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Many thoughts you have had of it, I suppose, and long you have been purposing that, turn you would, but all have come to little or nothing, because you were never fully resolved. I am once more sent to you on this message from God, to see whether yet you will resolve. Whether, after all your trifling delays, and after all your wilful sinning, and abuse of God's patience, against your own knowledge and consciences, you will yet resolve. What say you? Shall God be your Master indeed? And shall Christ be your Saviour and Lord? Shall heaven be your happiness, and have your hearts indeed? Shall holiness be your business indeed, and shall sin be your hatred, and the flesh, and the world be your enemies indeed; and used accordingly, from this day forward without any more ado? I beseech you, sirs, resolve, and fully resolve.
And because I know if we prevail not with you in this, you are undone for ever; and, therefore, I am loath to let you go before we have brought you, if it may be, to resolve; I will give you here some considerations to turn the scales, and if you will but read them, and soberly consider of them, I shall have great hope to prevail with you yet, after all. One would think, that the fifty considerations under the last Direction, might suffice. But lest all should be too little,
I will add these following:
1. Consider, I beseech you, what leisure you have had to think of the matter. You have lived many years in the world already, and you have had nothing to do in it, but to seek after true happiness. Even your worldly labours ought to have been all but in order to this; and yet are you unresolved? Alas, sirs, have you lived some twenty, some thirty years and more in the world, and yet are you not resolved? What came you hither for, or what have you to do here? Is it twenty, or thirty, or forty years, since you set out, and should by this time have been far on your journey, and are you yet unresolved whither to go, or which way to go? as if you were newly entering the world, or as if you had never heard of I think so many years business. your are a fair time of consideration, and it is time to be resolved, if you will resolve at all.
2. And I pray you consider, what helps you have had to to have resolved you before this. If you did not know what you had to look after, and which way to take, you should have
inquired; you had the word of God to advise with; and many experienced Christians to advise with. You wanted not for the wisest, faithfulest counsellors, if you had been but willing and diligent, certainly you might have been resolved long ago.
3. And consider, I beseech you, what a case it is that you are unresolved in. Is it so hard a question, that all this time, and all these helps cannot resolve you? What! whether God, or the flesh should be first obeyed, and loved? Whether heaven or earth, eternal glory or the transitory pleasures of sin should be preferred? Whether you should care and labour more to be saved from sin and hell, or from poverty and worldly crosses and reproaches? These and such like, are the questions to be resolved; and are these so hard, that all the wit, and all the advice you can have from Scripture and ministers, would not serve turn to help you to a resolution, no, not in twenty or thirty years' time? O wonderful! that ever the devil should be able so to befool men! That reasonable creatures should be so phrenetic, that they cannot be resolved whether it be better to be saved, or be damned? Or whether sin, with hell after it, be better than holiness with heaven after! The Lord have mercy upon the poor distracted world, and bring some more of them to their wits! We have wise men, if themselves may be judges, very wise in their own conceit, that know many great matters in the world, and yet do not practically know whether God or the devil be the better master; whether sin or holiness be the better work, and whether heaven or hell be the better wages! If they say they know these things, judge by their lives whether they know them practically or not. Resolve they will not for God, and holiness, and heaven, nor against the flesh, the world, and sin, whatever they may be brought to confess to their self-condemnation. Is it not a pitiful case, that such points as these should seem so hard to reasonable men, as to be so long in resolving of them?
4. And I pray you consider, how horribly by this you disgrace your understandings. You that cannot abide to be derided as sots and fools in the world, do yet abuse yourselves thus grossly, as if there were never greater sots upon the earth. We have proud men that are so high in their own eyes, that they can hardly endure contempt from others,
and love almost none that think but meanly and dishonourably of them; and yet what a horrible contempt and dishonour do they cast upon themselves. If one of these, our wise neighbours, should study seven years to know whether the sea be fire or water; whether a mountain be heavy; whether the fire be hot or cold; and could not be resolved after so many years consideration, what would you think and say of these wise men? Why, sirs, it is far grosser folly, I tell you again, it is far grosser folly to be unresolved whether you should be holy or unholy; which is, in plain English, whether it be better to go to heaven or to hell. For faith and holiness is the way to heaven; and an unholy life is the way to hell. And if you will needs forsake the way to heaven, you may hope to come thither as long as you will; but you may as well hope to touch the moon with your finger, or run up and down with a mountain on your backs. And if you will hold on in the way to hell, that is, in an unsanctified state, you may say you hope for all that to escape hell, even as wisely as to leap into the sea, and say, 'I hope to escape drowning me, as well as you.' Sirs, I beseech you, do not abuse God, and abuse Christ, and the Spirit, and Scripture, and withal abuse your immortal souls for I know not what; for a stinking sin; for a thing of naught. Your souls are noble creatures, and your understandings are noble faculties. Why will you expose them to be the scorn of satan, and make them so base and sottish as you do? You can see the folly of a poor drunkard, that will make a beast of himself, and go reeling and talking nonsense about the street for the boys to hoot at him, and make himself the laughing-stock of the town. And, I pray you, why do you not understand, that till you are resolved for a holy, heavenly life, you are all drunk, while you think yourselves to be sober. You are as miserable as the other, and more in this, that yours is in your natures, and theirs is but an accident; yours is continued, and theirs (in that particular) but by fits. In the name of God, sirs, bethink you, whether you can possibly more disgrace your wits, than to be unresolved of a case as plain as the highway, and which your everlasting salvation or damnation lieth on. If one of you could not, in twenty years, be resolved whether the sun be light or dark, or the day or the night be fitter for rest; or whether it be better to plough and sow, or let all alone, and hope God will
give you a crop without labour; would you take this for a wise man? Again I tell you, your folly is more gross, that cannot all this while be resolved, whether you should cast away your wilful sins, and give up yourselves to Christ, and a holy life, to obtain the glory, and escape the misery that is hard at hand. If you stood up to the neck in water, or stood but in a storm of rain, you would not be so long in deliberating, whether it were better for you to stay there longer or come out. If your finger were but in the fire, you need not so long a deliberation, whether you should take it out. And yet these wise men are under many thousand unpardoned sins, and under the curse of the law of God, and within a step of everlasting fire, and have no way possible to escape, but by conversion, faith, and holiness; and this God hath told them, as plain as the tongue of man can speak, and yet they are considering of it, whether it be best to come out of it; and yet they cannot be resolved. Did I say they are considering? Nay, the Lord be merciful to them, they are so dead-hearted and besotted, that they do not so much as seriously consider of it, but even run on without consideration. Ah, poor wretches! they are ready to go to another world, and may look every day when the bell tolls for them, and when death will bring them to their endless life, and yet they have not wit enough to resolve whether they should make ready; no, nor wit enough in their most careless, worldly state, to know that they are unready. Death is coming, and judgment is coming, and the burning wrath of God is coming, and are even at the door; and yet these wise men are unresolved of that only way that is of absolute necessity to their safety; they must have more time yet to consider of the matter, whether it be best for them to turn or no. They stand at the very brink of hell; and yet they must further consider of it, whether it be better to turn back or go on. Nay, they will go on without consideration! And yet these men would take it heinously, if one should lay hands on them, and carry them to Bedlam, or but tell them of the hundredth part of the sottishness that they are guilty of.
5. And it is further considerable, that these men that are all this while unresolved about their conversion and sanctification, have wit enough to resolve of more doubtful and less necessary matters, without any such advising or delays:
and they are men of ordinary parts and capacities for the matters of this world. They can eat when they are hungry, and drink when they are thirsty, without a twelvemonth's time to advise first on it. They can resolve to go to bed at night, and to rise in the morning, without a year's or a day's deliberation. If they have any thing to buy or sell, they will not deliberate upon it till the market be past; if they have land to plough, or their corn to sow, or reap, or mow, they will not take a twelvemonth's time to pause upon it. They can quickly resolve upon every day's business, their travels, their labours, and all their ordinary affairs. And yet these same men cannot resolve in seven years' time, and seven to that, whether heaven or earth should be more loved and laboured for? Or whether a corruptible flesh, a wicked fancy, a greedy throat, should be pleased before the God of heaven, though the pleasing of them cost them the loss of their salvation?
Why, sirs, a man that is well in his wits, would think that these matters should be more out of doubt than the former, and more speedily resolved on. One would think it should be an easier question, whether you should turn to God and a holy life, for the saving of your immortal souls? than whether you should eat or drink, or sleep, for the preservation of your bodies? For I can, in many cases, bring some reason that should persuade you to forbear eating or drinking, or sleeping for a considerable time. But no man breathing can speak a word of reason (except men's folly should be called reason) that should persuade you to forbear your conversion for a minute. And if you mistake about these bodily matters, the loss may be repaired, at least in the world to come. But if you die before you are resolved, and firmly resolved, to give up your soul and body to Christ, and live a holy, heavenly life, you are undone, body and soul for ever, and all the world can never save you.
O what a strange and horrible thing is it, that a man that hath the wit to manage his affairs as plausibly as any of his neighbours, that can overwit others in the matters of the world; that can govern towns and countries; that is learned in his profession, in law, in physic, in merchandise, in navigation, or any the like: I say that a man of so deep a reach, so plodding and active a wit as this, should yet be unresolved, yea, at thirty or forty years old be unresolved,