« PreviousContinue »
with him. There was a time when three thousand souls were born to Christ during one sermon; it may be now, three thousand sermons may be preached, and not one soul be converted : yet, let us not be discouraged; a time of eminent conversion is promised, and to be expected in these latter days, when the living waters of the gospel shall make every thing to live whither they come, Ezek. 47:9; and when the fishers, that is, the ministers of Christ, shall not fish with hooks as they now do, taking now one, then another single convert, but shall spread forth their nets, and inclose multitudes at a draught—when they shall “ fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows." Isa. 60:8. God now opens a door of opportunity beyond our expectation ; 0 that the hearts of ministers and people were suitably enlarged, and the people made willing in the day of his power.
4. Hence, we also infer the great dignity of the minis terial office, and the suitable respect due to all Christ's faithful ministers. The Lord Jesus himself is represented by them, they stand in his stead, 2 Cor. 5:20; his authority is put upon them : the honor and dishonor given them redound to the person of Christ. The Galatians received Paul as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Gal. 4 : 14. Yet how have their persons and office been vilified and despised in this degenerate age; how many learned, pious, laborious, peaceful ministers of Christ have, in this age, been hunted up and down in the world as wild beasts, and been made the filth and offscouring of all things. 1 Cor. 4:13. The word signifies the filth which scavengers rake together in the streets, to be carried to the dunghill. No doubt but Satan designs in this to invalidate their ministry, discourage their labors, and break their hearts; but Jesus Christ will support us under all these abuses, wipe off the dirt thrown at us for his name's sake, and reserve some of us for better days.
5. Is Christ present in his ordinances? what a strong
engagement then lies upon you all to wait assiduously upon the ministry of the word, and to bring all that are capable to wait upon Christ with you. We read in the days of Christ's flesh, when he performed his miraculous cures upon the sick, what thronging there was after him; how parents brought their children, masters their servants, pressing in multitudes, uncovering the house to let down their sick to him. Luke 5:19; 12:1. Ah, shall men be so earnest for a cure for their bodies, and so indifferent for their souls? It is true, the Spirit of Christ is not laid under any necessity to act always with the word : he acts as a free agent, “ The wind bloweth where it listeth,” John 3:8; but it is encouragement enough to wait continually upon his ordinances, that he sometimes graciously and effectually works with them. It is good to lie in the path of the Spirit; and there is a blessing pronounced upon them who wait continually at his gates. Prov. 8:34. O therefore neglect no opportunity within your reach ; for who knows but it may be the season of life to thy soul.
6. What an unspeakable loss is the loss of the gospel, seeing the presence of Christ comes and goes with it. When the gospel departs, the Spirit of Christ departs with it from among men; no more conversions, in God's ordinary way, are then to be expected : well therefore might the Lord say, “ Woe also to them when I depart from them.” Hosea 9:12. The Spirit may, in some sense, depart, while the ordinances are left standing for a time among the people; but we can then expect no benefit from them. But when God takes away ordinances and the Spirit too, woe indeed to that people. Where then are the fruits answerable to our precious means? The gospel is a golden lamp, and the graces of the Spirit communicated by it are golden oil, as in that stately vision, Zech. 4. Will God maintain such a lamp, fed with such precious oil, for men to trifle and play by? And no less ominous and portentous is that bitter enmity to the gospel and the serious professors of it, which is too often found among us; this great hatred brings on the days of visitation and the days of recompense with a swift and dreadful motion upon any people. Hosea 9 :7.
7. If Christ be present by his Spirit and energy in his ordinances, there is no reason to despair of the conversion and salvation of the greatest sinners that yet lie dead under the gospel. What though their hearts be hard, their understandings dark, and their wills never so perverse and obstinate ? all must give way, and open in the day of Christ's power, when his Spirit joins himself with the word. This makes it an irresistible word; it is glorious to observe the hearts of publicans and harlots opening and yielding to the voice of Christ. Matt. 21 : 31. Who were those three thousand persons, pricked to the heart by Peter's sermon, Acts 2:36, but the very men that, with wicked hands, had crucified the Lord Jesus? And what were the converted. Corinthians but idolaters, turned from dumb idols, whoremongers, adulterers, effeminate, and such like persons ? 1 Cor. 12:2; 6:11. God has his elect among the vilest of men: the gospel will find them out, and draw them home to Christ, when the Spirit animates and blesses it. Well might the apostle therefore say, that the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, is an object worthy for angels to behold with admiration. 1 Pet. 1 : 12. What though Satan has strongly fortified their souls against Christ with ignorance, prejudice, and enmity, the weapons of our warfare are mighty through God, to pull down these strong holds. Despair not therefore of your sinful and deadhearted relatives ; bring them to the gospel on the encouragement of these words of Christ, “ The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live." John 5 : 25.
8. Is Christ spiritually present in his ordinances? O then what an endeared affection should every gracious soul
effemi his elect an draw the
bear to the ordinances of God. They are the walks of Christ and of his Spirit, the appointed times and places for your meeting and communion with him; there your souls first met with Christ; there you began your acquaintance with him ; there you have had many sweet interviews with him since that day; they were the means of your regeneration, 1 Pet. 1:23, the bread of life by which your souls have been sustained ever since, and therefore to be more esteemed by you than your necessary food. Job 23:12. Here you have found the richest cordials to revive your drooping spirits, when ready to faint under sin within you and afflictions upon you. No wonder David's soul even fainted for the courts of God, Psalm 84 : 2, and that Hezekiah desired a sign on his sick-bed, that he should go up to the house of the Lord. Isa. 38 : 22. Here are the choicest comforts of the saints upon earth; all our fresh springs are in Zion. Psalm 88:7. What a dungeon, what a barren wilderness were this world without them. Prize the ordinances, love the ordinances, wait assiduously on the ordinances, and pray for the liberty and efficacy of the gospel, that it may continue and increase in your days and in the days of your posterity.
THE HEART BARRED AGAINST CHRIST.
“BEHOLD, I STAND AT THE DOOR AND KNOCK.” Rev. 3: 20.
HAVING finished Christ's solemn preface, and shown the manner of his presence in his churches and ordinances, I now come to a third doctrine which is necessarily implied in these words, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock ;" and the sad truth therein implied is this:
The hearts of men are naturally locked, and fast barred against Jesus Christ their only Saviour. .
If it were not so, what need were there of all the pains and patience exercised by Christ in waiting and knocking importunately for entrance into the hearts of men ? To keep a clear method in this point, three things must be stated in the doctrinal part: How it appears that the hearts of men are thus shut up; what are those locks and bars that shut them up; and that no power of man can remove these bars. Let us consider,
I. HOW IT APPEARS that the hearts of men are thus shut up. That all hearts are naturally shut and made fast against Christ, is a sad but certain truth; we read, John 1:11, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” He came unto his own people, from whose stock he sprung—a people to whom he had been prefigured in all the sacrifices and types of the law, and who might in him clearly discern the accomplishment of them all. His doctrines and his miracles plainly told them who he was, and whence he came; yet few discerned and received him as the Son of God. Christ found the doors of men's hearts generally shut against him, save only a few whose hearts were opened by the almighty power of God, in the way of faith. John 1:12. These indeed received him, but all the rest exclu