THE WONDERFUL COMPASSIONS OF CHRIST TO THE GREATEST SINNERS.
Matt, xxiii. 37. 0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets, and stoned them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not /
THERE is not, perhaps, a chapter in the whole Bible so full of such repeated denunciations of the most tremendous woes as this. Certainly there is none like it, among all the discourses of Christ, left upon record. Here the gentle Jesus, the inoffensive Lamb of God, treats the unbelieving Scribes and Pharisees with the most pungent severity. Woe, woe, woe, breaks from his lips like repeated claps of thunder. He exposes them with an asperity and indignation not usual in his mild addrefles. He repeatedly calls them hypocrites, fools, and blind, blind guides, whited sepulchres, children of hell, serpents, a generation of vipers, who could not escape the damnation of hell. But in my text he melts into tenderness, even in this vein of terror, and appears the same compassionate, gentle Saviour we are wont to sind him. His most terrible denunciations were friendly warnings, calculated to reform, and not to destroy. And while denouncing the most terrible woes against Jerusalem, in an abrupt flow of passion, he breaks out into the most moving lamentation over her; 0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that killcsl the prophets, andsloneft them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy
children children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
This is one of those tender cases which requires a familiar and moving, rather than a grand illustration; and that which Jesus has here chosen is one of the most tender, familiar and moving, that could be devised. How often would I have gathered thee, 0 "Jerusalem, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.— As much as to fay, "As the parent-bird, when she fees some bird of prey hovering over her helpless young, gives them the signal, which Nature teaches them to understand, and ipreads her wings to protect them, resolved to become a prey herself rather than her tender brood; or, as she shelters them from the rain and cold, and cherishes them under her friendly feathers, so fays the compassionate Redeemer; so, O Jerusalem! I see thy children, like heedless chickens, in the most imminent danger; I fee the judgments of God hovering over them; I fee the Roman Eagle ready to seize them as its prey; I fee storms of vengeance ready to fall upon them; and how often have I invited them to fly to me for shelter, and give them the signal of their danger! how often have I spread the wings of my protection to cover them, and keep them warm and safe as in my bosom! But, O! lamentable! O! astonishing! ye would not i I was willing, but ye would not! The filly chickens, taught by Nature, understand the signal of approaching danger, and immediately fly for shelter; but ye, more filly and presumptuous, would not regard my warnings; would not believe your danger, nor fly to me for protection, though often, O how often, warned and invited!"
His compassion will appear the more surprising, if we consider the object of it. "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent to thee, though upon the kind design of reforminc: and saving: thee, and who wilt, in a few
• /- 1 •
days, crucify that Saviour who now laments thy doom,
how how often would he have gathered even thy ungrateful children and received them under his protection, with an asfection and tenderness, like the instinctive fondness and solicitude of the mother-hen for her brood! Here is divine compassion indeed, that extends itself even to his enemies, to his murderers! Strange! that such generous benevolence should meet with an ungrateful repulse! that the provoked Sovereign should be willing to receive his rebellious subjects into protection, but that they should be unwilling to fly to him for it!"
The important truths which my text suggests are such as these :—That sinners, while from under the protection of Jesus Christ, are in a very dangerous situation—that they may obtain safety by putting themselves under his protection—that he is willing to receive the greatest sinners under his protection—that he has often used means to prevail upon them to fly to him, that they may be safe—that, notwithstanding all this, multitudes are unwilling to fly to him, and put themselves under his protection—that this unwillingness of theirs is the real cause of their destruction —that this unwillingness is an instance of the most irrational and brutal stupidity—and, that it is very affecting and lamentable.
1. The text implies, that sinners, while from under the protection of Jesus Christ, are in a very dangerous situation. As the hen does not give the signal of danger, nor spread her wings to shelter her young, except when she fees danger approaching, so the Lord Jesus would not call sinners to fly to him for protection, were they not in real danger. Sinners, you are in danger from the curse of the divine law, which is in full force against you, while you have no interest in the righteousness of Christ, which alone can answer its demands: You are in danger from the dread arrest of divine justice, which guards the sacred rights of the divine government, and will avenge itself upon you for all the insults you have offered it: You are in
danger danger from the various judgments,of God, who is angry with you every day, and whose judgments are hovering over you, and ready to seize you, like hungry birds of prey: You are in danger from your own vile corruptions, which may hurry you into such courses as may be inconvenient, or, perhaps, ruinous to you in this world, may harden you in impenitence, and at length destroy you for ever: You are in danger from your own conscience, which would be your best friend; but it is now ready to rise up in arms against you, and, like an insatiable vulture, prey upon your hearts for ever: You are in danger from the arrest of death, which is ready every moment to stretch out its mortal hand, and seize you: You are in danger from the malice and power of devils, who, like hungry lions, are ready to snatch away your .souls, as their helpless prey. In short, you are surrounded with dangers on every hand, and dangers rise still more thick and dreadful before you. You are not sure of an hour's enjoyment of one comfort; nay, you are not sure there is so much as one moment betwixt you and all the miseries of the damned. This minute you are upon earth, thoughtless, secure and gay; but the next may be—I tremble to tell you where—in the lake that burneth with sire and brimstone, tormented in flames. Yes, sinners, one flying moment may strip you entirely naked of all the enjoyments of earth, cut you off from all hope of heaven, and ingulph you in remediless despair. Some of you, whose very case this is, will not, probably, believe me, nor take the alarm. But here, alas! lies your principal danger. If you would take warning in time, you might escape; but you will not believe there is danger until it becomes inevitable.'— Had Lot's sons-in-law taken warning from him, they might have escaped; but they saw no sensible appearances of the impending judgment, and, therefore, they continued blindly secure, regarded the good old man as a mocker, and, therefore, perished in Sodom. Had Jerusalem been apprehensive of its danger in time, it
might have flourished to this day; but it would not be warned, andx therefore, became a ruinous heap: and this wilFbe your doom, sinners, unless you be apprehensive of it before it breaks upon you like a whirlwind. Indeed it may make one fad to think how common this danger is, and how little it is apprehended, to fee crouds thoughtless and merry on the brink of ruin; secure and careless, while hanging over the infernal pit by the frail thread of life. This is sad; but, alas fist is a common case in the world, and I arn afraid, it is too common among you, my hearers. And whither shall you fly for safety? Is the danger inevitable? If so, where is the friendly arm that can guard you? where the wing that can shelter you from' those judgments that are hovering over you, like ravenous birds, to make a prey of you? Blessed be God, I can shew you a place of safety; for, ,
2. The text implies, that if sinners-fly to Christ, and put themselves under his protection, they shall obtain safety.
The beautiful allusion to the protection a hen affords her young under the shelter of her wings, implies thus much, as we may learn from the meaning of the fame allusion in other places. So in that beautiful passage, Psalm, xci. 1—-4. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, stall abide under the shadow ,of the Almighty. I will fay of the Lord, he is my refuge, and my fortress—Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler—He shall cover thee with his seathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust; that is, he shall protect thee in safety, and thou shalt trust in his guardian care. This is David's meaning, when he prays, Lord hide me under the shadow of thy wings. Psalm xvii. 8. And "when he resolves, yea, in the shadow of thy icings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be over-past; just as the hen's helpless brood hide under her wings until the storm be blown over, or the bird of prey has disappeared. Psalm Ivii. 1. I will trust, says he, in the covert of thy wings. Psalm lxi. 4. Because thou hast been Vol. III. K . my my helpf therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice* Psalm lxiii. 7. *
How great and seemingly inevitable your dangers \ yet, if you place yourselves under the protection of Jesus Christ, you are safe for ever; safe from the deluges of divine wrath, that are ready to rush down upon you; safe from the sword of justice, and the thunders of Sinai! safe from the intestine insurrections of your own conscience, and from the power and malice of infernal spirits; safe from the oppreflion of sin, and you shall be gloriously triumphant over death itself, the king of terrors. These may disturb and alarm you, they may give you a flight wound, and put you in great terror; but none of them can do you a lasting, remediless injury; nay, the very injuries you may receive from them in this life, will, in the issue, turn out to your advantage, and become real Westings to you. If ye are Christ's, then, faith the apostle, all things are yours, whether life or death, or things present, cr things to come, all are yours. 1 Cor. iii. 21. that is, you have a kind of property in all things that you have any connection with, so that they shall work together for your good, as if they were all your own by a private right. Brethren, if we are covered with the righteousness of Christ, the sword of divine justice cannot reach us. All its demands are answered, and justice itself becomes our friend. If we are sheltered under the wings of his guardian care, the most threatening dangers of time or eternity cannot affect us with real injury. How happy then, how safe are such of you as have put yourselves under his protection! Now every blessing is yours, and nothing can do you a real injury. You shall never fal l a prey to your various enemies, but shall at length obtain an illustrious victory over them all, through the blood of the Lamb. To you I may apply those sublime words of Moses, As an
* Sue the same metaphor, used in much the same fense, in Psalm xxxvi. 7. Exod. xix. 4. Deut. xxxii. ii. though, in the two last place** it includes conduct a; tvcll as protection.
. eaglestirreth. up her nest,stutter-eth' over her young,spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone does and will lead you, Deut. xxxii. 11, 12. defend you, cherish you, and bear you along to your eternal home. You have, therefore, reason, with David, amidst all the peculiar dangers of his life, to rejoice under the shadow of his wings. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, and you have fled to it, and are safe. Amidst aH your fears and terrors, have you not some secure and delightful hours, when you, as it were, feel yourselves gathered under the wings of your Redeemer? In such hours, do not even such weaklings as you dare to brave all your enemies, and bid desiance to earth and hell? O how happy, how secure is your situation!:
But here a grand question rises in the minds of some of you, "How may I know whether I have fled to Jesus for protection? How may I know whether I have placed myself under his guardian wings?" This is a question of the utmost importance; and I must offer a word or two in answer to it. Observe then, If ever you have fled to Jesus for safety, you have been made, deeply sensible of your danger. If ever you have sought shelter under his wings, you have seen your sins, the curses of the law, and the poAvers of hell, as it were, hovering overyou, and ready to seize and devour you as their prey. You have also been made deeply sensible, that Jesus alone was able to save you. You found you could not shelter yourselves under the covert of your own righteousness, and were constrained to give up all hopes of saving yourselves by any thing you could do in your own strength. Hereupon, as perishing, helpless creatures, you have cast yourselves entirely upon the protection of Jesus Christ, and put your souls into his hands, to be saved by him in his own way: And you have also submitted freely to his authority, willing to be ruled and disposed of entirely according to his pleasure. These few things must suffice to determine thi.; grand inquiry; and I hope you will make use of them
for that purpose: If.> they help you to discover, that you have fled to Jesus for refuge, rejoice in your happy lot, and let your mouths be silled with praise. But alas! are there not some of you that have made the contrary discovery, and, consequently, that you are exposed to all the dreadful dangers of a sinner without Christ? And is there no place of safety for you i Yes, under those wings where believers have sheltered themselves. In Jesus Christ there is safety, if you fly to him: but you may perhaps enquire, " What encouragement have I to fly -to him? I, who am so vile a sinner; I, who have nothing at all to recommend me!. Can I hope that he will stretch out the' wings of his. mercy, and receive me into protection?" Yes, poor trembling creature, even yon may venture; for re^ member what my text farther implies, viz. -;
3. That the compassionate Jesus is willing to receive the very greatest sinner under his protection. Can you question this, after this moving lamentation of his over Jerusalem! Jerusalem, that killed the prophets, and stoned them that were sent unto her, though upon messages of grace; Jerusalem, upon whom should come all the righteous blood of the prophets, through a length of near 4000 years, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias;, Jerusalem, the den of those murderers, who, he well knew, would in a few days imbrue their hands in his own blood; Jerusalem, that had abused so many mercies, been incorrigible under so many chastisements, deaf to so many invitations ; yet, of this very city, the compassionate Saviour fays, How often iv6idd I have gathered thy children under the wings of my protection; thy children, obstinate and ungrateful as they are! O what gracious encouragement is| here to the greatest sinners among us ! Jesus is the fame yesterday, to-day, and for ever; the fame compassionate, all-sufEcient Saviour. He did not lose his pity for Jerusalem after he had suffered death by her bloody hands; but after his resurrection he orders his apostles to make one trial more with her obstinate children:
Go, says he, and preach repentance and remission of fins fa all nations, beginning at 'Jerusalem, Luke xxiv. 41. as much as to fay, ** Though Jerusalem be the ungratesul city, where so much pains have been taken in vain, and where I have just been crucisied with cruel hands-* yet do not give them up \ try once more to gather them under my wings; yea, let them;have the very sirst offer of grace under this new dispensation ; make the sirst offer of pardon through my blood to the wretches that shed my blood; invite them to me as a. Saviour, who nailed me to the cross as a malefactor and a slave." O what melting overpowering mercy! What overflowing and free grace are here! This exemplisies his own declaration, that he came not to call the righteous, but finners to repentance; and sinners of the vilest characters are welcome to him* He took care, at the sirst introduction of the gospel, to select some of the most daring sinners, and make them the monuments of his grace to all ages, that their history might give the strongest assurance of his grace to sinners of the like character, from that time to the end of the world. Such an instance was. the famous St. Paul. This is a faithful saying, fays he; a saying that may be depended upon, and worthy os all acceptation; worthy to be received as true, and embraced with joy by all the sons of men, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save finners, of which I am the chief 1 Tim. i. 15. This chieftain, this king of sinners, was made a happy subject of Jesus Christ. And for this cause, fays he, I obtained mercy, that in me first, or in me the chief, * Jesus Chrisl might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him. Blessed be God, there are many such instances now in heaven, in the glorious company of angels!" There, as one observes, is murderous and idolatrous Manafleh among the true worshippers of God; there is oppressing Zac
cheus cheus among the spirits of just men made perfect:; there is Mary Magdalen, poflessed by seven devils, among the saints of the Most High, silled with the Holy Spirit of God. In a word, there are the betrayers and murderers of our blessed Lord and Saviour, re* ceiving eternal life and happiness from that precious blood which their own guilty hands did shed." f And
* The same word in the same sense is thus translated two or three words before—ut [lcil. ajuaaloiW] erfaTof iipt lya—and then follows-— ii ipe'i izfxli!, 1 Tim. i. 15, 16.
•J- Dr. Grosvenor, in a Sermon, intitled, " The Temper of Jesus Christ towards his Enemies, and his Grace to the chief of Sinners, in his commanding the Gospel to begin at Jerusalem," has the following very lively and striking passage:—*' It is very affecting that the sirst offers of grace should be made to those who, of all people in the world, had done it the most despite,! That the heavenly gist should be tendered to those sirst who least deserved it: not that any can deserve it at all, for then it were not grace; but they of all people had most deserved the contrary! That they, who had abused Christ to a degree beyond the most pitiful description, should yet lie uppermost in his care, and stand foremost in his pity, and sind so much mercy from one to whom they showed none at all!
"One would rather have expected the apostles should have received another kind of charge, and that Christ should have said, Let repentance and remission of sins be preached, but carry it not to Jerusalem, that wicked city, that has been the slaughter-house of my prophets, whom I have often sent. After them I sent John the Baptist, a burning and a shining light; him they killed in prison. Last of all, I myself, the Son, came also; and me, with wicked hands, they have crucisied and slain. They may do the same by you; the disciple is not like to be better (treated) than his Lord: let not the gospel enter those gates, through which they led me, its author, to crucisixion.
"I have been preaching there myself these three years, I have mingled my tears with my sermons, I have supported my pretensions and character from the scriptures of Moses and the prophets, I have consirmed them by divine miracles, and scaled all with my blood, yet they would not give ear: O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! all that I have lest for thee now is, what I have before droptover thee, viz. a compassionate tear and wish, that thou hadst known in this thy Jay the things that belonged to thy peace! hut noiu they are hid from thy eyes; and so let them remain ; for I charge you, my apostles, to preach repentance and remission ossins to all other nations, but come not near that wicked city.
"But God's thoughts are not as ours, neither are his ways as our ways; but as far as the heavens are above the earth, so are his thoughts and ways above ours. Our way is, to make the chief offenders examples of justice, to avenge ourselves upon those who have done us personal injuryand wrong; but Christ chooses out these to make examples of mercy, and commands the sirst offer cf eternal life to be made to them, and all the world are to wait till they hate had the sirst refusal of the gospel-salvation.
what farther arguments need I produce of the willingness of Jesus Christ to receive the vilest sinner among you, upon your coming to him? I might prove the fame joyful truth from his repeated declarations, from his indesinite invitations, and especially from that kind assurance which has kept many a foul from sinking: him that cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out. John
"As if our Lord had said, It is true my sufferings are an uersal remedy, and I have given my life a ransom for many, that the Gentiles afar off might be brought nigh, and all the ends of the earth might fee the salvation of God, and therefore go into all nations and offer this salvation as you go; but, lest the poor house of Israel should think themselves abandoned todefpair, the feed of Abraham, mine ancient friend, as cruel and unkind as they have been, go, make them the sirst offer of grace, let them have the sirst refusal of gospel mercy ; let them that struck the rock, drink sirst of its refreshing streams; and they that drew my blood, be welcome to its healing virtue.
"Tell them, that as I was sent to the lost Jhetp of the house of Israel, so, if they will be gathered, I will be their Shepherd still. Though they despised my tears, which I shed over them, and imprecated my blood to be upon them, tell them it was for their fakes I shed both, that by my tears I might soften their hearts towards God, and by my blood I mighe reconcile God to them.
"Tell them I live; and because I am alive again, my death shall not be their damnation; nor is my murder an unpardonable sin, but that the blood of Jesus cleanfeth from all sin, even the sin by which that blood was drawn.
"Tell them, you have seen the prints of the nails upon my hands and feet, and the wound of the spear in my side, and that those marks of their cruelty are so far from giving me vindictive thoughts, that every wound they have given me speaks in their behalf, pleads with the Father for remission of their sins, and enables me to bestow it; and by those suffering* which they may be ready to think have exasperated me against them, by those very wounds, court and persuade them to receive the salvation they have procured.
"Nay, if you meet that poor wretch that thrust the spear into my side, tell him, there is another way, a better way of coming to my heart, even, my heart's love, if he will repent, and look upon him 'whom he hat pierced, and will mourn, I will cherish him in that very bosom he has wounded; he (hall sind the blood he shed an ample atonement for the sin os shedding it. And tell him from me, he will put me to more pain and displeasure by refusing this offer of my blood, than when he sirst drew it forth. la fliort,
"Though they have gainsayed my doctrine, blasphemed my divinity, and abused and tormented my person, taken away my life, and, what is next valuable to every honest man, endeavoured to murder my reputation,
vi. 37. But this argument from matters of fact is sufsicient. Therefore come, sinners, fly to Jesus, however deep your guilt. Had you been murderers of fathers, or murderers of mothers; nay, had you come hither this day with hands reeking in the blood of the Son of God, yet, if you repent and believe, he is willing to receive you under the shadow of his wings. -1 may therefore invite you in the language of the following lines : *
Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots, and publican?, and thieves;
He spreads his arms t' embrace you all;
Sinners alone his grace receives.
Come, all ye Magdalens in lust:
Ye ruffians fell^in murders old,
Repent and live; despair and trust! ,
Jesus for you to death was sold.
Come, O my guilty brethren, come,
Groaning beneath your load of sin!
His bleeding heart shall make you room,
His wounded side shall take you in.
He calls you all, invites you home:
Come, O my guilty brethren, come!
To encourage you the more, and even to constrain you, consider what my text implies farther, viz.
4. That the Lord Jesus has often used means to prevail upon you to fly to him for safety. What he says to Jerusalem may be applied to you: how often would I have gathered thy children together! How often has he given you the signal of danger, that you might fly from it! how often has he spread out a friendly wing to shelter you! as often as the law has denounced his curses against you; as often as the gospel has invited
and and allured you; as often as conscience has checked and warned you, or prompted you to your duty; as often as the Holy Spirit has moved upon your hearts, and excited some serious thoughts and good purposes and inclinations; as often as providence has allured you with its profusion of blessings, or chastened you with its afflictive rod ; as often as you have seen a good example, or heard a pious word dropt in conversation; in short, as often as any means of any kind have been used with you, that had a tendency to make you sensible of your danger, or your need of Jesus Christ, so often has he used means with you to engage you to fly to the shelter of his wings for protection. O! how frequently, and by what a great variety of means, has he called you in this congregation! This is the very business of one day in seven, when you are called away from the noise and bustle of the world to listen to the voice of his invitation. But this is not the only time when he calls you. While you are at home, or following your business through the rest of the week, you have a Bible, a Providence, a conscience, and the Holy Spirit, still with you; and these are still urging you to fly to Jesus, though their voice may be disregarded, and lost in the din and consusion of the world around you. The gracious call of a compassionate Saviour has followed you ever since you were capable of hearing it to this day. But alas! does not the next remark hold true as to some of you, viz.
on too, by making me an imposter, and imputing my miracles to a combination with Beelzebub; however, go to Jerusalem, and by beginning there, show them luch a miracle of goodness and grace, that they themselves must confess too good for the Devil to have any hand in, too Godlike for him to be assisting to; that may convince them of their sin, and at the same time, that nothing can be greater than their sin, except this' mercy and grace of mine, which, where their sin has abounded does ihus much more abound, beginning at Jerusalem."
* Mr. Wesley.
5. That, notwithstanding all this, multitudes are unwilling to fly to him for protection! It was not of Jerusalem alone that he had reason to say, / would have gathered you, but ye would not! I was willing, but yq were unwilling. This is strange indeed, and might seem incredible, were it not a most notorious fact. That the Judge should be willing to pardon, but the criminal unwilling to receive a pardon—that the offended Sovereign should be ready to take a perishing rebel under his protection, but the rebel should stand off, and rather perish than fly to him—this is a most
Vol. Ill, L astonishing astonishing thing; and it is the hardest thing in the world to convince sinners that this is their conduct towards the Lord Jesus. They are generally more suspicious of his willingness to save them, than of their own to come to him. Were he but as willing to save them as they are to be saved by him, they think there would be no danger of their salvation; but the case is directly the reverse; the unwillingness lies entirely upon their side. To convince them of this, let it be considered, that we are not truly willing to be saved by Christ at all, unless we are willing to be saved by him in his own way, or upon his own terms. We are not willing to be saved, unless the nature of the salvation offered be agreeable to us. Now one principal part of the salvation which we need, and which Christ offers, is deliverance from sin; deliverance from the power, the pleasures, the prosits of sin, as well as from the destructive consequences of it in the world to come. And are sinners willing to accept of such a salvation as this from Christ? No, this appears no salvation to them; this seems rather a consinement, a loss, a bereavement. They are willing to indulge themselves in sin, and therefore it is impossible they mould, in the mean time, be willing to be restrained from it, or deprived of it. This is the thing they struggle against, and to which all the means used with them cannot bring them. To tear their sins from them is to rob them of their pleasures; and they rise up in arms against the attempt. And are these willing to be saved by Christ, who abhor the salvation he offers them? The truth of the matter is, the conduct of sinners in this case is the greatest absurdity: they are willing to be happy, but they are not willing to be holy, in which alone their happiness consists : they are willing to be saved from hell, but they are not willing to be laved from those dispositions which would create a hell-within them, even according to the nature of things: they are willing to go to heaven when they can live no longer in this their favourite world; but
they they are unwilling to be prepared for it in their temper and disposition. An eternity spent in holy exercises would be an eternal drudgery to them, unless they have a relish for holiness. Freedom from sin would be a' painful bereavement to them while they take pleasure in sin, and how then could they be happy, even in the very region of happiness, since the sordid pleasures of sin never mingle with those pure rivers of living water? In short, they act as absurdly as if they were willing to recover their health, and yet were unwilling to part with their sickness, or to be restrained from those things which are the causes of it. They are willing to go to heaven, but it is in their own way; that is, in the way that leads to hell. The only way of salvation, according to the divine appointment, is the way of holiness. Indeed Christ came into the world to save sinners; but these sinners must be made, saints before they can enter into his kingdom: and he makes them holy in order to be happy. And this is not an arbitrary appointment, but necessary, in the very nature of things; for, as I observed, till they are made holy, it is impossible in the nature of things they should be happy in heaven, because the happiness of heaven consists in the perfection of holiness. To be saved without holiness is as impossible as to be healthy without health, or saved without salvation. Therefore, for God to gratify the sinner, and gratify him in his own way; that is, in his sins, is an impossibility; as impossible as for a physician to heal an obstinate patient in his own way; that is, to heal him by letting him retain and cherish his disease; letting him cool a fever with cold water, or drink poison to cure a consumption. God is wise in all his constitutions, and therefore the way of salvation through Christ is agreeable to the nature of things; it is in itself consistent and possible: and if sinners are not willing to be saved in this possible way, they are not willing, in reality, to be saved at all.
Again, The way of salvation by Christ is all through grace. It is adapted to stain the glory, and mortify the pride of all flesh, and to advance to the mercy of God, and the honour of Christ, without a ri^val. Now haughty, self-righteous sinners are unwilling to be saved in this humbling, mortifying way, and therefore they are unwilling to be saved by Christ. If they would be saved by him, they must be saved entirely upon the footing of his merit, and not their own; they must own that they lie at mercy, they must feel themselves self-condemned, they must utterly renounce all dependance upon their own righteousness, and receive every blessing as the free unmerited gift of grace. And it is the hardest thing imaginable to bring a proud sinner so low as this; but till he is brought thus low, he cannot be saved upon the gospel-plan. Nor is this part of the constitution arbitrary any more than the former. It would be inconsistent with the honour of the great God, the Supreme Magistrate of the uerse, and with the dignity of his government, to receive a rebel into favour, on any other footing than that of mere grace. If after sinning so much, the sinner still has merit enough to procure a pardon, in whole or in part, or to render it cruel or unjust for God to condemn and • punish him, certainly he must be a Being of very great importance indeed; and sin against God must be a very small evil. To save a sinner in a way that would give any room for such insinuations as these, would be inconsistent with the honour of God and his government; and therefore the plan he has constituted is a method of grace, of pure rich grace, in all and every part. Now, while sinners are not willing to be saved in this way, they are not willing to be saved at all. Here lies their grand mistake: Because they have a general willingness that Christ should save them from hell, they, therefore, conclude they are really willing to come to him accordingto the gospel-constitution, whereas there is nothing in the world to which they are more averse. There are many that think, and perhaps de, clare,
clare, they would give ten thousand worlds for Christ, when, in reality, they are not willing to receive him as a free gift: they are not yet brought to that extremity as to fly to him. No, the sinner is brought low indeed before he is brought to this. He is entirely cut off from all hope from every other quarter; particularly, he fees that he cannot shelter himself any longer under the covert of his own righteousness, but that he will be overwhelmed with a deluge of divine vengeance, unless he hides himself under the wings of Jesus.
I beg you would examine yourselves impartially on this point, my brethren, for here lies the grand delusion that ruins thousands. If you are really willing to fly to Jesus, and be saved by him in his own way, you may be sure he is insinitely more willing than you are; nay, your willingness is the effect of his, for he sirst made you so. But if, when you examine the matter to the bottom, you sind, that, notwithstanding all your pretensions, you are really unwilling to fly to him, consider your dangerous situation; for,
6. The text implies, that this unwillingness of sinners is the real cause of their destruction.
Sinners complain of the want of ability; but what is their inability but their unwillingness? Coming to Christ is an act of the will, and, therefore, to will it heartily, is to perform the act. To be unable to come to him is to be so perverse, so disaffected to Jesus Christ, as not to have power to will to come to him. This, by the way, shews the vanity of that popular excuse, '* I am not able to fly to Christ, and therefore it is not my fault if I do not." That is, you are so wicked that you can do no good thing; you are so disaffected to Jesus Christ that you have no will, no inclination, to choose him for your Saviour; you are such an obstinate enemy to him, that you would rather perish than take him for your Friend; therefore your not coming to him is no crime. Is this consistent reasoning? Is it not all one, as if a rebel should think to excuse himself by pleading, " I have such an inveterate hatred to my
sovereign, sovereign, that I cannot love him:" Or a robber, "I have such an aversion to honesty, that I cannot possibly help stealing?" Would not this be an aggravation of the crime rather than an excuse? Is the invincible strength of your disaffection to Christ a vindication of it? Are you the more excusable, by how much the more you hate him ?—Sinners, give up this foolish reasoning, for the matter is too important to be trifled with. Your inability in this case is nothing else but your unwillingness; and your unwillingness is the effect of nothing else but your disaffection to Jesus Christ -r therefore own that this is the true cause of your destruction.
In short, whatever pleas and excuses you make, you will sind at last that your destruction is entirely the effect of your own perverse choice. Te will not come unto Christ that ye might have life, John v. 40. and therefore you must perish without it. This reflection will for ever torment you, that you wilfully destroyed yourselves, and were guilty of the most unnatural self-murder. Jesus was willing, but you would not. God has even sworn that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he turn and live. To you therefore I may properly address that expostulation, Why will ye die? Why will ye? why do ye most wilfully destroy yourselves? why do ye ruin yourselves by your own free choice? why will you die? you, whom Jesus is willing to save, whom he has so often invited, why will you, above all men in the world, causelessly die by your own act? Are you capable of so much stupidity? It is a stupidity that is a dreadful peculiarity of your own, for,
7. Unwillingness to fly to Jesus is the most irrational, and worse than brutal stupidity.
This is implied in my text. No sooner does the hen give the signal of danger, than her little family, taught by,instinct to understand the alarm, immediately fly under her wings. "So, fays Christ, I gave you the alarm, but you would not regard it; sol
spread spread out the wing of my guardian care to defend you, but you would not shelter under it." What more than brutal stupidity is this? In this light, the conduct of sinners is frequently exposed in the sacred "writings. The ox knoweth his owner, fays Isaiah, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not confider. Isaiah i. 3. Every one turneth to his course, says Jeremiah, as the horse rujheth into the battle; yea, thesiork in the heavens knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming; but my people, more stupid than they, know not the judgment of the Lord. Jer. viii. 6, 7. To refuse the osfer of eternal salvation, when proposed upon the most reasonable terms—to rush into hell, rather than be saved by the friendly hands of Jesus Christ—to suffer the most terrible execution, rather than accept a free pardon—to reject all the bliss of heaven when freely proposed—-to choose the pleasures of sin for a season, rather than an eternity of the most exalted happiness—to resist the calls of redeeming love, and all the friendly efforts of divine grace, to save a sinking soul—Is this the conduct of a reasonable creature? No; shew me the brute, if you can, that would act so stupid a part in things that come within the sphere of his capacity. Would it not be better for you to be a cat or dog (to use the language of the Earl of Rochester) than that animal Man, who is so proud of being rational, if you make so irrational a choice? Let me endeavour to make you sensible,
8. And lastly, That this conduct is extremely affecting and lamentable.
It is on this account, that Jesus laments over Jerusalem in such pathetic strains in my text. He knew the truth of the case; his all-feeing eye took it in all its extent, and viewed it in all its circumstances and consequences. And since he, who knew it best, deeply laments it, we may be sure it is lamentable indeed, and it cannot but appear so even to us who know so little of it. An immortal soul lost! lost for ever! lost by its own obstinacy! lost amidst the means of salvation! how tragical a case is this ?—God dishonoured! Jesus rejected! his love defeated! his blood trampled upon I his spirits grieved! how lamentable is this ?—And yet are there not some of you in this lamentable condition in this assembly? It was over such as you that Jesus wept and mourned. And shall he weep alone? shall not our tears keep time with his, since we are so much more nearly concerned? 0 that our heads were waters, and our eyes fountains of tears, that we might weep along with the Saviour of men! But, alas! our tears are too much reserved for dying friends, or some less affecting object, while immortal souls perish around us, unpitied, unlamented!