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2. That which disgusts them, is what they cannot get over. There is something not to be found in him, which they cannot want, and something in him which they cannot endure. And by no art can they reconcile their hearts to it. It is with many as with the young man, "who was sad at what Jesus said to him, and went away grieved for he had great possessions." Many a time they are aiming at the bargain betwixt Christ and their souls, but they can never finish it. For there is always one thing that stands between Christ and them. His holiness will not allow him to yield it to them, and their corruption will not allow them to yield it to him. And so in the end the soul parts with Christ, perhaps with grief and tears, because it will do their way, and they cannot do otherwise, Mark x. 21, 22.
3. Because they cannot get over that one thing, it keeps Christ and the soul asunder effectually. Could the Jews have got over the offence of the mean appearance of Christ, and reconciled it to their own notion of the Messiah, they would have been fond of him, as they were while he was not come. "He was then the Lord whom they sought." But the bargain must needs be marred, where the parties cannot agree. And there can be no uniting with Christ by faith, while there is any one objection against him reigning in the heart. We must be all his, or none at all. We must receive whole Christ, or want him altogether.
Lastly, This keeping Christ and the soul asunder, the soul is at length thereby ruined, and brought into a worse case, than if Christ had never come in the way. "If I had not come, says he, and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin." For then the remedy for sin is despised, and while that continues the disease must needs be desperate. And none can think that their debt will be so severely exacted as those who have refused a cautioner. And as the sourest vinegar comes of the most generous wine, so the vengeance that comes on the despisers of the gospel will be the most terrible. No fire will burn so keenly, as that which comes from the altar. We now proceed,
II. To shew that stumbling at Christ abounds very much in the world. Let us view the heaps upon heaps that are lying broken, snared and taken.
1. Let us take a view of those that are lying rotting above the ground in open profanity; they are kept away from Christ, even by the very far off sight of him and his way. "There are many at this day, who cry, let us break their bands asunder and cast their cords from us. We will not have this man to reign over us."
the profane persons, and such as will not take on so much as a form of godliness. They are terrified at the holiness of his way, and therefore they run far from him. They keep at such a distance from him, they will not set their foot on the holy ground. They are so far from covenanting with God, that it is evident, they will engage to be any thing sooner than to be the Lord's. Our holy Redeemer does not please these people more than a palace would please swine.
2. Let us take a view of those who are lying dead upon their murdered convictions. Our Lord has taken some persons in hand to cure them, and by the Spirit of conviction, he has begun to let blood of the heart vein of their beloved lusts. But the pain of this operation hath made them disagree with the Physician, start up and break the lancet, and stifle their convictions. And now their wound is whole, their convictions are gone, and their conscience, which was so uneasy before, is now as dead as stone. Go where they please, they are not troubled. Darts are as stubble.
3. Those that are lying broken and pining away, having stumbled over the cross of Christ. Like the stony ground hearers, "not having root in themselves but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by they are offended." Many have made a good appearance in a fair day, when in the time of a storm, have soon turned their backs upon Christ. It is now long since the times of persecution, and yet there is no doubt, but the wounds then received are lasting with many to this day. But I fear that private crosses in the time of the Church's peace, have made greater havock in the case of many professors, than ever public ones did. And O! but it is much to wait upon the Lord, in all the turns of providence, which may be in our lots and not to be offended in the great manager of all. They may follow Christ far, time and circumstances may at length cause to draw back.
4. Those that are fallen away from the lusts of Christ's consolation, to the fulsome breasts of the world and their own lusts. In every age there are many like the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt, who for a time kept up in the wilderness, but afterwards lost hopes of Canaan, and fell a "lusting, and even the children of Israel also wept again, and said, who shall give us flesh to eat?" We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick. Such persons keep steady and flourishing a while, so long as religion is new to them. But the grace which they receive being awakening only, and not changing, and their souls never truly uniting with
Christ; their comfort and satisfaction from that quarter dry up, when once the novelty is away: so they do not find that in Christ which they expected, and therefore they are offended, and even fall away to their former courses, having entirely lost their taste and relish for spiritual things.
Finally, Look at those whose soul exercises have issued in putting their case in the hands of a Physician of no value. There are many who being awakened by a spirit of conviction, and are really exercised about their souls' condition, put their case to Christ for healing. But not being able or willing to wait his time, till the wound be sufficiently searched, but being for peace at any rate, they are offended in him, and so put themselves in the hand of the law that wounded them. Thus they make themselves whole, not by the believing application of the blood of Christ, but by their prayers, tears, and external reformation. And so they settle down upon their lees farther from Christ than ever. It now remains,
III. To shew that they are happy indeed who are kept from being offended in him. What this attainment is, you may know from what is here said of it. It consists in this. This happy soul is well pleased with Christ, and has no objections against him. The soul says of him, "His mouth is most sweet; yea, he is altogether lovely." The heart of this person now corresponds in all respects to the covenant of peace, and says that it is well ordered in all things and sure. There is nothing in the mystery of Christ which they desire to have out, and there is nothing out which they desire to have in it. They are pleased with the gospel offer, they love Christ in his person, natures, offices, relations, all that is in him or about him is welcome to them. And are all such blessed ones? They are. For,
1. Their eyes are opened to see that superlative glory in Christ, that all the unbelieving world cannot discover. And therefore I may say, Blessed are your eyes, for they see and your ears, for they hear. And indeed in this case the hidden glory of the Mediator is taken up, darkening all created excellency. Whereas the most piercing eyes of nature can never see through the vail. "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." But they who are pleased with him can say, beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth."
2. Their hearts are new formed, cast into a new mould, otherwise they could never be pleased with him. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of
the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Adam's covenant is engraved in our nature, and the way of believing is the very reverse of nature's way. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God." Sin is our natural element, and though it be our disease, yet we naturally love it, and cannot but love it so as to loathe the physician. If then the heart be pleased with Christ, it is turned and changed, and made willing in a day of power. The natural enmity is cured, and the heart of stone is become a heart of flesh.
3. That soul cannot fail to embrace Christ, to receive him by faith and unite with him. For to be well pleased with Christ, is in effect to say amen to the great bargain. And the cause is won when the sinner is pleased with the gospel offer. Now he is the person," who having found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
Lastly, Hence all the blessings of the covenant fall to the share of him who is well pleased with Christ, as to his having a right to them, as a believer through Jesus Christ.
Uses for improvement.
1. Be convinced then of this bias of the heart, this disposition of the soul to stumble at Jesus Christ. O, says the poor fool, would any thing in Jesus Christ offend me? Pleased with Christ! who would not be well pleased with him? Alas! you know not what spirits you are of! you are little acquainted with the natural enmity of your souls against the Lord, and particularly with that corruption of your nature, by which it is strongly averse to the gospel plan of salvation. If it be not so, how can it be an evidence of the grace of God in the text, to be well pleased with him. "While
Christ crucified is to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, he is to them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
I tell you many are pleased with Christ, as Jacob was with Leah, while he thought she had been Rachel. It is a mistaken Christ whom they love, even as sure as they love their lusts. No man can serve two masters. And if a new light would spring up in their dark hearts, they would see it to be so. Many love Christ very well, to be a rest to their consciences, while they can get the world and their lusts to be a rest to their hearts. And thus they can do very well
between the two. But take away these from them, and their hearts can rest no more than a fish drawn out of the water till it be in it again. Their souls can never truly say as the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." Now was ever Christ a covering for the eyes to them. Nor did they ever find such sweetness in Christ as they have in following their lusts.
2. I exhort one and all of you, that have a mind for any share of eternal happiness, and particularly communicants, that you would try yourselves this night, whether you be well pleased with Christ or not; that so if there be any thing which you have stumbled at in Christ in time past, you would now come over it, as ever you would see the face of God in mercy, and would not have it part betwixt Christ and you. And for this purpose let your consciences put the following questions.
1. Is there any thing in Christ's salvation offered in the gospel that offends you? Salvation from the wrath of God, is but the half of Christ's salvation. I doubt not but you are pleased with this part of it. But are you pleased with the part which is salvation from sin? "He saves his people from their sins?" What sayest thou, sinner? Christ is saying to thee, wilt thou be made whole? Wilt thou be made clean?
Wilt thou be made content, that the Physician not only remove death, but the disease also? Not only take away the guilt, but break the power, and also at last destroy the very existence of sin in you? Wilt thou be content to hold out the right eye to him that he may pluck it out, and the offending right hand that he may cut it off? If not, you are offended in Christ, his salvation does not please you. But if you come forward to him, he is pleased and you
2. Is there any thing in Christ's offices that offends you? Any thing in his prophetical office that offends? Our Lord has the Father's commission to guide poor sinners through the wilderness of this world to Immanuel's land. "He hath given him to be a witness unto the people, a leader and commander to the people." He leads them by his word and Spirit, for it is not his will that they be trusted with the guiding of themselves. What think you of this commission. Will you take Christ this day for your guide for ever, or will you hold the reins still in your own hands, though you should lead yourselves to destruction? Will you then renounce your own wisdom, and take him for your sole oracle? I am sure you may know that your wilfulness has many a time shaken off this yoke. What say you of it now? If you have nothing to object against our Lord's