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SEEK YE THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND.
AN ADMONITION FROM A DEPARTED SAINT.
(Concluded from p. 208.)
"Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon Him while He is near.”—Is. 55:6.
In handling this important subject it was proposed, God assisting,
1. To explain the duty which is here enjoined, viz., to seek the Lord.
2. The motives in the text, which are two, namely, that now the Lord may be found in mercy, of such as diligently seek him; and second, that if we neglect these seasons the time will come when it will be too late to set about this important business. And,
3. To offer some serious considerations to engage us through God's grace to comply with the heavenly admonition. The two first I have examined. I proceed, therefore, to the third, viz., to offer some serious considerations to enforce this commanded duty.
1. We are called to seek the Lord that we may save our own souls, that we may escape the pains of hell, and enjoy the kingdom prepared for the children of God. And can any ends be greater and nobler than these, and with these to glorify God, to be like him in holiness and purity, to be under his care and protection, and safely sheltered from all the calamities of life? Should not our thoughts and desires be directed to ends so necessary and so useful ? Can we be too much affected with them, desire them too earnestly, or labour for them with too much diligence? If we neglect so great
VOL. VIII, NO. 6.
a salvation ; if we are not accepted through the beloved; if our prayers prevail not; if we either refuse to comply with the Gospel, or only comply in a cold and formal manner, we are undone for
The question is, whether we shall be eternally happy or miserable; whether we shall at death go to heaven or hell; whether we shall take up our everlasting habitations with angels or devils ; and this question must be resolved by our obeying or disobeying the Gospel. No designs, no undertakings can be greater or of more importance; and this I offer to your serious consideration, to engage you to seek the Lord while he may be found.
2. Our diligence must bear some proportion to the work we have to do, as well as the ends for which we work. We must mortify sin and be holy, or we cannot be happy; we must be meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, or we cannot enter there; for nothing that defiles can enter into the New Jerusalem. Our states and particular failings are to be seriously examined and repented of; our souls must be renewed; we must be brought to deny ourselves, and to take up the cross daily and follow Christ; our corruptions, our evil habits, our fierce appetites, are to be subdued ; the temptations around us are to be resisted; we must have peace in our own minds, and must obtain some well-grounded hopes or assurances of pardon and happiness; and though God gives these blessings of his free grace through a Redeemer, yet for all these things will he be inquired after by the house of Israel to do them for them. We must attend ordinances, must watch and pray; we must be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord; every stage of life every day, every dispensation of Providence calls us out to fresh duty; every place we come to, every person we have to deal with, every change of our condition, every new relation we stand in to one another, demands care and attention to the laws of God, and if we habitually neglect, or greatly miscarry in the most of these duties, we are forever ruined. If then we are called to seek the Lord in the exercise of duty and in his own way, consider now whether it be safe to neglect these calls and do nothing, since we are commanded not to be slothful in business, but fervent in spirit serving the Lord.
3. Consider, my friends, that, though the work be so great and must be done, and the end so noble and so necessary, yet the time appointed for it is very uncertain. It is called to-day if ye will hear his voice. The duty I am pressing is to seek the Lord while he may be found. Must this be done some time, or your souls must perish, and why not now? Will the work be easier at any other time than now? No, you do not think so. Are you sure of any time but the present ? No, the time hastes to a period, and this night thy soul, O sinner, 0 sleeper, may be required. Yet a few days and we shall be no more; we shall ere long have no more offers of mercy, no gracious invitations to turn rather than die in our sins; we shall
soon leave the stage clear for others, some in youth and some in riper years, and shall preach and hear no longer. We know not if we have another week to live, or whether we shall hear another sermon. Every pulse that beats, every breath we draw, brings us nearer to our end. Are you then prepared to die, my friend ? I fear that this is not the happy state of numbers. Would you be content to have but a week to prepare for the change, and are you sure of that? Particularly let me press such as have long refused to seek the Lord, such as have long neglected this great salvation. Do you not know that you now disobey God, and venture your souls ? Do you not see your awful danger? Are you in a particular manner called to redeem the time, and having so many offers made you which you have despised ? Are you not afraid to die as you have lived, or that he will swear in his wrath, that you shall not enter into his rest?
4. The number, the malice, and the power of our enemies that lie in wait for our souls, should excite us to obey this command. If we are careless, they are watchful and industrious, and hunt for the precious soul. Hence the command, Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary, the devil, goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. How unwearied are the powers of darkness! How unwearied are the ministers and servants of Satan ! The wicked are like the troubled sea, are never at rest, but to cast out mire and dirt. Our own appetites and corruptions are like tinder before temptations, ready to catch fire and ruin our peace. Out of the heart proceed what depraves our duties, breaks our resolutions, perverts our thoughts, and dulls our good, and whets our worse affections; hence Christ's command, Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. Every object around us, and even the blessings of Providence if not rightly managed, may prove our destruction. We have an evil heart of unbelief, and feel none of those regards, none of God's kind admonitions. bold against reproof, hardened by bad examples; we are lazy and secure; we sin in hopes of a pardon, and from these and such other enemies to our peace and safety. No worldly distress, no number nor powerful combination of earthly enemies, ever so loudly called for mankind to take up arms and to seek for safety, as these unwearied enemies of our souls call us to put on the whole armour of God, and to endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ; and to seek the Lord while he may be found, and to call on him while he is near.
5. We should be greatly quickened to this duty from the many privileges we enjoy, the talents we have been intrusted with, and the mercy that we have received. To whom much is given of them is much required. Many and great are our privileges. What nation breathing on earth has had plainer instructions, more forcible persuasions, or more constant admonitions? We have heard our danger and our duty from friends and enemies, from ministers and parents,
in public and private. We have had sermons till we were weary of them, Sabbaths till we profaned them, and excellent books till we neglected or loathed to read them. We have enjoyed peace and plenty, civil and religious liberty, beyond most nations in the world ; for what nation has equal privileges, or has God so near it? We have been spared when others have been removed; we have had many national and many personal deliverances. Heaven and hell, light and darkness, our weakness and danger, and the way of our recovery through Christ, are plainly laid before us. If it be a mercy and a blessing that we have food and raiment; that Christ lived for us; that he shed his blood for us; that we have great and precious promises, and the kindest invitations : what should we render to the Lord for all his benefits? Shall we think nothing too good or too great for us, and shall we think everything that has love or friendship in it too great for him ? Will a careless, lifeless appearance before God on some Sabbaths, and a cold neglect of bis service through the week, acquit you before him, in your own consciences ? Shall he do so much for the unthankful and disobedient, and will you stop your ears like deaf adders when you are called to peace and happiness by God himself ?
6. Every relation that we stand in to God, is a strong engagement to seek his face, and to return to him and to our duty. Did he give us precious souls, did he form our bodies, does he take care of us, and provide both for our souls and bodies, is he our wise and good Creator, our powerful preserver and constant benefactor, and are we worse than the ox or the ass, that are fed by their master's care ? Are we more ungrateful than the brutes, who disregard and disobey our God? Is he our universal parent? Does he spare and pity us as his children? does he allow us the honour to be his sons and daughters, and to call him our father, and if a father where is his honour? Is it fit to disobey him, to break his commands, and to treat him as a blank in the creation ? Common civility, as well as morality and religion, teaches children to obey their earthly parents ; and shall we not much more be in subjection to the Father of our spirits, that our souls may live ? Is he not despised as a monster among men, who is greatly deficient in his duty to a father or a mother? and why should it not be looked on as more criminal and unnatural to be wicked, careless, or profane, when we thereby dishonour our Father which is in heaven. Are we the servants of his family? is he the great householder that appoints us our stations and places, our talents and our trusts ? shall we then break his commands, beat or molest his other servants, or misemploy the stock put into our hands, which is given to none to do hurt, but to promote our own and our neighbour's temporal and eternal welfare? We call him our Lord and our Master; but if he is our Master, where is his fear? Will we offer that treatment to God that we would not take from our servants ? Let me then entreat you to think that your Creator and Preserver, your God, and your Father, and your Master, calls and commands you to seek him while he may be found. Do you believe these are his calls, and dare you or will you disobey them? Will you or can you have peace or expect happiness if you do so ? Remember, that the same voice calls to-day, if you will hear his voice. Remember, that Christ is your Lord and Master, and you are his disciples, and called by his name. Do you answer the relation if you continue in sin? for he comes to redeem us from all iniquity. Are we his followers if we break the laws of God, when he fulfilled all righteousness? Are we obedient to his instruction, if we do not chiefly mind the concerns of eternity, when he calls this the one thing needful? If we love God, would we not be ambitious to please him? If we love Christ, would we not keep his commandments ? If we had faith, it would purify the heart and produce good works, if we were led by the Spirit, it would be in the ways of truth and holiness, and if we had the fear of God, we would not venture to disobey his heavenly call. Let the wicked, let the lazy, let the empty formalist, let the backslider, that has fallen from his first love, consider these things. If every relation that you stand in to God or to Christ, if every grace and every character of a Christian demands activity and industry, 0, consider the awful danger if you die in sin ! and work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God works in you to will and to do of his good pleasure !
7. Are we to sit idle in an affair of so much consequence, when he has such great preparations made to promote our temporal and eternal welfare ? For what end do we live here? Is it to spend our time in providing only for the conveniency of this short life? No; this is a state of minority, where we are to be trained up and made meet for higher stations and more noble employments in the king, dom of glory. From this we are to be transplanted to the peaceful colonies above, and to prepare us for this state he has bestowed on us many privileges. How much of the creation is made our servants, that we may be the servants of God. Whatever other glorious ends the luminaries of heaven may serve, among other things they are by the appointment of God to do us service. The sun, moon, and stars attend us with their kindly influence; the earth with all its furniture is at our service. How many thousands of beasts, fowls, and fishes, plants, herbs, fruits, and flowers, do all attend us! The sea, the earth, the air, winds and storms, frosts and snows. The heat and cold, and all the seasons, with all their beauty and variety, attend us while we do our work; and shall they answer their wise and good ends, and we neglect ours ? Shall they be incessantly employed, while we trifle ? Nay, the patience and goodness of God wait on us to bring us to repentance; the Lord Jesus waits with offers of pardon and of grace ; the Holy Ghost waits in striving with our stubborn tempers. The ministers of the Gospel, nay, of God, disdain not to become ministering spirits for our advantage. Ministers study and preach, and wait for our con