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time have been spent in holy converse, which you trified away in idle, impertinent discourse, or in doing nothing, or that which was much worse than nothing? What force, what constraint is laid upon you? Can you not think? and, if you can, cannot you think of God as well as of the world ? as well concerning fulfilling God's will, and working out your salvation, as fulfilling your lusts? Can you not speak? and, if you can, can you not speak to God in holy prayer, and of the things of God in holy discourse, as well as of your trades and bargains; those low and trivial matters, that are not worthy of men, much less of Christians ? What force is there upon you? doth the Devil skrew open the drunkard's mouth, and pour down his excessive and intemperate cups whether he will or no doth the Devil violently move the tongue of the swearer and blasphemer, to revile the holy and reverend name of God? doth he strike men dumb, when they should pray; or deaf, when they should hear; or senseless, when they should understand ? Is there any such force or constraint laid upon you ? May you not avoid the one, and do the other, if you yourselves please? You can; but you will not: therefore, neither would you work out your own salvation, if you could. Is there any hope, that you, who will not do the less that God requires from you, should ever be induced to perform the greater ? Let your weakness and impotence be what it will, yet your condemnation will lie upon you, so long as your wilfulness is much greater than your weakness. · No, Sinpers, your precious and immortal souls will eternally perish now for want of will to save them. Pity yourselves : will you lose yourselves for ever, only out of sloth? Will you sleep yourselves into hell, and go drowsily into destruction? Is it more painful to work the works of God, than it is to perish for ever under insupportable torments? Therefore, do you what you possibly can: labour and sweat at salvation, rather than fail of it. Let this never .grate nor fret your consciences in hell, that you lie there burning for ever, merely for your wilful neglects.
When a man is gone far towards Christianity, there are several things, that make him neglect a further progress. As,
i. HIS GROUNDLESS FANCYING OF DIFFICULTIES AND HARD EN. COUNTERS IN THE WAYS OF GOD.
Oh, were it but as easy to be holy as sinful, he were wretched that would refuse to be a Christian; or, were Christianity but one hard pull or difficult pang, that would soon be over, there were some encouragement for them: but, when they have already struggled, and wrestled, and waded against the stream, thus far; and yet see no end, duty to be performed upon duty, and temptation upon temptation to be resisted, still to be combating with devils, still to be crossing and vexing of themselves, no respite, no breathing-time allowed them: this takes off their wheels; and, though they are able to do this, yet they will rather sit down quite short of grace, than run through such hardships to attain it: and so they come up in the mid-way, neither holy, nor profane ; but please themselves with a mediocrity, and middle rank of religion, and dare not go further for fear of difficulties, nor yet dare fall further back for fear of conscience; and so they lie hovering between heaven and hell. Now this is merely from wilful sloth : Prov. xxvi. 13. The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way: a lion is in the streets : here the Wise Man brings in a drowsy sluggard, dreaming of dangers and difficulties, to excuse his sloth : “I dare not stir abroad, for there is a lion in the streets :” a likely matter, that there should be a lion in the streets! but yet see how this fancy works with him: any thing is an excuse for the sluggard. In ver. 14. As the door turneth upon the hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed : a door is often in motion, to and fro; but it gains no ground, makes no progress, still hangs where it did : so it is with slothful professors : that, which they have already attained to, is, that they move to and fro like a door upon the hinges, still the same motion over and over again, no new progress, no new attainment; and that, merely because they are sluggish and lazy, and fancy difficulties to themselves, and strange apparitions in the ways of God, that make them stand at a stay where they are, and not dare to take one step forward. As it was with the Israelites, who came to the very borders of the land of Canaan, Numb. xiii. 27, 28, 33. when the searchers had brought reports to them, that the land indeed was good and fruitful, but the walls of the city were built up to heaven, and that there were many giants, and that they should be beaten and eaten; they were not so much allured with the goodness of the land, as they were deterred by the thoughts of the difficulties; and, though God himself bad them arise, and enter, and take possession, they would not venture upon so hazardous an exercise, and so difficult an enterprise : so, therr are many forward professors, who are come to the very bort
of the Land of Canaan, to the very entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, who, when they see what strong-holds of iniquity they must cast down, what principalities and powers they must fight with, and what lusts, gigantic as the sons of Anak, they must subdue and destroy, this frights them from attempting any further.
ii. TO BE ALMOST A CHRISTIAN CARRIES IN IT THOSE ADVANTAGES AND ACCOMMODATIONS, WHICH, WERE THEY ALTOGETHER SUCH, THEY MUST LOSE: and, therefore, this is one reason, why so many stick in the New-Birth.
Such an one is no saint; and, therefore, the men of the world embrace him : such an one is no profane and scandalous person; and, therefore, the children of God embrace him, and think well of himn too: and thus he doth hold a correspondency with both of them, which, were he altogether either one or the other, he must break off; and, therefore, finding the conveniency of this neutral estate, he stops where he is, short of true grace, Were he a profane wretch, then those, that are truly godly, would avoid his company: or, were he truly godly, then the world would reject and scorn him: the godly esteem and love him, and from their ready charity they look upon him to be truly gracious: “ Those, that are true Christians," thinks the Almost Christian, “ look upon me as such as themselves: and what need I begin, by a forward zeal, to disoblige the world? And the wicked and profane respect me too, because I go a little before them; though not quite cross and contrary to them: and so I enjoy the good opinion of both sorts; which, were I fully one or the other, I should hardly attain." This man can, as it were, hold heaven with one hand, and yet hold the world with the other; not lose his interest in the one, and yet retain his interest in the other: he can enjoy the delights and pleasures of the one, and then hope for the rewards and happiness of the other. Were we lodged in a star, then the earth would appear very small, and almost nothing, as the stars do now to us; so, were we more above, the earth would appear either as very small, or as nothing: thus it is with a child of God: he soars up by the wings of faith and love to the Heavenly Jerusalem, and the earth appears very inconsiderable to him; but an unregenerate man, when he mounts highest, yet still will be sure to keep earth in his eye: he will not lose the sight of that; and, therefore, when he hath got to such a pitch, that he is able to discover something of heaven and yet not lose the sight of earth, there he hangs in æquilibrio, and will be drawn no further: he keeps something of the earth in his eye; and will not lose nor diminish his sight or share of it; for the hopes and joys of heaven.
iii. FALSE OPINIONS AND CONCEITS THAT THEY ARE ALREADY CHRISTIANS, hinder these forward professors from being true Christians.
It may be, they would be Christians indeed, did they not think they were already such. When men are gone far, then they are apt to think they are got home; and so they have taken up their rest, and will be driven on no further: they think that what they have already gotten, is enough to bear their charges to heaven; and so they grow careless of getting more: they are persuaded that they are Christians; and that keeps them from being persuaded to be such. I do not intend to forbid eminent professors to think they are indeed Christians; but let them look how this persuasion works with them: doth it tend to make them more careless, negligent, and remiss ? when they have been under troubles of conscience for their sins, then they saw themselves in a lost and undone condition, and had hot and scalding apprehensions of the wrath of God; then they were laborious to frequent duties, conscientious in their walking, and fearful lest they should sin : but, since their troubles have been worne off, they have entertained better hopes and better opinions of their state: are they not grown more loose, and more regardless ? they do not take so much pains with their hearts; nor are they so strict, and holy, and severe in their lives : I must tell such, what the Apostle tells the Galatians, ch. v. 7, 8. Ye did run well: who hindered you? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you: this persuasion that you are Christians, cometh not of him that calleth you: possibly it would be well with them, if they did not think they were so. Sirs, if the thoughts of your being Christians and in a state of grace, do encourage you to walk worthy of that holy calling; if the hopes of your good and holy estate, do engage you to purify yourselves as God is pure, as they will work if they be right and genuine ; then still entertain and cherish them: but, if they turn to looseness, remissness, or presumption, here suspect them to be the overweening conceits and elevations of a carnal heart; and such, as will certainly hinder you of what you thus fondly imagine yourselves to be, hinder
you from making further progress in the ways of Christianity, in regard you take up false conceits that you are Christians already.
iv. Another ground, whence it is that forward professors many times fall short of true Christianity, is, that, when they are already gotten far, then, ESPECIALLY THE DEVIL DOTH ALL HE CAN TO HINDER THEM: when they have gone far towards grace and Christianity, then he unites all his force and subtlety to stop them from proceeding further, lest they get from under his power and jurisdiction.
He knows that if they once become Christians, they are then almost out of his reach; and, therefore, whatever lust be in the soul, he will then especially stir it up; whatsoever reserve of temptations there be, he will then send them upon the soul : for none are more assaulted with horrors and multiplied temptations, than those, who make a great progress towards the ways of God, and are near to the borders of true Christianity; because then the Devil suspects that he shall lose them, and that they are even revolting from him. When they begin to move towards heaven, and labour after true grace and holiness, the Devil sees that ordinary temptations are not then sufficient to secure them; that those lusts, which before hampered and captivated them at his pleasure, will not now so easily prevail; for he finds them too resolute, too rough, and untractable to deal with. He begins then to fear to what a rebellion this may grow; and, therefore, he sets upon them with all his power, way-lays them with all ambushments, circumvents them with all his wiles and stratagems: and, though these be only armies and musters of shadows, which a 'man might break through without any danger, would he but arm himself with noble and undaunted resolutions; yet, with these, the Devil assaults and undermines them, and that incessantly, and doth at last stop them in their course towards grace, if not beat them back again to their former course of profaneness. Luke xi. 24, 25, 26. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest ; and, finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house, whence I came out : And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh....seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there : and the last state of that man is worse than the first : i, e. when men have cast out unclean, gross lusts by an external sanctification, so that the Devil seems to be dislodged; when he seeks to return again to