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What fatal stupidity is it that hath seized on us? Hath the frequency of these admonitions made them to lose their force and virtue on us? or rather, are we affectedly ignorant, and do we wilfully put the evil day far from us? Whatever the cause be, the effect is sadly visible.
The time will shortly come, when we shall all perfectly understand (if we have any understanding left in us) the vanity of this world, when perhaps it will be too late for us to be the better for that knowledge, too late to mend our fortunes, (if I may so speak,) or to secure ourselves a happier condition in another world: I mean, when the world shall take its leave of us and we of it, when we come to die. Then the worldling himself shall be out of love with this world, yea, perfectly hate it, and be angry and vexed to find himself so miserably deluded and cheated by it. When all his treasures shall not be able to redeem his life from death; when all his vain and sinful delights and pleasures shall utterly forsake him, and leave nothing behind but a bitter remembrance of them; when pain, anguish, and sorrow shall take hold of him; when his soft bed shall give him no ease, nor his luxurious table afford him one morsel of food or sustenance; when his friends (if he have any) shall stand weeping about him, but not be able to help him; when his very life and breath shall begin to fail him, especially when (if his conscience be awakened) he shall see that dismal state of things that expects him in the other world, an angry and an almighty God too, bending his bow, (as the Psalmist elegantly describes it, Psalm vii. 12, 13.) and making ready his arrows, and whetting his glittering sword of vengeance
against him: those bailiffs of the divine justice, the devils, waiting to arrest his soul, and carry it to that prison from whence there is no redemption; and, in a word, hell itself opening her mouth wide to devour him. Then, then he will acknowledge that to be most true, which he had been often told before by the wise, but would not be convinced of it, that to trust to any thing in this world is a perfect folly, to neglect God and eternal things a very madness, and that religion and the fear of God is the only true wisdom. Then he will confess, that one spark of true virtue and grace in the heart, one soft whisper of a good conscience, one glimpse of the light of God's countenance, is more to be valued than this whole world.
But it were to be wished we would understand the vanity of this world at a cheaper rate, and as becomes wise men, by foresight and consideration, and not learn it only from that mistress of fools, sad experience. Yea, let us anticipate and be beforehand with this perfidious world, by breaking off our league with it before it thus miserably disappoints
Let us now, presently, (if we have not before done it,) entirely devote and give up ourselves to the service of God, and the serious pursuit of eternal things. Let us renew our baptismal vow, and once again in good earnest renounce the world, with all its vanities. And let us do this seasonably, and in due time, whilst we may be accepted of God, whilst we are in such circumstances, that our abandoning the vanities of this world, and the devotion of our hearts and affections to God and heavenly things, may be accounted a free-will offering, and not be a matter of mere constraint and necessity. For let us
not deceive ourselves, God is not mocked, he will not accept of the world's leavings.
The ever-blessed God, the fountain of all happiness, the chief good of man, the most excellent and desirable Being, out of his infinite grace and goodness, from time to time calls upon us in the ministry of his word, and by his providence, to take off our hearts from the things of this world, and offers himself to our acceptance, and even courts us (O, infinite condescension!) to be happy, for ever happy, in the enjoyment of him. Now, if after all this, we still cleave to the lusts and vanities of this world, and prefer them before God the Creator, blessed for ever, and that even to the last, till death is just ready to hale us off from the world, and we can enjoy it no longer; how can we expect, or so much as imagine, that God will bear this affront at our hands, this vile contempt of his most glorious majesty, or ever receive us into his grace and favour?
Let us therefore now, in the day of our health and prosperity, in the midst of the enjoyments of this life, whilst the world smiles on us, and tempts us with its alluring vanities, take off our hearts from it, despise it, and live above it, and heartily choose God for our portion, and set our affections on the things which are above. And then we may be secure, we may depend upon it, that in the day of our distress, even in the hour of death, God will be our God, to stand by us, and to support and comfort us. And the light of his countenance shall make even the valley of the shadow of death bright and lightsome to us. And after death, we shall be received into those regions of bliss, where we shall see and enjoy things that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nei
ther hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. To which blessed state God of his infinite mercy bring us all in his due time, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed all honour and glory, adoration and worship, now and for evermore. Amen.
WHAT THAT WORTHINESS IS, AND WHEREIN IT CONSISTS, WHICH IS REQUIRED OF THOSE THAT SHALL BE
PARTAKERS OF THE FUTURE HEAVENLY GLORY.
REV. iii. 4.
And they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. THE whole verse runs thus: Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
My text is part of the epistle or letter of our blessed Saviour dictated to and sent by St. John, his apostle, to the angel or bishop of the church of Sardis. Wherein our Lord severely reprimands that bishop (and, as it appears, the generality of the church under his government) for great corruptions, both in doctrine and manners, which they were guilty of, ver. 1, 2, 3. But in the verse out of which my text is taken, our Saviour takes notice of some few in that very church, who had kept themselves pure and free from the general and prevailing corruptions of it: Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments. A few names, i. e. a few persons; so the word óvóμaτα,
a [From a passage in this Sermon concerning the prospect of persecution being removed, it would seem to have been written not long after 1688.]