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think of him less, till he totally forgets him : and then he is in danger of falling into that state, out of which men cannot be renewed unto repentance. When the gospel, which å man had received, has not power to lead him forward, there is no new gospel to awaken him : when the most powerful medicine God ever made hath lost its effect, what other can we apply?
So long as the soul is in a growing state, the blessing of heaven continues with it, and the grace of God brings it on to farther improvement: but if it is out of culture, thorns and briars get possession of it, and its end is to be burned. When thorns and briars shall be planted in Paradise, then such careless Christians may expect to be admitted into heaven.
From the consideration of Christ's Priesthood we are exhorted to draw near with faith, and partake of his blessing, by attending upon his Church and his ordinances; not forsaking the assembling ourselves together as the manner of some is*, The Jews, I fear, in the worst of times, were more zealous in attending their public services and sacrifices, than some of those who call themselves Christians. In the best days of the Church, it was always the manner of some few to absent themselves from the religious assemblies of the Christians : but what would St. Paul have said, if he had lived to these times, when perhaps not one half of the people are at the public prayers; not one quarter of them at the sacrament? and they have no persecution to fear, as the primitive Christians had; who attended their worship at the hazard of their lives. It must be owing to mere idleness and indifference ; for however business may be pleaded on the ordinary days of the week; it cannot be pleaded on a Sunday. This truth I must suppose them to know; that if their Saviour is a Priest, they must partake of the sacrifice he offers for their salvation. But there is another dreadful truth, which they do not think of; that; to those, who do not partake of this sacrifice for sin, there remaineth no other ; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. If he who despised Moses' law died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy, who do this despite to the spirit of grace *, by neglecting the great atonement that was made by Christ himself for the sins of the world? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the B B 2
Chap. X. 22, &c.
living God*, and be made an example of divine vengeance : and what else can they expect, who refuse to accept of the sacrifice of Christ, by which alone the fiery indignation of God can be turned away from their own persons ? No words are sufficient to express their danger: O that they could see it themselves, and would consider of it, and not trust to such frivolous excuses as will stand them in no stead in the day of visitation!
To encourage us in our Christian warfare, the Apostle sets before us at large the examples of the Saints of old, who were all saved by leading a life of faith †: enduring every trial and conquering every enemy, on this great principle. There never was any other way of salvation from the beginning of the world, but this way of faith.
of faith. All the Saints of God who found acceptance with him, depended upon his word and promise for such things as they could not see; and either forsook the pleasures of the world, or contradicted its errors, and endured its reproaches, for his sake. We may plead the business of life, and the cares of life; but they had their business and their cares as well as we; yet they loved God, and made it their first care to be saved.
The race we are to run may have its difficulties: indeed, if it is a race, it cannot be without them: but we are encompassed with a cloud of wilnesses *, all testifying that this RACE may be run, and the prize obtained; because they did actually perform it, and are entitled to the crown of victory. What hinders us from doing the same; but that we are retarded by some weight, which we are not careful to divest ourselves of and lay aside? We do not strive against that sin, whatever it may be, which most easily besets us, and is never to be subdued but by faith, and prayer, and selfdenial; faith in better things than this world can bestow; and
prayer for that grace which may assist us in doing what our strength will never accomplish.
Great is the influence which the example of God's faithful servants will have upon our minds, if we meditate upon it. They were men of like passions with ourselves, and were not without their weaknesses: Sin put on the same deceitful appearance to them as to us: and they had the scorn of an overbearing world to resist, as we have now. Their example, while it instructs, will animate and encourage us. But greater than all is the examBB 3
ple * Chap. xii. s.
ple of our blessed Saviour himself: therefore we are directed to look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God*. What are
What are the troubles we are accustomed to, compared with the agonies of the cross? What is the contempt of silly empty people, who call themselves the world, compared with the disgrace of hanging naked as a malefactor before a multitude, who mocked at the punishment as a proof that he who suffered it was an impostor? Nothing was ever so full of apparent disgrace, as the character of Jesus Christ at his passion. How distressing and almost distracting is it, to be innocent, and yet seem to be guilty? This is a piercing trial to an honest mind. To affect to be great when we are mean, and powerful when we are weak, exposes us to the scorn of every enemy; and this the enemies of Christ laid to his charge, and gratified themselves with every malicious expression that could add to the apparent infamy of his sufferings. Yet all this shame he patiently endured, for the joy that was set before him. This we are to consider under all our trials. God does not lay
upon Chap. xii 2.