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(for these you will doubtless endeavour to bring along with you, at all opportunities, to this house of prayer) and in that case how will your joy be doubled, and the nearer and dearer the parties are to you, the greater will be your joy that they found a spiritual cure in this house of mercy, which you (through divine grace inclining you) had a hand in erecting.
10. But whatever joy it may yield you in time, to see sinners converted here, you will rejoice much more on this account in eternity! When your disembodied spirit in the paradise of God, and more especially your whole person at the judgment-seat of Christ, sees light in his light, and having your faculties enlarged and strengthened beyond what is now conceivable, when you look forward through everlasting ages, and view on the one hand fiery torments escaped, and on the other heavenly joys attained through your building this place, by a great multitude of precious souls, some of them once nearly allied to you by sundry close ties, and all your fellow-creatures and your fellow-sinners; all the offspring of that one God whom you love, and the purchase of that precious blood which was equally shed for you and for them, how unspeakable must be your joy! But I forbear to enlarge upon a thought too great for utterance, and which, if pursued, would be an inlet to consolation, too overwhelming for flesh and blood to bear; and that this blessed work of saving souls may be this day begun, and that upon our first appearing here, we may reap the first-fruits of that harvest of conversions to be hereafter gathered in this place; before I conclude, I beg leave just to add a few words by way of application and improvement of what has been advanced.
1. I have been describing, my brethren, and pointing out the way to that peace with God, and peace of mind, which is promised to be given in this place, and is the only thing that can render life comfortable, death safe, and eternity happy. And now I call upon you to examine yourselves touching this matter, whether this peace be yours. To know this, recollect, I beseech you, what has been said and proved to you from God's word, that there is no peace to the wicked that go on in sin, to the impenitent and unbelieving, the unconverted and unregenerate.
2. If you are of this number, be assured, you have neither lot nor part in this matter. Whether you be outward sinners, such as drunkards, swearers, sabbath-breakers; fornicators, adulterers, unclean persons; liars, slanderers, evil-speakers; guilty of fraud, vio
lence, oppression; unjust, unmerciful, deceitful; or whether you be under the power of your inward corruptions, as pride, self-will, discontent; anger, malice, envy; hatred, animosity, revenge; covetousness, lust, ambition; or whether, although your temper be even, and your conduct regular, yet at the same time, your soul be unrenewed, your heart cold, and your worship formal, and, though you have the form, you be devoid of the power of religion; be it known to you, you have no share in this blessing which I have been describing: GoD is not at peace with you, even as you are not at peace with him. On the contrary, his "Wrath is revealed from heaven" against you, as against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Wherefore we warn you, "be not deceived, God is not mocked :" As sure as he is a being of unspotted holiness and inflexible justice, so sure, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap ;" you who "sow to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption." His holiness will be to you a consuming fire, his justice will execute strict judgment upon you, and you shall infallibly "perish from the way, if his wrath is kindled, yea, but a little," how much more when it burns with unabating fury, consumes the earth with its increase, and melts down the foundation of the mountains," when "it burns and shall not be quenched?" O ye unholy and profane, "how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"
3. There is but one way in which you can escape this, and that, I fear, is a way in which you do not choose to walk. It is the way of unfeigned repentance, lively faith, and new obedience. Thus, and only thus, can you find mercy with the Lord, and stand approved before the Son of man. O hear the voice, the sweet and melting voice of mercy! "As I live (saith the Lord) I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth; therefore, turn and live ye. Cease to do evil, learn to do well; wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Come now, and let us reason together, (saith the Lord) though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool; for all manner of sins and blasphemies shall be forgiven" unto penitent sinners through the Redeemer, whose "blood cleanseth from all sin." "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins," and by him all that," with penitent hearts," believe, are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by” their own obedience,
4. And does not this cheering voice of mercy gladden thy very heart, thou ungodly, guilty, and self-condemned sinner? Dost thou not see cause, great cause to praise him, that the door of salvation is not yet shut against thee, thee, (I say) who hast so long refused to enter in at it? That he has not yet cut thee down, who hast so long only cumbered the ground? O praise him, if thou hast any sense of gratitude left, that he still waits to be gracious, still extends the arms of his mercy and love to embrace thy guilty soul!-But at the same time, consider, thou knowest not how soon the door may be shut against thee if thou still deferrest to enter: Thou knowest not how soon he may shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure, if thou still delayest to take refuge there! Remember, the goodness of God ought to lead thee to repentance, but if it have not that happy effect, thou wilt soon find it changed into a sea of wrathful indignation to overwhelm thy hopeless soul.
5. I testify to thee this day, in the name of the once-crucified, but now highly exalted Saviour, whom thou hast hitherto despised and rejected; if that amazing love which brought him from the palaces of heaven, where he was attended and worshipped by myriads of angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, into this howling wilderness, this world of wo, where he was forsaken of all, even of the twelve poor fishermen, his only attendants; which induced him to assume this vile body, subject to infirmity, pain, and death, that thou mightest rise through his fall, and be exalted through his humiliation; mightest be invested with the divine nature, with holiness, immortality, and bliss, and dwell in mansions of glory for ever ;-the wonderful love which exposed him to hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, shame and contempt, that thy famished and starving soul might be fed with the bread of life, refreshed with the wine of divine love, clothed with the garments of salvation, and honoured before an assembled world; the mysterious love which subjected him to the severe stroke of his Father's justice, the most malevolent spite of his own creatures, and the most implacable malice of infernal fiends, that thou mightest be delivered from the power of Satan, enjoy the good-will of saints and angels, and be happy in the smile and favour of thy God; the unsearchable love which filled his soul with unknown agony in the garden, crowned his head with sharp thorns in the judgment-hall, tore his back with knotty whips before Pilate, nailed his body to the execrable cross between the vilest miscreants, and opened a fountain in his side where thou
mightest quench thy thirst for happiness, and wash away the filth of sin;-if this great, amazing, and unfathomable love (I say) do not win thy heart, and melt thee in its holy flame into a vessel of honour, I testify to thee, it will suddenly be converted into fiery indignation, which will kindle upon and consume thy body and soul in its unquenchable flames!
Foolish man, what art thou doing? Despisest thou the riches of his glory, the paradise of his delights, the dignity of his crown, which he tenderly and earnestly invites thee to share? Slightest thou his love? His bleeding, agonizing, expiring love! -Has he not suffered enough? Art thou resolved to crucify him afresh and put him to open shame? Sinner, forbear! Cease to revile and buffet that lovely person! Cease to spit in that divine face which angels gaze upon with rapture! How canst thou bruise that sacred head! Ah! do not drive those rude nails still further! Why wilt thou give that guiltless heart another and a deeper wound? Sinner, what evil hath he done? Wherein hath he injured thee? Injured thee! alas! he hath loved thee even unto death, and quenched by his precious blood the flames of hell kindling about thy unholy soul? And dost thou thus requite his undeserved favour and boundless love? Wretched man, abstain ! Join no more the murderers of thy Saviour! Bid adieu to their company! Let his love overcome thee! Throw down the weapons of thy rebellion; fall at his dear feet, pierced by thy crimes, and distilling a sacred balm to heal thy wounded soul! And kiss the Son lest he be angry! Remember he has authority to execute judgment, to save or to destroy. "He has the keys of death and of hell; he opens and no man shuts, shuts and no man opens." If he once 66 swear in his wrath thou shalt not enter into his rest," thy die will be cast, and thy wretched fate determined for ever! Now is the accepted time! now is the day of salvation! Now knock at the door of mercy, and say, Lord, Lord, open to me! And he will open to thee: he will pardon, accept, and bless thee, and even thou shalt ensure the things which belong to thy peace before they are for ever hid from thine eyes!
ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEATH OF
AT THE CHAPEL IN CHERRY-STREET, BIRMINGHAM,
ON SUNDAY EVENING, AUGUST 29, 1790.
I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them who are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 1 Thess. iv. 13, 14.
1. AN eminent French writer, Mons. Saurin, has given it as his opinion, that this is one of the most difficult texts in the New Testament. Accordingly he presents us with a long and learned exposition of it, in which he proceeds upon a very singular hypothesis. He supposes "that the desire which prevailed in the primitive Christians to see Christ when he should appear to judgment, made them lament those of their brethren who died, as cut off from that hope; and that it was in reference to this, that the apostle assured them in this passage, that such would be entirely on a level with those of their brethren who should then be found alive." This supposition seems to me as improbable as it is extraordinary. It is not at all likely that the Christians at Thessalonica, who had for some time sat under the ministry of an apostle, should either be so ignorant as to imagine that those of their brethren who died, were cut off from the hope of seeing Christ, when he should appear again, or, if they had imagined this, that they should have grieved particularly on that account.