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ilar impressions upon our own minds, upon the sabbath, we profane the sabbath, and of course we live in the neglilect of salvation. One thing farther is to be mentioned under this head of the discourse.
We neglect this great salvation, whatever we may do, if we be not possessed of repentance towards God, and of faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. We neglect this salvation if we do not secure it to ourselves; and we cannot secure it, except by being joined to the Lord by a new creation of our souls. Our Saviour, in what he said to Nicodemus, is abundantly explicit with respect to this matter. Though there are constitutional differences among men; and though there are degrees in holiness, and degrees in sin; the whole human race is made up of but two classes, for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.
Having taken into consideration this great salvation, and what it is to neglect it, we now come to the question. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? This is a subject, generally, but little thought of, but as there are many devices in a man's heart, every sinner, perhaps, has some method of escape, upon which he places his dependance. Some undervalue that salvation which is by grace, and expect the happiness of heaven as the reward of their good works. But how can any one be satisfied with such a scheme as this, unless he can prove that the gospel is a forgery; and that Christ did not die for the ungodly. Before we can rest safely upon works as a foundation, we must be satisfied, that works are the foundation which God himself has laid. As an irresistible Sovereign it must be expected that he will govern the affairs of his own kingdom in his own way.
Those whose hope is their works ought to inquire farther, how many precepts they allow the law to contain; and which will exceed upon a comparison, their acts of obedience or their transgressions? In the settlement of an account, though we should find much credited, there might be so much more charged against us; as to require a surrendry of all our possessions, and even of our persons.
Would any creditor think himself in equity bound to discharge a debtor, because he had made payment in part? Tell me ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? Admitting the common principle by which men govern their intercourse one with another, the demands of the law must be satisfied. But it is not stating the worst of the case to say, that the transgressions of every man outnumber his acts of obedience. To this it must be added that every one who supposes he has obeyed the law perfectly, or sufficiently to answer the purpose, will find in the end, that he has not obeyed it all, and, that he has ever been ignorant of its broad extent, and of its spiritual character. As he would be wretchedly disappointed, who in attempting to cancel an obligation, should discover all his means to consist of counterfeit coin; so the sinner will be silenced, and covered with shame, and confusion, when in the light of eternity, he shall see, his works of righteousness, upon which his whole dependance is placed, to be but dead works; his very virtues vices. This will assuredly be, the case for God is a spirit, and lays his claim so directly on the heart of man, that he allows nothing to be service rendered to him, which does not originate in the heart.
Some quiet themselves, or attempt to, with the expectation, that the mercy of God will be exercised in so unqualified a manner, that all will be saved; and of course that they shall. To maintain such an opinion it is necessary however, to make a sacrifice of large portions of the scriptures; for nothing is asserted in language more positive, and solemn than the eternal torments of the wicked. If the righteous have any thing to found their hope upon, that they shall never perish; the wicked have the same to found their fear upon, that they shall never see life, for exactly the same terms are used to express the duration of happines, and of misery.
It is a question too of no small importance to be decided whether the justice of God will admit of the salvation of all men, for nothing can take place under his government, which is unjust, any more than any thing can, which is unmerciful. This must be alike obvious to persons of all religious persuasions. But what favorable conclusion can we draw up
respecting the future happiness of all mankind, from the appearance of things in the present world? In what condition is this world? Is not the devil represented as the god of it, and does not the conduct of men prove that the representation is a just one? Why can not men be satisfied to butcher those animals that were designed for their use, without butchering one another likewise? Why are laws necessary to regulate society; and why are prisons, dungeons, and gibbets, necessary to give a sanction to laws, and to enforce the observance of them? Why is strife so common, and why does corrupt nature show itself so frequently, and so dreadfully, in the feuds, and bickerings, even of those who profess to love the Lord supremely; and to love one another with a pure heart fervently.
If any mass of population were to be removed from one extreme of this land, or of this world, to the opposite extreme, would the change of place produce such an internal change, that those persons who had been apart, would come together, as kindred drops, by mutual attraction unite, and form one body of water? If such a thing never did take place, and never was expected, upon what principles, of reason, and analogy, do we conclude, that those animosities which hinder the peace of this world, would not hinder the peace of any other world; and that those will live hereafter as brethren, who live here as enemies? If we will lay aside railing, and content ourselves with reasoning, we must admit, that what Christ told Nicodemus to be necessary, is actually necessary to every one who enters into the kingdom of heaven.
Now if it can be proved, that a change will take place in the wicked after death, equivalent to a new creation of their nature, it may be proved, that they will be happy, for this is all that is essential to make them happy. But who is there sufficiently inconsistent to undertake the proof of such a case as this, or even to avow his belief of its possibility? If more is brought about, without means, in another world, than is affected, by the use of means, in this world, then why are not means worse than useless here, and why is not all the expense lost, and all the labor, of sending the gospel to the destitute?
Perhaps however it may be thought, that the fire of hell will separate sin from the sinner, as the fire of the furnace separates the dross from the gold. But what is there in the sinner that can be compared to gold? Is not the whole dross; and can the most intense heat of the furnace so act upon dross, as to make it any thing but dross? Laying aside figures, and using plain language, if the sufferings of hell have a reforming, and new creating, influence, why are not the wicked here reformed, in practice; and made holy in heart, by the sufferings which they endure, of various kinds, and in various degrees of severity? Let us bring the subject where we can see it in the light of reason and revelation.
Another class is made up of those persons who are not anxious about this great salvation nor about their neglect of it, because they conclude that man, however he may differ from animals, in other things, resembles them in this, that he will cease to exist when his connection with this world ceases. This conclusion, irrational, and absurd, as it is, accounts for all those instances of suicide, which cannot be accoun ́ted for from distraction. The arch apostate though not a wise, and safe, counsellor, is yet a powerful, and persuasive one; and has won over, many a time, a Judas, or an Ahithophel, to engage in the work of self execution. But with what indescribable horrors must he be surrounded, who throws himself into eternity, and into the immediate presence of God, having expected nothing from his own murder but such a state of insensibility as would free him from a load of evils which he had not fortitude, and patience, to endure! The disappointment must be awful and overwhelming!
As others have resorted to this expedient who might be as unlikely as some of us to adopt it, let us be upon our guard, lest the practice of sin induce us to receive for truth the most palpable and pernicious falsehood.
If we have any word of God we may learn from it the souls immortality and if we can see any thing in the light of reason we can see that man was made in vain, and far worse than in vain, if made only for this world, for his excursive, and ever busy mind furnishes him with much disquietude, while the ox, that knows his owner, and the ass,
his master's crib, perform their daily task, without any painful reflections, or anticipations, and lie down at night. satisfied with being filled. That we should be placed over the brutes, and subject them to our will, and yet be, upon the whole, in a condition far less desirable than theirs, is such an incongruity, that nothing but that stupefaction which is the effect of sin, can account for its being admitted.
The three things which have been considered appear to include all which can be said by those who expect to escape, while they neglect this great salvation. But what can we find in these things that will warrant us to put our all at hazard? The question of our text my friends has nothing to do with cunningly devised fables, but is of vast practical importance.
This church probably embraces about one-seventh part of the people. Let us say there may be as many christians out of the church, as there are false professors in it. Taking their estimate, and remembering, that for the present, all may be viewed as neglecting this great salvation, who have not heartily embraced it, the result will be, that sixsevenths of this people, with all the privileges which christianity can afford them, are in a most precarious and perilous situation. Do we think of this when we lay ourselves down upon our beds to sleep, uncertain whether we shall awake, until the heavens be no more! Do we think of this, when we put on our clothes, not knowing whether we shall ever put them off, or whether some friend will have to strip our lifeless bodies! Do we think of this when instead of seeking the favor of God, we pursue the lying vanities of life as the child chases the butterfly or thinks to overtake the rain-bow.