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interest, will not say so, or if they offer to say, My God, conscience flies in their face, and rebukes them for their presumption; others from ignorance, impenitency, or unbelief make no reckoning of it; but there are some in the world who from a principle of atheism and profaneness, make a mock of such expressions, scoffing at God's covenant people as a company of proud pretenders, and looking upon such a transaction as I have described as a ridiculous fancy: God writes to men the great things of his law, but they are accounted strange things,* (παραδόξα or παρέργα) either,
(1.) Paradoxes or riddles, things above their reach, not belonging to their cognizance, as the people said of Ezekiel, doth he not speak parables? or as Rabbi Nicodemus, how can these things be?† things above us are nothing to us, this man flies over our heads in fanciful, metaphysical notions; thus they judge these divine truths or duties: or,
(2.) They account them by-matters, impertinent speculations, which they are not concerned in, and will not trouble their heads about; let others busy themselves with these nice quiddities of religion, for their parts they have something else to do,these are alien to their more weighty concerns: some men now-a-days are of Festus's humour, who calls religion a business of questions of some people's superstition, "and of one Jesus, that was dead, whom Paul affirmeth to be. alive;" hence these ignorant despisers are like Gallio, caring for none of these things; they can be well content that the precisians should please themselves with such airy notions as these, they pretend no skill in them, and can these high blades be as well content to be dealt without a share in them? Well, a time may
Hos. viii. 12.
+ Ezek. xx. 49. John iii. 9.
come, that the proudest of them may bespeak God's children as Pharaoh did Moses, "I have sinned against the Lord your God-entreat the Lord your God;"* also other two potent monarchs were forced at last to acknowledge the pre-eminence of the God of the three children and of Daniel: yea, God hath a time to make these diabolists to come and worship before his saints' feet, and to know that he hath loved them.† The poor heathen spake modestly in comparison of pretended Christians who mock those that plead a relation to God, censuring them as presumptuous fools, as if they would monopolize God to themselves, and speak exclusively when they say, My God, as if they were hypocrites; but doubtless there are still a people on earth whom God hath secured for himself, to be a people to him for ever, and the Lord is become their God; and if serious holy souls be not they, who are they? let such profligate scorners read, Isa. xxviii. 13, 15-22.
4. Others presume without ground upon their relation to God. The wizard Balaam could say, "I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord, my God ;" || and Jer. iii. 4, "Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, my Father?" Yet these had a feigned repentance, a backsliding heart, and a whore's forehead; doubtless such presumptuous sinners those are, who lay as confident claim to God as the best, and will not easily be drawn off from this conceit; our Lord himself had much difficulty to convince the Jews that not God, as they peremptorily pretended, but the devil was their father. Many are like that madman at Athens, that challenged every ship that came into the harbour for his own; thus they lay their foul hands on that children's bread of gospel privileges which belongs not to
* Exod. x. 16, 17.
+ Dan. iii. 28. vi. 20. Rev. iii. 9.
them. Poor sinner, what title canst thou have without an interest in the covenant of grace? What is the covenant to thee without faith? and what kind of faith is that which is not attended with repentance and new obedience? "They that are without Christ, are without God in the world;"* why so? because they are, “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel," that is, no church members, "strangers from the covenants of promise," that is, they are unavoidably excluded from the first covenant, and have voluntarily excluded themselves from the gospel covenant, by wilful unbelief, "and so are without hope," whatever cobweb hopes they may spin out of their own bowels, they shall be swept away as the spider's web with the besom of destruction; yea, this vain hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.f Ah poor self-deluding presumer, who art in a deep sleep upon the devil's pillow, and dreamest of a title to God, without the conditions to which such a privilege is annexed, thou walkest in a vain show, and when thou awakest in hell torments, thy imaginary conceits will vanish, and thou wilt feel to thy cost, that the tables of the law and the ark of the covenant, always go together; if thou beest not sincerely given up to him, thou art none of his, and he is none of thine.
5. Others would have God in covenant, but then they would capitulate with him, they would foist in new articles. Poor sinners would impose upon the infinitely wise God; his terms will not serve them, but they would prescribe terms of their own, and then they will bargain and barter, and bring him down, as the young man in the gospel, who promised fair with his moral obedience to the outward part of God's law, but when it came to the credence of evangelical per
Eph. ii. 12.
+ Job viii. 14. xi. 20.
fection or gospel sincerity, which consisted in selling all and following Christ, he broke with him, and went away sorrowful, for though he had a respect for Christ and heaven, yet he did not think the enjoyment thereof, would countervail the loss of his great possessions.* Poor souls, will you bargain with the great God for your penny of wordly advantages, or immunity from troubles: what? is not God an all-sufficient God? is not he an exceeding great reward? thou makest thy moan as Amaziah did, "what shall I do for the hundred talents?" I say, the Lord is able to give thee much more than this, he hath promised, even a hundred fold in this life; and is not that a sufficient harvest to satisfy the most covetous desires? Others reserve some Delilah in their lap, some right-hand sin, which they are loth to part with, they say of this as Naaman of his Rimmon, in this the Lord spare me; nay then saith God, if thou wilt have another husband, thou must have none of me, if thou send any rebel out of the way that ought to be delivered to justice, there is likely to be no league; I will either have the head of Sheba the son of Bichri cast over the wall, or I will plant my batteriug rams against thee; either take me in the way I have proposed, or seek a new master; I will not bate an ace, look out for another with whom thou mayest have intercourse, thou and I must part; I see thou art not sincere, and thou mayest expect to be dealt with as an enemy.
6. Some there are that upon hearing the terms will enter into covenant with God, yes, that they will, but alas, "they do but flatter God with their mouths, and lie unto him with their tongues, for their heart is not right with him, as Israel of old." A forced or feigned
• Matt. xix. 16-22.
+ 2 Chron. xxv. 9.
consent is none at all. Some are like the poor traveller in danger by the robber, he will make him fair promises to get loose out of his hands; mariners will make ample vows in a storm, which they never intend to discharge; as those that pour out a prayer when God's chastisement is on them,* or as it is in the margin, "mutter a secret speech," they are afraid any should hear them, lest they bare witness against them for non-performance. Some are gracious in pangs, graceless at ease; extorted resolutions are but to serve a turn. God sees the unsoundness of men's hearts, thou canst not deceive God, as the Gibeonites cozened Israel; Israel made fair professions with respect to obedience, yea and called in God for a witness, Jer. xlii. 5; yet they only dissembled in their hearts, ver. 20; but God will not be mocked, he will find you out, if there be an Achan in the camp, God will trouble thee, woe to the false-hearted professor. Others will promise great things for the future, but they have no heart at present; this also is a wretched self-deception, marriage is for the present, but contract is for the future, which may be broken,
7. There are others that are guilty of a sad defection from the engagement they have made; they were unsound in making, and therefore are unfaithful in keeping a covenant. || Hypocrites will prove apostates, dissimulation ends in rebellion; if the heart be not right at the beginning, the end will be wrong; an unsound girdle rots; an apple rotten at the core will spread itself to the skin in time. Look to it, you will fall off from your engagements which you do not sincerely make, see an instance of this, in Jer. xxxiv. 15; it is mournful indeed for men to repent of their re
Josh. vii. 11, 12, 25.
* Isa. xxvi. 16. + Josh. ix. 11, 14. | Ὑποκριταὶ πρόσκαιροι.