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Let therefore whoever they be that profess the name of Christ, take heed that they scandal not that profession which they make of him. Since he has so graciously offered usmas we are sinners of the biggest size—in the first place, his grace to save us.
DANGER OF PRESUMPTION.
Having thus far spoken of the riches of the grace of Christ, and of the freeness of his heart to embrace the Jerusalem sinners, it may not be amiss to give you, yet, as a caution, an intimation of one thing, namely, That this grace and freeness of his heart is limited to time and day; the which whoso overstandeth, shall perish notwithstanding.
For as a king who of grace sendeth out his rebellious people an offer of pardon, if they accept thereof by such a day, yet beheadeth or hangeth those that come not for mercy until the day or time be past; so Christ Jesus has set the sinner a day, a day of salvation, an acceptable time; but he who standeth out, or goeth on in rebellion beyond that time, is like to come off with the loss of his soul. 2 Cor. vi. 2; Heb. iii. 13, 16–19; vi. 7; Luke xix. 41, 42.
Since therefore things are thus, it may be convenient here to touch a little upon these particulars.
1. That this day, or time, thus limited, when it is considered with reference to this or that man, is ofttimes undiscerned by the person concerned therein, and always is kept secret as to the shutting up thereof.
And this in the wisdom of God is thus, to the end no man, when called upon, should put off turning to God to another time. Now to-day, is that and only that which is revealed in holy writ. Psalm l. 22; Eccles. xii. 1; Heb. ii. 13, 16.
And this shows us the desperate hazards which those men run, who when invitation or conviction attends them, put off turning to God to be saved till another, and as they think,
a more fit season and time. For many, by so doing, defer to do this, till the day of God's patience and long-suffering is ended; and then, for their prayers and cries after mercy, they receive nothing, as it were, but mocks, and are laughed at by the Wisdom of heaven. Prov. i. 20—29; Isa. lxv. 12– 16; lxvi. 4; Zech. vii. 11-13.
2. Another thing to be considered is this, namely, that the day of God's grace with some men begins sooner, and also sooner ends, than it doth with others. Those at the first hour of the day had their call sooner than they who were called upon to turn to God at the sixth hour of the day; yea, and they who were hired at the third hour had their call sooner than they who were called at the eleventh. Matt. xx. 1-6.
The day of God's patience began with Ishmael, and also ended, before he was twenty years old. At thirteen years of age he was circumcised; the next year after, Isaac was born, and then Ishmael was fourteen years old. Now, that day that Isaac was weaned, that day was Ishmael rejected; and suppose that Isaac was three years old before he was weaned, that was but the seventeenth year of Ishmael : wherefore the day of God's grace was ended with him betimes. Gen. xvii. 24, 25; xxi. 2-11; Gal. iv. 30.
Cain's day ended with him betimes. After God had rejected him, he lived to beget many children, and build a city, and to do many other things. But alas! all that while he was a fugitive and a vagabond; nor carried he any thing with him, after the day of his rejection was come, but this doleful language in his conscience, From God's face shall I be hid.
Esau, through his extravagancies would needs go to sell his birth-right; not fearing (as other confident fools) but that yet the blessing would still be his. After which he lived many years, but all of them under the wrath of God, as was, when the time came, made to appear to his destruction.
SIGNS OF THE DAY OF GRACE.
For when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”
Many such instances might be given. They are tokens of the displeasure of God against such as fool away (as the wise man bas it) the price which is put into their hand to get wisdom. Prov. xvii. 16.
Let these things therefore be a further caution to those that sit under the glorious sound of the gospel, and hear of the riches of the grace of God in Christ to poor sinners.
To slight grace, to despise mercy, and to stop the ear when God speaks, when he speaks such great things, so much to our profit, is a great provocation. He offers, he calls, he woos, he invites, he prays, he beseeches us, in this day of grace, to be reconciled to him; yea, and has provided for us the means of reconciliation himself. Now, this despised, must needs be provoking; and “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Object. But some man may say unto me, “Fain I would be saved, fain I would be saved by Christ; but I fear this day of grace is past, and that I shall perish, notwithstanding the exceeding riches of the grace of God.'
To this doubt I would answer several things,
First, With respect to the day; that is, whether it be ended with a man or no.
1. Art thou jogged, and shaken, and molested at the hearing of the word ? Is thy conscience then awakened and convinced that thou art at present in a perishing state, and that thou hast need to cry to God for mercy? This is a hopeful sign that this day of grace is not past with thee; for usually they that are past grace are also in their conscience past feeling, being " seared with a hot iron.”
Wears Spirit shance will not bel not; for
Consequently those who are past grace must be such as are denied the awakening fruits of the word preached. “The dead that hear,” says Christ,“ shall live.” At least while Christ has not quite done with them, the day of God's patience is not at an end with them.
2. Are there in thy more retired condition, arguings, strugglings, and strivings with thy spirit to persuade thee of the vanity of what vain things thou lovest, and to win thee in thy soul to a choice of Christ Jesus, and his heavenly things ? Take heed and rebel not; for the day of God's grace and patience will not be past with thee, till he saith, “his Spirit shall strive no more” with thee. For then the woe comes, when “he shall depart from them;" and when he says to the means of grace, “Let them alone.”
3. Art thou visited in the night-seasons with dreams about thy state, and that thou art in danger of being lost ? Hast thou heart-shaking apprehensions, when deep sleep is upon thee, of hell, death, and judgment to come ? these are signs that God has not wholly left thee, or cast thee behind his back for ever. “For God speaketh once, yea, twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose (his sinful purpose), and hide pride from man.”
All this while God has not left the sinner, nor is come to the end of his patience towards him; but stands at least with the door of grace ajar in his hand, as being loath as yet to bolt it against him.
4. Art thou followed with affliction, and dost thou hear God's angry voice in thy afflictions? Doth he send with thy affliction an interpreter to show thee thy vileness, and why or wherefore the hand of God is upon thee, and upon what thou hast; namely, that it is for thy sinning against him, and that thou mightest be turned to him? If so, thy