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your foul's cafe; that you may go to the ground of the matter, and get it rectified.
Secondly, It is a proper means for the recovery of backfliders, that they may remember whence they are fallen, and repent, and do the first works, Rev. ii. 5. There are not a few, who fome time a day bloffomed fair, in hopeful beginnings of religion, who are now withered. Their bones are dried, and there is no fap of that kind in them now: and by their finning against light, they have provoked God to depart from them, fo as there is no fap in ordinances, nor in providences, to them, neither: but these are all, as it were, blasted to them, and they are left in the unhappy cafe of the vineyard, Ifa. v. 6. I will alfo command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. And fome are not only withered, but are become noifom in their life and conversation: they have not only loft any life of religion they fometimes feemed to have, but their lufts are become rampant in them, as given up to vile affections defiling the very outward man. It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and, The fow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire, 2 Pet. ii, 22.
O backfliders, your cafe is a fearful one: Heb. x. 38. If any man draw back, my foul fhall have no pleaJure in him. What mind ye to do with it? Will ye continue in it, to your eternal ruin? Oh! no, pity your own fouls. There is hope in Ifrael concerning this thing, as bad as it is. Perhaps your heart tells you, that your cafe is now gone on too far, to be mended: but it is not fo; that is but a fatanical fug. geftion. God's word fays otherwife: Jer. iii. 1. Though thou haft played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, faith the Lord. Ifa. liv. 6. I have called thee as-a wife of youth, when thou waft refufed, faith thy God. Wherefore, O backflider, beftir thyself to anfwer the Lord's call, and rememG C 2
ber that fame devils go not out but by prayer and faft ing, Matth. xvii. 22. Try this method then for your recovery: try it, as you would not be guilty of wilful dying of your difeafe, Our heavenly Father kindly meets returning prodigals: the returning backflider will be treated by him as a dear fon, a pleafant child, Jer. xxxi. 20. Return ye then, and he will reftore to you the years that the locuft hath eaten, Joel ii. 25. And as yet, your bones fhall Aourish like an herb, Ifa. Ixvi. 14.
Thirdly, It is a proper means to prevent relapses, and to keep one's spiritual cafe right, when once it is right. Frequent ftating of accounts, keeps matters clear, which otherwife might come to be per plexed, and involved. And the cafe which, being on the decline, is taken in time, is eafily righted, in comparison of that which has long run on: even as when Chrift raised to life the young man of Nain, whom they were carrying out to the grave, he only touched the bier, and faid, Young man, I fay unto thee arife, Luke vii. 14.; but he wept and groaned once and again at the raifing of Lazarus, who had been four days dead, John xi. 33, 35, 38. The un healthy and fickly difpofition of the fouls of men, by. reafon of the remains of corruption that are always in the beft, while here, makes the occafional per. formance of extraordinary duties now and then ne ceffary, over and above the courfe of their ordinary and ftated devotions.
Fourthly, It is a proper means of preparation for a time of trial. It is a piece of Chriftian prudence to forfee the evil, and hide one's felf, while the fi ple pafs on, and are punished, Prov. xxii. 3. When God is threatening a land with his judgments, it be comes the inhabitants to take the alarm, and prepare to meet their God: and perfonal and family fafts are proper expedients for that end; fince they who in finning times figh and cry for all the abominations
done in the midft thereof, ftand fair to receive the mark for special favour in fuffering times, Ezek. ix. 4. For all the leffer ftrokes and deliverances thefe nations have met with of late years, it is, alas! visible to fober men of whatever denomination, that we are not thereby reformed, nor duly convinced of, far lefs humbled under, the caufe of God's flaming controverfy with us. And while there is a God to judge on the earth, we can have no reason to think that a generation chargeable with the guilt which we are chargeable with, is in fafety with fuch a load upon them; but that either God will, by an unordinary pouring out of his Spirit, awaken, humble, and make the land to mourn; or elfe, by fome roufing ftroke of judgment, will vindicate his own honour, injured to a pitch that our fathers arrived not at. And the lefs appearance there is of the former, there is the greater appearance of the latter. However, we feem to have no fuch fecurity against it, as to render it unfeafonable to keep perfonal and family fafts in that view; that we may mourn over our own fins, and the fins of the nations, and may folemnly commit ourfelves and our families to the divine grace, mercy, and protection, whatever may be the occurrences of providence in our day. None know what dark steps may be between them and the grave; and therefore it cannot be an unwife courfe, timely to take God in Christ for our guide thro' the mountains of darkness, for our protector in all dangers and for our fupporter and helper in the midst of trouble.
Laftly, It is a proper means to get matters clear for eternity, and fo to make us a fafe and comfortable paffage out of this world. It was David's unSpeakable comfort on his death-bed, that he could fay of the God unto whom his fpirit was about to return, He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. Jacob, being an old man
and a dying, comfortably reflected on the place and time, where and when, in the days of his youth, he had remarkable communion with God, received the bleffing, and vowed the vow, Gen. xlviii. 3. with chap. xxxviii. 10,23. Would one be in a condition to look death in the face? to pafs fafely and comfortably to the other world? there is not a more feasible means to reach it than this. Therefore,
1. Ye who are under doubts and fears, complaining, that ye can never reach clear evidences for heaven, this memorial is for you, No wonder they walk in the dark, who will not be at fo much pains to get light into their ftate. The obtaining of fuch light, might of itself be a fufficient ground for fuch an exercife. Clear evidences for heaven are such an unspeakable comfort, and fo hard to raise up amidst fo much corruption of heart and life, that it is not at all ftrange, they require fomething beyond the ordinary courfe of devotion and application, to obtain the fame. And this is a moft feasible means for that purpose: for after one has got his foul humbled by a review of his fins, hath poured out his heart before the Lord in folemn confeffion of fin, and perfonally entered into, or renewed covenant with God, by taking hold of God's covenant of grace; if he fhall then take the matter in hand, and examine himself as to the evidences, of faving grace in him, they will then be as likely to appear clearly as ever.
2. Ye who are, one way or other, getting warnings of approaching death, this memorial is for you. Do you obferve your equals in years, or younger than you, carried off by death? Have you been at any time rescued from imminent danger of your life arifing from fome accident, or unforeseen occurrence? Are you now and then vifited with fickness? Do you perceive your ftrength begin to fail, the pins of your tabernacle begin to be loofed? These and
and the like are loud providential calls to you to prepare for the other world. And preparation for that world, is fufficient to found a call unto fuch extraordinary devotion: a profpect of approaching death, may well be allowed to call one to fet fome time apart, in order to prepare for it. Preparation for death is work to be done in time of health: and why should it be delayed, fince you fee that death is approaching? How unreasonable is it for men, to leave that work to the fick bed, where. they will have enough ado to die, or may be deprived of their judgment, if they do at all get a fick-bed, and be not fuddenly fnatched away, ere they or their friends are aware? No, Sirs; ye know that death is coming: therefore while ye are able, fet fome time apart for that very end, to prepare for it, and to state matters clearly for eternity; otherwise ye are cruel to your own fouls, by your negligence, making of death a leap in the dark into the other world.
3. Laftly, All without exception, who believe a heaven and a hell, this memorial is for you. The eternal state is not a matter to venture upon at random. If you do really believe a life to come, ye cannot reasonably think, that this is too much to make a fuitable preparation for it. Their hearts are certainly more ftout than holy, who, amidst fo many inftances of mortality, as the world is ftill affording, are not thereby excited to fet their own fouls cafe in order, with an eye to death's coming about to their own door and thus to fet fome time apart for that end, is little enough in a cafe of fuch vast importance.