RELIGION THE HIGHEST WISDOM, AND SIN THE GREATEST MADNESS AND FOLLY.
PSALM ill. 10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments*
WISDOM is a character so honourable and ornamental to a reasonable being, that those who best knew the dignity of their own nature, have had no higher ambition than to be esteemed and called lovers of it. Hence the original of the name Philosopher,! which signifies no more than a lover of wisdom. On the other hand, there is hardly any character deemed more reproachful, or that is more resented, than that of a fool. Men are often as jealous of the reputation of their understandings as of their morals, and think it as great a reproach to be without sense as without goodness.
There is a prodigious diversity in the intellectual capacities of mankind, and their souls- differ as much as their bodies; but whether it be owing to the.'intrinsic difference of their souls, or to the different formation'of their bodies, is not my present purpose to determine. Some, that share in human nature, give very little discoveries of reason above the most sagacious sorts of brutes. The generality are endowed with common sense, which, though it has nothing brilliant and pompous in it, and does not qualify them for high improvements in science, or making a figure in the learned world, yet it is sufficient for all the purposes of life, and
the necessities of a human creature. There are a few also who seem raised beyond their species, and perhaps approach near to the lower ranks of angels by a superior genius. These have been the first inventors and improvers of useful arts and sciences ; which others of inferior understanding, are able to put in practice for their own purposes, though they had not sagacity at first to discover them.
This little world of ours is an improved spot in the creation. How vastly different an appearance does it now make from its original state of pure nature, when it emerged out of chaos, uncultivated by art! What numerous arts and trades have been found out to furnish life with necessaries and comforts! How deeply have some penetrated into the world of knowledge! They have traced the secret workings of nature ; they have even brought intelligence from the worlds above us, and discovered the courses and revolutions of the planets.
When you see these discoveries, you would conclude mankind to be a wise race of creatures ; and indeed in such things as these they discover no inconsiderable abilities. Almost every man in his province can manage his affairs with some judgment. Some can manage a farm ; others are dexterous in mechanics; others have a turn for mercantile affairs; others can unfold the mysteries of nature, and carry their searches far into the ideal worlds; others can conduct an army, or govern a nation. In short, every man forms some scheme which he apprehends will conduce to his temporal advantage ; and prosecutes it with some degree of judgment.
But is this all the wisdom that becomes a candidate for eternity? Has he a good understanding who only acts with reason in the affairs of this life; but, though he is to exist forever in another world, and to be perfectly happy or miserable there, yet takes no thought about the concerns of his immortal state? Is this wisdom? Is this consistent even with common sense ? No ; with sorrow and solemnity I would speak it, the most of men in this respect are fools and madmen; and it is impossible for the most frantic madmen in Bedlam to act more foolishly about the affairs of this life, than they generally do about the affairs of religion and eternity. There is such a thing as a partial madness ; a person may have, as it were, one weak side to his mind, and it may be sound and rational in other respects. You may meet with some lunatics and madmen that will converse reasonably with you, and you would not suspect their heads are disordered, till you touch upon some particular point, and then you are to expect reason from them no more; they talk the wildest nonsense, and are governed entirely by their imaginations. Thus, alas! it is with the generality of mankind in the present case. They are wise for this world; they talk and act at least agreeably to common sense; but hear them talk .and observe their conduct about the concerns of their souls, and you can call them reasonable creatures no longer. They are wise to do evil; but to do good they have no knowledge: there is none that understandeth ; there is none that seeketh after God. To bring them to themselves by exposing to them their madness, is my present design.
The text shews us the first step to true wisdom, and the test of common sense: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments. This is so frequently repeated, that it may pass for a scripture maxim: and we may be sure it is of singular importance. Job starts the question, Where shall wisdom be found ? and where is the place of understanding? He searches nature through, in quest of it, but cannot find it: he cannot purchase it with the gold of Ophir; and its price is above rubies. At length he recollects the primitive instruction of God to man, and there he finds it: To man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom ; and to depart from evil is understanding. Job xxviii. 28. Solomon, the wisest of men, begins his proverbs with this maxim, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Prov. i. 7. And he repeats it again, Prov. ix. 10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy (the knowledge of those that may be called saints with a sneer ) is understanding.
The fear of the Lord, in scripture, signifies not only that pious passion of filial reverence of our adorable Father who is in heaven, but it is frequently put for the whole of practical religion; hence it is explained in the last part of the verse, by doing his commandments. The fear of the Lord, in this latitude, implies all the graces and all the virtues of christianity $ in short, all that holiness of heart and life which is necessary to the enjoyment of everlasting happiness. So that the sense of the text is this: 'To practise religion and virtue, to take that way which leads to everlasting happiness, is wisdom, true wisdom, the beginning of wisdom, the first step towards it; unless you begin here, you can never attain it; all your wisdom without this, does not deserve the name; it is madness and nonsense. To do his commandments is the best test of a good understanding; a good sound understanding have all they that do this, all of them without exception: however weak some of them may be in other things, they are wise in the most important respect; but without this, however cunning they are in other things, they have lost their understandings; they contradict common sense; they are beside themselves. In short, to pursue everlasting happiness as the end, in the way of holiness as the mean, this is wisdom, this is common sense ; and there can be none without this.'
Wisdom consists in two things; choosing a right end, and using right means to obtain it. Now what end so becoming a creature to live forever, as everlasting happiness ? And in what way can it be obtained, but in the way of holiness? Consult the judgment of God in his word; consult your own conscience, or even common sense, and you will find that this is the case. Therefore he is a man of sense that pursues this end in this way; but he is a fool, he is brutish, that chooses an inferior end, or that pursues this in a wrong way.
My time will not allow me to do any more than to mention some instances of the folly and madness of such as do not make the fear of the Lord the beginning of their wisdom.
I. Men will not take the safest side in religion, which their reason and self-love carry them to do in other cases.
It is very possible the love of ease and pleasure, and a self-flattering disposition, may prompt your invention to form a plausible system of religion; a religion that admits of great hopes with little evidences, and that allows you many indulgencics and lays few restraints upon you; a religion purged, as you imagine, from some of the melancholy and gloomy doctrines of christianity, and that releases you from those restraints, so painful to a wicked heart, which the holy religion of Jesus lays upon you. It is very possible you may hope you shall obtain eternal happiness without much pains, and without observing the strictness of uersal holiness; you may indulge hopes of heaven, though you indulge yourselves wilfully in sin; you may flatter yourselves that God is not so inexorably just as the sacred scriptures represent him; and that his threatenings are only tremendous sounds without any design to be executed in all their strictness; you may flatter yourselves, that the punishments of a future state are not intolerably dreadful, nor of everlasting duration; you may excuse and diminish your sins, and make a great many plausible apologies for them. But are you sure ot these things? Have you demonstration for them, upon which you may venture your eternal all? Think the matter over seriously again; have you certainty that these things are so? and are you willing to perish forever if they should be otherwise? What if you should be mistaken I What if you should find God as strict and holy as his word represents him? What if all his dreadful threatenings should be sincere and true, and your sins have infinitely greater malignity in his eyes than in yours? What if in a little time you should find that the scriptures give a more just account of the punishments of hell than your self-flattering heart suggested to you, and that they are indeed intolerable and strictly eternal? What if you should find, when it is too late to correct the mistake, that those neglected, ridiculous things, regeneration, conversion, holiness of heart and practice, the mortification of sin, and a laborious course of devotion—what if you should find they are absolutely necessary to everlasting happiness? What if it should appear that the wilful indulgence of the least known sin will eternally ruin you ? Stand and pause, and ask yourselves, What if you should find matters thus, quite the reverse to what you flattered yourselves? What will become of you then? You are undone, irreparably undone through all eternity. Well, to speak modestly, this may be the case, for what you know; and is it not then the part of a wise man to provide against such a dreadful contingency? Will you run so terrible a risk, and yet claim a good understanding? Do you esteem a life of religion so burdensome, that you had better make such a desperate venture than choose it? Do you esteem the pleasures of sin so sweet, so solid, so lasting, that it is your interest to run the risk of intolerable, eternal misery, rather than part with them ? Can you form such an estimate as this while in your senses? No, he is a madman with whom certain pleasures for a little time, the sordid pleasures of sin, outweigh an eternity of perfect happiness. He is certainly not in his right mind that would rather be tormented in hell forever, than lead an holy life, and labour to escape the wrath to come. Therefore act in this as you do in other cases of uncertainty, choose the safest side. Believe and regard what God has said; be holy in all manner of conversation ; strive with all your might to enter in at the strait gate; accept of Christ as your Lord and Saviour. Do this, and you are safe, let the case be as it will;
/ of this inconsistent conduct hereafter?" But if religion is an excellent thing, as you profess to believe iti why do you not choose it now? the sooner the better. Again, is it not the greatest folly to indulge yourselves in a practice that you deliberately intend to repent of? If your present conduct be wise, why do you intend to repent of it? the very intention implies that you are even now convinced it is foolish; and what will your repentance be but a deep sense of your folly? And can there be a greater madness than deliberately to do any thing which at the very time you intend to repent of? Is there any thing more absurd and ridiculous? Is this your conduct in other things? Will you make a bargain, which you know you will afterwards repent of? Will you prosecute a scheme which you deliberately intend afterwards to condemn and be sorry for? Can you do such things, and yet take it ill to be called fools? Further, why do you design to repent? Is it because you hate sin? No; for if that was the reason, you would immediately forsake it. Is it because you love God and holiness? No; for then you would devote yourselves to the service of God immediately, and could not bear a delay. But you intend to force yourselves upon a little remorse of conscience, when the punishment of sin is just ready to fall upon you, with no other design but just to escape it. And can you think there is any value in such extorted sorrows, that proceed not from hatred of sin, or love to God, but merely from self-love, and a servile fear of punishment? Can any wise man look upon this as repentance to life, or hope that God will accept of it? Finally, are you sure of that uncertain hereafter, in which you purpose to repent? Is there any man in his senses that dare pretend he is certain of another day? or that he shall not die by some sudden accident, or in a delirium, in which he has no time nor composure to repent?
III. Is it not the greatest folly for men to pretend to love God, when their temper and conduct are inconsistent with it, and plainly evidential of the contrary?
If you go round the world with the question, "Do you love God? do you love him above all?" you will hardly meet with any one but what will answer, "Yes, to be sure; I have loved him all my life." Well, but where are the evidences and effects of this love? If you pretend friendship to men, they expect the expressions of it from you on every occasion; otherwise they will see through the pretence, and pronounce it flattery. They expect you should often think of them with tender affection, perform them all the good offices in your power, study to please them, be tender of their characters, solicitous about their interest, and delight in their society. These are the inseparable effects of love; and certainly, if you love God, your love will have such effects, especially since, if you love him at all with sincerity, you love him above all other persons and things. But men will insist upon it that they love him above all, and yet very seldom or never think of him with tender affection: they love him above all, and yet indulge themselves in sin, that abominable thing, which he hates: they love him above all, and yet have little solicitude about pleasing him, and doing his will: they love him above all, and yet are unconcerned about the interests of religion in the world, which are his interests, and careless about his honour and glory: they love him above all, and yet have no pleasure in conversing with him, in prayer, and the other ordinances of his grace, where he holds spiritual interviews with his people. They love him above all, and yet love and delight in a thousand other things more than him; and they would highly resent it if one should begin to question the sincerity of their love; and they hope God will accept of it, and reward it. But can men in their senses think that this will pass for true and supreme love with him, that knows all things? They cannot expect that their fellow-creatures should thus be imposed upon; and is it not the greatest madness to imagine they can thus impose upon Omniscience? Indeed it may astonish any man that knows what love is, to find that the most of men pretend they love God, even while they are giving the most glaring evidences of disaffection to him; and after all, it is almost impossible to convince them that they do not thoroughly love him. What madness has seized the world, that they will not receive conviction in such a plain case! What metn thoughts must they have of God, when they think to put him off with such an empty compliment, and hypocritical profession!
IV. Is it not the greatest folly for men to hope for heaven, when they have no evidences at all of their title to it, or fitness for it?
Is it not the dictate of common sense, that no man can be hippy in any thing but what he has a relish for, and delights in? Can an illiterate rustic find pleasure in rigid mathematical demonVOL. U. 25
strations, and learned speculations, or a man of pleasure and business in the ascetic mortified life of a hermit? Can a man, ■whose taste is vitiated by sickness, enjoy happiness in the entertainments of a feast? No, nothing can make a man happy, but what is suited to his relish and disposition. And yet there are thousands that have no relish for the enjoyment of God, no pleasure in thinking of him, or conversing with him, no delight in his service and acts of devotion, who yet hope to be forever completely happy in these exercises in heaven. The happiness of heaven, as I have often told you, consists in such things as these, and how can you hope to be happy there while you have no pleasure in them! There are thousands who have no delight in any thing holy or religious, but only in the gratifications of their senses and the enjoyment of earthly things, who yet hope to be happy in heaven, in the wants of all sensual and earthly enjoyments. There are thousands who now disgust the society of the religious as intolerably precise, who yet flatter themselves they shall be perfectly happy in the company of saints and angels, where the meanest is incomparably more holy than the most sanctified creature upon earth. And hcu c they a sound understanding who can entertain such absurd hopes? Does not common sense tell us, that God, who does every thing wisely, will bring none to heaven but those whom he has made fit for it beforehand? and that as none shall be sent to hell but those that were previously wicked, so none shall be admitted into the world of glory but those who are previously made holy? None first begin to be holy in heaven or wicked in hell: both parties bring with them those dispositions which are fit for their respective places and employments. How absurd is it therefore to hope for heaven, while you have no heavenly dispositions! You may as well hope to see the sun without eyes. Further, God has assured you in his word, and you profess to believe him, that without regeneration, faith, repentance, and interest in Christ, and uersal holiness, you cannot enter into his kingdom; and yet are there not some of you who are foolish enough to hope for it, though destitute of all these 1 Has he not told you that drunkards, swearers, unclean, malicious, contentious persons, liars, and the like, shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven? And yet though you know these are your characters, and the world knows it too, you will hope for admission to it, in defiance of God's most express repeated declarations! What madness is this! and how peculiar to this affair! The debauchee will not expect happiness in mortification and devotion, nor the prodigal in hoarding up useless wealth ; and yet thus absurdly will they act in their expectations of heaven!
V. And lastly, Is it not the greatest madness to be more concerned about the affairs of time than those of eternity?
It is plain to any man in his senses, that the happiness and misery which are extreme, and which shall endure forever, are of infinitely greater importance than all the enjoyments and all the sufferings of this transitory state. And you will hardly meet with any man but will own this to be his belief. But, alas! into what consternation may it strike us, when we survey the conduct of the generality ! Are they as much concerned about the eternal world to which they are hastening, as to the concerns of time? Are they as laborious and zealous to obtain everlasting happiness as to gain the riches of this world, or to gratify their sensual appetites ? Are they as solicitous to avoid everlasting misery as to shun sickness, poverty, or any temporal calamity! Are they as cautious of sinning, which ruins their souls forever, as of drinking poison, which may endanger their health or temporal life! Do not many of you know it is quite the reverse with you! Are not the concerns of this life the principal objects of your thoughts, your cares, and labours! And what can be a more consummate folly! You practically prefer a trifle of an hour to a substantial good of endless duration. You are careless about everlasting torment, and yet cautiously shun the light sufferings of a few moments. It matters not what you think, or say in this matter; it is your practice that determines the affair; and does not that shew that time outweighs a vast eternity with you? And what can be more absurd! If you should throw away an estate to obtain a farthing, if you should run upon a drawn sword to escape a prickle, if you should prefer pebbles to crowns and kingdoms, darkness to light, or one luxurious meal to the support of your whole life, it would not be so shocking a piece of madness.
I might give you many more instances of the madness of those who do not begin this wisdom with the fear of the Lord, but the inferences from the subject are so numerous and important, that I must reserve the rest of the time for them.
1. Since there is so much folly in the world in matters of religion, how astonishing is it that it is not uersally contemned and. ridiculed, or pitied and lamented! If men act a foolish part in other things, they soon furnish matter of laughter and contempt to the gay and witty part of mankind ; and the thoughtful and benevolent view them with compassion. But let them act ever so foolishly in the concerns of eternity, there is hardly any notice taken of it; the absurdity is no way shocking; nay, the generality commend their conduct by imitating it themselves; and if any are so wise as to find fault with this madness, they are termed fools themselves, and the general laugh is turned against them. How unaccountable is this, that men who act prudently in other things, and are easily shocked with a mad and frantic behaviour, can view the folly of mankind in this respect without horror, or perhaps with approbation ! The only reason for it is, that the generality are madmen in this respect, and the folly is approved because it is common. To be singularly wise is to be foolish, in the opinion of the world; and to be fools with the multitude, is the readiest way to get the reputation of wisdom. They prove religion to be folly, by a majority of votes; and as many who are fools in this affair are wise in other respects, their judgment is implicitly submitted to. But, pray, Sirs, use your own reason, and judge impartially for yourselves, and 1 am sure you must see the wild absurdity of their conduct. Be nobly singular in beginning wisdom with the fear of the Lord ; and whatever others think of you now, God, angels, and good men will applaud your wisdom : and even those who now ridicule it, will approve of it at last.
2. With what an ill grace do the irreligious contemn and despise those that make religion their great concern, as weak, silly creatures! Sinners, let your own reason determine, can there be any thing more foolish than your own behaviour? And does it become you to brand others with the odium of folly ? Alas ! yon have reason to turn your contempt upon yourselves, and to be Struck with horror at your own wilful stupidity. Do you set yourselves up as the standards of wisdom, who want sense to keep out of everlasting ruin? Are you wise men, who throw away your eternal happiness for the trifles of time? No, they only are wise who are wise for eternity. You may excel them in a thousand things; nature may have favoured you with a better genius; you may have had a more liberal education ; you may be better acquainted with men and books; you may manage your secular affairs with more discretion ; in such things you may be wiser than many of them. But they are wise for eternity! they have sense to escape everlasting burnings! tliey have wisdom to obtain eternal happiness! and this is a more important piece of wisdom than all your acquisitions. The wisdom of Solomon, of Socrates, or Plato, is the wildest madness without this. How absurd is it therefore for you, without this, to arrogate the character of men of wisdom, or even of common sense!
3. How absurd is it for men to pretend they will not turn their thoughts to religion, lest it should make them melancholy or distracted ? Alas ! sinners, you cannot be more so than you are already; and you will never come to yourselves till, with the prodigal, you determine to return to your father's house. And will you continue fools through the fear of becoming such? I can assure you I would rather be the wildest frantic in Bedlam, than be that wretch who ruins his soul for fear of running mad by thinking of it.
4. If the fear of the Lord, religion, is the perfection oi wisdom, how unreasonably does the world charge it with making people mad I There are multitudes that lose their senses by excessive sorrows and anxieties about some temporal affair; many more than by religion ; and yet they never fall out with the world on this account. But when any one, that seemed thoughtful about religion, loses his senses, then religion be sure must bear all the; blame ; and sinners are glad to catch at such a handle to expose it. Melancholy persons are wont to derive terrors from every thing in their reach ; and, among other things, will pore upon all those doctrines of religion that can affright them. But this melancholy, as such, is a bodily disorder, and therefore has no more religion in it than a fever or a consumption. It is indeed very possible that too intense application of the mind to divine things, with a deep concern about our everlasting state, may be the occasion of melancholy; but there is nothing peculiar in this; let the mind be excessively attentive to any thing, it will have the same effect. How many disorders do men contract by their eager pursuit of the world? and yet the world is their favourite still. But if one here and there suffers by occasion of religion, O! they bless themselves from it, and think it is a terrible gloomy thing.— Those that are pious, let me tell you, are many of them much superior to the wisest of us in all accomplishments ; and they are generally as far from madness as their neighbours. Therefore drop this senseless slander, and be yourselves holy, if you would be truly wise.
5. Since men are such fools in matters of religion, since they censure it with so much severity and contempt, how astonishing is it that God should send down that divine, heaven-born thing, religion, into our world, where it is so much neglected and abused! Where the celestial guest meets with but few hearts that will entertain it; where its professors neglect it, contradict it, and by their practice call it madness; and where even its friends and subjects frequently treat it very unkindly! What astonishing condescension and grace is it, that God has not left our mad world t» themselves, since they are so averse to be reclaimed! But lo! he hath sent his Son, he hath instituted the gospel, and a thousand means of grace, to bring them to themselves!
6. And lastly, Hence we may infer, that human nature is exceedingly depraved and disordered. I think this- is as plain as any disorder incident to the body. Men are uersally indisposed as to religion; and on this account our world is, as a great genius calls it, ' the Bedlam of the uerse.' The same natural faculties, the same understanding, will, and affections, that render us able to act with prudence in the affairs of this life, are also sufficient for the affairs of religion; but, alas! with regard to this, they are disordered, though they exercise themselves aright about other things. They can acquire the knowledge of languages and sciences; but, alas! they have no disposition to know God, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent.—They understand how to trade, and carry on schemes for this world ; but they will not act wisely for eternity. They have sense enough not to run into the fire, or to drink poison; but they will run on in the ways of sin to everlasting misery. They will ask the way when they have lost themselves; but how hard is it to bring them to inquire, What shall I do to be saved? They will ask help for their bodies from their fellow-creatures, but how hard is it to bring them in the posture of earnest petitioners to ask immortal blessings for their souls from God! In short, they can contrive with prudence, and act with vigour, courage, and perseverance, in the affairs of time; but in the concerns of religion and eternity they are ignorant, stupid, languid, and careless. And how can we account for this, but by supposing that they are degenerate creatures, and that their nature has suffered a dreadful shock by the first fall, which has deprived them of their senses? Alas! this is a truth too evident to be denied!
REJECTION OF CHRIST A COMMON, BUT MOST UNREASONABLE
Mark xil. 6—Having yet therefore one Son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my Son.
THERE is no sin more common or more pernicious in the christian world, than an unsuitable reception of Jesus Christ anil the gospel. It is not only the sin of professed unbelievers and profane scoffers, but it often hides itself under the cloak of religion, and a profession of faith. It is of so subtle a nature, that it is often unsuspected, even by those who are destroyed by it: and it is of so deadly a nature, that nothing can save a soul under the power of it. A soul that has the offer of Christ and the gospel, and yet neglects him, is certainly in a perishing condition, whatever good works, whatever amiable qualities or appearances of virtue it may be adorned with. Ifour gosfiel be Aid, it is hid to them that are lost. He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 2 Cor. iv. 3. John iii. 18.
This was the sin of the Jews in Christ's time, and this brought temporal and eternal ruin upon them. To represent this sin in a convictive light, is the primary design of this parable.
The blessed God had chosen the Jews, out of the world, to be his peculiar people, and distinguished them with the gracious privileges of his church. Hence they are represented as his vineyard, enclosed from the wilderness of the world, and furnished with every thing necessary to render it fruitful. And hence God is represented as expecting fruit from them, as a man expects it from his vineyard; which intimates the reasonableness of their obedience: it is what any one would expect, who would judge by what is due and reasonable. But it does not intimate that God does properly look for or expect what will never come to pass; for the certainty and uersality of his fore-knowledge excludes all possibility of a disappointment. It is speaking to us in our own language, which we are most likely to understand; but it must be explained agreeably to the perfection of the nature of God, and not according to the imperfection of ours. The scribes and pharisees, the priests and rulers of the Jews, who were entrusted with the management of their church and state, are represented by the husbandmen,' to whom this vineyard was leased or rented, and they were obliged to make annual payments of a part of the fruit. The succession of servants sent to demand the income of "fruit in its season, signifies the prophets and other messengers of God sent to the Jews to call them to bring forth the fruits of holiness. But, instead of obeying the call, they treated them abusively, persecuted and killed them, and refused that return of duty which God demanded, and which his distinguishing mercies towards them rendered so due upon the footing of gratitude. After repeated trials, to no purpose, by these servants, the great God resolves to make one trial more, and that by his own Son, his only Son, his beloved Son. Him he will send to these rebellious husbandmen. And he presumes that, bad as they are, they would at least reverence his Son, and count themselves highly honoured in having such a messenger sent to them. He might justly have sent his army to destroy them, who had murdered his former servants; but instead of this, he sends his Son with proposals of peace once more. He presumes such clemency will melt down the rebels, and make them ashamed of their former conduct. They will reverence my Son: as if he should say, "Though they have wickedly' abused and slain my servants, surely they will not dare to treat my Son in the same manner. Surely, the very sight of him must command awe and reverence. This will also make them ashamed of their base ingratitude and cruelty to my former messengers."*
When the omniscient God represents himself as presuming or expecting that they would receive his Son in a friendly manner, it does not intimate, as I just observed in a similar case, that he is defective in knowledge as to things future, or liable to disappointment; but it only expresses, in the strongest manner, the reasonableness of the thing expected. It is so reasonable, that any one who judges only according to the reasonableness of the thing, and lias no view of futurity, would certainly look for it. It is so reasonable, that God himself would expect it, were he not omniscient, and incapable of being deceived by the most plausible appear
• The word, trrfirtfuu, signifies to bejiuthed viith shame, as well as to reverence: and so it may be rendered here, "They will be struck with shame at my Son ;" that is, at "the sight of him;"
ances. In this view God expected (that is, he looked upon it as infinitely reasonable) that the Jewish rulers should reverence bis Son. But, alas! when they saw him, they were raised to a still higher pitch of rebellion and cruelty. They seized the Son himself, cast him out of his own vineyard,and with wicked hands crucified and slew him. On this account the vineyard was taken from them, and let out to others, who should pay the great Proprietor his fruit in its season; that is, they were cast out of the church, and the Gentiles received in their stead, who would make abetter use of their privileges.
This is the primary sense of the parable, as referring to the lews of that age. But it will admit of a more extensive application. It reaches us in these ends of the earth, and all the nations of the world, (6 whom the gospel has been proposed: and in this latitude I would consider the text.
The world had gone on for four thousand years in wickedness, in spite of all the means used for its reformation by lawgiversi prophets, and philosophers, and by the providence of God. Persuasions, warnings, chastisements, mercies, and whatever had a tendency to bring them to repentance, had been used with them. Philosophers had often reasoned; legislators had prescribed ; prophets had carefully instructed, allured with promises, and deterred with threatenings, and carried their heavenly credentials in their hands; angels had appeared and conversed with men upon extraordinary occasions ; Jesus the great angel of the covenant, had given frequent preludes of his incarnation ; nay, Jehovah himself had descended, and published his law with God-like pomp in the ears of his subjects on mount Sinai. But all this would not do; the world sinned on still, impenitent and incorrigible. And what shall be done in such a desperate case? What expedient remains to be tried? After so many messengers abused, persecuted and killed, who will go upon so dangerous a message again ? There is indeed the Son of God, the great co-equal of the Supreme Divinity, if he would undertake it, perhaps something might be done. But O! who can dare to hope for such condescension from one so high! Who can expect such a favour for rebels ripe for vengeance! Who can hope the Father will give him up! My text seems to hint sundry objections against it. He is his Son, his well-beloved Son, and he has but one Son ; but one of bis rank, though he has produced so many worlds. And will he part with VOL. II. 26
his Son, his well-beloved, his only Son, and send him upon such a mission; a mission so difficult, so dangerous, in which so many of his servants have lost their lives? Who could believe that even divine love and mercy could go so far, had we not the testimony of God in the gospel for it ! Having one Son, his well-beloved, he sent him also; he sent even* him, dear as he was, as well as his servants of an inferior order. So much had he at heart the salvation of his rebellious creatures!
But observe the time when he sent him: He sent him last. He did not send him till every other method was tried in vain, and the case was found to be desperate without him. He did not send him till it appeared, from many experiments, that there was absolute need of him. Lawgivers, prophets, philosophers, and other real or pretended reformers, had a clear stage, they had the world to themselves for four thousand years ; but in all this time they did nothing to the purpose. Hence we are led to make this remark, which is of great importance to the right understanding of the gospel.
That the Son of God was sent into the world as a Saviour in a desperate case. It appeared, after a long course of trial, that when he undertook the case, there was no relief from any other quarter. And hence, by the way, it follows, that we can never receive him in that view in which he was sent, until we are deeply sensible that our case is desperate; that is, that we can obtain relief from no other.
But probably his being sent last has a farther meaning. It seems to intimate, that he is the last extraordinary messenger that God will ever send ; that the dispensation of the gospel is the last trial that ever he will make with rebellious men, the final effort of divine grace for their salvation ; and that such as are not recovered by it will be forever given up as desperate, and no farther means used with them. What an alarming thought is this to such of you (and no"doubt there are such among you) who have enjoyed the gospel, the dispensation of the Son of God all your days, without receiving any special benefit from it ! If these means will not do,' you are not to expect better, but must perish as incurables.
If we consider the unworthiness of our guilty world, and the high character of the blessed Jesus, as his Father's only and well
*—Kxi ivlh. The conjunction tuti often signifies even; and if so rendered here, it would perhaps be more emphatic*I.
beloved Son, we could have little reason to expect he would come into our world as a Saviour. But suppose he should come ! suppose he should leave all the glories of his native heaven, and assume the humble nature of man, converse with mortals, instead of the heavenly courtiers, and conflict with the calamities of life, instead of enjoying the pleasures of paradise ! Suppose he should come himself, as a messenger of his Father's grace, and with his own blessed lips assure our guilty race that God is reconcileable! Suppose he should die upon a cross for us, that he might at once purchase redemption, and confirm the tidings of it! Suppose, I say, such wonders as these should happen! what then is to be expected? O! may it not reasonably be expected that this divine Messenger will be received with uersal welcome ? that every heart will glow with his love, and every mouth be filled with his praise? May it not be reasonably expected that his appearance among guilty men would cast them all upon the knee as humble penitents, and that now, overcome with his love, they would become his willing subjects for the future, and bitterly lament the baseness and ingratitude of their past disobedience? Is not this the most reasonable expectation that ever was formed ? God speaks after the manner of men in my text: and therefore, when he says, They will reverence my Son, it intimates, that this would be the uersal expectation of mankind, and of all reasonable creatures who consider the reasonableness of the thing. "They will reverence my Son: surely they will. Wicked and ungrateful as they are, the very sight of him must melt them into gratitude and obedience. Though they have rejected, persecuted, and murdered prophets and lawgivers, and all my other servants, yet surely they will reverence my Son." O ! is not this a most reasonable expectation ? Who would apprehend the contrary in so plain a case! Who would fear that such a divine Saviour, a Saviour in so desperate a case, should be received with neglect! Who would fear that sinners, on the brink of everlasting destruction, would be careless about such a Deliverer! We cannot think they would act thus, without supposing them madmen, as well as sinners, and that they have lost their reason and self-love, as well as moral goodness.
But, alas! these are only the presumptions of reason from the reasonableness of the thing, and not matters of fact gathered from observation of the actual conduct of mankind. However likely it be from appearances that the Son of Go*" will uersally meet with an affectionate reception from creatures that stand in such absolute need of him, and however improbable it be, in an abstract view, that such creatures should neglect him, yet it is a melancholy notorious fact, that Jesus Christ has but little of the reverence and love of mankind. The prophetical character given of him long ago by Isaiah still holds true, He whom man des/tiseth ■ he whom the nations abhor, Isaiah xlix. 7. he is desfiised and rejected of men. The riches, honours, and pleasures of the world are preferred to him. His creatures are loved more than himself. Nay, sin itself, the most hateful thing upon earth, or even in hell, is more beloved. The salvation he purchased with his blood is looked upon as hardly worth seeking. His favour is not earnestly sought, nor his displeasure carefully shunned In short, he has but a small place, and is but of little importance in the thoughts, the affections, and conversation of mankind. This is a most melancholy and astonishing thing; it may spread amazement and horror through the whole uerse, but, alas ! it is a fact; a plaiu fact, though but few are convinced of it, and a melancholy fact, though few lament it. My chief design at present is to fasten conviction upon the guilty ; a very unacceptable design, but not therefore the less necessary or useful. In prosecuting it, I intend,
I. To shew what kind of reception it may justly be expected we should give to the Son of God.
II. To consider the reasonableness of that expectation. And,
III. And lastly, To shew how different a reception he generally meets with from what might be reasonably expected.
Hearken, my brethren, hearken attentively, to what you are so nearly concerned in. And to engage your attention the more, let this consideration have weight with you, that your making light of this matter is a strong presumption that you make light of Christ, and do not give him that reception which he demands. Your being unconcerned in the trial of this case is sufficient to prove you guilty. I am,
I. To shew you what kind of reception we may reasonably be expected to give to the Son of God.
In general, we should give him a reception agreeable to the character which he sustains, and agreeable to the designs upon which he was sent into our world, or to those views in which he appears in it. We should treat every one according to his character: reason expects that we should do so, and God requires it. Therefore we should treat this divine Messenger according to his character.
More particularly, does Jesus Christ appear in our world under the character of a Saviour in a desperate case, a relief for the remediless, a helper for the helpless? Then it may reasonably be expected that his appearing in our world under this character would immediately flash uersal conviction upon mankind, that they are altogether undone and helpless in themselves, and can obtain relief from no other quarter. It may reasonably be expected that they should give up all their proud self-righteous conceit of themselves, and abandon all trust in their own righteousness and good works; for till they do this, they can never receive him in the character; that is, as a Saviour in a desperate case.' It may reasonably be expected, they should welcome Christ as the great, the only Deliverer, and give up themselves entirely to him, to be saved by him, who alone is mighty to save. And it may reasonably be expected, that every heart should be transported with admiration, joy, and gratitude at his appearance: and a contrary temper towards him can proceed from nothing but stupid ignorance of our sin and danger, and an ungrateful, base disaffection to him.
Docs Jesus appear among men as a great High-Priest, making atonement for sin? Then it may justly be expected that we should place all our trust upon the virtue of his atonement, and that all hands should be 'eagerly stretched out to receive those pardons which he offers, in consequence of his propitiatory sacrifice. Does he appear to destroy the works of the devil, and to save men from sin by making them holy, and are the influences of the holy Spirit intrusted to his disposal to renew their nature and implant every grace and virtue in their hearts? Then, who would not expect that we would all fall in with his design, all form a noble conspiracy against sin, seek for the sanctification of our hearts, and earnestly apply to him for the influences of divine grace to make us holy! Again, does Christ appear in the character of a mediatorial King, invested with all power in heaven and earth, and demanding uersal homage? Then it may reasonably be expected that we should all bow the knee in humble submission, 'all make his will the rule of our conduct, and labour after uersal obedience. Further, does he appear both as the publisher and the brightest demonstration of the Father's love ? and has he discovered bis own love by the many labours of his life, and by the agonies and tortures of his cross? O! may it not be expected we should return him love for love! the love of worms for the love of a God! an obediential love for his bleeding, dying love! May it not be expected that the sight of a crucified Saviour, dying in agonies of love and pain, should melt every heart, and draw the whole world to his arms! He himself had this reasonable expectation: I, says he, if I be lifted from the earth (that is, suspended on the cross) will draw all men unto me. If such love will not draw, what can do it? May it not be expected that this strong assurance that their offended Sovereign is reconcileable, and so much in earnest to pardon obnoxious rebels, would at length make them sensible of their base ingratitude, would melt them down into ingenuous generous sorrows for their unnatural rebellion against so good a God. and determine them to cheerful obedience in future? Again, does Christ exhibit himself as able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through him, and as willing as able, as gracious as powerful? Then may it not reasonably be expected that all the unbelieving fears and tremblings of desponding penitents should vanish forever, that they should all fly to his arms with cheerful hope and humble confidence, and do him the honour, and themselves the kindness to believe themselves safe, upon their compliance with his invitation? Further, does Christ appear in the character of a great Prophet sent to publish his Father's will, to reveal the deep things of God, and to shew the way in which guilty sinners may be reconciled to God? a way which all the philosophers and sages of antiquity, after all their perplexing searches, could never discover! May it not then be reasonably expected that we should be all attention to his instructions, that we should resign our understandings to him as our Teacher, and readily believe what he has revealed, and particularly that we should cheerfully comply with the only method of salvation contained in the gospel? Once more, Does Christ assume the august character of supreme Judge of the quick and the dead, and must we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ? Then it may be expected we should all humbly revere and adore him, fear to offend him and make him our enemy, and prepare for our appearance before him. In short, considering him as the supreme Excellency, it is infinitely reasonable we should love and esteem him as the Physician of sick souls; that we should put ourselves under his all-healing hands, and submit to his prescriptions; as our Advocate, that we should present all our petitions in his name, and depend upon his intercession for acceptance. And as he is all in all in the mediatorial dispensation of religion under which we live. the only religion for sinners, that he should be all in all to us.
This is a brief view of the reception which we ought to give to the Son of God, upon his appearance in our world. Unless we receive him thus, we can receive no benefit from him; but must incur the aggravated guilt of rejecting him. But to as many an thus receive him, to them he gives fiower to become the sons of God, even to as many as believe in his name. John i. 12.
Do not imagine that none are concerned to give him a proper reception but those with whom he conversed in the days of his flesh. We at the distance of 1700 years, and six or seven thousand miles from the time and place of his appearance in human form, arc as much concerned with him as they. He is an everpresent Saviour, and he left his gospel on earth in his stead, when he went to heaven. It is with the motion of the mind, and not of the body, that sinners must come to him; and in this sense we may come to him, as properly as those that conversed with him. He demands the reverence, love, and trust of mankind now, as well as seventeen hundred years ago; and we need his righteousness, his influence, and his salvation, as well as the sinners of Judea, among whom he appeared in person. Nay, as his glory has now pierced through the cloud that obscured it in the days of his flesh, and as he is exalted to the height of honour and dignity, it may be expected with still more reason that we should reverence him, and submit to him in his high character. He is not now the object of our bodily senses, we cannot see and handle him; but he is now an object for the acts of the mind with peculiar advantage. That must be a mere lump of flesh, or a beast, and not a man, that can love nothing but what he can see and feel. Spiritual and intellectual things are the most proper objects for all reasonable creatures. Therefore, though Jesus be not now within reach of our senses, yet reason and faith may reach him, and perceive his glories: and it is reasonably expected we should admire, love, trust, and serve him. This, I say, is reasonably expected of us. I now proceed,
II. To shew the reasonableness of the expectation, that we should give the Son of God a welcome reception.
Here full evidence must strike every mind at first sight. Is there not infinite r eason that infinite beauty and excellence should be esteemed and loved? that supreme authority should be obeyed, and the highest character revered? Is it not reasonable that the most amazing display of love and mercy should meet with the most affectionate returns of gratitude from the party obliged? shall the Creator die for his creatures, the Sovereign for his rebellious subjects, the great law-giver transfer the penalty of his own law upon himself, in order to remove it from obnoxious criminals I shall he die in extremities of torture, and write his love in characters of blood? O shall he do this, and is it not infinitely reasonable that his creatures, that his rebellious subjects, that obnoxious criminals should be transported with wonder, joy, and gratitude ; and that such miracles of love should engross their thoughts, their affections, and conversation ? If we form our expectations from what we find in fact among mankind in other cases, sure we may expect the Son of God would meet with such a reception in our world; the thousandth part of this kindness would excite gratitude between man and man, and he would be counted a monster that would not be moved with it. And shall kindness from worm to worm, from sinner to sinner, excite love and gratitude? and shall not the infinite mercy of God towards rebellious creatures inflame their love and gratitude ? Is this the only species of kindness that must pass unnoticed? Is Jesus the only Benefactor that must be forgotten? Is it not reasonable, and would not any one expect, that the perishing would willingly accept of a Saviour? that the guilty would stretch out an eager hand to receive a pardon ? that the diseased would apply to the physician ? that inexcusable offenders should repent of their causeless offences against the best of beings? and that needy dependent creatures should embrace the offer of happiness? Can any thing be more reasonably expected than this? Is it not as reasonable as to expect that creatures that love themselves, will seek their own happiness, or that the miserable will accept of deliverance ? In short, no man can deny the reasonableness of this expectation without denying himself to be a creature : no man can deny its reasonableness, without asserting that the highest excellency should be despised, the highest authority rejected, the richest goodness contemned, that rebellion and ingratitude is a virtue, and self-destruction a duty ; that is, no man can deny this, without commencing a monster, abjuring his reason, and embracing the most extravagant and impious absurdities in its stead. I am afraid I shall not be able to gain the temper and practice of all of you to my side in this affair, but I am sure if you are men, and believe the gospel, I have already brought over your judgment and conscience. Your judgment and conscience declare, that if it be reasonable for a child to reverence a tender affectionate parent, if it be reasonable you should love your life, or your own happiness, that then certainly it is infinitely reasonable you should give such a reception as has been mentioned to the blessed Jesus. Happy for us, happy for the world, if we could as easily prove that the expectation is as much founded upon actual facts as upon reason. But, alas! here the evidence turns against us. In such a wicked disordered world as this, it would be a very deceitful method of reasoning, to infer that things are, because they should be. This introduces what comes next under consideration, namely,
III. And lastly, To shew how different a reception the Son of God generally meets with in our world, from what might reasonably be expected.
Here a most melancholy scene opens. And O ! that it may please the blessed Spirit to affect our hearts deeply with the survey of it! Forgive me if I make my address as pungent and particular as I can, and speak directly to the conscience of each of you. The case really requires plain dealing, because without it you are not likely to be convinced, and, without conviction, you can never return, nor be reformed.
Let me put you all upon a serious search, what kind of reception you have given to Jesus Christ. You have lived all your days under his gospel; you profess his religion; you own him as the Author of your hopes: and what kind of treatment have you given him in these circumstances? It is high time for you to inquire into your behaviour.
Are not some of you sensible that you have never received him as a Saviour in a desperate case? No, you have never seen your case to be indeed desperate. Your proud hearts have not been brought so low. You have not had such an affecting view of your guilt and depravity, and the imperfections of your best works, and of the holiness and justice of God and his law, as to make you sensible you were undone and helpless in yourselves, that your own righteousness could by no means recommend you to God, and that you must perish forever, unless Jesus Christ, out of mere mtrcy, would undertake to save you: unless you have had an affecting sense of your undone condition, you have certainly never received him as a Saviour. VOL. II, 27
Again, Is it not evident that Jesus Christ has had bat litti. share in your thoughts and affections? Do not the things of this perishing world gain the pre-eminence? Have you not a thousand thoughts of a thousand trifles, for one affectionate thought of Jesus, the darling of his Father? Have you not been generally thoughtless of him all your lives? Take the time that is nearest to you as a specimen, which surely you have not yet forgot. Recollect now how many affectionate thoughts you have had of him the week past, or even upon this sacred morning, when you had this solemn worship immediately in view. May not even this short review convince you that you are guilty of the most absurd and unreasonable thing in the world; a thing which appears so improbable in an abstract view, that one would hardly believe you would venture upon it; I mean neglecting the Son of God, who has visited our world upon such designs of love?
Again, Is Jesus Christ the favourite subject of your conversation? Is his dear name the sweetest sound your lips can pronounce? And do you love to tit with his few friends in our guilty world, and talk over the wonder of his love, till your hearts burn within you, like the disciples in conference on the way to Emmaus? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; and were he uppermost in your hearts, he would have a proper share in your conversation. Or if you should mingle in a company (and such company is every where to be found) where prudence would not suffer you to dwell upon this darling subject, would the restraint be painful to you, and would his love, like a smothered fire in your hearts, struggle to break out, and vent itself—vent itself at least in some retired corner in his presence, if you could not enjoy the pleasure of letting it flame out in the society of his creatures? But, alas! is not this the reverse of your true character? Are you not disgusted, or struck silent as soon as the conversation takes this turn? With horror I think of it—to converse concerning Jesus Christ is generally deemed needless, impertinent, or ostentatious, by creatures that profess themselves his disciples, redeemed by his blood! And does not this horrid guilt fasten upon some of you?
Farther, are not your hearts destitute of his love? If you deny the charge, and profess that you love him, where are the inseparable fruits and effects of his love? Where are your eager desires and pantings after him? Where is your delight to converse with him in his ordinances? Where your anxiety; your zeal, your earnest endeavours to secure his favour? Where is your conscientious observance of his commandments? For he himself has made this the test of your love to him; then, says he, are ye my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. John xv. 14. And again, If any man love me, he will keefi my-mords. John xiv. 28. Does not the evidence, from this inquiry, turn against you? Are you not convicted in your consciences, that if these are the inseparable fruits oflove, you are entirely destitute of it? Is it not evident to yourselves, that your own pleasure, your own worldly interest, your honour or ease, is the general rule of your conduct, without any regard to his will I
Inquire farther, Have you learned to intrust your souls in his hands, to be saved by him entirely in his own way! Or do you not depend, in part at least, upon your own imaginary goodness? Do you not wonder and start at the doctrine of grace, and secretly disgus^it! Does it not appear strange to you, to be told, that after all your good works, God will deal with you entirely as guilty sinners, void of all goodness, and have no regard at all to your supposed merit in the distribution of his mercy, but entirely to the righteousness of Jesus Christ? Are you not utter strangers to that exploit of faith which casts a poor guilty depraved soul, void of all goodness, upon the mere mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, who justifies the ungodly? For this purpose the Son of God came into the world ; and you do not give him a proper reception, but wickedly reject him as well as the Jews, unless you thus intrust yourselves to him.
The evidence grows upon me as I proceed; and I cannot but wonder you do not perceive it yourselves. Can any thing be more plain than that you make light of Christ! that you choose to have as little to do with him as possible! that you have ng delight in his service! Does not your own consciences now tell you, there are this and that, and a thousand things, that you have more pleasure in! Do not your hearts fly off from him, whenever they are urged to approach him! When you are a little awakened with a sense of your guilt and danger, and ready with eager eyes to look about for a Saviour, alas! how naturally do you relapse into carelessness and security! How soon do you drop your purpose of seeking after him with unwearied endeavours, till you find him! how ready are you to take up with any -thing in his stead! A little repentance and reformation are- substituted in his place. You would rather get ease to your consciences from any quarter than from him. Like Judas, you sell him for a few pieces of silver; that is, you would rather part with him than give up your over-eager pursuit of earthly things.
A thousand such facts might be easily produced, which sadly prove that the blessed Jesus does not meet with that reception from multitudes among us which his character demands. Indeed their not being easily convicted of sin is an evidence they are guilty; for if they had a real regard for him, they would be concerned to inquire how the case stands, or how their hearts are disposed towards him. And a little honest inquiry would soon lead them into the truth.
And now I have a few questions to propose to such of you as are guilty of neglecting the Son of God, or have never given him that reception that might justly be expected of you ; questions of the utmost importance, which I beg you would put home to your own hearts.
The first is, do you not think that by thus neglecting the Lord Jesus, you contract the most aggravated guilt? It is the Son of God, his only Son, his well-beloved Son, that you neglect. And must not the Father resent it? Do you not touch his honour in a very tender point? and will he not muster up all the forces of omnipotence to avenge the affront! Since you neglect him, whom the Father loves; him, whom all the heavenly armies adore ; him, whom all good men upon earth treat with the highest honour; since you neglect a person of infinite glory and dignity, your rightful Sovereign and only Saviour, how deep is your guilt! what a horrid exploit of wickedness this ! neither heathens nor devils can sin up to such a pitch: devils cannot, because no Saviour was ever provided for them, or offered to them ; and heathens cannot, because a Saviour was never revealed to them. You stand without a rival by your horrid pre-eminence in guilt. To you may be applied the words of Jesus, as well as to the unbelieving Jews: If I had not come and sfioken ■unto them, they would not have had sin; that is, they would not have had sin of so aggravated a nature; but now they have no cloak for their^ sin, John xv. 22. they are utterly inexcusable; for they have both seen and hated me and my Father. John xv. 24.
The next question I would ask you is, must not your punishment be peculiarly aggravated, since it will be proportioned to your guilt? To be punished not only for sins against the law of nature, but against revelation, against the gospel of grace, against the love of a crucified Saviour—how dreadful must this be \ He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, says St. Paul: afhow much sorer puitishment (sorer than dying without meroy! O terrible !) sufipose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God. Heb. x. 29. You may make light of this now, but O! it will not prove light in the issue. Here let me mention a most alarming consideration: The love that God bears to his Son is the great source of all our hopes: it is because he loves him, that he accepts of his atonement for our sins; it is because he loves him, that he forgives and loves believing sinners for his sake ; it is because he loves the head, that he shews such favour to the members; but as to such as neglect his Son, even the love which the Father has for him, becomes a source of peculiar terror, and prompts him to signal vengeance. "If he infinitely loves his Son, he must infinitely resent it to see him neglected and slighted by others. If he loves him he will avenge the affront offered him; and the more he loves him, the more severely he must resent and avenge it." How wretched then is their condition, upon whom even the love of God for his Son calls aloud for vengeance! and how signal will the punishment be, that the Father's love for his Son will inflict upon the despisers of him!
The third question I would propose to you is, How do you expect to escape this signal vengeance, if you still continue to neglect the Lord Jesus? Answer the apostle's question if you can: Hoio shall we escafie, if we neglect so great salvation? Heb. ii. 3. You cannot expect Jesus will be a Saviour while you treat him thus: and if he refuse, to whom will you turn ?—What angel or saint can save whom he is determined to destroy? If he be against you, who can be for you? Remember the text—the Father"sent his Son last into the world. He comes last, and therefore if you reject him, you need not look for another Saviour. You must take him or none: take him or perish forever.
I would further ask you, If your guilt and danger be so great, and if in your present condition you are ready every moment to be ingulfed in everlasting destruction, does it become you to be so easy and careless, so gay and merry! If your bodies were sick, you would be pensive and sad, and use means for their recovery: if your estates were in danger, you would be anxious till they were secured: if you were condemned to die for a crime against civil government, you would be solicitous for a pardon. In short, it is
214 Rejection of Christ most unreasonable Iniquity.
natural for man to be pensive, anxious, and sad, in circumstances of danger; and it is shocking to the common sense of mankind, to see one thoughtless and gay in such circumstances. -Can you be easy under sucb a load of guilt? careless under a sentence of condemnation? and negligent, when the possibility of deliverance is set before you? I would not willingly see you sorrowful and dejected: but when your case calls for it, when your temporal sorrow may be medicinal, and save you from everlasting pain, when it is as necessary in your circumstances as sickness at the stomach in the operation of physic, then I cannot form a kinder wish for you, than that your hearts may be pierced and broken with penitential sorrows. You have, in your manner, commemorated the birth of a Saviour this Christmas ;* that is, you have danced and caroused, and sinned to his honour. But now I come after, and demand in his name another kind of reception for him: I call you to the sorrowful work of repentance, for your ill treatment of him. Instead of such mirth and extravagance, would it not have been more proper for you to have listened to St. James's advice, Be mfflicled, and mourn and -weeji: let your laughter be turned inf mourning; and your joy into heaviness. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God; that mighty hand which can crush ten thousand worlds, and which is lifted up against you to revenge the quarrel of his beloved Son. Can you return home this evening as thoughtless and merry as usual ? Well, your career will soon be at an end: your vanity and trifling will soon be over. Perhaps, as Jeremiah denounced to the false prophet, this year thou shall die; Jer. xxviii. 16, and O! that will ingulf you in everlasting sorrows.
Therefore what would you now think of making one honest trial, before it be too late, to obtain an interest in that Saviour whom you have hitherto neglected? O! will you not make trial, whether the disaffection of your hearts towards him, inveterate as it is. may yet be subdued by divine grace? whether he, who prayed with his dying breath, even for his murderers, will not have mercy upon you? whether the virtue of his blood is not still sufficient to cleanse you from all sin ? O ! will you give up the matter as desperate, before you make a thorough trial?
Your case is indeed very discouraging, but it is not yet hopeless; if I thought it was, I would not say one word to you about
• This Sermon is dated Jan. 16, 1758.