Page images
PDF
EPUB

you? And when you lie in hell and feel the smart, you will then consider of it. Now we cannot beg of you to bestow one hour in sober consideration : but then you shall do it without entreaty; then you will be as a man that hath the stone, or gout, or toothach, that cannot forget it, if he would never so fain. Forget your folly, your obstinacy, and unthankfulness then, if you can. Forget God's wrath, and the torment which you feel then if you can. Now you are so busy that you could not have while to think of the matters of the world to come; but then God will give you leisure ; you shall have little else to do; you shall have time enough: when you have thought of these things ten thousand years, you shall still have time enough before you to think of them again. You will not consider now, but, when God hath performed the intents of his heart, in the latter days, you shall perfectly consider it; Jer. xxiii. 20. XXX. 24. “O that you were wise, that you understood this ; that you would consider your latter end;" Deut. xxxii. 29.

What brings so many thousand souls to hell, but because they would not consider in time? If you could speak with any of those hopeless souls, and ask them, 'How came you to this place of torment? they would tell you,' because we did not consider of our case in time; we little thought of this day, though we were told of it; we had a load of sin upon us, and did not consider how we might be relieved: we had Christ and mercy set before us, but we did not consider the worth of them nor how to be made partakers of them: we had time, but we considered not how to make the best of it: we had the work of our salvation lay upon our hands, but we did not consider how we might accomplish it: O had we but considered what now we feel, we might have escaped all this, and have lived with God!' These would be the answers of those miserable souls, if you could but ask them the cause of their misery. There is scarce a thief or a murderer hanged at the gallows, but will cry out, 'O if I had but had the wit and grace to have considered this in time, I need not have come to this ! There is scarce an unthrift that falls into beggary, no nor a man that comes to any mischance, but will say, 'If I had considered it beforehand, I might have prevented it.' Most of the calamities of the world might have been prevented, by timely and sober considerations. God himself doth place men's wickedness much in their inconsiderateness, and lays the cause of their destruction upon it. Whence is it that Israel was rebellious to astonishment; Isa. i. 3. “Why, Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Job xxxiv. 25-27. “ He shall break in pieces mighty men without number, and set others in their stead; therefore he knoweth their works, he overturneth them in the night, so that they are destroyed. He striketh them as wicked men in the open sight of others, because they turned back from him, and would not consider any of his ways." Why do men live so wilfully in sin, but because “they consider not that they do evil;" Eccles.v. 1. How many such hath the world, that God pronounceth a woe to ?. Isa. v. 11, 12. That drink, and play, and give themselves to their merriments, “but they regard not the work of the Lord ; neither consider the operation of his hands. They consider not in their hearts the folly of their ways;" Isa. xliv. 18-20. When they see God's judgments, they consider not the meaning of them, and therefore lay them not to heart; Isa. lvii. 1, 2.

And when God calleth men to conversion, or reformation, he useth to call them to consideration as the way to it; Hag. i. 5. “ Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Consider your ways.” The son that shall escape the misery of his father, is he that considereth, and turneth away from his transgressions, considereth, and doth not his forefather's work ; Ezek. xviii. 14. 20. And when he sendeth the prophet to them, (Ezek. xii. 3.) it is but with this encouragement; “ Though they are a rebellious house, it may be they will consider.” And David professeth, that Consideration was the beginning of his conversion ; Psal. cxix.59. “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste and delayed not to keep thy statutes.”

I know that it is the Lord, that must renew and revive a sinful soul; but yet, under God, Consideration must do much. O could we but persuade our people to consider, it is not sure possible that they could be as they are, or do as they do. Would so many thousands live in ease and quietness under the guilt of so many sins, and the wrath of God, if they did but well consider of it. Durst they live so peaceably in a state of death and in the slavery of the devil, if they did but well consider of it? Would they do no more to prepare for their speedy appearing before God, and for the es

caping of hell-fire, if they did but consider of it? Would they swallow down their cups so greedily, and give up themselves to the world so eagerly, if they did but well consider what they do? Methinks they should not. The cause of sin and the devil is so naught, that I should hope to shame it with the most of the ungodly, if I could but bring them to a serious consideration of it. O how the kingdom of satan would down, if we could but tell how to make them considerate! How fast the devil would lose his servants! What abundance Christ would gain! And how many would be saved, if we could but tell how to make men considerate! And one would think that this should be easily done, seeing man is a self-loving, and reasonable creature; but yet to our grief, and great admiration, we oannot bring them to it. I should not doubt, but one sermon, or one sentence of a sermon, might do more good than a hundred do now; if I were but able to persuade the hearers when they come home, to follow it by serious consideration. But we cannot bring them to it; if our lives lay on it, we could not bring them to it; though we know that their own lives and salvation lieth on it, yet can we not bring them to it. They think, and talk of other matters almost as soon as the sermon iş done, and they turn loose their thoughts; or if they do read, or hear, or repeat a little, yet cannot we get them to one half hour's secret and sober consideration of their case. This is the reason why it is so rare a thing to see men thoroughly turn to God. This is much of the use of all God's teachings and afflictions too, but to bring men to sober consideration. God knows that sin hath unmanned us, and lost us the use of our reason, where we have most use for it; and therefore the means, and works of God, are to recover us to our reason, and to make us men again : the

very graces of his Spirit are to make us to be more reasonable.

And now, before I dismiss this direction, I have a question, and a request to make to thee, whoever thou art that readest these lines. My question is this, 'Hast thou ever soberly considered of thy ways and laid these greatest matters to heart, or hast thou not?' Dost thou ever use to retire into thyself, and spend any time in this needful work ? If thou dost not, my request to thee is, that now at last thou wouldst do it without delay. Shall I beg this of thee? Shall the Lord that made thee, that bought thee, that preserveth thee request this of thee; that thou wouldst sometimes betake thyself into some secret place and set thyself purposely to this work of Consideration, and follow it earnestly and close with thy heart till thou hast made something of it, and brought it to a resolution ? Wilt thou then spend a little time in reasoning the case with thyself, and calling thy heart to a strict account, and ask thyself, "What is it that I was made for; and what business was I sent into the world about? And how have I dispatched it? How have I spent my time, my thoughts, my words; and how shall I answer for them ? Am I ready to die, if it were this hour? Am I sure of my salvation? Is my soul converted, and truly sanctified by the Holy Ghost? If not, what reason have I to delay? Why do I not set about it, and speedily resolve? Shall I linger till death come and find me unconverted ? O then what a sad appearance shall I make before the Lord !' And thus follow on the discourse with your hearts. What say you, sirs? Will you here promise me to bestow but some few hours, if it be but on the Lord's day, or when you are private on the way, or in your beds, or in your shops, in these considerations? I beseech you, as ever you will do any thing at my request, deny me not this request. It is nothing that is unreasonable. If I desired one of

you to spend an hour in talking with me, you would grant it; yea, or if it were to ride, or go for me. And will you not be entreated to spend now and then a little time in thinking of the matters of your own salvation ? Deny not this much to yourselves, deny it not to God, if you will deny it me. Should you not bethink you a few hours, of the place and state that you must live in for ever? Men will build strong where they think to live long; but a tent or a hut will serve a soldier for a few nights. 0, sirs, Everlasting is a long day. In the name of God, let not conscience have such a charge as this against you hereafter: "Thou art come to thy long home, to thy endless state, before ever thou spentest the space of an hour in deep, and sad, and serious considerations of it, or in trying thy title to it. O what a confounding charge would this be. I am confident I have the witness of your consciences going along with me, and telling you it is but reasonable, yea, and needful, which I say. If yet you will not do it, and I can'not beg one hour's sober discourse in secret between you and your hearts about these

things, then what remedy, but even to leave you to your misery. But I shall tell you in the conclusion, that I have no hope of that soul, that will not be persuaded to this duty of Consideration. But if I could persuade you to this reasonable, this cheap, this necessary work, and to follow it close, I should have exceeding great hopes of the salvation of you all. I have told you the truth, consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding; 2 Tim. ii. 7. Or if you put me to conclude in harsher terms, they shall be still the oracles of God: “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you;" Psal. 1. 22.

And so much for the third direction about Consideration, on which I have staid somewhat long, because I apprehend it of exceeding necessity.

Direct. IV. The fourth direction which I shall give you, that the work of your conversion may not miscarry, is this : "See that the work of Humiliation be thoroughly done, and break not away from the spirit of contrition before he have done with you; and yet see that you mistake not the nature, and the ends of the work, and that you drive it not on further than God requireth you.'

Here I shall first shew you 1. The true nature of Humiliation. And

II. The use and ends of it. And
111. The mistakes about it, that you must avoid. And

iv. I shall press on the substance of the direction, and shew you the necessity of it. 1. There is a preparatory humiliation that goes

before a saving change, which is not to be despised, because it is a drawing nearer unto God, though it be not a faithful closure with him. This preparatory humiliation, which many have that perish, doth chiefly consist in these things following. (1.) It lieth most in the fear of being damned. As it is most in the passions, so most in this of fear. (2.) It consisteth also in some apprehensions of the greatness of our sins, and the wrath of God, that hangs over our heads, and the danger that we are in of being damned for ever. (3.) It consisteth also in some apprehension of the folly that we are guilty of in sinning, and of some repentings that ever we did it, and some remorse of conscience for it. (4.) Hereto may be joined some passions of sorrow, and this expressed by

« PreviousContinue »