« PreviousContinue »
flumber to our Eye-lids, till by an actual unfinning and Revocation of the Facts, we have totally croffed and difcharged them. But then because many of thefe may flip out of our Mind, and fo be past Recovery;
IX. To the happy Conclufion of this our Chriftian Warfare, 'tis alfo neceffary that to Compenfate, fo far as we are able, for thefe Reliques of Guilt in us, we fhould take care to redeem the time we have formerly mif-fpent in finful Courses, by being doubly diligent in the exercife of all the contrary Vertues, and the doing all the contrary Good we are able. For of all the outward Bleffings that God affords us, our Time is incomparably the most precious and ineft imable; and therefore though he gives us his other Bleffings in great Variety, and provides for us a plentiful Choice of Meats, Drinks, and Raiment, yet in the Distribution of our Time he feems to be more fparing and strait-handed; for he gives it not to us in Rivers,but Drop by Drop, & Minute after Minute, fo that we can never enjoy two Moments together, but when-ever he gives us one, he always takes away another. And yet, good God! what Waste do we make of thefe precious Drops of which thou art fo nice and fparing? How great a part of it do we confume in our Childhood upon the indifferent Vanities of Nuts and Rattles, and afterwards upon the much more ridiculous and unreafonable ones of our vicious, profufe, and extravagant appetites? So that by that time we come to a ferious Profecution of the great End of our Beings, the main Part of our time is ufually elapfed beyond revocation. How much therefore doth
it concern us, after we have so prodigally fquandered away the greatest part of the Treafure of our Time, to make the beft Improvement of the fmall Remainder? that fo we may at least Moraily recover, that which is Phyfically irrecoverable. For though we cannot caufe the past Minutes we have ill spent to be prefent again, yet we can redouble our Diligence for the future, and thereby render every one Minute to come equivalent to every two that are past. For by a double diligence we may live as much in one Day, as we can in two by a fingle, and confequently, by doubly improving that Part of our time which is yet good and to come, we may morally retrieve that Part which is loft and gone.
This therefore the Gospel requires at our hands, that after we have lived out a great part of our Time to no purpose, we should from thenceforth live much in a little while, and retrieve our paft Negligence by our future Diligence, and redeem the Time we have fpent upon our Lufts, by exerting the contrary Vertues more vigorouslý for the future; that the more prophane we have been for the time paft, the more devout we should be for the time to come, that the more we have abounded heretofore in Frauds and Oppreffions, the more we should abound hereafter in Charity and Alms; that the more induftrious we have been to feduce and debauch men, the more zealous we should be to reduce and reclaim them; and by our future Candor and Charitable Construction of men, indeavour to compenfate for the Malice of our past Slanders and Defamations. Thus Ephef. iv. 28. Let him that stole, fteal no more; ay, but
that is not enough, but he must also indeavour to redeem his past Thefts by a more vigorous Exercife of the contrary Vertue for the future; but rather let him labour, working with his own hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs; So alfo, Dan. iv. 27. Break off thy fins by righteousneß, and thine iniquities by fhewing mercy to the poor, i. e. whereas for the Time paft the Course of thy Life hath very much abounded with Cruelty and Injuftice, do thou now indeavour to redeem the Guilt of it, (for fo the Hebrew Verb fignifies,) by exerting more vigorously the contrary Vertues,viz.of Justice to all,and of Mercy to the poor and afflicted. And to this Purpose S. Paul's Example is propofed to our Imitation, who, because for the Time past he had been a great Perfecutor of Chriftianity, did for the future labour more abundantly than any other Apostle to advance and propagate it, 1 Cor. xv. 9, 10. The Obfervance of which Rule is highly neceffary to the reducing this our Warfare to a profperous Iffue. For, as I told you before, there are many Sins which after we have forfaken the Practice of them, do stick fuch a guilt upon the Conscience, as without our undoing them, fo far as we are able, is not to be wiped off; fuch as wicked Counsel,malicious Detraction, and unjuft Gain, all which we are bound, fo far as 'tis in our power, not only to avoid, but actually to revoke. But alas! there are many of these which in a long Course of Sin are utterly forgotten by us, and confequently are paft Revocation, and in this Cafe all we can do to take off the Guilt of them, is in the general Course of our Lives to abound in the practice of the contrary
Vertues, and to do the utmost Service we are able
that if we would make sure Work of our Christian Warfare, and afcertain its being finally Crowned with Success; as in general we must indeavour to redeem the past tinie we have spent in vicious Courses by abounding in the Practice of the contrary Vertues; fo in particular, if for the time past we have lived in any of thofe injurious Courfes which do naturally fix a more lasting Guilt upon the Mind, we must take care not only to repair, fo far as we are able, thofe Injuries we remember, but alfo to wipe off the Guilt of those we have forgotten, by an extraordinary Charity and Beneficence, by laying hold of all Opportunities to do Good, and indeavouring in our feveral Stations, according as God hath inabled us, to reduce the Souls, relieve the Bodies, and vindicate the Reputation of our Brethren.
X. And lastly, To our final Perfeverance in well-doing, it is alfo neceffary that we should labour after a Rational and well-grounded Assurance of Heaven. I put this in the laft Place, because 'tis ufually the last attained, and is not to be prefently expected and catch'd at as foon as we are entered into a religious State. For there are a great many Stages of Religion to be past, before we can modeftly expect to arrive at Affurance. In the Beginning of our Religion, when we are just recovered out of a vicious State, we cannot but be fenfible, if we do at all understand our felves, that we are as yet in a great deal of Danger, and do border fo very near upon that bad State we are efcaped from, that 'tis almost impoffible to distinguish whether we are in or out of it. For though we are fully purposed and refolved against it, yet