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6. Consider, that this is the only way and means to enable you unto obedience, and to render what you do therein acceptable unto God. It

may
be that some of

you are under the power of convictions, and have made engagements unto God to live unto him, to keep yourselves from sin, and to follow after holiness. It may be you have done so in affic- . tions, dangers, sicknesses, or upon receipt of mercies; but yet you find that you cannot come unto stability or constancy in your course; you break with God and your own souls, which fills you with new disquietments, or else hardens you and makes you secure and negligent; so that you return unto your purposes no oftener than your convictions or afflictions befall you anew. This condition is ruinous and pernicious, which nothing can deliver you from, but this closing with forgiveness. For,

1. All that you do without this, however it may please your minds or ease your consciences, is not at all accepted with God. Urless this foundation be laid, all that you do is lost. All

All your prayers, all your duties all your amendments are an abomination unto the Lord. Until

peace

is made with him, they are but the acts of enemies, which he despiseth and abhorreth. You run it may be earnestly, but you run out of the way: you strive, but not lawfully, and shall never receive the crown. True gospel obedience is the fruit of the faith of forgiveness. Whatever you do without it, is but a building without a foundation, a castle in the air. You may see the order of gospel obedience, Eph. ii. 7– 10. The foundation must be laid in grace; riches of grace by Christ, in the free pardon and forgiveness of sin. From hence must the works of obedience proceed, if you would have them to be of God's appointment, or find acceptance with him. Without this God will say of all your services, worship, obedience, as he did to the Israelies of old, Amos v. 21–25. I despise all, reject it all; it is not to him, nor to his glory. Now if you are under convictions of any sort, there is nothing you more value, nothing you more place your confidence in, than your duties; your repentance, your amendment, what you do, and what in good time

will be. Is it nothing unto you to lose all your hopes, and all your expectations which you have from hence ? To have no other reception with God, than if all this while you

you

had been wallowing in your sins and lusts? Yet thus it is with you, if you have not begun with God on his own terms, if you have not received the atonement in the blood of his Son, if you are not made partakers of forgiveness, if your persons are not pardoned, all your duties are accursed.

2. This alone will give you such motives and encouragements unto obedience, as will give you life, alacrity, and delight in it. You perform duties, abstain from sins, but with heaviness, fear, and in bondage. Could you do as well without them as with them, would conscience be quiet, and hope of eternity hold out, you would omit them for ever. This makes all your obedience burdensome, and you cry out in your thoughts with him in the prophet, ' behold what a weariness it is! the service of God is the only drudgery of your lives, which you dare not omit, and delight not to perform. From this wretched and cursed frame, there is nothing can deliver you, but this closing with forgiveness. This will give you such motives, such encouragements, as will greatly influence your hearts and souls. It will give you freedom, liberty, delight, and cheerfulness, in all duties of gospel obedience. You will find a constraining power in the love of Christ therein; a freedom from bondage, when the Son truly hath made you free. Faith and love will work genuinely and naturally in your spirits; and that which was your greatest burden, will become your chiefest joy : 2 Cor.vii. 1. Thoughts of the love of God, of the blood of Christ, or the covenant of grace, and sense of pardon in them, will enlarge your hearts and sweeten all your duties. You will find a new life, a new pleasure, a new satisfaction, in all that you do. Have you yet ever understood that of the wise man, Prov. iii. 17. • The ways of wisdom are pleasantness, and her paths are peace?' Have the ways of holiness, of obedience, of duties been so unto you? Whatever you pretend, they are not, they cannot be so, whilst you are strangers unto that which alone can render them so unto you. I speak unto them that are under the law; would you be free from that bondage, that galling yoke in duties of obedience? Would you have all that you do towards God, a delight and pleasantness unto you? This, and this alone, will effect it for you.

3. This will place all your obedience upon a sure foot of account in your own souls and consciences; even the same

that is fixed on in the gospel. For the present, all that you do is indeed but to compound with God for your sin; you hope by what you do for him, and to him, to buy off what you have done against him; that you may not fall into the hands of his wrath and vengeance. This makes all you do to be irksome. As a man that labours all his days to pay an old debt, and brings in nothing to lay up for himself, how tedious and wearisome is his work and labour to him. It is odds but that at one time or other, he will give over, and and run away from his creditor. So it is in this case; men who have secret reserves of recompensing God by their obedience, every day find their debt growing upon them; and have every day less hopes of making a satisfactory payment. This makes them weary, and for the most part they faint under their discouragements, and at length they fly wholly from God. This way alone will state things otherwise in your consciences; it will give you to see, that all your debts are paid by Christ, and freely forgiven unto you by God. So that what you do is of gratitude or thankfulness, hath an influence into eternity, leads to the glory of God, the honour of Christ in the gospel, and your own comfortable account at the last day. This encourageth the soul to labour, to trade, to endeavour; all things now looking forward, and unto his advantage.

4. Find you not in yourselves an impotency, a disability unto the duties of obedience, as to their performance unto God in an acceptable manner ? it may be you are not so sensible hereof as you ought to be. For respecting only or principally the outward part and performance of duties, you have not experience of your own weakness. How to enliven and fill up duties with faith, love, and delight, you know not; and are therefore unacquainted with your own insufficiency in this matter; yet if you have any light, any convictions (and to such I speak at present), you cannot but perceive and understand, that you are not able in your obedience to answer what you aim at; you have not strength or power for it. Now it is this faith of forgiveness alone that will furnish you with the ability, whereof you stand in need. Pardon comes not to the soul alone; or rather, Christ comes not to the soul with pardon only; it is that which he opens the door and enters by; but he comes with a Spirit of life and power. And as 'without him we can do nothing,' so through his enabling us, we may do all things.' Receiving of gospel forgiveness engageth all the grace of the gospel unto our assistance.

This is the sum of what hath been spoken; the obedience that you perform under your convictions is burdensome and unpleasant unto you; it is altogether unacceptable to God. You lose all you do, and all that you hope to do hereafter, if the foundation be not laid in the receiving of pardon in the blood of Christ. It is high time to cast down all that vain and imaginary fabric which you have been erecting, and to go about the laying of a new foundation, which you may safely and cheerfully build upon; a building that will abide for ever.

Again, It is such a way, so excellent, so precious, so near the heart of God, so relating to the blood of Christ, that the neglect of it will assuredly be sorely revenged of the Lord. Let not men think that they shall despise the wisdom and love of the Father, the blood of the Son, and the promises of the gospel, at an easy rate. Let us in a very few words take a view of what the Holy Ghost speaks to this purpose. There are three ways whereby the vengeance due to the neglect of closing with forgiveness or gospel grace is expressed.

1. That is done positively : 'he that believeth not shall be damned ;' Mark xvi. 16. That is a hard word ; many men cannot endure to hear of it. They would not have it named by their good wills, and are ready to fly in the face of him from whose mouth it proceeds. But let not men deceive themselves; this is the softest word that mercy and love itself, that Christ, that the gospel speaks to despisers of forgiveness. It is Christ who is this legal terrifying preacher; it is he that cries out, If you believe not, you shall be damned; and will come himself. in flaming fire to take vengeance of them that obey not the gospel;' 2 Thess. ii. 8. This is the end of the disobedient; if God, if Christ, if the gospel may be believed.

2. Comparatively, in reference unto the vengeance due to the breach of the law; 2 Cor. ii. 16. We are in the preaching of forgiveness by Christ, unto them that perish,‘a savour of death unto death,' a deep death, a sore condemnation; so Heb. x. 29. Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall - he be thought worthy :' sorer than ever was threatened by the law, or inflicted for the breach of it; not as to the kind of punishment, but as to the degrees of it; hence ariseth the addition of many stripes.'

3. By the way of admiration at the inexpressibleness, and unavoidableness of the punishment due unto such sinners. Heb. ii. 3. ·How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ?' Surely there is no way for men to escape, they shall unavoidably perish who neglect so great salvation. So the Holy Ghost says, 1 Pet. iv. 11. "What shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel ?' What understanding can reach to an apprehension of their miserable and woful condition ? None can, saith the Holy Ghost; nor can it be spoken to their capacity; ah! what shall their end be? There remains nothing, but a 'certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation that shall consume the adversaries;' Heb. x. 27. 'A certain fearful expectation of astonishable things that cannot be comprehended.

And these are the enforcements of the exhortation in hand, which I shall insist upon. On these foundations, on the consideration of these principles, let us now a little confer together with the words of truth and sobriety. I speak to such poor souls, as having deceived themselves, or neglected utterly their eternal condition, are not as yet really and in truth, made partakers of this forgiveness. Your present state is sad and deplorable. There is nothing but the woful uncertainty of a dying life between you and eternal ruin. That persuasion you have of forgiveness, is good for nothing but to harden you, and destroy you. It is not the forgiveness that is with God. Nor have you taken it up on gospel grounds or evidences. You have stolen painted beads, and take yourselves to be lawful possessors of pearls and jewels. As you are then any way concerned in your own eternal condition, which you are entering into (and how soon you shall be engaged in it you know not), prevail with yourselves to attend a little unto the exhortation that lies before you; it is your own business that you are entreated to have regard unto.

1. Consider seriously what it is you bottom your hopes and expectation upon as to eternity. “Great men, and in other things wise, are here very apt to deceive themselves. They suppose they think and believe much otherwise than

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