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John xvii. 3. Hos. iv. 6. Do you think a man may ved that doth as the most do, and goeth in the common way of the world? Search the Scripture and see; Matt. vii. 13. xx. 16. xxii. 14. Luke xii. 32. Do you think an unhumbled soul may be saved, that never was contrite and brokenhearted for sin? Try by Isa. lvii. 15. lxvi. 2. Psal. li. 17. Luke iv. 18. Matt. xi. 28. Do you think a man can be the servant of God, that liveth a fleshly life, and will keep his sin? Try by Rom. viii. 13. John iii. 12. Ephes. v. 5, 6. 1 John iii. 9, 10. Do you doubt whether it be necessary to make so much ado to be saved, and to be so strict, and make religion our chiefest business? Try by Psal. i. 1-3. 1 Pet. iv. 18. Heb. xii. 14. Luke x. 42. Luke xiii. 24. Eph. v. 15, 16. Do you think a man can be saved that is a worldling, whose heart is more on earth than heaven? Try by 1 John ii. 15. Phil. iii. 19. Col. iii. 1. Luke xiv. 26. 33. Do you doubt whether you should serve God with your families, and instruct them, and pray with them? Try by Jos. xxiv. 15. Deut. vi. 6, 7. Dan. vi. 10, 11. Exod. xx. 10.
Thus if you will in all these weighty matters but go to the Scriptures, and see whether it say as your teachers say, you might soon be resolved, and that by the surest authority in the world. If you think that your ministers may be deceived, I hope you will confess that God cannot be deceived. If you think that think that your ministers are passionate, or self-conceited, or speak out of ill-will to you, I hope you dare not say so by the Lord; he owes you no ill-will, nor speaks a word but what is most sure. If you think us partial, sure God is impartial. What better judge can you have now, than he that is infallible, and must judge you all at the last? If any Papist put it into your head to ask, 'Who shall be judge of the sense of Scripture?' I answer, Who shall be judge of the Judge of all the world? The law is made to judge you, and not to be judged by you. None can be the proper judges of the sense of a law but the maker of it; though others must judge their cases by the law. Your work is to discern it, and understand and obey it; and our work is to help you to understand it; but it is neither our work nor yours to be the proper, or absolute judges of it. At least where it speaks plain it needs no judge.
Come then to the word in meekness and humility, with a teachable frame of spirit, and a willingness to know the
truth, and a resolution to stand to it, and yield to what shall be revealed to you, and beg of God to shew you his will, and lead you into the truth; and you will find that he will be found of them that seek him.
Direct. III. If you would not have the work of your conversion miscarry, my next advice is this:
See that you be much in the serious consideration of the truths which you understand, betwixt God and you in
I have often spoken of this heretofore; but because I apprehend it to be a work of exceeding great concernment, I shall be longer on it again than on the rest.
The greatest matters in the world will not work much upon him that will not think of them. Consideration opens the ear that was stopped, and the heart that was shut up; it sets the powers of the soul at work, and awakeneth it from the sleep of incogitancy and security. The thoughts are the first actings of the soul, that set at work the rest. Thinking on the matters that must make us wise, and do the work of God on the heart, is that which lieth on us to do in order to our conversion. By Consideration a sinner makes use of the truth, which before lay by, and therefore could do nothing. By Consideration he taketh in the medicine to his soul, which before stood by, and could not work. By Consideration a man makes use of his reason, which before was laid asleep, and therefore could not do its work. When the master is from home, the scholars will be at play. When the coachman is asleep, the horses may miss the way, and possibly break his neck and their own. If the ploughman go his way, the oxen will stand still, or make but bad, unhandsome work. So when reason is laid asleep, and out of the way, what may not appetite do? and what may not the passions do? and what may not temptations do with the soul? A wise man, when he is asleep, hath as little use of his wisdom as a fool. A learned man when he is asleep can hardly dispute with an unlearned man that is awake. A strong man that is never so skilful at his weapons, is scarce able in his sleep to deal with the weakest child that is awake. Why all the powers of your soul are, as it were, asleep, till Consideration awake them, and set them on work. And what the better are you for being men, and having reason, if you have not the use of your reason when you need it? As
men are inconsiderate because they are wicked, so are they the more wicked because they are inconsiderate. The keenest sword, the greatest cannon, will do no execution against an enemy, while they lie by and are not used. There is a mighty power in the word of God, and the example of Christ, to pull down strong holds, and conquer the strongest lusts and corruptions. But they will not do this while they are forgotten and neglected. Will heaven entice the man that thinks not of it? Will hell deter the man that thinks not of it? Why is it that all the reasoning in the world will do no more good on a man that is deaf, than if you said nothing? but because the passage to his thoughts and understanding is stopt up. And if you have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not, and wilfully cast it out of your thoughts, what good can any thing do to you that is spoken? It is not holding your mouth that will nourish you, if you will not let it down: not taking it into your stomach, if you will not keep it, but presently cast it up again; but it must be kept till it be digested and distributed. So it is not the most excellent truths in the world that will change your hearts, if you let them not down to your hearts, and keep them not there by meditation, till they are digested and turned into spiritual life. The plaster must be laid upon the sore if you would be cured. The wound and sickness is at your heart; and if you will not take in the word to your heart, where the sickness is, I know not how you should expect a cure. The soul will not be charmed into holiness by the bare hearing or saying over a few good words; as wizards use to cure diseases, or seem to cure them. It must be truth at the heart that must change the heart. And if you will not think on it, and think on it again, how can you expect it should come at your hearts?
You say you would gladly have Christ and grace, and are ready to lay the blame on God, because he doth not give it you, and say, 'We cannot convert ourselves :' but would you have the Spirit come in, while you hold the door against him? He knocks, and desireth you to open and let him in, and you wish him to come in; but you bolt the door, and no entreaty will procure you to open it. It is Consideration of the saving doctrine of the Gospel that openeth the heart, and giveth it entertainment. Set yourselves therefore, on purpose to this work, and open the doors of your heart which are now shut, and let the King of glory come in. Who will
believe that you love the light, when you shut the windows, and draw the curtains? If you will set yourselves to consider of the truth, the windows of your soul will be set open, and then the light will certainly come in. Now you read over whole chapters, and hear sermon after sermon, and either they never stir you, or at least it is but a little for a fit, like a man that hath a little warmed him at the fire in the winter, and when he goes from it, is colder than before: but if you would but set yourselves to consider of what you hear and read, one line of a chapter, or one sentence of a sermon would lay you in tears, or make you groan, or at least do more than now is done. Satan hath garrisoned the heart of every carnal man: and Consideration is the principal means to cast him out. If by considering of the terrible threatenings of the word, you would discharge these cannons of God against them, what a battery would it make in the corruptions of your souls! Our God is a consuming fire, and the fire of hell is threatened in his law, as the wages of sin by serious Consideration you may as it were, fetch fire from God and from his word, and set fire to the very gates of satan's garrison, and fire him out of many of his holds.
But because this is so needful a point, I shall be so large upon it, as, 1. To tell you some of those things that you should consider of. 11. To tell you in what manner you should do it. And, 111. To give you some motives to put you on.
1. The first thing that I would have you oft to think on, is, The nature of that God with whom ye have to do. Consider, that if he be the most wise, it is all the reason in the world that he should rule you. If he be good, and infinitely good, there is all the reason in the world that you should love him; and there is no shew of reason that you should love the world or sin before him. If he be faithful and true, his threatenings must be feared, and his promises must not be distrusted; and there is no reason that you should make any question of his word. If he be holy, then holiness must needs be most excellent, and those that are the holiest must needs be the best, because they are like to God; and then he must be an enemy to sin, and to all that are unholy, because they are contrary to his nature. Consider that he is almighty, and there is no resisting him, or standing out against him; in the twink of an eye can he snatch thy guilty soul from thy body, and cast it where sin is better known.
A word of his mouth can set all the world against thee, and set thine own conscience against thee too; a frown of his face can turn thee into hell; and if he be thine enemy, it is no matter who is thy friend; for all the world cannot save thee, if he do but condemn thee. They are blessed whom he blesseth, and they are cursed indeed whom he curseth. He was from eternity, and thou art but as it were of yesterday thy being is from him; thy life is always in his hands, thou canst not live an hour without him, thou canst not fetch a breath without him, nor think a thought, nor speak a word, nor stir a foot or hand without him; thou mayst better live without bread, or drink, or fire, or air, or earth, or water, than without him. All the world is before him, but as the drop of a bucket, or a little sand or dust that should be laid in balance with all the earth. Hadst thou but compassed about this lower world, and seen all the nations of it, and its wonderful furniture, and seen the great deeps of the mighty ocean, and the abundance of creatures in them all: O what thoughts then wouldst thou have of God! But if thou hadst been above the stars, and seen the sun in all its glory, and seen the frame and course of those higher orbs, and seen the blessed, glorious angels, and all the inhabitants of the higher world, O then what thoughts of God wouldst thou entertain! O but if it were possible that thou hadst seen his glory, or seen but his back parts as Moses did, or seen him in Christ the now glorified Redeemer, what apprehensions wouldst thou have of him then! Then how wouldst thou abhor the name of sin, and how weary wouldst thou be of the pleasantest life that sensuality could afford thee! Then thou wouldst quickly know that no love can be great enough, and no praises can be high enough, and no service can be holy and good enough for such a God: then you would soon know, that this is not a God to be neglected, or dallied with; nor a God to be resisted, nor provoked by the wilful breaking of his laws. It is eternal life to know this God (John xvii. 3.), and for want of knowing him it is, that sin aboundeth in the world. This maketh holiness so scarce and lean men worship they care not how, because they worship they know not whom. O therefore dwell on the meditations of the Almighty. So far as he doth possess thy mind, there will be no place for sin and vanity. One would think if I should set you no further task, and tell you of no