« PoprzedniaDalej »
penting, to return from their returning. It is a dreadful thing to play fast and loose with God; if it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth it;* covenants are sacred things. How doth God threaten Zedekiah for breaking the oath of allegiance he had sworn to the king of Babylon, God even calls it his oath that he had despised, Ezek. xvii. 18, 19. Oh! but what sorer punishment must they have, that count the blood of the covenant-an unholy thing; a common thing of no great worth or moment, see Heb. x. 28, 29. This sin of covenant breaking is a complicated evil, how severely doth God challenge his professing people in this Psalm, ver. 16, "Unto the wicked God saith, what hast thou to do to declare my statutes or that thou shouldest take my covenant în thy mouth? seeing thou hatest instruction and castest my words behind thee;"† some read it, why doest thou boast of my covenant with thy mouth? as if he had said, when thy heart is unsound, and thy mouth saith one thing, while thy hands and feet speak a contrary language; thy life gives the lie to thy lips; dost thou think I am such a one as thyself to approve hypocrisy, or indulge thee in thy apostacy? no, no, I will reprove thee, and set thy sins in order before thee.
(1.) You greatly dishonour God by your apostacy. If a man would study to do religion a mischief, or bring it into discredit, he cannot do it more effectually than follow it a while, and then fall off, this is to gratify the devil and disgrace piety, it is in effect to say, he finds not God so good as he promised, that he hath tried God's ways, and finds them unequal, fruitless, and worse than the ways of sin; O astonishing! “What iniquity, saith God, have your fathers found * Gal. iii. 15. + Psal. 1. 16, 17. Cur ore tuo foedus meum jactas?
in me, that they are gone far from me, and are become vain ?"* Alas, sirs, what fault do you find in God? what wrong hath he done you? hath he been a wilderness to you, or a land of darkness? do you find sin better than holiness? and vanity more satisfying than all-sufficiency? is not God's service, which is perfect freedom, better than Satan's drudgery? wilt thou in sober mood assert that our Lord cannot afford thee real profit, pleasure, and honour? wilt thou set the crown on the devil's head? must he win the garland from Christ in thy esteem? darest thou say thou wast mistaken in thy choice? did God ever give thee occasion thus to challenge or accuse him of any want of goodness or faithfulness? search the records of scripture, or consult the experience of believing souls, have they not spoken well of God? and venturing their souls upon God in this covenant way, they have not been deceived; take heed how thou dost contradict their testimony, dishonour God, and ruin thy own soul.
(2.) By this apostacy you justify the wicked, you harden their hearts, and open their mouths against the ways of God. Even personal miscarriages of real saints, give great "occasion to the enemy to blaspheme," much more total apostacy of great professors; what will the world say? they are all of a sort, a pack of hypocrites; now their fair mask is taken off, they appear no better than we; for all their bawling devotion, and censuring us as profane, we shall come off as well as they; let them alone and they will come over to us. Now the wicked world have obtained that occasion against godliness they have long sought; you put a staff into their hands to beat all that fear God, and they besmear the faces of God's children with the dirt * Jer. ii. 5, 31. + 2 Sam. xii. 14.
they find on your coat; it is true their way of arguing is very fallacious, to conclude all bad, because some professors prove apostates, as if no coin were current because there are some brass shillings or counterfeit money, as if all the apostles were false pretenders because Judas had a devil; yet you give them too much occasion to imagine there is none stable or faithful to God, "woe be to you by whom such offences come; will you ruin yourselves and draw others into the same condemnation? will you furnish the wicked with weapons to fight against God, saints, and conviction? this puts a bar into their hearts to shut out Christ; and hardens them in impenitence and antipathy against God.
*Matt. xviii. 7.
Ezra ix. Neh. ix. Dan. ix.
(3.) By this thou grievest the hearts of God's children, and God takes this as ill as the former; Ezek. xiii. 22, "Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad, and strengthened the hands of the wicked;" God takes this ill, for his children are very dear unto him. David saith, "I beheld the transgressors and was grieved.”+ None are such heart-grieving transgressors as those once famous professors. God's children rejoiced at thy covenant engagement, and now lament thy forsaking the holy covenant, therefore have God's servants bewailed Israel's breaking the covenant; and is this nothing to grieve the spirits of God's children? surely this will lie heavy on thee another day, either in repentance or when vengeance is taken. Is it nothing to Israel, to have such a one as Elijah to make intercession to God against them, saying, "the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars," &c. Observe it, what is related as a com
+ Psalm exix. 158.
1 Kings xix. 10. Rom. xi. 2.
plaint of them, the apostle calls an intercession against them; and if God's children plead against thee, it will be in effect an imprecation against thee. God will hear their sad complaints and it will go ill with thee, thy sins distress the bowels of the saints, when thy faults are mentioned they hide their faces for shame, and cannot say a word for the vindication of such an unhappy being, but fetch a deep sigh, and get into a corner and with grief of heart bewail it; if thou hadst stood firmly to the covenant they would have had wherewith to answer him that reproacheth them,* but now their mouths are stopped, and they are put to the blush when thy name is mentioned. Study Psal. Ixix. 26-28, and pray as David, ver. 6, "that none may be ashamed for thy sake."
(4.) You lay a sad foundation of woe, both in this and the other world for yourselves and children, and all that are concerned with you; God will disown you here, and disclaim you at last; he saith, he will avenge the quarrel of his covenant;† never had God a greater controversy with his ancient people than this, so that when their land was laid desolate, and the nations inquired the reason, wherefore the Lord had done thus unto this land? the answer is, because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers which he made with them; and accordingly this is repeated when the threatening is accomplished, as if there were no other procuring cause of Israel's desolation; so saith Isaiah, chap. xxiv. 5, "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof, why so? because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant." This, this is the capital offence, there needs no coroner's inquest, or
jury's verdict upon whole nations and souls, to know how they come to this dismal end, it is apparent that such a person was a felo de se, he committed suicide by violating his covenant; no other disease do pretended Christians die of but this, they stand not faithfully to their covenant. Judas the apostate from Christ, proved a traitor to him, yea a devil against himself, he murdered himself. God leaves such to be magor missabib, fear and terror round about, feeling a hell within, affrighted with overwhelming objects, and thinking hell itself is easier than their own consciences. Many instances might be produced of this, Francis. Spira, and many more;* I shall select only Sir James Hales, justice of the common pleas, who venturing his life for Queen Mary, by refusing to subscribe to her being disinherited, by the will of king Edward the sixth; yet for his producing the statutes against the pope's supremacy at the sessions, he was cast into prison, and there so cruelly handled and terrified with the apprehension of the torments which were said to be preparing for him, partly by flattery of the bishops, and partly by their threats, he was drawn to recant, after which he fell into such terrors of conscience, that he attempted to kill himself with a knife, yet being by God's providence prevented, and his wounds cured, he was delivered out of prison, and went home to his house, but neither there could he have any inward peace by reason of his apostacy, but setting his house in order, he drowned himself in a river near his house. I pronounce not on his final state who fell through fear, but let wilful apostates look to it, God will not be mocked, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and to feel the gnawing worm of a guilty conscience; that is an awful text against apos• Mr. Clark's Examples, vol. 2, fol. 27.