The character of Inattentive Hearers, and the sad effect of their criminal indifference to the word, are the subjects now under consideration. Some seeds fell by the way-side, and the fowls came and devoured them up (Matt. xiii. 4). This figurative account of these unhappy persons is thus expounded by our Lord himself (v. 19), When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was son in his heart: this is he which received seed by the way-side. We have explained the words, and made some general observations upon them. So we have proceeded to the main thing, which is, the consideration of the three following enquiries—Who the wicked one is, and why he is so called?—by what arts he endeavours to prevent the efficacy of God’s word on the hearts of men?—and the malevolent end he proposes thereby? Satan, or the devil, is the wicked one here intended: and with what propriety he is so stiled appears from the view we have taken of his character, history and works. He catcheth away the good seed of the word. This he does, we have shown, by diverting men’s attention from it—exciting prejudices in their breasts against it—and preventing their recollecting it afterwards. We proceed now,
III. To consider the malevolent end proposed thereby—lest they should believe and be saved (Luke viii. 12) or, in other words, that they might still be held under the power of unbelief and sin, and so be lost for ever. Horrid cruelty!
Here, in order the more deeply to impress our minds with the importance of giving the most serious attention to the word, it will be proper to enquire what faith is—to describe the salvation promised to them who believe—and to shew you the connection between the one and the other.
FIRST, What is faith? I answer, it is a firm persuasion of the truth of the gospel, accompanied with a deep sense of its importance, and a cordial acceptance of its gracious proposals; and so producing the genuine fruits of love and obedience.
The term believe is of plain and easy import; so well understood that, in common discourse, no one pauses a moment to enquire what we mean by it. Nor is it imaginable that the sacred writers use words, in any other sense than is agreeable with their general acceptation; for if they did, the bible would be a book absolutely unintelligible. It is however certain, that as the scriptures assure us that he who believes shall be saved; so they speak of some who believe and yet are not saved. From whence it follows, either that the term itself has two different acceptations, or rather, that the faith of the one is accompanied with certain attributes or qualities different from that of the other; so that though they are both said to believe, their real characters are clearly and essentially distinguishable. Now if we will spend a few moments in examining the definition of faith just given, we shall be enabled to draw the line between the mere nominal and the genuine christian, the man who believes to no valuable purpose, and him who believes to the saving of the soul (Heb. x.39).
The real Christian believes. But what does he believe? I answer the pure unadulterated gospel; the sum and substance of which is this, that God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them (2 Cor. v. 19): or, in other words, that of his free mercy, for the sake alone of what Christ has done and suffered, he pardons, justifies, and saves the believing penitent sinner. This plain truth he clearly apprehends, though a stranger to a thousand curious questions that have been agitated about it.
But upon what ground does he believe the gospel? It is replied, the testimony of God. The external evidence of Christianity, I mean that of miracle and prophecy, strikes him upon a general view of it as clear and convincing. But if he has neither ability or leisure to enter so fully into it as others may have, yet that defect is supplied by the internal evidence of it, brought home to his own perception, reasoning, and experience. He sees it is a doctrine according to godliness, tending to make men holy and happy; and he finds that it has this effect, in a degree at least, on his own heart: and from thence he concludes that it is divine. And this I take to be the witness of which the apostle John speaks (I John v. 10): He that believeth on the son of God, hath this witness in himself.
It is natural further, as faith admits of degrees, to enquire what degree of assent he yields to the gospel? Not a faint, feeble, wavering assent; but a firm assent, agreeable to the clearness, strength, and energy of the evidence. He may indeed be assaulted with doubts, nor does he wish to suppress them by unlawful means, such as sound reason condemns. He is open to enquiry, ever ready to follow where truth shall lead. But his doubts, having had in this case their full effect, serve rather in the end to confirm than weaken his faith; just like a tree, whose roots have taken fast hold on the ground, becomes firmer by being shaken of a might wind.
Again, the gospel which he thus believes, he believes also to be most important. It is not in his apprehension a trifling uninteresting matter. On the contrary, as it involves in it the most serious truths, which affect his well-being both here and hereafter; so it rouses his attention, and calls all the powers of his soul into action. Like a man whose house is on fire, and is at his wits end till he has found means to extinguish it; or like one who has a large estate depending, and uses every effort to get his title to it confirmed; so he treats this gospel which he is persuaded is divine.
His belief too of the gospel is accompanied with a cordial approbation of its gracious proposals. He readily falls in with that scheme of salvation which divine wisdom has contrived, and almighty power has carried into effect. At the altar of propitiation he is disposed to sacrifice both pride and pleasure, and at the feet of the adorable Savior to cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. x. 5). While some, ignorant of God’s righteousness, go about to establish their own righteousness, he submits himself to the righteousness of God (Rom x. 8). And while others, under a pretence of doing honor to the free grace of God, throw the reins on the neck of their vicious inclinations, it is his object to be saved as well from the dominion of sin as the guilt of it. To the instructions of Jesus, the all-wise prophet of the church, he devoutly listens; on his sacrifice, as his great high priest, he firmly relies; and to his government, as his only rightful sovereign, he cheerfully yields obedience.—And from hence it may be naturally concluded, that the general course of his life is holy, useful, and ornamental.
In fine, upon this view of the matter we clearly see with what propriety the scriptures affirm, that they who believe on the name of Christ are born of God; that faith is the gift of God; that it is o f the operation of God; and that it is given unto us in the behalf of Christ to believe on Him (John i, 12, 13; Ephes. ii. 8; Col. ii. 12; Philip. i. 29). So that there appears good ground for the natural and usual distinction between a mere historical and a divine faith.
And now if we reverse what has been said, we shall plainly see the difference between the two characters of the real and the speculative Christian; and how it happens that the latter is said in scripture to believe, though he believes not to the saving of his soul.
If it be enquired, then, of the man of this character what it is he believes, it will perhaps be found that his idea of the gospel is a very mistaken one, or however that a great deal of error is mingled with the truth.
Or if this is not the case, and his notions are in general agreeable to scripture, yet there is a defect in the grounds of his faith. It is not the result of impartial enquiry, and a serious regard to the authority of God; but of a concurrence of accidental circumstances. "The Christian religion is the religion of his country; he was born of Christian parents: his neighbors, friends, and relations are of this profession; and many good and learned men have told him, he may depend upon it the gospel is true." I mean not by this to insinuate, that these consideration may not properly create a presumptive evidence in favour of Christianity, and that they ought not to serve as inducements to further enquiry. But surely a faith that stands on this foundation alone, is not a divine faith, nor that faith to which the promise of salvation is so solemnly made in the New Testament.
Further, his assent to what he calls the gospel, though it may have in it all the obstinacy and tenaciousness of bigotry, is yet destitute of that manly firmness which is the result of free examination and full conviction. So that his creed, be it ever so orthodox, and his zeal for it ever so flaming; is after all his opinion or sentiment, than the matter of his sober and serious belief.
And then in regard of that deep sense of the importance of divine truth which always accompanies a divine faith, he is a perfect stranger to it. His character is the reverse of that of the Thessalonians, to whom the gospel came not in word only, but in power and in the Holy Ghost (1 Thess. i. 5). It makes little other impression on his heart than that a man receives from an idle tale, he hears, and almost instantly forgets: unless indeed, the eagerness and pride of party zeal happens, as was just observed, to create in his breast a warm and obstinate attachment to his profession.
To which it must be added, that however through various indirect causes or motives he is induced to assent to he gospel, he does not heartily fall in with its gracious proposals. He neither relies entirely on Christ as his Saviour, renouncing all merit of his own; nor yet cordially submits to his authority, approving of all his commands as most holy, just, and good.—And from hence it is to be concluded that his external conduct, in regard of humility, meekness, temperance, benevolence, and the other Christian graces, hath in it little to distinguish him from the rest of mankind.
Thus have we contrasted the two characters of the real, and the merely nominal Christian; the man who believes to the saving of the soul, and him who though he may be said to believe, yet believes not to any salutary or valuable purpose. And hence, I think, we may collect a just idea of the nature and properties of saving faith.
And now, Sirs, let us examine ourselves upon this important question. WE have heard the gospel. Have we believed it? Have we received it in the love of it? And are our hearts and lives influenced and governed by it? We know not what true faith is, if the great concerns of religion do not strike us as infinitely more interesting and important than the most weighty affairs of the present life; if we do not feel and acknowledge our guilt, depravity, and weakness; if we do not most cheerfully entrust our everlasting concern to the hands of Jesus Christ, as our only saviour, and friend; and if it is not our ardent desire to conform to his will, and to copy after his example. And how deplorable will our condition be, should we at last be found in a state of unbelief and sin! But I hope better things of you, Sirs, and things that accompany salvation, though I thus speak. There are many, I trust, among us who do believe in the sense of the New Testament. Give me leave, my friends, to congratulate you on your happiness: while at the same time I tenderly sympathize with those who are weak in faith; but who yet, amidst all their doubts and fears, join issue with him in the gospel, who cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief (Mark ix. 24). Let us now from this account of faith go on,
SECONDLY, To speak of the salvation promised to them that believe.
Here a scene the most delightful and transporting opens to our view; a scene, the contemplation of which in the present life fills the Christian with admiration and wonder, but will overwhelm him with ecstasy and joy in the world to come. But we can only glance at it in this discourse. General, however, and imperfect as our account of it must be, it will serve to shew the indispensable necessity of faith, and of consequence the importance of giving earnest heed to the things we hear, lest at any time we should let them slip.
Now this salvation, whether we consider it in reference to the evils we escape, or the opposite good to which we become entitled, is most glorious indeed. It infinitely surpasses everything we read of in history. What was the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt, their protection and support through the wilderness, and their conquest of Canaan, with the freedom, prosperity, and happiness they enjoyed there; what, I say, were these events, however splendid and miraculous, but imperfect shadows, faint preludes, of that great salvation wrought out for us by Jesus the Son of God! It is a salvation from moral, natural, and penal evil in their utmost extent; and that followed with the enjoyment of positive blessedness in its highest perfection.
1. It is a salvation from moral evil.
The soul of man is the workmanship of God, and in its construction the skill and power of the great architect is wonderfully displayed. But alas! this temple of the living God, once honored with his presence, is now laid in ruins. Sin, with a long train of miseries, has entered the heart and taken possession of it. It has darkened the understanding, perverted the judgment, enslaved the will, and polluted the affections. It has dethroned reason brought a load of guilt upon the conscience, created a thousand painful anxieties and fears in the breast, and spread universal anarchy through the soul.
Now from all these evils we are saved by our Lord Jesus Christ. He procures for us the free pardon of our sins, reinstates us upon equitable grounds in the favour of our offended Sovereign, and sends down his good Spirit into our hearts, to renew our nature and make us meet for heaven. His doctrine illuminates the benighted mind, restores peace to the troubled conscience, gives a new bent to the will, and directs the passions to their proper objects. What a blessed change is this! But the salvation thus begun arrives not to perfection in the present life. Light and darkness, faith and unbelief, hope and fear, joy and sorrow, are here blended together. And hence the errors, follies, and sins which the best of men are chargeable with, and which they so pungently lament at the feet of divine mercy.
Death, however, the friend not the enemy of the believer, shall set the captive soul at liberty, and restore the immortal spirit to its primitive rectitude and purity. At that happy moment the Christian shall be freed from all remains of ignorance, imperfection, and sin. No evil thought, no vain imagination, no irregular desire shall ever any more afflict his heart, or disturb his devotion. His intellectual faculties shall become capable of the noblest exertions, and his affections be unalterably fixed to the Supreme Good. The image of the blessed God shall be fully delineated no his soul, and in the contemplation and fruition of that great Being he shall be employed to all eternity. Thus the salvation, begun here in sadness and sorrow, shall be finally completed in everlasting happiness and glory.—Again,
2. It is a salvation from natural evil.
Many and great are the miseries of an outward kind to which human nature s liable in the present life. This is a fact not to be denied: proofs arise from every quarter. If we look into the histories of former times, we shall find the greater part of them employed in relating the calamities which have befallen nations and public bodies of men; the ravages of war, and the devastations occasioned by fire, tempest, earthquake, pestilence, and famine. If we go abroad into the world among the various orders of mankind, our attention will every now and then be arrested, and our sympathetic feelings excited, by scenes of distress too painful to be particularly described—families sinking into all the wretchedness of poverty—parents following their own children to the grave—widows pouring their unavailing tears over their helpless offspring—here a friend deprived of his reason and his liberty, and there another languishing on a bed of sickness and death. No wonder these, and many other calamities we are the witnesses of, cast a gloom over our countenances, and embitter our pleasantest enjoyments. And then if we consider our own frame, the materials of which these tabernacles are composed, the disastrous accidents we are subject to, those harbingers of death, sickness and pain, which are continually advancing towards us, and death itself with the many distressing circumstances that often accompany it; when, I say, we consider these things, we can hardly avoid crying out in the language of the afflicted patriarch, Man that is born of a woman, is of few days and full of trouble (Job xiv. 1).
Now from all these miseries, the sad effects of sin, the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save us. Not that good men are exempted form the common afflictions of life. Poverty, sickness and death they are liable to as well as others. But none of these calamities befall them in the manner they do the wicked. From curses they are converted into blessings, and for Christ’s sake they become salutary chastisements, instead of vindictive judgments. If they heavenly Father corrects them, it is that they may be partakers of his holiness; nor does he fail to provide them with all needful supports under their afflictions. And they are assured, that however death, the greatest of all natural evils, is not to be avoided; yet it shall do them no harm. Nor are we without many glorious instances of those who through the faith of the gospel, having triumphed over the king of terrors while executing his last commission upon them. With the apostle, in the most heroic strains, they have thus challenged the last enemy, O death, where is they sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. xv. 55, 56, 57).
But let us extend our views to the heavenly world, where the promise of salvation, as it relates to natural evils, shall receive its full accomplishment. When the Israelites entered the good land, they ceased from their labours, and enjoyed all that tranquility and happiness they had so long expected. In like manner, There remaineth also a rest to the people of God (Hebrews iv. 9). When the journey of life is ended, there will be an end to all the pains, fatigues, and dangers of it. We shall no more endure any of those miseries we have been describing, or be sad spectators of the sorrows and sufferings of others. In that happy world there is not one aching heart, not one weeping eye, not one complaining tongue. As the stones that composed the temple at Jerusalem, were hewn and prepared before they were brought thither; that the noise of a hammer might not be heard throughout the building: so the painful exercises of the present life, whereby good men are made meet for heaven, having had their full effect, will for ever cease, and no sound will be heard there but the voice of joy and gladness. And on the morning of the resurrection, the body, roused from the slumbers of the grave, and fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ, shall be reunited to the immortal spirit; and in that happy union enjoy uninterrupted health and vigour to all eternity.—We have now only to add, in order to complete our account of this salvation, that it is,
3. A deliverance also from penal evil.
Indeed the evils just described may very properly de denominated penal, as they are the effects of sin, and expressions of the just displeasure of heaven against them. But what I have here in view is, the punishment to be inflicted on the wicked in the world to come, and the joys prepared for the righteous among the blessed above. It is but a general account we can now give of these two states: a transient glance, however, at the one and the other will suffice to convince us, that the salvation promised to them that believe is infinitely great and glorious.
The scriptures, in order to awaken the attention of mankind to their future and everlasting interests, have given us the most alarming description of the punishment prepared for the impenitent and ungodly. They assure us, that the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy shall smoke against them; that he will rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest for them: that they shall be destroyed forever; that they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices; that they shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt; that, not having brought forth good fruit, they shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire; that they shall be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth; and that they shall go away into everlasting punishment (Deut. xxix. 20; Ps. xl. 5, 6; Ps. xxxvii. 38; Prov. i. 31; Dan. xii. 2; Mat. iii. 10; Mat. viii. 12; Mat. xxv. 46). These, and many other expressions of the like import, are meant to convey some idea to our minds of the extreme anguish of the damned: stript of all the comforts they have enjoyed and abused; shut up in the prison of hell, with spirits of the same fierce and malevolent dispositions as themselves; abandoned to the reproaches of their own self-accusing consciences; and oppressed with the most tremendous sense of the indignation of that great Being, whom they still continue to hate, but feel themselves utterly unable to resist. Who knoweth the power of thine anger, O Lord? Even according to they fear, so is they wrath (Psalm xc. 11). But from all these miseries, the deplorable effects of impenitence and unbelief, our great Emmanuel saves us. There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus: for he hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Rom. viii. 1; Gal. iii. 13). But more than this—
To the miseries we have been describing are to be supposed the joys and triumphs of heaven. The Christian at death, freed from all moral pollution and restored to his primitive rectitude, as we have shown under a former head, is admitted into the immediate presence of God and the glorious society of the blessed. There he is ever employed in contemplating the divine excellencies in all their perfection, in beholding the adorable Jesus, his Saviour and Friend, in all his mediatorial glory, and in conversing with an innumerable company of angels and spirits of just men made perfect. And oh! What tongue can describe, what imagination conceive, the transporting joys he feels resulting form the most intimate union with the great fountain of all good, and the most perfect sense of his favour and love impressed on his heart? In thy presence, says David, is fullness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psalm xvi. 11).
Such then is the salvation promised to them that believe. Oh! How should our hearts exult, while our ears are saluted with these blessed tidings!—guilt pardoned—innocence retrieved—the image of God restored—the powers of sin and death vanquished—soul and body made for ever happy and glorious—and all this effected at an expense that neither man or angels can compute. But I forbear.—Some notice must now be taken,
THIRDLY, of the connection between faith and salvation. It is necessary, in order to our being saved, that we believe. Now this necessity arises not of the divine appointment, and the reason and nature of the thing.
1. It is the will of God, that those who are saved should believe. His pleasure in this matter he has signified to us in language the most plain and decisive. God so loved the world, says our Lord to Nicodemus (John iii. 16) that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. And when he commands his apostles, as he was ascending up into heaven, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he adds (Mark xvi. 16), He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. The authority of the blessed God to dictate to us in any case, is unquestionable; but more especially in a matter so interesting to us as this, and in which the riches of his mercy and love are so wonderfully displayed. Nor is it a mere arbitrary command, but the result of infinite wisdom and goodness, as we shall presently see. In the mean time, it is to be remarked of many temporal salvations recorded in the bible, which were presages of that more glorious one we are discoursing of, that they who were to be benefited by these extraordinary interpositions of divine providence, were required to believe. When the Israelites approached the Red Sea, under the most tremendous apprehensions of the event, mountains rising on either side of them, and an enraged enemy in their rear, Moses commands them to stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, that is, to believe (Exod. xiv. 13). When the brazen serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, for the healing those who had been bitten of the fiery-flying serpents; proclamation was made through the camp, that whoever looked to it, that is, believed, should live (Num. xxi. 8, 9). And when Jehoshaphat led out his troops against a far more numerous host of enemies, assured that god would by a miraculous interposition subdue them; he commands the people, as Moses had done in the instance just mentioned, to stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord: adding, Believe in the Lord your God, so shall you be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper (2 Chron. xx. 17, 20). Nor is it to be forgot, that our Lord Jesus Christ, when here on earth, required faith of them upon whose bodies he wrought miraculous cures: which cures afforded a lively emblem, and a happy omen, of those more noble cures his gospel is adapted to effect on the souls of men.—But,
2. There is a fitness or suitableness in faith to the end of its appointment, so that the necessity of it arises out of the nature of the thing itself.
If God of his infinite mercy is disposed to save us, and has assured us of this by a message from heaven, authenticated by the clearest evidence; it is no doubt our interest and duty to listen to the message and give full credit to it. If he has sent no less a person than his own Son into the world to redeem us and make us happy, and if he possesses all necessary powers to accomplish that great and good design; it is surely most fit and reasonable that we should confide in him, and exercise all those regards towards him which his various characters and offices demand. No sober man who contemplates faith, accompanied with those dispositions and affections necessary to constitute a real Christian, can pronounce it an unreasonable and useless thing. But what I have here principally to observe is, that the great blessings of the gospel cannot be enjoyed without the medium of faith. It is true indeed, sin is atoned, satan vanquished, and the gates of heaven opened to us, and all this by means we had no concern in devising or carrying into effect. But then the actual possession of the good thus procured for us, is as necessary as an equitable title to it. And how is that good to be possessed without a temper of heart suited to the enjoyment of it? And how is this temper to be acquired but by believing? Here I might shew you the concern which faith has in the conversion of a sinner to God, and in all those exercises of the mind and heart whereby he is gradually prepared for the heavenly blessedness: at the same time observing, that neither faith itself, nor any of those pious affections or good works which spring from it, have any meritorious influence in his salvation. But our present design will not allow us to enter any further into this subject.
Thus have we considered the nature of faith, described the salvation promised to it, and shewn the connection between the one and the other. Let us now return to the argument in the text.
Satan clearly perceiving the influence of faith in the great business of salvation, and well knowing too that faith comes by hearing; uses all those artifices mentioned in the former sermon to divert men’s attention from the word, and to prevent its salutary effect upon their hearts. He catches it away, lest they should believe and be saved. As in the beginning he seduced our first parents from their allegiance to God, in order to deprive them of the happiness they enjoyed; so he now uses his utmost endeavor to counteract the measures devised for the salvation of their posterity. Glad would he be to precipitate the whole human race into the same abyss of darkness and misery with himself, and no means within his power will he leave untried in order to compass his malevolent purpose.
Suffer me then, O ye careless hearers of the word, to remind you a moment of the awful consequences of that impenitence and unbelief in which he wishes to confirm you, by all the arts he uses to dissuade you from attention and consideration.
If ye will oppose the clear evidence of the gospel, and shut your ears against its loud calls and gracious invitations; if ye will listen to the false reasonings of him who was a liar from the beginning, and reject the salutary admonitions of Christ and his apostles; if ye will tread under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing; and if ye will, notwithstanding all the remonstrances of reason and conscience, do despite unto the Spirit of grace; ye must endure the punishment due to such accumulated guilt and horrid ingratitude. There remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries (Heb. x. 26-31). The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (2 Thes. i. 7, 8, 9). Consider, O consider these things; and the Lord give you understanding.
It now remains that we make two or three reflections on the general subject of this discourse.
1. If satan takes the measures you have heard to prevent the success of the gospel, and to confirm men in impenitence and unbelief; how truly is he denominated by our Saviour the wicked one, and how righteous is that sentence which will shortly be executed upon him!
Every step we have taken in our account of the methods by which he deludes that class of hearers we are discoursing of, establishes the evidence that has been deduced from scripture of his malevolence. What can be more horridly cruel and malignant than to lay every possible snare to beguile the ignorant, and practice upon all the depraved passions of pride and pleasure to ruin the thoughtless; to throw every imaginable obstruction in the way of men’s attending to their best interests, and excite in their breast every unreasonable prejudice against the only means of salvation; and to pursue these measures uniformly in every age and country where the gospel is preached, flattering himself with the hope of alleviating his own misery by precipitating others into endless perdition. Yea, so determined in this miserable enemy upon carrying his informal purposes into effect, that one of his machinations, and not the least is, to persuade men that his existence is a mere chimera; or however if he does exist, that he has it not in his power to tempt them, and therefore is not chargeable with that guilt which entitles him to the denomination of the wicked one. What a monster of iniquity! If the character of a seducer among men is held in detestation, how much more detestable is the character of this arch-seducer! If it is the voice of all that a murderer should not live, what tenfold vengeance is he deserving of who has been a murderer from the beginning, and has slain his thousands of thousands! Well! The day is coming when the devil who thus deceived the children of men shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and be tormented day and night for ever. And then shall be heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, hallelujah, salvation, and glory, and honor, and power unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments (Rev. xix. 1, 2—xx. 10).
2. How much is it to be lamented, that men will suffer themselves to be deceived and ruined by the devices of this great adversary!
Permit us, O ye thoughtless inconsiderate hearers of the word, to expostulate with you a moment. The compassionate Jesus, who came to seek and to save that which was lost, has deigned himself to apprize you of your danger, and at the same time taken care to let you know, that, subtle and powerful as this enemy is, he cannot carry his point without your consent. Your danger is great, and the rather as your nature is depraved, and you are surrounded with a thousand snares of which satan knows how to make his advantage. But do not excuse yourselves of blame, by pleading your incompetence to resist so mighty an adversary. To be tempted is not your sin, but it is your sin to comply with the temptation. You may, you can, you ought to be on your guard. Indisposed as you are to attend to your best interests, you are capable of hearing us, and of considering the force of our reasonings.
Why, O why will ye thrust all these things from your minds? Should what we say prove to be true, what an addition will it be to your misery to reflect, in the great day of account, that your heart despised reproof, and that you would not incline your ear to them that instructed you! Realize that day. Be persuaded that it will come. It is however not yet come. Now, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. The truths we preach may be painful to you, and to urge them upon you merely for the sake of giving you pain, would be cruel. But if the attentive consideration of them will be salutary to you, (and we firmly believe that such is their tendency) can you wonder that we are importunate with you? Make the trial. If you never before listened to a sermon, O be persuaded to listen to this! Carry it away with you. Revolve it in your mind. Examine what we have said by the tests of impartial reason and the sacred scriptures. And, bowing your knee at the feet of the great God, earnestly beseech him, for Christ’s sake, to assist you in your conflicts with this subtle adversary, and the deceitful reasonings of your own hearts. You have every imaginable encouragement so to do. And should you succeed, how glorious will your triumph be over sin and the powers of darkness!
3. And lastly, Let us admire and adore the grace of God which defeats the designs of satan, and makes the word effectual upon the hearts of multitudes, notwithstanding all the opposition it meets with.
Many a one who has been induced to hear the gospel by motives of mere curiosity, ahs nevertheless received salutary and abiding impressions from it. He has entered the assembly with a thoughtless and dissipated mind, and has gone away with a heart deeply affect with his everlasting concerns. The providence of God in so disposing external circumstances as that such persons should hear the word, and the grace of God in setting it home with energy on their hearts, cannot be enough devoutly acknowledged and gracefully remembered. Nor is there an instance of any one, savingly benefited by the instructions and invitations of the gospel, who will not readily admit the truth of what the apostle asserts, that as it is our duty to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, so it is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philip. ii. 12, 13).—And how very pleasing to think, that, however in too many sad instances ministers have occasion to complain, Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? (Isa. liii. 1) The day is hastening on, when an infinite multitude shall acknowledge with hosannas of the loudest praise, that the word of the kingdom, though treated by many with indifference and contempt, was the power of God to their everlasting salvation!