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God, as long as thou continuest in this hypocrisy. We are to offer and present ourselves "a' living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.” Now judge whether they offer God the living, who say, when my doting days come, my lame days, that I cannot go, my blind days, that I cannot see, I will offer myself a sacrifice to God; will this be acceptable to him? “Is not this evil," saith the Lord, “ to offer me such a corrupt thing?” Nay more, he is accursed that offers such an offering, such a polluted sacrifice. God will not like with it; when we serve ourselves first with the best and choice?
thus quite the Lord ?" Do you think he will accept it at your hands? Go offer such a gift to thy ruler, to thy prince, will he accept it, or be pleased with it? No, a landlord will have the best and the choice ; and it must needs provoke God, when we give him the refuse. “I am King of kings, saith the Lord, my name is dreadful,” and I will look to be served after another manner. Let no man then thus delude himself with vain hopes, but let him consider, how dishonourable a thing it will be to God.
2. And how unprofitable to him, whoever thou art. Indeed, we cannot be profitable unto Him properly as he that is wise may be profitable to himselfk. But he is so gracious a master, that he esteems our sincere and seasonable service to be his own gain, and our sloth and neglect to be his detriment, he accounts our destruction to be his own loss. Now it is the ready way.
1. It is the ready way to thy destruction. Heaven, and happiness, and eternal life, are laid up for those that embrace the acceptable time; death, horror, and eternal misery for those that refuse it; and wilt thou hazard soul and body on this? Moses, on this ground,“ did rather choose to suffer affliction in this world with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." When these things are past, “what profit will you have of those things, whereof then you will be ashamed ?” Nay, whereof, were thine eyes open, thou wouldst now be
k Job, chap. 22. ver. 2.
i Rom. chap. 12. ver. 1.
ashamed; and happy wouldst thou be if thou wert, as the converted Romans were, even now ashamedm. Shame accompanies sin so constantly and unavoidably, that even repentance itself removes it not. The Romans, now Christians, were ashamed for what they had done, before they knew Christ. When a man comes to see truly and thoroughly into himself, he will find no profit of such things as these: death will certainly follow us, not only temporal but eternal; also if we repent not the more speedily, that is all the profit we shall find.
2. But suppose thou prevent everlasting death by repentance, yet " what profit is there of those things whereof we are now for the present ashamed ?" The best can come is shame.
3. Thou art loth to part with the pleasures of sin for a season, and hereafter thou thinkest thou canst amend all. But consider the particulars, and then shall you see how you are befooled in
your hearts and souls. Believe it for an undoubted truth, there is nothing in the world, by which Satan more deludes a man, than by his persuading him to neglect his day, and that he may repent well enough hereafter. That you may expel this suggestion out of your souls, pray unto God that he would go along with his word, and cause you to lay this to heart, that by his spirit your understanding may be enlightened to see the truth. Though I make this as clear as the sun, that it is a false supposition, a mere folly, on which we build, in deferring our return to God, yet God from heaven must teach you, or you will be never the wiser. Know therefore that this very day God reaches out the golden sceptre to thee, and what folly were it to neglect it, since thou knowest not whether he will ever proffer it thee again? And assure thyself, that he is a liar that tells thee, thou
mayest as well repent hereafter as now: and this will appear, whether we consider the order of outward things in the world, or the nature of sin.
1. For external things, every age after a man comes
into the world, if he embrace not the present opportunity for repentance, is worse than other, and are each of them as so mauy clogs which come one after another to hinder it. As for thy childish age, that is mere vanity, and thy riper age will bring many impediments and hindrances, that youth never thought of. Thou art then troubled about many things, and perplexed how to provide for maintenance; in the midst whereof know, that thou hast not a body of brass, but a corruptible and fading body: and yet such is the folly of the heart of man, that the less ground he hath to go, the fewer days to spend, the more he often provides, and is the more covetous. Consider that the wisest of men gave thee this counsel: “ Remember" thy Creator in the day of thy youth, before the evil days come, wherein thou shalt say, thou hast no pleasure in them.” Here we find it is a youthful thing, and should be a young man's practice: not according to that devilish saying, young saint and an old devil :” but “ remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” The more sin thou committest, the more unapt thou art to repent. Custom in sinning makes thee a Lot; the elder thou growest, the more loth to go out of Sodom. Besides,
2. Consider what sin is in its nature. It is a weight. “Leto us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” Sin is then a weight, and so an heavy thing; but add sin to sin, a weight to a weight, and it becomes heavier and heavier. A man that is in a state of impenitency, hath this weight laid on him, and is subject to the Devil, in a state of rebellion against God. A man now in this estate is weighed down, what will he be, six, seven, or ten years hence, going on in his impenitency? How will he then shake that off, which now he cannot free himself of ? He must hereafter buckle against it with a great deal of disadvantage, and wrestle with more difficulty. One says well, that if we consider of sin aright, it is like the rising of water, over which a man being to pass, and finding it higher than it was wont to be, he stays
* Eccles. chap. 12. ver. 1.
• Heb. chap. 12. ver. 1.
a while, and then tries again, and finds it higher than before: he stays yet longer, till it become impassable, so that he may not adventure without great disadvantage. Thus it is with sin: now, peradventure, the waters of iniquity are passable, if thou wilt thou mayest go over, but if thou delayest the adventure, the streams of sin will run together into one channel, and be more difficultly passed. Thou shalt find them like the waters in Ezekiel, rising from the ankles to the knees, from the knees to the loins, till they become water, in this indeed unlike them, not to swim in, as they were, but to sink in, like the waters of the Red Sea returning in their force, in which Pharoah, and his host, sank down as a stone, nay as lead when the wind of the Lord blew upon
themP. Take another metaphor from the Scripture : the Scripture compares sin to cords, which are instruments of binding, and the mystery of the Gospel is expressed by binding and loosing ; “ Whosesoevery sins you shall bind on earth, they are bound in heaven, but whose sins ye remit, they are remitted." Every sin thou committest is a bond, and binds thee hand and foot, against the judgment of the great day. Therefore it is said: “ His' own iniquity shall take the wicked, and he shall be bound and holden with the cords of his sins.” Now consider what folly it is, when a man shall say, Though my sins are so many cords difficult to be broken, yet I will not trouble myself about it in my younger days, but I will stay till my old age, and then I hope I shall be the better able to break these bonds, and cast all these cords from me; when every iniquity I commit is as a new cord, which binds me faster and faster. Is not this madness itself to think so, that in our younger years being scarce able to break one of them, in our dotage we shall be able to break ten thousand together? And certainly this is the disposition and nature of sin.
3. But add hereunto the argument in the text: “Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart;" but
p Exod. chap. 15. ver. 5. 10.
repent while it is called to-day. Shewing that if we pass this day, we shall be harder and harder. Wherefore, saith the apostle, “Exhorts every one another daily while it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” As if he had said, if thy heart be hard to-day, it will be harder to-morrow. Custom in sin hardens the heart, and takes away the sense of it. Wherefore saith the apostle, “ It speak after the manner of men, because of the infirmity of your flesh, For as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness, unto holiness.” So that we see if a man once give himself up to sin, he will not be satisfied therewith, but will give himself up to iniquity unto iniquity. What is the meaning of that? It is as if he had said, if we give ourselves up to iniquity, we will not rest there, but we will add iniquity unto iniquity, sin unto sin: we will be brought to such a custom in evil, as that it will be "easier far a blackmoor to change his skin, and a leopard his spots, than for those that have been accustomed to do evil, to learn to do well.” It will be to as much purpose to wash an Æthiopian, as to go put off that ill custom, and shake off that second nature. Sin is a hammer, and sin is a nail too. Every sin strikes the former sin home to the head, that whereas before it might easily have been drawn out, it roots it in so fast, as that it can very hardly be plucked out. Mark how the apostle describes this cursed nature of sin : “ Having' eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls, a heart they have exercised with covetous practices.” What makes a man prompt in any thing but exercise ? When a man is exercised in sin, see the event of it: it brings him to that vicious habit, as that at length he cannot cease from sin. If a man deal with a young twig, it will bend, and break at his pleasure; but when it comes to full growth, it is past his strength. So fares it with sin:
s Heb. chap. 3. ver. 13. u Jer, chap. 13. ver. 23.
* Rom. chap. 6. ver. 19.