« PreviousContinue »
greatest and most prosperous sinners shall tremble and be confounded; when they shall hide themselves in the dens and rocks of the mountains; saying to the mountains and rocks,
Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,' whose salvation they have despised. From this dreadful day of wrath, and those amazing terrors that attend it, doth Christ's salvation, and that only, set us free. But, further yet ;
To be saved, as Christ came to save the world, is to be translated, after this life is ended, into a state of eternal feli. city ; never more to die or suffer the uneasinesss and infirmities of an earthly body; never more to know pain and sickness, grief and sorrow, labour and weariness, disquiet or vexation : but to live in perfect ease and peace, freedom and liberty ; and to enjoy ourselves and the greatest good, after the most perfect manner, for evermore. It is to have our bodies, that sleep in the dust, raised again and re-united to our souls; and to be no longer gross, earthly, corruptible bodies, but spiritual, heavenly, ima mortal ones; fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body, in which he now sits at the right hand of God. It is to live in the city of the great king, the heavenly Jerusalem, where the glory of the Lord fills the place with perpetual light and bliss: It is to spend an eternity in the most noble and agreeable employments ; in viewing and contemplating the wonderful works of God, admiring the wisdom of his providence, adoring his infinite love to the sons of men, reflecting on our own inexpresşible happiness, and singing everlasting hymns of praise, joy, and triumph to God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, for vouchsafing all these blessings. It is to dwell for ever in a place, where no objects of pity or compassion, of anger or envy, of hatred or distrust, are to be found; but where all will increase the happiness of each other, by mutual love and kindness. It is to converse with the most delightful company, to be restored to the society of our dear friends and relations, who died in the faith of Christ. Lastly, it is to be with Jesus Christ, to behold his glory, to live for ever in seeing and enjoying the great God, in whose presence is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore. This is the salvation that Christ hath purchased for us ; this the salvation his gospel offers to all mankind. And have we not great reason to say with the Apostle, . How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?' For let us suppose a person convicted of notorious crimes, and sentenced to death; and that, through the powerful intercession of the prince with his father, this condemned malefactor was not only offered a pardon, but to be preferred and have his sovereign's favour; and yet so obstinate is he, as perversely to reject these kind overtures, and to choose rather to die miserably than live happily—would not this be a most unaccountable madness? Who would pity one so stupid and foolish, as to act thus against sense and reason? And yet this is the case of most men ; for, by reason of our manifold offences against heaven, we are in a worse condition than this supposed condemned malefactor : since his punishment is only temporal death ; but death eternal, and all the dreadful consequences of it, are the deserved wages, the just recompense, of our transgressions. But so infinitely kind is God to us, that, through the mediation of his son Jesus, he will not take advantage of our weakness, but offers us a pardon for all our sins, and his love and favour, which is better than life itself, He offers to make us children of the Most High, and heirs of an eternal kingdom, of a crown of glory that fadeth not away. And is it not the utmost stupidity, for us not to embrace these gracious tenders ; but to be so in love with sin and misery, as to despise the bliss and happiness of heaven ? How amazing is it, that God, who is so rich in mercy, so abundant in love, as to offer the inestimable treasures of his grace and favour to every human creature; and yet that the painted bubbles of this present world should so captivate and allure us, as to make us undervalue those sublime glories, that are of eternal duration! O, the base and degenerate spirits of mankind, that they should patiently become slaves and vassals to divers lusts, rather than enjoy the most glorious liberty of the sons of God ! Would we therefore seriously reflect, and calmly meditate on these things, we could not possibly live as we now do: it would be too hard for human nature to withstand such arguments, did we vigorously apply them to our mind. Having thus observed some of those great benefits of our salvation, which Christ has procured for us, it will be very proper also to consider the many and great encouragements which we have afforded us, to endeavour after the obtaining of it.
II. The encouragements given us by God, for procuring our salvation will appear from the easy terms on which it is offered ; namely, God's readiness to accept the greatest sinners, if they will seek after this salvation, and the mighty helps and assistances which he affords for the obtaining it. Indeed, God, when he proposes salvation to us in the gospel, 'deals with us, as a master does by his servants; we must do some work, before we have our wages (if salvation can be called wages, or not rather the gracious bounty of God); but as we are bid to work out our salvation, some services are expected to be performed on our part, before we can enter into our master's joy. But then so infinitely kind a master have we; so noble, so rational, so delightful a service doth he require of us; that (the very easiness of the terms will be one great aggravation of our base and inexcusable guilt, if we slight and contemn a salvation so easy and reasonable. If the conditions proposed to us had been like those mentioned by the prophet, where a man is represented thus to speak, 6 Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the Most High? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil? or shall I give my first-born for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' I say, were these the terms of recommending ourselves to God's favour, we might have reason enough to complain of the severity of them; and to urge that as an excuse for not endeavouring after it. But when the Lord only requires us 'to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God,' what excuse can be made for those who will neglect a salvation, that may be so easily attained ? Certain it is, that the terms of our future happiness, as proposed by our Saviour, are, in themselves, most agreeable to the make and frame of our nature; highly conducive to the improvement and perfection of our faculties; and very necessary even to our temporal felicity, had there been no promise annexed to them, of an eternal reward. And can we then think it severe treatment, to have all the glories of heaven offered us, upon such conditions as these ;--namely, that we live up to the dignity of our nature, lead the life of men, and not of brute beasts ; that we endeavour to make our abode here as happy as we can, by the practice of virtue and righteousness? These are the terms of salvation, offered by the gospel to mankind. And what severity is there in all this? But alas! the perverseness of sinful men, who might be happy in this world by the practice of vir
tue, and obtain the happiness of heaven, did they not, for a few fading, transitory pleasures, despise and neglect it, at the hazard of eternal misery. For let me enquire of any person, whether we can possibly lay a surer foundation for ease and peace, and the enjoyment of ourselves, in all states and conditions of life, than to have a hearty sense of God's presence and goodness ; than to love him, who is the most amiable object; to believe his revelation, who is truth itself; to depend on him in our necessities, and to be truly thankful for all his kindness and bounty; to procure to ourselves as many friends, and as few enemies as possible, by being true and faithful, just and honest, meek and patient, kind and charitable ; to live in a moderate, sober use of the good things of this life; to keep our passions and appetites within due bounds, so as not to injure our health, nor disturb the ease and quiet of our minds; but to govern ourselves and all our actions by the law and rule of right reason. And what can more contribute to a comfortable and happy life in this world, than the practice of these things ?
these are the only severe terms imposed on us by Christ, which so terribly frighten us from pursuing that everlasting salvation, which he has offered to us in the gospel.
Again: it is tendered most seriously and affectionately to all sorts of men ; even to the greatest sinners. A sense of guilt often makes men more guilty; despair of mercy often stops the way to amendment, and carries men on to more wicked and desperate courses: but to have hopes, nay assurance, of mercy and forgiveness, should produce quite other effects. For the great God to proclaim his general pardon to all his rebellious creatures ; to entreat and beseech them to accept of it, promising his favour and eternal life to all who repent ; surely this kind usage should melt any ingenuous mind into the most will." ing and hearty submission. For not only the righteous and innocent shall have benefit by the blood of Christ ;-those who, through a good education, and virtuous dispositions, have, in a great measure, escaped the pollutions of the world, and given up their whole life to the service of Jesus Christ; it is not to these only, that the mercies of the gospel are extended, but heaven's gate is open even to the prodigal children, to those who have wasted all their father's substance in riotous living ;' even these our heavenly Father is ready to receive with open arms, if they will but return to him. Let all such, then, hearken to this and consider it, who have been remiss in their duty; who have never minded God and his religion, but have solely pursued a course of vice, sensuality, and wickedness, all their life; who have given the reins to their brutish passions and appetites, and, with a high hand, provoked the Almighty by their repeated transgressions. And yet, as bad as such are, their case is not desperate, if they will repent. The God of heaven is ready to receive and embrace them. For such, Christ Jesus shed his precious blood. He begs and entreats them to come and partake of the benefits thereof. The angels of God wish for their conversion ; and, at the news of it, there will be joy in heaven. All this, the Gospel gives authority to publish and declare. It is not too late ; all may be everlastingly happy, if they will consider and turn from their evil ways; Christ yet offers them his salvation. The Lord himself speaks to such, saying, “Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes ; cease to do evil; learn to do well; and then, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' But if, after all these astonishing overtures of grace and goodness, any will harden their hearts, and neglect this great salvation ; let such themselves judge, whether they deserve any favour, when they most stand in need of it. Alas! it will be a stinging consideration one day, to think of the greatness of that mercy, which such now reject; to think “how often God called them, but they refused ;' how often he stretched forth his hand, to have kept them from destruction, but they would not regard him; how often he would have gathered them to him, as a hen her chickens under her wings, but they would not.' They will then sadly wish, that they had, in time, understood the things which belong to their peace; but it will be too late : they will then be hid from their eyes.
Our neglect of Christ's salvation will yet further appear most criminal, if we consider the encouragement given us, by the great assistance God is ready to afford us for obtaining it. Indeed, the sensual and careless, not withstanding what has been represented, will be apt to say, that though heaven be a glorious place, and the way plainly enough described, yet the journey is very long : the temptations to sin are every where so many and powerful, and our own strength to resist them little and inconsiderable. But alas ! how vain are these pre