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like the animals that surround them, were made to eat, drink, and sleep, for a few years, and then to die, and be no more ! things of God do not occupy their minds; and, unless they conceive of his character as very different from what the scriptures represent it, they do not like to think of him, nur to speak of him, nor to bear others speak of him, or of any thing pertaining to bim as revealed in the Bible. The serious mention of his name strikes a damp upon their spirits, and often puts an end to a conversation. They have no delight in reading his word, and never make it their study to do any thing because he requires it. What is all this but practically saying to God, Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
We have not to go into the heathen world, in search of such characters as these: they are found in all our cities, towns, villages, and congregations, and in almost all our families. We may call ourselves Christians, and yet be without Christ; and we
de. claim against atheism, and yet live without God in the world.
But, though all sinners are far off from God, yet some are farther off than others. Every sinner has gone so far from God, that he will never return of his own accord. The ways of sin are our own ways; we find them without any difficulty, but never return till the good Shepherd finds us, and brings us home. But some are farther off than others. As sin obtains in different degrees, so does the distance at which it places us from God. The scriptures repressnt some persons as in a more hopeless state than others; and the same person is farther off at one period of life
; than at another. Sin being progressive, the longer any one lives in it without repentance, the farther off he necessarily is from God. Every sioner going on still in his trespasses, is getting more and more hardened, and farther from the hearing of the calls of conscience and of God.
Shall I mention a few cases of persons whom the scriptures represent as fartbest from God? You may expect me to name the profligate, who is at open war with God; who breaks the Sabbath, wallows in intemperance and debauchery, and laughs at all serious religion. And true it is, that such characters are at an awful distance from God: yet many who have been thus far off,
have been made nigh by the blood of Christ. Such were some of the Corinthians, and such have heen some of us.
There is a case more hopeless than this, namely, that of the self-righteous. Of the Pharisees, who were righteous in their own eyes, and despised others, it is said, that publicans and harlots entered into the kingdom of heaven before them. When some of them came to John, be called them a generation of vipers, and asked, with surprise, Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Our Lord asked them, How can ye escape the damnation of hell? as though they were so fast bound by the chains of spiritual pride, as to render their deliverance next to impossible. Reprove a drunkard or a debauchee, and you will have his con- . science on your side. Converse with him seriously on temperance, righteousness, and judgment to come, and he will tremble. But he that is
pure in his own eyes, and yet not cleansed from bis filthiness, his very mind and conscience is defiled. Thinking highly of himself, and of his doings, he will resent every thing said to him, which calls in question the goodness of his state. He flatters himself that he is at peace with God, and does not choose to be disturbed in his repose. Talk to him of Christ Jesus having come into the world to save sinners, even the chief of sinners, and it will either appear to bim a strange doctrine, or, if he comprehend your design, it is likely he will feel himself insulted. He
says in his heart, • Am I, after all the pains that I have taken, to be placed on a footing with the worst of characters ? If so, where is the justice of God ?' Thus the gospel seems a hard saying, and be cannot hear it. A sinner, in such a state of mind, is farther from God, and more hopeless, than the profligate whom he despises : The Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But 18rael, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but ns it were by the works of the law; for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone. Yet, even from this distance, some have been made nigh by the blood of Christ? Of this the Apostle himself was an example, as were also the great company of the priests, who were obedient to the faith. VOL. VII.
But there is another case, which may be reckoned still more hopeless, and the party still farther off from God. This is, where a person has sat under the preaching of the gospel for a number of years, but who, living still in his sins, at length becomes past feeling. Such characters, I fear, are not very uncommon in our congregations. Should there be one such present at this time, let me reason with him : Thirty or forty years ago, it
be, you heard the gospel, and felt, and wept under it. Some of your fellow-worshippers, observing the tears which fell from your eyes, conceived a hope that the heart of stone was taken away, and a heart of flesh imparted. But these convictions wore off; and, by degrees, the most pungent things might be delivered in your hearing, without leaving any impression on your mind. The case was this : Under your convictions, you desisted from your
evil courses: but, as the former subsided, you returned to the latter. At first, you indulged in lesser sins ; then in greater; till, at length, your whole study was, not how you should avoid sin, but how you should indulge in it, and yet conceal it: and, it may be, you have succeeded in both, to a great degree ; living in uncleanness, or drunkenness, or in some other sin, and yet concealing it from the world, and filling up your place in the house of God. And now you can hear the most awful threatenings and the most melting expostulations, unmoved. Your heart is become callous and insensible. Conscience itself is seared, as with a hot iron. In a word, you are past feeling. Many have perished in this state, and many, doubtless, will perish: yet, even from this state of distance, some have been made nigh by the blood of Christ : If from TH ENCE thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart, and with all thy soul. For the Lord thy God is à merciful God'
Thus far we have considered the distance of sinners from God, merely in respect of their alienation of heart from him ; but we must not confine it to this: as men have wickedly departed from God, God has righteously withdrawn from them; and thus the distànce, being mutual, is increased. While man continued obedient, his Creator admitted him to near communion with bim, as is intimated by his walking in the garden in the cool of the day; but,
when be transgressed his commandment, be withdrew his favour thrust him out of paradise, and placed a guard about the tree of life, rendering it inaccessible.
Had there been no provision of mercy through the promised seed, there could have been no more communion between God and man, any more than between God and the fallen angels. Men might have dragged out a guilty and miserable existence in the world, but they must have lived and died under the curse.* Whatever had been bestowed upon them, it would have been in wrath, in like manner as riches are given some men to their hurt. Whatever had been their troubles, they would have had no God to repair to under them; and whatever their prospects, the hope of a blessed hereafter would have made no part of them.
This awful state of distance from God is still the condition of the unbelieving and the ungodly. The interposition of Christ avails not in behalf of them. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. Being without Christ, they are without hope, and without God in the world. Every thing they do is evil ; every thing they possess is cursed ; and every
* Some have thought, that the death threatened in Gen. ii. 17. was merely 'corporal, and that, if it had been executed, man would have been immediate. ly struck out of existence. But the death there threatened, whatever it was, passed upon all men, which implies the existence of all men, and which would have been prevented, if Adam had, at that time, been reduced to a state of non-existence, or had even been banished from this world. The origival constitution of things must, therefore, have provided for the existence of every individual that has since been born into the world ; and this, whether man should stand or fall. The death here threatened, doubtless, included that of the body, and which God might execute at pleasure : the day he should eat, he would be dead in law; but it also included the loss of the di. vine favour, and an exposedness to his wrath. If it were not so, the redemption of Christ would not be properly opposed to it, which it frequently is. Rom. v. 12-21. It must be to this sentence that the apostle refers in Heb. ix, 27. Il is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment ; or Christ's being once offered to bear the sins of many, and bis coming a second time withoul sin unto salvation, would not have been introduced as antidotes to the evils: but if the sentence included both death and judgment, it must be more than corporal death.
hour they live in that state of mind adds to their guilt and misery. As all things work together for good to them that love God, so all things work together for evil to them that love him not. Under all their calamities and troubles, they have no God on whom to cast their cares, and, in death, have nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment. The very messengers of mercy are charged, OB their peril, to say to the wicked, It shall be ill with him.
How tremendously awful, then, is the condition of the unbelieving and the ungodly! There is one way of escape, and but one : and is it possible that this can be disregarded ; and that
: men can live easy and unconcerned, with the curse of God over their beads ? Surely this must be owing to a disbelief of the divine threatenings, as well as of the doctrine of the gospel. But take heed, lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood ; and it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie
him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven! In this terrible condition the gospel finds us. To this door of hope we sball now direct your attention, by considering,
III. THE WAY IN WHICH SINNERS ARE RECOVERED, AND BROUGHT NIGH TO God. It is in Christ Jesus, and by the blood of Christ. Io Christ we possess all. It is as being in Christ Jesus, that we possess all spiritual blessings ; and by the shedding of his blood they were obtained.
The blood of Christ may be considered in three views: as shed upon
the cross ; as proclaimed by the preaching of the gospel; and as believed in for salvation by the perishing sinner. These, being united, bring near those who were once far off.
1. By the blood of Christ, as shed upon the cross, atonement was made, sin was expiated, and a way opened for God to draw near to the sinner, and the sinner to God. In punishing transsgresors, displeasure is expressed against transgression. In substitutionary sacrifices, displeasure was expressed ngainst transgression ; but,