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if these have been neglected; by avoiding strife and contention, and maintaining a strict regard to all his commands. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. In a word, we must look upon Christ's presence as our main object, without which, religion will be a poor lifeless thing. We should therefore grieve at no difficulties if we enjoy it, and prize no privileges if we want it; but say with Moses, If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence !
Whither, oh whither art thou gone,
Sole source of my delight?
Whose absence forins the night.
Whither hast thou withdrawn thyself,
My Saviour, and my God?
Where'er thou art, thou still canst hear
The humble suppliant's cry:
Return, or else I die.
When earthly friends and comforts go,
And wealth and honours flee,
Much more than these to me!
Sinful Excuses Answered.
Luke xiv. 18.
They all with one consent began to make excuse.
W HAT could be the reason of such conduct ? Were they called to any laborious exercise ; or to bear any painful suffering? No: they were invited to a feast,-a feast of the Lord's providing; yea, they were to feast with him. But though men are fond of their entertainments, and will go at the first call, and sometimes without a call, yet here they have a rooted aversion. They will go to a tavern, a playhouse, or any other place of vain amusement; but call them to Christ, and they with one consent begin 10 make excuse.
1. Some men will say they have no need to come to Christ. This arises from insensibility, and ignorance of their lost condition. Some sense of it they may have ; but it is neither deep nor lasting: it is not suffi. cient to make them willing to part with their bosom sins, nor renounce their carnal confidence. They are whole, and need not a physician : need him they do, but do not feel their need; and having slight thoughts of sin, they have also slight thoughts of the Sayiour. Being strangers to the spirituality of the divine law, they hope in the mere mercy of God, without any regard to the Mediator, and expect great things from their own good works. Their language, is, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me I am rich and encreased in goods, and have need of nothing ; and know not that they are miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Those will never lie down at the feet of Christ, imploring his assistance, who imagine they can do well enough without him. All these things have I observed from my youth up: what lack I yet? Self-righteous, self-conceited sinners will shew no regard to the work of Christ upon the cross, or the work of his Spirit upon the heart ; the former excluding all merit in us, and the latter casting contempt upon all our supposed sufficiency.
2. Others imagine they are already come to Christ; and the act being performed, they have no need to repeat it. Their hope is too firmly fixed to be shaken, and their confidence too deeply rooted to be overthrown. Some think they were made christians by baptism, some that they became so by an external profession, whilst others have recourse to former illuminations and reformations, terrors and consolations, supposing that these could not have taken place without an effectual closure with Christ. But admitting that such have come to Christ, (which indeed does not appear to be the case) yet should not coming to him be the daily reiterated work of the christian; yea, the business of his whole life? Is there not daily need of Christ? Have there been no departures; and do they not call for a return? Is faith to be exercised but once: Why then are we told that “the just shall live by his faith?”
3. Pre-engagement is another excuse which sinners make for not coming to Christ. We have loved strangers, and after them we will goI have bought fire yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them, I hare married à wife, and therefore I cannot come. A hurry of business, the necessary occupations of life, and consequently a want of time, are common pleas of carnal men for a neglect of duty, and inattention to their spiritual concerns. Martha, Martha ! thou art careful, and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful. Want of opportunity is alleged : but the great thing wanting is a heart. If men saw their absolute need of Christ, they would employ some of that time in seeking him which is often spent in feasts ing, dressing, unedifying visits, and unnecessary recreations. Nor is the strong hold that our corruptions have got of us a better plea : for how came they to be so prevalent? Is it not by our own free choice, and voluntary consent? Though it be a vile slavery; yet do we not willingly submit to it? In a word, do we groan under our bondage ; or do we not rather prefer it to the glorious liberty of the children of God? All they that hate me, love death.
4. Some say they have tried, but cannot come to Christ. They have struggled hard and long, but all their efforts have been ineffectual; nay, the more they press forward, the further they seem to be from the mark. But if this conviction of your inability were gepuine, you would have reason to bless God for it, as being the fruit of special grace; and generally speaking, the fore-runner of his merciful appearance. He giveth power to the faint ; and to them that have no might, he encreaseth strength. But be not deceived : the pretence of incapacity is often a cloak for indifference and enmity. The language of the lips is, I cannot come: that of the heart is, I will not come. If your acknowledgements be sincere, you will put yourselves in Christ's way, diligently use all the means, will bemoan your ignorance, indolence and weakness; and pray that if you cannot come to Christ, he would come to you.
5. Others who are deeply bowed down in spirit, do not so much plead their inability, as their unfitness and unworthiness. They do not say they cannot come, but dare not come. There are some prepara,
tions and dispositions necessary, and they are destitute of them. None must appear before the Lord empty, and they have nothing to bring. Shall they come in their prison garments, with their hearts all over ulcerated, and as hard as a stone ? I return this short answer: Thus they must come, if they come at all, come to be eased of their burdens, not as already eased ; to be healed of their spiritual diseases, not as already healed. Willingness is the only worthiness that Christ looks for : so that we are to come to him not with qualifications, but for them.--If I had more sorrow and humiliation for sin, says one ; if I had clearer views of the excellency of Christ, says another; if I were more disengaged from the things of this world, says a third .... then I could more freely come to Christ. But it should be remembered that these things instead of being pleaded as an excuse, afford the strongest motives to close in with him : for if there be a peculiar suitableness in Christ to any, it is to the needy, the helpless, and unworthy, who have nothing in them attractive, but every thing disgusting.
6. Some stumble at the austerities of religion, and the dangers to which it will expose them. They own that it is glorious in its end, but complain that there is something very discouraging in the way. They must renounce their old sins, forsake their old companions, forego present advantages, submit to poverty and reproach ; and all this in prospect of a future good. They would have Christ; but it must be on easier terms than to deny themselves, and take up the cross. But remember, if Christ's terms seem ever so hard, he will make no abatement; if his way seem strait, he will not widen it; if his yoke be heavy, he will not make it lighter. All that appears difficult and disagreeable arises wholly from the depravily of our own hearts ; his yoke is easy, and his burden lighit; and it is our corruptions only that make them