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though it be never so unseasonable? A mere possibility that it may make some impression, makes him eager in it, and unwilling to be silenced and removed.
§. 2. Wilt thou not then, O sinner, ere yet execution is done, that execution which may perhaps be done this very day, wilt thou not cast about in thy thoughts, what measures may be taken for deliverance? Yet what measures can be taken ? Consider attentively, for it is an affair of moment. Thy wisdom, thy power, thy eloquence, or thine interest, can never be exerted on a greater occasion. If thou canst help thyself, do. If thou hast any secret source of relief, go not out of thyself for other assistance. If thou hast any sacrifice to offer; if thou hast any strength to exert, yea, if thou hast any allies on earth, or in the invisible world, who can defend and deliver thee, take thine own way, so that thou mayest but be delivered at all, that we may not see thy ruin. But say, O sinner, in the presence of God, what sacrifice thou wilt present, what strength thou wilt exert, what allies thou wilt have recourse to, on so urgent, so hopeless an occasion. For hopeless I must indeed pronounce it, if such methods are taken.
§. 3. The justice of God is injured: hast thou any atonement to make to it? If thou wast brought to an enquiry and proposal, like that of the awakened sinner, wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil*? Alas! wert thou as great a prince as Solomon himself, and couldst thou indeed purchase such sacrifices as these, there would be no room to mention them. Lebanon would not be sufficient to burn, nor all th beasts thereof for a burnt offering+. Even under that dispensation, which admitted and required sacrifices in some cases, the blood of bulls and of goats, though it exempted the offender from farther temporal punishment, could not take away sint, nor prevail by any means to purge the conscience in the sight of God. And that soul that had done aught presumptuously was not allowed to bring any sin-offering, or trespass-offering at all, but was condemned to die without mercy. Now God and thine own conscience know, that thine offences have not been merely the errors of ignorance and inadvertency, but that thou hast sinned with an high hand in repeated aggravated instances,
|| Numb. xv. 30.
* Mic. vi. 6, 7. † 1sai. xl. 16. Heb. x. 4.
as thou hast acknowledged already.-Shouldst thou add, with the wretched sinner described above, shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul! What could the blood of a beloved child do in such a case, but dye thy crimes so much the deeper, and add a yet unknown horror to them? Thou hast offended a being of infinite majesty; and if that offence is to be expiated by blood, it must be by another kind of blood than that which flows in the veins of thy children, or in thine own.
§. 4. Wilt thou then suffer thyself, till thou hast made full satisfaction? But where shall that satisfaction be made?— Shall it be by any calamities to be endured in this mortal momentary life? Is the justice of God then esteemed so little a thing that the sorrows of a few days should suffice to answer its demands-Or dost thou think of future sufferings, in the invisible world? If thou dost, that is not deliverance; and with regard to that I may venture to say, When thou hast made full satisfaction, thou wilt be released: when thou hast paid the utmost farthing of that debt, thy prison-doors shall be opened in the mean time, thou must make thy bed in hell+: and, Oh unhappy man, wilt thou lie down there, with a secret hope, that the moment will come, when the rigour of divine justice will not be able to inflict any thing more than thou hast endured, and when thou mayest claim thy discharge as a matter of right? It would indeed be well for thee, if thou couldst carry down with thee such a hope, false and flattering as it is but alas, thou wilt see things in so just a light, that to have no comfort but this, will be eternal despair. That one word of thy sentence, everlasting fire; that one declaration, the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched; will be sufficient to strike such a thought into blank confusion, and to overwhelm thee with hopeless agony and horror.
§. 5. Or do you think, that your future reformation and diligence in duty for the time to come, will procure your discharge from this sentence? Take heed, sinner, what kind of obedience thou thinkest of offering to an holy God. That must be spotless and complete which his infinite sanctity can approve and accept, if he consider thee in thyself alone: there must be no inconstancy, no forgetfulness, no mixture of sin, attending it. And wilt thou, enfeebled as thou art, by so much original corruption, and so many sinful habits contracted by innumerable actual transgressions, undertake to render such an
obedience, and that for all the remainder of thy life? In vain wouldst thou attempt it, even for one day. New guilt would immediately plunge thee into new ruin, But if it did not; if from this moment to the very end of thy life all were as complete obedience as the law of God required from Adam in Paradise, would that be sufficient to cancel past guilt? Would it discharge an old debt, that thou hast not contracted a new one? Offer this to thy neighbour, and see if he will accept it for payment; and if he will not, wilt thou presume to offer it to thy God?
§. 6. But I will not multiply words on so plain a subject. While I speak thus, time is passing away, death presses on, and judgment is approaching. And what can save thee from these awful scenes, or what can protect thee in them? Can the world save thee, that vain delusive idol of thy wishes and pursuits, to which thou art sacrificing thine eternal hopes? Well dost thou know, that it will utterly forsake thee, when thou needest it most; and that not one of its enjoyments can be carried along with thee into the invisible state: no, not so much as a trifle to remember it by; if thou couldst desire to remember so inconstant, and so treacherous a friend, as the world has been.
§. 7. And when you are dead, or when you are dying, can your sinful companions save you? Is there any one of them, if he were ever so desirous of doing it, that can give unto God a ransom for you*, to deliver you from going down to the grave, or from going down to hell? Alas, you will probably be so sensible of this, that when you lie on the border of the grave, you will be unwilling to see or to converse with those, that were once your favourite companions. They will afflict you, rather than relieve you, even then: how much less can they relieve you before the bar of God, when they are overwhelmed with their own condemnation ?
§. 8. As for the powers of darkness, you are sure they will be far from any ability, or inclination to help you. Satan has been watching and labouring for your destruction, and he will triumph in it. But if there conld be any thing of an amicable confederacy between you, what would that be, but an association in ruin? For the day of judgment for ungodly men, will also be the judgment of these rebellious spirits; and the fire into which thou, O sinner, must depart, is that which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
§. 9. Will the celestial spirits then save thee? will they interpose their power, or their prayers, in thy favour? An in+ Mat. xxv. 41.
*Psal. xlix. 7.
terposition of power, when sentence is gone forth against thee, were an act of rebellion against heaven, which these holy and excellent creatures would abhor. And when the final pleasure of the judge is known, instead of interceding in vain for the wretched criminal, they would rather, with ardent zeal for the glory of their Lord, and cordial acquiescence in the determination of his wisdom and justice, prepare to execute it. Yea, difficult as it may at present be to conceive it, it is a certain truth, that the servants of Christ, who now most tenderly love you, and most affectionately seek your salvation; not excepting those, who are allied to you in the nearest bonds of nature, or of friendship; even they shall put their amen to it. Now, indeed, their bowels yearn over you, and their eyes pour out tears on your account: now they expostulate with you, and plead with God for you, if by any means, while yet there is hope, you may be plucked as a fire-brand out of the burning*. But alas, their remonstrances, you will not regard: and as for their prayers, what should they ask for you? What but this, that you may see yourselves to be undone and that, utterly despairing of any help from yourselves, or from any created power, you may lie before God in humility and brokenness of heart; that submitting yourselves to his righteous judgment, and in an utter renunciation of all self-dependance, and of all creature-dependance, you may lift up an humble look towards him, as almost from the depths of hell, if peradventure he may have compassion upon you, and may himself direct you to that only method of rescue, which, while things continue as in present circumstances they are, neither earth, nor hell, nor heaven can afford you.
The Lamentation of a Sinner, in this miserable Condition.
“OH doleful, uncomfortable, helpless state! O wretch that I am, to have reduced myself to it! Poor, empty, miserable, abandoned creature! Where is my pride, and the haughtiness of my heart! Where are my idol deities, whom I have loved, and served, after whom I have walked, and whom I have sought,+ whilst I have been multiplying my transgressions against the majesty of heaven? Is there no heart to have compassion upon me? Is there no hand to save me? Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me‡, hath seized me! I feel it pressing me hard, and what shall I do? Perhaps they have pity upon me: but alas, how feeble a
† Jer. viii. 2.
* Amos iv. 11.
Job xix. 21.
compassion! Only if there be any where in the whole compass of nature any help, tell me where it may be found! O point it out; direct me towards it; or rather, confounded and astonished as my mind is, take me by the hand, and lead me to it!
"O ye ministers of the Lord, whose office it is to guide and comfort distressed souls, take pity upon me! I fear I am a pattern of many other helpless creatures, who have the like need of your assistance. Lay aside your other cares, to care for my soul; to care for this precious soul of mine, which lies as it were bleeding to death, (if that expression may be used,) while you perhaps hardly afford me a look; or, glancing an eye upon me, pass over to the other side*. Yet, alas, in a case like mine, what can your interposition avail, if it be alone: if the Lord do not help me, how can ye help me?+
"O God of the spirits of all flesh, I lift up mine eyes unto thee, and cry unto thee, as out of the belly of hell. I cry unto thee, at least from the borders of it. Yet while I lie before thee in this infinite distress, I know, that thine almighty power and boundless grace can still find out a way for my recovery.
"Thou art he, whom I have most of all injured and affronted; and yet from thee alone must I now seek redress. Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done evil in thy sight;¶ so that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest, though thou shouldst this moment adjudge me to eternal misery. And yet I find something that secretly draws me to thee, as if I might find rescue there, where I have deserved the most aggravated destruction. Blessed God, I have destroyed myself, but in thee is my help, ** if there can be help at all.
"I know in the general, that thy ways are not as our ways, nor thy thoughts as our thoughts; but are as high above them, as the heavens are above the earth.++ Have mercy therefore upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies! ‡‡ Oh point out the path to the city of refuge! Oh lead me thyself in the way everlasting!|||| I know in the general, that thy gospel is the only remedy: Oh teach thy servants to administer it! Oh prepare mine heart to receive it! and suffer not, as in many instances, that malignity which has spread itself through all my nature, to turn that noble medicine into poison !"
*Luke x. 31. 2 Kings vi. 27,
Numb. xvi. 22 ++ Isai. Iv. 8, 9.
|| Jonah ii. 2. Psal. li. 1.