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ded and denied entrance to the Son of God. So again, John 5:33-40, Christ reasons with them, and gives undeniable demonstrations that he was the Messiah come to save them. He proves it from the testimony of John, verse 33, “Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth ;" he tells them the design of his coming among them was their salvation, verse 34 ; shows them the great seal of heaven, his uncontrollable miracles, verse 36, “ The works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” And if that were not enough, he reminds them of the immediate testimony given of him from heaven, “The Father himself which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me." He did so at his baptism: “And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matt. 3:17. And so again at his transfiguration on the holy mount, “ While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them : and behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ; hear ye him.” Matt. 17:5. He bids them search the Scriptures, and critically examine his perfect correspondence with them. John 5:39. This was enough, one would think, to open the door of every man's understanding and heart to receive him with full satisfaction ; and yet, after all, behold the unreasonable obstinacy and resistance of their hearts against him : “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Ver. 40.
Not a soul will open, with all the reasons and demonstrations in the world, till the almighty power of God be put forth to that end. “If another come in his own name,” saith he, verse 43, “him will ye receive ;” any one rather than the Son of God. Every impostor can easily deceive you ; it is to me only your hearts have such a strong aversion. Now there is a twofold shutting up of the heart against Jesus Christ.
1. Natural. Every soul comes into this world shut up
and fast closed against the Lord Jesus. The will of man, which is the freest faculty, comes into the world barred and bolted against Christ. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Rom. 8:7. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Phil. 2 : 13. This is a dismal effect of the fall. Who does not feel strong aversions and obstinate resistances in his own heart, when moving towards Christ in the first weak and trembling acts of faith?
2. There is a judicial shutting up of the heart against Christ. This is a sore and tremendous stroke of God, punishing former rebellions : “ Israel would none of me, so I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts.” Psalm 81:11, 12. This looks like a prelude of damnation, a very near preparation to ruin. “Israel would none of me;"' there is the natural shutting up of the heart : “so I gave them up;" there is the judicial shutting up of the heart: they would not hear, they shall not hear. O fearful judgment! Thus the Lord gave up the heathen, Rom. 1:26 ; they had abused their natural light, and now their minds are judicially darkened ; given up to a sottish and injudicious mind, not able to distinguish duty from sin, safety from danger—a mind that should choose the worst things, and reject the best. This was the reprobate mind unto which God gave them up; what sadder word can the Lord speak than this, unless it be, “ Take him, Satan!" It is true, those whom God shuts up he can open, and those whom justice shuts up, mercy can set free ; but it is beyond all the power of angels and men to do it. “He shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.” Job 12:14. These two closings of the heart are not always found together in the same person; and blessed be God that they are not. Christ meets with many a repulse, and endures with much patience the gainsaying of sinners, before he pronounces the dreadful sentence upon them, “Go, and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes ; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Isa. 6:9, 10.
But when it comes to this, dreadful is the case of such souls ; and none are in greater danger of this judicial stroke of God, than those who have sat long under the light, rebelling against it. That is the first thing, the hearts of men by nature are locked and shut up against Christ.
II. Let us examine WHAT THOSE LOCKS AND BARS ARE, which oppose and forbid Christ's entrance into the hearts of sinners. And they will be found to be, ignorance, unbelief, pride, custom in sin, presumption, and prejudices against the ways of holiness. Bars enough to secure the soul in Satan's possession, and frustrate all the designs of mercy, except an almighty Power from heaven break them asunder.
1. The first bar making fast the soul of man against Christ, is ignorance. If knowledge is a key that opens the heart to Christ, as is plain from Luke 11:52, where Christ denounceth a woe on them that took away “the key of knowledge," then ignorance must needs be the lock that makes fast the door of the heart against Christ. On this ground Christ told the woman of Samaria, that her unbelief grew upon the root of her ignorance. “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him and he would have given thee living water.” John 4:10. Ah, sinners, did you but know what a Christ he is that is offered to your souls in the gospel ; did you see his beauty, fulness, and suitableness, and feel your own need of him, all the world could not keep you from him: you would break through all reproaches, all sufferings, all self-denials, to come to the enjoyment of him. But alas, it is with you as it was with those who said to the church, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?” Sol. Songs, 5:9. Unknown excellences attract not: ignorance is Satan's sceptre which he sways over all his kingdom of darkness, and by which he holds his vassals in miserable bondage to him; hence the devils are called, “The rulers of the darkness of this world.” Eph. 6:12. Alas, were the eyes of sinners opened to see their woful state and their remedy in Christ, he could never hold them in subjection one day longer; they would break away from under his cruel government and run by thousands to Christ; for so they do as soon as God opens their eyes : in the same hour that they are “turned from darkness to light," they are also turned “from the power of Satan unto God.” Acts 26:16. O that you did but know the worth of your souls, the dreadful danger they are in, and the fearful wrath that hangs over them, with the willingness and ability of Christ to save them ; you could not sleep one night longer in the state you are : your next cry would be, "What shall I do to be saved ?” Who will show me the way to Christ? Help, ministers! help, Christians ! yea, help, Lord! These would be the lamentations and cries of those who are now secure and quiet. But “the god of this world hath blinded the eyes of them which believe not,” 2 Cor. 4:4: no cries for a physician, because they have no consciousness how their souls are wounded by sins of commission and by sins of omission. O that the great Physician would apply his excellent eye-salve to your understandings, which are yet darkened with gross ignorance both of your misery and remedy.
2. The second bar or lock which shuts Christ out of men's souls, is the sin of unbelief. This is one of the strongest holds of Satan wherein he trusteth; this is a sin that not only locks up the heart of a sinner, but also binds up the hand of a Saviour. “He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” Matt. 13:58.
Unbelief obstructed his miraculous works when he was on earth, and it obstructs his gracious work now he is in heaven. A Saviour is come into the world, but, poor unbeliever, thy soul can neither have union nor communion with himn till this bar of thy unbelief be removed. The gospel is come among us with mighty arguments to convince and powerful motives to persuade, but little saving effect follows: its main design is to many frustrated, and all this through unbelief, shutting up and hardening men's hearts under it. “The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Heb. 4:2. Ah, cursed bar! which shuts up thy heart, shuts out thy Saviour, and will effectually shut thee out of heaven, except the almighty power of God break it asunder. They could not enter in because of unbelief. Heb. 4:6. The ruin of souls is laid at the door of unbelief; it is the damning sin, Mark 16:16, and truly called so, because no other sin could condemn but in virtue of this sin.
3. The third bar denying entrance to Christ into the hearts of sinners, is pride and stoutness of spirit. The natural heart is a proud heart; it lives upon its own stock, it cannot stoop to a sincere and universal renunciation of its own righteousness : “Being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” Rom. 10:3. Pride stiffens the will that it cannot stoop or condescend to declare their own emptiness, discover their own shame, and live wholly upon the righteousness of another. Proud nature chooses the way of destruction, rather than to deny itself in such a point as this. This makes faith so exceedingly difficult, because it involves such deep points of self-denial in it. To give up all to Christ, to draw all from Christ, and to be willing to part with all for Christwhat will can be brought to a deliberate consent to such things as these, unless an omnipotent power bow it? It is