« PreviousContinue »
persuade them to a few serious thoughts of their then? This question leads me to my second condition, and to spend a few bours in the ex- doctrine ; which will do much to the answering amining of their states. Is there not many a of it, to which I shall now proceed. self-conceited sinner that hears me this day, that Doct. II. It is the promise of God, that the never bestowed one hour, or a quarter of an hour wicked shall live if they will but turn; unfeignin all their lives, to examine their souls, and try | edly and thoroughly turn. whether they are truly converted or not? O The Lord here professes, that this is it he takes merciful God, that will care for such sinners that pleasure in, that the wicked turn and live. Hea. care no more for themselves ; that will do so much ven is made as sure to the converted, as hell is to save them from hell, and help thein to hea to the unconverted. Turn and live, is as cerven, who will do so little for it themselves! If tain a truth as turn or die. God was not bound all that are in the way to hell, and in the state to provide us a Saviour, nor open to us the door of condemnation, did but know it, they durst of hope, nor call to us to repent and turn, when not continue in it. The greatest hope that the once we had cast ourselves away by sin. But devil hath of bringing you to damnation with he hath freely done it to magoify his mercy. out a rescue, is by keeping you blindfold, igno- Sinners, there are vone of you shall have cause rant of your state, and making you believe that to go home, and say I preach desperation to you. you may do well enough in the way that you are Do we use to shut up the door of mercy against
If you knew that you were out of the way you? O that you would not shut it up against to heaven, and were lost for ever, if you should yourselves! Do we use to tell you that God die as you are, durst you sleep another night in will have no mercy on you, though you turn and the state that you are in? Durst you live ano- be sanctified ? When did you ever hear a ther day in it? Could you heartily laugh, or be preacher say such a word ? You that bark at merry in such a state? What, and not know the preachers of the gospel, for desiring to keep but you may be snatched away to hell in an you out of hell, and say that they preach despehour: Surely it would constrain you to forsake ration; tell me, if you can, when did you ever your former company and courses, and to be hear any sober man say that there is no hope take yourselves to the ways of holiness, and for you, though ye repent and be converted? the communion of the saints. Surely it would No, it is quite the contrary that we daily prodrive you to cry to God for a new heart, and to claim from the Lord, that whosoever is born seek help of those that are fit to counsel you. again, and by faith and repentance doth become There is none of you surely that cares not for a new creature, shall certainly be saved; and so being damned. Well then, I beseech you pre- far we are from persuading you to despair of sently make inquiry into your hearts, and give this, that we persuade you not to make any them no rest, till you find out your condition ; doubt of it. It is life, and not death, that is the that if it be good, you may rejoice in it and go first part of our message to you; our commission on : if it be bad, you may presently look about is to offer salvation-certain salvation, a speedy, you for recovery, as men that believe they must glorious, everlasting salvation, to every one of turn or die. What say you, will you resolve you: to the poorest beggar as well as to the greatand promise to be at thus much labour for your est lord: to the worst of you, even to the drunkards, svuls? Will you fall upon this self-examination swearers, worldlings, thieves, yea, to the despisers when you come home? Is my request unrea- and reproachers of the holy way of salvation. sonable ? Your consciences know it is not; re- We are commanded, by our Lord and Master, solve on it, then, before you stir; knowing how to offer you a pardon for all that is past, if you much it concerns your souls. I beseech you, will but now at last return and live; we are comfor the sake of that God that commands you, manded to beseech and intreat you to accept the at whose bar you will shortly appear, that offer and return; to tell you what preparation is you will not deny me this reasonable request. made by Christ, what mercy stays for you, what For the sake of those souls that must turn or patience waits on you, what thoughts of kinddie, I beseech you deny me not; even but ness God hath towards you; and how happy, to make it your business to understand your how certainly and unspeakably happy you inay own conditions, and build upon sure ground, be if you will. We have indeed, also, a message and know whether you are converted or not and of wrath and death: yea, of a twofold wrath venture not your souls on negligent security. and death : but neither of them is our principal
But perhaps you will say, What if we should message: we must tell you of the wrath that is find ourselves yet unconverted, what shall we do on you already, and the death that you are boru under, for the breach of the law of works : but to show you the grounds on which we do it, but this is only to show you the need of and call you to believe, that God doth mean inmercy, and provoke you to esteem the grace deed as he speaks : that the promise is true, and of the Redeemer. And we tell you nothing extends conditionally to you as well as others, and but the truth, which you must know: for who that heaven is no fancy, but a true felicity. will seek for physic, that knows not that he If you ask, where is our commission for this
For telling you of your misery, is offer? Among an hundred texts of scripture, I not what makes you miserable, but drives will show it unto you in these few: you to seek for mercy; it is you that have First, You see it here in my text, and the brought this death upon yourselves. We tell following verses, as plain as can possibly be you also of another death, even remediless, and spoken. And in 2 Cor. v. 17–21. you have the much greater torment which will fall on those very sum of our commission. · If any man be in that will not be converted. But as this is true, Christ, he is a new creature: old things are past and must be told you, so it is but the last, and away, behold all things are become new : and all saddest part of our message ; we are first to offer things are of God, who hath reconciled us to you mercy, if you will turn : and it is only those himself by Jesus Christ, who hath given to us that will not turn nor hear the voice of mercy, the ministry of reconciliation : to wit, that God that we must foretel damnation to. Will you was in Christ reconciling the world unto himbut cast away your transgressions, delay no self; not imputing their trespasses to them, and longer, but come away at the call of Christ; hath committed unto us the word of reconciliabe converted, and become new creatures, and tion: now then we are ambassadors for Christ, we have not a word of damning wrath or death as though God did beseech you by us, we pray to speak against you. I do here, in the name of you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled unto God; the Lord of life, proclaim to you all that hear me for he hath made him to be sin for us who this day, to the worst of you, to the greatest, to knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousthe oldest sinner, that you may have mercy and ness of God in him.-Go ye into all the world, salvation if you will but turn. There is mercy and preach the gospel to every creature.-He in God, there is sufficiency in the satisfaction of that believeth (that is, with such a converting Christ; the promise is free, full, and universal : faith as is expressed) and is baptized, shall be you may have life if you will but turn. But saved; and he that believeth not, shall be then, as you love your souls, remember what damned. Thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and turning it is the scripture speaks of; it is not to rise from the dead the third day, and that reto mend the old house, but to pull down all, and pentance (which is conversion) and remission of puild a new on Christ the rock and sure foun- sins, should be preached in his name among all dation ; it is not to mend somewhat in a carnal nations.—The God of our fathers raised up course of life, but to mortify the flesh, and live Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree; him after the Spirit ; it is not to serve the flesh and hath God exalted with his right hand to be a the world in a more reformed way, without any prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, scandalous, disgraceful sins, and with a certain and forgiveness of sins.—Be it known unto you, kind of self-devised religion ; but it is to change therefore, men and brethren, that through this your master, your works, and end, set your face man is preached unto you the forgiveness of contrary ways, do all for the life that you never sins; and by him all that believe are justified saw, and dedicate yourselves and all you have to from all things, from which ye could not God. This is the change that must be made, be justified by the law of Moses.'
Do not if you will live.
think this offer is restrained to the Jews, ‘for in Yourselves are witness now, that it is salva- Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any tion and not damnation, that is the great doc- thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. trine I preach to you; and the first part of my -Come, for all things are now ready.' message to you. Accept of this and we shall go You see by this time, that we are commanded no farther with you; for we would not so much to offer life to you all, and to tell
from God, as affright or trouble you with the name of dam- that if you will turn you may live. nation, without necessity. But if you will not Here you may safely trust your souls; for be saved, there is no remedy, but damnation the love of God is the fountain of this offer, and must take place : for there is no middle place the blood of the Son of God hath purchased it ; between the two: you must have either life or the faithfulness and truth of God is engaged to death. And we are not only to offer you life make the promise good; miracles oft sealed up the truth of it; preachers are sent through the hearts of the sanctified: but not a word to world to proclaim it ; the sacraments are insti- strengthen the hands of wickedness, nor to give tuted and used for the solemn delivery of the men the least hope of being saved, though they mercy offered, to them that will accept it; and be never sanctified. the Spirit doth open the heart to entertain it, But if you will turn, and come into the way and is itself the earnest of the full possession. of mercy, the mercy of the Lord is ready to enSo that the truth of it is past controversy, that tertain you. Then trust God for salvation, the worst of you all, and every one of you, if boldly and confidently; for he is engaged by you will but be converted, may be saved. his word to save you.
Indeed, if you will needs believe you shall be He will be a Father to none but his children, saved without conversion, then you believe a and he will save none but those that forsake the falsehood ; and if I should preach that to you, world, the devil, and the flesh, and come into I should preach a lie; this were not to believe his family, to be members of his Son, and have God, but the devil and your own deceitful hearts. communion with the saints. But if they will God hath his promise of life, and the devil hath not come in, it is wrong of themselves ; his doors his promise of life. God's promise is, ' Return are open, he keeps none back ; he never sent such and live;' the devil's is, • Thou shalt live whe- ja message as this to any of you, it is not too ther thou turn or not. The words of God are, late, I will not receive thee, though thou be conas I have showed you, . Except ye be converted, verted.' He might have done so and done you and become as little children, ye cannot enter no wrong, but he did not, he doth not to this into the kingdom of heaven.—Except a man be day, he is still ready to receive you, if you were born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of but ready unfeignedly, and with all your hearts God.-Without holiness none shall see God.' to turn. The fulness of this truth will yet more The devil's word is, You may be saved without appear in the two following doctrines, which I being born again and converted, you may go to shall therefore next proceed to, before I make a heaven well enough, without being holy ; God farther application of this. doth but frighten you, he is more merciful than Doct. III. God takes pleasure in men's conto do as he saith, he will be better to you than version and salvation, but not in their death and his word. Alas, the greatest part of the world damnation : he had rather they would return and believe this word of the devil before the word live, than go on and die. of God, just as our first sin and misery caine I shall first teach you how to understand this; into the world. God saith to our first parents, and then clear up the truth of it to you. If ye
shall die ; the devil contradicts him, And for the first; you must observe these and saith, Ye shall not die; and the woman be- following things: 1. A simple willingness and lieved the devil before God. So now the Lord complacency is the first act of the will, folsaith, Turn or die; and the devil saith, You shall lowing the simple apprehension of the undernot die if you do but cry mercy at last, and give standing ; before it proceeds to compare things over the acts of sin, when you can practise it no together. But the choosing act of the will longer. And this is the word that the world be- is a following act, and supposes the comlieves. O heinous wickedness, to believe the paring practical act of the understanding ; and devil before God!
these two acts may often be carried to contrary Yet that is not the worst, but blasphemously objects, without any fault at all in the person. they call this a believing and trusting in God, 2. An unfeigned willingness may have several when they put him in the shape of Satan, who degrees. Some things I am so far willing of, was a liar from the beginning ; and when they as that I will do all that lies in my power to acbelieve that the word of God is a lie, they call complish them: and some things I am truly this a trusting God, and say they believe in him, willing another should do, when yet I will not and trust on him for salvation : where did ever do all that ever I am able to procure it, having God say that the unregenerated, unconverted, many reasons to dissuade me therefrom ; though unsanctified, shall be saved? Show such a word yet I will do all that belongs to me to do. in scripture; I challenge you if you can. Why, 3. The will of a ruler, as such, is manifest in this is the devil's word, and to believe it is to making and executing laws; but the will of a believe the devil, and is the sin that is commonly man in his simple natural capacity, or as absocalled presumption: and do you call this a be- lute lord of his own, is manifested in desiring, lieving and trusting God: there is enough in or resolving.of events. 4. A ruler's will, as lawthe word of God to comfort and strengthen the giver, is first and principally that his law be
obeyed, and not at all that the penalty be exe- sure in your death, but rather that you would cuted on any, but only on supposition that they obey my laws and live; but if you will not, I will not obey his laws. But a ruler's will, as am resolved for all this, that you shall die. The judge, supposes the law already either kept or judge may truly say to a thief, or a murderer, broken : therefore he resolves on reward or pun- Alas, man, I have no delight in thy death, ishment accordingly.
I had rather thou hadst kept the law, and saved Having given you these necessary distinctions, thy life, but seeing thou hast not, I must conI shall next apply them to the case in hand, in demn thee, or else I should be unjust. So, these following propositions :
though God have no pleasure in your dam1. It is in the glass of the word that as crea- nation, and therefore calls upon you to return tures in this life we must know God: and so ac- and live, yet he hath pleasure in the demonstracording to the nature of man, we ascribe to him tion of his own justice, and the executing his understanding and will, removing all the imper- laws, and therefore he is for all this fully refections that we can, because we are capable of solved, that if you will not be converted, you no higher positive conceptions of him. 2. On shall be condemned. If God were so much the same grounds we do, with the scriptures, against the death of the wicked, as that he were distinguish between the acts of God's will, as resolved to do all that he can to hinder it, then diversified from the respects, or the objects, no man should be condemned, whereas Christ though as to God's essence they are all one. 3. tells you, that few will be saved. But so far And the bolder, because that when we speak of God is against your damnation, as that he Christ, we have the more ground for it from his will teach you, warn you, set before you life human nature. 4. Thus we say, that the simple and death, offer you your choice, and comcomplacency, will, or love of God, is to all that mand his ministers to intreat you not to damn is naturally or morally good, according to the yourselves, but accept his mercy, and so to leave nature and degree of its goodness. And so he you without excuse; but if this will not do, if hath pleasure in the conversion and salvation of still you be unconverted, he professes to you he all, which yet will never come to pass. 5. And is resolved of your damnation, and hath comGod, as Ruler and Lawgiver of the world, had manded us to say to you in his name, O wicked so far a practical will for their salvation, as to man, thou shalt surely die! Christ hath little make them a free exhibition and offer of Christ less than sworn it over and over, with a · Verily, and life, and an act of oblivion for all their sins, verily, except ye be converted and born again, so be it they will not unthankfully reject it; and ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven? to command his messengers to offer this gift to Mark that he saith, You cannot. It is in vain to all the world, and persuade them to accept it. hope for it, and in vain to dream that God is And so he doth all, that as lawgiver or promiser, willing of it; for it is a thing that cannot be. belongs to him to do for their salvation. 6. But In a word, you see then the meaning of the yet he resolves, as lawgiver, that they that will text, that God, the great lawgiver of the world, not turn, shall die: and as judge when their day takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, of grace
is past, he will execute that decree. 7. but rather that they turn and live; though yet So that he thus unfeignedly wills the conversion he be resolved that none shall live but those that of those that never will be converted, but not turn ; and as a judge even delights in justice, and as absolute Lord, with the fullest efficacious re- manifests his hatred of sin, though not in their solution, nor as a thing which he resolves shall misery which they have brought upon themselves, undoubtedly come to pass, or would engage all in itself considered. his power to accomplish: it is in the power of 2. And for the proofs of this point, I shall be a prince to set a guard upon a murderer, to see very brief in them, because I suppose you easily that he shall not murder and be banged. But believe it already. is upon good reason he forbear this, and send First, The very gracious nature of God proto his subjects, and warn and intreat them not claimed, Exod. xxxiv. 6. and xx. 6. and freto be murderers, I hope he may well say, that quently elsewhere, may assure you of this, that he would not have them murder and be hanged; he hath no pleasure in your death. he takes no pleasure in it, but rather that they Second, If God had more pleasure in thy death forbear, and live. If he do more for some, upon than in thy conversion and life, he would not some special reason, he is not bound to do so have so frequently commanded thee in his word by all. The king may well say to all the mur- to turn; he would not have made thee such proderers and felons in the land, I have no plea- mises of life, if thou wilt but turn; he would not have persuaded thee to it by so many reasons. which now must have what it loves, must The tenor of his Gospel proves the point. not be displeased, and must be humoured with
Third, His commission that he hath given to meat, drink, and clothes, whatsoever God says to the ministers of the gospel, doth fully prove it. the contrary, how quickly would the frowns of If God had taken more pleasure in thy damna- God consume it! When thou wast passionately tion, than in thy conversion and salvation, he defending thy sin, and quarrelling with them that would never have charged us to offer you mercy, would have drawn thee from it, and showing thy and to teach you the way of life, both publicly spleen against the reprovers, and pleading for and privately; to intreat and beseech you to the works of darkness; how easily could God turn and live; to acquaint you of your sins, snatch thee away in a moment, and set thee beand foretell you of your danger; to do all fore his dreadful majesty, where thou mayest see that possibly we can for your conversion, and to ten thousand times ten thousand of glorious continue patiently so doing, though you should angels waiting on his throne; and call thee there hate or abuse us for our pains. Would God have to plead thy cause, and ask thee, what hast thou done this and appointed his ordinances for your now to say against thy Creator, his truth, his good, if he had taken pleasure in your death. servants, or his holy ways; now plead thy cause,
Fourth, It is proved also by the course of his and make the best of it thou canst. Now what providence. If God had rather you were damned canst thou say in excuse of thy sins? Now give than converted and saved, he would not second account of thy worldliness and fleshly life, of thy his word with his works, and invite you by his time, of all thy mercies thou hast had. O how daily kindness to himself, and give you all the thy stubborn heart would have melted, thy proud mercies of this life, which are his means to lead looks been taken down, thy countenance appalled, you to repentance, and bring you so often under and thy stout words turned into speechless silence, his rod, to force you into your wits: he would or dreadful cries; if God had but set thee thus not set so many examples before your eyes, no, at his bar, and pleaded his own cause with thee, nor wait on you so patiently as he doth from day which thou hast here so maliciously pleaded to day, and year to year. These are not signs against. How easily can he, at any time, say to of one that takes pleasure in your death; if this thy guilty soul, “come away, and live in that flesh had been his delight, how easily could he have no longer, till the resurrection,' and it cannot rehad thee long ago in hell! How oft before this, sist? A word of his mouth would take off the could he have snatched thee away in the midst noise of thy present life, and then all thy parts of thy sins, with a curse, or oath, or lie in thy and powers would stand still; and if he say unto mouth, in thy ignorance and pride, and sensuality; thee, 'live no longer; or live in hell,' thoa when thou wert last in thy drunkenness, or last couldst not disobey. deriding the ways of God! How easily could he But God hath yet done none of this ; but hath nave stopped thy breath, and tamed thee with patiently forborn thee, and mercifully upheld his plagues, and made thee sober in another thee: hath given thee that breath which thou world! Alas, how small a matter it is for the Al- didst breath out against him, hath given those mighty to rule the tongue of the most profane mercies which thou didst sacrifice to the flesh, railer, and tie the hands of the most malicious and afforded thee that provision which thou spentpersecutor; or calm the fury of the bitterest of est to satisfy thy greedy appetite ; he gave thee his enemies, and make them know they are but every minute of that time which thou didst waste. worms: if he should but frown upon thee, thou in idleness, or drunkenness, or worldliness ; wouldest drop into thy grave; if he gave com- and doth not all his patience and mercy show mission to one of his angels to go and destroy that he desired not thy damnation ; can the candle ten thousand sinners, how quickly would it be burn without thy oil ? Can your houses stand done! How easily can he lay thee upon the bed without the earth to bear them ? As well you of languishing, and make thee lie roaring there can live one hour without the support of God. in pain, and eating the words of reproach which Why did he so long support thy life, but to see thou hast spoken against his servants, his word, when thou wouldest bethink thee of the folly of his worship, and his holy ways; and make thee thy ways, and return and live: will any man send to beg their prayers, whom thou didst de- purposely put arms into his enemies' hands to spise in thy presumption! How easily can he lay resist him? Or hold a candle to a murderer that flesh under pains and groans, and make it that is killing his children? Or to an ide too weak to hold their soul, and make it more servant that plays, and sleeps the while? Surelothsome than the mire of the earth! That flesh ly it is to see whether thou wilt at last retura