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&c. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life. And as Christ said, Luke ix. 44. "Let these sayings sink into your ears;" so I say to you, let the matters which you think of go to your hearts, and sink down to the quick of your affections.
And if your hearts would slip away from the work, and other thoughts would creep into your mind, and you are weary of these considerations before they have done their work, see that you give not way to this laziness, or unwillingness, but remember it is a work that must be done, and therefore hold your thoughts upon it, till your hearts are stirred and warmed within you.
And if after all, you cannot awake them to seriousness and sensibility, put two or three such awakening questions as these to yourselves.
1. Quest. What if it were but the case of my body, or state, or name, should I not earnestly consider of it? If one do but wrong me, how easily can I think of it, and how tenderly do I feel it, and can scarce forget it. If my good name be blemished, and I be but disgraced, I can think of it night and day. If I lose but a beast, or have any cross in the world, or decay in my estate, I can think of it with sensibility. If I lose a child or a friend, I can feel it as well as think on it. If my health be decayed, and my life in danger, I am in good earnest in thinking of this. And should I not be as serious in the matters of everlasting life? Should I not think of it, and soberly and earnestly think on it, when body and soul do lie at the stake, and when it concerneth my everlasting joy or torment?
2. Quest. What if I had but heard the Son of God himself calling on me to repent, and be converted, and seconding his commands with that earnest expression, "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear;" would it not have brought me to some serious thoughts of my state? Why this he hath done in his word, and doth it by his ambassadors, and why then should I not consider it?
3. Quest. If I did but know that death were at my back, and ready to arrest me, and that I should be in another world before this day sevennight, I should then begin to bethink me in good sadness: and why do I not so now, when I have no hold of my life an hour, and when I am sure that shortly that time will come?
4. Quest. If my eyes were but open to see that which I pretend to believe, and which is certainly true; even to see a glimpse of the majesty of the Lord, to see the saints in joy and glory, to see the damned souls in misery; and if I heard their lamentations; would not this even force my heart to Consideration? O then how earnestly should I think of these things? And why should I not do so now, when they are as sure as if I saw them, and when I must see them ere it be long?
Many more such awakening questions are at hand, but I give you but these brief touches on the things that are most common and obvious, that the most ignorant may be able to make some use of them. With such thoughts as these, you must bring on your backward hearts, and shake them out of their insensibility, and awaken them to the work.
III. When you have brought your hearts to be serious, be sure that you drive on your considerations to a resolution. Break not off in the middle, or before you bring the ́matter to an issue; but let all be done in order to practice. When you have been thinking of the excellencies of God and the world to come, and comparing them with all the delights on earth; put the question then to your hearts, and say, 'What sayst thou now, O my soul, which of these is the better for thee, which is the more desirable, and which of them shouldst thou prefer? Resolve then, and make thy choice according to the light and conviction which thou hast received.' When you are thinking of the reasons that should move you to be converted, ask yourselves, Whether these reasons be not clear, and what you have to say against them; and whether any thing that can be said to the contrary, can prove it better for you to be as you are, and to remain unconverted. Ask yourselves, Is my judgment resolved, or is it not? And if it be, (as sure it must be, if you be not beside yourselves) then write it down under your hands, or at least in your hearts, 'I do here confess before the Lord, that his commands are just, his motions are reasonable, his offers are exceeding merciful: I am satisfied that it is best for me to turn to him speedily, and with all my heart: I confess before him that I have no reason to the contrary, that deserves to be owned and called reason: this is my own judgment; of this I am convinced: if I turn not after this, the light that is in nie, and the judgment that now
I possess, must needs be a witness against my soul.' If you would but thus drive on the case to a resolution of your judgments, you would have a great advantage for the resolving of your wills, which is the next thing that you must proceed to: and therefore next ask yourselves, 'Why should I not now resolve, and fixedly resolve to turn without any more delay? Is not the case plain before me? What reason have I to stand questioning the matter any longer, and to be unwilling to be happy? Shall I provoke God by dallying with him, and hazard my soul by lingering out my time in such a miserable state? No, by the grace of God I will return; even this hour, without any more delay.' Thus drive on all your considerations to resolution. (But of this I have more to say anon.)
By this time you may see of what necessity this duty of Consideration is, and how it must be performed, that it may further your conversion: but because it is a matter of so great necessity, I am loath to leave it thus, till I have done what I can to persuade you to the practice of it. To which end I entreat you to think of these following motives.
1. Consideration is a duty that you may perform if you will. You cannot say that is wholly out of your power; so that you are left inexcusable, if you will not be persuaded to it. You say you cannot convert yourselves; but cannot you set yourselves to consider of your ways, and bethink you of those truths that must be the instruments of your conversion? Your thoughts are partly at the command of your will: you can turn them up and down from one thing to another. Even an unsanctified minister, that hath no saving relish of spiritual things, can think of them, and spend most of his time in thinking of them, that he may preach them to others and why cannot you then turn your thoughts to them for yourselves? You can think of house, and land, and friends, and trading, and of any thing that aileth you, or any thing that you want, or any thing that you love or think would do you good: and why cannot you think of your sin, and danger, of God, and of his word and works, of the state of your souls, and of everlasting life? Are you not able to go sometimes by yourselves, and consider of these matters? Are you not able when you are alone in your beds, or as you travel in the way, or at your labour, to bethink how things
stand with your souls? Why are you not able, what is it that could hinder you, if you were but willing?
2. Yea further, Consideration is so cheap a remedy, that if you will not use this, you despise your souls: yea, and you despise the Lord himself, and the everlasting things which you are called to consider of. A mạn that is in danger of losing his estate, or health, or life, and will not so much as bethink him of a remedy, doth sure set light by them, and lose them by his contempt. A man that hath had but his house on fire, and would not so much as think how to quench it, doth deserve that it should be burnt. If your parents, or children, or friends were in distress, if you would not so much as think of them, it were a sign you did not set much by them. Why, sirs, are not your souls worth the thinking on? Is not God, is not your Redeemer, worth the thinking on? And yet you will hypocritically pretend that you love God above all, when you will not so much as seriously think of him; how can you shew greater contempt of any thing, than to cast it out of your minds as unworthy to be thought on? And how can you more plainly shew that you despise God and heaven, than by such a course as this? If it be not worth the thinking on, it is worth nothing.
3. Consider that God doth not set so light by your salvation. He thought it worth a great deal more: must Christ think it worth his bloody sufferings, and with such a life of labour and sorrow, and will not you judge it worth your serious considerations? If he had not thought on it, and thought again, how miserable should we have remained! Ministers also must think on it, and study how to save your souls. And should you not study how to save your own? Must another man make it the business of his life to think how to do you good, that you may be saved, and are you not as much bound to do good to yourselves? Yea, all that fear God about you, are bound to study to do you good; and should you not bethink you then of the things that concern your own good?
4. Moreover, what have you your reason for, but to consider; and wherein do you differ from the beasts, so much as in your reason? If you have reason, and will not use it, you brutify yourselves; you live like madmen; for what is madness, but a loss of the use of reason? And do And do you think
it a small thing to deface so noble a creature as man,
turn yourselves into beasts and madmen? Do you think that God will not call you to account for your reason, how you have used it? Doubtless he gave it you for a higher employment, than to enable you to plough, and sow, and follow your trades, and provide for your flesh. If this were all that a man did exceed a beast in, what a silly, wretched wight were man? Yea, so much more miserable than beasts, as his knowledge begets more care, and sorrow, and fear, than theirs. What matter is it for having reason at all, if it be not that we may use it for the matters of God, and eternal life?
5. Moreover, your soul is an active principle, which will be working one way or other; your thoughts will be going on one thing or other; and therefore the bare consideration is no great labour to you. And if you must lay out your thoughts on something, is it not better lay them out on these things, than on any other? Have you any better matters to think on than these? Have you any greater matters, or matters of greater necessity to think of? You cannot sure imagine it; at least you will not say so for shame. This makes your inconsiderateness an inexcusable sin. If thinking were toil to you, it were another matter. But when you must think of something, why not of God, and your eternal state, and the way to heaven, as well as of other matters? Will you rather throw away your thoughts, than God shall have them? If a man command his servant that is lame, to go on his business, the refuser hath a good excuse: ‘I cannot go, or not without a great pain and danger:' but if he have a son or a servant that is so wanton that he cannot stand on his legs, but spends his time in running up and down, and dancing, and leaping, this person hath no excuse, if he will refuse to go on his master's or his father's errand; but will gad about on his pleasure all day, and will not go a few steps when he is bidden; especially if it were for his own life or welfare. So when you have thoughts that will not be kept idle, but will be gadding abroad through the world, and yet you will not think of God, and the matters of your peace, what wilfulness is this? If you should ask one that hath it not, for meat, or drink, or money, they might well deny you. But if you ask these, of one that hath abundance, and knows not what to do with them, but would throw them down the channel, rather than you should have them, what