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' Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." — Matt. xxi. 31. What class of persons could be referred to by our Lord when He uttered these words ? ot the openly profane, or bold opposers of the truth ; but those who professed it, and were employed, some of them, in expounding it to others. This language, strange as it may appear, is applicable to a large class of persons in the present day. They admit the inspiration of holy Scripture, and the truth of the doctrines preached by the servants of Christ. Many of them approve of preachers, and manifest their approbation by regularly sitting under the word. They give their sanction, and often pecuniary assistance to the cause. They assent to gospel requirements ; but remain year after year unchanged, as to state and character. They have no deep, inward, painful sense of sin ; they feel no real concern about a present salvation ; but fancy all will be well at last ; they neither fear the terrible justice, nor prize the sweet mercy of God ; they come not to Jesus for life or salvation in the exercise of desire, prayer, and hope. They come to ordinances, but not to Christ
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They are at ease, though evidently unconverted. They talk of doing the best they can, and of God doing the rest ; but in reality they do nothing
which God can either approve or accept. They read of being born again ; but never examine whether they are so born or not ; they hear of conversion, but never trouble themselves about it If they are occasionally alarmed, they quiet their fears, by reference to the mercy of God ; and because God is merciful, they live as if they did not believe Him just. They admit others may be lost, but cannot think so badly of themselves ; and though they allow the word of God may be true when applied to others, they always plead a^ if they did not believe it would be in their instance. There are thousands of such persons in our country, and to all such the Saviour's words are strictly applicable Reader, are you one of them? Search and look, for your danger is imminent if it should be the case. The publicans v/ero the Roman tax-gatherers, consisting of the lowest and most depraved class of men. Harlots were common prostitutes, the lowest and most degraded class of women. But such, our Lord says, will enter into tiie kingdom of heaven before Pharisees, and proud easy professors. Open sinners are generally more easily wrought upon, for they have no covering or excuse for their sin. They have no self-righteousness to ward off the conviction ; they see it is
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true that is spoken of them, and they flee to the refuge set before them. They are more generally converted, than those who have formed a shield of their religious duties and observances, with which they throw back the arrows of God's word. My friend, the most dangerous state is to be gospel-hardened ; to be able to sit ur.der the word
year after year, or month after month, without feeling its power, or yielding to its claims. A decent outside is often a deceitful covering ;— -what is within ? Is the Spirit of God there ? Is the power of godliness there? Is the sanctifying grace of the gospel there ? If not you are but a whited sepulchre, and '•' publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Gospel opposers often receive the gospel they oppose, a ad become monuments of its purity and power. We should never despair of such ; their enmity is often slain, and gives place to pure and holy love. We have more cause to despair of those v/ho have been hearers of the word for years, who arc externally moral and decent ; for to such very often the gospel becomes " a savour of death unto death." Wul there is still space for repentance, and away of escape for thee, reader; if a Pharisee, Saul, who was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, was converted, and became a champion in the Lord's cause, and a blessing to thousands of souls. We mean not that you should despair of mercy ; but that you shoul : see your danger, and flee at once
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for safety to the Lord Jesus, who casts out none that come unto Ilim. That gospel which you have neglected, still speaks to you ; it is 'still God's message to you ; in it He speaks to you, and says, "Come unto me." Beware of that spirit of cold politeness, which says, "/ go, sir;" but leaves the person under the power of sin, the slave of Satan, and the lover of the present world ; and if my reader has been one of those who have said, " / will not," let me beseech him at once to repent, confess his sin, and he will find mercy.
•' The gospel comes with welcome news, To sinners lost, like me ; Their various schemes let others choose, Saviour ! 1 come to thee. Of sinners sure I am the chief. But grace is rich and free ; This v/elcome truth affords relief To sinners, e'en to me. Of merit now let others speak, But merit I have none ; For merit 'tis in vain to seek ; I'm saved by grace alone. 'Twas grace my wayward heart first won, 'Tis grace that holds me fast ; Grace will complete the work begun, And save me to the last. Then shall my soul with rapture trace What God has done for me ; And celebrate redeeming grace. Throughout eternity."
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