« AnteriorContinuar »
generally so much convinced in his own conscience, that there is a God, that he is in dreadful amazement for fear of his eternal wrath. It is folly, therefore, to flatter yourselves with any supposition now, which you will not then be able to hold. if you depend on long life, consider how many who have depended on the same thing, and had as much reason to depend on it as you, have died within your remembrance.
Is it because you are outwardly of an orderly life and conversation, that think you
shall be saved ? How unreasonable is it to suppose that God should be so obliged by those actions, which he knows are not done from the least respect or regard to him, but wholly with a private view! Is it because you are under great advantages that you are not much afraid but that you shall some time or other be converted, and therefore neglect yourselves and your spiritual interests? And were not the people of Bethsaida. Chorazin, and Capernaum, under as great advantages as you, when Christ himself preached the Gospel to them, almost continually, and wrought such a multitude of miracles among them ? Yet he says, that it shall be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrab, than for those cities.
Do you expect you shall be saved, however you neglect yourselves, because you were born of godly parents? Hear what Christ saith, Matt. iii. 9. "Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father.” Do you flatter yourselves that
you shall obtain mercy, though others do not, because you intend hereafter to seek it more earnestly than others? Yet you deceive yourselves, if you think that you intend better than many of those others, or better than many who are now in hell once intended.
If you think you are in a way of earnest seeking, consider whether or no you do not mind other things yet more ? If you imagine that you have it in your own power to work your.
' selves up to repentance, consider that you must assuredly give up that imagination, before you can have repentance wrought in you. If you think yourselves already converted, and that encourages you to give yourselves the greater liberty in sinning, this is a certain sign that you are not converted.
Wherefore abandon all these ways of flattering yourselves, no longer follow the devil's bait; and let nothing encourage you to go on in sin; but immediately and henceforth seek God with
l all your heart, and soul, and strength.
WICKED MEN USEFUL IN THEIR DESTRUCTION ONLY.
EZEK. XV. 2-4.
Son of man, What is the vine-tree more than any tree, or than
a branch which is among the trees of the forest ? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon ? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel ; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burnt ; is it meet for any work ?
The visible church of God is here compared to the vinetree, as is evident by God's own explanation of the allegory, in ver. 6, 7, and 8. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, As the vine-tree among the trees of the forest, which I bave given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem," &c. And it may be understood of mankind in general. So Deut xxxii. 32. “Their vine is the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall.” And especially his professing people. Psalm 1xxx. 8. “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt;"' ver. 14. “Look down from heaven, behold, and visit this vine." And Cant ii. 15. “ The foxes that spoil the vines; for our vines bave tender grapes.”' Isa. v. "My well-beloved hath a vineyard, and he planted it with the choicest vine." Jer. 7. 21. “ I had planted thee a no. ble vine.” Hos. X. 1 " Israel is an empty vine."
So in chap. xv. of John, visible Christians are compared to the branches of a vine.
Man is very fitly represented by the vine. The weakness and dependence of the vine on other things which support it, well represents to us wbat a poor, feeble dependent creature man is, and how, if left to himself, he falls into mischief, and cannot help himself. The visible people of God are fitly compared to a vine, because of the care and cultivation of the husbandınan or vine-dresser. The business of husbandmen in the land of Israel was very much about vines ; and the care they exercised to fence them, to defend them, to prune them, to prop them up, and to cultivate them, well represented that merciful care which God exercises towards his visible people.
* Dated July, 1744.
In the words now read is represented, how wholly useless and unprofitable, even beyond other trees, a vine is, in case of unfruitfulness : What is a vine-tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest ?!' is é, if it do not bear fruit. Men make much more of a vine than of other trees; they take great care of it, to wall it in, to dig about it, to prune it, and the like. It is much more highly esteemed than one of the trees of the forest; they are despised in comparison with it. And if it bear fruit, it is indeed much preferable to other trees; for the fruit of it yields a noble liquor; as it is said in Jotham's parable, Judg. ix. 13. “ And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man ?”—But if it bear no fruit it is more unprofitable than the trees of the forest : for the wood of them is good for timber ; but the wood of the vine is fit for no work; as in the text, “Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon ?"— The only thing for which a vine is useful, in case of barrenness, is for fuel : “ Be. hold it is cast into the fire for fuel.” It is wholly consumed ; no part of it is worth a saving, to make any instrument of it, for any work.
Doctrine. If men bring forth no fruit to God, they are wholly useless, unless in their destruction.
For the proof of this doctrine, I shall show,
1. That there can be but two ways in which man can be useful, viz. either in acting, or in being acted upon.
2. That man can no otherwise be useful actively than by bringing forth fruit to God.
3. That if he bring not forth fruit to God, there is no other way in which he can be passively useful, but in being destroyed.
4. In that way he may be useful without bearing fruit.
1. There are but two ways in which man can be useful, viz. either in acting, or being acted upon. If man be useful, he must be so either actively or passively; there is no medium. What can be more plain, than that if a man do nothing himself, VOL. VI.
and nothing be done with him or upon him by any other, he cannot be any way at all useful ?- If man do nothing himself to promote the end of his existence; and no other being do any thing with him to promote this end; then nothing will be done to promote this end; and so man must be wholly useless. So that there are but two ways in which man can be useful to any purpose, viz. either actively or passively, either in doing something himself, or in being the subject of something done to bim.
II. Man cannot be useful actively, any otherwise than in bringing forth fruit to God; serving God, and living to his glory. This is the only way wherein he can be useful in doing; and that for this reason, that the glory of God is the very thing for which man was made, and to which all other ends are subordinate. Man is not an independent being, but he derives his being from another; and therefore hath his end assigned him by that other: and he who gave bim his being, made bim for the end now mentioned. This was the very design and aim of the Author of man; this was the work for which he made him, viz. to serve and glorify his Maker.-Other creatures, that are inferior, were made for inferior purposes. But man is the highest, and nearest to God, of any in this lower world ; and, therefore, his business is with God, although other creatures are made for lower ends. There may be observed a kind of gradual ascent in the order of different creatures, from the meanest clod of earth to man, who hath a rational and immortal soul. A plant, an herb, or tree, is superior in nature to a stone or clod, because it hath a vegetable life. The brute creatures are a degree bigher still ; for they have sensitive life. But man, baving a rational soul, is the highest of this lower creation, and is next to God; therefore, his business is with God.
Things without life, as earth, water, &c. are subservient to things above them, as the grass, herbs, and trees. These vegetables are subservient to that order of creatures which is next above them, the brute creation ; they are for food to them. Brute creatures, again, are made for the use and service of the order above them: they are made for the service of mankind. But man being the highest of this lower creation, the next step from him is to God. He, therefore, is made for the service and glory of God. This is the whole work and business of man; it is his highest end, to which all other ends are subordinate.
If it had not been for this end, there never would have been any such creature; there would have been no occasion for it. Other inferior ends may be answered as well, without any such creature as man. There would have been no sort of occasion for making so noble a creature, and enduing him with such faculties, only to enjoy earthly good, to eat and to drink, and to enjoy sensual things. Brute-creatures, without reason,
are capable of these things, as well as man: yea, if no higher end be aimed at than to enjoy sensitive good, reason is rather a hindrance than a help. It doth but render man the more capable of afflicting himself, with care, fears of death, and other future evils; and of vexing himself with many anxieties, from which brute-creatures are wholly free, and, therefore, can gratify their senses with less molestation. Besides, reason doth but make men more capable of molesting and impeding one another in the gratification of their senses. If man have no other end to seek but to gratify his senses, reason is nothing but an impediment.
Therefore, if man be not made to serve and glorify his Creator, it is wholly to no purpose that such a creature is made. Doubtless, then, the all-wise God, who doth all things in infinite wisdom, hath made man for this end. And this is agreeable to what he hath taught us in many places in the scriptures. This is the great end for which man was made, and for which he was made such a creature, having bodily senses and rational powers. For this, is he placed in such circumstances, and the earth is given him for a possession. For this he hath dominion given him over the rest of the terrestrial creatures. For this the sun shines, and the rain falls on him; and the moon and stars are for signs and seasons to him, and the earth yields him her in
All other ends of man are subordinate to this. There are, indeed, inferior ends, for which man was made.
Men were made for one another; for their friends and neighbours, and for the good of the public. But all these inferior ends are designed to be subordinate to the higher end of glorifying God; and, therefore, man cannot be actively useful, otherwise than by actively bringing forth fruit to God. Because, that is not actively useful which doth not actively answer its end: that which doth not answer its end, is in vain; for that is the meaning of the proposition, that any thing is in vain. So that which doth not actively answer its end, is, as to its own activity, in vain.
That, as to its own activity, is altogether useless, which actively answers only subordinate ends, without answering the ultimate end; because the latter is the end of subordinate ones. Subordinate ends are to no purpose, only as they stand related to the highest end. Therefore, these inferior ends are good for nothing, though they be obtained, unless they also obtain their end. Inferior ends are not aimed at for their own sake, but only for the sake of that which is ultimate. Therefore, he that fails of this, is as much to no purpose, as if he did not obtain his subordinate end.
I will illustrate this by two or three examples. The subordinate end of the underpinning of a house, is to support it, and the subordinate end of the windows, is to let in the light. But the ultimate end of the whole, is the benefit of the inha