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SERM. You that have lived in the fear of God the greatest part of LXXXVI.
your lives, may, from what has been said, learn to whom it is you owe that comfort and blessing, even to the good Spirit of God, which has constantly watched over you for good.
You that have been in the ways of vice, and are by the Spirit of God reclaimed, you will observe what steps they were which led you into error, and how to please that Spirit, which alone, dwelling in you, can preserve you from falling into sin again.
And you also that are yet unreformed, may see what a condition you are in, and how hazardous your circumstances
To conclude: both young and old are concerned in these following inferences, which necessarily follow from what has been said.
First ; that no person will continue at one certain pitch of wickedness, but either he must reform and be growing better, or he will still grow more vicious and depraved, while God suffers him to live. The reason is this: we none of us act purely of ourselves; but all mankind are governed either by the Spirit of God, or by the power of the devil. Which ever of these two directs us, they will not suffer us to be idle. So long as the Spirit of God continues to rule in our hearts, we shall go from strength to strength, as the Psalmist speaks, till we become perfect, and out of the power of hell to touch us; and if we grieve the Holy Spirit, and force Him away, then the Spirit of darkness will not suffer us to be idle, but will find work enough to bring us to himself. For not only one ill habit begets another, but the more a man sins, the less capable he still makes himself of seeing what will be the end of his ways; and the motions and workings of God's Spirit have still less power upon him, till God quite forsakes him, till he fills up the measure of his iniquities, and till he meets with destruction.
And this brings us to a second observation, which is, that no man can be secure of himself who will continue in the practice of any known sin; nor can he be sure but that in time he shall fall into the most abominable wickedness. No man can at first bring himself to do such ill things, as by degrees he will make easy to his mind and practice. Consider
but the life of Solomon, as it is recorded in Scripture, the first part of which was so different from the last. What followed his strange depravity, you all learn from God's Word : his kingdom was divided, and a curse of ill manners entailed upon his posterity, which ended in the destruction of his kingdom.
It may just so happen to every man living who knowingly and wilfully allows himself in any one thing which God and nature have made a vice; and there can be no security for any man, until he has, by the grace of God, so far gained upon himself as to be willing and content to hear the voice of God within him, and resolve to be what God and his conscience tell him he should be.
At the very moment of our creation, God designed to govern us by His Spirit; for He made us creatures capable of going astray, and for that reason it was agreeable to His goodness to direct us Himself; and direct us He will, till by our wilful sins we become too wicked for such a guide.
Lastly; God does never withdraw His Spirit from us while we continue fit for such a mercy, that is, while there are any hopes (and God knows it very well) whether His grace shall not still be abused and despised. The truth and goodness of God give us all the assurance imaginable of this; and every man's experience may satisfy him, that God leaves no methods untried, which may become a merciful Father, and just Creator, in order to bring His children and creatures to their duty and happiness.
But though a man may, from the good motions of God's Spirit, hope that he is still within the care of God; that God hath not yet given him up to a reprobate mind; yet he ought not to conclude, that therefore he may still go on in wickedness, and still hope that the same infinite love will evermore save him from ruin. For it is true, God doth wonderfully prevent us, and with great long-suffering bear with His creatures, while there is any hope of a reformation. But when that is over, when we have grieved the Spirit of God too long, and wearied His patience, then followeth the sad state—to be forsaken of God, and given over to a reprobate mind. The conclusion of the whole will be this : that nothing
SERM. but the preserving in your minds a sense and fear of God, LXXXVI.
can secure you from the foulest vices, from the crafts and assaults of the devil, from God's wrath, and from everlasting damnation.
As then we heartily pray to be delivered from these, we are bound to take great heed unto our ways, that we grieve not the good Spirit of God, and force Him to leave us to be governed by our own reason and choices.
May that good Spirit defend us all by His heavenly grace, that we may continue His servants unto our lives end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
PREACHED AT AN ORDINATION.
OUR SAVIOUR'S CONCERN FOR THE COMMON PEOPLE, A PATTERN FOR HIS FOLLOWERS, AND ESPECIALLY FOR MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL.
Mart. ix. 36-38.
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto His disciples, the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.
When the Son of God is moved with compassion, to be sure it is not without cause. And yet we find by experience, (such is our ignorance and the corruption of our nature,) that that very sight, which caused compassion in Him, is too often amongst men an occasion of contempt and disregard.
He could not behold the multitude but with concern and pity, and an earnest desire of having their case and misfortunes considered, and taken care of. While the generality of men (who by the providence of God are raised above the common people) are too apt to think the common people not worth so much concern as Jesus Christ would have bestowed
Without doubt then it must be for want of knowing, and being thoroughly convinced of, the danger the generality of the world is in, that we are not all more affected with their wants and sufferings.
For, verily, the condition of all people, who live without God in the world, is so forlorn and miserable, that if it were but well considered, what hazard they run, and what hapSERM. piness they are like to lose, for want of using their best en. LXXXVII.
deavours to attain it, we could not choose but be moved with compassion, (as our blessed Saviour was,) and strive, at least pray, with all our hearts, that God would raise up men to help them; that He would send forth labourers into His harvest, that He would dispose and fit men with qualifications to instruct the people in the ways of truth and right
Now, that what I am going to say to you may be more edifying, we shall consider, more particularly,
First; the occasion of our Saviour's great concern.
Secondly; we shall see whether the same reasons for concern are not even now to be found amongst us? If so, then,
Thirdly; we shall have equal reason to be affected with pity and compassion, and cheerfully undertake the relief of such as are committed to our care. And, on the other hand,
Fourthly; the multitude, for whom we shall have a? just compassion, will have reason to be very thankful for the concern we express towards them.
And these are the particulars which (by God's good blessing) I shall now explain to you.
I. And first, we shall consider the occasion of our Saviour's great concern and compassion. The text saith, it was “because they fainted,” or were tired and lay down, “and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd."
It is certain, that, to a mind thoroughly awakened, there is not a greater burden than the sense of that corruption of our nature which is every moment leading us into rebellion
against God. To know what is good, and not to be able to (2 Cor. 5. perform that good; to know that we must all appear before 10; Rom. 7, 23, 24.)
the judgment-seat of God, and at the same time to know that our lives and actions will not bear to be enquired into ; to see " a law in our members warring against the law of our minds, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin." This will make the stoutest heart cry out, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death ?”
And this was the very case of the multitude which our
Saviour beheld with compassion; and this was the reason (Rom. 7. of his concern :--They knew the law, and that the law was 12.]
holy, and the commandments holy, just, and good. They were