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EZEK. xxii. 11.
Say unto them, As I live, faith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Ifrael?
T hath been the aftonifhing wonder of many a man as well as me, to read in the holy Scriptures how few will be faved, and that the greatest part even of thofe that are called, will be everlastingly fhut out of the kingdom of Heaven, and be tormented with the Devils in Eternal fire. Infidels believe not this when they read it, and therefore they must feel it; thofe that do believe it, are forced to cry out with Paul, Rom. xi. 13. ** O the depth of the riches both of the Wisdom and Knowledge of God! How unfearchable are his Judgments, and his ways paft finding out!" But Nature itself doth teach us all to lay the blame of evil works upon the doers; and therefore when we fee any heinous thing done, a principle of justice doth
provoke us to enquire after him that did it, that the evil of the work may return the evil of fhame upon the author. If we faw a man killed and cut in pieces by the way, we would prefently afk, Oh! who did this cruel deed? If the town was wilfully fet on fire, you would afk, What wicked wretch did this? So when we read that the moft will be firebrands of Hell forever, we muft needs think with ourselves, How comes this to pafs? and who is it long of? Who is it that is fo cruel as to be the caufe of fuch a thing as this? and we can meet with few that will own the guilt. It is indeed confeft by all, that Satan is the caufe; but that doth not refolve the doubt, because he is not the principal caufe. He doth not force men to fin, but tempts them to it, and leaves it to their own wills whether they will do it or not. He doth not carry men to an alehoufe and force open their mouths and pour in the drink; nor doth he hold them that they cannot go to God's fervice; nor doth he force their hearts from holy thoughts. It lieth therefore between God himfelf and the finner; one of them must needs be the principal caufe of all this mifery, which ever it is, for there is no other to call it upon and God difclaimeth it, he will not take it upon him; and the wicked difclaim it ufually, and they will not take it upon them, and this is the controverfy that is here managing in my text.
The Lord complaineth of the People, and the People think it is long of God. The fame controverfy is handled, chap. xviii. verfe 25. they plainly fay, that the way of the Lord is not equal." So here they fay, ver. 19, if our tranfgreffions and our fins be upon us, and we pine away in them how fhall we then live?" As if they fhould fay, If we muft die, and be miferable, how can we help it? as if it were not long of them, but God. But God, in my text, doth clear himfelf of it, and telleth them how they may help it if they will, and perfuadeth them to ule
the means, and if they will not be perfuaded, he lets them know that it is long of themfelves; and if this will not fatisfy them, he will not forbear to punish them. It is he that will be the Judge, and he will judge them according to their ways; they are no judge of him or of themfelves, as wanting authority, and wifdom, and impartiality, nor is it the cavilling and quarrelling with God that thall ferve their turn, or fave them from the execution of juftice which they murmur at.
The words of this verfe contain, 1. God's purgation or clearing himfelf from the blame of their deftruction. This he doth not by difowning his law, that the wicked fhall die, nor by difowning his judgments and execution according to that law, or giving them any hope that the law fhall not be executed; but by profeffing that it is not their death that he takes pleasure in, but their returning, rather that they may live; and this he confirmeth to them by his oath. 2. An exprefs exhortation to the wicked to return; wherein God doth not only command, but perfuade and condefcend alfo to reafon the cafe with them. Why will they die? The direct end of this exhortation is, that they may turn and live. The fecondary or reserved ends upon fuppofition that this is not attained, are thefe two: First to convince them by the means which he used, that it is not long of God if they be miferable. Secondly to convince them from their manifeft wilfulnefs in rejecting all his commands and perfuafions, that it is long of themselves, and they die, even becaufe they will die.
The fubftance of the text doth lie in these observations following:
Doct. 1. It is the unchangeable Law of God, that wicked men muft turn or die.
Doct. 2. It is the promije of God, that the wicked
Salvation, but not in their death or damnation; he had rather they would return and live, than go on and die.
Doct. 4. This is a moft certain truth, which becaufe God would not have men to question, he hath confirmed it to them folemnly by his oath.
Doct. 5. The Lord doth redouble his commands and perfuafions to the wicked to turn.
Doct. 6. The Lord condefcendeth to reafon the cafe with them; and afketh the wicked why they will die ?
Doct. 7. If after all this the wicked will not turn, it
is not long of God that they perish, but of themfelves; their own wilfulness is the cause of their own damnation; they therefore die because they will die.
Having laid the text open before your eyes in thefe plain propofitions, I fhall next speak fomewhat of each of them in order, though very briefly.
Doct. 1. It is the unchangeable Law of God, that wicked men must turn or die.
IF you will believe God believe this: There is but one of these two ways for every wicked man, either converfion or damnation; I know the wicked will hardly be perfuaded either of the truth or equity of this: No wonder, if the guilty quarrel with the law. Few men are apt to believe that which they would not have to be true, and fewer would have that to be true which they apprehend to be against them. But it is not quarrelling with the law, or with the judge, that will lave the malefactor; believing and regarding the law might have prevented his death, but denying and accufing it will but haften it. If it were not fo, an hundred would bring their reafon against the law, for one that would bring his reafon to the law, and
men would rather choofe to give their reafons why they should not be punished, than to hear the commands and reafons of their governors which require them to obey. The law was not made for you to judge, but that you might be ruled and judged by it.
But if there be any fo blind as to venture to queftion either the truth or the juftice of this Law of God, I thall briefly give you that evidence of both; which, methinks, thould fatisfy a reafonable man.
And first, if you doubt whether this be the word of God or not, befides an hundred other texts, you may be fatisfied by thefe few.Matth. xviii. 3. "Verily I fay unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God." John iii. 3. "Verily, verily, I fay unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot fee the kingdom of God." 2 Cor. v. 17. If a man be in Chrift, he is a new creature; Old things are paft away, behold all things are become new.' Col. iii. 9, 10." Ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him." Heb. xii. 14. 66 Without holiness none fhall fee God." Rom. viii. 8, 9. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Now if any man have not the fpirit of Chrift, he is none of his." Gal. vi. 15.. For in Chrift Jefus neither circumcifion availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifion, but a new creature." 1 Pet. i. 3. According to his abundant grace he hath begotten us to a lively hope." Ver. 23. " Ver. 23. "Being born again, not of corruptible feed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." 1. Pet. ii. 1, 2. Wherefore laying afide all malice, and all guile, and hypocrifies, and envies, and evil fpeaking; as new born babes defire the fincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby." Pfalm ix. 17. "The wicked fhall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." Pfalm xi. 4. "And: