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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?
IT has been explained, and proved, that God taketh pleasure in men’s conversion and salvation, but not in their death or damnation. He would rather they would turn and live, than go on and die:—That he may leave man no pretence to 98doubt of it, the Lord hat confirmed it to us by his oath. Yea, farther, so earnest is God for the conversion of sinners, that he doubleth his commands and exhortations with vehemency, Turn ye, turn ye.
Having already illustrated and applied each of these points, let us come to the next doctrine, and hear your reasons.
Doct. 6. The Lord condescends to reason the case with unconverted sinners, and to ask them why they will die.
A strange disputation it is, both as to the controversy and as to the disputants.
1. The controversy or question, propounded to dispute of, is, “Why wicked men will damn themselves?” Or, “Why they will rather die than turn?” Whether they have any sufficient reason for so doing?
2. The disputants are God and man; the most holy God, and wicked unconverted sinners.
Is it not a strange thing, which God doth seem here to suppose, that any man should be willing to die and be damned? Yea, that this should be the case of the wicked; that is, of the greatest part of the world: But, you will say, this cannot be, for nature desireth the preservation and felicity of itself, and the wicked are more selfish than others, and not less; and therefore how can any man be willing to be damned?—To which I answer:
1. It is a certain truth that no man can be willing of any evil as evil, but only as it hath some appearance of good; much less can any man be willing to be eternally tormented. Misery, as such, is desired by none.
2. But yet, for all that, it is most true which God here teacheth us, that the cause, why the wicked die and are damned, is, because, they will die and be damned. And this is true in several respects.99
1. Because they will go the way that leads to hell, though they are told by God and man whither it goes, and where it ends; and though God hath so often professed in his word, that if they hold on in that way, they shall be condemned, and that they shall not be saved unless they turn, Isaiah xlviii. 22. and lvii. 21. “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” Isaiah lix. 8. “The way of peace they know not; there is no judgment in their goings; they have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.” They have the word and the oath of the living God for it; that, if they will not turn, they shall not enter into his rest.—And yet wicked they are, and wicked they will be, let God and man say what they will; fleshly they are, and fleshly they will be, worldlings they are, and worldlings they will be; though God hath told them that “the love of the world is enmity to God; and that if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,” James 4. iv. 1 John ii. 15. So that, consequently, these men are willing to be damned, though not directly; they are willing to walk in the way to hell, and love the certain cause of their torment; though they be not willing of hell itself, and do not love the pain which they must endure.
Is not this the truth of your case, sinners? You would not burn in hell; but you will kindle the fire by your sins, and cast yourselves into it; you would not be tormented with devils for ever, but you will do that which will certainly procure it, in despite of all that can be said against it. It is just as if you would say, “I will drink this poison, but you I will not die. I will cast myself headlong from the top of a steeple, but yet I will not kill myself.—100I will thrust this knife into my heart, but yet I will not take away my life. I will put this fire into the thatch of my house, but yet I will not burn it.”—Just so it is with wicked men; they will be wicked, and they will live after the flesh and the world, and yet they would not be damned. But do you not know that the means do lead to the end? and that God hath by his righteous law concluded, that you must repent or perish? He, that will take poison, may as well say plainly, “I will kill myself;” for it will prove no better in the end: Though perhaps he loved it for the sweetness of the sugar that was mixt with it, and would not be persuaded that it was poison, but that he might take it and do well enough; but it is not his conceits and confidence that will save his life. So, if you will be drunkards, or fornicators, or worldlings, or live after the flesh, you may as well say plainly, “We will be damned.” for so you will be unless you turn. Would you not rebuke the folly of a thief or murderer, that would say, “I will steal and kill, but I shall not be hanged,” when he knows that, if he do the one, the judge in justice will see that the other be done? If he say, “I will steal and murder,” he may as well say plainly, “I will be hanged.” So, if you will go on in a carnal life, you may as well say plainly, “We will go to hell.”
2. Moreover, the wicked will not use those means, without which there is no hope of their salvation. He that will not eat, may as well say plainly, he will not live, unless he can tell how to live without meat; he that will not go his journey, may as well say plainly he will not come to the end. He that falls into the water, and will not come out, nor suffer another to help him out, may as well say plainly, he will be drowned. So if you be carnal and ungodly, 101and will not be converted, nor use the means by which you should be converted, but think it more ado than needs, you may as well say plainly, you will be damned. For if you have found out a way to be saved without conversion, you have done that which was never done before.
3. Yes, this is not all; but the wicked are unwilling even to partake of salvation itself. Tho’ they may desire somewhat which they call by the name of heaven, yet heaven itself, considered in the true nature of its felicity, they desire not; yea, their hearts are quite against it. Heaven is a state of perfect holiness, and of continual love and praise to God and the wicked have no heart to this. The imperfect love, and praise, and holiness, which is here to be attained, they have no mind of; much less of that which is so much greater: The joys of heaven are of so pure and spiritual a nature, that the heart of the wicked cannot desire them.
So that by this time you may see on what ground it is, that God supposeth that the wicked are willing their own destruction; they will rather venture on certain misery than be converted; and then, to quiet themselves in their sins, they will make themselves believe that they shall nevertheless escape.
2. And as this controversy is matter of wonder (that even men should be such enemies to themselves, as wilfully to cast away their souls) so are the disputants too. That God should stoop so low as thus to plead the case with man; and that men should be so strangely blind and obstinate as to need all this in so plain a case; yea, and to resist all this, when their own salvation lieth upon the issue!
No wonder that they will not hear us that are men, when they will not hear the Lord himself: As God 102saith, Ezek. iii. 7, when He sent the prophet to the Israelites, “The house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted” No wonder if they can plead against a minister, or a godly neighbour, when they will plead against the Lord himself; even against the plainest passages of his word, and think that they have reason on their side. When they weary the Lord with their words, they say, “Wherein have we wearied Him?” Mal. ii. 17. The priests, that despised His name, durst ask, “Wherein have we despised your name?” And when they polluted his altar, and made the temple of the Lord contemptible they durst say, “Wherein have we polluted thee?” Mal. i. 6, 7. But “Wo unto him, saith the Lord, that striveth with his Maker: Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth: Shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, What makest thou?” Isaiah xlv. 9.
Quest. But why is it that God will reason the case with man?
Ans. 1. Because that man being a reasonable creature, is accordingly to be dealt with, and by reason to be persuaded and overcome; God hath therefore endowed them with reason, that they might use it for him. One would think a reasonable creature should not go against the clearest and the greatest reason in the world, when it is set before him.
2. At least, men shall see that God did require nothing of them that was unreasonable, but that whatever forbideth them, he hath all the right reason in the world on his side: And they have good reason to obey him, but none to disobey. And thus even the damned shall be forced to justify God, and confess 103 that it was only reasonable that they should have turned to him; and they shall be forced to condemn themselves, and confess that they had little reason to cast away themselves by the neglecting of His grace in the day of their visitation.
Look up your best and strongest reasons, sinners, if you will make good your way:—You see now with whom you have to deal.—What say thou, unconverted, sensual sinner? Darest thou venture upon a dispute with God? Art thou able to confute him? Art thou ready to enter the lists? God asketh thee, Why wilt thou die? Art thou furnished with a sufficient answer? Wilt thou undertake to prove that God is mistaken, and that thou art in the right? O what an undertaking is that!—Why, either he or you are mistaken, when he is for your conversion, and you are against it: He calls upon you to turn, and you will not; He bids you do it presently, even to-day, while it is called to-day, and you delay, and think it time enough hereafter.—He saith it must be a total change, and you must be holy, and new creatures, and born again; and you think that less may serve the turn, and that it is enough to patch up the old man, without becoming new. Who is in the right now? God or you? God calleth on you to turn, and to live a holy life, and you will not; by your disobedient lives it appears you will not. If you will, why do you not? Why have you not done it all this while? And why do you not fall upon it yet? Your wills have the command of your lives. We may certainly conclude that you are unwilling to turn, when you do not turn. And, why will you not? Can you give any reason for it that is worthy to be called a reason?
I, that am but a worm, your fellow-creature, of a shallow capacity, dare challenge the wisest of you all to reason the case with me, while I plead my Maker’s cause; and I need not be discouraged, when I know I plead but the cause that God pleadeth, and contend for him that will have the best at last. Had I but these two general grounds against you, I am sure that you have no good reason on your side.
1. I am sure it can be no good reason which is against the God of truth and reason. It cannot be light that is contrary to the sun. There is no knowledge in any creature but what it has from God; and therefore none can be wiser than God. It were fatal presumption for the highest angel to compare with his Creator. What is it then for a lump of dirt, an ignorant sot, that knoweth not himself, nor his own soul, that knoweth but little of the things which he seeth, yet that is more ignorant than many of his neighbours, to set himself against the wisdom of the Lord? It is one of the fullest discoveries of the horrible wickedness of carnal men, and the stark madness of such as sin, that so silly a mole dare contradict his Maker, and call in question the word of God: Yea, that those people in our parishes, that are so ignorant, that they cannot give us a reasonable answer concerning the very principles of religion, are yet so wise in their own conceit, that they dare question the plainest truths of God, yea, contradict them and cavil against them, when they can scarce speak sense, and will believe them no farther than agreeth with their foolish wisdom.
2. And as I know that God must needs be in the right, so I know the case is so palpable and gross which he pleadeth against, that no man can have reason for it. Is it possible that a man can have any 105reason to break his master’s laws? and reason to dishonor the Lord of glory? and reason to abuse the Lord that bought him? Is it possible that a man can have any good reason to damn his own immortal soul?—Mark the Lord’s question, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?” Is eternal death a thing to be desired? Are you in love with hell? What reason have you wilfully to perish? If you think you have reason to sin, should you not remember that “death is the wages of sin,” Rom. vi. 23. and think whether you have any reason to undo yourselves, body and soul, for ever?—You should not only ask whether you love the adder, but whether you love the sting?—It is such a thing for a man to cast away his everlasting happiness, and to sin against God, that no good reason can be given for it; but, the more anyone pleads for it, the madder he sheweth himself to be. Had you a lordship or a kingdom offered you for every sin that you commit, it were not reason, but madness, to accept it. Could you by every sin obtain the highest thing on earth that flesh desireth, it were no considerable value to persuade you in reason to commit it. If it were to please your greatest or dearest friends, or to obey the greatest prince on earth, or to save your lives, or to escape the greatest earthly misery; all these are of no consideration to draw a man in reason to the committing of one sin. If it were a right hand or a right eye that would hinder your salvation, it is the gainfullest way to cast it away, rather than to go to hell to save it; for there is no saving a part when you lose the whole. So exceedingly great are the matters of eternity, that nothing in this world deserveth once to be named in comparison with them; nor can any earthly thing, though it were life, or crowns, or kingdoms, be a reasonable excuse for 106the neglect of matters of such high and everlasting consequence. A man can have no reason to cross his ultimate end. Heaven is such a thing, that, if you lose it, nothing can supply the want, or make up the loss: and hell its such a thing, that, if you suffer it, nothing can remove your misery, or give you ease and comfort. And therefore nothing can be a valuable consideration to excuse you for neglecting your own salvation; for, saith our Saviour, “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark viii. 36.
O sirs, that you did but know what matters they are that we are now speaking to you of! The saints in heaven have other kind of thoughts of these things. If the devil could come to them that live in the sight and love of God, and should offer them a cup of ale, or a whore, or merry company, or sport to entice them away from God and glory; I pray you tell me, how do you think they would entertain the motion? Nay, or if he should offer them to be kings of the earth, do you think this would entice them down from heaven? O with what hatred and holy scorn would they disdain and reject the motion! And why should not you do so, that have heaven opened to your faith, if you had but faith to see it? There is never a soul in hell but knows, by this time, that it was a mad exchange to let go heaven for fleshly pleasure, and that it is not a little mirth, or pleasure, or worldly riches, or honour, or the good will or word of men, that will quench hell fire, or make him a saver that loseth his soul. Oh! if you had heard what I believe, if you had seen what I believe, and that on the credit of the word of God, you would say there can be no reason to warrant a man to damn his soul: you durst 107not sleep quietly another night, before you had resolved to turn and live.
If you see a man put his hand in the fire till it burn off, you will marvel at it; but this is a thing that a man may have a reason for; as Bishop Cranmer had when he burnt off his hand for subscribing to Popery. If you see a man cut off a leg or arm, it is a sad sight; but this is a thing that a man may have a good reason for; as many a man doth to save his life. If you see a man give his body to be burnt to ashes, and to be tormented with racks, and refuse deliverance when it is offered, that is a hard case to flesh and blood: but this a man may have good reason for; as you may see in Heb. xi. 33, 34, 35, 36. and as many a hundred martyrs have done. But, for a man to forsake the Lord that made Him, and to run into the fire of hell, when he is told of it, and intreated to turn that he may be saved; this is a thing that can have no reason in the world, that is reason indeed, to justify or excuse it. For heaven will pay for the loss of any thing that we can lose to get it; but nothing can pay for the loss of heaven.
I beseech you now let this word come nearer to your hearts. As you are convinced that you have no reason to destroy yourselves, so tell me what reason have you to refuse to turn, and live to God? What reason hath the veriest worldling, or drunkard, or ignorant careless sinner of you all, why you should not be as holy as any you know, and be as careful for your souls as any other? Will not hell be as hot to you as to others? Should not your own souls be as dear to you as theirs is them? Hath not God as much authority over you? Why then will you not become a sanctified people as well as they?
O Sirs, when God bringeth the matter down to the very principles of nature, and shews that 108you have no more reason to be ungodly than you have to damn your own souls! if yet you will not understand and turn, it seems a desperate case that you are in. And now, either you have reason for what you do, or you have not: if not, will you go against reason itself? Will you do that which you have no reasons for? But, if you think you have, produce them, and make the best of your matter. Reason the case a little with me, your fellow-creature, which is far easier than to reason the case with God. Tell me, man, here before the Lord, as if thou wert to die this hour, why shouldst thou not resolve to turn this day, before thou stir from the place thou standest in? What reason hast thou to deny, or to delay? Hast thou any reason that satisfieth thine own conscience for it? Or any that thou darest own and plead at the bar of God? If thou hast, let us hear them, bring them forth, and make them good. But, alas! what poor stuff, what nonsense instead of reasons, do we daily hear from ungodly men? But for their necessity, I should be ashamed to name them.
1. One saith, “If none shall be saved but such converted and sanctified ones as you talk of, then heaven would be but empty, then God help a great many!
Ans. What! it seems you think that God doth not know, or else that he is not to be believed! Measure not all by yourselves; God hath thousands and millions of his sanctified ones; but yet they are few in comparison of the world, as Christ himself hath told us, Matt. vii. 13, 14. Luke xii. 32. It better beseems you to make that use of this truth which Christ teaches you: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it; but 109wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.” Luke xiii. 22, 23, 24.—“Fear not, little flock, (saith Christ to his sanctified ones) for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” Luke xii. 32.
Object. 2. I am sure if such as I go to hell, we shall have store of company.
Ans. And will that be any ease or comfort to you? Or do you think you may not have company enough in heaven? Will you be undone for company? Or will you not believe that God will execute his threatnings, because there be so many that are guilty? All these are silly unreasonable conceits.
Object. 3. But all men are sinners, even the best of you all?
Ans. But all are not unconverted sinners. The godly live not in gross sins; and their very infirmities are their grief and burden, which they daily long, and pray, and strive to be rid of. Sin hath not dominion over them.
Object. 4. I do not see that professors are any better than other men; they will over-reach, and oppress, and are as covetous as any.
Ans. Whatever hypocrites are, it is not so with those that are sanctified. God hath thousands and tens of thousands that are otherwise; though the malicious world doth accuse them of what they can never prove, and of that which never entered into their hearts. And commonly they charge them with heart-sins, which none can see but God; because they can charge them with no such wickedness in their lives as they are guilty of themselves.
Object. 5. But I am no whoremonger, nor drunkard, nor oppressor, and therefore why shouldest thou call me to be converted?110
Ans. As if you were not born after the flesh, and had not lived after the flesh, as well as others! Is it not as great a sin as any of these, for a man to have an earthly mind, and to love the world above God, and to have an unbelieving, unhumbled heart? Nay, let me tell you more; that many persons, that avoid disgraceful sins are as fast glued to the world, and as much slaves to the flesh, and as strange to God, and averse to heaven in their more civil discourse, as others are in their more shameful and notorious sins.
Object. 6. But I mean nobody any harm, nor do any harm; and why then should God condemn me?
Ans. Is it no harm to neglect the Lord that made thee, and the work for which thou camest into the world, and to prefer the creature before the Creator, and to neglect grace that is daily offered thee? It is the depth of your sinfulness to be insensible of it; the dead feel not that they are dead. If once thou wert made alive, thou wouldst see more amiss in thyself, and marvel at thyself for making so light of it.
Object. 7. I think you would make men mad under pretence of converting them; it is enough to rack the brains of sinful people, to muse so much on matters too high for them.
Ans. 1. Can you be madder than you are already? Or at least, can there be a more dangerous madness than to neglect your everlasting welfare, and wilfully undo yourselves?
2. A man is never well in his wits till he be converted; he never knows God, nor knows sin, nor knows Christ, nor knows the world, nor himself, nor what his business is on earth, so as to set himself about it, till he be converted.—The scripture saith, “That the wicked are unreasonable men,” 2 Thess. iii. 2. and, “That the wisdom of the world is foolishness 111 with God,” 1 Cor. i. 20 and Luke xv. 17. It is said of the prodigal, that, “when he came to himself,” he resolved to return.—It is a wise world, when men will disobey God, and run to hell for fear of being out of their wits.
3. What is there in the work that Christ calls you, that should drive a man out of his wits? Is it the loving of God, and calling upon him, and comfortably thinking of the glory to come, and the forsaking of our sins, and loving one another, and delighting ourselves in the service of God? Are these such things as should make men mad?
4. And whereas you say that these matters are too high for us, you accuse God himself for making this our work, and giving us his word, and commanding all that will be blessed to meditate on it day and night. Are the matters which we are made for, and which we live for, too high for us to meddle with? This is plainly to unman us, and to make brutes of us, as if we were like them that must meddle with no higher matters than what belongs to flesh and earth. If heaven be too high for you to think on and provide for, it will be too high for you ever to possess.
5. If God should sometimes suffer any weak-headed persons to be distracted by thinking of eternal things; this is because they misunderstand them, and run without a guide; and, of the two, I had rather be in the case of such a one, than of the mad unconverted world, that take their distraction to be their wisdom.
Object. 8. I do not thing that God cares so much what men think, or speak, or do, as to make so great a matter of it.
Ans. It seems, then, you take the word of God 112 to be false, and then what will you believe? But your own reason might teach you better, if you believe not the scriptures: for you see God sets not so light by us, but that he vouchsafeth to make us, and still preserveth us, and daily upholdeth us, and provideth for us; and will any wise man make a curious frame for nothing? Will you make or buy a clock or watch, and daily look at it, and not care whether it go true or false? Surely, if you believe not a particular eye of Providence observing your hearts and lives, you cannot believe or expect any particular Providence to observe your wants and troubles to relieve you. And, if God had so little cared for you as you imagine, you would never have lived till now; a hundred diseases would have striven which should first destroy you; yea, the devils would have haunted you, and fetched you away alive, as the great fishes devour the less, and as ravenous birds and beasts devour others. You cannot think that God made man for no end or use; and, if he made him for any, it was sure for himself. And can you think he cares not whether his ends be accomplished, and whether we do the work that we are made for?
Yea, by this atheistical objection you make God to have made and upholden all the world in vain. For, what are all other lower creatures for, but for man? What doth the earth, but bear and nourish us? and the beasts do serve us with their labours and lives: and so of the rest. And hath God made so glorious a habitation, and set man to dwell in it, and made all his servants; and now doth he look for nothing at his hands? nor care how he thinks, or speaks, or lives? This is most unreasonable.
Object. 9. It was a better world when men did not make so much ado in religion.
Ans. 1. It hath ever been the custom to praise 113 the times past. That world, that you speak of, was wont to say, it was a better world in their forefathers’ days, and so did they of their forefathers. This is but an old custom, because we all feel the evil of our own times, but we see not that which was before us.
2. Perhaps you speak as you think: worldlings think the world is at the best, when it is agreeable to their minds, and when they have most mirth and worldly pleasure. And I doubt not but the devil, as well as you, would say, that then it was a better world, for then he had more service and less disturbance. But the world is at the best when God is most loved, regarded, and obeyed. And how else will you know when the world is good or bad, but, by this?
Object. 10. There are so many ways and religions that we know not which to be of, and therefore we will be even as we are.
Ans. Because there are many, will you be of that way that you may be sure is wrong? None are farther out of the way than worldly, fleshly, unconverted sinners; for, they do not only err in this or that opinion, but in the very scope and drift or their lives. If you were going a journey that your life lay on, would you stop or turn again, because you met with some cross-ways, or because you saw some travelers go the horse way, and some the foot way, and some perhaps break over the hedge, yea, and some miss the way? or would you not rather be the more careful to inquire the way? If you have some servants that know not how to do your work right, and some that are unfaithful; would you take it well of any of the rest that would therefore be idle, and do you no service, because they see their companions so bad?114
Object. 11. I do not see that it goes any better with those that are so godly than with other men; they are as poor, and in as much trouble as others.
Ans. And perhaps in much more, when God sees it meet. They take not earthly prosperity for their wages; they have laid up their treasure and hopes in another world, or else they are not Christians indeed; the less they have, the more is behind, and they are content to wait till then.
Object. 12. When you have said all that you can, I am resolved to hope well and trust in God, and do as well as I can, and not make so much ado.
Ans. 1. Is that doing as well as you can, when you will not turn to God, but your heart is against his holy and diligent service? It is as well as you will indeed, but that is your misery.
2. My desire is, that you should hope and trust in God: But, for what is it that you would hope? Is it to be saved, if you turn and be sanctified? For this you have God’s promise, and therefore hope for it, and spare not. But if you hope to be saved, without conversion and a holy life, this is not to hope in God, but in Satan, or yourselves; for God hath given you no such promise, but told you the contrary; but it is Satan and self-love, that made you such promises, and raised you to such hopes.—Well, if these and such as these, be all you have to say against conversion and a holy life, your all is nothing, and worse than nothing: And if these, and such as these, seem reasons sufficient to persuade you to forsake God, and cast yourselves into hell, the Lord deliver you from such reasons, and from such blind understandings, and from such senseless hardened hearts. Dare you stand to aver one of there reasons at the bar of God? Do you think it will then serve your turn to say, “Lord, I did not 115turn, because I had so much to do in the world, or because I did not like the lives of some professors; or because I saw men of so many minds?”—O how easily will the light of that day shame such reasonings as these! Had you the world to look after? Let the world which you served now pay you your wages, and save you if it can. Had you not a better world to look after first? And were you not commanded, to ’seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness; and promised that other things should be added to you?” Matt. vi. 33. And were ye not told, “that godliness was profitable to all things, having the promise of this life, and that which is to come?” 1 Tim. iv. 8. Did the sins of the professors hinder you? You should rather have been the more heedful, and learned by their falls to beware, and have been the more careful, and not the more careless. It was the Scripture, and not their lives, that was your rule. Did the many opinions of this world hinder you? Why the Scripture, that was your rule, did teach you but one way, and that was the right way; if you had followed that, even in so much as was plain and easy, you should never have miscarried. Will not such answers as these silence you? If these will not, God hath those that will; when he asketh the man, Matt. xxii. 12. “Friend, how comest thou in hither, not having on a wedding-garment?” That is, what dost thou in my church among professed Christians, without a holy heart and life? What answer did he make? Why the text saith, he was speechless; he had nothing to say. The clearness of the case, and the Majesty of God, will then easily stop the mouths of the most confident of you, tho’ you will not be put down by any thing we can say to you now; but will make good your cause, be it ever so bad. I know already, that never a reason 116that now you can give me will do you any good at last, when your case must be opened before the Lord and all the world. Nay, I scarce think that your own consciences are well satisfied with your reasons. For, if they are, it seems then you have not so much as purposed to repent. But, if you purpose to repent, it seems you do not put much confidence in your reasons which you bring against it. What say you, unconverted sinners? Have you any good reasons to give, why you should not turn, and presently turn, with all your hearts? Or will you go to hell in despite of reason itself? Bethink you what you do in time, for it will shortly be too late to bethink you.—Can you find any fault with God, or his work, or his wages? Is he a bad master? Is the devil, whom you serve, a better? Or is the flesh a better? Is there any harm in a holy life? Is a life of worldliness and ungodliness better? Do you think in your consciences, that it would do you any harm to be converted and live a holy life? What harm can it do you? Is it harm to you to have the spirit of Christ within you? And to have a cleansed purified Heart? If it be bad to be holy, why doth God say, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” 1 Pet. i. 15, 16. Lev. xx. 7. Is it evil to be like God? Is it not said, “that God made man in His own image?” Why, this holiness is his image. This Adam lost, and this Christ by his word and Spirit would restore to you, as he doth to all that he will save. Why were you baptized into the Holy Ghost? and why do you baptize your children into the Holy Ghost as your sanctifier, if you will not be sanctified by him, but think it hard for you to be sanctified? Tell me truly, as before the Lord, tho’ you are loathe to live a holy life, had you not rather die in the case of those that do so than of others? If you were to die this day, had you not rather 117 die in the case of a converted man than of an unconverted? Of a holy and heavenly man than of a carnal earthily man? And would you not say, as Balaam, Numb. xxiii. 10. “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his?” And why will you not now be of the mind that you will be of then? First or last you must come to this, either to be converted, or to wish you had been, when it is too late. But what is it that you are afraid of losing if you turn? Is it your friends? you will but change them; God will be your friend, and Christ, and the Spirit, will be your friend, and every Christian will be your friend. You will get one friend that will stand you in more stead than all the friends in the world could have done. The friends you lose would have but enticed you to hell; but could not have delivered you: But the friend you get will save you from hell, and bring you to His own eternal rest.
Is it your pleasure that you are afraid of losing? You think you shall never have a merry day again, if once you be converted. Alas! that you should think it a greater pleasure to live in foolish sports and merriments, and please your flesh, than to live in the believing thoughts of glory, and in the love of God, and in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, in which the state of grace consisteth! Rom. xiv. 17. If it would be a greater pleasure for you to think of your lands and inheritance (if you were lords of all the country) than it is for a child to play for pins: why should it not be a greater joy to you to think of the kingdom of heaven being yours than of all the riches or pleasures of the world? As it is but foolish childishness that makes children so delight in toys that they would not leave them for all your land, so it is but foolish worldliness, and fleshliness and wickedness, that make you so much delight in 118your houses, and lands, and meat, and drink, and ease, and honour, as that you would not part with them for the heavenly delights. But what will you do for pleasure when these are gone? Do you not think of that? When your pleasures end in horror, and go out like a stinking snuff, the pleasures of the saints are then at best. I have had myself but a little taste of the heavenly pleasures in the forethoughts of the blessed approaching day, and in the present persuasions of the love of God in Christ; but I have taken too deep a draught of earthily pleasures, so that you may see, if I be partial, it is on your side; and yet I must profess, from that little experience, that there is no comparison.—There is more joy to be had in a day, (if the sun of life shine clear upon us) in the state of holiness, than in a whole life of sinful pleasures. I had “rather be a door-keeper in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm lxxxiv. 10). “A day in his courts is better than a thousand any where else,” Psalm lxxxiv. 13. The mirth of the wicked is like the laughter of a madman, that knows not his own misery; and therefore Solomon saith of such laughter, “it is mad, and of mirth, what doth it?” Eccles. ii. 2. and Eccles. vii. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; “for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than to hear the song of fools; for as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool.” All the pleasure of fleshly things is but like the scratching of a man that 119 hath the itch; it is his disease that makes him desire it; and a wise man had rather be without his pleasure than be troubled with his itch. Your loudest laughter is but like that of a man that is tickled; he laughs when he hath no cause of joy. Judge, as you are men, whether this be a wise man’s part. It is but your carnal unsanctified nature that makes a holy life seem grievous to you, and a course of sensuality seem more delightful. If you will but turn, the Holy Ghost will give you another nature and inclination, and then it will be more pleasant to you to be rid of your sin than now it is to keep it; and you will then say, that you knew not what a comfortable life was till now, and that it was never well with you till God and holiness were your delight.
Quest. But how it cometh to pass that men should be so unreasonable in the matters of salvation? They have wit enough in other matters, what makes them so loathe to be converted, that there should need so many words in so plain a case, and all will not do, but the most will live and die unconverted?
Answer. To name them only in a few words, the causes are these:
1. Men are naturally in love with the earth and flesh, and their nature hath an enmity to God and godliness, as the nature of a serpent hath to a man: And when all that we can say goeth against an habitual inclination of their natures, no marvel if it little prevail.
2. They are in darkness, and know not the very things they hear. Like a man that was born blind, and hears a high commendation of the light: But what will hearing do unless he sees it? They know not what God is, nor what is the power of the cross of Christ, nor what the spirit of holiness is, nor what it is to live in love by faith; they know not the certainty, and suitableness, and excellency 120 of the heavenly inheritance. They know not what conversion, and a holy mind and conversation, are, even when they hear of them. They are in a mist of ignorance. They are lost and bewildered in sin; like a man that hath lost himself in the night, and knows not where he is, nor how to come to himself again till the day-light recover Him.
3. They are wilfully confident that they need no conversion, but some partial amendment; and that they are in the way to heaven already, and are converted when they are not. And, if you meet a man that is quite out of his way, you may long enough call on him to turn back again, if he will not believe you that he is out of the way.
4. They are become slaves to their flesh, and drowned in the world to make provision for it. Their lusts, and passions, and appetites, have distracted them, and got such a hand over them, that they cannot tell how to deny them, or how to mind any thing else. So that the drunkard saith, “I love a cup of good drink, and I cannot forbear it.” The glutton saith, “I love good cheer, and I cannot forbear.” The fornicator saith, “I love to have my lust fulfilled, and I cannot forbear.” And the gamester loves to have his sports, and he cannot forbear. So that they are become even captivated slaves to their flesh, and their very wilfulness is become an impotency; and what they would not do, they say they cannot. And the worldling is so taken up with earthly things, that he hath neither heart, nor mind, nor time, for heavenly; but, as in Pharaoh’s dream, Gen. xli. 4. “The lean kine did eat up the fat ones,” so this lean and barren earth doth eat up all the thoughts of Heaven.
5. Some are so carried away by the stream of evil company, that they are possessed with hard thoughts 121of a godly life, by hearing them speak against it; or at least they think they may venture to do as they see most do, and so they hold on in their sinful ways; and when one is cut off and cast into hell, and another snatched away from among them to the same condemnation, it doth not much daunt them, because they see not whither they are gone. Poor wretches, they hold on in their ungodliness, for all this; for they little know that their companions are now lamenting it in torments. In Luke xvi. the rich man in hell would fain have had one to warn his five brethren, lest they should come to that place of torment. It is like, he knew their minds and lives, and knew that they were hastening thither, and little dreamed that he was there, yea, and would little have believed one that should have told them so. I remember a passage that a gentleman yet living told me that he saw upon a bridge over the Severn.11Mr. R. Rowley, of Shrewsbury, upon Acham bridge. A man was driving a flock of fat lambs, and something meeting them, and hindering their passage, one of the lambs leaped upon the wall of the bridge, and, his legs slipping from under him, he fell into the stream; the rest seeing him, did one after one leap over the bridge, and were all, or almost all drowned.—Those that were behind did little know what was become of them that were gone before, but thought they might venture to follow their companions; but, as soon as ever they were over the wall, and falling headlong, the case was altered. Even so it is with unconverted carnal men. One dieth by them, and drops into hell, and another follows the same way; and yet they will go after them, because they think not whither they are gone. Oh but when death hath once opened their eyes, and they see what 122is on the other side of the wall, even in another world; then what would they give to be where they were!
6. Moreover, they have a subtle malicious enemy, that is unseen of them, and plays his game in the dark; and it is his principal business to hinder their conversion, and therefore to keep them where they are, by persuading them not to believe the Scriptures, or not to trouble their minds with these matters; or by persuading them to think ill of a godly life, or to think that it more ado than needs, and that they may be saved without conversion, and without all this stir; and that God is so merciful that he will not damn any such as they; or at least, that they may stay a little longer, and take their pleasure, and follow the world a little longer yet, and then let it go, and repent hereafter: And by such deluding cheats as these, the devil keeps the most in his captivity, and leadeth them to his misery. These, and such like impediments as these, do keep so many thousands unconverted, when God hath done so much, and Christ hath suffered so much, and ministers have said so much for their conversion; when their reasons are silenced, and they are not able to answer the Lord that calls after them, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?” yet all comes to nothing with the greatest part of them; and they leave us no more to do, after all, but to sit down, and lament their wilful misery.123
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