« السابقةمتابعة »
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 go-I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them—I have married a 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 feasting, 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 genuine, 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 depravity of our own hearts; his yoke is easy, and his burden light; and it is our corruptions only that make them.
otherwise. And if there be outward evils in the way, there is enough in him to counterbalance all we may be called to suffer for his sake. The worst of Christ is better than the best of this world: Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt-And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands for Christ's name sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. (Heb. xi. 25, Matt. xix. 29.) Is not then the thorny path to heaven preferable to the flowery path to hell? Nay, are not the very restraints laid upon the christian designed for his advantage; and will not his momentary affliction work out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?
7. It is the fear of some that if they do come to Christ, they shall either be rejected, or dishonour him. As to the fear of rejection, it is wholly groundless it is contrary to all the promises, and the universal experience of all the saints: not a single instance of the kind can be produced. The tenderness and faithfulness of Christ both forbid it; and yet this fear is too apt to take place in the mind of an awakened sinner. In the midst of his distress he exclaims, 'None have dishonoured, offended, or neglected Christ so much as I have done! I never thought of him as a refuge, till on the brink of ruin; and even now how slow are my motions, how feeble my endeavours, how unfixed and unsteady my resolutions ! Formerly I thought my sins so small that they hardly needed pardon: now they appear so great as to be beyond the reach of mercy. Formerly I presumed : now I am ready to despair! But why so? Is not Christ as able and willing to save as ever he was? Go then, and cast yourself at his feet: tell him, that if you live or die, it shall be there: lay hold of him with
a trembling but resolving hand, and earnestly implore that mercy which he has promised to bestow. Remember also, that he who is a surety for God to thee, is also a surety for thee to God, that thou shalt not backslide with a perpetual backsliding; but be preserved amidst ten thousand temptations, and at length presented faultless before the throne of his glory.
s. Many who do not come to Christ now, purpose to do so hereafter. This indeed is generally the case with those who, while convinced of the necessity of coming to Christ, think it to be in their own power; so that the idea of self-sufficiency naturally leads to indolence, and carnal security. A little more sleep, and a little more slumber; a little more self-indulgence, and gratification of carnal appetites, is the wish of the spiritual sluggard. But God says, Now is the accepted time: to-day if you will hear his voice. Delays will but multiply your difficulties: you will become more hardened in a course of sin, more deaf to the remonstrances of conscience, and averse to all vital religion. What is hard to-day will be harder to-morrow; and it is only the present hour, the present moment, that we can call our own. Oh that thou hadst known in this thy day the things that belong to thy peace but now they are hid from thine eyes! The commands and promises of God respect the present time: Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth? If you slight his promises, and trample upon his commands, Satan, who now tells you it is too soon, will hereafter suggest that it is too late; and thou wilt mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed ; and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof! Many who have gone presuming through the world, have gone despairing out of it.
And now will you comply with Christ's invitation; or run headlong upon your own destruction? All that