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spent in good works is necessary before we can be pardoned; but more than pardon is promised: it is said, thou shalt be saved-thou shalt not only be instantly pardoned on believing, but shalt receive from Christ his Spirit, to save thee from the power of sin, and the danger of a corrupt heart, which would infallibly lead thee again to ruin, but which that Spirit shall so influence as that thou shalt never, never fall away: for this is the nature of the everlasting covenant, in which God hath promised, I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.*
Having now come to the close of our subject, we shall conclude with addressing three descriptions of persons: first, those who know nothing of this salvation; secondly, those who suppose they know it, but are yet in ignorance; and lastly, those who know it indeed.
1. To those who know nothing of these things. The jailer was awakened from his sleep by an earthquake, and compelled by the terrors of God to cry out, in the agony of a troubled spirit, What must I do? Would that I were able to raise such a storm of terror, as effectually to alarm you! but we can only forewarn you of what will come to pass. Most of I fear will go away, some what impressed perhaps with our subject, but looking forward with satisfaction to the business of to-morrow, or the pleasures of the next day, will expel the
*Jer. xlii, 40
momentary gloom from your thoughts; but be assured concerning our words, that to-morrow, and the next day, and every day as it brings you nearer to eternity increases the awfulness of the warnings of God, though delivered by weak men, till in the world to come they shall be heard repeated by the voice of God Almighty, and fulfilled to your perdition. Then take heed, men and brethren, how ye hear! and believe us when we say that if you neglect to cry for mercy now, you may expect on your death-bed, when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind-when distress and anguish cometh upon you, that Christ will say of you, Now they call upon me, but I will not answer; they seek me early, but they shall not find me. While you are yet in this world the Lord Jesus is invested in the glory of grace; and mercy and peace are the attendants of his throne. Still he continues to hold out his right hand to sinners, till he shall lift it up to heaven and swear that time shall be no more. Then, not the ground shall tremble, or a single building be shaken, but the foundations of the round world shall be discovered, when its flaming walls shall give way at his rebuke, the pillars of the universe shall totter to their basis, and the whole sink into universal ruin. Then you will cry, What shall I do? but there will be no answer-you will call to the rocks to fall on you, but they will not hear. Then stir up yourselves to the belief of these things, and flee from the wrath
2. Let us address those who suppose they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but are mistaken. To you it appears an easy thing to believe, and yet your faith, such as it is, gives you but little pleasure, little profit. And the reason is, that you have never repented. Alas! how many professors of the Gospel are deceived in this particular! Having continually heard that salvation is by faith, they adopt this doctrine as their own; but their hearts were never broken; they never fled, as for their life, to Jesus Christ; and though they thus profess to rest upon him, their lives are as unfruitful as their hearts are hard. They are sometimes assaulted with fears which they have learnt to call unbelief: but they are only the misgivings of conscience, warning them that they are building upon the sand. To you then, we preach St. Peter's words, rather than St. Paul's, which he used in addressing a people very differently disposed from the jailer, Repent ye, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. We would not presume to say these things if they tended to discourage any of you; but exhort you to begin again and enter in at the strait gate.
3. Lastly those who know in truth the salvation of Jesus Christ. It is said in the context, that the keeper of the prison rejoiced, believing in God; even that very night; he rejoiced before it was day. This would be called enthusiasm by some who give that name to all pretended assurance of pardon. It is not
often that assurance is obtained so soon: but we may tell you that if you have now believed, you shall be saved, you are saved. Rejoice therefore, in hope of the glory of God. Soon shall the Spirit witness with your spirit, that you are the children of God-ere long you shall know what it is to be saved: when, amidst the wreck of a shattered world, and the dissolution of all things, you shall, like Paul and Silas in the earthquake, stand unmoved at the danger, and rise superior to the ruin.
EPHESIANS ii, 1-3.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
In order to preserve in our minds a constant remembrance of our union to Christ, and dependence upon him, it has pleased the Holy Ghost in the scriptures to represent the principal operations of grace in the heart, in terms which correspond to the different parts of Christ's work and sufferings upon earth. Thus our deliverance from sin is called in the Colossians, circumcision in Christ-a putting off of the