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upon ; the rule itself is, that speedily, without any pro- SERM. crastination or delay, we should apply ourselves to the ob- XLVIII. servance of God's commandments; the practice of which rule it shall be my endeavour to recommend and press.
It is a common practice of men, that are engaged in bad courses, which their own conscience discerneth and disapproveth, to adjourn the reformation of their lives to a farther time, so indulging themselves in the present commission of sin, that yet they would seem to purpose and promise themselves hereafter to repent and take up: few Vi&uros resolve to perfist finally in an evil way, or despair of being femper, nec one day reclaimed; but immediately and effectually to set vivimus upon it, many deem unseasonable or needless; it will, they Manil. 4. presume, be soon enough to begin to-morrow, or next day, a month or a year hence, when they shall find more commodious opportunity, or shall prove better disposed thereto: in the mean time with Solomon's Nuggard, Yet, say Prov. vi. 10 they, a little sleep, a little sumber, a little folding of the hands: let us but negle&t this duty, let us but satisfy this appetite, let us but enjoy this bout of pleasure; hereafter, God willing, we mean to be more careful, we hope that we shall become more sober: so like bad debtors, when our conscience dunneth us, we always mean, we always promise to pay; if she will stay awhile, the shall, we tell her, be satisfied; or like vain spendthrifts, we see our estate fly, yet presume that it will hold out, and at length we shall reserve enough for our use. Eis aõpsov tà orodcia, Plut. in PeLet serious business say till the morrow, was a saying that lop. cost dear to him who said it; yet we in our greatest concerns follow him.
But how fallacious, how dangerous, and how mischiev. Non eft, ous this manner of proceeding is; how much better and fapientis di more advisable it is, after the example propounded in our cerc, vic text, speedily to betake ourselves unto the discharge of i. 16. our debt and duty to God, the following considerations will plainly declare.
Recognosce fingulos, confidera universos, nullius non vita spectat in cras. tinum; non enim vivunt, sed vičturi funt. Sen. Ep. 45.
Rom. ii. 6.
SERM. 1. We may consider, that the observance of God's comXLVIII. mandments (an observance of them proceeding from an
habitual disposition of mind, in a constant tenor of prac. tice) is our indispensable duty, our main concernment, our only way to happiness; the necessary condition of our at. taining salvation; that alone, which can procure God's love and favour toward us; that unto which all real bless
ings bere, and all bliss hereafter, are inseparably annexed: Eccl. xii. Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole
of man; (the whole duty, the whole design, the whole
perfection, the sum of our wisdom, and our bappiness.) Matt. xix. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments: The Psal
. xi. 7. righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth Prov. xv.9. behold the upright: God will render to every man accord
ing to his works: these are oracles indubitably clear, and infallibly certain; these are immovable terms of justice
between God and man, which never will, never can be Matt. v. 18. laxed; being grounded on the immutable nature of God,
and eternal reason of things: if God had not decreed, if Psal. cxix. he had not said these things, they would yet assuredly be
true; for it is a foul contradi&tion to reason, that a man ever should please God without obeying him; it is a gross absurdity in nature, that a man should be happy without being good; wherefore all the wit in the world cannot devise a way, all the authority upon earth (yea, I dare fay, even in heaven itself) cannot establish a condition, beside faithful observance of God's law, that can save, or make us happy: from it there can be no valid dispensation, without it there can be no effectual absolution, for it there can be no acceptable commutation; nor, in defect thereof, will any faith, any profession, any trick or pretence whatever, avail or signify any thing: whatever expedient to supply its roon superstition, mistake, craft, or presumption may recommend, we shall, relying thereon, be certainly deluded. If therefore we mean to be saved, (and are we so wild as not to mean it?) if we do not renounce felicity, (and do we not then renounce our wits?) to become virtuous, to proceed in a course of obedience, is a work that necessarily must be performed: and why
Luke xvi. 17.
then should we not instantly undertake it? wherefore do SERM. we demur or stick at it? how can we at all rest quiet,
XLVIII. while an affair of so vast inportance lieth upon our hands, or until our mind be freed of all uncertainty and fuspense about it? Were a probable way suggested to us of acquiring great wealth, honour, or pleasure, should we not quickly run about it? could we contentedly Neep, till we had brought the business to a fure or hopeful issue? and why with less expedition or urgency should we pursue the certain means of our present security and comfort, of our final salvation and happiness? In doing so, are we not strangely inconsistent with ourselves?
Again, disobedience is the certain road to perdition; that which involveth us in guilt and condemnation, that which provoketh God's wrath and hatred against us, that which assuredly will throw us into a state of eternal for. row and wretchedness: The foolish shall not stand in God's Plal. v. 5. fight; he hateth all the workers of iniquity: If ye do not Luke xiii. repent, ye shall perish: The wicked shall be turned into hell
. ix. 17. and all the people that forget God: The unrighteous shall i Cor. vi. 9. not inherit the kingdom of God: The wicked shall go into Matt. xxv. everlasting punishment : these are denunciations no less 46. vii. 21. sure than severe, from that mouth, which is never opened in vain; from the execution whereof there can be no shelter or refuge. And what wise man, what man in his right senses, would for one minute stand obnoxious to them? Who, that anywise tendereth his own welfare, would move one step forward in so perilous and destructive a course? the farther in which he proceedeth, the more he discosteth from happiness, the nearer he approacheth to ruin.
- In other cases common sense prompteth men to proceed otherwise; for who, having rendered one his enemy, that far overmatcheth him, and at whose mercy he standeth, will not instantly fue to be reconciled? Who, being seized by a pernicious disease, will not hafte to seek a cure? Who, being fallen into the jaws of a terrible danger, will not nimbly leap out thence? And such plainly is our cafe: while we persist in fin, we live in enmity and defiance with
SERM, the Almighty, who can at his pleasure crush us; we lie XLVIII. under a fatal plague, which, if we do not seasonably re.
pent, will certainly destroy us; we incur the most dreadful of all hazards, abiding in the confines of death and destru&ion; God frowning at us, guilt holding us, hell gap
ing for us: every finner is, according to the Wise Man's Prov. xxiii. expreslion, as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or
as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. And he that is in such a case, is he not mad or senseless, if he will not forthwith labour to swim out thence, or make all speed to get down into a safer place? Can any man with comfort lodge in a condition so dismally ticklish?
2. We may consider, that, in order to our final welfare, we have much work to dispatch, the which requireth as earnest care and painful industry, so a competent long time; which, if we do not presently fall on, may be wanting, and thence our work be left undone, or imperfe&. To conquer and correct bad inclinations, to render our sensual appetites obsequious to reason, to compose our paflions into a right and steady order, to cleanse our souls from vanity, from perverseness, from Both, from all vicious distempers, and in their room to implant firm habits of virtue ; to get a clear knowledge of our duty, with a ready disposition to perform it; in fine, to season our minds with holy affections, qualifying us for the presence of God, and conversation with the blessed spirits above; these are things that must be done, but cannot be done in a
trice; it is not diétum factum, as soon done as said ; but Rom. ii. 7. úmquo pyou ára goû, a patient continuance in well doing, is
needful to achieve it; for it no time can be redundant; the longest life can hardly be sufficient: Art is long, and life is short, may be an aphorism in divinity as well as in phyfic; the art of living well, of preserving our soul's health,
and curing its distempers, requireth no less time to comOù xa hrudy.
pass it, than any other art or science. σιν ημίν χο
Virtue is not a mushroom, that springeth up of itself in αν ο Θιός,
one night, when we are alleep, or regard it not; but a deαλλά πονουμίνοις. . licate plant, that groweth slowly and tenderly, needing
much pains to cultivate it, much care to guard it, much
time to mature it, in our untoward foil, in this world's SERM.
XLVIII. unkindly weather: happiness is a thing too precious to be purchased at an easy rate; heaven is too high to be conie at without much climbing; the crown of bliss is a prize too noble to be won without a long and a tough conflict. Neither is vice a spirit, that will be conjured down by a charm, or with a presto driven away; it is not an adversary, that can be knocked down at a blow, or dispatched with a stab. Whoever shall pretend that at any time, o quam cafily, with a celerity, by a kind of legerdemain, or by any rum pumysterious knack, a man may be settled in virtue, or con- tant, quibus verted from vice, common experience abundantly will con-videtur! fute him; which sheweth, that a habit otherwise (setting Quint. xii. miracles aside) cannot be produced or destroyed, than by a constant exercise of acts suitable or opposite thereto; and that such acts cannot be exercised without voiding all impediments, and framing all principles of action, (such as temper of body, judgment of mind, influence of custom,) to a compliance; that who by temper is peevith or choleric, cannot, without mastering that temper, become patient or meek; that who from vain opinions is proud, cannot, without confidering away those opinions, prove bumble; that who by custom is grown intemperate, cannot, without weaning himself from that custom, come to be fober; that who, from the concurrence of a sorry nature, fond conceits, mean breeding, and scurvy usage, is covetous, cannot, without draining all those sources of his fault, be turned into liberal. The change of our mind is one of the greatest alterations in nature, which cannot be compassed in any way, or within any time we please; but it must proceed on leisurely and regularly, in such order, by such steps, as the nature of things doth permit; it must be wrought by a resolute and laborious perseverance; by a watchful application of mind, in voiding prejudices, in waiting for advantages, in attending to all we do; by forcible wresting our nature from its bent, and swimming against the current of impetuous desires; by a patient difentangling ourselves from practices molt agreeable and familiar to us; by a wary fencing with temptations, by