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the utmost boundaries of man's life, at the very margin of the grave, and are tottering over it through age and infirmity, in danger of being suddenly tumbled in by the stroke of affliction, and covered up by the command of death: yet even they think, It is time enough yet," and feebly mutter, when unable to speak plain, something about repenting hereafter. Though oppressed with the burden of years, bowed down with infirmity, and weakened with pain, they dotingly suppose they shall, by and by, do the business of eternity, run the Christian race, and work out their own salvation: -Though their sight is dimmed by age and beclouded with disease, so that they cannot see what is at hand: though all their faculties are weakened; yet they fondly imagine they discern, in prospect, months and years of leisure, health, and ease, which they will spend for GoD and their souls. Thus,
"The hoary fool, who all his days
9. But, 3dly, If we are so awakened by the grace of God, to a sense of the absolute importance of things eternal, that we resolve to devote ourselves to him; and so convinced of the shortness and uncertainty of life, that we determine to delay no longer; -then Satan's next aim must be to prevent our finding the only way of salvation, and to put us upon a wrong road. For this purpose he diverts our attention from the spirituality, obligation, and extent of the law of GOD, the universal, constant, and persevering obedience it requires, and the dreadful punishment it threatens to all the violaters of it; in order that, not comparing our hearts and lives with it, we may remain strangers to our guilt and weakness. Thus, he knows we shall continue ignorant of our want of the gospel, and so shall be hindered from embracing its glorious privileges.
10. For not seeing our many, great, and aggravated iniquities, we must be insensible of the guilt we have contracted, the punishment we have deserved, and our own inability to make any satisfaction for our sins, or to avert the impending ruin. Thus we cannot discern our want of the atoning blood and perfect righteousness of the appointed Mediator, in order to our justification before Gov.
Hence, it is no wonder if we imitate the Jews of old, who had zeal for God, but not according to knowledge; for being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God." Again, not seeing the depravity of our nature and the necessity of a change, because "without holiness no man shall see the Lord," or not knowing our own insufficiency for any thing that is good, we must be unacquainted with our need of that Spirit of holiness and power which God hath promised in the gospel. Hence it is no wonder if, "having a form of godliness, we deny the power of it; if having a name to live, we remain dead:" it is no wonder, if we put confidence in the flesh, lean to our own understanding, trust in our own strength, and perish at last without remedy.
11. Thus many who have been open sinners, rest in a mere outward reformation, lopping off some of the branches of sin, while they leave not only the roots deeply fixed in the ground of their hearts, as with bands of iron and brass; but also the unwieldy stock not hewn down; I mean, their stubborn will still unsubdued by grace, still proud and refractory, and bent upon serving the world and themselves. And thus others, who have not been notorious sinners, content themselves with this consideration, that they are not so bad as many of their neighbours, and "If we are not saved, (say they) what will become of the generality of the world?" And thus daubing the corrupted wall of their depraved nature, with the untempered mortar of self-righteousness, they vainly suppose it can stand the shock of death and judgment, when it is ready to fall at every thrust of adversity, or breeze of temptation !
12. Many, however, blessed be God, are not taken in this snare, but in spite of Satan and his devices, are convinced of sin and its dreadful consequences. It would now be in vain for the god of this world to attempt persuading these, that they may safely defer the concerns of their souls to a yet future period. They see and feel, to their sorrow, that they have already trifled too long, and greatly endangered, if not altogether precluded their salvation. They tremble to think, how the axe of God's justice was laid to the root of their barren souls, and how narrowly they escaped being cut down, as cumberers of the ground; a punishment they well deserved. They are ashamed and confounded under a sense of their sin and ingratitude, when they consider how long they have
robbed him of their bodies and souls, their time and talents, from
whom they received all, and to whose service all ought to have
been constantly devoted. They are distressed at their folly and madness, when they reflect, how many years they have thoughtlessly wandered to and fro through the earth, seeking rest but finding none, vainly expecting that happiness from the world which is to be found in GoD alone; shunning religion as a wretched and melancholy thing, whereas they now see it is the only source of true and lasting felicity. And shall they still go on adding one degree of sin and ingratitude to another? No, this they dare not do; nor can all Satan's power or policy shake their fixed resolution, founded in the strength of Jehovah, no longer to tread in their for mer steps.
13. He does not however yet give them up, does not despair of working their ruin after all. But he takes a new course, and alters the plan of his operations. Before, he endeavoured to destroy them by presumption and delays; now his aim is to effect the same purpose by dejection and despondency. He suggests therefore that their sins are too many and great to be forgiven, that their souls are too much enslaved to the power of evil habits ever to be delivered. Knowing their regard to the word of God, he labours to countenance his temptations with its authority, that they may have the greater influence. "You have blasphemed, (he argues,) against the Holy Ghost, and therefore must expect no forgiveness, neither in this world nor in that which is to come. You might indeed once have found mercy, but it is now too late : you have sinned so long, so much, so presumptuously, in despite of so many invitations, warnings, promises, threatenings, which ought to have led you to repentance, that you must now expect judgment without mercy." "Because he called and you refused, he stretched out his hands and you did not regard, therefore he also now laughs at your calamity, and mocks when your fear is come. When your fear is come as desolation, -when distress and anguish are come upon you, you may indeed call, but he will not answer; you may seek him early, but you shall not find him. For that you hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: you would none of his counsel, and despised all his reproof; therefore you shall eat the fruit of your own way, and be filled with your own devices." " Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. And are you holy? Alas! you are altogether polluted, and who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? As soon might the Ethiop change his skin, or the leopard his spots, as you, accustomed to do evil, should learn to do
well. For the Holy Spirit has done striving with you, and you are now left to the hardness of your heart, and given up to a reprobate mind."
14. By these and such like suggestions Satan sometimes prewails, and the awakened sinner, giving up all for lost, sinks down into dejection and despair, not daring to rely on the faithful promises of God through Christ. Fearing, however, lest if they still continue sensible of the deep importance of salvation, and desirous to obtain it, though at present without hope, they may, some way or other, hereafter meet with that encouragement, which now they cannot find; to prevent this, and ensure their damnation, the enemy labours to drown them in sensuality and vice, or to bury them in business and care; and sometimes, though less frequently, because he is not permitted, to drive them into distraction, madness, and self-murder.
15. He suggests therefore, "Since no attention, or desire, or diligence of yours, can alter the decree which is already gone out against you, why should you torment yourself before the time? why should you make yourself miserable by thinking one moment about death or eternity? Nay, rather banish all thoughts about these things, which only serve to distress you, and enjoy life while it lasts. You can but go to hell after all, and go to hell you must as it is, if indeed there is an hell. But who knows whether or no there be any such place; perhaps your body and soul die together, and shall never more exist: and why should you venture a certainty for an uncertainty? Let fools and fanatics do this: But be you wise for yourself. At all hazards, enjoy the present, let what will come of the future. But in fact, (proceeds he,) the future is out of the question, it is nothing to you: perhaps it is all mere imagination; but if not, it is certain you have no interest there. The present world is your all: therefore, enjoy and make the most of it. Eat, drink, and be merry. This, even Solomon tells you, "is your portion, than which there is nothing better for a man, in the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun. Go thy way then, (says he,) eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; let thy garments be always white, and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the woman whom thou lovest all the days of thy vanity, for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.' ""
16. Thus this old serpent, long experienced in the arts of seduction, craftily interweaves his nets with threads of scripture,
forced from their natural sense and misapplied, that he may the more easily ensnare and detain in his power unwary souls. Not being acquainted with his devices, they are too often caught in them. So silent and natural are his suggestions, that they mistake them for the mere operations of their own minds, and never suspect he has any hand in them, and so plausible and shrewd are his reasonings, that they yield to them with little or no reluctance. Indeed, if they considered and prayed to the Father of lights for the illumination of his Spirit, they would soon discover the fallacyof his arguments; but not considering, or trusting to their own understanding, the grand deceiver is too cunning for them, and accomplishes their ruin ere they are aware.
17. This, however, blessed be God, is the case with only very few that are convinced of sin. The generality, we have reason to believe, of penitent and broken-hearted sinners, are enabled to withstand in the evil day, to resist the devil, and he flees from them. Laying hold on the shield of faith, offered them by God, whose gift it is, they repel his fiery darts, and are preserved unhurt. By a faith of the operation of God, they see and are persuaded that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin that through it," God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." They see that in Christ all fulness dwells, that his grace is sufficient for them, and through his strengthening them, they can do all things, can overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, "cleanse themselves from all fil thiness of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God." They believe" he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him," and that "whosoever cometh unto him, he will in no wise cast out." They therefore apply to him, and trust their guilty, depraved, and wretched souls to his care, and it is done unto them according to their faith. They find redemption in his blood, the forgiveness of sins: they are accepted in the Beloved they receive the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry "Abba, Father," and the fruits of this Spirit are love, joy, and peace, holiness and happiness, a preparation for, and an earnest of, eternal life. Thus, notwithstanding all Satan's efforts to the contrary, the gospel shines unto them, and they are enlightened by it, enlightened with the light of life," the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus; and walking in the light, as he is in the light, they expect, in the way of universal holiness, an admission into those heavenly mansions, where the Lord will be their everlasting light, and their God their glory.”