Page images
PDF
EPUB

an inensibility and boldness in sin, and drive away the fear of God from the heart. Now it may be you are somewhat awakened, and begin to see that you must turn or die ; but if you trifle and delay, this light may be gone, and leave you in greater darkness than before; and the voice that now awakeneth you, may be silent and leave you to fall asleep again.

Moreover, you know that you are uncertain of the continuance of the Gospel. You know not whether you shall have such lively, serious preachers as you now have, nor you know not whether you shall have such godly neighbours and company to encourage you and help you in the work. God will remove them one after another to himself, and then you will have fewer prayers for you, and fewer warnings, and good examples, and perhaps be left wholly to the company of deceived, ungodly fools, that will do nothing but hinder and discourage you from conversion. And you are not sure that religion will continue in that reputation as now it is in. The times may turn, before you turn; and godliness may become a scorn again, and, it may be, a matter of suffering, and may cost you your lives to live as the servants of Christ must do. And therefore if you stop at it now as a difficult thing, when you have all the helps and encouragements that you can expect, and the way to heaven is made so fair; and when magistrates, and ministers, and neighbours are ready to encourage and help you; what will you do in times of persecution and discouragement ? If you cannot turn when you have all these helps and means, what will you do when they are taken from you? If you cannot row with the stream, how will you row against it? If you dare not set to sea, when you have wind, and tide, and sunshine, what will you do in storms and tempests, when all is against you? O what would some of your forefathers have given to have seen the days that you see! How glad would many a thousand in other countries of the world be, to have but the helps to heaven that you have? Never look to have the way

fairer and easier while you live. If you think heaven is offered you at too dear a rate now, you may even let it go, whether hell be better; for the next offer is like to be upon harder terms rather than easier. If you cannot now find in your hearts to turn and live a holy life, what would you have done in the days of the apostles, or ancient Christians?

and try

lives; you

case.

And, what would you have done in Spain or Italy, where it would cost you your lives? He that will not be converted now, but thinks the terms of grace too hard, is so impious a despiser of Christ and heaven, that it is no wonder if God resolve that he shall never taste of the salvation that was offered him. Luke xiv. 24.

Moreover, you know upon what uncertainties you hold your

have no assurance of them for an hour, but you are sure that they are passing away whilst you delay. And will you trifle then in a work that must be done? What a case are you in, if death find you unconverted! The heart of man is not able now to conceive the misery of your

How dare you venture to live another day in an unconverted state, lest death should find you so ? Are you not afraid when you lie down at night, and afraid when you go out of your doors in the morning, lest death surprise you before you are converted ? If you be not, it is long of your deadness and presumption.

And I would fain hear what it is that should thus stop you. What are you afraid of? Is God an enemy, that you are loath to come to him? Is the devil a friend, that

you are so loath to leave him? Is sin a paradise ? Is holiness a misery? Is it a pleasanter life to love your money, or your lands, or your meat and drink, and lusts, than to love the most blessed God, the Creator of the world, the life of our souls, and our eternal felicity? Is it better to pamper a carcase that must shortly stink as the dung, than to provide for a living immortal soul? Whether do you think that earth or heaven will be the more glorious and durable felicity?

What is it, sirs, that you stick at, that you make so many delays before you will turn ? Is there any difficulty in the point? Do you think it a hard question whether you should turn or not? Why, how can you be so blind? Do you stand pausing upon the business, as if it were a doubt, whether God or the world were better, and whether sin or holiness, Christ or death, heaven or hell, were to be preferred? I pray you, consider ; can you reasonably think that conversion will do you any harm? Can it bring you into a worse condition than you are in? Sure you cannot fear such a thing ; you are in your blood ; you are dead in sin; you are children of wrath, while you are unconverted; you are under the curse of the law of God; you are the slaves of the devil, you are the heirs of hell, and under the guilt of all your sins; your life is a continued rebellion against God; you are employed every day in the destroying of yourselves, in kindling the flames that must everlastingly torment you, and laying in fuel for the perpetuating of your misery; and fighting against your friends, that would deliver you, and unthankfully abusing Christ, and grace, and ministers, and friends, that would save your souls. This is the condition that every one of you is in, till you are converted. And can you fear lest conversion would bring you into a worse condition than this ? Sirs, these truths are sure and plain; and if yet you stick at it, your error is so palpably gross, that unless you are madmen, I

may be bold to say it is a wilful error. And if you love to be deceived, and wilfully choose a lie, you must take that you get by it.

3. Consider further, That half-conversions do often prove an occasion of deluding men's souls, and making them quiet in a miserable state, and so of keeping them from being converted to the last. If you had never done any thing in it, you would more easily be persuaded that your case is bad, and that there is still a necessity of your change. But when you have had some convictions, and troubles of mind, and fears, and sorrows, and so have fallen into an outside, partial reformation, and now are persuaded that you are truly converted, when it is no such matter, what a dangerous impediment to your conversion may this prove? And all because you slubber over the work, and cut it off before it reacheth to sincerity, and strive against the workings of the Spirit, and break away from your physician before he hath done the cure, and would not follow it on to the end. know that a half-conversion, if it be known to be no more, is much better than none; and doth often prepare men for a saving work. "But when this half-conversion is taken to be a true and saving change, as too commonly it is, it proves one of the greatest impediments of salvation. Whenever Christ shall afterward knock at your door, you will not know him, as thinking he dwells with you already. If you read any books that call on you to be converted, or hear any preachers that call on you to turn, you have this at hand to cozen yourselves with, and frustrate all. You will think, .This is not spoken to me; for I am converted already.' O how quietly do such poor, deluded sinners, daily read and hear their own doom and misery, and never once dream that they are the men that are meant, and therefore are never dismayed at the matter! This formeth you into a state of hypocrisy, and makes the course of your duties and your lives to be hypocritical. If another man that knows himself to be still unconverted, do but read the threatenings of the word against such, or hear of the terrors of the Lord from a minister, he may be brought to confess that this is his own case, and so to perceive the misery of his condition. But when such as you do read and hear these things, they never trouble you, for you think that they do not touch you: you are Scriptureproof, and sermon-proof: and all by the delusion of your half-conversion. O how zealously will such a man cry. out against the sins of others ! and tell them of their misery, and persuade them to turn, and shew them the danger that is near them if they do not : and in the meantime little thinks that it is his own case, and that he speaks all this against his own soul. How will such men applaud a sermon that drives at the conversion of a sinner, and that tells them their misery while they are unconverted ! O thinks he, this touched such and such ; I am glad that such a man and such a man heard it:' and he little thinks that it as nearly touched himself. How smoothly will he go on in any discourse against wicked, unregenerate men, as David heard the parable of Nathan, and it never once entereth into their thoughts, that they speak all this against themselves; till the Judge shall tell them, when it is too late, “ Thou art the man.” It will turn not only the stream of your thoughts into hypocrisy and self-deceit, but also the stream of your speeches to others; yea, and the current of your prayers, and all the rest of

your religious performances. When in confession you should acknowledge and lament an unregenerate, carnal state, you will only confess that you have the infirmities of the saints, and that you have this or that sin, which yet you think is mortified. When you should importunately beg for renewing grace, you will beg only for strengthening grace, or assurance; when you should be labouring to break your hearts, you will be studying to heal them; and will be hearkening after present comforts, when you have more need of godly sorrow. It will fill your mouths in prayer with pharisaical thanksgivings for the mercies of regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, which you never received. Little doth many a soul know what sanctification, and the several graces of the Spirit are, that use to give God thanks for them: there is many and many an one that must for ever be in hell, that were used in their prayers to give God thanks for their hopes of glory: and the common cause of all this deceit and misery, is, that men do run from under the hands of their physician, before he ever went to the bottom of their sore, and go away with a half-conversion, and so spend all the rest of their lives, in a mere delusion, as verily thinking they are converted, when they are not. How confidently will such receive the Lord's supper, and thrust themselves into the communion of the saints, as if they had as good right as others to be there, till the Lord of the feast shall take them to task, and say,“ Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on a wedding garment ?” and then they will be speechless; Matt. xxii. 12. How many false, deceiving comforts, and perhaps even seeming raptures and assurance, may these have in themselves, as verily thinking their case is good, when, alas, they never yet laid the foundation. Yea, and it is to be observed, that satan is a friend to the comforts of this kind of men, and therefore will do all that he can to promote them; for he would willingly keep his garrison in peace; Luke xi. 21. And therefore he may possibly be a comforting spirit to them himself, and imitate the Holy Ghost the Comforter of the saints; and, it may be, give them such raptures as seem higher than those which the Spirit of holiness doth give. He envieth the saints their peace and comfort, because he foresees how durable they will prove: but he can be content that deluded hypocrites may have joy, because their comforts do not weaken but strengthen his kingdom within them, and he knows they are like to endure but for awhile.

And thus you may perceive, how hard it is to convert one of these half-converted men, that have strangled the new creature as it were, in the birth, and that are fortified against all the means of grace, by a false conceit that they are sanctified already. See therefore that you make sure work, and take not up in the middle, and with halves, but take your present time, and give up your souls to a total change.

4. Consider, If you take up short of a thorough conversion, you lose all your labour, and sufferings and hopes, as to the matter of your salvation.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »