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This world is such a place, crowded with condemned people ; unmortified lusts are the chains on them : and that is the reason of the grating noise which the serious godly hear from every corner. And the jailor, the devil, is going among them.
4. Lastly, No wonder that most men love this life, so as to loath exchanging it for another; Psal. lv. 23, “But God shall bring them down into the pit of destruction.” The prison is a heavy place to the condemned man; but to go out of it is more so, for that is to go to execution, Jer. xvii. 11. Death brings the execution of the sentence.
USE 2. Of trial. Try whether that sentence is standing against you, or whether it is reversed, and ye justified.
To move you to put this to the question, consider,
1. One thing is sure, that once it was passed and standing against you: Eph. ii. 3, “And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Gal. iii. 10, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Compared with Rom. iii. 19, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Now, what course have ye taken to get this sentence taken off ? and if you have been aiming at it, have ye carried it ?
2. As your state is in this life, condemned or justified, so it will be determined at death and judgment : Eccl. ix. 10, " Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest. Now, there is access for a remission ; but when death comes, there will be no more for ever.
3. Men are apt to mistake in this point. Many draw an absolviture from the sentence for themselves, which God will never set his seal to: Luke svi. 15, “ Christ said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts : for that which is highly esteemed amongst men, is abomination in the sight of God.” Is. xliv. 20, “He feedeth of ashes : a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ? The foolish virgins called themselves the Bridegroom's friends; but he shut the door on them as his enemies.
4. Lastly, A mistake here is very fatal. By it men let the time of obtaining a remission slip. The oil might have been got for the lamps, if they had missed it timely. It brings a ruining surprise : dreaming of peace, they are awaked with the noise of war for ever.
MARK 1. They that never saw themselves in a state of condemnation, are under it to this day. For they are strangers to the very first work of the Spirit, conviction, John xvi. 8,“ The law is our schoolmaster, to bring us anto Christ, that we might be justified by faith, Gal. iii. 24. They that have never been at the law's school, to learn that they are cursed and condemned sinners by nature, are not Christ's disciples.
Mark 2. They only are absolved, who laying hold on Christ in the covenant of grace have applied to the law's sentence of condemnation against thenı, the righteousness of Christ wrought by him, and offered to and accepted by them. Hence says the apostle, Phil. iii. 7, 8, " But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord :—and do count them but dung that I may win Christ.” They continue not in mere suspense, but renouncing self-confidence, law-confidence, and creature confidence, have betaken themselves to him as their only refuge, casting anchor on the promise of the gospel.
MARK 3. If the condemning power of sin is removed, the reigning power of sin is removed too, and contrariwise : Rom. vi. 14, “ For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” If the condemned man has got his remission, he is taken out of his irons, and his prison, and the power of tho jailor. The chains of reigning lusts rattling about thee, declare thee a condemned man still; but it is otherwise with the pardoned, Rom. viii. 1, 2, “ There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, bath made me free from the law of sin and death.” If ye are justified, ye are washed, 1 Cor. yi. 9, 10, 11.
Mark 4. If the sentence be reversed, ye will be habitually tender in your conscience with respect to temptations, sin and duty, and appearances of evil. Hence Paul could say, Aois xxiv. 16, “ Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” The man who under the sentence of death, has obtained a remission, will readily fear falling into the snare again. Hence we find this was Hezekiah's exercise, Is. xxxviii, 17, “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness; but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption : for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” Ver. 15, “ What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul." Absolved persons may be guilty of acts of untenderness; but habitual untenderness is a black mark of condemnation.
Mark ult. The fruits of faith in a holy life follow the reversing of the sentence. We are justified by faith without works; but the faith that justifies, produces good works. Hence we read, Acts xy. 2, of purifying the heart by faith. If the curse is removed, the fruits of the Spirit will spring up in the soul, Gal. v. 22, 23, “ love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” The apostle James shows that faith not to be true, that is not attended with the fruits of holiness."
Now, if the sentence once standing against you is reversed, then,
1. Love the Lord, who freely gave you your remission, instead of leading you forth to execution; as did the woman of whom our Lord says, Luke vii. 47, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much." Remember the day when ye stood self-condemned and law-condemned before the Lord, and he said, Job xxxii. 24, “Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom.
2. Pity and be concerned for those that are as yet under the condemnation which ye are freed from, Tit. iii. 2, 3. Where people's contempt and disdain have the heels of their pity, compassion, and concern for the welfare and recovery of sinners, it is a sad sign; speaking forth more of pride and presumption, than of themselves being in a state of remission.
3. Walk humbly and tenderly. The remembrance of the sentence of death sometime lying on you, may humble you while ye live. It sets us ill to be proud and conceity, who owe our life to a remission. Stand aloof from the deadly snare; a pardoning God has said, “ Go, and sin no more," John viii. 11.
4. Bear your troubles and trials in a world patiently. Your life was forfeited, and that is safe by grace. Why does a living man complain? This is a day wherein the Lord seems to be rising up to plead against the generation, bringing on common calamity. Take thankfully what falls to your share of it, in consideration that the sentence against your soul is reversed. If the seed should rot under the clod, and the beasts of the field perish under the, stroke; kiss the rod, and be thankful, that the execution is not upon yourselves.
5. Lastly, Be of a forgiving disposition : Eph. iv. 32, “Be ye. kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake bath forgiven you.” The Saviour that brought in remission of sins, binds us to love our enemies; and the bitter revengeful spirit against others speaks us unforgiven, Matthi. vi. 15, “ If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
But if ye are of those against whom the sentence still stands in the court of heaven, lay the matter to heart, and consider it as a most heavy case, as it is indeed, deserving tears of blood. I proceed to
USE 3. Of Lamentation. We may here lament over the case of every ungodly one, and natural man. The state of one under sentence of death, is a lamentable case. O ungodly sinner, however easy thou art, God's law has condemned thee, and thou art under the sentence of eternal death, John iii. 36, “He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." See thy heavy case in this glass.
1. You are forfeited of your covenant-right to the creatures, as a condemned person. Whether thou hast little or much in the world, it is a sorry right you have to it; a mere providential right, such as a condemned man to his meat, till the day of execution come. Therefore “a little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked,” Psal. xxxiv. 16. There is little satisfaction in that.
2. God is your enemy, befriend you who will, John iii. 36. forecited. He bears a legal enmity against thee, as a just judge against a condemned man. Ye can have no communion with him: Amos iii. 3, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed ?” All comfortable intercourse betwixt God and thy soul, is drowned in the gulf of thy state of condemnation. There can be no peace between God and you. To allude to the conference between Joram and Jehu, 2 Kings ix. 22, “And it came to pass when Joram saw Jebu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel, and her witchcrafts are so many?" How can they have peace with God, whom his law condemns ? What peace ye have in your consciences, God allows not, Is. lvii. 21.
3. Nothing you do can be acceptable to God; there is a lasting cloud over your heads that never clears : Psal. vii. 11, “God is angry with the wicked every day." While the condemning curse of the law lies on a man, it blasts all the good he does : Tit. i. 15, “ Unto them that are defiled, and unbelieving, is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” Hag. ii. 12, 14, “If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands, and that which they offer there is unclean." It mars sanctifying influences,
without which there can be no fruit, John xv. 5, “ for without me ye can do nothing." Hence all ye do is turned to sin.
4. The sentence against you is confirmed daily. The truth of God confirms it: Num. xxiii. 19, “God is not a man, that he should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? And the cords of thy guilt are growing stronger and stronger; for the grounds of condemnation against thee are multiplying; while none of the old debt is removed, but new is still contracted. And though one may think, that it is but dying for all; yet the punishment will be increased, as evil works are; for men will be rewarded according to their deeds.
5. Justice craves execution against thee. There was a cry to heaven against Cain, and against Sodom : and so there is against every ungodly sinner, Jer. ix. 9, “Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" Mercy may suspend execution a while against the ungodly; but if they continue in that state, it cannot reverse it; since God cannot cease to be just.
6. All is ready for the execution. The bow is bent to let fly the arrows of wrath against thee, the arrows of death, Psal. vii. 12, 13. The pile of fire is set on, Is. xxx. 33, “For Tophet is ordained of old: yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large : the pile thereof is fire and much wood, the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.” When thon liest down, thou hast no security, that it shall not be executed ere thou arise, &c.
7. Lastly, Thy life depends, as to thee, only on God's longtried patience and long-suffering, procuring thy reprieve from day to day, if so thou wilt sue out thy pardon. As secure as thou art, the sword of justice hangs over thy head, by the worn hair of long-tired patience; which if once broken, thou art gone for
Use ult. Of Exhortation. Wherefore bestir yourselves to get out of the state of condemnation, to get the sentence reversed.
MOTIVE 1. It is a sad and miserable life to live in the state of condemnation. For in effect such a life is a continued death. (1.) It is a dishonourable life. Condemnation fixes a blot and stain on man, speaks him guilty of crimes for which he is not worthy to live. And surely the judgment of God is according to truth. (2.) It is an uncomfortable life : Is. lvii. 21, “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." There is enough in it to squeeze the sap out of all created comforts; and for the con