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declaring how inexcusable you are upon these accounts! How will you be cut to the heart, when you shall see him approving the sentence of condemnation, which the Judge shall pronounce against you, and judging and sentencing you with Christ, as an assessor in judgment; for the saints shall judge the world, (1 Cor. vi. 2.) and when you shall see him rejoicing in the execution of justice upon you for all your unprofitableness under his ministry!
3. Consider what a happy opportunity you have in your hands now. · Now your case is very different from the case of wicked men in another world, of which you have now heard; and particularly in the following respects.
(1.) God makes it the duty of all the godly now to be concerned for your salvation. As to those who are damned in hell, the saints in glory are not concerned for their welfare, and have no love nor pity towards them; and if you perish hereafter, it will be an occasion of joy to all the godly. But now God makes it the duty of all the godly, to love you with a sincere goodwill and earnest affection. God doth not excuse men from loving you, for your ill qualities : though you are wicked and undeserving, yet God makes it the duty of all sincerely to wish well to you ; and it is a heinous sin in the sight of God, for any to hate you. He requires all to be concerned for your salvation, and by all means to seek it. It is their duty now to lament your danger, and to pray for mercy to you, that you may be converted and brought home to Christ.
Now the godly who know you, desire your salvation, and are ready to seek, and pray for it. If you be now in distress about the condition of your souls, you are not in such a forsaken, helpless condition, as those that are damned; but you may find many to pray for you, many who are willing to assist you by their advice and counsels, and all with a tender concern, and with hearty wishes that your souls may prosper. Now some of you have godly friends who are near and dear to you ; you are beloved of those who have a great interest in heaven, and who have power with God by their prayers : you have the blessing of living under the same roof with them. Some of you have godly parents to pray for you, and to counsel and instruct you, who you may be sure will do it with sincere love and concern for you. And there is not only the command of God, God hath not only made it the duty of others to seek your salvation, but hath given encouragement to others to seek' it. He gives encouragement that they may obtain help for you by their prayers, and that they may be instrumental of your spiritual good. God reveals it to be his manner, to make our sincere endeavours a mean of each other's good. How different is the case with you from what it is with those that are already
damned! And how happy an opportunity have you in your hands, if you would but improve it!
(2.) Now you live where there is a certain order of men appointed to make it the business of their lives to seek your salvation. Now you have ministers, not to rise up in judgment against you ; but in Christ's stead, to beseech you to be reconciled to God; 2 Cor. v. 20. God hath not only made it the duty of all to wish well to your souls, and occasionally to endeavour to promote your spiritual interests, but he hath set apart certain persons, to make it their whole work, in which they should spend their days and their strength.
(3.) Christ himself is now seeking your salvation. He seeks it by the fore-mentioned means, by appointing men to make it their business to seek it; he seeks it by them; they are his instruments, and they beseech you in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. He seeks it, in commanding your neighbours to seek it. Christ is represented in scripture, as wooing the souls of sinners. He uses means to persuade them to choose and accept of their own salvation. He often invites them to come to him that they may have life, that they may find rest to their souls, to come and take of the water of life freely. He stands at the door and knocks; and ceases not, though sinners for a long time refuse him. He bears repeated repulses from them, and yet. mercifully continues knocking, saying, “Open to me, that I may come in and sup with you, and you
with me." At the doors of many sinners he stands thus knocking for many years together. Christ is become a most importunate suitor to sinners, that he may become their sovereign. He is often setting before them the need they have of him, the miserable condition in which they are, and the great provision that is made for the good of their souls ; and he invites them to accept of this provision, and promises it shall be theirs upon their mere acceptance.
Thus how carnestly did Christ seek the salvation of Jerusalem, and he wept over it when they refused; Luke xix. 41, 42. And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes." And Matt. xxiii. 37. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Thus Christ is now seeking your salvation ; such an opportunity have you now in your hands ? Consider therefore how many means Christ is using with you, to bring you to salvation.
Besides those things which have been now mentioned, some of you have a degree of the inward strivings and influences of
the Spirit, which makes your opportunity much greater. You have Christ's internal calls and knockings. All the persons of the Trinity are now seeking your salvation. God the Father hath sent his Son, who hath made way for your salvation, and removed all difficulties, except those which are with your own heart. And he is waiting to be gracious to you ; the door of his mercy stands open to you; he hath set a fountain open for you to wash in from sin and uncleanness. Christ is calling, inviting, and wooing you ; and the Holy Ghost is striving with you by his internal motions and influences.
4. If you now repent, before it be too late, the saints and angels in glory will rejoice at your repentance. If you repent not till it is too late, they will, as you have heard, rejoice in seeing justice executed upon you. But if you now repent, they will rejoice at your welfare, that you who were lost, are found; that you who were dead, are alive again. They will rejoice
, that you are come to so happy a state already, and that you are in due time to inherit eternal happiness. Luke xv. 3—10. So that if now you will improve your opportunity, there will be a very different occasion of joy in heaven concerning you, than that of which the doctrine speaks; not a rejoicing on occasion of your misery, but on occasion of your unspeakable blessedness.
5. If you repent before it is too late, you yourselves shall be of that joyful company. They will be so far from rejoicing on occasion of your ruin, that you yourselves will be of that glorious company, who will rejoice in all the works of God, who will have all tears wiped away from their eyes, to whom there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and from whom sorrow and sighing shall flee away. You yourselves will be of those who will rejoice at the glorious display of God's majesty and justice, in his wrath on his enemies. You will be of those that shall sing for joy of heart at the day of judgment, while others mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit; and you will enter into the joy of your Lord, and there shall never be any end or abatement of your joy!
THE PRECIOUSNESS OF TIME, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF
Eph. V. 16.
Redeeming the time.
CHRISTIANS should not only study to improve the opportunities they enjoy, for their own advantage, as those who would make a good bargain; but also labour to reclaim others from their evil courses ; that so God might defer his anger, and time might be redeemed from that terrible destruction which, when it should come, would put an end to the time of divine patience. And it may be upon this account, that this reason is added, Because the days are evil. As if the apostle had said, the corruption of the times tends to hasten threatened judgments; but your holy and circumspect walk will tend to redeem time from the devouring jaws of those calamities. --However, thus much is certainly held forth to us in the words, viz. That upon time we should set a high value, and be exceeding careful that it be not lost; and we are therefore exhorted to exercise wisdom and circumspection, in order that we may redeem it. And hence it appears, that Time is exceedingly precious.
Why time is precious.
Time is precious for the following reasons.
1. Because a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it. Things are precious in proportion to their importance, or to the degree wherein they concern
our welfare. Men are wont to set the highest value on those things upon which they are sensible their interest chiefly depends. And this renders time so exceedingly precious, because our eternal welfare depends on the improvement of it.-Indeed our welfare in this world depends upon its improvement. If we improve it not, we shall be in danger of coming to poverty and disgrace; but by a good improvement of it, we may obtain those things which will be useful and comfortable. But it is above all things precious, as our state through eternity depends upon it. The importance of the improvement of time upon other accounts, is in subordination to this.
Gold and silver are esteemed precious by men ; but they are of no worth to any man, only as thereby he has an opportunity of avoiding or removing some evil or of possessing himself of some good. And the greater the evil is which any man hath advantage to escape, or the good which he bath advantage to obtain, by any thing that he possesses, by so much the greater is the value of that thing to him, whatever it be. Thus if a man, by any thing which he hath, may save his life, which he must lose without it, he will look upon that by which he hath the opportunity of escaping so great an evil as death, to be very precious.-Hence it is that time is so exceedingly precious, because by it we have opportunity of escaping everlasting misery and of obtaining everlasting blessedness and glory. On this depends our escape from an infinite evil, and our attainment of an infinite good.
2. Time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious. The scarcity of any commodity occasions men to set a higher value upon it, especially if it be necessary and they cannot do without it. Thus when Samaria was besieged by the Syrians, and provisions were exceedingly scarce, “an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver."
2 Kings vi. 25. So time is the more to be prized by men, because a whole eternity depends upon it; and yet we have but a little of time. “ When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return." Job xvi. 22.
Job xvi. 22. “My days are swifter than a post. They are passed away as the swift ships ; as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.” Job ix. 25, 26. “ Our life; what is it ? it is but a vapour which appeareth for a little
a time, and then vanisheth away." Jam. iv. 14. It is but as a
. moment to eternity. Time is so short, and the work which we have to do in it is so great, that we have none of it to spare. The work which we have to do to prepare for eternity, must be done in time, or it never can be done; and it is found to be a work of great difficulty and labour, and therefore that for which time is the more requisite.