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Sil; we know the worth of souls, and how great a service it is , to fave them from death, James v. 2©. We also know the terrors of the Lord, which excite our utmost endeavours to persuade men, 2 Cor. v. it. We feel the compassions of Christ stirring in our own bowels, which makes us long after their falvation, Phil. i. 8. We preach, we pray, yea, we travail again as it were in birth until Christ be formed in them, Gal. iv. 19. And when we have done all, we find their hearts as iron, and brass, Jer. vi. 28. We mourn in secret when we cannot prevail, and oft times our hands hang down with discouragement, and we are ready to fay with the prophet, Jer. xx. 9. We -will speak no more in his name. But here is our relief, under all discouragements from abroad and at home; the work is Christ's, the power is his, he is with us, and we are workers together with him. There was a time when three' thousand souls were born to Christ at one sermon, it may be Row three thousand sermons may be preached and not a soul converted: yet let us not be discouraged, a time of eminent conversion is promised, and to be expected in these latter days, Ezek. xlvii. 9. when the living waters of the golpel shall make every thing to live whither they come, and when the fishers, i. e. the ministers Christ, shall not fish with angels, as now they do, taking now one, then another single convert, but shall spread forth their nets, and inclose multitudes at a draught: "when they shall fly as a cloud, and as the doves to "their windows." God now opeps a door of opportunity beyond expectation; O that the hearts of ministers and people were suitably enlarged, and the people made willing in the day of his power.
. Infer. 4. Hence -we also inser the great dignity of the minifterial office, and the suitable respetl and honour due to all Chri/i't futthful ministers. The Lord Jesus himself is represented by them, they stand in his stead, 2 Cor. v. 20. his authority is clothed upon them; the honours and dishonour given them, redound to the person of Christ. The Galatians received Paul as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Gal. iv. 14.
Yet how have their persons and office been vilified and despised in this degenerate age! how many learned, pious, laborious, peaceful ministers of Christ have, in this age, been hunted up and down in the world as wild beasts, been made the filth and off-scouring of all things unto this day i 1 Cor. iv.- 13. The word signifies that dirt and filth which Scavengers rake together is the streets, to be carried to the . Vol. IV, Iii
No doubt but Satan drives a great design in this to invalidate their ministry, discourage their labours, and break their hearts; bnt Jesus Christ will support as under all these abuses, wipe of the dirt thrown at ns for his name fake, and reserve some of os for better days.
Infer. 5. // Christ present in his ordinances, what a strong engagement then lies upon you all to attend and -wait assiduously upon the ministry of the -word, and to bring all yours, that are capv He, there to wait upon Christ -withyou? We read in the days of Christ's flesh, when he performed his miraculous cures upon the fick, what thronging there was after him; how parents brought tfeeir children, masters their servants, pressing in multitudes, untiling the house to let down their sick to him, Luke xii. 1. Ah, shall men be so earnest for a cure for their bodies, and so indifferent for their fouls? 'Tis true, the spirit of Christ is not tied by any necessity to act always with the word; he acts as an arbitrary agent, John xii. & The windbloweth wkereit HJteth; but it is engagement enough to wait continually upon his ordinances, that he sometimes graciously, and esfectually concurreth with them. Tis good to lie in the way of the Spirit; and there is a blessing pronounced upon them that wait continually at his gates, Prov. viii. 34. O therefore neglect no season within your reach; for who knows but it may be the season of lise to thy foul?
Infer. 6. What an unspeakable loss is the loss of the gospel,seting the presence of Christ comes and goes with it? When the gospel departs, the spirit of Christ departs with it from amsug men; no more conversions, in God's ordinary way, are then to be expected: well therefore might the Lord fay, Hosea ix. >2. Woe to them when I depart from them. The spirit may, ia some sense, depart, whilst the ordinances are left standing, for a time, among the people; but then expect no such bles* sings or benefits from them. But when God takes away ordinances and spirit too, woe indeed to that people; and arc there not sins amongst us presaging such a judgment? O England! reflect upon thy barrenness under it; where be the fruits answerable to such precious means? The gospel is a golden lamp, the graces of the spirit communicated by it are golden oil; as in that stately vision, Zech. iv. Will God maintain such a lamp, fed with such precious oil, for men to trifle and play by?
And no less ominous and portentous is that bitter enmity , to. the gospel, and the serious professors of it, which (I cannot speak without uorror). is every-where found among us; this great hatred brings on the days of visitation, and the days of recompence, with a swift and dreadful motion upon any people, Hasea ix. 7.
Infer. 7. // Christ be present, by way cf spirit and energy in his ordinances, then there is n9 reason to despair es the conversion and salvation os the greatest sinners that yet lie dead under the gospel. What though their hearts be hard, their understanding dark, and their wills never so perverse and obstinate I all must give way, and open in the day of Christ's power, when his spirit joins himself with the word. This makes it an irresistible word; 'tis glorious to observe the hearts of publicans and harlots opening and yielding to the voice of Christ, Matth. xxL 31. What were those three thousand persons pricked at the heart by Peter's sermon, Acts «• ?6. but the very men that, with wicked hands, had crucified the Lord JesusAnd what were the converted Corinthians, but idolators, turned froai dumb idols, 'whoremongers, adulterers, effeminate? &c. 1 Cor. Xii. 2. and vi. 11. God hath his elect among the vilest of men: the gospel will find them out, and draw them home to Christ, when the spirit animates and blesseth it. Well might the apostle therefore say, that the gospel preached with the holy Ghost, sent down from heaven, is an object worthy for angels to behold with admiration, 1 Pet. i. 12. What though Satan has strongly fortified their souls against Christ, with ignorance, prejudice and enmity; yet the weapons of our wai fare are mighty, through God, to pull down these strong holds. Despair not therefore of your carnal and dead-hearted relations, bring them to the gospel upon the encouragement os these words of Christ, Johnr. 25. "The hour cometh, yea, and Bow is, that the dead "(hall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear it "shall live."
Infer. 8. Is Christ spiritually present in his ordinances? 0 then -what an endeared affeftion should every graciom soul bear ti the ordinances of God J They are the walks of Christ, and his spirit, the appointed times and places for your meeting and communion with him; there your souls first met with Christ; there yon began your acquaintance with him; there you have h.id many sweet converses with him since that day; they were the feed of your regeneration, 1 Pet. i. 23. the bread of life, by which your souis have been sustained ever since, and therefore to be more esteemed by you than your necessiry food, Job xxiii. 12. Here you have found the richest cordials to revive and recover your drooping spirits, when ready to sink away in a faint fit under sin within yon, and afflictions upon yon. No wonder David's sonl even fainted for the courts 01 God, Pfal. cxix.'5a and that Hezekiah desired a sign on his sick bed, that he should go up to the house of the Lord. Here are the choicest comforts of the taints upon earth; all our fresh springs are in Zion, Psal. lxxxvii. 7. What a dungeon, what a barren wilderness were this world without themj Prize the ordinances, love the ordinances, wait assiduously upon the ordinances, and pray for rhe liberty and esficacy of the gospel, that it may set no more in your days, nor in the days of your posterity.
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S E R M O N III.
Revel. Hi. 20. Behold I [stand] at the door and knock; &c.
TTA V ING finished Christ's solemn preface, and cleared the manner of his presence in his churches and ordinances; I now come to a third observation which is necessarily implied in these words, "Behold I stmd at the door and knock;" and that fad truth therein implied is this,
Doct. That the hearts of men are naturally locked up, and fast barred against Jesui Chi st their only Saviour.
If it were not ib, what need were there of all that pains and patience, used and exercised by Chrisl, in waiting patiently, and knocking importunately for entrance into the hearts of men? To keep a clear method in this point, three things must be stated in the doctrinal part.
1. How it appears the hearts of men are thus shut up.
2. What are those locks and bars that shut them up.
3. That no power of man can remove these bars.
First, That all hearts are naturally shut and made fast against Christ, is a fad but certain truth ; we read, John i. 11, 12, "He "came unto his own, and his own received him nor," ire. He came unto his own people, from whose slock he sprung up; a people to whom he had been prefigured in all the sacrifices and types of the law, and in whom they might all clearly discern the accomplishment of them all. His doctrines and his miracles plainly told them who he was, and whence he came; yet few discerned or received him as the Son of God. Christ found the doors of mens hearts generally shut against him, lave only a sew whose hearts were opened by the Almighty power of God, in the way pf faith, ver. i% These indeed received him, but all the rest excluded and denied entrance to the Son of God. So
again, John v. from ver. 33, to 40. Christ reasons with them,
and gives undeniable demonstrations, that he was the Messiah
come to fave them; proves it from the testimony of John, ver.
33. "Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth:"
Tells them, the design of his coming among them was their
salvation, ver. 34. shews them the great seal of heaven, his
uncontroulable miracles, ver. 36. "The works that I do, bear
"witness of me, that the Father hath sent me:" And if that
were not enough, he reminds them of the immediate testimony
given of him from heaven, ver. 37. "The Father himself which
«* hath sent me, hath born witness of me." He did so at his
baptism. Math. iii. 17. "And lo a voice from heaven, faying,
"this is my beloVed Son in whom I am well pleased." And so
again, at his transfiguration upon the holy mount, Matth. xvii.
• 5. "While he yet ipake, behold a bright cloud overshadowed
"them; and behold a voice out of the cloud, which faid, this
"is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him."
He bids them search the scriptures, and critically examine his
perfect correspondence to them, John v. 39. Enough, one
would think, to open the door of every man's understanding and
heart, to receive him with fullest fatisfaction ; and yet, after all,
behold the unreasonable obstinacy and resistance of their hearts
against him, ver. 40. "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might
Not a soul will open, with all the reasons and demonstrations in the world, till the Almighty power of God be put forth to that end. If another come in his own name (faith he, ver. 43.) him will ye receive; any body rather than the Son of God: Every cheat can impose upon you easily, 'tis to me only your hearts have such strong aversions. Now there is a twofold strutting up of the heart against Jesus Christ.
1. Natural. 2. Judicial.
1. Natural. Every soul comes into this world fhut up and fast closed against the Lord Jesus. The very will ot man, which is the freest and most arbitrary faculty, comes into the world barred and bolted against Christ, Rom. viii. 7 " The carnal mind "is enmity against God i for it is not subject unto the law of '' God, neither indeed can be." Phil. ii. 13. " 'Tis God that. "worketh in you both to will and to do of his own good plea"fare." This is a dismal effect of the fall. Who feels not strong averfations, violent rebellions, and obstinate resistances in his own heart, when moving towards Christ in the first weak and trembling acts of faith?