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increase. I can go no farther with my message; I cannot bring it to your heart, or make it work; l'cannot do your parts for you, to entertain it. I cannot do God's part, by opening your heart to cause you to entertain it: nor can I show you heaven or hell to your eye-sight, nor give you new and tender hearts.
But, O thou that art the gracious Father of spirits, thou hast sworn thou delightest not in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn and live; deny not thy blessing to these persuasions and directions, and suffer not thine enemies to triumph in thy sight, and the great deceiver of souls to prevail against thy Son, thy Spirit, and thy Word. O pity poor, unconverted sinners, that have no hearts to pity or help themselves: command the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the dead to live, and let not sin and death be able to resist thee. Awake the secure, resolve the unresolved, confirm the wavering: and let the eyes of sinners that read these lines, be next employed in weeping ever their sins; and bring them to theinselves, and to thy Son, before their sins have brought them to perdition. If thou say but the word, these poor endeavours shall prosper, to the winning of many a soul to their everlasting joy, and thine everlasting glory. Amen.
DIRECTIONS TO SINNERS,
That are purposed to turn, and are under the work of
Conversion, that it miscarry not.
The first and greatest matter in the seeking after the salvation of our souls, is to be sure that we lay the foundation yell, and that the work of conversion be thoroughly wrought. To this end I have already used many persuasions with the inconverted to return, thinking all other directions yaip, țill we have persuaded men to a consent and willingness to practise them.-And in the end of that discourse, I added a few directions for the use of such as are willing to be conyerted. But because I know that this is a matter of exceeding consequence, I dare not thus leave it, before I have added some further directions, to prevent the miscarrying of this work where it is begun. And lest I should lose my labour, through the unprepared: ness of the reader, I shall give you first some prepar: ing considerations, which may awaken you to the prac. tice of the directions which I shall give you.
Consider first, That half-conversions are the undoing of many thousand souls. If you are but like Agrippa,(r) almost persuaded to be Christians, you will be but almost saved. Many a thousand that are now past help, have had the word come near them and cast them into a fear, and made some stir and trouble in their souls, awakening their consciences, and forcing them to some good purposes and promises; yea, and bringing them to the performance of a half-reformation: but this is not it that will serve your turn. Many have been so much changed, as not to be far from the kingdom of God, and yet came short of it.(s) There
is no promise in scripture that you shall be pardoned, if you almost repent and believe; or be saved, if you be almost sanctified and obedient: byt, on the contrary, the Lord hath plainly resolved, that you must turn or die, though you almost turn; and repent or perish, though you almost repent; and that you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, without conversion and a new birth, though you come ever so near it. God hath resolved upon the terms of your salvation; and it is in vain to hope for salvation upon any other terms. God will not change nor come down to your terms. It is you that must change and come quite oyer to his terms, or you are lost for ever. If you come ever so near them, you are but lost men if you come not up to them. The Lord well knew what he did, when he made his covenant and law, and he imposed nothing on the sons of men but what his infinite wisdom told him it was fit for him to impose; and he will not now compound with sinners, and take less than he requireth; that is, less than the pre-eminency in their hearts; nor will he eyer come down to any lower terms with you, than those which he propounded to you in his gospel. And therefore, poor sinners, as you love your souls, do not stand dodging and halving with God; but give up yourselves entirely to him; and do not stop at the beginning of conversion, but go through with it, till you are become new creatures indeed; or you are undone when you have done all. A half unsound convert will as certainly perish as a drunkard or a whoremonger; though his torment may not be so great.
2. Consider also, That if you do not go through with the work when you are upon it, you may perhaps make it more difficult than it was before ever you meddled with it, and make it a very doubtful case whether ever it will be done. As it is with a wound or other sore; if you tamper with it with salves that are not agreeable to it, or are disorderly applied, or if you skin it over before it be searched to the bottom, it must be opened again, and will cost you double pain before it be cured. Or, as I have seen it with
a thereto dodginirely toon, but indeed half
some that have a bone broken, or out of joint, and it hath been set amiss at first; () what torments were the poor creatures fain to undergo, in having it broken or stretched and set again! which might have been spared, if it had been thoroughly done at first. So if you will be shrinking and drawing back, and favouring your flesh, and will not go to the quick, you will make your conversion much more difficult: you must be brought to it again, and fetch your groans yet deeper than before, and weep over all your former tears; your doubts will be multiplied; your fears and sorrows will be increased; and all will go sorer with you than at first. O what a case will you be in, when your sores must be lanced a second time, and your bones, as it were, broken again! Then you will wish you had gone through with it at the first.
Yea, perhaps you may put God to it to fetch you in by some sharp affliction, and send out so boisterous and churlish a messenger to call you home, as may make you wish you had hearkened to a more gentle call: When the sheep will straggle, the dog must be sent to affright him home. Many a foolish sinner makes light of the gentle invitations of grace, and they stand hovering between their sins and Christ; and sometimes they have a mind to turn, and the next temptation they are off again, and then they come on again coldly with half a heart: and thus they stand triling with the God of heaven, till he is fain to take another course with them, and resolve to use some sharper means: and when he layeth them under his rod, and they can neither fly from him, nor resist him, but see that their lives and souls are at his mercy, then they begin to look about them, and see their folly, and change their minds. You can tarry, and delay daily with the dreadful God, in the time of your prosperity; and we may ask you over and over, whether you will turn, before we can have a hearty answer: but what will you do when God shall begin to frown, and when he takes you in hand by his unresistible power, and lets loose upon you the terrors of his
wrath? Will you then make as light of his mercy as you do now? Have you not read, Dan. v. 6. how small an apparition of his anger did make a carousing king look pale, and his joints to tremble in the midst of his jovialty? A Manasseh will bethink himself, and come in when he is laid in irons, though he could set light by God before, 2 Chron. xxxiii. 13. If Jonah will run away from God, he can send a boisterous messenger to arrest him, and cast him as it were in the belly of hell, and make him cry for mercy to him that he disobeyed. So, if you will stand trifling with God, and will not by fair means be persuaded to yield and come away, you may shortly look to hear from him in another manner: for he hath a voice that will make, the proudest face look pale, and the stubbornest heart that is to tremble. If an idle stubborn child will not learn nor be ruled, the master or parent will teach him with the rod, and give him the lash, and ask him, Will you yet learn ? and ask him again, What say you now, will you yet obey? So will God do by you, if he love you, and mean to save you: when he hath taken away your wealth, your friends, your children, will you then hearken to him, or will you not! When you lie groaning on your couch, and all your parts are overwhelmed with pains, and death begins to lay hands upon you, and bids you now come and answer for your rebellions and delays before the living God, what will you do then? Will you turn or not? O.. the lamentable folly of sinners, that put themselves to so much sorrow and great calamity for themselves ! When sickness comes, and death draws near, you beg, and cry, and groan, and promise. When you feel the rod, what Christians will you then be! And why not without so much ado? You then think God deals somewhat hardly with you: And why will you not then turn by gentler means? You might spare yourselves much of this misery if you would; and you will not. Is it a seemily thing for a man to be driven to heaven by scourges? Is God so bad a master, and heaven so bad a place, that you will not turn to them,