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and what are the confequents of it; ye have finned, and so come short of the glory of God. Now we shall proceed to the second question, What Mall we do to be saved ? And as the ground of what we are to say upon this head, we have chosen the words read, in which both the question and answer are distinctly laid down.
In the text and context, we have the account of the conversion of the keeper of the prison at Philippi, a city in Macedonia. In which there occur several things very considerable.
1. The person who was converted deserves to have a special remark put upon him. He is a heathen, one of the ruder fort, who was taught blindly to obey what he was put to, without ever enquiring whether right or wrong. He had, but the night before, pụt the apostles feet in the stocks, and laid them in chains. When God designs to erect trophies to his grace, he is not wont to single out the moral, the wise and polisht fort of finners, left they should glory in themselves : but he pitches upon a Mary Magdalen that has seven devils dwelling in her; a perfecuting Saul, a rude Jaylor, that no fesh may głory in his presence, i Cor. i. 26, 27, 28, 29.
2. The place where he is converted, is a prifon, a place where ministers were not wont to come, but when they were brought there, that they might be kept from endeavouring the conversion of finners. When God has a mind to have a finner, he will not want means to accomp!ith his design. He can inake a place, that is designed to be a mean of suppressing the gospel, fublervient to its propagation.
3. The exercise of the 'apostles under their confineinent, deserves a remark. A prison is not
able to keep them from praising God. Sometimes they live been made to sing in a prison, who have been niourning when at liberty. God dispenses the largest, the richest comforts, when his people need them most. He can fweeten a stinking dungeon with the favour of his sweet ointments. He can soften hard chains, by lining them, as it were, with rich supplies of grace. He can relax the closeness of a prison, with his free spirit, who brings liberty where-ever he is. Their hearts are thankful for mercies that they enjoy; and God chooses that time to give them new ones: A strong proof that it is indeed a good thing to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. Praise for old mercies brings new mercy with it. The liberal man lives by liberal devices.'
4. The occasion of the jaylor's conversion is an earthquake which shook the prison, opened the doors, and made the chains fall off. A strange fort of earthquake indeed, that loosed the prisoners bonds. When the Lord designs to awaken a linner, if less will not do it, a miracle Thall be wrought. :
5. It is worthy our obfervation, that the first influence of this providence was like to have proven fatal and ruining to the man whose falvation was designed. The first appearances of God for the salvation of finners may have a very strange influence. They may be lo far from bringing the sinners, whose salvation is designed, nearer, that they may seem to put them further off. The jaylor would have killed himself.
6. Their frame and deporument under this dis. pensation is no less remarkable. Though the earth be taken, their hearts are not so, but are in a blefled rest and repose. They know that God K 3
who who look the earth, was their God, and gave it a commission not to wrong, but to help them. This keeps the christian calm under shaking providences: the seas inay rage, and beat high, but the rock whereon he refts, remains firin, and cannot be shaken. And a further proof of their frame we have in their regard to the jaylor's safety. Some would have thought it a happy occasion to make an escape; but they take care of the keeper's life, though it should be to the endangering of their own. They do good to enemies, and love them that hate them.
7. Their words to the jaylor are remarkable ;: Do thyself no harm, they seasonably step in for preventing of sin. They represent the sin so as it might appear the more hateful; they remove the temptation. Herein they leave us an example: if we would prevent the ruines of others, we must Itep in seasonably. Had they delayed a little longer, the man had been gone past all remedy. If we would discover sin so as to make it appear sinful, we must represent it under these forms which are most likely to engage finners to renounce it. Do thyself no harm. Self-preservation is the prime dictate of nature. For one to destroy himself, is to act cross to the very foundation of reason, which leads to the use of all means that have a tendency to felf-preservation. And then, they remove the teinptation. These who would effectually diffuade finners from fin, must let them see that all the grounds they go upon are mistakes. The man supposed they had been gone, and that he would be punished for them; and to evite this imagina· ry danger, he would have really ruined himself.
Thus finners, to evite imaginary evils, run upon real ones; and to gain imaginary advantages, they
lose the true gain. And therefore ministers or others, in dealing with them, should study to un. deceive them in this matter; Do thyself no harm, for we are all here.
Here some may enquire, how they saw him, when it was now night, and he did not see them? To this I answer, There might be either moonlight, or a candle in the uttermost room, thereby they might see what was done there; but yet he could not see into the remote corners of the innermost prison where they lay in chains.
8. We are to observe the influence that this check, this seasonable advice, that carrried a reproof in its bosom, had upon the man; it cons vinced him, it put him into this trembling hum, ble posture we find him in. Here I might obferve many very considerable trụths. Grace usually be. gins to work, when finners have gone to a height, to an excess of sin. While the man is practising a bloody crime, and had murdered himself in defign, then grace chooses to lay hold on him. When Saul was grown mad in his persecution, carrying it even to a foreign country, grace takes the opportunity. It doth not bespeak sinners in their lucid intervals; but, to thew its power, it reaches them when at their worst. Again, how mighty a change can a word work, when the fpirit of God concurs ? He whom the earthquake did not deter from finning, is overcome with a word: A word makes him that put their feet in the stocks, fall down at their feet. One word opens the man's eyes to see what he never saw before, it fills his heart with concern about salvation, a thing he had not minded before; and the fears of that wrath that he little thought of, when he was just going to throw himself fearlesly in its hands by K 4
felt: felf-murder, now make him tremble, and fall down, and cry out, What must I do to be saved? It makes himn pay reverence to them to whom he paid none before. He calls them Sirs, a term of honour and respect. A great change indeed! Here are a multitude of wonders. The terrors of God make a stout heart to shake. An unconcerned persecutor lays salvation to heart: and much concern in the heart discovers itself by its effects; it breaks out in the trembling of the body, and the anxious question in the text.. : 9. Here it is worth our while to enquire ; What he was convinced of?. That the man is convinced of danger is plain ; that it was not the danger of being punished for letting away the prisoners, is no less plain; he was now eased of any fears he had of this sort. In one word, he was convinced of his sin and misery. This is plain from the apostles direction. It were blaspheiny to think that they mistook his case: and the event puts it beyond all doubt, that they were not mistaken; for the cure is no sooner applied than it takes effect. The direction quiered the man's mind; and this makes it plain, that it was sin and misery that was now in his view; it was the curse of the law that was pursuing him. We need not spend time in enquiring what sins he was convinced of. That the fin of self-inurder was the first, seems probable from what has been already difcoursed. When the candle of the Lord fills the bosom of a finner with light, the first sin that is seen is usually some great fin, and for most part the sin that was last committed. This sin was just now committed ; and a monstrous one it was: but though this might be the first, we have no reason to think that it was this only; nay, we