« PreviousContinue »
tian darkness on the very verge of Goshen. At length we were brought to hear the gospel, by events and circumstances in which we had no willing concurrence, or at least no intention of inquiring the way of life. Many have said, "I will go "into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy, and sell, and get gain :" or, "I will go, and 'take my fill of pleasure and diversion with my 'friends and companions :' but they have been disappointed of their aim; and in the very place of their purposed indulgence, gain, or preferment, have been induced to hear the word of God, and been made partakers of blessings inestimably precious. Thus the case of Saul, who went to seek the asses, but found them not, yet met with Samuel, and was anointed king of Israel, has been far exceeded. Secular inducements have led others to remove to places favoured with the faithful preaching of God's word, without the least intention of regarding it: but, after a while, curiosity, or persuasion, or some other motive, induced them to give it a hearing, and thus they were made wise unto eternal life, Some, having resided a long time in a situation where little regard was paid to religion, were at length excited to resist, with all their influence, the introduction of another kind of preaching, and were much chagrined at not being able to carry the point: yet afterwards attachment to a customary place of worship, or some motive of conveniency, brought them to hear the new doctrine, even the doctrine of "Christ "crucified;" and at length a total change in their views, dispositions, and conduct has filled them with admiring gratitude, and dictated most fervent
praises to the Lord. Nay, in some instances, a man's gross misconduct has proved the occasion of bringing him to hear the word of life to the salvation of his soul! Thus Onesimus, dishonestly leaving his master Philemon, fled to Rome, where the ministry of Paul was blessed to his conversion; and he became, as it is generally supposed, an able pastor of the Christian church: and thus, I trust, several, whose vices were the cause of their seeking admission into this hospital,' have here been brought to repentance, faith in Christ, and newness of life; and will admire to all eternity the manifold wisdom and inexpressible mercy of God to them, in this gracious dispensation.
In these, and numberless other ways, the Lord is "found of them that sought him not, and made "manifest to them that inquired not after him." 2 And the hints now offered may assist the serious Christian, in recollecting the peculiar means, by which God first" opened his eyes, and turned him "from darkness to light, and from the power of "Satan to God."
We should however observe, that numbers have been favoured with the same means, who never obtained the same blessing. It occurs therefore to inquire, "Who made thee to differ from another?" Some of us are conscious that, when we first heard or read the doctrine of Christ, which now is " all "our salvation and all our desire," we treated it, not merely with indifference, but with decided contempt and aversion. Nay, we opposed and reasoned against it with all our ability, calumniat
The Lock Hospital.
2 Rom. x. 20.
ing or ridiculing those who held it. We can remember how strenuously we endeavoured to silence our convictions, and to answer the arguments which almost prevailed over our prejudices: how we tried to quiet our minds, either by reflecting on our supposed virtue; by growing more punctual in a task of religion; or by listening to our own self-complacency and the flattery of our friends, in respect of the imagined superiority of our talents. When baffled on these grounds, we can recollect how we attempted to elude the conviction, by listening to disadvantageous reports concerning those reputedly enthusiastical teachers, who maintained the humiliating doctrines of grace; and, by charging their principles, on some occasions with tending to licentiousness, on others, by blaming them as too precise and rigorous in their requirements and example! Nay, perhaps some present, when all these methods failed, have tried to forget the whole in the hurry of business, a succession of company and dissipation, an excess of riot, or even a close application to study. Indeed it would not be wonderful, if some individuals should be conscious that, after all other attempts to quiet their consciences, they have had recourse to an antinomian or enthusiastical abuse of the gospel, as the last and most desperate expedient for keeping upon good terms with themselves, without parting with their worldly idols.
Not one of these ways of eluding conviction can be mentioned, which has not been tried by one or another; not one of these snares in which some of us have not been successively entangled: yet in every one of them numbers are finally given up to
" a strong delusion to believe a lie, that they might “ all be damned, who believed not the truth, but "had pleasure in unrighteousness.”l How is it
then, my brethren, that any of us have been " re"covered out of the snare of the devil, who had "taken us captive at his will?" We can in no other way account for it than by saying that God mercifully" gave us repentance to the acknowledging of the truth."2 "God who is rich in
mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, " even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." "For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of your"selves; it is the gift of God."3 "The Giver of every good and perfect gift," not only bestowed the Saviour, and the free pardon and salvation of all that truly believe in him; but gave us repentance and faith likewise, and made us "willing in "the day of his power:" and thus he has a claim upon us for the highest possible gratitude and admiring praise.
Even since the time when we first were "warn"ed to flee from the wrath to come," and to "lay "hold for refuge on the hope set before us;" how numerous have been our conflicts, difficulties, and dangers? Many, who appeared to the most competent judges far more promising than we were, "in time of temptation have fallen away;" or
they have been choked with cares, and riches, "and the lusts of other things, and have brought "no fruit to perfection." Some have evidently returned to "their wallowing in the mire, and
1 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12. 22 Tim. ii. 25, 26.
Eph. ii. 3-8.
"their last state is worse than the first." Others have been "carried about with every wind of doc"trine, by the sleight of men, and cunning crafti
ness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Thus they have proved "unstable in all their ways,' have become the zealous propagators of some pestilential heresy, or have "turned aside to vain "jangling." Many have grown lukewarm in the grand essentials of religion, and proportionably fierce and contentious in supporting certain dogmas, by which some parts of the truth are pushed to anti-scriptural extremes. In short, in a course of years, if we have accurately observed the affairs of the church, we have witnessed and lamented many astonishing changes, suited to excite our gratitude to God, who " hath hitherto helped us," and guided us at a distance from those rocks, quicksands, and whirlpools, which have proved fatal to numbers.
Our own experience likewise may help us to form a proper judgment of the divine goodness, in thus far protecting and upholding us. If we have for any length of time "fought the good fight of "faith," we must have a consciousness, that in many instances we were" cast down, but not de
stroyed." Our enemy has been sometimes ready to rejoice over us as actually vanquished. Outward circumstances gave force to our innate depravity, and our customary or easily besetting sins; the tempter was permitted "to sift us as wheat;" we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God that "raiseth the dead" Perhaps temptation prevailed against us; and a guilty conscience united with an