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Sermon XV.

We shall now proceed to the uses.

Use 1. Wonder not if you see a diversity of success in preaching of the word. Some receive it with joy; the most despise it as a thing of nought. Whence is this difference? Multitudes are rejected of God, — cast out of his care, — barren land; he will till them no more. A cursed state! Marvel not that many refuse to hear the word, that they love lies; they are given up of God to their hearts’ lusts. Marvel not that the word which they hear affects them no more; — the power of the Spirit is withheld from them. Multitudes are thus cast out of the care of God, and tokens of the plague are upon them. They like their condition, rejoice and triumph in it, think none so happy as themselves, and despise them that love the waters of the sanctuary: all which are tokens of this sore plague. Can they expel the gospel from any place? can they quench the light that is in it? can they triumph over the ways of God? — they suppose they have gotten a great victory. This is not an ordinary judgment: they are poor creatures, assuredly cast out of the care of God; “they are given to salt,” and it is a miracle of mercy if ever any of them be healed.

Oh! it is a woeful thing to look on a place or persons that give evidences of their withstanding the season of their healing, as so many in this nation do! How was our Saviour affected with it in reference to Jerusalem, Luke xix. 41, 42, “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” Oh! if we had but any measure of that pity and compassion which dwelt in his holy soul, how could we pass through towns and cities, and see and hear, and not mourn!

Use 2. Take that advice of the prophet, Jer. xiii. 16, “Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.”

(2.) The second thing that God doth, in giving up an unhealed land unto barrenness, is his judicial hardening of them, or leaving 191them to hardness and impenitency, that so they may fill up the measure of their sins. Heb. vi. 8, “That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing.” When the care of God is once taken from them, they are nigh unto cursing. The next thing that God will do to them, is to curse them, as our Saviour did the barren fig-tree.

This woeful judgment is at large set forth, Isa. vi. 9, 10, “And he said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Isaiah was a gospel preacher; “Yet this,” saith God, “shall be the effect of thy preaching towards them that have withstood their season, and have not been healed by the word.” And John tells us that this very thing was accomplished when the gospel was preached by our Saviour himself, John xii. 40, 41. And surely their condition is most woeful whom the preaching of the gospel hardeneth, — whom the only remedy destroys.

Now, there are four things in this spiritual judgment that God sends upon unhealed souls, that have outlived their season of healing, more or less:—

[1.] Blindness of mind and understanding. Their natural blindness and ignorance shall be increased and confirmed; and that by two ways:—

1st. God will send them a “spirit of slumber,” Rom. xi. 8; that is, a great inadvertency and negligence as to the things of the gospel that are spoken of or preached unto them. As men that slumber take little notice of what is spoken to them or about them; they hear a noise, and sometimes discern a little what is spoken, but not to any use or purpose: so is it with these persons on whom God doth judicially send this spirit of slumber; they hear the sound of the word, and sometimes, it may be, take notice of some one thing or other that is spoken; but to receive and understand the design of it, to ponder it and improve it, that they cannot do; — they are under a spiritual slumber. We may see multitudes in this condition every day. The word hath no life nor vigour towards them; they perceive not the mind of God in it; they understand it not. God hath given them a “spirit of slumber,” and they die under it.

2dly. God sends them a spirit of giddiness, causing them to err in their ways, Isa. xix. 14. We have a notable instance of this judgment of God, 2 Thess. ii. 10–12. The waters of the sanctuary came unto them, and they were not healed; the gospel was preached unto them, but they withstood their season. They received not the love of the truth; they did not believe and obey, that they might be saved; 192— because they had pleasure in unrighteousness. How, then, doth God deal with them? Verse 11, He will send them a spirit of giddiness or delusion, that “they shall believe a lie,” — false doctrine, false worship, superstition, and idolatry. This they shall believe, and have pleasure in; which will have the fearful end mentioned, verse 12. And this judgment, as it is already come upon many, so it lies at the door, I fear, of the most. We see men every day that have for some years, it may be, enjoyed the preaching of the gospel; but not being healed, quickened, and sanctified by it, are now, with all greediness, given up to follow after fables on the one hand, or superstition on the other; — there is a spirit of giddiness from the Lord upon them. And by these means is the darkness of the minds of men increased when God is giving of them up to barrenness.

[2.] Obstinacy in the will, or hardness of heart properly so called, is in this judgment of God also. God will give up unhealed persons to hardness of heart. So is it in that place of Isaiah, Isa. vi. 10: and it is the same with that which the apostle calls “a reprobate mind,” Rom. i. 28; that is, a mind and heart that is good for nothing with regard to spiritual things, — profligate, and altogether insensible of them. And when this befalls any, they will openly despise the word, and cast it off, using one foolish pretence or other for their so doing; as Jer. xliv. 16, with xliii. 2. Such persons, whenever the word is preached unto them, and it lies cross to their carnal imaginations or sensual affections, lusts, or sports, rise up in their hearts with contempt, and rage against it. Sometimes they will colour their wickedness in their hearts by some pretence or other: “This is the way, the humour, the singularity, of the preacher.” Or sometimes their rage will carry them directly out against the word, without any colour or pretence, but because it displeaseth them. Or if they fall not thus into pride and rage (which usually is occasioned by their temptations), they grow utterly senseless, and stupid, and unconcerned in the things of God. Let the word thunder from heaven against their sins, they regard it not; let the still small voice of the gospel persuade them unto reconciliation, they attend not unto it; let the judgments of God be abroad in the world, if they escape themselves they are not concerned about them. Do they reach their own persons, they have wrath, and anger, and vexation; but they cannot repent or turn to the Lord. This is, apparently, the condition of most in the world.

[3.] Sensuality of affections is in this judgment also, Rom. i. 26, “He gave them up to vile affections;” that is, to place their affections on vile, sensual things. Unhealed persons shall do so. Our streets, ale-houses, and many other places, are full of such whose affections are fixed with madness on vile things; and they please themselves in them, little thinking that this is part of the judgment whereunto they 193are given up of God for their unprofitableness under the word, — for their not being healed by the waters of the sanctuary.

[4.] Searedness of conscience. 1 Tim. iv. 2, “Having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” Eph. iv. 19, “Being past feeling.” Whatever sin they commit, or condition they fall into, conscience shall no more discharge its duty in them and towards them.

And this is the second thing that God will do towards such unhealed persons.

(3.) The third thing considerable is the event of this dealing of God with them, or what is meant by this land’s becoming salt.

Two things, as I have showed before, are hereby intended:— [1.] Barrenness in this world; [2.] Eternal ruin in the world to come:—

[1.] Barrenness. They shall never bear any fruit to God. This was the curse that our Saviour gave to the fig-tree, “Never fruit grow on thee.” Man was made to bear fruit unto God; — this is all he came into the world for. Now, when God shall say to any, “Go your ways; you shall never do any thing more for me whilst you live in this world; you shall never bear any fruit to me;” — what sorer judgment can any man possibly fall under? I might show you the misery of this condition in many particulars. “Israel is an empty vine,” Hos. x. 1.

[2.] Eternal ruin, and that irreparable. Prov. xxix. 1, “He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” John xv. 6, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” 2 Thess. ii. 12, “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Heb. vi. 8, “But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” This is the certain event of that land that is left unto salt, because not healed; and of those persons who, having passed over their season of quickening and sanctifying by the word, are given up to barrenness and ruin. It will do neither me nor you good to flatter you, and to put you into any better hope than your condition will admit of. See Ezek. xxxiii. 8, “When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand.” This will be the end of the one and the other, when that course is taken. Did I not see the tokens of this judgment of God abroad in the world, I would not thus insist upon it as I do.

Use 1. Of exhortation. Make use of your season, that you fall not under this sore and inexpressible judgment. God gives men a season, 194a space to repent in, Rev. ii. 21. This space and season, as I have showed you before, is not ofttimes all the while that the gospel is preached unto you. The word may be preached, and yet its efficacy wholly restrained from you, and that because your time and season is gone. And so it comes to pass daily; and you know not how soon it may be your lot and portion, and you perceive it not. Therefore is the apostle so earnest in exhorting men to make use of their day, before their season be gone, Heb. iii. 12, 13, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” As if he should say, “Take heed to yourselves; stir up yourselves: for if your day be once passed over, you are then gone for ever; it will then be too late for you to look out after mercy.” And so again., 2 Cor. vi. 2, “Now is the day, now is the time.” If you stand in need of any commodity that can be had but at one fair, — that day, that season you will not neglect. You stand in need, I am sure, of grace, mercy, pardon, Christ, life, — salvation; there is only this day, this season, for you to obtain it in. O that you would be persuaded to look out after it before it be hidden from you! See Heb. x. 31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” So the same apostle again, Heb. xii. 15, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.” Use all diligence in this matter.

To excite you a little to this, consider, —

(1.) That if you are not healed during your season, you can never be healed. If the gospel cure you not, you must die in your sins. Men are greatly mistaken, when they flatter themselves that it can never be too late for them in this world, — there is time enough whilst they are alive. Alas! you have but your season; and that may be over with you many days before you leave the world, yea, many years. We have everywhere ground evidently “left to salt,” though yet not burned up. Use your day.

(2.) You know not how your day is going away, nor when it will be over. The traveller on the road, that hath a journey to go, knows how to order his affairs. “It is,” saith he, “so many hours to night, and I have time enough before me;” — so doth the labouring man also: but, alas! it is not so with you; you know not how soon your day may be over. I speak not of your lives, which, the Lord knows, are uncertain; but the day of the gospel may be over whilst the day of your lives continue. Nor can you be certain of the day of the preaching of the word; but your day, and your season in it, may come to an end this day, or this night, for aught that you or I know: so that your concernment is unspeakably great in the proposal that is made 195unto you. Remember the virgins that were shut out, and their cry at midnight!

You will say, then, “What shall we do to know when it is our season, that we may apply our hearts unto this exhortation?”

I answer, The Lord alone, who is the searcher of all hearts, knows how it is with you, and whether you have not any of you in particular outstood your opportunity. I can only tell you what is a gospel season; which you are to take care that you may have a share and interest in:—

[1.] It is required that the gospel be preached in the power and purity of it. This in general makes “the acceptable day, the time of salvation.” And if there be nothing else concurring, this is enough to let a people or person know that the day of the Lord is come upon them, — that the waters of the sanctuary are come unto them. Now, consider with yourselves, whether the gospel be preached unto you or not, or whether you may not or might not have it so preached unto you, or enjoy the dispensation of it, did you but discharge your duty. If it be so, this is one evidence that it is yet your day.

[2.] It is a special season when providential calls do join in with and further gospel calls; — when God causes the gospel to be dispensed unto a people, and at the same time puts forth some acts of his providence, that are suited to awaken men to the consideration of their state and condition, then is the season of that people. I shall not go over the several providential calls that have been upon us to inquire after the ways of God. Are all the alterations that have been amongst us, discovering the great uncertainty of all things that are here below, no call? Was there no call in the great unseasonableness of the year? — no call in the danger of the loss of the gospel, which seems to stand ready for its flight from you? — the great uncertainty how long you may enjoy these waters of the sanctuary? It is certain, that if you have not neglected already your season, your day of grace, you are now under the time that you are to be tried in.

[3.] Then is the season, when God moves, [as he does] at some seasons, more effectually upon your hearts and spirits in the dispensation of the word than at other times. This you alone can give an account of; — you only know how it is with you. You can tell whether you have not been moved by the word more than formerly, or convinced by it; whether you have not had purposes of amendment and reformation wrought in you by it; whether you have not been caused to love it more than you have done formerly; whether it hath not begotten at times resolutions in you to try for life and immortality. If it have not, it is much to be feared lest the Lord is leaving of you to salt, — to an estate of perishing and everlasting ruin. But if you have had 196such effects wrought in you, know of a certain that the kingdom of God hath come unto you; and if you withstand your opportunity, you are gone and undone for ever, unless you make thorough work before this dispensation be overpast.

[4.] When you see others about you earnest after the word, this is God’s call and ordinance unto you to look to your own condition.

If now, by any of these means, you come to know that the day of the Lord and the season of your healing is upon you, oh, that you would be prevailed with to be wise for your own souls, and to close with the word of the gospel before the things of your peace be hidden from your eyes!

I thought, in the next place, to have given you the signs of a departing gospel-day, and evidences of men’s having outlived their season, and being given up to salt and barrenness; but for some reasons forbear.

Use 2. To discover the miserable condition of poor creatures that, having not in their season been healed by the waters of the sanctuary, are given up of the Lord to salt and barrenness. No heart can conceive, nor tongue, express, the misery of such poor creatures. Let me only mention some particulars:—

(1.) They know not that they are so miserable. They perceive not, they understand not, the sore judgment that they are under. Do but their heads ache, or are they sick of an ague, they feel it presently, and seek out for remedies; but in this case the curse of God is upon them, and they do not at all perceive it, and so seek not out for relief. Hos. vii. 9, “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, grey hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.” They are nigh to ruin, to destruction, and perceive it not: they take no notice of the misery that is at hand ready to devour them; or if at any time they begin so to do, they shift off the thought of it, which is a great part of their misery.

(2.) They are pleased with the condition in which they are; “they cry, Peace and safety, when sudden destruction is at hand,” 1 Thess. v. 3. They please themselves in their condition, when the vengeance of the Lord is ready to seize upon them. Is the gospel removed from them, and the streams of the sanctuary turned away? — They are so far from being troubled at it, that they rejoice in it, as hath been declared; they think they may now follow their lusts freely, and do whatever seems good unto themselves; they despise others and bless themselves, as if all were well with them. Or is the word yet continued, but they left to senselessness and salt under it? — They are pleased with their estate, wonder at those who are troubled under the word, and exceedingly despise them. All is well with themselves; and some of them are ready to deride all others that are under the 197work of the Lord. On this account it is that they do not, will not, look out for relief or healing.

(3.) No man can help or relieve them. Men may pity them, but they cannot help them. All the world cannot pull a poor creature out from under the curse of the great God.

(4.) Their eternal ruin is certain, as before proved.

(5.) This ruin is very sore on gospel despisers.

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