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own, all fear of the event would be useless, and all exhortation to caution and watchfulness would be superfluous. But when this is not the case, when the whole tenour of Scripture as well as the reason of the thing demonstrates, that the promises of God to his people are all conditional, that there are duties to be performed on their part in order to obtain the reward promised on God's part, they cannot be too frequently or too earnestly exhorted to bear continually in mind, that we are made partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end-that he that endureth to the end the same shall be saved, and that God declares, if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
God has plainly set before us the terms of our salvation--what we are to believe, and what we are to do, if we hope to attain it. Should not we, therefore, my hearers, who are born and raised under the light and privileges of the gospel, be very careful not to come short of the high reward therein offered us, by suffering any present interests or temptations to draw us aside from our duty ? Yet we see thousands in this Christian land acting as carelessly respecting eternity as if its happy attainment depended on the neglect of religious duty. Surely, then, there is not only good but great reason to exhort such persons to consider, how vain the hope must be of the favour of God and eternal life, if they persist in a course of sin and disregard of the gospel. No one can possibly have any pretensions to sincerity who professes to believe the gospel, and yet openly neglects the appointments of religion. There is something in the very sound of an eternal reward or punishment_believed in—that forbids the desperate risk; and yet there are multitudes who, because they are friendly to religion as it is called, flatter themselves with the hope of acceptance through the merits of the Saviour, and expect to gain the eternal reward without the self-denials and surrenders of religion. Now what is to withstand this delusion but the exhortations derived from the revealed danger, that we may fail of the grace of God, that we must sow if we expect to reap, that we must labour and strive if we would gain a crown of life, and that we must openly confess Christ before the world if we hope to be owned by
him before his Father and the holy angels in the great day of account.
If men can be saved without the sacraments of religion, where opportunity is had for their reception, it would be very difficult to account for their being so very solemnly enacted, and so very reverently esteemed, and profitably used by all truly pious persons. Yet there are multitudes of these friends to religion, who come to their death-bed with their baptismal vows broken, their repentance unacknowledged, and their faith unprofessed over the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ, evidently set forth crucified among or before them, in the Holy Communion, as the appointed memorial of his death. And is there no danger that such should come short of the rest he hath purchased for them ? no good reason why such should be warned and exhorted, lest they be found in the number to wbom Christ will say, I never knew you. Alas! my dear hearers, trifle not thus with your souls ; waste not your day of grace in vain and unfounded expectations, but learn to fear that you may fail, that thus you may be stirred up to enter in at the strait gate, and to walk in the narrow way, which leadeth unto life. And even among professors of religion-among those who confess the Lord Jesus Christ before men, as their only hope of the heavenly rest, is it needful and profitable to remind them that if they would enter into life, they must keep the commandments, that they must stir up the gift of God that is in them, and return their Lord's goods—his heavenly grace, and providential condition in the world-with increase, otherwise they will come short of their high calling, and take their portion with the unprofitable servant. My dear brethren, the world is against you, your own hearts are against you, the enemy of Cop and man is against you! Is there not, then, good reason to fear these potent adversaries, so as to increase your caution and watchfulness, lest they betray you into some snare and entangle you in their deceits, and thus prevail against your hope, by blinding you against the danger of coming short of it ? St. Paul thought it very necessary to give this caution, even to primitive Christians; and experience must surely teach us, that it is yet a word in season.
And it will be a word in
season to all who so learn from it to distrust themselves, as to cleave closer and closer to their great and effectual defence in the Lord Jesus Christ; and in obedience to his holy commandments, and blessed example, so pass the time of their sojourning here, in fear, as to increase their diligence and earnestness, that when their LORD cometh he may find them ready, with their loins girded about and their lights burning.
Thus have I showed you, my brethren and hearers, what good reason the apostle had to exhort Christians to fear, lest they should forfeit the heavenly rest. And the application I wish to make of what has been said, is, to increase the care and diligence of professors of religion, in working out their eternal salvation ; to strengthen and encourage the feeble and the timid to stay themselves upon the living God; and to awaken the careless, of every description, from the dreadful delusion of meeting with unasked mercy, and of obtaining unsought salvation.
My professing brethren, we stand on trial, from first to last, as believers in Christ; and can no otherwise secure the crown of life and glory, than by giving all diligence to make our calling and election sure. As accountable beings we have each of us his own part to perform, his particular talent to improve. As fallen, sinful creatures, our sufficiency for all spiritual attainment is of God, through our LORD JESUS CHRIST. We are saved by grace. And because of this sufficiency conferred upon all mankind, it is, that we are capable of religion, and shall be rewarded or punished everlastingly, according to our conduct in the present life. On this, there is no discretion to any. He that believeth not is condemned already, and he that believeth shall be judged by the word spoken unto him in the gospel. As believers, the word of God is your only standard ; by that you must measure your hope, and try the foundation on which it is built; by that you must examine your life, and determine its conformity to the divine pattern, in the man Christ Jesus. Short of this, your hope caunot be such as will stand the trial of the great day.
Now, in this standard, the prize and the forfeit are plainly set before you; the road you have to travel clearly marked out; the dangers and the difficulties you have to encounter are distinctly set forth; the help you may look for is openly proclaimed; and, to quicken your diligence, God hath warned you that such is the wosul corruption of your nature, that you may, nevertheless, miss the prize of your high calling, and come short of the heavenly rest. What becomes us, then, my brethren, under such circumstances, but that fear, and care, and jealousy of ourselves, which shall produce a more unreserved surrender of heart and life to the power and grace of our ever merciful Redeemer. Without Him we can do nothing, but in his name and strength all things are possible to the believer. Keep continually before you, therefore, your reward and your duty, your danger and your help, and, with St. Paul, do this one thingForgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth unto the things that are before, press toward the mark; counting all things but loss, that you may win Christ, and be found in him, and receive the joyful salutation of well done good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy LORD.
And let the feeble and the timid believer, who is conscious of the power of his corruptions, derive courage to contend against them, from the promises of God. He hath laid help for you, my brethren, on one who is mighty and able to save ; upon one who will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax; who laid down his life for your souls, that, by this proof of unbounded love, he might draw all men to God.
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees ; being persuaded of this one thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will carry it on unto the day of Christ.
A knowledge of your weakness, my brethren, is the best security against presumption, and the strongest argument for watchfulness and increased earnestness in prayer. Let distrust of yourselves, then, bring you nearer to God for grace to belp in time of need; and his strength shall be made perfect in your weakness, and the work of faith be fulfilled with power.
Lastly, let the fear here spoken of, from the awful possibility, yea, from the plain and obvious danger, that men may receive
the grace of God in vain, and even Christians, God's peculiar people, come short of the reward promised to faith and obedience, be a word in season to all who have hitherto been careless and unconcerned about their souls. If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? This is a question which all who hear me can answer and apply to themselves. Gon grant that it may awaken them to the danger of delay, on so momentous an interest as their eternal condition. Fools, it is said, make a mock at sin ; but what name must those deserve who make a mock at salvation, and spurn from their regard an everlasting inheritance of heavenly glory! Merciful God! rend the veil from their bearts, by the convincing power of thy Holy Spirit. Let not thy word return unto thee empty, but bless thy truth that it may be fruitful to thy praise, in hearts awakened to thy fear, and encouraged to cleave to thy grace in working out their everlasting salvation.