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You sinners who are here present, you are the very persons spoken of in the text; you are the sinners in Zion. How many of these people of God's wrath are there sitting here and there in the seats of this house at this time? You have often been exhorted to fly from the wrath to come. This devouring fire, these everlasting burnings, of which we have been speaking, are the wrath to
You hear to-day of this fire, of these burnings, and of that fearfulness which will seize and surprise sinners in Zion hereafter; and O what reason have you of thankfulness that you only hear of them, that you do not as yet feel them, and that they have not already taken hold of you! They are, as it were, following you, and coming nearer and nearer every day. Those fierce flames are, as it were, already kindled in the wrath of God; yea, the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God burn against you; it is ready for you: that pit is prepared for you, with fire and much wood, and the wrath of the Lord, as a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.
Lot was with great urgency hastened out of Sodom, and commanded to make haste, and fly for his life, and escape to the mountains, lest he should be consumed in those flames which burned up Sodom and Gomorrah. But that burning was a mere spark of that devouring fire, and those everlasting burnings of which you are in danger. Therefore improve the present opportunity
Now, God is pleased again to pour out his Spirit upon us; and he is doing great things among us. God is indeed come again, the same great. God who so wonderfully appeared among us some years ago, and who hath since, for our sins, departed from us, left us long in so dull and dead a state, and hath let sinners alone in their sins; so that there have been scarcely any signs to be seen of any such work as conversion : that same God is now come again ; be is really come in like manner, and begins, as he did before, gloriously to manifest his mighty power, and the riches of his grace. He brings sinners out of darkness into marvellous light. He rescues poor captive souls out of the hands of Satan; he saves persons from the devouring fire; he plucks one and another as brands out of the burnings; he opens the prison doors, and knocks off their chains, and brings out poor prisoners; he is now working salvation among us from this very destruction of which have now heard.
Now, now, then, is the time, now is the blessed opportunity to escape those everlasting burnings. Now God hath again set open the same fountain among us, and gives one more happy opportunity for souls to escape. Now he bath set open a wide door, and he stands in the door-way, calling and begging with a loud voice to the sinners of Zion : Coine, saith he to me, come, fly from the wrath to come; here is a refuge for you; fly hither for refuge; lay hold on the hope set before you.
A little while it was uncertain whether we should ever see such an opportunity again. If it had always continued as it hath been for five or six years past, almost all of you would surely have gone to hell; in a little time fearfulness would have surprised you, and you would have been cast into that devouring fire, and those everlasting burnings. But in infinite mercy God gives another opportunity; and blessed are your eyes, that they see it, if you did but know your own opportunity.
You have had your life spared through these six years past, to this very time, to another outpouring of the Spirit. What would you have done, if you had died before it came ? How doleful would your case have been! But
you have reason to bless God that it was not so, and that you are yet alive, and now again see a blessed day of grace. And will you not improve
it! Have you not so much love to your poor souls, as to improve such an opportunity as this?
Some, there is reason to think, have lately fled for refuge to Christ; and will you be willing to stay behind still
, poor miserable captives, condemned to suffer forever in the lake of fire? Hereafter you will see those of your neighbors and acquaintance, who are converted, mounting up as with wings, with songs of joy, to meet their Lord; and if you remain unconverted, you at the same time will be surprised with fear, and horror will take hold of you, because of the devouring fire, and the everlasting burnings..
It is an awful thing to think of, that there are now some persons in this very congregation, here and there, in one seat and another, who will be the subjects of that very misery of which we have now heard, although it be so dreadful, although it be so intolerable, and although it be eternal! There are probably some now hearing this sermon, whom the rest of the congregation will
, at the day of judgment, see among the devils, at the left hand of the Judge. They will see their frighted ghastly countenances; they will see them wring their hands, and gnash their teeth, shrieking and crying out.
Now we know not their names, we know not what seats they sit in, nor where to look for them, nor whom to pitch upon. But God knoweth their names, and now seeth and knoweth what they think, and how much they regard the warnings which are given them this day. We have not the least reason to suppose any other than that some of you will hereafter see others entering into glory with Christ, and saints, and angels, while you, with dreadful horror, sball see the fire begin to kindle about you. It may be, that the persons are now blessing themselves in their own hearts, and each one saying with himself, Well, I do not intend it shall be J. Every one here hopes to go to heaven ; none would by any means miss of it. If any thought they should miss of it
, they would be greatly amazed. But all will not go thither; it will undoubtedly be the portion of some to toss and tumble forever among the fiery billows of God's wrath.
It is not to be supposed, but that there are some here who will not be in earnest; let them have ever so good an opportunity to obtain heaven, they will not thoroughly improve it. Tell them of hell as often as you will, and set it out in as lively colors as you will, they will be slack and slothful; and they will never be likely to obtain heaven, while they are sleeping, and dreaming, and intending, and hoping. The wrath of God, which pursues them, will take them by the heels; hell, that follows after, will overtake them; fearfulDess will surprise them, and a tempest will steal them away.
Nor is it to be supposed, that all who are now seeking will hold out; some will backslide; they will be unsteady. If now they seem to be pretty much engaged, it will not hold. Times will probably alter by and by, and they, having not obtained grace, there will be many temptations to backsliding, with which they will comply. The hearts of men are very unsteady; they are not to be trusted. Men cannot tell how to have patience to wait upon God; they are soon discouraged. Some that are now under convictions may lose them. Perhaps they will not leave off seeking salvation at once; but they will come to it by degrees. After a while, they will begin to hearken to excuses, not to be quite so constant in duty; they will begin to think that they need 'not be quite so strict; they will say to themselves, they see no hurt in such and such things; they see not but they may practise them without any, or to be sure great guilt. Thus giving way to temptations, and hearkening to excuses, they will by degrees lose their convictions, and become secure in sin.
There were some who were guilty of backsliding, the last time of the revival of religion among us. While the talk upon religious subjects was generally kept alive, they continued to seek; but when this began to abate, and they saw others less zealous than they had been, and especially when they saw some miscarriages of professors, they began to grow more careless, to seek less earnestly, and to plead these things as an excuse. And they are left behind still; they are to this day in a miserable condemned state, in danger of the devouring fire, and of everlasting burnings; in twice so dangerous a state as they were in before they were awakened ; and God only knows what will become of them. And as it was then, so we dread it will be now.
Some who are now here present in a natural condition, are doubtless near death; they have not long to live in the world ; and if they seek in a dull way, or if after they have sought for a while, they are guilty of backsliding, death will come upon them long enough before there will come such another opportunity. When they leave off seeking, it will not be without a design of seeking again some time or other; but death will be too quick for them. It is not the manner of death to wait upon men, while they take time to indulge their sloth, and gratify their lusts. When his appointed time comes, he will do his work. Will you put off in hopes of seeing another such time seven years hence? Alas ! how many of those who are now in a natural condition may be in bell before another seven years shall have elapsed!
Therefore now let every one look to himself. It is for your own soul's salvation. If you be foolish, and will not hearken to counsel, will not improve the opportunity when it is given you, and will not enter into such an open door, you alone must bear it. If you shall miss this opportunity, and quench your convictions now, and there shall come another time of the outpouring of the Spirit, you will be far less likely to have any profit by it; as we see now God chiefly moves on the hearts of those who are very young, who are brought forward upon the stage of action since the last outpouring of the Spirit, who were not then come to years of so much understanding, and consequently not so much in the way of the influences of the Spirit. As those who were grown up, and had convictions then, and quenched them, the most of these are abundantly more hardened, and seem to be more passed over.
So it will probably be with you hereafter, if you miss this opportunity, and quench the convictions of the Spirit which you have now.
As to you who had awakenings the last time of the outpouring of the Spirit, and have quenched them, and remain to this day in a natural condition, let me call upon you also now that God is giving you one more such opportunity. If passing in impenitence through one such opportunity hath so hardened you, and hath been such a great disadvantage to you, how sad will your case be,
shall now miss another! Will you not now thoroughly awake out of sleep, bestir yourselves for your salvation, and resolve now to begin again and never leave off more? Many fled for refuge from the devouring fire before, and you were left behind. Others have fled for refuge now, and still you are left behind; and will you always remain behind ? Consider, can you dwell with devouring fire? Can you dwell with everlasting burnings ? Shall children, babes and sucklings, go into the kingdom of God before you?
How will you hereafter bear to see them coming and sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, when yourselves are thrust out, and are surprised with fearfulness at the sight of that devouring fire, and those everlasting burnings, into which you are about to be cast ? Take heed lest a like threatening be fulfilled upon you with that which we have in Numb.
xiv. 22, 23: “Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles which I did in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice ; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers ; neither shall any of them that provoked me see it.” Together with verse 31: “But your little ones, , (phich ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.'
GREAT CARE NECESSARY, LEST WE LIVE IN SOME WAY OF SIN.
PSALM cxxxix. 23, 24.-Search me, O God, and know my heart ; try me, and know my thoughts; ant see
if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
This psalm is a meditation on the omniscience of God, or upon his perfect view and knowledge of every thing, which the Psalmist represents by that perfect knowledge which God had of all his actions, his down-sitting and his uprising; and of his thoughts, so that he knew his thoughts afar off ; and of his words, “ There is not a word in my tongue,” says the Psalmist,“ but thou knowest it altogether.” Then he represents it by the impossibility of fleeing from the divine presence, or of hiding from him; so that if he should heaven, or hide himself in hell, or fly to the uttermost parts of the sea; yet he would not be hid from God: or if he should endeavor to hide himself in darkness, yet that would not cover him; but the darkness and light are both alike to him.
Then he sepresents it by the knowledge which God had of him while in his mother's womb: verses 15, 16, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret; thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written.'
After this the Psalmist observes what must be inferred as a necessary consequence of this omniscience of God, viz., that he will slay the wicked, since he seeth all their wickedness, and nothing of it is hid from him. And last of all, the Psalmist improves this meditation upon God's all-seeing eye, in begging of God that he would search and try him, to see if there were any wicked way in him, and lead him in the way everlasting.
Three things may be noted in the words.
1. The act of mercy which the Psalmist implores of God towards himself, viz., that God would search him : “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts."
2. In what respect he desires to be searched, viz.," to see if there were any wicked way in him.” We are not to understand by it, that the Psalmist means that God should search him for his own information. What he had said before, of God's knowing all things, implies that he hath no need of that. The Psalmist had said, in the second verse, that God understood his thought afar off ; i. e., it was all plain before him, he saw it without difficulty, or without being forced to come nigh, and diligently to observe. That which is plain to be seen, may be seen at a distance. Therefore, when the Psalmist prays that God would search him, to see if
way in hini, he cannot mean that he should search that he himself might see or be informed, but that the Psalmist might see and be informed. He prays that God would search him by his discovering light; that he would lead him thoroughly to discern himself, and see whether there were any wicked way in him. Such figurative expressions are often used in Scripture. The word of God is said to be a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Not that the word itself discerns, but it searches and opens our hearts to view; so that it enables us to discern the temper and desires of
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