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appear in sheep's clothing, and transform themselves into angels of light, though inwardly quite other sort of creatures: they shall be stripped of their disguises, and exposed in their proper shape and hue; black and deformed and foul, like children of night and of darkness, resembling their father, the Devil; with ghastly countenances, dejected and amazed, terrified and confounded, full of inward guilt and anguish, in dreadful expectation of being cast into that furnace of fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels and his vassals, where the smoke of their torment shall ascend up for ever and ever.
how bitterly will they then lament the vileness and the folly of their past hypocrisy, and various arts of deceit which have brought them to that most miserable condition of horror and despair!
But how comfortable, how cheering, how joyful, how glorious will then be the hopes and expectations of the sincerely good Christians! With what impatience will they wait till that enravishing sentence shall be passed of, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world"! And what transports of heavenly delight will fill their souls, when they shall find themselves caught up in the clouds, by a bright guard of angels, to meet their Lord in the air, and thenceforth be for ever with him°; and shall see him come with celestial pomp, to receive them to himself, and with open arms give them this most endearing welcome, Well done, good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord; and then, triumphantly ascend together with him, and all his glorious train, into the heaven of hean Matt. xxv. 34. Thess. iv. 17.
vens, there to see the king of glory in his beauty, and enjoy happiness inexpressible with him, to ages without end!
Who can think of these glorious things without most earnest desires, and a holy ambition of being happy sharers in them; and which we all may be, if not wanting to ourselves. For our blessed Redeemer hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all true believers; he died for all, that none might perish, but those who wilfully destroy themselves; and he that truly believes in, and obeys him, shall certainly be saved.
Wherefore now it lies upon us sincerely to do our part, as our blessed Lord has, with infinite mercy and goodness, done his; and, with the greatest diligence and application, endeavour, by purity of heart and life, unfeigned lively faith, and entire obedience, to work out our salvation, and that with fear and trembling; lest we be infected with the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy; and, notwithstanding our fairest pretences and most sanguine hopes, be disowned and utterly discarded by our divine Master in the day of final scrutiny. Remembering what he says in the 7th chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, 21st and following verses, and which should make an impression upon our minds never to be worn out, and be often called to remembrance, and considered with the utmost seriousness and most awful regard: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy
p Isa. xxxiii. 17.
name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and done many wonderful works? and, as in the parallel place of St. Luke, have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets; and therefore, with confidence enough, could knock at the door, and say, Lord, Lord, open unto us. But then will I profess unto them, says he, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Here is a very specious plea for admittance, and, in some respects, far beyond what the best of us could now pretend to make; but because their works were not answerable to their profession, and the fruit they brought forth being evil, demonstrated the tree to be corrupt that produced it"; therefore, as so many false and hypocritical pretenders to religion, they were excluded, nay, thrust out of God's kingdom, as St. Luke very emphatically expresses it s; and not only Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets preferred there before them, for that would be no wonder; but people from all corners of the world, the greatest strangers, nay, the greatest sinners, publicans, and harlots let in, rather than hypocrites, because those often repent and reform, but these seldom or never".
Wherefore, to conclude, let us endeavour to form such right notions of God and religion, as will incline us in as good earnest to apply ourselves to his worship and service, and to pay obedience to his blessed will revealed in scripture, as we use to undertake and prosecute any thing else which we look upon as of the greatest moment and advantage to
God is infinitely holy, and therefore nothing can recommend us to his favour but the walking before him in holiness and righteousness of life; and he is the great searcher of hearts, and consequently cannot be imposed on by fair pretences, how specious soever; and it is the honesty and sincerity of the heart that he regards above all things, and is highly provoked by a dissembled religion, and esteems it as worse than none.
Let us therefore, for the future, resolve to worship and obey him with singleness of heart; and with the utmost diligence learn to be Christians indeed.
So shall we serve our God and Saviour without fear, with ease and cheerfulness and pleasure; with satisfaction of mind, and the applauses of conscience; without anxiety and dread, and dismal forebodings of the final judgment, when every one shall receive that recompense of his doings which is meet, from him who is always with us, and from whom no secrets are hid; and who will crown the righteous with eternal happiness and glory; but for the hypocrite he reserves the blackness of darkness for ever; where he shall eat of the fruit of his own way, and be filled with his own devices. Like what Eliphaz said to Job, when he supposed him to want sincerity in his former more than ordinary profession of religion; they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed y. And this is the hope of the hypocrite.
May we seriously consider these things before it is too late; and may they have their desired effect * Prov. i. 31. y Job iv. 8, 9.