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dise.” The gospel still makes the same free, rich, precious offers to sinners, but they still make light of it. The reason is, they think they are “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” But,
3. It appears from what happened to Peter's hearers, that no sinners are out of the reach of conviction. No sinners, perhaps, were ever more secure in their guilt and stupidity, than the three thousand were on the day of Pentecost. In the morning they made light of the gospel, made a mock of sin, and bid defiance to the awakening, convincing, and converting influences of the Holy Ghost. They made their brow brass, and their neck as an iron sinew. But before the sun had reached the meridian, their lofty looks were humbled, and their haughtiness bowed down, and the Lord alone exalted in their hearts. This was indeed the most signal display of the sovereign and irresistible grace of God in the conversion of the most hardened and obstinate sinners. But there have been many similar displays of the powerful and gracious influences of the divine Spirit in the conversion of the despisers of the gospel. It is vain for sinners to contend with their Maker; he is stronger than they; and “who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered ?" All the ease and security sinners enjoy is altogether owing to their ignorance of God and of their own hearts. It is easy for God at any time, in his house, or in any other place, to arrest sinners, and lay them prostrate at his footstool. He arrested Manasseh in the height of his stupidity and obstinacy, and humbled him in the dust. He arrested Saul of Tarsus in his way to Damascus, and while intent on persecuting Christ and his followers. And he has in innumerable instances, bowed stout-hearted sinners to a cordial and unreserved submission to his amiable and holy sovereignty. It argues extreme folly and stupidity in any sinners to imagine, that they are out of the reach of conviction, because they have resisted great light and maintained their ease and stupidity for a great while. The three thousand had done this for a great while, and under solemn warnings and admonitions ; but they were arrested and conquered at last. And so may those who are now ringleaders in sin, soon find themselves to be in the hands of an angry God, who can save or destroy, and out of whose hands there is none to deliver.
4. The conversion of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost shows us one reason, why God often suffers sinners to triumph in their wickedness before a revival of religion. God often did this, under the Mosaic dispensation. There were
many declensions and revivals of religion from Moses to Christ. And we frequently read of the great prevalence of stupidity and degeneracy in Israel, before any extraordinary effusion of the divine Spirit. It appears from what has been said, that the love of many had waxed cold, and iniquity had risen to an enormous height in Jerusalem and Judea, before the day of Pentecost. Sadducees and Pharisees, publicans and sinners had become extremely erroneous and corrupt. John had been beheaded. Christ and his followers had been despised and abused, and the Lord of glory had been crucified and slain. That generation had become notoriously wicked and hardened in sin, so that the blood of all the prophets was about to be required at their hands. But when there appeared no hope in their case, then the promise of the Holy Ghost was fulfilled, and an extraordinary revival took place. Three thousand were converted on one day. By this God meant to show that he was stronger than the strong man armed, and able to bow the hearts of the most hardened sinners after they had triumphed in their wickedness and opposition to the gospel. After the most powerful external means had failed to conquer the carnal mind of sinners, he gave visible and undeniable evidence, that he was able to slay it, and reconcile his most inveterate enemies to himself. This was an end worthy of God to propose and bring to pass. And hence we may conclude, that this is
, an end which he has in view in suffering some whom he intends to save, to live long in their impenitence and unbelief, and spread error, stupidity, and high-handed wickedness among a degenerate people, before he arises to plead his own cause, and appears in his glory in building up Zion. As the greatest darkness of the night is just before day; so the greatest darkness and degeneracy among a people, is often just before a great and extensive effusion of the divine Spirit. The blindness and stupidity of the human heart has led many under the gospel to disbelieve and deny the necessity of the special and irresistible influence of the Spirit to change the hearts of sinners, and raise them from spiritual death to spiritual life. But when God causes the Ethiopian to change his skin and the leopard his spots, and turns the lion into the lamb, he carries conviction to all that it is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in their eyes.
5. This subject forbids us to despair of God's reviving religion in this place. The erroneous, the stupid, and the presumptuous are triumphing and breaking over all restraints. The Sabbath, the gospel, and all the means of grace, have lost their restraining influence. Those who once attended public worship have done attending, and those who once constantly attended, have become inconstant. Some who once employed their authority and weight of character, to suppress and prevent the prevalence of vice and immorality, have lost their resolution, courage, and zeal, and relaxed their exertions; and but very few dare stand in the gap, appear on the Lord's side, and lift up a standard against the enemy that are coming in like a flood. Is there not then some ground to hope, that God is waiting to be gracious ? that he intends to take his own work into his own hands, and bow the hearts of this people to himself as the heart of one man, and make a signal display of the riches of his grace? It is certainly time to cry, “Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth ; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” And who can tell but he will hear, and pour out a blessing that there shall not be room to receive it?
6. It appears from the conduct of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, that it is very easy for sinners to comply with the terms of the gospel and secure the salvation of their souls. How often do sinners complain, that the terms of the gospel are hard and unreasonable ; and that they cannot comply with them. Peter proposed as high terms as any preacher ever proposed to sinners. He proposed repentance and faith to the three thousand hard-hearted sinners, and they did not complain of the terms, but gladly complied with them. When they asked what they should do," he said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." “ Then they gladly received his word, and were baptized.”. The terms of the gospel are no higher now than they were then; and then sinners could easily and gladly comply with them. Why can they not as easily and gladly comply with them now as then? It is always easier to comply with the terms of the gospel, than to complain of them and reject them. “ The way of transgressors is hard.” Sinners act against the authority of God, the dictates of their own consciences, and against their own eternal interests, in rejecting and refusing to comply with the terms of the gospel ; and this must be hard, But there is a pleasure in becoming reconciled to God, in repenting, and believing the gospel. The three thousand found it so, and ten thousand since have found it so. Why stand ye halting between two opinions? Your duty is plain and pressing. If you have sinned, repent; if the gospel be true, receive it gladly; if your souls are precious, secure their salvation; if you are uncertain of to-morrow, to-day hear
1 the voice of mercy, and harden not your hearts.
7. It appears from the conduct of those who gladly embraced the gospel, that they as gladly professed Christ before men. So it is expressly said, “ Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.” When sinners sincerely repent of the dishonor they have done to God and to religion, and of the injury they have done both to the friends and enemies of God, they sincerely desire to do honor to God and religion, and repair the injuries they have done to their fellow-men. And to make a public profession of religion, is one way to answer these desirable and important purposes. A long delay of this duty looks like the want of sincerity; but a ready and prompt performance of it, has a direct tendency to fasten conviction upon delaying sinners. What if all who have professed religion in this place had neglected it, would not the church have become extinct ? And if that had become extinct, what would have been the state of religion here now? Would the forms of it have been preserved ? It is of unspeakably more importance for all true converts to make a profession, than they and others are ready to realize. What great public design can be successfully carried on without a union ? and what union can be permanent without a bond ? Christian union, as well as any other, requires a bond, and all Christians ought to take the bond of a solemn covenant upon them, to maintain their union, and to be “stead. fast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Their hearts are too deceitful to be trusted without a guard. They need the watch, and care, and encouragement, and assistance of one another. “ Two are better than one ;-and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
This subject now calls upon all who have neglected to repent, to repent without further delay. They have delayed too long, and strengthened their hearts and hands against God, and treasured up wrath against the day of wrath, and may be almost ripe for ruin. They are under a sentence of condemnation, and they know not how soon that sentence may
be executed, except they repent. This delayed duty must be done, or they will be lost forever. They are now in the hand of their holy and righteous Sovereign, and must submit, or die.
This subject likewise calls upon all true penitents, who have neglected to profess Christ and be baptized, immediately to name the name of Christ, and if they have not been baptized, to be baptized, and give up themselves to God in an everlasting covenant never to be forgotten, nor broken. These are duties not to be neglected even in this busy season.
“ Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.”
GOD IS TO BE REGARDED IN THE SUCCESSION
OF THE SEASONS.
"NEITHER say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that
giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season : he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest.”—Jeremiah, v. 24.
THOUGH men are unmindful of God, yet he is not unmindful of them; and though men disregard the operations of his hand, yet he regards the operation of their hearts. He keeps his eye fixed upon them, to discover their views and feelings under his smiles, as well as under his frowns; and when they appear to be insensible of either, he views their stupidity with peculiar displeasure. His people of old were very prone to disregard the displays of himself in his providence. Of this he complains in several of the preceding verses.
66 Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes and see not; which have ears and hear not: fear ye not me? saith the Lord : will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail ; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it? But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted, and gone." It follows, “ Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season; he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest." Here God claims to be the governor of the natural world, and blames his ancient people for not properly discerning and regarding the hand of his providence in the regular succession of the seasons, which visibly display the glorious perfections of his nature. And he ascribes their unreasonable conduct, not to a want of capacity, but to a want of dis