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89, we hall in the issue give a testimony to this truth : it' we obtain a favourable aniiver, then we must bear testi. mony, that you did receive Chrilt our Lord upon his own terms, and therefore were finners ; if you reject the coupe fel of God against yourselves, then we must bear witness that your are guilty of the greatest fin which any of the foos of Adam can be guilty of, unbelief; which makes God a liar, as the apostle John has ir, 1 John v. 10. “ He that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son; and this is the record, that God hath giver to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” Moreover,
7thly, The whold creation asserts this truth, that all have finned and come aliort of the glory of God; and confequently tiiat part of it which ye use, asserts no less of you in particular. The apostle, Rom. viii. 22. tells us, that " the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in paint together until now.” Thefe creatures you daily use, they groail. If your ears were not deafened by fin, you might hear the very groans of the ground you tread upon, of tlic food ye eat, and of the rainent ye put on. Well, what is the matter what occasions these groans? The apostle tells lis in the 20th and 21st verfes of that chapter, it is made subject to vanity, and to the bondage of corruption ;" for the creature was made fubject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjeded the same in hope ; becaule the creature itself thallallo be delivered from the bondige of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the chile dren of God.” Here the apostle asserts, (1.) That's the creature is made subject to vanity;" that is, is liable to be abused by men, to other ends than it was at first designed for: it is fadiject to this vanity, of falling dhort of the de. fin of its creation, which was the glory of God, and of be. ing abused to his dishonour through the corruption of man. (2.) He a fierts, that it was not willingly made subject to it. O Baile ! le brute creatures condemn man. willingly subject to vanity, did willingly defist from the prosecution of that which was the design of his creation. The rest of the creatures are passive in it; it is a sort of force put upon them. It is a violence done to the creatures, when they are so abused 10 the service of fin : it is contrary to their very natures; for they still continue ac.
cording to the laws which God let them in the beginning. (3.) The only thing that makes them continue in being, when they are so abused by man, is the appointment of God. He continues them in being, not for this end, to be abused to a subserviency to the lusts of men, though they make this use of the goodness of God; but that, by the continued effects of it, and proofs of undeserved kindnes, he may lead them to repentance. (4.) The apostle aflerts, that the creation ihall be a fiarer with the sons of God, in their glorious delivery from the bondage of corruption, that is, when the children of God, these who liave received Christ, and by him power to become the sons of God, thall be fully freed from the remainders of the guilt, power, and pollution of fin, then the creature fall no more be used contrary to God's design in its creation, but Mall, in tiie hand of the rational creature, again become an instrument for siewing forth the glory of God, as it was at first designed to be. And 10 fhew that the condition of the creature requires this, (5.) He in the 22d verse asserts, that the whole creation groapeth, that is, complains of its hard usage, of its being abused by men's fin; and he extends this to the whole creation, that there may be no access for any who use the creatures to free theinfelves of that which the complaint runs against, to wit, lin. How can any free himself of fin, while all his enjoyinents witness against him, that he has sinned. O guners ! the fun that shines upon you groans, that it must give light to a fimper, one who uses the light for an encouragement to sin against God. The ground ye tread upon groans with the weight of sinners. The food that feeds you complains, that it must be so horribly perverted as to serve the lusts of a loner, as to furnish one with strength to find against God. See Hab. ii. 11. James v. 3.
8thly, The judgments of God bear witness against you. As many rods as have ever been upon you, as many witnesses are there of this sad truth. The rod of God speaks ; for we are commanded to hear the rod, Micah vi. 9. Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom Mall see thy name : hear ye the rod, and who hath ap. pointed it.” Every stroke that the hand of God lays upon us fpeaks ; and the first thing it says, is, Ye have sinned, and come Mort of the glory of God. For affli&tion doth not spring out of the ground, nor doth trouble arise out of the
dust. And here we may boldly, with Eliphaz, Job. iv. 7. challenge you to give one instance of any innocent who ever fuffered the least wrong or trouble. “ Remember, I pray thee,” says he to Job, “who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?” as if he had said, Search the records of ancient times; rub up the memory, and give me but one inftance of any person who suffered, and was not a sinner. I defy thee to give one inslance. Indeed he was out in the application of that unquestionable truth: for he did thence endeavour to infer, that Job was a hypocrite. Ai 10 the application, we are not concerned in it; but for the truth itself, that we own), and challenge you to inítance any. Our blessed Lord indeed was free of personal failings, but not so of imputed ones; for the Lord "jaid upon him the iniquities of us all, and he was wounds ded for our transgreslions.” And therefore his sufferings are nowise inconsistent with this truih, that none suffer but finners; and therefore your sufferings are a proof, and do teftify, that ye have sinned; " for God doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men,” Lan. iii. 33. He takes not pleasure in amiding his own creatures ; but when he does it, it is for their sins. What God in his fovereignty may do, as to the punishing or rather afflicting of an innocent creature, we shall not determine. Learned men have learnedly, I may fay, played the fool, or trified in debating this point, the determination whereof makes nothing to edification, were it posible to determine it fat. isfactorily. If any should ask me, Can God punish or afflict an innocent creature? I hould answer, (1.) That queltions about what God can do are dangerous, and ought for most part be forborne. (2.) Punish an innocent creature he cannot, for that presupposeth a fault. (3.) God, in the first forination of his creatures, did set them such a law for their rule, as did lead them directly to the highest perfeetion their natures were capable of; and they walking ac. cording to that rule, i. e. being innocent, it is hard to conceive how they could fall short, or in any measure fwerve from the end. If it be still inquired, Whether God may not, in his absolute sovereignty, pass over this, which seems to be the fixed and settled order of his condu&t towards the creatures, and affia them, or suffer them to meet with inconveniences, while they hold close to the rule that
God has set them? If I say, any states the quesion thu Then, (4.) I shall only propose another queftion to the inquirer, Can there posibly fall within the compass of God's koowledge a design which will make it worthy of his infinite wisdoin and goodness to do so, to break this law of nature, which is every way suited to his wisdom and goodness! If he say, there may, then he is obliged to produce it, which he will find hard enough to do: if he say not, then he determines the question in the negative, but dangerously enough; for who knows the intinitely wise designs which may fall within the compass of the thoughis of the omniscient God, whore ways and thoughts are as far above the thoughts of man, as the heavels are above the earıb? But whatever be in this nice debate, wherein we shall not entangle ourselves, the truth we have advanced is certain, that no instance can be given wherein God has affli&ted those who have been absolutely free from sin, inherent or imputed: and therefore the rods of God are witnesses against you, that ye have fivned. Speak, o finners ! did you never meet with an affliction in body or mind, in your persons or families, in yourselves or in your relations, young or old? Who, or where is the man or woman that never had a cross ? I believe that person is scarce to be found in the world who has no complaints, that is, wlio have no crosses. Well tben, as many crosses as ye have had, as many witnesses are there in giv. ing in testimony against you, that you have finned. For no finning, no fuffering.
Othly, lo fine, to name no more witnesses, Death the king of terrors, is a witness against you, and gives testimony against all, that they have sinned ; for “ the wages of sin is death,” Rom. vi. 23. It is only sin that gives deatli A power, over yoll.
of you can plead exeinption from death, then you may with some reason plead freedom from the charge we have laid against you ; but if not, then in vain will all pretences, Nifts, and evasions be. It may be, that we mall not, 11o not by the testimony of all the famous witnesses we have led agaiult you, bring you to conviction of fin: but when Death, the king of terrors, begins his evidence, he will convince yoli, ere he has done with you ; for he will send you where ye shall be convinced not much to your comfort. Death is a serjeant i
the great King; and when he takes you, arrests you, cites you anon to appear before the bar that is in the higher house, how will your hearts fail you then! O finners! the fight of the grim messenger Death, of the executioner Satan, of the place of torment hell, and the awful solemnity of the Judge of the quick and the dead, will supercede any further proof, and will awaken the most sleepy conscience, which will then be, not only witness, but judge, and even executioner, to those who shall not be able to plead an interest in Christ Jesus, who have never been convinced foundly of fin at the bar of the word.
Thus we have made good our charge against all and every one of you, by the testimony of a great many witnesses of unquestionable credit. It is therefore high time, O finners! for you to bethink yourselves what ye fail answer when ye are reproved.
Hitherto we have held in the general: we have charged fin upon you all, without fixing any particular fin upon any particular sort of persons. Now we come to that which, in the next place, we proposed in management of this charge against you; and that is,
THIRDLY, To make good the charge, by dealing particularly with the consciences of several forts of persons among you, to bring you, if pollible, to a sense of your fin.
All who are in this louse may be ranked, according to the apostle John's division, into children, young men, and fathers; or into children, thoje of a middle age, and old perfons. Under young men and women are comprehended all those, whether they have families or not, who are not come to declining years, who are yet in the flower of their strength and vigour. To each of them I would apply myself in a way of conviction, and endeavour to bring them to a sense of sin, and that even of particular fins.
But that I may proceed in this with the more clearness, I mall premise a few things, which may clear the way to what we design upon this head. And,
ist, There are two great designs which every man Mould continually aim at, usefulness here, and happiness hereafter. We come not into the world, as some foolilly apprehend, to spend or pass our time, and no more of it. No; God has cut us out our work. We are all, in some Nation or other, to lay out ourselves for the advancement