« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
exposed to its curse. He who wishes to be in. strumental of the conversion of such an apostate, must first try to convince him of his
character. The method adopted by the apostles, was, to set before sinners the law of God, in its extent and spirituality, for their conviction ; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. By the law they be. come sensible that they are in a state of condemnation ; that their own obedience, when compared with that rule of righteousness, is essential. ly deficient; and under such conviction, are made to cry out like St. Peter's hearers, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Thus the letter killeth ; i. e. the law : it consigns the sinner over to eternal destruction.
On the other hand, the gospel should be preach. ed to mankind universally. Christ should be ex. hibited in the dignity of his person and characters; in the greatness of his love; in the infinite virtue of his atonement, as matters of faith. The following is an epitome of the gospel, given by Jesus Christ himself : For God so loved the world, that be gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. In the same manner his apostles preached. They tell us, that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that there is redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins accord, ing to the riches of his grace ; that God can be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Thus, in a variety of instances, they propose the grand encouragement, and set Christ forth, as the precious object of faith and love.
But after the clearest exhibitions of the divine law, the most solemn declarations of the glorious
gospel, the most evangelical discourses concerning the nature and necessity of faith and repentance, and the most proper and pathetic addresses to the consciences of men, which by all means should be made use of, there will be no success attending them, unless the Spirit of the Lord takes of the things of Jesus, and powerfully applies them to the sinner's mind. Paul planted, and Apollos watered ; but God gave the increase. But as soon as the truth is brought home to the sinner's conscience, he becomes anxious to flee from the wrath
His dangerous condition alarms him ; for he now finds that he is condemned by the law of God, and shut up under an awful load of guilt. And while this conviction of his wretched circumstances excites him to search the scriptures, to attend the preaching of the gospel, and to cry, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner, he can find no encouragement, unless he is under a great mistake, from any thing but the Gospel, which reveals a fountain open for sin and for uncleanness, a perfect and an everlasting righteousness, which is brought in by Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law. for righteousness to every one that believeth. And upon his being enabled to believe in this Divine Redeemer, he sees a ground of hope for him, and rejoices in Christ without confidence in the flesh. Under such a conviction of the truth, and thus inquisitive about the way to Zion, glad should I be to see this and every congres gation in New-England. For if a man is not convinced that he is condemned by the law, he will not rejoice that salvation is brought to light by the gospel : if he is not sensible of his want of righteousness, he will not esteem it good news,
that God justifies the ungodly. May the Spirit of God convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment !
2. I shall conclude this discourse by observing, that there are two classes of men, whose general conduct is incompatible with their professed sentiments.
(1.) The first of these are such as plead warmly for the dignity of man in his present state, his noble powers and capacities, and the influence of his obedience in recommending him to the Deity ; but at the same time are guilty of the most sordid vices. They swear on every trifling occa , sion, by the awful name of God; indulge themselves in drunkenness, uncleanness, &c. Thus, while they try to persuade us of the dignity of man, their own conduct, which is much more persuasive, leads us to conclude, or confirms us in the conclusion, that he is an enemy to God in his mind by wicked works. No person can degrade them, so much as they degrade themselves.
(2.) The second sort are they, who are very sound in the faith, and very careless in their lives and conversations. You will scarcely be able to * discover a single error in their creed; but you may easily find thousands in their practice. Of this class, there are many professors of Christianity, who are enemies to the cross of Christ. They profess that they know God; but in works deny bim, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. Mark these men, ye who are the real disciples of an ascended Redeemer, and have no fellowship with them, that they may be ashamed. And be ever careful to continue in
obedience : thus will you shew your faith
by your works.
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work, to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amer.
YOUNG PEOPLE CALLED UPON TO CONSIDER, THAT
FOR THEIR CONDUCT HERE THEY MUST BE ACCOUNTABLE HEREAFTER, AT THE JUDGMENT. SEAT OF CHRIST.
ECCLESIASTES, xi. 9. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in
the days of thy youth; and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes : but know tbou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
THE youth make a great part of our stated worshipping assemblies, are the flower of a community, and on them we naturally place our expectations of future supplies in the Church and in the State. If they shew an early regard to religion, and behave with duty and affection to their parents, they become the support and comfort of their age ; and they think themselves amply compensated for all that care and cost with which they have conducted them through their state of infancy and childhood to youth. But when they despise reproof, and betake themselves to vicious courses, the parents sink under discouragement, and fear their ruin both of soul and body. The joy of the parents on the one hand, and their grief on the other, can only be fully known to
* Delivered at an Evening Lecture, May 8, 1971, at the desire of a number of young men, and published by request.