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First, To sinners.
Labour for this holiness both in heart and life ; exert your utmost endeavours to get into this way of safety; and content not yourselves in your present state and condition. but really know, and thoroughly believe it, you would begin to look about: that you are not sensible of your danger, doth not at all make it less than it is ; it is exceedingly great whether you believe it or not.
We shall propose and press home some awakening motives,
1. Consider, unholy ones whilst such have no ground to expect either temporal or eternal safety.
Judgments, even in this life, do perpetually hang over their heads; they want nothing but divine commission, and then they fall on them and seize them immediately. There is no outward calamity, be it ever so ill, but thou art obnoxious to it every moment, so long as in an unrenewed state; and when it is a day of trouble and distress, what ground hast thou to hope that it shall be well with thee, so long as thou art such? Is it any wonder if thou fall into the enemy's hand, seeing thou thyself art an enemy to God? In a time of public calamities, and national distractions, the wicked are in the most dangerous circumstances; when the world fails, what can they seek to for comfort, who have not a God to go unto ? And it will be no easy matter to bear up under the weight of sin, and the weight of judgment too: “ What will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?" Though saints may stand undaunted, yet sinners have reason to tremble when they hear the sound of the trumpet, and the alarm of war.
Sinners must not expect eternal safety. It is the established decree of heaven, that “ without holiness, none shall see the Lord;" it is the unalterable resolve of the immutable God; the unchangeable law of him who cannot lie. There is not the least door of hope for us to escape the torments of hell, unless we be changed by renewing grace: none but “the pure in heart shall see God;" no salvation from hell for
but those who are saved from sin; the wicked must “ be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." Christ came not to save his people in, but from their sins. He is “ the author of eternal salvation ;” but it is to those that believe; and if thou art not of that number, thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter. This is the concurrent stream of the whole scripture ; nothing is more plain and more acknowledged, and yet many live as if they did not believe it; it may be, we own that the wicked must be separated from God, but we have good thoughts of
ourselves, and do not closely weigh whether we be of that number or not. Sinners must either be brought off their old stock and ingrafted into Christ, or else have their lot assigned with those, who are weeping, and wailing, and gnashing their teeth. There is no neutrality here, no middle place for dislodged souls; either ever with the Lord, or never there. Holiness is the only way to happiness, and we must go by grace to glory if ever we reach it.
2. Consider, unholy souls remaining such are not fit for haring communion with God, either in grace or glory.
Where there is no union, there can be no communion ; now that there is no union between Christ and unbelievers is without doubt: and as long as it is so, there can be no communion in duties. Whilst you are strangers to God, you can have no fellowship with him ; how can they walk together that are not agreed? “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? and what communion hath light with darkness ? and what concord hath Christ with Belial ? 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. We may attend with others in the most sacred ordinances, and yet have no communion with God there. An unholy heart hath no dealing with God in his appointments; he comes and goes, and meets with no spiritual refreshments ; he finds nothing of the sweet, soul-transporting communications of divine grace, that some others enjoy. Thus it is with many a soul I verily fear; they come and hear with some seeming delight, and go away fancying they have received advantage ; but if they come to examine afterwards, they either find they got no good, or else they have lost it: they fancy they tasted when they did not; they liked the sermon well in hearing, but what was in it they do not well remember, and some there are to whom you must allow a considerable time, before they can tell you where the text was. Thy heart must be changed, and thou brought over to God, or else thou wilt find duties and ordinances to be but barren and empty cisterns; thou missest that soul-satisfying communion, and those solacing delights, which saints experience, when the Lord takes them into “ his banqueting-house, and his banner over them is love."
Such are not fit for communion with God in glory. Alas! what delight would a wicked man take in heaven were he there? His nature is not suited to the place, so that he would not be pleased with the work of it. What would be those melodious notes, sounded by the triumphant choir above; what would be those lofty, charming strains, where there are no jarrings or untunable voices, to a vain sensualist, who is more taken with the harsh and unpleasant notes of sensual pleasure ? What would they be, more than music to a brute? The wicked would find no company in heaven fit for them. What would you do without new hearts in the New Jerusalem? Without clean hands and pure hearts, what would you do on God's holy hill ? Set aside the decree of God, and yet the very nature of the thing doth require them to be holy, who have to do with such a holy God, in such a holy place.
Is it likely, that those who have no delight in serving God now, to whom duties are a burden, and sabbaths tedious, should have delight in spending an eternal sabbath with him in glory? Now, sermon-time is long, and prayer-time is long, and they are wishing the minister had come to an end before he hath half finished; they are glad when they are come to their worldly employment again. Could these be delighted to sing the praises of God through a long eternity? How can we reasonably suppose it? How could they be continually admiring and adoring the perfections of God, who are now bespattering them in his saints? How should they admire what they hate? It is impossible for thee, O sinner, to reach heaven in thy old frame, in thy natural and unregenerate state; and if thou couldst, heaven would be no heaven for thee; thou couldst never be delighted with what thou dost disaffect, for thou art not in a capacity to have communion with a holy God.
3. Consider, a reckoning day draws near, when unholy ones shall receive that sentence, which will determine and unalterably fix their everlasting abode.
" The coming of the Lord draws nigh; the Judge standeth at the door;" the great day of general judgment is not far off, and a particular judgment to every person at death is nearer ; if thou live fifty or sixty years, which is more than can be supposed as to many, yet they will soon be over.
O that we could a little in our calm and sedate thoughts, imagine the judiciary process at the solemn day of accounts !
O that we could in our minds paint out what will be the proceedings, when the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open to the view of the world, when Christ comes to judgment ! What if we saw the world dissolving; the glorious appearance of the supreme Judge, coming in flames of fire, surrounded with his royal guards, the angels, those heavenly courtiers! What if we saw all the sons and daughters of Adam about to receive their eternal doom! Where then would you desire to stand ? at the right or left hand ? And who can tell, how soon we may see these things? yea, for any thing I know, the next time sundry of us here may meet, will be at the bar of God. The Lord will summon you
with the rest of the world, to appear
before him ; and woe then to the Christless, graceless sinner. Ministers shall be brought, as divines usually represent it, to witness for the Lord against those ungodly ones they had to do with and could not gain. Amongst others, he will say, come, all you my messengers and ambassadors that have been employed in my work at Pontefract, amongst those sinners of the Gentiles there. Did not you warn them, and treat with them, and tell them of their danger? Did not you offer grace and salvation to them by a Redeemer ?
Yes, Lord. According to our capacity and ability, as thou gavest in to us, we gave out to them. We have wooed, and entreated, and beseeched in thy name, many a time, that they would be reconciled unto God; but for all that we could say or do, we could not get them to move.
We have often had many a perplexing thought in our closets, not knowing what to say to those we had to address; we would gladly have taken any way that might have won them, Lord, thou knowest ; we have sat poring and pondering, and considering what words to choose, that were most likely to be successful and to reach their hearts, and set them a secking thee: we tried every way we could think of, sometimes speaking from mount Ebal, sometimes from mount Gerizim ; sometimes we endeavoured to draw and allure them, to win them with mercies and inviting promises; we endeavoured to paint before them the beauties of holiness as well as we could, and set before them the feast of fat things, and the never fading glory of the New Jerusalem ; we held forth the Lord Jesus Christ on gospel terms, spoke for him in the most taking words that we could think of; we told them of his comparable amiableness and divine attractions, how that he was “ the chief among ten thousand, yea altogether lovely;" but the pleasing charms of gospel grace did not affect their stupid hearts.
Another while we endeavoured to affright and drive them from sin, by telling them what would be the miseries of the heirs of hell; we told them how impossible it was to have Christ and their lusts too ; that unless they were sanctified they could not be saved. Many alarms were sounded to rouse the secure, many a dreadful peal of sin's punishment rung in the ears of careless and unconcerned souls, and many an awakening anathema awfully denounced. We endeavoured to set forth the horrors of the place of misery, to represent the terrors of the lost crew, to decipher the dismal state of the infernal society; we told them of the day of judgment, and of those things which are now come to pass; but they did not prepare for it, they acted as though they scarce believed what we said ; though we made known the terrors of the Lord, they would not be persuaded. We prayed with them and for them, and preached to them with all the earnestness we could; but when our eyes were wet, theirs were dry, and they, almost as unconcerned as the seats they sat on. It would have been our joy and our crown could we have brought Christ and their souls together, and to have seen the Lord Jesus formed in them. O how glad should we have been, if, by our instrumentality, they had been turned to righteousness; if after we had called and cried, after we had tendered thy grace, spoken of thy love, acquainted them with their danger, we could have heard them sensibly cry out, “what must we do to be saved ?” This would even have made our hearts to leap within us. We have waited long for this taking place, but after all we left them as we found them; those that were filthy, were so still; the wicked, were so still; those that we found unholy, when we had done our best, were unholy still: and if they be so till now, Lord, we cannot help it. What sentence will follow hereupon, your own reason and consciences will easily suggest; surely then will the Lord say, “ Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me.” How sad will it be, to go from hearing and reading, and praying and singing together, to howl with devils and damned spirits ! 0 that these things may never witness against any soul in this assembly! May all be persuaded to look after the things of their peace, before they be hid from their eyes.
4. Your distinguishing names, numerous train of duties, and multitude of religious performances, will not be sufficient and prevalent pleas, if you should be unholy at the day of reckoning
It will signify little what passed in this life, if state of estrangement to God. We are not for tying religion to a party, however some may please to brand us; we are far from saying or thinking that none are really Christians, but such as are for our modes and way of profession: we would own those that profess faith in Christ and live up to it, and believe that the Lord hath children having various sentiments and apprehensions. Let none please themselves with this, that they belong to such a church, and they are true sons of it; thou mayest be a member of the best constituted church in the world, and yet be a hypocrite. If at the great day it appear, that thou art unrenewed, it will signify nothing what men called thee here; whether conformist, dissenter, episcopalian, presbyterian, independent, &c. (names that we would have buricd) if thy name be not written in the Lamb's book of life. The name thou
you die in