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caufe) against that ordinance. Ilamentit as much as they, that men fhould turn it into fuch a deadly fnare to their own fouls, yet will still honour Chrift's abused ordinance.
2. Some think, the common profeffion of Christianity makes men Chriftians enough; they are no Heathens, Mahometans, or idolatrous Papifts; but Proteftants, within the pale of the true church; that is, profeffed reformed Christians.
But, friends, I beg you to confider that convictive text, 1 Cor. iv. 20. "The kingdom of God is not in word, but in "power," Many there be, that in words confess Chrift, but in works they deny him. And why were the foolish virgins (that, is profeffed reformed Chriftians) fhut out of the kingdom' of God; if the lamp of verbal profeffion, without the oil of internal godliness, were enough for our falvation? Mat. xxv. 3, 12. Believe it, firs, many will claim acquaintance with Christ upon this account, and expect favour from him in the great day, of whom he will profefs he never knew them, Mat. vii. 22. Chrift need not have put men upon striving, as in an agony, to enter in at the ftrait gate; if baptifm in our infancy, or verbal profeffion of Chriftianity, were all the difficulties men had to encounter in the way to heaven.
3. Formality in external duties of religion, is another fatal miftake of converfion. Have not thefe been the inward thoughts of your hearts? As bad as we are, though we take liberty to fwear, be drunk, and unclean fometimes; yet we fay our prayers, keep our church, and hope for heaven and falvation, as well as those that are more precife..
But tell me, gentlemen, ferioufly, what do you fay, or plead for yourselves more in all this, than thofe convicted hypocrites did, Ifa. lviii. 2. "Yet they feek me daily, and delight to "know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and for"fook not the ordinances of their God: They afk of me the
ordinances of juftice, they take delight in approaching to "God." Or to come nearer yet to your cafe, and cut off, at one ftroke, for ever this vain plea of yours, read and ponder God's own cenfure of it, in Jer. vii. 8, 9. 10, 11, 12. "Bes "hold, ye truft in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye "steal, murder, commit adultery, and fwear falfely, &c. and "come and stand before me in this houfe, which is called by 66 my name, and fay, We are delivered to do all these abomi"nations? Is this houfe, which is called by my name, be66 come a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have feen it, faith the Lord; but go ye now to my place, which
"was in Shiloh, where I fet my name at the first, and see what "I did to it, for the wickednefs of my people Ifrael."
§ V. Of the nature of true coverfion.
OU have heard, that conversion does not confist in these external things; at your eternal peril be it, if you trust in them: But true converfion is the turning of the whole man to God, Acts xxvi. 18. it is nothing lefs, than the total change of the inward temper, and frame of the heart, and the external course of the life, Ifa. lv. 8. It is not the cool confeffion, but the real forfaking of fin, in which we fhall find mercy, Prov. xxviii. 13. Thy heart and will, love and delight, must turn fin out, and take Chrift in, or thou art no gofpel-convert. A true convert loaths every fin, and himself for fin, Ezek. xxxvi. 31. but general confeffions of fin are confiftent with the full dominion of fin. Moreover, in all true converfion there is a pofitive turning unto God, a whole heart-choice of him, for your fupreme and ultimate happiness and portion, Pfal. 1xxiii. 25. and of the Lord Jefus Chrift, as your Prince and Saviour, Acts v. 31. And anfwerably, it will devote your whole life to his fervice and glory, Phil. i. 21. And thus it brings forth the new man, and the whole frame of your heart and life is marvellously changed and altered, 2 Cor. v. 17. "Old things are paffed away, behold, all things are become "new."
It may be, you will think fuch a change as this impoffible to be made upon you. And fo it is indeed, until the day of God's power come, Pfal. cx. 3. What! to forfake with loathing your old companions, and courfes, which you have fo long lived with and delighted in; and to embrace with highest pleasure, ftrict godliness, which you have fo loathed, and ridiculed! This would be a ftrange alteration indeed: But as ftrange as it seems to be, it will be effected in a moment, when God fulfils that gracious promife (as I hope he is now doing) to you, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. " A new heart alfo will I give ་་ you, and a new fpirit will I put within you." Operations follow nature: When the heart of a beaft was given to that great king Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. v. 21. his dwelling was with the wild affes; they fed him with grafs, like oxen. let the spirit of a man return to him again, and he'll blush to think of his brutish company, and way of life; and fo will you of yours alfo. As marvellous a change as this, has passed upon as eminent and notorious finners as yourselves, Gal. i, 22. the God of the fpirits of all flesh can with ease and speed
produce all this by that Almighty Power, whereby he is able to fubdue all things to himself.
§ VI. Of the hazards attending converfion.
F the Lord fhall, in his rich grace and mercy to your fouls, ftir up in them the thoughts and refolutions of a change of your courfe; great care ought to be taken, in the time of this change, left they mifcarry in their remove from one state to another; multitudes miscarry betwixt a ftate of profaneness, and true godliness. To continue in the ftate of profaneness, is to be certainly loft; and fo it is to take up fhort of Chrift, in mere civility and formality in religion. This middle ftate. takes up multitudes by the way, who do but change the open road, for a more private way to hell.
Mere civilized nature is unregenerated nature ftill; "They return, but not to the most High; they are like a deceitf "bow," faith the prophet, Hofea vii. 16. They seem to aim at Chrift, and falvation; but, as an arrow from a weak bow, it goes not home; or, as from a deceitful bow, it flants afide, and miffes the mark. It is true, they are not openly profane, as they were before; but they take up, and fettle in an unregenerate ftate ftill: Their condition is the fame, though their company be not.
This is excellently fet forth by our Saviour, Matth. xii. 43, 44, 45. the devil may be caft out as a profane devil, and yet keep his propriety still as a formal devil. The sense of that text is well expreffed by one, in this note upon it: That a reftraint by formality, keeps the devil's propriety, and difpofes the foul to final apoftacy. You are as far from Chrift and fatvation, under the power of formality, as you were before. He that is cured of a fever, hath no great caufe to rejoice, if his fever has left him under a confumption, which will kill him as furely, though it may be lefs violently, or speedily.
§ VII. Of the abfolute necessity of a thorough change.
Hatever the difficulties and hazards are, that attend this change by converfion unto God, the change itself is abfolutely and indifpenfibly neceffary to every man's falvatiThe door of falvation can never be opened, without the key of regeneration. Chrift affures civil and formal Nicodemus, "That except he be born again, he cannot fee the king"dom of God," John iii. 3. Think not converfion to be the
attainment of fome fingular and extraordinary Christians, for it is the very point upon which every man's eternal happiness or mifery depends. There is one law for all the world; they must be changed, or damned: No reftitutions or reformations, no common gifts or abilities, no religious duties or fervices, can save any man from hell, without a change by thorough converfion. Rom. viii. 8. "They that are in the flesh, can"not please God."
Satisfy and please not yourselves with this: Though we live in fin, yet God is a merciful God. We will confefs our fins to him, fay our prayers, keep our church; and no doubt but God will be merciful to us, as well as others. Confider it, man, that this merciful God is also a God of truth; and this God of truth hath plainly affured thee, that all these external things fignify nothing to thy falvation, unless thou become a new creature, Gal. vi. 15. and that thou must be born again, John iii. 3. Say not, without this you will hope in God: If you hope in God, you must hope in his word, Pfalm cxix. 81. Now where will you find that word in the Bible, that warrants the hope of falvation in the unregenerate perfon? All scrip tural hope is of a purifying nature, and evermore productive of an holy life, 1 John iii. 3.
If you fay, Chrift died for the greatest of finners, and you truft to be faved through him; it is true, he did fo, but con verfion is his only method of falvation, Tit. ii. 14. and those that are not washed by fanctification, have no part in him, of in his blood, John xiii. 8. He came not to fave men continuing in their fins, but to fave his people from their fins, Matth. i. 21. His way is to lead you through fanctification unto falvation, 2 Thef. ii. 13. If you have a mind to see whom, and how he faves; you have it before your eyes, Tit. ii. 14. "Who "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all ini
quity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous "of good works." Thofe only are faved by him, that "deny ing ungodliness, and worldly lufts, live not only foberly and "righteously, but godly in this prefent world."
And this is the change I am here preffing you to; and until this change be made, you cannot find yourfelves within the compafs of any covenant-promife, Eph. ii. 12. but if you will turn to Heb. xii. 14. you may, the very next minute, find yourelves barred out of heaven by a scripture threatening. Let no man, therefore, impofe fo great a cheat upon his own foul, as once to imagine, that any thing fhort of
found converfion can ever put him out of the danger of dam
§ VIII. Every man might do more than he doth, towards his own converfion.
T is not in any man's power to convert himself; but yet because every man might do more towards it than he loth do, and doth it not, he is justly chargeable with his own damnation. We are bid, and bound to strive to enter in at the strait gate, Luke xiii. 24. It is true, a man, in his natural state, can do nothing that is fpiritually, or fupernaturally good; yet he can do, and forbear to do many things, the doing or forbearing of which, have a true (though remoter) tendency to his con verfion; and not doing, or forbearing of them, his deftruction is of and from himself.
You can, if you will, forbear to fwear, and blafpheme the name of God. Who can, or does compel, or force your tongues to it? The devil can tempt, but not compel them: you can, if you will ftop, when nature is duly refreshed. Your wicked companions can provoke, but not force you. You can, if you please, fhun lafcivious books, and company, and keep your bodies chafte, at least from the external acts of unclean nefs..
And why cannot you (if you please) perform, as well as neglect, the external acts of religious duties? The fame feet that carry you to a tavern, can carry you to your clofets, if you pleafe to have them do fo. Nor do I know any reason why you cannot compofe yourselves, when engaged in God's public or private worship, to a clofe and ferious attendance to thofe duties. The application of the mind to what is fpoken is of great concernment to you; and if an unfanctified minifter can apply his thoughts to compofe a fermon, and preach it; I fee no reason why an unfanctified hearer may not allo compofe, and apply his mind to hear it. And I am past all doubt, that fomething may be done beyond all this. You have fome power certainly to reflect upon, and confider what concernment you have in the things you read or hear; and how they agree, or difagree with your experience.
Now, if men would but do this, (which certainly they have a power to do) though they cannot convert themselves, yet hereby they would lie in the hopeful way of converting grace, which is more than they could ever yet be perfuaded to do. And though there be no pofitive certainty, or affurance, th VOL. VIII. Ggg