SINNERS ENTREATED TO BE RECONCILED TO GOD.
" We then are embassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."—2 Cor v. 20.
The proper notion of an embassador is that of a person sent by a king to transact affairs in his name, and according to his instructions, with foreign states, or part of his subjects, to whom he does not think proper to go himself and treat with them in his own person. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ is not personally present in our world to manage the treaty of peace himself, but he has appointed first his apostles, and then the ministers of the gospel through every age, to carry it on in his name. Suppose him here in person treating with you about your reconciliation to God, and what regard you would pay to a proposal made by him in person, with all his divine royalties about him, that you should now show to the treaty I am to negotiate with you in his name and stead.
The next sentence in my text binds you still more strongly to this; as though God did beseech you by us. As if he had said, " God the Father also concurs in this treaty of peace, as well as Christ the great Peacemaker; and as we discharge an embassy for Christ, so we do also for God; and you are to regard our beseeching and exhorting, as though the great God did in person beseech and exhort you by us." How astonishing, how Godlike, how unprecedented and inimitable is this condescension! Let heaven and earth admire and adore! It is by us, indeed, by us poor fellowmortals, that he beseeches: but, O! let not this tempt you to disregard him or his entreaty : though he employs such mean embassadors, yet consider his dignity who sends us, and then you cannot disregard his message even from our mouth. The apostle, having thus prepared the way, proceeds to the actual exercise of his office as an embassador for Christ: We pray you, says, he in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God. As if he had said, " If Christ were now present in person among you, this is what he would propose to you, and urge upon you, that you would be reconciled to God: but him the heavens must receive till the time of the restitution of all things; but he has left us his poor servants tc officiate in his place as well as we can, and we would prosecute the same design, we would urge upon you what ha would urge, were he to speak; therefore we pray you, in his stead, be ye reconciled to God: we earnestly pray you to be reconciled; that is the utmost which such feeble worms as we can do: we can only pray and beg, but your compliance is not within the command of our power; the compliance belongs to you; and remember, if you refuse, you take it upon yourselves, and answer the consequence."
" But if your business only lies with the enemies of God," (you may be ready to say,) " you have no concern with me in this discourse; for, God forbid that I should be an enemy to him. I have indeed been guilty of a great many sins, but I had no bad design in them, and never had the least enmity against my Maker; so far from it that I shudder at the very thought I" This is the first obstacle that I meet with in discharging my embassy; the embassy itself is looked upon as needless by the persons concerned, like an attempt to reconcile those that are good friends already. You plead "not guilty" to the charge, and allege that you have always loved God; but if this be the case, whence is it that you have afforded him so few of your affectionate and warm thoughts ? Do not your tenderest thoughts dwell upon the objects of your love ? But has not your mind been shy of him who gave you your power of thinking ? Have not you lived stupidly thoughtless of him for days and weeks together ? Nay, have not serious thoughts of him been unwelcome, and made you uneasy ? And have you not turned every way to avoid them ?
Again, if you are reconciled to God, whence is it that you are secretly, or perhaps openly, disaffected to his image, I mean the purity and strictness of his law, and the lineaments of holiness that appear upon the unfashionable few ? If you loved God, you would of course love every thing that bears any resemblance to him. But are you not conscious that it is otherwise with you; that you murmur and cavil at the restraints of God's law, and would much rather abjure it, be free from it, and live as you list? Again, if you do but reflect upon the daily sensations of your own minds, must you not be conscious that you love other persons and things more than God? that you love pleasure, honor, riches, your relations and friends, more than the glorious and ever blessed God? Look into your own hearts, and you will find it so: you will find that this, and that, and a thousand things in this world, engross more of your thoughts, your cares, desires, joys, sorrows, hopes, and fears, than God, or any of his concerns. Is it not therefore evident, even to your own conviction, that you do not love God at all ? and what is this but to be his enemy ? To be indifferent towards him, as though he were an insignificant being, neither good nor evil, a mere cipher; to feel neither love nor hatred towards him, but to neglect him, as if you had no concern with him one way or other; what a horrible disposition is this towards him, who is supremely and infinitely glorious and amiable, your Creator, your Sovereign, and Benefactor; who therefore deserves and demands your highest love; or, in the words of his own law, that you should love him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. expressible malignity of your enmity and rebellion against him. You must return to your rightful Sovereign as convicted, self-condemned, penitent, broken-hearted rebels, confounded and ashamed of your conduct, loathing yourselves because you have loathed, the Supreme Excellence, mourning over your unnatural disaffection, your base ingratitude, your horrid rebellion against so good a King. And what do you say to this article of the treaty of peace ? Is it a hard thing for such causeless enemies to fall upon the knee, and to mourn and weep as prostrate penitents at the feet of their injured Maker? Is it a hard thing for one that has all his life been guilty of the blackest crimes upon earth, or even in hell, I mean enmity against God, to confess " I have sinned," and to feel his own confession? to feel it, I say; for if he does not feel it, his confession is but an empty compliment that increases his guilt.
From what can such indifferency towards him proceed but from disaffection and enmity ? It is in this way that the enmity of men towards God most generally discovers itself. They feel, perhaps, no positive workings of hatred towards him, unless when their innate corruption, like an exasperated serpent, is irritated by conviction from his law; but they feel an apathy, a listlessness, an indifferency towards him; and because they feel no more, they flatter themselves they are far from hating him; especially as they may have very honorable speculative thoughts of him floating on the surface of their minds. But alas! this very thing, this indifferency, or listless neutrality, is the very core of their enmity; and if they are thus indifferent to him now, while enjoying so many blessings from his hand, and while he delays their punishment, how will their enmity swell and rise to all the rage of a devil against him when he puts forth his vindictive hand and touches them, and so gives occasion to it to discover its venom! My soul shudders to think what horrid insurrections and direct rebellion this temper will produce when once irritated, and all restraints are taken off; which will be the doom of sinners in the eternal world; and then they will have no more of the love of God in them than the most malignant devil in hell! If therefore you generally feel an indifferency towards God, be assured you are not reconciled to him, but are his enemies in your hearts.
Ye rebels against the King of heaven! ye enemies against my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ! (I cannot flatter you with a softer name,) hear me; and attend to the proposal I make to you, not in my own name, but in the name and stead of your rightful Sovereign, and that is, that you will this day be reconciled to God. That you may know what I mean, I will more particularly explain this overture to you.
If you would be reconciled to God, you must be deeply sensible of the guilt, the wickedness, the baseness, the in
Again, if you would be reconciled to God, you must heartily consent to be reconciled to him in Christ; that is, you must come in upon the footing of that act of grace which is published in the gospel through Christ, and expecting no favor at all upon the footing of your own goodness. The merit of what you call your good actions, of your repentance, your prayers, your acts of charity and justice, must all pass for nothing, in this respect; you must depend only and entirely upon the merit of Christ's obedience and sufferings as the ground of your acceptance with God; and hope for forgiveness and favor from his mere mercy bestowed upon you, only for the sake of Christ, or on account of what he has done and suffered in the stead of sinners. It does not consist with the dignity and perfections of the King of heaven to receive rebels into favor upon any other footing. I would have you consent to every article of the overture as I go along; and therefore here again I make a pause to ask you, What do you think of this article ? Are you willing to comply with it, willing to come into favor with God, as convicted, self-condemned rebels, upon an act of grace procured by the righteousness of Christ alone ? Can it be a mortification to you to renounce what you have not, and to own yourselves guilty, and utterly unworthy, when you are really such ? O! may I not expect your compliance with this term of reconciliation ?
Again, if you would be reconciled to God, you must engage yourselves in his service for the future, and devote yourselves to do his will. His law must be the rule of your temper and practice: whatever he commands, you must honestly endeavor to perform, without exception of any one duty as disagreeable and laborious; and whatever he forbids, you must, for that reason, abstain from, however pleasing, advantageous, or fashionable. You must no longer look upon yourselves as your own, but as bought with a price, and therefore bound to glorify God with your souls and your bodies, which are his. O! can you make any difficulty of complying with this term ? n not, you will return home this day reconciled to God; a happiness you have never yet enjoyed for one moment.
Finally, if you would be reconciled to God, you must break off all friendship with his enemies; your friendship with the world, I mean your attachment to its fashions and customs, and your fondness for its rebellious inhabitants, who continue enemies to God; your love of guilty pleasures, and every form of sin, however pleasing or gainful you might imagine it to be. As long as you are resolved to love the world, to keep up your society with your old companions in sin, to retain your old pleasures and evil practices; as long, I say, as you are resolved upon this course, farewell all hope of your reconciliation to God: it is absolutely impossible. And do any of you hesitate at this article1? Is sin so noble a thing in itself, and so happy in its consequences, as that you should be so loth to part with it ? Is it so sweet a thing to you to sin against God, that you know not how to forbear ? Alas! will you rather be an implacable enemy to the God that made you, than break your league with his enemies and your own ? Do you love your sins so well, and are you so obliged to them, that you will lay down your life, your eternal life, for their sakes.
I might multiply particulars, but these are the principal articles of that treaty of peace I am negotiating with you, and a consent to these includes a compliance to all the rest. And are you determined to comply ? Does the heaven-born
Eurpose now rise in your minds, " I am determined I will e an enemy to God no longer; but this very day I will be reconciled to God on his own terms!" Is this your fixed purpose? or is there any occasion to pray and persuade you?
I well know, and it is fit you should know, that you are not able of yourselves to consent to these terms, but that it is the work of the power of God alone to reconcile you to himself; and all my persuasions and entreaties will never make you either able or willing. You will then ask me, perhaps, " Why do I propose the terms to you, or use any persuasives or entreaties with you?" I answer, because you never will be sensible of your inability till you make an honest trial, and because you never will look and pray for the aid of the blessed Spirit till you are deeply sensible of your own insufficiency; and further, because, if the blessed Spirit should ever effectually work upon you, it will be by enlightening your understandings to see the reasonableness of the terms, and the force of the persuasives; and in this way, agreeably to your reasonable natures, sweetly constraining your obstinate wills to yield yourselves to God; therefore the terms must be- proposed to you, and persuasives used, if I would be subservient to this divine agent, and furnish him with materials with which to work; and I have some little hope that he will, as it were, catch my feeble words from my lips before they vanish into air, and bear them home to your hearts with a power which you will not be able to resist. Therefore, notwithstanding your utter impotence, I must pray, entreat, and persuade you to be reconciled to God. I pray you, in the name of the great God your heavenly Father, and of Jesus Christ your Redeemer. In the name of God I pray you; the name of the greatest and best of beings; that name which angels love and adore, and which strikes terror through the hardest devil in the infernal regions; the name of your Father; the immediate Father of your spirits, and the Author of your mortal frames; the name of your Preserver and Benefactor, in whom you live, and move, and have your being; the name of your Supreme Judge, who will ascend the tribunal, and acquit or condemn you, as he finds you friends or foes; the name of that God, rich in goodness, who has replenished heaven with an infinite plenitude of happiness in which he will allow you to share after all your hostility and rebellion, if you consent to the overture of reconciliation; in the God of terrible majesty and justice, who has prepared the dungeon of hell as a prison for his enemies, where he holds in chains the mighty powers of darkness, and thousands of our race, who persisted in that enmity to him of which you are now guilty, and with whom you must have your everlasting portion, if, like them, you continue hardened and incorrigible in your rebellion; in the name of that compassionate God, who sent his dear Son to satisfy divine justice for you by his death, and the precepts of the law by his life, and thus to remove all obstructions out of the way of your reconciliation on the part of God; in this great, this endearing and tremendous name, I pray you be reconciled to God.
I pray you, both in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, the true friend of publicans and sinners, in his name, and for his sake, who assumed our degraded nature, that he might dignify and save it; who lived a life of labor, poverty, and persecution upon earth, that you might enjoy a life of everlasting happiness and glory in heaven; who died upon a torturing cross, that you might sit upon heavenly thrones; who was imprisoned in the gloomy grave, that you might enjoy a glorious resurrection; who fell a victim to divine justice, that you might be set free from its dreadful arrest; who felt trouble and agony of soul, that you might enjoy the smiles, the pleasures of Divine Love; who, in short, has discovered more ardent and extensive love for you than all the friends in the world can do; in his name, and for his sake, I pray you to be reconciled to God. And is this dear name a trifle in your esteem ? Will you not do any thing so reasonable and so necessary, and conducive to your happiness for his sake—for his sake who has done and suffered so much for you ? Alas ! has the name of Jesus no more influence among the creatures he bought with his blood! It is hard indeed if I beg in vain, when I beg for the sake of Christ, the Friend, the Saviour of perishing souls. But if you have no regard for him, you certainly have for yourselves; therefore, for your own sakes, for the sake of your precious immortal souls, for the sake of your own everlasting happiness, I pray you to be reconciled to God. If you refuse, you degrade the honor of your nature, and commence incarnate devils. For what is the grand constituent of a devil, but enmity against God ? You become the refuse of creation, fit for no apartment of the universe but the prison of hell. While you are unreconciled to God you can do nothing at all to please him. He that searches the heart knows that even your good actions do not proceed from love to him, and therefore he abhors them. Ten thousand prayers and acts of devotion and morality, as you have no principles of real holiness, are so many provocations to a righteous God. While you refuse to be reconciled, you are accessary to, and patronize all the rebellion of men and devils; for if you have a right to continue in your rebellion, why may not others? Why may not every man upon earth ? Why may not every miserable ghost in the infernal regions ? And are you for raising a universal mutiny and rebellion against the throne of the Most High ? O the inexpressible horror of the thought! If you refuse to be reconciled, you will soon weary out the mercy and patience of God towards you, and he will come forth against you in all the terrors of an Almighty enemy. He will give death a commission to seize you, and drag you to his flaming tribunal. He will break off the treaty, and never make one offer of reconciliation more; he will strip you of all the enjoyments he was pleased to lend you, while you were under a reprieve, and the treaty was not come to a final issue; and will leave you nothing but bare being, and an extensive capacity of misery, which will be filled up to the uttermost from the vials of his indignation. He will reprove you, and set your sins in order before you, and tear you in pieces, and there shall be none to deliver. He will meet you as a lion, " and as a bear bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of your hearts." He hath for a long time held his peace, and endured your rebellion; but ere long he will go forth as a mighty man; he will stir up jealousy like a man of war; he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. Ah! he will ease him of his adversaries, and avenge him of his enemies. He will give orders to the executioners of his justice: These mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me. And now if you will not submit to peace, prepare to meet your God, O sinners; gird up your loins like men; put on the terror of your rage, and go forth to meet your Almighty adversary, who will soon meet you in the field, and try your strength. Call the legions of nell to your aid, and strengthen the confederacy with all your fellow-sinners upon earth; put briers and thorns around you to inclose from his reach. Prepare the dry stubble to oppose devouring flame. Associate yourselves, but ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves; but alas! ye shall be broken to pieces.
But, O ! I must drop this ironical challenge, and seriously pray you to make peace with him whom you cannot resist:
then all your past rebellion will be forgiven; you shall be the favorites of your Sovereign and happy for ever; and earth and heaven will rejoice at the conclusion of this blessed peace; and my now sad heart will share in the joy. Therefore, for your own sakes, I pray you to be reconciled to God.