« PreviousContinue »
If thou wilt not glorify his holiness by thy obedience, thou shalt glorify his justice by thy perdition. He will not lose by thee: but thou, who hast extravagantly lived without and be. side the order of thy reason as a man, and of thy religion as a Christian, shalt be compelled and brought into the order of his subjects as a damned wretch and rebel. But this will be sadly to thy cost: and when thou liest stretched out and racked with the extremity of thy torments, thou wilt then too late reflect on thy gross and desperate folly; that ever thou shouldst refuse to glorify that God voluntarily by thy obedience and submission, who now forceth thee to glorify him, whether thou wilt or no, by thy intolerable and eternal tortures.
iii. Consider, that, BY GLORIFYING GOD, WE DO INDEED BUT GLORIFY OURSELVES.
For he hath been pleased so graciously to intwist his glory and ours together, that, whilst we endeavour to promote the one, we do but indeed promote the other. Them, that honour nie, saith God, I will honour : 1 Şam, ii. 30. And what a vast encouragement is this to the cheerful performance of all the duties that God requires at our hands, how hard and difficult soever they may seem, to consider that this, that God commands of me, is no barren piece of service! Possibly, I may lose my reputation, I may lose my estate, or I may lose my life by it; but, yet, if it bring glory to God, it will certainly bring abundant reward to me. And, though I see nothing spring up of it here on earth, but thorns and briars to rend and pierce me through with many sorrows: yet, doubtless, my reward is with my God; and heaven shall repay with interest all that glory which I have brought unto him, by crowning me with glory, immortality, and eternal life. Oh, how happy and blessed a thing is it, when we come to breathe out our souls into the arms of God, then to be able to reflect back upon a well-spent life: and to recommend our flying souls to our gracious God, as our Saviour did, John xvii. 4, 5. I have glorified thee on the earth : I have finished the work, which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with that glory which thou hast prepared for me before the world was. Unto the which glory, God of his infinite mercy bring us, through the merits of Jesus Christ: to whom, &c.
ACTS xxvi. 28.
THEN AGRIPPA SAID UNTO PAUL, ALMOST THOU PERSUADEST ME
TO BE A CHRISTIAN.
In this chapter we have St. Paul, in his fetters, pleading before that Honourable Sessions of Festus and Agrippa. His plea we have largely set down, from the 1st to the 24th verse; in which he opens his commission, that he had received in an extraordinary manner from heaven, for preaching that doctrine which was every where spoken against, and for worshipping God in that way which was called heresy.
I shall not at all enter into the consideration of the apology: but let us look only at the different effects, that it wrought upon the hearers. Festus and Agrippa were both of them unbelievers": the one, an unbelieving heathen; the other, an unbelieving Jew: and thus they both continue.
Yet St. Paul's speech works very differently upon them. In the 24th verse you have Festus raving. He said with a loud voice, “ Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning hath made thee mad : thy thoughts of a vision and an apparition, of a man dead and buried, lying safe under ground, that he should rise again and appear from heaven to thee, being the Saviour of the World, is a meer fancy, proceeding from a strong frenzy:" thus he scoffs and raves. But this very sermon, which seemed madness and an idle tale to unbelieving Festus, carries a strong conviction in it to Agrippa, who was an unbeliever too: Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
Hence observe, That the word of God hath a far different effect, even upon those, upon whom it hath no saving effect. One raves and rages against it, and is seared and stupified by it:
another is convinced and terrified by it. Festus scoffs and mocks, and goes away laughing at the doctrine and reviling the preacher: but Agrippa is convinced, and half persuaded to believe and practise that very doctrine, and highly to esteem the preacher of it.
And is it not so even among us? are there not many, who may come to the ordinances in a natural and sinful estate and condition ? the same word of God is cast among them all: yea, but what is the success? When the sword of the Spirit is brandished amongst a great crowd of consciences, it is not likely, that it should miss all, and strike none of them: one, perhaps, goes away slighting and contemning; another goes away scoffing and railing against it; and another half-persuaded by it to become a Christian, to be almost a Christian. If every man's breast had a casement in it, by which we might see the inward estuations and boilings of their hearts, how they work after a powerful and terrifying sermon; should we not behold and see some, shifting and shuffling their sins out of the way? some, holding up the bucklers of prejudicate opinions, to ward and fence off the stroke of the Spirit ? some, fretting and storming at the lancing of their consciences? some, scorning and scoffing, with Festus, that it is no better than folly and madness? some, trembling, with Felix ? some, convinced and wrought upon, as Agrippa, to faint resolutions and half-purposes ? and, yet, all these remain under the power of unbelief and unregeneracy. It is, indeed, a wonder, that, among such diversity of operations which the word hath upon the souls and consciences of men, it could be possible that such a multitude should go away without any saving operation by it; some, blinded and hardened; some, terrified; some, stupified; some, exasperated and enraged; some, convinced and half-persuaded, and such are those that we now speak of: such as are, as it were, half of one complexion and half of another, that stick in the new birth, whose hearts have been warmed with good motions, who have entertained approving and admiring thoughts concerning the ways of holiness, who have taken up some resolutions of doing better and of being better; and, yet, do not come off roundly and speedily from their sins, nor close fully with Christ. These are the Half-Christians which the text speaks of.
The words are plain in themselves; and, therefore, do not require much explication. Only the word translated ALMOST thou persuadest me &c. if accurately rendered, according to the