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entice you with the baits of fleshly pleasure, or of preferments, or much business, or merry company, or some great matters that you may hope for in the world. And usually this snare is the strongest of all. Or else he will tell you that if needs you will resolve, it is time enough hereafter : you may yet take more of your pleasure or commodity before you leave it; yet you may suck the breasts of the world a little drier, and then turn to God and cast it off. all this will not prevail with you, he will tell you it is now too late, you have sinned so long, or such heinous sins, that God will not have mercy on you; he will make you believe that God hath utterly forsaken you, and there is no remedy; and you may as well spare your thoughts of turning now, for Christ will not receive or welcome you; and therefore it is even as good to go on, and take up the rest that the world can afford you, for there is no hope of better. But the most desperate temptation of all the rest, is, to put some blasphemous, unbelieving thoughts into your mind; especially if you fall into company with infidels, that will draw you to question the word of God, and the immortality of the soul, and the truth of Christianity, or the life to come, whether there be any such things or not. Where these once take, and are received with approbation, the soul is in a miserable case. Though I know many tempted, melancholy Christians are haunted with such temptations, who yet abhor them, and do well at last, for all this. Sometimes also, when he cannot take you off from resolving, he will lead you among some disputing opinionists, and they shall entice you to take up with their opinionative religiousness instead of true sanctification, of which I have spoken in the eighth Direction. By these and many such wiles as these, doth the old serpent do all that possibly he can, to hinder you from sound resolution and conversion. And therefore you must be armed against his temptations, and meet them with abhorrence; and if you feel them too hard for you, go daily to Christ by faith and prayer for renewed strength, and call to your faithful friends and ministers for help. Open your case to some one that is able, experienced, and faithful; that he may help you with arguments to resist those temptations which you know not how yourselves to deal with. God hath appointed pastors in his church to be spiritual fathers in the Lord, and when they have sowed in you the seed of
eternal life, they watch over it till they see the blade and fruit: they travail as in birth of you, till Christ be formed in you. It is their office to help you, and God giveth to them that are faithful, abilities and affections agreeable to their office. And therefore lean upon the hand of your faithful guides, and think not to break through temptations alone, and get to heaven without the means that God hath appointed you.
Having told you the hindrances, and what to do against them, I shall add but these two words more of direction.
1. When you are resolving, give up yourselves to God with a holy covenant or vow. I mean not any rash vow, nor any unnecessary vow, but the same that you made in baptism, which your age itself doth call you to renew, but your sins against it do call you more.
Perhaps you will say that you are not able to perform it by your own strength, and you are uncertain of God's assistance, and therefore how can you promise or vow?
To this I answer, 1. You may be sure that this objection is frivolous, because it makes against the frequent and express commands of God, the practice of his church in all ages, and the nature of Christianity itself. God hath in all ages been pleased to receive men into his service and church in a covenant way, and baptism itself is our solemn covenanting with him, and the Lord's supper is appointed for a solemn renewing of it. And indeed it is implicitly and virtually renewed by a true Christian every day of his life. In every duty he gives up himself to God: and if he should cease this heart-covenant, he would cease to be a Christian, for the very essence of his Christianity consisteth in it. It
is his faith itself.
2. And when you covenant for the time to come, you do not take on you to foretel infallibly your own perseverance, but you profess your present consent to be Christ's, and to continue his, and you engage yourselves thereto. And should you not choose the strictest engagements?
(1.) Where there is the greatest need of them, because of the looseness of the heart, and the strength of temptations, that would draw us away.
(2.) Where there is the most absolute necessity, because if we miscarry we are undone.
(3.), And where you are already obliged by God's commands, whether you vow or not.
(4.) And where God hath made your consent to the obligation of necessity to salvation. He that intends to keep covenant, and knows that he must keep it, or be condemned, hath little reason to be loath to make it.
(5.) And for God's assistance, you have much more cause to expect it in the way of covenanting, which himself hath appointed you, than in the neglect of his appointed means.
Object. But I am afraid of breaking my vows again, and it is better to forbear them, than not to perform them.'
Answ. 1. This reason makes as much against the inward vow and resolution of the heart, so that by this rule you would never be Christians, for fear of falling away, and being
2. There is an absolute necessity of your resolving and covenanting, and of keeping your resolution, and covenants. And when it must be kept, or you are utterly undone, it is but a madness to refuse to make the covenant for fear of breaking it; for this is but to make choice of an easier place in hell, for fear of having a worse, if you should resolve for heaven, when as heaven is set open before you, and you thus wilfully cast away your hopes. Nay, your place in hell is not like to be the easier, when you thus deliberately and wilfully refuse the covenant.
3. Your resolutions and holy vows are means of God's appointment to keep you from breaking his imposed covenant. Is not a resolved, engaged, devoted Christian more likely to be accepted, and to persevere, than a waverer that saith, I dare not vow, for fear lest I perform not?'
In unnecessary matters, I had rather you were too backward to vow. Some will vow poverty, and some a single life, and some will vow that they will never drink wine or strong drink more; such vows as these may be good for some in cases of special necessity, as the last remedies of a dangerous disease; but they are not for all, nor rashly to be made. But the resolution and vow of cleaving unto God in faith and holy obedience, and of renouncing the flesh, the world, and the devil; this is for all, and must be made and kept by all, that will be saved.
2. Direct. And as I would have you second your resolution by a covenant with God, so I would advise you ordi
narily to go further, and openly profess the resolution and covenant that have made. you For as with the heart men believe unto righteousness, so with the mouth confession is made unto salvation;" Rom. x. 10. Christ will confess those that confess him, and disown, and be ashamed of those that are ashamed of him. When you have escaped the greatest misery in the world, and obtained the greatest mercy in the world, the greatness of it calleth you to acknowledge and give glory to God. Go to your old companions in sin, and tell them what God hath revealed to you, and done for you. Tell them, 'O sirs, I see now that which I never saw before! I wonder how I could venture so madly upon sin! and how I could make light of God, of Christ, of death, of judgment, and everlasting life. I have been hitherto your companion in sin, but I would not take the same course again for all the world. I see now there is a better portion hereafter to be obtained, which I was mindless of. I see now we were all this while making merry at the brink of hell, and there was but a step between us and death. Now I see that the course that we have taken is wicked and deceitful, and will not serve turn. If I serve the flesh, it will reward me but with rottenness. I will, therefore, hereafter, serve that God, that will certainly reward me with everlasting life. I beseech you, sirs, come away with me, and see and try what I have seen and tried. I have lived with you in sin, O now let us join together in repentance, and a holy life! I shall be glad of your company to heaven; but if you will not do it, take your course. For my part I am resolved, by the grace of God, I am fully resolved, to be from this day forward a new man, and never to join with you more in a fleshly and ungodly life. Never tempt me or persuade me to it, for I am resolved.'
Thus if you will declare your resolutions to others, and seek to win them, you may possibly do them good; but however, you will be the deeper engaged to God yourselves.
Yea, though I would have no ostentation of conversion, nothing done rashly in public, nor without the advice of a faithful minister beforehand; yet with these cautions, I must say, that it is a shame that we hear no more in public of the conversion of sinners. As baptism is to be in public, that the congregation may witness your engagement, and pray for you, and rejoice at the receiving of a member; so the
solemn renewing of the same covenant by repentance after a wicked life, should ordinarily be in public, to give warning to others to avoid the sin, and to give God the honour, and to have the prayers of the church, and to satisfy them of our repentance, that they may have communion with us. The Papists do more offend (of the two) in so much confining confession and penitence to the priest's ear in secret, and not bringing it before the church, than they do in making a sacrament of it. I wonder that people should every day thrust into our hands their request to pray for them when they are sick, and that it is so rare a matter to have any to desire our prayers, for the pardon of all the sins of their natural, unconverted state...
I would here seriously advise all those that it concerneth, that when God hath shewed them so great a mercy as to convert them and make them new creatures; they would go to their faithful minister, and by his advice put up such a bill as this: 'Such a man, of this parish, having long lived in blindness, and deadness, and ungodliness, (and name the particular sins if they were publicly known) and being by the great mercy of God convinced of his sin and misery; and sustained with some hopes of mercy by the blood and merits of Jesus Christ, and being now resolved by the grace of God, to forsake this fleshly, worldly life, and to give up himself to Christ and holiness, doth earnestly entreat the church to pray for him, that his many and heinous sins may be all forgiven, and that God would again receive him into mercy, and that he may hold on in faith and holiness to the last, and never turn again to the course of his iniquity.'
And if the minister think it meet, refuse not to make yourselves an open confession of your former life of sin and misery, and to profess openly your resolution to walk with God for the time to come.
This course should be more ordinary with us; and if conversion itself were not so rare, or else so defective, that it doth too little quicken men to a sense of duty, and sin, and mercy; or so doubtful, and by slow degrees, and that it is scarce discerned by many that have it, were it not for some of these, more ordinary would it be, to the great rejoicing and benefit of the church.
The Conclusion. And now I have given you Directions in the most great and necessary businesses of the world: