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know, that SELF-DENIAL is a means of grace, without which no man must hope to be saved. If any man will come after Matt. 16. Me, saith our Lord and Saviour, let him deny himself. If 24. thy right hand offend thee, cut it off; that is, part with any 30.] thing, though as dear to you as a right hand or a right eye, rather than offend God.
It was not the preacher only that said this, but they are the words of Jesus Christ Himself; who said besides, that "it is better to go into life with one hand or one eye, than [Mark 9. 43-45.] with two hands or two eyes to be cast into hell, where the worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched."
It is hardly possible for any serious christian to hear this duty explained, and not to think of it even after he leaves the church, and to think thus with himself:
'I see plainly, that I must resolve to deny myself, to stand against all my corrupt inclinations, or be content to perish eternally. Whatever evil ways or customs I have hitherto been fond of, I must renounce and forsake them, or I see what must follow. If an idle or a careless life has been my great sin, though the world sees no great harm in such a life, yet I see I must reform, let it cost me never so much pain and trouble, or I shall infallibly, one day or other, hear that dreadful sentence: Bind the unprofitable servant hand and foot, [Matt. 22. and cast him into outer darkness.
Ï3; 25. 30.]
'If riches and the love of the world have hitherto possessed my heart, renounce them I must, let it be never so uneasy to me, or my interest in heaven: for God and mammon I cannot [Matt. 6 24.] serve. If any sinful lust or pleasure have got the power over me, and though it is become a second nature, yet I see plainly it must be renounced and forsaken, or I must never hope for heaven. If profane talk, if swearing, lying, or slandering, be the sins that are become habitual to me, and that I cannot without great pains leave them off; yet this pains I must take, or suffer the pains of eternal death. If tippling, if squandering away my time or estate, if gluttony or drunkenness, have been the sins I have lived in, these must be repented of and utterly forsaken, let it be never so uneasy to flesh and blood, or I shall have no part in the kingdom of heaven.
'In short, I have been plainly told, and I plainly see, that
men need not take pains to be ruined, since our own corrupt nature, if not denied, restrained, and kept under, will ruin us without remedy. I see too, that all the commands of God, all the duties which He has prescribed us, are all intended in mercy to keep us from ruining ourselves. And that if we had been suffered to follow our own wills, or the evil customs we contract, or the bad examples we meet with, we could not escape bringing upon ourselves destruction. I am left, therefore, without excuse, and I shall dearly pay for it, if I do not deny myself every thing which God has forbidden me; and if I do not look upon His commands as the only way to life and happiness everlasting.'
Thus every serious christian will argue with himself, whenever he hears any other duty of Christianity explained or recommended to his practice.
If time would permit, I would shew you how this might be done, to your great advantage, in many other instances of duty and religion..
All that I shall now add is, to put you in mind of what a blessing it is, that you have churches to go to, and that you can hear the Word of God, and know His will, and what you must do to be saved.
You see the great blessing of a STANDING MINISTRY, and how happy it is that there are persons appointed by the Holy [1 Cor. 9. Ghost, who, at the peril of their own souls, are to read, and 16.] faithfully to explain, the truths of the Gospel to you.
You may indeed shut your ears, or carelessly think of other matters. You may refuse to hear with attention your duty, and the dangers you are liable to. You may return home without laying these things to heart; but then be assured of
it, you return home without God's blessing. You may refuse to come to church (as the manner of some is), and think yourselves too good to be taught, reproved, or put in mind of your duty; but what will this end in? Why, you will in time forget God, His commands, and all that is good. You will come at last to say, with those wicked people whom Job Job 21. 14. speaks of, who said unto God, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways."
I need not tell you, that such people are in the way of damnation.
I pray God keep all you from following their steps; and give us His grace, that we may hear, understand, remember, consider, love, and practise, what is read and preached to us according to God's holy Word and will, through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom, with the Father, &c.
THE TRUE WAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS.
LUKE viii. 18.
See Matt. Take heed how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given ; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken, even that which he seemeth to have.
10. 24; 11. 28; John 15. 12;
Heb. 12. 14.
[Heb. 13. 17.]
WHEN Our Lord bids us TAKE HEED, we may be very sure it is concerning something of great moment, and therefore to be seriously attended to. And we find it is so here. TAKE HEED, saith He, HOW YE HEAR: your salvation depends upon your understanding and believing what you hear: for whosoever hath; that is, whosoever hath benefited by what he has already heard, God will increase his knowledge and his graces; but whosoever hath not, have not minded what they have heard, or have not profited by it, such careless people, by a just judgment of God, shall lose that knowledge and those graces which He had given them.
TAKE HEED, therefore, that you hear the Word of God with a serious mind, with a purpose and desire to learn your duty, and with a resolution to practise what you hear.
Lastly, TAKE HEED WHOM YOU HEAR: remember whose ministers you hear, whose word, whose commands, whose threatenings, whose promises, you hear. They are the ministers of God that watch for your souls. They read and preach to you the Word of God, delivered by His own Son. They explain to you the commands of God, which are designed to make you happy for ever. And they put you in remembrance of the promises of God, if you are obedient; and of His severe threatenings, if you despise His goodness. Remember, therefore, what the Son of God said to those that heard this Word, and would not mind it: "It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for such careless people."
But having, in a former discourse upon these words, explained these things very particularly, I now proceed to shew you the true way of profiting by sermons, many instances of which I gave you in my former discourse.
Let us suppose, then, that the minister of God has at any time been explaining to you the nature of a true Christian Faith; the necessity of believing whatever God has made known to men; as also the danger of not living as becomes people who profess to believe such things.
If you have seriously attended to such a discourse, you will think thus with yourself: 'I am now convinced, that [Heb.11.6.] without Faith it is impossible to please God. I see plainly, that it is not a matter of indifference, whether we believe or not, since Jesus Christ Himself has declared, that he that [Mark 16. 16.] believeth not shall be damned; and that it is as absolutely necessary to salvation that we believe-not what we please, but-according to the faith once delivered to the Saints.
John 8. 24.
'Our Lord Himself has told us, that if we believe not in Him, we shall die in our sins. And again: He that sinneth [Matt. 12. 31.] against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven. So dreadful a thing it is not to know, or wilfully to mistake, the truth.
'Whatever, therefore, God has revealed, must be true and certain, though I cannot comprehend it. It is not necessary that we should always know the reasons of God's will and pleasure; it is enough that we know it to be His will. It is sufficient to me to know and believe, that God would have all men to be saved; that Jesus Christ His Son has shewed unto us the way of salvation; that He has reconciled us to God; that He will be our advocate with God for our pardon, if we truly repent us of our sins; that God will afford us all manner of assistance by His Spirit, to overcome all the corruptions of our nature, and all the difficulties we shall meet with; that He will make us happy for ever, if we strive to please Him during this short life; and that we shall be most miserable when we die, if we die in our sins unrepented of.
'In order to prevent this sad doom, He has made known to us, what are the things which we must do to be saved, and what we must avoid, as ever we hope to escape the bitter pains of eternal death. He has also made known to us, that