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- What could I do more than I have done?" And mayest thou not fear an actual rejection, since thou hast lived thus long under the means of grace; that God hath waited these, not only three, but many years, the dew of heaven continually falling on thee, and that yet thou shouldest remain unfruitful. Doest thou not fear, I say, that dismal sentence, “ cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground;" God's grace is not to be dallied with, as wanton children do with their meats; do thus slight him, he may justly deprive us of all. See a terrible place to this purpose: “ The earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God, but that which beareth thorns and briars, is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned.” Consider these places : God calls us, where the droppings of his grace are distilled; consider then, do we bring forth that fruit which is meet for the dresser, answerable to those continual distillings and droppings on us? If our consciences witness for us, happy are we, but when there have been these showers of grace out of God's word fowing down upon us, and yet we have received so much grace in vain; O what can we expect, but a curse in this life, and eternal death in the world to come? What can we look for, but the figtree's curse, which was barren? The tree was not cut down, but withered: we are near the same curse, if we answer not God's grace. When we have had so long a time the ministry of the word, and yet suffer it to be lost through our barrenness, our condition is sad, and woful ; we can look for nothing, but withering. “ But" beloved, I must hope better things of you, and such as accompany salvation." Labour therefore to prevent, and arm yourselves against this suggestion and fallacy of Satan, and resolve to hear God in this acceptable time, now to set to the work, which if we do, all will be well, God will be gracious to us.
us, and of which he can say,
If otherwise, we are undone for ever. Till
& Heb. chap. 6. ver. 7, 8.
h Heb. chap. 6. ver. 9.
you have learned this lesson, you can no further. Wherefore let not Satan possess you with that madness, to cause you to pass and let slip this golden opportunity, through a false conceit, that you may have a more seasonable day of your own, for repentance hereafter. I will not say, that a death bed repentance is always fruitless; the ancient fathers, though they give no encouragement to defer it till then, yet in case it be so long put off, they enjoin it even then. “Έως ότε έμπνέεις, εν εσχάτη ημέρα, επ' αυτής της κλίνης, εαν ής κείμενος ψυχορραγών μέλλων έξιέναι του θεάτρου τούτου και του βίου, τότε μετανόησον του καιρού ή στενοχωρία ου κωλεύει την του θεού φιλανθρωπίαν, &c.
“ As long as thou breathest, even in the last day of thy life, upon thy bed, when thou art expiring, and about to depart from the theatre of this life, then repent: the straitness of the time doth not exclude the philanthropy of God, that love which he beareth to mankind. Only remember what I have said of the danger of this procrastination, and how unfitting a season it is, for so great a work, and what reasons we have to judge it seldom serious."
Chrysost. in Psalm 51. page 675. and 705. edit. Savilian.
GAL, CHAP. VI. VER. 3, 4.
“For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth
himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing himself alone, and not in another."
Having entered on the doctrine of the conversion of a sinner in that text, Heb. chap. IV. ver. 7. upon which depends our everlasting salvation, I laboured to persuade you of the necessity of taking the accepted time of embracing the proffers of God's grace, and of the necessity of doing it speedily.
I shewed you that there is a certain time in which God will be found, and that this time was the present time.
I declared unto you the great danger that would follow, if we took not God at his word, but refused his day for a day of our own, as if we were wiser than he; if when God calls, and holds out the golden sceptre, we refuse to draw near, and touch it: also what danger there is of being deluded by Satan, and our own hearts.
I shewed you farther, that the work was half done if this were done, if we could but learn this lesson.
And now all that I shall speak will be to little purpose, if this be not first wrought. If it be already wrought in us, blessed are we. Our condition were thrice happy, would God now strike in, and cause us to return to himself. It is not good to dally with God, the time may come when it will be too late, when we shall wish we had done otherwise, and taken the accepted time.
Now I will go on to a farther point, which is this; when Satan cannot prevail with a sinner, to say to his soul, or
to think with himself, I will do it hereafter, or I will at the day of death, when he cannot prevail with him to defer it, and leave it quite undone for the present: then he will give way to his doing a little to it, but it shall be so superficial, and on such false grounds, that he had as good leave it undone; for Satan makes him thus conclude with himself, Well, since I see it is a duty so necessary, I will not put it off an hour, but yet I see no such matter required in conversion, no such great need of being new moulded. But now in the point of conversion, there are two things to be thought on.
First, what estate the sinner is in for the present, and then, when he hath made search, and found it to be amiss ; then the next thing is, he must turn unto God, and resolve to amend.
I shall not now stand to speak of that common aspersion cast upon religion, and ways of God, that men must sail to heaven by the gates of hell, of which many are so much afraid: but yet we must not think that our Saviour came to heal those, which were whole already; he is a God of wisdom, and the Physician of the soul; he comes to find that which is lost: so that we must be lost in our own apprehensions, if we will be found, as David was. He first saith : “I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost, then seek thy servant.” If now we are once lost, we are lost for ever, for he seeks us not; therefore we should first consider with ourselves, what estate we are in now, how the case stands with us at present, that if God should come and strike thee with death, if thou wert now to come to judgment, what would trouble thee most, what couldst thou then answer him? Therefore since it is uncertain how soon God may deal thus with thee, it is wisdom to be always ready. “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again unto the Lord." Let us first try how the matter stands with us, at the present; let us examine ourselves and our ways, and see if all be well, and then may we go on with comfort in the way wherein we are.
b Psalm 119. ver. 176.
e Lam, chap. 3. ver. 40.
But when we have searched, and find things not go as well as they ought, or that we are not in a right way, then after our searching we must turn unto the Lord : thus the prophet did : “I thought upon my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies." First he thought on his ways, he considered, whether he was going to heaven or hell; when he had thus thought, he made haste, and “ turned his feet unto God's testimonies." Here are both put together: first he made haste and thought on his ways, and then he turned.
I took this text to shew that one of these is as dangerous as the other, and how men are apt to deceive themselves in their search and examination. It is as dangerous not to prove our ways, as to put off and defer our turning to God. This is a dangerous disease, that when men come to examine and try their spiritual estates, they have false weights and unequal balances to prove themselves by: they are very willing to save themselves the labour, though they be deceived. A man is loth to be cozened by another; but here is his folly, that he is willing enough to deceive and betray himself. Such fools the devil makes many men, because they take not right glasses to look on themselves in, and so they deceive themselves: "For if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself; but let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone and not in another.”
In the words here are,
1. The disease is in the third verse“ If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” This is a common dangerous disease; and a disease which is both common and dangerous is the more to be feared, the more careful must the physician be. This is the most common disease, for there is not a man but finds a snatch of it in his own heart. And it is the more dan
d Psalm 129. ver. 57.
e Gal. chap. 6. ver. 3.