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pain before it be cured. Or as I have seen it with some that have had a bone broken, or out of joint, and it hath been set amiss at first: O what torments were the poor creatures fain to undergo, in having it broken, or stretched and set again! which might have been spared, if it had been thoroughly done at first. So, if you will be shrinking and drawing back, and favouring your flesh, and will not go to the quick, you will make your conversion much more difficult; you must be brought to it again, and fetch your groans yet deeper than before; and weep over all your former tears; your doubts will be multiplied; your fears and sorrows will be increased; and all will go sorer with you than at first. O what a case will you be in, when your sores must be lanced a second time, and your bones, as it were, broken again! Then you will wish you had gone through with it at the first.
Yea, perhaps you may put God to it to fetch you in by some sharp affliction, and send out so boisterous and churlish a messenger to call you home as may make you wish you had hearkened to a more gentle call: when the sheep will straggle, the dog must be sent to affright them home. Many a foolish sinner makes light of the gentle invitations of grace, and they stand hovering between their sins and Christ; and sometimes they have a mind to turn, and the next temptation they are off again, and then they come on again coldly and with half a heart; and thus they stand trifling with the God of heaven till he is fain to take another course with them, and resolves to use some sharper means: and when he layeth them under his rod, and they can neither fly from, nor resist him, but see that their lives and souls are at his mercy, then they begin to look about them, and see their folly, and change their minds. You can tarry, and delay, and dally with the dreadful God, in the time of your pros perity, and we may ask you over and over whether you will turn before we can have a hearty answer; but what will you do when God shall begin to frown, and when he takes you in hand by his irresistible power, and lets loose upon you the terrors of his wrath? Will you then make as light of his mercy as you do now? Have you not read, Dan. v. 6. how small an apparition of his anger did make a carousing king look pále, and his joints to tremble in the midst of his joviality? A Manasseh will bethink himself and come in when
he is laid in irons, though he could set light by God before; 2 Chron. xxxiii. 13. If Jonah will run away from God, he can send a boisterous messenger to arrest him, and cast him as it were into the belly of hell, and make him cry for mercy to him that he disobeyed. So if you will stand trifling with God, and will not by fair means be persuaded to yield and come away, you may shortly look to hear from him in another manner; for he hath a voice that will make the proudest face look pale, and the most stubborn heart to tremble. If an idle, stubborn child will not learn nor be ruled, the master or parent will teach him with the rod, and give him a lash, and ask him, Will you yet learn?' and another lash, and ask him, 'What say you now, will you yet obey?' So will God do by you, if he love you, and mean to save you: when he hath taken away your wealth, your friends, your children, will you then hearken to him or will you not? When you lie groaning on your couch, and all your parts are overwhelmed with pains, and death begins to lay hands upon you, and bids you now come and answer for your rebellions and delays before the living God, what will you do then? Will you turn or not? O the lamentable folly of sinners, that put themselves to so much sorrow, and great calamity for themselves! When sickness comes, and death draws near, you beg, and cry, and groan, and promise when you feel the rod, what Christians will you then be? And why not without so much ado? You then think God deals somewhat hardly with you: and why will you not turn then by gentler means? You might spare yourselves much of this misery if you would; and you will not. Is it a seemly thing for a man to be driven to heaven by scourges? Is God so bad a master, and heaven so bad a place, that you will not turn to them, and mind them, and seek them, till there be no remedy, and you are, as it were, driven to it against your will? Is the world such an inheritance, and sin so good a thing, and the flesh or devil so good a master, that you will not leave them till you are whipped away? What a shameful, unreasonable course is this?
Well sirs, the case is plain before you. Turn you must at one time or other, or be the firebrands of hell. And seeing it is a thing that must be done, were it not best for you to take the easiest and the surest way to do it? Why, this is the easiest and the surest way; even to strike while the iron
is hot, before it cool again; and to go through with it when God doth move you and persuade you; if you love your flesh itself, do not put him to take up the rod, and fetch home by stripes and terrors.
But that is not the worst; for it will sorely hazard the work itself, and consequently your salvation, if you do not go through with it at the first attempt. I know there is many an one that hath been converted and saved, after many purposes, and promises, and half-conversions. But yet I must tell you, that this is a very dangerous course: for you do not know when you grieve the Spirit of grace, and set so light by mercy when it is offered you, whether that Spirit may not utterly forsake you, and leave you to your own ungodly wills, and let you take your lusts, and pleasures, and say, Let this wretch be filthy still; let him keep his drunkenness, his companions, his worldliness, and the curse of God with them, till he have tried what it is that they will do for him: let him follow his own conceits, and the pride and obstinacy of his own heart, till he find whither they will bring him: let him serve the flesh and the world, till he understand whether God or they be the better master. Seeing he will not be wise on earth, let him learn in hell, and let torments teach him, seeing mercy might not teach him.' O poor soul! what a case art thou in, if this should once be the resolution of God!
Moreover, you may easily know that the longer you stay, the more leisure you give the devil to assault you, and to try one way when he cannot prevail by another, and to strengthen his temptations: like a foolish soldier, that will stand still to be shot at, rather than assault the enemy.
And the longer you delay, the more your sin gets strength and rooting. If you cannot bend a twig, how will you be able to bend it when it is a tree? If you cannot pluck up a tender plant, are you likely to pluck up a sturdy oak? Custom gives strength and root to vices. A blackamoor may as well change his skin, or a leopard his spots, as those that are accustomed to do evil, can learn to do well. Jer. xiii. 23.
If you stick at conversion as a difficult matter to-day, it will be more difficult to-morrow, or the next month, and the next year, than it is now.
Yea, the very resistance of the Spirit doth harden the heart, and the delays and triflings of the soul do bring it to
an inensibility and boldness in sin, and drive away the fear of God from the heart. Now it may be you are somewhat awakened, and begin to see that you must turn or die; but if you trifle and delay, this light may be gone, and leave you in greater darkness than before; and the voice that now awakeneth you, may be silent and leave you to fall asleep again.
Moreover, you know that you are uncertain of the continuance of the Gospel. You know not whether you shall have such lively, serious preachers as you now have, nor you know not whether you shall have such godly neighbours and company to encourage you and help you in the work. God will remove them one after another to himself, and then you will have fewer prayers for you, and fewer warnings, and good examples, and perhaps be left wholly to the company of deceived, ungodly fools, that will do nothing but hinder and discourage you from conversion. And you are not sure that religion will continue in that reputation as now it is in. The times may turn, before you turn; and godliness may become a scorn again, and, it may be, a matter of suffering, and may cost you your lives to live as the servants of Christ must do. And therefore if you stop at it now as a difficult thing, when you have all the helps and encouragements that you can expect, and the way to heaven is made so fair; and when magistrates, and ministers, and neighbours are ready to encourage and help you; what will you do in times of persecution and discouragement? If you cannot turn when you have all these helps and means, what will you do when they are taken from you ? If you cannot row with the stream, how will you row against it? If you dare not set to sea, when you have wind, and tide, and sunshine, what will you do in storms and tempests, when all is against you? O what would some of your forefathers have given to have seen the days that you see! How glad would many a thousand in other countries of the world be, to have but the helps to heaven that you have? Never look to have the way fairer and easier while you live. If you think heaven is offered you at too dear a rate now, you may even let it go, and try whether hell be better; for the next offer is like to be upon harder terms rather than easier. If you cannot now find in your hearts to turn and live a holy life, what would you have done in the days of the apostles, or ancient Christians?
And, what would you have done in Spain or Italy, where it would cost you your lives? He that will not be converted now, but thinks the terms of grace too hard, is so impious a despiser of Christ and heaven, that it is no wonder if God resolve that he shall never taste of the salvation that was offered him. Luke xiv. 24.
Moreover, you know upon what uncertainties you hold your lives; you have no assurance of them for an hour, but you are sure that they are passing away whilst you delay. And will you trifle then in a work that must be done? What a case are you in, if death find you unconverted! The heart of man is not able now to conceive the misery of your case. How dare you venture to live another day in an unconverted state, lest death should find you so? Are you not afraid when you lie down at night, and afraid when you go out of your doors in the morning, lest death surprise you before you are converted? If you be not, it is long of your deadness and presumption.
And I would fain hear what it is that should thus stop you. What are afraid of? Is God an enemy, you that you are loath to come to him? Is the devil a friend, that you are so loath to leave him? Is sin a paradise? Is holiness a misery? Is it a pleasanter life to love your money, or your lands, or your meat and drink, and lusts, than to love the most blessed God, the Creator of the world, the life of our souls, and our eternal felicity? Is it better to pamper a carcase that must shortly stink as the dung, than to provide for a living immortal soul? Whether do you think that earth or heaven will be the more glorious and durable felicity?
What is it, sirs, that you stick at, that you make so many delays before you will turn? Is there any difficulty in the point? Do you think it a hard question whether you should turn or not? Why, how can you be so blind? Do you stand pausing upon the business, as if it were a doubt, whether God or the world were better, and whether sin or holiness, Christ or death, heaven or hell, were to be preferred? I pray you, consider; can you reasonably think that conversion will do you any harm? Can it bring you into a worse condition than you are in? Sure you cannot fear such a thing; you are in your blood; you are dead in sin; you are children of wrath, while you are unconverted; you are under the curse of the law of God; you are the slaves of the devil, you are the heirs