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to be spoken by the Lord. In the tenth chapter he presses the same argument upon their attention in these words-He that despised Moses' Law, died without inercy : of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God? And enforces it in the twelfth chapter by a very solemn exhortation.—See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Ilim that speaketh from heaven.
Lastly, the strength and clearness of the evidence, and the number and greatness of the proofs made use of to assure men of the truth and certainty of the gospel, is the highest aggravation of the guilt of those who neglect or disobey it.
The gospel began to be spoken by the Lord, and was afterwards confirmed to us by them that heard him. God also bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.
The stronger the evidence of any truth be, the more inexcusable is the opposition made to it. And the highest aggravation of this crime is, to continue to oppose a truth after the best and greatest evidence has been given of it that the nature of the thing was capable of. In such a case, opposition can proceed from nothing but either wilful obstinacy and perverseness, or the love of sin in some of its many shapes.
Now this is plainly the case of those who reject the gospel after the undeniable evidences which have been given of its truth. Their rejecting it cannot proceed from want of sufficient conviction, but only from a love of vice, and a resolution not to be reformed, which is a height of wickedness from which the hope, even, of excuse is cut off, and which, the only remedy being rejected, there is no means of amending. When clear light is come into the world, and men still continue their works of darkness, then it becomes evident that their wickedness does not proceed from ignorance and want of instruction, but from choice. They love darkness rather than light, and stand in open defiance of God and his supreme authority. This is what our Saviour says of the Jews, If I had not come and spoken unto them they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin. If I had not done among them the works which no other man did, they had not had sin ; but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. This is the reason of his declaring to the cities of Judea that it should be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for them; because, if the mighty works that were done in them had been done in Sodom, it would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. This is the reason of his declaring to those Pharisees who blasphemed the Holy Spirit, that they should never have forgiveness, neither in this world nor that which is to come. Because they resisted the last and greatest means that God would ever make use of to bring them to repentance; and not only resisted it, but reviled it also. They saw with their own eyes the clearest and strongest proofs of the truth of the gospel that could possibly be given, and yet they not only withstood the evidence of those mighty works, but ascribed them, moreover, to the agency of the devil. Their crime was singular and unexampled, and their condemnation was likewise singular. But all others, also, who reject the gospel are, in proportion to the greatness of the evidence they resist, and according to the degree of their obstinacy and wickedness in so doing, in like manner inexcusable, and despisers of Ilim that speaketh from heaven.
Upon these commanding, just, and reasonable grounds, rests the claim of the gospel of Christ to ready and hearty reception from all mankind, and when in addition to this, it is their highest interest to embrace it joyfully and thankfully, to seek its grace, and to occupy themselves diligently in finding the pearl of great price, there cannot be the slightest excuse for indifference, even, to its lively hope. Thousands, however, live in the midst of its light, its privileges, its blessings—thousands look to it in some degree for hope as to hereafter, who are yet perfect strangers to any act or endeavour on their part, to obtain its grace, and experience its transforming power. How, then, shall they escape ?
It is but seldom, my friends, that we hear of an open and acknowledged rejecter of the gospel; but we have in abundance the unhappy experience of a carelessness and neglect of its exhortations, encouragement, and commands, which amount to the same thing in fact, and must prove the same in the event to those who continue thus. How shall they who are thus careless and indifferent as to God and their own souls--how shall they escape ! Would to God that those now before me in this little assembly, who have no interest in the gospel by any personal submission to the law of Christ; who have never, by any one act of their lives, unfurled the banner of the cross over them, and said to the world, I am on the Lord's side ; who have no claim on the mercy of God, beyond baptismal engagements, which they have repeatedly trodden under foot; who know nothing of repentance and contrition for their accumulated sin in this respect, beyond the feeble intention of future amendment; who are engaged with the world, or fluttering down the stream of sin and vanity, of thoughtlessness and unconcern.-—Would to God they could be prevailed upon to ask their souls this question, while there is yet, through the goodness of God, time, opportunity, and means to escape. For what is thy life, my fellow sinner? A certainty or an uncertainty? And what would be your condition, neglecters of this great salvation, should God this night require your souls ? How would you appear? What could you answer ? Oh! it will be a heart-sinking sound to hear the Lord Jesus Christ say, I never kner you.
And as God is true, it must and will be said to every soul under the gospel who denies the Lord that bought him, by refusing himself to the profession and practice of his religion. Whosoever shall confess me before men him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven, but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Why stand ye then here all the day idle ? Hath no man hired you? God is my witness that I have offered you the work and the wages of the gospel, but the world has the greater attraction, and what can the world do for your souls but sink them into deeper, and deeper, and deeper perdition? What can it plead for you in the day of account, when the reward of your hands shall be given you, when you shall eat the fruit of your doings for ever? Has the world any atonement for sin, any intercession for sinners, to present unto God in your behalf ? If it has not, and you feel at this moment that it will not answer in that awful day, O be persuaded to carry your thoughts onward till you learn where only mercy is, where it may be sought and can be found even now—and then ask yourselves, under the solemn certainty of death and judgment, How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ?
Now, to Him who loved us and gave his only begotten Son to die for us, to Him who redeemed us to God and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and to Him who sanctifieth all the elect people of God—to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be glory, and praise, for ever and ever. AMEN.
THE DANGER OF DELAYED REPENTANCE.
HEBREWs xii. 16, 17.
* Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of
meat sold his birthright; for ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."
Truly is it said, my brethren, of God's ancient people, the children of Israel, that all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come ; and whether we consider them nationally or individually-whether we look for general or particular examples—whether we need warning against the ways of wickedness, or encouragement in the practice of righteousness, the record of their history in the inspired volume, and the consequences which followed their conduct under the government of a merciful, but wise, holy, and just God, is full of instruction to us, and amply deserves the high character given of it by St. Paul to Timothy—That it is able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ. Of this ability many proofs might be adduced, both of a general and special nature, in the just application of which to ourselves we might reap the rich harvest of that wisdom which cometh down from above, whose heavenly fruit is faith in God and elevation of the soul above the deceits of sin and the vanities of the world, but none, perhaps, more pregnant with warning and instruction, because more parallel with the present conduct of a careless and sinful generation, than that set forth in my text.
In discoursing upon this subject, therefore, it shall be my part to point out to you the close application of Esau’s conduct to that of every careless, and, therefore, contemptuous neglecter of the gospel, in the hope that it will be your part seriously to count the cost and look to the end, as set forth in his fate, that