Page images
PDF
EPUB

see

your hearts to tremble. You have seen, it may be, a dying man, in what pangs and agonies he parteth with his soul : and you have seen, it is like, the corps that was left there behind, and seen it laid in the common earth. But

you not what became of the soul, nor what an appearance it made in another world, nor what company did attend it, nor what a place or state it passed into. O sirs, when the hour is at hand that this must be your own case, it will awaken you

to other kind of affections, than you have or can have at the reading of these words. It is wonderful that a little distance should make us so insensible of that change which we are all certain will come to pass; and yet through the folly and deadness of our hearts it is so; but they are other kind of thoughts of these weighty matters, which we shall have the next hour after death, than the most lively affections beforehand can afford us.

The misery was great that the Redeemer did find you in, and which you deserved by your sin against the law of the Creator. But if you be found unconverted at last, your punishment will be much sorer, and your case far worse than it was before. The Redeemer's law or Gospel hath its peculiar threatening, which differeth from the law of the mere Creator in several respects; even (1.) In the nature of the punishment, which will be torments of conscience for the neglect of a Redeemer, and recovering grace, which you should never have felt if you had never been redeemed. (2.) -And in the degree of the punishment, which will be far sorer; Heb. x. 29. And (3.) In the remedilessness of it, the sentence being irreversible and peremptory. The first law indeed provided no remedy, but did not exclude remedy, (nor make it impossible; but the law of Christ doth positively and expressly exclude all remedy, and leave the soul that goeth unconverted out of the body, to utter desperation, and misery without help or hope of the end. But I shall not stand now to describe to you the terrors of judgment or of hell, because I have done it already in other books, which I desire you to fetch the rest of this meditation from; that

“Treatise of Judgment,” and the beginning of my third part of my “Book of Rest.”

u. Having told you what should be the matter of your Consideration, I shall next tell you (but briefly) in what manner you should perform it. And here I shall not stand

is, my

to prescribe you any long or exact method for meditation, both because it agreeth not with my present resolved brevity, and because the persons that I now deal with, are not capable of observing such rules ; and if any desire such helps, they may transfer the directions which are given on another subject in my“ Book of Rest,” to the subject now in hand.

1. Do not stay till such thoughts will come of themselves into your minds, but set yourselves purposely to consider of these matters. Take some time to call your souls to an account concerning their present state, and their preparations for eternity. If a heathen Seneca could call himself every night to an account for the evil committed, and the good omitted in the day past, as he professeth that he ordinarily did ; why may not even an unconverted man that hath the helps which are now among us, bethink himself of the state of his soul? But I know that a carnal heart is exceeding backward to serious consideration, and is loath to be troubled with such thoughts as these ; and the devil will do what he can to hinder it, by himself and others; but yet if men would but do what they may do, it might be better with them than it is. Will you but now and then purposely withdraw yourselves from company into some secret place, and there set the Lord before your eyes, and call your souls to a strict account about the matters that I have mentioned even now, and make it your business to exercise your reason upon them; and as you purposely go to church to hear, so purposely set yourselves to this duty of Consideration as a necess, ry thing?

2. When you are upon it, labour to awaken your souls, and to be very serious in all yourthoughts; and do not think of the matters of salvation, as you would do of an ordinary trivial business, which you do not much regard or care how it goes. But remember that

your

life lieth on it, even your everlasting life; and therefore call up the most earnest of your thoughts, and rouse up all the powers of your souls, and suffer them not to draw back, but command them to the work ;

and then set the seven points that I mentioned even now before you; and as you think of them, labour to be affected with them, in some measure according to their exceeding weight. As Moses said to Israel ; Deut. xxxii. 46. “ Set your hearts to all the words which I testify among you this day; which you shall command your children to do,"

[ocr errors]

&c. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your
life. And as Christ said, Luke ix. 44. “Let these sayings
sink into your ears ;” so

I
say
to
you,

let the matters which you think of go to your hearts, and sink down to the quick of your affections.

And if your hearts would slip away from the work, and other thoughts would creep into your mind, and you are weary of these considerations before they have done their work, see that you give not way to this laziness, or unwillingness, but remember it is a work that must be done, and therefore hold your thoughts upon it, till your hearts are stirred and warmed within you.

And if after all, you cannot awake them to seriousness and sensibility, put two or three such awakening questions as these to yourselves.

1. Quest. What if it were but the case of my hody, or state, or name, should I not earnestly consider of it? If one do but wrong me, how easily can I think of it, and how tenderly do I feel it, and can scarce forget it. If my good name be blemished, and I be but disgraced, I can think of it night and day. If I lose but a beast, or have any cross in the world, or decay in my estate, I can think of it with sensibility. If I lose a child or a friend, I can feel it as well as think on it. If my health be decayed, and my life in danger, I am in good earnest in thinking of this. And should I not be as serious in the matters of everlasting life ? Should I not think of it, and soberly and earnestly think on it, when body and soul do lie at the stake, and when it concepneth my everlasting joy or torment?

2. Quest. What if I had but heard the Son of God himself calling on me to repent, and be converted, and seconding his commands with that earnest expression, "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear;" would it not have brought me to some serious thoughts of my state? Why this he hath done in his word, and doth it by his ambassadors, and why then should I not consider it?

3. Quest. If I did but know that death were at my back, and ready to arrest me, and that I should be in another world before this day sevennight, I should then begin to bethink me in good sadness : and why do I nut so now, when I have no hold of my life an hour, and when I am sure that shortly that time will come?

4. Quest. If my eyes were but open to see that which I pretend to believe, and which is certainly true; even to see a glimpse of the majesty of the Lord, to see the saints in joy and glory, to see the damned souls in misery; and if I heard their lamentations; would not this even force my heart to Consideration? O then how earnestly should I think of these things? And why should I not do so now, when they are as sure as if I saw them, and when I must see them ere it be long?

Many more such awakening questions are at hand, but I give you but these brief touches on the things that are most common and obvious, that the most ignorant may be able to make some use of them. With such thoughts as these, you must bring on your backward hearts, and shake them out of their insensibility, and awaken them to the work.

JII. When you have brought your hearts to be serious, be sure that you drive on your considerations to a resolution. Break not off in the middle, or before you bring the 'matter to an issue; but let all be done in order to practice. When

you have been thinking of the excellencies of God and the world to come, and comparing them with all the delights on earth; put the question then to your hearts, and say, What sayst thou now, O my soul, which of these is the better for thee, which is the more desirable, and which of them shouldst thou prefer? Resolve then, and make thy choice according to the light and conviction which thou hast received.' When you are thinking of the reasons that should move you to be converted, ask yourselves, Whether these reasons be not clear, and what you have to say against them; and whether any thing that can be said to the contrary, can prove it better for you to be as you are, and to remain unconverted. Ask yourselves, 'Is my judgment resolved, or is it not? And if it be, (as sure it must be, if you be not beside yourselves) then write it down under your hands, or at least in your hearts, 'I do here confess before the Lord, that his commands are just, his motions are reasonable, his offers are exceeding merciful: I am satisfied that it is best for me to turn to him speedily, and with all my heart: I confess before him that I have no reason to the contrary, that deserves to be owned and called reason: this is my own judgment; of this I am convinced: if I turn not after this, the light that is in nie, and the judgment that now

I

possess, must needs be a witness against my soul.' If you would but thus drive on the case to a resolution of

your judgments, you would have a great advantage for the resolving of your wills, which is the next thing that you must proceed to: and therefore next ask yourselves, “Why should I not now resolve, and fixedly resolve to turn without any more delay? Is not the case plain before me? What reason have I to stand questioning the matter any longer, and to be unwilling to be happy? Shall I provoke God by dallying with him, and hazard my soul by lingering out my time in such a miserable state? No, by the grace of God I will return; even this hour, without any more delay.' Thus drive on all your considerations to resolution. (But of this I have more to say anon.)

By this time you may see of what necessity this duty of Consideration is, and how it must be performed, that it may further your conversion: but because it is a matter of so great necessity, I am loath to leave it thus, till I have done what I can to persuade you to the practice of it. To which end I entreat you to think of these following motives.

1. Consideration is a duty that you may perform if you will. You cannot say that is wholly out of your power; so that you are left inexcusable, if you will not be persuaded to it. You say you cannot convert yourselves; but cannot you set yourselves to consider of your ways, and bethink you of those truths that must be the instruments of your conversion? Your thoughts are partly at the command of your will: you can turn them up and down from one thing to another. Even an unsanctified minister, that hath no saving relish of spiritual things, can think of them, and spend most of his time in thinking of them, that he may preach them to others : and why cannot you then turn your thoughts to them for yourselves? You can think of house, and land, and friends, and trading, and of any thing that aileth you, or any thing that you want, or any thing that you love or think would do you good : and why cannot you think of your sin, and danger, of God, and of his word and works, of the state of your souls, and of everlasting life? Are you not able to go sometimes by yourselves, and consider of these matters? Are you not able when you are alone in your beds, or as you travel in the way, or at your labour, to bethink how things

« PreviousContinue »