Imagini ale paginilor

about you, and make ready for such a day? Yea, before that day, your separated souls shall begin to reap as you have sowed here. Though now the partition that stands between you and the world to come do keep unbelievers strangers to the things that most concern them, yet death will quickly find a portal to let you in :

nd then, sinners, you will find such doings there as you little thought of, or did not sensibly regard upon earth. Before your friends will have time enough to wrap up your pale corpse in your winding-sheet, you will see and feel that which will tell you to the quick, that one thing was necessary. If you die without this one thing necessary, before your friends can have finished your funerals, your souls will have taken up their places among devils in endless torments and despair, and all the wealth, and honor, and pleasure that the world afforded you will not ease you. This is sad, but it is true, Sirs; for God hath spoken it. Up therefore and bestir you for the life of your souls. Necessity will awake even the sluggard. Necessity, we say, will break through stone walls. The proudest will stoop to necessity : the most slothful will bestir themselves in necessity : the most careless will be industrious in necessity : necessity will make men do any thing that is possible to be done. And is not necessity, the highest necessity, your own necessity, able to make you cast away your sins, and take up a holy and heavenly life? O poor souls! is there a greater necessity for your sin than of your salvation, and of pleasing your flesh for a little time than of pleasing the Lord and escaping everlasting misery? O that you would consider what I say! and the Lord give you understanding in all things. Amen.




1 Pet. iv. 18.— And if the righteous scarcely be saved,

where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ?


This text may sound in your ears like a message from the dead; for it is at the request of our deceased friend* that I now insist upon it. He knew so much from the trials he made in life, that if he should be saved at all, it would be with great difficulty, and if he should escape destruction at all, it would be a very narrow escape; and he also knew so much of this stupid, careless world, that they stood in need of a solemn warning on this head ; and therefore desired that his death should give occasion to a sermon on this alarming subject. But now the unknown wonders of the invisible world lie open to his eyes; and now also he can take a full review of his passage through this mortal life ; now he sees the many unsuspected dangers he narrowly escaped, and the many fiery darts of the devil which the shield of faith repelled ; now, like a ship arrived in port, he reviews the rocks and shoals he passed through, many of which lay under water and out of sight ; and therefore now he is more fully acquainted with the difficulty of salvation

And should he now rise and make his appearance in this assembly in the solemn and dread attire of an inhabitant of the world of spirits, and again direct me to a more proper subject, methinks he would still stand to his choice, and propose it to your serious thoughts, that “if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

" The apostle's principal design in the context seems to be to prepare the Christians for those sufferings which he saw coming upon them, on account of their religion. “Beloved,” says he, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you,” verse 12, “but

* The person was Mr. James Hooper; and the sermon is dated August 21, 1756.

than ever.

rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings:" it is no strange thing that you should suffer on account of your religion in such a wicked world as this, for Christ the founder of your religion met with the same treatment; and it is enough that the servant be as his master, ver. 13, only he advises them, that if they must suffer, that they did not suffer as malefactors, but only for the name of Christ, ver. 14, 15. " But," says he, “if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed,” ver. 16, “for the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” He seems to have a particular view to the cruel persecution that a little after this was raised against the Christians by the tyrant Nero, and more directly to that which was raised against them everywhere by the seditious Jews, who were the most inveterate enemies of Christianity. The dreadful destruction of Jerusalem, which was plainly foretold by Christ in the hearing of St. Peter, was now at hand. And from the sufferings which Christians, the favorites of Heaven, endured, he infers how much more dreadful the vengeance would be which should fall upon their enemies, the infidel Jews. If judgment begin at the house of God, his church, what shall be the doom of the camp of rebels? If it begin at us Christians who obey the gospel, what shall be the end of them that obey it not! Alas! what shall become of them ? Them that obey not the gospel of God, is a description of the unbelieving Jews, to whom it was peculiarly applicable ; and the apostle may have a primary reference to the dreadful destruction of their city and nation which was much more severe than all the sufferings the persecuted Christians had then endured. But I see no reason for confining the apostle's view entirely to this temporal destruction of the Jews: he seems to refer farther to that still more terrible de struction that awaits all that obey not the gospel in the eternal world: that is to say, if the children are so severely chastised in this world, what shall become of rebels in the world to come, the proper state of retribution? How much more tremendous must be their fate!

In the text he carries on the same reflection. If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ? The righteous is the common character of all good men or true Christians; and the ungodly and sinner are characters which may include the wicked of all nations and ages. Now, says he, “if the righteous be but scarcely saved, saved with great difficulty, just saved, and no more, where shall idolaters and vicious sinners appear,

whose characters are so opposite ?" The abrupt and pungent form of expression is very emphatical. Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? I need not tell you, your own reason will inform you: I appeal to yourselves for an answer, for you are all capable of determining upon so plain a case. Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ? Alas! it strikes me dumb with horror to think of it: it is so shocking and terrible that I cannot bear to describe it. Now they are gay, merry, and rich; but when I look a little forward, I see them appear in


different circumstances, and the horror of the prospect is hardly supportable.

St. Peter here supposes that there is something in the condition and character of a righteous man that renders his salvation comparatively easy ; something from whence we might expect that he will certainly be saved, and that without much difficulty : and, on the other hand, that there is something in the opposite character and condition of the ungodly and the sinner, that gives us reason to conclude that there is no probability at all of their salvation while they continue such. But he asserts that even the righteous, whose salvation seems so likely and comparatively easy, is not saved without great difficulty ; he is just saved, and that is all : what then shall we conclude of the ungodly and the sinner, whose character gives no ground for favorahle expectations at all ? If our hopes are but just accomplished, with regard to the most promising, what shall become of those whose case is evidently hopeless? Alas! where shall they appear?

The method in which I intend to prosecute our subject is this :

I. I shall point out the principal difficulties, which even the righteous meet with in the way to salvation.

II. I shall mention those things in the condition and character of the righteous, which render his salvation so promising and seemingly easy, and then show you that, if with all these favorable and hopeful circumstances he is not saved but with great difficulty and danger, those who are of an opposite character, and whose con

an en

dition is so evidently and apparently desperate, cannot be saved at all.

I. I am to point out the principal difficulties which even the righteous meet with in the way to salvation.

Here I would premise, that such who have become truly religious, and persevered in the way of holiness and virtue to the last, will meet with no difficulty at all to be admitted into the kingdom of heaven. The difficulty does not lie here, for the same apostle Peter assures us, that if we give all diligence to make our calling and election sure, we shall never fall; but so trance shall be administered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter i. 10, 11. But the difficulty lies in this, that, all things considered, it is a very difficult thing to obtain, and persevere in real religion in the present corrupt state of things, where we meet with so many temptations and such powerful opposition. Or, in other words, it is difficult in such a world as this to prepare for salvation; and this renders it difficult to be saved, because we cannot be saved without preparation.

It must also be observed, that a religious life is attended with the most pure and solid pleasures even in this world; and they who choose it act the wisest part with respect to the present state: they are really the happiest people upon our globe. Yet, were it otherwise, the blessed consequences of a religious life in the eternal world would make amends for all, and recommend such a course, notwithstanding the greatest difficulties and the severest sufferings that might attend it.

But notwithstanding this concession, the Christian course is full of hardships, oppositions, trials, and discouragements. This we may learn from the metaphorical representations of it in the sacred writings, which strongly imply that it is attended with difficulties which require the utmost exertion of all our powers to surmount. It is called a warfare, 1 Tim. i. 18, fighting, 2 Tim. vi. 7. The graces of the Christian, and the means of begetting and cherishing them, are called weapons of war: there is the shield of faith: the hope of salvation, which is the helmet; the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, 2 Cor. x. 4, Eph. vi. 13, 17. The end of the Christian's course is victory after con


« ÎnapoiContinuați »