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TO MY DEAR AND LOVING NEPHEWS, AND OTHERS OF MY NATURAL RELATIONS IN LANCASHIRE.
THE providence of God hath separated me now forty-nine years from my native county, and from the vicinity of all my kindred in the flesh, into another county, where my lot hath been cast amongst a loving and a beloved people, where I have laboured long, and not without considerable success; yet notwithstanding my mind hath not been alienated from my dear relations, but as my poor prayers have been daily to God for you, so I have frequently visited you, preached the word to you publicly and privately, as I had a call and opportunity, written letters to you, sent my printed books to be perused by you, and thought no labour too much to be useful to your souls.
But it is now come to pass that I am superannuated, and much incapacitated for travelling into your parts, having outlived all my brothers and sisters, and being within a few days of the age of man, seventy years, far longer than ever I expected to have sojourned in this weary world, having been under the sentence of death four times by repeated fevers; and how long this frail life shall yet be prolonged, I cannot tell: but the providence of God brought to my thoughts a suitable word some months ago, which was mentioned as the subject of a funeral sermon, by a dying niece of mine, (my eldest sister's eldest daughter,) I formed a resolution to write it over, and to send it amongst you, and to the persons immediately concerned in that breach, as a testimony of my good-will to you. It is true, I had preached on the same text at home upon the like
occasion the subject is important; I wish it had been better managed; however I shall follow it with my prayers, that it may be profitable to you and others.
MY DEAR NEPHEWS and NIECES, and BELOVED KINDRED, I can truly say with the blessed apostle, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for you is, that you may be saved," Rom. x. 1. You cannot but know how many of our ancestors have died in the faith, and are gone to heaven, having "fought a good fight, finished their course, and kept the faith," 2 Tim. iv. 7; they have offered up many prayers which are recorded in God's book, and presented many petitions which are still upon the file for their surviving posterity, which will be brought to remembrance either for your conversion, or the aggravation of your sin and condemnation. How dreadful will your case be, to be turned to the left hand with the goats, and hear that dreadful sentence, Matt. xxv. 41, "Go, ye cursed!" when you see your parents and progenitors stand on the right hand, addressed with that gracious word, "Come, ye blessed :" yea, when shall see 66 many come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven," and you, "the children of the kingdom cast into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!" Matt. viii. 11, 12. Oh what wounds will be left in your consciences, what stings and accusations, on considering parents' prayers and tears, sighs and groans, counsels and admonitions, their prudent carriage and pious examples set before you! You will not perish at so easy a rate as others. The houses where you live, the chambers you frequent, where they maintained constant communion with God, will be as witnesses against you, if yet you know nothing what it means. If they kept private days of fasting and prayer among God's children, and you slight it; if they were of a peaceable spirit, you contentious; if they were industrious in their callings, you slothful; if they walked with God in their families, and you walk at rovers; if they were diligent in reading the Scriptures and good books, and you lay them by and mind toys and trifles-how can you look your pious relations in the face? what can you say for yourselves? God knows how matters are, he "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of your
hearts," 1 Cor. iv. 5, which you would be loth any should know, much less relatives distinguished for their piety. O think of this day of revelation, this day of appearing, and make ready for it.
DEAR COUSINS, though you have had religious ancestors and relations, yet remember, Adam after his fall begat a son in his own likeness, not in God's, which he had lost. Grace is not hereditary, to be propagated to natural offspring: many godly parents in Scripture history had wicked children, and David "was conceived in iniquity," Psalm li. 5. Remember you are all by nature children of wrath, and a regenerating work must pass upon you; "except you be born again, you shall not see the kingdom of God," John iii. 3, so saith the Key-keeper, yea, sovereign disposer of heaven. Again, he asserts it with emphasis, "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," Matt. xviii. 3. Think not to be saved whether Christ will or not, or imagine you can find out some other way to heaven than the Scripture way; whatever Satan or your hearts suggest of this nature, you would be miserably gulled and beguiled by it at last; or if you rest in a notion or form of religion, you may die with a lie in your right hand, and never be undeceived till the flames of hell convince and confound you. Without mortification of our beloved sins, our blessed Lord tells us three several times, we must be cast into hell, that is, "into a fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched," Mark ix. 43–48. Truth itself hath said, "Without holiness no man shall see God," Heb. xii. 14; and it is the hell of hells, to be banished from God. As little as most men care for coming to God here, but are inclining rather to say to him, "Depart from us," Job xxi. 14; yet when God shall pronounce that dreadful sentence, "Depart from me," they shall have their eyes open, and be more affrighted with it than with fire and brimstone : for though the punishment of sense be intolerable, yet the punishment of loss is more formidable, because it is a loss of infinite good. There is an astonishing emphasis in that word, "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power," 2 Thess. i. 9. This,
this is the second death, the death of deaths, wherein sinners would gladly choose to die and be annihilated, but must not.
MY DEAR FRIENDS, it may be, this is the last time that I shall address myself to you; make sure of heaven, nothing else can make you happy. Attend carefully on the means of salvation, hear the most powerful preachers, and stifle not convictions; when you have heard awakening truths, descend into your own hearts, and ask your consciences,—is not this my case? do not these things concern me? are they not of importance, and not to be slighted? then fall down on your knees, desire the Lord to set them home, and give you the experience and benefit of divine truths. They are not idle stories, or a sick man's dreams, but the eternal truths of Almighty God, according to which you must be judged at the last day; and that day may be nearer than you are aware. "How can you
escape if you neglect so great salvation?" Heb. ii. 3, and expose yourselves to unavoidable perdition? The longer you defer repentance the harder will your hearts grow, and the more difficult will the work be; and God may justly give you up to yourselves, than which there is no greater judgment on this side hell: O tremble to think of that. Be afraid to be deceived, let no marks serve you for trial but Scripture characters, and be faithful in the examination. Let no duty satisfy you without communion with God therein in all you do, propound study the terms of salva
the glory of God as your chief end: tion, faith, repentance, and new obedience, and see you be sincere lament your inability to perform these terms without assisting grace, beg it earnestly of God, in the name of Christ lay aside all divertisements till this work be done : fear no discouragements, God is able to bring you through, and "keep you by his mighty power, through faith unto salvation."
And you, my dear kindred in the flesh, that are of the spiritual kinship, members of the same body whereof Christ is the head, and that are travelling towards Zion, be much in praising God, because he hath remembered his holy covenant, and kept his promise to some generations; spend your time with and for God; do as much good as you can to relations and all about you; live exemplary lives; get your evidences cleared up for heaven; be watchful over your hearts and ways; strive against
sin; shake off sloth; make ready for heaven, and long to be there. What can you see in this world worth fixing upon for your rest, in comparison of the immediate enjoyment of God? Mr. Caryl saith, "It is a piece of great self-denial in a Christian that hath grounded assurance of heaven, to be content to live longer to do God service on earth." And truly it is no wonder when Moses has got to the top of Pisgah, if he long to be in the goodly land. But we must stay God's time, and surely there will be an end, and your expectation shall not be cut off.
"Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God even our Father, which hath saved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work," 2 Thess. ii. 16, 17.
So prayeth your only surviving Uncle and Relation,
Dec. 30, 1699.