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Obj. But what needs such haste, I may do it hereafter, when I come to my journey's end?
Sol. There needs haste. The day is limited. A thousand to one, if God be angry, but we perish from the way. "Ix have heard thee in an accepted time, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee, behold now is the day of salvation." It is a day of salvation, and would not we be glad to know this time? Behold this is the accepted time. "Seeky the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near." This is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation1. Embrace this time, for now he may be found; this instant is the time, the To Vvv, the present now. God at this time stirs the waters, if now thou wilt step in and close with God, casting down thy weapons, then this will be the day of thy salvation; this is called, as God's day, so our day: "Oa Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if thou hadst known in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace, but now they are hidden from thine eyes." Mark, "If thou hadst known in this thy day:" so that if we pass by in this acceptable time those things which belong to our peace, they will be hidden from our eyes. Therefore should the enemies of Jerusalem lay "her even with the ground," because she had neglected this opportunity, the day of God's visitation. Wilt thou be so hard hearted, as to put from thee God's grace? If thoufindest now that Satan hides this from thee, and persuades thee to do it to-morrow, and to take a day of thine own, neglecting God's day, know and remember that he is a liar from the beginning.
Give me leave to press this to you, for nothing more brings destruction, than this putting from us the proffers of God's grace; unless we return to the Almighty, humbling ourselves, there will be "bitterness in the end." There is the matter, whether God must wait on us, or we on him? This "is the day of salvation," saith God, and
* 2 Cor. chap. 6. ver. 2. 'Esai, chap. 49. ver. 8.
1 Esai. chap. 55. ver. 6.
we must take time to think of it, whether it be seasonable or no. Alas
1. By this means we incur the highest presumption: and this is no light thing inconsiderately to be passed over. Shall God offer you such a proffer, and you be so presumptuous, as to think such a one more seasonable? It is high presumption for thee to make thyself wiser than God, to neglect that he prescribes, and that with a promise too, as if thou hadst God at command. If thou resolve to take to-morrow, it is requisite that thou have,
1. Space to repent, and
2. Grace to do it.
Now neither of these are in thine own hands, if they were, thou hadst ground for a farther delay. If thou hadst power to say, I will live so long, or couldst by thine own might prolong thy life, it were something, but it is otherwise. In refusing God's proffer, thou refusest him that hath thy life in his hand. What high presumption is this? See it in Jezebel: "I* gave her space to repent, but she repented not." As if God should have said, it is I gave it her, I gave her time to live, I might have cut her off in the midst of her whoredoms. Observe here by the way the reason why God gives us this space; it is to repent. What presumption must that be, when we will go quite contrary to God? And because we have space, therefore we will not repent. Why does not God smite thee from heaven, when thou thus audaciously settest thyself against him? Why does he not strike thee with a thunderbolt? Sure he gives thee this space not to spend idly, but to another end; not to follow our lusts, neglecting God's call, but that thou mayest remember thyself, and return with all thy heart. Remember those words of the prophet, "Myb times are in thy hand." He said not, My times are in mine own hands; for he knew it was grand presumption. Why then should any challenge that to himself which belongs to God, as if he
* Rev. chap. 2. ver. 21.
b Psalm 31. ver. 15.
were the lord of his own life, supposing God's call unseasonable, and that he may think on it better hereafter? May not a young man die soon? Now an old man cannot live long. Many strong and lusty men are brought to the grave as well as the weak and feeble. And why should we suffer Satan to abuse us thus? Thy space then is preserved in God's hand, and therefore thou mayest not be lord and master of it. But admit God grant thee space, yet thou mayest not have the grace to do it. What was Jezebel's case, "Though0 God gave her space, yet she repented not." What canst thou tell, what may then become of thee? perchance thou mayest live long, yet mayest thou never find as much as thy thoughts on repentance, much less the grace to do it: thou mayest not have a desire that way, much less perform it. Repentance is not a thing at our own command. " Ind meekness," saith the apostle, "instruct them that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth." "If God will give it them." It is a thing then, it should seem, in God's hand, it is his proper gift. Mark, the apostle would have God's ministers to be humble and meek; but how many are of other spirits? If another's opinion be contrary to theirs, they are in a heat presently, as if a man were master of himself and of his own heart, to believe what he would. No, no, repentance is a grace out of our reach, it is not in a man's own power. Be meek therefore in instructing. What needs passion? That helps not the matter. The opening of the eyes of the blind is in God's hands; thank him for what thou seest, and know that it is his gift. The apostle speaking of our Saviour Christ, saith: "Himehath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." The grace of repentance then is no herb growing in our own garden, it is a gift of God's bestowing. And to this purpose is Acts, chap. XI. ver. 18. "When they
c Rev. chap. 2. ver. 21. cActs, chap. 5. ver. 31.
* 2 Tim. chap. 2. ver. 25.
heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." As God grants life, so repentance unto life. "I' have heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus," saith the Lord, "Thou hast chastised me, and I am chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, turn thou me, and I shall be turned." And to the same purpose: "Turns thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned." As if Zion should have said, we are no more able to turn ourselves than a dead man. "After that," saith Ephraim, "I was turned, I repented, and after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea even confounded." See then what an high presumption it is for a man to presume he hath this grace of God at command: But as it is high presumption, so
2. It is the highest contempt and despising of the grace of God. "Despisesth thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering?" Thus is it here. God gives thee space: thou hast it, but employest it not in what God gave it thee for. Thou deferrest the main business; and the apostle accounts it no better than despising the proffers of God's grace and goodness. Dost thou think God will take this at thy hands? Wilt thou despise him, and think he will not despise thee ?" With the froward he will shew himself froward." God will come on a sudden, if thou makest not use of thine opportunity, and take all away from thee. The threatening is plainly laid down: "If thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee." It is spoken to us all, and therefore concerns us all: "Whosoever hath an ear to hear, let him hear." They are God's words I have spoken to you this day, and you shall be accountable for them: let not the Devil steal this from you, hold it fast, this is your day: "If thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee suddenly as a thief." It is the heaviest judgment can come on unconverted persons, irregenerate souls, not to awake till God comes on them, never to bestir them
1Jer. chap. 31. ver. 18.
selves till hell rouse them up. Thus will it be with us, unless we awake by repentance, God will come stealing on us as a thief by sudden death and speedily cut us off.
To pray against sudden death, and not to fit thyself for it, is to add contempt to thy presumption and rebellion. The wise man tells us, "Thatk man knoweth not his time, as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them." Mark, when it falls suddenly, at unawares, here is the wisdom then to provide that thou mayest not be taken suddenly. "If the good man of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to have been broken up." And therefore Christ counsels us "to watch, since we know not the day nor hour when the Son of man cometh." Here is the difference then between wisdom and folly. Hereby may we know whether we are wise men or fools, if we foresee this day, and provide for it, it is an argument of wisdom, if we watch, so as that, when it falls, it may not fall on a sudden on us. If we are negligent of this day, and suffer our hearts to be dead as " Nabal'sm like a stone." He had a great time of repentance, ten days, yet repented not, for his heart was dead, and like a stone; and this may be the case, if thou despisest the day of thy salvation, God's day, and thine own day too, thou mayest be a Nabal, no more moved than a pillar in the church, as I have found some by sad experience.
But you may reply, I suppose God will not take me at an advantage, I trust I shall have life and space, and not Nabal's condition; I hope I shall have my wits about me to be able to cry, "Lord have mercy upon me."
But suppose God gave thee a tender heart, and thou art sensible of thy danger, that so thou call and cry earnestly to God for mercy, yet this is a miserable condition. Thou shalt find it will not be enough to cry, "Lord be
k Eccles. chap. 9. ver. 12. 1 Matth. chap. 24. ver. 43.
■1 Sam. chap. 25. ver. 37.