Page images
PDF
EPUB

brink of those miseries, and hast so many causes round about thee shoving thee forward, and thrusting thee headlong down into them, and yet be no more concerned at it, is such a prodigy of senseless stupidity, as heaven and earth may justly be astonished at. It is true, if the danger thou art in were such as is impossible to be evaded, it would then be the wisest course thou couldest take to concern thyself as little as may be about it; but rather to live merrily whilst thou mayest, and not antedate thy misery by thinking of the dismal futurity. But, God be praised, this is not our case; though our condition be dangerous, yet it is far from desperate; for if we will use our honest endeavour, and vigorously exert the faculties of our nature, we not only may, but shall escape. There are indeed a great many causes of our danger, a great many enemies concurring to our ruin; but none of these are able to effect it, unless we ourselves join hands in the fatal conspiracy: if we will be but faithful friends to ourselves, and true to our own eternal interest, it will be beyond the power of all those causes together to do us any material injury. For, blessed be the good God, those that are for us are far greater and mightier than those that are against us; against us we have the world, the flesh, and the Devil, the weakest of which is, I confess, a dangerous and puissant enemy; but for us we have God, and angels, and our own reason, assisted with the most invincible motives; with vast and glorious promises, that stand beckoning to us with crowns of immortality in their hands, to call us off from the pursuit of our lusts to the practice of virtue and religion; with direful threatenings, that are continually alarming and warning us of the dreadful consequents of our sins; and sundry other such mighty (I had almost said almighty) motives, as, if we would seriously attend to, would certainly render our souls impregnable against all the temptations of vice. And besides our reason thus armed and accoutered, we have on our side the holy angels of God, who are always ready to prompt us to and assist us in our duty, and to second us in all our spiritual combats against the enemies of our souls. And besides all these, we have with us the almighty Spirit of God, who, upon our sincere desires and honest endeavours, is engaged to aid us, and cooperate with us in working out our salvation; whose grace is abundantly sufficient for us, to strengthen us in our weakness, to support us under our greatest difficulties, and carry us on victoriously through the most violent temptations. And 'being backed with such mighty auxiliaries, how is it possible that we should miscarry, unless we are resolved to betray ourselves, and give fire to the fatal trains of our enemies; and if we are so bent, there is no remedy for our obstinacy, and it is just and fit we should be left to the dismal and pitiless effect of our own folly and madness. For if when we see ourselves in so much danger, and it is yet in our power to escape if we please, we will notwithstanding precipitate ourselves into ruin, all the world must agree, upon an impartial inquisition for the blood of our souls, that we murdered ourselves, that God is just, and that his hands are clean from any stain of our blood, and that our own ruin is wholly owing to our own invincible obstinacy.

III. I proceed now to the third proposition, that our renouncing of Christ and his religion will most

certainly infer the loss of our souls. For, as I have shewed you, these words are urged by our Saviour as a motive to deter his disciples from forsaking him, as is plain from ver. 24, 25. which necessarily supposes, that upon their forsaking him this loss would most certainly and inevitably follow. In the prosecution therefore of this argument, I shall endeavour these two things:

1. To shew you what that forsaking of Christ is which infers this loss.

2. Upon what accounts our thus forsaking him infers it.

1. What that forsaking of Christ is which infers this loss. To which I answer, there is a fourfold forsaking of Christ, which the scripture takes notice of as capital and damnable to the souls of men.

1st, When we forsake him by a total apostasy.

2dly, When we cowardly renounce the profession of his doctrine, or any part of it, notwithstanding we still believe and are convinced of the truth of it.

3dly, When by obstinate heresy we either add to or subtract from the faith of Christ.

4thly, When by any wilful course of disobedience we do virtually renounce the authority of his laws.

1. We lose and forfeit our souls, when we forsake Christ by a total apostasy from him : when, after we have been baptized into his name, and thereby have made a visible profession of our believing his doctrines and obeying his laws, we turn renegadoes, and cast off our belief of the one, and disown our obligation to the other, we do most justly incur the loss and forfeiture of our souls. For so strong and cogent is the evidence of Christianity, that it is not to be supposed that any professed Christian can be either innocently or excusably seduced into a disbelief of it: for religion being a matter of the vastest moment and concern, he is a traitor to himself that either takes up his religion without examination, or that upon examination refuses to be swayed by the strongest reason; and I am sure it is impossible for any Christian to turn infidel, that is but so honest to himself as first to examine carefully the reasons of his faith, and then to resolve sincerely not to reject it, till better reasons appear to the contrary : but if, either through their wilful ignorance of the evidence of Christianity, or vicious prejudice against the purity of it, they suffer themselves to be seduced into apostasy, they are false traitors to themselves, and as such are justly liable to all those eternal damages they expose themselves to. And hence it is said of those that draw back, that is, apostatize from Christianity, not only that God's soul shall have no pleasure in them, but also that they draw back to perdition, Heb. x. 38, 39. And 2 Peter ii. 20, 21. it is said of those apostates, that their latter end is worse than the beginning; and that it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment: which implies that apostates from Christianity do not only forfeit their souls, but that without repentance they will be for ever forfeited to the most wretched condition, even to the nethermost degree of perdition.

2dly, We lose our souls, when, notwithstanding we do still believe and are convinced of the truth of Christ's doctrine, we do cowardly renounce the profession of it, or any part of it. For when once we have received the faith of Christ, we are thereby

obliged not to renounce the profession of it, whatsoever hazard it may expose us to, our blessed Lord having assured us, that if we deny him before men, he will also deny us before his Father which is in heaven, Matt. X. 33. And St. Paul also having warned us, that if we deny Christ, he will also deny us, 2 Tim. ii. 12. that is, that he will reject and abandon us before God and angels to everlasting misery and damnation; for so St. John assures us, Rev. ii. 8. that the fearful and unbelieving, i. e. the fainthearted cowards that for fear of persecution renounce the profession of the gospel, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. Not that in times of persecution we are always bound to make an actual profession and publication of our faith, to run to the tribunals of our persecutors before we are sent for, and accuse ourselves of those doctrines for which we are persecuted; but whenever we are apprehended, accused, and examined by them, either upon knowledge or suspicion, we are bound, under the penalty of forfeiting our souls, to own and confess our faith, and not to deny any doctrine or article of it, whatsoever the consequence may be. For in this case, to deny our belief is not only a wilful lie, which is in itself a damnable crime, but an act of high treason against our Lord and Saviour; for by renouncing any doctrine which he hath revealed and committed to us, we do not only betray his trust, but blaspheme his veracity; to deny what we believe he hath revealed being in effect to declare him a cheat and an impostor. And having thus incurred the guilt of so black a treason against our Saviour, and wilfully persisting in it, what can we expect the consequence

« PreviousContinue »