« AnteriorContinuar »
I begin with a use of reproof ; a reproof of three things :
I. If it be as we have heard, how greatly do these things reprove those who do not believe in, but reject the Lord Jesus Christ ! i. e., all those who do not beartily receive him. Persons may receive him in profession, and carry well outwardly towards hiin, and may wish that they had some of those benefits that Christ has purchased, and yet their hearts not receive Christ : they may be hearty in nothing that they do towards Christ; they may have no high esteem of Christ, nor any sincere honor or respect to Christ;, they may never have opened the door of their heart to Christ, but have kept him shut out all their days, ever since they first heard of him, and his salvation has been offered: to them. Though their hearts have been opened to others, their doors have been flung wide open to thein, and they have had free admittance at all times, and have been embraced and made much of, and the best room in their hearts has been given them, and the throne of their hearts has been allowed them; yet Christ has always been shut out, and they have been deaf to all his knocks and calls. They never could find an inclination of heart to receive him, nor would they ever trust in him.
Let me now call upon you with whom it is thus, to consider how great your sin, in thus rejecting Jesus Christ, appears to be from those things that have been said. You slight the glorious person, for whose coming God made such great preparation in such a series of wonderful providences from the beginning of the world, and whom, after all things were made ready, God sent into the world, bringing to pass a thing before unknown, viz., the union of the divine nature with the human, in one person. You have been guilty of slighting that great Saviour, who after such preparation, actually accomplished the purchase of redemption ; and who, after he had spent three or four and thirty years in poverty, labor, and contempt, in purchasing redemption, at last finished the purchase by closing his life under such extreme sufferings as you have heard; and so by his death, and continuing for a time under the power of death, completed the whole. This is the person you reject and despise. You make light of all the glory of his person, and of all the glorious love of God the Father, in sending him into the world, and all his wonderful love appearing in the whole of this affair. That precious stone that God hath laid in Zion for a foundation in such a manner, and by such wonderful works as you have heard, is a stone set at nought by you.
Sinners sometimes are ready to wonder why the sin of unbelief should be looked upon as such a great sin : but if you consider what you have heard, how can you wonder ? If it be so, that this Saviour is so great a Saviour, and this work so great a work, and such great things have been done in order to it, truly there is no cause of wonder that the sin of unbelief, or the rejection of this Saviour, is spoken of in Scripture as such a dreadful sin, so provoking to God, and what brings greater guilt than the sins of the worst of the Heathen,
who never heard of those things, nor have had this Saviour offered to them. 1344II. What has been said, affords matter of reproof to those, who, instead of · believing in Christ, trust in themselves for salvation. It is a common thing VOL. )
with men to take it upon themselves to purchase salvation for themselves, and so to do that great work which Christ came into the world to do. Are there none such here who trust in their prayers, and their good conversations, and the pains they take in religion, and the reformation of their lives, and in their selfdenial, to recommend them to God, to make some atonement for their past sins, and to draw the heart of God to them?
Consider three things:
1. How great a thing that is which you take upon you.—You take upon you to do the work of the great Saviour of the world. You trust in your own doings to appease God for your sins, and to incline the heart of God to you. Though you are poor, worthless, vile, polluted worms of the dust ; yet so arrogant are you, that you take upon you that very work that the only begotten Son of God did when upon earth, and that he became man to capacitate himself for, and in order to which God spent four thousand years in all the great dispensations of his providence in the government of the world, aiming chiefly at this, to make way for Christ's coming to do this work. This is the work that you take upon yourself, and foolishly think yourself sufficient for it; as though your prayers, and other performances, were excellent enough for this purpose. Consider how vain is the thought which you entertain of yourself. How must such arrogance appear in the sight of Christ, whom it cost so much to make a purchase of salvation, when it was not to be obtained even by him, so great and glorious a person, at a cheaper rate than his wading through a sea of blood, and passing through the midst of the furnace of God's wrath. And how vain must your arrogance appear in the sight of God, when he sees you imagining yourself sufficient, and your worthless, polluted performances excellent enough for the accomplishing of that work of his own Son, to prepare the. way for which he was employed in ordering all the great affairs of the world for so many ages! i
2. If there be ground for you to trust, as you do, in your own righteousness, then all that Christ did to purchase salvation when on earth, and all that God did from the first fall of man to that time to prepare the way for it, is in vain. Your self-righteousness charges God with the greatest folly, as though he has done all things in vain, even so much in vain, that he has done all this to bring about an accomplishment of that which you alone, a little worm, with your poor polluted prayers, and the little pains you take in religion, mingled with all that hypocrisy and filthiness, are sufficient to accomplish for yourself without Christ's help. For if you can appease God's anger, and can commend yourself to God by these means, then you have no need of Christ; but he is dead in vain : Gal. ii. 21, “ If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
If you can do this by your prayers and good works, Christ might have spared his pains, he might have spared his blood : he might have kept within the bosom of bis Father, withoạt coming down into this evil world to be despised, reproached, and persecuted to death; and God needed not to have busied himself, as he did for four thousand years together, causing so many changes in the state of the world all that while, in order to the bringing about that which you, as little as you are, can accomplish in a few days, only with the trouble of a few sighs, and groans, and prayers, and some other religious perforınances. Consider with yourself what greater folly could you have devised to charge upon God than this, to do all those things before and after Christ came into the world so needlessly; when, instead of all this he might only have called you forth, and committed the business to you, which you think you can do so easily.
Alas! How blind are natural men! How sottish are the thoughts they bave of things! And especially how vain are the thoughts which they have of themselves! How ignorant of their own littleness and pollution ! How do they exalt themselves, up to heaven! What great things do they assume to themselves !
3. You that trust to your own righteousness, arrogate to yourselves the honor of the greatest thing that ever God himself did; not only as if you were suflicient to perform divine works, and to accomplish some of the great works of God; but such is your pride and vanity, that you are not content without taking upon you to do the very greatest work that ever God himself wrought, even the work of redemption.—You see by what has been said, how God has subordinated all his other works to this work of redemption. You see how God's works of providence are greater than his works of creation, and that all God's works of providence, from the beginning of the generations of men, were in order to this, to make way for the purchasing of redemption. But this is what you take upon yourself. To take on yourself to work out redemption, is a greater thing than if you had taken it upon you to create a world. Consider with yourself what a figure you, a poor worm, would make, if you should seriously go about to create such a world as God did, should swell in your own conceit of yourself, should deck yourself with majesty, pretend to speak the word of power, and call a universe out of nothing, intending to go on in order, and say, “Let there be light: Let there be a firmament,” &c. But then consider, that in attempting to work out redemption yourself, you attempt a greater thing than this, and are serious in it, and will not be beat off from it; but strive in it, and are full of the thought of yourself that you are sufficient for it, and always big with hopes of accomplishing it.
You take upon you to do the very greatest and most difficult part of this work, viz., to purchase redemption. Christ can accomplish other parts of this work without cost, without any trouble and difficulty : but this part cost him his life, as well as innumerable pains and labors, with very great ignominy and contempt besides. Yet this is that part which self-righteous persons go about to accomplish for themselves. If all the angels in heaven had been sufficient for this work, would God have set himself to effect such things as he did in order to it, before he sent his Son into the world ? And would he ever have sent his own Son, the great Creator and God of the angels, into the world, to have done and suffered such things?
What self-righteous persons takes to themselves, is the same work that Christ was engaged in when he was in his agony and bloody sweat, and when he died on the cross, which was the greatest thing that ever the eyes of angels beheld. This, as great as it is, they imagine they can do the same that Christ accomplished by it. Their self-righteousness does in effect charge Christ's of. fering up himself in these sufferings, as the greatest instance of folly that ever men or angels saw, instead of being the most glorious display of the divine wisdom and grace that ever was seen. Yea, self-righteousness makes all that Christ did through the whole course of his life, and all that he said and suffered through that whole time, and his incarnation itself, and not only so, but all that God had been doing in the great dispensations of his providence from the beginning of the world to that time, as all nothing, but a scene of the most wild, and extreme, and transcendent folly.
Is it any wonder then that a self-righteous spirit is so represented in Scripture, and spoken of, as that which is most fatal to the souls of men ? And is it any wonder, that Christ is represented in Scripture as being so provoked with the Pharisees and others, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and were proud of their goodness, and thought that their own performances were a valuable price of God's favor and love ?
Let persons hence be warned against a self-righteous spirit. You that are seeking your salvation, and taking pains in religion, take heed to yourselves that you do not trust in what you do; that you do not harbor any such thoughts that God now, seeing how much you are reformed, how you take pains in reli gion, and how you are sometimes affected, will be pacified towards you with respect to your sins, and on account of it will not be so angry for your former sins; and that you shall gain on him by such things, and draw his heart to show you mercy; or at least that God ought to accept of what you do, so as to be inclined by it in some measure to forgive you, and have mercy on you. If you entertain this thought, that God is obliged to do it, and does not act justly if he refuse to regard your prayers and pains, and so quarrel with God, and complain of him for not doing, this shows what your opinion is of your own righteousness, viz., that it is a valuable price of salvation, and ought to be accepted of God as such. Such complaining of God and quarrelling with him, for not taking more notice of your righteousness, plainly shows that you are guilty of all that arrogance that has been spoken of, thinking yourself sufficient to offer the price of your own salvation.
İII. What has been said on this subject, affords matter of reproof to those who carelessly neglect the salvation of Christ ; such as live a senseless kind of life, neglecting the business of religion and their own souls for the present, not taking any course to get an interest in Christ, or what he has done and suffered, or any part in that glorious salvation he has purchased by that price, but rather have their minds taken up about the gains of the world, or about the vanities and pleasures of youth, and so make light of what they hear from time to time of Christ's salvation, that they do not at present so much as seek after it. Let me here apply myself to you in some expostulatory interrogations.
1. Shall so many prophets, and kings, and righteous men, have their minds so much taken up with the prospect, that the purchase of salvation was to be wrought out in agés long after their death; and will you neglect it when actually accomplished? You have heard what great account the church in all ages made of the future redemption of Christ ; how joyfully they expected it, how they spoke of it, how they studied and searched into these things, how they sung joyful songs, and had their hearts greatly engaged about it, and yet never expected to see it done, and did not expect that it would be accomplished till many ages after their death, 1 Pet. i. 10, 11, 12. How much did Isaiah and Daniel, and other prophets speak concerning this redemption! And how much were their hearts engaged, and their attention and study fixed upon it! How was David's mind taken up in this subject! He declared that it was all his salvation, and all his desire, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. How did he employ his voice and harp in celebrating it, and the glorious display of divine grace therein exhibited! And all this although they beheld it not as yet accomplished, but saw that it was to be brought to pass so long a time after their day. And before this, how did Abraham and the other patriarchs rejoice in the prospect of Christ's day, and the redemption which he was to purchase! And even the saints before the flood were affected and elated in the expectation of this glorious event, though it was then so long future, and it was so very faintly and obscurely revealed to them.
Now these things are declared to you as actually fulfilled. The church now has seen accomplished all those great things which they so joyfully pro
phesied of; and you are abundantly shown how those things were accomplished : Matt. xiii. 17, “ Verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” And yet when these things are thus abundantly set before you as already accomplished, how do you slight them! How light do you make of them ! How little are they taken notice of by you! How unconcerned are you about them, following other things, and not so much as feeling any interest in them! Indeed your sin is extremely aggravated in the sight of God. God has put you under great advantages for your eternal salvation, far greater than those saints of old enjoyed. He has put you under a more glorious dispensation; has given you a more clear revelation of Christ and his salvation; and yet you neglect all these advantages, and go on in a careless course of life, as though nothing had been done, no such proposals and offers had been made you.
2. Have the angels been so engaged about this salvation which is by Christ ever since the fall of man, though they are not immediately concerned in it, and will you, who need it, and have it offered to you, be so careless about it? You have heard how the angels at first were subjected to Christ as mediator, and how they have all along been ministering spirits to him in this affair. in all the great dispensations which you have heard of from the beginning of the world, they have been active, and as a flame of fire in this affair, being most diligently employed as ministering spirits to minister to Christ in this great affair of man's redemption. And when Christ came, how engaged were their minds! They came to Zacharias, to inform him of the coming of Christ's forerunner. They came to the Virgin Mary, to inform her of the approaching birth of Christ: they came to Joseph, to warn him of the danger which threatened the new-born Saviour, and to point out to him the means of safety. And how were their minds engaged at the time of the birth of Christ! The whole multitude of the heavenly host sang praises upon the occasion, saying, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will towards men.” And afterwards, from time to time, they ministered to Christ when on earth; they did so at the time of his temptation, at the time of his agony in the garden, at his resurrection, and at his ascension. All these things show, that they were greatly engaged in this affair; and the Scripture informs us, that they pry into these things: 1 Pet. i. 12, “ Which things the angels desire to look into.” And how are they represented in the Revelation as being employed in heaven in singing praises to him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb! Now shall these take so much notice of this redemption, and of the purchaser, who need it not for themselves, and have no immediate concern or interest in it, or offer of it; and will you, to whom it is offered, and who are in such extreme necessity of it, neglect and take no notice of it?
3. Was it worth the while for Christ to labor so hard, and do and suffer so much to procure this salvation, and is it not worth the while for you to be at some labor in seeking it? Was it a thing of so great importance, that salvation should be procured for sinners, as that it was worthy to lie with such weight on the mind of Christ, as to induce him to become man, and to suffer stich contempt, and labor, and even death itself, in order to procure it, though he stood in need of nothing, though he was like to gain no addition to his eternal happiness, though he could get nothing by those that he saved ; though he did not need them; was it of such importance that sinners should be saved, that he might properly be induced to submit to such humiliation and suffering ; and yet is it not worth the while for you, who are one of those mis