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dispensed to mankind in general, but only to the regenerate, who are comparatively few. And can you restrain your wonder, that you should be the chosen objects of sovereign grace? or avoid breaking forth into ecstatic praises at so surprising a dispensation ?
Moreover, the design of your vivification, and the natural tendency of the principle of spiritual life is, that you may live to God; and therefore you are peculiarly obliged to make your whole life a series of obedience to him. Indulge the propensions and tendencies of the new nature; obey and cherish all the impulses and motions of the divine principle within you. To offer violence to the new man, to cramp and fetter its powers, to resist its motions, and suffocate its heavenly aspirations, is the most horrid crime. It is to attempt to murder the child of grace in embryo; and sure, this is the worst of murder. “Reckon ye yourselves, then, to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof: neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead; and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” And “if ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections upon (savour and relish,) things above, not things on earth. And when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
4. I request and importune those that are dead in sin, to “ use all proper means for the obtaining of quickening grace.” The exhortation implies no contradiction or impossibility; for though they are spiritually dead, yet their natural principle of reason is still alive, and capable of
exercising itself about spiritual objects; and God has enjoined them to make the best use they can of it, as the only way to obtain a better principle. God deals with us according to our nature and circumstances. We are corrupted creatures, and therefore he exerts his exceeding great and mighty power to work principles of holiness in us: but still we are rational creatures, and therefore he uses the powers of moral suasion with us, and justly requires us to exert our rational faculties in all the institutions of the gospel.
Be persuaded then, sinner, no longer to lie sti in security; but, “ arise, call upon thy God; if so be that God will think upon thee, that thou perish not. Lazarus! come forth. Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall give thee light.” Linger not, lest eternal death overtake thee. Methinks I see him just at thy heels, for “thy damnation now of a long time slumbereth not.” Arise, come forth at the call of the gospel ; otherwise, how wilt thou stand the shocking terror of that final alarm, “ Awake, ye dead, and come to judgment ?” But I must conclude with my hearty wish, “ That the hour may come,” and oh! that this may be the hour, “ in which the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.” Which gracious prediction may the God of Grace accomplish upon us all, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
THE WAYS OF SIN HARD AND DIFFICULT.
Acts ix. 5.-It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
You often hear of the narrow and rugged road of religion, which leadeth unto life; and some of you, I am afraid, have not courage enough to venture upon it. You rather choose the smooth, broad, down-hill road to vice and pleasure, though it leads down to the chambers of death. It must be owned, that a religious life is a course of difficulties, a hard struggle, a constant conflict; and it is fit you should be honestly informed of it: but then it is fit you should also know, that the difficulties arise not from the nature of religion, but from the corruption and depravity of the nature of man in its present degenerate state. A course of religion is disagreeable, is hard, is difficult to mankind; just as a course of action is difficult to the sick, though it is easy and affords pleasure to those that are well. There are difficulties in the way of sin, as well as in that of holiness, though the depravity of mankind renders them insensible of it. This is the view of the case I would now lay before you. There is a sense, in which it is true, that it is a hard thing to be a sinner, as well as to be a saint: there are huge difficulties in the way to hell, as well as in the way to heaven. And if you are insensible of them, it is owing, as I just observed, to the corruption of your nature, and not to the easiness of the thing in itself. It may be easy and pleasing to you to sin, just as
it is easy to a dead body to rot, or pleasing to a leper to rub his sores. But to a reasonable creature, in a state of purity, with all his powers uncorrupted, it would indeed be an unpleasing, a hard, a difficult thing, to take that course which is so easy and so delightful to you: as it is hard and painful for a living man to suffer the mortification of his limbs, or for a healthy man to make himself sore. If it be hard, in one sense, to live a life of holiness, it is certainly hard, in another sense, to live a life of sin; namely, to run against conscience, against reason, against honour, against interest, against all the strong and endearing obligations you are under to God, to mankind, and to yourselves: or, in the words of my text, “ It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”
This is a proverb, in use among various nations, which has received a sanction from heaven in this text. It is used by Pindar, Euripides, and Æschylus, among the Greeks, and by Terence among the Latins: and from the sense in which they use it, we are helped to understand it. “To kick against the pricks,” is an allusion to a lazy or unruly plough-horse, or ox, that when pricked with a goad, (an instrument used in ploughing, in sundry places, instead of a whip,) refuses to go on, and spurns and kicks against the goad, and so wounds himself, and not the driver. In such circumstances, it is much harder to kick against the goads, and resist, than to go on : if he goes on, he need not fear the goad; but his resistance only hurts himself. It is to this that the phrase alludes; and it signifies a resistance injurious to the person that makes it, when it would be both easy and advantageous to obey.
Hence we may learn the precise sense in which it is used by the mouth of Christ, in this pungent address to Saul the persecutor, whom we now know under the higher name of Paul the apostle.
Saul, animated with a furious, misguided, though honest zeal, against the disciples of Jesus, was now on his way to Damascus in pursuit of them; and had a commission from the highest court of the Jews to apprehend them: a commission which he was impatient to execute. This, in human view, was a very unpromising hour for his conversion; now it appears more likely that vengeance will arrest him as a criminal, than that grace will prevent him as a vessel of mercy.
But oh! what agreeable exploits of grace has Jesus performed! At the first introduction of his religion, it was fit he should single out some great sinner, and make him a monument of his mercy, for the encouragement of future ages. Therefore he surprises his fierce persecutor in his daring career, darts the splendours of his glory around him, and pierces him to the heart with this irresistible expostulation, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Saul, in a trembling consternation, replies, “Who art thou, Lord?” He thought he was only bringing to justice a parcel of contemptible, blasphemous sectaries, unworthy of toleration; and little did he think that his persecuting zeal reached so high: little did he expect to hear one crying from the throne of heaven, “ Why persecutest thou me?” But Jesus feels and resents the injuries done to his people, as done to himself. The head sympathizes with its members; therefore he answers, “ I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” And then follows my text, “ It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” q. d. “Since it is Jesus whom thou persecutest, the injury done to me will only rebound upon thyself; I am infinitely advanced beyond the reach of thy rage; and even my people, who now seem in thy power, can suffer no real or lasting injury from it in the issue; for under my management, all things shall work for their good; but thy persecuting fury shall prove ruinous to thyself, as the wild ox