« PreviousContinue »
perishing soul. But hereafter thou wilt do me justice, clear me before the Lord Jesus, and acknowledge that thy blood is upon thine own head, that thou art undone because thou wouldst be undone, because thou wouldst take neither warning nor reproof.
Yet if now thou art not quite given up to a reprobate mind; if thy stupid conscience is not entirely past feeling; if thy worldly soul is yet accessible to some touches of Divine grace, some motions of God's Spirit ; if thou yet desirest to arise and return to thy long-despised Father, to that God from whom thou hast so deeply revolted; if this very day that thou hearest his warning voice, and hardenest not thy heart, though thou hast been hitherto most rebellious, he will yet shew thee mercy. Rend, o rend, your careless hearts, and not your garments, for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel ? Hath the Lord any pleasure in the death of him that dieth? Does not such an one die because he will die ? because he will not turn to the Lord with weeping, fasting, and praying ; because he will not be delivered from the world, the flesh, and the devil; because he will not be presented to God as a chaste virgin in Christ ? “Ye will not come unto me,' said once that dear Saviour, ye will not come unto me that ye may have life;' and shall we still give him room to complain in heaven as he did when on earth, or shall we know the time of our visita. tion, and hasten to him with all our aggravated guilt? If we choose this better part, as the Lord liveth we shall find him most willing and able to pardon our sins, and sanctify our nature, to create in us clean hearts, and renew right spirits within us; which may God grant unto us all, for his mercy's sake.
with fulness of bread, would soon cause them to forget the Lord, and trample under foot the promises and threatenings he had laid before them. He foresaw that their bearts would be drawn aside by the cares and plea. sures of the world, so as to remember no more the hea. venly Canaan, of which the earthly one was but a figure. He saw that the little concerns of this life would swallow up the important ones of that which is to come. Therefore, overwhelmed with holy grief, he looked up to heaven, and expressed in the words of the text the thoughts of his bleeding heart, “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !' Having breathed that solemn wish, he blessed them once more, and the same 'day went up to Mount Nebo, from which, having taken a view of the earthly Canaan, he committed his spirit into the hands of the Lord, to carry it to the heavenly one, while the dust of his body returned to dust.
Having thus related on what occasion the words of the text were spoken, I come, in the Second place, to dwell upon their general meaning; and, Lastly, I shall endeavour to apply them to your hearts. In the mean time, may the grace of God so assist me in speaking, and you in hearing, that Moses and the prophets' may never rise up in judgment to accuse us of having despised their solemn exhortations.
1. Since no scripture is of private interpretation, the words of the text certainly imply, that, of those who are called the people of God, whether they go by the denomination of Israelites, as formerly, or that of Chris. tians, as in our days, far the greatest part want true wis. dom and understanding in the things that nearly concern them : So that every minister of the gospel has as much reason as Moses to break out into this prayer, “O that they were wise, that they understood this—that they would consider their latter end !'
It is to be wished it were harder to make good the melancholy assertion ; but to the disgrace of our holy religion, nothing is easier. It has been granted, by the very Heathens, that the sum of true wisdom is to know
ourselves, and what is our business here. Now, suppose one was to ask most Christians, what they do here? And what is their business upon earth ? If they were to answer according to the maxims they follow in life, would they not shew their folly rather than true wis. dom ? Would not the rich man say, “I am here to take care of and enjoy an estate; to spend my time in hunting, horse-racing, cards, and company, to clothe myself with purple and fine linen, to fare sumptuously every day, and contrive various diversions to kill time and forget myself.” Would not the busy merchant, or anxious farmer answer, “ I am in the world to toil early and late: My business is to get an estate, and God has blest me therein ; for now my warehouses or barns are very nigh full, and I shall soon say to my soul, “Soul, take thine ease now, for thou hast much property laid up for many years.' A third class of people would answer, 66 We do not desire so much, and the end of all our labours is to pay every man his own, and then to settle in some comfortable way of business, and provide for our children.” Now, all these answers would be reasonable in the mouths of Heathens ; for after those things the Gentiles seek,' says our Ļord: And I make no doubt but the beasts that perish, if they were endued with the faculty of speech, could give as good an account of themselves, and attain unto all the wisdom of worldlings. For, though to provide for the body is part of our duty, yet it is but the least part of it. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' Thus speaks Christ and true Christians. Believe him! Ac. cordingly their answer to the question, mentioned above, would be as different from that of worldly people as light from darkness.
“ We are everlasting spirits, (would they say,) we came out of God's hands pure, and holy, and happy. But now involved in flesh and blood, partakers of the guilt of fallen Adam, and born into the world children of wrath, we have, by nature, proud and hardened hearts, whereby wc resemble the fallen angels; and earthly, sensual souls, by which we are not unlike the beasts that perish.
“ As for our real business in this life, it is not to get an estate ; for our Lord forbids us 'expressly laying up treasures upon earth. It is not to get preferment or a title ; for if all is vanity under the sun, as Solomon says, such honours are the froth of vanity itself. Nor is it to call lands after our own names, and leave them to our posterity; for this could not redeem our souls from hell. But our business is to get in time the one thing needful:' To recover a participation of the Di. vine nature, and a fitness to enjoy God in heaven. Our short life is all the time we have to do that great work in. We pass through the world as an arrow through the air. For a few months or years we are in a state of flesh and blood, only to try whether we shall be for ever happy with God, or for ever miserable with the devil.
6. This world is but our way to our eternal abode ; therefore, it is as great a piece of fol for us to set our hearts on any thing here, as for a traveller to fall in love with every object he meets in his way, which he has no sooner seen but he must leave behind. These bodies of ours, so far from having a right to engross all our cares, are but our prisons, wherein our immortal souls are chained down by Aeshly thoughts, blinded with false notions of good and evil, and dead to all taste of their true happiness. In this low state, we are called to rise far higher than an animal life; we are called to be born again' of the Holy Ghost, to become members of the kingdom, and to enjoy everlasting happiness with the Father of spirits in the realms of light. We are called to shake off those low desires, and that extravagant taste for worldly happiness which makes us wander unconcernedly in darkness and spiritual exile from
“We are called to give up all thoughts of rest here ; to put off worldly tempers ; to be delivered from the folly of our passions, and the slavery of our natural appetites. In a word, we are called to reform our whole nature, by a death unto sin; to renew our souls in the image of God, by a new birth unto righteousness; and to be fitted again for conversation with the holy angels and communion with God himself.
“ This implies that we must not only renounce pre. sumptuous sins; such as injustice, oppression, lying, deceit, drunkenness, and gluttony, with all kinds of impurity; cursing, swearing, and all branches of profaneness: For wise Heathens fled from those abomina. tions as from the face of a serpent; and Jesus says, they are works of the devil, and that those who are guilty of them are of their father the devil, whose works they do.
“ But we must, besides, be changed and renewed in all our tempers. Instead of that pride which turned angels into devils, we must be clothed with humility, and take up the cross of a despised Saviour. Instead of indulging covetoustiess and self-seeking, we must learn to delight in doing good, and in spending and being spent for others. Instead of lying down in indolence, we must arise with fervency of spirit, and do with all our might the good our hand findeth to do; remembering that the night comes when no man can work. Instead of envy, and strife, and wrath, we must put on the humble, loving, patient, gentle mind of the Lord Jesus. Instead of sensuality, and that turn of mind which relishes nothing but earthly things ; by heavenlymindedness our souls must be so transformed that we may be able to say with David, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee.' And, lastly, for those stony hearts of ours, we must get hearts of flesh, hearts affected with a sense of the love of God made man, to die a shame. ful death for us ;-hearts purified from vain desires by a living faith; exalted by a hope full of immortality; and transformed by Divine love into the very image of