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an attendance on its ordinances ? Can you plead, or patiently hear others plead in defence of licentious opinions, or in excuse of ungodly practices? Can you listen with smiles of pleasure, or even stand with silent indifference, when men cavil at the evi. dences, ridicule the doctrines, and vilify the insti. tutions of the gospel ? Can you take a part in, or refrain to bear testimony against the impious slanders, which profane sinners wantonly throw out a. gainst it ? - You certainly despise it. --Beware then, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets, Behold ye despisers, and wonder and perish.
To open and apply this warning, will be the business of our next discourse.
The wonderful Destruction of those who despise the
Beware therefore lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in
the prophets ; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish : For I work a work in your days ; a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it to you.
N our preceding discourse we illustrated the character of these despisers, whom the Apostle in our text, so solemnly warns of their danger. We proceed,
II. To shew in what respects, it may be said, They will perish wonderfully.
Here are two things asserted: That destruction awaits contemptuous sinners; and that this destruction, when it comes, will be wonderful.
First, Destruction awaits contemptuous sinners.
The Apostle says, “ If righteousness come by the law, Christ is dead in vain.” If salvation is at. tainable by the mere strength of nature, and by the works of righteousness which we already have done, or in future shall do, in vain is the gospel plan con
trived and revealed. Christ came to save them who are lost. If we are not lost, we need no Saviour: If we are lost, we can be saved only by him. “ Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ, neither is there salvation in any other ; for there is no other name given under heaven among men, whereby they must be saved.
If this scheme was so important, that the wisdom of God would not save fallen men without it ; surely they who despise and reject it, will, in the justice of God, be excluded from the benefit of it.
How far the divine mercy, through a Redeemer, may be extended to heathens who have never known the gospel, it is not material to enquire. Let it if you please, be admitted, that some of them will be partakers of God's mercy without a direct and explicit faith in Jesus Christ; yet this is nothing to us, who have actually heard of this divine Saviour, and to whom salvation has been offered in bis name. If we despise the redemption, we sin wilfully, for we have received the knowledge of the truth; and for us there remains no more sacrifice for sin. You will tell me, the Apostle Peter has said, God is no respecter of persons; but, in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him.” Will you hence conclude, that there is no need of faith in Christ, and submission to his gospel ? This certainly cannot be Peter's meaning; for, Would he preach the gospel of salvation; and, at the same time, tell his hearers, that it was of no importance to them? His meaning evidently is, that salvation is not confined to any particular nation, as the Jews proudly imagined ; but that the offer of it is made without distinction, to men of all nations. So this Apostle elsewhere expresses the matter ; God puts no difference between Jews and Gentiles, purifying their hearts by faith.” He
grants to the latter, as well as the former, repentance unto life.”
It was upon the occasion of his being sent to preach the gospel to Cornelius, a Roman centurion, that Peter made this reflection, “In every nation he that feareth God is accepted of him.” This Cornelius, it is said, “ was a devout man, one that feared God, gave much alms, and prayed always.” But all his goodness did not make it nunecessary for him to hear and obey the gospel. A vision was sent from heaven to inform him, that his righteousness was not sufficient; but he must look out for farther instruction. He was ordered to call for Peter, who should teach him words, by which he might be saved.
Some perhaps will ask, What if this devout Gentile had never heard of the gospel, but had died in the exercise of that religion, which he had already learned, and hitherto practised ? In this case, What would have become of him ? Would he not have been saved ? But this is a question of mere cu· riosity and speculation. The solution of it will no way affect us, who have been actually called to the fellowship of the gospel. God could, no doubt, as easily have revealed Christ to him by a lieavenly messenger, as direct him whither to send for an apostle, who should teach him the way of salvation. And if the means of knowledge had not been within his reach, we cannot pretend to say, that a Saviour would not have been more immediately discov. cred to him.
But the knowledge of the gospel certainly was important; and the means of this knowledge were attainable; and Cornelius must conduct accordingly. Let me now ask you ; What if he had disobeyed the heavenly vision? What if he had refused to send for Peter, or to hear him, when he came, or to comply with his instructions when they were given? What if, insisting on the sufficiency of his own
prayers and alms to insure his acceptance with God; he had exploded the idea of faith in Christ, reliance on his grace, baptism in his name, and a profession of his gospel ? Would you then have supposed, there was any sincerity in his prayers, any piety in his devotions, any virtue in his alms and works of righteousness? Do you think, God will be pleased with the prayers of those, who refuse to follow the directions which they pray for? Do you imagine, he will accept the alas and offerings of those, who de. ny him that obedience, which is better than sacrifice ?
Reason teaches us our obligation to obey the will of God. How then can men pretend to follow reason, when they reject the instructions of revelation, and despise the way of salvation which this discovers for guilty mortals ?
Whatever may be the condition of heathens, who never heard of Christ, awful must be the fate of those, who, having heard of him, despise and refuse the only Lord who bought them.
The gospel has declared, that “ They who believe not, shall die in their sins; that they are condemned already, because they believe not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” If obedience to God is necessary to salvation, faith in Christ must be necessary ; forthis is the command of God, " that we believe on him whom he hath sent.”
“ When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, he will take vengeance, not only on them who know not God, but also on such as obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe."