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to help them to the life of faith and love, and to the mortifying and the pardon of their sins! How little skill have many miserable preachers, in the searching of the heart, and helping men to know themselves, whether Christ be in them, or whether they be reprobates! And how little care and diligence are used by them to call men to the trial, and help them in the examining and judging of themselves, as if it were a work of no necessity! They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace, saith the Lord," (Jer. vi. 14.) And Ezek. xiii. 10-12. "Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, peace; and there was nò peace; and one built up a wall, and lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar: Say unto them that daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall, and a stormy wind shall rend it. Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it?"
It is a plain and terrible passage, Prov. xxiv. 24, "He that saith to the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse; nations shall abhor him." Such injustice in a judge, or witnesses, is odious, that determine but in order to temporal rewards or punishments: (Lev. xix. 15; Prov. xviii. 5; xxviii. 21.) But in a messenger that professeth to speak to men in the name of God, and in the stead of Jesus Christ, when the determination hath respect to the consciences of men, and to their endless joy or torment, how odious and horrid a crime must it be esteemed, to persuade the wicked that he is righteous; or to speak that which tendeth to persuade him of it, though not in open, plain expressions! What perfidious dealing is this against the Holy God! What an abuse of our Redeemer, that his pretended messengers shall make him seem to judge clean contrary to his holiness, and to his law, and to the judgment which indeed he passeth, and will pass on all that live and die unsanctified! What vile deceit and cruelty against the souls of men are such preachers guilty of, that would make them believe that all is well with them, or that their state is safe or tolerable, till they must find it otherwise to their woe! When diseased souls have but a short and limited time allowed them for their cure, that a man shall come to them,
as in the name of their physician, and tell them that they are pretty well, and need not make so much ado about the business, and thus keep them from their only help till it be too late! What shame, what punishment can be too great for such a wretch, when the neglect and making light of Christ and his salvation, is the common road to hell? (Heb. ii. 3; Matt. xxii. 5.) And most men perish, because they value not, and use not the necessary means of their recovery; for a man in the name of a minister of the Gospel, to cheat them into such undervaluings and neglects, as are likely to prove their condemnation: what is this but to play the minister of Satan, and to do his work, in the name and garb of a minister of Christ? It is a damnable treachery against Christ, and against the people's souls, to hide their misery, when it is your office to reveal it; and to let people deceive themselves in the matters of salvation, and not to labour diligently to undeceive them; and to see them live upon presumption and ungrounded hopes, and not to labour with faithful plainness to acquaint them with their need of better hopes. But some go further, and more openly act the part of Satan, by reproaching the most faithful servants of the Lord, and labouring to bring the people into a conceit, that seriousness and carefulness in the matters of God and our salvation, are but hypocrisy and unnecessary strictness: and in their company and corverse they put so much countenance on the ungodly, and cast so much secret or open scorn upon those that would live according to the Scriptures, as hardeneth multitudes in their impenitency. O dreadful reckoning to these unfaithful shepherds, when they must answer for the ruin of their miserable flocks! How great will their damnation be, which must be aggravated by the damnation of so many others! When the question is, How come so many souls to perish?' The answer must be, 'Because they set light by Christ and holiness, which should have saved them.' But what made them set light by Christ and holiness? It was their deceitful confidence, that they had so much part in Christ and holiness, as would suffice to save them, though indeed they were unsanctified strangers to both. They were not practically acquainted with their necessities. But how came they to continue thus ignorant of themselves till it was too late? Because they had teachers that kept them strange to the nature of true holiness, and
did not labour publicly and privately to convince them of their undone condition, and drive them to Christ, that by him they might have life. Woe to such teachers that ever they were born, that must then be found under the guilt of such perfidiousness and cruelty! Had they ever felt themselves, what it is to be pursued by the law of conscience, and with broken hearts to cast themselves on Christ as their only hope and refuge, and what it is to be pardoned, and saved by him from the wrath of God; and what it is to be sanctified, and to be sensible of all his love, they would take another course with sinners, and talk of sin, and Christ, and holiness at other rates, and not deceive their people with themselves.
Direct. 1. My first direction therefore to you, is in order to the knowledge of yourselves, that if it be possible, you will live under a faithful, soul-searching, skilful pastor; and that you will make use of his public and personal help, to bring you, and keep you in continual acquaintance with yourselves.
As there is a double use of physicians; one general, to teach men the common principles of physic, and read them lectures of the nature of diseases, and their causes and remedies; and the other particular, to apply these common precepts to each individual person as they need: so is there a double use of ministers of the Gospel; one to deliver publicly the common doctrines of Christianity, concerning man's sin and misery, and the remedy, &c.; and the other to help people in the personal application of all this to themselves. And they that take up only with the former, deprive themselves of half the benefit of the ministry.
1. In public, how skilful and diligent should we be, in opening the hearts of sinners to themselves! The pulpit is but our candlestick, from which we should diffuse the holy light into all the assembly: not speaking the same things of all that are before us, as if it were our work to trouble men, or only to comfort them: but as the same light will shew every man the things which he beholdeth in their varieties and differences; (we see by the same sun a man to be a man, and a beast to be a beast, and a bird to be a bird ;) so the same word of truth which we deliver, must be so discovering and discriminating, as to manifest the ungodly to be ungodly; and the carnal to be carnal; the worldling to be
a worldling; the hypocrite to be a hypocrite, and the enemies of holiness to be as they are; and the sincere to be sincere; and the renewed soul to be indeed renewed. The same light must shew the excellency of sanctification, and the filthiness of sin: the glory of the image of Christ, and the deformity of that spiritual death which is its privation. It must shew the righteous to be "more excellent than his neighbour," (Prov. xii. 26,) and help men to "discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." (Mal. iii. 18.) We must not be like the miserable ungodly preachers, that cannot describe the state of grace with clearness and feelingly, because they never knew it: or that dare not discover the unsanctified, lest they detect themselves, nor judge them according to their office, lest they condemn themselves; and that preach to the ungodly as if all were well with them; and they dare not awaken the consciences of others, lest they should awaken and affright their own: and therefore are ready to scorn at all distinguishing preachers, and to take the discovery of regeneration to be but the boasting of hypocrisy, as if he that would differ from the most, or did pretend to the special privileges of the saints, did but as the Pharisee, "Thank God that he is not like other men;" or say, "Stand by, I am more holy than thou:" And if these preachers could prove that all men should be saved that will but say that they are Christians, they might then have hope of being saved themselves, without that serious piety which they so distaste. No wonder therefore if they preach in the language of Corah, "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift you up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord!" (Numb. xvi. 3.) But the Lord saith, "If you take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: Let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them." (Jer. xv. 19.) If you love not differencing preaching, make no difference from the true members of Christ by your hypocrisy or ungodly living; be such as they, and we shall not difference you from them. Read but the first psalm, and the fifteenth psalm, and the third of John, and the eighth to the Romans, and the first Epistle of John, and then tell me whether the Scripture be not a differencing word, condemning some,
and justifying others, and shewing the true state of the difference between them. What is there no difference between the heirs of heaven and hell? Or is the difference no more than that one hath the name of a Christian, and not the other? Or that one had the hap to be born where the Gospel was received, and Christianity was the religion of the country, and the other the unhappiness to be born where it was not known? O no, when the dreadful differencing day is come, men shall find that there was another kind of difference between the way of life and death: when many shall say, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" To whom Christ will profess, "I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity." (Matt. vii. 22, 23.) When "many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outter darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. viii. 11, 12.) What a difference will appear between those that now converse together, and sit here in the same seats, between whom the world that judgeth by the outside, discerns but little or no difference! When those things shall be executed that are written in Matt. xxv. and 2 Thess. i, O what a difference will then appear! When of those that were in the same church, the same house, the same shop, the same bed, one shall be taken, and the other left: and the felicity that was hid in the seed of grace, shall shine forth to the astonishment of the world, in the fulness of eternal glory!
I know preachers are ordinarily hated that thus difference between the godly and the ungodly; the very names of difference are matter of scorn to guilty souls, because they imply the matter of their terror. I have often noted this with admiration, in the success of Christ's own doctrine upon the Jews, (Luke iv. 18, 19, 22,) when he had so preached the Gospel, as that he had the testimony of the multitude that wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth, yet some were cavilling and believed not; and verse 25, 26, 27, he saith, "I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years, &c.; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, to a woman