« AnteriorContinuar »
their disposition with regard to Christ or the things which he taught.
2. If you are fully come to a determination concerning the things of religion, that they are true, they will be of weight with you above all things in the world. If you be really convinced that these things are true, that they are no fable, but reality, it is impossible but that you must be influenced by them above all things in the world ; for these things are so great, and so infinitely exceed all temporal things, that it cannot be otherwise. He that really is convinced that there is a heaven and hell, and an eternal judgment; that the soul, as soon as parted from the body, appears before the judgment seat of God; and that the happiness and misery of a future state is as great as the scripture represents it; or that God is as holy, just and jealous, as he hath declared concerning himself in his word ; I say, he that is really convinced and hath settled it with himself that these things are certainly true ; will regard them and be influenced by them above all things in the world. He will be more concerned by far how he shall escape eternal damnation, and have the favor of God and eternal life, than how he shall get the world, gratify the flesh, please his neighbors, get honor, or obtain any temporal advantage whatsoever. His main inquiry will not be, what shall I eat, and what shall I drink, &c. but he will seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Examine yourselves therefore by this : Are not your hearts chiefly sct upon the world, and the things of it? Is it not more your concern, care and endeavor to further your outward interest, than to secure an interest in heaven : And is not this the very reason that you have never seen the reality of eternal things :
Szcon DLY. Inquire whether you have ever yet come to a determination about religion with respect to the practice of it; whether you have chosen heaven with the way to it, viz. the way of obedience and selfdenial, before this world and the ways of sin; whether you have determined upon it as most
eligible, to devote yourselves to the service of God. Here I shall mention three or four things which are signs that men halt between two opinions in this matter. 1. To put off duty till hereafter. When persons love to keep their duty at a distance, engage not in it for the present, but choose to keep at a little distance from it; when they think of engaging in religion in better earnest in a little time, when they shall so and so be under better conveniences for it, but do it not now, do not make haste without delay; when they are very good intenders, concerning what they will do tomorrow, but very poor performers today; when they say, as l'elix, “Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee;” when these things are so, it is a sign that they halt between two opinions, and have never as yet come to a full determination with respect to the practice of religion. Those that have once fully determined that religion is necessary and eligible, will not desire to put it off, but will make it their present and immediate business. 2. It is a sign of the same thing when persons are strict and conscientious in some things, but not in all, not universal in their obedience ; do some duties, but live in the omission of others; avoid some sins, but allow themselves in others; are conscientious with respect to the duties of worship, public and private, but not in their behavior to their neighbors; are not just in their dealings, nor conscientious in paying their debts; nor do to others as they would that they should do to them ; but have crooked, perverse ways in their dealings among mankind. The same may be said when they are just in their dealings and trade with men, but are not conscientious in other things; indulge sensual appetites, drink to excess, or allow themselves in wanton practices: Or are honest and temperate, but licentious in using their tongues, backbiting and reproaching their fellow men, 2 Tim. iii. 6, 7. 3. It is a sigh that you halt between two opinions, if you sometimes are wont to be considerably engaged in religion, but at other times neglect it; sometimes forming a resolution to be
in good earnest, then dropping it again; sometimes seeming to be really engaged in seeking salvation, and very earnest in religious duties; at other times wholly taken up about the things of the world, while religion is neglected, and religious duties are omitted.
These things show that you are yet unsettled, have never yet come to a full determination concerning religion, but are halting between two opinions, and therefore are thus unstable in all your ways, and proceed thus by fits and starts in religion, James i. 6, 7, 8. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering : For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A doubleminded man is unstable in all his ways.” If your determination were fixed in religion, you would be more steady in your practice.
4. It is a sign that you are halting between two opinions, if it be your manner to balk your duty whenever any notable difficulty comes in the way, considerably cross to your interest, or very inconsistent with your ease or convenience, or your temporal honor. Whatever zeal you may seem to have, whatever concern about the things of religion, and however strict you be in ordinary, you have never, if this be your manner, come to a full determination ; have never fully made choice of religion and the benefits of it for your only portion ; and at best have got no further than king Agrippa, who was almost persuaded to be a Christian, Acts xxvi. 28. You are in the state of the stony ground hearers, you have no root in yourselves, and like a tree without root, are easily blown down by every wind.
II. I shall conclude with an earnest exhortation to all, no longer to halt between two opinions, but immediately to come to a determination whether to be Christians or not. Let me insist upon it, that you now make a choice, whether you will have heaven, with a life of universal and persevering obedience for your portion; or hell, with a life spent in the pursuit of this world. Consider those things which have been said,
shewing the unreasonableness of continuing in such irresolution about an affair of infinite importance to you, and as to which you have so short an opportunity to make your choice, Consider two things in addition to what hath been already said.
1. Those who live under the gospel, and thus continue undetermined about religion, are more abominable to God than the heathen. God had rather that men should either be Christians or downright heathens. He hates those persons who continue from year to year, under the calls, and warnings, and instructions, and intreaties of God’s word; who yet can be brought to nothing ; who will come to no determination at all ; will neither be Christians nor heathens. These are they who are spoken of in Rev. iii. 15, 16. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot: So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my month.” Ezek. xx. 39. “As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God, Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me ; but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.” These are they spoken of in 2 Tim. iii. 7. Ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.”
2. If you still refuse to come to a determination whether to be Christians or not, how just will it be, if God shall give you no further opportunity . If you refuse to make any choice at all; and after all that hath been done to bring you to it, in setting life and death, so often before you, in calling and warning you, if you will not come to a determination, how just will it be, if God shall wait no longer upon you, if he shall, by his unalterable sentence, determine the case himself; if he shall fix your state with the unbelievers, and teach you the truth and eligibleness of religion, by sad and fatal experience, when it will be too late for you to choose your portion, and the offer will be no more made you !
Unbelievers contemn the Glory and Excellency of Christ.
ACTS iv. 1 1.
TXIS IS THE 5ToxE WHICH WAS SET AT NOUGHT OF YOU BUILDERS.
I N the foregoing chapters we have an account of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the apostles at Pentecost, and of the extraordinary effects of it, in their speaking boldly, in the name of Jesus, and speaking many strange languages, and so being made the instruments of the sudden conversion of vast multitudes. And in the chapter immediately preceding there is an account how Peter and John miraculously healed a man who had been a criple from his birth ; which, together with the word which they spake to the people that flocked together on the occasion, was the means of a new accession to the church ; so that the number of them that heard the word and believed, as we are told in the fourth verse of this chapter, was about five thousand. This sudden and extraordinary progress of the gospel greatly alarmed the priests and scribes, and other chief men among the Jews; so that they laid hands on Peter and John, and put them in hold, and the next day brought them forth to
* Dated, May 1736.