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II. If your names are not written in heaven, you can have no cause of solid, rational, and lasting joy in any thing. This also I shall illustrate by an induction of particulars.
Rejoice not that you are rich, or at least enjoy the comforts of life, while you are destitute of spiritual and everlasting riches. Will it be any pleasure to you to pass from a splendid well-furñished house into the regions of horror and darkness ? From faring sumptuously every day, to suffer the extremities of eternal want ? From gay and merry company, to the society of the lost spirits in hell ? From all the luxuries of life, to weep, and wail, and gnash the teeth forever ? From wearing silks and laces, and every form of finery, to be wrapt in sheets of infernal flame? Alas! what joy can you take in all the advantages that riches can give you, while you must be stript of them all so soon, and feel a terrible reverse ? Many who are styled worshipful, honourable, and hear nothing but titles of dignity among men, are vile, despicable creatures in the sight of God, and must ere long sink into shame and everlasting contempt. Many a body adorned with whatever riches can procure, is animated by a poor worthless soul, full of sin, and void of the beauties of holiness. And can you rejoice in such trifes as these ? A man that has a gangrened foot may as well rejoice that it is covered with a silken plaister ; or a criminal, that he is carried to the gallows in a coach of state.
Besides, remember, how hardly shall rich men enter into the kingdom of God! It is an human impossibility ; but it is not impossible to Omnipotence. As riches increase, temptations increase ; temptations to love the world more, and to think less of heaven ; temptations from pride, flattery, hurry, company, &c. And can you rejoice that your salvation is made more difficult ? that you, who are apt to stumble at straws, have mountains thrown up in your way ? Alas! if this were rightly considered, would the wealthy and affluent be so resolute and eager in the pursuit of riches ?
What though you are in good business, and prospering in the world, while you are not doing the work of your salvation, nop carrying on a trade for heaven, and your hurry of business is a great occasion of this pernicious neglect?
What though you enjoy health of body, while your souls are dead in trespasses and sins, and your health is no security against death or hell? What though you enjoy friends and relatives, while the great God is your enemy ? Or mirth and pleasure, when they will end in eternal howlings, and you will be upbraided with them another day, like Dives, Son, remember that thou in thy life-time didst enjoy thy good things?
What though the French and Indians are routed ? alas ! the devil and your sins are still lords over you! What though your country is safe, when you shall stay in it but a very little time, and you have no place prepared for you in heaven? What though you are the free-born descendants of Britons, and never were in bondage to any man ? alas ! you are the slaves of sin. What though you live under the government of the best of kings, while you are the captives of the prince of darkness, and the King of heaven is your enemy? What though your bodies are not exposed to the sword of your fellow-inortals, when you are liable every moment to the sword of divine justice ? What though you are safe, as to your outward estate, when your immortal souls are in danger? What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? or to enjoy the gospel, while you receive no advantage from it, but abuse it to your more aggravated ruin? What avails it that God is merciful, when you have no share in his mer. cy, and never will, if you continue in your vain, carnal joy? That Christ died for sinners, while you wilfully exclude yourselves from the blessed effects of his death ?
In short, what upon earth, or even in heaven, can afford you any pleasure or rational joy, while your names are not written in heaven, and you are not using earnest endeavours to be admitted citizens there? alas ! your case calls for sighs, and tears, and sorr- », rather than joy. What have you to do with politics, news, and the fate of armies and kingdoms, while you know not whether you will be out of hell one day longer ?
And as the joy of the righteous, in having their names written in heaven, may swallow every other joy, so your sorrow, on account of your names not being written there, may swallow up all other sorrows. Be sorrowful on this account, above all other things.
Have you lost your friends, your relatives, your estate? This is sad ; but 0 ! it is nothing to the loss of God, of heaven, and your souls. All will be lost ere long, if you continue in your present condition. Are you poor in this world ? That is but a trifling affliction, compared with that everlasting poverty you must ere long suffer. Are you mean and despised by men? Alas! what is that to your being despised and abhorred by the God that made
Wo unto you
you? Are you the slaves of men ? This would be trifling, and you need not care for it, were it not that you are slaves to sin and Satan, and under the condemnation of the divine law. Are you disordered in body? That is nothing to the disorders of your souls. Are you afraid of natural death ? alas! what is that to spiritual death, which has seized your souls, and the eternal death which is but just before you? In short, nothing in all the world ought so to distress and grieve you as this, That your names are not written in heaven.
Therefore, instead of vain rejoicing, and mirth, and gaiety, I must read to you the denunciation of Jesus Christ against you ; Bui wo unto you that are rich ; for ye have received your
consola. tion. Wo unto you that are full, for ye shall hunger. that laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep. Luke vi. 24, 25.and call upon you as the apostle James dues, Ga to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. James v. 9. And again, Be aflicied, and mourn, and ween ; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heavines8. James iy. 9.
I can honestly assure you, I am ng enemy to the pleasures of mankind. But it is because I love you, that I wish you may relurn home sad and sorrowful from this place ; for I well know, you are forever undone, unless you turn to the Lord ; and that you neyer will turn to him, without rending of your hearts, weeping, and mourning. Joel ii. 12.
If your joy and mirth were rational, I should say nothing against it; but it not frenzy and madness to be merry in the chains of sin, under the wrath of God, and upon the brink of eternal ruin ?
Is it not also dishonourable to God ? It is as if you should tell him to his face, that you can be merry and happy without his favour, and that you care nothing for his displeasure.
I should not reprove your mirth, if it were harmless ; but, alas! it will ruin you if you indulge it. For, let me tell you, such sinners as you cannot become converts, without alarming fears and deep sorrows. Without this you never will be in carnest in your religious endeavours.
You will tell me perhaps, “ you see christians cheerful, and sometimes merry ; and why may not you be so ?” I answer, (1.) There is a great difference in your case and theirs ; they have a lively hope of everlasting happiness ; but you can have no hope
in your present condition. And may not they rejoice, while you have cause to mourn and weep? What would you think of a criminal under condemnation, if he allowed himself in that mirth and amusement, which may be lawful and becoming in others ? (2.) The christians you know now are cheerful with good reason ; but did you know any of them under their first convictions ; were they cheerful then ? then, when they received a sight of their sin and danger, and were in an awful suspense what would be their everlasting doom? Were they merry and gay while they saw themselves without a Saviour, and under the displeasure of God ? No; then all was sadness, fear and sorrow. And this is what your case now requires. Can you expect the same cheerfulness in one under the power of a deadly disorder as in one recovering? or would it be becoming ?
Finally, I should not endeavour to damp your joys and turn them into sorrow, if they would last. But oh! they will soon end, and nothing but weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth will succeed. Look down into that hideous gulf, the prison of divine justice, where Dives and Judas, and thousands of sinners lie ; and can you see no cheerful look, or hear one laugh among them? No, no : they have done with all joy ; and must spend a miserable eternity in grief and tears. And will you not rather mourn in time, than mourn forever ? will you choose now to receive your consolation ? or will you not rather delay it till you have reason to rejoice ?
To conclude : Suffer a friend to your best interests to prevail upon you to return home this evening sadly pensive and sorrow. ful, and to resolve you will never indulge yourselves in one hour's mirth and gaiety, till you have some reason to believe that your names are written in heaven. This is what your own interest requires ; and if you refuse, you will unavoidably be sorry for it. forever, when your sorrow can be of no service to you. Betake yourselves in serious sadness to the earnest use of all the means of salvation, and you have reason to hope God will have mercy upon you, and turn you to himself. Then you will have reason to rejoice, to rejoice in your temporal blessings, and especially because your names are written in heaven. And then God, and Christ, and angels will rejoice over you, and join in your joy.
THE SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL BY THE DIVINE POWER UPON THE
SOULS OF MEN.
2 COR. X. 4, 5. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but
mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong-holds ; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God; and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
THIS restless world is now in an unusual ferment; kingdom rising up against kingdom, and nation against nation : magazines filling, arms brightening, cannons roaring, and human blood streaming, both by sea and land. These things engross the thoughts and conversation of mankind, and alarm their fears and anxieties. But there is another kind of war carrying on in the world; a war, the issue of which is of infinitely greater importance ; a war of near six thousand years standing; that is, ever since the first grand rebellion of mankind against God; a war in which we are all engaged as parties, and in the result of which our immortal interest is concerned ; though, alas ! it engages but little of the attention and solicitude of the generality among us ; I mean, the war which Jesus Christ has been carrying on from age to age by the ministry of the gospel, to reduce the rebellious sons of men to their duty, and redeem them into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, from their wretched captivity to sin and Satan. This is the design in which the apostles were embarked, and which St. Paul describes in the military style in my text.
As some members of the Corinthian church had taken up a very low opinion of St. Paul, his design in the context is to raise the dignity of his apostolic office. And for that purpose, he describes in the military language the efficacy and success of those apostolic powers with which he was furnished for the propagation of christianity, and the reduction of the world into obedience to the gospel. Those powers were such as these ; the power of working miracles to attest his divine commission; the
A Sermon preached at Hanover, in Virginia, Oct. 17, 1756.