« AnteriorContinuar »
their life is without God in the world; it is alienated from the lise of God, and destitute of real comfort. And therefore, though naturally alive, they are faid to be dead, dead in sin, and even to abide in death.
And there is great reafon why an unconverted state should be represented by the metaphor of death; for there is nothing-in nature that more sitly represents it. As in a dead body no vital motions appear fo in an unrenewed foul, there are no motions of divine lise; no breathings aster God, and spiritual enjoyments; no zeal for his glory, or devotion to his interest. As a dead body is devoid of all sense and feelings fo is the foul of an unconverted sinner: insensible to its misery and danger, it seels not the wounds which sin has given it, it trembles not at the wrath of God with which it is threatened, and, though standing on the very brink of eternal ruin, will use no means to avoid it. And as a dead body is a ghastly and undesirable object, which cannot be veiwed with any degree of pleasure *, fo an unconverted sinner, especially a profligate and licentious one, is a spectacle most loathfome and abominable, in the eyes of a pure and holy God. Upon these, and many other accounts, an unregenerate state is sitly represented to us under the notion of death.
In a word, we may fay with propriety of every unconverted sinner, as the apostle does of the perfon who lives in impure pleasures, "that he is tiead ** while he lives * dead in sin, and ignorant of the valuable purposes for which he received existence.
2. He is virtually under a sentence of eternal death. As we commonly fay of a criminal condemned to die, that he is a dead man; fo it may well be faid of an impenitent sinner, that he is dead; dead in the eye of the. law, as being condemned by its just sentence. Thus it was with Adam, when by his sirst transgression he incurred that dreadsul curse; ".In the day f* thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." Thus, alley it is with every individual of his posterity, while unrenewed in their minds. Accordingly, our Saviour speaks of every unbeliever as condemned already; and as one on whom the wrath of God does actually abide: " The wages of sin is death." And sinners, as the apostle emphatically expresses it, are the children of wrath, heirs of misery and destruction; subject to the agonies of the second death, and exposed to the lake that burneth for ever with sire and brimstone; living only by reprieve, and liable every moment, at the pleasure of the Sovereign, to be called out to execution. And this is the condition, not merely of the most profligate and abandoned, but of every sinner without exception, while he continues impenitent and unconverted.
But farther: a sinner before his conversion, is here represented not only as dead, but as lost. In which expression, there seems to be an allusion to the pa« rable of the lost sheep in the beginning of this chapter. A sheep, when it strays from the fold is faid to be lost; and with sufsicient propriety, for it is then useless and unprositable to the owner, and besides is 111 danger of perishing, by becoming the prey of fome wild beast.
Now, in both these senses, an unconverted sinner may be faid to be lost.
(1.) He is lost to the service os God his rightsul owner. What the apostle fays of one sinner before his conversion, that " in time past' he was unpro"Stable," may justly be faid of impenitent sinners lr> general. Though they have, many talents committed to them, many privileges and opportunities put mto their hands, yet they are negligent and flothsul; like the unprositable servant in the parable, they hide their talent in a napkin, and stand all the day idle in God's vineyard. Hence they are represented in scripture, as cumberers of the ground. They are compared to briers and thorns which are mischievous, or at least unprofitable : nay, they are faid to be trees twice dead, plucked up by the roots. The light of the gospel shines round about them, the heavenly dew descends upon them in a greater or less quantity; but all to no purpose, unless, by their own sinsul abuse, to render them more and more unfruitsul. Thus they are lost to the service of God, to the good of others, and to the .fasety and happiness of their own fouls. And what then can they in reafon expect, but to have that dreadsul sentence pronounced upon them ?" Cad "ye the unprositable servant into outer darkness; "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (u)." - (2.) He is lost, as being every moment in danger of perishing for ever. The father of the prodigal reckoned his fon lost, when he wandered from his observation, and abandoned himself to his own pursuits: much more may we reckon an impenitent sinner lost. For, having wilsully departed from God, he forseits his care and protection: and being thus left to himself; being, as the Pfalmist expresses it, " given "up to his own heart's lust," he wanders in his own counsels, and is every moment in danger of plunging into endless misery. Like a benighted traveller, whose way is near pits and snares, and who has no able guide to direct him; every step he takes is at the peril of his lise. Nay, he runs with fatal precipitancy in the way marked out for him by Satan, or by his own corrupt heart. And what will the end of these things be! Surely the way in which the sinner walks, leads down to the gulph of endless misery; for indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, shall be the everlasting portion of every foul that doth evil.
This, then, is the deplorable case of the sinner before his conversion. He is destitute of spiritual lise, and bound over by his guilt to eternal death. He it' lost to the service of God his rightsul owner, and e*ery moment in danger of perishing for ever.
(*) Matt. xxv. 30.
11. I now come to present to you 2 more bright and desireable scene, the happy change produced in the sinner's state and practice upon his conversion. t* He that was dead is made alive again, and he that ** was lost is found.*'
C. He that was dead, is now made alive; that is, he is restored to spiritual and divine lise, and thareby raised to the hope of. eternal lise.
(1.) The sinner, upon his conversion, is restored to spiritual and divine lise. .He that was formerly a natural man, is now made spiritual and alive to God. He that by sin was a child of the devil, is now made a child of God. As it was faid of Caleb, that he had "another spirit with him (a) -," so may it justly be faid of a real convert, that he is a man of another spirit, being quite altered and changed from what he was before. His understanding, that formerly was -blind and insensible, is now, in fome measure, favingly enlightened. The stubborn and rebellious will is rendered obedient and submissive to the will of God. The affections that before were diforderly, impure, and sensual, are now elevated to heavenly objects. His great conflict is against the .remains of sin, the snares of life, and the opposition of Satan in his Christian course. His beart breathes after God, and Christ and holiness -, and the chief study and business of his lise is to walk in a manner becoming the gospel. in a word, he now lives, not to himself, but to God; he is quickened from his death in sin, and recovered to a holy and heavenly lise. And,
(2.) He is thereby raised to the hope os eternal lise. For those principles of holiness implanted in his foul, are the seed of a blelfcd immortality. ^Accordingly, they are represented by our Saviour, as a well of -water lpringing up to everlasting lise. A sinner, upon his conversion, has the Spirit within him, as a sure pledge and earnest of his suture inheritance. That 2 F spiritual spiritual light set up in his mind, is to him the dawning of eternal day; that grace fown in his heart, i» as the bud of eternal glory; and that inward peace which he enjoys, is the sirst-fruits of everlasting happiness. Nay, he has fometimes those lively foretastes of heaven, those refreshing views of the better country, which in appearance carry him for a while above the world, enable him to rejoice- in hope, and even to long to depart and be with Christ. Hence, he that was once dead, dead to all comfortable hope, as well as dead in sin, may now be truly faid to be made alive.
But, 2. Upon the conversion of a sinner, he that was lost is now found. He is found,
(i.) In respect os God, to whose service he returns.
Formerly, he was as a sheep going astray, but he is Tw>w returned to the compassionate Shepherd and BiAop of fouls. Formerly, he was under the dominion ef sin, and tyranny of Satan; the power of lust was predominant in him, arul led him captive at its pleasure: but now he is recovered from this miserable bondage, and devotes himself to the service of his God. Formerly, the current of his desires run •strong toward fome worldly good; but now the language of his heart is, " Whom have 1 in heaven but ** thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire •** besides thee: Lord, lift upon me the light of thy *' countenance." Formerly, the powers of his jnind •were alienated from -God, and directed to the gratisication of his lusts; but they are now dedicated to the honour of his God, ami employed in his praise. In a word, As he is not now his own, but bought n with a price, he glorisies God in his body, and in "his spirit, which are his
(2.) Jri respect of his own true advantage. Far »o\y hcnfj^luclted as a brand out of the sire i he is