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Test there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God, and lest you be hardened through the deceit fulness of sin; Heb. iii. 12, 13. While you give ear to the little criticisms and sophistries of the adversary, remember you are upon slippery ground: Look well to your feet, lest you are betrayed on a sudden, and carried away into frightful lengths of doubt and darkness, for want of a helping hand near you. It is true, the gospel of Christ has strong and immoveable foundations richly sufficient for the support of it; there are abundant vindications of it published in the world, against all the assaults of wit and reasoning. But a sly and perplexing sophism may be east into the mind and seize the soul in an unguarded hour, when you may not have an answer ready at hand, and the poison may penetrate too far, and corrupt the mind before the antidote is found and applied.
XII. "Maintain a solemnity of spirit, and a serious temper of mind in all your enquiries and discourses on a theme of such everlasting importance." While our modern deists affect to shew themselves men of wit, and make a jest serve for an argument, they do not appear to be in good earnest, enquiring the way to please God and save their own souls. God and souls, and eternity are no trivial ideas. It is no ludicrous matter to treat or discourse of them. Such jesters have no reason to hope for divine irradiations. If you have occasion to speak of the obscure and difficult parts of seripture, do it not in a trifling humour, or with a licentious levity of spirit, nor indulge your lips to mix them with sneer and merriment. It is dangerous to jest with weapons that will wound the soul. When christians give themselves a loose, and venture at this rate upon the border of profaneness, they may be left of God, and be righteously given up to a spirit of unbelief. There are those who once thought themselves believers in Christ, but by sporting on the borders of this precipice with wanton and unwary feet, they have found themselves carried down strangely into the deeps of apostacy: They have at last learned roundly to renounce Christ whom they worshipped, and ridicule the gospel which they once revered; they have been plunged into vices which they once abhorred: they have let go the name of Christ, and God has let them go out of his holy keeping, till at last they have become perfect heathens in every sense, without virtue or truth, without hope and without God in the world. The Almighty Governor of the world has made some tremendous monuments of justice and vengeance; his warning-pieces demand our awful notice.
XIII. "Think often how much safer you are in the profes sion and practice of christianity, than if you should relinquish the gospel, and change it for mere natural religion." And the
reason is plain, for the doctrine of Christ contains every thing in it which natural religion pretends to discover. All that is necessary by the light of nature for us to believe and practise, both with regard to God and man, is included in the holy bible. Therefore if the deist be in the right, the christian is certainly safe, for he worships the one true God, and fulfils his duty towards his neighbour; and there are none who pretend that God will damn or destroy men for entertaining a few other principles, which had so much evidence of coming from heaven to supply what was deficient in the light of nature, even if they should not at last be found to be true, since they are perfectly consistent with all our duty to God and man. But on the other hand, if the religion of Christ be divine, then the infidels, especially iu Great Britain or in London, who have such glorious advantages for knowledge can hardly exeuse themselves, or hope for acceptance: For they deny those very parts of christianity which are necessary to supply the defects of the light of nature. They deny the atonement of Christ, and the pardon of sin through the virtue of his atonement; they deny Jesus to be the great prophet and the Saviour of mankind; whereas he himself has told us by commission from the Father, If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins; John viii. 24. They deny the special and necessary doctrines of that gospel, which was commanded to be preached to the world, with this threatening, Ile that believeth not shall be damned; Mark xvi, 16.
XIV. "Consider seriously the dismal state of apostates who depart from the gospel of Christ, and renounce their faith in Jesus the Saviour." Consider the threatenings, the dreadful threatenings of the word of God pronounced against apostacy. Let such solemn words as those with which the apostle warns the christian Hebrews, dwell ever upon your mind in all the sacred influence and divine terror of them; Heb. ii. 2-4. If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? Heb. vi. 4—6. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put
him to an open shame. Heb. x. 26-30. If we sin wilfully, that is, renounce the gospel of Christ, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for
sin, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and of fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses's law died without mercy. Of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace? Vengeance is mine, I will recompence, saith the Lord. It had been better for them, as St. Paul expresses it, not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them; 2 Pet. ii. 21.
Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon ungodly sinners; Jude, verses 14, 15. and to accomplish the terrors written against the fearful and the unbelieving, as well as the abominable and the murdersers, and all liars? Rev. xxi. 8. against those who are afraid to profess his gospel, and those who deny the truth of it against those who sin against the truth, and turn it into a lie; against those who resist the bright evidence of christianity, and by "refusing to believe the record which God has given of his Son, make him a liar also." 1 John v. 10. Behold he comes in the clouds, and in flaming fire, to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; and they shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. 2 Thess. i. 8, 9. The Judge is at the door, he is ready to be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, to fulfil the curses, written in his book, against those who have renounced his doctrine, and rejected his salvation. How will the apostates from christianity be able to lift up their heads in that day, or endure the sight of his Majesty? What will you say, when ye shall see that illustrious and divine person arrayed in the robes of power and judgment, and attended with ten thousand flaming ministers of justice, whose laws ye have refused to obey, and whose grace ye have disdained to receive? What will ye say for yourselves, who have known and rejected him, who have abandoned his grace and his laws together, after ye had once seen reason to receive them? What will they do in that day, who have seen and yet hated the Lord of glory? What an ecstasy of surprize and terror will seize your spirits, when ye shall behold him enthroned and frowning as a provoked Ruler of the world, whom ye once derided as a poor wild enthusiast, and made him the subject of your mirth and mockery, or ye called him a vile impostor, and treated him with impious indignities? What do ye think will become of you, if the day should come, when the Lamb of God shall appear as the lion of the tribe of Judah, and you shall be forced to call to the rocks and mountains to fall upon you, and cover you from this wrath; Rev. vi. 16, 17. What screen do ye think can defend
you from his avenging power? Or what mercy can ye expect from his hands, when you practised this iniquity in opposition to such light and evidence, as were diffused round about you in Great Britain ?
Perhaps you may laugh at the solemnity of this representation, and despise these scenes of terror as a painted fire; but methinks, if there be but a possibility that these things should be true, it would be a point of wisdom to provide against the dangers of such a dreadful hour: One would think it should awaken you, at least to be exceeding serious, sincere and diligent in surveying all the evidences of the gospel, before you dare reject such a Saviour, and expose yourselves to his indignation without hope. And where there are so many fair appearances of just and solid reasoning, as there are on the side of christianity, methinks you should not dare to give your lips a loose in profane ridicule and scorn: Nor should you suffer some little darknesses and difficulties in the books of the New Testament, to prevail against all the brighter discoveries of truth and argument, which support the religion of Christ. If you have any love to your souls, let me intreat you to consider, that however you may be disgusted at some things contained in the records of our holy religion, yet you can never prove that the religion itself is false in the main principles of it, as represented in those records: And remember this, that when your spirits are gone into the invisible world, if there you should find that Jesus whom ye once derided, to be Lord and Judge of all, there is no more sacrifice for sin, no rectification of you obstinate errors, no repentance, no pardon there; but you must perish under his just indignation, and your souls are lost for ever. But I turn my discourse to the disciples of the blessed Jesus, who believe in his name, and obey his gospel.
Happy persons are you indeed, and special favourites of heaven, if you have not only learned the great truths of christianity, and furnished your heads with them, but have felt your hearts powerfully impressed with them betimes, and have this glorious salvation begun within you. You have been awakened out of your mortal slumbers, and being convinced of your sinful state, and your danger of eternal death: you have seen the necessity of the pardoning grace of God, and an universal change in your own natures, in order to prepare you for eternal felicity; you have learned your own utter insufficiency to make satisfaction to divine justice for your own sins, and your inability to sanctify your own hearts, and to change them into holiness: therefore you have fled for refuge, to the hope that is set before you, and have found righteousness and grace in Christ Jesus. You have found the blood of atonement, and perfect righteousness in him to answer for your guilt, and to justify you in the sight of God, and the power of divine grace to work repentance in your hearts,
to create your souls anew, and form you to a divine temper: You have felt the sweet and constraining influence of the love of a dying Saviour, and found your hearts melted into holy and divine affections, and impressed with his sacred image: You are become his sincere and devoted servants, zealous for his honour here on earth, and in some measure prepared for his enjoyment in heaven: Eternal life is begun within you, and you have a witness in yourselves that the gospel is true, even the record God has given of his Son, viz. that eternal life is to be found in Christ, for you have found it in him; 1 John v. 10. He that believes has the witness in himself: and I trust the grace of God, who has wrought this glorious change in your natures, and has begun this divine salvation within you, will carry it on and fulfil it to the day of the Lord.
You have entered in this sacred contest, and are daily striving for the mastery against the world, the flesh and the devil; you have learned the rules that belong to this holy strife, and while you thus go on to strive lawfully, you may rejoice in hope and assurance of being crowned: You have been early acquainted with the laws of the christian race, and you have seen the heavenly prize set before you in such a light, as that you are allured to wish and to run for it, as your highest hope and blessedness: You have set your faces toward heaven in the christian path, and have travelled on thus far in the way of faith, repentance and holiness. Hold on your way, maintain your ground; the crown is not far off, the end of all things is at hand; Jesus the Saviour, the Judge, and the Rewarder is at the door; see that no man take your crown; Rev. iii. 11.