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It is a weight so unconceivable that dependeth on the soundness of conversion and sanctification, that our care and diligence cannot be too great to make it sure. As the professed atheist, heathens, and infidels without, so the selfdeceiving hypocrites within the church, do wilfully cast away themselves for ever, by neglecting such a business of everlasting consequence, when they have time, and warnings, and assistance to dispatch it. Multitudes live like brutes or atheists, forgetting that they are born in sin and misery, and settled in it by wilful custom, and must be converted or condemned. These know not (many of them) what need they have of a conversion, nor what conversion or sanctification is. And some that have been Preachers of the Gospel, have been so lamentably ignorant in so great a matter, that they have persuaded the poor deluded people that it is only the gross and heinous sinners that need conversion; branding them with the name of Puritans, that will not take a dead profession joined with civility, for true sanctification; and promise salvation to those, that Christ hath with many asseverations professed shall not enter into the kingdom of God. Others that confess that a thorough sanctification is a necessary thing, do delude their souls with something that is like it. Hence is the misery and dishonour of the church. Holiness itself is disgraced by the sins of them that are unholy, because they pretend to that which they have not. Hence it is, that we have thousands that call themselves Christians, that live a worldly, fleshly life, and some of them hating the way of godliness and yet think they are converted, because they are sorry when they have sinned, and wish when it is past that they had not done it, and cry God mercy for it, and confess that they are sinners; and this they take for true repentance: when sin was never mortified in their souls, nor their hearts ever brought
to hate it, and forsake it; but when they have had the profit and pleasure of sin, they are sorry for the danger, but never regenerate and made new creatures by the Spirit of Christ. Hence also it is, that we have such abundance of mere opinionists, that take themselves for religious people. Because they have changed their opinions, and their parties, and can prate contentiously against those that are not of their mind, and join themselves with those that seem to be the strictest, they take themselves to be truly sanctified : and this makes such gadding from one opinion to another, and such censuring, reviling, and divisions, upon that account, because their religion is most in their opinions, and hath not mortified their carnal, selfish inclinations and passions, nor brought them to a holy, heavenly mind. Hence also it is, that we have so many sensual, scandalous professors, that seem to be religious, but bridle not their tongues, their appetites, or their lusts, but are railers, or backbiters, or tipplers, or gluttons, or filthy and lascivious, or some way scandalous to their holy profession, because they are strangers to a thorough conversion, but take up with the counterfeit of a superficial change. Hence also we have so many worldlings, that think themselves religious men; that make Christ but a servant to their worldly interest, and seek heaven but for a reserve, when earth forsakes them, and have something in this world that is so dear to them that they cannot forsake it for the hopes of glory; but give up themselves to Christ, with secret exceptions and reserves, for their prosperity in the world: and all because they never knew a sound conversion, which should have rooted out of their hearts this worldly interest, and delivered them up entirely, and absolutely to Christ. Hence also it is that we have so few professors that can lay by their pride, and bear disesteem or injury, and love their enemies, and bless them that curse them, yea, or love their godly friends that cross them, or dishonour them. And so few that can deny themselves in their honour, or any considerable thing, for the sake of Christ, and in obedience, and conformity to his will. And all because they never had that saving change, that takes down self, and sets up Christ as Sovereign in the soul. And hence also it is that we have in this age so many dreadful instances of apostasy: so many reproaching the Scripture, that once they thought had converted them, and the
way of holiness, that once they did profess; and denying the Lord himself that bought them; and all because they formerly took up with a superficial, counterfeit conversion. O how commonly, and how lamentably doth this misery appear among professors in their unsavoury discourse, their strife and envy, on religious pretences, their dead formality, their passionate divisions, or their selfish, proud, and earthly minds! A thorough conversion would have cured all this, at least as to the dominion of it.
Having therefore in my "Call to the Unconverted" endeavoured to awaken careless souls, and persuade the obstinate to turn and live, I have here spoken to them that seem to be about the work, and given them some directions and persuasions, to prevent their perishing in the birth, and so to prevent that hypocrisy which else they are like to be formed into, and the deceit of their hearts, the error of their lives, and the misery at their death, which is like to follow. That they live not as those that flatter God with their mouths, and "lie unto him with their tongues, because their heart is not right with him, neither are they steadfast in his covenant"." Lest denying deep entertainment, and rooting to the seed of life, or choaking it by the radicated, predominant love and cares of the world, they wither when the heat of persecution shall break forth and lest building on the sands, they fall when the winds and storms arise, and their fall be great: and so "they go out from us, that they may be made manifest that they were not of us: for if, they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us "." Look therefore to this great, important business, "and give all diligence to make your calling and election sure." And trust not your hearts too easily, or too confidently; "but turn to the Lord with all your hearts f." Cleave to him resolvedly, or with purpose of hearts: and see that you sell all and buy the pearl and stick not at the price, but absolutely resign yourselves to Christ, and turn to him, as Zaccheus and other primitive converts did, surrendering all that you have unto his willi. Leave not any root of bitterness behind; make no exceptions, or reserves; but deny
yourselves: forsake all, and follow him that hath led you this self-denying way; and trust to his blood, and merits, and promise, for a treasure in heaven, and then you are his disciples, and true Christians indeed. Reader, if thou heartily make this covenant and keep it, thou shalt find that Christ will not deceive thee, when the world deceiveth them that chose it, in their greatest extremity; but if thou draw back, and think these terms too hard, remember that everlasting life was offered thee, and remember why and for what thou didst reject it. And if in this life-time thou wilt have thy good things, expect to be tormented, when the believing, self-denying souls are comforted.
May 29, 1658.
* Luke xiv. 18. 24, 25. 33.
1 Luke xvi. 25.