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temptations and snares? Will your lusts be more easily overcome, when strengthened by longer custom? Will it be more easy to return after you have wandered further out of your way? Belike it is on a deathbed repentance you have grounded your hopes; you resolve to part with your lusts when you can keep them no longer, and serve God Almighty with the dregs of your time. I shall not stand to tell you what shrewd objections are proposed by some great and learned men against the validity and acceptableness of such a repentance: some of them perhaps have been too pereinptory and severe. True and unfeigned repentance, which includeth the sincere love of God, and resignation to him, will never come too late: the foundation of heaven is laid in the souls of those that have it. But if we consider what a great matter true repentance is, the shortness of the time, and hinderances of a distempered body, and the ordinary relapses of men who have promised fair on sach occasions, and have outlived that sickness they thought had been mortal; we cannot but acknowledge, that a deathbed repentance is seldom sincere; and that it is an unfit time to begin to fight with principalities and powers, when perhaps we have not strength to turn ourselves on our beds; in å word, that of those who do thus delay and put off the business, very few shall be saved.
When we have said all that we can say, there are many will never be persuaded of the truth of that which we have been proving. They cannot think it consistent with the goodness and mercy of God, that the greatest part of mankind should be damned: they cannot imagine that heaven should be such an empty and desolate place, and have so very few to inhabit it. But O what folly and madness is this, for sinful men to set rules unto the divine goodness, and draw conclusions from it so expressly contrary to what himself hath revealed! Is it not enough that he has taught us the way to be happy, and given his own Son to the death to make it possible; that he hath waited so long, and invited us so earnestly, and so frequently told us our
hazard? If all this cannot prevail; if we be obstinately resolved to continue wicked and miserable; if we despise his goodness, and turn all his grace unto wantonness; if we slight his threatenings, and will have none of his reproof; if we court damnation, and throw ourselves headlong into hell: how can we expect that he should interpose his 'omnipotency to pull us from thence, and place us in heaven against our will? Those blessed regions are not like our new plantations, which are sometimes peopled with the worst sort of persons, lest they should be altogether desolate. There are thousands of angels, and ten thousand times ten thousand that stand about the throne. We know little the extent of the universe, or what proportion the wicked or miserable part of rational beings doth carry to those that are happy and good: but this we know, that God was infinitely happy before he had made any creature; that he needeth not the society of the holy angels, and will never admit that of wicked and irreligious
But, that I may haste towads a close, The doctrine we have been insisting on, is sad and lamentable; but the consideration of it may be very useful. It inust needs touch any serious person with a great deal of grief and trouble, to behold a multitude of people convened together, and to think, that, before thirty or forty years, a little more, or great deal less, they shall all go down unto the dark and silent grave, and the greater, the far greater part of their souls shali be damned unto endless and unspeakable torments. But this may stir us up unto the greatest diligence and care, that we may do what we can towards the prevention of it. Were the sense of this deeply engraven on all our minds, with what care and diligence, with what seriousness and zeal would ministers deal with the people committed to their charge, that by any means they might save some? How would parents, and husbands, and wives, employ all their diligence and industry, and make use of the most useful methods, for reclaiming their near relations, and pulling them from the brink of bell? Lastly, what. holy violence would each of us
use for saving ourselves from this common run, and making our calling and election sure? This, I say, is the use of what we have been speaking: and may Almighty God so accompany it with his blessing and power, that it may be so happily effectual to so excellent a purpose. And unto this God, &c.
TIE DUTY AND PLEASURE OF PRAISE AND
PSALM CVII. 15. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his good
ness and for his 10onderful works to the children of men!
THERE is scarce any duty of religion more commonly neglected, or more slightly performed, than that of praise and thanksgiving. The sense of our wants puts us upon begging favours from God; and the consciousness of our sins constrains us to deprecate his wrath. Thus interest and self-love send us to our prayers. But, alas! how small a part hath an ingenuous gratitude in our devotion? How seldom are we serious and hearty in our acknowledgement of the divine bounty? The slender returns of this nature which we make, are many times a formal ceremony, a preface to usher in our petitions for what we want, rather than any sincere expression of our thankful resentment for what we have received. Far different was the temper of the holy Psalmist, whose affectionate acknowledgements of the goodness and bounty of God, in the cheerful celebration of his praise, make up a considerable part of his divine and ravishing songs. How often do we find him exciting and disposing himself to join voice, hand and heart together in this holy and delightful employment? Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed. I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory, awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake right early. And being conscious of his own insufficiency for the work, he inviteth others unto' it; calling in the whole creation to assist him: O sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord all the earth. Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise him, ye sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light; mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars; beasts and all cattle, creeping things, and Aying fowl. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion. Many such figurative expressions occur, and allowance must be made for the poetical strain; but in the text we have a proper and passionate wish, Oh that men would praise the Lord, &c.
O that men, &c. Man is the great priest of this lower world, by whom all the homage and service of the other creatures is to be paid to their common lord and maker. God hath made him to have dominion over the works of bis hand, he hath put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field: the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. And the divine bounty, in maintaining of these poor creatures, redoundeth unto him; and therefore it is highly reasonable that he should pay the tribute of praise for them, who are not capable to know their dependence on God, or their obligations unto him. The young lions are said to roar and seek their meat from God. The young ravens do cry unto him. But these are only the complaints of languishing nature heard and relieved by the God of nature; but not directly and particularly addressed to him. Man alone is capable to entertain communion with God, to know his goodness, and to celebrate his-praise.
O that men would praise the Lord. Praise is the acknowledgement of the goodness and excellency of a person: and though the desire of it, in us who have no