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reafon for more delays, that they are a strong argument to the contrary. Because the work is difficult now, therefore do not make it more fo; and because your des lays have increased the difficulty of it, and will do more and more, therefore delay no longer:
3. Another pretended encouragement to these delays, is the great mercy and patience of God. He commonly bears longer with finners; and therefore there is no such absolute and urgent necefsity of a speedy repentance, and reformation of our lives. Men have not the face to give this for a reason; but yet for all that it lies at the bottom of many mens hearts. So Solomon tells us, Eccl. viii. 11. Becaule fentence against an evil work is not executed speedily'; therefore the heart of the fons of rizen is fully set in them 10 do evil.
But it is not always thus. There are few of us but have seen feveral instances of God's severity to sinners, and have known feveral perfons surprised by a sudden hand of God, and cut off in the very act of fin', without having the least respite given them, without time or lia berty so much as to ask God forgiveness, and to consider either what they had done, or whither they were going. And this may be the case of any sinner; and is fo nucli the more likely to be thy case, because thou dost to bold. ly presume upon the mercy and patience of God.
But if it were always thus, and thou wert sure to be fpared yet a while longer, what can be more unreasonable and difingenuous, than to resolve to be evil, because God is good ; and because he suffers fo long, to sin fo much the longer ; and because he affords thee a space of repentance, therefore to delay it, and put it off to the laft? The proper design of God's goodness, is to lead men to repentance; and he never intended his patience for an encouragement to men to continue in their sins, but for an opportunity and an argument to break them off by repentance.
These are the pretended reasons and encouragements to men to delay their repentance, and the reformation of their lives; and you see how groundless and unreafonable they are : which was the first thing I propound ed to speak to. II. I shall add some farther considerations, to engage
men effeétually to set about this work speedily, and with out delay. And because they are many, I shall insist upon those which are most weighty and considerable, with. out being very curious and folicitous about the method and order of them: for, provided they be but effectual to the end of persuasion, it matters not how. inartificially they are ranged and disposed.
1. Consider, that in matters of great and necessary concernment, and which must be done, there is no greater argument of a weak and impotent mind, than irresolution; to be undetermined where the case is fo plain, and the necessity fo urgent; to be always about doing that which we are convinced must be done.
Vifturos agimus semper, nec vivimus unquam :
“ We are always intending to live a new life, but can never find a time to set about it.” This is as if a man fhould put off eating, and drinking, and sleeping, from one day and night to another, till he have starved and destroyed himself. It feldom falls under any man's de: liberation, whether he should live or not, if he can chuse and if he cannot chuse, it is in vain to deliberate about
It is much more absurd to deliberate, whether we should live virtuously or religiously, soberly or righteously in the world; for that upon the matter is to consult, whether a man should be happy or not. Nature hath determined this for us, and we need not reason qe bout it ; and, consequently, we ought not to delay that, which we are convinced is so necessary in order to it.
2. Consider, that religion is a great and a long work; and asks so much time, that there is none left for the delaying of it. To begin with repentance, which is commonly our first entrance into religion ; this alone is a great work; and it is not only the business of a sudden thought and resolution, but of execution and action : it is the abandoning of a sinful course, which we cannot leave, till we have in some degree mastered our lusts ; for so long as they are our malters, like Pharoah, they will keep us in bondage, and not let us go to serve the Lord. The habits of sin and vice are not to be plucked up and cast off at once: as they have been long in con
tra&ing, fo, without a miracle, it will require a competent time to subdue them, and get the victory over them; for they are conquered just by the same degrees that the habits of grace and virtue grow up and get strength in us.
So that there are several d'uties to be done in religion, and often to be repeated : many graces and virtues are to be long practised and exercised, before the contrary vices will be subdued, and before we arrive to a confirmed and settled state of goodness; such a state as can only give us a clear and comfortable evidence of the fincerity of our resolution and repentance, and of our good condition towards God. We have many lufts to mortify ; many passions to govern, and bring into order ; much good to do, to make what amends and reparation we can for the much evil we have done: we have many things to learn; and many to unlearn,, to which we shall be strongly prompted by the corrupt inclinations of our nature, and the remaining power of ill habits and customs : and perhaps we have fatisfaction and restitution to make for the many injuries we have done to others, in their persons, or estates, or reputations : in a word, we have a body of fin to put off, which cling3 close to us, and is hard to part with : we have to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and Spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God; to increafe and improve our graces and virtues; to add to sur faith, knoriledge, and temperance, and patience, and brotherly kindness, and charity; and to ałound in all the fruits of right2ousness , which are by Jesus Chrift, to the praise and gicry of God: we have to be useful to tlie world, and exemplary to others in a holy and virtuous conversation ; our light is: so to sine before men, that oikers may see our good workson and glorify our Father which is in heaven.
And do we think ail this is to be done in an instant, and requires no time that we may delay and put off to the last, and yet do all this work well enough? Do we: think we can do all this in time of sickness and old age, when we are not fit to do any thing; when the spirit of a man can hardly bear the infirmities of nature, much less a guilty conscience and a rounded fpirit ? Do we: think, that when the day hath been idly spent and Iquan
dered away by us, that we shall be fit to work when the night and darkness comes ? When our understanding is. weak, and our memory frail, and our will crooked, and, by a long custom of finning, obstinately bent the wrong way, what can we then do in religion ? what reasonable or acceptable service can we then perform to. God? When our candle is just sinking into the sockets. how shall our light to fine before men, that others. max: See our good works?
Alas! the longest life is no more than sufficient for a man to reform himself in, to repent of the errors of his. life, and to amend what is amiss; to put our souls into a good posture and preparation for another world,, to train up ourselves for eternity, and to make ourselves meet to be made partakers of the inheritance of the saints: în light.
3. Consider what a desperate hazard we run by these delays. Every delay of repentance is a venturing the main chance. It is uncertain whether hereafter we shall have time for it; and if we liave time, whether we shall: have a heart to it, and the assistance of God's grace to go through with it. God hath indeed been graciously pleased to promise pardon to repentance : but he hath no where promised life and leisure, the aids of his
grace and Holy Spirit, to those who put off their repentance;. he hath no where promised acceptance to mere forrow: and trouble for fin, without fruits meet för repentances. and amendment of life; he hath no where promised to receive them to mercy and favour, who only give him good words, and are at last contented to condescend fo far to him, as to promise to leave their fins when they can. keep them no longer. Many have gone thus far in times. of affliction and sickness, as to be awakened to a great fense of their fins, and to be mightily troubled for their wicked lives, and to make folemn, promises and profesfions of becoming better; and yet, upon their deliverance and recovery, all hath vanished and come to, noa thing, and their righteousness. hath been as the morning cloud, and as the early dew, which passeth away. And why should any man, merely upon account of a deathbed repentance, reckon himself in a better condition: than those persons, who have done as much, and gone as
far as he? And there is no other difference between them but this, that the repentance of the former was tried, and proved insincere, but the death-bed repentance never came to a trial; and yet for all that, God knows whether it was sincere or not, and how it would have proved, if the man had lived longer. Why should any man, for offering up to God the mere refuse and dregs of his life, and the days which himself hath no pleasure in, expect to receive the reward of eternal life and happiness at his hands ?
But though we do not design to delay this work fo. long; yet we ought to consider, that all delays in a matter of this consequence are extremely dangerous; be. cause we put off a business of the greatest concernment to the future, and in so doing put it to the hazard whe. ther ever it shall be done : for the future is as much out of our power to command, as it is to call back the time which is past. Indeed if we could arrest time, and strike: off the nimble wheels of his chariot, and, like Joihua, bid the fun stand still, and make opportunity tarry as long as we had occafion for it; this were something to. excuse our delay, or at least to initigate or abate the folly and unreasonableness.of it: but this we cannot do. It is in our power, under the influence of God's grace and Holy Spirit, to amend our lives now; but it is not in our power to live till to-morrow: and who will part with an estate in hand, which he may presently enter upon the poffeffion of, for an uncertain reversion? And yet thus we deal in the great and everlasting concerna ments of our souls : we trifle away the present opportunities of salvation, and vainly promise to ourselves the future: we let go that which is in our power, and fond. ly dispose of that which is out of our power, and in the hands of God.
Lay hold then upon the present opportunities, and look upon every action thou doft, and every opportunity of doing any, as possibly. thy last; for so it may prove, for any thing thou canst tell to the contrary. If a man's life lay, at stake, and he had but one throw for it, with what care and with what concernment would he. manage: that action ? what thou art doing next, may, for ought. thou knowelt; be for thy life, and for all eternity. So much of thy life is most certainly paft; and God knows.