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, who bad not learned them before, would be able to learn their letters: who can flatter himself, that he may be entitled to the reward of good works, after his life has been spent in filling up the measure of his iniquities.
Christian reformation then is a work of time; and the man who puts it off to another day will not be* reformed at all, unless by a miracle of grace; which he bath no reason to expect; whose vain presumption is a tempting of God to transgress the Jaws of his justice, in favour of an impenitent sinner, who hath so long trifled with the offers of his mercy and goodness. Repentance, at whatever season it comes, is the gift of God; and St. Paul makes it very doubtful whether God will grant it at all times, even to those that ask it: for to some whom he adviseth to pray for it, he uses these remarkable words, If Godperadventure will give them repentance: as if there were no rule nor promise to render it certain, that every sort of offender might have it for asking. St. Peter expresses the same doubt in the case of Simon Magus: "repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray "God, If Perhaps the thought of thine heart may "be forgiven thee" But the most terrible of all to this purpose is the declaration of God by Solomon; whence it may certainly be inferred, that the dilatory presumptuous sinner, who has dared to try the patience of God, by refusing to hear him, shall at last find no place for repentance and acceptance. "Because I have called and ye refused, I will also laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me." Therefore seek God while he may be found: refuse not to hear him at the first call j for after that refusal, you 6
know not what the second may be: death and judgment may be the only things remaining to you. We often see how dreadfully they are disappointed, who deceive themselves with the assurance of future opportunities, when there can be no such assurance. Two things are requisite toward a true repentance, time and ability, neither of which are in our power; both are in the hands of God. I look upon it as a sure sign of repentance, when a person thinks of the blessed sacrament, who never thought of it before, and is desirous of preparing his mind for it by prayer and a serious examination of his conscience, as the Church of England directs, in her exhortations to the people. That person I consider as a true penitent, who is forsaking his sins, and putting himself in a way of salvation; and I pray to God to help him forward and give him perseverance. But I have met with those, who seemed to have formed a good intention to do their duty, yet have put off the performance for the present, and said in their hearts, “Not this time; the next will do very well;" but, alas, before the meat time came, I have seen them seized with sudden incapacity, and hurried without warning into their grave; where every farther opportunity was lost, and while their great account remained unsettled. On the other hand, if I see a man, who from time to time can hear the exhortations, the solemn, and Carnest, and affectionate exhortations of the Church, to bring the congregation to the holy communion, and Pay no regard to them ; I am sure that man does not .*Pent; and I have all the reason in the world to fear and believe, that he never intends it. What is to beo: Co. when he shall make his appear. he tribunal of Christ, we do not yet see: but I can tell you what generally comes of him here; (I say generally; for we must not presume to make a certain rule for the searcher of hearts to follow:) generally then it happens to such a person, that he dies as insensible as he lives; and when death gives him Earning, that warning is not taken, lie who has hardened his ears against the language of the Church, does at last not understand the language of death, though it speaks loud enough and plain enough for every body else to understand it. For it is the endeavour of Satan, after he lias deceived a sinner all his life, to deceive him at his death, and make him as insensible of his bodily, as he has always been of his spiritual danger: so that when his neighbours and friends see him sinking apace out of life, his head is filled with nothing but thoughts of this world: he is contriving how some business shall be done a month or a year hence, and perhaps at some greater distance. He determines in his sickness, what a man dare not determine in his health, if he has any wisdom about him. If it happens that he is aware of his ill state, then he is amused with hopes of recovery: his old Enemy suggests to him, that he is not in such danger as people think him; that there is but a very little between him and health; and with these vain expectations he is buoyed up, till his last breath undeceives him. This is the common end of one who has hardened himself against the grace of God, and lived in the total neglect of repentance, or put it off to the time of his death: he and his intended repentance go on and on, from time to time, till they drop both together into another world, wherein there is no repentance.
If then, my brethren, the text assures every sinner, that he must either repent or perish; and if a careless Vol. iv. B b
life ends in an impetitent and hopeless death; my lesson after this may be short. If the sinner would try to be saved, he must try noir; and he must be as quick as he can: he must fice from the wrath to come. He must be as much in haste, as he would be, if he were running with the family of Lot, and saw Sodom on fire behind him. For the same fire is now pursuing every sinner, whether he sees it or not; and unless the saving angels shall lead him by the hand to Zoar, it will certainly overtake him. There is no time for loitering: you must escape for your life with all speed, or be lost: Sodom was intended to shew you that; where one faithless soul, by loitering, was lost. Let no man therefore deceive himself with any vain expectation, that though he is not such as he could wish at present, he shall be so, at some future time: that if he is not prepared to meet his God now, he shall be so, before he dies. This is the delusion under which so many perish. The broad way to hell is
crouded with people, who intended to grow better,'
but never did. When once they have this habit of loitering, as they live, so they die: nothing makes any difference in them but death; AND THAT MAKES A GREAT DIFFERENCE.
Now to God, &c.
AND WHEN THEY HAD GONE THROUGH THE ISLE UNTO PAPIIOS, THEY FOUND A CERTAIN SORCERER, A FALSE PROPHET, A JEW, WHOSE NAME WAS BAR-JESUS. ACTS xiii. 6.
1 HE great apostle of the Gentiles is here in the course of that mission, on which he was sent by the Church of Antioch. It is a circumstance worthy of observation, that the same Paul, who had been appointed to the ministry by Jesus Christ himself in person, and who had his call and ordination from, heaven, should yet be sent out like other men according to the forms of the Church. An order came from the Holy Ghost to them of Antioch, that they should separate (that is consecrate *) Barnabas and Saul • and accordingly they fasted and prayed, and laid their bands on them, and sent them away. After this where is the man that shall pretend to a call from heaven, without a call from the Church, as sufficient to constitute a preacher of the Gospel; when it was not sufficient in the case of Paul himself? To prevent disorder, it is the will of God, that the authority and rule of his Church should in all cases be preserved: so the Church sends out even where God himself hath. separated already; to the end that no man, under any circumstances whatever, may be independent of
* See Numb. xvi. 9.