« AnteriorContinuar »
incorruptible seed within him that shall never die. Indeed, true grace is of itself immortal; but it is from that engagement, that God hath laid upon himself to preserve it in those, who are diligent in the use of those means, by which it may be maintained. But an unregenerate man is left wholly to his own power, to preserve him in that station, in which he shines : and, if the angels themselves and Adam fell from their first estate, merely through the mutability of their own will, who had power to continue in it, how much more certainly then will these carnal professors fall from their high pitch, who have less power to enable them to stand, and greater power against them to cast them down !
To aggravate the exceeding great folly and apostacy of these elevated break-neck professors, see that most dreadful place, 2 Pet. ii. 21. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. Is not the wrath of God certainly to be revealed against all those, who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of the Lord Jesus? It is better never to have known the Gospel, and never to have gone a step in the ways of God, than afterwards wilfully to desert them and apostatize from them. : 1. The fall and apostacy of those, who are great and eminent professors, carries much of malice and wilfulness in it, which is the highest rank that can be in any sin.
If there be any in the world, that commit the unpardonable · sin against the Holy Ghost, it must be these men. There is,
indeed, a great difference between sinning willingly and sinning wilfully: profane, carnal men sin willingly; but none, but those who have been forward professors in the ways of God, and have utterly deserted those ways, can sin maliciously, and merely because they will provoke and offend God by their sins. See what the Apostle saith of such, Heb. &. 26, 27. For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins : but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, &c. Heb. vi. 455,6. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, &c. This is the first aggrayation of their sin and misery.
And it is obse
and revilers were notoriously wicked
2. When elevated and eminent professors fall away, they usually fall lower than they were before, when they took their first rise towards Christianity and true religion.
Falling away from a profession, is like the falling down from a steep precipice; where they can have nothing to stop them till they come to the very bottom. And it is observed, that none prove more notoriously wicked, and more desperate haters and revilers of the ways of God, than apostate professors.
(1) God doth judicially give them up to commit'all manner of sin with greediness. See that black catalogue of the foulest sins that can be imagined, Rom. i. from 21 to 30. The Apostle speaks there concerning the heathen; but the case is parallel with our carnal professors, who do not like to retain God in their knowledge: therefore, God gives them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient, &c.
(2) The Devil takes possession of such men, with stronger power and force than ever; (as the unclean spirit re-entered with seven spirits worse than himself, Luke xi. 26.) to secure that soul, that hath been so likely to revolt from him; and therefore no wonder Christ saith, the last state of that man is worse than the first. So that these eminent professors, when they fall away, usually fall lower than they ever were, before their first rise and motion towards religion.
- (3) Unregenerate persons not only fall lower, but they seldom return to make a profession of their deserted religion: it is im. possible to renew such a one to repentance again.
Now how should these sad and dreadful considerations make every one of us to do our utmost that we are able, to get true and saving grace, if we rest any where short of it! When the winds of temptation tempestuously beat, and the floods of trial, affliction, or persecution rush in upon us, we shall fall, because we have no foundation, but have built merely upon the sands. If you stand not built upon the corner-stone, you will fall of yourselves; yea, that stone will fall upon you, and crush and grind you to powder. Nay, you fall off from a steep and slippery precipice, where there is nothing at all to stop, nothing to receive you but sin after sin; and thus you rebound from one wickedness to another, till at last you be plunged irrecoverably into that lake, which burns with fire and brimstone.
And this is the Fourth Consideration ; discovering the folly
and misery of those, that go far towards Christianity, and yet fall short.
v. THOUGH THESE PROFESSORS MAY HOVER BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH IN THEIR LIVES, YET THEY SHALL NOT HOVER BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL IN THEIR DEATHS.
No: the half Christian shall be as infallibly and as certainly cast into hell, as those who were altogether wicked. Here, it may be, thou art neither godly nor profane; but, hereafter, thou must be either saved or damned. There is none, as the Papists picture Erasmus, that hang between heaven and hell. Whoever thou art, thou must be either in a state of nature or of grace; and, accordingly, shall thy estate then be for ever, either a state of salvation among the saints, or else a state of damnation with the unregenerate. Though thou art never so lofty and sublime a professor, yet the same hell, that holds the profane, must eternally hereafter hold thee too, if, through thine own wilful negligence, thou stop any where short of true grace. If the Almost Christians could, by their glittering profession, gain a cooler hell; if they could get, I say, but a cooler place in hell: if their profession could gain you this; if it could procure you purgatory for venial sins, or the moderate punishment which the Papists call Limbus Patrum, then you had some show of reason to rest where you are: but, when the same hell and the same everlasting fire must be the portion of those, who have proceeded so far, and yet fall short; as well as the portion of the vilest wretch, whom they have now as far exceeded in goodness, as the holiest saint alive exceeds them; it is the very height of folly and madness, to sit down any where short of true grace, unless they are fully resolved to sit down no where short of hell.
vi. It will be the insupportable aggravation of these men's just and everlasting condemnation, for them to lie grating upon this sad reflection in hell, THAT ONCE THEY WERE NEAR TO HEAVEN, BUT LOST IT THROUGH THEIR OWN WILFUL DETAULT.
It will be the aggravation, I say, of these men's just and everlasting condemnation, to make this doleful and furious refection upon themselves in hell, that once they were in a very hopeful state, that they were once near to heaven, but lost it through their own wilful default. When they shall lie in hell, and from thence give a sad and ghastly look up to the glory of the saints in heaven, oh how will it pierce their souls to think, that they were once near to that blessed estate, though now there be an infinite and unpassable gulf between them and that blessed inheritance, which the saints enjoy in heaven! Thus will they reflect upon themselves : “ Though now there be an unpassable gulf between me and heaven; yet, once, there was but a step or two that parted us. Had I mortified but one lust more, had I opposed one temptation more, had I put up but one fervent prayer more; possibly, I might now have been in heaven : but, O my cursed, cursed folly, when I was at the very gate and threshold of heaven, that even then I should stop; and, after the relinquishment of my lusts, and after all my progress in the ways of holiness, to return again to the commission of those sins, in which I had formerly lived; when I had already gone through the hardest and most difficult part of religion, then to break off my course! what is this, but procuring for myself this damnation, which I now suffer, and must suffer for ever? Oh, that light, that once I enjoyed, how it thickens this everlasting darkness! Oh, those tastes that I once had of the powers of the world to come, and relished so much sweetness in, how do they now embitter this cup of fury and trembling, that I must for ever drink of! Oh, those heavenly gifts, that once I had, do now' but increase these 'hellish torments; and the sight of heaven, which I have had, now discovers to me what I have lost; nay, what I have wilfully thrown away through mine own sloth and negligence. Oh, how strange is mine apostacy! after I had gone so great a way towards Christianity, rather than I would move one step further, I chose to lie here in this hell for ever burning and consuming !" Oh, what sad and tormenting thoughts will these be! how will they fret and gnaw the souls of those wretches, with eternal anguish and insupportable torments !
Thus you have seen, in these particulars, somewhat discovered to you of the desperate folly and madness, and misery also, that men are guilty of, that do proceed so far as to be almost, and . yet will not be persuaded to be altogether Christians.