« PreviousContinue »
our Love. And, if We have no Persuasion of that Good, it is, as to all Effect upon Us, as if it were not at all. For every thing works upon the Passions of Men, not according to what it is in its own Nature, but in proportion to what they apprehend concerning it. And therefore no Man can fix his Affections on Heaven and Heavenly Joys, who hath no Prospect, no Hope, of ever having any Part or Place There. 'Tis true indeed, Reason will not lead us to infer, that Sorrow for the past, or Amendment for the time to come, can be any Equivalent Satisfaction for our Offences. But Revelation hath assured us, that God may be appeased; and it hath told us how he is appeased : Even by the precious Blood of that Son, who came to give his Life a Ransom for many. God hath declared himself fo fully in this Matter, that the very Heinousness of our Sins is not a greater Provocation, than the Despairing of Mercy, after we have committed them. For that Distrust does, in Effect, and by necessary Interpretation, make God a Liar, and disparage the Merits of Christ's Sacrifice. It plainly argues, that we think God will not be so good as his Word; And, that there are some Offences so horrid, that the Sufferings of his Son cannot be a sufficient Compensation for them. Thus Hope of Mercy, and Faith in the Promises and Satisfaction of Christ, are the very Life and Spirit of true Repentance ; Efential, and indispensably requisite to quicken and recommend every part of it. And, consequently, so ineffe, Etual must Judas his Repentance needs have been, which was destitute of these necessary Qualifications.
If it be enquired, how Judas came to be wanting in this Point; The immediate Cause, no Question, was, that God had forsaken, and withdrawn his Grace from him. But then, if we pursue this Enquiry still farther, and drive it up to its true Head; The Matter will fall at last upon Judas himself, as the proper and original Cause of his own Misery and Destruction. For, never
was there a more flagrant Instance, of Grace obftinately refifted and abused; Of Advantages, and Knowledge to do better, caft behind One's Back; Of presumptuous and inflexible Resolutions to do wickedly; Of Reproofs and timely Warnings loft upon a hardened Wretch; than we may observe in the Case before us. Then was the Season of Grace; And Means and Opportunities were not wanting, for desisting from his Villanous Enterprize. 'Tis true, the Devil is said to have entred into Judas. Which signifies, no question, a more than ordinary Influence, and Power over him. But we shall do well to take Notice, that this is not affirmed of Him, or of any other Person in Scripture; till we are first informed of some very grievous, and often repeated, Impieties, which have provoked God to give them over to their own Perverseness. When the Spirit of the Lord is driven away, then, and not before, the evil Spirit enters, and takes Possession. Then he permits the Tempter to have his full Scope at them, by taking off those AMiftances and Restraints, which before were afforded, as a Check to their Lusts, and a Controul to his Temptations. And then God denies them the Helps of his preventing and Strengthning Grace, which they have so long resisted, and defeated.
II. I have now done with the First Head I proposed, and, from the Consideration of Judas his Repentance, proceed to make such Inferences from it, as are suitable to this Subject.
1. And First, Let me most earnestly exhort and intreat all that read this Passage, to consider the mighty Danger, and dismal Consequences, of known and wilful Sins, before it be too late to prevent, or to remedy them. One very successful Artifice, made use of by the Devil for our Destruction, is to dress up his Temptations to such Advantage; that all the Profit, all the Pleasure, all we propose to our selves, as our End in Sinning, fhall be set in its Best Light, and appear in Proportions
larger than the Life; But all the Difficulty, all the Danger, the Troubles and ill Effects of it, shall be infinitely leilened to, or altogether concealed from, our Sight. This Deceit is One cause, why we feel our Selves so very different Men, while we are presling forward, heated with Desire, and big with false and flattering Expectations; from what we are, when looking back again upon the thing done, and itung with Reproaches and Self-condemnations. For alas! These will be sure to have their turn too; and the Devil is not wanting in his Address, in this Point also. Before the Fact, he hides all discouraging Circumstances; and insinuates, how sinall the Fault, and how easy to be Forgiven. Afterwards, he shifts the Scene, distracts us with the dismallest Representations of our Guilt, and labours to magnify our Crime, so as to be more horrid, than can be forgiven. By the Former he blows us up into Presumption; by the Latter he sinks us into Despair. And Both contribute equally, to his Purpose of contriving our Ruin. But then, to be sure, he hath us fast, when we are entangled in the Snare, careless what we do, and verily persuaded, that there is no possibility of ever getting disengaged. The Smart of a wounded Spirit, even when there remain some hopes of a Cure, and the bitter Reflections of a trembling true Penitent, are Grievous to be born. But no words can express the Misery of that Man. who hath Sinned himself past Hope, and is given up to the Tortures and insupportable Anguish of a condemning Conscience.
This was directly the state of Judas. His greediness of Gain blinded his Eyes, and quite diverted his Thoughts, from considering the horror of his Treachery. But then that Reflection fell upon his Mind, with this terrible back-blow ; And he, that brought again the thirty pieces of Silver, would have given ten thousand Worlds, no doubt, had he been Master of them, never to have yielded to this Villanous Suggestion. When
therefore we are assaulted by any Temptation ; Let us be careful to take the thing, in all its different Prospects. Let us consider betimes, not only the Baits of Pleasure, or Profit, or Greatness, which are apt to dazle the Eyes of unwary Sinners ; but remember withal, that Sorrow and Death are upon the Hook, and think what we shall do, in the End thereof. Think, I say, what our Condition will be, if God should abandon Us to black Thoughts, to the Agonies of Guilt and Despair; When we shall see nothing, but the dreadful looking for of terrible Indignation, when Fiends shall surround us, and Flames shall be continually Aashing in our Faces, and our Hell shall be already begun upon Earth. In Other Cases, our Fears are apt to be the most wild and extravagant of all other Passions, and scare us with Images, far greater and more frightful than the Life; But This is the peculiar Aggravation of a lost Sinner's unhappiness, that the Misery, He lives in perpetual dread of, infinitely exceeds all the Terrors, even of his most jealous and melancholy Apprehensions. An Eternity of Torments is what no finite Imaginations can ever come up to. And as little can we form to our Selves a juft Idea of the Extremity of those Torments; Which, though they were to last but for a Moment, would, even thus, be more insupportable, than whole Ages of the most exquisite Misery, which Flesh and Blood is capable of enduring, in this present Life.
Oh! Were we but careful to lay these things fairly before us, They, sure, would check us, in our hottest and most eager Pursuits; and convince us, that no Consideration can be sufficient, for the Commission of one deliberate Sin. Now this is what the Example of Judas may be serviceable to us in. We may Profit our Selves of it greatly, By those Fruitless Pangs of Remorse, which God rejected, when he had first been rejected by His Obstinacy; By its working in us, a Dread of that Justice and Indignation, which will not always be intreated, sterous Method, and liable to many great and fatal Mistakes. For no Remorse is so amicting, as That which shuts Men out from all Comfort: And yet this Remorse is, of all other, the most fruitless, and the farthest off from true Repentance. There may be, and there often is, great danger in the very Degree of our Sorrow. For, if This degenerate into Astonishment and Perplexity of Heart, into the Darkness of Horror and Confusion, into Distrust of Mercy through Christ, and a Persuasion that our Sin is greater than can ever be forgiven ; It is as displeasing to God, and as destructive of Repentance, as it is tormenting and uncomfortable to the Patient's own self. So that, where these Terrors are not the effect of Disease, and a Melancholy Constitution, (as very often they are) they ought to be looked upon, as a fresh Aggravation of the Fault. For this reason God promises to heal the broken in Heart, to pour Balm into these Spiritual Wounds, by reviving Hopes, and seasonable Consolations, and the supporting Sense of his Favour and readiness to be Reconciled, and the cheering Prospect of an everlasting Bliss, which shall wipe away all Tears from the Eyes of these Pious Mourners. And, upon the same account, St. Paul commands the
Corinthians, To forgive and restore the In1 Cor. ii. 7.
cestuous Person, whom they had cast out of the Church, left perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with over-much Sorrow. In a word, God values Mens Reformation, more than their Sighs and Tears. Indeed, he values These, only fo far as they contribute to That: And those Men are sorry as they ought, who are so sorry, as to Sin no more. Let no Man therefore distract himself with vain and fantastical Notion's in this Matter ; but let us every one so now Lament his past Offences, as to forsake and amend them. And Blessed are all they who thus mou!rn, For they Mall not fail to be comforted.