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Who, as a punishment for their pride and self-conceit, and be
they receive not the love of the truth that they may be saved, are given up to strong delusion to believe a lie, that they may all be damned who do not obey the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.” They pretend indeed a regard for truth, and plead strongly their right to think for themselves, a right which nobody will wish to deny them; but alas! as Dr. Young justly observes,
“ While love of truth thro' all their camp resounds,
They draw pride's curtain o'er the noon-tide ray,
Light is come into the world, but they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.
2. But not only those who rojoct tho Christian revelation altogether, come under the character of them that believe not : those also must be considered as included under the same denomination, who, though they admit the gospel to be of divine authority, yet neglect or renounce some of its principal privileges, and perhaps ridicule and reproach those who profess to receive them, as enthusiasts and fanatics. For instance: If the gospel indeed offer pardon of sin and acceptance with God, through the mediation of Christ, together with the Holy Spirit to seal these blessings upon our hearts, and to enable us to walk worthy of them; then all who deny or neglect the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins, do in effect deny and neglect the gospel itself, and are therefore undoubtedly blinded by the god of this world, and to be ranked among those that believe not. Yea, and,
3dly. We must give the same appellation to all who rest without saving faith : the faith which is not only an assent to, and a conviction of, the truths of the gospel; but also a dependence on its promises, and a hearty acceptance of its privileges : the faith which, besides a persuasion of what the gospel reveals in general, implies further, an entire approbation of, and hearty acquiescence in, the plan of salvation by Christ in particular : the faith which is both the evidence of things not seen, and the substance of things hoped for; whereby we are both assured of things spiritual and eternal, and anticipate the enjoyment of things heavenly and divine, alrea
dy possessing an earnest of our future inheritance in our hearts. He that thus believeth “with his heart unto righteousness," certainly hath eternal life, hath a title to it, and a foretaste of it, for through Christ “all that believe are justified from all things," and "receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” But he that doth not thus believe, but rests satisfied without this faith, “hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth on him;" he remains in that wretched state of sin, and guilt, and wrath, in which he was by nature, unrestored, unforgiven; having a superadded condemnation for neglecting so great salvation as is offered through the Mediator. The gospel, which is only the power of God unto salvation to him that believeth, is hid to him, and he is still in a lost condition.
I now proceed to show (as was proposed)
III. How Satan blinds the minds of those that believe not, so as to keep them shut up in unbelief, and to hinder the glorious gospel of Christ from shining unto them, that they may be saved.
1. The god of this world knows that the gospel will only be heartily and thankfully received (and to receive it otherwise is not to receive it at all) by those who know its worth and their want of it; and that only those can know this who are deeply concerned for the salvation of their souls. This therefore is his first point, to keep mankind unconcerned about their salvation. With this view he labours to conceal from them the vanity of the world, and of all that it contains, its unsatisfactory nature and short duration. He contrives to engage and entangle them in such a multiplicity of business, to charm and stupify them with such a vicissitude of pleasure, to divert and entertain them with such a variety of amusements, that they have neither leisure, power, nor inclination for any serious reflection on the importance of things eternal.
2. Impelled by an unseen force, of which they are insensible, nay, which they are taught to deny and ridicule, they fly from the exchange to the tavern, from the tavern to the play, and from the play to intemperance and debauchery. They drive furiously from merchandise to company, from company to excess, from excess to the stupidity of sleep, and in the meantime forget that they are only wandering from vanity to vanity, and prove by this restless toil and labour that this world is not their rest. Or, if on some occasion a conviction of this forces itself upon their minds, and
............" Kind experience cries,
They summon up all their courage, and exclude the thought as an intruding tyrant, come to torment them before the time. They run round and round in the circle of business, pleasure, and amusement, only intent upon what is beneath their feet, or eager to catch the delusive phantom which, perpetually dancing before them, craftily entices them forward ; and in the meantime they do not observe, by faith, the consummation of all things, the melting elements, the quaking earth, the falling stars, the darkened sun, the disparting heavens, and the descending triumph of the victorious Son of God, who ere long will command, “Bring forth these mine enemies who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me."
3. Day passes after day, week after week, month after month, and year after
year, and they draw near the chambers of death, the repositories of all living; and that invisible state where strict justice will examine and almighty wrath punish, with unrelenting fury, their wicked impertinence and trifling; yet still they go on in the same silly persuit, unconcerned and unreformed, as if life would always last, and they were not accountable for their conduct, or as if this world were their only portion, and while endeavouring to secure it, they were rationally employed. Time flies, and “ his broad pinions, swifter than the wind," bears them rapidly along towards the confines of a boundless eternity, into which he resigns them for their bliss or wo, endless and extreme, according to their present behaviour: But they are thoughtless amidst it all, amused and entertained with the objects they meet with in their speedy course; or lulled into a fatal slumber by the even and insensible motion, they do not awake to sober recollection, till, cast down the steep precipice of death, they are shocked to find themselves falling, beyond recovery, into a boundless eternity, 4. Thus (as our poet beautifully describes it)
“ Life speeds away
Life is all trifled away, and the great business of life is left undone : They stand all the day idle, and neglect to work in the vineyard, till the night of death cometh, wherein no man can work. They are hurried out of this world before they well consider why they were sent into it, and surprised into another, before they have made any preparation for a favourable reception or comfortable abode there. They enter upon an eternal state of existence, for the boundless and everlasting demands of which, so to speak, they have made no provision, have laid up no treasure. They have squandered away their talents in sin and folly, neglected to pay the debt of wisdom, and now are become bankrupts; the justice of God arrests them, and they are delivered into the power of malicious tormentors, to be confined in the dark prison of hell, till they shall pay the uttermost farthing.
5. Now Satan has a hand in all this. Through his influence it is (inwardly upon the mind or outwardly upon the senses) that the flight of time is not discerned, and,
“ We scarce believe we're older for our years:
He engages our attention by the objects of sense, draws the veil of unbelief betwixt us and eternity; and lest that should not suf'fice, lest the merciful arrows of conviction, taken from the quiver of the gospel, and levelled at the heart by the Spirit of Truth, should penetrate that veil, he further obscures our prospect with the fumes of pleasure, and clouds of prejudice, arising from unruly passions and appetites, immersed in sensual gratifications.
6. But, 2dly. If notwithstanding all his care to keep us quiet and insensible, the gracious beams of divine light find their way to our minds, through all intervening obstacles, and disturb our slumbers: if we are roused from our lethargy, and awakened to a deep sense of the importance of salvation, fully resolved to mind the one thing needful : then Satan, craftily yielding where he can no longer withstand, persuades us to defer to a more convenient season, what he grants it is reasonable we should one day attend to. By and by, he artfully insinuates, you will be in a better situation, have fewer hindrances and more helps in religious matters, and will find it less difficult to ensure a happy eternity. At present you have some business of consequence to transact, some engagements to fulfil, some affairs to settle, which do not well consist with religion. Besides, it will be better to change your conduct by degrees, and not all at once; to slide into seriousness imperceptibly; for by this means you will avoid the ridicule of your companions, and be less Table to the charge of hypocrisy, enthusiasm, or melancholy. And
you have time enough upon your hands, are in good health, jounger than many of your neighbours who are as careless as you, and are likely to live many years. God is merciful, and will pardon you though on a death-bed, and receive you to work in bis vineyard even at the eleventh hour.”
7. Thus our sly adversary too often prevails, and what we cannot but purpose, we postpone. We still resolve to be very religious,
At some future period, we cannot positively say when, we intend to be very good, very exemplary, yea, burning and shining lights. And it is well if we are not a little vain on this account, proud of our future goodness !
but not yet.
* We pay ourselves the compliment to think
We one day shall not drivel, and our pride,
In the mean time, he craftily keeps out of sight the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death. We forget that our breath is in our nostrils, and that we may, like many of our friends and neighbours, be hurried hence at a moments warning: that we may never live to see that future period we build our everlasting all upon, no, nor one future hour: but suppose we should, that God may then justly deny that grace to assist us (and without it we can do nothing) which was before offered, and rejected or abused. But, proceeding on false principles, we take for granted what ought first to be proved, and rely upon that as certain which is, of all things, the most uncertain. Perhaps we may live till to-morrow, perhaps God may then vouchsafe us his grace, and therefore we defer onr repentance for the present.
..« On this perhaps,
3. And not only the young, or the middle-aged, but the old too, come under this condemnation.--Though they have already grieved and quenched the Spirit so often, that they have great reason to think he will soon bid them a final farewell, if he have not even nowo actually done it; though they have already arrived at