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SERM. Judas to betray the Son of God Himself, with the chief of God's priests to accuse Him most wrongfully, and with Pilate to condemn Him against his conscience. They have the example of our first parents, to convince them how weak they are, and what will be the effects of giving way to the suggestions of the devil. They see, every day, christians who have vowed to renounce the devil, the world, and the lusts of the flesh, as much led by them as the very heathens.
[Luke 8. 12.]
These things, one should hope, might awaken christians, and make them fly from the wrath to come; but, God knows, it is too often that they are never minded.
Christians hear them with indifference; they leave the church, and "Satan cometh immediately, and taketh the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved." They meet with temptations at every turn; and are drawn away either by their lusts, or by evil examples, and are in the direct way of ruin.
Why now, what do people come to church for; but to be put in mind of these things, that they may lay them up in their hearts; and that they may, in good earnest, pray to be delivered from evil?
Let us beseech you, therefore, good christians, when you hear such truths as these, ponder them in your hearts, and come to some resolutions about them.
Say to yourselves, 'I have this day been told (what I hope I shall not forget), that I have a watchful enemy to deal with; that I have a very corrupt heart, too ready to yield to his suggestions; and that I have bad examples, too many, to lead me astray, and to my ruin. I dare not, therefore, presume upon my own strength, upon my own wisdom, or conduct; but my whole trust shall be in God. I will most earnestly beg of Him not to leave me to my own choices, but to discover to me the dangers I am liable to, and that He will enable me to resist and overcome them. I have [2Cor.12.9.] been assured, that God's grace is sufficient, and therefore I
will neither despair nor be dejected. I will never run into the temptations which, in my daily prayers, I pray God I may not be led into. I will remember the Word of God: [1 Cor. 10. "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." 12.] Neither will I hearken unto the suggestions of the devil, but
RESIST HIM (as I am exhorted by the Apostle); and then I [James 4.7.] am assured, that he cannot get an advantage over me. I will consider who it is that puts me upon forbidden things: that
it is the same Satan who said to our Saviour, All these things [Matt. 4. 9.] will I give Thee: that it is the same evil spirit, or his angels, who suggests to me; that pleasure will not hurt you; that revenge is sweet; that gain, those riches, will make you happy.'
It is the same spirit that would make you believe, that there is no hurt in an idle, useless life; that there is no harm in spending your estate or your time; that they are your own, and you may do what you please with them. It is the same Satan, that tempts you to neglect the worship of God, and to think it a burden; that persuades you to believe, that you have time enough to repent in, and to lead a new life; and that in the mean time you may follow the desires of your own heart. Lastly, it is the same evil spirit, who, when you purpose to lead a new life, and forget your good purposes; it is the same spirit that takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, in order to make your condition more desperate.
You will consider, therefore, what you lose by not attending to, and profiting by, God's Word; by not pondering it in your heart; and by not resolving to be governed by it: that is, you are like to lose your soul.
God deliver us all from such negligence and blindness; and give us grace to hear, and attend to, and remember, and profit by, His holy Word; through Jesus Christ our Lord. To whom, &c.
THE TRUE WAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS.
LUKE viii. 18.
Take heed how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given;
Matt. 13. and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken, even that which he seemeth to have.
6. 47; John
12.48; Acts 3 23; James 1. 21, 22.
I HAVE already considered these words, and this warning, of our Lord; as also the great hazard christians run, who live under the ordinances of the Gospel, and do not profit by them.
If it is a great misfortune not to know the Gospel (as most sure it is), it is a much greater, to hear and to know the truths of the Gospel, and not to mind them. It was this great sin with which the Prophet Ezekiel charged the people of Israel: "This people have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not." And it was the same crime with which our Saviour so often charged the Jews, their posterity; and which was at last the cause of their destruction: "Hearing, ye hear, and will not understand."
And to such as had ears to hear, that is, the ears of the heart, He gave the charge set down in the text, Take heed how ye hear. For according to the measure of your attention, and your sincere desire to profit by what you hear, will be the measure of the grace and knowledge which God will give you.
Pursuant to this strict charge of our Lord and Saviour, I shall continue to shew you the true way of profiting by what you hear of PROFITING BY SERMONS. And be assured of it, christians, that your salvation, in a great measure, depends Luke 11.28. upon your doing so. "Blessed are they," saith our Lord, "that hear the Word of God and keep it." And He assures us, in another place, that the not profiting by the Word of God will be punished more severely than the greatest crimes.
I shall use no more words to persuade you, now, and at all times, carefully to mind what you hear from God's Word, and from His ministers: but I shall proceed (as I have done before) to shew you how you may profit by some of the most important subjects which you will hear very often pressed
For instance: there are no subjects which christians are more concerned to understand, and lay to heart, than those which are called THE FOUR LAST THINGS, namely, Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Death is not to be avoidedthe time uncertain: the Judgment, which must follow, will be without appeal; and the sentence will send us either to Heaven or Hell.
Will you, good christians, hear these subjects at any time explained, and pressed upon you, without laying them to heart? God forbid. Every man that wishes well to his own soul, will (when he hears these things) argue and resolve with himself after some such way as this:
'I have this day been put in mind of some truths, which I have not considered so well as I should have done: that the sentence of death is already passed upon me, and that God only knows when that sentence will be put in execution. That whenever it is put in execution, the moment I die, my fate is determined for ever. That I must not say, when I die there will be an end of me: far from that, that then will begin my happiness or misery. And lastly, that God And lastly, that God may be provoked to shorten my days,
when He sees that I am like to make
no good use of them: it was so done by the unfruitful tree :
"Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" How very [Luke13.7.] serious should this make me, and all that hear and believe
'For my own part' (will every serious christian say to himself), 'I will, by the grace of God, be no longer deaf to this call, nor flatter myself, that my time, my repentance, my salvation, will be always in my own power. I will consider, as I have been exhorted to do, what I was sent into the world for: that I am upon my trial; and that as I behave myself well or ill here, I shall be happy or miserable when I die. That if my corrupt nature be not changed for the better, before I leave this world, I must never hope to go to heaven.
SERM. I will not forget what I have been put in mind of: what a dreadful thing it will be, if I should be surprised by death, while I am leading a careless, a useless, or a sinful life; before I have done any good in my generation; and when I have nothing to look back on, but what must render me altogether unworthy of mercy.
'That this may not be my sad case when I come to die, I will no longer defer making my peace with God by a speedy repentance, lest my case grow every day more desperate, as [Matt.3.8.] most surely it will; and that I may have time to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, the only sure sign that my repentance was sincere.
[Matt. 25. 21.]
'In the next place, that I may not be distracted with the cares of this world, when my thoughts should be upon another, I will settle my worldly concerns while I am in health, and after such a manner as no curse may cleave to any thing I shall leave behind me. In the mean time, I will endeavour to mortify all my evil and corrupt affections, and to wean my heart from the love of a world which I must leave so very soon. I will strive to live in peace with all the world, and every night lie down to sleep with the same charitable dispositions with which I desire and hope to die. I will endeavour to secure an interest in the mercy of God, at the hour of death, by acts of justice, mercy, and charity, while I live. I will, as I have been exhorted to do, endeavour always to be found in the way of my duty, that when my Lord comes, He may find me so doing, and that I may hear those comfortable words; Well done, good and faithful servant. I will endeavour, in the mean time, to be pleased with all God's choices, that when sickness and death approach, it may be no new thing to me to submit my will to the will of God. I will consider sickness, and all those afflictions which lead to death, as ordered by a gracious God and Father. And that they must be the effect of His mercy, Who cannot take delight in the miseries of His creatures; and Who could take us out of the world without the least notice, were it for His glory and for our good.
'Lastly, I will (as I have been taught) consider death as a righteous sentence of God passed upon all men for sin, and which He will graciously accept as a sacrifice, in union with