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AN INDUCEMENT TO COME TO CHRIST.
JOHN WITHERSPOON, D. D. LL. D.
Col. N. C. P.
Rev. iii. 17. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and bave need of nothing ; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
TAVING, in a former discourse, proved and illustra1 ted this truth, that all mankind are by nature in a ftate of fin and misery, under the bondage of corruption, and liable to the wrath of God :-I proceed now to the Jecond thing proposed, which was to shew you, that being brought to a lively sense and genuine conviction of this, is the first, and a necessary step to the saving knowledge of God in Chrift.
On this I shall not need to spend much time, as it is so exceedingly plain, both in itself, and from what hath been already said. It is, however, necessary to set it clearly before you, in order to lay a foundation for the improve. ment of the subject.
If the doctrine of Christ, and of him crucified, proceeds upon the supposition of our sinful and miserable condition by nature, then surely it can neither be valued, embraced, nor improved ; and indeed, I think hardly understood by those who know not this their natural state. What Chrift hath done, and promises to do in our be. half, is designed as a remedy for our distressed condition ; and therefore, till the distress is known, the remedy will be set at nought. If a physician should offer his care and skill for the recovery of a man, who esteemed himself in perfect health, would he not deride the proposal, so long as he continued in that opinion? If any man should offer a charitable supply of clothes and food to one, who imagined himself immensely rich, and gloried in his riches, would he not look upon it as the grossest insult?
Just so is the Gospel treated by all such as see not their misery. What is the substance of the Gospel ? ~ To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the fons of men. Behold! I preach to you Christ crucified, a Saviour, suited to your necessities, able to save to the uttermost, all that come to God through him. He is well fitted to be a Mediator between you and your offended Maker. He hath offered himself up, a sacrifice to the justice of God, for your sins, by the merit of which, you may be saved fram deserved and impending ruin. He offers himself as a guide, to direct your feet in the way of peace-to stand by you in the difficulties and dangers to which you are exposed, and to give you, by his communicated strength, a complete victory over all your enemies."
What reply doth the inconvinced finner make to all this? Why he faith, “I know nothing of this misery you suppose, wherefore then a Saviour? I see no fin, what neceility then for an atonement? I fear no wrath, therefore will seek for no intercessor. My eyes are open,
therefore therefore I will have no guide. I know of no enemies, and therefore will not enter into contention with a shadow, or flee when no man pursueth.”
These, my brethren, are either directly or implicitly the thoughts of men, in a secure and unconvinced state; and while they are so, they can see no form nor comeliness in the Saviour, nor any beauty that they should desire him.
It is otherwise with the broken in spirit. He sees his own vileness and unworthiness, and therefore cannot lift his eyes to God, but through the atoning blood of Christ. He fears the avenger of blood, and therefore flies to the city of refuge–The message of the Gospel is to him indeed glad tidings of great joy, and he counts it a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.
The justice of this representation you may see from what our Saviour himself says, of the end of his coming : They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are fick : But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous, but finners to repentance.
See also the terms of his invitation. Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you resi.
Appetite and knowledge of necessity is first required, or supposed to the bestowing of gospel blessings. Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.
I shall only add, that we find by the instances recorded in scripture, of such as were converted by the preaching of the Gospel, that their conversion took its rise from conviction of sin.—Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Min and brethren, what Jhall we do ? See also the instance of the jailor-Then he called for a light,
and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas: And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
Repentance unto life, and the return of the finner to God, proceeds from the same cause in every age. Who are the persons who believingly apply to Christ for the pardon of their fins, but those who see they are undone without him? Who are the persons in whose eyes he is mult precious, and who maintain the most habitual dependence upon him? Are they not those who have been most effectually humbled, and see their own insufficiency for any thing that is good ?
From all this I conclude, that none can come to Chrift by faith, but those who see themselves to be wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked."
Let us now make some improvement of what hath been said upon this subject for your instruction and direction.
1. I would improve what has been said on this subject, for discovering the danger of many among us who have never yet been brought to a just sense of their character and state. Even the general belief that such often have in the scriptures may shew them what they have to fear.
I might no doubt first of all observe, how very guilty ' and miserable those are, who are most notorious for fins
of the groffest and most shameful kind. But my subject leads me more directly to consider who are in general unrenewed, than to mark the several degrees of guilt in particular sinners. From the text, therefore, and the illustration of it, I am authorised to declare to you, and I beseech you to hear it with application, that all such as were never brought to a real discovery and inward sense of their miserable condition by nature, are still in a state of wrath, and itrangers to the power of religion, what. ever may be their profession, and whatever may be their present peace. Oh! how easy is it to lay alleep a natural conscience, and to keep a deceitful corrupt heart in a state of ease and security? Some formality in outward duty, some moderation in fin, so to speak, the natural decay and weakness of human passions or youthful lusts, in a character formed by human prudence, and regulated by health, credit or gain, is often made to supply the place of a heart renewed by the Spirit and grace of God. But consider, I beseech you, that though some may be tenfold more the children of the devil than others, yet all by nature are the servants of fin; and except a man be born again, be cannot see the kingdom of God. It is not only such as are prophane or unclean ; such as riot in brutish sensibility; such as are the plagues of human society; who live in brawls and contention, but all in whom an essential change has never been wrought, that are thus concluded under condemnation.
It is usual for men to take encouragement, from seeing others worse than themselves; and to consider all the threatenings in scripture, as levelled against the chief and capital offenders ; but my text is chiefly directed to such as say they are rich, and increased with goods. Can you say then, my brethren, that you have been brought under genuine convictions of sin? Have you been obliged to fall down prostrate before God, when fitting upon the throne of his holiness? Have you found the sentence of death in yourselves, and discovered no remedy but in Christ? If this has never been your case, you have reason to fear, that you are yet in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
But I must tell you also, that this is matter of feeling, more than of profession. It is not enough to speak honourably of Christ or of his works. Many do so, who