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self, if thou hadst felt that wrath of God but an hour! or, if after a thousand, or ten thousand years? torment, thou couldst but hear such a word from God as, Turn and live! And yet wilt thou now neglect it, and suffer us to return without our errand ?
Behold, sinners, we are sent here as the messengers of the Lord, to set before you life and death: what say you? which of them will you choose ? Christ stands as it were by thee, with heaven in one hand, and hell in the other, and offers thee thy choice: which wilt thou choose? The voice of the Lord maketh the rocks to tremble. But it is nothing to hear him threaten thee, if thou wilt not turn. Dost thou not understand and feel this voice, Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die? Why, it is the voice of love, of infinite love, of thy best and kindest Friend: and yet canst thou neglect it? It is the voice of pity and compassion. The Lord sees whither thou art going better than thou dost, which makes him call after thee, Turn, turn: he sees what will become of thee, if thou turn not: he thinks with himself-Ah, this poor sinner will cast himself into endless torments if he do not turn; I must in justice deal with him according to my righteous law. And therefore he calls after thee, Turn, turn, O sinner! If you did but know the thousandth part, as well as God does, of the danger that is near you, and the misery you are running into, we should have no more need to call after you to turn.
Well, are you yet resolved, or are you not? Do I need to say any more to you? What will you do? Will you turn or not? Speak man in thy heart to God: speak, lest he take thy silence for denial. Speak quickly, lest he never make thee the like offer more. Speak resolvedly, and not waveringly; for he will have no indifferents to be his followers. Say in thy heart now, without any more delay, even before thou stir hence, By the grace of God. I am resolved presently to turn. And because I know mine own insufficiency, I am resolved to wait on God for his grace,
and to follow him in his ways, and forsake my former companions, and give up myself to the guidance of the Lord.
The Lord condescends to reason the case with uncon
verted sinners, and to ask them why they will die?
A STRANGE disputation it is, both as to the contro versy, and as to the disputants.
1. The controversy or question propounded, Why wicked men will damn themselves? Or, Why they will rather die than turn? Whether they have any sufficient reason for so doing? · 2. The disputants are God and man: the most holy God, and wicked unconverted sinners.
Is it not a strange thing, that any man should be willing to die, and be damned ? yea, that this should be the case of the greatest part of the world? But you will say, This cannot be; for nature desires the preservation of itself. · I answer, 1. It is a certain truth, that no man can will any evil as evil, but only as it has some appearance of good. Misery, as such, is desired by none. 2. But yet it is most true, that the cause why the wicked die and are damned, is because they will die and be damned. And this is true in several respects.
1. They will go the way that leads to hell, though they are told by God and man whither it leads; and though God has so often professed in his word, that if they hold on in that way, they shall be condemned; and that they shall not be saved, unless they turn.They have the word, and the oath, of the living God for it, that if they will not turn, they shall not enter into his rest. And yet, wicked they are, and wicked they will be, let God and man say what they will. So that consequently these men are willing to be damn
ed, though not directly: they chuse the way to hell, and love the certain cause of their torments; though they do not will hell itself, and do not love the pain which they must endure.
Is not this the truth of your case? You would not burn in hell; but you will cast yourselves into it. You would not be tormented with devils for ever, but you will do that which will certainly procure it. It is as if you would say, I will drink this ratsbane; but I will not die: I will cast myself headlong from the top of a steeple; but yet I will not kill myself: I will thrust this knife into my breast; but I will not take away my life. Just so it is with wicked men; they will be wicked, and yet they would not be damned. But do you not know that God has by his righteous law concluded that you must repent or perish? He that will take poison, may as well say plainly, I will kill myself, for it will prove no better in the end; though perhaps he loved it for the sweetness of the sugar that was mixt with it, and would not be persuaded that it was poison: but it is not his conceit and confidence that will save his life. So if you will be drunkards, or fornicators, or worldlings, or live after the flesh, you may as well say plainly, we will be damned: for so you shall be, unless you turn.-Would you not rebuke the folly of a thief or murderer, that would say, I will steal or kill, but I will not be hanged; when he knows that if he do the one, the judge will see that the other be done? If he say, I will steal and murder, he may as well say plainly, I will be hanged, and if you will go on in a carnal life, you may as well say plainly, we will go to hell.
2. Moreover, the wicked will not use those means, without which there is no hope of their salvation. He that will not eat, may as well say plainly, he will not live, unless he can tell how to live without meat. He that will not go his journey, may as well say plainly, he will not come to the end of it. He that falls into the water, and will not come out, or suffer another to help him out, may as well say plainly, he will be drowned. So if you be ungodly, and will not be cou
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verted, or use the means by which you should be converted, you may as well say plainly, you will be danined. For if you have found out a way to be saved without conversion, you have done that which was never done before.
So that you may see on what ground it is that God supposes that the wicked will their own destruction: they will not turn, though they must turn or die; they will rather venture on certain misery, than be converted; and then, to quiet themselves in their sius, they make themselves believe that they shall nevertheless escape.
3. And as this controversy is matter of wonder, so are the disputants too;that God should stoop so low as thus to plead the case with man! and that men should be so strangely blind, and obstinate, as to need all this in so plain a case, yea, and to resist all this, when their own salvation lies upon the issue!
No wonder if they will not hear us who are men, when they will not hear the Lord himself: as God says, when he sent the prophet to the Israelites, The house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted.(0) But, woe unto him (saith the Lord) that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, What mukest thou ? (y)
WHAT sayest thou, unconverted wretch? Darest thou venture upon a dispute with God? An thou able to confute him? Art thou ready to enter the lists? God asks thee, Why wilt thou die? Art thou furnished with a sufficient answer? Wilt thou undertake to prove that God is mistaken? 0 what an undertaking is that! Why, either he or you
(x) Ezek. ïïi. 7. (y) Isa. xlv. 9.
is mistaken, when he is for your conversion, and you are against it; he calls upon you to turn, and you will not; he bids you do it presently, even to-day while it is called to-day, and you delay, and think it time enough hereafter. He says it must be a total change, and you must be holy and new creatures; and you think it is enough to patch up the old mani, without becoming new. Who is in the right now? God or you? God calls on you to turn, and to live a holy life, and you will not: by your disobedient lives, it appears you will not. If you will, why do you not? Why have you not done it all this while? And why do you not fall upon it yet? Your wills have the command of your lives. We may certainly conclude that you are unwilling to turn, when you do not turn. And why will you not? Can you give any reason for it, that is worthy to be called a reason?
It can be no good reason which is against the God of truth. That cannot be light which is contrary to the sun. There is no knowledge in any creature, but what it had from God; and therefore none can be wiser than God. It were damnable presumption for the highest angel to compare with his Creator: what is it then for a lump of dirt, an ignorant sot, that knows not himself, nor his own soul, that knows but little of the things which he sees, to set himself against the wisdom of the Lord? It is one of the fullest discoveries of the horrible wickedness, and the stark madness of sinners, that so silly à mole dare contradict his Maker, and call in question the word of God.
And as I know that God must needs be in the right, so I know the case is so palpable which he pleads against, that no man can have reason for it. Is it possible that a man can have any reason to break his master's laws? reason to dishonour the Lord of glory? reason to abuse the Lord that bought him? Is it possible that a man can have any good reason to damn his own immortal soul? Mark the Lord's question, Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die? Is eternal death à thing to be desired? Are you in love with hell?