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often comfortable, but always safe; and when you were in the greatest fears and perplexities, you would still be fast in the arms of Christ: and what a life would that be, to have daily access to God in prayer; to have leave in all your wants and danger, to seek to him with a promise of hearing and success; that you may be sure of much more from him, than a child can from the tenderest father, or a wife from the most loving husband upon the earth. What a life would it be, when you may always think on God as your felicity, and fetch your highest delights from him, from whom the ungodly have their greatest terrors? And it is no contemptible part of your benefits that you may live among his people, and in their special love, and have a special communion with them, and interest in their prayers, and may possess among them the privileges of the saints and the ordinances of God: that instead of idle talk, and the unprofitable fellowship of the children and works of darkness, you may join with the church of God in his praises, and feed with them at his table, on the body and blood of Christ, and then have conveyances of renewed grace and a renewed pardon sealed to your souls; but how long should I stay, if I should tell you but one half of the blessing of a sanctified and spiritual state? In a word, God would be yours, Christ would be yours, the Holy Ghost would be yours, all things would be yours; the whole world would have some relation to your welfare; devils would be subdued to you, and cast out of your souls; sin would be both pardoned and overcome; angels would be ministering spirits unto you for your good; the promises of Scripture would be yours; and everlasting glory would at last be yours; and while you staid on earth, you might comfort yourselves as oft as you would, with the believing foresight of that inconceivable, unspeakable, endless felicity.
O sirs, what a treasure have I here expressed in a few words! What hearts would you have if you were but possessed, lively and sensible of all that is contained in this leaf or two! You would not envy the greatest prince on earth his glory, nor change states with any man that was a stranger to these things. Did you but use to consider of the state of the saints; how could you keep off, and stay with sin, and make so many delays in turning unto God! Sure this consideration might turn the scales.
6. The next part of your meditation should be, Of the gracious and wonderful work of our redemption, and the means and remedies which are provided for your souls, and the terms on which salvation may be obtained.
For all the sins that you have committed, you are not given over to despair; the Lord hath not left you without a remedy your conversion and salvation is not a thing impossible. Nay, so much is done by Christ already, that it is brought upon reasonable terms even to your hands. A new and living way is consecrated for us by Christ through the veil of his flesh, and by his blood we may have boldness to enter into the holiest; Heb. x. 19, 20. He hath borne your burden; and offereth you instead of it his burden, which is light; Matt. xi. 28. He hath removed the impossibility and nailed to his cross the hand writing that was against you; Col. ii. 14, 15. And instead of it offereth you his easy yoke. He hath spoiled the principalities and powers that had captivated you, and openly triumphed over them on the cross. You are not left under the care of making satisfaction to God for your own sins; but only of accepting the Redeemer that hath satisfied. This much I dare confidently say to you all, without extending his benefits too far. It would be for want of faith in you, and not for want of satisfaction by the Redeemer, if any of you perish. And how free are his offers! How full are his promises! You are conditionally all pardoned and justified already, as is legible under the hand of God. And the condition which is imposed on you is not some meritorious or mercenary work, but the accepting of the benefit freely given, according to its nature, use, and ends. This is the faith by which you must be justified. These are the terms on which you may be saved. And which is more, the Lord hath provided means, even excellent, and plentiful, and powerful means, for the furthering of your souls in the performance of this condition, and helping you to believe, and repent, that you may live: and if the Spirit make not these means effectual, and adjoin not his special grace, and after this you remain unconverted, it will not be long of him, but of yourselves. So that you may perceive how hopeful a case you are yet in, by the blood of your Redeemer. If you destroy not your own hopes, and make not your case desperate by wilful impenitency, and refusal of free grace, how fair are you yet for heaven! and
what happy advantages have you for salvation! It is brought even to your doors; it is thrust as it were into your hands; the Redeemer hath done so much for you all, as to bring your salvation to the choice of your own wills; and if you be his chosen ones, he will also make you willing. You have precepts to believe, you are threatened if you will not believe; you have promise upon promise, and Christ himself offereth you pardon, and life, and salvation with him, if you are but truly and heartily willing. You have God himself condescending to beseech you to accept them; and ambassadors entreating you in his name and stead; 2 Cor. v. 19, 20. You have ordinances fitted to your necessities; both reading, and preaching, and sacraments, and prayer. You have store of plain and powerful books; you have the godly about you, most desirous to assist you, that would be glad to see or hear of your conversion; you have the sight of the wicked, that are wallowing in their own dung, and the dirt of the world, to make you hate such beastly ways. You have reason and conscience within you to consider of these matters, and set them home, and apply them to yourselves; you have time and strength to do all this, if you will not abuse it, and provoke God to take it from you for your negligence. You have mercies of many sorts, outward and inward, to win upon you, and encourage you in the work. And sometimes afflictions to remember you, and awaken you, and spur you on; the devil and all your enemies are so far disabled, that they cannot destroy you against your wills, nor keep you from Christ, but by your own consents. The angels in heaven are ready to help you, and would even rejoice at your conversion. This is your case, and these are your helps, and encouragements, you are not shut up under desperation. God never told you, ' It is in vain to think of conversion; it is too late:' if any have told you so, it was the devil, and not God; and one would think that such considerations as these should drive the nail to the head, and be effectual to move you to resolve and turn.
7. The last thing that I would set before you to be considered, is, What is like to be the end of it, if after all this you should die unconverted.
O sirs, your hearts are not able now to conceive of it, nor the tongue of any mortal man to utter it. But so much of it we can certainly utter, as one would think should make
your hearts to tremble. You have seen, it may be, a dying man, in what pangs and agonies he parteth with his soul: and you have seen, it is like, the corps that was left there behind, and seen it laid in the common earth. But you see not what became of the soul, nor what an appearance it made in another world, nor what company did attend it, nor what a place or state it passed into. O sirs, when the hour is at hand that this must be your own case, it will awaken you to other kind of affections, than you have or can have at the reading of these words. It is wonderful that a little distance should make us so insensible of that change which we are all certain will come to pass; and yet through the folly and deadness of our hearts it is so; but they are other kind of thoughts of these weighty matters, which we shall have the next hour after death, than the most lively affections beforehand can afford us.
The misery was great that the Redeemer did find you in, and which you deserved by your sin against the law of the Creator. But if you be found unconverted at last, your punishment will be much sorer, and your case far worse than it was before. The Redeemer's law or Gospel hath its peculiar threatening, which differeth from the law of the mere Creator in several respects; even (1.) In the nature of the punishment, which will be torments of conscience for the neglect of a Redeemer, and recovering grace, which you should never have felt if you had never been redeemed. (2.) And in the degree of the punishment, which will be far sorer; Heb. x. 29. And (3.) In the remedilessness of it, the sentence being irreversible and peremptory. The first law indeed provided no remedy, but did not exclude remedy, nor make it impossible; but the law of Christ doth positively and expressly exclude all remedy, and leave the soul that goeth unconverted out of the body, to utter desperation, and misery without help or hope of the end. But I shall not stand now to describe to you the terrors of judgment or of hell, because I have done it already in other books, which I desire you to fetch the rest of this meditation from; that is, my "Treatise of Judgment," and the beginning of my third part of my "Book of Rest."
II. Having told you what should be the matter of your Consideration, I shall next tell you (but briefly) in what manner you should perform it. And here I shall not stand
to prescribe you any long or exact method for meditation, both because it agreeth not with my present resolved brevity, and because the persons that I now deal with, are not capable of observing such rules; and if any desire such helps, they may transfer the directions which are given on another subject in my "Book of Rest," to the subject now in hand.
1. Do not stay till such thoughts will come of themselves into your minds, but set yourselves purposely to consider of these matters. Take some time to call your souls to an account concerning their present state, and their preparations for eternity. If a heathen Seneca could call himself every night to an account for the evil committed, and the good omitted in the day past, as he professeth that he ordinarily did; why may not even an unconverted man that hath the helps which are now among us, bethink himself of the state of his soul? But I know that a carnal heart is exceeding backward to serious consideration, and is loath to be troubled with such thoughts as these; and the devil will do what he can to hinder it, by himself and others; but yet if men would but do what they may do, it might be better with them than it is. Will you but now and then purposely withdraw yourselves from company into some secret place, and there set the Lord before your eyes, and call your souls to a strict account about the matters that I have mentioned even
now, and make it your business to exercise your reason upon them; and as you purposely go to church to hear, so purposely set yourselves to this duty of Consideration as a necessary thing?
2. When you are upon it, labour to awaken your souls, and to be very serious in all your thoughts; and do not think of the matters of salvation, as you would do of an ordinary trivial business, which you do not much regard or care how it goes. But remember that your life lieth on it, even your everlasting life; and therefore call up the most earnest of your thoughts, and rouse up all the powers of your souls, and suffer them not to draw back, but command them to the work; and then set the seven points that I mentioned even now before you; and as you think of them, labour to be affected with them, in some measure according to their exceeding weight. As Moses said to Israel; Deut. xxxii. 46. "Set your hearts to all the words which I testify among you this day; which you shall command your children to do,"