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So earnest is God for the conversion of sinners, that he
doubles his commands and exhortations with vehemency,—Turn ye, turn ye; why will you die ?
Is there ever an unconverted sinner that hears these vehement words of God? Is there ever a man or woman that is yet a stranger to the renewing, sanctifying work, of the Holy Ghost? Hearken then to the voice of your Maker, and turn to him by Christ without delay. Would you know the will of God? Why this is his will, that you presently turn. Shall the living God send so earnest a message to his creatures, and should they not obey? Hearken then, all ye that live after the flesh: the Lord that gave thee thy breath, hath sent a message to thee from heaven; and this is his message, Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die? He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Shall the voice of the eternal Majesty be neglected ? If he do but terribly thunder, thou art afraid. O, but this voice does more nearly concern thee. If he did but tell thee, thou shalt die to-morrow, thou wouldest not make light of it. O but this word concerns thy life, or death everlasting. It is both a command and an exhortation. As if he had said to thee, “I charge thee upon the allegiance which thou owest to me thy Creator and Redeemer, that thou renounce the flesh, the world, and the devil, and turn to me, that thou mayest live. I condescend to entreat thee, as thou either lovest or fearest him that made thee; as thou lovest thine own life, even thine everlasting life, Turn and live; as ever thou wouldest escape eternal misery, Turn, turn; for why wilt thou die?” And is there a heart in man, in a reasonable creature, that can refuse such a message, such a command, such an exhortation as this? O what a thing then is the heart of man!
Hearken then, all that love yourselves, and all that regard your own salvation: here is the joyfullest message that ever was sent to the ears of man, Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die? You are not yet shut up under desperation. Here is mercy offered you; turn, and you shall have it. With what joy should you receive these tidings ! I know this is not the first time that you have heard them: but how have you regarded them, or how do you regard tliem now? Hear, all ye ignorant, careless sinners, the word of the Lord! Hear, all ye gluttons, drunkards, whoremongers and swearers, railers and backbiters, slanderers and liars, -Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die?
Hear, all ye cold, and outside professors, all that are strangers to the life of Christ, and never knew the power of his resurrection, never felt your hearts warmed with his love,-Turn ye; why will ye die?
Hear, all that are void of the love of God, whose hearts are not towards him, nor taken up with the hopes of glory, but set inore on earthly prosperity and delights than on the joys of heaven; all you that are religious but by-the-by, and give God no more than the flesh can spare; that have not denied yourselves, and farsaken all that you have for Christ; but have some one thing in the world so dear to you, that you cannot spare it for him, but will rather venture on his displeasure than forsake it,-Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die?
If you never heard it, or observed it before, remember that you were told from the word of God this day, that if you will but turn you may live; and if you will not turn, you shall surely die.
What now will you do? What is your resolution? Will you turn, or will you not? Halt no longer between two opinions: If the Lord be God, follow him: if your flesh be God, then serve it still. If heaven be better than earth, come away and seek a better country, and lay up your treasure where rust and moth do not corrupt, or thieves break through and steal; and, with all your might, seek the kingdom that cannot be moved: employ your lives on a higher design, and turn the stream of your cares and labours another way than formerly you have done. But if earth be better than heaven, then keep it, and make your best of it, and follow it still. Are you resolved what to do? If you be not, I will set a few more considerations before you.
Consider, first, what preparations mercy has made for your salvation; and what pity it is that any man should be damned after all this! God has made to thee a free act of oblivion, and a free deed of gift of Christ and life, and offers it to thee, and entreats thee to accept it; and it may be thine if thou wilt. For he was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Sinners, we are commanded to deliver this message to you all, as from the Lord, Come, for all things are now ready.(s) Are all things ready, and are you unready? God is ready to pardon all that you have done against him, if you will but come. As long as you have sinned, as wilfully as you have sinned, as heinously as you have sinned, he is ready to cast all behind his back, if you will but come. Though you have been prodigals, and run away from God, and have staid so long, he is ready to meet you, and embrace you in his arms, if you will but turn. Even the swinish drunkards may find God ready to bid them welcome, if they will but come. Does not this turn thy heart within thee? O sinner, if thou have a heart of flesh, and not of stone, methinks this should melt it. Shall the dreadful infinite Majesty of heaven wait for thy returning, and be ready to receive thee, who hast abused him, and forgotten him so long? Shall he delight in thy conversion, who might at any time glorify his justice in thy damnation; and yet does it not melt thy heart within thee, and art thou not yet ready to come in? Hast thou not as much reason to be ready to come, as God has to invite thee and bid thee welcome?
Christ has done his part upon the cross, and made such way for thee to the Father, that on his account
(s) Luke xiv. 17.
sure is not in their death, but in their conversion and life. And as the Apostle says, Because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself. For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.(9) If there be any man who cannot reconcile this truth, with the damnation of the wicked, that is owing to his own ignorance; he has no pretence left to deny or question therefore the truth of the point in hand; for this is confirmed by the oath of God, and therefore must not be distorted to reduce it to other points; but doubtful points must rather be reduced to it, and certain truths must be believed to agree with it, though our shallow brains hardly discern the agreement.
I do now entreat thee, if thou be an unconverted sinner, who hearest these words, that thou wouldst bethink thyself awhile, who it is that takes pleasure in thy sin and damnation. Certainly it is not God; he has sworn for his part, that he takes no pleasure in it. And I know it is not the pleasure of him that you intend in it. You dare not say, that you drink, and swear, and neglect holy duties, and quench the motions of the Spirit, to please God. That were as if you should reproach the prince, and break his laws, and seek his death, and say, You did all this to please him.
Who is it then that takes pleasure in your sin and death? Not any that bear the image of God, for they
(9) Heb. vi. 13–16, 17, 18, 19.
must be like-minded to him. God knows, it is small pleasure to your teachers to see you wilfully run into the flames of hell. Alas! to foresee your everlasting torments, and know not how to prevent them, is to see how near you are to hell, and we cannot make you believe it and consider it: to see how easily, how certainly, you might escape, if we knew but how to make you willing !-how fair you are for everlasting salvation, if you would but turn and do your best, and make it the care and business of your lives! but you will not do it! Do you think that this is a pleasant thing to us?
Again, it is none of your godly friends. Alas! it is the grief of their souls to see your misery, and they lament for you many a time when you give thein little thanks for it, and when you have not hearts to lament for yourselves.
Who is it then that takes pleasure in your sin? It is none but three great enemies of God, whom you renounced in your baptism.
1. The devil takes pleasure in your sin and death; for this is the end of all his temptations. You cannot please him better than to go on in sin: how glad is he when he sees thee go to the alehouse, and when he hears thee curse, or swear, or rail! These are his delight.
2. The wicked are also delighted in it; for it is agreeable to their nature.
3. But I know, for all this, that it is not the pleas ing of the devil that you intend ; but it is your own flesh, the greatest and most dangerous enemy. It is the flesh that would be pleased in meat and drink, and clothing; that would be pleased in company, and in applause and credit with the world; and this is the gulph that devours all. This is the very god you serve. For the scripture says of such, their belly is their god.(r)
But I beseech you stay a little, and consider the business.
(1) Phil. iii. 19.