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groans and wounds, and blood, and death. Would he hang there in such agony for sinners if he were not willing to save them, and cherish every good principle in them? There you may have much the same evidence of his compassion as Thomas had of his resurrection; you may look into his hands, and see the print of the nails; and into his side, and see the scar of the spear; which loudly proclaims his readiness to pity and help you.
And now, poor, trembling, doubting souls, what hinders but you should rise up your drooping head, and take courage ? May you not venture your souls into such compassionate and faithful hands? Why should the bruised reed shrink from him, when he comes not to tread it down, but raise it up?
As I am really solicitous that impenitent hearts among us should be pierced with the medicinal anguish and sorrow of conviction and repentance, and the most friendly heart cannot form a kinder wish for them, so I am truly solicitous that every honest soul, in which there is the least spark of true piety, should enjoy the pleasure of it. It is indeed to be lamented that they who have a title to so much happiness should enjoy so little of it; it is very incongruous that they should go bowing the head in their way towards heaven, as if they were hastening to the place of execution, and that they should serve so good a master with such heavy hearts. O lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees ! “ Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Trust in your all-sufficient Redeemer ; trust in him though he should slay you.
And do not indulge causeless doubts and fears concerning your sincerity. When they arise in your minds, examine them, and search whether there be any sufficient reason for them; and if you discover there is not, then reject them and set them at defiance, and entertain your hopes in spite of them, and say with the Psalmist, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall
yet praise him, the health of my countenance, and my
God." Psalm xliii. 11.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PRESENT HOLINESS AND FUTURE
Heb. xii. 14. Follow-holiness ; without which no man
shall see the Lord. As the human soul was originally designed for the enjoyment of no less a portion than the ever-blessed God, it was formed with a strong innate tendency towards happiness. It has not only an eager fondness for existence, but for some good to render its existence happy. And the privation of being itself is not more terrible than the privation of all its blessings. It is true, in the present degeneracy of human nature, this vehement de. sire is miserably perverted and misplaced : man seeks his supreme happiness in sinful, or at best in created enjoyments, forgetful of the uncreated fountain of bliss; but yet still he seeks happiness: still this innate impetus is predominant, and though he mistakes the means, yet he still retains a general aim at the end. Hence he ransacks this lower world in quest of felicity; climbs in seach of it the slippery ascent of honor; hunts for it in the treasures of gold and silver; or plunges for it in the foul streams of sensual pleasures. But since all the sordid satisfaction resulting from these things is not adequate to the unbounded cravings of the mind, and since the satisfaction is transitory and perishing, or we may be wrenched from it by the inexorable hand of death, the mind breaks through the limits of the present enjoyments, and even of the lower creation, and ranges through the unknown scenes of futurity in quest of some untried good. Hope makes excursions into the dark duration between the present now and the grave, and forms to itself pleasing images of approaching blessings, which often vanish in the embrace, like delusive phantoms. Nay, it launches into the vast unknown world that lies beyond the grave, and roves through the regions of immensity after some complete felicity to supply the defects of sublunary enjoyments. Hence, though men, till their spirits are refined by regeneragrace, have no relish for celestial joys, but pant for the poor pleasures of time and sense, yet as they cannot avoid the unwelcome consciousness that death will ere long rend them from these sordid and momentary enjoy. ments, are constrained to indulge the hope of bliss in a future state : and they promise themselves happiness in another world when they can no longer enjoy any in this. And as reason and revelation unitedly assure them that this felicity cannot consist in sensual indulgences, they generally expect it will be of a more refined and spiritual nature, and flow more immediately from the great Father of spirits.
He must indeed be miserable that abandons all hope of this blessedness. The Christian religion affords him no other prospect but that of eternal, intolerable misery in the regions of darkness and despair; and if he flies to infidelity as a refuge, it can afford him no comfort but the shocking prospect of annihilation.
Now, if men were pressed into heaven by an unavoidable fatality, if happiness was promiscuously promised to them all without distinction of characters, then they might indulge a blind unexamined hope, and never perplex themselves with anxious inquiries about it. And he might justly be deemed a malignant disturber of the repose of mankind, that would attempt to shock their hope, and frighten them with causeless scruples.
But if the light of nature intimates, and the voice of Scripture proclaims aloud, that this eternal felicity is reserved only for persons of particular characters, and that multitudes, multitudes who entertained pleasing hopes of it, are confounded with an eternal disappointment, and shall suffer an endless duration in the most terrible miseries, we ought each of us to take the alarm, and examine the grounds of our hope, that, if they appear sufficient, we may allow ourselves a rational satisfaction in them; and if they are found delusive, we may abandon them, and seek for a hope which will bear the test now while it may be obtained. And however disagreeable the task be to give our fellow-creatures even profitable uneasiness, yet he must appear to the impartial a friend to the best interests of mankind, who points out the evidences and foundation of a rational and scrip
tural hope, and exposes the various mistakes to which we are subject in so important a case.
And if, when we look around us, we find persons full of the hopes of heaven, who can give no scriptural evidences of them to themselves or others; if we find many indulging this pleasing delusion, whose practices are mentioned by God himself as the certain marks of perishing sinners; and if persons are so tenacious of these hopes, that they will retain them to their everlasting ruin, unless the most convictive methods are taken to undeceive them ; then it is high time for those to whom the care of souls (a weightier charge than that of kingdoms) is intrusted, to use the greatest plainness for this purpose.
This is my chief design at present, and to this my text naturally leads me. It contains these doctrines :
First, That without holiness here, it is impossible for us to enjoy heavenly happiness in the future world. To see the Lord, is here put for enjoying him ; see Rom. viii. 24. And the metaphor signifies the happiness of the future state in general ; and more particularly intimates that the knowledge of God will be a special ingredient therein. See a parallel expression in Matt. v. 8.
Secondly, that this consideration should induce us to use the most earnest endeavors to obtain the heavenly happiness. Pursue holiness, because without it no man can see the Lord.
Hence I am naturally led,
I. To explain the nature of that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
II. To show what endeavors should be used to obtain it. And,
III. To urge you to use them by the consideration of the absolute necessity of holiness.
I. I am to explain the nature of holiness. And I shall give you a brief definition of it, and then mention some of those dispositions and practices which naturally flow from it.
The most intelligible description of holiness, as it is inherent in us, may be this ; " It is a conformity in heart and practice to the revealed will of God.” As the Supreme Being is the standard of all perfection, his holiness in particular is the standard of ours.
Then we are holy when his image is stamped upon our hearts and reflected in our lives; so the apostle defines it, and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Eph. iv. 24. Whom he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Rom. viii. 29. Hence holiness may be defined, “A conformity to God in his moral perfections.” But as we cannot have a distinct knowledge of these perfections but as they are manifested by the revealed will of God, I choose to define holiness, as above, “A conformity to his revealed will.” Now his revealed will comprises both the law and the gospel; the law informs us of the duty which we as creatures
owe to God as a being of supreme excellency, as our Creator and Benefactor, and to men as our fellow-creatures ; and the gospel informs us of the duty which as sinners we owe to God as reconcileable through a Mediator. Our obedience to the former implies the whole of morality, and to the latter the whole of evangelical graces, as faith in a Mediator, repentance, &c.
From this definition of holiness it appears, on the one hand, that it is absolutely necessary, to see the Lord ; for unless our dispositions are conformed to him, we cannot be happy in the enjoyment of him: and on the other hand, that they who are made thus holy, are prepared for the vision and fruition of his face, as they can relish the divinest pleasure.
But as a concise definition of holiness may give an auditory but very imperfect ideas of it, I shall expatiate upon the dispositions and practices in which it consists, or which naturally result from it; and they are such as follow:
1. A delight in God for his holiness. Self-love may prompt us to love him for his goodness to us; and so, many unregenerate men may have a selfish love to God on this account. But to love God because he is infinitely holy, because he bears an infinite detestation to all sin, and will not indulge his creatures in the neglect of the least instance of holiness, but commands them to be holy as he is holy, this is a disposition connatural to a renewed soul only, and argues a conformity to his image Every nature is most agreeable to itself, and a holy nature is most agreeable to a holy nature.
Here I would make a remark, which may God deeply