« PreviousContinue »
believe that Christ will come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;" 2 Thess. ii. 8,9. And yet dare they disobey the Gospel! Do they take God for their absolute Lord and Governor, while they will not so much as meditate on his laws, but care more what a mortal man saith, or what their flesh and carnal reason saith, than what he saith to them in his holy word? Do they take Christ for their Saviour, and yet would not be saved by him from their sins, but had rather keep them? Do they take the Holy Ghost for their Sanctifier, while they will not have a sanctified heart or life, and love it not in those that have it? Do they take heaven for their endless home and happiness, while they neither mind nor seek it, in comparison of the world? And do they take the world for vanity and vexation, while they mind and seek it more than heaven? Do they believe the communion of saints, while they fly from it, and perhaps detest and persecute it? : Is light and darkness more contrary than their words and deeds? And is not hypocrisy as visible in their practice, as Christianity in their profession? It is the complexion of their religion. Hypocrite is legibly written in the forehead of it. They proclaim their shame to all that they converse with. When they have said, they believe the life to come, they tell men by their ungodly, worldly lives, that they are dissemblers. When their tongue hath loudly said, that they are Christians, their tongue and hand more loudly say, that they are hypocrites. And when they profess their faith but now and then, in a lifeless, outside piece of worship, they profess their hypocrisy all the day long: in their impious neglect of God and their salvation in their carnal speeches, in their worldly lives, and in their enmity to the practice of the same religion which they profess. Their hypocrisy is a web so thin, and so transparent, that it leaves their nakedness open to their shame. They have not profession enough to make a considerable cover for their unbelief: they hide but their tongues; the rest, even heart and all, is bare.
O the stupendous power of self-love! The wonderful blindness and stupidity of the ungodly! The dreadfulness of the judgment of God in thus deserting the wilful resisters
of his grace! That ever men (in other things of seeming wisdom) should be such strangers to themselves, and so deceived by themselves, as to think they love the thing they hate! And to think that their hearts are set upon heaven, when they neither love it, nor the way that leadeth to it; but are principally bent another way: that when they are strangers or enemies to a holy life, they can make themselves believe that they are holy; and that they seek that first, which they never seek ; and make that the drift and business of their lives, which was never the serious business of an hour! O hypocrites ! ask any impartial man of reason, that sees your lives, and hears your prayers, whether you pray and live like men that believe that heaven or hell must be their reward? Ask your families, whether they perceive by your constant prayer, and diligent endeavours, and holy conversations, that your hearts are set on a life to come? It was a cutting answer of a late apostate, to one that told him of the unreasonableness of infidels that denied the life to come; saith he, There are none in the world so unreasonable as you Christians, that believe that there is an endless life of joy or misery to come, and do no more to obtain the one and escape the other. Did I believe such a life as this, I would think all too little that I could do or suffer, to make it sure.' Who sees the certainty, greatness and eternity of the crown of life, in the resolvedness, fervency and constancy of your holy labour? You take up with the picture of sermons and prayers, and with the name of Christianity and holy obedience. A little more religion you will admit than a parrot may learn, or a puppet may exercise. Compare your care, and labour, and cost for heaven, and for this world. That you believe the flattering, deceitful world, we see by your daily solicitousness about it: you seek it, you strive for it; you fall out with all that stand in your way, you are at it daily, and have never done; but who can see that you seriously believe another world? You talk idly, and wantonly, and proudly by the hours, but you talk of heaven and holiness but by the minutes. You do not turn the glass when you go to your unnecessary recreations, or your vain discourse, or at least, you can stay when the glass is run ; but in hearing the most necessary truths of God, or in praying for everlasting life, the hour seems long to you ; and the tedious preacher is your weariness and molestation.
You do not feast and play by the glass; but if we do not preach and pray by it exactly, but exceed our hour, though in speaking of, and for eternity, we are your burden, and put your languid patience to it, as if we were doing you some intolerable wrong.
In worldly matters, you are weary of giving, but seldom of receiving: you grudge at the asker, but seldom at the giver. But if the gift be spiritual and heavenly, you are weary to hear talk of it, and expostulate the case with him that offereth it: and he must shew by what authority he would do you good. If by serious, holy conference he would further your preparations for the life to come, or help you to make sure of life eternal, he is examined what power he hath to meddle with you, and promote your salvation. And perhaps he is suappishly told, he is a busy, saucy fellow, and you bid him meddle with his own matters, and let you speed as you can, and keep his compassion and charity for himself: you give him no thanks for his undesired help. The most laborious, faithful servant you like best, that will do you
the most work, with greatest skill, and care, and diligence. But the most laborious, faithful instructer and watchman for your souls, you most ungratefully vilify, as if he were more busy and precise than needs, and were upon some unprofitable work; and you love a superficial, hypocritical ministry, that teacheth you but to compliment with heaven, and leads you such a dance of comical, outside, hypocritical worship, as is agreeable to your own hypocrisy. And thus when you are mocking God, you think you worship him, and merit heaven by the abuse. Should a minister or other friend be but half as earnest with you, for the life of your immortal souls, as you are yourselves for your estates, or friends, or lives in any danger, you would take them for fanatics, and perhaps do by them as his carnal friends did once by Christ, (Mark iii. 21.) that went out to lay hold on him, and said, "He is beside himself.” For trifles you account it wisdom to be serious; but for everlasting things, you account it folly, or to be more busy and solicitous than needs. You can desire an act of pardon and indemnity from man; when as you are little solicitous about a pardon from God, to whose justice you have forfeited your souls. And if a man be but earnest in begging his pardon, and praying to be saved from everlasting misery, you scorn him, because
he does it without book, and say he whines, or speaks through the nose ; forgetting that we shall have you one of these days, as earnest in vain, as they are that shall prevail for their salvation; and that the terrible approach of death and judgment shall teach you also to pray without book, and cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us," when the door is shut, and it is all too late; Matt. xxv. 11.
O sirs, had you but a lively, serious, foreseeing faith, that openeth heaven and hell as to your sight, what a cure would it work of this hypocrisy !
1. Such a sight would quicken you from your sloth, and put more life into your thoughts and words, and all that you attempt for God.
2. Such a sight would soon abate your pride, and humble you before the Lord, and make you see how short you are of what you should be.
3. Such a sight would dull the edge of your covetous desires, and shew you that you have greater things to mind, and another kind of world than this to seek.
4. Such a sight would make you esteem the temptations of men's reports but as the shaking of a leaf, and their allurements and threats, as impertinent speeches, that would cast a feather or a fly into the balance against a mountain, or against the world.
5. Such a sight would allay the itch of lust, and quench the drunkard's insatiable thirst, and turn your gulosity into moderation and abstinenoe, and acquaint you with a higher sort of pleasures, that are durable, and worthy of a man.
6. Such a sight would cure your desire of pastime, and shew you that you have no time to spare, when all is done that necessity and everlasting things require.
7. Such a sight would change your relish of God's ordinances, and esteem of ministers, and teach you to love and savour that which is spiritual and serious, rather than hypocritical strains and shows. It would teach you better how to judge of sermons and of prayers, than unexperienced minds will ever do.
8. Such a sight would cure your malignity against the ways and diligent servants of the Lord ; and instead of opposing them, it would make you glad to be among them, and fast, and pray, and watch, and rejoice with them, and
better to understand what it is to believe the communion of saints.
In a word, did you but see what God reveals, and saints believe, and must be seen, I would scarce thank you to be all as serious and solicitous for your souls, as the holiest man alive ; and presently to repent and lament the folly of your negligence and delays, and to live as men that know no other work to mind, in comparison of that which extendeth to eternity. I would scarce thank the proudest of you all to lie down in the dust, and in sackcloth and ashes, with tears and cries, to beg the pardon of those sins, which before you felt no weight in. Nor the most sensual wretch, that now sticks so close to his ambition, covetousness and lust, that he saith he cannot leave them, to spit them out as loathsome bitterness, and be ashamed of them as fruitless things. You would then say to the most godly, that now seem too precise, 'O why do you not make more haste, and lay hold on heaven with greater violence? Why do you pray with no more fervency, and bear witness against the sins of the world with no more undaunted courage and resolution ? And why do you not more freely lay out your time, and strength, and wealth, and all that you have on the work of God? Is heaven worth no more ado than this? Can you do no more for an endless life, and the escaping of the wrath to come ? Shall worldlings overdo you ?' These would be your thoughts on such a sight.
Use of Exhortation.
What now remains but that you come into the light, and beg of God, as the prophet for his servant, (2 Kings vi. 17.) to open your eyes, that you may see the things that would do so much, “ That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of revelation, in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being , enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints ;" Ephes. i. 17, 18. O set those things continually before your eyes, that must for ever be before them!