« PrécédentContinuer »
ftrive against, and conquer the affaults of fin. By fuch finners then, whofe ways it is our highest wifdom to avoid, the prophet means the unconverted or the reprobate finner, whofe whole life and converfation being averfe from virtue and religion, they may be truly faid to take pleafure in evil. If therefore we would not forfeit the bleffing of God we must avoid temptation, we must on no account put ourselves in the way of fuch men, left their manners infect, and corrupt us. And as to the third fort of characters, as they are placed laft, we may fuppofe they rife in excess of danger, as to their conduct and example; they are termed fcorners ; they are fuch as are not fatisfied with living in all manner of fin themselves, but are advanced fo far in defperate vice, as to ridicule and defpife all manner of virtue, religion, and holiness in other men. Such profane mockers as would fet up the rushlight of their corrupted reafon against the fun of divine revelation, and the truth and wisdom of God's infpired word. No one who wishes to partake of God's favour will readily mix with such as thefe. The two former are not beyond the reach of grace (though their cafe is very dangerous), for the blind may receive fight, and the most corrupted wounds may be healed; the mercy of God is mighty to melt down the ftubborn, and his judgments, and the power of his word, is as the piercing of a two edged fword, dividing to the joints and marrow; but fuch as wilfully fhut their eyes against the light, fuch as throw away the remedy, fuch as fin foully against conviction, and defy and mock the threatened vengeance of the Moft High, their cafe must be confidered as truly defperate: it is no offence against charity to fay, that fuch fcarcely ever experience the gift of true.repentance, for how fhall they repent who deny the need of it? Such we generally fee, after their hardness and impenitent hearts, do treafure up themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and
the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Rom. ii. 5. And that you may not miftake the defcription of these fcorners, it may be profitable to prefent you with an example of them from holy writ.
We read in the 2d book of Chronicles, and xxxth chap. that when the good king Hezekiah had destroyed idolatry in the land, had purified the temple of the Lord, and reformed the impious cuftoms of the people to the fervice of the pure religion of their fathers, he fent meffengers to every city to affemble the people to Jerufalem, in order to keep the folemn faft of Eafter, or the paffover, according to the Lord's appointment; but when the meffengers arrived in the different cities, instead of praifing God for their deliverance from idolatry, and for raising them up fo good a prince, and reftoring to them the pure religion of their ancestors, the scripture tells us, That they laughed the ambaffadors to fcorn, and mocked them. Now we can hardly doubt of the dreadful state of such scoffers, or think that there was any hope of their recovery, fince they wilfully preferred the fervice of fatan, to the pure worship of God: they turned their backs on the gates of mercy and deliverance. Again, we have a further picture of this hopeless race of men, in the last chapter of the fame book, where, after the Lord God of their fathers, from the compaffion he had upon his people, and on his dwellingplace, fent to them by his meffengers, rifing up betimes, and fending them, and that they still mock-ed the meffengers of God, and defpifed his words and his prophets the wrath of the Lord God at laft arofe against his people, till there was no remedy left; they rejected the only means, and they were given up to their enemies, as we fee in the continuation of their history: and thus doubtlefs will all be given up to their spiritual enemy at laft, who fcoff at God's word, and neglect the methods by which only they can be faved. Further, of E 4
thefe proud and perverfe finners we have another example in the fate of the old world, who mocked at the counfel of Noah, when he would have warned them to avoid God's threatened vengeance; but, flighting the word of God, they perished. And as the last inftance of these fcorners mentioned in the Old Testament, we read that Lot preached to the abandoned people of Sodom, that unless they repented, and reformed, the Lord would destroy both them and their cities, with fignal punishment, but they alfo fcoffed at the friendly admonition afforded them, and at length provoked the Lord, (after he had refcued his believing fervants) to deftroy thofe mockers of his holy word by fire and brimstone from out of heaven. In fhort, fuch is the depravity of mankind, and fo general this character, that under the greatest of all God's merciful dealings towards his creatures, there were always fcoffers who defpised his word, and derided the particular methods in which his wifdom faw good to fpeak and act for their falvation. But the most woeful example of this abominable race of men is recorded in the character of the malevolent fcribes and pharifees, in our Bleffed Lord's time. Those proud, covetous, and felf-conceited worldlings fcorned both the humble Jefus and his evangelical faving doctrines. The worldly-wife efteemed the gofpel as foolishness, and bitter woe is confequently denounced against them as they flighed the laft gracious call in the perfon of God's own Son, we cannot fuppofe that any thing but inevitable deftruction must have been the portion of fuch fcorners. This is a deadly character of man, which ever has exifted from the firft fall of man, and ever will remain, till the world is again deftroyed for its increased wickedness. St. Peter hath exprefsly prophefied (2 Peter iii. 3.) That in the last days fhou'd come fcoffers, walking after their own lufts, denying the Lord that bought them; and by their damnable berefies
drawing deftruction on themselves: Of all kinds of wicked men then, of all kinds of evil practices, we muft principally beware of encouraging any that turn the word of God into a jeft, left we provoke the Lord to deny his mercy to us, as he did to many of the vain fcorners that have been fet before you. Let us not. become wilful murderers of our own eternal peace: let us turn to God while our day of grace is mercifully continued; for to repent in the world to come will be too late, fince there the wicked will receive judgment without mercy. These warnings are intended to guard unwary chriftians from falling into fuch fins, and to infpire them with becoming reverence for all God's holy word. But all men have not faith, nor will they ufe the means of obtaining it; fuch therefore will boldly continue to fill up the measure of their iniquities by either writing or fpeaking profanely against the plainnefs and authority of the fcriptures, being vainly puffed up by a carnal mind; for according to the defcription in the text, the unlearned and unstable do wreft the fcriptures to their own deftruction. And though under the power of this fpirit of delufion, even Jefus Chrift, (as St. Paul afferts) is to the Jews a ftumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness; yet is he the power of God and the wifdom of God, to all God's children, from whatever ftock they are called, whether Jews or Gentiles. He is fet forth (as the pious Simeon declares,) for the fall and rifing again of many in Ifrael, and for a fign that fhall be fpoken against. And as all perish through their own fault, who deny or refufe him and his falvation, fo is his word, and indeed all fcripture, a fnare to those who attempt to fcorn, and undervalue its defign or power. As he is the cause of life only to those who are God's children by adoption, fo is the whole bible the gift of God to falvation, to them only who believe it. Thus for the fame reafon, naturally, even Chrift himself, the
prophets before him, the apostles his followers, all faithful minifters of the gofpel, and every word in the book of life, can only be the favor of death unto death, to the profane and reprobate perfon; which is the fame thing as faying, He is fet forth for their falling; that is, to be the judge of their impenitence and wilful obftinacy.
Surely then, it behoves all moft highly to reverence a book that carries both life and death in its contents. It is impoffible to be too wary of making a mock of fuch a treasure. This is a risk that fhould check every inclination of this nature, and on the contrary affift our seriousness in the study of it, that in proportion as the scriptures appear obfcure or difficult to our understanding, the more we may fear to fall fhort of the favor of the holy Author who infpired them. This will urge us to more humility and diligence in the purfuit. And of this every reasonable mind will be thoroughly affured, that to defpife or ridicule a paffage because we do not understand it, is a certain mark of extreme folly, and impiety united; it being the most dangerous of all errors to fport or cavil with the words of the Almighty. Whenever therefore the various facrifices, rites, and ceremonies of the old law, do ftrike our ignorance with furprize, we must modeftly conclude they had all a holy and very fignificant defign, as relating to particular times and people. And indeed they have all been occafionally explained, by learned, and godly men, as fhadows and figures of the things and perfons revealed to us in the gofpel. Again, if the repetition of learned names, and the hiftory of their families, may feem not over edifying to the plainer clafs of people, yet others may, and do profit by this curious and fatisfactory ftudy: for though the poor have the gospel preached unto them, yet do the fcriptures contain food for the ftrong as well as for the weak nor is there any thing in that treafure-houfe of wif