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Say to them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for, why will ye die, O house of Israel?
A TRUE description of those who are in a converted state has already been given you; the change which conversion makes in the soul has also been described; and the request is most earnestly repeated to you, impartially and thoroughly to consider your condition: Rest not satisfied, till you know whether you are indeed converted.
But perhaps you will say, what if we should find ourselves yet unconverted, what shall we do then?—This question leadeth me to my second doctrine, which will do much to the answering of it, to which I now proceed.
Doct. 2. It is the promise of God, that the wicked shall live, if they will but turn; unfeignedly and thoroughly turn.
The Lord here professeth that this is what he takes pleasure in, that the wicked turn and live. Heaven is made as sure to the converted, as hell is to the unconverted. Turn and live is as certain a truth as turn or die. God was not bound to provide us a Saviour, nor open to us a door of hope, nor call us to repent and turn when once we had cast ourselves away by sin, but he hath freely done it to magnify 61his mercy. Sinners, there are none of you shall have cause to go home and say I preach despair to you. Do we use to shut up the door of mercy against you? O that you would not shut it up against yourselves! Do we use to tell you that God will have no mercy on you, though you turn and be sanctified? When did you ever hear a preacher say such a word? You that bark at preachers of the gospel, for desiring to keep you out of hell, and say that they preach despair, tell me, if you can, when did you ever hear any sober man say, that there is no hope for you, tho’ you repent and be converted? No, it is the contrary that we proclaim from the Lord; and, whoever is born again, and by faith and repentance doth become a new creature, shall certainly be saved: And so far are we from persuading you to despair of this, that we persuade you not to make any doubt of it. It is life, not death, that is the first part of our message to you, our commission is to offer salvation, certain salvation; a speedy, glorious, everlasting salvation, to everyone of you; to the poorest beggar as well as the greatest Lord; to the worst of you, even to drunkards, swearers, worldlings, thieves, yea, to the despisers and reproachers of the holy way of salvation. We are commanded by the Lord our master to offer you a pardon for all that is past, if you will but now at last return and live: we are commanded to beseech and intreat you to accept the offer and return; to tell you what preparations are made by Christ; what mercy stays for you, what patience waiteth on you, what thoughts of kindness God hath towards you, and how happy, how certainly and unspeakably happy, you may be, if you will.—We have indeed also a message of wrath and death, yea, of a two-fold wrath and death; but neither 62of them is our principal message; we must tell you of the wrath that is on you already, and the death that you are born under, for the breach of the law of works; but this is but to shew you the need of mercy, and to provoke you to esteem the grace of the Redeemer. And we tell you nothing but the truth, which you must know: For, who will seek out for physic, that knows not that he is sick? Our telling you of your misery is not it that makes you miserable, but drives you out to seek for mercy. It is you that have brought this death upon yourselves. We tell you also of another death; even remediless and much greater torment, that will fall on those that will not be converted. But, as this is true, and must be told you, so it is but the last and saddest part of our message. We are first to offer you mercy if you will turn; and it is only those that will not turn, nor hear the voice of mercy, to whom we must foretel damnation to. Will you but cast away your transgressions, delay no longer, but come away at the call of Christ, and be converted, and become new creatures, and we have not a word of damning wrath or death to speak against you.—I do here in the name of the Lord of life, proclaim to you, all that hear me this day, to the greatest, the oldest sinner, that you may have mercy and salvation, if you will but turn. There is mercy in God, there is sufficiency in the satisfaction of Christ, the promise is free, and full, and universal; you may have life, if you will but turn. But then, as you love your souls, remember what turning it is the scripture speaks of. It is not to mend the old house, but to pull down all, and build a-new on Christ, the rock and sure foundation. It is not to mend somewhat in a carnal course of life, but to mortify the flesh, and live after the spirit. It is not 63 to serve the flesh and the world, in a more reformed way, without any scandalous disgraceful sins, and with a certain kind of religiousness; but it is to change your master, and your works, and end, and to set your face the contrary way, and do all for the life that you never saw, and dedicate yourselves and all you have to God. This is the change that must be made, if you will live.
Yourselves are witnesses now, that it is salvation, and not damnation, that is the great doctrine I preach to you, and the first part of my message to you. Accept of this, and we shall go no farther with you; for we would not so much as affright or trouble you with the name of damnation without necessity.
But if you will not be saved, there is no remedy, but damnation must take place; for there is no middle place between the two, you must have either life or death.
And we are not only to offer you life, but to shew you the grounds on which we do it; and call you to believe that God doth mean indeed as he speaks: that the promise is true, and extendeth conditionally to you, as well as others: and that heaven is no fancy, but a true felicity.
If you ask, Where is your commission for this offer? Among a hundred texts of scripture, I will shew it to you in these few:
First, you see it here in my text, and the following verses, and in the 18th of Ezekiel, as plain as can be spoken. And in 2 Cor. v. 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, you have the very sum of our commission. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things passed away, behold, all things are become new. And all things are from God, who hath reconciled us unto 64himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation: now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled unto God; for, he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” So Mark xvi. 15, 16. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to all creature. He that believeth, (that is with such a converting faith as is expressed) and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned.” And Luke xxiv. 46, 47. “Thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance, (which is conversion) and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.” And Acts v. 30, 31. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree: him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” And Acts xiii. 38, 39. “Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this name is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and, by him, all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” And, lest you think this offer is restrained to the Jews, see Gal. vi. 15. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” And Luke xiv. 17. “Come, for all things are now ready.” and ver. 23, 24.65
You see by this time that we are commanded to offer life to you all, and to tell you, from God, that if you will turn, you may live.
Here you may safely trust your souls; for the love of God is the fountain of this offer, John iii. 16. and the blood of the Son of God hath purchased it: The faithfulness and truth of God are engaged to make the promise good; miracles have sealed up the truth of it; preachers are sent through the world to proclaim it; the sacraments are instituted and used for the solemn delivery of the mercy offered to them that will accept it; and the spirit doth open the heart to entertain it; and is itself the earnest of the full possession: So that the truth of it is past controversy, that the worst of you all, and every one of you, if you will but be converted, may be saved.
Indeed, if you will needs believe that you shall be saved without conversion, then you believe a falsehood; and, if I should preach that to you, I should preach a lie: This were not to believe God, but the devil and your own deceitful hearts.—God hath his promise of life, and the devil hath his promise of life: God’s promise is, “return and live:” The devil’s promise is, “you shall live, whether you turn or not.”—The word of God is, as I have shewn you, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. xviii. 3. “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” John iii. 3, 5. “Without holiness none shall see God,” Heb. xii. 14.—The devil’s word is, “you may be saved without being born again and converted; you may do well enough without being holy; God doth but frighten you; he is more merciful, than to do as he saith; he will be better to you than his word.”—66And, alas! the greatest part of the world believe this word of the devil before the word of God: just as our sin and misery came into the world. God saith to our first parents, “if ye eat ye shall die:” And the devil contradicted him and said, “Ye shall not die, if you do but cry, God have mercy, at last, and give over the acts of sin when you can practice it no longer.” And this is the word that the world believes.—O heinous wickedness, to believe the devil before God!
And yet that is not the worst; but blasphemously they call this a believing and trusting in God, when they put him in the shape of Satan, who was a liar from the beginning. And, when they believe that the word of God is a lie, they call this a trusting God, and say they believe in him, and trust in him for salvation. Where did ever God say, that the unregenerate, unconverted, unsanctified, shall be saved? Shew such a word in Scripture. I challenge you, if you can. Why this is the devil’s word, and to believe it is to believe the devil, and the sin that is commonly called presumption. And do you call this a believing and trusting God? There is every thing in the word of God to comfort and strengthen the hearts of the sanctified: but not a word to strengthen the hands of wickedness, nor to give men the least hope of being saved, though they be never sanctified.
But, if you will turn, and come into the way of mercy, the mercy of the Lord is ready to entertain you. Then trust God for salvation boldly; for he is engaged by his word to save you. He will be a father to none but his children, and he will save 67none but those that forsake the world, the devil, and the flesh, and come into his family to be members of his Son, and have communion with his saints. But, if they will not come in, it is long of themselves. His doors are open, he keeps none back. He never sent such a message as this to any of you, “It was now too late; I will not receive thee though thou be converted.”—He might have done so, and done you no wrong: But he did not; he doth not to this day: He is still ready to receive you, if you were but ready unfeignedly, and with all your hearts, to turn. And the fulness of this truth will yet more appear in the two following doctrines, which I shall therefore next proceed to, before I make any farther application of this.
Doct. 3. God takes pleasure in men’s conversion and salvation, but not in their death or damnation: He had rather they would turn and live, than go on and die.
I shall first teach you how to understand this, and then clear up the truth of it to you.
And, for the first, you must observe these following things.
1. A simple willingness, or complacency, is the first act of the will, following the simple apprehension of the undertaking, before it proceedeth to compare things together. But the choosing act of the will is a following act, and supposeth the comparing practical act of the understanding. And these two acts may often be carried to contrary objects without any fault at all in the person.
2. An unfeigned willingness may have divers degrees. Some things I am so far willing of as that I will do all that lieth in my power to accomplish them: and some things I am truly willing another 68should do, when yet I will not do all that ever I am able to procure them, having many reasons to dissuade me therefrom, though yet I will do all that belongs me to do.
3. The will of a ruler, as such, is manifested in making and executing laws; but the will of a man, in his simple natural capacity, or as absolute Lord of his own, is manifested in desiring or resolving of events.
4. A ruler’s will, as lawgiver, is first and principally that his laws be obeyed, and not at all that the penalty be executed on any, but only on supposition that they will not obey his laws. But a ruler’s will, as judge, supposeth the law already either kept or broken; and therefore he resolveth on rewards or punishments accordingly.
Having given up these necessary distinctions, I shall next apply them to the case in hand in these following propositions.
1. It is in the glass of the word and creatures that in this life we must know God; and so, according to the nature of man, we ascribe to him understanding and will, removing all the imperfections that we can, because we are capable of no higher positive conceptions of him.
2. And, on the same grounds, we do (with the scripture) distinguish between the acts of God’s will, as diversified from the respects or the objects, though as to God’s essence they are all one.
3. And the bolder, because that, when we speak of Christ, we have the more ground for it from human nature.
4. And thus we say, that the simple complacency, will, or love of God, is to all that is naturally or morally good according to the nature and degree of 69its goodness. And so he hath pleasure in the conversion and salvation of all, which yet will never come to pass.
5. And God, a ruler and law-giver of the world, hath so far a practical will for their salvation as to make them a free deed of gift of Christ and life, and an act of oblivion for all their sin, if so be they will not unthankfully reject it, and to command his messengers to offer this gift to all the world, and persuade them to accept it. And so he doth all that, as a lawgiver or promiser, belongs to him to do for their salvation.
6. But yet he resolveth, as lawgiver, that they that will not turn shall die: And, as judge, when their day of grace is past, he will execute that decree.
7. So, that he thus unfeignedly willeth the conversion of those that will never be converted; but not as absolute Lord, with the fullest efficacious resollution, nor as a thing which he resolveth shall undoubtedly come to pass, or would engage all his power to accomplish. It is in the power of a prince to set a guard upon a murderer, to see that he shall not murder and be hanged: But, if upon good reason he forbear this, and do but send to his subjects, and warn and intreat them not to be murderers, I hope he may well say, that he would not have them murder and be hanged: He takes no pleasure in it, but rather that they forbear and live: And, if he do more for some, upon some special reason, he is not found to do so by all. The king may well say to all the murderers and felons in the land, “I have no pleasure in your death, but rather that you would obey my laws and live: But, if you will not, I have resolved for all this, that you shall die.”—The judge may truly say to the thief or murderer, “Alas, man, 70I have no delight in your death: I had rather thou had kept the law and saved thy life: but seeing thou hast not, I must condemn thee, or else I should be unjust.” So, though God have no pleasure in your damnation, and therefore calls upon you to return and live; yet he hath pleasure in the demonstration of his own justice, and the executing his laws; and therefore he has for all this fully resolved, that, if you will not be converted, you shall be condemned. If God were so much against the death of the wicked as that he were resolved to do all that he can to hinder it, then no man should be condemned; whereas Christ telleth you that few will be saved. But so far God is against your damnation as that he will teach you and warn you, and set before you life and death, and offer you your choice, and command his ministers to intreat you not to damn yourselves, but accept his mercy, and so to leave you without excuse. But, if this will not do, and if still you be unconverted, he professeth to you, he is resolved on your damnation, and hath commanded us to say to you in his name, ver. 18, “O wicked man, thou shalt surely die!” And Christ hath little less than sworn it over and over, with a “Verily, verily, except you be converted, and born again, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven” Matt. xviii. 3. John iii. 3. Mark that he said, you cannot. It is in vain to hope for it, and in vain to dream that God is willing for it, for it is a thing that cannot be.
In a word, you see then the meaning of the text, that God, the great law giver of the world, doth take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn and live; though yet he be resolved that none shall live but those that turn, and, as a judge, even delighteth in justice, and in manifesting 71 his hatred of sin, though not in the misery, which they have brought upon themselves, in itself considered.
2. And for the proofs of the point, I shall be very brief in them, because I suppose you easily believe it already.
2. If God had more pleasure in thy death than in your conversion and life, he would not have so frequently commanded thee in his word, to turn; he would not have made thee such promises of life, if thou wilt but turn; he would not have persuaded thee to it by so many reasons. The tenor of his gospel proves the point.
3. And his commission, that he had given to the ministers of the gospel, doth fully prove it. If God had taken more pleasure in your damnation than in thy conversion and salvation, he would never have charged us to offer you mercy, and to teach you the way of life, both publicly and privately; and to intreat and beseech you to turn and live; to acquaint you with your sins, and foretel you of your danger, and to do all that possibly we can for your conversion, and to continue patiently so doing, though you should hate or abuse us for our pains. Would God have done this, and appointed his ordinances for your good, if he had taken pleasure in your death?
4. It is proved also by the course of his providence. If God had rather you were damned than converted and saved, he would not second his word with his works, and entice you by his daily kindness to himself, and give you all the mercies of this life, 72which are his means to lead you to repentance, Rom. ii. 4. and bring you so often under his rod to force you to your wits. He would not set so many examples before your eyes, no, nor wait on you so patiently as he doth, from day to day, and year to year. These are no signs of one that taketh pleasure in your death.—If this had been his delight, how easily could he have had thee long ago in hell? How often before this could he have caught thee away in the midst of thy sins, with a curse or oath, or lie in thy mouth, in thy ignorance, and pride, and sensuality? When thou wast last in thy drunkenness, or last deriding the ways of God, how easily could he have stopped thy breath, and tamed thee with his plagues, and made thee sober in another world? Alas! how small a matter is it for the Almighty to rule the tongue of the profanest railer, and tie the hands of the most malicious persecutor, or calm the fury of the bitterest of his enemies, and make them know that they are but worms? If he should frown upon thee, thou wouldst drop into thy grave. If he gave commission to one of his angels to go and destroy ten thousand sinners, how quickly would it be done. How easily can he lay thee upon the bed of languishing, and make thee lie roaring there in pain, and make thee eat the words of reproach which thou hast spoken against his servants, his word, his worship, and his holy ways, and make thee send to beg their prayers whom thou didst despise in your presumption! How easily can he lay thy flesh under gripes and groans, and make it too weak to hold thy soul, and make it more loathsome than the dung of the earth!—That flesh which now must have what it loves, and must not be displeased though God be displeased; and must be humored in 73meat, drinks, and clothes, whatever God says to the contrary, how quickly would the frowns of God consume it?—When thou wast passionately defending thy sin, and quarrelling with them that would have drawn thee from it, and shewing thy spleen against the reprover, and pleading for the works of darkness; how easily could God have snatched thee away in a moment, and set thee before his dreadful Majesty, where thou shouldest see ten thousand times ten thousand glorious angels waiting on his throne? and have called thee there to plead thy cause, and asked thee, “What hast thou now to say against your Creator, his truth, his servants, or his holy ways? Now plead thy cause, and make the best of it thou canst. Now what canst thou say in excuse of thy sins? Now give account of thy worldliness and fleshly life, of thy time, of all the mercies thou hast had!” O how thy stubborn heart would have melted, and thy proud looks be taken down, and thy countenance turned pale, and thy stout words changed into speechless silence, or dreadful cries, if God had but set you thus at his bar, and pleaded his own cause with thee, which thou hast here so maliciously pleaded against! How easily can he at any time say to thy guilty soul, “Come away, and live in that flesh no more till the resurrection,” and it cannot resist! A word of his mouth would take off the poise of thy present life, and then all thy parts and powers would stand still: And, if he say unto thee, “Live no longer, or live in hell,” thou couldest not disobey.
But God hath yet done none of this, but hath patiently forborne thee, and mercifully upheld thee, and given thee that breath which thou didst breathe out against him, and given those mercies which thou 74did sacrifice to thy flesh, and afforded thee that provision, which thou spentest to satisfy thy greedy throat; he gave thee every minute of that time which thou didst waste in idleness, or drunkenness, or worldliness: and doth not all his patience and mercy shew that he desired not thy damnation? Can the candle burn without the oil? Can your houses stand without the earth to bear them? As well can you live one hour without the support of God. And why did he so long support thy life, but to see when thou wouldest bethink thee of the folly of thy ways, and return and live. Will any man purposely put arms into his enemy’s hands to resist him; or hold a candle to a murderer that is killing his children, or to an idle servant that plays or sleeps the while? Surely it is to see whether you will at last return and live, that God hath so long waited on thee.
5. It is farther proved, by the suffering of his Son, that God taketh no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Would he have ransomed them from death at so dear a rate? Would he have astonished angels and men by his condescension? Would God have dwelt in flesh, and have come in the form of a servant, and have assumed humanity into one person with the Godhead? And would Christ have lived a life of suffering, and died a cursed death for sinners, if he had rather taken pleasure in their death? Suppose you saw him but so busy in preaching, and healing of them, as you find him in Mark iii. 21. or so long in fasting, as in Matt. iv. or all night in prayer, as in Luke vi. 12. or praying with the drops of blood trickling from him instead of sweat, as Luke xxii. 44. or suffering a cursed death upon the cross, and pouring out his soul as a sacrifice for our sins: Would you have thought these the signs of one that delighted in the death of the wicked?75
And think not to extenuate it by saying, that it was only for his elect: For, it was thy sin, and the sin of all the world, that lay upon our Redeemer; and his sacrifice and satisfaction is sufficient for all, and the fruits of it are offered to one as well as another: but it is true, that it was never the intent of his mind to pardon and save any that would not by faith and repentance be converted. If you had seen and heard him weeping and bemoaning the state of disobedient, impenitent people, Luke xiv. 41, 42. or complaining of their stubbornness, as Matt. xxiii. 37. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Or, if you had seen and heard him on the cross praying for his persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” would you have suspected that he had delighted in the death of the wicked, even of those that perish by their wilful unbelief? When God hath so loved, (not only loved, but so loved) the world, as to give His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, by an effectual faith, should not perish, but have everlasting life; I think he hath hereby proved, against the malice of men and devils, that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but had rather that they would turn and live.
6. Lastly, if all this will not yet satisfy you, take his own word, that knoweth best his own mind, or at least believe his oath: But this leadeth me up to the fourth doctrine.
Doct. 4. The Lord hath confirmed to us by his oath, that he hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he turn and live; that he may leave man no pretence to question the truth of it.76
If you dare question his word, I hope you dare not question his oath. As Christ hath solemnly protested that the unregenerate and unconverted cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, Matt. xviii. 3. John iii. 3. so God hath sworn that his pleasure is not in their death, but in their conversion and life. And as the Apostle saith, Heb. vi. 13, 16, 17, 18. Because he can swear by no greater than himself, he saith, “As I live, &c.” For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of strife: wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, “we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us, which we have, as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” If there be any man that cannot reconcile this truth with the doctrine of predestination, or the actual damnation of the wicked, that is his own ignorance; he hath no pretence left to deny or question therefore the truth of the point in hand; for this is confirmed by the oath of God, and therefore must not be distorted to reduce it to other points; but doubtful points must rather be reduced to it, and certain truths must be believed to agree with it, though our shallow brains do hardly discern the agreement.
I do now intreat thee, if thou be an unconverted sinner that hearest these words, that thou wouldest ponder a little on the forementioned doctrines, and bethink thyself awhile who it is that takes pleasure in your sin and damnation! Certainly it is not God: 77He hath sworn, for his part, that he takes no pleasure in it. And I know it is not the pleasing of him that you intend in it. You dare not say, that you drink, and swear, and neglect holy duties, and quench the motion of the Spirit, to please God. That were as if you should reproach the prince, and break his laws, and seek his death, and say you did all this to please him.
Who is it then that takes pleasure in your sin and death? Not any that bear the image of God, for they must be like minded to him. God knows it is small pleasure to your faithful teachers to see you serve your deadly enemy, and madly venture your eternal state, and wilfully run into the flames of hell. It is small pleasure to them to see upon your souls (in the sad effects) such blindness, and hard-heartedness and carelessness, and presumption; such wilfulness in evil, and such unteachableness and stiffness against the ways of life and peace. They know these are marks of death, and of the wrath of God, and they know from the word of God what is like to be the end of them; and therefore it is no more pleasure to them than to a tender physician to see the plague-marks break out upon his patient. Alas! to foresee your everlasting torments, and know not how to prevent them! To see how near you are to hell, and we cannot make you believe it, and consider it! To see how easily, how certainly you might escape, if we knew but how to make you willing! How fair you are for everlasting salvation, if you would but turn and do your best, and make it the care and business of your lives! but you will not do it. If our lives lay on it, we cannot persuade you to it: We study day and night what to say to you, that may convince you and 78persuade you, and yet it is undone: We lay before you the word of God, and shew you the very chapter and verse where it is written, that you cannot be saved except you be converted, and yet we leave the most of you as we find you:—We hope you will believe the word of God, though you believe not us, and that you will regard it when we shew you the plain scripture for it: but we hope in vain, and labour in vain, as to any saving change upon your hearts. And do you think that this is a pleasant thing to us? Many a time in secret prayer we are fain to complain to God with sad hearts, “Alas! Lord, we have spoken to them in thy name, but they little regard us: We have told them what thou bidst us tell them concerning the danger of an unconverted state, but they do not believe us; we have told them that thou hast protested that “there is no peace to the wicked,” Isaiah xlviii. 22. and lvii. 21. but the worst of them all will scarcely believe that they are wicked; we have shewn them thy word, where thou hast said, “That if they live after the flesh they shall die;” Rom. viii. 13. but they say, “They will believe in thee, when they will not believe thee; that they will trust in thee, when they give no credit to thy word; and when they have hope that the threatnings of thy words are false, they will yet call this a hoping in God; and though we shew them where thou hast said, that when a wicked man dieth all his hopes perish, yet cannot we persuade them from their deceitful hopes,” Prov. xi. 7.—We tell them what a base unprofitable thing sin is; but they love it, and therefore will not leave it.—We tell them how dear they buy this pleasure, and that they must pay for it in everlasting torment; and they bless themselves, and will not believe it; but will do as the most do: and, because God is merciful, they 79will not believe him, but will venture their souls, come of it what will. We tell them how ready the Lord is to receive them; and this doth but make them delay their repentance and be bolder in their sin.—Some of them say they purpose to repent, but they are still the same; and some say they do repent already, while yet they are not converted from their sins. We exhort them, we intreat them, we offer them our help, but we cannot prevail with them; but they that were drunkards are drunkards still; and they that were voluptuous flesh-pleasing wretches are such still; and they that were worldlings are worldlings still; and they that were ignorant, and proud, and self-conceited, are so still.—Few of them will see and confess their sin, and fewer will forsake it, but comfort themselves that all men are sinners; as if there were no difference between a converted sinner and an unconverted. Some of them will not come near us when we are willing to instruct them, but think they have enough already, and need not our instruction; and some of them will give us the hearing, and do what they list; and most of them are like dead men that cannot feel; so that, when we tell them of the matters of everlasting consequence, we cannot get a word of it to their hearts. If we do not obey them, and humour them in baptising the children of the most obstinately wicked, and giving them the Lord’s Supper, and doing all that they would have us, though never so much against the word of God, they will hate us, and rail at us; but if we beseech them but to confess and forsake their sins, and save their souls, they will not do it.—We tell them, if they will but turn, we will deny them none of the ordinances of God, neither baptism to the children, nor the Lord’s Supper to themselves; but they will not hear us. They would have us disobey 80God, and damn our own souls to please them, and yet they will not turn and save their own souls to please God.—They are wiser in their own eyes than all their teachers; they rage and are confident in their own way, and, if we would never so fain, we cannot change them. Lord, this is the case of our miserable neighbours, and we cannot help it; we see them ready to drop into hell, and we cannot help it; we know if they would unfeignedly turn they might be saved, but we cannot persuade them; if we would beg it of them on our knees, we cannot persuade them to it; if we would beg it of them with tears, we cannot persuade them; and what more can we do?”
These are the secret complaints and moans that many a poor minister is fain to make. And do you think that he hath any pleasure in this? Is it a pleasure to him to see you go on in sin, and cannot stop you? To see you so miserable, and cannot so much as make you sensible of it; to see you merry, when you are not sure to be an hour out of hell? To think what you must for ever suffer, because you will not turn? And to think what an everlasting life of glory you wilfully despise and cast away? What sadder thing can you bring to their hearts? And how can you devise to grieve them more?
Who is it then that you pleasure by your sin and death? It is none of your understanding godly friends. Alas, it is the grief of their souls to see your misery; and they lament you many a time when you give them little thanks for it, and when you have not hearts to lament yourselves.
Who is it then that takes pleasure in your sin? It is none but the three great enemies of God, whom you renounced in your baptism, and are now turned falsely to serve.81
1. The devil indeed takes pleasure in your sin and death; for this is the very end of all his temptations. For this, he watches night and day: you cannot devise to please him better than to go on in sin: how glad is he when he sees thee going to the alehouse, or other sin and when he heareth you curse, or swear, or rail? How glad is he when he heareth thee revile the minister that would draw thee from thy sin, and help to save thee? These are his delight.
2. The wicked are also delighted in it; for it is agreeable to their nature.
3. But I know, for all this, that it is not the pleasing of the devil that you intend, even when you please him; but it is your own flesh, the greatest and most dangerous enemy, that you intend to please. It is the flesh that would be pampered, that would be pleased in meat, and drink, and clothing; that would be pleased in your company, and pleased in applause and credit with the world, and pleased in sports, and lusts, and idleness: this is the gulf that devoureth all. This is the very god that you serve, for, the scripture saith of such, “that their bellies are their gods,” Phil. iii. 18.
But I beseech you stay a little and consider the business.
1. Quest. Should your flesh be pleased before your Maker? Will you displease the Lord, and displease your teachers, and your godly friends, and all to please your brutish appetites, or sensual desires? Is not God worthy to be the ruler of your flesh? If he shall not rule it, he will not save it; you cannot in reason expect that he should.
2. Quest. Your flesh is pleased with your sin; but is your conscience pleased? doth not it grudge within you and tell you sometimes that all is not well, 82and that your case is not so safe as you make it to be? and should not your soul and conscience be pleased before your corruptible flesh?
3. Quest. But, is not your flesh preparing for its own displeasure also? It loves the bait, but doth it love the hook? It loves the strong drink and sweet morsels; it loves its ease, and sport, and merriment: it loves to be rich, and well spoken of by men, and to be somebody in the world: but doth it love the curse of God? Doth it love to stand trembling before his bar, and to be judged to everlasting fire? Doth it love to be tormented with the devils for ever?—Take all together: for there is no separating sin and hell, but only by faith and true conversion; if you will keep one you must have the other. If death and hell be pleasant to you, no wonder then if you go on in sin; but, if they are not (as I am sure they are not), then what if sin were never so pleasant, is it worth the loss of life eternal? Is a little drink, or meat, or ease; is the good word of sinners; are the riches of this world to be valued above the joys of heaven? Or are they worth the sufferings of eternal fire?
These questions should be considered before you go any farther, by every man that hath reason to consider, and that believes he hath a soul to save or lose.
Well, the Lord here sweareth that he hath no pleasure in your death, but rather that you would turn and live; if yet you will go on and die rather than turn; remember it was not to please God that you did it; it was to please the world, and to please yourselves. And, if men will damn themselves to please themselves, and run into endless torments for delight, and have not the wit, the heart, the grace, to hearken to God or man, that would reclaim them, 83what remedy? They must take what they get by it, and repent it in another manner, when it is too late! Before I proceed any further in the application, I shall come to the next doctrine; which giveth me a fuller ground for it.
Doct. 5. So earnest is God for the conversion of sinners, that he doubleth his commands and exhortations with vehemency: “Turn ye, turn ye, why will you die?”
This doctrine is the application of the former, as by a use of exhortation, and accordingly I shall handle it.
Is there an unconverted sinner that heareth these vehement words of God? Is there ever a man or woman in this assembly that is yet a stranger to the renewing, sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost? It is a happy assembly, if it be not so with the most. Hearken then to the voice of your Maker, and turn to him by Christ without delay. Would you know the will of God? Why this is his will, that you presently turn. Shall the living God send so earnest a message to his creatures, and should they not obey? Hearken then, all you that live after the flesh; the Lord, that gave you thy breath and being, hath sent a message to you from heaven; and this is his message, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?” He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Shall the voice of the eternal Majesty be neglected? If he do but terribly thunder, thou art afraid. O but this word concerneth thy life or death everlasting. It is both a command and an exhortation. As if he had said to thee, “I charge thee, upon the allegiance that thou owest to me your Creator and Redeemer, that thou renounce 84the flesh, the world, and the devil, and turn to me that you mayest live. I condescend to intreat thee, as thou lovest or fearest him that made thee: as thou lovest thine own life, even thine everlasting life, Turn and live: as ever thou wouldst escape eternal misery, “Turn, turn, for why wilt thou die?” And is there a heart in man, in a reasonable creature, that can once refuse such a message, such a command, such an exhortation as this? O what a thing then is the heart of man!
Hearken then, all that love yourselves, and all that regard your own salvation:—Here is the joyfullest message that ever was sent to the ears of man, “Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?” You are not yet shut up under desperation. Here is mercy offered you; turn, and you shall have it. O with what joyful hearts should you receive these tidings! I know this is not the first time that you have heard it; but how have you regarded it, or how do you regard it now? Hear, all you ignorant, careless sinners, the word of the Lord! Hear, all you worldlings, you sensual flesh-pleasers; you gluttons, and drunkards, and whoremongers, and swearers; you railers and backbiters, slanderers and liars: “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?”
Hear, all ye that are void of the love of God, whose hearts are not toward him, nor taken up with the hopes of glory, but set more by your earthly prosperity and delights than by the joys of heaven; all you that are religious but a little by the by, and give God no more than your flesh can spare; that have not denied your carnal selves, and forsaken all that you have for Christ, in the estimation and grounded resolution of your souls, but have some one thing in the world so dear to you that you cannot spare it for Christ, if he required it, but will rather venture on his 85displeasure than forsake it; “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?”
If you never heard it, or observed it before, remember that you were told it from the word of God this day, that if you will but turn, you may live; and if you will not turn, you shall surely die.
What now will you do, Sirs? What is your resolution? Will you turn, or will you not? Halt not any longer between two opinions: If the Lord be God, follow him; if your flesh be God, then serve it still. If heaven be better than earth and fleshly pleasures, come away then, and seek a better country, and “lay up your treasure where rust and moths do not corrupt, and thieves cannot break through and steal, and be awakened at last with all your might to seek the kingdom that cannot be moved,” Heb. xii. 28. and to employ your lives on a higher design, and turn the stream of your cares and labours another way than formerly you have done. But, if earth be better than heaven, or will do more for you, or last you longer, then keep it, and make your best of it, and follow it still. Are you resolved what to do? If you be not, I will set a few more moving considerations before you, to see if reason will make you resolve.
Consider first, “What preparations mercy hath made for your salvation:” and what pity it is that any man should be damned after all this. The time was, when the flaming sword was in the way, and the curse of God’s law would have kept thee back if thou hadst been ever so willing to turn to God: The time was when thyself, and all the friends that thou hast in the world, could never have procured thee the pardon of thy sins past, though thou hadst ever so much lamented and reformed them. But 86Christ hath removed this impediment by the ransom of his blood. The time was, that God was wholly unreconciled, as being not satisfied for the violation of his law: but now he is so far satisfied and reconciled, as that he hath made thee a free act of oblivion, and a free deed of gift of Christ and life, and offereth it to thee, and intreateth thee to accept it, and it may be thine, if thou wilt. “For he was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and hath committed to us the word of reconciliation,” 2 Cor. v. 18, 19. Sinners, we too are commanded to deliver this message to you all, as from the Lord, “Come, for all things are ready,” Luke xiv. 17. Are all things ready, and are you unready? God is ready to entertain you, and pardon all that you have done against him, if you will but come. As long as you have sinned, as wilfully as you have sinned, he is ready to cast all behind his back, if you will but come. Though you have been prodigals, and run away from God, and have staid so long, he is ready even to meet you, and embrace you in his arms, and rejoice in your conversion, if you will but turn.—Even the earthly worldling and swinish drunkard will find God ready to bid them welcome, if they will but come. Doth not this turn thy heart within thee?—O sinner, if thou have a heart of flesh, and not of stone in thee, methinks this should melt it. Shall the infinite Majesty of Heaven even wait for thy returning, and be ready to receive thee who have abused him, and forgotten him so long? Shall he delight in thy conversion, that might at any time glorify his justice in thy damnation, and yet doth it not melt thy heart within thee, and art thou not yet ready to come in? Hast thou not as much reason to be ready to come as God hath to invite thee and bid thee welcome?87
But, that is not all: Christ hath done his part on the cross, and made such way for thee to the Father, that on his account thou mayst be welcome if thou wilt come. And yet art thou not ready?
A pardon is already expressly granted and offered thee in the gospel. And yet art thou not ready?
The ministers of the gospel are ready to assist thee, to instruct thee; they are ready to pray for thee, and to seal up thy pardon by the administration of the holy sacrament; and yet art thou not ready?
All that fear God about thee are ready to rejoice in thy conversion, and to receive thee into the communion of saints, and to give thee the right hand of fellowship, yea, though thou hadst been one that had been cast out of their society: they dare not but forgive where God forgiveth, when it is manifest to them, by your confession and amendment: they dare not so much as hit thee in the teeth with thy former sins, because they know that God will not upbraid thee with them. If thou hadst been ever so scandalous, if thou wouldst but heartily be converted and come in, they would not refuse thee, let the world say what they would against it. And, are all these ready to receive thee, and yet art thou not ready to come in?
Yea, heaven itself is ready; the Lord will receive thee into the glory of his saints, a vile brute as thou hast been: if thou wilt but be but cleansed, thou mayst have a place before his throne; his angels will be ready to guard thy soul to the place of joy, if thou do but unfeignedly come in. And is God ready, the sacrifice of Christ ready, the promise ready, and pardon ready?—Are ministers ready, and the people of God ready, and heaven itself ready, and angels ready, and all these but waiting for your conversion, and yet 88art thou not ready? What! not ready to live, when you have been dead so long? Not ready to come to thy right understanding, as the prodigal is said to come to himself, Luke xv. 17. when thou hast been beside thyself so long? Not ready to be saved, when thou art even ready to be condemned?—Art thou not ready to lay hold on Christ, that would deliver thee, when thou art even ready to drown and sink into damnation? Art thou not ready to be saved from hell, when thou art even ready to be cast remedilessly into it? Alas, man! dost thou know what thou dost? If thou die unconverted there is no doubt to be made of your damnation, and thou art not sure to live an hour: and yet are thou not ready to turn and to come in? O miserable wretch! Hast thou not served the flesh and the devil long enough? Yet hast thou not enough of sin? Is it so good to thee; or so profitable for thee?—Dost thou know what it is, that thou wouldest yet have more of it? Hast thou had so many calls, and so many mercies, and so many blows, and so many examples? Hast thou seen so many laid in the grave, and yet art thou not ready to let go thy sins, and come to Christ? What! after so many convictions, and gripes of conscience, after so many purposes and promises, are thou not yet ready to turn and live?—O that thy eyes, thy heart, were opened, to know how fair an offer is now made to thee! and what a joyful message it is we are sent on, to bid you come, for all things are ready.
2. Consider also, what calls thou hast to turn and live. How many, how loud, how earnest, how dreadful, and yet what encouraging, joyful calls.
For the principal inviter is God himself. He, that commandeth heaven and earth, commandeth thee to turn; and presently, without delay, to turn: 89 He commands the sun to run its course, and to rise upon thee every morning; and though it be so glorious an creature, and many times bigger than all the earth, yet it obeyeth him, and faileth not one minute of its appointed time. He commandeth all the planets and orbs of heaven, and they obey.—He commandeth the sea to ebb and flow, and the whole creation to keep its course, and all obey him. The angels of heaven obey his will, when he sends them to minister to such silly worms as we on earth, Heb. i. 14.—And yet, if he command but a sinner to turn, he will not obey him; he only thinks himself wiser than God, and he cavils and pleads the cause of sin, and will not obey. If the Lord Almighty say the word, the heavens and all therein obey him; but if he call but a drunkard out of an alehouse, he will not obey; or if he call a worldly fleshly sinner to deny himself; and mortify the flesh, and set his heart on a better inheritance, he will not obey him.
If you had any love in thee, thou wouldst know the voice, and say, “Oh this is my father’s call! how can I find in my heart to disobey? For, the sheep of Christ do know and hear his voice, and they follow him, and he giveth them eternal life,” John, x. 4. If thou hadst any spiritual life and sense in thee, at least thou wouldst say, “This call is the dreadful voice of God, and who dares disobey?”—For says the prophet, Amos iii. 8. “The lion hath roared, who will not fear?” God is not a man, that thou shouldst dally and play with him: remember what he saith to Paul at his conversion, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks,” Acts ix. 5. Wilt thou yet go and despise his word, and resist his Spirit, and stop thine ear against his call? Who is it that 90will have the worst of this? Dost thou know whom thou disobeyest and contendest with, and what thou art doing? It were a far wiser and easier task for thee to contend with the thorns, and spurn them with thy bare feet, and beat them with thy bare hands, or put thy head into the burning fire. “Be not deceived, God will not be mocked,” Gal. vi. 7. Whoever else be mocked, God will not: you had better play with the fire in your thatch than with the fire of his burning wrath: “For our God is a consuming fire,” Heb. xii. 29. O how unmeet a match art thou for God! “It is a fearful thing to fall into his hands,” Heb. x. 31. And therefore it is a fearful thing to contend with him, or resist him. As you love your souls, take heed what you do. What will you say, if he begin in wrath to plead with you? What will you do if he take you once in hand? Will you not strive against his judgment, as now you do against his grace? Saith the Lord, Isaiah xxvii. 4, 6. “Fury is not in me;” that is, I delight not to destroy you: I do it, as it were. unwillingly; but yet “Who would set the briars and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Oh let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me, and he shall make peace with me!”—It is an unequal combat for the briars and stubble to make war with the fire.
And thus you see who it is that calleth you, that should move you to hear this call, and turn; so consider also, by what instruments, and how often, and how earnestly, he doth it.
1. Every leaf of the blessed book of God hath as it were a voice, and calls unto thee, Turn and live; turn, or thou wilt die! How canst thou open it, and read a leaf, or hear a chapter, and not perceive God bids thee turn?91
2. It is the voice of every sermon that thou hearest: For what else is the scope and drift of all, but to call and persuade, and intreat thee to turn?
3. It is the voice of many a motion of the Spirit, that secretly speaks over these words again, and urgeth thee to turn.
4. It is likely, sometimes, it is the voice of thy own conscience. Art thou not sometimes convinced that all is not well with thee? And doth not your conscience tell thee that you must be a new man, and take a new course, and often call thee to return?
5. It is the voice of the gracious examples of the godly. When thou seest them live a heavenly life, and fly from the sin which is your delight, this really calls on thee to turn.
6. It is the voice of all the works of God. For, they also are God’s books, that teach thee this lesson, by shewing thee his greatness, and wisdom, and goodness; and calling thee to observe them, and admire the Creator, Psalm xix. 1, 2. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shewth his handy work; day unto day uttereth speech, night unto night sheweth knowledge.”—Every time the sun riseth upon thee, it really calleth thee to turn; as if it should say, “What do I travel and compass the world for, but to declare to men the glory of their Maker, and to light them to do his work? And do I still find thee doing the work of sin, and sleeping out thy life in negligence? Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light,” Ephes. v. 14. “The night is spent, the day is at hand; it is now high time to awake out of sleep; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly as in the day, not in 92 rioting and in drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof,” Rom. xiii. 11, 12, 13, 14.—This text was the means of Austin’s conversion.
7. It is the voice of every mercy thou dost possess. If thou couldst but hear and understand them, they all cry out unto thee, turn. Why doth the earth bear thee, but to seek and serve the Lord? Why doth it afford thee its fruits, but to serve him? Why doth the air afford you breath, but to serve him? Why do all the creatures serve thee with their labours and their lives, but that thou mightst serve the Lord of them and thee? Why doth he give thee time, and health, and strength, but for to serve him? Why hast thou meat, and drink, and clothes, but for his service? Hast thou any thing which thou hast not received? And, if thou didst receive them, it is reason thou shouldst bethink thee, from whom, and to what end and use, thou didst receive them. Didst thou never cry to him for help in thy distress? And didst thou then understand that it was thy part to turn and serve him if he would deliver thee? He hath done his part, and spared thee yet longer, and tried thee another and another year; and yet dost thou not turn? You know the parable of the unfruitful figtree, Luke xiii. 6, 7, 8, 9. When the Lord had said, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?” He was intreated to try it one year longer, and then if it proved not fruitful, to cut it down. Christ himself there makes the application twice over, ver. 3 and 5. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” How many years hath God looked for the fruits of love and holiness from thee, and hath found none, and yet hath spared thee. How 93many a time, by thy wilful ignorance, and carelessness, and disobedience, hast thou provoked justice to say, “Cut him down, why cumbereth he the ground?” And yet mercy hath prevailed, and patience hath forborne the fatal blow to this day. If thou hadst the understanding of a man within thee, thou wouldst know that all this calleth thee to turn.—“Dost thou think thou shalt still escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds,” Rom. ii. 3, 4, 5, 6.
8. Moreover, it is the voice or every affliction to call thee to make haste and turn. Sickness and pain cry turn; and poverty, and loss of friends, and every twig of the chastising rod cry turn; and yet wilt thou not hearken to the call? These have come near thee, and made thee feel, they have made thee groan, and can they not make thee turn?
9. The very frame of your nature and being itself, bespeaketh thy return. Why hast thou reason, but to rule thy flesh, and serve thy Lord? Why hast thou an understanding soul, but to learn and know his will and do it? Why hast thou a heart within you that can love, and fear, and desire, but that thou shouldst fear him, and love him, and desire after him?
10. Yea, thine own engagements, by promise to the Lord, do call upon thee to turn and serve him. Thou hast bound thyself to him by a baptismal covenant, and renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil; this thou hast confirmed by the profession of 94Christianity, and renewed it at sacraments, and in times of affliction: And wilt thou promise and vow, and never perform, and turn to God?
Lay all these together, now, and see what should be the issue. The holy scripture calleth upon thee to turn; the ministers of Christ call upon thee to turn; the Spirit cries turn; thy conscience cries turn; the godly, by persuasions and example cry turn; the whole world, and all the creatures therein, that are presented to thy consideration, cry turn; the present forbearance of God, cries turn; all the mercies which thou receivest cry turn; the rod of God’s chastisement cries turn; thy reason, and the frame of thy nature bespeaks thy turning; and so do all your promises to God; and yet hast thou not resolved to turn?
11. Moreover, poor sinner! didst thou ever consider upon what terms thou standst all this while with him that calleth on thee to turn? Thou art his own, and owest him thyself and all thou hast, and may he not command his own? Thou art his absolute servant, and should serve no other master. Thou standest at his mercy, and thy life is in his hand; and he has resolved to save thee upon no other terms; thou hast many malicious spiritual enemies, that would be glad if God would but forsake thee, and let them alone with thee, and leave thee to their will; how quickly would they deal with thee in another manner? And thou canst not be delivered from them but by turning unto God. Thou art fallen under his wrath by your sin already; and thou knowest not how long his patience will yet wait. Perhaps this is the last year; perhaps the last day; his sword is even at thy heart while the word is in thine ear; and if thou turn not, you are a dead and undone man. Were thy eyes but open to see where 95thou standest, even upon the brink of hell, and to see how many thousands are there already that did not turn, thou wouldst see that it is time to look about thee.
Well, Sirs, look inwards now, and tell me how are your hearts affected with those offers of the Lord? You hear what is his mind; he delighteth not in your death; he calls to you, Turn, turn: It is a fearful sign if all this move thee not, or if it do but half move thee; and much more if it make thee more careless in your misery, because thou hearest of the mercifulness of God. The working of the medicine will partly tell us whether there be any hope of the cure. O what glad tidings would it be to those, that are now in hell, if they had but such a message from God! What a joyful word would it be to hear this, Turn and live.—Yea, what a welcome word would it be to thyself, when thou hast felt that wrath of God but an hour! or, if after a thousand or ten thousand years torment thou couldst but hear such a word from God, Turn and live; and yet wilt thou neglect it, and suffer us to return without our errand?
Behold, sinners, we are sent here as the messengers of the Lord, to set before you life and death. What say you? Which of them will you choose? Christ standeth, as it were, by thee, with heaven in the one hand, and hell in the other, and offereth thee thy choice; which wilt thou choose?—“The voice of the Lord makes the rocks to tremble,” Psalm xxvi. And is it nothing to hear him threaten thee, if thou wilt not turn? Dost thou not understand and feel this voice, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will you die?”—Why, it is the voice of love, of infinite love, of thy best and kindest friend, as thou mightest easily perceive by the motion; and yet canst thou neglect it? 96It is the voice or pity and compassion. The Lord seeth whither thou art going better than thou dost, which makes him call after thee, “Turn, turn.” He seeth what will become of thee if thou turn not. He thinketh with himself, “Ah this poor sinner will cast himself into endless torments if he do not turn; I must in justice deal with him according to my righteous law;” and therefore he calleth after thee, Turn, turn, O sinner! If you did but know the thousandth part as well as God doth, the danger that is near you, and the misery that you are running into, we should have no more need to call after you to turn.
Moreover, this voice that calls to thee, is the same that hath prevailed with thousands already, and called all to heaven that are now there: and they would not now, for a thousand worlds, that they had made light of it, and not turned to God. Now what are they possessing that turned at God’s call? Now they perceive that it was indeed the voice of love that meant them no more harm than their salvation. And, if thou wilt obey the same call, thou shalt come to the same happiness. There are millions that must for ever lament that they turned not; but there is never a soul in heaven that is sorry that they are converted.
Well, Sirs, are you yet resolved, or are you not? Do I need to say any more to you? What will you do? Will you turn or not? Speak, man, in thy heart to God, though you speak not out to me; speak, lest he take your silence for denial; speak quickly, lest he never make you the like offer more. Speak resolvedly, and not waveringly, for he will have no indifferents to be his followers. Say in thy heart now, without any more delay, even before thou stir from hence, “By the grace of God I am resolved presently to turn. And because I know 97my own insufficiency, I am resolved to wait on God for his grace, and to follow him in his ways, and forsake my former courses and companions and give up myself to the guidance of the Lord.”
You are not shut up in the darkness of heathenism, nor in the desperation of the damned.—Life is before you; and you may have it on reasonable terms, if you will; yea, on free cost, if you will accept it. The way of God lieth plain before you; the church is open to you; you may have Christ, and pardon, and holiness, if you will. What say you? Will you, or will you not? If you say nay, or say nothing, and still go on, God is witness, and this congregation is witness, and your own consciences are witnesses, how fair an offer you had this day. Remember, you might have had Christ, and would not. Remember, when you have lost it, that you might have had eternal life as well as others, and would not; and all because you would not turn.
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