« PreviousContinue »
joice in the glorifying of his justice on you. Abraham did but upbraid Dives with his former sinful pleasures. Your teachers, yea, your own parents, will not mourn in heaven for all the torments that you undergo in hell, nor consent to ease you by a drop of water. (Luke xvi.) iO what a pitiful sight it is now to see a teacher or parent mourning over the misery of ignorant, careless, wilful sinners, and they themselves rejoicing, and despising compassion, and laughing at the brink of hell. I heard of a passionate wife that cut her own throat to anger her husband. And they tell us, that the Circumcellian Donatists, that separated from ather Christians, in a practical zeal for their own bishop, did murder themselves to bring the odium upon their adversaries as persecutors,
But that poor sinners should merrily rụn towards hell, to. anger their teachers, yea, that multitudes should do thus, what an instance is it of the madness of corrupted minds ! One saith, I will never hear him more ;' and another saith, 'Shall I be catechised like a boy ?” and another saith, “These preachers would make us mad, if we should believe and lay to heart what they say :' and another saith, Cannot one drink and be merry, and please his flesh, but he must be damined for it?. Are none saved but puritans and precisians ?' And who is it that will have the worst of this at last? God will not condemn us for your sins. If you will needs be miserable for ever, our desires and endeavours to have saved you shall not be lost at all to us. Oh ! how dear will impenitent sinners pay for all the tears and groans which now they do constrain from their compassionate teachers !
That God who is love itself, and putteth love into parents for the education of their children, hath also pụt a tender love to souls, and especially to their own flocks, into every faithful minister of Christ; which maketh all their study, and labour, and sufferings, easy to them, or tolerable, at least, for the comfortable hope which they have of men's salvation. Oh! may we but serve the Saviour of the world, in the gathering of his chosen flock; and in bringing sinners from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, in making reconciled and adopted sons of those that were the enemies of God and holiness, what a joy would it be to every true minister of Christ. Did a damned wretch cry, 'Send Lazarus to warn my brethren, that they come not to this place of torments?' And shall not we rejoice if we cannot only keep sinners from those flames, but also help them to live in joy with Christ and holy spirits for ever? May we see souls in heaven for ever praising God, and know that this is the fruit of our labours and God's grace? Yea, may we here see holy persons living to God, and calling upon his name, and rejoicing in hope, and serving, and honouring him in a wicked world, and say, 'These are they that God hath given to Christ by our embassage; how much sweeter will this be to us, than fleshly pleasures; and will you not allow us the joy of your salvation? If so, judge yourselves whether the loss of Christ, and grace, and heaven, and happiness, and all hope, will be a smaller loss to you, than the loss, of such comfort, in your hoped welfare, will be to 118.
Oh! all you that are yet unconverted, fleshly, worldly persons, strangers to a holy, heavenly life, under the ministry of such holy men as I am speaking of, think in time, I beseech you, of these two particulars.
First. What a loss is it to lose the blessing and fruit of a holy, ministry, God giveth not such to all the world. Many kingdoms of heathens and infidels have no such helps, Nay, most of the christian world have too little such; all ears are not so happy as to hear the joyful tidings, the sound instructions, the close convictions, the earnest exhortations which you have heard, and these not mixed with the poison of heresies. And will lose, will you wilfully lose all this? What! have the best of physicians, and be yet unhealed? Have the best of teachers, that long, and labour, and pray for your salvation, and yet be ignorant unbelievers, or base neglecters of this great salvation ? Will you, as Capernaum, be lift up to heaven in mercies, and cast down to hell by your contempt. Othat you knew in time how great a loss it is to lose one counsel, one sermon, much more all the life and labours of one such a minister of Christ, that prayed, and studied, and laboured for your souls. Do you ever hope to be saved, or not? If not, despair is a beginning of hell. Jf yea, do you hope to be saved without preaching, or by it? If without it, what reason have you for such hopes, when God hath made this his ordinary means? Whatever hope they may have that can have no preaching, you can have none that might have had it, and would not; or that had it, and despised and disobeyed it. But if it be by preaching that you hope to be instructed, converted, and saved, what preaching is it? Do you look for better than such as you have lost; or is
you smaller and weaker remedies like to cure you, that, to the last, despised greater?
Secondly. And remember that all this will aggravate your sin, and rise up in judgment against you to your condemnation. Do you think all these sermons, and prayers, and tears, shall never more be thought on? Yes. God, who sent his ministers, sets not so light by their labours as you do. He knoweth, and thy conscience shall one day consider, what importunate exhortations thou didst neglect. How, on such a day, on such a text, his minister earnestly pleaded with thy soul, and thou hadst nothing to say against the word, and yet thou wentest on and did not repent. Oh! for your soul's sake, put us not to come in against you as witnesses to your condemnation, instead of rejoicing in your sanctification and salvation.
Oh ! put us not to shake off the dust of our feet against you ! Turn not all our love and labours, to kindle a greater fire for your misery. Remember, that even the merciful Saviour of souls hath said that it shall be easier yet for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for such. Fire from heaven declared the wrath of God against Sodom and Gomorrah; and will you yet have a more dreadful fire ? And what moveth you to all this ! Do they persuade you to any thing dishonest, or to your hurt? Will you despise all our counsel, and go to hell rather than love God, and learn and do his holy will, and live in the delightful hopes of heaven, and in love, peace, and good works, towards one another? This is all that we persuade you to: and will it not torment your consciences for ever to remember that this was all that you fled from God for, and that you avoided more than sin and hell?
Secondly. I have told you that your own interest is more concerned in the success of our ministry, than our joy. I next tell you
that it is inhuman ingratitude to deny us such a joy as this. Our relation and labours for you make it our due; shall children deny their parents the comfort of their love, when it is only their well-doing and happiness that they desire ? As Christ and angels rejoice at a sinner's conversion, so do true ministers in their degree. And is it not base ingratitude to deny Christ, angels, and ministers, this joy, by refusing, obstinately, to be saved ?
Thirdly. And why do you take on you to be Christians, and no more regard the interest of the church of Christ ? Those are the ehurch's enemies that will not give up themselves to
Christ, that would not have him to reign over them, and subdue their fleshly minds and lusts. (Luke xix. 27; Rom. viii. 6, 7, 13.) That hinder the success of the ministers of Christ that would build up his church. And what is our building but to bring home souls? Our office is not of man, but of Christ. He giveth us our commission, though man, deliver it us. He commandeth you to receive and obey his word which we deliver to you, and terribly threateneth those that will not. (Heb. xiii. 17; John xiii. 20; Matt. ix. 36, 37; Luke ix. 18, &c.) Is it not rebellion against him, then, to be refusers ? Nay, what do you but as much as in you lieth to destroy the ministerial office, and to destroy the church of God. For if we are but to stand here and talk to you a while, and not to win your souls to God, this is but an image or carcass of the ministry, as to the success and end. As you mortify all God's ordinances, and turn them into a lifeless image, so you do the ministry to you; and make it to you but “as sounding brass or tinkling cymbal.” Is it worth your tithes, or are we worthy of your reverence, merely to talk to you,
and never to convert and save you? O the blindness of the minds of the ungodly! If the seekers, or other heretics, do but cry down ministers and universities, you justly rise up against them as enemies to Christianity and the Church; and yet you yourselves destroy their ministry as to yourselves, and would have but the name, and garb, and image. He that would have the tenth part of all men's revenues to be settled to maintain physicians in the land, and yet would not have men to be healed by them,
fool-. ish, and a worse enemy to the country, than he that would have none at all.
Fourthly. And as you are lovers of mankind, you should not deny us so reasonable a joy as your own salvation, especially to such as, for the hope of this, renounce the pleasures and honours of the world. If you could do well enough without instructers, Christ would not have appointed them; and if there had been any better way for your salvation, for our parts, we could have found out work and callings that would better have served us for worldly ends; and we could live idle, and seek preferment, and flatter, and please you, and neglect your souls in this calling that we are in.
But, then, wo to us, as well as you! Oh! remember who hath said, "Obey them that have the rule over you, for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it VOL. XVIII.
with joy, and not with grief, for that is unprofitable for you,"? (Heb. xiii. 17.) He is not worthy to be called a man, that will deny any joy or good to his neighbour, which doth no hurt to himself or others? But, consider whether he be not herein worse than a deyil, that will deny another the comfort of seeing him happy, and freely doing him the greatest good ?
Do you not see, now, how much you are concerned, that you further our joyful finishing of our course? Į beseech you, let conscience judge you, before God judge you. Speak as before God. Have you been turned by them from darkness to light; and from unbelief to a lively faith; and from a fleshly to a spiritual life; and from worldly love and hopes to the love of God, and the hope of endless joys in heaven? Are you at a point with the flattering world and fleshly luists; and have you heartily taken God and heaven for your portion, and Christ for your Saviour, and the Holy Spirit for your sanctifier and comforter, and the word of God for your law and charter, and the servants of God for your pleasantest company, and the service and praises of God for your best and pleasantest work, and sin for your worst and greatest enemy? If this be so, bless God that made the word so effectual to you. But if it be not, you have wronged your teachers in robbing them of the joy which was their due. This is it that we studied, prayed, and preached for: this is it that we live and labour for. This was to have been the chief part of our reward from you. tithes and money, without this, that will satisfy any but an hireling.
Many old canons of the Church forbade ministers to receive any offerings or gifts from unbelievers and wicked men ; as if thay had said, “ Keep your money to yourselves, and think not to stop our mouths with gifts.' Give up yourselves to Christ, or you give us nothing. I tell you it is you that are our great afflicters, and you shalỊ answer for it. It is much more to us to lose the joy of your salvations, than to lose our estates or liberties, or worldly honour and reputation : and you can never be saved if you will not be sanctified, nor happy if you will not be holy. O, yet look back and remember what counsel God sent you by his ministers, and what importunities they used with you; and if you have denied them yet their joy, 0) pity yourselves if you regard not them; and deny not yourselves still the present joy of a holy life, and the everlasting joy of heavenly glory, which yet you may attain.
It is not your