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should be more than enough; and now you should not stay a moment. As those that have delayed their journey, when they begin and set out, mend their pace, that they may redeem their time and accomplish their journey; so should we, for the time past is more than enough to be spent in worldly vanity and carnal excess: “It is high time to awake out of sleep” (Rom. xiii. 11). God hath been encroached upon for a long time, and that should and will be a grief of heart to you, that you have not all this while acknowledged or paid your debt to your Lord. The thought of this should prevail with us the more, because the payment of a debt to a man should not be delayed, to put off a poor man till to-morrow, 6 when thou hast it by thee" (Prov. iii. 28). And the wages of a servant should not abide with us (Lev. xix. 13). We are not to defraud a poor servant, nor to delay him, but to make him quick payment; and shall we defraud our great Creator of the debt we owe to him, and put him off from day to day?
USE II.-To exhort us with speed to turn to the Lord, and to comply with his motions. Let us not put off God from day to day. I shall urge it, first, as to the general case; secondly, as to particular duties which are pressed upon you.
First, As to the general case. Oh! go and bethink yourselves, how do matters stand between God and thy soul? Debate it seriously, that, if you have neglected God and his salvation already, you may now turn to him without delay. Let me press you further.
1. You can never part with sin soon enough: it is a cursed inmate, that will surely bring mischief upon the soul that harbours it. It will set its own dwelling on fire. If there be a mote in the eye, a thorn in the foot, we take them out without delay; and is not sin a greater mischief, and sooner to be looked into, and parted with ? Certainly, the evil of sin is greater than all evil, and hereafter the trouble will be greater; therefore, we can never soon enough part with it.
2. Let this move you: sin must have a quick dispatch ; and shall not God ? It would defeat temptations, if we would but delay them: it would stop the furies of anger, and suppress the motions of lust. Augustus the Emperor advised those who were angry to repeat the Greek alphabet, meaning that they might take time to consider : so for uncleanness and other sins. If the practice and execution of many lusts were but delayed, we should not be so frequent in them as we are, to the dishonour of God and scandal of religion. It is said of the young man enticed by the harlot, that forthwith he went after her (Prov. vii. 22). When our lusts are agog, all the checks of conscience and persuasions of the world will not prevail for a little respite. Now, shall sin have a more ready entertainment than God? Will you rush upon the practice of sin like a horse into the battle, and come on in the service of God like a snail ? Will you be so eager and passionate upon the impulsion of every lust, and so hardly be entreated ly the Spirit of God, and by the word of God?
3. If you be not ready, God is ready. How ready is he, on the one hand, to receive you, and, on the other hand, to punish you? The one quickens us by hope, and the other by fear. For the consideration which works upon hope, God is ready : Come to the wedding, “all things are ready" (Matt. xxii. 4, 5). He hath a Christ ready to receive you, a Spirit ready to sanctify and cure all your soul distempers ; he hath pardoning mercy to forgive all your sins, he hath power of grace to remedy all your distempers; and will not you be ready? The prodigal said, “I will go to
my father.” Mark his language; “I will go;" the father 6 ran” (Luke xv. 20). When we do but relent, and with brokenness of heart come and lie at the feet of God, love's pace is very swift, and runs to snatch us out of the fire; therefore, will you not be ready to cast yourselves into the arms of his compassion ? Christ is represented as “leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Cant. ii. 8). Christ thinks he can never be soon and early enough with a returning sinner, to revive a poor broken-hearted sinner; therefore, if God be so ready, so should you.
On the other side, to work upon your fear, if you delay, God is ready to punish you. The wrath of God hangs over your heads, like a sharp sword by a slender thread; and will you sit still and keep your place ? “ The judge standeth before the door :' he is ready to judge” (1 Pet. iv. 5), are you ready to be judged ? God is ready to condemu, to execute ; and are not you ready to implore mercy ? to seek the Lord's favour? ready to fall flat, and beg terms of grace in and through Christ Jesus? Rahab, when the Lord had by his messengers threatened destruction to Jericho, only Rahab's house was to be safe, she hanged out a scarlet thread ere the spies were departed (Josh. ii.); she did not delay till the army came, and the city was surprised. When the Lord is marching against sinners with vengeance and fury, you cannot come soon enough to God to prevent it. That king that had twenty thousand marching against him, doth not stay till they were in his quarters; but, “ while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace” (Luke xiv. 32). God is ready to execute all his vengeance, and curses of the law ; therefore, while you may, oh! seek conditions of peace. You have been spared long, it may be for the next sin you may pay for all. A thief that hath long escaped, when he is taken at length, all his villany is recompensed into his bosom: if he had not stolen the last time, he had escaped. God hath spared you hitherto: it may be upon the next sin he will strike you, and hold his hands no longer. If God now strike, in what a woful case would you be ?
4. There was never any that came to God too soon; many have come too late, the foolish virgins are an instance. When they brought little children to Christ, Christ received them. There are none so little but the great God can form and fashion them into a temple for himself. Usually, God chooseth his people from among the youth. There may be some converted in old age, but few: usually, it is in our youth, or as soon as we come to our maturity. Reason thus: 'I may be too late, I cannot be too early; let me no longer dally with God.'
Secondly, As to the particular duties which are pressed upon you, let me caution you and direct you.
Ist, By way of caution.
1. When you have any stirrings of heart, any anxious thoughts about your eternal condition, beware you do not believe the Devil, that hereafter will be a more convenient season. I shall give directions suitable to the grand enemies of our salvation, the Devil, the world, and the flesh. Now, do not believe the Devil. This was Felix's case: Paul was reasoning of justice and teinperance, graces that he was little acquainted withal; and Paul quickens all by a remembrance of judgment to come, and then Felix trembled; but how doth he put off this heart-work? “Hereafter we shall have a more convenient season' (Acts xxiv. 25). Oh! never will it be better with you than now when the waters are stirred. Still there is some. thing in the sinner's way, when God hath any business for him. When young, we want wisdom; when old, we want strength: in the middle of business, we want leisure; in the midst of leisure, we are corrupted and want a heart. We are lazy, and then every mole-hill seems a mountain. Remember, if the Devil can but get us to delay, he hath us fast enough. If he can but get us to put it off to-day, then to-morrow, then the next day, shall be as that. Austin when he had conviction upon him, he prays from his conscience, ‘Lord, mortify my lusts, but not yet.' Satan's morrow will never come. There is no end of delays. He tells you of to-morrow and another season; but that season will never come.
2. Let not the world choke the word. It is notable, the choking the good seed which was scattered among thorns, Christ expounds it of the world. Now, what of the world choketh it? He instanceth in “ the care of this world” (Matt. xiii. 22). And Luke instanceth in the “ pleasures of this life" (Luke viii. 14); he adds voluptuous living; and Mark hath it more generally, “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things, entering in, choke the word” (Mark iv. 19). The meaning of all those places is this: Many a man has some beams of light darted into his bosom, and he begins to have serious and anxious thoughts of his eternal condition. Ay; but then, the pleasures and cares of the world interpose, and they must be first served ; and so the conviction is lost. Sometimes a man is full of business, and cannot attend to carry on this work; at other times, he is loath to forego his voluptuous course, there is some sport he must attend upon; and so the word is lost. When you have conviction upon you, you are under God's arrest; when you go and get out of the chains of conscience without God's leave, you break prison. All business must give way to your great business ; and follow that close till you come to some issue. Follow me, saith Christ : • Suffer me first to go and bury my father ;' Nay, saith Christ, let the dead bury their dead, but do thou follow me (Matt. viii. 21, 22). How specious soever the work be, we must call off our souls. Let not these beams of conviction which are darted into your bosom, be quenched.
3. Consult not with the flesh as a friend in the case, when your heart begins to work towards God: “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" (Gal. i. 16). It is notable, the word signifies to lay down a burden, to lay down our cares and difficulties in a friend's bosom ; when a man hath any trouble upon him, he communicates it to his friend. Now, you have a burden upon you; you begin to be sensible you are in a wrong course and must turn to God: do not lay down your burdens in the flesh's bosom ; they will tell you this is but a pang and melancholy qualm, and would furnish you with a great many seeming reasons to put it off'; frivo. lous excuses, slothful pretences, carnal fears, and idle allegations ; therefore, consult not with the flesh as with a friend in the case.
4. Be not discouraged with tediousness and difficulty, which, upon a trial, you will find in the ways of God. Many that carry on their convictions to a resolution, and their good resolutions to some performance, when they find it to be a difficult and tedious business, a thing that is irksome to the flesh, they throw up all; and there is an end of the conviction that was upon them. A bullock at first yoking is most unruly, until he be accus. tomed to it: so afterwards duty will be more sweet and easy. If you will but take Christ's yoke upon trial, you shall find it is a sweet yoke (Matt. xi. 29); and remember, difficulties in the service of God should rather excite than discourage. Will you serve God with that which cost you nothing? will you think to go to Heaven, and not enter in at the strait gate? Remember, this is one of our way-marks. Counterbalance difficulty with re. ward; and punishment and pains of duty, with the pains of Hell; the pleasure of sin, with the reward of eternal life; urge your souls with the equity in Christ's ways, and the filthiness and turpitude in those sinful courses.
5. If you have discouragements from God, and he seems to withdraw or withhold his grace, remember he is not at your beck: if he gives nothing, he oweth nothing. If he should not give present comfort, strength, and help, usually it may be so for your trial. We are never brought to a thorough obedience until we come to this resolution, Let God do what he will, I will do what he hath commanded ;' till we yield to God's sovereignty, and venture through his denials and the suspensions of his grace. As the woman of Canaan, he first answereth her not a word; when he answers, his speech is more discouraging than his silence, “ It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs;" she ventures through all these discouragements, Christ yields at length, “ ( woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt :” God will bring his creatures to such a thorough obedience. You may have no visits of his love, no beam of his grace: though you meet with a dumb oracle, and he seems to cast you off, and you have many fears, yet venture through with a holy obstinacy that you will not give over, as, “ Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job xiii. 15). When you follow God with such an obstinacy of obedience, though he should appear never so contrary, yet we will encourage ourselves in waiting upon him. Thus be severe to your purpose.
2ndly, For positive directions.
1. Observe the call of God. There are certain seasons when God more especially doth approach the heart of a sinner, when Christ knocks: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. ii. 20). How doth Christ knock? By the motions of his grace, when the word sets conscience awork: one time or other God meets with the heart of every man that lives under the Gospel, so that his conscience tells him, 'I must be another man, or I am an undone man for ever.' Then Christ knocks when conscience is thus set awork; when the waters are stirred, then is the time to put in for cure. Now, observe this that you may welcome the authority of his truth. To resist Christ in this work, is a dangerous thing: for a woman to destroy the child in the womb, is murder; so to resist Christ in this work that is going on towards the new birth, is spiritual murder.
2. Be sure this work come to some effect. To stifle convictions, that is very dangerous. There is no iron so hard as that which hath been often heated and often quenched: so no hearts so hard as those that have had many convictions and have quenched them. “Quench not the Spirit'' (1 Thes. v. 19). You have great qualms of conscience. Felix he trembles; ay, but it came to nothing: many men's hearts are roused: but it does no good. A man that sleeps upon a bridge, may dream that he is falling into the water, and so dream that he may shake every limb of him, and so shake and tremble that he may cry out in his sleep; ay, but the man doth not awake, and rouse up that he may avoid the danger: so the word of God may work so far that they begin to fear they are even dropping into the pit, they have anxious thoughts about their eternal condition ; but still they sleep till their security overcome their fear, and so this work comes to nothing. And therefore be not contented to have some motions upon thy soul now and then, some involuntary impressions; but see what they come to. “Awake, thou that sleepest," &c. (Eph. v. 14.) When Christ hath awakened thee, and thou beginnest to be startled in the sleep of thy security, rouse up thyself and be serious.
3. Actuate thy thoughts by a scund belief and application of eternity, that you may not lose your convictions. First by a belief, and then by an application. This is that which doth actuate and enliven all those truths that set on the work of God. First, by a belief of eternity. Surely there are good and evil, there are hope and fear; therefore there are Heaven and Hell. Say, there are two states, a state of nature and a state of grace; and these two states have respect to two covenants, a covenant of works, that worketh bondage and binds me over to punishment, and a covenant of grace; and both these do issue themselves at length into Heaven and Hell. This is the great sum of our religion. And conscience and reason will tell me there is a world to come, there must be a time when God will deal more severely with sinners than he doth in the present life. Enliven your thoughts by strengthening your belief of eternity; for this is that which doth set home all the exhortations of his word, and which makes our thoughts serious. And then, secondly, by a serious application of these things to yourselves: if you would have these hopes, apply the offer of Heaven to work upon your hope, and the commination of Hell to work upon your fear. The offer of Heaven : if I would be blessed in Christ, surely I must mend my course : now, “God, having raised up his son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities" (Acts üi. 26). When there is an offer that comes in with power upon the heart, then Christ is sent to turn me from my sins, that I may be an inheritor of an everlasting blessing; and shall I not let go my sins? I have often flattered myself with this, Sure I am willing to be saved; but I cannot be saved, if I live in my sins; otherwise, I am no more willing to be saved than the devils ; for they are willing to be saved from the wrath of God for ever: a creature is willing to be eased of his torment, and every one would have eternal life; evermore give me this life. Now, let Christ do his work to turn you from your sins. So, by working upon your fear: Here God hath threatened me with eternal damnation if I do not hearken. Now, scourge thy soul with that smart question, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" (Heb. i. 3.) How shall I escape the damnation of Hell, if I turn back upon his offer, if I deal slightly with God in a business which so nearly concerns my soul?
4. Issue forth a practical decree for God in the soul. When the heart is backward, we have no remedy left but to decree for God. David makes a decree in the court of conscience: “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord” (Psalm xxxii. 5). “I said," I determined I would go and lie at God's foot, and humble myself. So, “ I said :" set down a resolution, which shall be like the laws of the Medes and Persians, never to be reversed, that thou wilt for this present, and ever hereafter, wait upon the means, and give way to the work of God upon thy soul; resolve that you will go and lie at God's feet, and say, “Lord, turn me; I am as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke (Jer. xxxi, 18). Thou hast forbidden me to despair, and commanded thy creature to come to thee for grace; here I cast myself at the footstool of thy mercy. And resolve you will keep up your endeavours in all the means of grace, in