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and obtain;" 1 Cor. ix. 24, 25. And what is more contrary to this than delay? You are soldiers in fight, and your salvation lieth on the victory; and will you trifle in such a case, when death or life is even at hand? You are travellers to another world, and will you stay till the day is almost past before you will begin your journey ? Christianity is a work of that infinite consequence, and requireth such speedy and vigorous dispatch, that delay is more unreasonable in this than any thing in the world.
And besides, your souls are spirits of an excellent, active nature, that will not be kept idle: and therefore delay is unsuitable to their excellency. The best and noblest creatures are most active: the basest are most dull, and unfit for action. The earth will stand still: you may easily keep clods and stones from moving; but fire and winds that are purer things, and the sun, and such nobler, sublimer creatures, you are not able to keep idle for an hour.
Who can cause the sun to delay its course? or who can stay the ascending flames ? And therefore to your more excellent, immortal souls, and that in a work that must needs be done, how exceeding unsuitable are delays ! 50. If all this will not serve turn, let me tell you,
That while you are delaying, your judgment doth not delay; and that when it comes, these delays will multiply your misery, and the remembrance of them will be your everlasting torment. Whatever you are thinking of, or whatever you are doing, your dreadful doom is drawing on apace, and misery will overtake
you are aware. When the alehouse, little thinking of damnation, even then is your damnation coming in haste; when you are drowned in the pleasures, or cares of the world, your judgment is still hastening : you may delay, but it will not delay. It is the saying of the Holy Ghost, (2 Pet. ii.3.)“ Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” You may slumber, and that so carelessly that we cannot awake you,
damnation slumbereth not, nor hath done of a long time, while you thought it slumbered ; and when it comes it will awaken you. As a man that is in a coach on the road, or a boat on the water, whatever he is speaking, or thinking, or doing, he is still going on, and hastening to his journey's end, or going down the stream : so whatever you think, or speak, or do, whether you believe
you are in
it, or mock at it, whether you sleep or wake, whether you remember it, or forget it, you are hastening to damnation, and you are every day a day nearer to it than before ; and it is but a little while till you shall feel it. “ Behold, the Judge standeth before the door!" James v.9. The Holy Ghost hath told you, “ The Lord is at hand;" Phil. iv.5.
The day is at hand :- the time is at hand :--the end of all things is at hand;" Rom. xiii. 12. Rev.xxii. 10. 1 Pet. iv. 7.
Behold, saith the Lord, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be;" Rev. xxii. 12. And do you, as it were, see the Judge approaching, and damnation hastening on, and yet you delay?
And withal consider, that when it comes, it will be most sore to such as you; and then what thoughts do you think you shall have of these delays? You are unable to conceive how it will torment your consciences, when you see that all your hopes are gone, to think what you have brought yourselves to, by your trifling; to feel yourselves in remediless misery, and remember how long the remedy was offered you, and
you delayed to use it, till it was too late. To see that you are shut out of heaven, and remember that you might have had it as well as others, but you lost it by delay. O then it will come with horror in your mind, How oft was I persuaded, and told of this ? how oft had I inward motions to return ? how oft was I purposed to be holy, and to give up my heart and life unto God? I was even ready to have yielded; but I still delayed, and now it is too late.' Then you shall pay for all your warnings, and all the sermons and motions which you lost.
And now having laid you down no less than fifty moving considerations, if it be possible to save you from these delays, I conclude with this request to you, whoever you be that read these words : That you would but consider of all these reasons, and then entertain them as they deserve. There is not one of them that you are able to gainsay, much less all of them. If after the reading of all these, you can yet believe that you have reason to delay, your understandings are forsaken of God; but if you are forced to confess that you should not delay, what will you do then? Will you obey God, and your own consciences, or will you not? Will you turn this hour without delay? Take heed of de
nying it, lest you have never such a motion more. You know not, but God that calls you to it, may be resolved, that it shall be now or never. I do beseech you, yea, as his messenger I charge you in his name, that you delay not an hour longer, but presently be resolved, and make an unchangeable covenant with God, and as ever you would have favour in that day of your distress, delay not now to accept his favour in the day of your visitation. 0. what a blessed family were that, which, upon the reading of this, would presently say, 'We have done exceeding foolishly in delaying so great a matter so long. Let us agree together to give up ourselves to God, without any more delay. This shall be the day; we will stay no longer. The flesh, and the world, and the devil, have had too much already. It is a wonder of patience that he hath borne with us so long. We will abuse the patience of God no longer, but begin to be absolutely his this day.' If this may be the effect of these exhortations, you shall have the everlasting blessing: but if still you delay, I hope I am free from the guilt of your blood.
Direct. XII. The last Direction that I shall give you, for preventing your miscarriage in the work of conversion, is this, ' Stop not in weak and wavering purposes and faint attempts; but see that you be groundedly, unreservedly, and habitually (or firmly) resolved.'
There are many good thoughts and meanings in the soul before resolution; but you are not truly converted till you are resolved, and thus resolved as is here expressed. Here I shall shew you, 1. What this resolution is. 11. Why it is so necessary In. I shall urge you to resolve.
I shall direct you in it.
1. Resolution is the firm or prevalent determination of the will upon deliberation.
In opening this definition, I shall first shew you how we are led up to resolution by deliberation; and 2. What is this deliberation of the will.
1. There are several steps, by which the will doth rise up to resolution, which I shall set before you. And first it is presupposed, that in the state of corrupted nature, the soul is unresolved for God, if not in many that are exceeding wicked) resolved against him. At first the sinner doth ei
ther resolve to be as he is, or else he hath no resolution to return. But God breaks many a wicked resolution, or else woe to the ungodly; for there were no hope. Many wicked wretches have not only neglected their souls, but also resolved that they would never lead a holy life, nor ever join themselves to the communion of saints, nor ever leave their drunken company, or be so precise, and make so great a matter of sin as the godly do. When we urge them with the plainest words of God, and the most unquestionable reasons, so that they have not a word of sense to speak against it; when we have told them of the command of God, and told them of the certain danger of their souls, they will plainly tell us that they are resolved never to be so precise. When they have nothing else to say, but nonsense, they will put us off with this, That they are resolved to venture their souls without so much ado. But as resolute as they are, God will break and change their resolution, and make them as much resolved of the clean contrary, if ever he will save them. For woe to them that ever they were born, if he should take them at their word, and resolve as they resolve!
Now in this case there are many degrees that men go through, before they come to be resolved for God.
1. The first thing that usually befalleth such a soul, is, some further light, which shews him that which before he understood not. 2. This light causeth him to begin to doubt whether all be so well with him as he thought it had been; and whether he were so wise in his former resolutions as he thought himself. 3. When light hath bred these doubtings in his mind, these doubtings breed some fears with him, and he begins to be a little awakened, lest evil be nearer him than he was aware of, and lest the threatenings of God and his ministers should prove true. 4. These fears do drive him to consider of the matter, and to deliberate what he is best to do: to consider whether these things be so or not, and what course he must take if they should prove true. 5. Though sometimes God may bless the very first considerations to be the present means of true conversion, yet that is no usual thing; but ordinarily the first considerations do help the mind to some slight convictions, so that the man begins to see a great deal more than he did before ; and so much as puts him now past doubt that he was before inistaken, and out of his way. 6. Finding himself in this case his fears increase, and his grief comes on for his former folly and he finds himself in a miserable case, and at a loss for a remedy. 7. By thus much he is quickened to a purpose or resolution, to hearken to those that can instruct him, and inquire of them that he thinks are in the right, and to use such means as he is acquainted with, to find out what he must do to be saved. And accordingly he goes among good company, and begins to hear more diligently and sensibly, and to mark and regard what he hears and reads, and also to cry to God in prayer for mercy and relief. But all this is but from the natural fear of misery, awakened in him by common preparing grace. 8. In the use of these means of grace, he begins better to understand and relish the doctrine of redemption by Jesus Christ, and the nature and necessity of true sanctification by the Holy Ghost. And though sometimes these evangelical illuminations may be special saving works at the first, yet it is more usual, especially with us that are bred up under the Gospel, to have a more superficial, common illumination, before the saving light come in: And by this common light, men have at first but a general glimmering and confused' knowledge of a Saviour, and of redemption, and of mercy to be had by him. And sometimes they have a distinct knowledge of some parts only of the Christian faith, and sometimes a distinct knowledge and belief of every article; but only superficial, and not savingly effectual. 9. By this general or superficial knowledge of Christ and mercy, a kind of hope ariseth in the heart, that yet there is a possibility of escape, and a kind of comfort answerable to this hope. 10. These hopes are accompanied with some desires to understand yet niore of the mystery of the Gospel ; and to be made partakers of the saving mercy of which he hath a confused light. 11. And hereupon
there is further kindled in the will a purpose or resolu tion, to go further on in learning, and inquiring into the will of God, and using his means. And 12. This purpose formed, and means are further used. And thus far the soul is but in preparation, and under the common works of grace, and possibly may fall off and perish. The first degree may be so stifled, that it shall not reach unto the second ; or the second so stifled, that it shall not reach unto the third : but the most common stop is at the third degree ; when men are a little frightened, they will not follow it on to considera