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Believe it, sirs, it is not your baptism, your church privileges, or the opinion men have of you, but the testimony of your conscience, that must be your comfort. I know men are not justified at God's bar by their own obedience, nor by any exactness of life; it is only Christ's righteousness that is the sinner's plea ; but your obedience to the calls of God and conscience is the evidence that you are in Christ.
MOTIVE 10. Consider what a choice mercy it is, to be under such calls and convictions of conscience as may yet be obeyed : it is not so with convictions after death. Conscience convinces in hell as well as here, but all its convictions there are for torment, not recovery. O it is a choice mercy that your convictions are yet remedial, not purely penal-that you are not fixed in the state of sin and misery as the damned are, but yet enjoy the benefit of your convictions; but this you will not enjoy long; therefore I beseech you, by all that is dear and valuable in your eyes, reverence your conscience, and set free the Lord's prisoners which lie bound within you.
I now come to expostulate the matter with your consciences, and propound a few convictive queries to your souls. I am afraid there are many in this wretched case, who hold the truths of God in unrighteousness, though the wrath of God be revealed from heaven against all them that do so. Let me set before you some of GOD'S DEMANDS.
DEMAND 1. Do not some of you stand convinced by your own consciences this day, that your hearts and practices are vastly different from those of the people of God among whom you live, and whose character you read in Scripture ? Do not your consciences tell you, that you never took the pains for your salvation you see them take; that there are some in your families, nay, possibly in your bosoms, who are serious and heavenly, while you are vain and earthly—who are on their knees wrestling with God, while
you are about the things of the world? And does not conscience sometimes whisper thus into thine ear : Soul, thou art not right; something is wanting to make thee a Christian; thou wantest that which others have; and except something further be done within thee, thou wilt be undone for ever? If it be so, let me advise thee to hearken diligently to this voice of conscience; do not venture to the judgment-seat of God in such a case : ponder that text, Matt. 21:32, “For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not : but the publicans and the harlots believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him ;' and let the disparity your conscience shows you between your own course and that of others, awaken you to more diligence and seriousness about your own salvation. How canst thou come from the tavern, or thy vain recreations, and find a wife or child in prayer, and thy conscience not smite thee? It may be, they have been mourning for thy sins while thou hast been committing them. Perhaps there lives not far from thee a godly poor man, who out of his hard and pressing labors redeems more time for his soul in a week, than ever thou didst in thy life. O hearken to the voice of thy conscience, else thou art he that holdest truth in unrighteousness.
DEMAND 2. Did thy conscience never meet thee in the way of sin, as the angel of the Lord met Balaam with a drawn sword, brandishing the threatenings of God against thee? Did it not say to thee, as a captain once said to his soldiers about to retreat, casting himself down in their way, “ If you go this way you shall go over your captain, you shall trample him first under your feet ?” “Stop, soul, stop!" said thy conscience; "this and that word of God is against thee; if thou proceed, thou must trample upon the sovereign authority of God, in this or that command.” Yet thy impetuous lusts have hurried thee forward : thou wouldst not fairly debate the case with thy conscience; and then did not thy conscience say to thee, as Reuben did to his brethren, “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child ; and ye would not hear ? therefore behold also his blood is required.” Gen. 42:22. If this has been your course of sinning, verily you are the persons that have held the truth of God in unrighteousness, and against you the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.
DEMAND 3. Have you not seen the wrath of God revealed from heaven against other sinners who have gone before you in the same course of sin in which you now go ? and yet you persist. in it, notwithstanding such dreadful warnings. Thus did Belshazzar, though he saw all that the God of heaven had done to his father. Dan. 5:20–22. You have seen great estates scattered, and their owners that got them by fraud and oppression reduced to beggary; yet when a temptation is before you, you cannot forbear to take the advantage, as you call it, to get the gain of oppression. You have seen drunkards clothed with rags, and brought to miserable ends—adulterers severely punished, their names and estates, souls and bodies blasted, and wasted by a secret, but just stroke of God. Have you taken warning by these strokes of God, and hearkened to the monitions and cautions your consciences have thereupon given you ? If not, thou art the man who holdest the truth of God in unrighteousness.
DEMAND 4. Do not your hearts rise against necessary and due reproofs given you by those who love your souls better than you do? If you hate a faithful reprover, though you know you are guilty of the sin he reproves—if you recriminate or deny in such cases, you are certainly so far confederate with Satan against your own soul, and imprison your own convictions.
DEMAND 5. Have not some of you apostatized from your first profession, and are not those hopeful blossoms which once appeared upon your souls blighted and gone ? You had lively convictions and melting affections, tenderness in your conscience and zeal for duties; but all is now vanished; your assections are cold and your duties are omitted, though conscience often bids you remember from whence you are fallen, and do your first works. You are the persons guilty of this sin.
DEMAND 6. Do none of you presume upon future repentance, and make bold with your conscience for the present, thinking thus to compound with it? This argues thee to be a self-condemned man, and one holding truth in unrighteousness : thy sin is present and certain, thy repentance but a peradventure. 2 Tim. 2:25. This is a daring way of presumptuous sinning. . .
DEMAND 7. Have none of you taken the vows of God upon you to break off your iniquities by repentance, when you have been in dangerous sickness on shore, or dreadful tempests at sea ? Have you not said, Lord, if thou wilt but spare me this once, I will never live in the way I have lived any more: try me, O Lord, this once ; and yet, when that affliction has vanished, your purposes and promises to God have vanished with it: you are the persons that hold the known truths of God prisoners in your souls. And to all these seven sorts of sinners, this text may justly be as the handwriting upon the wall once was, even a mene tekel that may make thy very loins to shake. Dan. 5:25–31.
This doctrine furnishes important DIRECTIONS for the prevention of such presumptuous sins in men, that truth may have its free course through their souls.
DIRECTION 1. And to this end my first direction is, that you fail not to put every conviction into speedy execution. Do not delay; it is a critical hour, and delays are exceedingly hazardous. Convictions are fixed and secured in men's souls four ways. First, by deep and serious consideration : "I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” Psalm 119:59. Secondly, by earnest prayer : thus Saul, under his first convictions, fell on his knees : “Behold, he prayeth.” Acts 9:11. The breath of prayer foments and nourishes the sparks of conviction, that they be not extinct. Thirdly, by diligent attendance on the word. The word begets conviction, and the word can through God's blessing preserve it. Fourthly, by performing, without delay, the duty thou art convinced of, “If any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass; for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” James 1:23, 24. Take the sense thus : a man looks into the glass in the morning, and perhaps he sees a spot on his face, or a disorder in his hair or clothes, and thinks with himself, I will rectify it anon; but being gone from the place, one thing or other diverts his mind, he forgets what he saw, and goes all the day with the spot on his face, never thinking of it more. O brethren, delays are dangerous, sin is deceitful, Heb. 3:13; Satan is subtle, 2 Cor. 11:3, and in this way he gains his point. This motto may be written on the tomb of most that perish : “Here lies one that was destroyed by delays.” Your life is uncertain, so are the strivings of the Spirit. Besides, there is a mighty advantage in the first impulse of the soul. When thy heart is once up in warm affections and resolutions, the work may be easily done ; as a bell, if once up, goes easily, but is hard to raise when down. See, in 2 Chron. 29:36, what advantage there is in a present warm frame. Besides, the nature of these things is too serious and weighty to be postponed and delayed. You cannot get out of the danger of hell, or into Christ too soon. Moreover, every repetition of sin after conviction greatly aggravates it. For it is in sinning as in numbering, if the first be one, the second is ten, the third a hundred, and the fourth a thousand. And to conclude, think what you will, you can never have a fitter season than the