1783 – 1827
Payson was a reformed New England Congregationalist involved with the 2nd Great Awakening. Archibald Alexander, the influential founding professor of Princeton Seminary, said of him, “no man in our country has left behind him a higher character for eminent piety than the Rev. Edward Payson.”
The Complete Works of Edward Payson, 1846 edition, reprinted 1988 by Sprinkle Publications
Conduct of Men Towards Their Maker
When a son forsakes his father’s house; when he refuses to comply with this entreaties to return; when he chooses to endure all the evils of poverty rather than return,—we are ready to suspect that his father must be a very disagreeable, unlovely, or cruel character, since his own children cannot live with him. At least, we shall think this unless we have a very bad opinion of the son. We must condemn one or the other. So, when God’s own creatures, whom He has nourished and brought up as children, forsake Him, and refuse to return or be reconciled, it gives other beings cause to suspect that He must be a very cruel, unlovely being; and they must either conclude that He is so, or form a very bad opinion of us.
Reason of God’s Forbearance with Sinners
How wonderful is the long-suffering and forbearance of God! Here are sinners who have been, for twenty, forty, sixty years, abusing his patience, and misimproving all his benefits. Yet, instead of cutting them down, He adds another year, perhaps many years, to their long since forfeited lives. There are sinners who have wasted and profaned a thousand Sabbaths, yet He allows them another Sabbath, another opportunity of hearing the offers of salvation. There are sinners who have repeatedly been urged in vain to be reconciled to God; yet He condescends still to require a reconciliation. There are sinners at whose hearts Christ has knocked, a thousand and a thousand times; but, though they refuse to admit Him, He still knocks again. O, why are such treasures of goodness lavished on such insensible creatures? Why is such an inestimable prize put into the hands of those who have no heart to improve it? Why, indeed, but to show what God can do, and how infinitely his patience and forbearance exceed ours.
To the Impenitent
My friends, God offers you the water of life, without money and without price. Every one may come and take it if he will; and is not this sufficient? Would you have the water of life forced upon you?
II… We have piped unto you, say they, but ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, but ye have not lamented. Precisely similar is the conduct of impenitent sinners. Notwithstanding the great variety of means, which God employs to persuade them to embrace the Gospel; and though, as our Savior teaches us, these means are no less adapted to produce the effect than a message from the dead, yet still they perversely refuse to comply. Reason with them—they will not be convinced; set motives before them—they will not be persuaded; address their hearts—they will not be affected; appeal to their consciences—they will not feel guilty; attempt to excite their fears—they will not be alarmed; endeavor to allure them to Christ by promises and invitations—they will not come.
III… Similar is the reason, why sinners will not be persuaded to embrace the Gospel, by all the means which God employs for this purpose. They do not come to Christ for life, because they will not.
If you say, I will not embrace the offers of salvation today, God may seal them up in impenetrable hardness tomorrow. If you say, I will not embrace the offers of salvation today, God will say, No offers of salvation shall be made you tomorrow. Nor is there small reason to fear this; for of all the sins which men can commit, perhaps no one is more provoking to God, than that of refusing immediately to hear his voice. It is a direct and willful act of rebellion against his authority; it is a sin committed against light and conviction; it is resisting and grieving the Holy Spirit [Acts 7:51]; it is crucifying Jesus Christ afresh; it is practically saying… I will again trifle with his commands, again make light of my Savior’s invitations and walk a little longer in the broad road, sit awhile longer on the crumbling brink of perdition.
pp. 483-495, see the whole sermon, “Christ Rejects None Who Come Unto Him”
“If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
The blessings which he offers and dispenses, inestimable as they are, cost Him their full value. They cost thirty-three years labor of Him, who could create a world in six days. Nay more, they cost Him his life. He paid the dreadful price in tears and groans and blood, in agonies unutterable. There is not a single blessing He offers you, O sinner, which did not cost Him a pang. He purchased the privilege of offering you those very blessings which you have a thousand times rejected at the price of all that he possessed. Though He was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor. That He might offer you a mansion in heaven, He consented for years to be destitute of a place, where to lay his head. That He might wash you from those sins which made you unfit for heaven, He poured out his blood to the last drop. That you might be delivered from shame and everlasting contempt, He hid not his sacred face from shame and spitting. That you might escape the wrath of God, He bore it in his own person, though he fainted, sunk, and expired under the weight. That you, a malefactor, might live forever, the Lord of life and glory died as a malefactor on the cross. And now He offers you, without money and without price, all that cost Him so dear. He even beseeches you as a favor to accept it, and will consider the joy arising from your acceptance and salvation as a sufficient recompense for all that he suffered in procuring it. Yet this is the being whom you complain that you cannot love. This the friend, to whom you think it hard to be grateful. O, astonishingly blinding, besetting, stupefying influence of sin! He, who has only to show his face to fill all heaven with rapture, and pour a flood of glory, light and joy through the new Jerusalem, cannot by all his bounties bribe, nor by all his entreaties induce you to love Him; though heaven is the reward of loving, and hell the punishment of rejecting him. And can you indeed be content to remain ignorant of such a being, to remain a stranger, nay, an enemy to Him forever? Can you consent to retain and cherish a heart, which feels no affection, no gratitude for such a benefactor as this? My friends, I would as soon possess the heart of a murderer, of a traitor, nay of a fiend, as a heart which turns cold and insensible from a crucified Redeemer—from bleeding, dying love—from the perfection of moral beauty and excellence.
p. 148-158, see the whole sermon, “Christ the Savior of the Lost”
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
I. What it is that is here spoken of as lost? It can scarcely be necessary to say, that it is the human race. Mankind are invariably represented by the inspired writers, as morally depraved, ruined and lost; and they are here spoken of as one, because they are all alike in the same lost condition, in consequence of their descent form the same parents.
p. 161, see the whole sermon, “Christ, God’s Best Gift to Man”
“Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift”
2 Cor. 9:15
That Jesus Christ is the Gift of God to men: a Gift which may be justly called unspeakable: a Gift for which we should thank Him with the most lively gratitude.
I. Jesus Christ is the Gift of God to men.
It can scarcely be necessary to remind you that a gift, or present, is something valuable freely offered to persons who have no claim to it, without receiving anything in return, and without expectation that it will be restored. It must be something valuable; for a thing of no value cannot be considered as a gift. It must be offered freely, or voluntarily…