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is open. Lose not your season, lest, with the foolish virgins, you go to buy when it is too late. The merchant will not lose his opportunity of buying, nor the sailor his of sailing, nor the husbandman of sowing; and why should you lose yours of growing rich in grace? Many men lose their souls, as Saul lost his kingdom, by not discerning their time to be spiritually rich. Tamerlane at first hung out a white flag, but if they slipped that opportunity, then a red one, and so death and destruction followed. The Lord Jesus hangs out the white flag of mercy in these days, to entice souls to come in, and to share with him in his glorious and unsearchable riches, in the riches of his grace and mercy; but if you stand out, Christ has a red flag, and if that be once put out, you are lost for ever. Thrice happy are those who take the first opportunity of closing with Christ, and of subjecting themselves to Christ.
Plutarch writes of Hannibal, that when he could have taken Rome, he would not; but when he would have taken Rome, he could not. When many men may have mercy, they will not; and when they would have mercy, that shall not. Mercy and grace are sometimes upon the bare knee. Christ stands knocking at sinners' doors; he is willing to come in and make sinners rich and happy for ever; he calls upon souls to open to him. Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates, and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. The King of glory comes not emptyhanded; no, he comes with his hands and heart full of rich and royal presents; and blessed and enriched for ever are those that open to this King of glory.
Thirdly; consider this—souls rich in grace shall have their names immortal.
Every man naturally would have, if it were possible, his name immortal. Now there is no way in the world to have your names 'immortal, like this of growing rich in grace. A man that is spiritually rich, shall live, and his name shall live, when he is dead. In Nehem. vii. 2, it is said of Hananiah, that he was a faithful man, and feared God above many; or, He feared God above multitudes, as the Hebrew has it. His name lives, though his body for many hundred years has been turned to dust. So in Acts vii. 55; Stephen was a man full of the Holy Ghost. Though Stephen was stoned, yet his name lives, his memorial is precious among the saints to this very day. So in Heb. xi. 38; some are spoken of as such of whom this world was not worthy. And in the third epistle of John, the first six verses, compared with ver. 12, Gaius and Demetrius, who were rich in grace, have crowns of honour set upon their heads, their names live, and are a sweet savour to this very day. So in Prov. x. 7; The memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot. The great man's name, and the rich man's name shall rot saith he, but the name of the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.
The Persians used to write their king's names in golden characters; so the Lord writes the names of souls rich in grace in golden characters; their names are always heirs to their lives. Believe it, there is no such way in the world to have immortal names, like this of growing rich in grace. One man thinks to make his name immortal by making himself great, another by heaping up silver and gold as the dust of the earth or the stones of the street, and another by doing some strange exploits; but notwithstanding all this the Lord will make good his word, The name of the wicked shall rot: If God be God, his name must rot; but the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance; they leave their names behind for a blessing, Isa. law. 15.
It is sad to consider what many poor carnal creatures have done and suffered to make their names immortal. The Roman's desires of praise and a name, made them bountiful of their purses, and prodigal of their lives. Erostratus set the temple of Diana on fire on the night that Alexander was born, only that he might be talked of when he was dead. Calvin observes, that Servetus in Geneva, in the year 1555, gave all his goods to the poor and his body to be burned, and all for a name, for a little glory among men. But these poor creatures have all missed the mark. • There is no way, Christians, to have your names immortal, like this of growing rich in grace. Neither Satan nor the world shall ever be able to bury such men's names, as are rich in grace; their names shall rise in glory here, as well as their bodies hereafter.
But then fourthly and mainly, consider, that spiritual riches will enable you to live up to your principles.
That man who has but so much grace as will keep hell and his soul asunder, will never live up to his principles. Souls weak in grace are too apt to deny, and in their practices to contradict their own principles; and O that this age could not furnish us with too many instances of this nature! 0 what is that which is the reproach of religion, and the dishonour of God and the gospel, but this, that professors live below their principles; that they live not up to their principles? And let me tell you, Christians, there is nothing but a rich measure of grace that will enable a soul to live up to his principles. A man who is not rich in grace, will never be able to live up to his own principles, but will, upon every occasion and temptation, be ready to wound two at once, the honour of God and his own soul. Yea, men that are not rich in grace, will be ready to deny their own. principles, as many weak Christians did in persecuting times.
But you will say to me, " What are these gracious and holy principles, that a rich measure of grace will enable a man to live up to?' I will instance in those only that have most worth and weight in them, and they are worthy of all your thoughts.
(1.) It is your principle, that you must suffer rather than sin. It is your principle rather to undergo the greatest calamities, than willingly to commit the least iniquity. 'It is better for me to be a martyr than a monarch,' said Ignatius, when he was to suffer. Now pray tell me, what will enable a Christian to live up to this principle? Will a little grace, a little knowledge of God, a little faith in God, a little love to God, a little zeal for God, a little communion with God,—will this do it? Surely not. It must be much grace that must enable the soul to live up to this principle. When sin and suffering have stood in competition, many weak Christians have chosen rather to sin than to suffer, which has opened many a mouth, and saddened many a heart, and wounded many a conscience. Yea, such by their not suffering, have suffered more than ever they could have suffered from the wrath and rage of men. O but now spiritual riches will enable a man to live up to this principle; as you may see in Daniel, who had an excellent spirit in him, who was rich in grace and filled with the Holy Ghost. He lived up to his principles, he lived out his principles, when he was put hard to it; when he must either neglect the worship of his God, and make a God of his king, or to the lions' den. Now Daniel chose rather to be cast into the lions' den, than not to do homage to his God. He had rather suffer much, than that God should lose a dram of his glory. Of the same spirit and metal were those in Heb. xi., who, when they were put to it, did rather choose to suffer the very worst of miseries, than they would in the least dishonour the Lord, wound their own consciences, and make work for repentance. Of the very same spirit were the primitive Christians; they chose rather to be thrown to lions without, than left to lusts within. Aud so did Jovinian, Eusebius, Galiasius, Basil. Vincentius, Bolilas. By all which you see, that Christians who are spiritually rich, live up to this principle, to suffer rather than sin, when sin and suffering stand in competition; which babes in grace cannot do.
(2.) It is your principle, that grace and virtue are to be pursued after, for their own worth, beauty, and excellency. But pray tell me, what will carry a Christian out to this principle? Will a little grace carry a man out to pursue after grace, for the beauty, holiness, excellency, and spirituality that is in it? Alas, we see, by daily experience, that it will not do it. All other considerations put together, are little enough to draw men on to pursue after grace for its native beauty and excellency. Many seek Christ, but it is more for loaves than for love: and they pursue after the means of grace, not for the beauty, excellency, and glory that is stamped upon the means, but one to maintain his honour, and another to keep up his name, and another to bring in credit or custom, and another to please his friends, and another to silence his conscience. But few there are, if any, but those that are rich in grace, who are true to this principle, who pursue after grace for its own beauty and excellency. It was a notable expression of David, who was a man rich in grace, Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it, Psalm cxix. 140. O for a soul to love grace and the word of grace, for its own interest, for its holiness, purity, and glory of it. This speaks out the soul to be rich in grace. So Paul, a man rich in grace, pursues after grace for its own interest, for the beauty and excellency of it. He forgets what is behind, and presses toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, that if by any means he might attain to the resurrection of the dead; that is, to that perfection which the dead shall reach to in the morning of the resurrection.
The young philosophers were very forward to get the precepts of their sect, and the rules of severity, that they might discourse with kings and nobles, not that they might reform their own manners. Many professors in this age are like those philosophers: they are very industrious to get knowledge, that they may be able to discourse, and that they may be eyed, owned, and honoured among others, for their knowledge and understanding. But now souls that are rich in grace, they labour after greater measures of grace out of love to grace, and because of an excellency that they see in grace. Grace is a very sparkling jewel, and he who loves it and pursues after it for its own native beauty, has much of it within him.
(3.) It is your principle, that men must subject themselves to, and square all their actions by, the word of God. Now what will make a man live up to this principle? Will a little grace 1 Surely no. But great measures of grace will. Zacharias and Elizabeth were rich in grace, and they lived up to this principle; they walked in all the commandments of the Lord blameless, Luke i. 6. The apostles were rich in grace, and they lived up to this principle: Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conversation in the world, 2 Cor. i. 12. So in 1 Thess. ii, 10; Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably, we behaved ourselves among you that believe. O here are souls who live up to their prin