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our punishments and our rewards, it claims, infinitely beyond all other books, our unremitting attention. In this view the Apostle, having mentioned the misconduct of the Israelites in the wilderness, and the destruction which they brought upon themselves by means of it, founds upon their history this solemn admonition; "therefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."
From these words we may learn I. That all, even the most eminent, are liable to fall
[The most distinguished characters of antiquity have fallen ---They have betrayed their weakness in those very points, wherein their eminence chiefly consisted- - Who then amongst us will presume to say, “ I am in no danger of falling?”_-] II. That the more self-confident we are, the more likely
we are to fall [Self-confidence naturally emboldens us to rush into temptation---And necessarily provokes God to leave us to ourselves---By means of the former, our occasions of falling are greatly multiplied: by means of the latter, our ability to stand is utterly withdrawn"--God, for his own honour's sake, is concerned to let us fall, in order that we may know and confess, that our sufficiency for any good thing is derived from him alone ---] III. That, if we would be kept from falling, we must
look well to our steps (As in a slippery path peculiar caution is required, and an inattention to our steps will probably issue in some painful accident, so more especially is it necessary to use circumspection in the path of duty. Who can tell the snares and tempta
a Noah, Gen. vi. 9. with ix. 21. Loi, 2 Pet. ii. 7, 8. with Gen. xix. 33–36. David, Acts xiñ. 22. with 2 Sam xi. 4, 5, 15. Sotomon, (who was called Jedeciah, the beloved of the Lord, 2 Sam. xii. 24, 25.) 1 Kin. xi. 1-9.
Abrahum, Rom. iv. 20. with Gen. xii, 12, 13, and xx. 2, 11. Job, Jam. vill, with Job ii. 3. Moses, Numb. xii. 3. with xx. 10, 11. Jeremiah, Jer. ix. d. with xx. 8, 9, Paul, Acts xx. 24. with xviii. 9, 10. when he seems to have been struck with a panic.
e John iv. 14. and 1 Pet. 1.23. shew the proper qualities and ten. dency of gruce; but do not at all affect wlüt the scriptures elsewhere affirm to be the tendency of our inherent corruptiun.
4 We have a striking example of this in Peter, who to gratily his curiosity went into the midst of his enemics, and was then lett to experience bis own weakness. Matt. xxvi. 58, 74.
• Thus he âcied towards the Israelites, Deut. i. 42-ti.
tions that beset us? Who can tell what may
be the consequences of any step we take? Who can reflect on all the circumstances that arose from one single glance of David's eye, and not feel himself exposed to continual danger? The most important events of our lives may be traced to some trivial cause, some matter of pure indifference: and events, equally or more important, perhaps no less than the everlasting salvation of our souls, may depend on the very next step we take. Surely then we should in all things be circumspect:" we should " take heed to our ways;" we should walk in an humble dependence on God for direction and support; we should cry to him continually “ Hold thou up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."]
We shall conclude this subject with a few words of ADVICE 1. To those who are offended at the falls of others
(Many, when they see a professor of religion act amiss, are ready to impute his misconduct to the gospel itself, as though Christianity were only a cloke for hypocrites. But, considering the temptations that surround us, and the corruptions that are within us, it is rather a wonder that any stand, than that some should fall. We mean not to justify, or to extenuate, the sins of any: but we desire that religion should not be represented as promoting that, which it utterly condemns. Let the blame fall on those who merit it, and not be cast indiscriminately on all who profess godliness. Let Judas be branded as a traitor; but let not the odium of his offence attach to all the other apostles, and to their divine Master.)
2. To those who are endeavouring to walk uprightly before God
[It is of considerable use to persons when walking on slippery ground, to have hold of each other, that if one slip, the other may afford him immediate assistance. Many falls and bruises have been escaped by these means. Thus it is of great importance to Christians to walk together in love, each helping to support his neighbour, and receiving help from others in the time of need. Let all then watch over one another with a godly jealousy. If one fall, let others endeavour instantly, in meekness, to raise him up. Above all, let every one know in whom his strength is; and pray continually, “ Hold thou me up and I shall be safe.?
“Now to him, who is able to keep us from falling, &c. be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."
f Exod. xxiii. 13. i Gal. vi. 1.
g Ps. xvii. 5. k
Ps. cxix. 117.
b Ecc). iv. 9, 10. I Jude xxiv, 25.
CCCCXI. THE CONSEQUENCE OF NOT REMER
BERING OUR LATTER END.
Lam. i. 9. She rememberetha not her latter end; therefore she
came down wonderfully.
TO men in general nothing appears sinful but that which violates in the grossest manner some positive command, and interrupts in a very high degree the welfare of society. But God considers an unprofitable servant as deserving the same doom as the dishonest; and informas us, that an unmindfulness of our latter end will bring his judgments upon us, no less than a determined commis. sion of every thing that is evil.
The prophet Jeremiah is lamenting the sore bondage under which his country groaned in Babylon, and is as. signing the reasons for which God had thuş rejected her. But in doing this, he does not fix on any one particular sin, however great; but on that which had 'pervaded all ranks of people, their unmindfulness of their latter end.
In his words we read
[Moses had forewarned the Jews of the things that should come upon them in the latter days: but they had never duly considered his predictions, nor laboured to avert the threatened calamities. Thus has God warned us also of the miseries which the wicked shall endure in another world: but we will not regard his admonitions. The gay, the worldly, the ambitious are intent on their several pursuits; but none says, “ Where is God my Maker?" Even those who profess some regard for religion, are yet, for the most part, very little engaged in a preparation for eternity: their zeal, in the pursuit of heavenly things, bears no proportion to the importance of their object, or even to the labours which others use for the attainment of worldly vanities.) Nor let this be thought a venial matter
[This it was, which brought down Jerusalem: and it will involve us also in the heaviest calamities. And well it may: for it is a contempt of God our Maker. In this view he hin
• It should rather be, remembered. '$ Job xxxv. 10. Ps. xiv. 2, 3. Vol. IV.
self complains of it; and he represents all his attributes and perfections as dishonoured by it. It is also a contempt of Christ our Saviour. He has even died, to purify us unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works:” but, by our indifference, we make light of his mercies, and trample on his blood. Finally, it is a contempt of our own souls. The most avowed enemies of God and his Christ profess to have some regard for their immortal souls: but God, who will not put a wrong, construction upon our actions, tells us, that “ he who refuseth instruction, despiseth his own soul.”& Indeed this is but too manifest; since the man who remembers not his latter end, practically says, “ Give me the things which my body most affects; and, as for my soul, I care not for it: if my soul can be saved, notwithstanding my indulgence of the body, it is well: but if their interests clash, I will gratify my body, though at the peril, yea, to the certain destruction of
Can that then be light and venial, which involves in it such awful consequences? Surely, though no flagrant crime were ever committed, this alone would be sufficient to bring upon us God's eternal wrath and indignation.]
The evil of such conduct will abundantly appear, if we notice II. Their punishment
The downfall of Jerusalem was a fit emblem of that which awaits impenitent transgressors
(Let us only compare the departure of Israel out of Egypt, guided, protected, and supported by God himself, and their establishment and increase in the land of Canaan, with their miserable condition when they were carried captive to Babylon: “ How was the gold become dim, and the most fine gold changed!” Thus wonderful will be our destruction also, if we continue to forget our latter end.].
God himself warns us that our destruction will be great, if we neglect our souls
[It will be suddenh- tremendousi -irremediablekmand eternall_
Let us reflect on the change experienced by the rich man in the parable; and we may conceive a little of that surprise
e Ps. x. 4. 5, 6, 11, 13. His majesty, Ps. xii. 4. his omniscience, Job xxii: 13, 14. his justice, Ps. xciv, 7. his goodness and forbearance, Rom. ii. 4. e Luke x. 16.
f Aets xiii. 38-41. Heb. x. 28, 29. & Proy, xv. 32.
# Ps. lxxiii. 17-20. I Thess. Y. .. i Jer. xxiii. 17-20. $ Prov. xxix. 1.by Thess. i. ,
m Luke Ti. 19, 25.
and horror that will seize on us in the instant of our departure from the body.
Let us also, if we would escape this doom, regard the solemn warning, and the compassionate advice, which God himself has recorded for our instruction."] We
may IMPROVE this subject yet further 1. For the warning even of real Christians
[We will suppose that your concern for your souls is such as to secure eternal happiness: yet a declension in holy zeal will produce a proportionable declension both in your graces and your comforts. Let those who have ever experienced the blessedness of living nigh to God, and of being on the wing for heaven, compare it with the darkness and misery of a drooping and deserted state; and they will see enough to make them watchful against spiritual decays, and increasingly mindful of their eternal interests.] 2. For their comfort and encouragement
[There is a truth, not expressed indeed, but evidently implied in the text, namely, That all who remember their latter end, shall be wonderfully exalted. And what an encouraging truth is this! Let any one view Lazarus at the rich man's gate, and in Abraham's bosom, and he will see what a wonderful exaltation awaits the righteous at their departure hence. Even here the children of the devil shall become “sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty:"! but hereafter they shall reign with him as partners of his glory." Let this hope then animate the Christian in his difficulties, and stimulate us all to more abundant diligence in our heavenly calling:']
n Deut, xxxii. 18, 20, 29.
• Ps, xxx. 7. Song v. 2-6.
CCCCXII. AGAINST AN OVER-RIGHTEOUS SPIRIT,
Eccles. vii. 16. Be not righteous over-much.
THIS is the sheet-anchor of ungodly men—They hate to see a zeal for God, and therefore endeavour to repress it-From the days of Cain to this hour, they who have been born after the flesh, have persecuted those who have