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Eley be come to a maturity of grace or wickedness. Saints are not reaped down 'till their grace is ripe, Job v. 26. “Thou shalt e come to thy grave in a full age, as a shock of corn cometh << in its season." • Not that every godly man dies in such a • full old age (faith Mr. Caryl on that place ;) but yet, in one • fenfe it is an universal truth, and ever fulfilled ; for whenfo

ever they die, they die in a good age; yea, though they die in the spring and flower of their youth, they die in a good old

age; (in e.) they are ripe for death whenever they die. • Whenever a godly man dies, it is harvest-time with him, * though in a natural capacity he be cut down while he is green, ' and cropped in the bud or blossom ; yet in his fpiritual ca• pacity he never dies before he be ripe : God ripens him spee• dily, when he intends to take him out of the world speedily; « he can let out such warm rays and beams of his Spirit upon

them, as shall foon maturate the seeds of grace paredness for glory.'

The wicked also have their ripening-time for hell and judgment: God doth with much long-suffering endure the vessels of wrath, prepared for destruction. Of their ripeness for judgment the Scripture often speaks, Gen. xv. 16. « The sin of “ the Amorites is not yet full.” And of Babylon it is faid, Jer. li. 13. * thou that dwellest upon many waters ! thine “ end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness."

It is worth remarking, that the measure of the fin, and the end of the finner, come together. So Joel iii. 13. “Put ye “ in the fickle, for the harvest of the earth is ripe ; for the « press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Where, note, finners are not cut down 'till they be ripe and ready. Indeed, they are never ripe for death, nor ready for the grave; that is, fit to die : yet they are always ripe for wrath, and ready for hell before they die. "Now, as husbandmen judge of the ripeness of their harvest, by the colour and hardness of the grain ; fo may we judge of the ripeness both of faints and finners, for heaven or hell, by these following signs.

"WH

Three signs of the maturity of grace,
HEN the corn is near ripe, it bows the head, and

stoops lower than when it was green. When the people of God are near ripe for heaven, they grow more humble and self-denying, than in the days of their first profession. The longer a faint grows in the world, the better he is still acquainted with his own heart, and his obligations to God; both

which are very humbling things. Paul had one foot in hea. ven, when he called himself the chiefest of finners, and least of saints, 1 Tim. i. 15. Eph. iii. 8. A Christian in the progress of his knowledge and grace, is like a vessel cast into the sea, the more it fills, the deeper it sinks. Those that went to study at Athens (faith Plutarch) at first coming seemed to themselves to be wise men ; afterwards only lovers of wisdom, and after that, only rhetoricians, such as could speak of wisdom, but knew little of it, and last of all, ideots in their own apprebenfìons; still, with the increase of learning, laying aside their pride and arrogancy.

2. When harvest is nigh, the grain is more solid and pithy than ever it was before ; green corn is soft and spungy, but ripe. corn is substantial and weighty : So it is with Christians; the affections of a young Christian, perhaps are more feverous and sprighțly; but those of a grown Christian are more judicious and solid; their love to Christ abounds more and more in all judgment, Phil. i. 9. The limbs of a child are more active and pliable: but as he grows up to a perfect state, the parts are more consolidated and firmly knit. The fingers of an old mu. fician are not so nimble ; but he hath a more judicious ear in music than in his youth. 3.

When corn is dead ripe, it is apt to fall of it's own accord to the ground, and there shed; whereby it doth, as it were, anticipate the barvest-man, and calls upon him to put in the sickle. Not unlike to which are the lookings and longings, the groanings and hastnings of ready Christians to their expected glory; they haften to the coming of the Lord, or, as Montanus more fitly renders it, they haften the coming of the Lord; (i. e.) they are urgent and instant in their defires and cries to hasten his coming ; their desires sally forth to meet the Lord ; they willingly take death by the hand; as the cora bends to the earth, so doth these souls to heaven : This shows their harvest to be near.

Six signs of the maturity of fin.
HEN finners are even dead ripe for hell, these signs

appear upon them ; or by these, at least, you may conclude those souls not to be far from wrath, upon whom they appear.

When conscience is wasted, and grown past feeling, hav, ing no more for fin; when it ceases to check, reprove, and smite for fin any more, the day of that finner is at hand, his harvest is even come. The greatest violation of conscience is

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the greatest of fins; this was the case of the forlorn Gentiles, among

whom Satan had such a plentiful harvest; the patience of God suffered them to grow till their consciences were grown seared, and past feeling, Eph. iv. 19, When a member is so mortified, that if you lance and cut it never so much, no fresh blood, or quick flesa appears, nor doth the man feel any pain in all this, then it is time to cut it off.

2. When men give themselves over to the satisfaction of their lusts, to commit sin with greediness, then are they grown co a maturity of fin; when men have flipped the reins of conscience, and rush headlong into all impiety, then the last sands of God's patience are running down. Thus Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner gave

them. selves over to wickedness and strange fins; and then justice quickly gave them up for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

3. That man is even ripe for hell, that is become a contri: ver of Gin, a designer, a student in wickedness. One would think it strange, that any man should set his invention on work upon such a subject as fin is, that any should study to become a dexterous artist this way! and yet the scripture frequently speaks of such, “whose bellies prepare deceit,” Job xv. 35. " who travail in pain to bring forth” this deformed birth, ver. 20. “who wink with their eyes," whilst plodding wickedness, as men used to do when they are most intent upon the study of any knotty problem, Prov. vi. 13. These have so much of hell already in them, that they are more than half in hell already.

4. He that of a forward professor is turned a bitter persecutor, is also within a few rounds of the top of the ladder; the contempt of their light the Lord hath already punished upon them, in their obduracy and madness against the light. Reader, if thou be gone thus far, thou art almost gone beyond all hope of recovery. Towards other sinners God usually exercises more patience, but with such he makes short work. When Judas turns traitor to his Lord, he is quickly sent to his own place. Such as are again intangled and overcome of those lusts they once seemed to have clean escaped, these bring upon themselves swift damnation, and their judgment lingers not, 2 Pet. ii. 3,

20.

5. He that can endure no reproof or controul in the way of his lin, but derides all counsel, and, like a strong current, rages at, and sweeps away all obstacles in his way, will quickly fall into the dead lake, Prov. xxix 1. " He that being often " reproved, hardneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed,

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“ and that without remedy.” This is a death-spot, a heh. {pot, where-ever it appears. From this very fymptom the prophet plainly predicted the approaching ruin of Amazia,

Chron. xxv. 16. “ I know that God hath determined to de« ftroy thee, because thou hast done this, and haft not hearkned « to my voice." He that will not be timely counselled, shall be quickly destroyed.

Lastly, When a man comes to glory in his fin, and boast of his wickedness, then it is time to cut him down, “whose end “ is destruction, whose glory is in their shame ;" Phil. iii. 19. This is a braving, a daring of God to his face ; and with whomsoever he bears long, to be sure these are none of them.

You fee now what are the signs of a full ripe finner; and when it comes to this, either with a nation, or with a single person, then ruin is near, Joel iii. 13. Gen. xv. 16. It is in the filling up of the measure of fin, as in the filling up of a vessel cast into the sea, which rowls from side to side, taking in the water by little and little till it be full, and then down it sinks to the bottom. Mean while, admirable is divine patience, which bears with these veflels of wrath, whilst fitting for destructi

on ?

REFLECTION.

1. Cheer thyself, O my soul ! with the The refletion of heart-strengthening bread of this divine a growing Chris- meditation. Let faith turn every drop of tian.

this truth into a foul-reviving cordial. God hath fown the precious feed of grace upon my soul; and though my heart hath been an unkind foil, which hath kept it back, and much hindered its growth, yet, blessed be the Lord, it still grows on, though by flow degrees; and fromthe springing of the feed, and shooting forth of those gracious habits, I may conclude an approaching harvest: Now is my falvation nearer than when I believed ; every day I come nearer to my salvation, Rom. xiii. II. O that every day I were more active for the God of my falvation ! Grow on, my foul, and add to thy faith virtue, to thy virtue knowledge, &c. Grow on from faith to faith; keep thyself under the ripening influences of heavenly ordinances : The faster thou growest in grace, the sooner thou fhalt be reaped down in mercy, and bound up in the bundle of life, 1 Sam. xv. 29. I have not yet attained the measure and proportion of grace assigned to me, neither am I already perfect, but am reaching forth to the things before me, and pressing towards the mark for the prize of my heavenly calling, Phił. iii.

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12, 13. O mercy to be admired! that I, who lately had one
foot in hell, stand now with one foot in heaven!
2. But the case is far different with me;

The reflection whilft others are ripening apace for heaven,

of the decaying I am withering; many a soul plowed up by

Christian. conviction, and fown by fanctification long after me, hath quite over-topped, and out-grown me; my sweet and early blossoms are nipped and blown off, my bright morning over-cast and clouded : had I kept on, according to the rate of my first growth, I had either now been in heaven, or at least in the furburbs of it on earth ; but my graces wither and languish, my heart contracts and cools to heavenly things; the fun and rain of ordinances and providences improve not my graces : how sad therefore is the state of

my

soul !
3. Thy case, o declining faint, is sad,
but not like mine : thine is but a tempora-

The reflection of

a hardning sinner. ry remission of the acts of grace, which is recoverable; but I am judicially hardening, and treasuring “ up to my self wrath against the day of wrath,” Rom. ii. 5. Time was,

when I had some tender sense of sin, when I could mourn and grieve for it; now I have none at all : my heart is grown stupid and sottish. Time was, when I had fome conscientious care of duty, when my heart would smite me for the neglect of it; but now none at all. Wretched foul! what wilt thou do? Thou art gone far, indeed, a few steps further will put thee beyond hope : hitherto I ftand in the field ; the long-suffering God doth yet spare me ; yea, spare me, while he hath cut down many of my companions in fin round about

What doth this admirable patience, this long-suffering, drawn out to a wonder, fpeak concerning me! doth it not tell me, that the Lord is not willing I should perish, but rather come to repentance ? 2 Pet. iii. 9. And what argument is like his pity and patience, to lead a soul to repentance? Rom. ii. 4. O that I may not frustrate at last the end of a long-suffering God, left he proportion the degree of his wrath, according to the length of his patience !

me.

W

The POE M.
THEN fields are white, to harvest forth you go

With scythes and fickles to reap down and mow.
Down go the laden ears flat to the ground,
Which those that follow having stitch'd and bound,
'Tis carried home unto the barn, and so
The fields are red where lately corn did grow.

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