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they be come to a maturity of grace or wickedness. Saints are not reaped down 'till their grace is ripe, Job v. 26. “Thou shalt " come to thy grave in a full age, as a shock of corn cometh « in its season." • Not that every godly man dies in such a · full old age (faith Mr. Caryl on that place;) but yet, in one
sense it is an universal truth, and ever fulfilled ; for whenfoever they die, they die in a good age; yea, though they die
in the spring and flower of their youth, they die in a good old • age; (in e.) they are ripe for death whenever they die. • Whenever a godly man dies, it is harvest-time with him,
though in a natural capacity he be cut down while he is green, ' and cropped in the bud or blossom ; yet in his fpiritual ca• pacity he never dies before he be ripe : God ripens him spee• dily, when he intends to take him out of the world speedily; The can let out such warm rays and beams of his Spirit upon them, as shall foon maturate the feeds of grace
a preparedness for glory.'
The wicked also have their ripening-time for hell and judgment: God doth with much long-suffering endure the vessels of wrath, prepared for destruction. Of their ripeness for judgment the Scripture often speaks, Gen. xv. 16. « The lin of “ the Amorites is not yet full.” And of Babylon it is said, Jer. li. 13. “O thou that dwellest upon many waters ! thine “ end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.”
It is worth remarking, that the measure of the fin, and the end of the finner, come together. So Joel iii. 13. “Put ye " in the fickle, for the harvest of the earth is ripe ; for the « press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Where, note, finners are not cut down 'till they be ripe and ready. Indeed, they are never ripe for death, nor ready for the grave; that is, fit to die : yet they are always ripe for wrath, and ready for hell before they die. "Now, as husbandmen judge of the ripeness of their harvest, by the colour and hardness of the grain ; fo may we judge of the ripeness both of saints and Ginners, for heaven or hell, by these following signs.
Three signs of the maturity of grace, 'HEN the corn is near ripe, it bows the head, and stoops lower than when it was green.
When the people of God are near ripe for heaven, they grow more humble and self-denying, than in the days of their first profession. The longer a saint grows in the world, the better he is still acquainted with his own heart, and his obligations to God; both
which are very humbling things. Paul had one foot in hea. ven, when he called himself the chiefeft of finners, and least of saints, i Tim. i. 15. Eph. iij. 8. A Christian in the progress of his knowledge and grace, is like a vessel cast into the sea, the more it fills, the deeper it sinks. Those that went to study at Athens (faith Plutarch) at first coming seemed to themselves to be wise men ; afterwards only lovers of wisdom, and after that, only rhetoricians, such as could speak of wisdom, but knew little of it, and last of all, ideots in their own apprebensions ; ftill, with the increase of learning, laying alide their pride and arrogancy.
2. When harvest is nigh, the grain is more solid and pithy than ever it was before ; green corn is soft and spungy, but ripe. corn is fubftantial and weighty : So it is with Christians; the affections of a young Christian, perhaps are more feverous and sprightly; but those of a grown Christian are more judicious and solid ; their love to Christ abounds more and more in all judgment, Phil. i. 9. The limbs of a child are more active and pliable : but as he grows up to a perfect state, the parts are more consolidated and firmly knit. The fingers of an old mufician are not so nimble ; but he hath a more judicious ear in music than in his youth.
3. When corn is dead ripe, it is apt to fall of it's own accord to the ground, and there thed; whereby it doth, as it were, anticipate the harvest-man, and calls upon him to put in the fickle. Not unlike to which are the lookings and longings, the groanings and haftnings of ready Christians to their expected glory; they hasten to the coming of the Lord, of, as Montanus more fitly renders it, they haften the coming of the Lord; (i. e.) they are urgent and inftant in their defires and cries to hasten his coming ; their desires sally forth to meet the Lord ; they willingly take death by the hand; as the corn bends to the earth, so doth these fouls to heaven : This shows their harvest to be near.
Six signs of the maturity of fin.
appear upon them; or by these, at least, you may conclude those souls not to be far from wrath, upon whom they appear.
1. When conscience is wasted, and grown past feeling, having no more for fin; when it ceases to check, reprove, and smite for fin any more, the day of that finner is at hand, his harveft is even come. The greatest violation of conscience is
the greatest of fins; this was the case of the forlorn Gentiles, among whom Satan had such a plentiful harvest; the patience of God suffered them to grow till their consciences were grown seared, and past feeling, Eph. iv. 19, When a member is so mortified, that if you lance and cut it never so much, no fresh, blood, or quick flela appears, nor doth the man feel any pain in all this, then it is time to cut it off.
2. When men give themselves over to the satisfaction of their lusts, to commit fin with greediness, then are they grown to a maturity of fin; when men have flipped the reins of conscience, and rush headlong into all impiety, then the last sands. of God's patience are running down. Thus Sodom and Go. morrah, and the cities about them, in like manner gave themselves over to wickedness and strange fins; and then justice quickly gave them up for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
3. That man is even ripe for hell, that is become a contria ver of fin, a designer, a student in wickedness. One would think it strange, that any man should set his invention on work upon such a subject as fin is, that any should study to become a dexterous artist this way! and yet the scripture frequently speaks of such, “whose bellies prepare deceit,” Job xv. 35. si who travail in pain to bring forth” this deformed birth, ver. 20. “who wink with their eyes,” whilst plodding wickedness, as men used to do when they are most intent upon the study of any knotty problem, Prov. vi. 13. These have so much of helb already in them, that they are more than half in hell already. 4.
He that of a forward professor is turned a bitter persecutor, is also within a few rounds of the top of the ladder; the contempt of their light the Lord hath already punished upon them, in their obduracy and madness against the light Reader, if thou be gone thus far, thou art almost gone beyond all hope of recovery. Towards other finners God usually exercises more patience, but with such he makes short work. When Judas turns traitor to his Lord, he is quickly sent to his own place. Such as are again intangled and overcome of those lusts they once seemed to have clean escaped, these bring upon themselves swift damnation, and their judgment lingers not, 2 Pet. ii. 3,
5. He that can endure no reproof or controul in the way of his fin, but derides all counsel, and, like a strong current, rages at, and sweeps away all obstacles in his way, will quickly fall into the dead lake, Prov. xxix 1. “ He that being often “ reproved, hardneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroy
u and that without remedy.” This is a death-spot, a helspot, where-ever it appears. From this very symptom the prophet plainly predicted the approaching ruin of Amazia, 2 Chron. xxv. 16. “ I know that God hath determined to de6 stroy thee, because thou hast done this, and haft not hearkned « to my voice.” He that will not be timely counselled, shall be quickly destroyed.
Lastly, When a man comes to glory in his fin, and boast of his wickedness, then it is time to cut him down, “ whose end “ is destruction, whose glory is in their shame;" Phil. iii. 19. This is a braving, a daring of God to his face ; and with whomfoever he bears long, to be sure these are none of them. You fee now what are the signs of a full ripe finner ; and when
; it comes to this, either with a nation, or with a single person, then ruin is near, Joel iii. 13. Gen. xv. 16. It is in the filling up of the measure of fin, as in the filling up of a vessel cast into the sea, which rowls from side to side, taking in the water by little and little till it be full, and then down it sinks to the bottom. Mean while, admirable is divine patience, which bears with these vefsels of wrath, whilst fitting for destructi
1. Cheer thyself, O my soul ! with the The reflection of heart-strengthening bread of this divine a growing Chris- meditation. Let faith turn every drop of tian.
this truth into a soul-reviving cordial. God hath fown the precious seed of grace upon my soul; and though my heart hath been an unkind foil, which hath kept it back, and much hindered its growth, yet, blessed be the Lord, it still grows on, though by slow degrees; and fromthe springing of the feed, and shooting forth of those gracious habits, I may conclude an approaching harvest: Now is my salvation nearer than when I believed ; every day I come nearer to my salvation, Rom. xiii. II. O that every day I were more active for the God of my salvation ! Grow on, my foul, and add to thy faith virtue, to thy virtue knowledge, doc. Grow on from faith to faith; keep thyself under the ripening influences of heavenly ordinances : The faster thou growest in grace, the sooner thou fhalt be reaped down in mercy, and bound up in the bundle of life, 1 Sam. xv. 29. I have not yet attained the measure and proportion of grace assigned to me, neither am I already perfect, but am reaching forth to the things before me, and pressing towwards the mark for the prize of my heavenly calling, Phil. iii.
12, 13. O mercy to be admired ! that I, who lately had one foot in hell, stand now with one foot in heaven! 2. But the case is far different with me;
The reflection whilst others are ripening apace for heaven,
of the decaying I am withering; many a soul plowed up by
Christian. conviction, and sown by fanctification long after me, hath quite over-topped, and out-grown me; my sweet and early blossoms are nipped and blown off, my bright morning over-cast and clouded : had I kept on, according to the rate of my first growth, I had either now been in heaven, or at least in the furburbs of it on earth ; but my graces wither and languish, my heart contracts and cools to heavenly things ; the fun and rain of ordinances and providences improve not my graces : how sad therefore is the state of
soul ! 3. Thy case, o declining faint, is sad, but not like mine : thine is but a tempora
The reflection of
a hardning finner. ry remiffion of the acts of grace, which is recoverable ; but I am judicially hardening, and “ treasuring “
up to my self wrath against the day of wrath,” Rom. ii. 5. Time was, when I had some tender sense of sin, when I could mourn and grieve for it; now I have none at all : my heart is grown stupid and sottish. Time was, when I had some conscientious care of duty, when my heart would smite me for the neglect of it; but now none at all. Wretched foul ! what wilt thou do? Thou art gone far, indeed, a few steps further will put thee beyond hope : hitherto I stand in the field; the long-suffering God doth yet spare me ; yea, spare me, while he hath cut down many of my companions in fin round about
What doth this admirable patience, this long-suffering, drawn out to a wonder, fpeak concerning me! doth it not tell me, that the Lord is not willing I should perish, but rather come to repentance ? 2 Pet. iii. 9. And what argument is like his pity and patience, to lead a soul to repentance? Rom. ii. 4. O that I may not frustrate at last the end of a long-suffering God, left he proportion the degree of his wrath, according to the length of his patience !
The P O E M.
With scythes and sickles to reap down and mow.