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The substance of the text lies in these observations following:
Doct. 1. It is the unchangeable law of God, thať wicked men must turn or die.
Doct. 2. It is the promise of God, that the wicked shall live if they will turn..
Doct. 3. God takes a pleasure in men's conversion and salvation, but not in their death and damnation: he had rather they would turn and live, than go on and die.
Doct. 4. This is a most certain truth, which, because God would not have men to question, he has confirmed to them solemnly by his oath.
Doct. 5. The Lord redoubles his commands and persuasions to the wicked to turn.
Doct. 6. The Lord condescends to reason the case with them, and asks the wicked why they will die?
Doct. 7. If after all this the wicked will not turn, it is not the fault of God that they perish, but of themselves; their own wilfulness is the cause of their damnation: they therefore die because they will die.
Having laid the text open before your eyes in these plain propositions, I shall next speak somewhat of each of them in order, though very briefly.
DOCTRINE I. It is the unchangeable law of God, that wicked men
must turn or die. If you will believe God, believe this: there is but one of these two ways for every wicked man, either conversion or damnation. I know the wicked will hardly be persuaded either of the truth or equity of this No wonder if the guilty quarrel with the law.Few men are apt to believe that, which they would not have to be true; and fewer would have that to be true, which they apprehend to be against them.-But it is not quarrelling with the law, or with the judge, that will save the malefactor. Believing and
regarding the law might have prevented his death: but denying and accusing it, will but hasten it. If it were not so, a hundred would bring their reasons against the law, for one that would bring his reason to the law; and men would rather choose to give their reasons why they should not be punished, than to hear the commands and reasons of their governors, which require them to obey. The law was not made for you to judge, but that you might be ruled and judged by it.
But if there be any so blind as to question either the truth or the justice of the law of God, I shall briefly give you evidence of both.
And, first, If you doubt whether this be the word of God or not, besides a hundred other texts, you may be satisfied by these few:Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.(6) Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.(c) If any man de in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are past away; behold, all things are become new.(d) Without holiness no man shall see God.(e) They that are in the flesh.cannot please God. Now if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.(f) The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.(g) The Lord trieth the righteous, but the wicked his soul hateth.(h)
I need not add any more of that multitude which speak the like: if thou be a man that believest the word of God, here is already enough to satisfy thee, that the wicked must be converted or condemned. You must either confess that this is true, or say plainly, you will not believe the word of God. And if once you be come to that pass, it is likely you will not be long out of hell. But if you tell God plainly you will not believe him, blame him not if he never warn you more: for to what purpose should he warn you, if you will not believe him? Should he send an angel from heaven to you, it seems you would not believe. For an angel can speak but the word of God: and if an angel should (6) Matt. xviii. 3. (c) John iii. 3. (d) 2 Cor. v. 17. (e) Heb. xii. 14. (f) Rom. viii. 8, 9. (g) Psal. ix. 17. (h) Psal. xd. 3
bring you any other gospel, you are not to receive it, but to hold him accursed. And surely there is no angel to be believed before the Son of God, who came from the Father to bring us this doctrine. And if you stand on these terms with God, I shall leave you till he deal with you in a more convincing way. God has a voice that will make you hear. Though he entreat you to hear the voice of his gospel, he will make you hear the voice of his condemning sentence. We cannot make you believe against your wills; but God will make you feel against your wills.
But why will you not believe this word of God, which tells us that the wicked must be converted, or condemned ? It is because you judge it unlikely that God should be so unmerciful; you think it cruelty to damn men everlastingly for so small a thing as a sinful life. And this leads us to the second thing; which is, to justify the equity of God in his laws and judgments. .. And, first, I think you will not deny, that it is most suitable to an immortal soul, to be ruled by laws which promise an immortal reward, and threaten an endless punishment. Otherwise the law would not be suited to the nature of the subject, who will not be fully ruled by any lower means, than the hopes or fears of everlasting things: as it is in the case of temporal punishment, if a law were now made that the most heinous crimes should be punished with a hundred years'captivity, this might be of some efficacy, it being equal to our lives. But if there had been no other penalties before the flood, when men lived eight or nine hundred years, it would not have been sufficient, because men would know that they might have so many hundred years' impunity afterwards. So it is in our present case. : 2. When you find in the word of God that so it is, and so it will be, do you think yourself fit to contradict this word? Will you call your Maker to the bar, and examine his word? Will you sit upon him, and judge him by the law of your conceits? Are you wiser and better than he? Must the God of heaven come to school to you to learn wisdom? Must infinite Wisdom
learn of folly ? Must the Almighty stand at the bar of a worm? O horrid arrogancy of seuseless dust! Shall every mole, or clod, or dunghill, accuse the sun of darkness, and undertake to illuminate the world? Where were you when the Almighty made the laws, that he did not call you to his council? Surely he made them before you were born, without desiring your advice; and you came into the world too late to reverse them: if you could have done so great a work, you should have stept out of nothing, and have contradicted Christ when he was on earth, or Moses before him, or have saved Adam and his sinful progeny from the threatened death, that so there might have been no need of Christ.
3. If sin be such an evil that it requires the death of Christ for its expiation, no wonder if it deserve our everlasting misery
4. And methinks you should perceive, that it is not possible for the best of men, much less for the wicked, to be competent judges of the desert of sin. Alas! we are all both blind and partial. You can never know fully the desert of sin, till you fully know the evil of sin: and you can never fully know the evil of sin, till you fully know the excellency of the soul which it deforms; no, nor till you know the infinite excellency, almightiness, and holiness, of that God, against whom it is committed. When you fully know these, you shall fully know the desert of sin. You know that the offender is too partial to judge the law, or the proceeding of his judge.
5. Can you think that unholy souls are fit for heaven? Alas! they cannot love God here, nor do him any service which he can accept. They are contrary to God, they loathe that which he inost loves; and love that which he abhors: they are incapable of that imperfect communion with him, which his saints here partake of. How then can they live in that most perfect love of him, and full delight and communion with him, which is the blessedness of heaven?
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I BESEECH you now, all that love your souls, that in stead of quarrelling with God and his word, you will presently stoop to it, and use it for your good. Yoru must ere long be converted or condemned; there is no other way, but turn or die. When God, who cannot lie, has told you this, when you hear it from the Maker and Judge of the world; it is time for him that has ears, to hear. By this time you may see what you have to trust to. You are but dead and damned men, except you will be converted. Should I tell you otherwise, I should deceive you with a lie. Should I bide this from you, I should undo you, and be guilty of your blood. You see then, though this be a rough unwelcome doctrive, it is such as we must preach, and you must hear. It is easier to hear of hell than feel it. Hell would not be so full, if people were but willing to kpow their case, and to hear and think of it. The reason why so few escape it, is, because they strive not to enter in at the strait gate of conversion, and to go the narrow way of holiness, while they have time: and they strive not, because they are not awakened to a lively feeling of the danger that they are in; and they are not awakened, because they are loth to hear or think of it: and that is partly through foolish tenderness, and carnal selflove; and partly because they do not well believe the word that threatens it. If you will not thoroughly believe this truth, methinks the weight of it should force you to remember it; and it should follow you, and give you no rest, till you were converted. If you had but once heard this word, by the voice of an angel, • Thou must be converted or condemned; turn or die;' would it not fasten on your mind, and haunt you night and day? so that in your sinning you would remember it; as if the voice were still in your ears, Turn or die! O happy were your souls, if it might thus work upon you, and never be forgotten, or let you alone, till it have driven home your hearts to God. But if you will cast it out by forgetfulness, or unbelief, how can