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There are some hearers of the Gospel who acknowledge the truth that they are sinners. Even if we say, as Nathan did to David, Thou art the man, or thou art the woman who hast sinned, and art in danger of eternal wrath; the sinner answers, All this is very true ; I have sinned, and, God be merciful to us, we have all sinned; I hope God will be merciful to me. Thus slightly is the wound healed. This is the false refuge to which you flee. You say that God is merciful. Very true, he is so But although he is merciful, he has told us that “ strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” But you say you hope to be among the few who will find
will not. Now, which stand on the better ground, your hopes or my fears? I can give good reason for my fears, but I doubt whether you can of your hopes. The few who are saved are penitent sinners, who have accepted of Christ on the terms of the Gospel. Now, what is the ground of your hopes ? You say you cannot think that God will be so severe as to damn you ; but why is it severe in your case more than in that of others, who, like you, are not penitent believers? In a word, is it cruelty to damn you who have innumerable sins,
when God thought it not cruel to send so many angels to hell for one sin ?
Is it unjust to punish you who have neglected the means of grace, when others have been punished who never had them? We have no reason to doubt that there are multitudes in hell, who have been ruined by such presumptuous hopes of mercy.
Others, when driven from this defence, will say, that they are in no danger, for they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true, that those who really believe are in no danger. But are you sure that you believe ? The foolish virgins in the parable thought themselves believers, and perhaps went farther than you pretend to go. They had professions, and they had lamps. But no sooner did they attempt to trim their lamps on the approach of the bridegroom, than they were convinced of their want of oil, and went to obtain a supply; but were forever shut out from the presence of the Lord. Now, how can you pretend to believe, when you fall behind many who have perished ? There are some who tell us they believe, and yet they are drunkards, profane swearers, scoffers at religion, haters of better persons than themselves, ridiculing them, and pronouncing them hypocrites. Belief, or faith, “works by
love ;" it is a grace that purifies the heart, and reforms the life. “ Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works,” says the Apostle. Still you say you believe. But when did you believe? You will reply, always. You think, then, you were born a believer; and thus you are proof against yourself that to this day you have never believed at all.
Others shelter themselves under the fig-leaf of their own blameless life. They say they hope all is well; they never did anybody any harm; and therefore they never feared the wrath of God. You never injured any one! But you have injured your Maker, and therefore you must perish. But you still say you never injured any man. You know not what you say. You owe a debt of love to every one with whom you have any intercourse or connection, to say nothing of the love you owe to the whole human family. “Love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Now, he who has never shown his love to others in a serious concern for their salvation, withholds from them what is their unquestionable due; and surely he who was never concerned for his own soul, was never really concerned for that of others. Say no
more, then, that you never injured any one. Didst thou never see thy brother sin without reproving him ? Many persons, like thee, will see their own children and servants commit iniquity, and not reprove them. And is not this a real injury to the persons you ought to have reproved ? 66 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.” With what confidence can you say you have injured no man, when by your impenitent life you have been drawing down the wrath of heaven upon yourself, and by your example, if not by your words, have been encouraging others to neglect their souls ?
Others, when reminded of their sins, take refuge behind their church-privileges, as if these could shelter them from the wrath of God. Thus it was with many in the days of the prophet Jeremiah. They were guilty of theft, murder, adultery, perjury, and of burning incense to Baal. And when the prophet was sent to rebuke them, they cried out, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these." Is it not so with you? It is not ordinances alone, but im. proving them, that will save you. To lean
upon them, instead of the Saviour, is the worst misimprovement of them.
Others betake themselves to their works. Like the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not as other men, they stop the mouth of conscience with an enumeration of the performances in which they imagine they excel others. True, they admit that, in common with others, they have sinned; but, they say, they fast and pray, and to do good and to communicate, they forget not; and so they think they are safe. Thus, they prefer their own miserable hiding-place to God's impregnable city of refuge; the home-spun rags of their own, to the heaven-wrought, imperishable robe of a Saviour's righteousness! To lean upon duties in this manner, is to say to the work of your hands, Ye are our gods.
Another class of persons will take shelter under their good resolutions, and thus stifle conviction of sin. Like Felix, they resolve to attend to their souls at some convenient season; and for this convenient season, which, alas ! never arrives, they will put off all their concern for salvation. But can there be any business so important as to deserve to take the place of that of the soul? Is there
hazard like that of perdition ? and any mercy like that