« PreviousContinue »
der the gofpel, enjoying the means of grace, and continually neglecting and mifimproving the fame. This is matter for the deepest lamentation, mourning and woe. To think of perfons having been long favoured with a feafon of grace, and opportunities for fecuring the falvation of their fouls, and all have been neglected, the cafe is truely deplorable; death approaching, time expiring, and the greatest bufness of life ftill unperformed. We are not to pronounce any man's day of grace paft, while they continue in this world, yet there is reason to fear, it may be the melancholy fituation of many. Every man must look into his own heart and judge for himfelf. Here we may enquire,
First, into those circumftances and fymptoms which render it probable, that thofe on whom they are found, their day of grace is past.
Secondly, evince that this is a ftate both lamentable and dangerous.
Before I proceed further in this fubject, I would beg leave to make two preliminary remarks. First, we would not pretend to undertake to define the limits and bounds of the day of grace in reference to any people, or any particular perfons. This is beyond human adjustment, and is alone proper to omniscience. We have no ftandard of the divine difpenfations in inftances of this nature.
Secondly, we premife, that there may be a great difference in respect to the termination of fuch a day. It may be over with a collective body of people, when it may not be past with every individual appertaining to fuch a body; and it may be over with particular perfons in a place, when it is not pak with that people in general. We proceed now,
Fir to enquire into the circumstances and fymptoms which rerdot it rimmable, that the day of grace is paft with those on who they are found.
Ti0, f perfons have lived for a long feries of years under fehl and powerful miniftry, and yet have not made any Epical improvement, or received any fpiritual benefit therefrom. This cafe, however common, certainly wears a black and gloomy afpect, and must be apprehended at leaft to afford fome ground to fear respecting the fad conclufion. These perfons have long enjoyed a faithful miniftry; their condition with all the consequences of it, has often and plainly been flated before them in their intrinfic dread and horror, and they have been warned to cfcape for their lives, and to flee to the hope fet before them. This hope and the method of deliver ance thro' the mediation and facrifice of Chrift, the fon of God and the Saviour of the world, has been clearly, according to the fcriptures, reprefented unto them. They have been entreated with all the variety and powers of language, to embrace the offers of mercy by faith, to relinquith their iniquities by repentance, to give up their hearts in love to God, and engage in the duties of religion fincerely. And notwithftand ing all the pains which God has taken with them for a multitude of years, the y have ftill remained inconfiderate, fecure and unimpreffed. What could God have done more for fuch, than that he hath dene? We have an awful illuftration of the judgment which awaits thofe perfons in the epifle to the Hebrews. "For the earth which "drinketh in the rain which cometh oft upon it, and bringeth "forth herbs, meet for them by whom it is dreffed, receiveth
blefing from God; but, that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto curfing, whofe end is to "be burned." We here belicid the excellency of the word of the gofpel. It is compared to rain which refreshes the earth and renders it fiuitful. We fee alfo the different effects of it
on different perfons; it is to fome a favour of life unto life, while to others, it is a favour of death unto death. Some, after all the showers of the gospel, remain barren and unfruitful; they are nigh unto curfing whofe end is to be utterly con fumed. "He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, "fhall fuddenly be deftroyed and that without remedy."
Secondly, when perfons have paffed thro' fpecial feafons of the out pouring of the Spirit of God; when many have been awakened and converted, and fouls have flocked to Jefus as doves to their windows, and they have continued still secure and unconcerned. Surely their cafe must have an unhappy appearance. These are the most likely feafons of getting faving good, and of engaging effectually in the fervice of God. Perfons who have fat thro' various fuch times, and still going on thoughtlessly in worldly purfuits or carnal pleasures, have great caufe to be afraid and to tremble by reafon of the danger of their condition.
Thirdly, when perfons have been the fubjects of powerful convictions, and have had the workings and ftrivings of God's fpirit, and after all have returned to their former deadness and fecurity in fin. This certainly is a cafe as dreadful and threatning as any yet mentioned, and perhaps more fo. This is ftated in a tremendous light by our Lord. "When the "unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh thro' "dry places feeking rest and he findeth none. Then he faith "I will return into my houfe from whence I came out, and "when he is come he findeth it empty, fwept and garnished; "then goeth he and taketh with himself seven other spirits
more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell "there; and the laft end of that man is worfe than the first." Hearken to the threatning of Jehovah in fuch an inftance. "Because I have purged thee, and thou waft not purged, thou "fhalt not be purged from thy filthinefs any more, till I have "caufed my fury to rest upon thee."
Fourthly, if perfons have formed a falfe judgment of their ftate, and have taken up a hope that they are religious, upon infufficient or delufive grounds; and have long buoyed themfelves up with the vain confidence of their piety, while their habitual irregularities of life too ftrongly indicate the contrary. They proceed on in their unfounded hopes, partake of the moft foleran and fealing ordinances, and they become more blind, confident, and void of all fufpicion, until the fatal hour of death diffolves the charm. This was the cafe of the pharifees of old, and continues to be the condition of many hypocrites down to the prefent day. "Thefe are they who are "pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their "filthiness. They proclaim their own goodness, and are
apt to thank God, they are not as other men are." These are among the number of those to whom God gave a space for repentance and they repented not. Behold the flowing tears of a weeping Saviour over a people who had outlived their day of grace; and hear the heart rending mean bursting from his compaffionate lips. "O that thou hadst known, even “thou at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy
peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes. The harvest is "over and the fummer is past, and they are not faved.”
"Fifthly, when a gospel ministry and gofpel ordinances are removed from a people, this wears a dreadful and dangerous. aspect. The means of grace and falvation are taken away, the ftrivings of God's fpirit have ceafed, and fuch a people are prepared for judgments. God is about to inflict upon fuch the punishment of irreclaimable Ephraim, and fay, "All their "wickedness is in Gilgal, for there I hated them; for the wick"edness of their doings, I will drive them out of mine house, "I will love them no more. Give them, O Lord, what wilt "thou give ?--give them a mifcarrying womb and dry breafts." Or the fatal stupidity of impenitent Ifrael. "Make the heart "of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and thut their
"eyes, left they fee with their eyes and hear with their ears, "and under and with their heart, and convert and be healed."
Now collect all thefe fymptoms or appearances into one view, for they ought not to be feparately fixed upon any character, but when the affemblage is applicable to any people or perfon, the danger is great left they fhould perifh forever. If they have been favoured with a faithful miniltry; various feafons of the out pouring of the divine fpirit; have been the fubjects of ftrong convictions and powerful awakenings; have become reformed, and have formed mighty refolutions; and imbibed a hope upon infufficient grounds, and this falfe and delusive confidence grows ftronger and stronger; what can be faid of fuch perfons but that their day of grace is past, and that they are given over to ftrong delufion, to believe lies, that they may be damned. A few words upon the
Second head will abundantly fuffice, that this is a flate both lamentable and dangerous.-The deplorableness of this cafe will appear from the nature and precioufnefs of the foul; the irrepaiableness of the lofs of it; and the dreadful aggravations attending the fame. The foul is above all created things precious. Did not the Son of God lay down his life for its falvation? The lofs therefore mut above all conception be tremendous. The perfon who can meafure eternity, and grafp the flames of hell in his hand, let him make the calculation of the damage. The declaration of our Lord upon this fubject has been fo many thoufand times reiterated, that daily repetition has blunted its edge, and turned it into all the weakness of dulinefs. Yet once more it afks your attention and ferious confideration. It never made a more folemn appeal to your hearts, judgments and confciences. "What is a man profi "ted, if he thould gain the whole world," in all the trinity of its powers, its honors, profits and pleafures, "And "lofe his foul, or what can be given in exchange for the foul?"