« הקודםהמשך »
it work to your conversion and salvation? But take this with you to your sorrow,--though you may put it out of your minds, you cannot put it out of the Bible; but there it will stand as a sealed truth, wbich' you shall experimentally know for ever, that there is no other way but turn or die.
O what is the reason then that the hearts of sinners are not pierced with such a weighty truth? Believe it, this drowsy careless temper will not last long. Conversion and condemnation are both of them awakening things; and one of them will make you feel ere long. I can foretell it as truly as if I saw it with my eyes, that either grace or hell will shortly bring these matters to the quick, and make you say, What have I done! What a foolish wicked course have I taken! The scornful and the stupid state of sinners will last but a little while. As soon as they either turn or die, the presumptuous dream will be at an end; and then their wits and feelings will return.
But there are two things which are like to harden the unconverted, except they can be taken out of the way; and that is, the misunderstanding of these two words, the wicked, and turn. Some think it is true, the wicked must turn or die; but what is that to me? I am not wicked, though I am a sinner, as all men are. Others think, it is true that we must turn from our evil ways; but I am turned long ago. And thus, while wicked men think they are not wicked, but are already converted, we lose all our labour in persuading them to turn. I shall therefore, before I go any farther, tell you who are meant by the wicked, and who they are that must turn or die; and also what is meant by turning, and who they are that are truly converted.
You may observe, no man is a wicked man that is converted; and no man is a converted man that is wicked: so that to be a wicked man, and to be an unconverted man, is all one. And therefore in opening one, we shall open both. · Before I can tell you what either wickedness or conversion is, I must go to the bottom, and fetch up the matter from the beginning.
It pleased the great Creator of the world, to make three sorts of living creatures; angels he made pure spirits without flesh, and therefore he made them only for heaven, and not to dwell on earth. Brutes were made flesh; and therefore they were made only for earth, and not for heaven. Man is of a middle nature, between both; as partaking of both flesh and spirit, and therefore he was made both for heaven and earth. But as his flesh is made to be but a servant to his spirit, so is he made for earth but as his way to heaven; and not that earth should be his home, or happiness. The blessed state which man was made for, was to behold the glorious majesty of the Lord, and to praise him among his holy angels; and to love him, and be filled with his love for ever. And as this was the end which man was made for, so God gives him means fitted to attain it. These means were principally two. First, the right inclination and disposition of the mind of man. Secondly, the right ordering of his life and practice. For the first, God suited the disposition of man to his end; giving him such knowledge of God as was fit for his present state, and a heart inclined to God in holy love. But yet he did not confirm him in this condition; but having made him a free agent, he left him in the hands of his own free will. For the second, God did that which belonged to him; that is, he gave man a perfect law, requiring him to continue in the love of God, and perfectly to obey him. By the wilful breach of this law, man did not only forfeit his hopes of everlasting life, but also turned his heart from God, and fixed it on these lower things; and hereby blotted out the spiritual image of God from his soul. So that man did both fall short of the glory of God which was his end, and put himself out of the way by which he should have attained it; and this both as to the rame of his heart, and of his life. The holy inclinaion of his soul to God, he lost; and instead of it he contracted an inclination to the pleasing of his flesh
y earthly things; growing strange to God, and acjuainted with the creature; and the course of his life vas suited to the inclination of his heart; he lived to
only so, but springs all thiekor speak
his own will, and not to God; he sought the creature for the pleasing of his flesh, and instead of seeking to please the Lord. With this nature or corrupt inclination, we are all now born into the world; for, who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? (1) As a lion has a fierce and cruel nature, before he does devour; and as an adder has a venomous nature, before she stings; so in our very infancy we have those sinful na. tures, or inclination, before we think, or speak, or do amiss. And hence springs all the sin of our lives. And not only so, but when God has, of his mercy, provided us a reinedy, even the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Saviour of our souls, and bring us back to God, we naturally love our present state, and are loth to be brought out of it, and therefore are set against the means of our recovery; and though custom has taught us to thank Christ for his good-will, yet we refuse his reme. dies, and desire to be excused, when we are conmanded to take the medicines which he offers, and are called to forsake all, and follow him to God and glory.
In these few words you have a true description of our natural state, and consequently of a wicked man. For every man that is in this state of corrupted nature, is a wicked man, and in a state of death.
By this you may understand what it is to be converted: to which end you must further know, that the mercy of God, not willing that man should perish in his sin, provided a remedy, by causing his Son to take our nature upon him; and, being in one person God and mai, to become a mediator between God and man; and by dying for our sins on the cross, to ransom us from the curse of God, and the power of the devil. And having thus redeemed us, the Father hath delivered us into his hand, as his own. Hereupon the Father and the Me diator make a new law and covenant for man: not like the first, which gave life to none but the perfectly obedient, and condemned man for every sin; but Christ has made a law of grace, or a promise of pardon and ever
(i) Job xiv. 4.
lasting life to all that by true repentance, and by faith in Christ, are converted unto God. Like an act of oblivion, which is made by a prince to a company of rebels, on condition they will lay down their arms, and come in and be loyal subjects for the time to come.
But, because the Lord knows that the heart of man is grown so wicked, that men will not accept of the remedy if they be left to themselves, therefore the Holy Ghost has undertaken it as his office to inspire the apostles, and seal the scripture by miracles; and to illuminate and convert the souls of men.
So that you see, as there are three persons in the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; so each of these persons have their several works, which are eminently ascribed to them.
The Father's works were, to create us, to rule us as his rational creatures, by the law of nature; and judge us thereby: and in mercy to provide us a Redeemer when we were lost; and to send his Son, and accept his ransom.
The works of the Son, for us, were these: to ransom and redeem us by his sufferings and righteousness; to give out the promise or law of grace; and rule and judge the world as their Redeemer, on terms of grace; and to make intercession for us, that the benefits of his death may be communicated; and to send the Holy Ghost, which the Father also does by the Son.
The works of the Holy Ghost, for us, are these; to indite the holy scriptures, by inspiring and guiding the prophets and apostles; and sealing the word by his miraculous gifts and works; and the illuminating and exciting the ordinary ministers of the gospel, and so enabling them and helping them to publish that word; and by the same word illuminating and converting the souls of men. So that as you could not have been rea. sonable creatures, if the Father had not created you; nor have had any access to God, if the Son had not redeemed you; so neither can you be saved, except the Holy Ghost do sanctify you.
So you may see the several causes of this work. The Father sends the Son: the Son redeems us, and makes
the promise of grace: the Holy Ghost indites and seals this gospel: the apostles are the secretaries of the Spirit to write it: the preachers of the gospel proclaim it, and persuade men to obey it; and the Holy Ghost makes their preaching effectual, by opening the hearts of men to entertain it. And all this to repair the image of God upon the soul; and to set the heart upon God again, and take it off the creature, to which it is revolted: and so to turn the current of the life into a heavenly course, which before was earthly; and all this by the entertainment of Christ by faith, who is the physician of the soul.
By this you may see what it is to be wicked, and what it is to be converted. Which I think will yet be plainer, if I describe them as consisting of their several parts; and for the first, a wicked man may be known by these three things. · First, He is one who places his chief content on earth, and loves the creature more than God, and his fleshly prosperity above heavenly felicity; he savours the things of the flesh, but neither discerns nor savours the things of the Spirit: though he will say that heaven is better than earth, yet does he not really so esteem it. If he might be sure of earth, he would let go heaven; and had rather stay here, than be removed thither. A life of perfect holiness in the sight of God, and in his love and praises for ever in heaven, do not find such liking with his heart, as a life of health, and wealth, and honour, upon earth. And though he falsely profess that he loves God above all, yet indeed he never felt the power of divine love, but his mind is inore set on the world, or fleshly pleasures, than on God. In a word, whoever loves earth above heaven, and fleshly prosperity more than God, is a wicked unconverted man,
On the other side, a converted man is enlightened to discern the loveliness of God; and so believes the glory that is to be had with God, that his heart is set more upon it than on any thing in this world. He had rather see the face of God, and live in his everlasting love, than have all the wealth or pleasure of this world. He