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low enough? must you needs add drunkenness to thirst? impenitence to your sin? Alas, you love to wander, you hate to be reformed; yea, you hate instruction, and cast God's words behind you, Psal. I. 17. Ministers from the Lord follow you with tears, intreaties, arguments to persuade, and means to direct, and willingness to assist you, in the best manner they can, in your preparations for a future state, but you are reluctant to converse with them; you conceal your state from them; they employ their time in studying to do you good; they spend their lungs in speaking to God for you, but all doth no good, they cannot be heard till it be too late; no warning will serve. Men say as that evil servant, "My Lord delayeth his com ing, so begin to eat and drink with the drunken;" let them know, "the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in a hour that he is not aware of; and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth," Matt.xxiv. 48-51.
ANSWER TO AN OBJECTION OF VAIN PRETENDERS TO A MEETNESS FOR HEAVEN.
SOME may however say, you speak terrible things against the profane, but I bless God I am none of that class, my case is better than those you have described, I conduct myself fairly in my conversation, none can challenge me for gross enormities, I go to church, hear sermons, pray as well as God gives me grace, none are
perfect, I hope God for Christ's sake will pardon my defects; I repent of my sins from the bottom of my heart, and believe in Christ, and do as well as I can; God help us, we are all sinners; God will not be so severe as you say; I hope I shall go to heaven as well as others.
My answer is, It is not as I say, or you say, but as God himself saith; do I say any thing but what the holy God saith in the Bible? Object against it and disprove it; but must not the word of God judge you another day? Hath he not told us in his infallible word who shall be saved, and who shall not? and will you believe God or your own self-deluding hearts? Besides, I stand upon habitual meetness chiefly. What art thou, man, in point of state? Art thou a child of God or a child of the devil? Tell not me that thou hast done this or that good work, but art thou savingly converted from sin to God? Hast thou that renovation which necessarily accompanies salvation? This I have considered.
But that which I shall briefly hint at, is to tell you that many go as far as Kadesh-barnea, who reach not Canaan: many go far, that die in the wilderness; they set out fair, and hold on long, but yet never obtain this heavenly inheritance. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate," saith our Lord, "for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able," Luke xiii. 24.
1. You say, you conduct yourself fairly and live civilly. Alas, civil or external righteousness, and abstaining from gross sins will not do. Abimelech, a heathen, was an exact moralist; Paul, unconverted, was blameless. These were not saints nor meet for heaven.
2. You say, you go to church, attend on ordinances,
and hear the best preachers, so did those that heard Christ himself; yet at last were rejected, with “I know you not ;" and so many others have done.*
3. You say, you pray and perform many religious duties; so did the Jews of old, who were very wicked, and rejected; so did the Pharisees: some have the form but want the power of godliness. These are lifeless blocks. †
4. You say, you profess the orthodox faith, and are not guilty of heresy; so did those mentioned, Rom. ii. 23, 28: creeds make not Christians. A sound head and unsound heart may be companions. The Scribe answered discreetly and orthodoxly, Mark xii. 34, and was not far from the kingdom of God, but never came into it.
5. You say, you have honest purposes and endeavours; even some attainments in growing better and mending what is amiss; it is well; but Saul said, 1 Sam. xxvi. 21, "I will no more do thee harm;" yea, Herod reformed and did many things, Mark vi. 20. All this is good, but not good enough for heaven.
6. You say, but my reformation was begun and attended with strong convictions and troubles of conscience; yet this will be no good evidence, for Cain had terrors; Felix had his tremblings; yea, "the devils believe and tremble."‡
7. But I repent of my sins, you will say, and mourn sore. I reply, hast thou considered well whether it be a worldly sorrow that worketh death, or a godly sorrow that worketh repentance to salvation? Saul wept sore, Ahab humbled himself, Esau sought the blessing with tears, Judas repented himself, || yet all come short.
Phil. iii. 6. Luke xiii. 26. Ezek. xxxiii. 31, 32.
Luke xviii. 11, 12. 2 Tim. iii. 5.
* Gen. xx. 6.
Acts xxiv. 25.
1 Kings xxi. 27.
Heb. xii. 17. Matt. xxvii. 3.
James ii. 19.
8. You say, but I associate with God's people, am well accounted of, can have. testimonials under the hands of eminent ministers and Christians. I answer, so high did the foolish virgins attain, they had lamps, and waited, and went out to meet the bridegroom, yet the door was barred upon them, Matt. xxv. 1—12. Some have a name to live, "but are dead," Rev. iii. 1.
9. But God hath given me important gifts of memory, knowledge, and utterance in discoursing and praying, which surely he will not reject. I answer, so those introduced, Matt. vii. 21-23, had gifts of preaching, and working miracles, yet even to them the Judge will say, "I never knew you." Gifts and grace are different things; see 1 Cor. xiii. 1—3.
10. But I have grace, I have the grace of faith, love, and good desires. I answer, Simon Magus also believed, and was baptized, yet had neither part nor lot in this matter, for his heart was not right in the sight of God, Acts viii. 13, 21. There is a feigned as well as unfeigned faith, a dissembled love, unsound desire, and legal repentance.
11. But I have been exercised in extraordinary acts of piety, in zeal for religion, in reformation, and sufferings for God; I doubt not but this inheritance belongs I answer, all this thou mayest do, and be no candidate for heaven: Jehu was a great reformer, yet a false-hearted hypocrite; young Joash was zealous for a season. What strict observers of the Sabbath
were the Scribes and Pharisees? *
12. You will say further, O but I have assurance that my state is good, and not only so, but experience some joy and peace of conscience, which are as so many foretastes and prelibations of my future happiness. I answer, It is well, but see to it that they be of the right 2 Kings x. 16, 28. 2 Chron. xxiv. 4, 18. Luke xi. 42. xiii. 14, 15. VOL. V.
stamp: the stony-ground hearers anon with joy receive the word, Matt. xiii. 20. Balaam had extraordinary raptures in hearing the words of God, seeing the vision of the Almighty, and beholding the glory of God's people Israel, when he fell into a trance, Numb. xxiv. 4-6, 17; and there are that " taste of the word of God, and powers of the world to come," Heb. vi. 5, 6, yet such may fall away irrecoverably. Oh how many catch at the promises, and are pleased with a sweet discourse on free grace! Alas, these long for, and love gospel-delicacies, as children delight in sweet meats; and as Dr. Ames saith, "Arminian grace may be but the effect of a good dinner." Nature works with something like the appearance of grace when affected by that which suits the fancy, but sound conviction and deep humiliation have never in them prepared the soul for a judicious relish of divine things, nor produced such blessed consequences in heart and life, as in God's children.
Oh how many poor sinners are flattering themselves in a golden dream, and fear no danger, till they be past hopes of recovery! Many think they are travelling towards heaven, and never question it, till as they are stepping out of this world, as they think, into heaven, they miss their footing, and drop down into hell; they never see their error till it be too late to retrieve it. Oh that men were awakened in time! If you stay till death have executed his commission, it will be too late. The day of judgment must needs find him unready, whom the day of death finds unready.* Roman
Catholics have a conceit, that the interval between death and judgment may do great things to make them meet for heaven, but they are mistaken. Death
Imparatum inveniet dies judicii, quem imparatum invenerit dies mortis.