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come upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape“.'
But in discoursing on such a subject, we would exercise all imaginable tenderness: and we entreat all who are here present to lift up their hearts to God, and to implore the effectual assistance of his good Spirit, that they may be enabled to “ tremble at his word,” and to “ receive it with meekness, as an engrafted word, which is able to save their souls.”
There are two things here to which we would draw your attention ; I. The character described
God, with much patience and long-suffering, reproves the sinners of mankind
[In a variety of ways he administers reproof. At all times he speaks, silently indeed, but powerfully, to men in his word. Every sin is there depicted in its proper colours, and marked as an object of his righteous indignation. There especially we hear him denouncing his judgments against impenitence and unbelief: “Except ye repent, ye shall all perish: " “ He that believeth not, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” There too do we find him requiring of us, that we become “new creatures in Christ Jesus ;” and declaring, that “ except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." In short, every thing that is necessary for us either to know or do, is there revealed part of it God himself is addressing us day and night
He reproves us also by his Providence. Every one of his dispensations towards us has a voice, to which we should give heed, and from which we may gain the most valuable instruction. Does he summon to his tribunal a neighbour, a friend, a relative? He says to the survivors, “Prepare to meet your God.” Does he make a severer inroad on your domestic circle, by cutting off the olive branches that were round about your table, or by“ taking away the desire of your eyes with a stroke?” He bids you to seek all your happiness in him alone. By every change of whatever kind, he tells you that “this is not your rest. Nor does he speak less by mercies than by judgments. Every gift is sent to draw you to him as the Donor; and every instance of “ his goodness and long-suffering and forbearance is intended to lead you to repentance."
and in every “Repent?” Who has not felt many checks of conscience, when he was tempted to commit iniquity? These have been no other than the motions of God's Holy Spirit within us, testifying against sin, and inviting us to serve our Godb.]
Further, he reproves us also by his Spirit. Who amongst us has not often heard his still small voice, saying to us,
a 1 Thess. v. 2, 3.
But against his reproofs how often have we “hardened our necks!”
[Many will not endure reproof at all: and, if the word which is ministered to them by the servants of God disquiet their minds, and especially if it strike at their besetting sin, they will vent their indignation against the faithful Messenger who thus disturbs their slumbers. The reproof given to Amaziah was so reasonable, that one would imagine it could not possibly give offence: yet behold, what resentment it kindled in the infatuated monarch! “ Art thou made of the king's counsel ? Forbear. Why shouldest thou be smitten?"Nothing could be more just than the reproof which Jeremiah was ordered to administer to the Jewish people: yet the only effect it produced was, to excite their wrath, and to make them threaten him with instant death: “ When Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, then the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die d” - Herod went further still
, and actually put the greatest of all the Prophets to death, for no other fault than that of telling him that he should not persevere in his adulterous commerce with his brother Philip's wife. Thus it is at this day, Men indeed cannot proceed to such extremities against their reprovers now as they did in former times: but the world's enmity is the same against all who “testify of it that the works thereof are evil;" and it is owing to the protection of the laws, rather than to any diminution of men's hatred against the truth, that contempt only, and not death, is the portion of God's faithful servants.
But it is not only in a way of outward opposition that men manifest their obduracy. Many who externally approve of the faithful ministry of the word, are in reality as averse to it in their hearts. They hear the word perhaps even with pleasure, as Ezekiel's hearers did ; but they will not do it?. Say whether this be not the case with many amongst you: you have had the whole counsel of God declared unto you; but have you complied with it? Are you truly brought to the foot of cross, in deep humiliation, in earnest prayer, and in a simple reliance on the blood of Jesus as your only hope? also taken his yoke upon you, so that you are daily and hourly fulfilling his will, and regarding his service as perfect freedom? b Gen. vi. 3. c 2 Chron. xxv. 15, 16. d Jer. xxvi. 248. Are you dying daily to the world, and living altogether as pilgrims and sojourners here, having your conversation in heaven, and looking forward to the second advent of your Lord as the consummation and completion of your bliss ? If you be not thus brought to live unto your God, you have not yet complied with his reproofs : and if you are speaking peace to yourselves in such a state, then are you hardening your necks against him. In words indeed you call him Lord, Lord: but whilst you do not the things which he says, you are still among the number of those to whom he will say, “ Depart from me;
e Matt. xiv, 3-10. f Ezek. xxxiii. 31, 32.
I never knew you, ye workers of iniquity" — --)
Having then seen the character that is described in our text, let us consider, II. The judgment denounced against him
What but destruction can await such a character, even “ destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power ? Yes, this is the judgment denounced against him; and his destruction, whenever it shall arrive, shall be, 1. Sudden
[Not unfrequently does God mark by some signal judgment those who have obstinately withstood his warnings and invitations. The Ante-diluvian infidels, who would not be reclaimed by the ministry of Noah, were swept away, as soon as ever their day of grace was ended; as were Pharaoh also, and all his host, when they proudly set themselves in array against the Majesty of heaven. Ananias and Sapphira were also made examples of God's indignation against wilful and deliberate sin.
But though death should come upon us gradually, as it respects the body, it may, as far as it respects our preparation for it, be altogether instantaneous. The effect of wilful sin is, to harden the heart, and to render us more and more indisposed for repentance. It also grieves the Holy Spirit of God, and provokes him to withdraw those gracious influences which he has hitherto vouchsafed. When delaying our repentance, we are apt to fancy that we shall in a time of sickness have such a favourable opportunity for spiritual exercises, as will abundantly make up for all the time that we have lost: but when sickness comes, we find that we cannot realize all our fond expectations : the state of our bodies perhaps unfits us for exertion: and the indisposition of our mind for holy things is become more deeply rooted, so that we cannot relent, or humble ourselves before God. The word of God, when we look into it, is only as a sealed book. The instructions we receive, produce no effect. Even during their full enjoyment of bodily health many are given over to final impenitence, so that the ministry of the word serves only to harden them, and the Gospel itself becomes to them only“a savour of deathe”. God gives them over to judicial blindness, and leaves them to harden themselves in order to their more aggravated condemnation. Thus he dealt with the sons of Elih; and thus he has declared he will deal with us, if we wilfully reject his tender solicitations - Thus
death come in its most gradual and protracted form, and yet, as far as respects our souls, be as sudden, as if it visited us like a thief in the night.] 2. Irremediable
[If once God say to his Holy Spirit, “Strive no longer with that man: he is joined to idols : let him alonek;" the man is in fact left to irremediable destruction. He will live only to “ fill up the measure of his iniquities," and to "treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.' But at all events, the very instant that death arrests us, our day of grace is terminated : there is no repentance in the grave; no possibility of passing the gulf that is fixed between heaven and hell : the worm that gnaweth the conscience will never die; the fire that torments the body will never be quenched: the wrath to come will ever be the wrath to come.
What a fearful thought is it, that of those to whom the word of salvation is now preached, many will “come at last into that place of torment,” and many, who, like the Foolish Virgins, once had the lamp of outward profession, and associated with the wise virgins, will, instead of being admitted to the marriage supper of their Lord, be “ cast into outer darkness, where is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth!” The Lord grant that none of you may ever experience this doom! yet it is certain, that if you harden your necks against either the precepts of the Law or the promises of the Gospel, this will be your state for ever.
To put you more effectually on your guard, let me] ADDRESS-
1. Those who are indisposed to submit to God's reproofs
[The word delivered to you, so far as it accords with God's revealed will, is God's, and not ours. We are his ambassadors; and it is He who speaks to you by our mouth. Indeed, whoever he be that gives you the counsels of true wisdom, he is God's representative to you. Think then, ye who have rejected the counsels of your friends, and the admonitions of your ministers, what will be your reflections in the last day: when you call to mind the instructions once given by your parents, the advice offered by some pious friend or relative, the warnings delivered by God's servants in the public assembly, how distressing will it be to see that they were only the means of aggravating your eternal condemnation! Oh! let me prevail with you, ere it be too late. Consider, I pray you, "Who ever hardened himself against God, and prospered ?" To-day then, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts, lest you provoke God to swear in his wrath, that you shall never enter into his rest.] 2. Those who are inclined to obey his will
8 See Isai. vi. 9, 10, which is quoted six times in the New Testament. See also Jer. vii. 23—27. h 1 Sam. ii. 25.
i Prov. i. 24–31. k Hos. iv. 17.
[Truly this disposition is of the Lord: “it is he that has given you either to will or do.” Bless him, then, that the destruction which has come suddenly and irremediably on so many millions of mankind, was not permitted to come on you in your unawakened state. And now let your hearts be right with him : let every word of his sink down into your ears, and be obeyed without reserve. Seek an entire conformity to his mind and will. “Forget all that is behind, and reach forward constantly to that which is before." Seek to “grow up in all things into Christ, your living Head.” Make more and more use of that remedy which is in your hands. Apply the precious blood of Christ more and more to your souls, to purge you from your sins; and seek more abundant supplies of the Spirit of grace, to transform you into the Divine image: so shall you be happy now in the prospect of your inheritance, and be progressively rendered meet for your full possession of it.]
DCCCXXI. THE IMPORTANCE OF GOSPEL MINISTRATIONS. Prov. xxix. 18. Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keepeth the Law, happy is he*. THROUGHOUT the whole Scriptures, we have one unvaried testimony respecting man. We see, in every part, I. The deplorable state of those who know not the
GospelRevelations to the prophets were often made in visions: and hence the subject matter of the revelation
a This brief sketch is given as an useful subject for a Mission Sermon. The contrast between Heathens in an ignorant and in a converted state would be very striking.