« הקודםהמשך »
pearl of great price, and yet be a gainer by the purchase. Thy life is not necessary, thou mayest part with it for Christ to infinite advantage. Thine esteem is not necessary; thou mayest be reproached for the name of Christ, and yet be happy; yea, much more happy in reproach than in repute. But thy conversion is necessary, thy damnation lies upon it; and is it not needful, in so important a case, to look about thee? On this one point depends thy making or marring to all eternity.
But I shall more particularly show the necessity of Conversion in five things, without this.
1. Thy being is in vain. Is it not a pity thou shouldst be good for nothing, an unprofitable burden of the earth? Thus thou art whilst unconverted; for thou canst not answer the end of thy being. Is it not for the divine pleasure thou art and wert created? Did he not make thee for himself? Art thou a man, and hast thou reason? Then bethink thyself why and whence thy being is: behold God's workmanship in thy body, and ask thyself, To what end did God rear this fabric ? Consider the whole faculties of thy. heaven-born soul; to what end did God bestow these excellencies ? To no other, than that thou shouldst gratify thy senses? Did God send men, like the swallows, into the world only to gather a few sticks and dirt, and build their nests, and breed up their young, and then away? The very heathens could see farther than this.
O man! set thy reason a little in the chair. Is it not pity such a goodly fabric should be raised in vain? Verily thou art in vain, except thou art for God: better thou hadst no being, than not to be for him. Wouldst thou serve thy end? Thou must repent and be converted: without this, thou art to no purpose; yea, to bad purpose.
First, To no purpose. Man unconverted is like a choice instrument that hath every string broke or out of tune; the Spirit of the living God inust repair and tune it, and sweetly move it by the power of grace, or else thy prayers will be but howlings, apd all thy ser
vices will make no music in the ears of the most Holy. All thy powers and faculties are so corrupt in thy natural state, that except thou be purged from dead works, thou canst not serve the living God.
An unsanctified man cannot work the work of God: 1. He hath no skill in it: he is as unskilful in the work as in the word of righteousness, Heb. v. 13. There are great mysteries, as well in the practice as principles of godliness: now the unregenerate know not the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. You may as well expect him to read that never learned the alphabet, as that a natural man should do the Lord any pleasing service. 2. He hath no strength for it. How weak is his heart! He is presently tired: the Sabbath, what a weariness is it! He is without strength, yea, stark dead in sin. 3. He hath no mind to it: he desires not the knowledge of God's ways; he doth not know them, and he doth not care to know them. He knows not, neither will he understand. So that a man may as well expect the trees should speak, or look for motion from the dead, as for any service, holy and acceptable to God, from the unconverted ,
Secondly, To bad purpose. The unconverted soul is a very cage of unclean birds; a sepulchre full of corruption. O dreadful case! Was it such an abomination to the Jews, when Antiochus set up the picture of a swine at the entrance of the temple? How much more abominable then would it have been, to have had the very temple itself turned into a stable or a sty; and to have had the Holy of holies served like the house of Baal, turned into a draught house! This is the very case of the unregenerate: all thy menibers are turned into instruments of unrighteousness, servants of Satan.
O abuse insufferable! To see a heaven-born soul abused to the filthiest drudgery! To see the glory of God's creation, the chief of the works of God, the Lord of the universe, lapping with the prodigal at the trough! Was it such a lamentation to see those that fed delicately, sit desolate in the streets; and those
that were clothed in scarlet, embrace dunghills ? And is it not much more fearful to see the only thing that hath immortality in this lower world, and carries the stamp of God, become as a vessel wherein there is no pleasure? (which is but a modest expression of the vessel men put to the most sordid use.) O indig. nity intolerable! Better thou wert dashed into a thousand pieces, than continue to be abased to so filthy a service.
II. Not only man, but the whole visible creation, is in vain without this. Beloved, God hath made all the visible creatures in heaven and earth for the service of man, and man only is the spokesman for all the rest. Man is in the universe like the tongue to the body, which speaks for all the members; the other creatures cannot praise their Maker, but by dumb signs and hints to man, that he may speak for them. Man is as it were the high-priest of God's creation, to offer the sacrifice of praise for all his fellow-creatures. The Lord God expecteth a tribute of praise for all his works. Now all the rest bring in their tribute to man, and pay it in by his hand; so then if a man be false and faithless, God is wronged of all, and shall have no active glory from his works.'
O dreadful thought! that God should build, such a world as this, and lay out such infinite power, and wisdom, and goodness, thereupon; and man should be guilty of robbing and spoiling him of the glory of all! O think of this! While thou art unconverted, all the offices of the creatures to thee are in vain! Thy meat nourishes thee in vain; the sun holds forth his light to thee in vain; thy clothes warm thee in vain; thy beast carries thee in vain. In a word, the unwearied labour and continual travail of the whole creation (as to thee) is in vain. The service of all the creatures, that yield forth their strength unto thee, (that therewith thou shouldst serve their Maker) is all lost labour. Hence the whole creation groaneth under the abuse of this unsanctified world, that pervert them to the service of their lusts, quite contrary to the very end of their being.
III. Without this thy religion is vain. All thy religious performances will be lost, for they can neither please God, nor save thy soul, which are the very ends of religion. Be thy services ever so specious, yet God hath no pleasure in them. Is not that man's case dreadful, whose sacrifices are as murder, and whose prayers are a breath of abomination ? Many under convictions think they will begin to mend, and that a few prayers and alms will salve all; but, alas, while your hearts remain unsanctified, your duties will not pass. God threatens it, as the greatest of temporal judgments, that they should build and not inhabit, plant and not gather, and their labours should be eaten up by strangers. Is it so great a misery to lose. our common labours, to sow in vain, and build in vain? How much more to lose our pains in religion ; to pray, and hear, and fast, in vain? This is an undoing and eternal loss. Be not deceived; if thou goest on in thy sinful state, though thou shouldst spread forth thine hands, God will hide his eyes; though thou make many prayers, he will not hear thee. If a servant do our work, but quite contrary to our order, he shall have rather stripes than praise. God's work must be done according to God's mind, or he will not be pleased; and this cannot be, except it be done with a holy heart.
IV. Without this thy hopes are in vain.
First, Thy hopes of comfort here are in vain. 'Tis not only necessary to the safety, but comfort of your condition, that you be converted. Without this you shall not know peace. Without the fear of God, you cannot have the comfort of the Holy Ghost. If you have a false peace, continuing in your sins, 'tis not of God's speaking, and then you may guess the author. Sin is a real sickness, yea, the worst of sickness; it is a leprosy in the head, the plague in the heart: it is brokenness in the bones: it pierćeth, it woundeth, it racketh, it tormenteth. A man may as well expect ease when his bones are out of joint, as true comfort while in his sins.
Sin doth naturally breed distempers and distarbances in the soul: What a continual tempest is there in a discontented mind! What an eating evil is inordinate care! What is passion, but a very fever in the mind? What is lust, but ,a fire in the bones? What is pride, but a deadly tympany? Or covetousness, but an insatiable and unsufferable thirst? Or malice and envy, but venom in the very heart? And how can that soul have true comfort that is under so many diseases ? But converting grace cures, and so eases the mind; prepares the soul for a settled, standing, immortal peace: Great peace hare they that love thy commandments, and nothing shall offend them.
Secondly, Thy hopes of salvation hereafter are in vain, yea, worse than in vain: they are most injurious to God, most pernicious to thyself: there is death, desperation, blasphemy, in the bowels of this hope. 1. There is death in it: thy confidence shall be rooted out of thy tabernacles, (God will up with it root and branch ;) it shall bring them to the king of terrors. 2. There is desperation in it: where is the hope of the hypocrite, when God taketh away his soul? Then there is an end for ever of his hope. But the righteous hath hope in his death, Prov. xxiv. 32. When nature is dying, his hopes are living; when his body is languishing, his hopes are flourishing: his hope is a living hope, but the other a dying, yea, a damping, soul-undoing hope. For the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost. Wicked men are fixed in their carnal hope, and will not be beaten out of it; they hold it fast, they will not let it go: yea, but death will knock off their fingers; though we cannot undeceive them, death and judgment will; when death strikes his dart through thy liver, it will out thy soul and thy hopes together. 3. There is blasphemy in it. To hope we shall be saved, though continuing unconverted, it is to hope we shall prove God a liar. He hath told you, that whatever you be or do, nothing shall avail you to salvation unless you become new creatures, Gal. vi, 15.