraged; and so preached a false Christ unto them, one of their own framing. We dare do no such thing for all the world; we can here use no condescension, no compliance, no composition with respect unto any sin or lust; we have no commission to grant that request of Lot, “Is it not a little one? let it be spared;” nor to come to Naaman’s terms, “God be merciful to me in this thing; in all others I will be obedient.” Wherefore, —
2. We must here be peremptory with you, whatever be the event; if you are discouraged by it, we cannot help it. Cursed be the man that shall encourage you to come to Christ with hopes of indulgence unto any one sin whatever. I speak not this as though you could at once absolutely and perfectly leave all sin, in the root and branches of it; but only you are to do it in heart and resolution, engaging unto a universal mortification of all sin, as by grace from above you shall be enabled; but your choice must be absolute, without reserves, as to love, interest, and design; — God or the world, — Christ or Belial, — holiness or sin; there is no medium, no terms of composition, 2 Cor. vi. 15–18.
As unto what you pretend of your pleasures, the truth is, you never yet had any real pleasure, nor do know what it is. How easy were it to declare the folly, vanity, bitterness, poison of those things which you have esteemed your pleasures! Here alone — namely, in Christ, and a participation of him — are true pleasures and durable riches to be obtained; pleasure of the same nature with, and such as, like pleasant streams, flow down into the ocean of eternal pleasures above. A few moments in these joys are to be preferred above the longest continuance in the cursed pleasures of this world. See Prov. iii. 13–18.
432Fifthly, It will be said by some, that they do not see those who profess themselves to be believers, to be so much better than they are, as that you need to press us so earnestly to so great a change; we know not why we should not be accounted believers already, as well as they. I shall in a few words, as well as I am able, lay this stumbling-block out of the way, though I confess, at this day, it is weighty and cumbersome. And I say, —
1. Among them that profess themselves to be believers, there are many false, corrupt hypocrites; and it is no wonder that on various occasions they lay the stumbling-block of their iniquities before the faces of others; but they shall bear their own burden and judgment.
2. It is acknowledged, it must be bewailed, that some whom we have reason to judge to be true believers, yet, through their unfortified pride, or covetousness, or carelessness in their conversation, or vain attire and conformity to the world, or forwardness, do give just occasion of offence. We confess that God is displeased herewith, Christ and the Gospel dishonoured, and many that are weak are wounded, and others discouraged. But as for you, this is not your rule, — this is not proposed unto you; but that word only is so that will never fail you.
3. The world does not know, nor is able to make a right judgment of believers; nor do you so, for it is the spiritual man alone that discerneth the things of God. Their infirmities are visible to all, — their graces invisible; the King’s daughter is glorious within. And when you are able to make a right judgment of them, you will desire no greater advancement than to be of their society, Ps. xvi. 3.
These few instances of the pretences wherewith unbelief covers its deformity, and hides that destruction wherewith it is accompanied, may suffice unto our present purpose; they are multiplied in the minds of men, impregnated by the suggestions of Satan on their darkness and folly. A little spiritual wisdom will rend the veil of them all, and expose unbelief acting in enmity against Christ under them. But what has been spoken may suffice to answer the necessity of the preceding exhortation on this occasion.
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