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marred by unbelief. (2.) At this rate then ye must die in your sins eternally, and your unbelief must be the great cause of your ruin, 2. Thess. i. 8.
4. The condemnation of unbelievers must be most dreadful, since it is the sin against Christ, Matth. xi. 24, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee." Other sins wound the soul; this resolutely keeps the wounds open, and will not suffer them to be healed. Other sins are against the sovereign authority of God in the law; this superadds thereto a contempt of unparalleled love and mercy opened to the sinner in the gospel. As then the sourest vinegar comes off the most generous wine, so the most fearful thunder-claps of wrath will break out on the sinner, from the contempt of a throne of grace through unbelief.
5. Lastly, Here is what may strike the bottom out of all your objections against your believing in Christ, fetch them from what quarter ye will, and dress them up in what form you please, whether the conclusion be, you may not, dare not, or ought not believe on Christ. As it is the commandment "That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ," 1 John iii. 23, so not believing is the sin against Christ. Account ye of it as ye will, he will reckon it the greatest affront that ye can do him, and he will reckon with you for it as such. Wherefore let this short answer serve in the case.
Thirdly, Here is a lesson for all. It concerns us all to be convinced of the malignity against Christ and his Father that is in the sin of unbelief, to get above it, as we would throw coals of hell-fire out of our bosom; to believe in Christ, embrace him as our Saviour and Redeemer, Head and Husband, and to live by faith on him. This is the way to honour the Son, the true way to be holy here, and happy hereafter.
DOCTRINE II. The unbeliever sinner against Christ by unbelief, wrongs his own soul.
Here I shall shew, how the unbeliever sinning against Christ by unbelief, wrongs his own soul; and then deduce an inference or two for application.
I. I am to shew how the unbeliever, sinning against Christ by unbelief, wrongs his own soul. The wrong here meant is real hurt or damage, arising from this woful practice. Now, on whom does it fall? On the sinner himself. I take it up in these two, that he wrongs his own soul really and only.
First, The unbeliever, sinning against Christ by unbelief, wrongs his own soul really. He does in very deed do hurt and bring
damage to himself, not to his body only, but to his soul, the more precious part. He does violence to himself, he treats his own soul cruelly and unjustly. He carries against his own soul as an enemy, doing it real mischief. For by unbelief,
1st, A man keeps his soul in a state of separation and alienation from God. The sinner by nature is far from God, without God in the world, Eph. ii. 12. Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, John xiv. 6, and unbelief keeps the soul from off that way, fixes the separation wall, that as long as it remains in its power, the sinner can never meet with God, as rejecting the only meeting place.
2dly, A man keeps his soul under the guilt of all his sins. The blood of Jesus purge th from all sin; but it must be sprinkled by faith on the soul, which unbelief refuseth, John viii. 24. It keeps the soul out of Christ; and while it is so, all the guilt remains, the yoke of his transgressions is wreathed about his neck, and all the cords of death abide about him in their force. No mourning or sorrow, tears or repentance will loose them; only the blood of Christ procures pardon.
3dly, A man keeps his soul in a state of utter inability to do any thing that is good or acceptable in the sight of God; Heb. xi. 6, "Without faith it is impossible to please him." It keeps the reigning power of sin hale in the soul, and so preserves and feeds the several lusts, the devourers of the soul. It binds up hand and foot that he can do nothing, nor move a step heavenward, John xv. 5. For it blocks up all saving communication between heaven and the soul.
4thly, It fixes the soul in a state of condemnation; John iii. 18, "He that believeth not is condemned already." It keeps it under the curse of the first covenant, and exposes it to eternal destruction. It keeps it naked without a righteousness, destitute of any valid plea for eternal life. It leaves it without the city of refuge, every moment in hazard of being cut off by the avenger of blood.
Lastly, By refusing the remedy, the unbeliever brings double ruin on his own soul. The soul might be saved; but by unbelief salvation is refused, and so the soul is in worse case than if Christ had never been offered to it.
Secondly, The unbeliever sinning against Christ by unbelief, wrongs his own soul only, not Christ whom he sins against; Prov. ix. 12, "If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself; but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it." All sin is against the mind and honour of Christ, but no sin is against his happiness. If all the creatures did conspire against him, it could not make the least diminution of his happiness, or in the least disturb him. Thy un
belief is like one's rushing his head against a rock, which can only hurt the person himself; Job xxxv. 6, "If thou sinnest, what dost thou against him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what dost thou unto him?
I shall conclude this subject with some inferences.
1. All unbelievers, rejecters of Christ, are self-murderers; they ruin their own souls, Ezek. xviii. 31. When it comes to pass that thy soul perishes, and inquiry is made, by whose hands it has fallen, there will be a decision; Hos. xiii. 9, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;" not Adam, not Satan, but thou thyself, O sinner.
2. Ye cannot do your souls a worse turn than not to receive Christ by faith. Many an ill turn ye have done them by swearing, lying, covetousness, &c., but this is a stab to the heart; this is wounding the soul in the most sensible, in the most noble part.
3. All unbelievers will be inexcusable. Pagans will have something to say, that the revelation of the way of salvation through Christ was not made to them; yea devils will have it to say, that there was no remedy prepared for them. But what wilt thou have to say for thyself, O unbeliever, who treadest under foot the blood of the Redeemer! Thou wilt be wholly without excuse. Thou wilt be like the man that sat down at the table, at the marriage of the king's son, without a wedding-garment, who when asked, how he came there not having a wedding-garment, was speechless, having no excuse to allege for his presumptuous behaviour.
4. Believe in, accept of, embrace, and close with Christ, as ye would not ruin your own souls. Refuse not the remedy that is freely provided for you in Christ. Ye are all invited and welcome to come unto Christ for salvation from sin, and from the wrath that is to come. By accepting of Christ ye shall be saved, and your souls shall have communion with God. But if ye believe not, you shall perish, and the wrath of God shall lie on you for ever. "He that believeth, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned," Mark xvi. 16.
5. Lastly, Saints and believers, in as far as ye admit unbelief, ye wrong your own souls. Every act of unbelief is a doing violence to your souls, and hurting them in their most essential interests. O then guard against this dreadful and deceitful enemy, that seeks your ruin. Daily exercise faith in Christ, improve it by vigorous and repeated exercise; and continually cry unto the Lord, saying, "Lord increase our faith." Live by faith, walk by faith, and, in the strength of Christ, resist all the assaults of unbelief; and in due time ye shall be more than conquerors through him that loved you. Always bear in mind, and never forget, that "he that sinneth
against Christ, wrongeth his own soul," and is in love with death; whereas he that honoureth him by believing in his name, and is strong in the faith, giving glory to God, shall be safe amidst all the troubles and trials of this world, in every period and stage of life, and shall at last be received into the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, where happiness for ever dwells, and the voice of violence and wrong is never heard.
BELIEVERS A MYSTERY, WITH A DESCRIPTION OF THEIR TRAVELS FROM THE WILDERNESS OF THIS WORLD, TO THE HEAVENLY CANAAN, LEANING UPON CHRIST.*
SONG viii. 5,
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her
We have been solemnising our souls' espousals to Jesus Christ, and our consent to the gospel-call, saying in effect to us, "Wilt thou go with this man?" Leave thy father's house, and thine own people, and cleave to the King of Zion. We have before angels and men answered, We will go with him, for he is our Beloved. Here we have an account of the Christian life, which must be our life, if we will deal honestly with him; it is a "coming up out of the wilderness, leaning on our Beloved." These are the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, containing,
1. An inquiry about a party, whom they took particular notice of, namely, the church of believers, the spouse of Christ; "Who is this?" It intimates a kind of surprise, Who's that! The wilderness uses not to afford such a sight as this. It imports an admiration as of some hidden thing, a mystery; Who is this? This is a strange kind of personage whom we see.
2. A character of the party inquired about. It is a woman, one of the weak sex, as the church of believers is represented in scripture. She is not one of the dwellers in the wilderness. She appears not to have built her house there. She is but a traveller through it, and her head is awayward from it; and she is set for another country. That is she whom we mean, who is coming up from the wilderness. I make no question but by the wilderness here is meant
* The substance of several sermons preached at Ettrick, June 18, 1721, and subsequent Sabbaths.
the world, as Cant. iii. 6; and iv. 8; with a plain eye to the Israelites coming through the wilderness to Canaan; the last of which, as it was typical of heaven, so the former is of the world.
But for the further understanding of these words, it is necessary to take notice of a custom among the Jews at their marriages, to which there is here a manifest allusion, viz., The bridegroom used to take his bride, and carry her out of the city into the fields, and there they had their nuptial-songs; and afterward he brought her back again, leaning on him, into the city, to his father's house, and there the marriage was solemnized. Now we may be sure, however, that these fields were not a wilderness or moorlands, no fit place for a bridegroom and bride's walk together. This, then, increases the wonder, What a bride is this that is coming up out of the wilderness with her Bridegroom, leaning on him? Others use to be entertained more softly and delicately; what a bride and Bridegroom are these! However, here is represented the Christian life, the life of the church of believers espoused to Christ. In which observe two things.
1st, Her exercise; she is travelling upon her road away with her espoused husband, namely, Christ. The place she is going from is the wilderness-world; the place she is going to appears, from what is said, to be her Bridegroom's Father's house. Her way is upward, her motion an ascending, as the word imports; and here should rather be read "going up," than "coming up," as Judg. xx. 21, since the decency of the parable requires it, she being rather going from the place where the daughters of Jerusalem were, than to the place where they were.
2dly, Her posture, her travelling posture; "leaning on her Beloved." This is what in New Testament language is called the life of faith; for that is the spiritual leaning of the soul, and imports a fiducial persuasion. It bears, (1.) Her having her Bridegroom's company through the wilderness. He leaves her not there alone; he bids her go nowhere but where he himself will go with her. (2.) Her having his help through the wilderness. She leans on him, as a weak woman on a journey leans upon her husband.
Three doctrines offer themselves from the words.
DOCT. I. True believers, espoused to Christ, turning their back on the world, and walking heavenward with him, are a mystery, a strange sight in the world. Who is this!
DocT. II. The life of believers, as espoused to Christ, is a going up from the wilderness of this world, with him, to his Father's house in the heavenly Canaan.