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forget the worth of your precious souls, and suffer your thoughts to be engrossed with the cares and pleasures of this life, to the neglect of this one thing needful, the Lord will account it a contempt offered to himself, and will ere long call you before his tribunal to answer for it.
4. Those who run and did not win the prize, only lost their labour, or at the worst were exposed to shame; but they were liable to no positive punishment. But you who are professors of the Gospel, if you come short at last, will be lost for ever. “ So run that you may “ obtain.” Be not content with having set out; the promise is made to perseverance.
" He that endureth to the end shall be saved *;" but if any draw back, or stop short, the Lord will have no pleasure in them. They will not only lose the prize, but will receive a heavy and aggravated doom. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. If you were forced to run for your lives, you would be very thoughtful about the event. But if you are not found amongst those who come in for the prize of eternal life, you will be cast into outer darkness, and sink under the curse of God for ever.
Fain therefore would I persuade you to address yourselves with earnestness to run the race set before
you. Flee from approaching wrath. The wrath of God is already revealed against all unrighteousness, and soon it will be poured forth upon the head of every transgressor. Though God is patient and forbearing, he is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, ho will whet his glittering sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he hath ordained his arrows against those who shall finally disobey his great command, to receive the Gospel of his grace. It is impossible to elude his eye, or to withstand his power. You are upon the brink of danger, if you are not already entered in this race; you stand upon a precipice, and hell from beneath has opened its mouth to receive you. But a respite is still afforded; the Lord waits to be gracious; and as yet there is room. The gate of mercy is not yet shut; “ turn therefore to the strong hold, as
* Matth. x. 22.; Heb. X. 38.
prisoners of hope;" no longer refuse his gracious invitation, or trifle with your precious souls; seek to Jesus' that you may live; apply to him for faith and repentance; and, in his strength and name, prepare to run this important race. Meditate upon the glorious prize which is provided for all who endure to the end; it is freely proposed to all who run. Pardon, grace, and eternal life, are promised and bestowed, without money, and without price. If after so many repeated calls, you still harden your hearts, and stop your ears, , and determine that you will not come unto Jesus that you may have life, you must assuredly perish, without mcrcy, and without excuse.
But if you are desirous to run, remember the admo- . nition in my text, “ So run that you may obtain.” Your steps must be regulated by the word of God, or you will wander wide from the good old way; you must derive your sufficiency and strength from Christ by faith and prayer, or you will faint, and be unable to endure to the end. We read of some* that run well
* Gal. v.7.
for a season, but were afterwards hindered, and turned aside. Be upon your guard; for there are many that will strive to diveri you from your course. Satan, the world, and your own evil hearts, will combine and form various attempts to slacken your pace, and to withdraw your attention from the one thing needful. Dread the thoughts of stopping short, or turning back; and the more you meet with opposition, be so much the more earnest to redouble your diligence, and especially to cry mightily to him who is able to keep you from falling, to preserve you unblameable in love while here, and at last to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
Believers, why are not we as wise in our generation as the children of the world? We see how those who are fond of a common horse-race are thinking and talking of it, and preparing for it every day. Does not their diligence shamé us, who are so cold, faint, and dilatory, in the most important and honourable concerns? Let us gird up the loins of our mind; some of you have not far to run now; you have taken many a weary step since you were first called; but the end is at hand; the period of your complete salvation is now much nearer than when you first believed*Think of Jesus the forerunner and the judge; he has already entered within the vail for us, his
is near to assist, and waiting to receive us. May his Spirít and his example animate us to press forward to the prize of our high calling, to tread down every difficulty, and to be faithful unto death, that we may receive the crown of lifet.
upon us, he is
* Rom. xiii. 11.
+ Rev. ii. 10.
NO ACCESS TO GOD BUT BY THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.
Micah, VI. 6, 7, 8.
Ilherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself
before the high God ? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old ? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give any first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul ? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good ; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mer
cy, and to walk humbly with thy God? THERE is no question that can arise in the mind of man, that is of so high importance as this in my text, and yet, alas ! how seldom is it laid to heart! May the Spirit of God impress it upon all your consciences ! You are now come before God to worship; ask yourselves, wherewith ? On what do you ground your hope, that you offer him acceptable service? You must shortly appear before him in judgement. Are* you prepared to meet him? What plea have you provided ? Take heed in time. Be sure that it is such a one as he will admit, lest your hopes should fail, and you perish in his presence as chaff before the devouring flame.
The passage plainly expresses the inquiry of an awakened mind. It is to be feared
It is to be feared many of you have often read these words without being suitably affected
* Amos, iv. 12.
with their meaning. But if you can indeed make them your own, if you are truly solicitous how you are to come before God both here and hereafter, I hope his good Spirit will enable you to receive satisfaction from the answer given by the prophet.
If you can speak these words from your heart, you will readily acknowledge that they imply the following things.
1. A sense of duty: that you are under an obligation to come and bow before the high God. You are sensible that you ought not, and you find that you cannot live without paying him homage and worship, but that he has a right to your service, and expects it. Too many show,' in this respect, that they are dead while they live; dead to God, insensible and regardless of their many obligations to him, in whom they live, and move, and have their being. They live without prayer; they offer no praises to the God of their lives, but rise up and lie down, go out and come in, without one reflection on his power, goodness, and providence, even like the beasts that perish. But the awakened soul cannot do so. He trembles to think, that he once could neglect that God, whom all the hosts of heaven worship; and is convinced, that however fair his character might have been amongst men, he justly deserved to have been struck to hell for so long restraining prayer before God.
2. A sense of the majesty and glory of God. Whoever seriously asks this question, has an awful view of the Lord, as the high God. Many who do not wholly neglect prayer and worship, yet have no spiritual and humbling apprehensions of the God whom they profess to serve. Their prayers, whether in public or private, are only lip-service, as though they thought him altoge