« PreviousContinue »
ther like ourselves; of the mournful looks and habits, of SERM. all the sad pomps and folemnities attending man unto his XLVII. long home, by minding him of his own frail condition, affect with some serious, some honest, fome wise thoughts? And if we be reasonable men, we may every day supply the need of such occasions, by representing to ourselves the neceffity of our foon returning to the dust; dressing in thought our own hearses, and celebrating our own funerals; by living under the continual apprehension and sense of our transitory and uncertain condition; dying daily,' or becoming already dead unto this world. The doing which effectually being the gift of God, and an especial work of his grace, let us of him humbly implore it, saying after the holy Prophet, Lord, fo teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Amen.
THE DANGER AND MISCHIEF OF DELAYING
PSALM cxix. 60.
I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. SERM.
This Psalm (no less excellent in virtue, than large in XLVIII. bulk) containeth manifold reflections upon the nature, the
properties, the adjuncts and effects of God's law; many sprightly ejaculations about it, (conceived in different forms of speech; some in way of petition, some of thanksgiving, some of resolution, some of affertion or aphorism;) many useful directions, many zealous exhortations to the observance of it; the which are not ranged in any ftria order, but (like a variety of fair flowers and wholesome herbs in a wide field) do with a grateful confusion lie difperfed, as they freely did spring up in the heart, or were suggested by the devout fpirit of him who indited the Psalm; whence no coherence of sentences being designed, we may consider any one of them absolutely, or fingly by itself.
Among them, that which I have picked out for the subject of my discourse implieth an excellent rule of practice, authorized by the Pfalmift's example: it is propounded in way of devotion or immediate address to God; unto whofe infallible knowledge his conscience maketh an appeal concerning his practice; not as boasting thereof, but as praising God for it, unto whose gracious instruction and succour he frequently doth ascribe all his performances: but the manner of propounding I shall not infift upon; the rule itself is, that speedily, without any pro- SERM. crastination or delay, we should apply ourselves to the ob- XLVIII. servance of God's commandments; the practice of which rule it shall be my endeavour to recommend and press.
It is a common practice of men, that are engaged in bad courses, which their own conscience discerneth and disapproveth, to adjourn the reformation of their lives to a farther time, so indulging themselves in the present commission of fin, that yet they would seem to purpose and promise themselves hereafter to repent and take up : few Vi&turos resolve to persist finally in an evil way, or despair of being femper, nec one day reclaimed; but immediately and effectually to set vivimus upon it, many deem unseasonable or needless; it will, they Manil. 4. presume, be soon enough to begin to-morrow, or next day, a month or a year hence, when they shall find more commodious opportunity, or shall prove better disposed thereto: in the mean time with Solomon's lluggard, Yet, fay Prov. vi. 10 they, a little Neep, a little Number, a little folding of the hands: let us but neglect this duty, let us but satisfy this appetite, let us but enjoy this bout of pleasure; hereafter, God willing, we mean to be more careful, we hope that we shall become more sober: so like bad debtors, when our conscience dunneth us, we always mean, we always promise to pay; if she will stay awhile, the shall, we tell her, be satisfied; or like vain spendthrifts, we see our estate fly, yet presume that it will hold out, and at length we shall reserve enough for our use. Eis auprov ta omulaia, Plut. in PeLet serious busness stay till the morrow, was a saying that lop. cost dear to him who said it; yet we in our greatest concerns follow him.
But how fallacious, how dangerous, and how mischiev- Non eft, ous this manner of proceeding is; how much better and fapientis di more advisable it is, after the example propounded in our cere, vi, text, fpeedily to betake ourselves unto the discharge of i. 16. our debt and duty to God, the following considerations will plainly declare.
a Recognosce fingulos, considera universos, nullius non vita fpectat in craf. tinum; non enim vivunt, sed victuri sunt. Sen. Ep. 45.
Eccl. xii. 13.
SERM 1. We may consider, that the observance of God's comXLVIII. mandments (an observance of them proceeding from an
habitual disposition of mind, in a constant tenor of practice) is our indispensable duty, our main concernment, our only way to happiness; the necessary condition of our attaining salvation; that alone, which can procure God's love and favour toward us; that unto which all real blessings here, and all bliss hereafter, are inseparably annexed : Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man; (the whole duty, the whole design, the whole
perfection, the sum of our wisdom, and our happiness.) Matt. xix. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments: The Psal
. xi. 7. righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth Prov. xv. 9. behold the upright: God will render to every man accordRom. ii. 6.
ing to his works: these are oracles indubitably clear, and infallibly certain; these are immovable terms of juftice
between God and man, which never will, never can be reMatt. v. 18. laxed; being grounded on the immutable nature of God, Luke xvi. and eternal reason of things: if God had not decreed, if Psal . cxix. he had not said these things, they would yet assuredly be
true; for it is a foul contradiction to reason, that a man ever should please God without obeying him; it is a gross absurdity in nature, that a man should be happy without being good; wherefore all the wit in the world cannot devise a way, all the authority upon earth (yea, I dare say, even in heaven itself) cannot establish a condition, beside faithful observance of God's law, that can save, or make us happy: from it there can be no valid dispensation, without it there can be no effectual absolution, for it there can be no acceptable commutation; nor, in defect thereof, will any faith, any profession, any trick or pretençe whatever, avail or fignify any thing: whatever expedient to supply its roon superstition, mistake, craft, or presumption may recommend, we shall, relying thereon, be certainly deluded. If therefore we mean to be saved, (and are we so wild as not to mean it?) if we do not renounce felicity, (and do we not then renounce our wits?) to become virtuous, to proceed in a course of obedience, is a work that necessarily must be performed: and why
then should we not instantly undertake it? wherefore do SERM. we demur or stick at it ? how can we at all rest quiet,
XLVIII. while an affair of so vast importance lieth upon our hands, or until our mind be freed of all uncertainty and suspense about it? Were a probable way suggested to us of acquiring great wealth, honour, or pleasure, should we not quickly run about it? could we contentedly sleep, till we had brought the business to a sure or hopeful issue? and why with less expedition or urgency should we pursue the certain means of our present security and comfort, of our final salvation and happiness? In doing so, are we not strangely inconsistent with ourselves ?
Again, disobedience is the certain road to perdition; that which involveth us in guilt and condemnation, that which provoketh God's wrath and hatred against us, that which assuredly will throw us into a state of eternal for: row and wretchedness: The foolish Mall not stand in God's Psal. v. 5. fight; he hateth all the workers of iniquity: If ye do not Luke xiii. repent, ye shall perish: The wicked shall be turned into hell, , and all the people that forget God: The unrighteous shall 1 Cor. vi. 9. not inherit the kingdom of God: The wicked fall go into Matt. Ixv. everlasting punishment : these are denunciations no less 46. vii. 21. fure than severe, from that mouth, which is never opened in vain; from the execution whereof there can be no fhelter or refuge. And what wise man, what man in his right senses, would for one minute stand obnoxious to them? Who, that anywise tendereth his own welfare, would move one step forward in so perilous and destructive a course? the farther in which he proceedeth, the more he discosteth from happiness, the nearer he approacheth to ruin.
In other cases common sense prompteth men to proceed otherwise; for who, having rendered one his enemy, that far overmatcheth him, and at whose mercy he standeth, will not instantly sue to be reconciled? Who, being seized by a pernicious disease, will not hafte to seek a cure? Who, being fallen into the jaws of a terrible danger, will not nimbly leap out thence ? And such plainly is our case: while we persist in fin, we live in enmity and defiance with