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to which it exposes them both in this life and the life to come. They cannot bear to hear that they are walking in darkness, and know not at what they stumble, nor the fatal consequences of stumbling. But they have no reason to complain of those who clearly point out their danger. It is an act of kindness to point out the danger to which a blind man is exposed, and to direct a man who is lost, to the right road from which he is wandering. Sinners are really walking in the path of the destroyer, who is leading them captive at his will; they are really groping in darkness, and wandering from the strait and narrow path to eternal life, and must perish, unless they are made to see and avoid the dangers with which they are surrounded. But they will not take one step to avoid danger until they see it; and they will not see it if they can possibly help seeing it. This all faithful teachers know; and therefore feel themselves under indispensable obligation to show them their danger, in the plainest and most impressive manner. They watch for souls as those who must give account, and stand responsible if any perish through their neglect, or unfaithfulness. They are to warn sinners of their danger, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, whether they are pleased, or displeased. And if they do hear, they will be thankful for the most solemn warnings and the most searching truths, addressed to their consciences. They will find that the truths which they most hated and opposed, did them the most good.
3. If sinners are blind to the objects which are insensibly leading them to destruction, then they are in extreme danger of being finally lost. All things conspire to destroy them, because they abuse all things with which they are connected and concerned. Prosperity tends to destroy them. If God treats them kindly, and pours the blessings of providence into their bosoms, they are disposed to abuse every favor they enjoy. If God frowns
upon them, and subjects them to every species of adversity, they will murmur and complain, and abuse his holy and righteous chastisements. If he uses the best means of grace with them, they will abuse them, and take encouragement from them to continue in impenitence and unbelief. If he waits to be gracious to them, and spares their lives and their health, they will live to themselves, and not to him. If he alarms their fears, and they cannot forbear to read and hear, seek and strive to escape future and eternal misery, they will trust in themselves that they are righteous, and on that account, refuse to submit to the self denying terms of salvation. The more they think, and say, and do themselves, and the more is said to them, and done for them, the more their darkness increases, and the more stumbling blocks they meet with. Their path is like the setting sun, which withdraws every beam of light from the eye, and leaves every one in total darkness. This they find to be true, by their own experience, as they pass from childhood to youth, from youth to manhood, and from manhood to old age, whether they have lived in security, or whether they have lived in bondage through fear of death. As nothing has served to remove their darkness, but every thing has served to increase it, so every thing is armed against them, and threatens their final ruin. If you should ask any sinner of any age, character or condition, whether the path in which he is now walking grows any lighter, or his prospects of future and eternal happiness any brighter, he will answer, No; but the longer he lives, his path grows darker and darker. And the most aged sinner walks in the greatest darkness, and is most exposed to stumble and fall, and rise no more.
Thick clouds and darkness are gathering fast over the paths of sinners, and all things are conspiring to increase the danger of their being finally lost. There is not a gleam of hope in their case, from men or means. These have proved ineffectual, and they will continue to be ineffectual, though Paul plant and Apollos water, unless God sees fit to give an increase; which he has delayed to do, and may delay to do until the day of their death, and they close their eyes in everlasting darkness. And this truth, like every other truth they have ever heard, may prove a stumbling block, and an occasion of their endless destruction.
4. If sinners are constantly growing blinder and blinder, and more and more insensible of the things which are leading them to ruin, then they are entirely in the sovereign hand of God, who may save or destroy them, according to his holy and righteous pleasure. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God, who showeth mercy. And he has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion, and whom he will he hardeneth. This prerogative belongs to him, and he solemnly declares that he will exercise it. “ See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no God with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand." Sinners would fain flee out of his hand, and the false friends of sinners would fain take them out of his hand; but this is impossible. And their real friends have no disposition to take them out of his hand, but cheerfully resign them to his sovereign disposal. Though sinners are apt to think it is extremely hard that God should hold them in his sovereign hand, yet it is entirely owing to the blindness of their hearts that they think
For it is the dictate of their own reason and conscience, that they deserve everlasting misery, and that God would be
just and even amiable in making them the vessels of his everlasting wrath ; and that, without being reconciled to his amiable sovereignty, they cannot be happy either in this world, or the next. It is vain and dangerous, therefore, to say or do any thing, which tends to make sinners believe that they can find any path to heaven, in which divine sovereignty will not meet them, and in which they can arrive at heaven, without being cordially reconciled to it. This, however, is too often attempted, by those who deny the doctrine of divine sovereignty, and by those who profess to believe it, but never plainly and fully preach it. It is easy to bring sinners out of any darkness but that which arises from divine sovereignty; for it is easy to make them see that there is no difficulty in the way of their salvation, but what, with their natural hearts, they can surmount, if they are not obliged to exercise unconditional submission to divine sovereignty. They are often willing to do any thing and every thing else rather than to be for ever miserable; but this they say and feel that they cannot do. But it is vain and dangerous to tell them that they need not, and ought not, to do this. Whether they see it, or their teachers see it, or not, they are in the sovereign hand of God; and they must see, and believe, and love this truth, or they can never truly love and enjoy God. If they finally stumble at this truth, they stumble never to rise again. And no means that men can use, and no light that they can exhibit, can prevent their stumbling and perishing.
5. Since sinners are walking in darkness and blind to every thing which is insensibly leading them to destruction, it is owing to the distinguishing and astonishing grace of God that any are saved. Their darkness is irremovable by any human means, and all external objective light serves to increase it. Their eyes have they closed, and will not open them, and God might justly leave them to walk in their own chosen way of darkness. It is, therefore, mere sovereign and distinguishing grace in God, who caused the light at first to shine out of darkness, to shine in their hearts, and give them the light of the knowledge of his glory, in the face of Jesus Christ. When God calls any out of darkness into his marvellous light, they never fail gratefully to acknowledge his undeserved and distinguishing mercy. It looks astonishing that they should be taken,
, while others are left.
6. This subject now calls upon all to inquire whether they have ever been made the subjects of God's special grace. Have they ever found themselves walking in darkness? Has their darkness ever been removed? And is their present path, like the shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day? Does the present state of sinners here appear to you very
dangerous and deplorable? Do you take pains to remove stumbling blocks? They are thrown in from every quarter.
7. Let the blind and deaf immediately perform the duty, which God expressly enjoins upon them. * Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.” This command you are bound to obey, and if you refuse to obey, God will eventually say, “ Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears,” that they may hear their sentence of final condemnation, and see and take the place of their eternal punishment.
SERMON XI X.
FEEBLE MINDED CHRISTIANS.
A BRUISED reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he
send forth judgment unto victory. - MATTHEW, xii. 20.
In order to understand these words, it seems necessary to read a number of the preceding verses with which they are intimately connected. After Christ had healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day, “ Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence; and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all, and charged them that they should not make him known: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold, my servant whom I have chosen ; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased : I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.” Something like this seems to be the true sense of the passage : “ You Jews, imagine that the Messiah will come to set up a temporal kingdom in this world, to aggrandize your nation, and save them from the oppression and tyranny of ihe Gentiles, to whom you have so long been subjected. But in this you are greatly deceived. I, who profess to be the promised Messiah, am not come to gain temporal, but spiritual victories. I am not come to execute vengeance, but to display mercy, agreeably to the predictions concerning the promised Messiah,
which you have often read in the prophecies of Isaiah and other prophets. I am come to seek that which was lost,