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USE 2. Of exhortation. Be convinced then, sinners, of your need of Christ, and let your necessities drive you to him. Alas! few are sufficiently convinced of their absolute need of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is an error here, that is the cause of many others. Of it there are clear evidences, such as,
1. The sound rest which many get in their sins, sleeping on the mercy of God. There is a generation going on in their sins, and yet have peace and hopes of salvation, and that merely because God is merciful. These see no need of the Lord Jesus. They know not that Jesus is the only conduit, through which mercy flows to sinners. They consider not, that they cannot taste of mercy, unless they be in him. Mercy cannot save if you be out of Christ, for it cannot act in prejudice to justice, and God cannot deny himself.
2. How few have ever got a sight of sin in its own colours. This is evident from their making so light of it. Many live under the gospel, who were never yet under convictions from the Spirit, of their sinfulness and misery by nature. They confess they are sinners, and who denies that; but they were never perplexed about their sonl's state, nor ever put to it, to ask what shall we do to be saved? and surely till a man knows his disease to be dangerous, he will never see the need of the Physician. Are there not some,
whom their soul's case never sent to their knees.
3. How few are there, that will refuse comfort and rest in anything, till they get an interest in Christ secured. If we saw our absolute need of Christ, it would be so, Acts ii. 37. What pleasure can a condemned man take in any thing, till he get a pardon. The man who sees his danger will say, what can omnipotence give me, while I go Christless. But alas few keep pace with the church, Lam. iii. 49, 50. They can take up their rest in the world, when they get nothing of Christ.
4. How few are there brought to that, to leave no mean untried, in order to get an interest in Christ, and salvation. It is a matter of life and death, and all that a man hath, will he give for his life. Necessity has no law. Every possible exertion must be made. But alas! most part of men are easily diverted in their pursnit of an interest in Christ, and if they cannot attain their desire with ease, they will let it go. Hence, some professors in their duties, are like the door on the hinges. Still there is one thing they lack.
5. How few are brought to be content to part with all for Christ, and to take him on any terms. Surely a sight of absolute need, would make the soul content to put a blank in Christ's hand, saying, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? What will not a condemned man give for pardon? See you a man prigging much in the
market, you may conclude either that he can want the article, or knows some other quarter whence he may get it. The soul that sees its need, must have him cost what it will.
6. How many can live in peace, weeks, months, and years, without communion with him. Are there not some, who never knew in experience, what communion with Christ is ? Some that will not bow a knee to God for it; some content with the bare performance of duties, are never anxious about that, whether they find Christ in them or not. They reign as kings without him. As king Saul, from whom God is departed, they never see the king's face.
Lastly, The little pains people are at, to get Scriptural evidence of their interest in Christ. Many hope they have an interest in him, but were never at pains to examine the foundation of their hopes. If a man were to be let down a steep rock by a rope, would he not try whether it could bear his weight or not.
This may convince many of us, that we do not sufficiently see our need of Christ; and therefore receive the conviction and know, that thou that wast never acquainted with this, art yet out of Christ, and so in a fearful state. And I would exhort you to have so much compassion on your souls, as to retire this night, and, 1. Meditate on what a God thou hast to do with. 2. On thy sinful and miserable state; and 3. Pray the Lord may open your eyes. And to quicken a sense of your need of Christ, and to urge you to close with him, I would ask you these questions:
1. How think you to live without Christ? I am sure your life will be a continued death without him. These bodies of yours, will be but living coffins for dead souls, with the curse of God upon them for a grave-stone. Though may in prosperity, yet how will you do you do in adversity? The clouds are growing black above the heads of the people of the land. I fear days are coming, in which the Lord will plead his controversy; and how dreadful will it be for a deluge of wrath to come upon a man who is not in the ark of safety.
2. How will you die without Christ? You may think light of him now; but when death settles down on these eyelids, and the grim king carries thee over into the ocean of eternity, if Christ keep thee not, where art thou then?
3. How wilt thou appear before God to judgment without him? Will not the face of God, whose Son thou hast slighted, be terrible to thee? To see this Christ, who is now freely offered to you as a Saviour, sitting at the right hand of God, but not to open a mouth for thee there, but against thee as a slighter of him, and a neglecter of his great salvation. How will you then escape? Amen.
Simprin, February 16, 1707.
CHRISTIAN WATCHFULNESS STATED, and enforced.
And what I
MARK Xiii. 37,
say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.
THESE words are the conclusion of our Lord's discourse, begun at the 5th verse of this chapter. Here he tells them the design of speaking these things, that they were not designed for them alone. who heard them, but for all others, that minded to be his followers. What things does he mean? The text refers to the whole preceding discourse, the word being in the plural number; and so it refers to watching, which he had before pressed upon them, and now presses again.
DOCTRINE. It is the duty of all to watch. For illustrating this, I shall,
I. Shew what it is to watch.
II. I shall, under several branches, speak of the object of watching.
III. I shall enforce the doctrine, by giving reasons why we should watch. I am then,
I. To shew what it is to watch.
Watching is a military term. By watching, the army is secured from a surprise by the enemy. It properly belongs to the body to watch, because it only is properly subject to sleep. Even this bodily watching may be religious, 2 Cor. vi. 5; Psal. lxiii. 6; but it is commonly used in scripture for the watching of the soul, which is subject to a spiritual sleep. There are two things in it,
1. The soul's keeping spiritually awake, for to watch is opposed to sleeping. When Jesus found his disciples sleeping, "he said unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldst thou not watch one hour?" The time of our being in the world is night, Rom. xiii. 12, and it is very natural to sleep in the night; "for they that sleep, sleep in the night." But we must not sleep, but be awake; that is, keep grace in exercise. We must keep from carnal security and spiritual sloth, which are very apt to creep in upon us, after the greatest enjoyment and appearances of God, Song v. 3. This is a sweet sin, in which a man will take pleasure, when other sins give him no satisfaction. We must also keep the soul in spiritual motion and
holy exercise. When we sleep we rest. Our rest is not here, and therefore we must be always moving heavenwards. As the fire on the altar was kept always burning, so we must be always watching. If we begin to droop, we must rouse ourselves.
2. Observation. The sentinel that walketh the round, unless he carefully observe what he may see, cannot be said to watch. Thus the shepherds kept watch over their flocks by night, Luke ii. 8. Our mind must be intent upon our business, that we may catch all advantages against, and ward off hazard from the enemy. Hence watching is expressed by taking heed, and by looking to ourselves, 1 Cor. x. 12; 2 John 8. We are now,
II. Under several branches to speak of the object of watching. The branches are these three,
I. Some things we must watch over to keep them right.
II. Some things we must watch against.
III. Some things we must watch for.
I. There are some things we must watch over to keep them right. 1. Watch over yourselves. "Only," said Moses, "take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life." Every man is his own nearest neighbour, and so his worst enemy is nearest to him. None capable to do us so much harm.
Watch then over your heads, your principles, 1 Tim. iv. 1. The spirit of delusion rageth. New doctrines are very enticing to those that have not had the spiritual relish, and felt the efficacy of the old upon their hearts, 2 Tim. iv. 3, and iii. 4. When the truth is not received with love, the spirit of delusion leads men to believe a lie.
Watch over your hearts. "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." The heart is the source of action. It is as the eye to the body. "If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." The same may be said of the heart. There is, then, the greatest need for watching it, "for it is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." He would act foolishly, who desiring to keep the water pure, would sit down by the streams, neglecting the fountain. To watch the outward man and not the heart, is to shut the door and the thief in the house.
The thoughts of the heart must be watched. "O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved: how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee." Thus David declares, "I hate vain thoughts." Thoughts are the births of our
hearts, and we had need to watch, and observe of what sort they are, and stifle evil thoughts in the womb, lest through unwatchfulness they swarm forth and defile the whole man, Mark viii. 20-23. One wandering thought has been a wide door at which the soul's life and vigour in duties have gone out, being as a dart struck through the heart of a bird singing on a tree.
Watch also the affections of the heart. Good ones are easily crushed, and evil ones, like bad weeds, grow up apace, Song ii. 15. O! how ready are our affections to go astray, either on unlawful, or else immoderately on lawful objects; and when once set on, they run along, as the fire in the train, Ecci. vi. 9. Therefore, watch your hearts. He that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down and without walls.
Watch over your tongues. "If any man among you seemeth to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." It is dangerous to ride on an unbriddled horse. David said, "I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me." "Again," said he, "set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips." The tongue boasteth great things. It is apt to fall into undue silence, or sinful speaking. A single word may be of dreadful consequence. "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." The unruliness of the tongue it seems had cast the rich man in hell into a burning fever, where no cooling was to be expected, Luke xvi.
Your senses must be watched.
These are the gates of the soul, and when the town is besieged, strict watch must be kept at the gates. Satan lays his trains at these gates; if they be not guarded, the whole soul may be set on fire. The senses of hearing and seeing, must in an especial manner be watched. By the eyes and ears did the devil blow up all mankind in Adam and Eve. The eyes ruined Achan, and wounded David severely. Job was glad to make a covenant with them.
We are We
Watch over your feet, your walk and conversation. exhorted to walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." should walk wisely, noticing every step. "We must watch in all things," for we are ready to stumble in all things. We must not walk at random; "but in all our ways acknowledge the Lord, and he shall direct our paths.
2. Watch over your graces. Grace is that fire sent down from heaven into the hearts of sinners, which must not be neglected, 2 Tim. i. 6. Our graces are subject to decay, though not to death.