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sincerity as if they were the last words I should ever speak to you, that as Christ reconciles us to God, and makes us his people, so the mercy we obtain through him works to obedience and purity of heart, and can only be effectual to us by our living as his people, and fashioning ourselves according to his word.
And now, dearly beloved, I would exhort you by all your hopes to consider and lay to heart these words of St. Peter : “ Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” Once not a people, but now the people of God, is a blessed change in the condition of sinners. For the people of God are dear to him now as the children of his own bowels, the purchase of Christ's blood, the living temples of the Holy Ghost, and will be his people for ever and ever. Now not a people! Oh! the wretchedness of such a state, beyond what words can describe! to repeat the Lord's prayer with a lie in your mouths, when you say, “ Our Father," to have no share in Christ, not to be quickened by the Spirit, to lose your baptism, to have heaven shut against you : can you bear to think of this? And what hinders you from putting the question to yourselves with great seriousness, and godly concern - Am
I one of God's people, or am I not? have I obtained mercy, or have I not? If you have, then you know what sin is, that none but Christ could save you from it; and you are endeavouring for his sake, and in the fear of God, to put the accursed thing from you. Then you read the Scripture, to know what the will of God is ; then you are in a state of prayer that you may do it, and
a walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. Then if you were to be asked, What is the pearl of great price, and the joy and treasure of your hearts ! you could answer at once, Christ and his salvation.
But I say,
Then you know either that you have always kept close to God, and to your vow in baptism, fighting against sin, and growing in grace; or else that there was a time when you were ignorant of the things of God, regardless of your spiritual concerns, and lived only to your own will and pleasure; but that now you have your eyes opened to see clearly the danger and misery of such a condition, and are happily brought home to Christ. What can you say to these things, and what is it that hinders you from making the inquiry, Am I in Christ, or not? never entered upon this examination, and find a backwardness in yourselves to do it now, it is a very bad sign, , and you may be sure that all is wrong with you. You would not act thus in a worldly matter, or where a small property was to be gained or lost. But I what hinders you from thinking of the state of your souls, or how your lot is likely to be cast for eternity? Is it the farm, or the shop, trade, or daily labour? Hard indeed would the lot of all such be, if they were necessarily excluded by their condition in life from the common benefit of the Saviour of mankind. But this is contrary both to truth and matter of fact. For the knowledge of salvation, and strict attention to it, is not only consistent with any man's worldly business, but, when rightly understood, a help to it; as it engages him to a conscientious diligence in it, binds him to the law of sobriety, temperance, and frugality, and is the surest means of bringing down the blessing of God upon his endeavours. At the first preaching of the Gospel, both St. Paul and St. James tell us that the poor and busy part of mankind were the chosen of God, rich in faith, and heirs of his grace ; and it is to be hoped there are many such at all times, who “ seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, in the first place,” and at the same time that they "give all diligence to make their calling and election sure," are at least as industrious, prudent, and successful in their worldly affairs, as other men. But if you will still abide by this plea of business, as an excuse for your ignorance or neglect of the common salvation, then hear Christ. Martha, Martha,” says he, “ thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful;” Luke, x. 41, 42. As you love your souls, let this
, be a word of conviction to you, and suffer not a thought to arise in your hearts that any thing else is more needful. And again, when the servant who was sent to bid many to the supper of the Gospel, came and told his Lord that all with one consent excused themselves for worldly reasons, he answered, that “ none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper,” Luke, xiv. 24. What now must I say to you? And what would you
I think of me, if I was to tell you, in downright contradiction to Christ, that all may be well with you, though you slight his invitation, refuse mercy, and will not come in
upon his call to be the people of God? Refuse mercy! No, you will say, God forbid; that your appearance in
, this place, to offer up your prayers to God, and hear his word read and preached, bears witness for you that you do not; and moreover that you live reputably in the world, and have as good hearts and good meanings as the best. But now suppose you had never been baptized, and were told, in order to it, that you must renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; that you must believe all the articles of the Christian faith; keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of your life;" and that otherwise you could not be “members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven;" would not this put you to a stand ? Would you not think it necessary to have some proper knowledge, and inquire
carefully into the meaning of what you promise to believe and do, before you took the vow upon you? Would you. not ask your hearts over and over again, whether you were sincere in it? And could you think yourselves entitled to the benefits made over to you in baptism, if you did not seriously purpose to perform the conditions on which they depend? Well now, you have been baptized, you have been received into Christ's flock, you profess to believe in him, worship God in his name, and are called upon from time to time to understand why you. believe, what are the blessings you hope for, and what engagements you laid yourselves under: and what do you do? you plead- ignorance, business, want of time, civility of behaviour, the poor form of your appearance in this place on Sundays, and I know not how many other things, against real conversion by Christ, knowledge of your want of him, faith grounded upon that knowledge, and religion in the heart. My brethren, I am sure that none who take up these excuses are fit to be admitted to baptism, neither would they think of it themselves. You may make a great matter of your being baptized, and called Christians; but I leave you to judge, and I
pray God enable you to do it effectually, whether you
do not build a great deal too much upon it, and whether any can be the people and children of God, and heirs of everlasting life, without the knowledge of their baptismal vow, and a life framed according to it. If therefore you would be the people of God, you must know what it is to be so, and learn to pray that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints;" Eph. i. 17, 18. So St. Paul prayed
for the Ephesians; and so he taught them and us to pray for ourselves; hereby giving us to understand what a Christian state is, and that all alike, without any difference of high or low, must both know the nature of their high calling in Christ, and be earnest with God in prayer to be enlightened in it more and more, and have all the blessings of it confirmed to them, as what above all things they esteem and covet. God is a reconciled Father to his people, and takes delight in them as the children and heirs of his kingdom. Then before, we were alienated from him, and enemies to him, and so accounted of by him, or else we should not have needed the
mercy of reconciliation : do you know this ? Reconciliation was not effected by any work of our own, but is the gift and grace of God to us, and the mercy of it obtained for us by the obedience and sufferings of Jesus Christ: do you believe this? And do you see what a dreadful evil sin is, and what a curse there is in it, when it could be purged, and a way opened for us to the favour of God, with nothing but the blood of Christ ? perceive that your own sin must either be so purged, or lie upon your souls for ever? Do you know that the Holy Spirit must open your eyes to discern between light and darkness, life and death, to see your condemnation in sin, and deliverance from it, to incline your hearts and wills to embrace this great salvation, to rejoice in the faith of it, and to live unto God as those who are redeemed from their vain conversation in the world, and hope to live with him for ever? And are you walking with God according to this knowledge and belief, and whatever your degree of understanding, faith, and hope is, praying for the increase of it? This is being the people of God; and if you have any belief of the happiness of such a state, the present comfort and future glory of it; if you know, indeed, how lost you are in