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and that terrible things; even then, when a sinner bath done all he can to sear and stupify it.
Consider, again: how is it with you, after the rage of your sinning is over? are you not haunted with fearful reflections and ghastly thoughts of despair and horror? Could we but unbowel a sinner, we should find those conscience-worms, gnawing and knotting about him, and devouring his heart. And are these wont to dissolve into trouble, for fear religion and boliness should trouble them? are they content to buy ease and quiet at such a rate, as the loss of heaven and eternal torments amount to ? and is this the ease and quiet, that they purchase with it? The Devil puts a gross cheat upon these men : he changeth not the trouble, but the time of it: they shun the work of God, only because it is troublesome in doing, though it doth leave behind it the blessed fruits of peace, joy, and satisfaction; and they engage in the work of the Devil, which, as soon as the heat and fury of it is a little oyer, leaves, in their sober thoughts, nothing but anguish, sțings, and torments. And, therefore, be not deceived: suffer not the Devil any longer to abuse you; and to impose his drudgery upon you, under the notion of ease and quiet. If your consciences were once awakened, I know the work of the Devil muşt needs bring you more vexation, besides the shame, than ever you would have from the work of God: yea, the very omission and neglect of God's work is a far greater trouble, than the performance of it would be. Therefore, if you look no farther than your present content and satisfaction, if you would go to your final estate the easiest way whatever it be, think not to attain this by giving up yourselves to a way of sin, nor by wounding your own consciences, which with trouble afterwards will be sure to be avenged upon you; but, in a way of duty and laborious working, you only can find present content, and shall certainly find future happiness.
OBJECT. “ True," may some say, “ possibly the work of God might be more pleasing and satisfactory to us than the work of the Devil, if we could work it. But, to what end is it, that God requires from us to work ? to what purpose doth he command us? Doth not he himself know, that we have no power? Doth not he himself say, that we are dead in trespasses and sins ? Is it rational, is it just, to bid a dead man work? or, doth it become that God, who would be thought by us to be infinitely gracious and merciful, to mock and deride human misery, when he commands those things from us which he knows to be impossible? Had he bid us blend light and darkness together, or bend the axle-tree of the world till both poles met; had he bid us fling the stars out of their orbs, or with our hands stop the sun in the midst of his course; all these great impossibilities are as easily achieved, as by our own power to work any part of divine and acceptable obedience without gracious assistance from God. We can as soon glorify, as sanctify ourselves. What should we then do, but only sit still and expect, till efficacious grace should move and act us, and we not able to gainsay and resist it ? till God so draw us, as that we must run; and so call us, as that we must answer? Till then, our obedience is an impossibility, and all our attempts are vain and fruitless.”
This now is a slothful sinner's pretence, why he will not work : and no doubt but that too often it doth flash into the thoughts of most men; whereby their hearts are discouraged and their hands weakened, in the service of God.
Answ. In answering this, I shall not enter into that great debate of the power of nature to do what is good and acceptable to God: but proceed in a plain way, and accommodated to practice; and that, which will be most convictive to the conscience.
First. Men will not plead thus in matters of far less concernment, than the salvation of their souls.
Would a master, when he commands his servant to work, take this, think you, for a sufficient excuse, that he hath no power to work till God act and move him? It may as well be objected by your servants to you, as by you to God. Tell me, what power have I to speak, or you to hear one word, unless God do concur to it? Nay, we are not sufficient to think one good thought : 2 Cor. iii. 5. and do we make this an excuse to forbear those actions, that are necessary and convenient ? do we therefore resolve to do nothing, because it is impossible for us to do any thing unless God concurs with it? What stupid, dull folly were this ! We put it daily and hourly to trial : and produce me that man, that can say God was wanting to him in his concurrence. What a miserable and ridiculous task would it be, if, in every action of our lives that we cannot do without God, yet we should sit still, and question God's concurrence! Do you sit down, to try whether God will enable you to rise when you are down? or, do you question whether God will concur to another step, though it is impossible you should stir and move, unless God act and move you ? Yet this hinders not men's endeavours: In him we live, and move, and have our being: Why do not you do so in spiritual matters? We can do nothing without God. True: yet put it to the trial, whether or no God will concur with you. Certainly, that man must be nameless, that can say, “ I was truly willing, and endeavoured to do some spiritual good, but God was wanting to me in his concurrence.”
Secondly. Those men, who thus make impotence a pretence for their sloth, do not indeed believe what they themselves pretend.
No: it is the inward and secret thought of them all, that they have a power to work out their own salvation: and, therefore, whether they have or no, still they are inexcusable: while they think they have this power, yet they sit still. Although a man be chained fast down that he cannot go; yet, if he thinks himself at liberty, and notwithstanding sits still, you may soon tell where the fault lies : it may be imputed to want of will, and not to want of power. So, here: wicked men think they have power to work, however they speak otherwise : therefore, they are utterly inexcusable if they do not work : it is as clear as the light, that their sloth proceeds not from their impotence, but from their own wilfulness.
I shall endeavour, by a few arguments, to convice you, that you do indeed think that you have power to work out your own salvation : therefore, if you do it not, you are altogether inexcusable, whether you have that power or no.
First. Did you never, when God hath shaken his rod and whip over you, seriously promise and resolve to work, his rod, I mean, either of conviction or affliction?
Have not these made you enter into an engagement with God, that you would serve and obey him for the future ? Did you not really thus resolve? There are few here, but sometimes, at least, in a fit and pang of conscience have so done. And why did you resolve all this, and yet at the same time think and believe you could do nothing ? Did you only mock God, and play with your own consciences ? Certainly, your consciences then were too much provoked, and too much awakened to be thus jested and dallied with. We find this temper in the Israelites, when they were frighted at the terrible glory from Mount Sinai: Exod. xxiv. 3 : see how confidently they promise and resolve: And all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words, which the Lord hath said, will we do. So the Jews, in their great distress, Jer. xlii. 6. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, &c. that it may be well with us. Alas! how many pious purposes and holy resolutions have your dangers, your fears, and your sick-beds been witness to! Have they not heard you breathe out, “ Spare, O Lord, spare a little longer: give some space: try us yet once more: and, () Lord, we will reform, we will amend our sinful lives, we will perform neglected duties, and never more again return to folly?” Are not these resolutions an evident conviction ? Certainly, you thought you had a power so to do; and, therefore, if you do not endeavour to perform, you are altogether inexcusable.
Secondly. Did you never, in your whole lives, perform a duty unto God? Did you never pray?
Is there any here so desperately profane, so lost to all shew of' goodness, that hath not done this? And to what end have you prayed ? For what did you perform your duty ? Was it not for salvation ? And did you work for salvation, and yet think you had no power to work for it? It is impossible: men's very works do plainly shew, that they do think that they have a power: something still must be done, though it be but formally, slightly, and coldly: a mere “ Lord, have mercy upon me,” a customary “ Lord, forgive me;" yet something conscience will require, which men reckon upon, and make account to be working out their salvation.
Thirdly. Wherefore is it that you trust unto and rely upon your good works, if you think you have no power to work out your salvation?
Would it be so hard and difficult a matter to take men off from leaning so much upon their works, if they did not think that they had power to work out their own salvation? Men do apprehend a worth and sufficiency in what themselves do, in order to eternity. Bid them forego their works, and renounce their own righteousness, and this is a hard saying: you may almost persuade them as soon to renounce all their hopes of heaven. This is an evident conviction, whatever notions men may entertain to stop the mouth of a clamorous conscience, when it calls on them for working and labouring, that yet they
do not believe what they themselves speak concerning their impotence.
Fourthly. When the Spirit of God was dealing with your hearts, persuading you to enter upon a course of duty and obe. dience, did you never procrastinate and use delays? Did you never stifle the breathings, nor quench the motions of the Holy Spirit, by thinking it was time enough to do it hereafter ?
“What need I begin so soon, or vex my flesh, or deny myself the joys and pleasures of this life, even as soon as I am come to relish them? When sickness or grey hairs admonish me, and tell me I am near unto eternity; when old age promiseth me, that the severities of religion shall be no long trouble: then, will I look after the concernments of my soul; then, it will be time enough; then, I will repent, believe, obey, and work out that salvation, that will be then hastening upon me.” Tell me truly, have not these been the foolish reasonings of your hearts ? have you not thus often promised God and your own consciences ? and doth not this plainly imply, that you thought you had power to do it? Therefore thou art inexcusable, o man, whosoever thou art : it is in vain to plead want of power: God will confüte thee by thy very thoughts. Hadst thou no power? although thou hadst not, yet thou thoughtest thou hadst, yet wouldst not endeavour to work: therefore, thy ruin is as wilful, and thy condemnation as just, as if thou hadst a power, and wouldst not work; for thou perishest merely through the default of thine own will. .
Thirdly. Whether wicked men have this power or no to work out their own salvation, I shall not now stand to enquire: but, if they had it, yet they would not work with it; and, therefore, it is a most vain and insufficient plea, to pretend they wanted power.
Now this appears evidently, because there is no wicked man, that ever did so much as he was able to do by the mere strength of nature, without the assistance of supernatural grace: and, therefore, it is not their inability ; but their wilful sloth, that doth destroy them. Do but answer your own consciences: was there not one duty more, which you could have performed; not one temptation, not one corruption more, which you could have resisted? Could not you have prayed, read, or meditated upon heavenly things; then, when your hearts and thoughts have been vain, worldly, and sinful, and devilish? Might not that