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conduct, and have not these remonstrances been very painful too? I have been assured by a gentleman of undoubted credit, that when he was in the pursuit of all the gayest sensualities of life, and was reckoned one of the happiest of mankind, he has seen a dog come into the room where he was among his merry companions, and has groaned inwardly, and said, Oh that I had been that dog! And hast thou, sinner, felt nothing like this has thy conscience been so stupified, so seared with a hot iron* that it has never cried out of any of the violences which have been done it? Has it never warned thee of the fatal consequences of what thou hast done in opposition to it? These warnings are, in effect, the voice of God; they are the admonitions which he gave thee by his vicegerent in thy breast. And when his sentence for thy evil works is executed upon thee in everlasting death, thou shalt hear that voice speaking to thee again, in a louder tone, and a severer accent than before: and thou shalt be tormented with its upbraidings through eternity, because thou wouldst not, in time, hearken to its admonitions.
§. 10. Let me add further, if it be any aggravation, that sin has been committed after God has been moving by his spirit on the mind, surely your sin has been attended with that aggravation too. Under the mosaic dispensation, dark and imperfect as it was, the spirit strove with the jews; else Stephen could not have charged it upon them, that through all their generations, they had always resisted him.+ Now surely we may much more reasonably apprehend, that he strives with sinners under the gospel. And have you never experienced any thing of this kind, even when there has been no external circumstance to awaken you, nor any pious teacher near you? Have you never perceived some secret impulse upon your mind, leading you to think of religion, urging you to an immediate consideration of it, sweetly inviting you to make trial of it, and warning you, that you would lament this stupid neglect? O sinner, why were not these happy motions attended to? Why did you not, as it were, spread out all the sails of your soul, to catch that heavenly that favourable breeze? But you have carelessly neglected it: you have overborne these kind influences: how reasonable then might the sentence have gone forth in righteous displeasure, my spirit shall no more strive. And indeed, who can say, that it is not already gone forth? If you feel no secret agitation of mind, no remorse, no awakening, while you read such a remonstrance as this, there will be room, great room to suspect it.
† Acts vii. 51.
1 Tim. iv. 2.
Gen. vi. 3.
6. 11. There is indeed one aggravation more, which may not attend your guilt; I mean, that of being committed against solemn covenant engagements: a circumstance, which has lain heavy on the consciences of many, who, perhaps in the main series of their lives, have served God with great integrity. But let me call you to think, to what is this owing? Is it not, that you have never personally made any solemn profession of devoting yourself to God at all have never done any thing, which has appeared to your own apprehension an action by which you made a covenant with him; though you have heard so much of his covenant, though you have been so solemnly and so tenderly invited into it? And in this view, how monstrous must this circumstance appear, which at first was mentioned as some alleviation of guilt? Yet I must add, that you are not perhaps altogether so free from guilt on this head, as you may at first imagine. I will not insist on the covenant, which your parents made in your name, when they devoted you to God in baptism; though it is really a weighty matter, and by calling yourself a christian you have professed to own and avow what they then did. But I would remind you, of what may have been more personal and express. Has your heart been, even from your youth, hardened to so uncommon a degree, that you have never cried to God in any season of danger and difficulty? And did you never mingle vows with those cries? Did you never promise, that if God would hear and help you in that hour of extremity, you would forsake your sins, and serve him as long as you lived? He heard and helped you, or you had not been reading these lines; and, by such deliverance, did, as it were, bind down your vows upon you; and therefore your guilt in the violation of them remains before him, though you are stupid enough to forget them. Nothing is forgotten, nothing is overlooked by him; and the day will come, when the record shall be laid before you too.
§. 12. And now, O sinner, think seriously with thyself, what defence thou wilt make to all this! Prepare thine apology; call thy witnesses; make thine appeal from him whom thou hast thus offended, to some superior judge, if such there be. Alas, those apologies are so weak and vain, that one of thy fellow worms may easily detect and confound them; as I will endeavour presently to shew thee. But thy foreboding conscience already knows the issue. Thou art convicted; convicted of the most aggravated offences. Thou hast not humbled thine heart, but lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven.*
*Dan. v. 22, 23.
and thy sentence shall come forth from his presence. hast violated his known law; thou hast despised and abused his numberless mercies; thou hast affronted conscience, his vicegerent in thy soul; thou hast resisted and grieved his spirit; thou hast trifled with him in all thy pretended submissions ; and in one word, and that his own, thou hast done evil things as thou couldst.+ Thousands are, no doubt, already in hell, whose guilt never equalled thine; and it is astonishing, that God has spared thee to read this representation of thy case, or to make any pause upon it. Oh waste not so precious a moment, but enter, as attentively, and as humbly as thou canst, into those reflections, which suit a case so lamentable, entable, and so terrible as thine!
The Confession of a Sinner, convinced in general of his Guilt.
"O GOD! thou injured sovereign, thou all penetrating and almighty judge! What shall I say to this charge? Shall I pretend I am wronged by it, and stand on the defence in thy presence? I dare not do it; for thou knowest my foolishness, and none of my sins are hid from thee. My conscience tells me that a denial of my crimes would only increase them, and add new fuel to the fire of thy deserved wrath. If I justify myself, my own mouth will condemn me; if I say, I am perfect, it will also prove me perverse||. For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up: they are, as I have been told in thy name, more than the hairs of my head, and therefore my heart faileth me.¶ I am more guilty, than it is possible for another to declare or represent. My heart speaks more than any other accuser. And thou, O Lord, art much greater than my heart, and knowest all things**.
"What has my life been but a course of rebellion against thee? It is not this or that particular action alone, I have to lament. Nothing has been right in its principles, and views, and ends. My whole soul has been disordered. All my thoughts, my affections, my desires, my pursuits, have been wretchedly alienated from thee. I have acted, as if I had hated thee, who art infinitely the loveliest of all beings; as if I had been contriving, how I might tempt thee to the uttermost, and weary out thy patience, marvellous as it is. My actions have been evil; my words yet more evil than they; and, O blessed God, my
*Psal. xvii. 2. Job ix. 20. VOL. I.
+ Jer. iii. 5.
¶ Psal. xl. 12.
Psal. Ixix. 5.
**1 John iii. 20.
heart, how much more corrupt than either! What an inexhausted fountain of sin has there been in it! A fountain of original corruption, which mingled its bitter streams with the days of early childhood; and which, alas, flows on even to this day, beyond what actions or words could express. I see this to have been the case, with regard to what I can particularly survey. But oh, how many months, and years, have I forgotten? concerning which I only know this, in the general, that they are much like those I can remember; except it be, that I have been growing worse and worse, and provoking thy patience more and more, though every new exercise of it was more and more wonderful.
"And how am I astonished, that thy forbearanee is still continued! It is, because thou art God and not man.* Had I, a sinful worm, been thus injured, I could not have endured it. Had I been a prince, I had longsince done justice on any rebel, whose crimes had borne but a distant resemblance to mine. Had I been a parent, I had long since cast off the ungrateful child, who had made me such a return as I have all my life long been making to thee, Oh thou father of my spirit? The flame of natural affection would have been extinguished; and his sight, and his very name, would have become hateful to me. Why then, Q Lord, am I not cast out from thy presence? Why am I not sealed up under an irreversible sentence of destruction! That I live, I owe to thine indulgence. But oh, if there be yet any way of deliverance, if there be yet any hope for so guilty a creature, may it be opened upon me by thy gospel and thy grace! And if any farther alarm, humiliation, and terror, be necessary to my security and salvation, may I meet them, and bear them all! Wound mine heart, O Lord, so that thou wilt but afterwards heal it; and break it in pieces, if thou wilt but at length condescend to bind it up.‡
+ Jer. lii. 3.
* Hos. xi. 9.
Hos. vi. 1.
The Sinner stripped of his vain Pleas.
The Vanity of those Pleas which Sinners may secretly confide in, so apparent, that they will be ashamed at last to mention them before God. §. 1, 2. Such as, (1.) That they descended from pious Parents. §. 3. (2.) That they had attended to the speculative Part of Religion. §. 4. (3.) That they had entertained some Notions. §. 5. (4.) That they had expressed a zealous Regard to Religion, and attended the outward Forms of Worship with those they apprehended the purest Churches. §. 6, 7. (5.) That they had been free from gross Immoralities. §. 8. (6.) That they did not think the Consequence of neglecting Religion would have been so fatal. §. 9. (7.) That they could not do otherwise than they did. §. 10. Concluson. §. 11. With the Meditation of a convinced Sinner, giving up his vain Pleas before God.
Y last discourse left the sinner in a very alarming, and a very pitiable circumstance; a criminal convicted at the bar of God, disarmed of all pretences to perfect innocence and sinless obedience, and consequently obnoxious to the sentence of a holy law, which can make no allowance for any transgression, no, not for the least ; but pronounces death, and a curse, against every act of disobedience: how much more then against those numberless and aggravated acts of rebellion, of which, O sinner, thy conscience hath condemned thee before God? I would hope, some of my readers will ingenuously fall under the conviction, and not think of making any apology for sure I am, that humbly to plead guilty at the divine bar, is the most decent, and, all things considered, the most prudent thing that can be done in such an unhappy circumstance. Yet I know the treachery, and the selfflattery, of a sinful and corrupted heart. I know what excuses it makes, and how, when it is driven from one refuge, it flies to another, to fortify itself against full conviction, and to persuade, not merely another, but itself, "that if it has been in some instances to blame, it is not quite so criminal as was represented: that there are at least considerations that plead in its favour, which, if they cannot justify, will in some degree excuse." A secret reserve of this kind, sometimes perhaps scarce formed into a distinct reflection, breaks the force of conviction, and often prevents that deep humiliation before God, which is the happiest token of approaching deliverance. I will therefore examine into some of these particulars; and for that purpose would seriously ask thee, O sinner, what thou hast to offer in arrest of
gment? What plea thou canst urge for thyself, why the sentence of God should not go forth against thee, and why thou shouldst not fall into the hands of his justice?