« PreviousContinue »
after than it is at present? Shall you love to sin less, when it is become more habitual to you, and when your conscience is yet more enfeebled and debauched? If you are running with the footmen and fainting, shall you be able "to contend with the horseman ?" Jer. xii. 5. Surely you cannot imagine it. You would not say, in any distemper which threatened your life, "I will stay till I grow a little worse, and then I will apply to a physician: I will let my disease get a little more rooting in my vitals, and then I will try what can be done to remove it." No, it is only where the life of the soul is concerned, that men think thus wildly the life and health of the body appear too precious to be thus trifled away.
7. If, after such desperate experiments, you are ever recovered, it must be by an operation of Divine grace on your soul, yet more powerful and more wonderful in proportion to the increasing inveteracy of your spiritual maladies. And can you expect that the Holy Spirit should be more ready to assist you, in consequence of your having so shamefully trifled with him, and affronted him? He is now, in some measure, moving on your heart. If you feel any secret relentings in it upon what you read, it is a sign that you are not yet utterly forsaken. But who can tell, whether these are not the last touches he will ever give to a heart so long hardened against him? Who can tell, but God may this day "swear, in his wrath, that you shall not enter into his rest?" Heb. iii. 18. I have been telling you that you may immediately die. You own it is possible you may. And can you think of any thing more terrible? Yes, sinner, I will tell you of one thing more dreadful than immediate death and immediate damnation.
The blessed God may say, "As for that wretched creature, who has so long trifled with me and provoked me, let him still live let him live in the midst of prosperity and plenty : let him live under the purest and the most powerful ordinances of the Gospel too; that he may abuse them to aggravate his condemnation, and die under sevenfold guilt, and a sevenfold curse. I will not give him the grace to think of his ways for one serious moment more; but he shall go
on from bad to worse, filling up the measure of his iniquities, till death and destruction seize him in an unexpected hour, and 'wrath come upon him to the uttermost.' 1 Thess. ii. 16.
8. You think this is an uncommon case; but I fear it is much otherwise. I fear there are few congregations, where the word of God has been faithfully preached, and where it has long been despised, especially by those whom it had once awakened, in which the eye of God does not see a number of such wretched souls; though it is impossible for us, in this mortal state, to pronounce upon the case who they are.
9. I pretend not to say how he will deal with you, O reader! whether he will immediately cut you off, or seal you up under final hardness and impenitency of heart, or whether his grace may at length awaken you to consider your ways, and return to him, even when your heart is grown yet more obdurate than it is at present. For to his almighty grace nothing is hard, not even to transform a rock of marble into a man or a saint. But this I will confidently say, that, if you delay any longer, the time will come when you will bitterly repent of that delay, and either lament it before God in the anguish of your heart here, or curse your own folly and madness in hell; yea, when you will wish, that, dreadful as hell is, you had rather fallen into it sooner, than have lived in the midst of so many abused mercies, to render the degree of your punishment more insupportable, and your sense of it more exquisitely tormenting.
10. I do therefore earnestly exhort you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the worth, and, if I may so speak, by the blood of your immortal and perishing soul, that you delay not a day, or an hour longer. Far from "giving sleep to your eyes, or slumber to your eyelids," (Prov. vi. 4.) in the continued neglect of this important concern, take with you, even now, "words, and turn unto the Lord:" (Hos. xiv. 2.) and before you quit the place where you now are, fall upon your knees in his sacred presence, and pour out your heart in such language, or at least to some such purpose as this:
For one who is tempted to delay applying to Religion, though under some conviction of its importance.
"O thou righteous and holy Sovereign of heaven and earth! thou God, 'in whose hand my breath is, and whose are all my ways!' Dan. v. 23. I confess I have been far from glorifying thee, or conducting myself according to the intimations or the declarations of thy will. I have therefore reason to adore thy forbearance and goodness, that thou hast not long since stopped my breath, and cut me off from the land of the living. I adore thy patience, that I have not, months and years ago, been an inhabitant of hell, where ten thousand delaying sinners are now lamenting their folly, and will be lainenting it for ever. But, O God, how possible is it, that this trifling heart of mine may at length betray me into the same ruin! and then, alas! into a ruin aggravated by all this patience and forbearance of thine! I am convinced, that, sooner or later, religion must be my serious care, or I am undone. And yet my foolish heart draws back from the yoke; yet I stretch myself upon the bed of sloth, and cry out for 'a little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep.' Prov. vi. 10. Thus does my corrupt heart plead for its own indulgence against the conviction of my better judgement. What shall I say? O Lord, save me from myself! Save me from the artifices and deceitfulness of sin! Save me from the treachery of this perverse and degenerate nature of mine, and fix upon my mind what I have now been reading!
"O Lord, I am not now instructed in truths which were before quite unknown. Often have I been warned of the uncertainty of life, and the great uncertainty of the day of salvation. And I have formed some light purposes, and have begun to take a few irresolute steps in my way toward a return to thee. But, alas! I have been only, as it were, fluttering about religion, and have never fixed upon it. All my resolutions have been scattered like smoke, or dispersed like a cloudy vapour before the wind. O that thou wouldst now bring these things home to my
heart, with a more powerful conviction than it hath ever yet felt? O that thou wouldst pursue me with them, even when I flee from them! If I should even grow mad enough to endeavour to escape them any more, may thy Spirit address me in the language of effectual terror, and add all the most powerful methods which thou knowest to be necessary, to awaken me from this lethargy, which must otherwise be mortal! May the sound of these things be in mine ears when I go out, and when I come in, when I lie down, and when I rise up!' Deut. vi. 7. And if the repose of the night, and the business of the day, be for a while interrupted by the impression, be it so, O God! if I may but thereby carry on my business with thee to better purpose, and at length secure a repose in thee, instead of all that terror which I now find, when I think upon God, and am troubled.' Psal. lxxvii. 3.
"O Lord, my flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and am afraid of thy judgements." Psal. cxix. 120. I am afraid lest, even now that I have begun to think of religion, thou shouldst cut me off in this critical and important moment, before my thoughts grow to any ripeness, and blast, in eternal death, the first buddings and openings of it in my mind. But O spare me, I earnestly entreat thee: for thy mercies' sake, spare me a little longer! It may be, through thy grace, I shall return. It may be, if thou continuest thy patience toward me a while longer, there may be some better fruit produced by this cumberer of the ground.' Luke, xiii. 7, 8. And may the remembrance of that long forbearance, which thou hast already exercised toward me, prevent my continuing to trifle with thee, and with my own soul! From this day, O Lord, from this hour, from this moment, may I be able to date more lasting impressions of religion, than have ever yet been made upon my heart by all that I have ever read, or all that I have heard. Amen."
THE SINNER ARRAIGNED AND CONVICTED.
1. Conviction of guilt necessary.-2. A charge of rebellion against God advanced.-3. Where it is shown-that all men are born under God's law.-4. That no man hath perfectly kept it.-5. An appeal to the reader's conscience on this head, that he hath not.6. That to have broken it, is an evil inexpressibly great.-7. Illustrated by a more particular view of the aggravations of this guilt, arising from knowledge.-8. From divine favours received.9. From convictions of conscience overborne.-10. From the strivings of God's Spirit resisted.-11. From vows and resolutions broken.-12. The charges summed up, and left upon the sinner's conscience. The sinner's confession under a general conviction of guilt.
1. As I am attempting to lead you to true religion, and not merely to some superficial form of it, I am sensible I can do it no otherwise than in the way of deep humiliation. And therefore, supposing you are persuaded, through the divine blessing on what you have before read, to take it into consideration, I would now endeavour, in the first place, with all the seriousness I can, to make you heartily sensible of your guilt before God. For I well know, that, unless you are convinced of this, and affected with the conviction, all the provisions of Gospel grace will be slighted, and your soul infallibly destroyed, in the midst of the noblest means appointed for its recovery. I am fully persuaded, that thousands live and die in a course of sin, without feeling upon their hearts any sense that they are sinners, though they cannot, for shame, but own it in words. And therefore let me deal faithfully with you, though I may seem to deal roughly; for complaisance is not to give law to addresses in which the life of your soul is concerned.
2. Permit me therefore, O sinner, to consider myself at this time as an advocate for God, as one employed in his name to plead against thee, and to charge thee with nothing less than being a rebel and a traitor against the Sovereign Majesty of heaven and earth. However thou mayest be dignified or distinguished among men if the