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they can ? and doth not men's practice provoke or condemn thee? Suppose the inen of the world obtain their ends-what is a prince's favour to God's ? “Put not your trust in princes—blessed is the man that hath the God of Jacob for his help.”* What if the base, man-pleasing flatterer get a little popular favour, how soon may men's hosannas be turned into "crucify him?" At what rate would the enamoured lover purchase the favour of his mistress, and when obtained, it may be, purchase nothing but sorrow? O take shame to yourselves that you take no more pains to obtain the favour of God; and now from henceforth let the kingdom of heaven suffer violence, and seek for that honour that cometh from God only: the matter is of infinite concernment, even as much as your souls are worth to all eternity.
(4.) There is yet a possibility of obtaining God's favour. Poor sinner, thou art yet alive, out of hell, thousands that were alive as thou art are past hope, they shall never have offers of grace more, no terms of accommodation shall ever be propounded to them, but they are banished for ever from the presence of the Lord, without hopes of ever seeing his face with comfort; this may be, must be thy case shortly, if thou obtain not God's favour here. The devils never had an offer of God's favour, those high favourites in the court of heaven, upon the first transgression were cast headlong into everlasing chains under darkness, reserved unto the judgment of the last day;t but thou hast heard the glad tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world; the good news concerns men,
Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” † It is to you, O men, that wisdom calls, and her voice is to the sons of men, || it is to you * Psal. cxlvi. 3-5 + Jude, 6. * Luke ii. 14. Il Prov. viii. 4.
that are alive, this day to whom the word of his salvation is sent; yet there is hope ; yet for aught we know, the door is open: we are sent to living persons, the living, the living may praise the Lord, yet the Spirit of God is striving with you; yet God holds forth the golden sceptre, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation; he hath limited it to a day, this day of life; in vain shall you sue for favour when life is
gone; the foolish virgins may stand long at the door and knock, and cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us;" when the door is shut, when the gulf is fixed, when death hath done its office, then there is no hope, no help, the disease will be incurable, your state wretched, your souls eternally undone; alas ! alas for you! that ever you were born, if you would give thousands of pounds, yea, the whole world, were it yours to give, it would be in vain; all your wailings and piercing cries will not move God's heart to favour you, you must be for ever separated from his presence, and from the glory of his power, into endless, unintermitting, remediless torments, where the God of mercy will never cast a propitious eye upon you more; but as it were laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear comes upon you; for the scene of grace will be over, and justice now will act its part against rebellious and impenitent sinners for ever and
You will say, but is there any hope? I fear I have sinned away the day of grace, and the interposition of God's Spirit; woe is me!
Ans. Neither thou, nor I, nor any creature breathing can tell that this is the case; still God is holding thy soul in life, and who knows but he may crown thee also with loving kindness and tender mercy ? it may be, God hath spared thee for that end thus long: who knoweth but he will return and leave a blessing behind him?* Even the poor Ninevites could thus argue, when they had no grounds of encouragement: Who can tell if God will turn away his fierce anger? | This is ground sufficient for a venture : it may be, ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger, † or rather, it may be, he may turn away his anger, and be reconciled to you, and be favourable to your souls; yea, be assured of it, if you be sincere in repenting and believing in Christ, you shall certainly be received into favour, there is no peradventure in it; such as come to him he will in no wise cast out. || If the wicked forsake their way, and the ungodly their thoughts, and turn to the Lord, he will have mercy upon them, he will abundantly pardon; s free grace will be magnified, their souls will be accepted, their sins will be pardoned, God hath said it and he will perforin it. O believe not Satan, nor a perverse heart, against an infallible word of the faithful God. Say not as some forlorn miscreants invited to repent, there is no hope, no, for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go, 9 as if he should say, it is in vain to move me to repent, I see my case is desperate, I lie under a curse and am given up to hardness of heart; God will not pardon me, to hell I must go, I might as well take my pleasure in sinning, and be sentenced to misery for something, for to the devil I am going. Oh, horrible, dreadful frame! God forbid that any should say, there is no hope at this rate; there is certainly hope in Israel concerning this thing. ** Sin not as one desperate, forsake not thine own mercies,ft confess thy sin, repent and give glory to God; there is mercy for the
* Joel ii. 14.
+ Jonah iii. 9.
Jer. ii. 25. xvüi. 12. tt Jonah ii. 8.
chief of sinners, Paul is a pattern, Manasseh an instance, some of the Corinthians are lively examples. O kick not against his tender mercy, despise not the riches of his grace, scorn not his favours ; let God's loving kindness lead thee to repentance, let hopes of acceptance be thy encouragement. When a pirate at sea, or rebel at land have no hopes of their prince's favour, they grow desperate; but a proclamation of gracious reception, especially a promise of preferment melts their hearts into submission; 0 that gospel offers might have the like efficacy upon your hearts! make a trial, put God to it, see whether he will be as good as his word; the report of his merciful nature, methinks should make you say as Benhadad's servants, “ Behold now, we have heard that the king of Israel is a merci. ful king; let us put sackcloth upon our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; peradventure he will save our lives;"* the life of our precious souls, You have even better assurance than they had, for the Lord our God is gracious and merci. ful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him, 2 Chron. xxx. 9. You will say I am very desirous of God's favour; but how shall I do to obtain it? what means must I use to obtain the favour of God? I answer, think not that you can procure God's favour, or purchase it with your endeavours, or work yourself into it by your duties or obedience; his love is free, yet he hath appointed ways for his poor creatures to use as means, which he prescribes for them, in order to the obtaining and enjoying of this mercy, and they are such as these briefly :
1. Serious self-reflection. When God intends good to a person he engageth him to look into his own heart and state, to consider his ways, to commune with his
* 1 Kings xx. 31.
heart. * There are four inquiries I entreat you to make relative to yourselves.
(1.) Am I in God's favour or not? o I have great need to get this case of conscience clearly solved upon scripture grounds ; every one doth not partake of this special favour of God, nor I by nature, for I am a child of wrath as I come into this world; am I changed, is my soul converted ? what fruits of God's special love have I experienced in my soul! O that I could prove my work, prove my state whether I be in Christ, and Christ in me or not !t I must know, let the case be what it may, uncertainties will not serve my turn, loth I am to be deceived in a matter of so great moment.
(2.) What if I be out of God's favour ? oh fearful state, woe is me, it had been better I had never been born; I am as sure to be lost as God is true, if I live and die so, and I may die this night, I know not but I may be in hell before morning; woe is me if I be not in God's favour, I am a bond-slave to Satan, an enemy to God and God to me, then all the creatures are my enemies, I am worse than the brutes, comparatively happy were 1, if I could die as a dog or horse; woe is me, my soul is going into eternity, and I know not whither; but certain I am, I can never be happy in this world, or in another world, but by and in the favour of God.
(3.) How came it to pass, that my soul lost God's favour? what are the grounds of the quarrel? whence came this distance and difference betwixt the great God, and my poor soul? Adam was in favour, but lost it by sinning against God, in eating of the forbidden fruit; here the controversy first commenced, and I am guilty, and have ever since I was born followed that bad example, walked in the same steps, and so widened the difference: sin is only the make-bate bePsal. cxix. 59.
+ Gal. vi. 4. 2 Cor. xiii. 5.