« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
day, to-day, and for ever; and what he has threatened with his mouth, he will fulfil with his hands. When Christ appears at the day of judgment, and you shall stand at his bar to be judged, you will find him in judging, just what he was, and just what you find him in your bibles, in threatening.
III. The truth in the text may be applied by way of Reproof.
1. To those that have been heretofore under awakenings, but have now become senseless and careless. This doctrine shows your solly. You act as if Christ were altered, as though he were not now so dreadful a Judge, and his displeasure not so much to be feared, as heretofore. Time was, when you were afraid of the displeasure and wrath of Christ. You were afraid of the dreadful sentence from his mouth, “ Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” And why is it so much otherwise with you now? Is not the wrath of this Judge as much to be dreaded now, as ever it was? Time was, when those threatenings, that Christ has denounced against sinners, were terrible things to you; and why do you make so light of them now? Is this your great Judge grown weaker than he was, and less able to fulfil his threatenings? Are you less in his hands than you were; or do you imagine that Christ is become more reconciled to sin, and has not such a disposition to execute vengeance for it as he had ?
Time was, that you seemed to feel yourself to be in lamentable circumstances that you had not an interest in Christ, and to have a great mind to get an interest in him. You sought it, and prayed to God daily for it, and took considerable pains, and went and asked others, what you should do to obtain an interest in Christ. Why is it that you are so much more careless about it now? Is Christ altered ; is an interest in him less valuable, or less necessary, now, than it was then? Was acceptance with him worth earnestly seeking, and praying, and striving for then, and is it good for nothing now? Did you stand in great need of it then, and can you do well enough without it now?
Time was when you seemed to be much concerned about your having been guilty of so much sin against God and Christ, and, it may be, wept about it in your prayers. But now, you are not concerned about it. The thought of your having so often and so greatly offended him, does not so much trouble you, but that you can be easy and quiet, and have your heart taken up about one vanity or another, without being very much disturbed with the thoughts of your sins. Then you used to be careful to avoid sin ; you were watchful to avoid those things that were forbidden in God's holy word; you were careful that you did not sin by profaning the sabbath, or by unsuitably spending the time in God's house, or by neglecting the duties of reading and prayer. You were careful of your behaviour among men, lest you should transgress. If you suspected any thing to be sinful then, you dared not do it. But now there is no such care upon your spirit, there is no such watch maintained, you have no such guard upon you. But when you are tempted to do or omit any thing, it is not a thought coming with weight upon your heart, “Is this sinful or not ?"
• Is this contrary to the mind and will of God, or not ?" You do not dwell long on such kind of thoughts as these ; you are grown very bold, and live in neglects and practices that are sinful, and that you have light enough to know to be so: just as if you thought that Christ's disposition, with respect to sin was altered; and that he was less an enemy to sin now than he was then. Instead of being less an enemy to sin than you then thought he was, and instead of being a less dreadful Judge of ungodly men, than you then imagined, or had a sense of in your heart, he is a thousand times more so: for then, when you was most awakened and convinced, you conceived but very little of what is in reality ; you apprehended very imperfectly the enmity of Christ's nature against sin and the dreadfulness of his wrath against the ungodly. It was but a little sense you had of it. His wrath is infinitely more dreadful, than ever you have yet had any conception of.
And though Christ be unchangeable, yet you are not. “You are changed for the worse, since the time when you were awakened. Christ is equally an enemy of sin, and you are become more sinful than you then were. Christ's wrath is in itself equally dreadful, as it then was; but you have far more reason to dread it, than you had then, for you are in much greater danger of it; and if you do not repent are much nearer to the execution of it. And not only so, but you are now exposed to much more of that wrath. Christ's wrath hung over your head then, and so it does now, but with this difference, that now much more of that wrath hangs over you than did then. You hung over the pit of hell then, and so you do now; but with this difference, that you have ever since been kindling and enraging the flames of that fiery gulf over which you hang, so that they are vastly fiercer than they were then ; and the moth of time has been nibbling at that slender thread ever since, and has much nearer gnawed it off than it had then. And your heart is far more hardened than it was; and the devil has faster hold of you, and the way to escape is more blocked up; and your case upon many accounts is inexpressibly more doleful, however much more careless and unconcerned you are about your own circumstances.
2. This doctrine reproves all, that have entered into the bonds of the Christian covenant, and have proved false to it. If Christ be the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and is always the same towards us in fulfilling, as he is in promising, then surely we ought to be so towards him. If he never breaks covenant with his people, then they are greatly to be reproved, who are false and treacherous in their dealings with him. Therefore this reproves a covenant people that depart from Christ, and break covenant with him ; as we in this land have done, having greatly revolted and degenerated both from the pure profession and religious practice of the first times of the country. Though Christ and his doctrine, and the religion that he taught, are always the same, yet this country has great multitudes in it that are driven to and fro by every wind of doctrine, and has now for a long time been exceedingly corrupted by the prevalency of many evil customs and practices.
And by this doctrine is every particular person reproved, that does not take care to keep covenant with Christ. We are in general under the solemn bonds of our baptismal covenant ; and that covenant, that was sealed in our baptism, most of us have explicitly owned, and expressly and solemnly promised to walk in, in a way of obedience to all the commands of God as long as we live; and have, time after time, in the most solemn manner, sealed this covenant ancw, by taking the body and blood of Christ upon it at the Lord's supper. They bring dreadful guilt on themselves who are not careful to fulfil such vows; they that have solemnly vowed to obey Christ in all bis commandments as long as they live, and have sealed these vows by eating and drinking at the Lord's supper with far greater solemnity than if they scaled it with as many solemn oaths, yet live in ways of sin, live in the neglect of several commanded duties, and in the commission of forbidden sin; or at least do not make it the care of their lives strictly to keep Christ's commands; surely such persons render themselves very guilty.
3. This doctrine reproves those that have been seemingly pious, and have fallen away to ways of sin. Who these persons are, their own consciences are better able to judge than those that are about them. There are many here present, that in times past have been seemingly pious; and let every one inquire at the mouth of his own conscience, whether his seeming piety holds on ; whether it be not come to an end. If you find reason, by a serious and strict examination, to conclude that you are one of them, consider how vile is your treatment of Him, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and who never is false to any to whom he once manifests his favour. How VOL. VIII.
greatly doth God complain of such short-lived religion in the scriptures ! Hos. vi. 4.“ O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew, it goeth away." Ps. Jxxviii. 57. “ They tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies, but turned back and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers; they were turned aside like a deceitful bow."
4. Hereby the truly godly are greatly to be reproved for their declension. There are many such here, as I charitably hope, and many of them I fear have been guilty of great declension in religion. Formerly they were lively and animated in religion, now they are dull and indifferent ; formerly their hearts went up on high after God, but now after the world ; they carried themselves for a while very exemplarily, but have since behaved in such a manner as to wound religion. Why will you be guilty of such a departure from your Redeemer, who changes not with regard to you? His love he formerly manifested towards you, but it does not change; it has ever held up to the same height; his faithfulness never has failed to you; why then does your love so languish towards him, and why are you so unfaithful to him? He keeps up the same care and watchfulness towards you, to preserve you, to provide for you, to defend you from your enemies, and why will you suffer your care and strictness to serve and please Christ, and honour him, to fail in any measure ?
When you were first converted, your heart seemed to be wrapt up in love to Christ, and delight in him and his praises. You were then continually meditating on Christ and the things of Christ, and your meditations on him were sweet ; and you were then much in speaking of those things, and you delighted to speak of them. And why is it so much otherwise with you now? Is Christ less excellent than he was then? is he less worthy of
5. This doctrine affords matter of reproof to us of this town, for our declining is much from what we have lately been. That we have exceedingly declined in religion, is most manifest, and what all confess. A little while ago Christ was the great object of regard among us. The hearts of the people in general were greatly engaged about Christ; as though Christ had been all, and the world nothing. There was then a great deal of conversation, among all sorts of persons, and in all companies, of Christ. They who thought they had no interest in Christ, were full of concern how to obtain an interest in him; and they were almost ready to neglect their worldly concerns, as though
Christ was all they needed. And with regard to those that thought they had obtained an interest in Christ, their thoughts and their conversation seemed also to be very much taken up about Christ. They were much engaged in talking of the excellency of Christ, and seemed to be full of the grace and dying love of Christ. And one and another of you expressed the strong sense you had of one perfection and excellency and another of Christ, and of the glory of the works that he has done, and of the sweetness of the words that he speaks. The town seemed to be full of the praises of Christ. You expressed to one another how you earnestly longed to priase him and bless his name for ever and ever, and how you desired that others should help you praise him. The benefits procured by Christ were then greatly valued in the town, and both Christ and his benefits were then precious among us.
And multitudes seemed to be concerned, what they should do for the honour of Chirst, how they should live to his glory and do something for the advancement of bis kingdom in the world. But now, how much otherwise is it; how little is Christ set by, in comparison of what he has been; how much is he neglected, how much is he dropped out of people's common discourse and conversation ! How have many of you left off earnestly following after Christ, to pursue after the world; one to pursue after riches, another to be engrossed by amusement and diversion; another by fine clothes and gay apparel; and all sorts, young and old, have gone their way wandering in a great measure from Christ : as though Christ was not as excellent now as he was then; as though his grace
and dying love were not as wonderful now as they were then; as though Christ were not now as much preferable to the world, as worthy to be loved, and to be praised, to be thought of, and talked of; and as though he was not as worthy that we should be concerned to honour him, and live to his praise, as ever he was. If Christ be as much altered, as the town is altered, he is altered very much indeed. Are we so foolish as to think that he, that is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, is so much altered from what he was three years ago?
IV. The truth taught in the text may be applied by way of Encouragement.
1. To sinners, whose minds are burdened and exercised with concern about the state of their souls, to come to Christ, and put their trust in him for salvation. If Christ is now and ever will be the same that he ever was, then here is great encouragement for you to come to him, as will appear by considering two things.