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in any of these ways I have mentioned: for to them who thus believe, Christ is, and must be precious. But men deceive themselves: they have a vague, confused, and indeterminate opinion, and are accustomed to say in the general, that the Scriptures are the word of God; but they never saw the evidence of their truth in such a light as to be thoroughly persuaded of it. They think the doctrines contained in the Christian revelation may be true; but here they stop; and because they are not downright infidels, they fancy themselves believers, when in truth they are not.
2dly. The love of this world is another cause of mens contempt of Christ, and of his gospel. They can afford him honourable titles, and external bomage; but to follow him fully will not consist with their worldly desires and aims. Such was the young ruler, who addressed that important question to our Saviour, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke xviii. 18. He appeared thoughtful and serious, beyond what might have been expected from his age and rank, and had gone an uncommon length in an outward conformity to the law; but when our Lord commanded him to sell all, and give to the poor, he was sad at that saying, and went away sorrowful, because he bad large possessions." Of this we have a striking illustration in the parable of the marriage-supper, which is recorded in the 22d chapter of Matthew's gospel. The invitation is very warm and pressing at the 4th verse: “Behold I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage.” But it follows immediately, “ They made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.” This, my brethren, still continues to be a very common cause of mens despising and rejecting Christ. They
see the world, but they see not the celestial glory; the one is present, the other only future, and therefore too remote to work upon their affections. If both could be obtained, they would no doubt be very well satisfied; and if religion and their worldly interest take one road, they will be ready enough to pay the compliment to our Lord, and to say that they follow him: but when these separate, then their contempt discovers itself; they cleave to the world, and forsake Christ." Demas hath forsaken me,” said Paul, “ having loved this present world.” –So true is that saying of the apostle John (1 Epist. ii. 15.) “ If any man love the world, the love of the Father," and with equal reason we may add, the love of the Redeemer, " is not in him."
A third cause of this contempt is men's ignorance of their own condition; like the church of the Laodiceans, they “ boast that they are rich, and increased with goods, and standing in need of nothing; and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Some bave so high an opinion of their own understanding, that they see no need of a prophet to instruct them. Others have such low thoughts of the evil of sip, and such a conceit of their own righteousness and worth, that they see as little need of a priest to expiate their guilt, and reconcile them to God. A third sort lay so much stress on their unassisted powers, and the efficacy of their own resolutions and endeayours, that a king to subdue them by his grace and spirit appears altogether superfluous. Thus Christ is despised through men’s ignorance and pride; unacquainted with their state of darkness, guilt, and corruption, they reject him who cometh in the name of the Lord to save them; they feel not their diseases, and therefore treat the physician with contempt and scorn. Once more, in the
4th place, Not a few pour contempt upon Christ, and reject his offers from day to day, from an opinion that they may obtain his aid at what time soever they shall choose to ask it. They say not indeed with the Atheist, 66 Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die;" neither do they say with the gross Antinomian, Let us sin without fear, seeing Christ hath died for us, and is therefore determined to save us at any rate. But they say what is equally absurd, Let us take a full draught of the sweet poison of sin, seeing the remedy is so near at hand that we may apply it when we please. O that this were not too common! I am afraid it will appear, upon inquiry, that there is too, too much of this vile presumption in our hearts. But can there be a greater dishonour done to Christ? Must his bloody sufferings, and unparalleled love, support our rebellion, and embolden us to sin? Can any thing be more criminal? But this I shall have occasion to speak of immediately; and shall only say at present, that thousands, and ten thousands, have perished, who once had the remedy as near them as you have, and who also, perhaps, dreamed of the same facility in applying it. To which I may add, that out of your own mouths you shall be condemned at last, and shall find nothing to plead in arrest of judgment, when God shall say to you, Why did you not repent, and believe in the Saviour, seeing you thought it so easy, that you could do it when you pleased ?
0 that men were wise! that they understood these things, and would consider, in this day of their merciful visitation, the things that belong to their peace, before ,
, they be for ever hid from their eyes! I cannot allow myself to think, that any of you are already acquainted with all the deformity of the sin I have been speaking of; and that, after viewing it in its full dimensions, you are perfectly reconciled to it, and resolved to persist in it. I would gladly hope that this is not the case; but rather that the great enemy of your happiness has hitherto kept you in the dark, and in great measure concealed from you both your guilt and your danger. Perhaps, to this moment, you have never seriously thought upon your ways, but blindly followed the fashion of the world, and suffered yourselves to be carried along with the crowd, without any suspicion that you are chargeable with crimes of such a hellish nature as are included in despising and rejecting the Saviour. I shall therefore proceed, in the
Third place, To give you a short representation of the malignity of this sin; which, if duly attended to, may be of use to dissolve the enchantment, by which the god of this world bath so long blinded your eyes, and rendered you insensible to the misery of your condition.
Consider, then, that to despise and reject such a Saviour, is the blackest ingratitude that can possibly be imagined. It was a cutting question that Christ put to the Jews when they went about to kill him: “ Many good works have I shewed you from my Father, for which of these works do ye stone me?" To render evil for good, hatred for love, is accounted monstrous among men; and the person who behaves in such a manner towards his fellow-creature, is justly condemned and abhorred by all: and yet the most heinous and detestable instance of ingratitude among men is as nothing when compared with your ingratitude towards God. Did he, without any solicitation from you, and not only without, but even contrary to, your desert, send his own Son into the world to save you ? Did the Lord Jesus Christ, “ the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person," assume your nature, become a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs; lead a poor, afflicted, persecuted life, and at last die a shameful, painful, and accursed death, to satisfy offended justice, and to render your happiness consistent with the honour of the divine government? And is this your requital?
I beseech you, my brethren, to bestow some attention upon this; and if your hearts have any softness at all, such unparalleled baseness cannot fail to make the deepest impression upon them. Does this astonishing, undeserved goodness merit no regard? Doth God's unspeakable gift to men deserve no returns of gratitude and praise? Shall the blood of Christ be shed in vain, nay, trampled under foot, as an unholy thing? Will you
crucify the Son of God afresh," and say, by your neglect of his great salvation, “ Away with him! away with him!”—“We have loved strangers, and after them we will go?” Surely you cannot, you will not, pretend to justify this conduct: there is something in it so disingenuous and perverse, so shocking and unnatural, that I am persuaded, when you attend to it, you must loathe and abhor yourselves on account of it.
But this is not the whole of your guilt: Your ingratitude is heightened by the most insolent contempt both of the wisdom and goodness of God. You charge God with folly, when you reject the terms of the gospel-covenant; for your behaviour plainly implies one of the following accusations; either that this method of salvation is unnecessary, and that God from all eternity bath em. ployed his counsels about a needless affair; or else that it is ineffectual, and that the person whom God hath chosen to execute this design is not worthy to be depended upon; or that the terms proposed are so rigorous and