Sinners Entreated to Be Reconciled to God
by Samuel Davies (adapted)
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
To act as you pastor, to direct your thoughts, and choose for you the subjects to dwell on in our times of worship, and to know that your everlasting happiness depends so much on how you understand and apply these subjects; this is the most tremendously important responsibility that can be given to a mortal! And every true minister of the gospel of Christ, must tremble at the thought, and often be anxious about the subject he will choose, what he will say about it, and in what way he will deliver his message.
His success in a great measure depends on his choice, for though the Holy Spirit is the real driving force, and though the best means, without His help, are altogether useless; yet He is accustomed to bless those means that are best adapted to do good.
In his desire to do good to the souls of his hearers, Mr Davies choose this mornings text. In my desire to good to your souls, I will follow in his footsteps and address you this day on the important subject of your reconciliation to God, and with him, become a humble imitator of the great Apostle Paul, whose moving words I have read to you.
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!"
The introduction to this passage we read in the prior verses: God has given to us (the apostles) the ministry of reconciliation; the sum and substance of which is, namely, "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them" (v.19) It is as if he had said, "The great Sovereign of the universe, though highly provoked, and justly displeased with our rebellious world, has been so gracious as to devise a plan of reconciliation whereby they may not only escape the punishment they deserve, but also be restored to the favour of God, and all the privileges of his favourite subjects.”
This plan was founded on Christ; that is, it was he who was appointed, and undertook to remove all obstacles out of the way of their reconciliation, so that it might be consistent with the honour and dignity of God and his government. This he performed by a life of perfect obedience, and an atoning death, in the place of rebellious man.
Though he “knew no sin" of his own: yet he was made “to be sin," that is, a sin-offering, or a sinner by imputation "for our sake," so that "in him we might become the righteousness of God." (v.21) In this way all obstacles are removed on God's part. The plan of a treaty of reconciliation is formed, approved and ratified in the high court of heaven; but then it must be published, all the terms made known, and the consent of the rebels requested and gained. It is not enough that all impediments to peace are removed on God's part; they must also be removed on the part of man; the reconciliation must be mutual; both the parties must agree.
From this comes the necessity of the ministry of reconciliation which was committed to the apostles, those first ministers of the kingdom of Christ, and in a secondary way to the ordinary ministers of the gospel in every age. The great business of their office is to publish the treaty of peace; that is, the articles of reconciliation, and to use every motive to gain the consent of mankind to these articles. It is this office Paul is discharging, when he says, "we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!"
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ." One good illustration of an ambassador, is that of a person sent by a king to carry out affairs in his name, and according to his instructions, with foreign states, or part of his subjects, to whom he does not think proper to go himself and deal with them in his own person. In this way a mutual peace is generally arrived at between competing nations, not by their kings in person but by their ambassadors, acting in their name, and by their authority. And, while they keep to their instructions, their negotiations and agreements are as valid and authentic as if they were carried out and concluded by their masters in person.
And so, the Lord Jesus Christ is not personally present in our world to manage the treaty of peace himself, but he has appointed first his apostles, and then the ministers of the gospel throughout every age, to carry it out in his name. This is their proper character; they are ambassadors for Christ, entrusted with a commission and instructions to make appeals of reconciliation to a rebellious world, and interact with them to gain their consent.
It is true that many have taken high sounding titles merely to attract honour to themselves. They have called themselves the ambassadors of Christ, messengers from God, the viceroys of heaven, and many other things; not in order to do honour to their Master, but to keep the world in a superstitious awe of themselves! This priestly pride and insolence is an awful thing! And yet, I humbly venture to assume the title of an ambassador of the great King of heaven, and must require that you view me in this high character.
But then you must know, that while I am making this claim, I declare myself absolutely obligated to strictly hold to the instructions of my Master contained in the Bible. I have no power over your faith, no power to dictate or prescribe; but my work is only just to publish the articles of peace, just as my Master has established and revealed them in his Word, without the least addition, subtraction, or change.
I pretend to no higher power than this, and this power I must claim, unless I would renounce my role; for who can consistently profess himself to be a pastor, without asserting his right and power to publish what his Lord has taught, and communicate his royal instructions? Therefore without claiming to be equal with Paul, or his fellow apostles, I must tell you in his language, I appear among you this day as the ambassador of the most high God; I am fulfilling my duty as ambassador for Christ; and I tell you this with no other goal than to get you to pay the most serious attention to what I say.
If you consider it only as my word, whatever weight you give it, the proper end of my efforts will not be fulfilled in you. The right end of my work is not to make myself the object of your love or attention but to reconcile you to God; but you cannot be reconciled to God while you consider the proposal as made to you only by a fellow human being. You must consider it as made to you by the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Mediator between God and man.
I not only allow, but even invite and charge you to question and judge whether what I say is in accord with my instructions in the Word of God, which are as open to your examination as mine, and to pay attention no more than it is so! But if I follow these instructions, and propose the treaty of peace to you just as it is described in heaven, then I charge you to consider it as proposed by the Lord of heaven and earth, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, though through my unworthy lips!
Consider yourselves this day as the hearers not of a pastor formed out of clay like yourselves, but of the Lord Jesus Christ! Imagine him here in person treating with you about your reconciliation to God, and the attention you would pay to a proposal made by him in person, the Great King of Heaven, this you should now show to the treaty I am to negotiate with you in his name and in his place!
The next phrase in my text binds you still more strongly to this: "God making his appeal through us." As if he had said, "God the Father also agrees with this treaty of peace, as well as Christ the great Peace-maker; and as we are ambassadors for Christ, so we are also for God; and you are to consider our pleading and exhorting, as though the great God did in person plead and exhort you by us!"
What astonishing condescension is implied here! Not that the ministers of Christ should plead with you; this would be no mighty condescension: but that the supreme Jehovah Himself should plead with you; that he should not only command you with a stern air of authority as your Sovereign, but as a friend, as a petitioner even, should affectionately plead with you; despicable, guilty worms; hateful rebels! How astonishing, how God-like, how unprecedented and incomparable is this condescension! Indeed, let heaven and earth admire and adore!
It is by us, by poor fellow mortals, that God pleads with you! But do not let this tempt you to disregard him or his entreaty; though he uses such lowly ambassadors, yet consider the dignity of the One who sends us, and then you cannot disregard his message even from our mouth!
The Apostle, having laid the groundwork, goes on to the actual exercise of his office as an ambassador for Christ: "We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!" As if he had said, "If Christ were now present in person among you, this is what he would propose to you, and urge you to do, that you would be reconciled to God: but he has left us, his poor servants, to do this in his place as well as we can, and we would do the same thing, we would urge you as he would urge you, were he to speak to you right now. Therefore we implore you on Christ's behalf, Be reconciled to God! We earnestly beg you to be reconciled; that is the most which such feeble worms as we can do; we can only pray and beg, but your compliance is not within our power to bring about; the compliance belongs to you; and remember, if you refuse, you must own the responsibility, and bear the consequences."
And now, having explained the text, I proceed in my poor way, to follow the example by negotiating the treaty with you for your reconciliation to God; and you see I address myself directly only to those of you who are yet enemies to God: you are the only people that are in need of reconciliation.
And as for those of you (and I have hopes that are such among you) whose natural hatred of God has been restrained, and who have become the friends and subjects of the King of heaven after your guilty revolt; I must ask you, as it were, to stand by yourselves for the present hour, and help me by your prayers, while I am speaking to your poor friends, who still continue in that state of hostility and rebellion against God, in which you once were; and in the miseries of which you well know, and still lament and deplore.
But by saying this, I am afraid I have lost most if not all of my hearers on this subject; for have you not already placed yourselves among the lovers of God, who therefore do not need to be reconciled to him? Are not many of you ready to say to me, "If you are only addressing yourself to the enemies of God, then your talk does not apply to me; for, God forbid that I should be an enemy to him. I have indeed been guilty of a great many sins, but they were just incidental, and I never had the least hatred against God; so far from it, that I shudder at the very thought!"
This is the first obstacle that I meet with in fulfilling my duty as ambassador; the message I bring is itself looked upon as needless by the people most concerned; like an attempt to reconcile those that are good friends already.
This obstacle must be removed, before we can go any farther. I am far from charging any of you with so terrible a crime as hatred and rebellion against God, who can produce effective evidences to your own conscience that you are his friends. I only want that you would not flatter yourselves, or draw a rash and groundless conclusion in an affair of such infinite importance— but that you would bring the matter to a fair trial, according to evidence, and then let your conscience pass an impartial sentence as your judge, under the supreme Judge of the world.
You plead "not guilty" to the charge, and allege that you have always loved God; but if this is the case, why is it that you have given him so few of your affectionate and warm thoughts?
Do not your more heartfelt thoughts, rest upon the objects of your love? But has not your mind stayed away from him who gave you your power of thinking? Have you not lived thoughtless of him for days and weeks together? Even more, have not serious thoughts of him been unwelcome, and made you uneasy? And have you not turned every way to avoid them? Have you not often prayed to him, and went along in other acts of religious worship— and yet had but very few or no devout thoughts of him, even at the very time? And is that mind well disposed towards him— that is so averse to him, and turns every way to avoid a glance of him?
How sad this is! Is this your friendship for the God who made you, whose you are, and whom you ought to serve! Would you not have harboured the fool's wish— that there were no God— had not the horror and impossibility of the thing restrained you? But, notwithstanding this restraint, has not this horrible thought, at times, crossed your minds? If there was no God— then you would sin without restraint, and without dread of punishment; and how sweet was this to you!
Then you would have nothing to do with that depressing thing, heart-religion; and what an agreeable exemption would this be for you? Is this your love for him— to wish the Parent of all beings, out of being? Alas! can there be greater hatred than this?
Again, if you are reconciled to God, why is it that you are secretly, or perhaps openly, dissatisfied with his image, I mean the purity and strictness of his law, and the evidences of holiness that appear upon the unfashionable pious few?
If you loved God, you would of course love everything that bears any resemblance to him. But are you not conscious that this is not the case with you; that you murmur and complain at the restraints of God's law, and would much rather reject it, be free from it— and live as you want?
And what is the effect on you of seeing in someone a strict and holy walk, and a conscientious observance of the duties of religion? If it is secret disgust and contempt as your hearts rise against him, is this not the effect of your hatred of God?
Again, If you only consider the daily thoughts of your own minds, must you not be conscious that you love other people and things— more than God? That you love pleasure, honour, success, riches, your relations and friends— more than the glorious and ever blessed God? Look into your own hearts, and you will find it so; you will find that this, and that, and a thousand things in this world— engross more of your thoughts, your cares, desires, joys, sorrows, hopes, and fears— than God, or any of his concerns.
Now it is essential to the love of God— that it be supreme. You do not love him truly at all, in the least degree, if you do not love him above all; above all people and things in the whole universe. He is a jealous God, and will not allow any rival. A lower degree of love for supreme excellence, is an insult and indignity.
Is it not therefore evident, even to your own conviction, that you do not love God at all? And what is this— but to be his enemy? To be indifferent towards him, as though he were an insignificant being, neither good nor evil, a mere nobody; to feel neither love nor hatred towards him— but to neglect him, as if you had no concern with him one way or another; what a horrible disposition is this towards him, who is supremely and infinitely glorious and kind—your Creator, your Sovereign, and Benefactor; who therefore deserves and demands your highest love! Or, in the words of his own law, that you should love him “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength!” (Mark 12:30)
From where can such indifference towards him come—but from hostility and hatred? It is in this way that the hatred of men towards God most generally reveals itself. They feel, perhaps, no positive workings of hatred towards him, unless when their innate corruption, like an exasperated serpent, is irritated by conviction from his law! But they normally feel an apathy, a listlessness, an indifference towards him; and because they feel no more, they flatter themselves that they are far from hating him; especially as they may have very honourable tentative thoughts of him floating on the surface of their minds!
But alas! this very thing, this indifference, or listless neutrality— is the very core of their hatred! And if they are so indifferent to him now, while they enjoy so many blessings from his hand— and while he delays their punishment; how will their hatred swell and rise to all the rage of a devil against him— when he extends his hand in punishment and touches them, and so gives an opportunity for it to reveal its venom?
One shudders at the thought of the horrid insurrections and direct rebellion this character will produce—when once irritated, and all restraints are taken off; which will be the doom of sinners in the eternal world; and then they will have no more of the love of God in them—than the most malignant devil in hell! If, therefore, you generally feel such an indifference towards God, be assured that you are not reconciled to him—but are his enemies in your hearts!
Again: All moral evil, or sin, is contrary to God. Sin is the thing on earth, or in hell, that is most opposite to his holy nature. Sin is the object of his relentless and eternal indignation. He is of purer eyes than to behold it—or endure it. (Hak 1:13) It is his hatred to sin—which has turned his heart against any of his creatures, and is the cause of all the vengeance that he has inflicted upon the guilty inhabitants of our world, or the infernal spirits of hell. There is no object in the whole compass of the universe so revolting to you—as every sin is revolting to a pure and all-holy God!
Now, it is impossible that you could at once—love two things so opposite, so eternally irreconcilable. As much love as you have for any unlawful pleasure—just so much hatred there is in your hearts towards God. And so, says Paul, you were God's enemies in your mind, doing evil deeds. (Col. 1:21) Implying that the love and practice of our evil deeds—is a plain evidence of inward hatred towards God. The works of the flesh are sinful: therefore, says the same apostle, “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God,” Romans 8:7, “is hostile to God;” “it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.” (Rom 8:7) So then, “those who are in the flesh,” (Rom 8:8) or under the power of a carnal mind—cannot please God. Because, whatever seeming acts of obedience they perform, and whatever appearances of friendship they put on—they are at heart enemies to God, and therefore cannot please him, who searches their heart, and sees the secret principle of their actions!
And therefore James also tells us, that whoever will be a friend of the world—is the enemy of God, because “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” (James 4:4) For the world inflames the lusts of men, and gives the occasions for much sin. And if we love the character—then we love the sin to which it would allure us; and if we love the sin—then we are the enemies of God; and therefore the friendship of the world is enmity against God.
This then is an established maxim, without straining the matter too far, that as far as you love any sin—just so far are you enemies to God. The love, as well as the service of such opposite masters—is utterly inconsistent!
Now, do not your own consciences witness against you, that you have indulged, and still do habitually indulge the love of some sin or other? Whether it be covetousness or sensual pleasure, or ambition, or some angry passion, or whatever sin it is—as far as you love it, so far you are enemies to God! And if you take a view of your character and practice, must you not unavoidably be convicted of this dreadful guilt? Horrible as the crime is, is it not an undeniable matter of fact, that you do really love some sin, and consequently hate the infinitely amiable and ever blessed God? And therefore you are the people I have to deal with—as needing reconciliation with God.
Farther, take a view of your general manner of serving God in the duties of religion: your manner of praying, meditation, hearing the Word of God, and other acts of devotion, and then ask yourself: Do you perform this service as the willing servants of a master you love? Do you not enter upon such service with reluctance or listlessness, and perform it with laziness and indifference as a business to which you have no heart? But is this your manner of performing a labour of love to a friend? Will your own reason allow you to think you would be so lukewarm and heartless in the worship of God—if you sincerely loved him? No! love is an active principle, a motivating spring of action; and if this were the principle of your religious services, you would infuse more spirit and life into them, you would exert all your powers, and “be fervent in spirit, serving (serve) the Lord.” (Rom 12:11)
But when you have performed a religious duty with some degree of earnestness, which no doubt you have sometimes done, what was the principle or motivation of your effort? Was it the love of God? or was it purely the base principle of self-love? Why did you pray with such eagerness, and attend upon the other means of grace with so much seriousness—but because you considered your dear selves to be in danger, and you were not willing to be miserable forever! This servile, mercenary kind of religious earnestness will not prove that you love God—but only that you love yourselves; and this you may do—and yet have no more true godliness, or genuine love to God than a devil! For there is not a spirit in hell but that loves himself! Indeed, self-love is so far from being an evidence of the love of God, that the extravagant excess of it is the source of that wickedness that abounds among men and devils!
But this is not meant to completely exclude self-love out of genuine religion; it must have its place in the most excellent and best of beings—but then it must be kept in its proper place, and not advance the creature above the Creator, and dethrone the supreme King of the universe! His love must be uppermost in the heart, and when that has the highest place, the indulgence of self-love in pursuing our own happiness is both a lawful and an important duty.
Now, do you not find from this view of the case, that you are not reconciled to God—-even in your most devout and zealous hours, much less in the lazy, inactive state of your lives? If so, place yourselves among those that I have to do with today; that is, the enemies of God!
So also, when you perform good deeds to mankind; when you are harmless, considerate neighbours; when you are charitable to the poor, or strictly just and honest in business—is the love of God, and a regard to his authority, the reason and principle of your actions? That is, do you do these things because God commands them, and because you delight to do what he commands? Or rather, do you not do them merely because it is your nature to perform humane and honourable actions in such instances; or because you may obtain honour, or some selfish advantage by them? Alas! that God should be neglected, forgotten, and left out of the question, is of no importance even in those actions that are materially good! that even what he commands should be done, not because he commands it—but for some other sordid, selfish reason!
Consider this! if you did really love God—would you disregard him in this way, and do nothing for his sake, not only when you are doing what he forbids—but even when you are performing what he has made your duty! Would he be such a no-one, a mere nothing in your practical esteem—if your hearts were reconciled to him as your God? No! such of you must look upon yourselves as the very people whom I am to beseech, in Christ's place, to be reconciled to God.
I might in this way, from obvious facts, lay before you many more evidences of your hostility to the great God; but I must leave some room for the other part of my address to you, in which I am to persuade you to accept the proposal of reconciliation; and therefore I will add only one more test of your pretended friendship; a test which is established by the great Founder of our religion, as infallibly decisive in this case; and that is, OBEDIENCE, or the keeping of the commandments of God. This, I say, is established in the strongest terms by Jesus Christ himself, as a decisive test of love, "If you love me—keep my commandments!" (John 14:15) " You are my friends if—you do what I command you." (John 15:14) "If anyone loves me— he will keep my word. Whoever does not love me—does not keep my words."(John 14:23, 24) "This is the love of God," says John, "that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome." (1 John 5:3) That is, they are not grievous—when love is the principle of obedience. The service of love is always willing and pleasing.
Now, please examine your hearts by this standard, and let conscience declare: Are there not some demands and restraints of the divine law so disagreeable to you, that you labour to keep yourselves ignorant of them, and turn every way to avoid the painful light of conviction? Are there not several duties which you know in your consciences to be such, which you do not so much as honestly endeavour to perform—but knowingly and wilfully neglect? And are there not some favourite sins which your consciences tell you God has forbidden; which yet are so pleasing to you, that you knowingly and allowedly indulge and practice them? If this is your case—you need not pretend to plead anything in your own defence, or hesitate any longer; the case is plain, you are, beyond all doubt, enemies to God! You are undeniably convicted of it this day by irresistible evidence.
You perhaps glory in your Christian profession—but you are, notwithstanding, enemies to God! You attend public worship, you pray, you read, you take the Lord’s Supper—but you are enemies of God! You have perhaps had many fits of religious affection, and serious concern about your everlasting happiness—but notwithstanding you are enemies of God! You may have reformed in many things—but you are still enemies of God! Men may esteem you Christians—but the God of heaven accounts you his enemies! It is useless to insist on it, that you have never hated your Maker all your life—but even tremble at the thought, for undeniable facts are against you; and the reason why you have not seen your enmity was, because you were blind, and judged using wrong principles; but if today you feel the force of conviction from the law, and have your eyes opened, you will see and be shocked at your horrid hatred of God.
And now, when I have singled out from the rest those I am now to urge to be reconciled with God, have I not got the majority of you to treat with? Where are the sincere lovers of God? Sadly! how few they are! and how imperfect even in their love, so that they hardly dare call themselves lovers of God—but tremble lest they should still belong to the wretched crowd that are still un-reconciled to him!
You rebels against the King of heaven! You enemies against my Lord and Master Jesus Christ! (These are harsh words but they are the truth!) Hear me; pay attention to the proposal I make to you, not in my own name—but in the name of your rightful Sovereign; and that is, that you will this day be reconciled to God. " We implore you on behalf of Christ (that is all I can do): Be reconciled to God!" That you may know what I mean, I will more particularly explain this offer to you.
If you would be reconciled to God you must be deeply aware of the guilt, the wickedness, the baseness, the inexpressible evil of your hatred and rebellion against him. You must return to your rightful Sovereign as: convicted, self-condemned, penitent, broken-hearted rebels, confounded and ashamed of your conduct, loathing yourselves because you have loathed the supreme Excellence, mourning over your unnatural hostility, your base ingratitude, your horrid rebellion against so good a King!
And what do you say to this article of the treaty of peace? Is it a hard thing for such dreadful enemies to fall upon their knees, and to mourn and weep as penitents at the feet of their offended Creator? Is it a hard thing for one that has all his life been guilty of the blackest crimes on earth, or even in hell, I mean hatred against God—to confess "I have sinned," and to feel his own confession? And to honestly feel it; for if he does not feel it, his confession is but an empty compliment, that only increases his guilt!
Again, if you would be reconciled to God, you must heartily consent to be reconciled to him in Christ; that is, you must come in on the basis of that act of grace which is published in the gospel through Christ, and expecting no favour at all on the basis of your own goodness. The merit of what you call your good actions, of your repentance, your prayers, your acts of charity and justice—must all pass for nothing in this respect! You must depend only and entirely upon the merit of Christ's obedience and sufferings, as the ground of your acceptance with God; and hope for forgiveness and favor from his mere mercy freely given to you, only for the sake of Christ, or on account of what he has done and suffered in the place of sinners.
The context informs you, that it is only in Christ that God is reconciling the world to himself; and consequently it is only in Christ that the world must obtain reconciliation and pardon. It is inconsistent with the dignity and perfections of the King of heaven, to receive rebels into his favor on any other basis.
I would have you consent to every aspect of the offer as I go along; and therefore here again I pause to ask you: what do you think of this article? Are you willing to comply with it, willing to come into favor with God, as convicted self-condemned rebels, upon an act of grace purchased by the righteousness of Christ alone?
It is a humiliation to mankind, that they have never done one truly good action in all their lives, because they have never loved God one moment of their lives; they have always, even in what they accounted their best attitudes, and best actions—been hateful to God, because even in their best attitudes, and best actions they were utterly destitute of his love! It is a humiliation to such people, to renounce all their own merit, and agree to be saved only through grace, on account of the righteousness of another, even of Jesus Christ the great Peacemaker! And you must be made humble, to renounce all your own goodness, and to see yourselves guilty, and utterly unworthy! And will you not comply with this term of reconciliation?
Again, If you would be reconciled to God, you must engage yourselves in his service for the future, and devote yourselves to do his will. His law must be the rule of your character and practice: whatever he commands—you must honestly endeavor to do, without leaving out any one duty because it is unpleasant and hard. And whatever he forbids—you must for that reason, abstain from, however pleasing, gainful, or fashionable. You must no longer look upon yourself as your own—but as bought with a price, and therefore bound to glorify God with your souls and your bodies, which are his.
And can you make any difficulty of complying with this term; of obeying Him, whom the happy angels in heaven obey; of observing that law which always unites your duty and your happiness, and forbids nothing but what is itself naturally harmful to you; of doing the will of the wisest and best of beings—rather than your own, who are ignorant and depraved creatures? Can you make any difficulty of this? If not, you will return home this day reconciled to God; a happiness you have never yet enjoyed for one moment.
Finally, if you would be reconciled to God, you must break off all friendship with his enemies; your friendship with the world, I mean your attachment to its wicked fashions and customs, and your fondness for its rebellious inhabitants, who continue enemies to God; your love of guilty pleasures, and every form of sin, however pleasing or gainful you might imagine it to be; your old habits and practices, while you were enemies to God. All these you must break off forever; for your friendship with these is utterly inconsistent with the love of God. As long as you are resolved to love the world, to keep up your friendship with your old companions in sin, to hold on to your old pleasures and evil practices; as long as you are set on this course—farewell all hope of your reconciliation to God;—it is absolutely impossible!
And do any of you hesitate at this requirement? Is sin so noble a thing in itself, and so happy in its consequences, as that you should be so reluctant to part with it? Is it so sweet a thing to you to sin against God, that you will not turn from it? Tragically! Will you rather be an implacable enemy to the God that made you—than break your association with his enemies, and your own! Do you love your sins so well, and are you so indebted to them—that you give your soul, and your eternal happiness, for their sakes!
These are the principal articles of that treaty of peace, I am negotiating with you. And are you determined to comply? Does the heaven-born intention now rise in your minds, "I am determined I will no longer be an enemy of God; but this very day I will be reconciled to God on his own terms!" Is this your fixed purpose? or is there still reason to urge and persuade you? I well know, and it is fit that you should know, that you are not able of yourselves to consent to these terms—but that it is the work of the power of God alone, to reconcile you to himself; and that all my persuasions and entreaties will never make you either able or willing.
You will then ask me, perhaps, "Why do I propose the terms to you, or try to persuade or urge you?" I answer, because you never will be aware of your inability—until you honestly try, and because you never will look and pray for the help of the Holy Spirit—until you are deeply aware of your own powerlessness. And also, because, if the Holy Spirit should ever effectually work upon you, it will be by enlightening your understandings to see the reasonableness of the terms, and the force of the arguments; and in this way, with the consent of your own reason, gently constraining your obstinate wills to yield yourselves to God. Therefore the terms must be proposed to you, and arguments used, if I would be a servant of the Holy Spirit, and provide him with materials with which to work.
And I have some little hope that he will, as it were, catch my feeble words from my lips before they vanish into air, and bear them home to your hearts with a power which you will not be able to resist!
Finally, a conviction of your true condition, may constrain you from self-love and the base principles of nature, to use the means of reconciliation with zeal and earnestness. This you are capable of, even with the mere strength of degenerate nature; and it is only in this way of earnest endeavors that you have any basis to hope for the Spirit’s help! Therefore, notwithstanding your utter spiritual powerlessness, I must beg, entreat, and persuade you to be reconciled to God!
I urge you, in the name of the great God your heavenly Father, and of Jesus Christ your Redeemer. If God would once more renew the thunder and lightning, and darkness and tempest of Mount Sinai, and speak to you as he once did to the trembling Israelites; or if he would appear to you in all the kind and alluring glories of a sin-pardoning reconcilable God, and implore you to be reconciled to him—would you not then pay attention the proposal? Or if Jesus, who once prayed for you from the cross, should now beseech you from his throne in heaven, and beg you with his own gracious voice to be reconciled, Is it possible that you could disregard the entreaty? Surely not!
Now, the offer of peace is as really made to you by the blessed God and his Son Jesus Christ—as if it were expressly proposed to you by an immediate voice from heaven! For I implore you, as though God did implore you by me, and it is in the place of Christ, that I implore you be reconciled to God. Therefore, however lightly you may make of a mere proposal of mine—can you disregard an offer from the God who made you, and the Savior who bought you with his blood! in which I am but the faint echo of their voice from heaven.
In the name of God I implore you; the name of the greatest and best of beings; that name which angels love and adore, and which strikes terror through the hardiest devil in hell; the name of your Father; your Creator; the name of your Preserver and Benefactor, in whom you live, and move, and have your being; and who gives you life, and breath, and all things; the name of your rightful Sovereign and Lawgiver, who has a right to demand your love and obedience; the name of your supreme Judge, who will ascend the tribunal, and acquit or condemn you, as he finds you friends or foes; the name of that God, rich in goodness, who has replenished heaven with an infinite plenitude of happiness in which he will allow you to share, even after all your hostility and rebellion—if you consent to the offer of reconciliation; in the name of that God of solemn majesty and justice, who has prepared the dungeon of hell as a prison for his enemies, where he holds in chains the mighty powers of darkness, and thousands of your own race, who persisted in that hatred of him of which you are now guilty, and with whom you must have your everlasting portion, if, like them, you continue hardened and incorrigible in your rebellion; in the name of that compassionate God, who sent his dear Son to satisfy divine justice for you by his death, and the precepts of the law by his life, and thus to remove all obstructions out of the way of your reconciliation on the part of God; in this great, this endearing and tremendous name, I implore you to be reconciled to God!
I plead with you for his sake; and has his name no weight with you? Will you do nothing for his sake? Will you not do so reasonable and profitable a thing as dropping your wicked rebellion, and being reconciled to him? Is your contempt of God risen to that degree—that you will not do the most reasonable and profitable thing in the world, if he entreats you to do it? If you would only stop to seriously think about this for a moment, you would see that this is truly an astonishing thing!
I implore you both in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, the true friend of tax collectors and sinners, in his name and for his sake, who put on your degraded nature, so that he might dignify and save it; who lived a life of labor, poverty, and persecution on earth—that you might enjoy a life of everlasting happiness and glory in heaven; who died upon a torturing cross—that you might sit upon heavenly thrones; who was imprisoned in the gloomy grave—that you might enjoy a glorious resurrection; who fell a victim to divine justice—that you might be set free from its dreadful penalty; who felt anguish and agony of soul—that you might enjoy the smiles, the pleasures of the love of God; who, in short, has revealed more fervent and extensive love for you—than all the friends in the world can do! In his name, and for his sake, I implore you to be reconciled to God!
And is his dear name a mere nothing in your esteem? Will you not do anything so reasonable and so necessary, and conducive to your happiness, for his sake; for his sake who has done and suffered so much for you? Sadly! has the name of Jesus no more influence among the creatures he bought with his blood! It is hard, indeed, if I beg in vain, when I beg for the sake of Christ—the Friend, the Savior of perishing souls!
But if you have no regard for him, you certainly have for yourselves; therefore, for your OWN sakes, for the sake of your precious immortals souls, for the sake of your own everlasting happiness, I implore you to be reconciled to God. If you refuse, you degrade the honor of your nature, and are no better than devils! For what is the grand mark of a devil—but hatred against God? You become the refuse of the creation, fit for no place in the universe, but the prison of hell!
While you are un-reconciled to God, you can do nothing at all to please him. He who searches the heart knows that even your good actions do not come from love to him—and therefore he abhors them. Ten thousand prayers and acts of devotion and morality, while you have no principle of real holiness—are only so many provocations to a righteous God! While you refuse to be reconciled, you are accessory to, and support all the rebellion of men and devils; for if you have a right to continue in your rebellion, why may not others? why may not every person on earth? why may not every miserable being in the infernal regions? And are you for raising a universal mutiny and rebellion against the throne of the Most High God! What a shocking and horrible thought!
If you refuse to be reconciled, you will soon weary out the mercy and patience of God towards you, and he will come out against you in all the terrors of an almighty enemy! He will give death a commission to seize you, and drag you to his flaming tribunal. He will break off the treaty, and never more make you one offer of reconciliation! He will strip you of all the enjoyments he was pleased to lend you, while you were under a reprieve, and the treaty was not yet finalized; and will leave you nothing but a great capacity of misery, which will be filled up to the uttermost from the depths of this wrath! He will treat you as his merciless enemy, and you shall be to him as Amalek, with whom he will make war forever and ever! (Ex 17:16) He will reprove you, and set your sins in order before you, and tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver! "So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. (8) I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs; I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open. (9) He destroys you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper!" (Hos 13:7-9)
He has held back his wrath for a long time, and put up with your rebellion; but before long he will appear as the omnipotent Judge; he will stir up jealousy like a man of war; he will cry, yes, roar! He will prevail against his enemies. He will rid himself of his adversaries, and avenge himself of his enemies. He will give orders to the executioners of his justice: "But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me." (Luke 19:27)
And now, if you will not submit to peace—prepare to meet your God! Oh sinners! Prepare yourselves like men; put on all the terror of your rage, and go out to meet your almighty adversary, who will soon meet you in the battlefield, and test your strength. Call the legions of hell to your aid, and strengthen your numbers with all your fellow-sinners on earth; Arm yourselves as best you can--but you will be broken to pieces! Prepare yourselves as best you can; but you will be broken to pieces!
But rather than these threatenings, which I can only hope you are hearing and taking seriously, I implore you again to make peace with him whom you cannot resist! Then all your past rebellion will be forgiven; you will be the favourites of your almighty sovereign, and happy forever; and earth and heaven will rejoice at the finalizing of this blessed peace; and my own anguished soul will share in the joy. Therefore, for your own sakes I implore you to be reconciled to God!