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with whom so gracious a treaty breaks off upon such dreadful terms.
12. Consider well the reasonable and gracious nature of the gospel-terms on which life and pardon are offered to you. Acts 20:21. The gospel requires of you repentance and faith. Can you think it hard when a prince pardons a rebel, to require him to fall on his knees, and stretch forth a willing and thankful hand to receive his pardon ? Your repentance and faith are much of the same nature. Here is no legal satisfaction required at your hands, no reparation of the injured law by your doings or sufferings; but a hearty sorrow for sins committed, sincere purposes and endeavors after new obedience, and a hearty, thankful acceptance of Christ your Saviour; and for your encouragement herein, his Spirit stands ready to work in you all that you need. “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” Prov. 1:23. “Thou also hast wrought all our works in us." Isa. 26 : 12.
13. Consider how your way to Christ, by repentance and faith, has been travelled before you by thousands of sinners for your encouragement. You are not the first that ever ventured his soul in this path; multitudes have gone before you, and that under as much guilt, fear, and discouragement as you can pretend to; and not a man among them was repulsed or discouraged : here they have found rest and peace to their weary souls. Heb. 4:3; Acts 13:39. Here the greatest sinners have been set forth for an ensample to you that should afterwards believe on his name. 1 Tim. 1:16. You see, if you will not, others will joyfully accept the offers of Christ. What discouragements have you that they had not ; or what greater encouragements had they which God has not given you this day ? therefore they shall be your judges.
14. Consider the great hazard of the precious seasons you now enjoy. Opportunity is the golden spot of time, but it is a very slippery and uncertain thing : great and manifold are the hazards attending it. Your life is uncertain, your breath continually going in your nostrils; and that which is every moment going, will be gone at last. The gospel is as uncertain as your life; God hath made no such settlement of it, but that he may at pleasure remove it, and will certainly do so if we thus trifle under it: it is but a candlestick, though a golden one, Rev. 2:5, and that you all know is a movable thing. Not only your life, and the means of your eternal life, I mean the gospel, are uncertain; but even the motions and strivings of the Spirit with your soul are as uncertain as either. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling ; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Phil. 2:12, 13. That God now works with you is matter of great encouragement to your work; but that he works at his own pleasure, as a free agent who can cease when he pleases and never give one knock at your heart more, should make you work with fear and trembling.
15. Think what a fearful aggravation it will be both of your sin and misery, to perish in the sight of an offered remedy; to sink into hell between the outstretched arms of a compassionate Redeemer, that would have gathered you, but you would not. Heathens, yea, devils will upbraid you in hell for such unaccountable folly and desperate madness; heathens will say, “Alas, we had but the dim light of nature, which did indeed discover sin, but not Christ the remedy. Ah, had your preachers and your Bibles been sent among us, how gladly would we have embraced them.” God said to Ezekiel, “ Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.” Ezek. 3:6. See also Matt. 11:21. The very devils will upbraid you: “O if God had sent a Mediator in our nature, we would not have rejected him as you have done ;” but “he took not on him the nature of angels.”
16. How just, as well as sure, will your condemnation be in the great day, against whom such a cloud of witnesses will appear. O how manifest will the righteousness of God be; men and angels shall applaud the sentence, and your own consciences shall acknowledge the equity of it. You that are Christless now, will be speechless then. Matt. 22:12. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” 2 Cor. 5:11. I tremble to think of being summoned as a witness against any of your souls. O that I may be your rejoicing, and you mine in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN HIS
“BEHOLD, I STAND AT THE DOOR AND KNOCK.” Rev. 3:20.
HAVING pondered Christ's solemn preface to his earnest suit, the next thing which comes under our consideration, is the person soliciting and pleading for admission into the hearts of sinners, which is Christ himself.
“Behold, I stand.” The only difficulty here is rightly to apprehend the manner of Christ's presence in gospel administrations; for it is manifest that the person of Christ was at this time in heaven: his bodily presence was removed from this lower world above sixty years before this epistle was written to the Laodiceans. John's banishment into Patmos is, by Eusebius, out of Irenæus and Clemens Alexandrinus, placed in the fourteenth year of the reign of the emperor Domitian, and under his second persecution, which was about the ninety-seventh year from the birth of Christ.
Yet here he saith, “Behold, I stand;" not my messengers and ministers only, but I by my spiritual presence among you; I your sovereign Lord and owner, who have all right and authority by creation and redemption to possess and dispose of your souls ; it is I that stand at the door and knock, I by my Spirit, soliciting and moving by the ministry of men. You see none but men; but believe it, I am really and truly, though spiritually and invisibly, present in all those administrations: all those knocks, motions, and solicitations, are truly mine; they are my acts, and I own them, and so I would have you to conceive and apprehend them. Hence the second doctrine is this:
Jesus Christ is truly present with men in his ordinances, and hath to do with them, and they with him, though he be not visible to their carnal eyes.
Thus runs the promise : “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matt. 18:20. The middle place in the Jewish assemblies, was the seat of the president, where he might equally hear and be heard of all. So, saith Jesus, will I be in the midst of the assemblies of the faithful, met together in my name and by my authority, to bless, guide, and protect them. Hence the church is called the place of his feet, Isaiah 60 : 13; a manifest allusion to the ark, called God's footstool. Psalm 99:5. And agreeably hereunto, Christ is said to walk among the seven golden candlesticks. Rev. 2: 1. There are the spiritual walks of Christ; there he converses and communes with men. And this presence of Christ was not the peculiar privilege of the first churches, but is common to all the churches of the saints to the end of the world, as appears by that glorious promise so comfortably extended to the church from first to last : “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Matt. 28 : 20. This promise is the ground of all our faith and expectation of benefit from ordinances; and the subjects of it are not here considered personally, but officially ; to you, and all that succeed you in the same work and office; not to you only as extraordinary, but to all the succeeding ordinary standing officers in my church. As for the apostles, neither their life nor their extraordinary office was to continue long, but this promise was to continue “to the end of the world.”
Nor is this promise made absolutely, but conditionally ; the connection of the promise with the command enforces this qualified sense : “ The Lord is with you, while ye be with him.” 2 Chron. 15:2. Ignorant, idle, unqualified persons cannot claim the benefit of this gracious grant.