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Gentiles, the Apostle enumerates “ lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries :" and do not these characterize the Christian world also ? If we are free from open idolatry, we are guilty of it in our hearts as much as the heathen themselves: for whilst some“ make a god of their belly," and others are addicted to “covetousness, which is idolatry," we all, in one way or other, “ love and serve the creature more than the Creator, who is over all, blessed for ever.” As to all the other evils, it will be well if we have not been guilty even in the outward act: for “lasciviousness and excess of wine" are not such uncommon evils amongst us; but, granting that we have been free as it respects the act, have we abhorred the very thought of such evils, as we ought? Have we not, on the contrary, found pleasure in "revellings and banquetings,” and “ SUCH LIKE,” without ever thinking that they who do such things cannot inherit the kingdom of Godb?" Is it not a notorious fact, that this season of the year, which ought to be in a more especial manner consecrated to holy duties, is devoted to " revelling and banqueting;" precisely as if the Lord Jesus Christ had come unto the world, not to deliver us from sin, but to give us a licence to sin ? But, whether we have indulged in these things or not, still the same charge must be reiterated against us; namely, that we have lived to ourselves, and not to God; and have made our own inclinations the rule of our conduct, instead of adhering to his commands. This is "the course of this world;" this is the line of conduct which characterizes without exception “ the children of disobedience," and the vassals of the wicked one
Say now, brethren, whether ye have not " wrought the will of the Gentiles;" or, in other words, whether ye have not lived like “ atheists" and heathense ?]
Let me then proceed to shew you, II. That the time past may well suffice for such a
course as that Let me put it to yourselves :
1. What benefit have you derived from this course hitherto ?
[Have you found that the gratifications you have enjoyed have afforded you any solid satisfaction? You “ have sown
• Compare the words following the text with Gal. v. 19–21.
c It would be well if those who speak of a merry Christmas, would inquire what is meant by “revellings, and such like.” d Eph. ii. 2, 3.
• άθεοι εν κόσμω, Εph. ii. 12.
vanity; and what but vanity has been your recompence'?" St. Paul puts the question to us; “What fruit had ye
then in those things whereof ye are now ashameds ?” Has not the creature proved, what God forewarned you it would prove, “ a broken cistern, that could hold no water?" You are come, I will suppose, to a season of great trouble, or perhaps of sickness and approaching dissolution. Now what consolation have you from all that ever you enjoyed ? Can the remembrance of it comfort you? Can it assuage your pains, or administer support under them? Can it pacify a guilty conscience, or take away the sting of death? Can it gild your last scenes, and brighten your prospects in the eternal world? Alas! alas ! have
spent your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth noth?” I will even suppose that you have possessed all that Solomon himself possessed, and revelled like him in every species of indulgence: what do you now find it all to be, but
vanity and vexation of spirit ?” Is it not “ high time, then, that you
awake” from your delusionsi? After having so long “ fed upon ashes, and been turned aside by a deceived heart, is it not high time that you at last see, that "you have had nothing but a lie in your right handk ?”]
2. What benefit do you expect to derive from it hereafter ?
[If you follow your sinful course ever so long, do you expect that it will be productive of any more happiness than it has already been? Will the creature change? or the condition of man change? Or will God so change the whole course of nature, that you shall find in earthly things what is to be found in him alone? But, if such changes are not to be expected, what will be the issue of such a course at the tribunal of your God? Had you been Gentiles, it might be expected, if I may so speak, that you had lived like Gentiles ; or at all events, you would then “ be judged by such a law as you yourselves had lived under!.” But you were Christians; and had the law of God in your hands; yea, and the Gospel of Christ too: and therefore you shall be judged by the law, and by the Gospel, which you have so neglected and despised. I would that Christians would place themselves as at the bar of judgment; and bethink themselves, what will be their view of their present courses then? Will a life of carnal ease and indulgence, together with a neglect of God and of our eternal interests, be found so venial then? To have professed ourselves Christians, and have lived like heathens, will this
f Job xv. 31.
& Rom. vi. 21.
h Isai. lv. 2.
appear so light a matter, as it is judged now to be? No verily: things will then be seen in their true colours; and the care of the soul will then appear to be, what it really is, “ the one thing needful.”] APPLICATION
[If now you are not convinced that the time past is sufficient for such a course, I beg leave to ask, what time you will think sufficient? I presume you will not say, that the whole life is to be spent in such a way: I conceive that no one is so blind, but that he will acknowledge that God ought to be served at some time or other; and that, at some time or other, the concerns of the soul ought to occupy the mind. Even those who die by the hands of the public executioner confess, that some preparation is desirable for them, before they enter into the presence of their God. What time then will you agree to be sufficient to work the will of the Gentiles; and when will you account it reasonable to begin to fulfil the will of God? Will you say, twenty years hence; or, forty years hence? Such a period as that may surely be acknowledged latitude enough, even for the youngest amongst us. But, if you will go to those who have served the world and their own lusts for twenty or forty years, you will not find them at all more ready to turn to God, than they were the first moment that they entered on that course.
On the contrary, the longer they have lived in sin, the more rooted are their lusts, and the more inveterate their habits: their consciences, too, are the more seared and hardened; and the more averse are they to be instructed in the way of righteousness. Besides, are we sure that so many years shall be added to our lives; or that, if they be, we shall be at all more disposed to serve God then, than we are at present? Are we sure that the Spirit of God, to whom we "do despite," will not at last depart from us, and give us up to final impenitence ?
Beloved brethren, be persuaded, --whatever be your age, be persuaded, I say,—that the time past is abundantly sufficient for the course which you have followed. And now, without any further delay, begin to "work the works of God." Do you ask, “ What is the work of God?” I answer, as our blessed Lord did, “ This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sentm." This is indeed the one great concern to which we should all attend. We are sinners, obnoxious to God's wrath and eternal condemnation. But Jesus Christ is a Saviour: he is sent into the world on purpose to seek and to save that which was lost. Do ye then go to him; believe in him ; implore mercy through him; cast
m John vi. 28, 29.
yourselves upon him; and “cleave to him with full purpose of heart." Let the time which you have spent in the neglect of him be redeemed; and your efforts be the more urgent, in proportion to the time which you have lost. As for the baptized heathens with whom you have associated, “come out from among them”,” and “ no longer conform yourselves to their evil ways .” They will, as the Apostle tells you, " think it strange that you continue not to run with them to the same excess of riot as you formerly did ; and will speak evil of you on account of itp.” but be it so: if this be an occasion of grief to you, it should not be on your own account, but on theirs; for “they shall surely give an account to Him hat is ready to judge both the quick and dead?;" and “ their hard ungodly speeches, which they have spoken against you” for his sake, will be visited upon them to their everlasting confusion". Mind you yourselves: seek the salvation of your own souls, whether others will attend to their souls or not. perish in Sodom, because your relatives mock at your fear of God's judgments®: neither linger in the plain, lest the storms of God's vengeance overtake you: but be in earnest: and “ whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might'."] n 1 Cor. vi. 17. o Rom. xii. 2.
P ver. 4. 9 ver. 5.
r Jude, ver. 14, 15. s Gen. xix. 14. t Eccl. ix. 10.
Do not ye
NEARNESS TO DEATH A MOTIVE TO WATCHFULNESS.
1 Pet. iv. 7. The end of all things is at hand : be ye therefore
sober, and watch unto prayer. THE office of the Gospel is, not to fill the mind with notions, but to renew the heart, and sanctify the life. It is true indeed, that the smallest conformity to its precepts will cause us to be loaded with obloquy and derision by an ungodly world : but it furnishes us with very sufficient motives to disregard the censures of men, and to devote ourselves unreservedly to God. The nearness of death and judgment is of itself an irresistible argument for
ver. 4. b. This seems to be the meaning of the verse before the text.
- It puts a
maintaining an indifference to earthly things, and for exerting ourselves to the uttermost to secure a happy eternity. Such is the scope of the Apostle's words; in commenting on which we shall notice, I. The declaration
[It is possible that St. Peter, in speaking of “ the end of all things," might have some reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was fast approaching, and to the consequent annihilation of the Jewish polity. But it is more probable that he referred to the end of the world, which was generally represented as so near, that St. Paul was obliged to rectify the mistake which had arisen in the minds of the Thessalonians with respect to it. We may however justly consider it as relating to the hour of death, which is to every man " the end of all things” here below. Death terminates our joys and honours, how elevated soever they may be period also to our hopes and prospects, be they ever so bright and well-founded It incapacitates us also for carrying into effect all our purposes and endeavours. We may have seen the vanity of earthly things, and have formed a resolution to withdraw our affections from them, and to prosecute with care the things belonging to our everlasting peace: we may have actually begun to execute our purposes: we may have begun to pay more attention to divine ordinances, than we have done in past times, and to read some religious books, and to cultivate an acquaintance with some pious characters, in hopes of getting instruction from them, and of furthering thereby our eternal interests : but death will cut short all these good beginnings, and leave us cause to bewail to all eternity that we had deferred the concerns of our souls so long. instant death comes, there is no more room for repentance; no more shall the tidings of salvation through a crucified Redeemer sound in our ears; no more will the Holy Spirit strive with us to bring us to God; the time for repentance is past; the offers of salvation are closed; the day of grace is come to an end; and nothing remains for the soul but to weep and bewail its folly in hell for ever and ever This period is nigh “at hand” to every one of us.
If our life were prolonged to the age of Methuselah, the space would be only as the twinkling of an eye in comparison of eternityd : but it is contracted to a very narrow span; nor can we be sure that it shall continue even to the expiration of the present day: so justly may it be said in reference to all of us, “The end of all things is at hand.”]
c 2 Thess. ii. 2, 3.
d 2 Pet. iij. 8.