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who, however admired by an undiscerning world, are reputed wicked in the sight of God.
They then are "righteous," who have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, and are following after universal holiness -They, on the other hand, are wicked," who are still in a carnal unregenerate state, and render only a formal and partial obedience to the divine law.
To these distinct classes does God send a separate message; and therefore it is of great importance that we should ascertain to which we belong. Let us then, before we proceed to the consideration of God's message, enquire seriously to which of these classes we belong? Have we, or have we not, been born again———Are we panting after universal holiness; or do we shrink from the more spiritual and self-denying duties of our religion?▬▬]
We intreat all to arrange themselves, as it were, before God in that particular class to which conscience tells them they belong; and to attend with solemn awe, while we
II. Deliver God's message to each of them
God commands his ministers to "warn the wicked,' but to "comfort his people." In obedience to him we will address
1. The righteous
[It is possible that, on account of the smallness of your attainments, you may be saying, "I fear it will go ill with me at last." But God says, "It shall be well with you:" and, in spite of all your fears (if only you press forward in the ways of righteousness) it shall be well with you, in life, in death, and to all eternity. We cannot promise you affluence, or exemption from pain and trouble; but we can promise, in the name of God, that your trials, whatever they be, shall work for good; that your latter end shall be peace; and that you shall have a crown of righteousness and glory at the instant of your departure from the body.5
These are the things which you labour to attain; and you shall surely "eat the fruit of your doings." Dismiss then your unbelieving fears: for this is the word of your faithful God, whom neither the subtlety of Satan can deceive, nor his power withstand.]
2. The wicked
[Glad should we be, if we could say, It shall be well with
b John iii. 3.
e Rom. viii. 28.
e Ezek. xxxiii. 7.
d Isaiah xl. 1. 5 2 Tim. iv. 8.
you. But if we should dare to deliver such a message, the falsehood of it must immediately appear"--Against you, God sends us to denounce woe: "Woe to the wicked! it shall be ill with him." You, under the influence of presumption, may be saying, “I hope, notwithstanding what is spoken in the Bible, that it will fare well with me at last." But, if there be any truth in God, it must be ill with you. Even in the midst of all your boasted enjoyments we defy you to say, that you have any solid peace:i and in your dying hour, if you are not insensible as beasts, you will be full of regret and terror: and, after death, you will lie down in everlasting burnings.'
Nor is this unjust, since you reap only what you sowed. You chose the world as your portion; and you have nothing beyond it: you "would have none of God;"m and you have none of him: you said to him, "Depart;' "n and he says to you, "Depart." In your banishment from God and heaven, the reward of your own hands is given to you."
Painful it is to deliver such a message; but we must deliver it at the peril of our souls:P and whether it be credited or not, it shall be confirmed and ratified in heaven."]
We cannot conclude without recommending to your
1. The equity of the future judgment
[The decision of the Judge will be grounded entirely on our works. No man that was righteous in this world, shall perish; nor shall any man that persisted in his wickedness, be saved. The reward indeed that will be given to the righteous, will be the gift of grace for Christ's sake: whereas that which will be given to the wicked, will be the just wages of their iniquity. Still however, the quality of every person's works will determine his state; and the happiness or misery of each will be proportioned to his improvement or abuse of the talents committed to him. Let every person therefore remember, that he is daily and hourly treasuring up for himself that which shall be delivered to him again at the day of judgment:" and that, if he perish for ever, he will have none to blame for it but himself.]
2. The importance of preparing for our great account
[If the declarations in the text proceeded from man, they might well be disregarded. But they are the words of God;
h Put it into language, and how horrible will it sound!
i Isaiah Ivii. 20, 21.
m Psalm lxxxi. 11.
k Eccl. v. 17.
1 Rev. xxi. 8. xxii. 17.
9 Matt. xviii. 18.
and are as truly spoken to us by him, as if they were now uttered by an audible voice from heaven. Should we not then take warning? Should not the wicked enquire how they may become righteous; and the righteous increase their diligence to hold on in God's holy ways? Would to God this effect might now be produced! how gladly should we set Christ before you as an all-sufficient Saviour! and how joyfully should we proclaim the promises of God both to sincere penitents, and to humble believers!" Let all stir themselves up without delay, and prepare in earnest to meet their God.]
3. The use and benefit of divine ordinances
[In the world, we may pass days and years, and never once hear the sentiment, That it shall go ill with the wicked. On the contrary, we shall hear ten thousand assertions that encourage a directly opposite opinion. And, if a friendly monitor attempt to undeceive us, he is accounted rude, harsh, fanatical. But in the house of God we may venture to speak with plainness, and to declare the determinations of heaven. God sends us for this very purpose, that we may draw aside the vail of futurity, and open to your view the things that shall be hereafter. We are to shew you "the righteous shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," and the wicked "lifting up their eyes with unavailing wishes in the torments of hell." Let the ordinances then be reverenced with humble gratitude, and improved with unwearied assiduity.*]
t Isaiah lv. 7.
u Job. xvii. 9.
If this were the subject of an Assize Sermon, this third remark might be to this effect; The use and benefit of human judicatories; which are intended to distribute justice, as far as possible, in this world, as God himself will distribute it in the world to come.
CCCLX. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FRUITFUL
AND BARREN PROFESSORS.
Heb. vi. 7, 8. The earth, which drinketh in the rain that cometh eft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
COMPARISONS, when just, have the double effect of illustrating, and of confirming, any truth, which they set before us. They have not indeed the force of demonstration, when considered as arguments: but they are peculiarly calculated to impress the mind; and, in that view, have often a stronger effect than the clearest statements, or most logical deductions. Of this kind is the comparison in the text, which is adduced to illustrate the guilt and danger of apostasy. It exhibits figuratively in a way of contrast,
I. The character and end of the godly
[Ground, it good, will cause the fruits that are planted in it to spring up, as soon as it is watered by seasonable and refreshing showers: and the more fruitful it is, the more will it be honoured with the attention and regard of its owner.
In this we may see the character of the true christian. He drinks in with avidity the "word, which distils as the dew, and drops as the rain upon the tender grass.' He hears it with a desire to profit by it; and he endeavours to have it constantly influential on his spirit and conduct. Hence he brings forth in increasing abundance the fruits of faith, and love, and universal holiness; and, like his divine Master, "does always the things which are pleasing to his God.”
In this too we may see his end. His fruitfulness is not indeed the cause, but rather the effect, of God's love to him. Nevertheless God graciously accepts his pious endeavours; and, for Christ's sake, rewards them with the richest blessings. He fills his soul with joy and peace; he enables him to maintain a holy and heavenly conversation; he comforts him in the hour of death; and exalts him to an eternity of glory. Thus fully is that promise verified, "The faithful man shall abound with blessings."4]
b John viii. 29.
a Deut. xxxii. 2.
1 Pet. ii. 5.
II. The character and end of the ungodly
[Bad ground, while it participates in common with other soils the influences of heaven, brings forth nothing but briers and thorns, and is therefore abandoned as unworthy of any culture or attention.
How aptly does this describe the character of the ungodly, and especially of an apostate from the faith of Christ. While they hear the blessed truths of God, their fruit is altogether worthless in itself, and hateful to him who has bestowed the culture upon them. Their fruits are even injurious, being those of the flesh only, and not of the spirit:e while the godly, like the myrtle, perfume even the hand that bruises them, these injure all who come in contact with them.
And is not the end also of such characters justly portrayed in the comparison before us? Doubtless they are disapproved and rejected by their God: nor is it mere dereliction only that they shall suffer, (though that were grievous) but a speedy infliction of eternal punishment. Many are the passages where this awful truth is declared; and it shall be experienced by all who remain unfruitful under the culture that is bestowed upon them.]
1. The careless-How foolish is it to trifle with the means of grace!
2. The backsliders-To what a fearful end are you hastening!
3. The godly-Endeavour to abound more and more in good fruits.&
e Gal. v. 19-23.
f Matt. iii. 12. and xiii. 40-42. John xv. 6. Mark ix. 43-48. 8 Phil. i. 9-11. 1 Thess. iv. 2.
CCCLXI. THE TRUE RFASON OF MEN'S DESTRUC
John v. 40. Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.
TO doubt whether men wish to be saved or not, may appear absurd-No man would hesitate to answer such a question in the affirmative-But though every one would prefer happiness to misery, they are but few who really prefer the way that leads to happiness-The text may