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fear that is true conversion ; but it is a changed heart, that is fallen in love with God and holiness, and into a settled hatred of former sins. No late repentance and resolutions but these, will be any thing worth as to the saving of your souls. And, therefore, if you will have true resolutions at the last (which is too rare) you cannot choose but be much in doubt of them, when you find so much of fear upon your spirit, and consider that you would never resolve till then. And, therefore, if you would have a comfortable change, resolve now in your prosperity, before the face of death affright you to it, and those fears, and the lateness do make you question the truth and soundness of it, and so deprive you of the comfort which you have so much need of at a dying hour.
And thus I have given you twenty Considerations to persuade you, if it may bę, presently to resolve. I am sure there is truth, and reason, and weight in them; but what good they will do you, I am not sure, because I know not how you will receive them,
10. And now I come to the last part of my task, which is to direct you how to perform the work that I have persuaded you to. But because it is merely the determination of the will, it is persuasion that must do more to the work than direction; and therefore I shall only desire you to look back upon the qualifications of sound resolution, which I before laid down to you, and then take heed of the hindrances in your way, and to set yourselves to do your duty.
Remember that I before told you, That it is not a holy, saving resolution, unless it be,
1. Entire for the matter of it, comprehending all that is essential to Christianity,
2. And unless yoų resolve upon present obedience without delay.
3. And also unless it be absolute and peremptory, taking Christ for better and worse, without any reserve.
4. And unless it be well-grounded.
5. And unless it be built on the strength of Christ, and not only a carnal confidence of your own.
6. And unless it be habitual and firm, and become your ordinary frame and bias, and, as it were, the new nature and inclination of your souls.
By this much you see already what manner of resolution it is that you must have.
The next thing is, to advise you of the hindrances that you may avoid them.
1. The principal hindrance of resolution is secret unbelief; when everlasting life is taken but as an uncertainty, or men have no more but a slight opinion of it. The cure of this disease, I have often, and a little before delivered to you.
2. Another thing that hindereth resolution is inconsiderateness, of which also I have spoken purposely before.
3. Another hindrance is a sleepy insensibility, when the heart is hardened, and men are past feeling. We cannot tell how to awaken these men to be sensible of the things that should move them to resolve. Of this also I have spoken by itself.
4. Another great hindrance is the natural strangeness and averseness of the mind of corrupted men, to these high and spiritual things. So that we drive men by all our arguments against the bias of their sinful habits: and those habits plead against us more forcibly without a word of reason, than all the reason in the world could do. See, therefore,
. that you keep under changing means till your hearts be changed ; and the perusing of such weighty arguments as we offer you, may be of use to the changing of your hearts: for God useth to work on the will by the understanding; and therefore light hath an aptitude to change the will itself.
5. Moreover, the rooted interest of this world doth much hinder men from resolving to turn. It is always drawing them another way, or putting objections and cavils into their minds; and if they will needs resolve, it is this that secretly enticeth them to reserves, and to resign themselves to God but with conditions and exceptions; and so makes them hypocrites, when they think themselves converts; and cheats them with a half-deceitful resolution, instead of one that is absolute and firm. Against this impediment also I have spoken before.
6. Another hindrance is, the nearness of fleshly, enticing objects. When the covetous man seeth his houses and lands, his goods and money, the very sight of them breaks the heart of all his better resolutions. The drunkard seems to be resolved, till he sees the cup, and then his resolution is broken. The whoremonger seemeth to be re
solved, till the bait is brought near him, and then he goes as
an ox to the slaughter, and as a fool to the correction of the stocks.” Certainly if these resolutions were sound, they would either cause men to fly from the bait, and not come near it, or else to refuse it when it is presented them. In the course of their lives, their resolution would
govern them if they were sincere.
7. And satan himself will do all that he can to hinder you when he sees you ready to resolve. He knows that he must bestir him now or never. You never put him to it indeed till you are resolving to forsake him. One block or other he will be sure then to cast in your way : either he tells you, it is but folly and melancholy to trouble yourself with these matters; or that you may be saved without all this ado; or that God is more merciful than to cast away all that be not sanctified; or that godliness doth but trouble and distract people, and that the professors of it are secretly no better than others, and that it is but hypocrisy for them to make such a stir with religion, and that we must be moderate in our godliness, and take heed of being godly overmuch. A hundred such foolish suggestions as these, the devil bath at hand to cast in your way, when he seeth you ready to resolve.
If these will not serve, he will set some of his wicked disciples on railing or deriding you; and perhaps some cunning fool a cavilling with you, to see if they can overwit you, and draw you back.
If that will not do, perhaps he will open the falls of professors to you, and labour to persuade you that all are such: or he will shew you what divisions and differences are among them ; or he will take advantage of some difficulties in religion, or some controversies in which he sees you already engaged to a party; or he will tell you of some false doctrine that some forward professors may be tainted with, to make them, and consequently godliness itself, more odious, or at least suspected to you. If all this will not do, he will endeavour to set your very parents or natural kindred against you, that those that should most promote your salvation, and on whom your livelihood much dependeth, shall become your enemies, and hate you for offering to give up yourselves to Christ. If that will not do, he will endeavour to
entice you with the baits of fleshly pleasure, or of preferments, or much business, or merry company, or some great matters that you may hope for in the world. And usually this snare is the strongest of all. Or else he will tell you that if needs you will resolve, it is time enough hereafter : you may yet take more of your pleasure or commodity before you leave it; yet you may suck the breasts of the world a little drier, and then turn to God and cast it off. If all this will not prevail with you, he will tell you it is now too late, you have sinned so long, or such heinous sins, that God will not have mercy on you; he will make you
believe that God hath utterly forsaken you, and there is no remedy; and you may as well spare your thoughts of turning now, for Christ will not receive or welcome you; and therefore it is even as good to go on, and take up the rest that the world can afford you, for there is no hope of better. But the most desperate temptation of all the rest, is, to put some blasphemous, unbelieving thoughts into your mind ; especially if you fall into company with infidels, that will draw you to question the word of God, and the immortality of the soul, and the truth of Christianity, or the life to come, whether there be any such things or not. Where these once take, and are received with approbation, the soul is in a miserable case. Though I know many tempted, melancholy Christians are haunted with such temptations, who yet abhor them, and do well at last, for all this. Sometimes also, when he cannot take you off from resolving, he will lead you among some disputing opinionists, and they shall entice you to take up with their opinionative religiousness instead of true sanctification, of which I have spoken in the eighth Direction. By these and many such wiles as these, doth the old serpent do all that possibly he can, to hinder you from sound resolution and conversion. And therefore you must be armed against his temptations, and meet them with abhorrence; and if you feel them too hard for you, go daily to Christ by faith and prayer for renewed strength, and call to your faithful friends and ministers for help. Open your case to some one that is able, experienced, and faithful ; that he may help you with arguments to resist those temptations which you know not how yourselves to deal with. God hath appointed pastors in his church to be spiritual fathers in the Lord, and when they have sowed in you the seed of eternal life, they watch over it till they see the blade and fruit: they travail as in birth of you, till Christ be formed in you. It is their office to help you, and God giveth to them that are faithful, abilities and affections agreeable to their office. And therefore lean upon the hand of your faithful guides, and think not to break through temptations alone, and get to heaven without the means that God hath appoint
Having told you the hindrances, and what to do against
, them, I shall add but these two words more of direction.
*1. When you are resolving, give up yourselves to God with a holy covenant or vow. I mean not any rash vow, any unnecessary vow, but the same that you made in baptism, which your age itself doth call you to renew, but your sins against it do call you more.
Perhaps you will say that you are not able to perform it by your own strength, and you are uncertain of God's assistance, and therefore how can you promise or vow?
To this I answer, 1. You may be sure that this objection is frivolous, because it makes against the frequent and express commands of God, the practice of his church in all ages, and the nature of Christianity itself. God hath in all ages been pleased to receive men into his service and church in a covenant way, and baptism itself is our solemn covenanting with him, and the Lord's supper is appointed for a solemn renewing of it. And indeed it is implicitly and virtually renewed by a true Christian every day of his life. In every duty he gives up himself to God: and if he should cease this heart-covenant, he would cease to be a Christian, for the very essence of his Christianity consisteth in it. It is his faith itself. 2. And when you covenant for the time to come, you
do not take on you to foretel infallibly your own perseverance, but you profess your present consent to be Christ's, and to continue his, and you engage yourselves thereto. And should you not choose the strictest engagements ?
(1.) Where there is the greatest need of them, because of the looseness of the heart, and the strength of temptations, that would draw us away.
(2.) Where there is the most absolute necessity, because if we miscarry we are undone.