« PreviousContinue »
further patience towards you ; not only in the days of your unregeneracy, but even since your reconciliation to him. Do you not believe thousands of sinners are now in the depths of hell, who never provoked the Lord more than you have done? Were you not once among the vilest of sinners ? “And such were some of you," 1 Cor. 6:11-as vile as the vilest among them ; yet you are washed in the blood of Christ, while your companions are in the lowest hell: or if your lives were more clean, sure your hearts were as filthy as theirs. And certainly your sins, since the time of your reconciliation, have had special aggravations enough to put an end to all further mercies towards you. Light and love have aggravated these sins, and yet the Lord has not cast you off.
(2.) How often have you been on the very brink of hell, in the days of your unregeneracy. Every sickness and every danger to life which you have escaped in those days, was a marvellous escape from the everlasting wrath of God. Had thy disease prevailed one degree further, thou hadst been past hope and out of the reach of mercy's arm now. Doubtless some of you can remember, when in such and such a disease, you were like a ship riding in a furious storm by one cable, and two or three of the strands even of that cable were snapped asunder. So it has been with you : the thread of life, how weak soever, has held till the bonds of union between Christ and your souls were fastened, and the eternal hazard over. This is admirable grace.
(3.). How often has death entered into your houses and taken away your nearest relatives, but had no commission to carry you out with them, because the Lord had a design of mercy upon your soul. This cannot but affect a gracious heart, that God should smite so near, and yet spare you.
(4.) This also is affecting, that God has not only given you time beyond others, but in that time the precious opportunities and means of your salvation, both external and in
ternal. There is the very marrow and kernel of the mercy. Had God lengthened out his patience for a while, but given you no means of salvation, or afforded you the means but denied you the blessing and efficacy of them, at the most it could have been but a reprieve from hell ; but for the Lord to give you the gospel, and with the gospel to send down his Spirit to persuade and open thy heart to Christ, here is the riches of his goodness as well as forbearance.
10. This doctrine of the patience of Christ exhorts all who have felt it, to exercise a Christlike patience towards others. As you have found the benefit of divine patience yourselves, see that you exercise the meekness and longsuffering of Christians towards those who have wronged and injured you. Who should show patience more than those. who have found it? Do not be severe, short, and quick with others, who have lived yourselves so many years upon the long-suffering of God. We are poor, hasty creatures, quick to revenge injuries ; but 0, had God been so to us, miserable had our condition been. Christ has made this duty the scope of that excellent parable, Matt. 18, from verse 23 onward, where the king takes an account of his servants, reckoning with them one by one, and among them finds one who owed him ten thousand talents; and having nothing wherewith to pay, his lord commands him, his wife and children, and all he had, to be sold, and payment to be made; but the servant falling down and begging patience, his lord was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and not only forbore, but forgave the debt. One would think the heart of this man would have been a fountain of compassion towards others; but see the deep corruption of nature : the same servant finding one of his fellow-servants who owed him but a hundred pence, laid hands on him, and took him by the throat. Alas, the wrongs done to us are but trifles, compared with the injuries we have done to God; where others have wronged you once, you have wronged God
a thousand times. Methinks the patience of Christ towards you should melt your hearts into an ingenuous readiness to forgive others; especially, considering that an unforgiving spirit is a dreadful sign of an unforgiven person.
11. Burden not the patience of Christ after your reconciliation to him. Let it suffice that you tried his patience long enough before. Give him no new trials of it, now he is come to dwell in and with you for ever. There are two ways wherein God's own people do greatly provoke him after their reconciliation.
(1.) By sluggishness and deadness of spirit in duty; turning a deaf ear to the calls and motions of Christ's Spirit exciting them to the sweet and pleasant duties of religion. We have a sad instance of this in the bride : "It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.” Sol. Songs, 5:2. One would think that Christ might have opened the heart of his own spouse with less solicitation and importunate arguments than he here uses. What wife could shut the door upon her own husband, and bar him out of his own house? And yet see the idle excuse she makes. “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on ? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them ?" Ver. 3.
O the sluggishness of even regenerate persons! Those who have opened the door to Christ by regeneration, even they do often shut it against him in the hours and seasons of communion with him. Strange, that Christ should be put off while calling to such pleasant and heavenly exercises as communion with him; but flesh will be flesh, even in the most spiritual Christians. Little do we know what a grief this is to Christ, and what a loss to us.
(2.) Many grieve Christ's Spirit, and sorely try his patience, even after reconciliation, by sinning against light and love. That caution, Eph. 4:30, is not without weighty
cause: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
Do we thus requite the Lord ? Is this the return we make for all his kindness and unparalleled love towards us? Certainly, Christ can bear a thousand injuries from his enemies, easier than such affronts from his own people. Did you not promise him better obedience? Did you not engage to more holiness and watchfulness, in the day that you sued out your pardon and made your peace with him ?. Are all those vows and covenants forgotten ? If you have forgotten them, God hath not.
12. Improve the time that remains in this world with double diligence, because you made Christ wait so long, and cast away so great a part of your life, before you opened your hearts to receive him. The morning of your life, which was certainly the freshest and freest part of it, was no better than time lost with many of you; all the days of your unregeneracy Christ was shut out, and vanity shut into your hearts. You never began to live till Christ gave you life, and that was late in the day with many of you. How should this provoke to extraordinary diligence in the short remains of time we have yet to enjoy. It was Augustine’s lamentation, “O Lord, it repents me that I loved thee so late.” This consideration excited Paul to extraordinary diligence for Christ. It made him fly up and down the world like a seraph, in a flame of holy zeal for Christ. Those who have much to write, and are almost come to the end of their paper, had need write close. Friends, you have something to do for God on earth, which you cannot do for him in heaven. Isa. 38: 18, 19. You who have ungodly relatives, have something to do for them here which you cannot do in heaven. You can now counsel, exhort, and pray, in order to their conversion and salvation ; but when you are gone down to the grave, these opportunities of service are cut off.
13. Let us all be ashamed and humbled for the baseness of our hearts, which made Christ wait at the door so long before we opened to him. O what wretched hearts have we. They are no more affected with the groans of Christ's heart than with those of a beast; nor so much, if that beast were our own. O the vileness of nature, to make the Prince of the kings of the earth, bringing pardon and salvation with him, stand so long unanswered. Let who will cry up the goodness of human nature, I am sure we have reason to look upon the vileness of it with amazement and horror.
14. Let us bless the Lord Jesus for the continuation of his patience, both to ourselves and to the nation in which we live. The merciful and long-suffering Redeemer continues among us the ambassadors of his mercy, who proclaim his readiness to pardon ; and with infinite compassion speaks to us this day, as he did to Ephraim of old, “How shall I deliver thee ?” Look upon this day of mercy as the fruit of the intercession of your great Advocate in heaven. Luke 13:7–9. God has put us upon one trial more : if now we bring forth fruit, well; if not, the axe lies at the root of the tree. Once more Christ knocks at our door; the voice of the bridegroom is heard—those sweet voices, “ Come unto me,” “Open to me.” Your opening to Christ now, will be unto you as the valley of Achor, for a door of hope. Hosea 2:15. But what if all this should be turned into wantonness and formality! What if your obstinacy and infidelity should wear out the remains of that little strength and time left you, and that former labors and sorrows have left your ministers! Then we are ruined for ever : then farewell gospel, ministers, reformation, because we knew not the time of our visitation. What was the awful sentence of God on the fruitless vineyard ? "I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down; and I will