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COUNSEL GIVEN TO ALL TO SEEK AFTER THIS
EXHORTATION may be addressed to sinners and to saints.
1. To sinners. A word or two to those who are yet in "the gall of bitterness, and bonds of iniquity," secured with chains for the prince of darkness, "led captive by him at his pleasure.' Suffer yourselves to be gathered unto Christ; what would poor ministers give that they might prevail with you? How doth our Lord spread his arms to embrace you? After all your wanderings and extravagances, the Father of the prodigal would run towards the returning prodigal, fall on your neck, kiss you, and make you kindly welcome; and pious Christians would not envy your reception, but delight in your society, as not diminishing but increasing their felicity. "There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth," saith our Lord; again, there is "joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Glad are the saints of such consorts; glad are the holy angels of such babes to attend upon; glad would poor ministers be, if your souls were savingly converted and gathered to Christ: but if you still stand out, you have neither part nor lot in this matter, but must be exiles, banished and "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power," 2 Thess. i. 7-9. As meanly as you think of God's children now, parting from them will be doleful in the great day. Now be wise for your precious souls. + Luke xv. 7, 10.
• Acts viii. 23. 2 Tim. ii. 26.
(1.) There is yet a possibility that you may be converted and saved: "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation;"* to-morrow, it may be past, and never return again. You are yet alive, many are past hope, past help, thousands are dead and lost since you deserved to be in hell; you are yet monuments of mercy.
(2.) The spirit is yet striving with you, poor ministers are studying for you, pouring out their souls to God for you, longing after you, crying out, Why will you die? Why will you refuse this blessed call of God? Be it known to you, God will not always be insulted, "His spirit shall not always strive.”†
(3.) If ever your souls be converted and saved, while God is the efficient cause, you yourselves must be instruments; for God works morally, so as to preserve men's nature and the principles thereof; if ever you repent, the work is yours, though the power to work is from God, Phil. ii. 12, 13. Saith a great divine, “The duty is ours, the grace is his; God is the efficient, man the agent."+
(4.) Your duty is then to fall down on your knees, and beg of God a disposition suited to the grace of God, and fitted for this day of gathering; Lord, I am now going to hear thy word, O come with power from on high, open my heart as thou didst the heart of Lydia: melt my heart like wax, then set thy stamp upon me: "Cast down my vain imaginations-and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Square my soul to be a temple of the Holy Ghost. Put spiritual life into my soul, and let
+ Gen. vi. 3.
2 Cor. vi. 2. Omne opus humanum est virium nostrarum opus, et vires nullæ sunt nobis nisi à Deo liberè donatæ.-Baxter's Myth. Theol. Acts xvi. 14. 2 Cor. x. 5.
me be one of those lively stones which are built up a spiritual house. Put thy hand in "by the hole of the door of my heart, and make my bowels move towards thee."* Let the power of thy grace be such a hidden, prevailing, uncontrolable efficacy as may win my soul to thee all I can do is nothing, unless the Spirit prevail. If thou wilt work who can let it? if thou work not, all I do is in vain. O Lord, let me not perish with the infidel world, "Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men, but in the midst of thy congregation let me bless the Lord."
2. But the parties I have to deal with, more directly are Christians, real saints, who are gathered to Christ, and hope to be gathered to him at last with the rest of God's people; to such as these I will give these few instructions, and to all professors.
(1.) Be sincere; be really what you seem to be by profession. It will be a dreadful disappointment to pass for saints, and be found among them, and not be of them; for it is said, Rom. ix. 6, "They are not all Israel, which are of Israel," that is, those that are of the stock of Israel are not all of the same spirit; some goats may be found among the sheep till the separating day; some may "have a name to live and be dead." All is not gold that glitters, shining lamps, and oil in the vessels, are different things. It will be a dreadful thing when the master of the feast comes to view his guests, and finds one not having on a wedding garment, and thus expostulates with him, "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" Alas, he was speechless and cast into outer darkness. O what "weeping and gnashing of teeth!" Matt. xxii. 11-13. O beware of a mere show and semblance of religion. Tremble, lest when you are weighed in the * 1 Pet. ii. 5. Song v. 4. + Psal. xxvi. 9, 12. + Rev. iii. 1.
balances you be found wanting, lest your works be not perfect before God,* wetλngwμéva, filled up with the necessary essentials that constitute a Christian. Sirs, a day is coming when your inside will be turned out, to the open view of all; when God will bring to "light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the heart," 1 Cor. iv. 5. See then that your hearts be sound in God's statutes that you may not be ashamed. Be sincere, and then you "will be without offence in the day of Christ;" be upright in heart and uniform in life; keep a conscience void of offence: walk with God, and you shall rest with God.
(2.) Gather yourselves together in solemn exercises of religion; especially in cases of public calamity and common danger, so God calls to Israel, Zeph ii. 1, 2, "Gather yourselves together, yea, gather yourselves together, O nation not desired, before the decree bring forth." Be unanimous and harmonious in fasting and praying. How often doth God call his people of old, "to sanctify a fast, to call a solemn assembly, to gather the elders;" there is great reason for it, all have sinned, all must be humbled, all are concerned. Persons may be helpful one to another, "a threefold cord is not easily broken."|| God sometimes expects unanimous votes, which make a great sound in his ears. Let Christians do as the children of Israel and Judah, go together "to God weeping and seeking the Lord their God, covenanting with God," as in Jer. 1. 4, 5. Yea, in ordinary duties of prayer, conference, and reading, let them strengthen one another's hands in God; "Provoke each other to love and to good works. Sing God's praises together. O what an emblem of heaven is this communion of saints! Many combustibles kindled
* Rev. iii. 2.
+ Psal. cxix. 80.
Phil. i. 10.
§ Heb. x. 24.
make a great blaze; grapes put together ripen one another. Is communion of saints good in heaven, and is it not good here? Are not some Christians ignorant, and want informing? Are not some dead, and want quickening; hard, and want softening; wandering, and want reclaiming? Are not some staggering, and want settling? Are not some weak, and should not we lift "up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees?* Get together here as you hope to come together hereafter.
(3.) Agree affectionately. Let not Christians fall out by the way, when they hope to meet in the end. Away with discords and divisions, if any occasions of difference fall out, (as it is likely there will) rest not till you seek and obtain reconciliation. If thou hast any thing against thy brother, be thou faithful in admonishing, if it be his fault, to bring him to repentance, keep not malice burning in thy heart; avenge not yourselves, express brotherly kindness to him. "Be
not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good," study Rom. xii. 18-21. "If thou remember that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift,” Matt. v. 23, 24. God will rather tarry for his due than thou shouldst neglect thy duty; if thou be conscious to thyself that he hath just reason to be offended with thee, humble thyself, confess thy fault to God and him; if thou be not conscious that thou hast done him wrong, go to him and know the reason of his strangeness to thee, and endeavour to pacify him; do not fall out with any brother, but "live in peace, that the God of love and peace may be with you." O beware of quarrels and animosities; study the wisdom which is + 2 Cor. xiii. 11.
*Heb. xii. 12.