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(5.) The unchangeableness of this liberty. When once a captive is freed by Christ, all the power and policy of hell cannot bring him back again into bondage : John X. 28, “And I will give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish; neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand.” See how Paul boasts of this, Rom. viii. 38, 39. It is true, were there none to preserve this liberty but the believer bimself, it might be lost; but it is infallibly guarded against the gates of hell, by the unalterable decree of God, 2 Tim. ii. 19; by his unchangeable love and covenant; by the continual indwelling of the Spirit, and the prevalent intercession of Christ.
Lastly, Consider the eternity of this liberty. Death does not put a close to this liberty, but rather gives a new beginning to it; it shall continue for ever, they shall live for ever and ever in the enjoyment of it.
Thus life and death are set before you, will you accept this liberty or not? May I not say, how shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation ?” Heb. ii. 3. Consider,
1. That it is most unreasonable to refuse it, to remain in captivity after the proclamation of liberty is issued. Would men but make their reason judge betwixt Christ and them, there would be no fear of the cause, Josh. xxiv. 15. Who would refuse their liberty, if they might be made free ? liberty from such a master and snch work &c.; liberty purchased from such a glorious person, by the glorious King, at such a ransom, &c. Consult your reason, your interest, and will you prefer the pleasures of sin for a season, to the eternal rivers of pleasures at God's right hand ? Consider,
2. That every refusal makes your captivity the more firm and hopeless. Satan bores the ear of sinners anew to his door-post on every refusal. Hence none so hard to win, as those who have refused many gospel calls. Tyre and Sidon would be much easier wrought upon than Chorazin anđ Bethsaida, Matth. xi. 21; Ezek. iii. 7; wild Americans, than Scotsmen. For when the gospel does not soften the heart, it is hardened under it. Consider,
3. That by refusing this liberty, you become the murderers of your own souls. Prov. viii. 39, “He that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul; all they that hate me, love death." Hear, sinners, how our Lord expostulates with you on this point, Ezek. xviii. 31, 32, “ Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart, and a new spirit; for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel ? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” You have the poisonous cup of your sins at your head, will ye drink it ? ye say, ye cannot help it, ye must drink it off ; our Lord says, Throw it away, it will be your death if you do not. Come to me, and I will free you from this miserable bondage to Satan and your lusts, so that they shall not have that power over yon which they have had. Well, if you will not comply, you are murderers of your own soul with a witness, as really as if ye did wilfully drink up a cup of poison, or stabbed yourselves with a sword. Consider,
4. That if you refuse, you make the deliverer your enemy, and shall not escape, Heb. ii. 3, The deliverer will turn your destroyer, for neglecting his salvation. The Lamb of God will be as a lion to you, for slighting his offers of grace. They who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power, 2 Thess. i. 8, 9. As the sourest vinegar is made of the best wine, so the fiercest wrath arises from slighting the greatest grace, Prov. i. 24–31. Consider,
5. That ye know not how soon ye may be beyond the reach of the proclamation of liberty, Luke xiii. 24, 25. The voice of it is not heard on the other side of death, to which we are fast making way. Do you not see, as in Psalm xc. 9, that " wo spend our days as a tale that is told ?" A new-year's day, and other days adjoining to it, are very ill chosen for revelling, jollity, and carnal mirth; they suit it nearly as ill as does the pretended day of Christ's birth, commonly ealled Yule-day. Alas! they will give themselves the loose run in these things, because they are now a year nearer the grave and eternity than they were; because they are entered on a new year, the end of which it may be they shall never see. If people will make a difference between such days and others, it would be most suitable in these days to take a solemn and serious view of eternity, and to be making preparations for that day, which will put an end to their years. However, let this time put you in mind of death's approach, and refuse not the offer of grace, which you will have no more, when once death lias carried you off the stage.* Consider,
Lastly, That your judgment will be more grievous than that of those who never heard the gospel, if you do not come away upon the proclamation; Matth. xi. 22,
it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, at the day of judgment, than for you." Remember double stripes are for him who knew his master's will, and did it not; and the hottest place in hell will be for gospel-despisers. Men may have their lusts and sinful courses cheaper in the dark corner of the earth, than in a land of light.
“ But I say
* It would appear that this discourse was delivered the first day, or at least the firet Sabbath, of a new year,
We conclude with the following advices. Labour to get a just esteem of your souls, and a due sense of what concerns another life. The soul is the man, as being the best part of the man, the loss of which nothing can ever counterbalance. Matth. xvi. 26, “ For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" The other life is the life chiefly to be cared for, since that only is the life which will have no end; and a man is happy or unhappy, as his plan for that life is well or ill laid. Be sensible of the real drudgery of sip. It is as real a servitude as ever was in the world, while men serve divers lusts. This is clear from the very light of nature : the consideration of the noble nature of the soul, with the experience of the tyranny of unruly passions, made some heathen moralists to lay it down as a principle, That a wise man is a free man. Wherefore, believe that a holy life is the only true liberty; Psalm cxix. 44, 45, “ So shall I keep thy law continually, for ever and ever. And I will walk at liberty; for I seek thy precepts." He, then, who has the mastery over his own corrupt will and inclinations, who walks in the way of God's commandments, is a person the most free and easy. Lastly, Come to Christ for his redeeming blood and free spirit. Renounce the devil, the world, and the flesh. Receive and improve Jesus, as made of God unto you, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Amen.
JESUS OPENS THE PRISON DOORS TO THE PRISONERS.
SERMON LI V.
Isaiah lxi. 1, And the opening of the prison to them that are bound. HERE is another benefit which, in the gospel, is brought by Christ to sinners who are in their natural state, namely, a proclamation as to opening the prison to the prisoners. In this there are two things.
1. The misery of a natural state, which is here laid out in its full extent, in three particulars. You have heard that unconverted sinners are Satan's captives; this is a sad case, but it is yet worse ; for,
(1.) They are also prisoners. Every captive is not a prisoner, but all natural men, being Satan's captives, are held prisoners, shut up in the prison of their natural state. This is Satan's prison, crammed full of his prisoners of war. But this is not all; for,
(2.) They are prisoners in chains, they are bound in the prison. Satan has his irons on them, as malefactors under sentence of death, that they may not escape. This is still worse than being a prisoner. But worse than all this is here stated; for,
(3.) They are blinded too in their prison. For the word rendered opening, does particularly relate to the opening of the eyes; and therefore the prophet uses it to express the relieving of such prisoners perfectly. This is evident by comparing Luke iv. 18, " And recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them who are bruised." It was a custom much used in the eastern nations, and retained among the Turks to this day, to put out the eyes of some of their prisoners, adding this misery to their imprisonment. So the Philistines did with Samson; Judges xvi. 21; and Nebuchadnezzar with Zedekiah ; 2 Kings xxy. 7. This, in a spiritual sense, is the case of all prisoners in their natural state. To sum up all, O unconverted sinner! thou art Satan's captive, a captive in prison, and a prisoner in chains; and withal thine eyes are put out, thou art in darkness, even darkness itself. In the words there is,
2. A suitable remedy, full help proclaimed by Christ in the gospel. God has seen the misery of the prisoners, his Son has paid the ransom for them, and thereupon he is sent to proclaim the opening of the prison doors to them, opening every way to them; for this expression comprehends the affording full remedy to their case ; namely, opening their prison,
opening their chains, and opening their eyes. By his word he offers it, by his Spirit he effects it, in all his elect.-- From this subject we propose to your consideration the following DOCTRINES :
DOCTRINE 1. That every unconverted sinner is a bound man in the prison of a natural state, with his eyes put out.
DOCTRINE II. That by open proclamation in the gospel, Christ offers to the prisoners in a natural state, an opening of their eyes, of their bands, and of their prison-doors.
We begin with
DOCTRINE I. That every unconverted sinner is a bound man in the prison of a natural state, with his eyes put out.
For illustrating this doctrine, we shall,
II. Mention the bands, chains, and fetters wherewith they are bound in the prison of a natural state.
III. Point out the darkness and blindness of the prisoners in their natural state.
I. We are to consider the imprisonment in which unconverted sinners are.
This prison is the natural unconverted state ; and thus that word, 1 Pet. iii. 19, “ By which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison,” is by some understood. However, it is plain that this is meant in our text. Thus Peter said to Simon the sorcerer; Acts viii. 23, “ For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Thus sinners in their natural state are said to be all concluded under sin, and shut up under the law; Gal. iii.
Concluded or shut up, that is, declared to be so.
1. Whose prisoners are they?
3. In what condition are natural men, as prisoners in this their natural state? We begin with,
QUEST. 1. Whose prisoners are they?
(1.) Unconverted sinners are God's prisoners, as the great Judge and party whom they have offended ; Rom. xi. 32, “ God hath concluded them all in unbelief.” There are two things in a natural state. The sinfulness of it; they can do nothing but sin. Move they cannot without that circle, more than a prisoner out of his prison.—The misery of it. They are under the curse; Gal. iii. 10. This last, God, as a just Judge, inflicted on mankind for the breach of the covenant of works; and while this lies upon them, there can be no communion betwixt God and them, and consequently nothing but sin in them; and so they are all concluded under sin.
(2.) They are Satan's prisoners. He acts as the jailor, and is therefore said to have the power of death, Heb. ii. 14. Man, having freely yielded to Satan, and become his captive, was delivered up into his hand by the Judge. They are under the power of Satan, Acts xxvi. 18. He keeps the keys of this prison, and watchfully marks his prisoners, that none of them escapo. Nay, when the commandment is come, to deliver the elect out of his hand, he will not yield them up, till the prison-doors be broke open, and they are forcibly taken out of his hand.
Quest. 2. What are the causes of this imprisonment ? As to this we observe, that they are in prison,
(1.) As debtors to divine justice. Sin is a debt, and the worst of all debts; committing sin is contracting a debt, which sinners are unable to pay, but it must be paid ; a satisfaction must be made to justice to the utmost farthing. As to natural men, their debt is not forgiven. All their accounts stand uncancelled. They have as yet no share in the Cautioner's payment. Therefore they are kept in this prison justly for their debt, and they cannot escape. They