« PreviousContinue »
burned. Briers and thorns are not mere unfruitful. ness under the gospel, but contempt of it, and affronting it by our wicked lives. When infidelity and contempt of religion appear openly in a nation, and impiery and vice grow iinpudent and universal, even when the gospel ’hineth in its clearest and strongest light, and the wrath of God, not only in his word, but by his providence, and by terrible things in righteousness, is so plainly revealed from heaven, against all ungodlines and unrighteousness of men ; when people are taught their duty, and the true knowledge of God, but will receive no instruction, but persist in their lewd and vicious courses, and commit iniquity with greediness; this if any thing, is a just provocation of Almighty God, to remove his candlestick from such a nation as this, and to leave them in dark. ness; since light hath no other effect upon them, but to make them more wild and extravagant. There remains only the
Sixth and last particular, which I mentioned, ta be spoken to, namely, What is the way and means to prevent so dismal a judgment, and to procure, if it may be, a lengthening of our tranquillity, and a longer enjoyment of the means and opportunities of grace and salvation. And our best direction in this case, will be to follow the counsel which the Spirit gives to the seven churches of Alia, to prevent the remoying of their candlestick out of its place, that is, their being deprived of the light of the gospel, which shone so clearly among them. He then that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit faith unto the churches. To the church of Ephesus, Rev. ii. 5. Remember from whence thou art fullen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. To the church of Smyrna, ver. 10. Fear none of those things which thou malt suffer : behold the devil jhall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days : Be thou faithful unto death, and I wili give thee a crown of life. To the church of Pergamos, ver. 16. Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly. To the church of Sardis,
chap. iii. 2, 3. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to dy : For I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou Malt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. To the church of Laodicea, ver. 19. Be zealous therefore, and repent.
You see what are the means prescribed by the Spirit of God, to prevent the removing of our candlestick out of its place ; to be sensible of our great degeneracy from our primitive piety, and the strict practice of religion ; and to exercise a deep repentance for it, and effectually to reform, and do our first works. Remember from whence thout art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works. And then great vigilancy and watchfulness, that we be not surprised before we are aware: Be watchful ; for if thou Malt not watch, I will come on thee as 4 thief ; and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Now watchfulness implies great sobriety and temperance, and is usually joined with fervent and earnest prayer : Watch ye therefore, and pray always. Next, to hold fast the doctrine which we have received and beard, the faith which was once delivered to the faints, as St. Jude calls it. Remember how thou hast received, and beard, and bold fast. And lastly, Žeal for God's glory, and an undaunted resolution to adhere to it, notwithstanding all dangers and sufferings. Be zealous, fear none of those things which thou jhalt suffer ; but be thou faithful unto the death.
If we follow this counsel, we may hope, nay, we may be assured that God will fill continue to us ,the blessed means and opportunities of grace and salyation; that our pastors shall not be removed into corners, but our eyes Mall still fee: our teachers; that God will not let darkness come upon us :, or if the light of the gospel should be obfcured and eclip sed, that it will be but for a little while, and will soon pass over. But if we will not hearken and obey,
if we will not repent, and do our first works, we have reason to apprehend, that God will come against us quickly, and remove our candlestick out of its place, and take away that light which we have abused, and carry it into some other quarter of the world ; and as our Saviour threatens the Jews, that the kingdom of God shall be taken from us, and given to a nation that will bring forth the fruits of
I shall only add that counsel given by the Prophet Daniel to King Nebuchadnezzar, and which is very proper for a people and nation, and likewise for particular persons, for the prevention of 1piritual as well as temporal judgments, Dan. iv. 27. Break of thy sins by righteousness, and thine ini. quities by Mewing mercy to the poor; if it may be á lengthening of thy tranquillity. Nothing is so likely, not only to reconcile God to us, but to turn away his judgments from us, as repentance and reformation of our wicked lives, and the practice of alms and charity. Alms shall deliver from-death, faith the wise man, speaking of the benefit that redounds to particular persons: and by parity of reafon, the charity and alms of a great number may fave a nation both from temporal and spiritual judgments ; charity and alms to the poor, especially those that are poor and deftitute, by forsaking all for God and his truth. And nothing gives greater hopes of God's mercy to us, than that general charitable disposition which appears among us.
What i have said needs no long application; I shall therefore do it in very few words. This calls upon the whole nation, and every one of us, to remember from whence we are fallen, and to repent, and do our first works; and to endeavour to recover that ancient piery and virtue, which flourished in the days of our forefathers, and was so great an ornament to our holy religion. Blessed be God, that by his goodness, and the prote&tion of a gracious Prince, we still enjoy the blessed means and opportunities of grace and Salvation : but if we be still unfruitful under them, and will not walk in the light, the just providence of
God may have a thousand ways to deprive us of it, and to bring darkness upon us.
And what I have said in general to the whole nation, and what our Saviour here says to the Jews, we may accommodate every one to ourselves, Yet a little while the light is with us, let us walk in the light, while we have it, left darkness come up
We know not how long the opportunity of life, as well as of grace, may be continued to us ; they may be taken from us, or we may be cut off from them. The season of our solemn repentance is now approaching; let us improve it, as if it were to be our last opportunity of making our peace with God: and let us lose no time, leit we dy in our delay, and in our security we be destroyed.
I will conclude with the earnest exhortation of the Prophet Jeremiah, chap. xiii. 16. Give glory to the Lord your God, that is, repent, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light, he turn it into the badow of death, and make it gross darkness. To which I will only add the advice of our blessed Saviour, Luke xxi. 36. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the son of Man.
SER MON CCXLIX.
The folly of hazarding eternal life for tem
MATI H. xvi. 26. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul ? or what shall a man give in exchange for his foul ?
HE great question that a wise man puts to himself in any design or undertaking, is this,
What shall I be the better for it, if I obtain what I seek for? If all things succeed according to my desire, what benefit or advantage will it be to me? Or if I gain in one respect, shall I not be as great, or a greater loser in another? When all things are calculated and cast up, what will be the foot of the accompt? Upon the whole matter, and in the final issue and result of things, what will be the gain or loss? For though the advantage appear never fo great in one respect, yet if this be over-balanced by a greater hazard and loss in another kind, far more considerable; it is
the whole matter a foolish bargain, and a wise man will not meddle with it. And this is the question which our Saviour here puts, What is a man profited ? &c.
For the understanding of which words, we must look back to the verses immediately before, wherein our Saviour tells his followers, upon what terms they may be his disciples, and lift themselves' in his service, ver. 24, 25. if any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Whosoever will save his life, mall lose it : and whosoever will lose his life for my fake, mall