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grace: From a state of guilt and sin, into a state of peace and holiness: It is to forsake the old Adam and his deeds, and to go unto Christ so as to dwell in him, and to have him dwelling in us. It is, in short, to make an exchange of what we are, for what Christ is or hath: Giving all we are worth, to buy this pearl, as the wise merchant in the gospel.
This exchange, without which it is impossible to get life, implies four things chiefly.
1. The giving ourselves to him; head, heart, tongue, body, soul, because he bestows himself upon us freely. Then we are enabled to say with the believing soul, (Cant. vi. 3,) I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine.' When we do this sincerely, we sit already in heavenly places with our blessed Saviour. His Father' is our Father: His throne is our throne; and we reap the benefits of his triumphs over death, hell, and the devil.
2. Coming to Jesus Christ for life, implies giving all our sins to Christ; confessing them, loathing them, leaving them, casting them upon that Lamb of God, so as to receive rest for our souls from the guilt and power of them. When we do this, we are made the righteousness of God in him, who, though he knew no
sin, yet was made a sin-offering for us.
3. Believing in Jesus Christ, or coming to him for life, implies a giving up our name, pleasure, profit, life, for him and his gospel; because he gives his crown and honour, his life and all unto us. Thus, when nothing seems to be delightful and glorious unto us but Christ, he takes us into a share of all his delights and glory.
4. Our blessed Lord expects, when we come unto him for life, that we forsake all dependence upon our own righteousness, and place our entire reliance upon his merits; and then we shall obtain absolution from guilt, and be fully and freely accepted in the Beloved.' Now, glorious as these conditions are, it is remarkable that no one ever submitted to accept of them till he was driven to an extremity; no sinner ever coming to Jesus
Christ for life, till he sees that he is a dead man without him. We all shift for ourselves, as long as we can, upon the stormy sea of the world, caring little whether Christ is far or near, whether he wakes or sleeps; but if, happily for us, a storm arise in our conscience, and we see ourselves just ready to sink into the gulf of God's judgment, then, and then only, are we made willing to come to Jesus Christ: Then, and then only, we cry with the trembling disciples, Lord save us, we perish! Lord quicken our souls by thy saving health, or we die the second death!'
And to convince you of the truth of this amazing assertion, I come,
II. To describe four classes of sinners, who make up almost the whole of Christ's visible church in our day, and yet will not come to Christ for life.
1. The first class consists of those who have well nigh filled up the measure of their iniquities, and sinned away their day of grace. These, like Cain and Judas, seeing their sins very great, and feeling their hearts almost past relenting, scorn to sigh and mourn, and ask for mercy: And unable to bear the consideration of their dangerous desperate state, like mad dogs they break the chains of restraining grace, and run to the vomit of sin upon the dunghill of profaneness, till theyleap into the lake that burneth with unquenchable fire. Of these, (humbling and melancholy thought!) there are not a few among us. These you will find running into excesses and debauchery, as far as their shaken constitution and shallow purse will permit. These are noted for rambling from one house of public entertainment to another; for breaking the Sabbath, as far as the fear of the laws will allow them; despising all religious worship, and scoffing at all those that seem soberly and religiously inclined. These are the first-born of Satan, and the boldest of his visible agents among men: They worship openly their Father; and were their lip-prayers (if they pray at all) to be weighed in a balance with their hearty curses
and desperate wishes for damnation, you would find that the service they offer to God Almighty bears no proportion to that which they offer to the devil. These people are each of them a living hell; sunk into brutish lusts, and worse than brutish stupidity: Swelled with diabolical passions, they have nothing human but the shape, and (blessed be God!) a capacity to come to Jesus Christ, that he may rescue them from the jaws of eternal death. But to these, amongst us, he says in vain, Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.' Formerly, indeed, such publicans and sinners flocked to hear the word, and entered into life before the righteous Pharisees and learned Scribes; but in our degenerate days, both Publicans and Pharisees seem to vie who shall slight the gospel most.
2. The second class of those who refuse to come to Jesus Christ for life, is that of careless, reputable sinners, who, trusting in themselves that they are righteous, (or at least, that they are safe, because less unrighteous than others,) slight the invitations of Christ's messengers. Do they hear an offer of Christ? Instead of wondering at the love of the Lord, in making it to them, they regard it not. After the most searching sermon, they go home as unaffected with grace and sin as if they had been hearing a ballad, or seeing a horse-race. You may know them by such language as this, when the tedious discourse is over: "It is very fine weather to-day. Well, what do you say of the man? For my part, I believe he means well; but do you not think he overdoes the matter? Did you see such a one at church? We had but a thin congregation to-day, the roads are so dirty." Thus he will speak of the weather, the congregation, the minister, the sermon, and what not: But if ever you hear him mention the love of God in Christ, or the sinfulness of his heart, and the danger of his unconverted state, represented in the sermon, you may wonder, for the leopard has changed one of his spots. These careless sinners, who are every where the most numerous tribe, are for the world, their farm, their merchandise, their wife; they have married or intend to marry, and
the care of the perishing body engrosses almost all their thoughts. As the Gadarenes, disturbed about the loss of their herd of swine, came to Jesus, and besought him to depart out of their coasts: Or like the devils, who, when our Lord was going to cast them out of the man, cried, What have we to do with thee? Art thou come to torment us before the time ?'-So these worldly, careless sinners, when we invite them to rend their hearts, and turn unto the Lord with weeping, fasting, and praying, account our ministry troublesome and dangerous: They wish we would depart out of their coasts, or complain that we try to make them uneasy before the time. Scorning to yield to conviction, and stifling the checks of their own conscience, they soon grow so careless, or rather so hardened, that they make no more of the offer of Christ, than of the offer of a straw. Were a good bargain put to them, they would forget all their business to accomplish it: But when it is only Jesus Christ and life that they are invited to, they suppose it time enough to think of that; they pray to be excused for the present; or madly suppose that they have already accepted him. I want words, brethren, to express the greatness of the danger of these Laodicean sinners, who say, 'I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing.' I shall only observe, that if the blood of Abel cried to heaven for vengeance against Cain, the blood of Christ will one day cry much louder against these unbelievers, who, by To these slighting it, spill it afresh every moment. then, as well as against desperate unbelievers, the Man of Sorrows, and Lord of Glory, says, with great reason, 'Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.'
3. The third sort of sinners that reject this kind offer of our Lord, is that of presumptuous unbelievers; who, seeing what sins they have committed, and it may be, having now and then some touches of sorrow for them, catch notionally at Christ, and hope to be saved by him, before ever they come to feel sin as a heavy curse. These, catching notionally at Christ, and hoping that they have him already, shut him out of the future, and so in fact reject him. This is the case of most of those
who are only half awakened. The prophet Micah describes them in these remarkable words: The sin of Israel is great, and unrepented of, yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? None evil can come upon us.' (iii. 11.) You will never hear people that are in this dangerous state, complain of their utter want of faith, but only of the weakness of their faith; and they will not be beaten off from the notion, that they are true, but weak believers. Let them hear never so much of their real misery, and see never so much of their desperate sinfulness, yet they will hold their imaginary trust in Christ: As if one could savingly trust in Christ, before he has truly experienced the bitterness of sin, and been clearly convinced of unbelief. (John xvi. 9.) Therefore, these also, (though they profess with their lips and conversation to come to Christ for life,) yet in fact keep at a distance from him with their heart, as well as desperate and careless unbelievers. This was the case of the foolish virgins. They made great profession of going to meet the Bridegroom, as well as the wise ones, and really thought they had oil in their vessels, or faith in their hearts; but being mistaken, they justly perished for their wilful delusion.
4. The fourth, and last class of unbelievers, who make Christ complain, that they will not come unto him that they might have life, is that of those who are convinced they have not life,-they perceive in general, that they are in a bad state,- they have some confused sight of their sins, and of their need of Jesus Christ,—but after all, they do not know whether they had best come to him or not. They see some good in a Saviour, for which they fain would have him; such as peace, grace, pardon, and heaven: But they see many things in his offer of life that overbalance those advantages. They must bid adieu to all their foolish pastimes, and vain diversions: The drunkard must renounce his cups, and the silly virgin her love of dress : The gamester must part with his cards and dice, and the jovial man with his foolish talking and jesting: The covetous man must cut his right hand, that is, give to the poor what he laid up