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according to your ability; knowing that, "if ye are to do good unto all men, ye are especially to do it unto them that are of the household of faith." Do it then in every possible way2 And the more ye resemble the angels here, the more richly shall ye participate their felicity in a better world.]
y Gal. vi. 10.
z Here recommend the Bible Society, or Mission Societies, or Jews' Society, or Charity Schools, or Visiting Societies, or Charities of any kind, as occasion may require.
GREATNESS OF THE GOSPEL SALVATION.
Heb. ii. 3. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great sal
TO estimate our privileges aright, we should compare them, not with those of the heathen world, but with those enjoyed by God's ancient people the Jews. These were favoured with a revelation from heaven, and with ordinances of divine appointment, whereby they were to obtain acceptance with God. But their dispensation was burthensome beyond measure; their laws were executed with a rigour that was extreme; insomuch, that a man was stoned to death for only gathering a few sticks upon the Sabbath-day*. In fact, any presumptuous violation of the law, attested by two or three witnesses, brought with it the punishment of death". Now, when it is considered how very different a dispensation we live under, it may well be asked, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" For surely, if a dispensation introduced by angels only required such strict attention, and was so inexorably enforced, much more must the Gospel dispensation, introduced as it has been by God's only dear Son, and attested by the Holy Ghost, demand attention and observance from all to whom it is revealed.
The words which I have read, will lead me to shew you, b Numb. xv. 30.
a Numb. xv. 32.
I. The greatness of the Gospel dispensation
To learn what the Gospel salvation is, we are referred to the preaching of our blessed Lord and his Apostles
[Our blessed Lord did not systematically lay down the whole nature of the Gospel salvation; but he opened it with a sufficient clearness, that those who paid due attention to his word might easily comprehend it. What, for instance, could be plainer than the instruction given to Nicodemus, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life?" Here the perishing condition of the whole world is declared, and the means of their deliverance; namely, through the death of Christ as an atonement for sin, and by the simple exercise of faith in him. The same truth was repeatedly declared to otherse - and it was fully announced, that, as he completed in himself the whole of the Mosaic ritual, he was the only medium of access to God, the only Saviour of the world: "I am the truth, the way, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me."
His Apostles after him preached the very same doctrine; and to it, as preached by them, the Holy Ghost set his seal. When Peter opened the Gospel to the Jews, he bade them believe in Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins; and in like manner when he opened it to the Gentiles: and on each occasion the Holy Ghost bare witness to it, by a visible descent from heavens. So Paul also preached, and with the same effect, to the people at Antioch, and to the Jailor at Philippi". In a word, this was the Gospel which they all preached; and by this they prevailed, to establish the kingdom of Christ throughout the greater part of the known world'.]
But how shall I declare the greatness of this salvation?
[Consider it as imparted to us; who shall estimate the blessings of it? Take it either separately or collectively; and tell me if you, or an angel from heaven, can ever calculate the value of pardon, and peace, and holiness, and glory? Eternity would be too short to count the mighty But consider it as purchased for us; there all efforts to
c John iii. 14, 15.
d See also ver. 16, 18, 36.
e John vi. 51. xi. 25, 26. xii. 32, 33. and Matt. xxvi. 27, 28.
f John xiv. 6.
and x. 43, 44.
i Mark xvi. 15, 16.
estimate it aright are altogether vain. What shall I say of the incarnation of God's only dear Son, and of his substitution in the place of sinners? What shall I say of his obedience unto death; and of his working out a righteousness, wherein every sinner in the universe, if only he believed in Jesus, might stand accepted before God? It is evident that the theme is too vast either for men or angels; and that "the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of this love can never be fully comprehended," or adequately explored.]
Well, then, may we now be prepared to hear of, II. The danger of neglecting it
Here an appeal is made to every living man; and sinners are made judges in their own cause. Only consider what is included in a neglect of the Gospel salvation:
1. What ingratitude!
[Did Almighty God so compassionate our fallen state as to give his only-begotten Son to stand in our place and stead, and by his own obedience unto death to rescue us from all the miseries we had deserved? What shall be said of those on whom this stupendous act of grace makes no impression? If but a man, a fellow-sinner, had substituted himself in our place, and died for us by the hands of a public executioner, what would be thought of us if we felt no obligation to him? I put it then to you, What must God think of us, if we feel no desire to requite his unmerited and unbounded kindness to us, in giving his only dear Son to die for us? I appeal to all, May we not well expect to lose this salvation, if we are so indifferent about it, as to treat both it, and the means used to effect it, with neglect? I cannot doubt what is the testimony which the conscience of every one before me is constrained to give.]
2. What unreasonableness!
[Who ever thinks of attaining the means without the end? You cannot obtain any thing in this life without some effort suited to the occasion. How can you hope, therefore, that heaven, and all its glory, shall ever be attained without some effort? If I had to require all the exertions that poor heathen devotees employ to secure the favour of their gods, it were highly reasonable that you should engage day and night in all the most self-denying services that could be prescribed. But when I have only to say, "Believe in Christ, and be saved," your
k Eph. iii. 18, 19.
neglect is unreasonable in the highest degree. Suppose, when Moses erected the brazen serpent that all who looked to it might be healed, any had been so perverse as to say, 'No, I will not turn my head to look to it;' would you not say that such an one justly merited the death that must have ensued ? Such then is the desert of you who neglect the Saviour: and I will leave you to judge, whether your unreasonable obstinacy, in refusing to comply with such easy means, do not justly cut you off from all hope of that salvation which he offers to you?] 3. What horrible impiety!
[I am afraid of putting this in its true point of view, lest you should think that I wish to aggravate your guilt beyond all due bounds. But the Apostle himself represents it as "a trampling under foot the Son of God, and putting him to an open shame, and doing despite unto the Spirit of grace." Now, suppose you could see this matter as God sees it. Suppose you could see the Lord Jesus Christ coming in person to that man, and the man turning upon him and trampling him under his feet: then suppose you saw the Holy Spirit also importuning and entreating him to accept of mercy, and the man turning his back upon him, and doing all manner of despite to him: should you think that man had any just ground to expect a salvation which he treated with such contempt? This, then, is the very light in which God places it, and in which you also ought to view it. You, in fact, say to God, 'It was needless to send thy Son for me: I did not want him; nor will I receive him: and if I am not to be saved but by him, I am determined to abide by the alternative: for I will rather perish in my sins, than be at the trouble of seeking salvation through him.' I think I need not put it to you, whether the damnation of such an obstinate sinner be just or not: I feel persuaded that the appeal made to you in my text has made its way to all your hearts; and that you see how vain it must be for any to hope to escape the displeasure of God, if they continue to treat with such neglect and contempt the wonderful salvation provided for them.]
1. Those who have neglected this salvation
[I wish it to be particularly remembered, that whilst I address you, I do not lay to your charge any sin except that which is expressly specified in my text. I will grant, that, as far as any flagrant act of sin, you have been as innocent as you yourselves can affirm. But have you therefore committed no damning sin? Ask yourselves whether you have
1 Heb. x. 28, 29.
not neglected the Gospel salvation. Ask whether, if any man had thought as little of his earthly business as you have thought of that, and had entered into his temporal concerns with as little ardour as you have into the concerns of your soul, he could reasonably have hoped for success? Yea, tell me, whether you yourselves would not have been ready to ascribe his failure to his neglect of business? You would not consider an occasional thought about his concerns sufficient, whilst yet he paid no just attention to them: and so, if you now and then, in a formal way, perform what you call your religious duties, whilst the concerns of eternity do not really occupy your souls, you must not imagine that you are free from the charge which my text imputes to you. Consider, I pray you, what salvation is; and how greatly you need it; and how it is to be sought; and what an entire devotion of soul is required in order to a due performance of that duty. Tell me, Have you, with deep contrition of heart, mourned and lamented your sins? Have you cried to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, as if you felt really your perishing condition? Have you utterly renounced all hope in yourselves, and cast yourselves altogether upon him as your only hope? And is this still, at this very time, the daily habit of your mind? Nothing less than this is what the Gospel requires of you; nor without this can you ever enjoy the salvation which it has provided for you. I pray you, consider this well and provide, if you can, an answer to the appeal, the awful appeal, which God himself here makes to you
2. Those who are really seeking after salvation—
[If you are seeking salvation altogether in and through Christ, then will I alter the words of my text, and ask, How shall you not escape, if you are seeking this great salvation? Be assured of this; the salvation is great enough to answer all your wants, and to satisfy all your desires. There is in Christ an inexhaustible fulness of all that you stand in need of; and out of that fulness you shall receive to the utmost extent of your necessities. If a doubt or fear arise in your minds, know that none ever perished looking unto Jesus. "To those who are in him, there never was, nor ever shall be, any condemnation "." Every promise in the Bible secures to you the possession of that salvation. Are you blind, and guilty, and polluted, and enslaved? Behold, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and complete redemption, are are made over to you in Christ Jesus, and shall be imparted in the measure that your necessities require. Enjoy then your liberty; and let the salvation thus accorded to you fill
m Rom. viii. 1.