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THE WILFUL OBSTINACY OF IMPENITENT SINNERS.
PREACHED JULY 30, 1809.
" As for the word which thou hast spoken to us in the name of the
Lord, we will not hearken uuto ihee."* JEREMIAH XLIY. 16.
Under Johanan, the son of Kareah, the Jews Aed into the land of Egypt, contrary to the expostulations of the prophet Jeremiah, and dwelt in the country of Pathros. When they were there, he delivered his own soul of their blood, by faithfully setting before them their idolatry and impenitence, and clearly prophesying their utter destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power : declaring to them, that God would take this remnant of Judah, who had set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and cause them all to be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; that they should even be “ consumed by the sword, and by the famine; and that they should be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse,
and a reproach." You are, perhaps, ready to suppose, that when the mourning prophet had delivered this heavy burden of the word of the Lord, they, like the inhabitants of Nineveh, clothed themselves in sack
* During the vacation, Mr. Spencer preached at Dorking : on clos. ing his labors there, he repeated all the passages from which he had preached, and then announced this text. -Ed.
cloth and ashes, and cried mightily, saying, “ Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not ?" No such sentiments pervaded their minds; no such expressions dropped from their lips; and judge what hard hearts they must have possessed, when you hear that our text contains their impudent reply to the word of God by his servant. “ For all the men and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, As for the word which thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee. “ But," say they, will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth out of our own mouth;" and then they acquaint him with their decided determination to pursue their idolatrous and impious course, notwithstanding all that the prophets of the Lord could say against it. And since the unrenewed heart is still hard and impenitent; since the will of man, by nature, is obstinate and perverse ; and since the love of sin predominates in the hearts of the unregenerate ; mankind frequently pay no better attention to the messages of the heralds of salvation, than these deluded Jews did to the warnings of Jeremiah. Faithful ministers are frequently obliged to return to their closets with an aching heart, under the idea that many are saying in iheir hearts, and by their conduct, “ As for the words which thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee.” These words, then, lead me to show,—that it devolves upon ministers to address sinners in the name of the Lord,—and to point out the unpleasant reception with which their message often meets.
1. We will show, that it devolves on ministers to speak to sinners in the name of the Lord.
These impious Jews, in our text, mention the word which Jeremiah had spoken to them in the name of the Lord. We said, that it devolved on ministers to speak to sinners in the name of the Lord. Yes, brethren, to sinners. Foolish, and inconsistent with the tenor of Scripture and apostolic preaching, is the idea, that the people of God only are to be addressed from that awful place called a pulpit. The messengers of Christ have to alarm, exhort, and reprove : their embassy is calculated to interest those who are in the “ gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,” as well as those who have believed through grace. The watchman upon the walls of Zion are to endeavor to dissuade those who are without, from living and dying ignorant of the way of salvation, as well as to tell the church that “ her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, and that she shall receive of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." Those ministers who are held as stars in God's right hand, lead men to avoid the blackness of darkness for ever, as well as guide our feet into
peace. We find that the prophets addressed the vilest of men: the voice of Wisdom itself is directed to the foolish, and those who have no understanding. John the Baptist calls upon those whom he terms a generation of vipers, to "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Jesus Christ himself expostulates with, and exhorts, and weeps over sinners. To sinners the apostles preached, whose danger affected their hearts, and excited their earnest prayers ; so that no wonder they cried, Why will ye die ?” and, “ Ye fools, when will
are the "
ye be wise ?" Ministers of the present day, en. dued, we hope, with the same spirit, and inspired with the same sentiments, adopt the same conduct, and cry aloud, not sparing, but earnestly address. ing those, to many of whom (awful thought !) they
of death unto death." To sinners they have particularly to declare the mischief occasioned by sin. They represent to them their deplorable situation ; they describe to them the horrors of the pit wherein there is no water, in which they lie; the miseries of that prison in which they are closely confined; the unprofitableness of the drudgery in which they are engaged; and the tribulation and anguish which they have to expect. Knowing the terrors of the Lord, they persuade men ;” and sensible that, if they are unfaithful, the blood of souls will be required at their hands, they are “ instant in season and out of season," if by any means they could persuade them to fee from the wrath to come. Hence, to sinners they have to exhibit the compassion of the Saviour; to them they cry, “ Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation :" they are earnest in exhorting such to flee to the Saviour's open arms, and to apply instantly to Him who never casts out those who come to him. They tell them, that the Saviour's “ heart is made of tenderness, and that his bowels melt with love." The servants of Christ say continually, “ Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters ; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price ;" and they direct them to Him who hath said, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
The ungodly part of a congregation must never consider themselves as uninterested in the truths
of the gospel ; for, like the Jews at Pathros, they can call the message of their minister, when they address him, “The word which thou hast spoken to us.'
But what we wish you particularly to notice is, that they do all this in the name of the Lord. They speak in the name of the Lord; for they speak in obedience to his command. They remember that the Head of the church, the Governor of Zion, and the Owner of the golden candlesticks, said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” They recollect, too, that when the blessed and holy Trinity cried, saying, “ Whom shall I send, and who will go for us!" they replied, “ Here am I, send me." They call to mind a period, when they, led by the providence of God, devoted their talents and their lives to him, and conferred not with flesh and blood. Do they not then, when the path of duty is made 80 abundantly plain to them, speak in the name of the Lord ? Jehovah calls them his prophets, his servants; (for he is never ashamed of those who, in an abandoned age, show to men the way of salvation ;) and says to them, “Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with thee to deliver thee.”
They speak in the name of the Lord, too, because they speak in perfect agreement with the Divine word.
“ To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The ministers of the gospel have to declare among the churches, the “ manifold wisdom of God ;” and “this is the word, which, by the gospel, is preached unto you." No minister can be said to speak in the name of the Lord, who does not make Jesus