« PreviousContinue »
"the temple of the Lord are these? That true religion is an
If fuch a man as this will pleafe, and delight your very hearts; then my reafon is bound to conclude, there may be reality in what you pretend. But if you shall hate and loath such a man as this equally with a profeffed diffenter; you must excuse me, and all the rational world with me, if we shall conclude, that it is not true zeal for the laws, for the church, or for the fincerity and peaceable lives of its profeffors; but an inward rooted enmity at religion itself, that fets you on work, under the feigned pretences of other things.
Expectation 5. Fifthly, Your reafon will expect, and exact it from you, that whenfoever you fhall be convinced, that all these stirs and bustles that have been in the world, all this fining, imprisoning, and impoverishing your Proteftant brethren and neighbours for their confcience fake, hath done the church no good, but given a great and real advantage to our common enemy, to ruin us together; that we may distinguish ourselves how we please in our folly, but they will never diftinguish us in their fury; for we are all known to them, by one common name of Heretics.
In this cafe, your reafon exacts it from you, and fo doth the common reason of mankind, that a sense of common intereft, and common danger, now quiet thofe feuds, and extinguish thofe fires, which our own lufts first kindled, and the devil and our common enemies have incenfed, to the great damage and hazard of the whole Proteftant cause.
Such a seasonable and becoming fense as this, were in itself fufficient to cool a wife man's heats, if penal laws were left standing in their full force and vigour : But when the wisdom and reason of the ftate fhall plainly difcern both the usefulness and neceffity of liberty, and thereupon take away (as they have now most prudently and feasonably done) the further occafions of mischiefs to the whole, by relaxing the yoke that bound fome (and those a very great body of truly loyal and useful subjects) leaving the reft in the quiet poffeffion of their own liberties and properties; what fhall we call that fire, which ftill continues burning and increasing, not only after, but by all this, but an unquenchable hell-fire.
If chimera's, and felf-created jealoufies, are indulged, that fome carnal interefts of ours are not fo well fecured to us un
der liberty, as they were under perfecution and tyranny; this will be the right way to perpetuate diffentions and perfecutions
to the end of the world.
And now, gentlemen, I hope I may fay, without being vain or opinionative, our reafon hath fairly disarmed you of these pleas and excufes, by which you have hitherto defended yourselves in your moft finful practices of profane curfing and fwearing, drunkennefs, uncleanness, and bitter enmity against your Proteftant brethren, for things that touch not the effence of Christianity.
And believe it, firs, it is truly genteel and glorious, to fuffer yourselves to be fubdued and conquered by the plain convictions of your own reason and confcience. It is ten thousand times more honourable and glorious to lay down your arms at the feet of these, than to lay down both reason and confcience at the feet of Satan and your lufts, and continue fighting obfti nately against God, your own fouls, bodies, eftates, reputa tions; yea, your very reasons and confciences, your innocent brethren, and the peace of church and state, under Satan's
In all this difcourfe, I have not defigned to exafperate, but affuage and restrain your lufts and paffions, by laying the lov ing and gentle hands of your own reafons and confciences upon them. I have not given the leaft injurious touch to your honour, but all along pleaded for the recovery, or fecurity of it. I have exposed no man by any particular mark, or indignation.
But now I have done with you; if your own consciences fhall begin to make a rounder and more particular application of these general reasonings and arguments, and fay to you, as Nathan to David, thou art the man; I am not accountable to God for that. But be confident of it, you are accountable to God for all thofe plain convictions, and faithful endeavours ufed with you, and tried upon you, to fave you from all thofe miferies your head-ftrong lufts, with furious precipitation, are manifeftly running you into.
If you can fubftantially and folidly refel thofe arguments againft, and vindicate thofe pleas for fin, which reafon and confcience have urged and cenfured above; and can produce ftronger and clearer arguments, to defend and justify the cour fes here cenfured and condemned; or if you can obtain a writ of error, to remove these causes to another lawful court of judicature, where you fhall obtain a more favourable verdict, your complaint of fevere dealing with you here, will not want fome
ground or colour; but if you cannot, (as you know you cannot) then never blame your own reasons nor mine, for dealing rigorously or injuriously with you.
I am willing to hope, and perfuade myself, that I fhall at leaft obtain a reformation of life from many of you. I have ftrove hard for it with you here: I will strive harder with God in prayer, to obtain it for you. But yet, gentlemen, I must tell you in the close, that though an external reformation of these evil courses may make your lives more healthy, happy, and durable in this world, and will greatly conduce to the public as well as your personal and private intereft; yet if you expect complete and perfect happiness in the world to come, you must advance one step further beyond reformation, unto found converfion. The first makes you comparatively happy here but the fecond will make you perfectly happy and blessed for ever hereafter. The firft frees you from many temporal miferies upon earth; but the fecond, from eternal miferies in hell. And this brings you to the other blessed step, by converfion; which is the fecond part.
CONVERSION TO GOD;
The only Thing that makes Men truly happy, and perfectly bleffed, in the World to come.
§ I. Conviction Juppofed, and grace admired.
EASON and conscience having been fhaming men out of their profaneness, in the former part of this discourse, free grace invites them to the life of holiness, and thereby to the life of bleffednefs, in this fecond part.
There you see what it is to live like beafts; here you may fee what it is to live like Chriftians.
My charity commands me to fuppofe, that fome readers ftand, by this time, convicted in their own confciences, both of the extreme wickedness, and the immediate danger of that. profane course they have hitherto purfued, and perfifted in ; and that by this time they begin to interrogate them in the a-" poftle's clofe and cutting language, Rom. vi. 21. "What fruit "had ye then in thofe things, whereof ye are now afhamed? "For the end of these things is death." It is hard to imagine, that so many close debates and reafonings, as you have heard. in the former part, fhould not leave many of you under convi-› Єtion and trouble of spirit. You fee, your own reasons and confciences have condemned "And if our heart con"demn us, (faith the apostle) God is greater than our heart, " and knoweth all things;" 1 John iii. 20. It is folly to imagine, you shall be acquitted at God's immediate bar, who are already caft and condemned at your own privy feffions.
If this be the happy effect, as I hope it is, of all the former close and folemn debates with your consciences, it will naturally and immediately caft thy foul, reader, into great admiration of, and aftonishment at, the patience and long-suffering of God, that hath borne with thee, under a life of prodigious and reiterated provocations until this day. And his goodness will be as admirable to thee, as his patience; in that he hath not only fuffered thee to live till this day, but made it the day of thy conviction, the firft neceffary step towards thy converfion; and the very first things he entertains thy convinced and troubled foul with, to be the poffibility and probability of thy converfion to God.
The greatnefs of his patience fhews his almighty power, Rom. ix. 22. Nahum i. 3. but his willingness to pass by all the wrongs you have done him, and to be at peace with you, difcovers the immenfe riches of his grace, Tit. iii. 3, 4.
That God fhould be fo quick in the executions of his wrath upon your companions in fin, and fo patient and long-fuffering towards you, that have out-finned them all; is fuch a comparative confideration of his bounty, as fhould even overwhelm the man that beholds it. Rom. xi. 22. "Behold the
goodness and severity of God! on them that fell, severity; "but towards thee, goodness."
If thou be that very man, who in the paft courfe of thy life haft been a profane fwearer, a beastly drunkard, a lafcivious perfon, an hater and perfecutor of good men; and after all this, the Lord hath brought an offer of mercy to thy foul, and fhall convince thee it is not come too late, but that the door of
hope ftands yet open to thee; my advice to thee is, that thou cast thyself down at the feet of mercy, and after this manner pour forth thy laments and defires before the Lord.
And is there yet a poffibility of mercy, O Lord God, for fuch a vile wretch as I have been! can the arms of free grace yet open themselves to embrace fuch a monster of wickedness as I am ? Who then is a God like unto thee? And what pati< ence, mercy, and goodness, is like thine? I have far exceed
ed others in fin; I have lived the life of a beast, yea, of a devil. I have dared thy dreadful, and glorious name, with ⚫ thousands of horrid blafphemies; trampled all thy glorious attributes under my feet, challenged thee, to thy very face, · to do thy worst, even to damn me to the pit of hell: I have yielded up this foul, with all its noble faculties and powers, as inftruments of fin unto the devil; and made this body, which fhould have been the hallowed temple of thy Spirit, to be the noisome fink (or common-fewer) for all unclean ' and abominable lufts, to run and fettle in. I have hated, reviled, and perfecuted those that lived more strictly, soberly, and godly, than myself; because their convincing examples difquieted, checked, and convicted my confcience, in the " eager purfuit of my lufts and pleasures.
I have lived in the profane neglect of prayer, meditation, felf-reflection, and all other spiritual Christian duties; thinking to make an atonement for all, by a few hypocritical, external formalities.
C To accomodate my carnal intereft in the world, I have come reeking hot out of an ale-house, or whore-house, to the table of the Lord; where, with unhallowed hands, and " a more unhallowed heart, I have crucified again the Lord of glory, and given the vileft affront and despite to that most facred and precious blood, which now muft fave me, or I · am loft for ever. Thus have I done; and "because thou "keepest filent, I thought thee to be altogether fuch an one. "as myfelf: but this day haft thou reproved me, and set mine "abominations in order before me."
. I have tempted and feduced many others into the fame < impieties with me, of whom, fome are already gone down to the dead, and others fo fixed, and fully engaged in the purfuit of their lufts, that there appear no figns of repentance, or recovery in them.
Thy wrath, Lord, foon brake forth against the angels that ⚫ finned in heaven; yet hitherto haft thou forborn and fpared me, who have been highly provoking thee ever fince I was