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against the word: and our settling ourselves on our lees.
e Isai. chap. 56. ver. 12. Job, chap. 9. ver. 4.
f Luke, chap. 13. ver. 3.
h 2 Tim. chap. 2. ver. 25, 26.
So it is here, as long as we continue obstinate, and hardened, we are taken alive at Satan's will, we are at his disposing. While we are at liberty, we are waylaid by his nets and traps, and taken, we are at his pleasure: as long as we are hardened in heart, we are in the Devil's cage: true repentance is that, whereby alone we purchase our freedom, whereby we recover ourselves; and therefore in Rom. chap. II. ver. 5. hardness of heart and impenitency signify the same thing: "After thy hardened and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath." Mark then: what is a hard heart? It is an impenitent heart. Dost thou harden thy heart? Then know that for the present thou art a dead man. If notwithstanding all God's threats out of his word, thou art not a jot moved, thou art dead whilst alive, as "the woman that lived in pleasure." And if thou continuest so, thou treasurest up wrath against the day of wrath, and the just revelation of God's judgments. God's word is the especial means to recover thee. A man that is in a swoon, they rub him to recover him, because there is life in him; but if dead, strong waters, or any thing else cannot restore him. Examine thyself then, does the working of the word rub, and gall thee? It is a sign there is life in thee; but if it make no impression, it moves thee not, it is a sign of a dead heart. Consider then the danger of this condition for a man to resolve on his evil courses, never purposing to alter matters. It exceedingly hastens God's judgments.
But leaving this, I proceed to the second point, which is to direct us how to work our escape. Though God threatens us, yet if we have but the grace to look about us, and remember ourselves: if God do but cause us to consider we have to deal with a merciful Father, and make us meet him by humiliation, then though our sins were as scarlet, yet submitting ourselves to our judge, living as obedient subjects, the storm shall pass from us: so that this is the second point.
2. Notwithstanding God threatens us, yet if he
gives us but grace to repent, and bethink ourselves, let our sins be never so great, we may be sure of
O that we could see with what a gracious God we have to deal! Canst thou but humble thyself? All these things shall speak peace unto thee. As an impenitent sinner is under the power of Satan, and liable to all misery: so contrary wise whoever returns and seeks the Lord, is sure to be under his wings, and free from all evil. Thinkest thou that God makes use of threatenings for thy hurt? No, he deals not with us as an angry judge, but as a compassionate father: men will take an enemy always at an advantage, when they may do him most hurt. God's terrors overtake us, he threatens us, that he will do this and this, that we may prevent it. He knows that unless his terrors awake us, we will rest secure. Before he smites us, he tells us; "Hei will whet his sword: He hath bent his bow, and made it ready: He hath prepared his instruments of death." He could shoot thee presently, and instantly run thee through, but he threatens thee, that so he may not strike thee. "Non te vult percutere qui tibi clamat, observa; He that saith: Look to yourself, hath no intention to strike thee." See what the prophet Amos denounces from the Lord: "I have given you cleanness of teeth, I have withholden rain, I have smitten you with blasting and mildew, Im have sent amongst you the pestilence, yet have you not returned unto me. Therefore" thus will I do unto thee O Israel, and because I will do thus unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." What judgments have befallen us, have befallen us for our own use, if so be we will be warned by them. The reason why God saith, he will overthrow us, is not because he means to do it, but that we may prevent it by repentance. Look into Jeremiah, chap. III. ver. 1. and see what wonderful passages are to
i Psalm 7. ver. 12, 13.
Amos, chap. 4. ver. 9.
" Amos, chap. 4. ver. 12.
k Chap. 4. ver. 6, 7.
in Ibid. ver. 10.
this purpose: there is a law case: "If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers." And in the twentieth verse: "As a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel." And yet see God's unspeakable mercy: "Return again unto me." And twenty-third verse: "Return ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding: turn to me, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you. Only acknowlege thine iniquity that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God." See God supporteth us the worst and vilest of all, and yet as it were intreats us to return. See then the conclusion of the second point; how, if God give us but grace to repent, let our former evils be what they will, the danger is past, the terror I mean of eternal destruction; so that you may say, and not in Agag's delusion, the bitterness of death, the second death, is pastp.
But I leave this and come to the third, for which I chiefly chose this text. You have seen how dangerous a thing hardness of heart is, how it brings certain death: and that if we have the heart to repent, we are safe. As to make it appear in an instance. It is not the falling into water, but the lying under it that drowns a man. Art thou fallen into sin? only lift up thy head: if thou canst be but thus happy, the promise of salvation belongs to thee. The main thing then is this.
3. It behoves us to set about the work of conversion and repentance presently.
God is angry with us, and we know not whether God will execute his judgments on us this day or no, therefore go about it presently. God will remove all our adulteries, and put away all our sins, if we will come to him within a day. Now what madness is it to neglect it
Jerem. chap. 3. ver. 13.
P 1 Sam. chap. 15. ver. 32.
"After a certain time," saith the apostle, according to that in the psalmist, "God hath limited a certain day:" Thou hast provoked the holy Ghost and now he limits thee a day: "Wherefore," saith the Holy Ghost, "today if you will hear his voice." Now is it safe think you to pass this day? A hard heart is a provoking heart, and as long as it continues hard, it continues provoking God, and despising the Holy Ghost. "To-day therefore hear his voice," that is, this present day. But which is that day? It is this very time, wherein you stand before God, and in which you hear me. If you embrace the opportunity, happy are you; if not, you shall give as dear an account, as for any thing you ever heard in your life. There is no dallying with God, take his proffer, take him at his word, in a matter of salvation. He calls to thee to-day, peradventure he will speak no more, therefore we shall find it is a limited day: "Exhort one another to-day, whilst it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." While it is called to-day, that is, stay not till to-morrow, but embrace the present opportunity. This day God holds out the golden sceptre, and my life for yours, if you accept it you shall be saved. If you take it not to-day, your heart will be more hardened to-morrow; and so it may be you will never touch it; your hearts will be like stones, and you will be incapable of yielding. "Godt is angry with us." Why? He is our adversary, because we bear arms against him, and will try the mastery with him. We oppose him in hostile manner as long as we continue sinful against him. What is the best counsel in this case? 'Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him." It is wisdom to do that soon, which must of necessity be done. If it be not, we perish for ever. "Kiss" the son, lest he be angry, and thou perish from the right way."
P Psalm 95.
r Heb. chap. 4. ver. 7. Psalm 7. ver. 11.
Heb. chap. 3. ver. 7.
u Psalm 2. ver. 12.