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that you shameful unre is plain before firebrands of peo
and mind them, and seek them, till there be no remedy, and you are as it were driven to it against your will? Is the world such an inheritance, and sin so good a thing, and the flesh or devil so good a master, that you will not leave them till you are whipt away? What a shameful unreasonable course is this!
Well, sirs, the case is plain before you. Turn you must at one time or other, or be the firebrands of helt. And seeing it is a thing that must be done, were it not best for you to take the easiest and the surest way to do it; even to strike while the iron is hot, before it cool again; and to go through with it when God doth move you and persuade you. If you love your flesh itself, do not put hiin to take up the rod, and fetch you home by stripes and terrors.
But that is not the worst: for it will sorely hazard the work itself, and consequently your salvation, if you do not go through with it at the first attempt. I know there is many a one that hath been converted and saved after many purposes, and promises, and half-conversions. But yet I must tell you, that this is a very dangerous course. For you do not know, when you grieve the Spirit of grace, and set so light by mercy when is offered yoù, whether that Spirit may not utterly forsake you, and leave you to your own ungodly wills, and let you take your lusts and pleasures, and say, Let this wretch be filthy still: Let him keep his drunkenness, his companions, his worldliness, and the curse of God with them, till he have tried what it is that they will do for him: Let him 'follow his own conceits, and the pride and obstinacy of his own heart, till he find whither they will bring him: Let him serve the flesh and the world, till he understand whether God or they be the better master. Seeing he will not be wise on earth, let him learn in hell; and let torments teach him, seeing mercy might not teach him. O poor soul! what a case art thou in, if this should once be the resolution of God!
Moreover, you may easily know that the longer you stiy, the more leisure you give the devil to assault you, and to try one way when he cannot prevail by another, and to strengthen his temptations: like a foolish soldier, who will stand to be shot at, rather than assault the enemy.
And the longer you delay, the more sin gets strength and rooting. If you cannot bend a twig, how will you be able to bend it when it is a tree? if you cannot pluck up a tender plant, are you likely to pluck up a sturdy oak? Custom gives strength and root to vice. A blackmoor may as well change his skin, or a leopard his spots, as those who are accustomed to do evil can learn to do well.(t)
If you stick at conversion as a difficult matter today, it will be more difficult to-morrow, or the next month, and the next year, than it is now.
Yea, the very resistance of the Spirit doth harden the heart, and the delays and triflings of the soul do bring it to an insensibility and boldness in sin, and drive away the fear of God from the heart. Now it may be you are somewhat awakened, and begin to see that you must turn or die: but if you trifle or delay, this light may be gone, and leave you in greater darkness than before; and the voice that now awakeneth you, may be silent, and leave you to fall asleep again.
Moreover, you know that you are uncertain of the countenance of the gospel. You know not whether you shall have such lively serious preachers as you have now; nor you know not whether you shall have such godly neighbours and company to encourage you and help you in the work. God will remove them one after another to himself, and then you. will have the fewer prayers for you, and fewer warnings and good examples, and perhaps be left wholly to the company of deceived ungodly fools, that will do nothing but discourage and hinder you from conversion. And you are not sure that religion will continue in that reputation as now it is in. The times may turn, before you turn; and godliness may become
(t) Jer. xiii. 23.
a scorn again, and it may be a matter of suffering, and may cost you your lives to live as the servants of Christ must do. And therefore, if you stop at it now as a difficult thing, when you have all the helps and encouragements that you can expect, and the way to heaven is made so fair; and when the magistrates, and ministers, and neighbours, are ready to encourage and help you; what will you do in times of persecution and discouragement ? If you cannot turn when you have all these helps and means, what will you do when they are taken from you? If you cannot row with the stream, how will you row against it? If you dare not set to sea when you have wind, and tide, and sunshine; what will you do in storms and tempests, when all is against you? O what would some of your forefathers have given, to have seen the days that you see! How glad would many a thousand in other countries of the world be, to have but the help to heaven that you have! Never look to have the way fairer and easier while you live. If you think heaven is offered you at too dear a rate now, you may e'en let it go, and try whether hell be better, for the next offer is like to be upon harder terms, rather than easier. If you cannot now find in your hearts to turn and live a holy life, what would you have done in Spain or Italy, where it would have cost you your lives? He that will not be converted now, but thinks the terms of grace too hard, is so impious a despiser of Christ and heaven, that it is no wonder if God resolve, that he shall never taste of the salvation that was offered him.(u)
Moreover, you know upon what uncertainties you hold your lives, you have no assurance of them for an hour; but you are sure that they are passing away while you delay. And will you trifle then in a work that must be done? What a case are you in, if death find you unconverted! The heart of man is not able now to conceive the misery of your case. How dare you venture to live another day in an unconverted
(u) Luke xiv. 24.
state, lest death should find you so? Are you not afraid when you lie down at night, and afraid when you go out of your doors in the morning, lest death surprise you? Are you converted ? if you be not, it is long of your deadness and presumption.
And I would fain hear what it is that should thus stop you. What are you afraid of? Is God an enemy, that you are so loth to come to him? Is the devil a friend, that you are so loth to leave him? Is sin a paradise? is holiness a misery? Is it a pleasanter life to love your money, or your lands, or your meat and drink, and lusts, than to love the most blessed God, the Creator of the world, the life of our souls, and our eternal felicity? Is it better to pamper a carcase that must shortly stink as the dung, than to provide for a living immortal soul? Whether do you think that earth or heaven will be the more glorious and durable felicity?
What is it, sirs, that you stick at, that you make so many delays before you will turn? Is there any difficulty in the point? Do you think it a hard question, whether you shall turn or not? Why, how can you be so blind? Do you stand pausing upon the business, as if it were a doubt, whether God or the world were better? and whether sin or holiness, Christ or death, heaven or hell, were to be preferred? I pray you consider: can you reasonably think, that conversion will do you any harm ? can it bring you into a worse condition than you are in? Sure you cannot fear such a thing. You are in your blood : you are dead in sin : you are children of wrath, while you are unconverted. You are under the curse of the law of God; you are the slaves of the devil, you are the heirs of hell, and under the guilt of all your sins; your life is a continued rebellion against God; you are employed every day in the destroying of yourselves, in kindling the flames that must everlastingly torment you, and laying in fuel for the perpetuating of your misery; and fighting against your friends that would deliver you, and unthankfully
abusing Christ, and grace, and ministers, and friends, that would save your souls. This is the condition that every one of you is in, till you are converted. And can you fear lest conversion would bring you into a worse condition than this? Sirs, these truths are sure and plain; and if you stick at it, your error is so palpably gross, that, unless you are madmen, I may be bold to say, it is a wilful error. And if you love to be deceived, and wilfully choose a lie, you must take that you get by it.
3. Consider further, That half-conversions do often prove an occasion of deluding men's souls, and making them quiet in a miserable state, and so of keeping them from being converted to the last. If you had never done any thing in it, you would more easily be persuaded that your case is bad, and that there is still a necessity of your change. But when you have had some convictions and troubles of mind, and fears and sorrows, and so have fallen into an outside partial reformation, and now are persuaded that you are truly converted, when it is no such matter, what a dangerous impediment to your conversion may this prove! And all because you slumber over the work, and cut it off before it reacheth to sincerity, and strire against the workings of the Spirit, and break away from your Physician before he hath done the cure, and would not follow it unto the end. I know that a half-conversion, if it be known to be no more, is much better than none, and doth often prepare men for a saving work. But when this half-conversion is taken for a true and saving change, as too commonly it js, it proves one of the greatest impediments of salvation. Whenever Christ shall afterwards kuock at your door, you will not know him, as thinking that he dwells with you already. If you read any books that call on you to be converted, or hear any preachers that call on you to turn, you have this at hand to cozet yourselves with, and frustrate all-you will think, This is not spoken to me; for I am converted already. O how quietly do such poor deluded sinners