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indeed they think and believe, as their cry at the last day will manifest. Put your souls a little unto it. Do you at all seriously think of these things ? Or, are you so under the power of your lusts, ignorance, and darkness, that you neg. lect and despise them? Or, do you rise up and lie down, and perform some duties, or neglect them with a great coldness, remissness, and indifferency of spirit, like Gallio, not much caring for these things ? Or, do you relieve yourselves with hopes of future amendment, purposing that if you live, you will be other persons than you are, when such and such things are brought about and accomplished ? Or, do you not hope well in general upon the account of what you have done, and will do ? If any of these express your condition, it is unspeakably miserable. You lie down and rise up under the wrath of the great God, who will prevail at last upon you, and there shall be none to deliver. If you shall say, Nay, this is not our state; we rely on mercy and forgiveness : then let me in the fear of the great God entreat a few things yet farther of you.
1. That you would seriously consider whether the forgiveness you reșt on, and hope in, be that gospel forgiveness which we have before described ? or is it only a general apprehension of impunity, though you are sinners; that God is merciful, and you hope in him, that you shall escape the vengeance of hell-fire ? If it be thus with you, forgiveness itself will not relieve you. This is that of the presumptuous man, Deut. xxix. 19. Gospel-pardon is a thing of another nature; it hath its spring in the gracious heart of the Father, is made out by a sovereign act of his will, rendered consistent with the glory of his justice and holiness by the blood of Christ, by which it is purchased in a covenant of grace, as hath been shewed. If you shall say, Yea, this is the forgiveness we rely upon, it is that which you have described, then I desire farther that you would
1. Examine your own hearts, how you came to have an interest in this forgiveness, to close with it, and to have a right unto it. A man may deceive himself as effectually by supposing that true riches are his, when they are not, as by supposing his false and counterfeit ware to be good and current; how then come you to be interested in this gospel-forgiveness ? If it hath befallen you you know not how; if a
lifeless, barren, inoperative persuasion of it hath crept apon your minds; be not mistaken, God will come and require his forgiveness at your hands, and it shall appear that you have had no part nor portion in it. If you shall say, Nay, but we were convinced of sin, and rendered exceeding unquiet in our consciences, and on that account looked out after forgiveness, which hath given us rest; then I desire,
2. That you would diligently consider to what ends and purposes you have received, and do make use of this gospelforgiveness. Hath it been to make up what was wanting, and to piece up a peace in your own consciences ? that whereas you could not answer your convictions with your duties, you would seek for relief from forgiveness? This, and innumerable other ways there are, whereby men may lose their souls when they think all is well with them, even on the account of pardon and mercy. Whence is that caution of the apostle, . Looking diligently lest any one should seem to fail,' or come short of the grace of God;' Heb. xii. 15. Men miss it and come short of it, when they pretend themselves to be in the pursuit of it; yea, to have overtaken and possessed it. Now if any of these should prove to be your condition, I desire,
3. That you would consider seriously, whether it be not high time for you to look out for a way of deliverance and escape, that you may save yourselves from this evil world, and fly from the wrath to come. The judge stands at the door. Before he deal with you as a judge, he knocks with a tender of mercy. Who knows, but that this may be the last time of his dealing thus with you. Be you old or young you have but your season, but your day; it may perhaps be night with you, when it is day with the rest of the world. Your sun may go down at noon; and God may swear that you shall not enter into his rest. If you are then resolved to continue in your present condition, I have no more to say unto you. I am pure from your blood, in that I have declared unto you the counsel of God in this thing, and so I must leave you to a naked trial between the great God and your souls at the last day. Poor creatures, I even tremble to think, how he will tear you in pieces, when there shall be none to deliver. Methinks I see your poor destitute forlorn souls, forsaken of lusts, sins, world, friends, angels, men, trembling before the throne of God, full of horror, and fearful expectation of the dreadful sentence. Oh that I could mourn over you, whilst you are joined to all the living, whilst there is but hope! oh that in this your day, you knew the things of your peace!
But now if you shall say, Nay, but we will 'seek the Lord whilst he may be found,' we will draw nigh unto him before he cause darkness; then consider I pray,
4. What Joshua told the children of Israel, when they put themselves upon such a resolution, and cried out,' we will serve the Lord our God;' chap. xxiv. 19. "Ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is an holy God, a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. Go to him upon your own account, and in your own strength, with your own best endeavours and duties, you will find him too great and too holy for you to deal withal. You will obtain neither acceptance of your persons, nor pardon of your sins. But you will say, this is heavy tidings. If you sit still you perish, and if you rise to be doing, it will not be better; is there no hope left for our souls? must we pine away under our sins and the wrath of God for ever? God forbid. There are yet other directions remaining to guide you out of these entanglements. Wherefore,
5. Ponder seriously on what hath been spoken of this way of approaching unto God. Consider it in its own nature, as to all the ends and purposes for which it is proposed of God: consider whether you approve of it or no. Do you judge it a way suited and fitted to bring glory unto God? Doth it answer all the wants and distresses of
souls? Do you think it excellent, safe, and glorious unto them who are entered into it? or have you any thing to object against it? Return your answer to him in whose name, and by whose appointment these words are spoken unto you. If
you shall say, we are convinced that this way of forgiveness is the only way for the relief and deliverance of souls; then,
6. Abhor yourselves for all your blindness and obstinacy whereby you have hitherto despised the love of God, the blood of Christ, and the tenders of pardon in the gospel. Be abased and humbled to the dust, in a sense of your vileness, pollutions, and abominations; which things are every day spoken unto, and need not here be repeated. And,
7. Labour to exercise your hearts greatly with thoughts of that abundant grace that is manifested in this way of sinners coming unto God; as also of the excellency of the gospel wherein it is unfolded. Consider the eternal love of the Father, which is the fountain and spring of this whole dispensation; the inexpressible love of the Son, in establishing and confirming it, in removing all hinderances and obstructions by his own blood, bringing forth unto beauty and glory this redemption or forgiveness of sin, as the price of it. And let the glory of the gospel, which alone makes this discovery of forgiveness in God, dwell in your hearts. Let your minds be exercised about these things. You will find effects from them, above all that hath as yet been brought forth in your souls. What for the most part have you hitherto been conversant about? when you have risen above the turmoiling of lusts and corruptions in your hearts, the entanglements of your callings, business, and affairs, what have you been able to raise your hearts unto? Perplexing fears about your condition, general hopes without savour or relish, yielding you no refreshment, legal commands, bondage-duties, distracted consciences, broken purposes and promises which you have been tossed up and down withal, without any certain rest. And what effects have these thoughts produced ? have they made you more holy, and more humble ? have they given you delight in God, and strength unto new obedience? Not at all. Where you were, there you still are, without the least progress. But now bring your souls unto these springs; and try the Lord if from that day you be not blessed with spiritual stores.
8. If the Lord be pleased to carry on your souls thus far, then stir up yourselves to choose and close with the way of forgiveness that hath been revealed. Choose it only, choose it in comparison with, and opposition unto, all others. Say you will be for Christ, and not for another, and be so accordingly. Here venture, here repose, here rest your souls. It is a way of peace, safety, holiness, beauty, strength, power, liberty, and glory; you have the nature, the name, the love, the purposes, the promises, the covenant, the oath of God; the love, life, death, or blood, the mediation, or oblation and intercession of Jesus Christ. The power and efficacy of the Spirit, and gospel grace by him administered, to give you assurance of the excellency, the oneness, the safety of the way, whereunto you are engaging.
If now the Lord shall be pleased to persuade your hearts and souls to enter upon the path marked out before you, and shall carry you on through the various exercises of it, unto this closure of faith, God will have the glory, the gospel will be exalted, and your own souls shall reap the eternal benefit of this exhortation,
But now if notwithstanding all that hath been spoken, all the invitations you have had, and encouragements that have been held out unto you, you shall continue to despise this so great salvation, you will live and die in the state and condition wherein you are; why then, as the prophet said to the wife of Jeroboam, come near, for I am sent unto you with heavy tidings. I say then,
9. If you resolve to continue in the neglect of this salvation, and shall do so accordingly, then cursed be you of the Lord, with all the curses that are written in the law, and all the cursers that are denounced against despisers of the gospel. Yea, be you Anathema, Maranatha; cursed in this world always, until the coming of the Lord; and when the Lord comes, be ye cursed from his presence into everlasting destruction. Yea, curse them all ye holy angels of God, as the obstinate enemies of your king and head the Lord Jesus Christ. Curse them all ye churches of Christ, as despisers of that love and mercy which is your portion, your life, your inheritance; let all the saints of God, all that love the Lord, curse them, and rejoice to see the Lord coming forth mightily, and prevailing against them to their everlasting ruin. Why should any one have a thought of compassion towards them, who despise the compassion of God? or of mercy towards them who trample on the blood of Christ? Whilst there is yet hope, we desire to have continual sorrow for you; and to travail in soul for your conversion to God; but if you be hardened in your way, shall we join with you against him ? shall we prefer you above his glory? shall we desire your salvation with the despoiling God of his honour ? Nay, God forbid; we hope to rejoice in seeing all that vengeance and indignation, that is in the right hand of God, poured out unto eternity upon your souls : Prov. i. 21-33.