صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

ftered the knowledge and skill of one of the most difficult profeffions, in which they have afterwards proved great and eminent.

And fome, in the full career of a wicked course, have, by a fudden thought and refolution raised in them, and affifted by a mighty grace of God, taken up prefently, and made an immediate change from great wickedness and impiety of life, to a very exemplary degree of goodnefs and virtue.

The two great encouragements to virtue which Pythagoras gave to his fcholars, were thefe : and they were worthy of fo great a philofopher. First, "Chufe always "the best courfe of life, and custom will foon make it "the most pleasant." The other was this, That " power "and neceffity are neighbours, and never dwell far from 66 one another." When men are preffed by a great neceffity, when nature is fpurred up and urged to the utmoft, men discover in themfelves a power which they thought they had not; and find at last that they can do that which at first they despaired of ever being able to do.

4. The grace and affiftance of God, when fincerely fought, is never to be defpaired of. So that if we do but heartily, and in good carneft, refolve upon a better course, and implore the help of God's grace to this purpofe, no degree of it that is neceffary fhall be wanting to us. And here is our chief ground of hope: for we are weak and unstable as water; and when we have taken up good refolutions, do easily start from them. So that fresh fupplies, and a continued affiftance of God's grace, is neceffary to keep up the firft warmth and vigour of our refolutions, till they prove effectual and victorious. And this grace God hath promifed he will not deny to us when we are thus difpofed for it; that he will give his Holy Spirit to them that afk it; that he will not quench the fmoking flax, nor break the bruifed reed, until he bring forth judgment unto victory.

All that now remains is, to apply this to ourselves. And we are all concerned in it for we fhall all find ourfelves comprehended under one of these three heads :either we are of the number of thofe few happy perfons, who, by the influence and advantage of a good educati


on, were never engaged in a bad courfe; or of those who have been drawn into vice, but are not yet far gone in it; or of those who have been long accustomed to an evil course, and are grown old and stiff in it.

1. The first of these have great caufe to thank God for this fingular felicity, that they were never infnared and intangled in vitious habits; that they have not had the trial of their own weakness under this miserable flavery; that they never knew what it was to be out of their own power, to have lost their liberty, and the government of themselves. When we hear of the miferable fervitude of the poor Christians in Turky, we are apt, as there is great reafon, to pity them; and to think what a bleffing of God it is to us, that we are not in their condition and yet that flavery is not compa rable to this, either for the fad nature or the dismal confequences of it, or for the difficulty of being releafed from it. And let fuch perfons, who have been thus happy never to have been engaged in an evil course, preferve their innocency with great tenderness and care, as the greatest jewel in the world. No man knows what he does, and what a foundation of trouble he lays to himself, when he forfeits his innocency, and breaks the peace of his own mind; when he yields to a temptation, and makes the first step into a bad course. He little thinks whither his lufts may hurry him, and what a monfter they may make of him before they have done with him.

2. Those who have been feduced, but are not yet deeply engaged in an evil course, let them make a speedy retreat, left they put it for ever out of their power to return. Perhaps their feet only are yet insnared, but their hands are at liberty; and they have fome power left, whereby, with an ordinary grace of God, they may loose and refcue themselves. But after a while their hands may be manacled, and all their power may be gone; and when they are thus bound hand and foot, they are just prepared, and in danger every moment, to be caft into utter darkness.

3. As for those who are gone very far, and are grown old in vice, who can forbear to lament over them? for they are a fad spectacle indeed, and the trueft object of

pity in the world. And yet their recovery is not ut terly to be defpaired of; for with God it is poffible. The Spirit of God, which hath withdrawn himself, or rather hath been driven away by them, may yet be per fuaded to return, and to undertake them once more, if they would but seriously refolve upon a change, and heartily beg God's affiftance to that purpose. If we would take up a mighty resolution, we might hope that God would afford a miraculous grace to fecond it, and make it effectual to our recovery. Even in this perverfe and degenerate age in which we live, God hath not been wanting to give fome miraculous inftan ces of his grace and mercy to finners; and those perhaps equal to any of thofe we meet with in fcripture, of Manaffes, or Mary Magdalen, or the penitent thief; both for the greatnefs of the offenders, and the miracle of their change; to the end that none might defpair, and, for want of the encouragement of an example equal to their own cafe, be disheartened from fo noble an enterprize. I am loth to put you in mind how bad fome have been, who yet have been fnatched as firebrands out of the fire; and that in fo ftrange a manner, that it would even amaze a man to think of the wonder of their recovery. Those who have funk themselves into the very depth of infidelity and wickedness, have, by a mighty hand and outftretched arm of God, been plucked out of this horrible pit. And will we ftill ftand it out with God, when fuch great leaders have given up the caufe, and have furrendered and yielded up themfelves willing captives to the grace of God? that omnipotent grace of God, which can easily subdue the stouteft heart of man, by letting in fo ftrong a light upon our minds, and pouring fuch terrible convictions into our confciences, that we can find no ease but in turning to God.

I hope there are none here fo bad, as to need all the encouragement to repentance which fuch examples might give them: encouragement, I fay, to repentance; for furely thefe examples can encourage no man to venture any farther in a wicked courfe; they are fo very rare, and like the inftances of thofe who have been


brought back to life after the fentence of death seemed to have been fully executed upon them.

But perhaps fome will not believe that there have been fuch examples; or if there have, they impute all this, either to a disturbed imagination, or to the faint and low fpirits of men under great bodily weakness, or to their natural cowardice and fear, or to I know not what foolish and fantastical design of completing and finishing a wicked life with an hypocritical death. Nothing fure ly is easier than to put fome bad construction upon the best things; and fo flur even repentance itself, and almost dafh it out of countenance, by fome bold, and perhaps witty faying about it. But oh that men were wife! oh that men were wife! that they understood, and would confider their latter end! Come, let us neither trifle nor diffemble in this matter. I dare fay every man's conscience is convinced, that they who have led very ill lives, have fo much reafon for repentance, that we may easily believe it to be real. However, of all things in the world, let us not make a mock of repentance; that which must be our last fanctuary and refuge, and which we must all come to before we die, or it had been better for us we had never been born. Therefore, let my counfel be acceptable unto you, break off your fins by repentance, and your iniquities by righteoufnefs; and that inftantly, and without delay, left any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of fin. If we have been inflaved but a little to a vitious courfe, we fhall find it a task difficult enough to affert our own liberty, to break these bonds in funder, and to caft thefe cords from us. But if we have been long under this bondage, we have done fo much to undo ourfelves, and to make our case desperate, that it is God's infinite mercy to us that there is yet hope. Therefore, give glory to the Lord your God, before he caufe darkness, and your feet frumble upon the dark mountains; and while you look for light, he turn it into darkness and the shadow of death. I will conclude with that encouraging invitation, even to the greateft of finners, to repentance, from the mouth of God himself, If. lv. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your foul fhall live. Seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked for fake his way, and the unrighteous


man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

To him let us apply ourselves, and humbly befeech him, who is mighty to fave, that he would ftretch forth the right hand of his power for our deliverance, from this miferable and cruel bondage of our lufts; and that as the rain cometh down from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it to bring forth and bud; fo he would grant that his word may not return void, but accomplish his pleafure, and profper in the thing to which he fent it; for his mercy's fake in Jefus Christ. To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.



The neceffity of the knowledge of the holy fcriptures.

MATTH. xxiii. 13.

Wo unto you, fcribes and Pharifees, hypocrites; for ye fout up the kingdom of heaven against men: and ye neither go in yourselves, neither fuffer ye them that are entering, to go in.


HE fcribes, fo often mentioned in the gospel, were the great doctors among the Jews, the teachers and interpreters of the law of God. And because many of them were of the fect of the Pharifees, which above all others pretended to skill and knowledge in the law; therefore it is that our blessed Saviour does fo often put the scribes and Pharifees together. And these were the men of chief authority in the Jewish church, who equalled their own unwritten word and traditions with the law of God; nay, our Saviour tells us, they made the commandments of God of none


« السابقةمتابعة »