« Prev Sermon CLXI. The Unprofitableness of Sin in This… Next »

SERMON CLXI.

THE UNPROFITABLENESS OF SIN IN THIS LIFE, AN ARGUMENT FOR REPENTANCE.

He looketh upon men; and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.—Job xxxiii. 27, 28.

THE great folly and perverseness of human nature is in nothing more apparent than in this, that when in all other things men are generally led and governed by their interests, and can hardly be imposed upon by any art, or persuaded by any solicitation, to act plainly contrary to it; yet, in matter of their sin and duty, that is, in that which of all other is of greatest concernment to them, they have little or no regard to it; but are so blinded and bewitched with “the deceitfulness of sin, “as not to consider the infinite danger and disadvantage of it; and at the same time to cast the commandments of God, and the consideration of their own happiness behind their backs.

And of this every sinner, when he comes to himself, and considers what he hath done, is abundantly convinced; as appears by the confession and acknowledgment, which is here in the text put into the mouth of a true penitent: “I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not,”&c.

In which words here is a great blessing and benefit 300promised on God’s part, and a condition required on our part.

First, The blessing or benefit promised on God’s part, which is deliverance from the ill consequences and punishment of sin; “he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light;” that is, he will deliver him from death and damnation. And though, perhaps, temporal death be here immediately intended, yet that is a type of our deliverance from eternal death: which is expressly promised in the gospel.

Secondly, Here is the condition required on our part: “If any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not.” In which words there are contained,

I. A penitent confession of our sins to God; for “He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned;” that is, make a penitent confession of his sin to God.

II. A true contrition for our sin; not only for fear of the pernicious consequences of sin, and the punishment that will follow it, implied in these words, “and it profited me not,” this is but a very imperfect contrition; but from a just sense of the evil nature of sin, and the fault and offence of it against God, that we have done contrary to right and our duty. “If any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right. Here you see that true and perfect contrition for our sins, is made a necessary condition of the blessing and benefit here promised; viz. deliverance from the punishment due to them.

III. Here is a description of the evil nature of sin, it is a perverting of t that which is right. Sin is a perverting of the constitution and appointment of God, and of the nature and order of things. God 301hath given man a law and rule to walk by, but “the foolishness of man perverteth his way.” The great lines of our duty are plain and visible to all men; and if we would attend to the direction of our own minds, concerning good and evil, every man would be a law to himself. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good.” That which is right, and just, and good, is plain and obvious, and offers itself first to us; and whenever we sin, we go out of the right way that lies plain before us, and “turn aside into crooked paths.” But when we do that which is right, we act agreeably to the design and frame of our beings, and comply with the true nature and order of things; we do what becomes us, and are what we ought to be: but sin perverts the nature of things, and puts them out of course; “I have sinned, and perverted that which was right.”

IV. You have here an acknowledgment of the mischievous and pernicious consequences of sin: “I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not.” Which last words are a μείωσις, in which much less is said than is meant and intended: “It profited me not,” that is, it was so far from being of advantage, that the effects and consequences of it were very pernicious and destructive.

And this is not only true as to the final issue and event of an evil course in the other world, but I shall endeavour to shew, that even in respect of this world, and the present life, the practice of some sins is plainly mischievous to the temporal interests of men; that others are wholly unprofitable; and that those which pretend to bring some benefit and advantage, will, when all accounts are cast up, and all circumstances duly weighed and considered, be found to do far otherwise.

302

First, I shall shew that the practice of some vices is evidently mischievous and prejudicial to us, as to this world; as, all those vices which fall under the cognizance of human laws, and are punished by them, murder, theft, perjury, sedition, rebellion, and the like; these cannot be denied to be of pernicious consequence to men, and therefore the great patrons of vice seldom plead for these; the inconvenience of them is so palpable, that some feel it, and all may see it every day.

But besides these, there are many other sorts of sin which human laws either take no notice of, or do not so severely punish, which yet, in their natural consequences, are very pernicious to our present interest; either they are a disturbance to our minds, or dangerous to our health, or ruinous to our estate, or hurtful to our reputation, or it may be at once prejudicial to us in all, or most of these respects; and these are the greatest temporal inconveniences that men are liable to.

All irregular passions, as wrath, malice, envy, impatience, and revenge, are not only a disturbance to ourselves, but they naturally draw upon us hatred and contempt from others. Any one of these passions is enough to render a man uneasy to himself, and to make his conversation disgustful and troublesome to all that are about him; for all men naturally hate all those who are of an envious, or malicious, or revengeful temper, and are apt to rise up and stand upon their guard against them. Anger and impatience are great deformities of the mind, and make a man look as ugly as if he had a wry and distorted countenance; and these passions are apt to breed in others a secret contempt of us, and to bring our prudence into question, because they are 303signs of a weak and impotent mind, that either hath lost, or never had, the government of itself.

There are other vices which are plainly pernicious to oar health, and do naturally bring pains and diseases upon men; such are intemperance and lust: and though some may pretend to govern themselves in the practice of these with so much moderation and discretion, as to prevent the notorious bad consequences of them, yet there are very few or none that do so: this is seldom more than a speculation, and men that allow themselves in any lewd or in temperate course, will find it very hard to govern themselves in it; for after men have forfeited their innocence, and broke in upon their natural modesty, they are apt by degrees to grow profligate and desperate. If a man gives way but little to his own vicious inclinations, they will soon get head of him, and no man knows how far they will hurry him at last.

Besides that, the vices I am speaking of, intemperance and lust, have other great inconvenience! attending them, they expose men more frequently than most other vices, to occasions of quarrel, in which men often lose their own lives, or take away other men’s, by which they fall under the danger of the law, and the stroke of public justice; or, if they escape that (as too often they do) they cannot fly from their own consciences, which do commonly fill them with the horror and torment of such an action all their days; so pernicious are the usual consequences of these vices, of which we see sad instances every day.

Nor are these vices less hurtful to men’s estates, for they are extremely expensive and wasteful, and usually make men careless of all their business and 304concernments, liable to be cheated by those whom they are forced to trust with their affairs, because they will not mind them themselves, and be abused by crafty men, who watch the opportunities of their folly and weakness, to draw them into foolish bargains. It is an old observation, that more men perish by intemperance than by the sword; and I believe it is as true, that more estates are dissipated and wasted by these two riotous vices, than by all other accidents whatsoever.

And there is scarce any notorious vice, by which men do not greatly suffer in their reputation and good name, even when the times are worst and most degenerate: any wicked course, whether of debauchery or injustice, is a blemish to a man’s credit, not only in the esteem of the sober and virtuous, but even of those who are loose and extravagant; for men are sooner brought to practise what is bad, than to approve of it, and do generally think all sin and wickedness to be a stain upon them, whatever in a swaggering humour they may say to the contrary. A clear evidence of this is, that men do so studiously endeavour to conceal their vices, and are so careful that as few as may be should be conscious to them, and are so confounded if they be discovered, and so out of all patience when they are upbraided with them; a plain acknowledgment that these things are shameful in themselves, and, whatever face men may put upon things, that they do inwardly, and at the bottom of their hearts, believe that these practices are deservedly of bad reputation, and do, in the general opinion of mankind, leave a blot upon them.

Secondly, There are other sins, which, though they are not usually attended with consequences so 305palpably mischievous, yet are plainly unprofitable, and bring no manner of advantage to men.

Of this sort is all kind of profaneness, and customary swearing in common conversation; there is neither profit nor pleasure in them. What doth the profane man get by his contempt of religion? He is neither more respected, nor better trusted, for this quality; but, on the contrary, it is many times really to his prejudice, and brings a great odium upon him, not only from those who sincerely love religion, but from others also; though they are conscious to themselves that they do not love religion as they ought, yet they have a veneration for it, and cannot endure that any one should speak slightly of it.

And it is as hard to imagine where the pleasure of profaneness lies. Men cannot but at first have a great reluctancy in their minds against it, and must offer considerable violence to themselves, to bring themselves to it; and when it is grown more familiar, and their consciences are become more seared and insensible, yet, whenever they are alone and serious, or when any affliction or calamity is upon them, they are full of fears and anguish, their guilt stares them in the face, and their consciences are raging and furious.

And as all kind of profaneness is unprofitable, so more especially customary swearing in ordinary conversation, upon every occasion of passion, or any other trivial cause; nay, it may be without cause, out of mere habit and custom. Now what can possibly be imagined to be the profit or pleasure of this vice? Sensual pleasure in it there can be none, because it is not founded in the temper of the body; a man may be naturally prone to anger 306or lust; but no man, I think, is born with a swearing constitution.

And there is as little profit as pleasure in it; for the common and trivial use of oaths makes them perfectly insignificant to their end, and is so far from giving credit to a man’s word, that it rather weakens the reputation of it.

Thirdly, Those vices which pretend to be of advantage to us, when all accompts are cast up, and all circumstances duly considered, will be found to be quite otherwise. Some vices pretend to bring in profit, others to yield pleasure; but upon a thorough examination of the matter, these pretences will vanish and come to nothing.

The vices which pretend to be most profitable are covetousness and oppression, fraud and falsehood, and perfidiousness: but if we look well into them, we shall find, that either they do not bring the advantages they pretend to bring, or that the inconveniences which attend them are as great, or greater than the advantages they bring; or else that the practice of the opposite virtues would be of much greater advantage to us.

1. Some of these vices do not bring the advantages they pretend to do. Covetousness may in crease a man’s estate, but it adds nothing to his happiness and contentment: for though his estate grow never so much, his want is still as great as it was before, and his care and trouble continually greater; so that so long as he continues covetous, the more rich, the less happy.

And then, for fraud and falsehood; they are not of that real and lasting advantage, that cunning but short-sighted men are apt to imagine. Nothing is truer than that of Solomon; “The lying tongue is 307but for a moment.” A man can practise the arts of falsehood and deceit but for a little while, before they will be discovered; and when they are discovered, they are so far from being any advantage to him, that they turn to his prejudice, and the cunning man begins to be in a bad case, and he that was wont to overreach others, is at last caught himself.

2. Several of these vices are attended with inconveniences as great or greater than the advantages they bring. If a man increase his estate by injustice and oppression, yet he loseth his reputation. Besides that, all fraudulent and unjust courses are apt to entangle a man in a great many inconveniences, and to expose him to troublesome suits, for the keeping of what he hath unjustly gotten; it is very often seen, that what is gotten by injustice is spent in law; and though it may be those whom he hath wronged never recover their right, yet first or last the unjust man is put to more trouble and vexation about it than the thing is worth. This Solomon observes: (Prov. xv. 6.) “In the revenue of the wicked there is trouble.”

The perfidious man, by betraying a friend or a trust, may, perhaps, make some present advantage: but then, by such villany, he makes himself odious to all mankind, and by this means, at one time or other, prevents himself of greater advantages which he might have had another way; and, perhaps, at last, is miserably crushed by those whom he betrayed, who, in the change and revolution of human affairs, may, some time or other, have the opportunity of being revenged. Or else,

3. The practice of the opposite virtues would be of far greater advantage to us.

Truth and fidelity are in common experience 308found to be a better and surer way of thriving, and more like to last and hold out, than fraud and false hood; and as honesty is a surer way of raising an estate, so it brings along with it greater security of the quiet enjoyment of it. There is never any real occasion, and seldom any colour and pretence, of bringing such a man into trouble; for which reason Solomon says, “Better is the little which the righteous man hath, than great possessions without right:” because, though it be but little, yet it will wear like steel, and he is like to enjoy it quietly, and may increase it; whereas the unjust man is continually in danger of losing what he hath gotten.

And if this be the case, it is very plain, that those vices which pretend to bring the greatest advantage, are really unprofitable; and to these kind of vices the text seems to point more particularly; “If any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which is right, and it profited me not,” &c.

But, perhaps, though there be no profit in any sinful course, yet there may be some pleasure. That comes next to be examined; and I doubt not to make it evident, that there is no such pleasure in sin, as can make it a reasonable temptation to any man to venture upon it. The vices which pretend to bring the greatest pleasure, are lewdness, and intemperance, and revenge.

The two first of these are the highest pretenders to pleasure: but God knows, and the sinner himself knows, how thin and transitory this pleasure is, how much trouble attends it, and how many sighs and groans follow it; and whatever pleasure they may minister to the sense, they bring a great deal of anguish and perplexity to the mind; so that the trouble which they cause does more than countervail 309the pleasure which they bring; and they do not only disturb the mind, but they disease the body. How many are there, who, for the gratifying of an inordinate lust, and for the incomprehensible pleasure of a drunken fit, have endured the violent burnings of a fever, or else have consumed the remainder of their days in languishing sickness and pain?

And the reason of all this is plain, because all the pleasures of sin are violent, and forced, and unnatural, and therefore not like to continue; they are founded in some disease and distemper of our minds, and therefore always end in pain and smart.

And as for revenge, it is indeed a very eager and impatient desire: but so far sorely from being a pleasure, that the very thoughts of it are extremely troublesome, and raise as great storms in the mind of a man, as any passion whatsoever; and I never heard of the pleasure of being in a storm; it is pleasant indeed to be out of it, when others are in it. And when revenge hath satisfied itself, and laid its enemy bleeding at its foot, the man that executed it commonly repents himself the next moment, and would give all the world to undo what he hath done; so that if there be any pleasure in revenge, it is so flitting, and of so short a continuance, that we know not where to fix it; for there is nothing but tumult and rage before the execution of it, and after it nothing but remorse and horror; so that if it be a pleasure, it is but of one moment’s continuance, and lasts no longer than the act is a-doing; and what man in his wits would purchase so short a pleasure at so dear a price? This is most certainly true, and if it were well considered, sufficient to 310convince any reasonable man of the unreasonableness of this passion.

Cain is a fearful instance of this kind, who, after he had drawn his brother into the field and slain him there, how was he tormented with the guilt of what he had done, and forced to cry out, “My punishment is greater than I can bear;” or (as some translations render the words) “mine iniquity is greater than that it can be forgiven!” (Gen. iv. 13.) “From thy face (says he to God, in the anguish of his soul) shall I be hid, and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me,” (ver. 14.) “Every one that findeth me;” how fearful did his guilt make him! when probably there was then but one man in the world besides himself. And I may say of this sort of men as St. Jude does of those in his time, (Jude 11.) “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain;” they are guilty of his crime, and his doom shall be theirs.

And here I cannot but take notice of a great evil that grows daily upon us, and therefore deserves with the greatest severity to be discountenanced and punished: I mean that of duels, than which what can be more unchristian? And what can be more unreasonable, than for men, upon deliberation, and after the heat of passion is over, to resolve to sheath their swords in one another’s bowels, only for a hasty word? And, which is yet more unreasonable, that because two men are angry, and have quarrelled with one another, and will fight it out, that therefore two more, who have no quarrel, no kind of displeasure against one another, must fight too, and kill one another if they can, for no reason, and upon no provocation. These false rules of honour will not pass in another world, in the highest and greatest court of honour, from whence there is no appeal.

I shall conclude this whole argument with that excellent saying of Cato, reported in A. Gellius: Cogitate cum animis vestris, &c. “Consider (says he) with yourselves, if ye be at any trouble and pain to do a good action, the trouble will be soon over; but the pleasure and comfort of what ye have done well, abides with you all your days; but if, to gratify yourselves, you do any thing that is wicked, the pleasure will quickly vanish; but the guilt of it will stick by you for ever.”

And is it not then much better to prevent all this trouble, by denying ourselves these sinful pleasures, which will follow us with guilt whilst we live, and fill us with horror and despair when we come to die?

I shall now make some reflections upon what has been delivered, and so conclude.

First, What has been said upon this argument ought particularly to move those who have so great a consideration of this present life, and the temporal happiness of it, that the practice of all virtues is a friend to their temporal, as well as eternal welfare, and all vice is an enemy to both.

Secondly, This likewise takes off all manner of excuse from sin and vice. It pretends not to serve the soul, and to profit our future happiness in another world; and if it be an enemy also to our present welfare in this world, what is there to be said for it?

Thirdly, (which I desire to insist a little longer upon) all the arguments which I have used to convince men of the folly of a wicked course, are so many strong and unanswerable reasons for repentance; 312for when a man is convinced that he hath done foolishly, and to his own prejudice, that he hath sinned, and that it profited him not, what can he do less, than to be heartily sorry for it, and ashamed of it, and resolved to do better for the future? Nothing surely is more reasonable than repentance; and yet how hard is it to bring men to it? Either men will mistake the nature of it, and not do it effectually; or they will delay it, and not do it in time.

I. Men mistake the nature of repentance; and there are two great mistakes about it.

1. Of those who make the great force and virtue of it to consist, not so much in the resolution of the penitent, as in the absolution of the priest. And this the church of Rome, in their doctrine concerning repentance, does. For their sacrament of penance (as they call it) they make to consist of two parts: the matter of it, which consists in these three acts of the penitent, confession, contrition, and satisfaction; and the form of it, which is the absolution of the priest, in which they make the main virtue and force of repentance to consist; In qua præcipue ipsius vis sita est, are the very words of the council of Trent.

And here is a wide difference betwixt us; for though the comfort of the penitent may, in some case, consist in the absolution of the priest, yet the virtue and efficacy of repentance does not at all consist in it, but wholly in the contrition and sincere resolution of the penitent, as the Scripture every where declares: and to think otherwise is of dangerous consequence; because it encourageth men to hope for the benefit of repentance, that is, the pardon and forgiveness of their sins, without having 313truly repented. And, indeed, the council of Trent have so framed their doctrines in this point, that any one may see, that they did not matter how much they abated on the part of the penitent, provided the power of the priest be but advanced, and kept up in its full height.

2. The other mistake is of those who make repentance to consist in the bare resolution of amendment, though it never has its effect; that is, though the sinner either do not what he resolved, or do it only for a fit, and during his present trouble and conviction.

There is one case indeed, and but one, wherein a resolution not brought to effect is available, and that is, when nothing hinders the performance and execution of it, but only want of time and opportunity for it, when the repentance is sincere, and the resolution real, but the man is cut off between the actual reformation which he intended, and which God, who sees things certainly in their causes, knows would have followed, if the man had lived to give demonstration of it. But this is nothing to those who have the opportunity to make good their resolution, and do not; for, because the resolution which would have been performed, had there been time and opportunity, is reckoned for a true repentance, and accepted of God, as if it had been done; therefore the resolution which was not brought to effect when there was time and opportunity for it, hath not the nature of true repentance, nor will it be accepted of God.

I will add but one thing more upon this head, because I doubt it is not always sufficiently considered; and that is this, that a sincere resolution of a better course, does imply a resolution of the 314means, as well as of the end: he that is truly resolved against any sin, is likewise resolved against the occasions and temptations that would lead and draw him to it; otherwise he hath taken up a rash and foolish resolution, which he is not like to keep, because he did not resolve upon that which was necessary to the keeping of it. So he that resolves upon any part of his duty, must likewise resolve upon the means which are necessary to the discharge and performance of it; he that is resolved to be just in his dealing, and to pay his debts, must be diligent in his calling, and mind his business; because without this he cannot do the other; for nothing can be more vain and fond, than for a man to pretend that he is resolved upon doing his duty, when he neglects any thing that is necessary to put him into a capacity, and to further him in the discharge of it. This is as if a man should resolve to be well, and yet never take physic, or be careless in observing the rules which are prescribed in order to his health. So, for a man to resolve against drunkenness, and yet to run himself upon the temptations which naturally lead to it, by frequenting the company of lewd and intemperate persons, this is as if a man should resolve against the plague, and run into the pest-house. Whatever can reasonably move a man to be resolved upon any end, will, if his resolution be wise and honest, determine him as strongly to use the means which are proper and necessary to that end.

These are the common mistakes about this mat ter, which men are the more willing to run into, because they are loath to be brought to a true repentance, the nature whereof is not difficult to be understood (for nothing in the world is plainer), 315only men are always slow to understand what they have no mind to put in practice. But,

II. Besides these mistakes about repentance, there is another great miscarriage in this matter, and that is, the delay of repentance; men are loath to set about it, and therefore they put it upon the last hazard, and resolve then to huddle it up as well as they can; but this certainly is great folly, to be still making more work for repentance, because it is to create so much needless trouble and vexation to ourselves: it is to go on still in playing a foolish part, in hopes to retrieve all by an after game; this is extremely dangerous, because we may certainly sin, but it is not certain we shall repent; our repentance may be prevented, and we may be cut off in our sins; but if we should have space for it, repentance may, in process of time, grow a hundred times more difficult than it is at present.

But if it were much more certain and more easy than it is, if it were nothing but a hearty sorrow and shame for our sins, and an asking God forgiveness for them, without being put to the trouble of reforming our wicked lives, yet this were great folly, to do those things which will certainly grieve us after we have done them, and put us to shame, and to ask forgiveness for them. It was well said of old Cato, Næ tu stultus es homuncio, qui malis veniam precari, quam non peccare; “Thou art a foolish man indeed, who choosest rather to ask forgiveness than not to offend.”

At the best, repentance implies a fault; it is an after-wisdom, which supposeth a man first to have played the fool; it is but the best end of a bad business; a hard shift, and a desperate hazard, which 316a man that had acted prudently would never have been put to; it is a plaster after we have dangerously wounded ourselves: but certainly it had been much wiser to have prevented the danger of the wound, and the pain of curing it. A wise man would not make himself sick if he could; or if he were already so, would not make himself sicker, though he had the most effectual and infallible remedy in the world in his power: but this is not the case of a sinner, for repentance as well as faith is the gift of God.

Above all, let me caution you not to put off this great and necessary work to the most unseasonable time of all other, the time of sickness and death, upon a fond presumption, that you can be reconciled to God when you please, and exercise such a repentance as will make your peace with him at any time.

I am heartily afraid that a very great part of mankind do miscarry upon this confidence, and are swallowed up in the gulf of eternal perdition with this plank in their arms. The common custom is (and I fear it is too common), when the physician has given over his patient, then, and not till then, to send for the minister; not so much to inquire into the man’s condition, and to give him suitable advice, as to minister comfort, and to speak peace to him at a venture.

But let me tell you, that herein you put an extreme difficult task upon us, in expecting that we should pour wine and oil into the wound before it be searched, and speak smooth and comfortable things to a man that is but just brought to a sense of the long course of a lewd and wicked life impenitently continued in. Alas! what comfort can we give to men in such a case? We are loath to 317drive them to despair, and yet we must not destroy them by presumption; pity and good-nature do strongly tempt us to make the best of their case, and to give them all the little hopes which with any kind of reason we can, and God knows it is but very little that we can give to such persons, upon good ground; for it all depends upon the degree and sincerity of their repentance, which God only knows, and we can but guess at. We can easily tell them what they ought to have done, and what they should do if they were to live longer, and what is the best that they can do in those straits into which they have brought themselves; viz. to exercise as deep a sorrow and repentance for their sins as is possible, and “to cry mightily to God” for mercy, in and through the merit of our blessed Saviour. But how far this will be available in these circumstances we cannot tell; because we do not know whether, if the man had lived longer, this repentance and these resolutions, which he now declares of a better course, would have been good.

And after all is done that can be done in so short a time, and in such circumstances of confusion and disorder as commonly attend dying persons, I doubt the result of all will be this: that there is much more ground of fear than hope concerning them; nay, perhaps, while we are pressing the dying sinner to repentance, and he is bungling about it, he expires, in great doubt and perplexity of mind, what will become of him! or, if his eyes be closed with more comfortable hopes of his condition, the next time he opens them again he may find his fearful mistake, like the rich man in the parable, who, when he was in hell, “lifted up his eyes, being in torment!”

318

This is a very dismal and melancholy consideration, and commands all men presently to repent, and not to put off the main work of their lives to the end of them, and the time of sickness and old age. Let us not offer up a carcass to God instead of a living and acceptable sacrifice: but let us turn to God in the days of our health and strength, “before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, of which we shall say we have no pleasure in them; before the sun, and the moon, and the stars be darkened,” as Solomon elegantly expresseth it, (Eccles. xii. 1, 2.) before all the comforts of life be gone, before our faculties be all ceased and spent, before our understandings be too weak, and our wills too strong; our understandings be too weak for consideration and the deliberate exercise of repentance, and our wills too strong and stiff to be bent and bowed to it.

Let us not deceive ourselves; heaven is not a hospital made to receive all sick and aged persons that can but put up a faint request to be admitted there; no, no, they are never like to “see the kingdom of God,” who, instead of “seeking it in the first place,” make it their “last refuge and retreat;” and when they find the sentence of death upon them, only to avoid present execution, do bethink themselves of getting to heaven, and, since there is no other remedy, are contented to petition the great King and Judge of the world, that they may be transported thither.

Upon all these considerations, let us use no delay in a matter of such mighty consequence to our eternal happiness, but let the counsel which was given to Nebuchadnezzar be acceptable to us; let us “break oft our sins by righteousness, and our 319iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if so be it may be a lengthening of our tranquillity.” Repentance and alms do well together; let us “break off our sins by righteousness, and our iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor;” especially upon this great occasion, which his Majesty’s great goodness to those distressed strangers, that have taken sanctuary among us, hath lately presented us withal, “remembering that we also are in the body,” and liable to the like sufferings; and considering, on the one hand, that gracious promise of our Lord, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy;” and, on the other hand, that terrible threatening in St. James, “He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy.”

To conclude, from all that hath been said, let us take up a present resolution of a better course, and enter immediately upon it, “to-day, whilst it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. O that men were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!—And grant, we beseech thee, Al mighty God, that we may all know and do, in this our day, the things which belong to our peace, for thy mercy’s sake in Jesus Christ; to whom, with thee, O Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”

320
« Prev Sermon CLXI. The Unprofitableness of Sin in This… Next »



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |