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REFLECTIONS. Hence it may well be expected of such as profess hopes of their being true Christians, that they should live after a peculiar manner, and be devoted to God for his use.
There should be a great difference between their way of living and that of other men. Godly men should not be hurried away by the general example. If any evil practice is become a common custom, it may well be expected of those who profess themselves godly, that they should stem the stream of common custom and example, though they are despised for it.
Men are ready often to plead for their neglect of such and such duties, and the commission of such evils, that it is a common custom. “Who is there,” say they, “but what does so ? I should be singular if I did otherwise." But if evil things are common, God may well expect of them that their way should be singular and peculiar, for Christians are a peculiar people. There should be a difference and a great difference between them and the generality of the world; if their neighbours, and relations and companions, fall in with the common custom, that is evil, yet they should be peculiar, and stand alone.
It may well be expected that they should go further than other men in doing their duty, and practising the Christian religion. For instance, it is a common thing for men when they are affronted, or injured by their neighbours, to entertain a spirit of revenge, to drink in a spirit of ill will against their neighbour, and to wish him hurt. But Christians should be peculiar; they should forgive those that injure them, and not entertain any spirit of ill will to them upon that account.
It is common for men when injured, to endeavour to retaliate upon those that injure them in some way or other, either by acting or talking against them; but those who call themselves godly, should choose no kind of revenge, Matth. v. 38, 39. “ Ye have heard, that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil : but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” The generality of men will love their friends, and hate their enemies; it is very rare that it is otherwise. Men pretend that they do not hate their enemies, but they really do in their hearts. But Christians should be peculiar in this matter, their way should be different from the way of the world; for they are a peculiar people, and they should love their enemies from their hearts, and do good to them that hate them. However rare it is that there is any such thing, yet such a rare thing very well becomes God's peculiar people. Matth. v. 43, 44, 45. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But VOL. VIII.
I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you : That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
It is a rare thing for persons to accustom themselves to great self-denial. Many will indeed deny.themselves something for the sake of their duty, but if it very much crosses their interest, there are few that will be steadfast in their duty. But it may well be expected, that you should greatly deny yourself for the sake of God and Christ, and so be peculiar in this matter.
Sell-interest governs the generality of men; they will mind their own interest rather than any thing else. But it may well be expected of those who profess godliness, that they should show themselves peculiar in this matter, and that they should sacrifice their private, separate interest to the glory and honour of God, and to the public good. Most men will content themselves and quiet their consciences by avoiding the more gross acts of sin, by avoiding an outward gratification of lusts; but it becomes Christians to distinguish themselves here, and avoid sinning so much as in their thoughts, not to indulge any lust so much as in their imagination.
It is a shame to professors of godliness that their light shines no brighter before men, that there is no more appearing in them of an amiable Christian spirit, that they do not seen to shine any brighter in their outward conversation than many other men that do not make the profession that they do. Many such men seem to be as exact, and as careful to avoid sin, and to deny themselves as they ; yea, many, perhaps, that, for the outward practice of some particular virtues, shine brighter than they, are more liberal, and kind, more courteous and obliging in their behaviour.
It is expected of those that are of this peculiar people that they should do more than others. Matth. v. 46, 47. “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ? Do not even the publicans so?” Let me then apply this subject immediately to those who are present.
1. Here is a powerful argument to persuade those of you who are impenitent to become godly, that if you will forsake your sins, and with all your heart turn to God, you shall become of the number of God's peculiar people. You shall have the same privileges with those that have been mentioned, you will immediately upon your conversion become one of those that God sets such an high value upon. If you are assured of your conversion, you may withal be assured that God the Supreme Lord of heaven and earth sets a higher value on you than upon all the reprobates in the world,
that God has set so high a value upon you that he has given the blood of his own Son for your ransom.
If you do savingly turn to God, you will receive from God mercies and blessings greater in value than all the wealth and outward prosperity of all the ungodly men in the world. Put all the honour and all the wealth of the great men of the world together; put all that the kings of the earth possess, their treasures and revenues, their dominions and power, their stately seats and palaces, their costly robes and dainties, together, and they will not amount to so great things as God will bestow upon you.
If you will turn from your sins and come to Christ, the great God will accept of you, and delight in you: you then will have those spiritual ornaments that will be more amiable in the sight of God, than all the learning, and knowledge, and morality of all the ungodly men in the world.
If you continue in a natural condition, God will make no account of you ; instead of being as his jewels, you will be esteemed as vile and refuse, and fit for nothing but to be trampled under foot; instead of being gold, you will be esteemed as dross, Jer. vi. 30. “ Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.” Hereafter you will be thrown away as being good for nothing, you will be esteemed nothing worth, as is represented in that parable, Matth. xiii. 47, &c. “Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Yea, you shall not only be cast away as good for nothing, but shall be cast out as filth into the great receptacle of the filth of the world; you will be cast into a furnace
a of fire as barren branches are gathered up and burnt. John xv. 6. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned; or as barren trees are cut down and cast into the fire. Matth. ii. 10. “ And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.” As the tares were gathered together in bundles and burnt, you will be looked upon as fit for nothing else but to be destroyed. 2 Peter ii. 12. “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not, and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.”
Instead of bestowing such peculiar mercies upon you, you in a little time will be stripped of all mercy. God will not have mercy on you, but your miseries will be as dreadful as those mercies that God bestows on his saints are valuable. They are but trifles that wicked men have bestowed upon them while in this world, in comparison of what the righteous shall have. · The blessings of one righteous are more in value than the enjoyments of all the wicked. But hereafter wicked men will not have those; they will have nothing but the fiery wrath and indignation of God for their portion.
While you are in a natural condition, instead of your being God's peculiar ones with respect to the interest which God hath in your heart, the devil has the greatest interest in your heart. He has the government and possession there, and therefore you are, and will be the devil's people, those that he claims, and those that will certainly fall to his share, at least if you continue in such a condition. Instead of being one in whom God has peculiar complacence, he has no pleasure in you; when you pretend to worship him, he has no delight in your hypocritical prayers and services, but they are an abomination to him.
Il. If you are true Christians, then let God be peculiar with you. 1. Let God be your peculiar portion.
If you are one of his peculiar people, he is so. 'All who are God's people have chosen him for their God and portion. Do this more, and more, and more. Let all other things be lightly set by, and treated by you with neglect, in comparison of God.
Let God be the object of your peculiar value and esteem. If God has made you one of those on whom he sets a peculiar value, you who are a poor worthless worm, if he has set such a value upon you, as to purchase you with the price of the blood of bis Son, who are in yourself a filthy despicable creature, how much more reason is there that you should peculiarly value God, who is so great and glorious! It is fitting that this value should be mutual; and it is fitting that it should be in answerable degree.
It will be but a little thing for you to esteem God above all in comparison of what it is for God so to prize his saints. See to it therefore, that there be nothing that stands in any competition with God in your esteem; value him more than all riches; value his honour and glory more than all the world; be ready at all times to part with all things else, and cleave to God. Let God be your peculiar friend, and value his friendship more than the respect and love of all the world. When you lose other enjoyments, when you lose earthly friends, let this be a supporting, satisfying comfort to you, that you have not lost God.
2. Let God be your peculiar confidence. There is great encouragement in this Doctrine for you to make him so, and reason to enforce it as your duty. God expects that those who are his
peculiar people should put their trust in him, and well they may do so, for God has a peculiar favour for them, and is peculiarly careful and tender of them. Be sensible, therefore, that it is unbecoming any, but especially those who are so near to God, and so favoured by him, to trust in their own righteousness, or in any arm of flesh. The peculiar people of God should not trust in themselves, they should not trust in friends, they should not trust in great men, they should not trust in their estates, or in any worldly enjoyment as expecting happiness from it, but alone in the Lord God. He ought to be their refuge and hiding-place: in time of trouble they should hide themselves under the shadow of his wings.
3. Make God the peculiar object of your praises. The doctrine shows what great reason you have so to do. If God values you, sets so much by you, has bestowed greater mercies upon you than on all the ungodly in the world; is it too little a requital for you to make God the peculiar object of your praise and thankfulness? If God so distinguishes you with his mercy, you ought to distinguish yourself in his praises; you should make it your great care and study how to glorify that God who has been so peculiarly merciful to you. And the rather because there was nothing peculiar in you, distinguishing you from any other person, that moved God to deal thus peculiarly by you.
You were as unworthy to be set by as thousands of others that are not regarded of God, and are cast away by him for ever.