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for himself: The unclean person must pluck out his right eye, that is, part with the gratifying of some base lust, which is dearer to him than a right eye; and Nicodemus must confess Jesus openly, even before Pontius Pilate: All must take up the cross of their Saviour, and follow him through evil report, slander, and cruel mockings. Now all this is very hard to flesh and blood; and people who are disturbed by the dread of the cross, and the fear of man, being drawn by the love of the world, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, of course remain irresolute and unsettled in their principles: They will lean this way, and that way; now they put their hand to the plough, and the next moment they look back: To-day they resolve to sell all, to buy the pearl of great price; but to-morrow they think it is venturing too far, and begin to hope that they can be saved at a lower rate. With the young man in the gospel, they will ask you in a fit of devotion, What they must do to inherit eternal life?' But if you tell them, that all the good they have done from their youth up, or can do to their dying breath, will stand them in no stead without Christ; that they must sell all, renounce all their sins, without excepting the most delightful, fashionable ones, and follow their Saviour through the regeneration; though they have perhaps not much of this world's goods, yet they will go away sorrowful, as well as he that had great possessions. If ministers could shew them some by-way, to steal into heaven without bearing the reproach of the cross, and denying the flesh, then they would embrace the gospel: If we could teach them how to follow the world and Christ at the same time, and how to die the death of the righteous after having lived the life of the worldly, they would rank us among the best preachers: If we gave them to understand that they might compound the matter between Christ and Belial, and keep upon fair terms with the world and God at the same time, they would be converted this very day. But from such half-conversion, good Lord deliver us and them! Of such half-conversion our Saviour speaks: (Matt. xiii. 20:) ‹ He that receiveth the seed
into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: But as he hath not root in himself, he dureth only for a while: For when tribulation, temptation, or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended,' and falleth back to the world. These sinners are the most unhappy of all: They enjoy neither the pleasures of sin, nor those of godliness: They have neither earth nor heaven. For as they halt between Baal and God, and serve neither faithfully, they are rewarded by neither. They are a kind of mongrels in religion, a monstrous compound of Christianity and worldliness: One day they cry, Hosanna to the Son of David,' and seem to confess him in his doctrine; and the next day, drawn away, or overawed by the Scribes and Pharisees of the age, they join the general cry, "Away with him, his doctrine is too strict: His conditions are too hard: His offers are too full of restriction: At this rate who can be saved?" Thus these also, in the end, are found despisers of Christ, as well as desperate sinners, careless sinners, and presumptuous sinners; all refusing to come unto Him that they might have life upon his own terms.
I hasten now,
III. To shew the greatness of their sin, which consists in wilful unbelief; or, in other terms, in not coming to Christ that they might have life.
1. It is the most heinous of all sins. By committing all other imaginable sins, we indeed trample under foot the holy law of God: But by the sin of unbelief, by not coming to Christ to receive life from him, we trample under foot the blood of the Son of God, and look upon it as a common thing: And in this state there is absolutely no salvation for us. (Heb. vi. 6.)
2. If you are guilty of murder and adultery, of drunkenness and injustice, you sin against the justice and holiness of God: But by unbelief, by not coming to Christ for life, you sin not only against the justice and holiness of God, but against his mercy too; and
thus shut against yourself the only door at which you can escape from endless ruin.
3. Unbelief, or not coming to Jesus Christ for life, is the only damning sin under the gospel. In fact, suppose a reprobate, guilty of all the abominations of Manasses, the extortions of Zaccheus, the oaths of Peter, and the wickedness of the dying Thief: If such a monster, loaded with these mountains of repeated and aggravated guilt, comes sincerely to Jesus for life and pardon,-will the Son of God cast him out? Or will he save to the uttermost the chief of sinners? He will, he must save him. The promise hath passed his lips: He can in no wise cast him out: For he that believeth in him, though he were dead in all manner of sins, yet shall he live, and with Manasses and David shall praise a pardoning God: So true it is, that a grain of living faith will remove the highest mountain of sin into the sea of Jesus's blood. On the other hand, suppose a
man as exact in all religious and social duties as the Pharisee mentioned in the gospel: Suppose again, if you please, that he has always lived as sober, as pious a life as the hopeful young man, that had kept the letter of all the commandments from his youth; yet what will that avail him in that day? If, resting upon his goodness, as the Pharisee, or thinking the gospel terms too hard, as the young man, he never comes to Jesus Christ for life; or goes away sorrowful before he receives it; he must perish in his blood, he must die the second death, as surely as if he had the guilt of all the sins of David and Manasses upon his conscience: And that for two reasons: First, dying out of Christ, he dies in the old Adam, dies a natural man, dies unrenewed; and such a one can never see the kingdom of God. (John iii. 3.) Secondly, there is but one way to get into that kingdom, namely Christ, the Way. (John xiv. 6.) And if a child of Adam should be never so circumspect in his conduct, without entering this way, he could never see life, but must inevitably perish: Unless you suppose he can climb up some other way, contrary to John
x. 1. Upon these considerations, it is acknowledged by all sound Divines, that had Judas come to the blood of sprinkling as Peter did, he would have been pardoned as well as he, notwithstanding his most horrible crime; and that, on the contrary, Nicodemus, with all his piety and morality, would have been damned as well as Judas, had he not come to Jesus that he might have life. Whence flows that Christian axiom which sounds like blasphemy in the ears of every unconvinced sinner, but which will stand as long as the gospel stands : One single sin will damn for ever the best liver, if he does not come to Jesus Christ that he may have life, and be born again of the Spirit. And on the other hand, all manner of sins and blasphemies shall be forgiven to him that comes to Jesus for life: So that the once abominable Manasses, dying in Christ, lifts up his eyes in endless glory; and the virtuous Pharisee, dying out of Christ, lifts them up in eternal torments: So true is that saying of our Lord,
the first last.'
The last shall be first, and
4. It is the sin that God will punish with the hottest place of hell. Capernaum was a town where our blessed Lord often invited people to come to him for life, both by his preaching and miracles: But it was then, as it is now, they made light of the invitation. Some went to their farms, and others to their merchandize, and not a few reviled our Saviour and his doctrine, accounting him uncharitable, or out of his senses. This engaged the Son of God, mild and gentle as he was, to make, for our warning, this amazing declaration: Thou Capernaum, that art exalted to heaven,' that supposest thou art in the way to heaven, and as it were, already there, shalt be brought down to hell:' Thy inhabitants shall be consigned to hell, and shall have the hottest place there : 'For I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon, yea, for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for you.' Who could ever have believed this, had not the Son of God revealed it again and again? What! Shall those who call themselves God's people, and think they are sure of heaven; who
lead a moral life, and attend God's ordinances, as the Capernaites; shall they be more severely punished than those impure children of Belial, the inhabitants of Sodom, who met a hell upon earth, and were visibly driven by flakes of fire from heaven, into a lake burning with brimstone in hell? Yes! so heinous in the sight of God, so abominable is that sin of unbelief, of not coming to Christ for life, that He who judgeth righteous judgment, has pronounced it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for Bethsaida, in the day of judgment. Archbishop Usher, in one of the sermons that I read to you last summer, accounts boldly for that amazing instance of Divine severity. "The inhabitants of Sodom," says he, "sinned against nature, and their own blood; whereas unbelievers sin against grace, and the blood of the Son of God."
5. It is the sin which brings the greatest dishonour to God. It is not only an open contempt of his authority, but of his mercy and love. It is also a direct reflection upon the Divine veracity: For he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.' The prodigal son made himself vile and abominable by his riotous living; but yet pity and mercy pleaded for him in his father's breast. But suppose he had refused the kiss of peace, which his father gave him, had slighted the best robe, and determined still to wear his filthy rags; would not such behaviour have stabbed his father to the heart, and have appeared more monstrous in his sight, than all his former miscarriages? This is exactly the case with us: Till we come to Jesus Christ for life, we are all prodigal children: We have all squandered away our portionthe Divine favour and image: We have all fed the devil's swine, far from our native country, heaven: We have all indulged our sinful appetites, and kept at a distance from God with our hearts, even when we drew near to him with our lips. And now that our Father is come from heaven, in the person of the Son of his love, and sends to us day by day the ministers of his gospel, to offer us the kiss of peace, and the best robe of righte