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are influenced unto delays of coming to Christ by such insinuations, you are under the power of Satan, and he is like enough to hold you fast unto destruction.
3. This is as evil and dangerous a posture, or frame of mind, as you can well fall under. If you have learned to put off God, and Christ, and the word for the present season, and yet relieve yourselves in this, that you do not intend, like others, always to reject them, but will have a time to hearken to their calls ; you are secured and fortified against all convictions and persuasions, all fears; one answer will serve for all; within a little while you will do all that can be required of you. This is that which ruins the souls of multitudes every day. It is better dealing with men openly profligate, than with such a trifling promiser. See Isa. v.7. 10.
4. Remember that the Scripture confines you unto the present day, without the least intimation that you shall have either another day, or another tender of grace and mercy in any day; 2 Cor. vi. 2. Heb. iii. 7. 13. xii. 15. Take care lest you come short of the grace of God, miss of it by missing your opportunity. Redeem the time, or you are lost for
5. As unto the pretence of your occasions and business, there is a ready way to disappoint the craft of Satan in that pretence, namely, to mix thoughts of Christ, and the renovation of your resolutions, either to come or to cleave unto him with all your occasions. Let nothing put it utterly out of your minds; make it familiar unto you, and you will beat Satan out of that strong hold; Prov. vii. 4. However, shake yourselves out of this dust, or destruction lies at the door.
Fourthly, It is the language of the hearts of some, that if they give up themselves unto a compliance with this exhortation, and go seriously about this duty, they must relinquish and renounce all their lusts and pleasures; yea, much of their converse and society, wherein they find so much present satisfaction, as that they know not how to part with them. If they might retain their old ways, at least some of them, it were another matter, but this total relinquishment of all is very severe.
Ans. 1. The Jesuits preaching and painting of Christ among some of the Indians, concealed from them his cross and sufferings, telling them only of his present glory and
power; so as they pretended to win them over to faith in him, hiding from them that whereby they might be discouraged ; and so preached a false Christ unto them, one of their own framing. We dare do no such thing for all the world; we can here use no condescension, no compliance, no composition with respect unto any sin or lust; we have no commission to grant that request of Lot, “Is it not a little one ? let it be spared ;' nor to come to Naaman's terms, ' God be merciful to me in this thing; in all others I will be obedient. Wherefore,
2. We must here be peremptory with you, whatever be the event; if you are discouraged by it, we cannot help it. Cursed be the man that shall encourage you to come to Christ, with hopes of indulgence unto any one sin whatever. I speak not this, as though you could at once absolutely and perfectly leave all sin in the root and branches of it; but only you are to do it in heart and resolution, engaging into a universal mortification of all sin, as by grace from above you shall be enabled; but your choice must be absolute, without reserves, as to love, interest, and design; God or the world, Christ or Belial, holiness or sin; there is no medium, no terms of composition; 2 Cor. vi. 15—18.
As unto what you pretend of your pleasures, the truth is, you never yet had any real pleasure, nor do know what it is; how easy were it to declare the folly, vanity, bitterness, poison of those things which you
have esteemed your pleasures. Here alone, namely, in Christ, and a participation of him, are true pleasures, and durable riches to be obtained; pleasure of the same nature with, and such as like pleasant streams flow down into the ocean of eternal pleasures above.
A few moments in these joys are to be preferred above the longest continuance in the cursed pleasures of this world. See Prov. iii. 13-18.
Fifthly, It will be said by some, that they do not see those who profess themselves to be believers, to be so much better thán they are, as that you need to press us so earnestly to so great a change; we know not why we should not be accounted believers already, as well as they. I shall in a few words, as well as I am able, lay this stumbling-block out of the way, though I confess at this day it is weighty and cumbersome. And I say,
1. Among them that profess themselves to be believers, there are many false, corrupt hypocrites; , and it is no wonder that on various occasions they lay the stumbling-block of their iniquities before the faces of others; but they shall bear their own burden and judgment.
2. It is acknowledged, it must be bewailed, that some whom we have reason to judge to be true believers, yet through their unmortified pride, or covetousness, or carelessness in their conversation, or vain attire and conformity to the world, or forwardness, do give just occasion of offence. We confess that God is displeased herewith, Christ and the gospel dishonoured, and many that are weak are wounded, and others discouraged. But as for you, this is not your rule; this is not proposed unto you, but that word only is so that will never fail you.
3. The world doth not know, nor is able to make a right judgment of believers; nor do you so, for it is the spiritual man alone that discerneth the things of God. Their infirmities are visible to all, their graces invisible; the king's daughter is glorious within. And when you are able to make a right judgment of them, you will desire no greater advancement than to be of their society; Psal. xvi. 3.
These few instances of the pretences wherewith unbelief covers its deformity, and hides that destruction wherewith it is accompanied, may suffice unto our present purpose; they are multiplied in the minds of men, impregnated by the suggestions of Satan on their darkness and folly. A little spiritual wisdom will rend the veil of them all, and expose unbelief acting in enmity against Christ under them. But what hath been spoken may suffice to answer the necessity of the preceding exhortation on this occasion.
The way and means of the recovery of spiritual decays, and of obtaining
fresh springs of grace.
The application of the same truth, in the second place, belongs unto believers, especially such as have made any long profession of walking in the ways of God and the gospel. And that which I design herein, is to manifest, that a steady spiritual view of the glory of Christ by faith, will give them a gracious revival from inward decays, and fresh springs of grace, even in their latter days. A truth this is, as we shall see confirmed by Scripture, with the joyful experience of multitudes of believers, and is of great importance unto all that are so.
There are two things, which those who after a long profession of the gospel are entering into the confines of eternity, do long for and desire. The one is, that all their breaches may be repaired, their decays recovered, their backslidings healed : for unto these things they have been less or more obnoxious in the course of their walking before God. The other is, that they may have fresh springs of spiritual life, and vigorous actings of all divine graces, in spiritual-mindedness, holiness, and fruitfulness, unto the praise of God, the honour of the gospel, and the increase of their own peace and joy. These things they value more than all the world, and all that is in it; about these things are their thoughts and contrivances exercised night and day. Those with whom it is otherwise, whatever they pretend, are in the dark unto themselves, and their own condition; for it is in the nature of this grace to grow and increase unto the end. As rivers, the nearer they come unto the ocean whither they tend, the more they increase their waters, and speed their streams; so will grace flow more freely and fully in its near approaches to the ocean of glory. That is not saving which doth not so.
An experience hereof, I mean of the thriving of grace towards the end of our course, is that alone which can support us under the troubles and temptations of life, which we have to conflict withal. So the apostle tells us, that this is our great relief in all our distresses and afflictions, whereon 'we faint not, that as our outer man doth perish, so the inner man is renewed day by day;' 2 Cor. iv. 16. If it be so, that in the daily decays of the outward man, in all the approaches of its dissolution, we have inward spiritual revivals and renovation, we shall not faint in what we undergo. And without such continual renovations, we shall faint in our distresses, whatever other things we may have, or whatever we pretend unto the contrary.
And ordinarily it is so in the holy, wise provider.ce of God, that afflictions and troubles increase with age. It is so in an especial manner with ministers of the gospel; they have many of them a share in the lot of Peter, which our Lord Jesus Christ declared unto him, John xxi. 18. •When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. Besides those natural distempers and infirmities which accompany the decays of life, troubles of life, and in their affairs do usually grow upon them, when they look for nothing less, but were ready to say with Job, ‘We shall die in our nest,' Job xxix. 18. So was it with Jacob, after all his hard labour and travail to provide for his family, such things fell out in it in his old age, as had almost broken his heart: and ofttimes both persecutions and public dangers do befall them at the same season. Whilst the outward man is thus perishing, we need great supportment that we faint not. And this is only to be had in an experience of daily spiritual renovations in the inner man.
The excellency of this mercy the psalmist expresseth in a heavenly manner, Psal. xcii. 12—15. •The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree : he shall grow like the cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
The promise in the twelfth verse respects the times of the Messiah, or of the New Testament, for so it is prophe