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Christ's bills of exchange drawn upon them in Scripture, and presented to them by the hands of poor saints. They refuse to credit them, though conscience protest against their noncompliance. Christ says, “ Whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” Mark 9:41. He shall gain that which he cannot lose, by parting with that which he cannot keep.
(3.) The want of love to Jesus Christ. Did we love him in sincerity, and were that love fervent as it ought to be, it would make us more ready to lay down our necks for Christ, than we now are to lay down a shilling for him. 1 John, 3:16. It is our duty, in some cases, to spend our blood for the saints. So it was in the primitive times : Behold, said the Christian's enemies, how they love one another, and are willing to die one for another. But that spirit is almost extinguished in these degenerate days.
INSTANCE 9. How many stand convinced, by their own consciences, what a sin it is to spend their precious time so idly and vainly as they do. When a day is lost in vanity, duties neglected, and no good done or received, at night conscience reckons with them for it, and asks what account they can give of that day to God, how they can satisfy themselves to lie down and sleep under so much guilt. And yet, when the morrow comes, the vanity of their hearts carries them on in the same course again the next day ; and while they keep in vain company they are quiet, till conscience finds them at leisure to debate it again with them. Now the things which overpower these convictions
(1.) In some men, their ignorance and insensibility of the preciousness of time. They know it is a sin to spend their time so vainly, but little consider that eternity itself hangs upon this little moment of time ; that the great work of their salvation will require all the time they have; and
if it be not finished in this small allotment of time, it can never be finished. John 9: 4.
(2.) The examples of vain persons who are as prodigal of their precious time as themselves, and entice them to spend it as they do.
(3.) The delusive power of sensual pleasures. O how pleasantly does time slide away in theatres and taverns, in relating or hearing stories, news, and other such matters.
(4.) Inconsiderateness of the sharp and terrible rebukes of conscience for this on a death-bed, or the terrors of the Lord in the day of judgment.
In all these instances you see how common is this dreadful evil of holding the truth in unrighteousness ; yet these are but a few selected from many.
THE TRUTH HELD IN CXRIGHTEOUSNESS
“THE WRATH OF GOD IS REVEALED FROM HEAVEN AGAINST
ALL UNGODLINESS AND UNRIGHTEOUSNESS OF MEN, WHO HOLD THE TRUTH IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS." Rox. 1: 18.
V. I now proceed to show how and why the imprisonment of convictions, or holding the truths of God in unrighteousness, so DREADFULLY INCENSES HIS WRATH. . And this it does on several accounts.
1. Knowledge of sin is a choice help to preserve men from falling into it. There are thousands of sins committed in the world, which had never been committed if men had known them to be sins before they committed them. Every sinner durst not make so bold with his conscience as you have done. The apostle tells us, the reason why the princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory was, because they knew him not, 1 Cor. 2:8; had they known him they would not have dared to do as they did. And so, in multitudes of lesser sins, Satan blinds the eyes of men with ignorance, then uses their hands and tongues in wickedness; he is the ruler of the darkness of this world. Eph. 6: 12. But when men know this or that to be sin, and yet venture on it, an excellent antidote against sin is turned into a dreadful aggravation of it, which highly incenses the wrath of God.
(2.) Knowledge and conviction going before, add presumption to the sin that follows after it; and presumptuous sin is the most provoking and daring sin : from this way of sinning David earnestly besought God to keep him: “ Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.” Psa. 19:13. When a man sees sin and yet ventures on it, in such sinning there is a despising of the law of God: a man may break
the law while he approves, reverences, and honors it in his heart, Rom. 7: 12, 13; but here the commandment is despised, as God told David, 2 Sam. 12:9. It is as if a man should say, I see the command of God armed with threatening in my way, but I will go on for all that.
3. Knowledge and conviction leave the conscience of a sinner wholly without excuse for his sin. In this case there is no plea left to extenuate the offence : “ Now they have no cloak for their sin.” John 15: 22. If a man sins ignorantly, his ignorance is some excuse for his sin; it excuses it in a measure, as Paul tells us, 1 Tim. 1:13, “I did it ignorantly :” here is a cloak or covering, an extenuation of the sin ; but knowledge takes away this cloak, and makes the sin appear naked in all its odious deformity.
4. Light or knowledge of the law and will of God, is a very choice and excellent mercy; it is a choice and singular favor, for God to make the light of knowledge shine into a man's understanding ; it is a mercy withheld from multitudes, Psa. 147 : 19, and those who enjoy it are under special engagements to bless God for it, and to improve it diligently and thankfully to his service and glory : but for a man to arm such a mercy as this against God, to fight against him with one of his choicest mercies, this must be highly provoking to the Lord; it is therefore mentioned as a high aggravation of Solomon's sin, that he sinned against the Lord, after the Lord had appeared unto him twice. 1 Kings, 11:9.
5. This way of sinning argues an extraordinary degree of hardness of heart; it is a sign of but little tenderness, or sense of the evil of sin. Some men, when God shows them the evil of sin in the glass of the law, tremble at the sight of it; so did Paul : “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died,” Rom. 7:9, he sunk down at the sight of it. But God shows thee the evil of sin in the glass of his law, and thou makest nothing of it: 0 obdurate
heart! When the rod was turned into a serpent Moses fled from it, being afraid to touch it; but though God turn the rod into a serpent, and discover the venomous nature of sin in his word, thou canst handle and play with that serpent, and put it into thy bosom : this shows thy heart to be awfully infatuated.
6. To go against this convincing, warning voice, wounds a man's conscience more than any other way of sinning doth; and when conscience is so wounded, who or what shall then comfort thee? It is a true rule, the more any sin violates a man's conscience, the greater that sin is. The sin of devils is the most dreadful sin; and what makes it so, but the horrid violation of their consciences, and their malicious rebellion against clear knowledge ? They know and sin, they believe and tremble, Jas. 2:19; they roar under the tortures of conscience like the roar of the sea, or the noise of the rocks before a storm.
O then, if there be any degree of tenderness left in you, if any fear of God or regard for salvation, let go all God's prisoners which lie bound and imprisoned in the souls of any of you this day. Blessed be God, some have done so, and are at rest in their spirits by so doing ; they could have no ease till they unbound and yielded obedience to them. It is said, Acts 16:38, that when the magistrates at Philippi understood that the men whom they had bound and imprisoned were Romans, they feared; and well they might, for the punishment was great for any man who injured a citizen or freeman of Rome; but every conviction you imprison is a messenger of heaven, a commissioned officer of God, and woe to him that binds or abuses it. “Do you know what you do? Are you aware of the danger ? Wast thou not afraid, asked David of the Amalekite, to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord's anointed ? 2 Sam. 1:14. So say I, Art thou not afraid to destroy the immediate messenger of God, sent to thy soul for good ? Con