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that “treasure in a field,” that "pearl of great price," for which every divinely enlightened soul willingly and joyfully sells all things. God himself, to be loved and enjoyed through Jesus Christ, is the royal feast, shadowed and represented by the marriage a king made for his son, which was so slighted and despised by those who were called, and kindly and earnestly invited to come. (Matt. xxii.) And this is that bread to be eaten in the kingdom of heaven, that great supper, from coming to which they all with one consent desired to be excused. (Luke xiv.) This is that recompense of reward, the everlasting enjoyment of God, which Moses had in view through all his trials, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. (Heb. xi. 26. 27.) And by the way, this is the true reason, that the great feast (Matt. xxii.) was slighted, and the great supper (Luke xiv.) despised by the Jews, who all reckoned on going to heaven, as much as other carnal people do. Even, this is the true reason, that the happiness proposed in the gospel, is as much disrelished by carnal hearts, as the holiness which is there urged. For the happiness is a holy happiness, a kind of happiness which an unholy heart entirely disrelishes; therefore “they made light of it, and went their ways." They looked upon it as a burden, and desired to be excused. For in strict truth there is no such heaven as carnal hearts imagine, when ravished to think their sins are pardoned, and heaven their own. Their God, their Christ, their heaven, are all the fruit of their own imaginations, and Satan's delusions; for the heaven of the gospel carnal men would not have, if they might; yea, they perfectly disrelish it, they absolutely reject it, they obstinately refuse it, and many will sooner kill the messengers who invite them, than come to the feast. Thus our Savior states the case.
(Matt. xxii. 6.) But to return :
If the absolute perfection, the infinite glory and amiableness of the supreme Governor and Lord of the universe, renders him the supreme and all-sufficient good, then, as soon as our eyes are opened to see his absolute perfection, his ineffable glory and beauty, he will begin to appear such to our souls, for now we begin to see things as they be. For this is what is meant by our eyes being opened. And if God does appear such to our souls; to quit all idols, to return to him, to love him, to live to him, to be for him, to have him for our God and Father, and portion, in time and to eternity, will be esteemed the highest possible privilege, if we may.
But the same absolute perfection and infinite glory and beauty
of the divine nature, which render God the supreme good, render him infinitely worthy of supreme love and delight, and our disaffection infinitely criminal, and us infinitely ill-deserving ; so that it would be even a glorious act in God to banish us forever from his presence. Nor, according to his holy law, that perfect rule of right, is any thing else to be expected. Nor in this view is there any hope in our case ; yea, it does not appear how he can, consistent with his honor, do any less than cast off forever creatures so infinitely vile. But,
2. If Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, it is certain, beyond all dispute, that the holy and righteous Governor of the world can, consistently with his honor, and is willing to, become a God and Father, and everlasting portion, to any, the vilest and the worst, that shall return to him through Jesus Christ. For, if the absolutely perfect being has given his own Son, of equal glory with himself, to be incarnate, to obey and die in the room of sinners, to magnify his law, and make it honorable, to declare his righteousness, that he might be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus; and if he has finished the work appointed him to do; and if, in testimony of his Father's acceptance and full satisfaction, he hath raised him from the dead, yea, set him at his own right hand in heaven, where he appears in the character of a great High Priest, with his own blood, and ever liveth to make intercession; in consequence of which, by the decree of Heaven, repentance and remission of sins are ordered to be preached to all nations in his name, and whosoever will may come, however vile and ill-deserving; yea, all are invited to come, and prayed and beseeched to be reconciled to God, who is represented as ready to receive the returning sinner, as the Father was to receive his returning prodigal; if all this is true, - and all this is true if Jesus is the Messiah, - then beyond all doubt God can, consistently with his honor, and is willing to, receive to favor, and to become a God and Father to all, whoever they be, that shall return to him through Jesus Christ. Wherefore, as it appears to the enlightened soul the fittest and happiest thing imaginable to return to the God of glory, as his rightful Lord and supreme good, to live to him and upon him, if he may; and as, in this view of things, he is assured that liberty is granted to any, the vilest and the worst, to return through Jesus Christ; so now, with the prodigal son in Luke xv., he does return, and find acceptance. And thus the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ begins eternal life in the soul, agreeable to our Savior's words in John xvii. 3. “ This is life eternal,
that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
And from these truths, thus briefly stated, we may see how great the good offered in the gospel is; how free it is offered ; the sin and madness of rejecting it; the absurdity of believing we have a title to heaven, when the very heaven offered is rejected with abhorrence.
1. The good offered in the gospel is of infinite worth and value, yea, it is the sum and substance of all good in the universe ; for even God himself offers to be our God, and father, and portion. This was originally man's supreme good in paradise. This was forfeited by our apostasy. The second Adam, our near kinsman, has redeemed the inheritance, and opened a way for us to come to a lawful possession. The curse of the law doomed us to an everlasting separation from God, but the blood of Christ has opened a way for us to come to the everlasting enjoyment of him.
In heaven they enjoy God as the supreme good ; they are ravished with the glories of his nature, charmed with the beauties of his character, exquisitely delighted in his exaltation, in his supremacy, in his universal perfect government, crying, “Holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory ;” and they are as flames of fire, all love, life, activity, in the delightful service of their glorious King. Even so here on earth, we, who have been outcasts, are invited to return, come home, and be reconciled to the God of glory, the God that made us, and view his nature and all his conduct as they do, become of the same temper, and members of the same family, and join in like holy employments and pleasures. “ Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven." There is a great High Priest entered into heaven with his own blood; and in his name, we, who deserve to be numbered with the damned, are invited to come with boldness within the vail, and to begin our heaven on earth. To this feast we are invited to come, and we may eat and drink as much as we please. We have full and free liberty to have access to the fountain of all good, the God of glory, the Supreme Lord of the universe, to view the beauty of his character, to be charmed with the glories of his nature, to rejoice that he is God over all blessed forever, that he reigns and will forever reign, that his government is universal and absolutely perfect; and through Jesus Christ, we may come and put our trust under the shadow of his wings, and in his name look up to him for all things, and love and cleave to him, and delight in him with all our hearts; and devote our whole lives to his service, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord ; pressing toward the mark for the prize (the everlasting enjoyment of God) of our high calling of God in Jesus Christ. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ ; and the end will be eternal life. And,
II. All this is offered freely, without money and without price, to us, infinitely unworthy and ill-deserving, through Jesus Christ. “Come, for all things are now ready."
* If we are invited to a feast by a neighbor, the invitation gives us a good right to go. And if God invites us to repent, return, and be reconciled to him, the God of glory, the supreme good, through Jesus Christ, and enjoy him as the portion of our souls, the heavenly feast, it gives us good right to do so. Even as good a right as the Israelites had to take and eat the manna which lay around their tents. Of this there can be no dispute. But all these invitations give us no right nor warrant to believe that our sins are pardoned and God reconciled to us while impenitent, while we refuse to come to the fcast to which we are invited, and even despise and hate it. Had God expressly declared, “ If you will believe your sins are forgiven, they shall be forgiven. Here I offer you pardon as your own, impenitent as you are: only believe I thus offer it, and that this offer makes it yours, so as that you may with a good warrant believe it is your own, and enjoy the comfort of it as such, and according to your faith so shall it be to you. I pray you, I beseech you, believe and take it home to yourself, impenitent as you are, and you never shall be disappointed ; had God thus declared, it had been another case; but there is not one tittle in the Bible that looks that way; yea, instead of this, God has expressly declared, “ Except ye repent, ye shall all perish.” Therefore repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.
And this may help the weakest Christian to see through the mist, that Mr. Cudworth raises. Note, the grand objections against their notions of faith, Mr. Cudworth has done nothing to remove ; yea, he has not had courage to look them fairly in the face. According to their scheme, first, “ I, a sinner out of Christ, am condemned by the law, and under the wrath of God," agreeable to John iii. 18, 36. And this is the very truth ; and in the view of this truth, they say, “I am necessarily full of hatred and heart-risings against God.” So that, secondly, it is “utterly impossible" that I should ever love God until I first of all know that “God is reconciled to me, loves me, and will save me." And yet they say, thirdly, that “I, a sinner out of Christ, have no evidence from Scripture, sense, or reason, that God is reconciled to me, loves me, and will save me; nay, so far from it, that in fact I am condemned, and the wrath of God abideth on me.” However, they affirm, fourthly, that “I, a sinner out of Christ, just as I am, am firmly to believe, that God is reconciled to me, loves me, and will save me.” And, fifthly, “ God stands bound by his promise, that I shall never be disappointed." This is their scheme fairly stated :' against which, among other things, I object, first, that their faith is presumption ; a believing without evidence. There being no evidence that “God is reconciled to me, a sinner out of Christ." Second, their faith is downright delusion, believing a lie, namely, that “God is reconciled to me, a sinner out of Christ, loves me, and will save me; while in truth every sinner out of Christ is condemned now, and will, dying as he is, be damned hereafter. Third, God has now here in the Bible given the least hint, that if “ sinners out of Christ do firmly believe, that God is reconciled to them, loves them, and will save them, it shall be unto them according to their faith : they shall never be disappointed." There is not one text of Scripture that looks that way, but multitudes expressly to the contrary. Thus stands the case. Now, men may dodge, and skulk, and hide, and raise a dust, and fling, and cant, and call bad names ; but by cool and fair reasoning, they never can get over these difficulties. And it is plain they feel
it is urged upon us, we are prayed and beseeched to be thus reconciled to God; and by every motive from duty and interest, from God and Christ, from heaven and hell, we are pressed, we are compelled, we are in a manner forced, to come in. Having not only verbal declarations, that whosoever will may come; but the highest possible evidences from facts, that God can, consistently with his honor, and is willing to, receive those who do come. The gift, the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of his Son, is more than words, than promises, than oaths, to demonstrate that God is sincere and in earnest ; so that there is on God's side no bar, no difficulty in the way; all things are ready, and we may come to the feast and welcome. In the universe there is nothing of the nature of a hinderance or impediment, which can prevent our coming, are we ourselves but inclined to come.
III. If, through mere disinclination to the Deity, to the God that all heaven loves, the God of glory, we make light of the feast, and go our ways, turn our backs upon God, refuse to return and be reconciled, even after a way has been opened for it by the blood of his own Son, and after such methods have been used to persuade us, it will be the most aggravated kind of wickedness in the universe, and a degree of folly and madness not to be paralleled in any other part of God's empire ; and to persist in our disaffection to the divine character from year to year, and to refuse to be reconciled to our dying hour, must render us worthy of such a punishment, and prepare us for such self-condemnation, inward remorse, and anguish of heart, as no tongue can express. Then will be accomplished on impenitent sinners the words which are written in Prov. i. 24, 31 : “Because I have called, and ye have refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded ; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof. I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh," etc. And all holy beings in the universe, convinced of the justice and wisdom of the divine conduct, will join to cry, Amen, hallelujah ; while the smoke of their torment ascendeth forever and ever. they cannot. Let any one read my Letters and Dialogues, and Mr. Cudworth's answer, and judge for himself. According to their scheme, I must believe that God is reconciled to me, loves me, and will save me; because otherwise it is utterly impossible to love him. And I must believe this while in the height of my enmity, because it is this belief which begets my first love. This belief then takes place in the heart, while dead in sin, and full of enmity to God. It is the act of an unregenerate, carnal heart; and it makes a carnal heart feel well; and no wonder it does. And these good feelings are supposed to be the Christian graces, when in fact they are the
good feelings of a carnal heart comforted by the belief of a lie. VOL. II.