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merciful unto me." If thou neglectest him here, he will cry quittance with thee on thy death bed: nor do I speak this of myself; no: look what Wisdom saith: "Because" I have called and you refused, I have stretched out mine hand, and no man regarded, but set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh." As if he had said, you refused me, on my day I called and cried unto you, but you set at nought my words, and rejected my counsel, and were wiser than I, therefore " will I laugh at your destruction:" when you are in misery I will mock and deride, instead of succouring. A terrible thing it will be, when instead of hearing our cries to answer them, he shall deride us, and laugh at our folly and madness; and in the twenty-eighth verse: "Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer, they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me." See what folly then it is to let slip this time. This is the acceptable day," Seek0 the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near." When a man refuses God's day, God will not hear his prayer, all his sighs and sobs, his groans and cries, shall not prevail. "Ip will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear." When men will needs be choosers of what God would not have, God will have his choice too, and it shall be that which will be displeasing to them. "I will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them."
"Prov. chap. 1. ver. 24, 25, 26. 0 Isai. chap. 55. ver. 6.
P Isai. chap. 66. ver. 4.
Herrews, Chap. IV. Ver. 7.
"Again be limiteth a certain day, saying in David, to-day after so long a time, as it is said, to-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
The last day I entered on the opening of this place, and shewed, how the Lord had proposed a limited time for our conversion unto him, in which we should hear and obey his voice.
We shewed farther how it was Satan's policy to make men seem wiser than God, that when God proposes a certain time, and limits us a day, wherein he will be found, we will not have his, but our own. True, say we, God calls on us, and it is fit and convenient to hearken unto him; but yet I will stay for a more seasonable opportunity. There is nothing provokes God so much against us, as when we will thus scorn that acceptable time he hath proposed: nor can there be a greater hindrance to repentance, than to stop our ears at his counsels, and to suffer him to call and cry unto us so long, and yet to abuse his patience by a foolish neglect. It accuses us of rebellion and high presumption, on such infirm grounds, to put from us the day of salvation. Folly it is in the highest degree to trust on the future, when as in our own hands we have neither space nor grace for such a business. God is the Lord, and owner of them both, and will not part with his prerogative. "Go to, you that say, to-day or to-morrow we will return unto the Lord," you add to presumption both folly and rebellion. Jezebel had space to repent, yet she repented not, for she had not the grace, that, without this, will not benefit.
Seeing then these are not in your power, "harden not your hearts, as in the provocation;" nor offer despite unto the Holy Ghost, "by* whom you are sealed to the day of redemption." If we embrace not God's day, we despise the riches of his goodness, long suffering, and patience. "Despisestb thou the riches of God's grace, not knowing that the long suffering of God leadeth to repentance V There can be no higher presumption than this, to bid defiance to the Spirit of God: nor can there be greater contempt of mercy, than to set light of the time of our repentance, and returning unto God, making that the greatest argument of our delay, which God uses to draw us to him. God gives us space, that we may repent, and we repent not, because he gives us space: He gives us life, that with fear and trembling we may set about the business of salvation, and we, through strong delusions, put from us the proffers of his grace, as if they were unseasonably offered. What madness is it to frustrate the Almighty of his ends and purposes? "Thec Lord is not slack touching his promise." It is a great stop and hindrance to our progress in goodness and the work of repentance, when we distrust God, and take him not at his word. He sends abroad his ambassadors, who proclaim, "Thisd is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation, to-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts;" yet we put this day from us, and say, hereafter is a more acceptable time. I have this delight, this pleasure to take first in the world, I am not so weaned from it, as I would be. As if God would take it well from our hands, that we should then return to him, when there is no remedy. I will first use all the pleasure the world affords me, and then, "Lord have mercy on me," will serve the turn. This is the very stifling of the beginning and proceeding of Christianity. Let this be well and speedily weighed, as we tender our good and comfort.
Obj. But may some say, what needs this haste, may we not use leisure? Soft and fair goes far.
• Ephes. chap. 4. ver. 3. b Rom. chap. 2. ver. 4.
c2 Pet . chap. 3. ver. 9.
J 2 Cor. chap. 6. ver. 2. Psalm 95. ver. 7, 8.
Sol. True, soft and fair goes fairly in the way. In this case, though thou go but softly, thou mayest come to thy journey's end; but the doubt remains still, there is a question whether thou art in the way, or not. Happy are we if we are, although we can but halt and limp on in this way: although this should be no ground for us to content ourselves therewith. We must not trifle in the ways of holiness. It is that concerns our life, and must be seriously thought on, and that speedily too. "Agreee with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him." God is thine adversary, unless thou agree with him speedily, his patience will break forth into his fury. "Kiss' the son lest he be angry, and thou perish from the right way." Thou hast no assurance of thy life, thou mayest be snapt off, whilst thou thinkest it time enough to repent and return. As long as we go out of the way of repentance, we are in the way to hell, and the farther a man goes in a wrong way, the nearer is he to hell, and the greater ado to return back: and in this regard soft and fair may go far; but it is far out of the way, far in the way to perdition and destruction. As long as we are out of the right way to heaven and happiness, we are in the path that leads directly to the chambers of death.
But let me in this particular rip up the heart of a natural man. What is the reason that when God gives men a day, and cries out, "This is the day of salvation, this is the accepted time," what in the name of God, or the Devil's name rather, for he is the adversary who maligns our salvation, should cause them to put salvation from them? To defer and desire a longer time? Thus a natural man reasons with himself, I cannot so soon be taken off from the profits, and pleasures of the world; I hope to have a time, when I shall with more ease and a greater composedness of mind, bring myself to it: or if it be not with so much ease, yet, I trust, in a sufficient manner I shall do it: wherefore, for the present, I will enjoy the profits, and delights of the state, and condition where I
1Psalm 2. ver. 12.
* Matth. chap. 5. ver. 25. VOL. XIII.
iim; I will solace myself with the pleasures of sin for a season; I hope true repentance will never be too late.
This is well weighed; but consider, whether these thoughts which poise down our hearts, be not groundless: see, whether they will hold water at the last; and whether in making such excuses, to great presumption we add not the height of folly. To pretend for our delay the profits and pleasures of sin, and yet hope for heaven at the last, as well as the generation of the righteous; it is but a mere fallacy, and delusion of Satan, to fill our hearts with such vanities. Can it be expected, that we should have our good in this world, and in the world to come too? This is well, if it might be.
But let us try the matter, and begin with your first branch.
You are loth to part with your profits and pleasures.
But consider what a grand iniquity this is. Can you offer God a greater wrong and indignity ?" Do you thus requite the Lord, you foolish and unwise?" Dost thou think this the way to make thy peace with God, whom thou hast offended, as long as thou mayest to be a rebel against him? What a high dishonour is it to him, that thou shouldst give him thy feeble and doting old age; and the devil thy lively and vigorous youth, thy strength and spirits? Dost thou think he will drink the dregs and eat the orts? Will he accept thee in the next world, when thou thus scornest him in this?" Ifg you offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not an evil? If you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor, will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person, saith the Lord of Hosts?" But mark how he goes on: "Cursedh be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing." Mark, God accounts such service a corrupt thing, and the person that offers it a mere cheat, a deceiver. Never look for a blessing from God in heaven, when thou sacrificest to him such corrupt things. No, thou art cursed of
f Mai. chap. I. ver. 8.
h Ibid. ver. 14.