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strengthen, and ennoble our nature, and advance it to perfection. But the difficulties in the way to hell proceed from the contrariety of that course to the best principles of human nature, and to the most strong and rational obligations; and consequently, the more we struggle with these difficulties, the more we labour to suppress and root out the remains of all good principles, and break the most inviolable obligations to God and ourselves. The easier it is for us to sin, the more base and corrupt we are: just as the more rotten a limb is, the easier for it to drop off; the more disordered and stupefied the body is, the more easy to die. To meet with no obstacle in the way to hell, but to run on without restraint, is terrible indeed; it shows a man abandoned of God, and ripe for destruction. Such an ease in sinning is the quality of a devil.
Upon the whole, you see, that though there be difficulties on both sides, yet the way to heaven has infinitely the advantage; and therefore, let me again urge you to choose it. You have walked long enough at variance with God, with your own conscience, with your own interest and duty: come now, be reconciled: make these your antagonists no longer. While you persist in this opposition, you do but kick against the pricks; that is, you make a resistance injurious to yourselves. For the future, declare war against sin, Satan, and all their confederates, and ere long ye shall be made more than conquerors; and for your encouragement remember,
• He that overcometh shall inherit all things: and I will be his God, and he shall be my son, saith the Lord God Almighty.”
THE CHARACTERS OF THE WHOLE AND SICK, IN A SPIRITUAL
SENSE, CONSIDERED AND CONTRASTED.
Matt. ix. 12.—But when Jesus heard that, he said unto
them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
THERE is no article of faith more certain than that Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient and most willing Saviour, “able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through him, and that those that come unto him, he will in no wise cast out.” They that entrust their souls in his hands he keeps, and none of them is lost. It is also certain that all the guilty sons of Adam stand in the most absolute need of him: in vain do they look for salvation in any other. Without him, they are undone for ever: and without him, their very existence becomes a curse, and their immortality but the duration of their misery. The disease of sin has so deeply infected their souls, that none but this divine Physician can heal them.
Since this is the case, who would not expect that Jesus would be universally the darling of mankind? Who would not expect that as many as are wounded, and just perishing of their wounds, would all earnestly apply to this Physician, and seek relief from him upon any terms? Who would suspect there should be so much as one heart cold and disaffected towards him? Must not all love and
desire him, since all need him so extremely, and since he is so completely qualified to be their deliverer?
But, alas! notwithstanding such favourable presumptions from the nature of the thing, it is a most notorious fact that this divine Physician is but little regarded in our dying world.
This all-sufficient and willing Saviour is generally neglected by perishing sinners.
There are thousands among us that have no affectionate thoughts of him, no eager longings after him, they exert no vigorous endeavours to obtain an interest in him, nor are they tenderly solicitous about it. They indeed profess his religion, and call themselves Christians after his name: they pay him the compliment of a bended knee, and now and then perform the external duties of religion, and thus have high hopes they shall be saved through him : but as to their hearts and affections, he has no share there: these are reserved for the world, which, in practical estimation, they prefer to him, whatever they profess.
Now whence is this strange and shocking phenomenon in the rational world? Whence is it that the dying are careless about a Physician? That a Deliverer is neglected by those that are perishing? The true reason we may find in my text, “They that be whole, need not a physician, but they that are sick;" that is, “ they who imagine themselves well, however disordered they are in reality, do not feel their need of a physician, and therefore will not apply to him; but they who feel themselves sick, will eagerly apply to him, and put themselves under his care."
This is the answer of Christ to the proud cavilling Pharisees, who censured his free conversation with publicans and sinners, at an entertainment which Matthew had prepared for him. The publicans were a sort of custom
house officers among the Jews, appointed by the Romans, whose tributaries they then were, to collect the levies or duties imposed by the government. They were generally persons of bad morals, and particularly given to rapine and extortion in raising the taxes. On this account they were particulary hated by the Jews, especially by the strict sect of Pharisees. Their very office would have rendered them odious, even though they had behaved well in it; for it was a public badge of the slavery of the Jews to the Romans; which, to a people so proud and so fond of liberty as the Jews, was a mortification they could not patiently bear. The publicans, therefore, were objects of general contempt and abhorrence, as an abandoned sort of men; and the Jews, particularly the rigid and haughty Pharisees, held no conversation with them, but kept them at a distance, as though they had been excommunicated. Hence, says Christ, concerning one excommunicated by the church for incorrigible wickedness, “Let him be to thee as an heathen man, and a publican,” Matt. xviii. 17, that is, have no intercourse with him, but treat him as the Jews do the publicans.
The condescending Jesus, who “ came to seek and save that which was lost,” did not conduct himself towards those
poor outcasts, upon the rigid principles of the Pharisees. They held them in such contempt, that they did not labour to instruct and reform them. But Jesus preached to them, conversed with them freely, used the most condescending, affable, and ingratiating measures to reform them, and called some of them to the honour of being his disciples: of this number was Matthew, the author of this history; once an abandoned publican, afterwards a disciple, an apostle, and one of the four evangelists, whose immortal writings have diffused the vital savour of the name of Jesus through all ages and countries. Oh.
the condescension, the freeness, the efficacy of the grace of Christ! it can make a publican an apostle! an abhorred outcast the favourite of heaven, and the companion of angels! What abundant encouragement does this give to the most abandoned sinner among you to turn unto the Lord! Let publicans and sinners despair of mercy and salvation if they continue in their present condition; but if they arise and follow Jesus at his call, and become his humble, teachable disciples, they need not despair; nay, they may rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and be assured they shall be admitted into the kingdom of God, when the self-righteous children of the kingdom are shut out.
When Matthew had embraced the call, he made a feast for his new Master, that he might show his respect and gratitude to him, and that he might let his brother publicans and old companions have an opportunity of conversing with him, and receiving his instructions. How natural is it for a sinner, just brought to love Jesus, to use means to allure others to him, especially his former companions! Having seen his own guilt and danger, he is deeply affected with theirs, and would willingly lead them to that Saviour who has given him so gracious a reception. Indeed his generous endeavours of this kind, though the most substantial and disinterested evidences of friendship, often excite the contempt and ridicule of his former companions; and the more so, as they are generally attended with the imprudent but well-meant blunders of inexperience, and an honest zeal mingled with wild fire. But at times such a convert is made the instrument of bringing those to be his companions in the way to heaven, who had walked with him in the ways of sin: and this is sufficient encouragement to such of you as have been called, like Matthew, to use your best endeavours with our fellow-sinners. Who