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not that he should reign over them ?-Were they excused? or, Was their punishment alleviated, because they had never professed themselves his servants? No: After sentence on the unfaithful servant, the king says-But those mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
In the parable of the wedding feast, there were some who made light of the king's invitation, and injuriously treated the messengers who brought it. Among those who accepted the invitation, there was one found without a wedding garment. This unworthy guest was bound, and cast into outer darkness; and against those who rejected the invitation, and abused his servants, the king sent forth his armies, and destroyed them, and burnt up their city.
You see then the indispensable obligation of all, to whom the gospel comes, to profess their belief of, and subjection to it. Do you decline to make a religious profession, from an apprehension, that after this, the guilt of your sins will be aggravated? Know, that whether you make a profession or not, the guilt of your sins is already aggravated, from the advantages under which the gospel has placed you. They who know their Lord's will, and do it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. It is vain to think of securing yourselves, by pleading that you are not of the number of professors; for God has not left it to your choice, whether you will be of that number, any more than he has left it to your choice whether you will love and fear him. You have no more right to live at large, and unconnected with the Christian church, than you have to be unjust, profane, or intemperate. No caution of this kind can avail to alleviate your guilt. Yea, the very pretence confutes itself; for, while you deliberate
how to sin with safety, you discover a heart set in you to do evil.
2. We learn, that it concerns every one, not only to submit to God's kingdom, but to submit to it immediately. There is no occasion for delay.
Imagine not that the kingdom of God comes with such observation, that there are only particular times when you may enter into it. It is come nigh to you. Its laws are now stated, and its blessings proposed; and you may submit to these laws, and secure these blessings now, as well as hereafter. You are not to wait for a more favourable opportunity; but to embrace the present. The Apostle says, We have received a kingdom, which cannot be moved. It is a steady, as well as a perpetual kingdom. Its laws are always the same, its blessings are continually offered, its grace is ever free. Let us have grace, that we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.
You are not to suppose, that God grants his spirit only at certain seasons; that then it comes as a violent shower, with such observation, as distinguishes this from all other seasons; and that these are the only seasons of salvation.-He stretches out his hand, all the day long, even to the disobedient and gainsaying. His spirit strives with sinners, while his longsuffering waits. The stiffnecked and perverse, always resist the Holy Ghost. He now commands all to repent, and invites all to receive the blessings of his grace. We are to hear his voice, while it is called today. Now is the day of salvation, and the time of acceptance. We are not to delay, under an apprehension that God will be more gracious, the operations of the spirit more powerful, or our hearts better disposed, at another time, than this. We are to improve this time, this day, as the only season, which is ours; remember. ing, that God waits to be gracious, and exalts him self that he may have have mercy.
3. We are here taught, that we have no occasion to run from place to place, in order to find the grace of God, for we may obtain it in any place, where his Providence calls us.
We are not to imagine, that the spirit of God is poured out in such, or such a place, and no where else; and that, in order to obtain a portion of the spirit, we must go to such a place, hear such a preacher, or join with such an assembly. The kingdom of God comes not with observation; neither shall men have occasion to say, Lo, it is here; or, lo, it is there. For the spirit is not confined to certain places; its influences are not at human disposal, nor do its operations come with publick ob. servation. The gospel is a ministration of the spirit. Where God sends the former, he sends also the latter. You are to receive the spirit in the hearing of faith. Its influence on the heart is not. like an overbearing storm, but as the gentle rain on. the tender herb, and the dew on the grass.
We are to attend on the ordinances which God: has appointed, in the place which his providence points out, hoping for a blessing in the way which his wisdom has prescribed. Here we are to lift up holy hands, not doubting of his readiness to give. his spirit to them who ask him, in this place, as well as another. If they say, See here, or, seethere; go not after them, nor follow them, for the kingdom of God is among you. God grants his grace in his own way; and when in his way we seek, we may be sure to find.
4. We learn from our subject, that true religion: is not ostentatious. It seeks not observation..
The true Christian is exemplary, but not vain. He is careful to maintain good works, but affects. not an unnecessary show of them.. He does noth.. ing through vain glory, but thinks and acts with lowliness of mind. He will not put hiinself for
ward, or take upon him to censure and dictate. Conscious of his numerous imperfections, he hopes humbly, reproves gently, hears reproof patiently, judges charitably, and shews out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
Real religion begins in selfabasement, in a conviction of sin, sense of unworthiness, and reliance on free mercy. The same humble temper, in which it begins, accompanies its future works. The Christian, after his highest improvements, remembers what he was once, a guilty creature, exposed to wrath. He considers, that from this deplorable condition he was recovered by the sovereign grace of God. He reckons not himself to have already attained, or to be already made perfect; but he presses toward the mark for the prize of the high calling. He glories not in his attainments, but laments his deficiencies. When he compares himself with other Christians, he is inclined to hope them better than himself. His language is not-God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men; but, God be merciful to me a sinner. In the performance of duty he seeks not the observation of men, but the approbation of God. If he perceives a regard to human applause creeping in, and mingling itself with spiritual duties, he abhors himself, laments the remaining corruption of his heart, prays for grace to cleanse him from it, and keeps his soul with greater diligence. If he sees reason to rejoice in a consciousness of his integrity, he acknowledges with the apostle, By the grace of God, I am what I am.
5. It appears, that they only are the true subjects of God's kingdom, who have experienced its power on their hearts.
A religion, that is merely external, will carry none to the world of glory. Let us then inquire, what influence the gospel has within us.
We profess to believe its divinity and importance. Have we felt its transforming power? Are we governed by its doctrines, and conformed to its precepts? Have we received the kingdom of God as little children, with a meek, humble, teachable, and obedient spirit? Have we been taught by the grace of God to deny ourselves? Are our wills subjected to God's anthority, and our affections raised to heavenly objects? If we are strangers to this internal operation of the gospel, then it has only come near to us; but we have not received it.— How great is our guilt?
To us the word of salvation is sent; and it will not return empty. It will not leave us, as it found It will have some mighty effect. If it is not a savour of life unto life, it will be a savour of death unto death. If we treat with contempt the gospel of the grace of God, our condemnation will be more dreadful than if we never had known it, We are then in a most solemn situation; guilty and worthy of death, under the offer of pardon, on trial whether we will accept it. The issue of our probation will be an exceeding and eternal weight of glory, or everlasting misery, aggravated beyond conception by a contempt of offered salvation. Behold ye despisers, and wonder, and perish,-God will perform a work, which you will not believe, though one declare it to you.
6. As the kingdom of God comes not to the heart with observation, we are incompetent judges of the characters of others.
It is a great thing to know our own hearts; impossible for us to know the hearts of others. God only knows the hearts of all the children of men. Therefore judge nothing before the time, till the Lord come, who will bring to light the hid den things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart. And happy they, who then