Page images

not presently, the gate may be shut within a few moments, and then, though we knock and cry till our hearts ache, Lord, Lord, open to us, we shall receive no other answer, but, Depart from me, I know you not.

not. O good God! how are we besotted then, that rather than begin our repentance to-day, we will wilfully run the hazard of being eternally miserable before to-morrow morning! For if this should be the evening of our day of trial, as for all we know it may, our life and eternity depends upon what we are now doing; and therefore one would think it should highly concern us wisely to manage this last stake, the winning or losing whereof may prove our making or undoing. In pity therefore to our perishing souls, let us return to our Saviour before it be too late, before our feet stumble on the dark mountains, and we fall down into everlasting darkness. And being returned and reunited to him, let us have a care we do not revolt again; for if we draw back, we cancel our repentance, and forfeit all its blessed fruits and benefits; and unless we steadfastly persevere and hold out to the end, all the pains we have taken in our Christian course will be for ever lost, and the remembrance of it will only administer to our future misery. For how will it vex us in the other world, to consider the labour it cost us to take heaven by storm! how vigorously we strove to mount the scaling ladder! through how many difficulties we had forced our way to that height of virtue and religion we were arrived to, and then, when we were got as it were to the topmost rounds, and had laid our hands upon the battlements of heaven, just ready to leap in and take possession of all its joys, how basely we let go our hold, and so tum

[ocr errors]

bled down from that stupendous height into the bottomless abyss of endless misery! Doubtless this consideration must necessarily sting our woful souls hereafter, and for ever enrage them against themselves. Wherefore, as we value the safety of our precious souls, let us, who by our wilful rebellions have gone astray, return, and constantly adhere to our blessed Saviour. Alas! where can we be happier than in his service, who imposeth nothing on us but what contributes to our welfare? Where can we be safer than in his arms, and under his protection, who hath the command and disposal of all events, and to whom all power is given in heaven and earth? Where can we be placed more to our own advantage than under his guidance and authority, who never permits any to serve him for nought, but hath engaged himself to recompense our labour with a crown of glory that fades not away? And is it not strange that after so many advantageous invitations we should need to be scared to our duty ? that after our blessed Master hath enjoined us such a reasonable, gentle, and infinitely beneficial service, he should be forced to terrify us into it with the flames of hell ?

IV. I proceed now to the fourth proposition, that. when the soul is lost, it is lost irrecoverably; where the Greek word árrárrayua, which we render exchange, is used in the same sense with činaona, which signifies a price of redemption, denoting that when once a man hath sold his soul to perdition, it is unredeemable, and that no price will be accepted for its ransom and deliverance; when a man's soul is in hell, under the wretched bondage of a damned spirit, how little soever he regards it now, he would



give all the world, if it were in his power, to be released again; but if he had a thousand worlds it will not do, his bondage being such as will admit no ran

For these words of our Saviour seem to have been a common proverb of the age he lived in, and that derived from those words of the Devil in Job, All that a man hath will he give for his life; that is, when a man is dying, he would willingly part with all to redeem his life; but all will not do. Which proverb our Saviour adapts to his own argument, in which he proceeds from temporal to eternal life : If a man would give so much for his temporal life, what would he not give for his eternal one? But as our temporal life is not to be redeemed, so neither is our eternal one, when once it is lost; for when once our soul is lost or abandoned to the state of the damned, it is lost for ever, and there is no årránharua, or ransom, that will be accepted of by God for its redemption thence. In the prosecution of which argument I shall endeavour these two things:

1. To shew you that if God be so determined, he may, without any injury either to his justice or goodness, detain lost souls in the bondage of hell for ever, and absolutely refuse to accept any ransom for them.

2. That he is actually determined so to do.

1. That if God be so determined, he may, without any injury either to his justice or goodness, detain lost souls in the bondage of hell for ever, without accepting any ransom for them. And this, I doubt not, will plainly appear upon the due consideration of these following propositions.

1st, That God, being the sovereign Being of the

world, hath an unalienable right to impose laws upon all other beings.

2dly, That having this right, he may justly enforce those laws with whatsoever penalties he sees necessary or convenient.

3dly, That when those laws he imposes are for the good of his subjects, it is not only justice but goodness in him to enforce them with the severest penalty.

4thly, That the penalty of eternal bondage under misery is the severest and most effectual way to enforce those beneficial laws, and oblige us to the observance of them.

5thly, That if God think good to enforce his laws with this penalty, he hath as much right to exact it when we disobey, as he had to threaten and impose it.

6thly, That his actual exacting of it can no more impeach his goodness, than his threatening and denouncing it.

1st, That God, being the sovereign Being of the world, hath an unalienable right to impose laws upon all other beings. For he being the greatest and most powerful Being, can himself be subject to no other law but only that of his own nature; and his power being infinite and unconfined, as well as his wisdom, justice, and goodness, doth sufficiently warrant him to do whatsoever is consistent with them. For to be sure a Being of infinite power and greatness can have no superior, but must be necessarily exalted above all other authorities by this incommunicable prerogative of his nature; and being raised above all authorities, he must have authority above all, and

his essential dominion having no other law to bound it, but only that of his own nature, he must necessarily have a right to command whatsoever is consistent with his wisdom, justice, and goodness. His will therefore being the infinite preeminence of his power and greatness supreme, all other wills are obliged to bow before, and prostrate themselves to its sovereign authority; and there is no law whatsoever but he may justly impose upon them, provided it be . not repugnant to that supreme law that is founded in his own nature. This therefore being premised, that God hath a right, as he is the sovereign Being, to give laws to all other beings; it hence follows,

2dly, That he may justly enforce those laws with whatsoever penalties he sees necessary or convenient. For laws without penalties are rather petitions than commands; and unless they carry force enough with them to overawe the subject, and make themselves obeyed, they want the formal sanction and obligation of a law. To have a power therefore of imposing penalties must necessarily be inseparable from the power of making laws, because they are the penalties that make the laws to oblige, that give them power to command, and enforce them with an awful authority. And as the power of giving laws supposes the power of imposing penalties, so it supposes à power of imposing such penalties as may be sufficient to incline and awe the subject into obedience, against all reasons to the contrary. For unless the penalty be great enough to outweigh all other considerations, the law which it enforces will be extremely defective in point of obligation, and leave the subject as much reason to disobey as to obey. God therefore, being by his own natural right the supreme Lawgiver of

« PreviousContinue »