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God did beseech you by us; we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” When a prince not only proposes terms of reconciliation to his rebellious subjects, but also sends one ambassador after another, to beseech and persuade them, by the most powerful motives, to become reconciled to him, he gives the most convincing evidence that he sincerely desires to bring about a mutual reconciliation, that he may forgive and save them from deserved punishment.
But besides his speaking to sinners by his ambassadors, who employ the words of reconciliation, God speaks to them by his providence, which has a voice which they are constrained to hear, and a meaning, which they are constrained to understand and feel. This is a method which he employs after all other means of reconciliation have failed. " Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will melt them, and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?” And again he says," I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me early.” Invitations of mercy and scenes of prosperity often harden the hearts of sinners, but afflictions have a more powerful tendency to melt and soften their hearts. These melted and softened the heart of the obdurate Manasseh. God often melts, and softens, and purifies the hardest hearts in the furnace of affliction, whilst he is in the way of reconciliation with sinners. In a word, he leaves no proper methods unemployed to bring them to a cordial reconciliation upon the terms of the gospel. I now proceed to show,
III. That those who refuse to become reconciled to God, while he is in the way with them, must for ever perish. This will clearly appear, if we consider,
1. That the day of grace and reconciliation will close with the close of life. Li
Life is the only accepted time and day of salvation. It is only in this world that God is in the way of reconciliation with sinners. He will wait no longer than this life lasts, to be gracious to them. As soon as they cease to live, they will cease to be prisoners of hope. Christ exhorts the sinner in the text to agree with his adversary quickly, lest his delay should prove fatal. In the parable of the ten virgins, he taught delaying sinners, that the door of mercy will, ere long, be shut against them. In the parable of the talents, he taught slothful, delaying sinners, that the close of life will put a final period to all opportunities of doing and getting good. And in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, he taught both saints and sinners, that death will close their probationary state, cause a final separation between them, and fix them in an unalterable condition. If this be true, the
inevitable consequence must be, that those who neglect and refuse to comply with the offers of the gospel, through life, must perish for ever.
2. The Scriptures abound with the most plain and solemn declarations, that the finally impenitent and incorrigible shall be punished for
God declares, that "the wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God." God says to sinners, “ Because I have called, and ye 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 as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you, then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me." Christ plainly and abundantly taught the certainty and perpetuity of the future punishment of the wicked. He said, “If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” At another time he said, “Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” He commanded his apostles to proclaim to the whole world, “ He that believeth shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” This will certainly be the doom of the finally impenitent; for Christ, the final Judge, has expressly declared, that in the great and last day, he will gather all nations before him; that he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; that he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left; and that then he will say to them on his left hand, “ Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, and these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." Thus " Christ will be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel, who shall be punished with everlasting de
siruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”
But since these, and all other mere declarations concerning the future punishment of the finally impenitent, may be, and have been, criticised and explained away, by those who wish to pervert the gospel, it seems necessary to observe once more,
3. That the inflexible justice of God requires him to punish his incorrigible and irreconcilable enemies without ceasing and without end. This our Savior asserts in the text. “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him, lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." Christ considers all mankind as debtors, and their sins as debts, and therefore directs them to pray to God every day, “ Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Impenitent sinners are under obligation to receive the due reward of their deeds at the hands of God; and this obligation they can never discharge by suffering, because suffering has no tendency to diminish their guilt, and desert of punishment. And since then, those who are once cast into the prison of darkness, can never pay the debt of punishment, which they owe to divine justice, their chains will never be taken off, nor they set at liberty, and restored to the divine favor, and the enjoyment of heaven; for Christ, who will pass judgment npon them, bas forbidden them to be liberated until they shall have paid the utmost farthing ;--wbich it is impossible, in the nature of things, that they should ever pay. The same immutable justice of God, which requires him to punish the finally impenitent at all, equally requires him to punish them as long as they deserve punishment, which will be for ever; and the same wise and benevolent purposes, which can be answered by their temporary punishment, can be equally answered by their eternal punishment. Indeed, there is not a single objection that can be made against the wisdom and justice of God, in punishing the finally impenitent for ever, which cannot be made, with equal force against his wisdom and justice in punishing them at all in this world. Accordingly, the apostle Peter infers the future and eternal punishment of the ungodly, from the punishments which have actually been inflicted upon sinners in this world. Speaking of those who, in his day, brought in and propagated damnable heresies, he says, " Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slunubereth not. For if God spared not the angels that siuned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly ; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, making them an EnsAMPLE unto those that after should live ungodly; the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” All the natural evils, calamities, and punishments that ever have been inflicted upon maukind in this world, are so many evidences, that God will punish the finally impenitent for ever in the world to come. For those, who do not become reconciled to God upon the terms of the gospel, while he is in the way with them, will for ever remain irreconcilable enemies, and manifestly deserve the tokens of God's everlasting displeasure; and his immutable justice will require him to give them the due and everlasting reward of their deeds. Their punishment will be as lasting as their ill desert, and this ill desert will be as lasting as their existence, which will never end.
1. If God be in the way of reconciliation with sinners; then those who do not realize this, are awfully stupid. This is the case with all who do not realize, that God is their adversary, and yet disposed to be reconciled to them.
2. If God is in the way of reconciliation with sinners; then those are very unwise, who coutinue to displease him. There are many who are so unwise. They take occasion from his terms of mercy, his patience, and his providence,-to disregard all he says to them, and dues for them. This is very unwise.
3. If God is in the way of reconciliation with sinners; then those are very obstinate, who complain of the terms, which he proposes,these are as reasonable and accommodating as possible.—They have injured God, but God has never injured them.
4. If God is in the way of reconciliation with sinners, upon reasonable and gracious terms; then those are very presumptuous, who propose their own terms to God.-Many are so presumptuous. They insist, that God shall return to them first, and assure them, that he never will cast them into hell.
5. If God is in the way of reconciliation with sinners; then it is their immediate duty to be reconciled to him; the terms are perfectly reasonable, practicable, and may be withdrawn any day.
6. If God be in the way of reconciliation with sinners; then his treatment of them in this world, will completely justify his treatment of them in the next-in the eyes of all heaven, in the eyes of all the damned, in their own eyes.
7. This subject calls upon all to enquire seriously, whether they have become reconciled to God. Sinners, have you ever realized that he is your adversary ? Have you become reconciled to him ? Have you been reconciled upon his own terms? Have you chosen his terms rather than any other?
8. This subject shows the dangerous state of sinners-Life and death are set before them—the terms are proposed—God is waitingbut his patience may soon end-can your hands be strong, and your hearts endure, when he shall deal with you as incorrigible enemies ?
SINNERS, the voice of God regard;
His mercy speaks to-day;
From sin's destructive way.
Like the rough sea that cannot rest,
You live devoid of peace :
Deprive your souls of ease.
Your way is dark, and leads to hell;
Why will you persevere?
Shut up in black despair ?