The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways.—Hosea 12.2.

[Sermons Delivered in Times of Persecution in Scotland: Richard Cameron, Sermon 3.]

S E R M O N S

DELIVERED IN

TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,

BY

SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.


Sermons & Lectures by Richard Cameron.


SERMON III.1

"And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."—John 5.40.

THERE were many of the Jews, as ye may see from the preceding part of this chapter, that came to Christ in the external ordinances, following the gospel, and yet the ends they had before them were not good. Therefore He upbraids them with this, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."

Now, I would ask you this question, What went you out to see? Came ye out to see a man, "a reed shaken with the wind?" Or came ye out to see a multitude gathered together? Or came ye out to see a minister's deportment? Or came ye out to betray us? Well, whatever way, our Lord knows your ends, and the greatest sinner here, for ought I know, shall be welcome to come to Jesus Christ. He is saying, "You in the parish of Crawford-John, will ye come unto me? Ye in the parish of Douglas, will ye come unto me? Ye in the parish of Auchinleck, will ye come unto me, that ye may have life?" Now our Lord knows every one of your ends in coming here this day.

In the words read, there are these two things observable:—

First, That there is a great unwillingness to come to Christ: "And ye will not come to me." There is a great unwillingness in Scotland this day to come to Christ. The king will not come; the council will not come; the prelates will not come, and the indulged with their favour will not come. Christ says they will not come, and the devil says they shall not come.

Secondly, I observe, that they that come to Christ get life—that ye might have life. They get a life that is worth the having. We think much of the natural life, but this life will avail us when the other is gone.

Now, in speaking unto the first of these observations, I shall,

  1. Show you that there is a great unwillingness in sinners to come to Christ.
  2. I shall show you how it is that sinners are so unwilling to come to Christ.
  3. I shall make some short application of the doctrine. And,
I. I return unto the first of these, to show that there is a great unwillingness in sinners to come to Jesus Christ, and to make out that ye may say what is it to come unto Christ? Now (as I was hinting at in the lecture) as to coming unto Christ, if He were coming in pomp or grandeur as a king in a bodily shape, we would stoop down and take Him by the hand, and put Him in our bosom. Come, then! Oh, will ye come in a believing way to Him? In a word, will ye believe the doctrine? It is more plainly to believe, and rest "upon him as he is offered to you in the gospel." I wot well, they are great fools that will not set their seal to what our Lord here says: "How long shall I stretch out my hand to a gainsaying people? How long shall I say unto you, Behold me! behold me!" Many a time ye have been called upon at preaching days, and on fast-days; but are there not many of you as ignorant as those that never heard of Him? In clearing of which I shall offer you these few particulars. And

(1.) There is a great unwillingness. Consider how great a work it is to bring men to make use of the means, yea, of the outward or external means. It is true there are very few of the sons of men but make use of some sort or form of worship, but for the powerful and effectual means that God has appointed, it is not easy to bring folk to these; it is not easy to bring people out to hear the persecuted gospel this day. There are not many free to hear preaching in the open fields. It is not easy to bring folk to read the word. I trow, the Bible is a slighted book by many. And

(2.) There are some that are brought to the use of means; but how unconcerned are they, whether they profit by these means or not! Folk that give way to sleep, give evidence that they are not much concerned about coming unto Christ. The clapping, or rather raking up, of their eyes, says to me that they are not seriously insisting for a meeting with Christ.

(3.) It is very hard to convince men of sin. Many come to hear preaching and read the Bible, but those that are not convinced of sin have never come to Christ. They cannot hear them that are free in telling them their faults. It is true they will hear of sin in general, but how hard is it to get folk to particularize their sins! There is not a man amongst a thousand that will take freely and fully with sin; and to all such our Lord is saying, "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life."

(4.) Let us consider how hard a thing it is to bring a man to grief for and hatred of sin. Some are brought to ordinances, and some to read the word, and some even to conviction of sin; but will they quit it? It is true ye may be grieved for sin; but have ye grieved and hated yourself for your sin? Oh, if ye got but a view of the saints on Mount Zion, clothed with righteousness, even that of Christ, and a sight of the terror of God, ye would know that it is a bitter thing to depart from the living God—ye would abhor nothing like sin! Where there is so little hatred of sin it is an evidence that ye will not come to Him who is the propitiation for sin; even Him who came to be a propitiation for those that are sick and diseased with sin.

(5.) Consider how few are prevailed with to resolve and endeavour to forsake sin. There are many folk will be convinced of sin and grieved for it, but they cannot quit it. Many a man that has even paid that wicked cess will acknowledge it an evil and a sin. "Woe's me," says he, "I would they had taken thrice as much." But say to them, Will ye pay it again? They are at a stand there. And likewise they will acknowledge the indulgence is a sin, but they must not leave it. It is so sweet a cup ye must not take it from your heads, but ye must drink it if it should be your death. Many have been leprous with that, and they will become loathsome to the people of God. This says that ye are not content to come to Christ, for it is he that forsaketh sin that obtains mercy. But ye that resolve not to quit with all sin ye but deceive yourselves. They that take not Christ to be their Prophet, Priest and King, will but put a cheat upon themselves. There are many that will say that they will take Him in all His three offices, and yet retain secret and public sins; such are a hating and loathing to themselves. Woe's me for Scotland this day, for its public sins! woe's me for ministers and professors, that are a bad example to poor ignorant people! how few in this generation will go to heaven! And woe's me to see you a generation of vipers! This was spoken by John Baptist when he saw them coming out unto the ordinances, when they had no mind to quit their old carnal ways. Therefore he says, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" But the man that resolves to come to Christ resolves to quit houses, lands, wife, children, yea, and his own life also, if Christ call for it this day. The days were in this land when men had much zeal for Christ. They thought themselves happy to be zealous for God's name; and now we have the same opportunity that our fathers had, who put all in hazard for the doctrine, worship, discipline, and form of government of the house of God. They put themselves into the state of the quarrel to get the Gospel in its purity transmitted to posterity in succeeding generations. But oh, how few men now will quit anything for Christ! Will you not do as much as quit these things? I tell you that ere long you and these things shall be for ever parted asunder.

(6.) Let us consider that it is a very hard matter to bring people to quit their own righteousness. Any of you who have seen your own ruined and polluted estate by nature, you run to duties to get some ease; but found ye it? And yet ye have run away to another duty, thinking to find it there. There are many who think that religion consists in setting about duties, and so they have their duties for their Saviour. But I will tell you what your duties may do: they may gain you the testimony of ministers and professors, but they will never take you to heaven. They will not take you by the pit of destruction, for many will say, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and done many wonderful things?" And He will say, "Depart from me, I know you not." Many will say, "Have we not preached, have we not heard, and have we not suffered many things in Thy name?" But our Lord will say, "Ye trusted too much to these duties, and never saw your own righteousness to be but as filthy rags; ye took Me not for justification, sanctification, righteousness, and all things." O Sirs, beware of your souls, and save yourselves from this untoward generation. If you will not come to Christ, we shall be free of your blood, and if ye will perish we shall not perish with you.

II. We shall show unto you how it is that sinners are so unwilling to come unto Christ. "Ye will not come unto me."

1st, This proceeds or flows from blindness of mind. The understanding is darkened and the eyes and ears of the soul are stopped. Indeed, there fell a strange darkness upon man immediately after the fall, so that man doth not see since that time, for the mind, the will, the understanding, the conscience, and all is gone wrong. Man then became a deaf, blind, frail creature; hence the cross of Christ is burdensome unto him, and he sits the call, and lets Christ stand still knocking at the door of the heart, until "his head be wet with the dew, and his locks with the drops of the night."

2ndly, It flows from the stubbornness of the will. Sometimes the mind may be enlightened, but the devil draws back the will again. The Lord tells the man that he must quit his sins, but the devil says, "Hath God said ye shall die? Ye shall not surely die." Oh, knew ye ever what it was to have the Lord, as it were, drawing at the one arm, and the devil drawing at the other, so that ye were like to be rent in pieces betwixt the two? The man that hath come to Christ hath been thus racked between the flesh and the spirit; but I trow "the strong man keeps the house," and he will be saying, "I will go out of the man to-day, but I will leave somewhat, for I will return unto my house again," and when he comes he brings seven other spirits worse than himself. Oh, that our Lord would come this day and knock at the door of your hearts. But the devil perhaps may say, "You and I shall not part so soon." But when Christ gives an irresistible knock he must come out by authority; He can command him immediately to come forth.

3rdly, This unwillingness to come to Christ flows from the affections and desires that are all wrong directed. Oh, it is much to get a man's affections off the world! We may say to you as David said, "How long will ye love vanity and seek after leasing. Selah?" How long will ye love the world which promiseth fair things, but payeth or performeth nothing but troubles and vexation of spirit

III. The third thing I proposed was some short use of the doctrine. And

USE 1.—Do ye know anything of this unwillingness to come to Christ? Are there any of you here saying, "This doctrine is true that ye are telling us; ye have told me the thoughts of my heart, for there is great unwillingness in me to come to Christ?" There are some that think it as easy to believe as to take a piece of bread in their hands, or a drink out of a man's hand. Alas! ye came easily by your religion in the west of Scotland, and so comes of it. Ye have taken it up at your feet. Ye have been born with it. Others say that they have been sanctified from the womb. Indeed, John Baptist was so, but there are not many such at this day, for he was a singular and an exercised man. Ye may think of yourselves as ye will, but if ye have not some kind of a law work within you, ye will no more come to heaven than devils will do. There are some of you that have been elders, that know nothing of this law work within you. Ye are ignorant, and so cannot be tender of the glory of God and His cause. We told you of it this day fifteen days, that the Lord was in earnest with you —"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me"—and ye were somewhat moved. We say that this is good indeed to be moved, but it does no good without some law work. Oh, sad to think upon the west of Scotland! I know no place wherein more will go to hell than in many places in the west of Scotland. The wild Highlands have not sitten so many calls as thou hast done. O west, thou hast been, Capernaum like, lifted up unto heaven, but thou shalt be thrust down to hell. O ye in the west, ye all have religion, truly ye are like the Church of Laodicea, who lacked nothing; but knew not that she was lukewarm, poor, wretched, blind, naked. It may be ye think ye have enough, and stand in no need of preaching, or persecuted gospel-ordinances, and yet ye are the people in all Scotland that are in the worst condition. I would not have the accounts on my head, that you professors in Clydesdale, Ayr, Galloway and Tweeddale have for all the world. Christ hath been crying unto you in the parishes of Muirkirk, Crawford-John, and Douglas, that "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." And what say ye unto us? Are there any here that say, "We will not?" Shall we go away and tell our Master that ye will not come unto Him? O ye professors and elders, ye are a shame and a disgrace unto religion. The truth is that many of you have got that which ye shall never cast. Yea, many a man since the affair of Hamilton Moor hath got a judicial stroke, so that the cause amongst ministers and professors now seems lost.

USE 2.—Are there any here that are at this with it, "Indeed I find it very difficult to close with Christ." But before we speak to this we shall pray a short word.2

Now for you that are saying this—"It is true, it is not easy to bring folk to Christ. I have had a profession for many years," say ye, "and yet I fear I have never yet come to Christ." But I say, our Lord is here this day, saying, "Will ye take Me, ye that have had a lie so long in your right hand?" What say ye to it! You that have been plagued with deadness, hardness of heart and unbelief, He is now requiring you to give in your answer. What say ye, "Yes," or "No?" What think ye of the offer? And what fault find ye in Him? There may be some saying, "If I get or take Him, I shall get a cross also." Well, that is true, but ye will get a sweet cross. Thus we offer Him unto you in the parishes of Auchinleck, Douglas, Crawford-John, and all ye that live there about. And what say ye? Will ye take Him? Tell us what ye say, for we take instruments before these hills and mountains around us that we have offered Him unto you this day. Ye that are free of cess-paying,3 will ye take Him? Ye that are free of the bond,4 now tendered by the enemies, will ye accept of Him this day, when the old professors are taking offence at His way and cross? Oh, will ye cast your eyes upon Him? Angels are wondering at this offer; they stand beholding with admiration that our Lord is giving you such an offer this day. Nay, those that have gone to hell many years ago, who are now crying out in the agonies of torment may be saying, "Oh, that we had such an offer as yonder parish of Auchinleck!" Oh, come, come then unto Him, and there shall never be more of your by-past sins; they shall be buried. But if ye will not come unto Him, "it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah" than for you. Now what say ye to me; and what shall I say to Him that sent me unto you? Shall I say, "Lord, there are some yonder saying, 'I am content to give Christ my heart, hand, house, lands, and all I have for His cause'!" Now, if ye can make a better bargain then do it. Look over to the Shawhead and these hills, and take a look of them, for they are all witnesses now and when you are dying they shall all come before your face. We take every one of you witness against another; and will not that aggravate your sorrow when they come into your mind and conscience, saying, "We heard you invited and obtested to take Christ, and we were witnesses, and yet ye would not. And now we come in here as witnesses against you." There is some tenderness amongst you now, and that is favourable like to look upon. But yet that is not all. The angels will go up to report at the throne what is everyone's choice this day. They will go up to heaven and report good news, and thus they will say, "There were some in the parishes of Auchinleck, Douglas, and Crawford-John, that were receiving our Lord in the offers of the gospel, and He is become their Lord;" and this will be welcome news. Many in hell will be saying, "Woe's us! There are some going away and will not come here. They are taking the alarm, and flying from the wrath to come that is now devouring us. O we had the offer, but will never get it again." "But stay," says the devil, "we will set the troopers and dragoons upon them and they shall be taken and their minister shall be killed. Yea, they shall be taken, and imprisoned, banished, and all ruined." But we defy him and them. Ye will not come, ye that live hereabout, for fear of this; and some, it may be, have not come here on that account. O dreadful stupid fear that has come upon you! But our Lord has come to your door. Will ye take Him, yea, or not? Will ye take Him home with you? It is a great wonder that anyone in Scotland is getting such an offer this day. About this time twelvemonth, it would have been thought strange to have heard it said that field-meetings would have come under such disdain. But take Him and change your minds. Give up with banning, cursing, and swearing; give up with cess-paying; give up with the indulgence; and give up with all the ministers that take not up the cross of Christ which we are bearing at this day. Take the glorious person who has occasioned our coming here this day into this wild place. What! shall I say that any of you were content to take Him? I would fain think that some will take Him. And if ye from the bottom of your heart have a mind to take Him, ye shall get the earnest of the Spirit, He will in nowise cast you out. Poor vile drunkard, take Him. Swearer, adulterer, and liar, be what ye will, we give you the call and warning to come and take Him. Up-sitten professor, it is such as you He is seeking after. Our Lord cannot get entertainment amongst the Scribes and Pharisees. Well, poor thing that hast neither skill nor religion, are ye content to take Him? He speaks peace to you. "Go and sin no more." "And let us not return again unto folly, and study to redeem the time because the days are evil."

USE 3.—First, To them that have come to Him before this time, He will have you come to Him, and draw nearer to Him than ever hitherto ye have done. Secondly, Ye that have taken Him now, do not doubt if ye will be willing and in earnest—if ye can believe, "all things are possible to him that believeth; and he that believeth not is condemned already." But we would most gladly have you believe. Thirdly, Have ye come to Him? See then that ye continue with Him. He is saying to you as He said to the twelve, "Will ye also go away?" And we may say with Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go; for thou hast the words of eternal life." Continue with Him that ye may get that which is spoken of in Luke 22:28-29. "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed me. And ye shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." It is true, ye that have come have many sitting on your assize to-day. But the time is coming that Charles Stuart and our noblemen, counsellors and persecutors, shall be brought in like those goats on His left hand. And Christ shall say "Did ye not persecute us? Did you not spoil and plunder us? Did you not kill and banish us?" And they will be constrained to say, "Yea, Lord." "Well," says He, "go away to everlasting burning." And ye shall consent to go away from them for evermore. They laugh at you now, but ye shall laugh at them then, when His people shall "overcome them by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony." And "they loved not their lives unto the death." Ye that have come to Him, and got anything from Him, keep it for your own good; for if it be wanting, it is not easily gotten again.

And ye that have not been willing, and ye that have not come to Him, and ye that have not been content to be made willing, ye have not come to enlist with Him. Come, however, and no more faults shall be remembered. We shall close with that word: "As ye therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." So ye that have taken Him walk worthy of Him, and when our Lord returns to the land, they shall be the persons that shall be most eminent that abide by Him now, yea, they shall be most eminent about the throne. I doubt not but it is said in heaven this day of our late sufferers, "These are they that came through great tribulations, and have washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb." If we had not this to look unto, oh, we might be sad, but this may bear us up in all our difficulties, distresses, and afflictions. Amen.


Footnotes:

1. According to Patrick Walker, this sermon was preached at Hind Bottom, near Crawford-John, the last Sabbath but one of Mr. Cameron's life; but according to two different manuscript copies at present before me, the foregoing preface and lecture, this and the following afternoon's sermon, were delivered May 30, 1680, at or near Shawhead.

2. It was probably in the delivery of this part of the sermon that, according to Patrick Walker's account, both minister and the greater part of the people fell into a fit of calm weeping, which obliged the minister to stop short and pray; which he did powerfully, both in behalf of the people assembled on that occasion, and on the behalf of the Church; and however defective this sermon may now appear, perhaps the delivery of no Sermon (except that by Mr. Livingstone at the Kirk of Shotts) was more remarkably blessed with success from the Lord in Scotland since the primitive times.

3. The Cess, called "The Black or Ten Terms Cess," was first imposed in 1678 for the suppression of the Gospel then faithfully preached in the fields.

4. This Bond was called "The Bond of Indemnity," whereby many after the affair of Bothwell were taken engaged against the use of defensive arms.