Page images
PDF
EPUB

should be no reflections in your consciences upon your own state and condition ; but thus it must be, one shall be taken and another left; to some the gospel shall be the savor of life unto life, and to others the savor of death unto death. Who can look over so great a part of a congregation without tender compassion, considering that unto this day the Lord has not given them eyes to see, nor ears to hear? They have heard multitudes of sermons; and they have also heard what effects these have had upon other men's hearts; but they have none upon theirs. O that such souls would cry to the Lord Jesus in such language as that in Sol. Song 13:13 : “ The companions hearken to thy voice : cause me to hear it.” Lord, let me not sit under the word any longer deaf to the voice of thy Spirit in it. Open the ears of my soul, that I may hear thy voice and feel thy power; otherwise the voice of the ministry will be ineffectual to my salvation ; it will but quiet my conscience for a little while, and prove a dreadful aggravation of my misery in the end.

2. It also follows from the subject, that we have this day before our eyes a great confirmation of the truth of the Scriptures. No miracles can seal it firmer than the events which are visible to all that will observe them. What you read in the word you may see every day fulfilled before your eyes. “We are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish : to the one we are the savor of death unto death, and to the other the savor of life unto life.” 2 Cor. 2:15, 16. And again, Acts 28:24, when Paul in his lodgings had expounded and testified the kingdom of God to the people, and persuaded them to believe from morning till evening, it is observed, that “some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.” Here you see the contrary effects of the preaching of the gospel, according to the scripture account of it: it quickens some and kills others; brings some to faith, and leaves others still in unbelief. Compare this account with

what is daily before you : do you not see souls influenced to contrary effects under the same word; one melting and tender, another hardened and wholly unconcerned ? Tell me, you that are apt to ascribe all to nature, how comes it to pass in men exercising reason alike, men that have the same inbred fears and hopes of things eternal, who have the same passions and affections, and are in the selfsame condition with others; yet one man's heart is wounded, and goes away trembling from under the selfsame word which affects the other no more than if it had been preached among the tombs to the dead that lie there? Say not that some have more courage than others, or clearer understandings; for the word has convinced as rational and courageous persons as those upon whom it has had no such effect. I doubt not but that the jailer who was filled with such trembling and astonishment, Acts 16 : 27-30, was as stout and rugged a person as any to whom Paul usually preached; his very office bespoke him such a man. Wonder not what it is that makes men alarmed at such a sound, which you hear as well as they, but it affects you not. The Lord speaks in that voice to their hearts, but not to yours; and so it must be, according to the account the Scriptures give us of the contrary effects of the gospel on them that hear it; which is, I say, a firm seal of the truth of the Scriptures, and highly worth the observation of all.

3. What dignity has God stamped on gospel, ordinances, in making them the medium through which Christ speaks life to dead souls. This greatly exalts the dignity of the gospel, and deservedly endears it to our souls. I deny not but God can convey spiritual life without them; but though he hath not restricted himself, yet he hath enjoined on us a diligent attendance upon them, and that with the deep-. est respect and reverence. “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.” Luke 10:16.

Behold how this sin is aggravated to the height of sinfulness. The contempt of the gospel runs much higher than men are aware of. We think it no great matter to neglect and conternn a messenger of Jesus Christ; but that contempt flies in the very face and authority of Christ, who gave them their commissions-yea, in the very face of God the Father, who gave Christ his commission. Christ speaks by his ministers, they are his mouth. Jer. 15:19. Moreover, the sin strikes at our own souls, and we injure them as well as Christ. For the word preached is his appointed instrument to convey spiritual life, the best of blessings, to our souls. Upon which account it is called “the word of life,” and “the power of God unto salvation.” We militate against our life and salvation when we despise and neglect the ordinances of God. It is good for men continually to wait on them; who knows when the Spirit of God will breathe life to your souls through them? What if you have yet found no such benefit from them? The very next opportunity may be the appointed season of your salvation. Bring your ungodly relatives with you, as men did their diseased friends when Christ was on earth, laying them in the way he was to pass. Christ will honor his ordinances ; see that you do not despise them.

4. What a fearful judgment is the loss of the gospel, seeing that by it Christ speaketh life to the souls of men. The Spirit and the word of God usually come and go together; when therefore these are gone, no more conversions are to be expected : dreadful is the case of that people. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Prov. 29:18. Those are direful menaces in Isaiah 8:16, “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples ;” and Rey. 2:5, “I will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” Better the sun were taken out of heaven than the gospel out of the church. Think not God has made such a settlement of the gospel that it shall never be removed, however you use it. Christ Knocking

11

Your Advocate in heaven has obtained it for you for a time upon trial; if you bring forth fruit, well; you and the generations to come shall be happy in it; if not, this blessed tree, which has brought forth so many mercies to you and yours, must and will be cut down. Yea, and even now is the axe laid at the root of the tree. Matt. 3:10. It is an allusion to a carpenter that throws down the axe and the saw at the root of the tree he intends to cut down. The only ground of hope which remains with us is, that there are some buds appearing, some fruits putting forth; and if there be a blessing in the bud, the Lord will spare it, according to Isa. 65:8. But these hopes are balanced with many sad symptoms, which may make us tremble to think what God is about to do with such a sinful people.

5. Those who have heard Christ's voice in the gospel have no reason to be discouraged from going to Christ in faith. Christ's call is a sufficient warrant to believe. Many are staggered in their work of faith by the fear of presumption, an objection which they know not how to clear themselves of; but certainly this, above all other considerations, destroys the objection of presumption. Men presume when they act without a call or warrant; but if Christ has spoken to our hearts by the voice of his Spirit, you have the best warrant in the world to go to him. What though you know not the issue, your obedience is due to his call. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” Heb. 11:8. So must you. It is not necessary to your going to Christ, that you must know beforehand what the result thereof shall be. Your believing is an act of obedience to Christ who calls you. When therefore Satan shall object, What, such a wretched soul as thou go to Christ? Canst thou imagine to find favor with him, whom thou hast so deeply wronged ? Thy answer should be, It is true, I have been a vile wretch, and deeply wronged the Lord Jesus; but he has spoken to my heart, he hath called me, and therefore it can be no presumption in me to go at his call; but contrariwise, it would be flat rebellion against his sovereign command to refuse to believe, and come unto him; yea, it would be a greater sin than any of my former sins have been. Besides, had the Lord Jesus no intention of mercy towards my soul, he would never have spoken to my heart by conviction and persuasion, as he has done.

6. If no soul opens to Christ until it hear his powerful, spiritual voice, then the change made in men by conversion is supernatural. The rise of faith is from this power of Christ, not from the nature of man. John 1:13. Proud nature arrogates this honor to itself, but without any ground; for though some things may be done by men in their natural state, which have a remote tendency to conversion and spiritual life, yet the soul never opens to Christ savingly, without a power communicated from himself. Nature produces no such effect as this. The Scriptures speak plainly : “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him : neither can ho know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. 2: 14. “By grace are ye saved, through faith ; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Rom. 8:7. “How can ye, being evil, speak good things.” Matt. 12:34. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” 2 Cor. 3:5. How fallen then is man, who can neither believe nor obey, speak a good word nor think a good thought, without power from on high.

Say not it is against reason for God to require men to do what they cannot do, and then eternally punish them for not doing it. For, first, though man has lost his ability to obey,

« PreviousContinue »