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come in, and partake of the gospel-festival; that "all things are now ready," for their welcome entertainment ;-that the door is still open, and there is free access, not only for those who have escaped the grossest pollutions of the world, but even " for the chief of sinners," whose guilt is of a crimson colour and a scarlet dye; that neither the number nor aggravations of their iniquities will exclude them, a share in the divine mercy, if now they submit to the sceptre of grace ;-that whatever their condition and circumstances may be, it is of present obligation upon them to accept the gospel call, and their instant duty to come in; the Master invites them "to come to him, that they may have life;" and "whosoever do so," the Master of the house assures them, that " he will in no wise cast them out."
4. They are to exhibit the unspeakable advantages that will attend a compliance with the gospel call. I know, indeed, the religion of Jesus is by its enemies often represented in the most frightful and hideous colours; particularly as laying an unrea sonable restraint on the liberties of mankind, and sinking them into melancholy enthusiasts. It becomes us, therefore, who are "set for the defence of the gospel," to endeavour the removing of this groundless prejudice, and to convince mankind by the light of reason and scripture, that "the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace:" that verily a life of faith in the blessed Redeemer is the way to be happy, both here and hereafter.
Oh, what more honourable than to be "a child of God, an heir of the kingdom of heaven!" What more pleasing than to look back, and behold our past iniquities all buried in the depths of eternal oblivion;-than to look forward and view our dear Saviour acknowledging us his friends and favourites, and adjudging us to a state of unperishing glory? What more advantageous than to have the divine favour engaged for our protection, the promises of divine grace for our consolation, and an assured title to "an inheritance undefiled, incorruptible and eternal?" This is the portion of the true believer. These the privileges that attend a compliance with the gospel-call.
These things are to be represented in such a manner as may tend to captivate the hearts of men, and engage them in a solicitous care and resolution to renounce the degrading servitude of sin, and resign themselves to the power of redeeming grace. Thus by the most effectual and persuasive methods, the ministers of Jesus are to compel sinners "to come in, that his house may be filled."
It was not in my design, to consider the duty of the ministry in its just extent; but only to insist upon those things that more properly belong to my subject, and lie directly in the view of
* John vi. 37.
my text. It will now doubtless be expected, that I APPLY my discourse more immediately to the present occasion.
And suffer me dear Sir, in the first place, to address myself to you, who are this day coming under a public consecration to the service of Christ," to bear his name among the Gentiles; to whom the Master is now sending you forth, to compel them to come in, that his house may be filled." We trust you are a chosen vessel, designed for extensive service in this honourable, though difficult employment. We adore the God of nature, who has furnished you with such endowments as suit you to this important charge. We adore the great Head of the Church for the nobler gifts and graces of his Spirit; by which, we trust, you are enabled to engage in this mission with an ardent love to God, the universal Father of mankind, with a disinterested zeal for the honour of Christ, the compassionate friend of sinners, and with tender concern for the perishing souls of a "people that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death;" who have for many ages been wandering out of the way of salvation," without Christ, and without God in the world."
The work of the ministry, in every place, has its difficulties and dangers, and requires much wisdom, fortitude, patience, and self-denial, to discharge it in a right manner, with an encouraging prospect of success: but greater degrees of prudence, humility, and meekness, mortification to the present world, holy courage, and zeal for the honour of God our Saviour, are necessary where any are called to minister the gospel unto those who through a long succession of ages have dwelt in the darkness of heathenism, have from their infancy imbibed inveterate prejudices against the Christian faith, and from time immemorial been inured to many superstitious and idolatrous practices, directly opposite to the nature and design of the gospel.
What heavenly skill is required, to convey the supernatural mysteries of the gospel into the minds of uninstructed Pagans, who are "a people of a strange speech and hard language?" --What deep self-denial is necessary, to enable you cheerfully to forsake the pleasures of your native country, with the agreeable society of your friends and acquaintance, to dwell among those who inhabit not indeed "the highways and hedges," but uncultivated deserts, and the remotest recesses of the wilderness ?--What unwearied zeal and diligence, to proselyte those to the faith of the gospel, who have quenched the light of reason, and by their inhuman and barbarous practices have placed themselves upon a level with the brute creation?
Methinks I hear you crying out, "who is sufficient for these things!"-And indeed, if you had no strength to depend upon but your own,-no encouragement but from human assistance,
you might justly sink down in despair and utter the passionate language of Moses, "O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send :" thy servant is insufficient for so great a work.—But it is at the command of Christ, the great Head of the Church, that you go forth; who by a train of surprising providences, has been preparing your way for this important embassy; and therefore you may be assured, that he will support you in a faithful discharge of your duty, accept your unfeigned desires to promote the interests of his kingdom, and finally reward your imperfect services with his gracious approbation. You have his divine promise for your security and consolation; "Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." This will afford you light in every darkness, defence in every danger, strength in every weakness, and a final victory over every temptation. If Christ be with you, "in vain do the Heathen rage," in vain will their confederated tribes unite their forces to obstruct and discourage you. Infinite wisdom will be your guide, almighty power your shield, and God himself "your exceeding great reward." The presence of your divine Master will make amends for the absence of your dearest friends and relatives. This will transform a wild and uncultivated desert into a paradise of joy and pleasure and the lonely huts of savages into more delightful habitations than the palaces of princes.
Let not any difficulties discourage, any dangers then affright you. Go forth in the name and strength of the Lord Jesus, to whom you are now to be devoted in the sacred office of the ministry. "Be not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the pow er of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile." Let zeal for the honour of God. and compassion for the souls of men, animate your public discourses and private addresses to the people committed to your charge. Always remember, that your character is a minister of Jesus; and therefore with the inspired doctor of the Gentiles, you "are to know nothing among them, save Christ, and him crucified." Frequently consider, that the gospel is a divine discipline to purify the heart, and set up the kingdom of the Redeemer in the souls of men and therefore it is not sufficient to bring sinners to a profession of the name of Christ, and an outward subjection to the institutions of divine worship; "You are sent to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in Christ." Unless this be effected, (whatever other improvements they gain,) they are left under the dominion of sin, and exposed to the wrath of God; and their superior degrees of knowledge will only serve to light them down to the regions of death and misery. This then is to be the
principal design of your ministry; for this you are to labour with unwearied application, and with incessant importunity to approach the throne of that God, whose peculiar prerogative it is "to teach us to profit;" whose grace alone can make them " a willing people in the day of his power."
And for your encouragement, I will only add: When I consider the many prophecies, in sacred scripture, of the triumphant progress of the gospel in the last ages of the world, I cannot but lift up my head with joy, in an humble expectation, that the day draws near, yea, is even at hand, when the promises made to the Son of God shall be more illustriously fulfilled:-"when he shall have the Heathen for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession; when his name shall be great among the Gentiles, and be honoured and adored from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same." But if the appointed time is not yet come, and the attempts made to introduce this glorious day, fail of desired success, "your judgment will be with the Lord, and your reward with your God." If the Gentiles "be not gathered" in, you will "be glorious in the eyes of the Lord," who accepts and rewards his servants according to the sincerity of their desires, and not according to the success of their endeavours.
I shall conclude with a few words to the body of the people. God our Saviour, in infinite condescension, hath sent his servants to invite you to come in, and receive the blessings which infinite wisdom has contrived, and astonishing grace prepared for your entertainment. And surely, my brethren, it is your important duty and incomparable interest, not to despise "the salvation of God sent unto the Gentiles," nor make light of the gospel message to you.
God has been pleased to employ us the messengers of his grace, men of like passions with yourselves, subject to the common infirmities of human nature: but the message comes from him, who is King of kings and Lord of lords; whom you are under the strongest obligations to hear and obey, in point of interest, gratitude, and duty.
What gracious and condescending methods has he taken to allure and invite you! has he not descended from heaven to earth; from the boundless glories of eternity to all the sufferings and afflictions of this mortal life, that he might purchase and reveal salvation; that he might engage your love, and persuade you to comply with his saving designs? Does he not send his "ambassadors to beseech you in his stead, to be reconciled to God?”
What excuses have you to make, that will stand the trial of an enlightened conscience, or justify you at the awful tribunal of God? will the vanishing enjoyments of sin and sense, or the perishing riches of this transitory world, make amends for the
loss of the divine favour, or support you under the terrors of eternal damnation ?-Are there any honours comparable to the dignity and character of a child of God, and a title to the privileges of his house and family? Are there any pleasures equal to the smiles of God's reconciled face, the refreshing visits of his love, and the immortal joys of his salvation?
But how deplorable, how desperate will be your case, if you finally refuse the gospel-invitation, and perish in your natural state of guilt and misery? the compassionate Jesus, who now addresses you in the inviting language of love, will then speak to you with the voice of terror, and "swear in his wrath, that you shall never enter into his rest, that you shall never taste of his supper," the rich provision which he has made for the eternal entertainment of his guests. "When once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door," you will in vain stand without and knock for admission.
In a word, Now, he declares by his servants, that "all thi are ready," and all that are bidden shall be welcome, upon their coming in, to be partakers of the benefit. The blood of Christ is now ready, to cleanse you from all your guilt and pollution; his righteousness is now ready to adorn your naked souls with the garment of salvation; his Spirit is now ready to take possession of you, and make you eternal monuments of victorious and redeeming grace. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come; and whosoever (of the lost and perishing sons of Adam) will, let him come," and participate of the blessings of the gospel "freely, without money, and without price." The arms of everlasting mercy are open to receive you: the treasures of divine grace are open to supply your wants: and every one of you that now sincerely accepts this gracious invitation, shall hereafter be admitted" to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven."-For which, God of his infinite mercy prepare us all, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory and dominion world without end. Amen.