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pains to comfort you, when you have deferred your repentance to that time, and when your case appears desperate.
Why do we not despair of man who delays his conversion till the approach of death? Why did we tell you last Lord's-day, that God pardoneth not only the sins of months and years, but of a whole life? Because that order, which constitutes the eminence of the divine perfections, doth not allow that a sincere conversion, a conversion that abandons the sin, and renews the sinner, should be rejected by God. Now we cannot absolutely deny the possibility of a sincere death-bed conversion for the following reasons.
J. Because it is not absolutely impossible, that a violent.fit of sickness, or an apprehension of death, should make deeper impressions on the mind, than either sermons, or exhortations, or books of devotion could ever produce. This reflection is the more solid, because the phrase, an unconverted man, is extremely equivocal. We call him an unconverted man, who profanely rusheth iuto all sorts of sins, and who never made one sacrifice to order; and we also, with great reason, call him an unconverted man, who hath renounced all sins except one. Now the idea of death may finish, in the souls of people of the latter sort, a work which they had indeed neglected, but which however was actually begun.
2. Because we are neither so fully acquainted with other people's hearts, nor indeed with our own, as to determine whether sin have so entirely depraved all the faculties of the soul, that it is past remedy; or, whether it have arrived at that precise degree of corruption, to which the eminence of the divine perfections doth not allow a display of that efficacy, which is promised to those who desire the grace of conversion.
3. Because we find, in the holy scriptures, that some have obtained mercy, after they had committed the very crimes, the remembrance of which we have said, ought not to drive any to despair. We meet with, at least, one example, which affords a probability, (I do not say a demonstration) that the eminence of the divine perfections doth not always require, that a man, who hath spent his life in robberies, should be excluded from the mercy of God. We find there a thief who was condemned to be crucified, and who said to the companion of his iniquities and miseries, we receive the due rewards of our deeds, Luke xxiii. 41. but who, notwithstanding all the misery of his case, applied to Jesus Christ, and, from his adorable mouth, received this comfortable promise, Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise, ver. 43.
4. Because we still see people, who, having lived thirty, yea fifty years in sin, have been converted in a time of sickness, and who, being restored to health, give full proof of the reality of their conversion. Such examples, I own, are rare, and almost unheard of, yet we could, perhaps, mention two or three, out of twenty thousand sick people, whom we have visited, or of whom we have heard, in the course of our ministry. Now the examples of two or three, who have been converted on a sickbed, out of twenty thousand who have died without conversion, are sufficient to prevent our saying to one dying man, who should have put off his repentance to the last hour, that it is impossible for him to be converted.
5. Because God worketh miracles in religion as well as in nature; and because no man hath a sufficient knowledge of the nature of God's perfections to enable him to affirm that a miracle cannot, or ought not to be wrought in behalf of such a sinner.
6. Because we cannot find, that your pastors have any authority from their bibles to say to a penitent sinirer, at any time, there is no more hope for thee; thou hast exhausted the mercy of God; thou art gotten to that period, in which we have no other morality to preach than this, he that is unjust, let him be unjust still ; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still, Rev. xxii. 11. On the contrary, all the directions in the holy scriptures, that relate to the exercise of our ministry, engage us to pray for a sinner, as long as he hath a spark of life ; to endeavor to convince him as long as he is capable of reasoning; and, till he is past feeling the force of motives to conversion, to do every thing, that is in our power, to convert him. But doth not all this conduct suppose that which we have been endeavoring to prove that is, that to what degree soever a sinner may have carried his sin, how long soever he may have lived in it, there will always be a sufficiency of pardon, where there is a certainty of conversion ; agreeably to the gospel that we preached to you on the last Lord's day, Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts : and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him : and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon : For my thoughts of grace and mercy must not be measured by the ideas of the finest reasoning powers ; much less by those of a gloomy desponding mind, my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord : For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my
thoughts than your thoughts. This was the gospel of last Lord's-day.
The gospel of this day is, our God is a consuming fire. But these two gospels entirely agree, and our endeavors to comfort you, after you have deferred your conversion to a death-bed, are not inconsistent with our endeavors to terrify and alarm you, when we perceive that you obstinately determine to defer your repentance to that time. Moreover, the same reasons, which prevail with us to comfort you in that sad period, prevail with us to give you a salutary alarm before the fatal moment comes.
It is true, God's thoughts are not our thoughts ; and it is possible that the approach of death may make deeper impressions on you, than either sermons or pious books have made; but yet our God is a consuming.fire. What a time is a dying-illness for the receiving of such impressions! I omit those sudden and unexpected deaths, of which we have so many yearly, or rather daily examples. I omit the sudden deaths of those, who, while we are conversing and transacting business with them, were seized with violent pains, turned pale, and died, and were instantly stretched on a bier. I pass those who went to bed healthy and well, who quietly fell asleep, and whom we have found in the morning dead and cold. All these melancholy examples we omit, for one would imagine, considering your conduct, and hearing your conversation, that each of you had received a revelation to assure him of an exemption from sudden death. But what a time is a dying illness for a renovation and conversion ! Would not one suppose, that those, who hope to be converted then, have always lived among immortals, and have neither heard of death, nor seen a person die ? Ah! What obstacles ! What a
world of obstacles oppose such extravagant hopes, and justify the efforts of those who endeavor to destroy them! Here, is business, that must be settled; a will, which must be made ; a number of articles that must be discussed: there, are friends, who must be embraced ; relations that must be dissolved; children, who must be torn away; the soul must be writhen and rent, and riven asunder with sighs and adieus. Here, arise, frightful ideas of death, which have never entered the mind but amidst numberless hurries of necessary business, or countless objects of deceitful pleasures; ideas of a death, that hath been always considered at a distance, though so many voices have announced its approach; but the approach of which now astonishes, benumbs, and renders motionless : There, the illness increaseth, pains multiply, agonies convulse, the whole soul, full of intolerable sensations, loseth power of seeing and hearing, thinking and reflecting. Here, are medicines more intolerable than the malady, operations more violent than the agonies which they are designed to allay : There, conscience, for the first time enlightened, awaked, and alarmed, rolls in tides of remorse: the terrible remembrance of a life spent in sin; an army of irre-, fragable witnesses, from all parts arising, prove the guilt, and denounce a sentence of death, on the departing soul. See now, whether this first reflection, which authorizeth our endeavors to comfort and invigorate your souls, when you have deferred your conversion to your last hour, be inconsistent with those which we use to terrify and alarm you, when you obstinately put off your repentance to that time?
It is true, God's thoughts are not our thoughts ; and we have neither a sufficient knowledge of other people's hearts, nor of our own, to affirm with cer