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SERM. indeed, when nothing on earth, but fire and brimstone burnLXXXIII.
ing for ever, can represent them to our understandings?
Sit down, I say, and lay these things together, and think of them often, and you will at last conclude, that God is indeed worthy of your love, and all the poor service you can do Him; that God is greatly to be feared, and especially of such as live to displease Him; that none ought to despair of mercy, but such as are careless, and despise the means of grace; that the miseries of such as are sent into hell are enough to awaken and startle the most careless on earth, if they will but think of them; and that to be blessed with the happiness and company of saints and angels, is what will make us great amends for any trouble we shall be at in our way to heaven.
And the conclusion of this way of reasoning will be: you will heartily desire to know the will of God, and what will please Him; you will at all times be disposed to do His will whenever you shall know it; whenever you are under any doubt concerning the will of God, you will go to those to whom God has committed the care of your soul; you will hearken to them as to men appointed by God to make His will known to you; and if you are not sure that God has declared the contrary to what they tell you, you will obey them that have the rule over you: for this is the command of God. And being thus honestly disposed to do your duty, you shall never want means of knowing it, or what you
do shall never be laid to your charge.
After all, you must not expect that the way to heaven and happiness is smooth and easy, and that you will meet with no trouble in getting thither. Jesus Christ has told you
otherwise : We must, through much tribulation, enter into the 2.2; Matt.
kingdom of heaven. Agreeably to this, the Scriptures speak 2 Tim. 4. 5; of suffering for the sake of Christ, of taking up the cross, as 19.] He did before us, of denying one's-self, enduring afflictions,
II. Now, you must not imagine, that these Scriptures do
not belong to you, for in truth they do. It is as true now, [2 Tim. 3. as it was in the very beginning of the Gospel : every one that 12.)
will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. This is what you must expect, and it is fit you should know it be
1 . 2
forehand, that you may resolve to overcome every difficulty rather than come short of heaven. And this was the second particular that I proposed to explain to you.
When you became a member of the Church of Christ, you promised "to renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh.” From that, to your dying day, the devil, the world, and the flesh, are your declared enemies, and you must expect to find trouble in resisting them.
I will give you some instances, that you may consider how you will behave yourselves; whether you will give up your hopes of heaven, or whether you will manfully fight under the banner of Christ, against sin, the world, and the devil ? They are the express words of Christ: “Whoever will not (Luke 14.
27.) deny himself, cannot be my disciple.”
Now, pray consider ; will you deny yourselves such things for which you have a passionate desire, if you are sure that they are displeasing to God? For example:
First ; it is probable that some time in your lives, you may come to be pleased with such company as will corrupt you by their ill examples, if you continue to like them. Are you beforehand resolved to forsake the conversation of such persons, because you know such self-denial will be wellpleasing to God?
Secondly; it is very probable, that you will meet with abuses in the world. Some will wrong you without reason, and some will think they have reason to vex and torment you. Now, in all such cases, your corrupt nature will put you upon revenge, as the sweetest recompence you can have; and the devil will tempt you to it undoubtedly. What will you do in this case? If you return railing for railing, and one injury for another, you will indeed please the devil and your own wicked heart; but then you go contrary to the command of God, and most certainly displease Him. For the children of God must forgive their enemies, bless (Matt. 5.
44.] those that curse them, do good to those that hate them, and pray for those that despitefully use them and persecute them.
It is true, this will go much against the grain, and it will require pains to overcome your desires of revenge. You must strive, you must pray, and all little enough to master
SERM. this temptation; and it is your wisdom beforehand to reLXXXIII.
solve what you will do in case of such trials, which, if you live, will most surely befall you.
Thirdly ; what if a good bargain should come in your way, will you quit it, if you find that your neighbour will be a sufferer by it ; that you cannot have it without oppression, or injustice, or fraud ? Will you, in obedience to the law of God, which commands that no man go beyond or defraud his brother in any matter, will you lose an opportunity of enriching yourself, rather than provoke God, who is the avenger of all such ill dealing? It is fit you should think of this, and resolve what you will do; for this is what may happen in the course of your lives.
Fourthly; if you shall happen to wrong any person in body, goods, or good name, you know what God expects from His servants; that they acknowledge their fault, ask pardon for it, make what amends they can for the injury done, and resolve to do it no more. Without this, however we come off in this world, God will not pardon us in the next, if we wilfully refuse this.
Now, you see how harsh this is to flesh and blood, since the very severity of the law must be used to bring people to ask forgiveness of those they have wronged. And there are so few that make restitution for the injuries they have done their neighbour, that if one were to judge by that, one would conclude that there is no such thing as injustice in the world. So very hardly are people brought to take shame to themselves, or own they have done wickedly.
Now, it concerns you to consider this, and see whether you can resolve to submit to the way which God has prescribed His faithful servants to walk in; whether you will humble yourselves so far as to ask pardon of any you shall have justly offended; whether you will restore what you have taken by fraud, or craft, or violence. If you cannot resolve to do so, if ever you should be so unhappy as to fall into such sins, it will be to no purpose for you to profess yourselves Christians, for that name will not save you in that day when God will render to every man according to his works done in the body, whether they have been good or evil.
The Apostle St. Paul positively tells us, that “whom the Heb. 12. 6. Lord loveth le chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” You see what you must expect, if you resolve to become children of God. He will try your obedience, whether you will love, honour, and trust in Him, as well when He frowns as when He smiles upon you? Well then, pray consider, how you will behave yourselves, when God shall visit you by pains or sickness of body, by loss of goods, by loss of children or friends, by suffering wicked people to oppress, to backbite, to slander, to reproach you.
I must tell you beforehand, that you will be apt to repine and be angry that God suffers such evils to befall you. And the devil will be very busy to tempt you to think that you are very hardly dealt with.
On the other hand, God has assured us, that these are very often the effects of His love, and always so to His children. That they are designed either to punish us for what is past, that suffering in this world, we may escape the judgments of God in another life; or they are to wean us from being too fond of a world which we must very soon part from; or lastly, they are to cure us of some vices to which we are too much inclined. But let what will be the reason of our sufferings, this we may be sure of, that they are by the appointment of God or by His permission, and for our good, if we please.
Now, it is your wisdom to consider, what you will do when God visits you? If you can piously resolve with Jesus Christ, to say, "Not my will, but Thine be done;" with St. (Luke 22.
42; Acts Paul, “ The will of the Lord be done;" or with good old Eli, 21:14; “It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good;" then
18.] are you well prepared to be a Christian indeed. But if
you cannot yet think of submitting your will to the will of God, I would by no means have you profess yourself a Christian.
“The works of the flesh" (the Scripture tells us) "are Gal. 5. 19, manifest:" that is, they are easily perceived to be contrary to God's will; “such are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time
SERM. past," saith the Apostle, “that they which do such things LXXXIII.
shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
I need not tell you, that you are by nature liable to every abomination here mentioned, any one of which is enough to keep you out of heaven, if you live and die in it unrepented of. I need not tell you that you will be tempted to most of these sins; for you have an enemy within you, which will be always soliciting you to please its desires. But this I must tell you, that if you hope to escape, you must now resolve what to do, that when you are tempted you may be able to bear up against it.
You must resolve then to avoid all temptations to these sins as much as may be; and where you cannot avoid the temptation, you must resolve to overcome it, by calling upon God for help, and using such means, as your spiritual guide shall direct you to. You must resolve upon this now; or else it is to no purpose to say that you purpose to lead a Christian life.
And if through carelessness, presumption, violent temptations, or the like, you happen to fall into any of these sins before named, you must resolve, by God's grace, immediately to repent and forsake it, lest you grow hardened, and careless of your soul, and drive the Spirit of God from you; for then you can never repent, never be forgiven.
Lastly; if it shall please God to give you a sense of your miscarriages, and your sins have been such as have given an offence to the Church of God; do you resolve to give glory to God in a free confession of your sins, and after such a way as the Church and ministers of Christ's kingdom here on earth shall appoint ?
It is necessary that you should consider this, and be resolved what you will do in such a case; for as on the one hand shame will be apt to make you endeavour to avoid such an open acknowledgment; (the unthinking world may be apt to persuade you that such a formality is not necessary, and the profane world will be apt to laugh at you ;) so on the other hand, you must know, that whoever despiseth the wholesome orders of the ministers of Christ, despiseth Christ Himself, and God that sent Him.
Here then will be the trial of your obedience, and you