« PreviousContinue »
reckon nothing too dear to be bazarded in his service. That saying of our Lord will be continually sounding in our ears, “He that is ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and perverse generation, of bim also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with all the holy angels." Many can weep in secret for the sins of others, who have not the fortitude to appear against them in public. But such persons would do well to consider, that neither their tears nor their prayers can avail them any thing, so long as they fold their hands like the sluggard, and neglect the proper means for obtaining what they ask. God permits, nay commandeth us, to cast our care upon him; but he giveth us no allowance to dispose of our work in that way. We must be doing in a humble dependance upon his grace; and then we may both ask and hope to obtain his blessing upon our endeavours. But if we pray, and sit still; if we lie bowling upon our beds, when we should be abroad at our labour, we offend God instead of pleasing him; and can look for no
; other answer but this, “Who hath required these things at your hand?” This, my brethren, is very necessary to be attended to. There is hardly any man who maintains the profession of religion, who will not readily acknowledge, that we stand in great need of a reformation; yet where is the man to be found who seems heartily disposed to contribute his assistance? When God is calling, “Who will stand up for me against the evil doers? Who will rise up for me against the workers of iniquity?" instead of replying, with the prophet Isaiah, “Lord, here am I, send me,” we are rather inclined to say, each one for himself, Lord, such another person is fitter for the work, send him; but I pray thee bave me excused. I shall be accounted a zealot, saith one, if I engage in this ser
vice: I shall offend my friends, saith another: A third pleads the doubtfulness of the event: A fourth hath some worldly gain or preferment in view, and therefore it is too early to appear for God as yet; but he resolves, that after he hath got his aim in the service of the devil, then he will turn about, declare himself to be on the Lord's side, and confess him openly, when it can no longer hurt his secular interest. These maxims, however oddly they may sound, are in reality the hinges upon which the bulk of nominal Christians turn; by these despicable rules do they square their conduct, in a matter which, of all others, is the most weighty and interesting. Whereas the true mourner prefers the glory of God and the interest of his kingdom to every thing else. He is not governed by the low and flexible maxims of worldly policy; he doth not consult with flesh and blood, but makes the will of God, and the dictates of conscience, the rule, and the only rule, of his conduct. He doth whatsoever appears right to bim in the mean time, and leaves the issue with God. He is neither discouraged by the small number of the godly, nor intimidated by the multitude of transgressors; but in all cases, where he hath a call, and opportunity to act, publickly avows the master whom he serves; and under the banner of his Almighty Saviour, he valiantly contends with earth and hell, being assured of a triumphant victory at last. If this render him vile in the eyes of others, like David, he is willing to become yet more vile; and, with Moses, the man of God, he bravely prefers the reproach of Christ to all the fading riches, and honours, and pleasures, of a present world.
A GREAT variety of uses might be made of this subject; but I shall conclude with addressing a few words to three different classes of hearers, which may be supposed to comprehend the whole of this assembly.
I shall begin with those who think that there is no great cause to complain of the world at present; and consequently, that the duty I have been recommending is neither so necessary, nor so seasonable, as many others that might have been chosen. If you are very young, I partly excuse you; but if you are advanced in life, I am unable to devise any colour of apology for you, but must uecessarily charge you, either with amaz. ing inattention, or more amazing perverseness; for it is notorious, that not the power only, but even the form of godliness, is under a lamentable decay, and hath been so for many years past: witness the general neglect of family-worship, the gross profanation of the Christian Sabbath, and sundry kinds of immorality, which were scarcely known in our country half a century ago. These ill-boding symptoms make it too evident, that we are a degenerate and backsliding people, who are fast filling up the measure of our iniquity; and it is an addi. tional cause of grief that so few among us observe and are affected with it.
I shall next speak to those who make a mock of sin, who are obstinate and hard-hearted, and, instead of lamenting, glory in their wickedness. You perhaps sus. pect that I am going to address you with sharpness and severity; but you are really mistaken. God knows that I pity you, and have no other aim but to make you pity yourselves. You have long been deaf to warnings and reproofs: 0 let the sweet voice of mercy at length prevail! God hath sworn that he taketh no pleasure in your death; and this is his call to you after all your provoca. tions, Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die ? Nay, he hath paved the way for your return to him with the blood of his own Son, “who suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring the chief of sinners to God.” It is
impossible you can prevail against him, or disappoint him of his glory; the weapons of your rebellion can only hurt yourselves; and, ere long, the proudest of his enemies shall bow down before him, and lick the very dust. Even you, my friends, must either bend to the sceptre of his grace, or be dashed in pieces with his rod of iron : those haughty looks shall shortly be humbled, either in mercy or in judgment; and if once his wrath begin to burn, there is no power that shall be able to deliver you out of his hand. Why then will you reject bis gracious counsel? Why will you perish when mercy is in your offer? Why will you break the hearts of all that fear God, when, by your conversion, and flight into the true city of refuge, you might afford cause of great joy both in heaven and on earth? For the Lord's sake consider your ways, and be wise; “ seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” The great enemy of your souls will probably suggest to you, that if you comply with this exhortation, your old companions will mock and ridicule you, in proportion to your former excess in sin; and this snare, I am afraid, is too fatally successful with many. But let not any suggestion of this kind deter you from doing what you plainly see to be your duty and your interest. The godly, with whom you join yourselves, will be far from upbraiding you with past offences; they will freely forgive all the injuries you have done to them, and teach you to magnify the riches of divine grace, which took hold of themselves when ready to perish, and advanced them to be heirs of everlasting salvation. 6 Wherefore come out from among the wicked, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." iti
I now turn with pleasure to the mourners in Zion, who are deeply affected with their own sins and with the sins of those among whom they live. And I would say for your encouragement, that this becoming temper affords undoubted evidence of a work of grace upon your own hearts. Hereby it appears that you are the children of God, seeing the honour of your heavenly Father is so precious in your esteem. And know for your comfort, that none of these filial tears can be lost : God puts them into his bottle, as the Psalmist expresses
and whatever be the fate of those on whose account they were shed, you shall at last receive joy for mourning, and garments of everlasting praise for your present spirit of heaviness. This holy grief, as you learn from the context, may be a means of securing you against temporal judgments; at any rate, it will sweeten them, and shall undoubtedly be succeeded with fulness of joy at God's right hand.
But you will remember, that grief for abounding iniquity, if pure and genuine, is always accompanied with vigorous endearours to reclaim transgressors. This, then, my brethren, is what God demands and expects from you. Let every one in bis station contribute his aid for the suppression of vice, and for promoting the interests of pure and undefiled religion. Let us join hand in band in this necessary work and labour of love. Fired with zeal for the glory of God, and fervent charity to the souls of men, let us not only sigh and cry for the abominations that are done in the midst of our land, but do all that we can to prevent the ruin of a sinful nation.
Hereby we shall become public blessings while we live, and shall at last, through the mercy of God in Christ, bave an entrance ministered unto us into that better world, where all tears shall be wiped away from