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Surely this gospel, so true and faithful, so just and reasonable so suitable and advantageous, so excellent in itself, and so beneficial to us, is well worthy of all acceptation ! High and low, young and old, rich and poor, have equal need of it, may be equally blessed by it, and are equally concerned to bid it a most hearty welcome ! All orders and degrees of men should embrace this gospel with the utmost fervour of desire and warmth of affection, the most absolute confidence and ecstatic joy: But alas! how far is this from being the case! How far are the generality, notwithstanding their need of this gospel, and the blessed effects it would produce if properly received, from heartily and cheerfully embracing it! Thousands there have been in every age, and thousands there are in this age, yea, in this nation, who (whatever they may pretend to the contrary) manifest by their tempers and conduct that they are yet unacquainted with that gospel which they profess.
Now that we may be able to judge whether their character and conduct deserves our imitation, it is worth our while to consider, as was proposed,
II. The consequences of rejecting, or not being savingly acquainted with, the gospel.
1. Upon this head little need be said, the case is so exceedingly plain. It is sufficiently evident from what has been already advanced, that as the gospel finds all mankind in a lost condition, destitute of the favour and image of God, and liable to his wrath and eternal damnation; so it is intended to recover them from their fall, and to restore them to that holiness and happiness which they have lost. And it is a dispensation manifestly well calculated, nay, altogether sufficient to answer this end. It is a remedy, not only every way suited to our disease, but of sufficient virtue to expel it, and put us in possession of our former health and happiness. And all who embrace this gospel, according to the design of its Author, prove its efficacy, and find to their present and eternal comfort, that it does in fact accomplish all that it has promised to the ruined race of Adam.
2. But at the same time, be it observed, that as it is an all-sufficient remedy, so it is the only sufficient one. There is no other mean of health and happiness; no other way of salvation, but that which this gospel reveals. There is no other name, given under heaven among men, whereby we can be saved, but that of Christ, which gospel makes known. There is no other sacrifice for sin, which can take it away, and procure for uś a pardon, but that which this gospel points out. There is no other spirit to discover to us our want of that sacrifice, and to enable us to depend upon it with penitent and obedient hearts, but that which this gospel offers. Hence it certainly follows, (as it is in our text,) If our gospel be hid, it is hid to those that are lost. All that are unacquainted with it, that do not experience its divine efficacy, remain in that lost, ruined, wretched condition, in which all are by nature, and that without help and without hope, No other remedy will ever be offered, no other way of salvation ever revealed, no other mean of happiness ever prescribed ; but they must for ever suffer all the miserable consequences of their fall in Adam. They must remain diseased and dead in sin here, till they are adjudged to the second death hereafter: they must continue polluted, accursed, miserable, till they are bid to depart accursed into everlasting fire, which will not purify them from but increase their pollutions; where he that is unholy will be more and more unholy still, and of consequence will be the more tormented.
3. Such, in the nature of things, must be the end of those who obey not the gospel of Christ. They sin against the remedy, and must therefore perish without remedy: they will not come unto Christ that they may have life; they can receive it from no other, and therefore, they abide in death till they are sealed up in death eternal. But is this all ? Have they no other misery to dread but this, which is merely a consequence of their fallen state? This punishment, thus consequential, will, no doubt, be great beyond conception, and might well deter any considerate and serious mind from rejecting the gospel of Christ. But yet this is not all the impenitent have to fear. There is further reserved for them a superadded and increased misery, as a just recompense of their ingratitude and rebellion, in rejecting the salvation offered in the gospel. For surely, if, after all that has been designed by infinite love, contrived by infinite wisdom, and executed by infinite power: if, after all the unparalleled sufferings and astonishing transactions of the Son of God, with the amazing process of divine grace in our behalf, from first to last ; if, after all the superintending care, the awful judgments, and distinguishing blessings of God's providence; the plain directions, terrible threatenings, and comfortable promises of God's word; the solemo warnings, affectionate addresses, and earnest invitations of God's ministers; and above all, the condescending visitations, moving discoveries, and powerful pleadings of God's Spirit; if, after all this (I say,) we still ungratefully reject the gospel of Christ, and steel our hearts
against its efficacy, nothing remaineth for us, but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour us as adversaries, a judgment far more severe, and an indigoation far hot, ter than would have befallen us, if so much had not been done for our recovery.
4. Concerning this matter, the Scripture is plain and express. This, it tells us, is the condemnation, not that all died in Adam, and are by nature in a lost estate, (although ever on this account we are condemned, and the condemnation is sufficiently dreadful,) but that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. That provision is made for the instruction, holiness, and happiness of mankind, and they chose rather to remain in their original ignorance, sin, and misery; therefore, they shall be condemned to a greater punishment and a more aggravated ruin. This is further manifest from the conduct of God towards the Israelites, who abused the light and privileges of a more dark and imperfect dispensation; a dispensation established with far less apparatus of grace and mercy, and less illustrious displays of love and power; which did not cost the Godhead so dear, (if I may so speak) and upon the success of which his heart was not so much set. Now was their contempt and abuse of this inferior display of divine goodness suffered to pass unpunished ? Far, very far from it.
Every transgression and act of disobedience (says the apostle) received a just recompense of reward;” and “they that despised the law of Moses died without mercy under two or three witnesses.” May we not then argue with the apostle, “Of how much sorer punishments, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and done despite to the Spirit of grace! If they escaped not who refused him who spake on earth, (viz. Moses) much less shall we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven!" And “ If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression thereof severely punished, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken (not by angels, but) by the Lord himself, and was confirmed unto us by those that heard him; God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his will."
5. From these declarations of holy Scripture, they who neglect or reject the salvation of the gospel, may judge what they have to expect, even judgment in extreme without any mixture of mercy, and lasting as the days of eternity! Unhappy creatures ! “ Their judgment of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumberéth not! For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell," (though no Saviour died for them, no salvation was offered to them, or rejected by them,) stand delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment;" much less will he spare them who have multiplied their offences as the sand on the sea-shore, and have rejected a pardon, procured for them by the most exquisite sufferings, and ignominious, painful death of God's own Son !
6. And does it not then concern us, my brethren, most seriously to inquire, whether we reject this gospel, and neglect the great salvation offered in it? Can we omit-so to do, and not be wanting in prudence as well as grace? As devoid of wisdom as of piety? Surely, if we are careless about a matter of such infinite importance, we show that we as truly disregard our own welfare as the honour of God, and are as certainly enemies to ourselves, as to our great and gracious Creator. Inquire then, I beseech you, I do not say, into your knowledge, but into your experience in this matter, and ask your hearts, Whether you have seen your need of, and cordially embraced those blessings which have this day been set before you? Has the gospel been a means, through the blood of Christ and the Spirit of God, of ministering to you righteousness and life? Has it justified your persons and renewed your nature ? Have you found peace with Gon through it, and power? Adoption into his family, and a restoration to his likeness ? If you have hitherto, not only stopped short of these privileges, but have even rested contented without them, be assured, whatever knowledge you have gotten of the gospel in theory, you are yet unacquainted with it in experience, It has not, by any means, answered its intended end upon you, but is still really hid to you, and you remain in a lost estate, and are in the high road to be lost for ever!
7. May the Lord incline you to lay this to heart ere it be too late! May you feel your want of those blessings, which are freely offered you in the gospel of Christ, and gratefully receive them! The gospel has come to you in word, may you never rest till it also come to you in power, and with the Holy Ghost, and with much assurance! In order hereto, may you seek the Lord, while he may be found, and call upon him while, he is near! May the wicked among you forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and may you all turn unto the Lord, that he may have mercy upon you, and unto our God, that he may abundantly pardon! May you turn to him in true repentance and unfeigned faith, a faith of the operation of his Spirit ! May you ask that this repentance and faith may be given you, and seek, in the use of appointed means, that you may find! Thus may the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to every penitent, believing soul, be the powerful means of your salvation! Being justified from all things through faith in the blood of Christ, and sanctified through the operation of his Spirit, may your conversation be such as becometh the gospel on earth, till you receive your heavenly inheritance, that eternal life and happy immortality brought to light by the gospel! Amen!