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all sincerely to wish well to you; and it is a heinous sin in the sight of God for any to hate you. He requires all to be concerned for your salvation, and by all means to seek it. It is their duty now to lament your danger, and to pray for mercy to you, that you may be converted and brought home to Christ.
Now the godly who know you, desire your salvation, and are ready to seek, and pray for it. If you be now in distress about the condition of your souls, you are not in such a forsaken, helpless condition, as those that are damned; but you may find many to pray for you, many who are willing to assist you by their advice and counsels, and all with a tender concern, and with hearty wishes that your souls may prosper. Now some of you have godly friends who are near and dear to you; you are beloved of those who have a great interest in heaven, and who have power with God by their prayers: you have the blessing of living under the same roof with them. Some of you have godly parents to
you, and to counsel and instruct you, who you may be sure will do it with sincere love and concern for you. And there is not only the command of God, God hath not only made it the duty of others to seek your salvation, but hath given encouragement to others to seek it. He gives encouragement that they may obtain help for you by their prayers, and that they may be instrumental of your spiritual good. God reveals it to be his manner, to make our sincere endeavors a means of each other's good. How different is the case with you from what it is with those that are already damned! And how happy an opportunity have you in your hands, if you would but improve it!
(2.) Now you live where there is a certain order of men appointed to make it the business of their lives to seek your salvation. Now you have ministers, not to rise up in judgment against you; but in Christ's stead, to beseech you to be reconciled to God, 2 Cor. v. 20. God hath not only made it the duty of all to wish well to your souls, and occasionally to endeavor to promote your spiritual interests, but he hath set apart certain persons, to make it their whole work, in which they should spend their days and their strength.
(3.) Christ himself is now seeking your salvation. He seeks it by the forementioned means, by appointing men to make it their business to seek it; he seeks it by them; they are his instruments, and they beseech you in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God. He seeks it in commanding your neighbors to seek it. Christ is represented in Scripture, as wooing the souls of sinners. He uses means to persuade them to choose and accept of their own salvation. He often invites them to come to him that they may have life, that they may find rest to their souls; to come and take of the water of life freely. He stands at the door and knocks; and ceases not, though sinners for a long time refuse him. He bears repeated repulses from them, and yet mercifully continues knocking, saying, “ Open to me, that I may come in and sup with you, and you with me." At the doors of many sinners he stands thus knocking for many years together. Christ is become a most importunate suitor to sinners, that he may become their sovereign. He is often setting before them the need they bave of him, the miserable condition in which they are, and the great provision that is made for the good of their souls; and he invites them to accept of this provision, and promises it shall be theirs upon their mere acceptance.
Thus how earnestly did Christ seek the salvation of Jerusalem, and he wept over it when they refused : Luke xix. 41, 42, “ And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” And Matt. xxiii. 37, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how offen would
I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Thus Christ is now seeking your salvation; such an opportunity have you now in your hands. Consider therefore how many means Christ is using with you, to bring you to salvation. Besides those things which have been now mentioned, some of you
have a degree of the inward strivings and influences of the Spirit, which makes your opportunity much greater. You have Christ's internal calls and knockings. All the persons of the Trinity are now seeking your salvation. God the Father hath sent his Son, who hath made way for your salvation, and removed all difficulties, except those which are with your own heart. And he is waiting to be gracious to you ; the door of his mercy stands open to you; he hath set a fountain open for you to wash in from sin and uncleanness. Christ is calling, inviting, and wooing you; and the Holy Ghost is striving with you by his internal tnotions and influences.
4. If you now repent, before it be too late, the saints and angels in glory will rejoice at your repentance. If you repent not till it is too late, they will, as you have heard, rejoice in seeing justice executed upon you. But if you now repent, they will rejoice at your welfare, that you who were lost, are found; that you who were dead, are alive again. They will rejoice that you are come to so happy a state already, and that you are in due time to inherit eternal happiness, Luke xv. 3—10. So that if now you will improve your opportunity, there will be a very different occasion of joy in heaven concerning you, than that of which the doctrine speaks ; not a rejoicing on occasion of your misery, but on occasion of
your unspeakable blessedness.
5. If you repent before it is too late, you yourselves shall be of that joyful company. They will be so far from rejoicing on occasion of your ruin, that you yourselves will be of that glorious company, who will rejoice in all the works of God, who will have all tears wiped away from their eyes, to whom there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and from whom sorrow and sighing shall flee away. You yourselves will be of those who will rejoice at the glorious display of God's majesty and justice in his wrath on his enemies. You will be of those that shall sing for joy of heart at the day of judgment, while others mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit; and you will enter into the joy of your Lord, and there shall never be any end or abatement of your joy!
WICKED MEN USEFUL IN THEIR DESTRUCTION ONLY.
EZEKIEL XV. 2, 3, 4.-Son of man, What is the vine-tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest ? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work ? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon ? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel ; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burnt. Is it meet for any work?
The visible church of God is here compared to the vine-tree, as is evident by God's own explanation of the allegory, in verses 6, 7, and 8: “ Therefore thus saith the Lord God, As the vine-tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” &c. And it may be understood of mankind in general. We find man often in Scripture compared to a vine. So in chapter 32, of Deuteronomy,“ Their vine is the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes
of gall.” And Psal, lxxx. 8, “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt;" ver
. 14, “Look down from heaven, behold, and visit this vine." And Cant. ii. 15, “ The foxes that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes." Isaiah v. at the beginning, “My beloved hath a vineyard, and he planted it with the choicest vine.” Jer. ii. 21, “I had planted thee a noble vine.” Hos. x. 1, “ Israel is an empty vine." So, in chap. 15 of John, visible Christians are compared to the branches of a vine.
Man is very fitly represented by the vine. The weakness and dependence of the vine on other things which support it, well represents to us what a poor, feeble, dependent creature man is, and how, if left to himself, he must fall into mischief, and cannot help himself. The visible people of God are fitly compared to a vine, because of the care and cultivation of the husbandman, or vinedresser. The business of husbandmen in the land of Israel, was very much in their vineyards, about vines; and the care they exercised to fence them, to defend them, to prune them, to prop them up, and to cultivate them, well represented that merciful care which God exercises towards his visible people ; and this latter is often in Scripture expressly compared to the former.
In the words now read is represented,
1. How wholly useless and unprofitable, even beyond other trees, a vine is, in case of unfruitfulness : “What is a vine-tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?" i. e., if it do not bear fruit
. Men make much more of a vine than of other trees; they take great care of it, to wall it in, to dig about it, to prune it, and the like. It is much more highly esteemed than any of the trees of the forest; they are despised in comparison with it. And if it bear fruit, it is indeed much preferable to other trees; for the fruit of it yields a noble liquor; as it is said in Jotham's parable, Judg. ix. 13," And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man ?”
But if it bear no fruit, it is more unprofitable than the trees of the forest; for the wood of them is good for timber; but the wood of the vine is fit for no work; as in the text, “ Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? Or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon ?"
2. The only thing for which a vine is useful, in case of barrenness, viz., for fuel : “Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel.” It is wholly consumed ; no part of it is worth a saving, to make any instrument of it, for any work.
DOCTRINE. If men bring forth no fruit to God, they are wholly useless, unless in their destruction.
For the proof of this doctrine, I shall show,
1. That it is very evident, that there can be but two ways in which man can be useful, viz., either in acting, or in being acted upon, and disposed of.
2. The man can no otherwise be useful actively than by bringing forth fruit to God.
3. That if he bring not forth fruit to God, there is no other way in which he can be passively useful, but in being destroyed.
4. In that way he may be useful without bearing fruit.
1. There are but two ways in which man can be useful, viz., either in acting or being acted upon. If man be a useful sort of creature, he must be so either actively or passively: there is no medium. If he be useful to any purpose, he must be so either in acting himself, or else in being disposed of by some other ; either in doing something himself to that purpose, or else in having something done upon him by some other to that purpose. What can be more plain, than that if man do nothing himself, and nothing be done with him or upon him by any other, he cannot be any way at all useful ?
If man do nothing himself to proinote the end of his existence, and no other being do any thing with him to promote this end, then nothing will be done to promote this end, and so man must be wholly useless. So that there are but iwo ways in which man can be useful to any purpose, viz., either actively or passively, either in doing something himself, or in being the subject of something done to him.
II. Man cannot be useful actively, any otherwise than in bringing forth fruit to God, than in serving God, and living to his glory. This is the only way wherein he can be useful in doing ; and that for this reason, that the glory of God is the very thing for which man was made, and to which all other ends are subordinate. Man is not an independent being, but he derives his being from another; and therefore hath his end assigned him by that other : and he that gave him his being, made him for the end now mentioned. This was the very design and aim of the Author of man, this was the work for which he made him, viz., to serve and glorify his Maker.
Other creatures are made for inferior purposes. Inferior creatures were made for inferior purposes. But it is to be observed, that man is the creature that is highest, and nearest to God, of any in this lower world; and therefore his business is with God, although other creatures are made for lower ends. There may be observed a kind of gradation, or gradual ascent, in the order of the different kinds of creatures, from the meanest clod of earth to man, who hath a rational and immortal soul. A plant, an herb, or tree, is superior in nature to a stone or clod, because it hath a vegetable life. The brute creatures are a degree higher still; for they have sensitive life. But man, having a rational soul, is the highest of this lower creation, and is next to God; therefore his business is with God.
Things without life, as earth, water, &c., are subservient to things above them, as the grass, herbs, and trees. These vegetables are subservient to that order of creatures which is next above them, the brute creation; they are for food to them. Brute creatures, again, are made for the use and service of the order above them; they are made for the service of mankind. But man being the highest of this lower creation, the next step from him is to God. He there
fore is made for the service and glory of God. This is the whole work and business of man; it is his highest end, to which all other ends are subordinate.
If it had not been for this end, there never would have been any such sort of creature as man; there would have been no occasion for it. Other inferior ends may be answered as well, without any such creature as man. There would have been no sort of occasion for making so noble a creature, and endowing him with such faculties, only to enjoy earthly good, to eat, and to drink, and to enjoy sensual things. Brute creatures, without reason, are capable of these things, as well as man: yea, if no higher end be aimed at than to enjoy sensitive good, reason is rather a hinderance than a help. It doth but render man the more capable of afllicting himself with care, and fears of death, and other future evils, and of vexing himself with many anxieties, from which brute creatures are wholly free, and therefore can gratify their senses with less molestation. Besides, reason doth but make men more capable of molesting and impeding one another in the gratification of their senses. If man have no other end to seek but to gratify his senses, reason is nothing but an impediment.
Therefore if man be not inade to serve and glorify his Creator, it is wholly to no purpose that such a creature is made. Doubtless then the all-wise God, who doth all things in infinite wisdom, hath made man for this end. And this is agreeable to what he hath taught us in many places in the Scriptures. This is the great end for which man was made, and for which he was made such a creature as he is, having a body and soul, bodily senses and rational powers. For this is he placed in such circumstances as he is, and the earth is given him for a possession. For this he hath dominion given him over the rest of the creatures of this world. For this the sun shines on him, and the moon and stars are for signs and seasons to him, and the rain falls on him, and the earth yields him her increase.
All other ends of man are subordinate to this. There are inferior ends for which man was made. Men were made for one another ; made for their friends and neighbors, and for the good of the public. But all these inferior ends are designed to be subordinate to the higher end of glorifying God; and therefore man cannot be actively useful, or actively answer any purpose, otherwise than by actively glorifying God, or bringing forth fruit to God. Because,
1. That is not actively useful which doth not actively answer its end : thal which doth not answer its end is in vain ; for that is the meaning of the proposition, that any thing is in vain. So that which doth not actively answer its end, is, as to its own activity, in vain.
2. That is as to its own activity altogether useless which actively answers only subordinate ends, without answering the ultimate end; and that because the ultimate end is the end of subordinate ends. The notion of a supreme end is, that it is the end of all inferior ends. Subordinate ends are to no purpose, only as they stand related to the highest end. The very notion of a subordinate end is, that it is in order to a further end. Therefore these inferior ends are good for nothing though they be obtained, unless they also obtain their end. Înferior ends are not aimed at for their own sake, but only for the sake of the ultimate end. Therefore he that fails of his great end of all, doth as much altogether fail of his end, and is as much to no purpose, as if he did not obtain his subordinate end.
I will illustrate this by two or three examples. The subordinate end of the underpinning of a house is to support the house ; and the subordinate end of the windows is to let in the light. But the ultimate end of the whole is the benefit of the inhabitants. Therefore, if the house be never inhabited, the whole is in