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OF CONVERSION UNTO GOD; OF REDEMPTION AND JUSTIFICATION BY CHRIST.
THE EIGHT EEV. JAMES USHER,
LATE BISHOP OF ARMAGH IN IRELAND.
JOHN CRABB, WILLIAM BALL, AND THOMAS LYE,
MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL,
WHO WRIT THEM FROM HIS MOUTH, AND COMPARED THEIR COPIES TOGETHER.
He being dead yet speaketh Heb. xi. 4.
Herrews, Chap. IV. ver. 7.
"Again he 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."
I Have entered on these words in the other university on a day of public humiliation, as being suitable to the occasion, the chief matter of them being the doctrine of the conversion of a sinner
Forasmuch as "God's judgments are abroad upon the earth," and hang over our heads, the only means to prevent and remove both temporal and eternal, is our speedy conversion and return unto God, else "He" will whet his sword, bend his bow, and make it ready" to our destruction. God did bear a deadly hatred against sin in the time of the psalmist, and so he doth still, for his nature cannot be changed. If we return not, we are but dead men. The eternal weight of God's wrath will be our portion, both here, and in the world to come, if we repent not.
In the words there are three observable points, though not expressly named, yet if we weigh the context, sufficiently implied.
» Psalm 7. ver. 12.
1. Continuance in sin brings certain death, it hinders us from entering into God's rest, and out of it there is nothing but death: or,
For sin God's judgments are on particular nations, and persons.
2. If particular nations, or persons turn away from their evil courses, no hurt shall come near them, or if temporal calamities surprize them, they shall be made beneficial unto them.
"God takes no delight in the death of a sinner," nor that he should despair of his mercy: but would have us turn out of the broad way, which leads to destruction.
3. It behoves every one speedily to set about the work of conversion.
Esteem not this therefore a vain word. I bring you those things, whereon your life depends. Obeying it, you are made for ever, neglecting it, you are undone for ever. Unless you embrace this message, God will bend his bow, and make ready his arrow against you, or rather the arrows which he hath drawn to the head, he will let fly upon you. Know therefore,
1. "That continuance in sin brings certain death." There will be no way of escaping, but by repentance, by coming in speedily unto God.
The words of this text are taken from Psalm XCV. "Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, and as in the temptation in the wilderness." If when God calls us, either to the doing of this, or leaving that undone, yet we are not moved, but continue in our evil ways. What is the reason of it? It is because we harden our hearts against him. The Word of God; which is "the power of God to salvation, and a two-edged sword to sever between the joints and the marrow." The strength of the Almighty encounters with our hard hearts, and yet they remain like the stony and rocky ground: whereon though the word be plentifully sown, yet it fastens no root there, and though for a season it spring, yet suddenly it fades and comes to nothing. We may haply have a little motion by the word, yet there is a rock in our souls, a stone in our hearts, and though we may sometimes seem to receive it with some affection, and be made as it were sermon-sick, yet it holds but a while, it betters us not: Why? because it is not received "as an ingrafted word." Therefore, saith St. James, "Receiveb with meekness the ingrafted word." Let the word be ingrafted in thee; one sprig of it is able to make thee grow up to everlasting life. Be not content with the hearing of it, but pray God it may be firmly rooted in your hearts; this will cause a softening. "To-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts" against Almighty God. If you do, expect him also to come against you in indignation. Hearken what he saith by his prophet: "Ic will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees, that say in their heart the Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil." Mark, "I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish those that are settled on their lees." When a man is thus settled and resolved to go on in his sins, to put the matter to the hazard come what will come, there is a kind of atheism in the soul. For what does he but in a manner reply, when God tells him by his minister that he is preparing the instruments of death against him, Do you think us such fools to believe it? What does this but provoke God to "swear that we shall never enter into his rest." What is the reason of this? It is because men are not shifted, they have no change, they are settled on their lees. "Moab hath been at ease from his youth, he hath been settled," and hath not been emptied " fromd vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity." Consider we whether our security comes not from the same cause: we have not been emptied from vessel to vessel, we have always been at rest. Why have we so little conversion? There are two things hinder it: the hardening of a man's heart