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heaven and earth to testify of his fidelity in executing the office that had been assigned him.
Let it not be thought that we would presume to institute a comparison between that holy man and ourselves. We well know how infinitely short of him we have come, in the whole of our personal and official character. Yet we do hope that we can so far adopt his words, as to appeal both to God and man, that, during the years that we have ministered amongst you, we have faithfully, according to our ability, "set life and death before you."
1. We have ministered the same truths unto you[In the preceding verses, Moses speaks particularly respecting the Gospel, which he had made known unto the people. "This commandment, which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee; in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day, life and good, and death and evil." The exposition of these words is given us by St. Paul, who tells us, that in them Moses spake, not of the righteousness of the Law, but of the righteousness which is of faith, even of that very faith which Paul himself preached"."
And what has been the subject of our ministrations? You yourselves will bear me witness, that, from the very first hour that I came amongst you, "I determined to know nothing amongst you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." What Moses preached in types and shadows, I have declared in the plainest terms; shewing, at all times, that " the moral law was a schoolmaster to bring you to Christi;" and that the ceremonial law, in all its ordinances, held forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the great sacrifice, that taketh away the sins of the world. Never, at any period, have we attempted to lay any other foundation than this: nor have we ever hesitated to affirm the sufficiency of this to bear the weight of the whole world m.]
In quite a young minister this kind of address would be inexpedient: but in an aged minister, who had spent his whole official life in superintending one congregation, it would be thought quite in character.
f ver. 11-15. 8 Rom. x. 5-9. k Heb. x. 1-10. 1 1 Cor. iii. 11.
h 1 Cor. ii. 2. i Gal. iii. 24. m Acts xiii. 39.
2. We have too, according to our ability, ministered with the same fidelity
[We hope we may, without presumption, appeal to you, as the Apostle Paul did to the elders of Ephesus, not only that "we have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you," but that "we have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God; and are therefore, as far as relates to that, pure, not from your blood only, but from the blood of all men"." You yourselves will bear me witness, that, notwithstanding" the offence of the cross, which neither is ceased, nor can cease I have at all times gloried in it, and exalted it as the only means of our reconciliation with God". Nor have I ever amused you with speculative theories: no; I have preached the Gospel practically; and not in a cold and formal manner, but as a matter of life and death. I have never ceased to exhibit it with all its awful sanctions; assuring you of life, if you would believe in Christ; and denouncing the wrath of God against all who would not obey the Gospel; executing in this respect the commission given me, to preach the Gospel to every creature, saying, "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned." Never, at any time, have I dissembled these truths; "never daubed the wall of God's sanctuary with untempered mortar," nor "sewed pillows to the armholes of my people," to let them find ease in sin: never have I "spoken peace to you, when there was no peace," or "promised life" in any other way than a total surrender of yourselves to God. And here I will mention one point, which, from the beginning, I have kept in mind without turning to the right hand or to the left-I have never perverted one passage of Scripture to make it speak the language of human systems. I have been anxious to set before you the "unadulterated word" of Gods; and to let it speak for itself, without ever concerning myself what HUMAN system it either countenanced or opposed: having been "allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, we have spoken, not as pleasing men, but God, who trieth our hearts ;" and with the "utmost plainness" too", "not with enticing words of man's wisdom,' "lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect."
Whilst, however, "we call heaven and earth to record this day" respecting these things, let it not be supposed that we are not conscious of innumerable short-comings and defects in our
n Acts xx. 20, 26, 27. 9 Mark xvi. 15, 16.
s 1 Pet. ii. 2. and 2 Cor. u 2 Cor. iii. 12.
o Gal. v. 11.
P Gal. vi. 14. 18, 22.
t 1 Thess. ii. 4, 5.
x 1 Cor. i. 17. and ii. 4, 5.
ministrations for we are filled with nothing but shame and confusion of face in the review of them, God knoweth: but as far as respects the fidelity of them, we can, and do, appeal both to God and man, that, like Moses, we have faithfully and invariably "set before you life and death, blessing and cursing," according as they are revealed in the Gospel, and as they shall be awarded to those who receive or reject the Gospel.]
And now let me call your attention to,
II. The advice he founds upon it-
A free choice is given to every one amongst you—
[The Gospel is freely preached to you all: and you are all at liberty to embrace or to reject it. Almighty God is sincere when he says, that "he would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Never did he reprobate any man, till that man had brought that sentence upon himself by his own wilful obduracy. The whole Scripture bears testimony to this truth. If this be not true, how can we ever explain that solemn oath of Jehovah; "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" There is not a human being that is excepted from the invitations of the Gospel, or from its blessings, if he accept them. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth! for I am God: and there is none else." And "him that cometh unto me, (whoever he be, or whatever he may have done,) I will in no wise cast out"." Moreover, the fault of rejecting these overtures is always imputed to the sinner himself: "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." If any could have been supposed to have been reprobated from all eternity, it was the persons who were given up to reject their Messiah, and to crucify the Lord of glory: yet over them did our blessed Lord mourn, saying, "How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would notd." That we have a bias towards corruption, is certain: but there is no compulsion. That Satan also is permitted to tempt us, is certain: but he cannot compel any man. We are perfectly free agents in all that we do, whether it be good or evil. If it be said, that God "draws men," it is true: but he "draws them with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love." And, if he
prevail over the reluctance of their hearts, it is not by the exercise of an overpowering force, but by "making them willing in the day of his power." If he "work in them to do," it is by "working in them to wills." And I will appeal to every living man, whether he ever did good or evil by compulsion against his will? That he has acted against his judgment and his conscience, is true enough, and that in ten thousand instances: but against his will he never did. God sets good before us; and Satan evil: and, whichever we prefer, that we choose, and that we do.]
Exercise, then, your choice with true wisdom
[The generality, in spite of all that we can say, will choose evil. It is in vain that we endeavour to allure them by the offer of "life," or to alarm them with the threatening of "death:" they prefer evil with all its consequences; and therefore they do it as God has said; "He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love deathh." But do not ye act thus. "Choose good:" "choose life; that both and live." Of the beneficial consequences to seed your yourselves you cannot doubt: for, who ever sought the Lord, and was rejected? "Who ever truly believed in Christ, and was confoundedi?" Who ever 66 chose the good part, and had it violently taken away from him?" Choose God for your Father; and he will acknowledge you as his children. Choose Christ as your Saviour; and "he will present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." Choose the Holy Spirit as your Sanctifier; and "he will perfect that which concerneth you," and "complete in you the work he has begun." Choose heaven for your inheritance; and sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than you be permitted to come short of it. The very choice you make will evince, that you yourselves have been chosen of your God1: and "his gifts and calling are without repentancem."
And shall not this tend to the benefit of "your seed" also? Is it not a part of God's covenant, that "he will put his fear in our hearts, for the good of us, and of our children after us"?" What is there so likely to benefit the rising generation as the piety of their parents? The force of good instruction is great but when enforced by good example, it is almost irresistible. Children of pious parents, who have diligently instructed them, and "laboured earnestly and constantly in prayer to God for them," cannot sin so easily as others: or if, through the power of temptation, they be drawn aside after wickedness, they will, it is hoped, feel the remonstrances of f Ps. cx. 3. 8 Phil. ii. 13. h Prov. viii. 36.
i 1 Pet. ii. 6. k Luke x. 42. m Rom. xi. 29.
1 John xv. 16. and 1 John iv. 19. n Jer. xxxii. 39.
conscience in seasons of sickness and reflection, and be brought home at last with penitential sorrow to their God. At all events, we have encouragement to hope, that "our labour for them shall not be in vain in the Lord;" and that, though in some instances we should fail, it shall be found generally true, that, if we "bring up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it."]
That I may ENFORCE the counsel in my text, I would beg you to consider,
1. The alternative that is here offered
[It is not "life" or annihilation, but "life or death;" not "a blessing, or a mere privation of good," but, "a blessing, or a curse." And have you ever thought what that "death" is, and what that "curse?" Oh! who shall declare what that "second death" is, in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; or what that "curse," which shall be there endured? Were annihilation, or eternal sleep, the alternative, you would at least have the consolation of knowing, that you would be unconscious of your loss: but, as you must live for ever, either in heaven or in hell, I entreat you to "choose that life," which shall be "at God's right hand, in pleasures for evermore."]
2. The responsibility attaching to you for the privileges you enjoy
[Our blessed Lord said respecting his hearers, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin." And may I not say the same to you? Doubtless, if you had the Gospel ministered unto you with less clearness and fidelity, you would have less to answer for, even as Sodom and Gomorrha had on this very account a lighter condemnation than Bethsaida and Capernaum 9. It is certainly a great comfort to a minister to know that "he has delivered his own soul." But it is a painful reflection to think, that the very means he has used for the salvation of his people, will in many cases only increase their guilt; and the word he has spoken to them, instead of being to them a savour of life, will only be a savour of death to their more aggravated condemnation. Beloved, let me not have to appear in that day as "a swift witness against you," but rather have to present you to God as my children, and possess you my joy and crown of rejoicing for evermore."] 3. The nearness of the final issue
• Ps. xvi. 11.
Ezek. xxxiii. 8, 9.
P John xv. 22.
9 Matt. xi. 20—24.
t 1 Thess. ii. 19, 20.