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gross sins, when the least of them deserves God's wrath. If one do so, how great must that wrath be, which thousands and millions deserve? If an idle word deserves God's wrath and curse, what must deliberate lying words deserve, but a deep footing in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
4. Let believers admire free grace, pardoning mercy, and atoning blood, Psal. xxxii. 1; that sécures them from bearing the desert of their sin. Let them live to the Lord, by whom they live. Think not little of your sins, O believer, though there be now no condemnation for you, being in Christ Jesus, Rom. viii. 1; for every one of your sins deserves, though they cannot bring on, God's wrath and curse. Yet tremble at the thoughts of sin; for ye are like the three children in the fiery furnace, compassed with a fire of sin that would burn you up, but the effect of it is stopped by the mediation of Christ,
Lastly, Sinners, be convinced of your absolute need of Christ. Ye must be in him, or ye are ruined for ever. Can ye bear that wrath which incensed justice will inflict on all that are out of Christ? Can ye get free of it without him? Wherefore be alarmed, and exhorted to flee from the wrath that is to come, by fleeing to the Lord Jesus, who delivereth all his people from it.
OF THE MEANS OF SALVATION IN GENERAL.
HEB. ii. 3.-How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?
SINNER having heard that sin deserves God's wrath and curse, the question that natively follows, is, What way one may escape them? This is answered by the weighty question in the text, How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? Which we may take up in these two things (1.) There is no escaping for sinners, if they neglect the great salvation; they perish without remedy. (2.) They that do not neglect it, shall surely escape. Here let us consider,
1. The danger sinners are in by their sin. They are in hazard of perishing under God's wrath and curse; for that is the just recompence of every sin, Heb. ii. 2; of God's wrath consuming them, and his curse binding them down under it for ever, He intimates, that all are liable to God's wrath and curse, while he says, How shall we escape, &c.
2. The way how they may escape; namely, by not neglecting, but falling in with the great salvation. The words intimate, (1.) That there is a possibility of escaping; sinners are not shut up hopeless under the curse. (2.) The way of escape is not by fleeing from the Judge, and the execution of his sentence: nay, he is omniscient and omnipresent; one cannot outwit him, or get away from his sight, or out of his reach. Nor is it by resisting, for he is omnipotent, and none can outbraye him, nor make head against him. But he may escape by falling in with the means of escape appointed by himself, and required by him to be made use of by us. He has provided us with a salvation, a great one; i, e. the gospel, which teaches the way of eternal salyation. He requires us, not to neglect it, but to improve it for our escape. Is is neglected by unbelief, impenitency, and not using the means prescribed. On the contrary, then, he requires of us faith and repentance, which are the substance of the gospel, Acts xx. 21; testifying to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ; and he requires of us the use of the means by which the salvation held forth in the gospel is obtained, Prov. viii. 34; Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors :' for surely they neglect and slight the gospel, who do not believe, repent, or use the ordinary means of obtaining the salvation.
The text affords the following doctrine.
DOCT. Whoso would escape God's wrath and curse, must not neglect, but fall in with the great salvation,' Or,
To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.'
For explaining of this, I shall shew,
I. The necessity of faith in Jesus Christ, in order to one's escaping the wrath and curse of God.
II. The necessity of repentance, in order to the same end. III. Answer the question, Are faith and repentance in men's power, since God requires them of them?
IV. Shew the connection betwixt faith and repentance, and escaping the wrath and curse of God.
V. The necessity of the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.
VI. Deduce an inference or two.
I. I shall shew the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ, in order to one's escaping the wrath and curse of God due to him for sin. It is absolutely necessary; no man can escape God's wrath and curse without it. For,
1. There is no pleasing of God without it, Heb. xi. 6; The reason is, because he is only pleased with Jesus Christ, and those who are in him, or united to him, Matth. xvii. 5; If one should weep for his sins till no moisture were left in his body, fast his flesh to a skeleton, and watch ever so carefully against his sin, if he have not faith, he is a lost man; he cannot please God, but must lie for ever under his displeasure.
2. It is the great duty of the gospel, whereby one is made partaker of the remedy provided, and without which neither your persons nor performances can be accepted. It is 'the work of God,' John vi. 29; the command of God,' 1 John iii. 23; Your persons will ever be under condemnation without it, John iii. 18; And all your other duties will be but ciphers in God's account, multiply them as ye will, if faith be not at the head of them.
3. It is that which enters one into the covenant of peace; unites him with Christ, and by which he comes to partake of all saving benefits. If ye would escape God's wrath, ye must be within the covenant; ye must believe, that is, consent to the marriage-covenant, John vi. 35; There is no escaping wrath without being in Christ, and united to him, Rom. viii. 1; That union is by faith, Eph. iii. 17; We must be justified, and that is by faith, Rom. v. 1; and sanc tified, which is by faith too, Acts xv. 9.
4. Salvation and damnation turns upon this very point.
Here is the decision of the case, Mark xvi. 16; He that believeth shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Unbelief will undoubtedly ruin you, Psal. ii. ult. Kiss ye the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." Unbelief is a rejecting of Christ; and they cannot escape who refuse the remedy of sin, Luke xix. 27; Those mine enemies that. would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.'
II. I proceed to shew the necessity of repentance, in order to one's escaping this wrath and curse. No adult person can be saved without it. As for infants dying in their tender years, and such others who are not capable of actual faith and repentance, in so far as the Spirit dwells in them, they have the seed of those graces, and shall undoubtedly be saved.
1. The word of God certifies us, that whosoever does not repent shall perish, Luke xiii. 5; Your souls, then, lie at stake. The sinner is gone away from God,and so is come under the curse. His soul is left in pawn that he shall return; so if he do not return, the pawn is lost, and lost for ever.
2. Heaven's door is bolted against all impenitent sinners; it is not so wide as to let in a sinner with a burden of unrepented-of guilt upon his back, Rev. xxi. 27; There shall in nowise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.' So heaven ye cannot see, and hell ye cannot escape, if ye repent not. It is the call of the gospel to you; which, if it be not obeyed, see the effect, 2 Thess. i. 7, 8. The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that. obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.' To this narrow point the matter is brought, Repent or perish, Ezek. xviii. 30, 31; Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make a new heart, and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
3. Repentance is the other duty of the gospel; thereby signifying, that without repentance there is no possibility but we must perish under God's wrath and curse. John the
Baptist preached repentance, so did Christ himself, the apos tles, &c. How can one think then to escape without it?
4. True faith does always bring along with it true repentance, Zech. xii. 10; I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.' It is the great gift which Christ is exalted to give, Acts v. 31; as he is a Saviour. So impenitent sinners have no part in Christ, nor in his salvation, Matth. i. 21; and therefore they must perish,
III. I proceed to consider the question, Are faith and repentance in men's power, since God requires them of them? Ans. They are not. For God's demands of us are the measure of our duty, but not of our strength, which reaches not to these. For,
1. They are the gifts of God, and the operations of his special grace, Eph. i. 19. Acts v. 31; And where sovereign pleasure does not determine to give and work them, the party lies under the power of unbelief and impenitency. Hence it is God's grace and good-will which makes one differ from another; not man's free-will. Hence says our Lord, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight,' Matt. xi. 25, 26.
2. Sinners by nature, and in themselves, can do nothing which is good, and therefore cannot believe nor repent, John xv. 5; Without me ye can do nothing,' 2 Cor. iii. 5; Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is of God.' In particular they cannot believe, John vi. 44; No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him.' They cannot repent, Jer. xiii. 28; Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. They are dead in sin, and must be quickened, yea, created in Christ Jesus to good works. They are in bondage to sin and Satan, 2 Tim. ii. 26; therefore cannot come to Christ, nor turn to God, till effectual grace bring them forward, Acts xxvi. Dd