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Thus in various and opposite ways, men, from the love of sin, forming a wrong estimate of the gospel, reject the only way of salvation, and refuse to submit to Almighty God. May every reader examine his own heart, and compare his present state with that described in the word of God: and in doing so, may the blessed Spirit discover to each of us our real character, and lead us to a true, a more cordial, and an entire reception of the Gospel. It is not a small matter, or a trifling evil, to count such a salvation folly. It is attended with a most awful and tremerdous ruin. They that count it foolishness, perish.
God seems to have made this method of salvation the means of more strikingly manifesting the characiers of ungodly men, as well as of conveying his grace to his people. He calls here for the unqualified submission of our understanding and our affections to his revealed will. Those wlio love their sins, those who are covetous, proud, sensual, and ambitious, and will not see the evil of their course, nor part with their iniquities, presumptuously arraign the wisdom of God, and perish for ever. They remain in that original ruin from which the Gospel reveals the only way of escape. Refusing that way, the sentence of condemnation remains unrepealed. He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. But they perish also with an aggravated ruin-Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God—it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
O what a ruin is this! Who can consider it aright, without being ready to weep day and night for such • souls as might escape it and will not ! To be lost, and
that for ever! What words can describe the unutterable woe.
All peace and all joy, all goodness and all happiness, lost, for ever lost! The society of the Redeemed, the company of Angels, the presence and knowledge of bim who is the source of all blessedness-the benignant Father of mercies and God of all comfort, the gracious Saviour, the full Comforter of his people : these, with all the bliss and glory of heaven's eternal mansions, lost, for ever lost! Then, in the place of these, the fire that never can be quenched, the worm that never dies, perpetual wickedness, incessant disquietude, the torturing and never-ceasing anguish of guilt, the perpetual presence of accursed fiends, this inexpressible and exhaustless misery to be endured, even for ever! O rejecter of that Gospel, whoever you bė, surely our hearts are hard, and our faith is weak, and we have not the due feelings of human sympathy, or rivers of tears would ever be running down our eyes for
you: like David, we should be horribly afraid for you; like all the Prophets, like the holy Apostles, like the beloved Son of God, we should constantly be warning you, we should, with all possible earnestness, exhort you, we should tenderly and affectionately beseech you, to flee from the wrath to come!
There will be this galling and torturing reflection, added to the other agonies of perdition -- a way of escape was provided, was proclaimech, and was proposed to them; but they counted that very way in which the wisdom of God is most wonderfully displayed to the highest intelligences and the brightest seraphs above -- they counted it, (O sad effect of the madness of the fallen heart, and the inexpressible delusion of Satari putting darkness for light and light for darkness, calling good evil, and evil good), they counted it fool
ishness! they even, trusting in their own lie, spurned it from them with the utmost contempt, proudly preferred their own vain imaginations, and chose their own device, leading them to eternal destruction. . 0, does any reader of these lines now mock and despise the humble believer, and count his life madness? let him patise, and consider the Bible account of the end of such a course. It may be, it must be, it is, true. Are you then desirous of aggravating your own woe? Are you willing to be miserable for ever for the sake of a little fancied temporal advantage? The word of God cannot deceive you; his book makes it palpably plain that they who hear not the words of Christ shall perish for ever. They shall remain a lasting spectacle to the world, to angels, and men; a monument to all God's creatures, of the stupendous and unutterable folly of departing from God, and of his strict and perfect, his eternal and awful truth and justice. Is it possible that one who reads these pages may endure that wrath of which they bring testimony from God's holy word? O may the writer and every reader diligently look that they fail not of the grace of God, and that they be not at the last numbered among the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction! If you have trifled hitherto, trifle no longer. Read your Bible with fervent prayer, earnestly imploring the influences of the Holy Spirit; and thus acting, never shall you be left to count the Gospel foolishness, and so to perish for ever.
If I have dwelt longer on this than the subject of the chapter required, let the inconceivable importance be a sufficient apology.
But, blessed be God, there is another far different and an infinitely happy effect produced by the Gospel. It is that system of doctrine which God blesses to the salvation of those that bear and receive it. To avoid some mistakes, it may
necessary to shew more particularly how hearing aright promotes our eternal salvation. It does not save our souls by any merit of man's in so hearing.
It is rather our mercy and privilege that we hear the faithful preaching of his Gospel, and that he gives us suitable dispositions. Nor is there any necessary connection between using the means of grace and obtaining the glory of God; there is a gracious but not a necessary connection, for many have the «utward means, who never obtain the ultimate blessing whicl. those means are designed to impart.
Hearing the word aright then, is one of those means appointed by a heavenly Father, in infinite mercy, in the due use of which he will communicate to us the gifts of wisdom, faith, repentance, and all those graces which mark a saved state here, and prepare us for eternal bliss hereafter. A faithful ministry clearly reveals the way of salvation, and brings it plainly before us, and God makes it a saving blessing to his people, as St. Paul shews--the righteousness which is of faith saith, The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith which we preoch, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heurt that God hath ruised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. He then asks, How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
This happy effect of hearing begins in, and is marked by, quite an opposite estimate of the Gospel to that which we have already considered. What the men of this world regard as an unintelligible doctrine, as folly and absurdity, is to the humble Christian an exhibition of the stupendous power and unsearchable wisdom of
Almighty God. The creation of the world displayed his power; but the redemption and recovery of a ruined world—the restoration of offending creatures—the pardon of guilty rebels by the Holy God, and their obtaining the favour of a Just, Righteous, and Eternal Being-here was a work to which nothing was equal but infinite wisdom and almighty power! The change of a corrupt and polluted heart, the daily victory over sio and Satan, the coming out and being separate from a world lying in wickedness, for this nothing is effective but the Gospel, by which, through his Spirit, God works in us and strengthens us. It is by this channel that the Holy Spirit, the fountain of spiritual life, and the earnest of future glory, is, though not necessarily andi invariably, yet most generally conveyed to man. Thus it is specially the ordinance of God for our sa ivation.
The effects of the Gospel manifest that it is indeed the
power of God. View Saul breathing out threatenings and slaughters against the disciples of the Lord, riding to Damascus in all the rage of a cruel persecutor. He hears the voice of the Gospel, i am Jesus whom thou persecutest! at once the tempest is stilled; the lion becoines a lamb; he asks, What wilt thou have me to do? View the Jailer at Philippi, after Paul and Silas had received many stripes, cruelly neglecting their wounds, thrusting them into the inner prison, and making their feet fast in the stocks. No sooner does he hear the voice of the Gospel, than, the same hour of the night, he takes them, washes their stripes, brings them into his house, sets meat before them, and rejoices, believing, with all his house. The personal experience of every Christian gives him individual proof of the same power. Those who have felt their imminent danger through sin, and that they have been on the very