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SERM. All such as lay these things to heart, and are desirous of LXXIV.
serving God, and of saving their souls, the Holy Ghost is ever ready to assist them, by putting into their minds good desires, by enabling them to do what He has made them willing to do, by giving them opportunities of learning and performing their duty, by succouring them when they are tempted to sin, and by encouraging and cheering their hearts, when they have overcome temptations; from time to time increasing His favours as they make good use of them, until they come to heaven, when all danger shall be over.
On the other hand; all such as have been dedicated to God in baptism, and, when they come to years of discretion, do not seriously think of what it is to be a Christian ; or do not embrace and close with the means of grace afforded them; such persons have no possible way of escaping the dangers of a sinful world, the temptations of a powerful evil spirit, or the miseries of a future life.
Therefore, it behoves every man who hopes to be saved, (and who is there that does not ?) it concerns every man to consider, what it is he is a doing, when he neglects or resists the Holy Ghost calling him to repentance and newness of life. That he is taking himself from under God's protection, and putting himself into the service of the devil; that he cannot go back when he pleases into the service of God, no more than he can go to heaven without the leave of God; that the wisest man cannot tell where he shall stop, what he shall do, when once he ventures to leave the ways of religion, and the means of grace afforded him in the Church of God.
And let no man say that he wants grace and strength to do what God expects from him; for God expects no more than an honest use of that measure of grace which He has already bestowed upon a man.
It is not expected from one newly converted, that he should be perfect, that he should never fall into sinful courses; but this is expected from him, that he should avoid all occasions (as much as possible) and temptations to sin; that he should earnestly pray for grace and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost; that whenever he falls he should speedily return to God by repentance, and make new resolutions of obedience. And whoever does this in good earnest, is in
the way of salvation, and under the conduct of the Spirit of God.
From whence we may conclude, (and I pray God all that are concerned may take notice, and lay it to heart,) that every person who often falls into the same sins, and does not strive against them, avoid temptation, pray to God for help; that such persons may justly apprehend that they are not in the way of salvation.
To conclude the whole: here is all the encouragement our hearts can desire to turn to God. He will forgive us what is past; He will enable us for the time to come; He will help us when we fall; and He will make us happy when we die. Why then should we put off our repentance ? Is it because we purpose never to become new men? O, no; the hardiest sinner amongst us dare not resolve never to amend.
But then let us remember, that it is not when we please, but when the Holy Ghost pleases, that we shall repent and turn to God; and if the Holy Ghost stirs in us a desire of doing so, and we neglect that desire or inclination, if we do this often, we have much reason to fear He will leave us to ourselves, and then it will be impossible for us ever to repent.
Therefore, if there be any of you, who are sensible that you have hitherto lived a careless, unchristian life; if you are afraid of what will follow, and do wish that you had taken up sooner; if you are convinced that the judgments of God against sinners are terrible and true, and do seriously wish that you were in a safer condition; then consider, that these being thoughts tending towards repentance, are from the good Spirit of God; that none of His motions are in vain, but when people wilfully oppose them, or refuse to hear the voice of God.
What then have you to do? God Himself directs you;
Heb. 3. 7.] resolve, that by the help of God, you will from this moment do what you can to save your soul; that you will pray to God to direct, to assist, and to bless your endeavours, and do what you resolve; and be assured the Holy Ghost will be with you, to guide, to help, and to comfort you.
Whoever amongst us has hopes towards God, and believes
SERM himself in the way of life, ought to consider, that when the
Scripture speaks of grieving the Holy Spirit, it does intimate to us, that it is possible for us to do such things as may force Him from us.
Our duty then is, to be careful of our ways; and, as we hope for salvation, not to dare to continue in the practice of any known vice; but if we are overtaken, to ask ourselves this question,—Is this sin I have been guilty of consistent with my hopes of mercy at the great day? It is not; and therefore I must part with it, or part with my hopes of heaven.
And be assured, he that dares not thus reason with his heart is not yet well in love with a Christian life, but is in danger of being disappointed of his hopes of heaven.
From what has been said, you see what God has done for us, before we were able to do any thing for ourselves.
He has received us into covenant, given us His holy Word and Sacraments, made us many great and precious promises, and set before us the dreadful consequence of neglecting them.
You see likewise, that now something is to be done by us, that we may secure the favour and assistance of this Holy Spirit.
We must keep ourselves pure and undefiled members of Christ's Church : we must not drive Him from us, by any wicked course of sinning; and we must omit no opportunities of growing in grace, which God has appointed and shall afford us: we must read or hear His holy Word: we must take care to keep holy such days as are set apart for His service: we must go constantly to His house, and constantly acknowledge our dependence upon Him, by praying to God for what we want, and by giving Him thanks for what we receive: and we must be sure to receive the holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which is the strength and refreshment of our souls, and is therefore in an especial way called a means of grace.
Now, if we do these things as we ought, with an honest heart, these will be the effects :
First; we shall be very humble, knowing that we have nothing of our own to boast of: for if I differ from another, it is the Holy Ghost that has made the difference; we being all equally born in sin, and all equally liable to be overrun with it.
Secondly; we shall be very careful of our ways, remembering, that we are under the direction and government of a Holy Spirit, who will be grieved to see us thoughtless and negligent when our immortal souls lie at stake.
Lastly; we shall be very thankful that God is pleased to accept and save us upon any terms. But that His good Spirit will ever be present with us, to keep us in the way we should go, to pull us back when we go wrong, to defend us against our powerful enemies, to support, to comfort, and at all times to succour us: this ought to create in us such a sense of gratitude as we are not able to express, but by an entire obedience to His commands.
And may that blessed Spirit, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift, rest upon us and dwell with us for ever, preserving us in the unity of the Church; continuing to us the means of grace; removing far from us all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of God's Word; that we may, with patience and comfort, run the race that is set before us; stedfastly believing, that all things shall work together for good to those that fear God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
To Whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
THE LORD'S SUPPER THE MEDICINE OF THE SOU'L.
Mark vi. 56.
As many as touched Him were made whole.
The whole verse is as followeth : “Whithersoever Jesus entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought Him that they might touch, if it were but the border of His garment; AND AS MANY AS TOUCHED HIM WERE MADE WHOLE."
What a blessed opportunity had these people of being healed of all their diseases ! How happy did they think themselves in having Jesus Christ present amongst them ! How good and kind was He, to go from one place to another, that every body who had a desire to be healed, and who had faith in His power, might be made whole !
We cannot but esteem this a mighty blessing, and wish it were our own case. Why now, my Christian brethren, it is our own case, and to much greater purposes. And we should certainly be convinced of it, if we were but as sensible of our spiritual disorders, as these people were of the diseases of their bodies; and we should, with as much zeal and faith in His power and readiness to help us, we should apply to Him, now He is in heaven, as earnestly as these people did when He was on earth and amongst them.
All that we want is, to feel our disorders, and to see the danger we are in without His help; for then we should, with thankful hearts, accept of the sovereign medicine which He has prescribed for the cure of all our maladies.
Well then, how may we become sensible of our disorders and danger? Let every one, who desires to know this, look