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him, and lyes at the catch for an advantage. Here it seemed fair for them. They accost not himself with it, but his disciples, hoping more easily to unsettle them of their opinion of their master. How is this? He calls you to follow him as to some eminent way of sanctity, and leads you unto feasting and good cheer, and that with the refuse, and impurest sort of men, Publicans and sinners. Jesus takes on him the answer as alone able to give it home. Why? What wonder you to see me in such company? Why? Where should a man be, but where his business lyes? Were it strange to find a physician in an hospital or infirmary, or any where amongst the sick? Here is my work and great employment, and you might have read a word appli cable to this purpose: I will have mercy and not sacrifice, that is, rather than sacrifice, or any ceremonial observance, such as this you urge, of abhorring the society of such persons; substantial goodness, and duties of compassion and love and instead of squinting on what you see, go think on this; you have read it likely, but do not well understand it; study better what it means. Meanwhile know this, that I am prosecuting the great design of my com ing into the world, while I am in such company. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Not the righteous; either them that conceit themselves such, as you do, or any that are really converted already and religious. My present business is not so much with them, as to reduce the ungodly. To call sinners to repentance. I will not now speak of the rules and qualifications of using or avoiding the converse of unholy persons; but doubtless there lyes much, we will find, as in this instance, in the due consideration of the persons on both sides, what hope there may be of reclaiming them, and what safety of not being corrupted by them, lest while we think to pull them out of the mire, they drag us into it. Here there was none of that danger at all, and there was the highest
power for converting; and the persons even by coming so willingly where he was, seem not to have been the most obstinate and incorrigible. But we would reflect well on ourselves in this case, that our intention be suitable to this, and that we be in some measure hopeful to be able to accomplish, before we attempt such a thing, otherways it will prove fool hardiness to adventure much of this kind.
But this is the great comfort of sinners, this word: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. What can a diffident heart say, that it should not come to Jesus Christ? Art thou a sinner, an eminent sinner? Therefore come to him, for he came to thee. It is such that he comes to seek; they are the very objects of his grace. He had nothing else to do in the world, but to save such, came on purpose for their sakes. His very name tells it; He shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. It is so far from being a just hindrance, that it is the only title to his favourable intentions, that thou art a sinner. Were it not strange if one should say, I am sick, very sick, therefore I will not make an address to the physician. And to say I am a sinner, and a great one, therefore I dare not go to the Saviour of sinners, would be equally strange. Oh, no, therefore, I will go, he came for me, I am sure he is able to heal me, ought to be the language of all such.
But though this is great encouragement to sinners, it is no encouragement at all to sin. He came to call sinners, but it is to call them to repentance. This the whole gospel, and all the doctrine of grace still presses. If thou bring thy sins to Jesus Christ, as thy malady and misery to be cured of, and delivered from them, it is well: but to come with them as thy beloved darlings and delight, thinking still to retain them and receive him, thou mistakest him grossly, and miserably deludest thyself. He came forth from God, to reduce souls to God, in
order to make us partakers of his divine nature. The great intendment of the blessed Jesus, and the great redemption he wrought, is to separate our hearts and sin. We know him not, if we take it otherways: and this says clearly, that though he hath come to us, and stretched forth his hands long amongst us, few of us are come to him. Oh! how few have trod on the neck of their beloved sin, to come to Jesus Christ. This is the great deplorable wretchedness of the land, not the losses and ravages of war; not the loss of civil liberty, or any thing else that way; this is it, unrepentance. We turn not by being smitten with the sharpest rod; we turned not by being invited. with tender mercies. Look on such as have been suffering at home, or wandering abroad, what change on our hearts? What imports who do, or do not rule over us, while our unworthy lusts and passions still do? If spoiled and poor, and without Christ too, then we are poor indeed. Oh! pitiful poor, yea, if thou escape many things that light sad on others, yet if thou hast not escaped the dominion of sin, and that curse of death that cleaves to it, oh! wretched catif. Think what Jesus came and died for; what we live for, and what is our great business on this earth; that our sins die before us. He came to call the earthly to heavenly mindedness, and heavenly conversation; to call the unclean to purity; to call the passionate and furious to meekness; to call the proud to humility. Oh! answer this call; give him the desire of his heart, and he will certainly give thee thine.
ANY and great are the evils that lodge within the heart of man, and they come forth abundantly both by the tongue and by the hand, yet the heart is not emptied of them; yea, the more it vent them outwardly, the more they increase within. Well might He that knew the heart so well, call it an evil treasure. We find the prophet Ezekiel in his 8th chap. led by the Lord in vision to Jerusalem, to view the sins of the Jews that remained in time of the captivity, when He had shewed him one abomination, He caused him to dig through the wall, to enter and discover more, and so directed him several times, from one place to another, and still said, I will shew thee yet greater abominations. Thus is it with those, whom the Lord leads into an examination of their own hearts (for men are usually strangers to themselves) by the light of his word and spirit going before them, He lets them see heaps of abominations in every room, and the vilest in the most retired and darkest corners: And truly should He leave them there, they would despair of remedy. No, He makes this discovery on purpose that they should sue to him for help. Do so then as many as have taken any notice of the evils of your own hearts:
Tell the Lord they are his own works; He formed the heart of man within him, and they are his own choice too, My son give me thy heart. Intreat him to redress all those abuses wherewith Satan and sin have filled it, and then, to take possession of it himself, for therein consists its happiness. This is, or should be, a main end of our resortings to his house and service. Wrong not yourselves so far as to turn these serious exercises of religion into an idle divertisement. What a happiness were it, if every time you come to his solemn worship, some of your strongest sins did receive a new wound, and some of your weakest graces a new strength!
JAMES iii. 17.
But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
GOD doth know, that in the day that ye shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil, was the first hissing of that old serpent, by which he poisoned mankind in the root. Man not contented with the impression of God's image in which he was created, lost it by catching at a shadow: Climbing higher than his station, he fell far below it: Seeking to be more than man, to become as God, he made himself less than man: He lodged not a night in honour, but became as the beasts that perish. Ever since, nature's best wisdom is full of impurity, turbulency and distemper; nor can any thing rectify it, but a wisdom from above, that both cleanseth and composeth the soul, it is first pure, and then peaceable.
This epistle, as some that follow, is called General, both by reason of the dispersion of the parties
a Gen. iii. 5.
b Psm. xlix. 12.