« AnteriorContinuar »
the midst of his bravery, and honour, and feasting, and other sensual delights, as afterwards he saw it when he was tormented in the flames of hell, do you think such a sight would not have cooled his mirth and jollity, and helped him to understand the nature and value of his earthly felicity; and have proved a more effectual argument than a despised preacher's words? At least to have brought him to a freer exercise of his reason, in a sober consideration of his state and ways? Had you seen one hour what Abraham, David, Paul, and all the saints now see, while sin and flesh doth keep us here in the dark, what work do you think yourselves it would make upon your hearts and lives?
4. Suppose you saw the face of death, and that you were now lying under the power of some mortal sickness, physicians having forsaken you, and said, 'There is no hope:' your friends weeping over you, and preparing your windingsheet and coffin, digging your graves, and casting up the skulls, and bones, and earth, that must again be cast in to be your covering and company. Suppose you saw a messenger from God to tell you that you must die to-morrow; or heard but what one of your predecessors heard; “ Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee: then whose shall these things be that thou hast provided?" Luke xii. 20. How would such a message work with you? Would it leave you as you are? If you heard a voice from God this night in your chamber in the dark, telling you that this is the last night that you shall live on earth, and before tomorrow your souls must be in another world, and come before the dreadful God; what would be the effect of such a message? And do you not verily believe that all this will very shortly be? Nay, do you not know without believing, that you must die, and leave your worldly glory? And that all your pleasures and contents on earth, will be as if they had never been (and much worse)? O wonderful! that a change so sure, so great, so near, should no more affect you, and no more be fore-thought on, and no more prepared for! and that you be not awakened by so full and certain a foreknowledge, to be in good sadness for eternal life, as you seem to be when death is at hand!
5. Suppose you saw the great and dreadful day of judgment, as it is described by Christ himself in Matt. xxv. "When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the
holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory and before him shall be gathered all nations and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left;" ver. 31-33. and shall sentence the righteous to eternal life, and the rest into everlasting punishment. If you did now behold the glory and terror of that great appearance, how the saints will bé magnified, and rejoice, and be justified against all the accusations of Satan, and calumnies of wicked men; and how the ungodly then would fain deny the words and deeds that now they glory in; and what horror and confusion will then overwhelm those wretched souls, that now outface the messengers of the Lord! Had you seen them trembling before the Lord, that now are braving it out in the pride and arrogancy of their hearts, Had you heard how then they will change their tune, and wish they had never known their sins; and wish they had lived in greater holiness than those whom they derided for it. What would you say, and do, and be, after such an amazing sight as this? Would you sport it out in sin as you have done? Would you take no better care for your salvation? If you had seen those sayings of the Holy Ghost fulfilled; "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;" (Jude 14, 15. 2 Thess. i. 7-9.) what mind do you think you should be of? What course would. you take, if you had but seen this dreadful day? Could you go on to think, and speak, and live as sensually, stupidly and negligently as now you do? "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burnt up ;" 2 Pet. iii. 10-12. Is it possible soundly to believe such a day, so sure, so near, and no more regard it, nor make ready for it, than the careless and ungodly do?
6. Suppose at that day you had heard the devil accusing you of all the sins that you have committed; and set them out in the most odious aggravations, and call for justice
against you to your Judge. If you heard him pleading all those sins against you that now he daily tempts you to commit, and now maketh you believe are harmless, or small, inconsiderable things. If you heard him saying, 'At such a time this sinner refused grace, neglected Christ, despised heaven and preferred earth; at such a time he derided godliness, and made a mock of the holy word and counsels of the Lord; at such a time he profaned the name of God, he coveted his neighbour's wealth; he cherished thoughts of envy or of lust; he was drunk, or gluttonous, or committed fornication, and he was never thoroughly converted by renewing grace, and therefore he is an heir of hell, and belongs to me: I ruled him, and I must have him.' What would you think of a life of sin, if once you had heard such accusations as these? How would you deal by the next temptation, if you had heard what use the tempter will hereafter make of all your sins?
7. What if you had seen the damned in their misery, and heard them cry out of the folly of their impenitent, careless lives; and wishing as Dives, (Luke xvi.) that their friends on earth might have" one sent from the dead, to warn them that they come not to that place of torment," (I speak to men that say they are believers,) what would you do upon such a sight? If you had heard them there torment themselves in the remembrance of the time they lost, the mercy they neglected, the grace resisted, and wish it were all to do again, and that they might once more be tried with another life! If you saw how the world is altered with those that once were as proud and confident as others, what do you think such a sight would do with you? And why then doth the believing of it do no more, when the thing is certain?
8. Once more; suppose that in your temptations you saw the tempter appearing to you, and pleading with you, as he doth by his inward suggestions, or by the mouths of his instruments. If you saw him, and heard him hissing you on to sin, persuading you to gluttony, drunkenness or uncleanness. If the devil appeared to you, and led you to the place of lust, and offered you the harlot, or the cup of excess, and urged you to swear, or curse, or rail, or scorn at a holy life would not the sight of the angel mar his game, and cool your courage, and spoil your sport, and turn your stomachs? Would you be drunk or filthy, if you saw him stand by you?
Think on it the next time you are tempted. Stout men have been appalled by such a sight. And do you not believe that it is he indeed that tempteth you? As sure as if your eyes beheld him, it is he that prompteth men to jeer at godliness; and puts your wanton, ribald speeches, and oaths, and curses into your mouths: he is the tutor of the enemies of grace, that teacheth them doctè delirare, ingeniosè insanire,' ingeniously to quarrel with the way of life, and learnedly to confute the arguments that would have saved them; and subtlely to dispute themselves out of the hands of mercy, and gallantly to scorn to stoop to Christ till there be no remedy; and with plausible eloquence to commend the plague and sickness of their souls; and irrefragably maintain it, that the way to hell will lead to heaven; and to justify the sins that will condemn them; and honourably and triumphantly to overcome their friends, and serve the devil in mood and figure, and valiantly to cast themselves into hell, in despite of all the laws and reproofs of God or man that would have hindered them. It being most certain that this is the devil's work, and you durst not do it if he moved you to it with open face, how dare you do it when faith would assure you, that it is as verily he, as if you saw him?
More distinctly, answer these following questions, upon the foregoing suppositions.
Quest. 1. If you saw but what you say you do believe, would you not be convinced that the most pleasant, gainful sin is worse than madness? And would you not spit at the very name of it, and openly cry out of your open folly, and beg for prayers, and love reprovers, and resolve to turn without delay?
Quest. 2. What would you think of the most serious, holy life, if you had seen the things you say you do believe? Would you ever again reproach it as preciseness, or count it more ado than needs, and think your time were better spent in playing than in praying; in drinking, and sports, and filthy lusts, than in the holy services of the Lord? Would you think then that one day in seven, were too much for the work for which you live; and that an hour on this holy day were enough to be spent in instructing you for eternity? Or would you not believe that he is the blessed man, whose delight is in the law of God, and meditateth in it day and
night? Could you plead for sensuality, or ungodly negligence, or open your mouths against the most serious holiness of life, if heaven and hell stood open to your view?
Quest. 3. If you saw but what you say you do believe, would you ever again be offended with the ministers of Christ for the plainest reproofs, and closest exhortations, and strictest precepts and discipline, that now are disrelished so much? Or rather, would you not desire them to help you presently to try your state, and to search you to the quick, and to be more solicitous to save you than to please you? The patient that will take no bitter medicine in time, when he sees he must die, would then take any thing. When you see the things that now you hear of, then you would do any thing. O then, might you have these days again, sermons would not be too plain or long: in season and out of season would then be allowed of. Then you would understand what moved ministers to be so importunate with you for conversion; and whether trifling or serious preaching was the best.
Quest. 4. Had you seen the things that you say you do believe,what effect would sermons have upon you, after such a sight as this? O what a change it would make upon our preaching, and your hearing, if we saw the things that we speak and hear of! How fervently should we importune you in the name of Christ! How attentively would you hear, and carefully consider and obey! We should then have no such sleepy preaching and hearing, as now we have. Could I but shew to all this congregation, while I am preaching, the invisible world of which we preach, and did you hear with heaven and hell in your eyesight, how confident should I be (though not of the saving change of all) that I should this hour teach you to plead for sin, and against a holy life no more; and send you home another people than you came hither. I durst then ask the worst that heareth me, Dare you now be drunk, or gluttonous, or worldly? Dare you be voluptuous, proud or fornicators any more? Dare you go home, and make a jest at piety, and neglect your souls as you have done?' And why then should not the believed truth prevail, if indeed you did believe it, when the thing is as sure as if you saw it?
Quest. 5. If you had seen what you say you do believe, would you hunt as eagerly for wealth, or honour, and re