by Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen
“And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” (1 Pet. 4)
“Things of value are not to be procured without difficulty,” is a proverb of the ancients. The truth of this is evident as to things natural, as diamonds and pearls; but is equally so in relation to things spiritual, as wisdom and virtue, of which the more we possess, the more lovely are we in the eyes of God, of angels, and of men. They are therefore by Solomon so highly extolled, Prov. 3: 13, 19. Nothing certainly is there more beautiful, more valuable, more lovely, than those spiritual and heavenly things which are with God in Christ. But how great the difficulty with which they are to be obtained: it is not to be done without a conflict: " The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force." (Matt. 11.)
We have likewise an impressive illustration in the merchant, who went and sold all that he had, to purchase the pearl which he had found; and in him who, having found a treasure hid in a field, went and sold all that he had and bought that field. The same is taught by the language of Paul, " Know ye not that they who run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain." And what is the prize to be contended for? the incorruptible crown of glory suspended at the end of the course—the salvation in reserve for the children of God in heaven. This is compared to a crown, because victory is there given them over all their enemies, and they are delivered from all conflicts, toil, and pains: but while here upon earth, they find themselves in a vale of tears, a way of tribulation.
This plainly appears at a glance from the inspired words which form the text, in which the Apostle declares that the righteous are saved, although " scarcely," that is, with many conflicts, through many difficulties. In the words which immediately precede, he had declared the doleful end of the ungodly, unbelieving, and dis- obedient. But in order to hold up to view the righteous and the wicked in the difference of the states which await them, he declares, in the words of the text, that such shall not be the lot of the former, but that they shall, although " scarcely, be saved," while the ungodly and sinner shall perish; and therefore he connects these words with the foregoing by the particle "and:" " And if the righteous scarcely be saved," etc.
Two subjects here present themselves for consideration.
The state of the righteous: That they are saved, yet scarcely.
The wretched state of the ungodly and sinners.
At present we shall occupy ourselves with the first part, to wit, That the righteous are scarcely saved: in which Peter shows with what difficulty a child of God attains to salvation; and here three points claim attention.
I. The persons, who are the righteous.
II. What is declared of them: That they are saved.
III. The manner in which, to wit, scarcely.
Among the various honorable titles conferred on the children of God in his word; is also found this of the righteous. This is true not only of Moses, Job, Abraham, Zacharias and Elizabeth, and others, who are denominated righteous; but of every child of God, according to the language of Isaiah 26:2; and they are therefore in their collective capacity termed "the generation of the righteous," (Ps. 14: 5;) and "the righteous nation.'7 (Is. 26: 2.) The righteous of whom Peter here speaks, is not one who is entirely perfect and without sin. Oh! no: for such one is not to be found among all the descendants of Adam; and therefore Solomon says, Eccl. 7: 20, There is not a just man upon earth." This every righteous person must from experience confess, with shame, grief, and sorrow. (Prov. 20: 9.) This is the sad truth complained of by Paul, Eom. 7: 21: "I find then a law that when I would do good evil is present with me." Such is also the lamentation of the Church, Is. 64. To be so is the prerogative of the second Adam only " who knew no sin." (2 Cor 5: 21.)
Nor is the righteous here, one who is such through compliance with the requirement of the law, " Do this and thou shalt live." Oh! no: for u by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Kom. 3 : 20.) Therefore Job says, How should man be just with God? (Job. 9:2;) and David, (Ps. 130 : 3,) " If thou Lord shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand ?" Much less are we to understand by the righteous such as justify themselves, and regard themselves righteous; as was the case with the Pharisees, Luke 18: 9: but by the righteous are here to be understood
1. Such sinners as are in themselves indeed, ungodly and destitute of that righteousness though which they could stand in the judgment, but yet have received by faith, the righteousness of the Lord Jesus proffered in the Gospel, through which they stand acquitted at the divine tribunal, from the guilt of their sins, and liability to punishment, and are entitled to eternal life.
2. The righteous are such as also conduct themselves agreeably to this righteousness, and do what is right and proper according to the law of God; and thus are " filled with the fruits of righteousness." (Philip. 1: 11.)
3. They are such as are hereupon also justified in their own consciences through their good works, and that holy frame of mind of which they are conscious, as a fruit of their uprightness and faith; nay, with whose spirit the Spirit of God beareth witness, that they are the children of God. (Rom. 8:16.)
4. Who also show by their holy lives that they are righteous, and thus are justified in the consciences of others, and recognized as such. These now, are the children of God—believers and such as are in covenant with God: these are spoken of in the text, in contradistinction to the ungodly, and " are scarcely saved."
The expression to save, signifies in general, to preserve, to free, to deliver from any evil, and bring into a state of security and happiness. This may refer either to temporal deliverance, as in Matt. 8: 25, when the disciples said, " Lord, save us: we perish;" or to some mortal disease, as in James 5: 15, " the prayer of faith shall save the sick;" or to severe persecution and great affliction. (Matt. 24: 22.) Ordinarily, however, in the New Testament, it is significant of the salvation of the soul, and eternal life; whence Jesus is denominated the Saviour. In the present passage, however, there is no reference to temporal welfare or corporal deliverance; of which the righteous are sometimes partakers, as Noah amidst the waters of the flood; Lot at the destruction of Sodom; the three companions of Daniel in the fiery furnace; Daniel himself in the den of lions, and Peter in prison, who were all delivered from danger, as examples and in accordance with the promise that, " the Lord delivereth them out of their afflictions." (Ps. 34: 19.) But by it, is here to be understood a spiritual deliverance—an eternal salvation, as to body and soul, as opposed to damnation. (Mark. 16: 16.) As now damnation includes in it the highest evil, so does salvation comprehend in it the highest good, which is communion with God, enjoyed by the righteous here in grace, and hereafter perfectly in glory. It is that salvation—that great good, which no pen can describe, no tongue express, and of which, therefore, we can but say: " How great is that good, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee." (Ps. 31: 19.) This salvation the Apostle here assumes it as certain that the righteous shall enjoy: and this is so in truth: for to be righteous, is the way to salvation; and this appears.
1. From the fact that he is acquitted from guilt and exposure to divine wrath, and made heir of eternal life, and thus saved in hope. Such is the import of the language of Paul, Eom. 8: S3, " Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justifieth," etc.; and thus David pronounces the man bless- ed, to whom the Lord " imputeth righteousness, without works," This is perfect righteousness, which can stand in the divine judgment; and therefore the Church exults, saying, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord." (Is. 61: 10.)
2. The righteous are such as are in Christ by faith, and are justified in him; and "the just shall live, by his faith." (Hab. 2: 4.) Consequently, it is believers only who are justified; for "he that believeth on the Son, hath eternal life." (John. 3: 26.)
3. The righteous are those who are sanctified by the Spirit of God—"who do righteousness," (1 John 3:7;) follow after it, (1 Tim. 6: 11 ;) walk in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord. (Luke 1: 6.) Inasmuch now, as without holiness, no man shall see the Lord, (Heb. 12: 14,) it necessarily follows, that those who are partakers of holiness, shall certainly see the Lord.
4. The righteous are likewise godly persons; and godliness has the promise not only of the life that now is, but of that which is to come—eternal life. (1 Tim. 4: 8.) It is then certain that the righteous are saved, and they only.
Although the righteous are saved, they are but scarcely saved. The word scarcely is not to be understood, as if the righteous could fall from that state, and come short of salvation, as the Papists and advocates of free-will seek hence to show. Scarcely is expressive not of uncertainty but difficulty; for the salvation of the righteous who are justified by faith in Christ and sanctified by his Spirit, is according to God's promise, secure, certain, and unchangeable, (Eom. 8: 33 ;) since they have been elected from eternity. Therefore Paul says, 2 Tim. 2: 19, u The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his." Neither is it to be understood as if believers were always in doubt and uncertainty with respect to their salvation. No; for the righteous can be assured of their salvation, as Paul said, 2 Tim. 1: 12, " I know whom I have believed;" and Eom. 8: 38, 39, "I am persuaded that nothing shall separate us from the love of God;" and they are therefore exhorted to make their calling and election sure. But according to the force of the original, scarcely here signifies with difficulty. Such is its acceptation in the Greek, and in this sense, it is employed Acts 14: 18: " And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them" — 1 it was only by means of a great effort—by a resolute refusal of the proffered homage, and every manifestation of disapprobation, that Paul and Barnabas prevented them from sacrificing to them, as gods.' Such is also its import Acts 27: 16: "And running under a certain island, we had much work to come by the boat;" that is, 1 we obtained it, but by a desperate effort.' And thus we ordinarily speak of any object as scarcely obtained, which is secured only by much, trouble, labor, and pains: thus it is also to be understood in our text. The righteous then are saved, but scarcely, that is, with great toil and effort—through many conflicts, and afflictions, distress, extreme agonies, temptations, and chastisements. This the Lord Jesus teaches, Luke 13: 14: " Strive to enter in at the straight gate where he speaks first of the gate, which is straight, and through which we can not enter except by striving—through which we must press with violence. Direct your attention also to that remarkable passage found Matt. 7: 13, 14. The way of life heavenward is exceedingly narrow, inasmuch as the whole life must be regulated by the law of God, which demands a strict and precise service. We are now prepared to perceive how the righteous are scarcely saved.
1. The righteous are scarcely saved, inasmuch as they must be born again. (John 3 : 3.) God can not save, unless he first makes spiritually alive those who are by nature dead in trespasses and sins. (Eph. 2:1.) Truly, there is need of that same power, for the regenerating and re-creating of the sinner, which was requisite for the creation of the whole world: nay, much more; for at the creation, there was naught opposed to God; but now all that is in the sinner is enmity against God : (Eom. 8: 7 :) " the carnal mind is enmity against God."
2. Shall they be saved they must believe; and that is the work of God alone, (John 6: 29.) And what does it not require to bring to God one who entertains such exalted imaginations with respect to himself, and in all his words and acts conducts as if he were God himself? What is not required to render proud, high-minded man, humble and small in his own eyes, and to cause him to prostrate himself before God as a beggar; to lie in the dust as a worm, and thus to supplicate his grace. Judas chose the halter rather than believe! Oh! what is not required to remove from his false dependences, one who builds upon his own righteousness, and reposes so securely in it; and to drive him thus naked and bereft of all things out of himself, as one helpless, lost, and in a desperate state, to Jesus, through him to be reconciled to God, and by his perfect righteousness only, to be rescued from destruction and eternally saved? It is hard to desire Christ and naught but Christ. It is toilsome the whole day to follow after Christ, and not to rest until we find him; and therefore shall a person believe the arm of the Lord must surely be revealed, (Is. 53: 1 ;) and therefore Paul says, that the work of faith is the exceeding greatness of the power of (rod, " according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead:" and therefore are the righteous - scarcely saved.
3. Shall they be saved, they must exercise repentance ; in accordance with Luke 13:3; and what does not this act of the soul include? It includes a turning from sin to holiness; from Satan to God; from ourselves and all creatures unto Christ; and how great a work is this ? for one who is so in darkness, nay, is darkness itself! who can not find the way of life; who is unable and unwilling to return; who is so blinded by self-love that he regards his evil heart as good; who so cherishes his delusive hope, that he neither can nor will abandon it; who is so caught in the snare of the devil, who holds him captive at his will; who is a child of wrath and an enemy of God! Oh 1 what does it not require to arrest such ungodly, heedless sinners, in their way, and to" arouse them from their lethargy? Oh I what does it not require to bring one who has forgotten and contemned God; who has made God his enemy; who has naught to expect but his eternal wrath, again to God, and cause him to realize and enjoy his favor and love? Will not the thought naturally arise in his breast, How can I, who am an enemy and hater of God, become reconciled to him? Should I appear in his holy presence, would he not immediately thrust me away, and cast me into hell? Could God take delight in saving a sinner such as I? It is, therefore, a work of great difficulty to cause a sinner to entertain that confidence in God, without which he can not be led to repentance: thus he is scarcely saved.
4. Shall he be saved, he must be made holy; for without holiness no man shall see the Lord. (Heb. 12: 14.) And what does not this include? What energy and skill must not the Holy Ghost employ to sanctify the elect sinner? for within and without, he is wholly unclean and loathsome, and from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, there is no soundness in him. Thus he must not only be sanctified in all that he does and leaves undone, and yield his members as instruments of righteousness, and to this end forsake all things—cutting off a right hand and plucking out a right eye, (Matt. 6,) that is, abandoning his dearest bosom-sins, but he must be also inwardly sanctified — his heart must be changed—be entirely transformed — the image of God be impressed upon it—he must be holy in all his motives, in order to glorify God in all things. And oh! how great the work to sanctify a heart so habituated to sin, to vanity and folly; and to impart to it true wisdom ! an effect this, to the production of which naught less than divine power is adequate: therefore is he scarcely saved.
5. He is "scarcely saved," inasmuch as he must deny himself: (Matt. 16: 24:) "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me;" that is, in general, the old man, the flesh, with its affections and lusts, must be crucified, (Gal. 5: 24)—he must yield his understanding a captive to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor. 10: 5 ;) he must renounce his own will; he must abandon his sinful inclinations, lusts, and pleasures, (1 Pet. 2: 11; Eph. 4: 22; and 5: 11 ;) also reputation, possessions, and friends; nay, be willing for Christ's sake, to lose even his life, (Luke 14: 26 :) " If any man come to me, and hate not father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he can not be my disciple " How hard this for a sinner, whose heart is as a stone, and it yet must take place and therefore is he "scarcely saved."
6. Inasmuch as he must be heavenly-minded, and willing to part with all that is seen, for that which is unseen; and with Paul count all things loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, (Phil. 3 :) —despise the favor of men, the treasures, riches, and delights of this world; and seek only those things which are above, where Christ is; and thus exalt the Lord Jesus above ten thousand, and so proclaim him to the world. But oh ! the magnitude of such a work! therefore is he scarcely saved.
7. He is "scarcely saved," inasmuch as he must love God above all, and his neighbor as himself, (Matt. 22: 37, 40)—he must bless them that curse, do good to them that hate, and pray for them that persecute him, (Matt. 5: 45.) But how difficult to love even our enemies: therefore is he scarcely saved.
8. He is "scarcely" and with great difficulty saved, as regarded in himself; seeing it is with the greatest difficulty that one who is deadly sick can begin or accomplish any undertaking; yea, no more readily than an Ethiopian can change his skin, or a leopard his spots, can they do good, who have been accustomed to do evil. (Jer. 13: 23.) They are as the dead, and can contribute nothing to their own restoration to life; so mortally helpless are they. Therefore, Paul says, Eom 7: 14, " I am carnal, sold under sin."
9. To this is to be added the fickleness and inconstancy of man, who, when convinced by God, resolves to change his conduct and no more pursue his sins; yet proves unfaithful to his resolutions, and does not continue steadfast and believing, but turns again to folly: thus is his sorrow like a morning cloud, which soon passes away, and therefore is he scarcely saved
10. " Scarcely" and with great difficulty are the righteous saved, inasmuch as God sometimes forsakes them; though not forever, but for a moment; and not entirely, but as regards his sensible and consoling grace. Thus the Church complains, Is. 49: 14, "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me." To this is to be added that the Lord, their light, and the strength of their life, at times withhold for a period his wonted assistance; permits them to be subjected to the assaults of their enemies; hides from them his lovely countenance; appears to be angry with, them, to write bitter things against them, and turn to be their enemy; so that it becomes to them a season of complaining and lamenting, of asking and seeking, of conflict and wrestling. This we see in Job 6: 24, and 13: 24; in David, Ps. 13:2-4; in Asaph, Ps. 77: 4-10; and in Heman, 88: 17, 18. Of these things, an unconverted man knows nothing—nothing of the loss of communion with God, and nothing of the sweetness of that communion, since he has never enjoyed it
11. " Scarcely" are they saved, inasmuch as they are called to endure many temptations and conflicts with Satan, for the devil, their adversary, goeth about as a roaring lion. (1. Pet. 5: 8.) He is dexterous and deceitful and is ever plotting their destruction and laboring to draw them from God. To this end he shoots at them his fiery darts, in order to lead them into sin, and prevent or mar that which is good; or fills their minds with blasphemous thoughts, in order to sift their faith; to extinguish their love; to weaken their hope, and reduce them to despondency and doubt. How they should arm themselves against him, can be seen Eph. 6: 10-18. It is then scarcely.
12. Add to this, the world that lieth in wickedness, (1 John 5: 19 ;) that is, evil men, with their sinful associations, who are the instruments of Satan. For what he can not himself do, he does through them, as his organs; for he roles in the children of disobedience, and urges them on to the destruction of the godly, now by perfidious flatteries—by representing in such fair colors the beauties, pleasures, honors, and riches of the world, to entice their souls; and now by assailing them with vile slanders, invectives, lies, and malicious threats. Thus are the righteous called to suffer much at the hands of the ungodly; and that for Christ's sake, (Matt. 5: 11; 1 Pet. 2: 19, 20 ;) and hence pass through evil report and good report, and to all this, they must rise superior; as they can not without conflict.
13. In addition to this; they still have a deceitful, seductive, wicked heart—that evil and depraved nature, which continually leads them astray; for "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,"- (Jer. 17: 9 ;) and " thus is every one tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." For the heart which is a sink of iniquity, tends continually to sin, nay, continually sends forth sin; and therefore the heart must be kept diligently. (Prov. 4: 23.) The old man must be crucified, and our members which are upon the earth, mortified. (Col. 3: 5.) The body must be brought into subjection, and provision not made for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof. (1 Cor. 9: 27; Eom. 13: 4.) Hence their wrestling, their watching, their praying against sin, their tears, sorrows, and complaints, with Paul, Eom. 7: " Oh ! wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" and all these occasions constant strife.
14. And lastly, are to be mentioned all the afflictions and adversities which so frequently and grievously assail the righteous ; (for " many are the afflictions of the righteous," Ps. 34: 20 ;) through which it is declared, they must enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14: 22.) Who can enumerate all the calamities which they experience in this vale of tears, in person, family, estate, and calling, honor, good name? What sickness, poverty, disquietude, dishonor, violence, slander, and persecution? Scarcely often, has one evil passed, before another is experienced; so that innumerable evils compass them about, (Ps. 40: 13 ;) and how hard is this for the flesh!
Add to all, that deep distress and bitter agony of soul on account of sin, which is the greatest evil they are called to endure, (Ps. 25: 17 :) " The troubles of my heart are enlarged: oh! bring thou me out of my distresses." Wherefore, also the word of God, speaking of the attainment of salvation, employs all such modes of expression as are significant of toil, labor, and concern: as, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, (Phil. 2: 12,) to seek, (Matt. 6: 33,) to strive, (Luke 13: 14 ;) which form of speech is drawn from a warrior, who has many and mighty foes with whom to contend. Thus also must a child of God, in the work of his salvation, strive against enemies so numerous, and thus with violence assault the kingdom of heaven, (Matt. 11: 12 ;) run in the Christian race, (1 Cor. 9: 24 ;) follow after perfection, (Phil. 3: 12 ;) and exercise himself, (1 Tim. 4:7:) " Exercise thyself unto godliness." This last, literally expressed, is wrestling, and the similitude is drawn from the combatants in the ancient games, and implies the greatest intrepidity, as that of a hero armed from head to foot, that he may prove victorious in the conflict, and bear away the crown of life. It is also required that we watch, stand fast in the faith, quit ourselves like men, and be strong, (1 Cor. 16: 13 ;) fight the good fight of faith, (1 Tim, 6: 12 ;) and be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor 15: 58.)
All these forms of expression intimate that those who are saved, are saved not easily, but though great conflict, and with much effort and wearisomeness; and this by reason of the unworthiness of their best works; the contest between flesh and spirit; the depravity of their hearts; the narrowness of the way to life; the difficulties attendant upon required duties; the insufficiency of their righteousness; and the strict demands of the righteous Judge.
Is it true, my hearers, that the righteous are scarcely and with so much difficulty saved? It becomes us then, not to esteem salvation so lightly and of such easy attainment. Unless we would directly oppose the word of God, we must acknowledge salvation to be a quite different thing from what is supposed by most men who yet hope to be saved; for they imagine that it is entirely well with them and that they shall be saved, provided they avoid outward and gross sins; live honest and correct lives; perform the external duties of godliness, and diligently pursue the business of their calling. O wretched men ! can that be true godliness and the narrow way of life? Oh! no: outwardly to forsake sin, pursue virtue, and live correctly, is only in accordance with the practice of the heathen: as said the Saviour: "Do not even the publicans so?" (Matt. 5: 4, 7.) Although God has expressly declared in his word, that something more is necessary to salvation, and that the way to heaven is exceedingly narrow, men notwithstanding form so light an opinion of salvation and imagine that they shall so easily acquire it. They do not carefully examine whether they be righteous, and are not concerned whether they be in a state of grace, and have an interest in Christ; but satisfy themselves with a bare and unfounded persuasion, and place dependence upon the external propriety of their conduct—they rely upon the fact that they are baptized; that they have made confession of their faith; that they partake of the Lord's supper; that they attend the house of God, and read his word—upon these things, I say, they rely, and in the meanwhile are groveling as very moles, and this, but to acquire some earthly good; and entertain not the slightest doubt that they shall be saved: this, they regard as certain. But know, 0 vain men! that thou shalt not thus attain salvation! These things must indeed be done, but are not of themselves sufficient. The Spirit of God declares by the mouth of Peter, that " the righteous are but scarcely saved," and do you expect so easily to secure it? Oh! no: you lamentably deceive yourself and greatly err: " The god of this world hath blinded your mind and holds you captive in his snare," (2 Cor. 4:4;) and whilst you promise yourself heaven, let me freely assure you that you shall obtain hell. Listen, I pray you, to the declaration of the Author of all truth, Matt. 7: 21: " Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
0 careless and unconverted sinners, who have no concern respecting the state of your souls, and imagine that you will be saved! Who, I pray, persuades you, that you will so readily obtain heaven? I entreat you, judge for yourselves, would not then Peter, without reason, have said that the righteous are but scarcely saved"? Would not the Lord Jesus have improperly described the way of salvation as so narrow? Should you be saved in your carnal, vain, worldly, and careless state, and through so superficial a service, it was not true that we are saved scarcely, but without difficulty, Your manner of life is surely not one of strict conformity to divine requirements; and would not the disciples, the martyrs, and the most eminent saints have acted foolishly in doing so much, and living so precisely? These withal were greatly concerned respecting their salvation; and could you pursue so heedless a course and yet be saved? Oh! let not your deceitful heart thus lead you astray. Close not so willfully your eyes and persist in imagining that you can so easily be saved! Most certainly, believe me, your deceitful heart turns you aside: you feed upon ashes, and you are hastening to eternity with a lie in your right hand! Must a regenerate Christian daily pour out before Glod so many ardent prayers, and utter so many agonizing supplications; shed so many bitter tears; be so dis- tressed and concerned respecting his sins; find it necessary to strive so manfully against them, and, in addition, be compelled to endure so many temptations and afflictions; and can you, by one heartless sigh to God and a little superficial service, become an heir of salvation? Oh! no. But do you ask, are .there none then saved, who do not experience such a conflict? No: none other. This conflict is the lot of one, more; of another, less; but there is not one, who has not some experience of it, Such, an one will, I doubt not, find the workings of his heart described in the foregoing exposition. Let it not be supposed, however, that this conflict is the meritorious cause of the salvation of the righteous. Oh! no: that is to be attributed to pure sovereign grace, but it is the way to salvation; for God leads his children through conflict to conquest.
You will possibly say, if this is so narrow a way, I should dread to enter upon it; for who could always live thus? But know, 0 man ! that it is but for a time, and that the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared to the glory which shall hereafter be revealed to the children of God. Is the labor great? the reward is still greater. Is the contest severe? the victory is glorious! and though it endures for a while, the glorious issue is notwithstanding certain. If therefore you desire your salvation, let not these things affright you! Oh! no; were you but aware, what joys are still to be found in that way, you would, with Moses, esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. It is not at all times a season of distress and difficulty. Oh! no: the anger of the Lord endureth for a moment, but there is life in his favor. (Ps. 30: 6.) Herein the children of God sometimes exult, that they have more joy in their hearts than the ungodly when their corn and their wine are increased, (Ps. 4:7;) and M I delight in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches." (Ps. 119: 14.) Ask a child of God, and he himself will inform you that in the midst of all his tribulations, he would not barter his condition for thousands of worlds! Oh! no: he would say, Though a man gave me all the substance of his house for this love, (to be a child of God,) I would utterly condemn it. Would you not then rather be found in this way? or will you still continue to pursue your sinful course, and imagine you will notwithstanding be saved? Entertain not such an expectation! abandon that soul-destroying delusion! no longer deceive yourself with false hope, but awake I beseech you! awake, ere to your sorrow you find it too late, and then first discover that you have deceived yourself. It is certainly cause of astonishment that you can go on so securely, and indulge so little fear, whilst yet the righteous are scarcely saved! or do you imagine that you are righteous? Tell me, I pray you, what reason you have for such supposition? The Pharisees imagined the same, but were mistaken. , There is also civil righteousness consisting of this, that we live in accordance with the laws of the land, reputably—without injuring or wronging anyone — giving to everyone his own, and doing what is equal and just. These things are indeed good, and constitute an honorable man, but not a righteous Christian. You must certainly acknowledge, that you are by nature, through original and actual sin, deserving of condemnation; and that you daily increase your guilt and therefore are a child of wrath; in addition, that you are unable to deliver yourself; nay, that you also "will not," because you are an enemy of God. The inquiry now is —
1. Whether you realize and contemplate these facts with sorrow and concern or not.
2. If this has filled you with anxiety, and led you to despair of affecting your own salvation. Have you been so convinced of the holiness and justice of God ? have you had such views of your own ill-desert, that you could justify God, should he cast you into hell? Have you seen that God can not forgive your sins, without the endurance of the threatened punishment? Has this caused you to hunger and thirst after the righteousness of the Lord Jesus? Has your heart gone out after him? Has he become precious in your eyes? Have you desired him and naught beside and become convinced that you are in absolute need of him?
3. Have you become supremely concerned respecting Jesus—that you might be reconciled and made at peace with God through him, and thus attain the favor of God and live in communion with him? Have you, to this end, fled for refuge to the Lord Jesus, and surrendered yourself to him?
4. Are you also desirous of sanctification by virtue of the merits of Christ, that you may lead a holy life? Have you experienced this, and do you still daily experience it? Has it been and is it still daily true, that you thus seek reconciliation on account of your sins, and betake yourself to the Lord Jesus by prayers and supplications?
5. Do you labor to glorify God in all your conduct and by a correct deportment to edify your neighbor and thus work out your own salvation with fear and trembling? Is this the ground of your persuasion? Then you are happy indeed. But ah ! how far is this from being true? How do ye show the contrary by your actions?
1. Ye, who still adhere to your own righteousness — who depend for acceptance upon the goodness of your hearts or your good intentions; who still rest upon the external duties that you have performed, and your doing your best, [to speak in Arminian style.]
2. Ye also, who so securely pursue your course; put far off the evil day and therefore walk according to the course of this world, in the indulgence of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life; which are not of the Father, but of the world.
3. Ye also, who refuse to acquiesce in the appointed way of salvation marked out by God, because ye are unwilling to live so strict and careful a life, and walk in this way of tribulation; and who say, " The way of the Lord is not equal," (Ezek. 33: 17 ;) " Therefore let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us' (Ps. 2: 2;) for what profit is it, that we should serve God, and keep his ordinance, and walk mournfully before him? (Mai. 3: 14.)
4. Ye, who are disposed to ridicule distressed souls,, denominating their experience idle fancies; and regard it unnecessary to live so circumspectly.
But consider at length, I pray you, how miserable is your state f Oh ! that you beheld the awfulness of your condition! As long as you are not of the number of the righteous, you are still subject to the wrath of God and the curse of the law; God is to you an angry judge; and, continuing in this state, you shall certainly be lost; for if the righteous be but scarcely saved, thou shalt not be saved! 0 sinner! Canst thou think or hear of this without concern? Think, I beseech you how lamentable will be your condition, when you shall lie upon your expiring bed, with pale death in view, and conscience shall awake and declare to you that you are not one of the righteous. Then shall you open your failing eyes, and with broken utterance exclaim: Oh! how am I deceived! Now alas! I find by sad experience the way to heaven a narrow way! Oh! how can I enter upon it? It now is and seems too late! The door seems closed, and there is now no hope. Ah! wretched me. so to have contemned the way of salvation! Now shall I be compelled to learn by sad experience what before I was unwilling to believe? 0 dread eternity! Let me, therefore, prevail with you, ere this sad experience is yours.
Do you ask what shall I do? I answer, seek a correct, clear, and affecting knowledge of your sins, and your lost state before God, as well as of your entire helplessness, and your inability to deliver yourself, and that, this being the case, you must perish, unless the Lord prevent you with his sovereign grace. Pray God also that he will impress this upon your mind; that you may be dismayed and concerned respecting it; and thus as one lost be driven out of yourself to the Lord Jesus; flee for refuge to him, and surrender yourself as ungodly, and in danger of damnation, with hearty self-condemnation, to him, to be justified, sanctified, delivered from sin, and glorified. Oh! rest not, until you have arrived at this point. To this end, you must earnestly call upon God by prayer and supplication; you must, with Paul, (Phil. 3.) count all things but loss and dung that you may win Christ; you must forsake all the vanities and sinful associations of the world ; (for evil communications corrupt good manners, 1 Cor. 15: 33 ;) you must be diligent in the use of all means, as the reading of the word of God, and the hearing of it preached; you must, withal, have a deep impression of your helplessness, that in the use of the means you may be led to look to the Lord for his Spirit. Thus proceed, and, I beseech you, rest not until you be found in Christ. Contemplate also much your miserable state; in addition, how speedily you may be overtaken by death; that you must then appear in the judgment, and that if in this life you have not been converted, you must be lost; also, that the Lord is willing to help poor sinners who in uprightness come to him. Oh ! in Christ7 ^ stead I beseech you, lay this to heart, that in the day of judgment, it may not be a testimony against you. And oh! that the Lord would impress it upon your mind, by his Spirit, that you might thereby be converted.
But how blessed are the people of the Lord, who are truly righteous! Of them we may say, u Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance," (Ps. 33: 12 ;) for, " Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect ?" (Rom. 8: 83.) They have a great good in expectation; they are partakers of the triune God. Of them we may say, u Happy art thou, 0 Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord !" (Deut 83: 29.) Truly so great is their happiness that it can not be expressed, although it is as yet not known nor fully experienced. They can, notwithstanding, exult, saying, " Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3: 2.) It is true that they are here but as lamps despised in the eyes of those that are at ease, (Job, 12: 5 ;) but they are precious in fee eyes of the Lord. Their portion is not in this life, but they have a better good in prospect. They must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. It is with them now, as it was with Israel in the wilderness: this world is also a wilderness and a howling wilderness, to them, to lead them to the heavenly Canaan. Therefore, 0 children of God! let it not appear strange to you that many afflictions come upon you. You have heard that the righteous are scarcely saved. Oh! let this sustain you under your crosses, whether as to body or soul; since this is the Lord's ordinary method with his children. For how otherwise could it be said, u Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God: speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and say to her that her warfare is accomplished ?" Did the people of the Lord experience no sorrow and conflict, what need was there of comfort? Yea, what else is the import of that recorded Eev. 7: 17, of those that serve God before the throne day and night—that " God shall wipe all tears from their eyes;" but that here they suffer sadness and sorrow and shed tears of distress! Be then of good courage: the Lord will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear, but will with the temptation, make a way to escape. Consider that the Lord does what is for your highest good when he suffers you to be afflicted; for whom he loves he chastens, that they may be partakers of his holiness. Reckon with Paul, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed. Bear in mind that the time is short; for these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; and the Lord will at length deliver you from all afflictions when through death he shall translate you to his blissful fellowship, where you shall be forever with him, and experience no separation, and where all your sorrow shall be changed into joy; for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed you, and shall lead you to fountains of living waters, and God shall wipe all tears from your eyes.
Light is sown for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart! Amen!