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and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.' When antichrist would bring his mark on the foreheads of the people, and into their hands, God, by his gospel, calls men from their false worship and idolatry. But what if they do not obey? The ninth and tenth verses tell us, ' A third angel followed, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receives his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is poured out, without mixture, into the cup of his indignation, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb,' &c. Some will be apt to say, Let us make a fair composition, and use some compliance to put an end to these disputes. No, do it at your peril; God saith, you shall drink of the wine of his wrath, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation, and that for ever and ever. And I believe, with all my heart and soul, that this will be the portion of all the men and women in this nation, that shall comply with any return of antichristian idolatry among us; God shall pour out his indignation upon them.
(6.) Remember, that if the trial comes, it is a day of battle; and it is not for you, when you should just engage in a battle, to be considering of this or that way, or contrivance to escape; no, it is courage and constancy, and faith alone must be set on work, or you will not be preserved. All your wisdom and contrivances will not preserve you; but it being come to the issue between Christ and antichrist, 'it is the girding up the loins of your mind, and a resisting unto blood against sin,' and abiding in it, that is your duty, and must preserve you. Nothing will save you but faith, courage, and constancy.
(7.) There are, in the Scripture, intimations, that those who, in an especial manner, cleave unto God and his worship, with faith, love, and delight, shall be preserved and saved.' I do not propose this unto you as an object of your faith; all the rest I do; but I say, there are intimations that give me some satisfaction, that they who with quick and lively spirits do act faith, and love, and delight in God and his worship, or that are worshippers in the inner court of the temple, shall be peculiarly secured at such a time.
But I am afraid few of us shall have it, because I see so much coldness and deadness grown generally upon us, and the churches of Christ; it makes me think exercises will come upon us all; for we have need of them.
First, Let not your talk about strange things, keep the thoughts of these things you have been hearing out of your hearts; for you will be tried with antichristianism before you die. We talk of news, and great things we look for in the world, and that antichrist shall be destroyed; and so he will; but I do believe he will try us sorely in the mean time.
Secondly, Take heed of computations. How wofully
and wretchedly have we been mistaken by this! We know the time is determined; its beginning and ending is known to God; and we must live by faith till the accomplishment. Thirdly, So many of us as have afresh engaged ourselves in covenant unto God, let us remember that we have taken the 'mark of God upon our foreheads;' and it will ill become us to set the mark of antichrist by it.
This is all I have to offer unto you as to living by faith, under the apprehensions of those difficulties we have to conflict withal, in reference to the coming in of profaneness and idolatry wherewith we are threatened, by hell and the world, who are at this day combining together to bring them again upon this nation.
THE USE OF FAITH IN A TIME OF GENERAL
The just shall live by his faith.-HAB. ii. 4.
I AM now come to the last thing that was proposed to be spoken to, and with which I shall shut up the subject, viz.
3. How we may live by faith, under an apprehension of great and woful decays in churches, in church members, in professors of all sorts; and in the gradual withdrawing of the glory of God from us all on that account.
I would speak unto three things:
(1.) That this is such a time of decay among us, among churches, among church members, and professors of all sorts and ways throughout this nation; yea, and other nations too, where there are any that fear God.
(2.) That this is, and ought to be, a cause of great trouble and trial unto all that are true believers. And then,
(3.) I shall shew you, how we may live by faith in such a season. What it is faith will do to support the soul at such a time.
(1.) That it is now such a time of decay; there are too many evidences of it. I will name a few things.
[1.] A sense of it is impressed upon the minds of all the most judicious and diligent Christians, that do abound most in self-examination, or do take most notice of the ways of God. Multitudes have I heard testifying of it; complaints are received from many in this nation, and the neighbouring nations, that there is a great decay, as to the power of grace and life of faith, among all sorts of professors. And some of them will go farther in their evidence, and tell us, that they find the effects of it in themselves; that they find it a matter of great difficulty, requiring great watchfulness, and great diligence in any measure to keep up themselves This sermon was preached May 21, 1680.
unto their former frames; and when they have done all, they do not attain their desire. And to increase this evidence, we are all convinced of it, or else we are notorious hypocrites; for I know not how often I have heard it prayed over in this very place. So that there is sent forth from God a conviction upon the hearts and minds of spiritual, selfexamining believers, that churches, church members, professors, and themselves, are under spiritual decays. This is the first evidence: and therefore, in such a season, it was the best part of the church that made that sad complaint; Isa. Ixiii. 17. O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our hearts from thy fear?' They were sensible, that there was a judgment of the hand of God upon them.
[2.] The open want of love that is among churches, among church members, among professors, is another evidence of decay. I will not speak of the want of love among churches, one to another. But as to love among church members, we have scarce the shadow of it remaining among us. Where men have relations, where they have acquaintance, where they have been old friends, where they agree in a humour, and converse, there is an appearance of love; and where they agree in a party and faction, there is an appearance of love; but upon the pure spiritual account of Christianity and church membership, we have, I say, scarce the shadow of it left among us. I remember how it was with us, when it was a joy of heart to behold the face of one another, wherein there was love without dissimulation, in sincerity, love attended with pity, compassion, condescension, yea, love attended with delight. But it is dead in churches, dead among professors.
[3.] Another evidence of this decay, is want of delight and diligence in the ordinances of gospel worship. These ordinances were wont to be a joy of heart unto all that feared God; but now there is so much deadness, coldness, and indifferency, so much undervaluing of the word, selffulness, pride, and so much an apprehension that we know every thing, so little endeavour to tremble at every truth, by what means soever it be brought unto us, as gives a manifest evidence of woful decays that are fallen upon us. Dead preachers! dead hearers! all things now go down
among the churches of God, and professors in these nations. And this is attended with two desperate evils; one of which I heard of but lately, but upon inquiry, I find it to be a far greater evil than I took it to be, viz. Men under an apprehension, that as they do not see others enlivened, nor quickened as they were wont to be, by the ordinances of divine worship, and finding no such thing in their own hearts neither, in all probability finding themselves to grow dead and useless, are fallen into an opinion, that there is an end of them, and that they ought to attend unto them no more. And this doth befall some that have long walked soberly, and with great diligence in the use of ordinances: some in this city, and in other places, are led by foolish delusions to it, because they do not find the spirit, and life, and power of the word and ordinances in themselves, and as they think in others. A godly and learned minister, that shewed me a discourse written upon this subject, in defence of ordinances, did acquaint me with so great a number falling into this abomination, that I did not think it had been possible. This is one of the evils.
The other evil that attends it is this, That this deadness and indifferency unto ordinances, and want of bringing our necks to the yoke of Christ therein, against all disputings and arguings of flesh and blood, hath taken such place among us, and proceeded so far, that all ways of reformation are useless. Men may make divisions, and do I know not what, but this I know, there is no way of obtaining any reformation, but for men to engage their hearts to return unto God, in more delight in his service than there hath been. Some utterly forsake the assemblies, some come with great indifferency, using their liberty, off and on, at their pleasure. Are not these things evidences of great decays among us? To me they are. I speak not as to this congregation in particular, but as to the state of all churches that I know or can hear of in these nations.
[4.] The last evidence I shall mention of these decays among us, is our worldly-mindedness, conformity to the world, and security. These things have been so often spoken to you, and no reformation hath ensued, that now they are looked upon as words of course; and I am discouraged from speaking of them any more. But assure yourselves,