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world! As professed christians, we all believe it, for it is no controverted point, but displayed in scripture with so clear an evidence, that, subtile and ingenious as men are in error, they have not yet found out a way to evade it. And believing this, do you not see, that while you are thus wandering from God, destruction and misery are in your ways? Will this indolence and negligence of temper be any security to you? Will it guard you from death? Will it excuse you from judgment? You might much more reasonably expect, that shutting your eyes would be a defence against the rage of a devouring lion; or that looking another way should secure your body from being pierced by a bullet or a sword. When God speaks of the extravagant folly of some thoughtless creatures, who would hearken to no admonition now, he adds, in a very awful manner: in the latter day they shall consider it perfectly †. And is not this applicable to you? Must you not, sooner or later, be brought to think of these things, whether you will or no? And, in the mean time, do you not certainly know, that timely and serious reflection upon them is, through divine grace, the only way to prevent your ruin?
§. 15. Yes, sinner, I need not multiply words on a subject like this. Your conscience is already inwardly convinced, though your pride may be unwilling to own it. And, to prove it, let me ask you one question more: would you upon any terms and considerations whatever, come to a resolution absolutely to dismiss all farther thought of religion, and all care about it, from this day and hour, and to abide by the consequences of that neglect? I believe, hardly any man living, would be bold enough to determine upon this. I believe, most of my readers would be ready to tremble at the thought of it.
§. 16. But if it be necessary to take these things into consideration at all, it is necessary to do it quickly; for life itself is not so very long, nor so certain, that a wise man should risk much upon its continuance.
And I hope to convince you, when I have another hearing, that it is necessary to do it immediately; and that next to the madness of resolving you will not think of religion at all, that of saying you will think of it hereafter. In the mean time, pause on the hints which have been already given, and they will prepare you to receive what it is to be added on that head.
The Meditation of a Sinner, who was once thoughtless, but begins to be awakened.
* 2 Cor. v. 1.
“AWAKE, Oh my forgetful soul, awake from these wandering dreams. Turn thee from this chace of vanity, and for a little while be persuaded by all these considerations, to look forward, and to look upward, at least for a few moments. Sufficient are the hours, and days, given to the labours and amusements of life. Grudge not a short allotment of minutes, to view thyself and thine own more immediate concerns; to reflect who, and what thou art; how it comes to pass that thou art here, and what thou must quickly be!
"It is indeed, as thou hast seen it now represented, Oh my soul! Thou art the creature of God; formed and furnished by him, and lodged in a body, which he provided, and which he supports; a body, in which he intended thee only a transitory abode. Oh, think how soon this tabernacle must be dissolved, and thou must return to Godt. And shall he, the one, infinite, eternal, ever-blessed, and ever-glorious being, shall he be the least of all regarded by thee? Wilt thou live and die with this character, saying, by every action of every day, unto God; depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways‡? The morning, the day, the evening, the night, every period of time has its excuses for this neglect. But Oh, my soul, what will these excuses appear, when examined by his penetrating eye! They may delude me : but they cannot impose on him.
"Oh thou injured, neglected, provoked benefactor! When I think, but for a moment or two, of all thy greatness, and of all thy goodness, I am astonished at this insensibility, which hath prevailed in my heart, and even still prevails. I blush and am confounded to lift up my face before thee ||. On the most transient review, I see, that I have played the fool, that I have erred exceedingly. And yet this stupid heart of mine would make its having neglected thee so long, a reason for going on to neglect thee. I own it might justly be expected, that, with regard to thee, every one of thy rational creatures should be all duty and love: that each heart should be full of a sense of thy presence; and that a care to please thee should swallow up every other care. Yet thou hast not been in all my thoughts* **; and religion, the end and glory of my nature, has
been so strangely overlooked, that I have hardly ever seriously asked my own heart, what it is.-I know, if matters rest here, I perish, and yet, I feel, in my perverse nature, a secret indisposition to pursue these thoughts: a proneness, if not entirely to dismiss them, yet to lay them aside for the present. My mind is perplexed and divided; but I am sure, thou who madest me, knowest what is best for me. I therefore beseech thee, that thou wilt, for thy name's sake, lead me and guide me*. Let me not delay, till it is for ever too late. Pluck me as a brand out of the burning+. Oh break this fatal enchantment that holds down my affection to objects, which my judgment comparatively despises! And let me, at length come into so happy a state of mind, that I may not be afraid to think of thee, and of myself; and may not be tempted to wish, that thou hadst not made me, or that thou couldst for ever forget me; that it may not be my best hope, to perish like the brutes. "If what I shall farther read here, be agreeable to truth and reason; if it be calculated to promote my happiness, and is to be regarded as an intimation of thy will and pleasure to me; Oh God, let me hear and obey! Let the words of thy servant, when pleading thy cause, be like goads to pierce into my mind! and let me rather feel and smart, than die! Let them be as nails fastened in a sure place; that whatever mysteries® are as yet unknown, or whatever difficulties there be in religion, if it be necessary, I may not finally neglect it; and that if it be expedient to attend immediately to it, I may no longer delay that attendance! And, Oh let thy grace teach me the lesson, I am so slow to learn; and conquer that strong opposition, which I feel in my heart, against the very thought of it! Hear these broken cries, for the sake of thy Son, who has taught and saved many a creature, as untractable as I, and can out of stones raise up children to Abraham || ! Amen.
*Psal. xxxi. 3.
+ Amos iv. 11.
The awakened Sinner urged to immediate Consideration, and cautioned against Delay.
Sinners, when awakened, inclinable to dismiss Convictions for the present. §. 1. An immediate Regard to Religion urged. §. 2. (1.) From the Excellency and Pleasure of the thing itself. §. 3. (2.) From the uncertainty of that future Time on which Sinners presume, compared with the sad Consequences of being cut off in Sin. §. 4. (3.) From the immutability of God's present Demands. §. 5. (4.) From the Tendency which Delay has, to make a Compliance with these Demands more difficult than it is at present. §. 6. (5.) From the Danger of God's withdrawing his Spirit, compared with the dreadful Case of a Sinner given up by it: §. 7. Which is probably now the Case of many. §. 8. Since therefore, on the whole, whatever the Event be, Delays must prove Matter of Lamentation. §. 9. The Chapter concludes with an Exhortation against yielding to them: §. 10. And a Prayer against Temptations of that Kind.
§. 1.I HOPE my last address so far awakened the convictions
of my reader, as to bring him to this purpose, "that some time or other he would attend to religious considerations." But give me leave to ask earnestly and punctually," when that shall be?" Go thy way for this time, and at a more convenient season I will send for thee, was the language, and the ruin, of unhappy Felix*, when he trembled under the reasonings and expostulations of the apostle. The tempter presumed not to urge, that he should give up all thoughts of repentance and reformation; but only that, considering the present hurry of his affairs (as no doubt they were many,) he should defer it to a longer day. The artifice succeeded, and Felix was undone.
§. 2. Will you, reader, dismiss me thus? For your own sake, and out of tender compassion to your perishing immortal soul, I would not willingly take up with such a dismission and excuse. No, not though you should fix a time; though you shall determine on the next year, or month, or week, or day. I would turn upon you, with all the eagerness and tenderness of friendly importunity, and intreat you to bring the matter to an issue even now. For if you say, I will think on these things to-morrow," I shall have but little hope; and shall conclude, that all that I have hitherto urged, and all that you have read, hath been offered and viewed in vain.
§. 3. When I invited you to the care and practice of religion, it may seem strange, that it should be necessary for me
* Acts xxiv. 25.
affectionately to plead the case with you, in order to your immediate regard and compliance. What I am inviting you to, is so noble and excellent in itself, so well worthy the dignity of our rational nature, so suitable to it, so manly, and so wise, that one would imagine, you should take fire, as it were, at the first hearing of it; yea, that so delightful a view should presently possess your whole soul with a kind of indignation against yourself, that you pursued it no sooner." May I lift up mine eyes, and my soul to God? May I devote myself to him? May I even now commence a friendship with him; a friendship, which shall last for ever, the security, the delight, the glory of this immortal nature of mine?" And shall I draw back and say, Nevertheless let me not commence this friendship too soon let me live at least a few weeks or a few days longer, without God in the world." Surely it would be much more reasonable to turn inward, and say, "Oh my soul, on what vile husks hast thou been feeding, while thine heavenly Father has been forsaken, and injured? Shall I desire to multiply the days of my poverty, my scandal, and my misery?" On this principle, surely an immediate return to God should in all reason be chosen; rather than to play the fool any longer, and to go on a little more to displease God, and thereby to starve and to wound your own soul; even though your continuance in life were ever so certain, and your capacity to return to God and your duty ever so entirely in your own power, now, and in every future moment, through scores of years yet to come.
§. 4. But who, or what are you, that you should lay your account for years, or for months to come? What is your life? Is it not even as a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away? And what is your security, or what is your peculiar warrant, that you should thus depend upon the certainty of its continuance? and that so absolutely, as to venture, as it were, to pawn your soul upon it? Why you will perhaps say, "I am young, and in all my bloom and vigour : I see hundreds about me, who are more than double my age: and not a few of them, who seem to think it too soon to attend religion yet."-You view the living, and you talk thus. But I beseech you, think of the dead. Return in your thoughts, to those graves in which you have left some of your young companions, and your friends. You saw them awhile ago gay and active; warm with life, and hopes, and schemes. And some of them would have thought a friend strangely importunate,
* James iv. 14.