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gards it not; it is the hardest thing in the world to rouze and awaken a man out of his carnal security. Look over fatan'% kingdom, and you shall find a general stilness, and quietness among his,lubjects; there is no trouble for sin, no strivings after lalvation, nocryiogs out, " 'What shall we do to be saved i" Go into the crowds of carnal men and women, and you shall find them all intent and busy about other matters. How long shall you be in their company, besore you hear one groan for sin, or see one tear slide from their eyes on that account? Oh ! what a marvellous thing is here! do not their consciences know the guilt that lies upon them? Are they not aware of a day of reckoning which approacheth? Yes, yes, these things are not hid from their consciences: What art then is used to keep them so still and quiet? Why, there are divers rattles to still the consciences of sinners, and they do it effectually. There are four causes, and occasions of this wonderful stilness in the fouls of sinners, i , .'
1. Ignorance of the nature of regenerating grace, taking that for regeneration, which is none of it; thus did the Jews, John viii. 25. confidently affirm God to be their God, and yet they did not know him. How many poor ignorant creatures think there is no need of any other work of regeneration, but what passed upon them in baptism i They were born, and baptized Christians, and that is enough, they think, to fave them. Matth. iii. 9. " We have Abraham to our father.'* They thought it sufficient that Abraham's blood ran in their veins, though there were not a spark of Abraham's faith kindled in their fouls: The Lord forgive the sin of those men that lead poor souls into such fatal mistakes. O if men were but aware of the necessity of a greater, and farther work to pass upon their souls than their baptism, common powerless profession, or the similar works which appear upon formal hypocrites, heaven and earth would ring with their cries. But ignorance of the nature and necessity of special regenerating grace, like a dose of epium, casts the consciences of many into this deep sleep.
2. Freedom from grosser sins and pollutions of the world, stills and quiets the consciences of thousands; they have had a civil, sober, and fair education; and though there be no grace and regeneration, yet what saints do they Teem to themselves, being adorned with sobriety and civility! This stilled the conscience of the Pharisee, Luke xviii. 11. " God, I thank ** thee, that I am not at other men are, extortioners, unjust, *' adulterers, or even as this publican." Thus, like delicate Agag, they spruce up themselves with moral homiiitical virtues* * wherein many thousand Heathens were more gay than themfclves | but justice will hew them to-pieces as Agag was, for all their moral ornaments and endowments.
3. The strict performance of the external duties of religion quiets the consciences of many; they question not but those that do so well shall fare well, and that God will never damn men and women that keep their church, and say their prayers as they do. Thus the carna! Jews deluded themselves, crying, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord :" As malefactors, in some of our neighboring kingdoms, fly to the church from the hand of justice, 16 do these; but God will pluck them from the horns of the altar, and convince them that the empty name of religion is no security from damnation.
4. Many consciences are still and quieted in a natural sinful state, by misinterpreting the voices of Providence; it may be God prospers your earthly affairs, succeeds and smiles upon your undertakings; and this you conclude must be a token of his love and favour: But, alas! this is a great mistake, the Lord give you better evidences of his love than these; for who prosper more in the world than wicked men? And who are more crossed than the people of God? Read Job xxi. and Psal. Ixxiii. and compare both with Eccl. ix. 1. and you will quickly find the vanity of all hopes built upon such a foundation.
However, by Inch things as these are, the god of this world blinds the eyes of multitudes.
Infer. 2. If every conviction be a knock sf Christ, how deeply are all foals concerned in the success and issue ef them?
Conviction is an embryo of the new creature; if it go ont its full time, and come to a perfect new birth, it brings forth salvation to your souls; if it miscarry finally, you are finally lost. It is of infinite concernment therefore to every man and woman to be tender over those convictions of their consciences, h is true, conviction and conversion are two things; there may be conviction without conversion, though there can be no conversion without conviction. The blossoms upon the trees in the spring of the year cannot properly be called fruit, they are rather the rudiments of fruit, or something in order to fruit: If they open kindly, and knit or set firmly, perfect fruit follows them; but if a blast or frosty morning kill them, no fruit is ta be expected. Thus it is here, great care therefore ought to be taken about the preservation and success of convictions, both by i. The soul itself that is under them, a. And by all others that are concerned about them. . •
1. What care should the foul itself have, upon whom con
•frictions are wrought: have a care friends how you quench them, divert or hinder the operations of them, lest you hinder as much as in you lies, the very conception of Christ in your souls by them. I remember it is said, Exod. xxi. 22.
If men strive and hurt a woman with child, and mischief s* follow, life shall be given ibr life." The life of your souls is bound up in the life of your convictions. I know it is hard for men and women to dwell with their own convictions \ guilt and wrath are fad subjects for mens thoughts to dwell upon; but yet it is far better to dwell with the thoughts of sin and wrath here, than to lie sweltering under them' in hell for ever, You may be rid of your convictions and your salvation together j be not too eager aster peace, a good trouble is better than a false peace. And on the other side, beware that your convictions and troubles turn not into discouragements to faith; this will cross the proper inte1.Von of them: they are Christ's knocks for entrance, and were never intended to be bars or stumbling-blocks in your way to him j not stops, but steps in your way to Christ. a •
2. Let all others that are concerned about convincing souls, beware what counsels they give, and what rules they prescribe, lest they render them abortive, and destroy all in the bud. There are two errors too commonly committed, one in excess, persuading souls under trouble of conscience that there is no coming for them to Christ, unless they be so and so prepared, humbled just at such a degree; this is dangerous counsel, it overheats the troubles of conscience, and keeps the soul from its proper present duty and remedy. I am sure Paul and Silas took no such courle with the convinced jaylorj nor Peter with the three thousand wounded consciences, Acts ii. Nor do I find where God hath stated the time and degree of spiritual troubles, so that there must be no addresses to Christ in the way of faith, until they have suffered them so long, and to such an height: if they have imbittered sin to the soul, and made it see the necessity of a Saviour, I think they cannot move too soon after Christ in the way of faith. Let no man set bounds where God sets none. .
There is another error committed m defecl, when promises and comforts are presently applied, before the nature of faith is known, or one act of recumbency put forth towards Christ: these hasty comforts come to nothing; they will not, they cannot stand. It is a dangerous thing to apply gospel-cordials, and pour out the precious ointment of the promrsesupost
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them that were never heart-sick for sin i •when upon- cKTf flight trouble, which is but an early dew, the peculiar coniclations of penitent and believing souls are hand over-head applied to them: how many such unskilful emperks are there in every place I such- as the prophet Jeremy complains of,, ** They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people ** slightly, crying peace, peace, where there is no peace." Remember the foundation is now laying for eternity, and that is the tame of deep consideration i men and women must ponder the terms, and count the cost,, and deliberately accept and close with Christ, before the consolations of the promises can be regularly administred to them., •• "'
Infer. 3. What a singular blejfng is a raizing faithful mi<nistry among the people? By such a ministry Christ knocks powerfully; this is one of the greatest Westings God can bestow upon people, next to the faving esfacts of it, when he fends among them powerful,, judicious preachers of the gospel, under whole ministry their consciences cannot sleep quietlyThese are the proper, instruments Christ knocks at mens-hearts by: and as for those prophets. thaC few pillows for drowsy sinners to sleep quietly upon, the- Lord owns them not for his,. Lam. ii. 14. "Thy prophets (not mine, but thine) have feeo. "vain and foolish things, for thee, they have not discovered M thine iniquity."
It is true, those mmistersthat give men no rest nor quietnessin their sins, must expect but little raft and quietness, themselves. What is it for ministers- to prsachr home to the consciences of others, but to pull dowmthe rage of the world upon their heads? But certaialy. you will have cause to bless GoA to eternity, for casting your lot under such a> ministry; and. 'the Lord accounts such a mercy sufficient to recompense any outward affliction that lies upon you, Ifa. xxx.. 20. You farerichly under such doctrine, though the Lord should feed you. with the bread of affliction, and give you-the waters of adversity to drink; this makes amends for all, ttThine eyes shall** behold thy teachers, and they shall be driwen no more into "corners." O blessed be God that England's. eorners are this day emptied, that its pulpits may be filled with laborious,. faithful ministers. O that the. knocks of Christ might thi* day be heard in all' the cities, toiras, and villages of this nati'en ! the kingdom of God is come nigh unto us, this mercyis Hnvaluable; pray that the Lord would continue it, and make all your ministers and means* whether' more public ar? private,, successful. * '. •.i\i'
Infer. 4. And then, lastly,' Ut all men beware of those things! it hat deafen their ears, and drown the found of Christ's knocks and calls in the gospel. .! •.'-',
What pernicious enemies to the fowls of men are those persons, and things, that turn away men's ears from attending to the knocks and calls of Christ in his word? Such are^ (1.) Prophane, wicked men, who, like EKmas the sorcerer;, make it their business, by wicked insinuations, flouts, and jeers, to iurn away men's ears from the gofpeL Acts xiii. 10. "O f* full of all fubtilty, and all mischief, thou child of the devil, ." thou enemy of all righteousness; wilt thou not cease to "pervert the right ways of the Lord?" AU opposition of godliness hath a spice of devilrshness, and no child more resembles his father, than a scoffing enemy resembles his father, the devil. But blessed be "God for that good 'providence which, an a great measure, hath .ftopt the mouths both of the father and his -children, this day. . :[z.) Take heed of carnal, and ungodly relations, which discourage and threaten .their chosen servants, and all that depend on them, from attending «pon the means, or giving 'way to the convictions which God by them hath'sot upon their hearts. Cruel parents, who had rather fee their children turned Into their graves, than turning to the ways of serious godliness. O that any should dare to quench the beginnings of spiritual 'life, in those to whom they were instruments to convey natural life. (3.) Take heed of the world, its distracting cares, and charming pleasures; what a din, what a confused buz, and noise, do these things make in the ears of raenl Mark iv, 19. ** The cares of this world "choak -the word, and it becoraeth OTifruitfol." Tell not them of getting Christ, they must study how to get bread. These are some as those distracting and diverting sounds, which drown the voice of Christ's knocks and calls in the gospel. As you value your souls, beware of them. II. Use, for Exhortation. Christ is now come near ns in the gospel, '* Behold he *< stands at the door and knocks;" and I.ant here this day to •demand your answer, and in his name I do solemnly demand it; what shall I return to him thst fern: me? What fayest • thou, sinner? Wilt thou open to Christ, or wilt thou shut him out; and with him thy own pardon, peace, and falvation ? Once more let me try the force of a sew more arguments upon your beans, and refute your vain pleas to the contrary i methinks