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declined and grown ftrange to him, and then quite revolted and gone back from him.
Many that are strangers to the power of godliness, may put on the form; join with the disciples of Chrift, and pafs for fome of the number, and yet come to throw off all, fo far as to make many an humble serious christian fay with trembling, "If fuch mifcarry, what will become of me?
Judas carried the matter fo fair, that the rest of the difciples queftioned themselves rather than him. Upon the notice that one of them should betray their Lord, inftead of fufpecting him, they, one and another of them afked, Lord, is it I? Matth. xxvi. 22. Simon Magus was baptized as a true believer, and continued fome time with Philip, Acts viii. 13. But afterwards difcovered himself to be in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity. And, in the present degenerate age, how many affecting inftances have we feen or heard, of this! How many young perfons have back-flidden, after hopeful beginnings! Light hath been let into their minds; the word hath been fet home to the awakening of confcience, the exciting of feemingly good affections, and the begetting of a vifible change; putting them upon ftopping in their former courfe, and fettling upon another very different from it: They have prayed for a time in their closets, heard and read the word, attended on publick ordinances with feeming zeal and devotion: But, by degrees they have flackened, grown weary and cold, and fometimes fallen away to the practice of fin, and with as much liberty as
they before fpake against it. They were not far from the kingdom of God; were thought by many to belong to it; feemed to confent to be the Lord's, and to have taken his yoke upon them as his refolved followers: but after all, have taken their leaves of him; and unless fovereign grace interpofe, are not likely any more to walk with him. Inftead of this, they are now led captive by fatan at his will: And if he bids them neglect their fouls and Saviour, make a jest of religion and the profeffors of it, walk after the course of this world, and banish the thoughts of death, judgment and eternity, they will readily do it.
Who would think they are the fame perfons we once faw and knew them to be, when now become fcorners of the profeffion they made, and instead of being the followers of Chrift, are carrying it as if they never knew him? With what earneftnefs foever they once pretended to follow him, they are now fallen back. So much for the matter of fact.
(2.) If we trace this to its fprings, it will be found owing,
[1.] And principally to the want of the root of grace within. No wonder the profeffion is not steady, where the heart is not found, nor at all engaged in it. It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, Hebr. xiii. 9. But without it, it will be as unftable as water.
As without this, the foul is not vitally united to Chrift, and fo derives no fupplies from him, in whofe ftrength alone his members abide in
As corruption is left in its reign, and fo the faireft profeffion will be no longer kept up than this may be indulged. Common light and conviction may for a time reftrain, but whenever a powerful temptation is offered, the corrupt fountain breaks out; and, that fin may be freely purfued, Chrift is left and herein the apoftate does not lofe the grace he had (as understood of a vital principle within) but difcovers, he never had any.
(2.) Entering among the followers of Christ without counting the coft, makes many go back when they meet with what they did not expect. He that can give no reason why he follows Chrift, cannot be expected to hold out to the end; nor does he need any great difficulty to turn him back. He that nameth the name of Chrift muft depart from all iniquity; deny himfelf, and take up his crofs, and follow him; renounce the world, and be ready to part with any thing in it that stands in oppofition to Christ or competition with him; contentedly truft him, and flay for his portion in the unfeen promised kingdom, confenting to follow him in his own way to it, &c. But when this is not deliberately confidered, it will not be eafily endured; and therefore many, after they have met with unexpected trials, have been prefently offended.
(Laftly) In fome the want of fenfible joy in following Chrift, or their not reaching it as foon as expected, occafions their turning their backs upon him not presently receiving the peace they defired at their first setting out after Christ,
they will go no farther, and fo turn back to their former courfe. But this leads us to confider,
2. The fadness of their cafe with whom it is thus:
(1.) In general their cafe is worse than if they had never made a profeffion of Christ, 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour fefus Chrift, they are again entangled therein, and overcome; the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
The latter end is worse with them than the beginning: it may be faid to be fo now,
(1.) As the Holy Spirit is grieved, and, it may be, is retired, and fo their recovery is more doubtful. They have done defpight to the Spirit of grace, by oppofing the bleffed defign of his ftriving with them, breaking from under his hand, and turning their backs on him from whom he came.
(2.) As they have put themselves out of the way in which he is wont to vouchfafe his influence, and it cannot be expected that it should follow them.
(3.) As their guilt is greater, and their time nearer to an end, and all their hopes depend upon the continuance of that life which guilt calls fo loud to justice to cut off. Time can never be
more neceffary to any, to work out their falvation in, than to thefe; and yet, none can be in greater danger of coming to the end of time, before their work is done.
[4.] As fatan has got fafter hold of them. When he returns to his houfe which for a time he hath left, it is faid, he brings with him seven fpirits worse than himself, and fo returns with a fiercenefs and refolution, always to dwell there. They who have efcaped, in profeffion, the fervitude of fatan, and have feemed to cleave to a new and better Mafter, Chrift; upon their revolt from Chrift, they are again feized by that cruel tyrant, who will do all he can to prevent all future escape from him, and to make them. captives for ever. Thus at prefent, their cafe is worfe than if they had never made a profeffion of Christ.
(2.) As their cafe is now worse than it was in the beginning; fo, by forfaking of Chrift they judge themselves unworthy of eternal life, and out of the way to heaven. When there is but one only name under heaven given among men whereby they must be faved, how fearful is their ftate who turn their backs upon it; as there is a day a coming when the Lord Jefus fhall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not Ged, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jefus Chrift? Who shall be punished with everlafting defiruction from the prefence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power, 2 Thef. i. 7. Let us view the cafe of apoftates (in) and (after) that day.