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labour with becoming zeal to convert your hearers, when you yourselves are unconverted? O let it be a matter of deep and serious enquiry amongst us, whether we have felt the force and influence of the Gospel? Have we ever been convinced of unbelief? Have we seen the equity and reasonableness of the judgments denounced against us while in that state? Have we under a deep conviction of our guilt and helplessness, “fled to Christ for refuge?! Have we discovered the transcendent excellency 'of this salvation; and do we feel in our inmost souls its perfect suitableness to our own necessities, and its tendency to promote the interests of holiness? Can we say with the Apostle, that “what our eyes have seen, our ears have heard, and our hands have handled of the word of life, that, and that only, we declare” unto our people? In short, while we profess that “the ministry of reconciliation has been committed unto us,” do we experience this reconciliation ourselves? The salvation of our own souls, no less than that of our fellow-sinners, depends on this: indeed we are more interested in the Gospel than any; for if we continue ignorant of it, we perish under the aggravated guilt of rejecting it ourselves, and of betraying the souls of others into irretrievable ruin. We, of all people under heaven, are most bound to divest ourselves of prejudice, and to labour with our whole hearts both to enjoy the blessings of the Gospel, and to shew ourselves patterns of its sanctifying influence. Let us then, in compliance with the divine command, “take heed to ourselves, and to our doctrine, that, in so do. ing, we may both save ourselves, and them that hear us."
But let others also be aware, that though they may have no responsibility attaching to them as ministers, they have as Christians. I must beg leave therefore to say unto all, that as “ baptism is not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,” so the faith which they profess cannot save them, unless it be accompanied with a renovation of heart and life. Do not then be hasty to conclude that you are true believers: “ examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” Be assured, it is no easy matter to believe: it is by no means pleasing to flesh and blood: there is not any thing to which we are naturally more averse: what our Lord said to the Jews of old may be addressed with equal propriety to
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the greater part of nominal Christians, “ Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life.” But let it be remembered, that, however humiliating it may appear to our proud nature to renounce all self-righteousness and self-dependence, and to look for acceptance through the merits of Christ alone, it must be done: it will profit us little to have received the outward seal of his covenant, unless we possess also “ the faith of God's elect.” Our "lofty looks must be humbled, our haughtiness must be brought down, and the Lord alone must be exalted:” we must bow before the sceptre of his grace, or we shall be“ broken in pieces with a rod of iron.” If we truly and cordially “receive Him, we shall have the privilege of becoming the sons of God; and if sons, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” But " what shall our end be, if we obey not the gospel ?” What prospect have we, but to be “ punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power?” Behold then, life and death are this day set before you. Bearing, as we do, a commission from the Lord Jesus to preach his Gospel, “ we are debtors both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both
to the wise and to the unwise.” In his sacred Name, - therefore, we deliver our message; we are constrained to
deliver it with all faithfulness, “ whether ye will hear or whether ye will forbear.” He, who with a pentient and contrite heart believeth in the Son of God, and, by virtue of that faith, is enabled to confess him before men, and to honour him by an holy life, he shall “ receive the remission of his sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Christ.” But he, who believeth not on the Son of God, however moral he may have been in his external conduct, and whatever pleas he may urge in extenuation of his guilt, he, I say, “ shall not see life, but the wrath of God shall abide upon him:" he hath practically said, “I will not have this man to reign over me;' and the despised Saviour will, ere long issue this vindictive sentence, -—“ Bring him hither, and slay him before me.” The decree is gone forth, nor shall all the powers of heaven or hell reverse it, “ He who believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned."
DISCUSSION BY EXPLICATION. Mark xvi. 15, 16. He said unto them, Go ye into all the world,
and preach the gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Many are prejudiced against the fundamental doctrines of Christianity
Hence, while its authority is maintained, its mysteries are suppressed
But the declaration before us is of infinite importanceI. Explain its import
The meaning of the terms being fixed, the whole will be clear
Salvation comprehends the everlasting happiness of the soul
[It cannot be limited to any temporal deliveranceBelievers have been often subjected to persecutions and cruel deaths
Nor was the deliverance of the saints in Jerusalem a matter of universal concern· Its import is properly expressed by St. Paula-] This is to be obtained by “ believing” in Christ
[The faith here spoken of is not a mere assent to the gospel
The devils themselves assent to truths at which they trembleb
To believe aright, is to receive Christ in all his, offices
Not that it is more meritorious than other graces; but it unites the soul to Christm] Damnation on the contrary, imports everlasting misery
[The punishment of the wicked is elsewhere said to be eternale
And the contrast in the the text fully expresses its duration-
[It is not reserved only for avowed infidels and scoffers They are in unbelief, who are destitute of saving faith
And therefore must want that salvation that is annexed to faith—]
a 2 Tim. ii. 10.
b Acts viïi. 13, 23. James ii. !9.
To faith, baptism, when practicable, must be added
[The believer must openly profess his allegiance to ChristBut no observance of outward ordinances will profit an unbelieverh—]
The objections ignorantly urged against this gospel lead us to II. Vindicate its reasonableness
To ascribe salvation to good works, and damnation to evil works, would be thought reasonable enough
But to connect the former with faith, and the latter with unbelief, is deemed absurd and delusive
Nevertheless the reasonableness of the gospel in both these points may be clearly evinced
It is not unreasonable that a man should be saved by faith
(If faith were a mere assent to any doctrines, it would indeed be unreasonable to ascribe salvation to it,
But it is an humble reliance on the promises of God in Christ Jesus
Is it unreasonable then that he who trusts in the death of Christ should feel its saving efficacy?
Or that he who relies on God's promise, should experience his fidelity?-)
Nor is it unreasonable that a man should be damned for unbelief
[If unbelief were a mere dissent from any doctrine on account of its wanting sufficient evidence, such unbelief would be comparatively innocent
But the unbeliever rejects what has been established by the strongest evidence
Through pride he denies God's representation of his fallen statek
He accounts the wisdom of God to be foolishness,' and his truth a liem
He pours contempt on the richest displays of love and mercy
Such treatment we could not endure from a fellow-creature How then can we expect to treat GOD thus with impunity?-
Surely, if the wages of every sin is death, much more may it be the reward of so complicated a sin as unbelief-]
This is intimated by the omission of baptism in the latter clause of the text. i Heb. xi. 13.
k Rev. iij. 17. II Cor. i. 18. 23. m John v. 10.
a Eph. ii. 7.
This point satisfactorily established, we shall II. Display its excellency
Angels admire the gospel, as we also should, if we understood its excellencies, 1. It clearly defines the way of salvation
[All other ways of salvation are indefiniteWho can say what portion of repentance will expiate sin and purchase heaven?
Or what sincere obedience is? or by whom performed?-
Hence every one may form a judgment of his state before God
Surely this may well recommend the gospel to our acceptance-] 2. It is equally suited to all persons in all conditions
[How ill suited would any other way have been to the dying thief!-
How long must it have been before the murderers of our Lord could have entertained a comfortable hope of acceptance!
But the gospel affords a prospect of salvation to all, however vile
And is calculated to comfort us under every affliction
What excellency can it possess that should more endear it to us?-]
3. It refers all the glory of our salvation to Christ alone
[Every other way of salvation leaves room for man to boast:P· But, on the plan of the gospel, all are equally indebted to Christ!- ,
All on earth and in heaven ascribe salvation to him alone
Their happiness is the more dear to them as being the purchase of his blood
Nor would any consent for an instant to rob him of his glorys-] 4. Il most secures the practice of good works
[If the gospel really gave a licence to sin it might well be rejected
But it teaches us to mortify all sin, and to delight in good works
• John vi. 37. Matt. xx. 9.
p Rom. iii. 27. 91 Tim. iv. 10.
r Rev. i. 5. and y. 12, 13. * Comp. Gal. vi. 14. with Rev. iv. 10. • Tit. ii. 11, 12.