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"own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is "God that worketh in you to will and to do of his "good pleasure." Doubtless it is always alike easy to almighty God to change the heart and renew the sinner; yet the sinner, when thus influenced" to will and to do," may find vastly more difficulty in some cases and circumstances, than he would in others. When worldly interests, cares, and projects, together with customary indulgences, have added strength to your lusts, you will find repentance vastly more arduous than at present. You will then find it vastly more difficult to "cease to do evil, and to learn to do well;" to separate from the ungodly, and to habituate your appetites and passions to controul. If you now delay, and should hereafter repent, you will bitterly know what it is to "pluck out a right eye, "and to cut off a right hand." When, to the opposition to lusts grown ungovernable by gratification, remorse for 'sins which exceed calculation, and bitter reflection* on the irreparable mischief which you have been doing all your life, you add what it will cost you to renounce the friendship, to withstand the persuasions and enticements, to resist the arguments, to face the scorn, and bear the reproach, of those comrades in iniquity, with whom you are hitherto happily unconnected: whilst perhaps your own children, trained up in wickedness, or the wife or husband of your bosom, whom you have ignorantly espoused, may be among the number of those who are " an offence unto you."
Consider in this place, what has been urged of the necessity of restitution, in Part the Second. He who repents early escapes that difficulty.
Are you therefore in youth, in early youth, yea, in childhood? you are not too young to be sinners, both by nature and practice: evil dispositions and evil actions render repentance both needful and reasonable; and without it you must perish in your sins. Even now, therefore, I call upon you in the name of God, to "repent and turn to God, " and do works meet for repentance." Listen not to your corruptions, to your companions, to the cruel murderer of souls, who would persuade you that it is soon enough yet.' Millions are now in outer darkness, who on earth intended some time to repent, but imagined they had time enough before them. Perhaps there are scarcely any who did not once think as you are now thinking, and flatter themselves as you do. Will you also trifle with the Almighty, till his patience be wearied out, and he cut you off, as he hath those who thus provoked him before you; and send you to be their companions, whose example you would imitate?*
Do you imagine you shall find less difficulty, or have more resolution, to break through difficulties hereafter? Alas! your difficulties will daily both be multiplied and gather force; and you will find less and less inclination, or resolution, to encounter them. Fear, shame, and conscience will make gradually more feeble resistance: restraints of education will wear off, and you will grow bolder in iniquity. Finding respite from punishment, you will grow more secure and hardened in sin,
Jer. xiii. 27. "Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! WILT thou not be made clean? When shall it ONCE be?"
till perhaps God will give you over to incurable obstinacy.
Do you imagine that sinful pleasures can afford you more satisfaction than is to be found in serious godliness? Poor deluded souls! I compassionate your case, whilst I abhor the blasphemous supposition. Once I thought the same: I bless God for undeceiving me, and beg of him to grant you the same mercy. "There is no peace, saith my "God, for the wicked." Vanity and vexation" are stamped upon all created enjoyments; they consist of eager expectations; continual anxiety, disappointments, and mortifications; a few turbulent short-lived gratifications, insipid amusements, and fatiguing pursuits of pleasure. The mind of the poor deluded man, who thus seeks happiness where it is not, is uneasy in waiting for the season of enjoyment; surfeited and dissatisfied even with the moment he longed for; pained at the retrospect; alarmed when he looks forward to death and judgment; and he can find no respite from anxiety, but by banishing reflection, and fore going the noblest privilege of the rational nature. -Your smiles, ye votaries of pleasure, are hypocritical; your mirth affectation; your "heart is "heaviness," in the midst of your loudest peals of laughter; remorse of conscience and forboding fears often disturb even your most jovial hours, and extort the unwilling sigh; but they render solitude and reflection bitterness: whilst the least remembrance of death, or symptom of its approach, excite a horror I have felt, but cannot describe.
This is earthly, ungodly pleasure, even when
health, affluence, and all conceivable advantages concur to add relish to it: but, when sickness seizes the poor wretch, who knows no other joy; when poverty and adversity depress, and death approaches; his case is so miserable, and his anguish so intolerable, that no words can sufficiently express it.
But true religion is the source of the sweetest serenity, the most refined delight, the most exquisite enjoyment. From conscious integrity, peace with God, submission to his will, and reliance on his providential and gracious care, spring calm content with the present, and serene expectation of the future: and these form a " peace of "God which passeth all understanding." Victory over the fear of death, and a well-grounded and lively hope of eternal happiness, support the soul in adversity, and increase the enjoyment of prosperity. Contemplation on the glories of the divine character, and the wonders God hath wrought, issuing in admiring love, adoring gratitude, and fervent praises, inspires the soul, at some seasons, "with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." A life of communion with God, an uniform walk in his pleasant ways, an increasing assurance and experience of his love, fill the Christian's peaceful soul with an abiding satisfaction; which nothing greatly interrupts, but the stirrings of corruption, the force of temptation, and the imperfection of his obedience. By these at times guilt burdens his mind, and sorrow oppresses his heart: yet even godly sorrow itself rather increases than lessens his enjoyment: and, if he for a season be unhappy, it is not because he is religious, but be
cause he is no more so. Nor is there any rational satisfaction which he doth not enjoy, with more true relish, because with more moderation, than others do for real religion abridges ús of no enjoyment, but that which is irrational, debasing, or inordinate. In short, a flash of lightning, which for a moment interrupts, and then increases, the midnight gloom, bears more comparison to the cheerful genial light of the sun, than the most exquisite gratifications of sin to those joys which the real diligent Christian experiences from day to day. Come, taste, and see how gracious the Lord "is, and how blessed they are who trust in him."
But doth Satan persuade you, that you shall have time enough hereafter? Alas! can you be the dupes of so barefaced an artifice? You know that you have no lease of your lives, nor are sure of beholding to-morrow's light. Many as young, as healthy, as vigorous, as you, are followed to the tomb. Dare you risk eternal happiness or misery on such a peradventure? Reflect also, that your lives are in the hands of that God, whom your sins have greatly provoked, and your presumptuous impenitency still more. May he not, even at this moment, be saying, "Thou fool, this night shall
thy soul be required of thee?" Hast thou not, deluded sinner, done enough already to provoke him to it? And, shouldst thou slight the present warning, and rush into forbidden pleasure; seriously consider, whether thou mayest not reasonably fear lest, in the midst of some daring provocation, he should, "cut thee off with a stroke," and" then a great ransom cannot deliver thee."
Dare you flatter yourselves with the presump