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seem to be past fearing it, and tell them of the plague of sin, till they are past feeling ; when, instead of preaching men to faith, and repentance, and fear, and tenderness of heart,we preach them into greater unbelief and carelessness, and dead stupidity; this is enough to dull or break the heart of almost any preacher in the world. What man is able to follow so fruitless a work with liveliness? And then it is you that will have the loss and danger of it: when you have dried the breasts the child may famish. If your preachers could not awake, and change you with all their convincing arguments and fervency, how quietly may you sleep on, when you have flattened them by discouragements. If satan can either dismount, or make useless these cannons that were wont to batter his garrison, he may then possess your souls in peace. You talk against persecutors that silenced ministers; but O, sirs, it is you that are our greatest persecutors, that refuse and delay to yield to the calls of Christ by our ministry, and make us labour so much in vain. Though it be not vain as to our own souls, yet you mak in vain as to yours. When we have studied till we almost break our brains, and preached till we have quite broke our strength, and we are consumed, and worn away with labour and bodily pains that it procureth, then you come after, and make us requital by breaking our hearts by your delays, and refusing to turn and live. Truly, sirs, I must tell you for my own part, that if it had not been for those that gave me better encouragement by their obedience, I should never have held out with you a quarter of this time. If all had profited as little as some, and all had stuck as fast in an unconverted state as some; if the humble, penitent, obedient ones among you had not been my comfort and encouragement under Christ, I had been gone from you many a year ago, I could never have held out till now. Either
my ruption would have made me run away with Jonas, or my judgment would have commanded me to shake off the dust off my feet, as a witness against you, and depart. But to what end do I speak all this to you? to what end? Why, to let you see how you abuse both God and man by your delays and disobedience. You cannot possibly do us, that are your teachers, a greater injury or mischief than by thus delaying your own happiness. Are our studies and our labours worth nothing, think you? Are our watchings and
waiting worth nothing? Are our prayers, and tears, and groans to be despised ? God will not despise them if you do. Believe it, he will set them all on your score, and you will one day have a heavy reckoning of them, and pay full dear for them. Is it equal dealing with us, that when we are watching for your souls, as men that must know we must give an account, you should rob us of our comfort, and make us do it with sighs and sorrow? Heb.xiii. 17. Yea, that you should undo all that we are doing, and make us lose our labour and hopes. And yet do you not think to pay for this ? I tell you again, unconverted sinners, we are wearied with your delays. Many years we have been persuading you but to turn and live, and yet you are unturned; you have been convinced long, and thinking on it, and wishing long, and talking of it, and promising long, and yet it is undone, and here is nothing but delays. We see while you delay, death takes away one this week, and another the next week, and you are passing into another world apace; and yet those that are left behind will take no warning, but still delay. We see that satan delays not while you delay. He is day and night at work against you. If he seem to make a truce with you, it is that he may be doing secretly while you suspect him not. We see that sin delayeth not while you delay. It is working like poison, or infection in your bodies, and seizing upon your vital powers; it is every day blinding you more and more ; it is hardening your hearts more, and searing up your consciences to bring you past all feeling and hope. And must we stand by and see this miserable work with our people's souls, and all be frustrate, and rejected by themselves, that we do for their deliverance? How long must we stand by with the light in our hands, while you are serving the flesh, and neglecting that which we are sent to call you to? It is not our business to hold you the candle to play by, or to sleep by, or to sin by; these are works that better agree
with the dark. But God sent us to you on another message ; even to light you out of your sins to him, that you might be saved. Truly, beloved hearers, I must needs say, that the time seems long, and very long to me, that I have been preaching so many years to you for conversion, and for a holy, heavenly life, even since I first knew you, and that yet so many of you are drowned in sin, and ignorance, and are unconverted, when I think your very consciences tell you that it is a thing that must be done. I tell you all these
seem to me a long time to wait on you in vain. Blessed be the Lord, that it hath not been in vain with some, or else I would scarce preach any more than one other sermon to you, even to bid you farewell. I pray you deal but fairly with us, and tell us whether ever you will turn or not; if you will not, but are resolved for sin and hell, say so, that we may know the worst ; speak out your minds,that we may know what to trust to; for if we once knew
you would not turn, we would soon have done with you, and leave you to the justice of God. But if still you say, you will turn, when will you do it? You will do it, and you hope you shall; but when? How long would you have us wait yet? Have you not abused us enough? Nay, I must tell you, that you even weary God himself, it is his own expression; Mal. ii. 17. Isa. xliii. 24. • Thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities;" Isa. i. 14. And I must say to you as the prophet, “ Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but you will weary my God also;" Isa. vii. 13. Consider what it is that you do. .
46. Consider also, that you are at a constant unspeakable loss every day and hour that you delay your conversion. O how little do you know what you deprive yourselves of every day! If a slave in the gallies, or prison, might live at court as the favourite of the prince, in honour, and delight, and ease, would he delay either years, or hours ? Or would he not rather think with himself, Is it not better to be at ease, and in honour, than to be here? As the prodigal said, “How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough, and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" All this while I might be in plenty, and delight.' All the while that you live in sin, you might be in the favour of God, in the high and heavenly employments of the saints, you might have the comforts of daily communion with Christ, and with the saints; you might be laying up for another world, and might look death in the face with faith and confidence, as one that cannot be conquered by it; you might live as the heirs of heaven on earth, All this, and more than this, you lose by your delays. All the mercies of God are lost upon you. Your food and raiment, your health and wealth, which you set so much by, all is but lost, and worse than lost, for they turn to your greater hurt. All our pains with you, and all
the ordinances of God, which you possess, and all your time, is lost, and worse. And do you think it, indeed, a wise man's part, to live any longer at such a loss as this, and that wilfully, and for nothing? If you knew your loss you would not think so.
47. Nay more, you are all this while doing that which must be undone again, or you will be undone for ever. You are running from God, but you must come back again, or perish when all is done. You are learning a hundred carnal lessons and false conceits, that must be all unlearned again ; you are shutting up your eyes in wilful ignorance, which must be opened again. You must learn the doctrine of Christ, the great Teacher of the church, if you stay never so long, or else you shall be cut off from his people: Acts iii. 22. vii. 37. When you have been long accustoming yourselves to sin, you must unlearn, and break all those customs again; you are hardening your hearts daily, and they must again be softened. And I must tell you, though a little time and labour may serve to do mischief, yet it is not quickly undone again. You may sooner set your house on fire, than quench it when you have done : you may sooner cut and wound your bodies, than heal them again; and sooner catch a cold, or a disease than cure it. quickly do that which must be longer in undoing. Besides, the cure is accompanied with pain: you must take many a bitter draught, in groans or tears of godly sorrow for these delays: the wounds that you are now giving your souls, must smart and smart again, before they are searched and healed to the bottom. And what man of wisdom would make himself such work and sorrow? Who would travel on an hour longer, that knows he is out of the way, and must come back again? Would you not think him a madman that would say, I will go on a little further, and then I will turn back ?
I know Mr. Bilney the martyr, was offended with this comparison, because he thought it was against free-grace. But comparisons extend not to every respect: there are two things in your sins to be undone ; the one is the guilt, the other is the habit and the power of sin; the first indeed is done away when you are conrerted, but at the cost of Christ, which should not be made light of; and yet some scars may be left behind, and such twigs of God's rod may fall upon
you as shall make
had come sooner in. And for the habit of sin, though conversion break the heart of it, yet will it live and trouble you while you live: and those sins that now you are strengthening by your delays, will be thorns in your sides, and rebels in your country, and give you work as long as you live. And thus I may well say, that you are doing that while you delay, that must be long in undoing, and will not be undone so easily as it is done ; and you are going on that way, that must be all trod backward.
48. And methinks if it were but this, it should terrify you from your delays, that it is likely to make your conversion more grievous, if you should have so great mercy from God, as after all to be converted. There are very few escape that are so exceeding long in travail; but if you come to the birth, it is like to be with double pain. For God must send either some grievous affliction to fire and frighten you out of your sins, or else some terrible gripes of conscience that shall make you groan and groan again, in the feeling of your folly. The pangs and throes of conscience, in the work of conversion, are far more grievous in some, than in others. Some are even on the rack, and almost brought beside their wits, and the next step to desperation, with horror of soul, and the sense of the wrath of God; so that they lie in doubts and complaints many a year together, and think that they are even forsaken of God. And to delay your conversion, is the way to draw on either this or worse.
49. Consider also, That delays are contrary to the very nature of the work, and the nature of your souls themselves. Ifindeed, you ever mean to turn, it is a work of haste, and violence, and diligence, that you must needs set upon. must strive to enter in, for the gate is strait, and the way
is narrow, that leads to life, and few there be that find it. Many shall seek to enter, and shall not be able;" Luke xxxiii. 24, 25. “ When once the master of the house is risen
up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to 'us, he shall answer, I know you not whence you are; depart from all
ye workers of iniquity;" ver. 27. . It is a race that you are to run, and heaven is the prize.
know that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize; and therefore you must so run, as that you may win