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persecuting times, when the exercise of the ministry was allowed by the magistrate with limitations, which could neither be imposed nor accepted without sin. And as little power have the people to limit them, or give orders concerning what we should preach; but every faithful minister will say as Micaiah, , 1 Kings xxii. 14. As the Lord liveth, what the Lord faith unto me, that will I speak.
Use Il. of exhortation. Attend on ordinances, and come with a design reverently, diligently, attentively, understandingly, believingły, and so as practise, to hear what is commanded us of God. We defire you to take nothing as matter of faith on our authority, but to do as the Bereans, who searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so, Acts xvii. 116 I offer the following motives to prels this exhortation.
1. Consider the way how the word came to the world. It was by the Mediator, John i. 18. When Adam fell; death itared him in the face; and he ran away from God, till the word of reconciliation came forth, Gen. iii. 15. which disappointed the expectation of devils, surprised angels, and revived the selfmurdering creature.
2. Consider it is the word of life, Deut. xxxii. 46. 47 Nothing concerns us so nearly as this. If ye do not prize the word, and hear what is commanded us of God, there can be ng comfort on a death-bed. It will make us table complaints against you before the Lord. And we will have a fad meeting at the great day. But if ye will hear, ye will be our joy and crown; your louis shall be saved in the day of the Lord, and we will bless the day that ever we met. Come to ordinances with a keen appetite after the bread of life; and pray for us, that the Lord may deal kindly with us, and furnilh us with proper pou. rifharent for your
2 CORINTHIANS vi. 1. We'then as workers together with him, beseech you also, that
ye receive not the grace of God in vain. HAVE been calling you to a diligent attendance
upon the ordinances, and now I come to beseech you not to receive the grace of God in vain : 'for if you should attend the means of grace ever fo carefully, yet if you receive the grace of God in vain, all your labour is lost, and ye muft perish in your fins at láit.
The words I have read are a pathetical exhortation; in which,
1. The party exhorting is the apostle in his own name and that of all faithful ministers, who are called workers together with God. Compare 1 Cor. iii. 9. In the purchafe of falvation Christ had none with him; but in the application of it be makes use of gospel-minifters, 'working with him, as instrumental causes, in cxhorting, &c. and bringing the word to the ears of people.
2. The manner of the exhortation ; befeeching, which denotes mildness and gentlenets in dealing with fouls, and withal earneltness and fervency of address.
3. The matter of it. The grace of God here denotes the gospel, as it is expressly called, Tit. I. II. It is so denominated, (1.) In respect of its rise, which was mere grace. (2.) Of its fubject, being the doctrine of grace, offering the free favour of God to finners in Christ. (3.) in respect of its end, which is grace. (4.) Of its revelation to particular places. To receive it in vain, is to have the gospel among them, but not to be the better of it to saivation, as the feed is in vain received by the ground, which grows not up, but is loft. The doctrine is,
Doct. That people to whom the gospel is fent, lad need to take heed that they receive it not in vain.
In discoursing from this doctrine, I shall shew,
I. I am to fhew how the gospel may be received in vain. And here it will be necessary to fhew, .
1. In what respects the gospel cannot be in vain. 2. In what respects it may be received in vain.
First, I am to lhew in what respects the gospel cannot be in vain. And it cannot be in vain,
1. In respect of God; he cannot fall short of what he purposeth to bring to pass by it, ll. xlvi. 10. My counsel shall stand, says he, and I will do all my pleasuré. That looking for fruit, mentioned Is. v. 4. is afcribed to God after the manner of men'; but an omniscient omnipotent being cannot properly be disappointed, If. lv. 10. 11. For as, the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it, to bring forth and bud, that it may give feed to the fower, and bread to the eater: fo fall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth : it shall not return unto, me void, but it spall accomplish that which I, please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
(21) All his elect will be brought in by it. Hence when the apolles Barnabas and Paul preached at Antioch in Pilidia, and met with much opposition, it is observed however, that as many as were ordained to e. ternal life, believed, Acts xiii. 48. The found of the gospel-trumpet will gather the elect, however vain the found be to others : for Christ's people shall be made willing in the day of his power, Pfal. cx. 3. Though the rain fall in vain on the rocks, yet it does not fo on the good ground. And that glorious inftrament will be honourably laid by at the great day, having done its work.
(2.) His mercy and justice will be cleared by it, so as that gospel-despilers hall appear most juftly con. demned, Acts xiii. 46. while men have rejected the counsel of God against themselves. The offer of re.
conciliation will juflity God's procedure abundantly again't gospel despisers.
2. It cannot be in vain in respect of faithful minifters, who, according to the grace given them, pursue the great end of their office, viz. their acting as ambassadors for God, and prayirg finners in Christ's 1tead, to be reconciled unto God, 2 Cor. v. 20.
(1.) In respect of their acceptance with God. Tho? their labours do no good, God will accept of their fin. cere endeavours to ferve him in his work, Gal. iv. 11. compare 2 Cor. ii. 15. 16. Preaching the gofpel faithfully, and warning every man, is our duty; converting of fouls is God's work. If minifters faithfully discharge their duty, and yet success answer not, God will accept their work, Ezek. xxxiii. 8. 9. If. vi.
(2.) In respect of their reward of grace. Some miniliers God fets to tread out the corn, while they freely eat of their labours, and have the satisfaction to fee the pleasure of the Lord profpering in their Mafter's hand. The mouths of others are muzzled ; and they have nothing but weary work, like that of the disciples, when they faid to their Lord, We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing, Luke v. 5. But it shall not be in vain : God does not proportion his faithful fervants reward to their success, but to their pains and faithfulness. For as it was with the Master, fo is it with the servants : Is. xlix. 4. I have laboured in vain, says he, I have spent my strength for nought; yet surely my judgement is with the Lord, and my work with my God.
3. It cannot be altogether in vain in refpect of honeft-hearted hearers, Micah ii. 7. Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprighily? When the word Talls on good ground, it will bring forth fruit, though not always alike. It is hard to fay, that ever God sends his gospel to any place, but there are fome to te bettered by it, even then when he is taking his farewell of a people, as in the case of the Jews. There were seven thousand in Ifrael that had not bowed the
knee to Baal in the time of Elijah, even when that prophet thought there had not been one.
4. It cannot be utterly in vain as to any that hear it, If. lv. 1 1. forecited. It will have some effect following it. Even those who mo't of all receive it in vain as to good success, yet it is not vain,
(1.) As to a testimony for God against them to be produced at the last day, Rev. iii. 20. Behold, I fand at the door and knock. If any man bear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Behold, aagels and men,
ye witneffes, that here is an offer of me to finners. Tho' they should refuse to hear the message with their bodily ears, yet if it come where they are, it will be a witness against them, Matth. X. 14. 15. The dust of their feet shall witness they were there with Christ's meffage, and that salvation was in their offer. The fervants of Christ must set up the standard, whether any will gather to it or not, Ezek. ii. 7. See ver. 5. (2.) As to manifestation of unsoundness, Eph. v.
13 As tbe light of the sun will discover things in their own colours, though we wink never so hard; so the gospel will hang the sign of folly at every man's door out of Chrift. The gospel was in vain to none more than the greatest pretenders to religion in Christ's time; but see the effect of it, Mal. iii. 2. But who may abide · the day of his coming ? and who shall stund when he appeareth? for be is like the refiner's fire, and like fullers Joap. Matth. iii. 12. His fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into his garner : but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. The wind will discover chaff by corn, though omnipotency must be at the work to change it into good grainy. Hence the gospel oft-times draws the pillow from under people's heads, that never thoroughly awaken, tormenting them that dwell on ihe earth. Hence we read of some that say to the seers, See not ; and to the prophets, Prophely not unto us right things, "peak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits : get out of