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culty; yet in the strength of that new nature he overcomes it, and goes on till he attain his end, where all the difficulty in the way presently is overrewarded and forgotten; that makes amends for every weary step, that every one of these that walk in that way does appear in Zion before God".
2. We have their opposite thoughts and speeches of each other; they think it strange, speaking evil of you. The Christian and the carnal man are most wonderful to each other. The one wonders to see the other walk so strictly, and deny himself to these carnal liberties that the most take, and take for so necessary, that they think they could not live without them. And the Christian thinks it strange that men should be so bewitched, and still remain children in the vanity of their turmoil, wearying and humouring themselves from morning to night, running after stories and fancies, ever busy doing nothing; wonders that the delights of earth and sin can so long entertain and please men, and persuade them to give Jesus Christ so many refusals; to turn from their life and happiness, and choose to be miserable; yea, and take much pains to make themselves miserable. He knows the depravedness and blindness of nature in this; knows it by himself that once he was so, and therefore wonders not so much at them as they do at him; yet the unreasonableness and frenzy of that course now appears to him in sa strong a light, that he cannot but wonder at these woful mistakes. But the ungodly wonder far more at him, not knowing the inward cause of his different choice and way. The believer, as we said, is upon the hill; he is going up, looks back on them in the valley, and sees their way tending to, and ending in death, and calls them to retire from it as loud as he can; tells them the danger; but either they hear not, nor understand this language, or will not believe him; finding present ease and delight in their way, they will not consider and suspect the end of it; but they judge him the fool that will not share with them, and take that way where such multitudes go, and with such ease; and some of them with their train, and horses, and coaches, and all their pomp: And he, and a few straggling poor creatures like him, climbing up a craggy steep hill, and will by no means come off from that way, and partake of theirs; not knowing, or not believing, that at the top of that hill he climbs, is that happy glorious city, the new Jerusalem, whereof he is a citizen, and whither he is tending; not believing that he knows the end both of their way and his own; and therefore would reclaim them if he could, but will by no means return unto them, as the Lord commanded the Prophet.
h Psalm lxxxiv. 6.
The world thinks strange that a Christian can spend so much time in secret prayer, not knowing, nor being able to conceive, the sweetness of communion with God, which he attains that way; yea, while he feels it not, how sweet it is, beyond the world's enjoyments, to be but seeking after it, and waiting for it. Oh! the delight that is in the bitterest exercise of repentance! The very tears, much more the succeeding harvest of joy! It is strange unto a carnal man to see the child of God disdain the pleasures of sin, not kuowing the higher and purer delights and pleasures that he is called to", and of which he hath, it may be, some part at present; but however the fulness of them in assured hope.
The strangeness of the world's way to the Christian, and his to it, though that is somewhat unnatural, yet affects them very differently. He looks on the deluded sinners with pity, they on him with liate. Their part, which is here expressed, of wondering, breaks out in reviling; they speak evil of you; and what is their voice;
"What mean these precise fools ? will they readily say. What course is this they take, contrary to all the world? Will they make a new religion, and condemn all their honest civil neighbours that are not like them? Ay,
i Jer. xv. 1G.
forsooth, do all go to hell, think you, except you, and those that follow your way? We are for no more than good-fellowship and liberty; and as for so much reading and praying, these are but brainsick melancholy conceits; a man may go to heaven like his neighbour, without all this adu.” Thus they let fly at their pleasure: but this troubles not the composed Christian's mind at all; while curs snarl and bark about him, the sober. traveller goes on his way, and regards them not.
He that is acquainted with the way of holiness, can endure more than the counter-blasts and airs of scoffs and revilings; he accounts them his glory and his riches : So Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. many other things to animate, we have this that is here expressed,
Sdly, As the supreme and final judgment; and oh! how full is it; They shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. And he hath this in readiness, tū froszews ixorti, hath the day set; and it shall surely come, though you think it far off.
Though the wicked themselves forget their scoffs against the godly, and though the Christian slights them, and lets them pass, they pass not so; they are all registered; and the great court-day shall call them to account for all these riots and excesses, and withal for all their reproaches of the godly, that would not run with them in these ways. Tremble, then, ye despisers and mockers of holiness, though you come not near it. What will you do when these you reviled shall appear glorious in your sight, and their King, the King of saints here, much more glorious, and his glory their joy, and all terror to you? Oh! then all faces that could look out disdainfully upon religion, and the professors of it, shall gather blackness, and be bathed with shame; and the despised saints of God shall shout so much the more for joy.
You that would rejoice, then, in the appearing of
that holy Lord, and judge of the world, let your way be now in holiness; avoid and hate the common ways of the wicked world: they live in their foolish opinion, and that shall quickly end; but the sentence of that day shall stand for ever.
Ver. 6. For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to
them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit.
It is a thing of prime concernment for a Christian to be rightly informed, and frequently put in mind, what is the true estate and nature of a Christian; for this the multitude of those that bear that name, either know not, or commonly forget, and so are carried away with the vain fancies and mistakes of the world. The Apostle hath characterised christianity very clearly to us in this place, by that which is the very nature of it, conformity with Christ, and that which is necessarily consequent upon that, disconformity with the world. And as the nature, and natural properties, of things hold universally; thus it is in those that, in all ages, are so effectually called by the gospel, as to be moulded and framed thus by it. Thus it was, says the Apostle, with your brethren that are now at rest, as many as received the gospel; and for this end was it preached to them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit.
We have first here, the preaching of the gospel as the suitable means to a certain end. 2. The express nature of that end.
1. The preaching of the gospel as a suitable means to a certain end; for this cause.
There is a particular end, and that very important, for which the preaching of the gospel is intended; this end many consider not, hearing it, as if it were to no end, or not propounding a fixed determined end in their hearing. 'This therefore is to be considered by those that preach this gospel, that they aim right in it at this end, and no other. There must be no self-end. The legal priests were not to be squinteyed ", nor must evangelical ministers bethus squinting to base gain, or vain applause: and also, it is necessarily incumbent upon them, that they make it their study to find in themselves this work, this living to God, otherwise, they cannot skilfully nor faithfully apply their gifts to work this effect on their hearers; and therefore acquaintance with God is most necessary.
How.sounds it to many of us, at the least, but as a well contrived story, whose use is to amuse us, and possibly delight us a little, and there is an end ! and indeed no end, for this turns the most serious and most glorious of all messages into an empty sound. If we keep awake, and give it a hearing, it is much ; but for any thing further, how few deeply beforehand consider, “I have a dead heart; therefore will I go unto the word of life, that it may be quickened: It is frozen, I will go and lay it before the warm beams of that sun that shines in the gospel ; my corruptions are mighty and strong, and grace, if there be any in my heart, is exceeding weak; but there is in the gospel a power to weaken and kill sin, and to strengthen grace; and this being the intent of my wise God in appointing it, it shall be my desire and purpose, in resorting to it, to find it to me according to his gracious intendment; to have faith in my Christ, the fountain of my life, more strengthened, and made more active in drawing froin him; to have my heart more refined and spiritualized, and to have the sluice of repentance opened, and my affections to divine things enlarged; more hatred of sin, and more love of God and communion with him.”
Ask yourselves concerning former times; and to take yourselves even now, inquire within, “ Why came I hither this day? what had I in mine eye and desires this morning ere I came forth, and in my way as I was coming ? Did I seriously propound
m Lev. xxi, 20.