Page images
[ocr errors]

nally; " for there is no other name given unto them, whereby they may be saved, Acts iv. 12. He is the Way;' men without him are Cains, wanderers, vagabonds:-he is the Truth; men without him are liars, like the devil, who was so of old :-he is the Life;" without him men are dead, dead in trespasses and sins:-he is the Light; without him men are in darkness, and go they know not whither:he is the Vine; those that are not grafted in him are withered branches, prepared for the fire:-he is the Rock; men not built on him are carried away with a flood:-he is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the author and the ender, the founder and the finisher of our salvation. He that hath not him, hath neither beginning of good, nor shall have end of misery. O blessed Jesus ! how much better were it not to be, than to be without thee !-never to be born, than not to die in thee! A thousand hells come short of this, eternally to want Jesus Christ, as men do that want the gospel.

(2.) They want all holy communion with God, wherein the only happiness of the soul doth consist. He is the life, light, joy, and blessedness of the soul;—without him the soul in the body is but a dead soul in a living sepulchre. It is true, there be many that say,

. “ Who will show us any good ?" but unless the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us, we perish for evermore. Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord; and our heart is unquiet until it come to thee." You who have tasted how gracious the Lord is, who have had any converse and communion with him in the issues and goings forth of his grace, those delights of his soul with the children of men, would you live-would not life itself, with a confluence of all earthly endearments, be a very hell—without him? Is it not the daily language of your hearts, “Whom have we in heaven but thee? and on earth there is nothing in comparison of thee?” The soul of man is of a vast, boundless comprehension; so that if all created good were centred into one enjoyment, and that bestowed upon one soul, because it must needs be finite and limited, as created, it would give no solid contentment to his affections, nor satisfaction to his desires. In the presence and fruition of God alone there is joy for evermore; at his right hand are rivers of pleasure, the well-springs of life and blessedness. Now, if to be without cominunion with God in this life, wherein the soul hath so many avocations from the contemplation of its own misery (for earthly things are nothing else), is so unsupportable a calamity; ah! what shall that poor soul do that must want him for eternity ?-as all they must do who want the gospel.

John xiv. 6.
2 John i. 3–5; Eph. iv. 18; John xv. 5; Matt. vii. 26, 27; Matt. xvi. 18.
* Ps, iv, 6.


(3.) They want all the ordinances of God,—the joy of our hearts' and comfort of our souls. Oh! the sweetness of a Sabbath! the heavenly raptures of prayer!-oh! the glorious communion of saints, which such men are deprived of! If they knew the value of the hidden pearl, and these things were to be purchased, what would such poor souls not part with for them?

(4.) They will at last want heaven and salvation. They shall never come to the presence of God in glory, never inhabit a glorious mansion;—they shall never behold Jesus Christ, but when they shall call for rocks and mountains to fall upon them, to hide them from his presence ;—they shall want light in utter darkness, want life under the second death, want refreshment in the midst of flames, want healing under gnawing of conscience, want grace continuing to blaspheme, want glory in full misery ;-and, which is the sum of all this, they shall want an end of all this; for “their worm dieth not, neither is their fire quenched.”

3. Because being in all this want, they know not that they want any thing, and so never make out for any supply. Laodicea knew much; but yet because she knew not her wants," she had almost as good have known nothing. Gospelless men know not that they are blind, and seek not for eye-salve; they know not that they are dead, and seek not for life. Whatever they call for, not knowing their wants, is but like a man's crying for more weight to press him to death; and therefore, when the Lord comes to any with the gospel, he is " found of them that sought him not, and made manifest to them that asked not after him," Rom. x. 20. This is a seal


their misery, without God's free mercy, like the stone laid upon the mouth of the cave by Joshua, to keep in the five kings, until they might be brought out to be hanged. All that men do in the world is but seeking to supply their wants;—either their natural wants, that nature may be supplied; or their sinful wants, that their lusts may be satisfied; or their spiritual wants, that their souls may be saved. For the two first, men without the gospel lay out all their strength; but of the last there is amongst them a deep silence. Now this is all one as for men to cry out that their finger bleeds, whilst a sword is run through their hearts, and they perceive it not;—to desire a wart to be cured, whilst they have a plague-sore upon them. And hence perhaps it is that they are said to go to hell “ like sheep,” Ps. xlix. 14,—very quietly, without dread, as a bird basting to the * Ps. xlii. 1, 2, xxxiv. 1-4, &c.

7 Rev. vi. 16. 3 Matt. xxii. 13; Luke xvi. 24; Mark ix. 43, 44; Isa. lxvi. 24. 4 Rev. ii, 17.

5 Josh. x, 18. 8 « Ego propere ad inferos, nec est ut aliquid pro me agas." —Advocatus quidam moriens, apud Bel. de arte mor., lib. ii. cap. 10.

לשְׁאוֹל וּ

[merged small][ocr errors]

snare, and not knowing that it is for his life, Prov. vii. 23,—and there lie down in utter disappointment and sorrow for evermore.

4. Because all mercies are bitter judgments to men that want the gospel ;-all fuel for hell,-aggravations of condemnation ;--all cold drink to a man in a fever, pleasant at the entrance, but increasing its torments in the close ;-like the book in the Revelation, sweet in the mouth, but bitter in the belly. When God shall come to require his bread and wine, his flax and oil, peace and prosperity, liberty and victories of gospelless men, they will curse the day that ever they enjoyed them. So unspiritual are many men's minds, and so unsavoury their judgments, that they reckon men's happiness by their possessions, and suppose the catalogue of their titles to be a roll of their felicities, calling the proud happy, and advancing in our conceits “ them that work wickedness," Mal. iii. 15; but God will one day come in with another reckoning, and make them know that all things without Christ are but as ciphers without a figure,—of no value. In all their banquets, where Christ is not a guest," their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the field of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter,” Deut. xxxii. 32, 33;—their palaces, where Christ is not, are but habitations of ziim and ochim, dragons and unclean beasts;-their prosperity is putting them into full pas. ture, that they may be fatted for the day of slaughter, the day of consumption decreed for all the bulls of Bashan. The gospel bringing Christ, is the salt that makes all other things savoury..

Use 1. To show us the great privilege and pre-eminence which, by the free grace of God, many parts of this island do enjoy. To us that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death a great light is risen, to guide us into the ways of peace. Let others recount the glories, benefits, profits, outward blessings of this nation; let us look only upon that which alone is valuable in itself, and makes other things so to be,-the gospel of Christ. It is reported of the heralds of our neighbour monarchs, that when one of them had repeated the numerous titles of his master of Spain, the other often repeated, France, France, France! intimating that the dominion which came under that one denomination would counterpoise the long catalogue of kingdoms and dukedoms wherewith the other flourished. Were we to contend with the grand seignior of the east about our enjoyments, we might easily bear down his windy, pompous train of titles with this one,—which“ millies repetitum placebit,”—The gospel, the gospel! Upon all the other things you may put the inscription in Daniel, “Mene, mene, tekel,"—they are "weighed in the balances, and found wanting;" but proclaim before those that enjoy the gospel, as Haman before Mordecai, "Lo, thus shall it be done to them whom the Lord will honour !” The fox in the fable had a thousand wiles



to save himself from the hunters; but the cat knew

unum magnum," one great thing" that would surely do it. Earthly supports and contentments are but a thousand failing wiles, which will all vanish in the time of need; the gospel, and Christ in the gospel, is that “ unum magnum," that “ unum necessarium,” which alone will stand us in any stead. In this, this island is as the mountain of the Lord, -exalted above the mountains of the earth. It is true, many other nations partake with us in the same blessing. Not to advance our own enjoyments in some particulars,—wherein perhaps we might justly do it,—but take all these nations with us, and what a molehill are we to the whole earth, overspread with Paganism, Mohammedanism, Antichristianism, with innumerable foolish heresies! And what is England, that it should be amongst the choice branches of the vineyard, the top-boughs of the cedars of God?

Use 2. Shows that such great mercies, if not esteemed, if not improved, if abused, will end in great judgments. Woe be to that nation, that city, that person, that shall be called to an account for despising the gospel! Amos iii. 2, “ You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” What then? surely some great blessing is coming to that people whom God thus knows, so owns, as to make himself known unto them. No; but, “therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities.” However others may have some ease or mitigation in their punishments, do you expect the utmost of my wrath. Luther said, he thought hell was paved with the bald skulls of friars. I know nothing of that; yet of this sure I am, that none shall have their portion so low in the nethermost hell, none shall drink so deep of the cup of God's indignation, as they who have refused Christ in the gospel. Men will curse the day to all eternity wherein the blessed name of Jesus Christ was made known unto them, if they continue to despise it. He that abuseth the choicest of mercies, shall have judgment without mercy. What can help them who reject the counsel of God for their good? If now England has received more culture from God than other nations, there is more fruit expected from England than other nations. A barren tree in the Lord's vineyard must be cut down for cumbering the ground; the sheep of God must every one bear twins, and none be barren amongst them," Cant. iv. 2. If, after all God's care and husbandry, his vineyard brings forth wild grapes, he will take away the hedge, break down the wall, and lay it waste. For the present, the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of England; and if it be as earth which, when the rain falls upon it, brings forth nothing but thorns and briers, it is nigh unto cursing, and the end thereof is to be burned, Heb. vi. 8. Men utterly and for ever neglect that ground which they have tried their skill about, and laid out much cost upon, if it

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

bring not forth answerable fruits. Now here give me leave to say, and the Lord avert the evil deserved by it! that England (I mean these cities and those other places which since the beginning of our troubles have enjoyed the gospel in a more free and plentiful manner than heretofore) hath showed itself not much to value it.

(1.) In the time of straits, though the sound of the gospel passed through all our streets, our villages enjoying them who preached peace and brought glad tidings of good things, so that neither we, nor our fathers, nor our fathers' fathers, ever saw the like before us, though manna fell round about our tents every day; yet, as though all were lost, and we had nothing, manna was loathed as light bread, the presence of Christ made not recompense for the loss of our swine, -men had rather be again in Egypt, than hazard a pilgrimage in the wilderness. If there be any here that ever entertained thoughts to give up the worship of God to superstition, his churches to tyranny, and the doctrine of the gospel to episcopal corruptions, in the pressing of any troubles, let them now give God the glory, and be ashamed of their own hearts, lest it be bitterness in the end.

(2.) In the time of prosperity, by our fierce contentions about mint and cummin, whilst the weightier things of the gospel have been undervalued, languishing about unprofitable questions, &c.; but I shall not touch this wound, lest it bleed.

Use 3. For exhortation, that every one of us, in whose hand there is any thing, would set in for the help of those parts of this island that as yet sit in darkness, yea, in the shadow of death, and have none to hold out the bread of life to their fainting souls. Doth not Wales cry, and the north cry, yea, and the west cry, Come and help

, us?— we are yet in a worse bondage than any by your means we have been delivered from;if you leave us thus, all your protection will but yield us a more free and jovial passage to the chambers of death. Ah! little do the inhabitants of Goshen know, whilst they are contending about the bounds of their pasture, what darkness there is in other places of the land; how their poor starved souls would be glad of the crumbs that fall from our tables ! O that God would stir up the hearts,

(1.) Of ministers, to cast off all by-respects, and to flee to those places where, in all probability, the harvest would be great, and the labourers are few or none at all! I have read of a heretic that swam over a great river in a frost to scatter his errors; the old Jewish, and now popish Pharisees, compass sea and land to make proselytes; the merchants trade not into more countries than the factors of Rome do to gain souls to his holiness. East and west, far and wide, do these locusts spread themselves, not without hazard of their lives as well as the loss of their souls, to scatter their superstitions;-only the

« PreviousContinue »