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I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.—Ver. 59.
IN these words we have—
1. David’s exercise, I thought on my ways.
2. The effect of it, I turned my feet unto thy testimonies.
In the former verse he beggeth mercy and the favour of God. Now those that beg mercy must be in a capacity to receive mercy. God is ready to show mercy, but to whom? To the penitent, that humbly seek it, and turn from the evil of their ways. We cannot expect God should be favourable to us while we continue in a course of sin. Therefore David showeth that he entreated God’s mercy and favour upon God’s terms, that he was one of those converted by grace: ‘I thought on my ways,’ &c. Some copies of the Septuagint have it τὰς ὅδους σοῦ διελογισάμην, ‘I considered thy ways,’ much to the same purpose; for a serious consideration of the excellency of God’s ways is of use, as well as of the naughtiness of our own. But other copies read better, according to the original Hebrew, ‘I thought on my ways,’ our omissions, commissions, purposes, practices, the course of our thoughts, words, deeds.
In the other part, when we are said to turn our feet unto God’s testimonies, it is meant of the conversion of the whole soul, evidenced by the course of our feet or practices. So Eccles. v. 1, ‘Keep thy feet when thou goest into the house of God:’ the meaning is, look to thy heart and affections. We are sometimes said to turn to God, and. sometimes to the testimonies or commands of God. We turn to God as the object or last end; to his testimonies as the rule of our conversation to lead us thither. So that by it is meant an effectual conversion of the whole man, to walk according to the rule of God’s word.
The text issueth itself into this one point:—
Doct. That serious consideration of our own ways maketh way for sound conversion to God.
In the managing of this doctrine I shall discuss two things:—
1. The necessity of serious consideration in order to repentance.
2. How much it concerneth us after we have considered effectually to turn to the Lord.
First, The necessity of serious consideration in order to repentance. And there—
1. What is consideration.
2. The objects of it, or the things that must be considered.
3. I shall argue the necessity of this.
First, What is this consideration or thinking upon our ways? In the general, it is a returning upon our hearts, or a serious and anxious debating with ourselves concerning our eternal condition. For the understanding whereof, consider that a carnal man is mindless and altogether careless of his eternal interests, like a fool or madman, or one out of his wits. We were ‘sometimes foolish,’ ἀνόητοι. Titus iii. 3, like men asleep or distracted; they do not know what they are doing, 126nor what will be the issue of things, till God awaken their hearts to think of their condition, and then they begin to act like men again, and to be sensible of their case. Thus it is said of the prodigal, Luke xv. 17, εἰς ἑαυτὸν ἦλθὼν, that ‘he came to himself;’ as a man when he is drunk, we say he is not himself, he doth not consider what he doth, nor consider the danger of his actions. And the Psalmist, speaking of the conversion of the Gentiles, saith, Ps. xxii. 27, ‘The ends of the earth shall remember, and turn unto the Lord;’ that is, shall recollect themselves, and consider of the end of their lives, whence they are, whither they are going, and what shall become of them to all eternity, as if all this while they had forgotten the purpose for which they were sent into the world, who was their master, what was their business. Alas! before this serious consideration, men in seeing see not, and in hearing hear not, as a man that is musing of another matter is not affected with what you tell him; he heareth and doth not hear. It is the awakening of the heart which is God’s first work, before he giveth other grace: Eph. v. 14, ‘Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’ First awake, and then arise from the dead, before which men have but such languid notions of God and Christ and salvation by him as men have in a dream; but when we come to weigh and scan things with affection and application, then the soul is awakened.
Now God bringeth us to this—
1. Partly by his word, which showeth our natural face, James i. 23, 24, or natural estate and condition before God. It is appointed for this purpose, to be the instrument to awaken men, to discover them to themselves. Now, because this may make but a weak impression, such as may soon be blotted out, ἀνδρὶ παρακύψαντι, they forget and fall asleep again; therefore to this God joineth his rod. Therefore—
2. Partly by afflictions; as the prodigal, when he was reduced to husks and rags, then he came to himself and was brought to his right mind. Again, 1 Kings viii. 47, ‘If in the land of their affliction they shall bethink themselves and repent;’ the Hebrew is, ‘bring it back to their hearts.’ Affliction is sanctified to this end, to open the eyes; it bringeth us to ourselves. So Haggai, i. 5, 7, ‘Now consider your ways,’ now Θέσθε τὰς καρδίας ἐπὶ τὰς ὁδοὺς ὑμῶν, ‘lay your hearts upon your ways;’ when they sowed much and brought in little, and what they earned was put into a bag with holes; that is, when the hand of God was upon them, and the visible curse of his providence. When the word of God doth not effectually discover men to themselves, then he sends afflictions to put them upon a search, and by his rod whippeth them out of their sleepy dreams and carnal security.
3. By his Spirit; and the first effect of his operations is compunction: Acts ii. 37, ‘When they heard this they were pricked in heart, and cried out, Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?’ It makes them anxious and solicitous. I ascribe this work to the Spirit, because it was a time when the Spirit was newly poured forth. Well then, in the general, it is God’s awakening the heart to a serious and anxious debate with itself concerning its eternal condition, before which we go on sleepily in a course of sin; but then the soul crieth out, 127What have I done, and what shall I do? how carelessly have I lived! and what shall become of me to all eternity?
More particularly, this thinking upon our ways involveth in its full latitude three grand duties:—
1. As it relateth to our past estate, or the ways wherein we have walked, self-examining, or a serious searching and inquiring in what condition we are before God. This is necessary to conversion and turning to the Lord: Lam. iii. 40, ‘Let us search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord.’ There needeth a serious calling ourselves to an account, or a strict view and survey of our former courses, if we would amend what is amiss in them; and still, as we renew our repentance, this course must we take.
2. As it relateth to present actions, or the ways wherein we are to walk, so it implieth prudent consideration before we do anything; let us see our warrant, that we may do nothing but what is agreeable to God’s word: Prov. iv. 26, 27, ‘Ponder the paths of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established: turn not to the right hand or to the left; remove thy foot from evil.’ We have a narrow line to walk by, but a foot of ground to go upon; and therefore we should not walk at hap hazard, but with much exactness: Eph. v. 15, ‘See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise;’ therefore we need to weigh all our actions in the balance of the sanctuary, that if anything displease God we may avoid it The conscience of our weakness, and the strictness of our rule, should make us take the better heed to ourselves.
3. With respect to the tendency and issues of things; and so it noteth fore-consideration or deliberation in order to choice. God biddeth his people ‘stand upon the ways and see, and inquire after the old paths, which is the good way, and walk therein,’ Jer. vi. 16; as travellers, when they are at a loss or in doubt of their way, seeing divers paths before them, are careful to inform themselves aright that they may take the next, readiest, and best way for their journey’s end. An awakened conscience is like Hercules, in bivio; there are two ways present themselves—the way of sin and flesh-pleasing, and the way of God’s commandments; or, as it is Mat. vii. 13, 14, ‘the broad way,’ and ‘the narrow way.’ The broad way of sin seemeth pleasant and enticing, but it leadeth to death; the narrow way is rough and craggy, troublesome to flesh and blood, but the end is life and peace. Now the soul debateth upon the choice which of these is better, by weighing the loss and gain on either side, and the final issue and tendency of both these ways; or rather, the awakened soul is in the case of a man that is yet to choose; or like a man that is out of the way, and wants his usual marks. He bethinketh himself, If I go on in this broad beaten road of corruption, I am sure to go down to the chambers of death, and perish evermore. Oh! but let me make a stop; it is better to take God’s direction than the way of mine own heart; it is a way that will undo me for ever. Hitherto I have gone awry; how shall I do to get into the right way? I would be happy, and this course will never make me so; surely it is better to take God’s counsel than to please the flesh. No course will satisfy conscience, no course will make you happy, but a life led according to the word of God. Thus you see it implieth—128
1. An examination of our past course, or a looking into our own estate.
2. A careful watch over future actions.
3. A consideration of the issue and event of things. I have viewed my life past. I have been wrong, and I see it will be bitterness in the issue; therefore I purpose to give up myself to a course of obedience, and therefore to consider well of my actions for the future. Now this is a work that is not once to be done, but always. As often as we look to ourselves, we shall find something that needeth amendment; and therefore we need to press the heart with new and pregnant thoughts to mind our duty, and to use constant caution, and taking heed to our ways that we may not go wrong. Ps. xxxix. 1, thus did David, to keep his heart right, ‘I thought on my ways.’
Secondly, The objects of this consideration, or the things that must be considered; that may be gathered out of the former discourse. But—
1. Who made thee? Eccles. xii. 1, ‘Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.’ It is a great advantage to call to mind whose creatures we are; for this will shame us, that we have done no more than we have done for him, from whom we have all that we have; and this in youth, when the effects of this creating bounty are most fresh upon our senses. In good earnest consider, who was it that made thee a reasonable creature; not a stone, and without life; nor a plant, and without sense; nor a beast, and without reason; but a man, with reason, and understanding, and will, and affections; that thou mayest know him, and love him, and enjoy him. And hast thou never thought of the God that made thee? Art thou of those hare-brained fools that go on rashly in a course of sin, and ‘God is not in all their thoughts’? Ps. x. 4. How canst thou look upon the body without thoughts of him whose workmanship it is? or think of thy soul without thinking of God whose image and superscription it bears, and without whom thou canst not so much as think? Shall it be troublesome to thee to have frequent thoughts of God, when thou canst go musing of vanity all the day long? Shall every trifle find a room in thy heart, when God findeth no room there? ‘He is not far from every one of us,’ Acts xvii. 27, but we are far from him. He is before thee, behind thee, round about thee, yea, within thee, or else thou couldst not keep thy breath in thy body for a moment, and wilt thou not then take some time to season thy heart with thoughts of God? The first miscarriage of men came from this: Rom. i. 28, ‘They liked not to retain God in their knowledge.’ Thoughts of God and right opinions of God were a burden to them, and therefore they gave up themselves to an ungodly course and evil state of mind. And wilt thou put such a scorn and contempt upon thy Creator as never seriously to think of him? yea, when thoughts of God rush in upon thy mind, to turn them out as unwelcome guests? This is to degenerate into the state of devils, a part of whose torment it is to think of God: they ‘believe and tremble;’ the more explicit thoughts they have of the name of God, the more is their horror increased. Oh! then let thy meditations of God be sweet and serious, Ps. civ. 34. Everything that passeth before thine eyes proclaims an invisible God, an infinite and eternal power, that made thee 129and all things else. Shall the heavens above, the earth beneath thee say, Remember God; and every creature, every pile of grass thou treadest upon, call to thee, Remember God; and wilt thou be so stupid and scornful as not to cast a look upon him? Then we begin to be serious when thoughts of God are more fastened upon our hearts.
2. Why did he make thee? Not in vain; for no wise agent will make a thing to no purpose, especially with such advice, ‘Let us make man.’ Certainly not for a life of sin, to break his laws, and follow your lusts, and satisfy your fleshly desires. Was this God’s end, that the creature might rebel against himself? This is not consistent with his goodness, to make us for such an end; or if so, why did he make the rules of justice and equity natural to us, so that man is a law to himself? Rom. ii. 14. Nor for sport and recreation, to eat, drink, and be merry, or to melt away your days in ease and idleness. He spake rather like a beast than a man, ‘Soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry; thou hast goods laid up for many years,’ Luke xii. 19. If merely for pleasures, why did he give us a conscience? The brute beasts are fitter for such a use, who have no conscience, and therefore no remorse to embitter their pleasures. What was the end for which God made us? Was it to gather wealth, and that the soul might cater for the body, and that we might live well here in the world? No; for then God’s work would terminate in itself. And why were such noble faculties given us, such a high-flying reason, that hath a sense of another world, if this were all God’s end, that we might grovel here upon earth, and scrape and heap up this world’s riches? We see they are the basest of men who are given to this kind of pursuits. Surely this was not God’s end. But why was it? Prov. xvi. 4, ‘God hath made all things for himself,’ for his glory; and so man to glorify him and enjoy him. The beasts were made to glorify him in their kind, but man to enjoy him. This is my end, to seek after God, to please him, to serve him: Ps. xiv. 2, ‘The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God.’ God, that hath fixed his end, observeth what man doth in compliance with it, what affection and care they have to find him, please him, glorify him. Reason will tell us as well as scripture that the first cause must be the last end, and we must end there where we began at first: 1 Cor. x. 31, ‘Whether, therefore, ye cat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’ Well, then, I was not made for nothing, not to sin away my life, nor to sport it away, nor to talk it away, nor to drudge it away in the servile and basest offices of this life; my. end is to enjoy God, and my work and business is to serve and glorify him.
3. How little you have answered this end! God complaineth of our backwardness to this work: Jer. viii. 6, ‘No man repented of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?’ God, upon a review, found every day’s work good, very good in themselves, and their correspondence and frame, Gen. i. 31; but when we consider our ways, we shall find that all is evil, very evil. We have too long gone on in a course of sin, and the more we go on, the more we shall go astray, and wander from the great end for which we were created, which was God’s service and honour. Oh! consider your ways, especially when conscience 130is set awork by the word, or when we smart under the folly of our own wanderings, and God maketh us sensible of our mistake by some smart scourge. If we never seriously thought on our ways before, then is a time to think of them, and to count it a mercy that we are not left to go on in a course of sin without checks and disappointments. Oh! look upon the drift and course of your lives and actions, pry into every corner of them. What have I been doing hitherto? spending my days in vanity and sin? Have I remembered my Creator, made it my work to serve him, my scope to glorify him? Have I looked after this as the unum necessarium, the great law and business of my life, that I might enjoy communion with God? Oh! for how long a time hath God been kept out of his right, and I have been sowing to the flesh, and never minded the great errand for which I was sent into the world! None can excuse himself.
4. The unkindness and baseness of such a course, that you may make it odious to the soul. God hath not only made me, but kept me, and provided for me day after day. ‘The God which fed me all my lifetime,’ saith Jacob, Gen. xlviii. 15. I have been fed at his table, clothed at his cost, defended, kept, when long ago God might have struck me dead in my sins; and yet all this while I have not thought of God, to pay the return of my thanks and obedience to my great benefactor. The very beasts are more dutiful in their kind to man, who, as God’s instrument, provideth for them: Isa. i. 3, ‘The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but my people will not know, Israel will not consider.’ How senseless have I been of the great obligations wherein I stand bound to God! There is the fault; we do not know, and will not consider what hath been done to God for this.
5. What it will come to, or what will become of you, if you should still so continue, or if I should go on in this course, what will be my portion for ever? Nothing but an eternal separation from God, and endless torments with the devil and his angels: Ps. l. 22, ‘Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.’ Oh! this is the means to awaken the conscience, and to affect the heart with high and right thoughts of God. What will be the end of those that go far away from God, if they do not make haste to come home to him? Eternal and merciless vengeance; for God will not always bear with forgetful sinners; they shall be torn in pieces, the soul sent to hell, and the body to the grave. Oh! it concerneth the poor impenitent wretch that now goeth on fearless in a course of sin, immediately to stop in his march, lest he be hurried away to the place of torment, and there be no escaping. Now, urge this upon the heart, and exercise your thoughts in the remembrance of it; and if you have overcome and overwrestled some former qualms of conscience, now lay it to heart, and do so no more. It may be the hour is at hand when God will take away your souls from you, and all your sins shall be set in order before you, and the stupid conscience, that is now senseless, shall have a lively feeling of all your rebellions and unkindnesses done to God, as the paper which was but now white, when stamped with the printing-irons hath a story written upon it in legible characters.
6. How much it concerneth you to come out of this condition 131speedily, for God is not a God to be neglected or dallied with. When he calls in the seasons of grace he will be observed, otherwise you may call and he will have no regard: ‘They shall call, and I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but not find me,’ Prov. i. 28. When you receive many checks of conscience, entreaties of grace, motions of the Spirit in vain, God will be gone. God doth commonly give men a day, and no man or angel knoweth how long this day shall last. God gave Cain a day: ‘If thou dost well, shalt thou not be accepted? if thou dost ill, sin lieth at the door.’ Oh! then, when you begin to have thoughts of turning unto God, let them not be quelled. God reckoneth every hour, ‘These three years,’ ‘this second epistle,’ ‘this second miracle:’ and when his patience will expire you cannot tell.
7. How happy it will be for you when once you change your course I The prodigal remembered the plenty in his father’s house; you will find a manifest difference: Rom. vi. 21, 22, ‘What fruit had you then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death: but now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.’ In the way, no such gripes of conscience, no shame, sorrow, fears; in the end, everlasting life. It was your mistaking that called the days of sin good days. Oh! but when fruitful in holiness you will have present comfort and serenity of mind, a taste of the clusters of Canaan in the wilderness, hope of a glorious state, and the best will be at last. Compare pain with pain, pleasure with pleasure. We do not compare aright the pains of godliness with pleasures of sin; and yet there you may see the discharging of our duty will yield more true comfort and peace than all the pleasures of sin can bring us.
8. What hopes by Christ: Heb. iii. 1, ‘Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Jesus Christ:’ what provision God hath made.
Thirdly, Let me argue the necessity of this consideration.
1. Otherwise men are rash, careless, and precipitant, and act as they are carried on by their own lusts; whereas, if they did consider, it would stop them in the course of sin. They rush like a horse into the battle, because ‘no man saith, What have I done?’ Jer. viii. 6. Men run on like a headstrong horse after their lusts and fancies; whereas, if they do seriously bethink themselves, and cast in a few grave thoughts about things to come, it would be like the putting in of cold water into a boiling pot, abate the fervour of their lusts. Men are wicked because they are inconsiderate; there are arguments enough against sin if they would but pause and weigh them seriously; but we do not think of heaven and hell, and therefore they do not work upon us: Eccles. xi. 9, ‘Remember that for all these things God will bring thee to judgment.’
2. This serious consideration is a good means to awaken us from the sleep of security. When we consider the end why we were made, the rule we are to walk by, and poise ourselves about conformity or inconformity to this rule, and do withal revolve the issues of things in our minds, it cannot but rouse us up out of our sloth and stupidness, and make us act more vigorously and regularly as to the ends of our 132creation. Oh! what shall I do? The first grace is awakening; that maketh way for other graces; Eph. v. 14, ‘Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. Whereas otherwise, when we consider not, we are stupid and sottish: Isa. xliv. 19 ‘None considered! in his heart, Is there not a lie in my right hand? I have burnt part in the fire,’ Eccles. v. 1, they ‘offer the sacrifice of fools,’ for ‘they consider not that they have done evil:’ they do not weigh their actions. The reason why they go wrong and continue wrong is, they do not seriously ponder and debate with themselves what it will come to.
3. By consideration we come to find where the work of God sticketh with us, and so conviction being the more particular, worketh the more kindly. A blunt iron that toucheth many points doth not so soon go to the quick as a needle that toucheth but one point: Mal. iii. 7, ‘Return, and they said, Wherein shall we return?’ We do not see the need of repentance so much as by prying narrowly into our own ways. In short, without this, life is not so regular, the heart is not overpowered with such strong and full reason to comply with God’s counsel.
Secondly, How much it concerneth us, after we have considered our ways, to turn to the Lord, and diligently to pursue the course which he hath prescribed: ‘I turned my feet unto thy testimonies.’ A sound conversion is here described.
1. I turned, in the thorough purpose of his heart, that is the act on our part. It is by God’s grace that we are turned, but we turn our selves when the purpose of our souls is fixed: ‘Turn me, and I shall be turned.’ God inclineth the heart, and we manifest it by binding ourselves by a thorough purpose. A wish, an offer, when it endeth only in that, we have not considered enough; but when the heart is bent, I am turned. The prodigal, when he took up, came to himself, and had reasoned the case, says, ‘I will go to my father,’ Luke xv. 18. It must be such a purpose as is diligently pursued.
2. The object or rule, my feet unto thy testimonies. By his feet is meant the course of his life. Our will and natural inclination should be no rule to us, but God’s testimonies. We must entirely give up ourselves to the direction of his word: ‘As many as walk according to this rule,’ Gal. vi. 16. We are not to walk as we list. There is a fixed determinate rule, which must be kept with all accurateness and attention; a godly man is very tender of breaking this rule; he makes conscience of keeping to this rule.
Now it concerneth us to make sure work of it.
[1.] Because convictions lost occasion the greater hardness of heart. No iron so hard as that which has been often heated and often quenched; and no heart so bad as theirs that seemed to have some serious and anxious thoughts about their eternal condition. The devil is the more busy and watchful about them because of their offer to escape; and God is the more provoked because they started aside when they were at the point of yielding; as better a match were never proposed, than to break off just as it is ready to be concluded. Always according to the closeness of the application, if it succeed not, so doth our hardness of heart increase. They that were ministerially stirred, 133when they pull away the shoulder, their hearts grow like an adamant stone: Zech. vii. 11, 12, ‘But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears that they should not hear; yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.’ When the Spirit is in a way of striving, Gen vi. 3, when you are any way affected, if resistance be continued, he withdraws. When men blunt the edge of conscience, deaden their affections, they lose all feeling: 2 Peter ii. 20, 21, ‘For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning; for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.’ They sin against former knowledge, experience, and sense of the truth. As their light is, so their resisting causeth hardness, and all the sensible work cometh to nothing. But that is not all, it turneth to loss; it maketh it more difficult than it was before in regard of us; it maketh us more careless. When we had some stirring in our consciences before, we healed it slightly, and we think to do so again.
[2.] You will provoke God to use a rougher dispensation when the persuasions of the word and the strivings of the Spirit cannot bring you to repentance. They will not be won by arguments; God teacheth them by blows, as Gideon did the men of Succoth by briers and thorns. Therefore they shall shortly find themselves so involved in the fruit of their sins, as they shall not look off from it; their guilt shall lay hold of them at every hand: Hosea vii. 2, ‘They consider not in their hearts that I remember all their sins; now their doings have beset them round about.’ We should be much with our hearts, considering our case, how it is with us. God useth not the rod till forced to it: ‘He doth not willingly grieve nor afflict the children of men,’ Lam. iii. 33. When milder means work but half a cure, the rest is sup plied by some pressing judgments; his work is stopped, and therefore he promotes it this way.
[3.] It is a sign your consideration is not serious when you are off and on, and it produceth no good effect in the soul. A plaster may be sovereign, but when you are still pulling it off and putting it on, it does no good. Light thoughts work not; when they are deep and ponderous, then they leave a durable impression. Still it is, ‘Remember and turn:’ Ps. xxii. 27, ‘All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord.’ Bethink and repent: 1 Kings viii. 47, ‘If they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captives, and repent;’ ‘Search and try, and turn unto the Lord.’ Some are semper victuri, always considering, about to live: but you must resolve: kindly convictions will not die, nor let the convinced sinner alone till they appear in the fruits of obedience.
[4.] The devil hath his purposes: Mat. xiii. 19, ‘The wicked one catcheth away that which was sown in his heart;’ he watcheth troubled sinners, that the work may die away.
Use 1. To reprove us—134
1. For not considering our ways. When did you ever go aside, and seriously debate with yourselves about your turning to God? Did you ever lay it to your hearts how matters stand between you and God? There are certain seasons when God calleth you to it, and that is—
[1.] When the doctrine of life and the way of salvation hath been represented unto you with evidence and power, and you have felt some stirring and trouble in your consciences. Did you go home and say, Rom. viii. 31, ‘What shall we then say to these things?’ God hath spoken to me this day; now shall all this be lost and come to nothing? Heb. ii. 3, ‘How shall I escape if I neglect so great salvation?’ Now I am called to mind Christ and salvation more. If I should give no heed to these things, or only give them the hearing for the present, oh! what will become of me? There is a special providence in every message, warning, offer, or instruction by the word. Acts xiii. 26, ‘To you is this word of salvation sent;’ he doth not say, We brought it, but, God sent it; as some message of God for your trial. Do we think of these things which we have heard and learned?
[2.] When God appeareth against you in a course of judgments, cutting off one comfort after another, now taking away a child, then blasting the estate: ‘Now consider your ways;’ Eccles. vii. 14, ‘In the day of adversity consider:’ then is the duty in season. Affliction doth not rise out of the dust; God hath some end in these providences; and what is his end but to make me mindful of my duty to him? See for what end these things come, and to what issue they tend, that we may hear the rod, and know the meaning of the providence. If you do not consider, God will make you consider before he hath done with you. Jer. xxiii. 20, ‘The anger of the Lord shall not return till he hath performed all the thoughts of his heart, and then you shall consider it perfectly.’ God will follow blow after blow till we do consider his mind and purpose. Jer. xxx. 24, ‘The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return until he hath done it, and until he hath performed the intents of his heart.’
2. To reprove us for not taking this advantage. When we are set a-thinking of our ways, we have many thoughts and sensible stirrings, but they come to nothing, because we do not follow it close. You think, and have some workings of conscience, but do they end in a fixed purpose? Some break through all, as Saul forces himself, 1 Sam. xiii. 12. Break through all restraints of conscience. Felix had his qualm, but he puts it off to another season. Oh! consider these things will one day be a witness against you, the sensible workings upon your hearts by the word and rod.
Use 2. To stir us up to this work, serious consideration in order to sound conversion.
1. Be frequent in it. If daily you called yourselves to an account, all acts of grace would thrive the better. Seneca of Sextius, Quid hodie malum sanasti? cui vitio obstitisti? You have God’s example in reviewing every day’s work, and in dealing with Adam before he slept. The man that was unclean was to wash his clothes at eventide.135
2. Seriously set yourself to it: Deut. xxxii. 46, ‘Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day.’ It is a weighty matter of life and death: Ps. iv. 4, ‘Commune with your hearts and be still.’ This is the way to check sin, and to come on most hopefully in a course of obedience.
3. Drive your thoughts to a resolution, to rectify whatever is amiss; never leave thinking of your ways till you grow anxious about eternal life, nor let your anxiousness cease till you bring it to somewhat; grow to some resolution about the ways of God. Pray God to make your consideration effectual: 2 Tim. ii. 7, ‘Consider what I have said, and the Lord give you understanding in all things:’ this is but the means, God giveth the grace.
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