Page images

for his works. Go then, poor sinner, unto God through Christ, and tell him thou hast nothing to bring him; that thou comest not to bring, but to receive. Lord, I am a vile sinner, I have nothing to plead but thy mercy and Christ's merit. This is the spirit of the gospel.

(2.) By delaying faith, for want of these qualifications, you invert the settled order of the gospel. It is as if a man should say, If I were cured of such and such disease, I would go to the physician. Alas, could you otherwise procure the healing of your corruptions, or the gracious qualifications you speak of, you would have no need to go to Christ at all. Nothing is required of us in coming to Christ, but such a sense of and sorrow for sin, as makes us heartily willing to accept Christ and subscribe the terms on which he is offered in the gospel.

5. Behold the admirable condescension of Christ, that he comes into the heart of the vilest sinner, and takes up his abode in that soul which has been the seat of Satan, where he has ruled, and every lust has been harbored! In two things the admirable condescension of Christ appears. First, in taking union with our nature after sin had blasted the beauty of it. This was marvellous indeed, and was justly admired by the apostle: “He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Phil. 2: 7. “ Yea, God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Rom. 8:3. But, secondly, it is admirable in our eyes that Christ should become united with our persons, and take up his abode in our hearts, after Satan and sin had so long inhabited and defiled them—that he should accept these members as instruments of his service—that very tongue to praise him that had blasphemed him; yet so he is willing to do, and commands us to deliver them up to him : "As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members

servants to righteousness, unto holiness.” Rom. 6:19. One would have thought Jesus Christ would have said, Vile wretch, Satan has had the service of thy soul and body, from the beginning to this day; thy memory hath been his storehouse, thy mouth his shop, thy will his throne, and all thy members his tools and instruments to sin against me: thou hast been a creature dedicated to Satan, and to him thou shalt go. Instead of this, the merciful Lord declares his willingness, if thou wilt open thy soul to receive him, to cleanse it by his Spirit, and make it his temple to dwell in. O admirable grace!

6. How just, and inevitable will be their damnation who consent not to the necessary and reasonable terms of the gospel, which is the only point on which Christ and their souls part for ever. The terms required by the gospel are every way equitable and reasonable. If a gracious prince will bestow a pardon upon a traitor, on the condition that he lay down his arms, acknowledge his offence, and attach himself to his prince's service, and he shall refuse so to do, how just would his destruction be. And what else does God require of thee, but this ? “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isa. 55:7. And as the damnation of such is just, so it will be inevitable : for if there is no way to glory but by Christ, as you know there is not, from Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other ;" and if there is no way to Christ, but by accepting him upon these very terrns, as it plainly appears, from Luke 14:26, there is not, what remains but inevitable destruction to all that reject the terms of the gospel? If you will not have Christ with all the sufferings, and reproaches that attend him, your mouths will be stopped ; no plea will be left you in the great day. You refused the gracious offer when it was seasonably made you by the gospel, and you must expect no more such offers to eternity. Thy blood, sinner, be upon thine own head; the freeness and importunity of the tenders of grace will then only serve to illustrate and clear the righteousness of God in thy condemnation.

In the next place, the doctrine naturally leads me to an EARNEST PERSUASIVE unto all sinners, of what kind or degree soever they be, to hearken to the voice of Christ, who takes them all within the compass of his gracious invitation in the text, saying, “If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in.” Let all sinners bless God for the extent of this invitation—that they find themselves by it within the reach of a merciful Redeemer; and that there is nothing wanting to secure their salvation, but the hearty consent of their wills to the reasonable and necessary terms of the gospel. In the whole book of God, there is but one case absolutely excepted from the possibility of forgiveness ; of which Christ speaks, Matt. 12:31, 32. And what is the reason that this only is an incurable wound ? It cannot be because the malignity of this sin exceeds the virtue of the blood of Christ, but because there is no sacrifice appointed by the Lord for it. God never designed that the blood of Christ should be an expiatory sacrifice for that sin, as the apostle plainly speaks, Heb. 6:47. All other sins and blasphemies shall be forgiven unto men, saith Christ; that is, they are capable of forgiveness, upon sincere and actual repentance and faith ; yea, they have been pardoned unto many. The greater any man's sins have been, the greater need he has to hasten to Christ for pardon. There are some greater sinners than others; for though no sin be light and trivial in itself, yet, compared one with another, there is a vast difference between them in the aggravation of sins. I will labor to show you by what rules men are to estimate the greatness and aggravation of sin ; and then, to convince you that the greatest of sinners may have mercy as well as the less. “Publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you," saith Christ, Matt. 22:31. The rules by which to estimate the aggravations and greatness of sin are these :

7. There are sins of infirmity, committed out of weakness; and there are crying sins in the ears of the Lord. Of sins of infirmity you read in Gal. 6:1, where it is called being “overtaken in a fault.” Here is no deliberate consent, but a surprise : these go not to the account of gross and heinous enormities, called in Scripture, crying sins, such as the sin of oppression, Hab. 2: 10, 11 : “ The stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.” The meaning is, that the injustice and oppression which men have used in raising their houses, shall cry in the ears of the Lord for vengeance. The stone in the wall shall say, I was digged out of the quarry, hewn, and laid here by the unrewarded labors of the poor mason ; and the timber out of the beam shall say, I was hewn, squared, and placed here by the unrewarded hands of the carpenter. This is a crying sin ; so also is the sin of murder, when our hands have been defiled with innocent blood. This makes a dismal cry to heaven : “ The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground." Gen. 4:10. This is a sin that makes a horrid outcry in both worlds at once : to God and in the sinner's conscience. The sin of Sodom made a cry which went up to heaven. “The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous.” Gen. 18:20. Compare these sins with those of common infirmity, which come by way of involuntary surprise, and what a vast difference will be found in the aggravation of them.

8. You find in Scripture a great difference put between those sins committed against the light of knowledge in the sinner's conscience, and sins of ignorance committed for want of knowledge. Christ himself puts a great difference between them, Luke 12:47, 48; and so doth the apostle : “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin," James 4:17—sin with a witness.

9. There are single acts of sin, and continued or repeated acts of sinsins committed after convictions, promises, and resolutions. There is not so much guilt in a single act of sin as in a continued course of sin, adding of drunkenness to thirst, Deut. 29:19; described also as adding sin to sin, Isa. 30 :1. For as it is in numbering, so in sinning: if the first figure be 1, the second is 10, the third 100, the fourth 1,000; and every addition makes a greater multiplication. O what a dreadful reckoning will there be for the consciences of sinners!

10. Contrivers and studiers of sin are always in Scripture placed in the first rank of sinners. The best servant God has in the world may be surprised by the deceitfulness of sin, against the bent and resolution of his soul; but the contrivance and plotting sin is quite another thing; therefore it is said of the wicked, “ They conceivę mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.” Job 15:35. Sin has its time of conception, growth, and birth; and all this by the deliberate consent of the heart and will, which cherish it.

11. There are ringleaders in sin, and single personal sins which spread no further than ourselves. A ringleader in sin is in Scripture reckoned among the greatest sinners : “Thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel." Rev. 2:14. Thus Jeroboam the son of Nebat made Israel to sin. There is the same difference between these and single personal sins, as there is between a chain-shot and a single bullet. Mind this, you that have induced others to sin by your counsel or example.

12. There are sins in which men take pleasure, and

« PreviousContinue »