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particulars. Is it impossible to you to attend upon the dispensation of the gospel, which is God's power unto salvation, the seal by which he impresses his image, the glass through which his glory shines to the changing of souls into the same likeness? Are you not as able to go to church as the tavern; and to sit in the assembly of saints as of mockers? Is it impossible to you, to consult the written word of God, and thence learn what you must be, and do in order to blessedness? Will not your eyes serve you to read the Bible as well as a gazette or play-book ? Is it impossible to inquire of your minister, or an understanding christian neighbor concerning the way and terms of blessedness! Cannot your tongue pronounce these words, what shall I do to be saved, as well as those, pray what do you think of the weather ; or what news is there going? Yet further : Is it impossible to apply your thoughts to what you meet with suitable to your case in attendance upon preaching, reading, or discourse ? Have all such words a barbarous sound in your ear? Can you not consider what sense is carried under them; what they import and signify? Can you not bethink yourself, Do the doctrines of God and Christ and the life to come, signify something or nothing? or do they signify any thing worth the considering, or that it is fit for me to take notice of ?
And yet to proceed a little further with you : I pray you once more demand of yourselves, and put your consciences closely to it, whether, when they have told you (as no doubt they will,) that such things deserve your consideration, it be impossible to you, to use your considering power thus, and employ it even about these things? Do but make this easy trial, and then say, whether it be impossible. See if you cannot select one hour on purpose, wherein to sit down by yourselves alone, with this resolution ; Well, I will now spend this hour in considering my eternal concernments. When you have obtained so much of yourself; set your thoughts on work, (you will find them voluble and unfixed, very apt to revolt and fly off from things you have no mind to, but) use your authority with yourself, tell your soul (or let it tell itself) these things concern thy life. At least, taking this prepared matter along with thee (that thou mayst not have this pretence, thou knowest not what to think of,) try if thou canst not think of these things, now actually suggested and offered to thy thoughts : as namely, Consider, that thou hast a reasonable, immortal soul, which as it is liable to eternal misery, so it is capable of eternal blessedness: that this blessedness thou dost understand to consist only in the vision of the blessed God, in being made like to him, and in the satisfastion that is thence to result and accrue to thee. Consider (what thy very objection supposeth,) that thou findest the temper of thy spirit to be altogether indisposed and averse to such a blessedness. Is it not so ? is not this thy very case? feel now again thy heart: try, is it not at least coldly affected towards this blessed state ?
Is it not then obvious to thee to consider, that the temper of thy spirit must be changed, or thou art undone ? that inasmuch as thy blessedness lies in God, this change must lie in the alteration of thy dispositions, and the posture of thy spirit towards him. Further, Canst thou not consider the power and fixedness of thy aversation from God; and with how mighty a weight thy heart is carried and held down from Him? Try, lift at thy heart, see if it will be raised God-ward and heaven-ward ? Dost thou not find, it is as if thou wert lifting at a mountain, that it lies as a dead weight and stirs not? Ponder thy case in this respect. And then, Is it not to be considered, that thy time is passing away apace? that if thou let thyself alone, it is likely to be as bad with thee to-morrow as this day, and as bad next day as to-morrow? And if thy time expire and thou be snatched away in this state, what will become of thee? And dost thou not therefore see a necessity of considering whatever may be most moving, and most likely to incline thy heart God-ward, of pleading it more loudly and importunately with thyself? And canst thou not consider and reason the matter thus ? “O my soul, what is the reason that thou so drawest back and hangest off from thy God ? that thou art so unwilling to be blessed in him that thou shouldst venture to run thyself upon eternal perdition rather? What cause hath he ever given thee to disaffect Him? What is the ground of thy so mighty prejudice ? Hath he ever done thee hurt? Dost thou think He will not accept a returning soul? That is to give the lie to his gospel ; and it becomes not a perishing wretch so to provoke Him in whom is all its hope. Is the eternal glory an undesirable thing? or the everlasting burnings tolerable? Canst thou find a way of being forever blessed without God; or whether he will or no? or is there a sufficient present pleasure in thy sinful distance from God, to outweigh heaven and hell ? Darest thou venture upon a resolution of giving God and Christ their last refusal ; or say, thou wilt never hearken to, or have to do with them more, or darest thou venture to do what thou darest not resolve ? and act the wickedness thou canst not think of? scorn eternal majesty and love? spurn and trample a bleeding Saviour?” Commune thus awhile with thyself; but if yet thou find thy heart relent nothing, thou canst yet further consider, that it lies not in thy power to turn thy own heart, (or else how comest thou thus to object?) And hence, canst thou avoid considering this is a distressed case ? that thou art in great straits; liable to perish (yea, sure to do so, if thou continue in that ill temper of spirit,) and wholly unable to help thyself? Surely thou canst not but see this to be a most distressed case.
I put it now to thy conscience, whether being thus led on, thou canst not go thus far ? See whether upon trial thy conscience give thee leave to say, I am not able thus to do or think :
and be not here so foolish, as to separate the action of the first cause and the second, in judging thy ability. Thou mayst say no, I cannot think a good thought without God; true, so I know thou canst not move a finger without God; but my meaning in this appeal to thy conscience is, whether upon trial thou findest not an assistance sufficient to carry thee thus far ? Possibly thou wilt say, yea, but what am I the better? I am only brought to see myself in a distressed, perishing condition, and can get no further. I answer, it is well thou art got so far, if thou indeed see thyself perishing, and thy drowsy soul awake into any sense of the sadness of thy case. But I intend not thus to leave thee here; therefore let me furthermore demand of thee: What course wouldst thou take in any other distress, wherein thou knowest not what to do to help thyself? would not such an exigency, when thou findest thyself pinched and urged on every side, and every way is shut up to thee, that thou art beset with calamities, and canst no way turn thyself to avoid them ; would not such an exigency force thee down on thy knees, and set thee a crying to the God of mercy for relief and help? Would not nature itself prompt to this? Is it not natural to lift up hands and eyes to heaven when we know not what to do ?* Therefore having thus far reasoned with thee about thy considering power; let me demand of thee, if thou canst not yet go somewhat further than considering that is, in short: Is it impossible to thee to obey this dictate of nature? I mean, represent the deplorable case of thy soul before Him that made it, and crave his merciful relief? Do not dispute the matter; thou canst not but see this is a possible and a rational course, as thy case is. Should not a people seek unto their God ? Fall down therefore low before Him; prostrate thyself at the foot-stool of his mercyseat. Tell Him, thou understandest Him to be the Father of spirits and the Father of mercies; that thou hast heard of his great mercy and pity towards the spirits of men in their forlorn, lapsed state : what a blessedness He hath designed for them; what means he hath designed to bring them to it. Tell Him, thou only needest a temper of spirit suitable to the blessedness Hé invites thee to; that thou canst not master and change thy sensual, earthly heart; thou knowest He easily can; thou art come to implore his help, that his blessed and Holy Spirit may descend and breathe upon thy stupid, dead soul; and may sweetly incline and move it towards Him; that it may eternally rest in Him; and that thou mayst not perish, after so much done in order to thy blessedness, only for want of a heart to entertain it. Tell Him, thou comest upon his gracious encouragement, having heard He is as ready to give his Spirit to
*Audio vulgus cum ad cælum manus tendunt nihil aliud quam Deum dicunt, vulgi iste naturalis est sermo; where the vulgar lift up their hands to heaven, I seem to hear them addressing God himself, this is their natural language.
them that ask Him, as parents, bread to their craving children rather than a stone : that it is for life thou beggest : that it is not so easy to thee, to think of perishing for ever : that thou canst not desist and give up all thy hopes that thou shalt be in hell shortly, if He hear and help thee not. Lastly, If thus thou obtain any communication of that holy, blessed Spirit, and thou find it gently moving thy dead heart, let me once more demand of thee : Is it impossible to forbear this or that external act of sin at this time, when thou art tempted to it? sure thou canst not say, it is impossible. What necessitates thee to it? And then certainly thou mayst as well ordinarily withhold thyself from running into such customary sensualities, as tend to grieve the Spirit, debauch conscience, stupify thy soul, and hide God from thee. And if thou canst do all this, do not fool thy slothful soul with as idle a conceit, that thou hast nothing to do, but to sit still, expecting till thou drop into hell.
(2.) But have I not reason to fear, I shall but add sin to sin in all this? and so increase the burden of guilt upon my own soul ; and by endeavoring to better my case, make it far worse. Two things I consider, that suggest to me this fear,—the manner and end, of the duties you put me upon, as they will be done by me in the case wherein I apprehend myself, yet to lie.—The manner : (as to the positive action you advise to,) I have heard, the best actions of an unregenerate person are sins, through the sinfulness of his manner of doing them; though as to the matter of the thing done, they be enjoined and good : and though it be true, that the regenerate cannot perform a sinless duty neither; yet their persons and works being covered over with the righteousness of Christ, are looked upon as having no sin in them, which I apprehend to be none of my case.—And as to the end. You put me upon these things in order to the attaining of blessedness; and to do such things with intuition to a reward, is to be (as may be doubted) unwariantable, mercenary, and servile.
[1.] As to this former reason of your doubt; methinks the proposal of it answers it. Forasmuch as you acknowledge the matter of these actions to be good and duty (and plain it is, they are moral duties, of common perpetual concernment to all persons and times,) dare you decline or dispute against your duty ? Sure, if we compare the evil of what is so substantially in itself, and what is so circumstantially, only by the adherence of some undue modus,'or manner; it cannot be hard to determine which is the greater and more dreadful evil. As to the present case ; shouldst thou, when the great God sends abroad his proclamation of pardon and peace, refuse to attend it: to consider the contents of it, and thy own case in reference thereto, and thereupon to sue to him for the life of thy own soul ? Dost thou not plainly see thy refusal must needs be more provoking than thy defective performance? This, speaks disability, but that, rebellion and
contempt.* Besides, dost thou, not see, that thy objection liés as much against every other action of thy life? The wise man tells us, (Prov. 21. 4.) the plowing of the wicked is sin, (if that be literally to be understood ;) and what wouldst thou therefore sit still and do nothing ? Then how soon would that idleness draw on gross wickedness? And would not that be a dreadful confutation of thyself, if thou who didst pretend a scruple, that thou mightst not pray, read, hear, meditate, shalt not scruple to play the glutton, the drunkard, the wanton, and indulge thyself in all riot and excess? Yea, if thou do not break out into such exorbitancies, would any one think him serious that should say, it were against his conscience to be working out his salvation, and striving to enter in at the strait gate; seeking first the kingdom of God, &c. Would not this sound strangely? And especially, that in the mean time it should never be against his conscience, to trifle away his time, and live in perpetual neglects of God, in persevering atheism, infidelity, hardness of heart, never regreted or striven against : as if these were more innocent ? And what thou sayst of the different case of the regenerate, is impertinent; for as to this matter, the case is not different, they that take themselves to be such, must not think that by their supposed interest in the righteousness of Christ, their real sins cease to be such, they only become pardoned sins; and shall they therefore sin more boldly than other men, because they are surer of pardon ?
[2.] As to the other ground of this doubt, there can only be a fear of sinning, upon this account, to them that make more sins and duties than God hath made. The doubt supposes religion inconsistent with humanity: and that God were about to rase out of the nature of man one of the most radical and fundamental laws written there,-a desire of blessedness :-and supposes it against the express scope and tenor of his whole gospel revelation. For what doth that design, but to bring men to blessedness? And how is it a means to compass that design, but as it tends to engage men's spirits to design it too? unless we would imagine they should go to heaven blindfold, or be rolled thither as stones that know not whither they are moved; in which case the gospel, that reveals the eternal glory, and the way to it, were a useless thing. If so express words had not been in the Bible, as that Moses had respect to the recompense of reward ; yea, that our Lord Jesus himself, for the joy set before him endured the cross, &c. this had been a little more colorable, or more modest. And what, do not all men, in all the or
* Therefore as to that form of expression—that such acts of unregenerate men are sins,—that is a catachrestical piece of rhetoric, which being so understood, is harmless; but to use it in propriety of speech, and thence to go to make men believe, that it is a sin to do their duty, is void both of truth and sense, and full of danger unto the souls of men.