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1. Their cafe is fad, who after a fair profeffiòn of being the followers of Christ, at length forsake him and go away.
Here two things are distinctly to be confidered. 1. Many may
take up a profession of being the followers of Christ, who afterward may turn apoftates and go away.
2. The sadness of their case with whom it is thus:
1. Many may take up a profeffion of being the followers of Christ, who afterwards may prove apostates and go away. As to this we may consider,
(1.) The matter of fact.
12.) To what it may be owing. (1.) The matter of fact.
Some, as it was here said of many of Christ's hearers, are disciples of him, and it may be feeming zealous ones, who after all go back : And how long soever they have followed him before this time, may now walk no more with him. How many are there that seemingly begin in the Spirit, and end in the fiesh? Escape the pollution of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and afterwards are entangled thereby and overcome ? The latter end of whom is worse than their beginning.
There are too many fad and flagrant instances of this, which call us more to lament their apostacy, than to prove the truth of it. Many that once stood fair for heaven, and gave up their names to Christ, as agreeing to follow him in the way of faith and holiness thither, have first of god
declined and grown strange to him, and then quite revolted and gone back from him.
Many that are strangers to the power liness, may put on the form; join with the disciples of Christ, and pass for some of the number, and yet come to throw off all, so far as to make many an humble serious christian say with trembling, “ If such miscarry, what will become of me?
Judas carried the matter fo fair, that the rest of the disciples questioned themselves rather than him. Upon the notice that one of them should betray their Lord, instead of suspecting him, they, one and another of them asked, Lord, is it 1 ? Matth. xxvi. 22. Simon Magus was baptized as a true believer, and continued some 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 instances have we seen or heard, of this ! How many young persons have back-slidden, after hopeful beginnings ! Light hath been let into their minds; the word hath been set home to the awakening of conscience, the exciting of seemingly good affections, and the begetting of a visible change ; putting them upon stopping in their former course, and settling 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 seeming zeal and devotion: But, by degrees they have slackened, grown weary and cold, and sometimes fallen away to the practice of sin, and with as much liberty as
they before spake against it. They were not far from the kingdom of God; were thought by many to belong to it ; seemed to consent to be the Lord's, and to have taken his yoke upon them as his resolved followers : but after all, have taken their leaves of him; and unless fovereign grace interpose, are not likely any more tò walk with him. Instead of this, they are now led captive by satan at his will: And if he bids them neglect their souls and Saviour, make a jest of religion and the professors 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 same persons we once saw and knew them to be, when now become scorners of the profession they made, and instead of being the followers of Christ, are carrying it as if they never knew him? With what earnestness 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 springs, it will be found owing,
[1.] And principally to the want of the root of grace
within. No wonder the profession is not steady, where the heart is not found, nor at all engaged in it. It is a good thing that the þeart be established with grace, Hebr. xiii. 9. But without it, it will be as unstable as water.
As without this, the soul is not vitally united to Christ, and so derives no supplies from him, in whose strength alone his members abide in him. VOL II. X
As corruption is left in its reign, and so the fairest profession will be no longer kept up than this
may be indulged. Common light and conviction
for a time restrain, but whenever a powerful temptation is offered, the corrupt fountain breaks out; and, that fin may be freely pursued, Christ is left : and herein the apoftate does not lose the grace he had (as understood of a vital principle within) but discovers, he never
(2.) Entering among the followers of Christ without counting the cost, makes many go back when they meet with what they did not expect. He that can give no reason why he follows Christ, 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 Christ must depart from all iniquity ; deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow him ; renounce the world, and be ready to part with any thing in it that stands in opposition to Christ or competition with him ; contentedly trust him, and stay for his portion in the unseen promised kingdom, consenting to follow him in his own way to it, &c. But when this is not deliberately considered, it will not be easily endured; and therefore many, after they have met with unexpected trials, have been presently offended.
(Lastly) In some the want of fenfible joy in following Christ, or their not reaching it as soon as expected, occasions their turning their backs upon him not presently receiving the peace they desired at their first setting out after Christ,
they will go no farther, and so turn back to their former course. But this leads us to consider,
2. The sadness of their case with whom it is thus:
(1.) In general their case is worse than if they had never made a profession 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 Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and cvercome ; 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 said to be so now,
(1.) As the Holy Spirit is grieved, and, it may be, is retired, and so their recovery is more doubtful. They have done despight to the Spirit of grace, by opposing the blessed design of his striving 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 vouchsafe 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