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Advocate with God, ready to make our peace upon our true
you cannot but be convinced that it is a safe one, and much better than we deserve.
Now, as safe a condition as this is, it is plain, that very many, by their own fault, miscarry, and are undone for ever. Therefore, that we may, from the mistakes of others, learn to be more careful of ourselves, let us consider, how it comes to pass that men perish under such safe and powerful means
And, first, very many miscarry by not taking notice of God's Spirit working in their hearts.
The holy Scriptures give us notice, that of ourselves we are not able to think one good thought, but that "it is God Phil. 2. 13. that worketh in us both to will and to do.” So that we may be assured, if at any time our consciences are awake, if we are afraid of God's judgments, if we are sensible of His mercies, if we are troubled with the thoughts of having offended Him by our sin; we may be assured, that all this is the work of the Spirit of God, and that to endeavour in such case to quiet our minds, to divert our thoughts by business or pleasures, is truly to resist the Holy Ghost, and to quench the Spirit.
So likewise, if we are under any outward afflictions, as sickness, loss of friends, loss of goods, or the like; we know by the word of God, that nothing comes by chance, but that all things are ordered by the providence of God for the good of His creatures; and that these are ways by which the Holy Ghost would make us sensible of our errors, wean us from the love of this world, and make us desirous of a better. And therefore it is said, concerning afflictions of this kind, “God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.” Job 33. 14.
So that to be unconcerned when God afllicts us, is not to perceive the voice of God. And this is one way by which men miscarry.
And, secondly, another is, by their not making use of the means which God has afforded them for their salvation.
We can do nothing without God's help; but if we can have His help for asking it, as we ought to do, it is then
SERM. plainly our own fault if we have it not.
And that we may have it for asking, our blessed Saviour has assured us, after Luke 11.13. a very sensible manner : “If ye, being evil, know how to
give good things unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him ?”
Do but consider how ready parents are to give their children what is fit for them, when they ask, and you will be satisfied, that it is your own fault, if you have not such a measure of grace and strength as is necessary for your
safety. (Heb. 11. It is true, “Without faith," that is, without believing the 6.]
word of God," it is impossible to please God.” And it is as true, that I cannot believe what I please. But if I once know that faith comes by hearing, that is, by attending to the word of God read or preached : if the word of God is read to us every Lord's day, and we regard it not, but endeavour to thrust it away from us, and choke the good seed by minding of other things; why then our destruction is of ourselves. For the word of God is quick and powerful, able to convert the greatest sinner, who will but seriously attend
(Mark 9. 44.)
But if a man, when he hears what God, in that holy Word, has threatened to wilful sinners, that there is a place “ where the worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched;" that this will most certainly be the portion of all them that die in their sins unrepented of; that all such as neglect and despise the means of grace and salvation shall be tormented for ever and ever. If people, when they hear this, are not at all concerned, but go on without laying it to heart; and strive to divert these thoughts and fears, and run out of the way of hearing the truth of them made out to their consciences; why, it is manifest, they will not be saved, though the Holy Ghost is striving with them to bring them to heaven.
And when they hear what the Spirit of God has made known to us concerning the joys of heaven; that it is impossible for the tongue of man to describe, or for the heart of man to conceive, what great blessings the Lord hath laid up for them that love Him; that God for the sake of Jesus Christ has published a full and free pardon for all sinners, who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto Him; that in order to our being happy, He will expect no more from us than what He will enable us to perform. If people, when they hear these promises, will not mind them, but are resolved to take their share of pleasures here, whatever becomes of those that God has promised hereafter; all that must be said is, that they will be for ever undone, that the Holy Ghost would save them, by setting these promises before them to make them desirous of heaven, but they will not be persuaded.
And thus many miscarry for want of faith, notwithstanding the Holy Spirit is amongst us, striving to bring us all to that knowledge of God, and to that obedience which would save our souls.
Thirdly; but it is not only for want of hearing the word of God that men miscarry; even they that read and think of these things may be lost, if they are not careful to maintain good works. It is a Gospel direction, “ If we live in the Gal. 5. 25. Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit;" that is, if we believe and live under the Gospel, let us do what the Gospel commands us. If we are dedicated to the Spirit of God, and hope for His help and assistance, let us live like people that do so.
Now if, instead of doing this, we grieve the Holy Spirit, by going against our consciences; by refusing to obey the precepts of Christ, when we know them; by yielding to the temptations of the devil, without asking God's help, without which we know we cannot resist that powerful spirit; if we continue to do.so, though the Spirit of God shews us the great danger we are in, then we grieve the Holy Ghost, by which we were sanctified, and He will leave us to ourselves, and we shall certainly be ruined.
Lastly (notwithstanding the assistance of God's Holy Spirit), there are many who have taken up good resolutions of serving God, and yet miscarry for want of continuing in them unto their lives' end: for either they despair of succeeding, through a sense of their own weakness, or they neglect to make use of and to improve the means of grace, which for the present God has given them : either of which will most certainly be their ruin.
SERM. But if, instead of despairing of success, people would conLXXIV.
sider, that greater is He that is in us (that is, the Holy Ghost), than he that is in the world (that is, the devil). If people would but call to mind the power of the Holy Ghost, as it is delivered to us in the holy Scriptures, by Whom ignorant men became of a sudden teachers of others; the Holy Ghost enabling them to speak unknown languages, to work miracles, to confirm their doctrines, and to convince the world that they were not possessed with a spirit of error and delusion.
If men would observe what a change is made upon those who from great sinners have become true penitents; that from having been strongly inclined to sin, they are become as much inclined to holiness; to have quite different thoughts of their former way of living; not now to look upon sin as a harmless, indifferent thing, but, as indeed it is, to be avoided rather than death itself. In a word, that their whole man has been changed or made new, in so much as the Scriptures call this a new birth, and being born again.
Whoever thinks seriously of these things will conclude, that there is nothing impossible with God; and that though our sins are so many that we cannot recount them, though we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; yet if we earnestly seek to God for help, and lay hold of the means offered to us, it is certain we shall be safe, provided we use
that measure of grace which God gives us ; for this is a (Matt. 13. rule given us by our blessed Saviour: “To him that hath 8. 18.]
shall be given, and he shall have abundantly; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have." To him that hath, (that is, that hath made use of the grace which God hath given him,) to him God will give more grace: but he that neglects the means of grace, from him shall be taken away even what before He had given him.
People do not consider how dangerous a thing it is to put by good thoughts, to neglect the good advice of their friends, to lose opportunities of knowing their duty. If they would but consider, that all these are means of grace; that they are indeed the work of the Holy Ghost; they would not so easily despise them, but would really be afraid of rejecting
the least degrees of grace afforded them for their conversion and salvation.
The Pharisees rejected the counsel of God, -His gracious Luke 7. 30. design towards them; they rejected the counsel of God in refusing the baptism of John; and look, what followed their despising these lesser favours. They afterwards rejected the Son of God Himself, and His doctrine, though approved and confirmed by miracles.
The same Spirit, which has declared, that He will not (Is. 42. 3.) break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; that He will encourage the very beginnings of piety; the same Spirit has also said these terrible words: “Because I called, Prov. 1. 24, and ye refused; I stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; I will also laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh.” So dangerous a thing it is to resist or to neglect the Spirit of God, and the day of grace !
Let us lay all this together, and to heart too.
We are by nature born in sin, in which we should live and die, without God's help and mercy.
We are by baptism made the children of grace and favour. To all that are so, the Holy Spirit is given, to enlighten their minds with saving truth, to lead them in the ways of virtue and holiness, to protect them against their spiritual enemies, to comfort them under all adversities, and to bring them safe to heaven.
In order to these great ends, the Holy Ghost bas given them a rule to walk by, namely, THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, THE WORD of God. And that they may trust to that rule, He has confirmed it by many great miracles.
He has also appointed a certain order of men, who, under the severest penalties, are faithfully to preach this Word unto His people, and He has promised to bless their labours. To encourage men to give ear unto them, they are by the Holy Ghost impowered to promise all such as shall obey that Word, the blessings of this life and of that which is to come.
And, that men may be afraid to neglect these gracious offers, they are directed to set before the people the terrible danger of doing so, and that it is a dreadful thing for a sinner to fall into the hands of the living God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell.