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fore, for your souls' sake, lose not heaven by trifling. Pray not in jest, and resist not sin in jest, lest you be damned in good sad
When you are at work for eternity, it is time to do it with all your might. O what inconceivable mercies are now offered to you! O what an excellent price is in your hands! And nothing is so likely to deprive you of the benefit, as dreaming and dallying, when you should be up and doing ; as if this were not your business, but your play; and salvation and damnation were matters of sport ! O do but set yourselves to the pleasing of God, and the saving of your souls with all your might, and ply it with diligence as your chiefest work, and then you are out of the danger of the hypocrite ! But if still you will give the world the pre-eminence, and your flesh must be pleased, and your prosperity secured, and God must have but compliments, or the leavings, your misery is at hand, and vengeance shall undeceive those hearts that would not be undeceived by the word. And you shall remember, to the increase of your anguish, that you were told this day, that your seeming, trifling religion would prove vain. But I beseech you, as you are men, as you
love your souls, dismiss us with some better hopes; and now resolve to be downright Christians. Which, as I have begged of you, I shall now beg of God.
PREACHED AT COVENT GARDEN:
PUBLISHED UPON OCCASION OF SOME OFFENCE AND
PROV. i. 32, 33.
For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the
prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me, shall be quiet from fear of evil.
The bounteous offers and vehement exhortations of Christ, here in this chapter, were accompanied with a foresight and prediction of their rejection, by many: yet doth not that prevent the offers and exhortations; but occasion the prediction of the calamity of the refusers. God will not go out of his way, because the ungodly will not walk with him. He will do the part of a righteous Governor, though he foresee that men will not do the part of obedient subjects. But his primary end shall be attained
upon the righteous, in the successes of his grace, as his secondary end shall be upon the disobedient, in the honour of his vindictive justice. This is the sense of the words which I have now read to you. Which, 1. Describe the ungodly. 1. By their present way of sin. 2. And by their future state of misery. Their sin is described by: 1. The occasion. 2. The act. 3. The habit. Prosperity and ease is the occasion : turning away from God, and rejecting his counsel, is the act; and folly, or simplicity, is part of the habit. Simplicity is here taken for sinful foolishness, and not, as it is often, for commendable sincerity. Whether you read it, the turning away, or the ease, of the simple, it is all one as to the scope that I shall now make of it, both being included as to the sense in the other words. Folly is mentioned both as the cause of their abuse of prosperity, and as the effect of prosperity so abused. Because they are fools, they turn God's mercies to their own destruction: and because they prosper, they are confirmed in their folly.
2. The words describe the godly. 1. By their obedience ;
they “ hearken unto Christ.” 2. By their privilege or reward; they“ shall dwell safely, and be quiet from fear of evil.”
We shall begin with the first, and show you, 1. That it is so, that“ the prosperity of fools destroyeth them.” 2. How folly and prosperity concur to their destruction; or how prosperity befooleth and destroyeth them. 3. How we should all improve this truth to our best advantage.
1. Scripture and experience concur in proving the truth of the conclusion.
1. Though God tell us in his word of a difficulty that all must conquer that will be saved, yet it is a greater, extraordinary difficulty that he tells us of, as to the rich and prosperous in the world; such a difficulty as is pathetically expressed by this interrogation, (Luke xviii. 24;) “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” Such a difficulty as is expressed by his proverbial comparison ; (v. 25 ;) “ For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Such a difficulty as cast the hearers into admiration, and made them ask, (v. 26,) “Who then can be saved?” Such a difficulty as is to man an impossibility, (v. 27,) and leaves only this hope that, “ Things are possible to God, that are impossible to man.”
2. And though it is said of men indefinitely that it is but few that shall be saved ; yet is it noted of the rich and prosperous that it is few of them among those few, or few in comparison of other sorts of men, that shall be saved ; (Job vii. 48;) “ Have any of the Rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” (1 Cor. i. 26 ;) “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen; yea, and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence." And therefore Scripture speaketh in such general language, as if salvation had been almost appropriated to the poor, and the rich had been excluded, because of the rarity of their salvation ; (Luke vi. 24, 25 ;) “ But wo unto you that are rich ! for have received your consolation: wo 'unto you that are full ! for ye shall hunger: wo unto you that laugh now ! for ye shall mourn and weep.” (Jam, VOL. XVII,