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present. That which hath respect to the inner man, especially the new man, or a saving work in the soul, is the subject before us, which has engaged my attention much ; and after my pilgrimage amongst you, above forty-four years, in many difficulties, not without some success of my poor labours, “knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle," 2 Pet. i. 14. I was willing to leave one legacy more behind me, as a standing testimony to surviving posterity, of my long attachment to the concerns of your precious souls, and a means of your spiritual good, when my mouth is closed in the dust. And having lately treated on this subject, some of you desired me to publish it, which I was the more willing to do, for these reasons: 1. Because I am sure the subject is of daily, important, and universal use. 2. I have not seen any complete treatise upon it. 3. Its necessity is great. 4. Some were greatly alarmed on hearing it; and who knows what good the presenting of it to the eye, as well as to the ear, may do? It is true, it is simply and plainly drest, not with ornaments of art or rhetorical flourishes to set it off to the learned, being adapted in intelligible language to ordinary capacities, and possibly it may prove more profitable to country hearers ; nor ought it to offend any, that much of this treatise is in scripture dialect, in words which “ the Holy Ghost teacheth,” 1 Cor. ii. 13; which the spiritual man cannot but approve and love.
And now, my dear neighbours and friends, God knows, and you know, “ From the first day that I came to you, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,” Acts xx. 18; my tears, temptations, banishment, imprisonment, confiscations, night travels, and preachings, fastings, watchings, encouragements, and discouragements, and appealing to the searcher of hearts for its truth, I may say, what the same apostle said to his Galatians, “ My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you,” Gal. iv. 19. Alas, what are you better for having Christ revealed to you, unless he be revealed in you? Gal. i. 16. Oh! woe will be to you, if you prove Christless, after hearing so much of Christ. Words signify little without something more, and no profession or change will do, but what is genuine, and accompanies salvation. I will say to you, as Dr. Harris to his children in his last will and testament, “ Think how you and I shall endure the sight, and the thought of one another at the last day, if you appear in the old Adam ! much less shall you stand before Christ, unless you shew the image of Christ in you ; and therefore never cease till you be made new creatures, and study well what that is.”
Alas! sirs, you may make a shift to pass through this world unsuspected ; many moralists, yea, Christians may subscribe their names to your testimonial, and give you the right hand of fellowship in this world, when you must be set at the left in the next: things will not then go on as they do now. Deal faithfully with God and your own souls ; see you have the root of the matter, the life of grace. You may herd amongst the sheep now, and be found amongst goats at last. A king will give his subjects liberty to travel into another king's dominions, reserving their loyalty to their own prince. Papists, in Queen Elizabeth's days, being commanded to go to church, or be punished, sent to the Pope for a solution of this case of conscience. His answer was, You may comply ; but, “my son, give me thy heart." Thus the devil will give you leave to read, pray, hear, and attend on ordinances; but as long as he holds you fast by the heart-strings, you are still his slaves, you are none of God's servants : for the soul is the man. man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” Prov. xxiii. 7. As a man's principles are stated, so he receives his denomination, good or bad, a Jew or a heathen, a saint or a brute. If you have a brute's heart in the shape of a man, God will esteem you no better than a brute. It is the saying of a learned man, “Some make an image of the living God hewn out of the stock of a dead tree: but the new creature is not such a lifeless thing as many imagine.” It is the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind,"+ 2 Tim. i. 7. This text, saith a good divine, I doth express the three parts of God's image in the new creature ; certainly this vital principle hath a strong and vigorous
• Fili, da mihi cor.
66 As a
movement God-wards, and against sin. It is a holy spark, rising upwards to God, and forwards straight for heaven. Most professors are mistaken here; though ministers are oft calling on you to look about you, we tell you, there is a deception in the case.
Counterfeit coin is common; our warnings now will be thought of another day, these frequent summons will ring in your ears, our sermons will have a repetition in this, or in another world. Conscience will gall you, and you cannot plead ignorance, or say, non putáram, I had not thought of such a day. How often do we tell you of the danger of dying in your natural state, and of that sulphureous lake, in which thousands are suffering, who once lived as securely as you now do, and who are in a hopeless, helpless eternity ? and how can you
tell but this may be the last day, the last warning or overture of grace, the last knock at your door? God may say, Away, begone out of my sight, take him, devil, I will no more be troubled with such a sinner. But if after all this, you be senseless and lie still, you are dead, twice dead.
But let me rather persuade you from the advantage it will be to all sorts of persons, of every age and relation, to look after this change denominated in scripture, a new creation.
Oh! if you are advancing in years, going off the stage of the world, dropping into the grave and eternity, if you have been long here, and not yet spiritually alive, begin at last to turn over a new leaf; seek a new life, that you may have comfort, and not terror in your expiring moments : yet there is hope, God still waits to be gracious, and stands knocking at your door. Rise out of your bed of sloth, put back the bar, admit him with all his graces ; make out with this change against your last change.
Young people, that have lately stepped into the world, and gone thus far before you know where you are, it may be, young in years, but old in sin, you are entering into a wicked world, with wicked hearts. Oh! look after this blessed antidote, which may prevent infection ; be sure of a pilot that may row you through this boisterous sea safe to the haven. Without new hearts you will make this bad world worse, and become worse by it; rather seek to amend it.
You that are entering into callings, or on a change of condition, without this, you will be fit for nothing ; without this, you will bring a curse into every relation and vocation ; but this will make you fit for any thing, and in all you set about, you will be attended with God's blessing.
You, unmarried persons, I recommend it to you, that you be sure to marry in the Lord, then you will be heirs together of the grace of life: and pray and praise God together, you will have the sweet relation perfumed, and will meet in glory.
You, rich persons, are beggars without this; this will make you rich and honourable, the excellent in the earth, God's jewels, the favourites of heaven. And you, poor, that cannot get daily bread, this will make you rich in faith, heirs of a kingdom. O what a treasure is this fear of the Lord !
You, poor Athenians, that are always inquiring after news, new opinions, new inventions, new fashions, here is a fine and blessed piece of novelty for you; this new creature will stand you in stead, not so much to please your itching ears, as to profit your languishing souls.
Well, I have done my poor endeavour, to effect this work upon your hearts. But when we have said and done all we can, we have done nothing at all, except the eternal Jehovah accompany our efforts with the power of his grace. O thou infinite, Almighty God, who “ hast made the earth by thy power, hast established the world by thy wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by thy discretion,” Jer. x. 12. Look into the hearts of sinners, see what a chaos of confusion is by sin brought into the whole soul; go over thy work again, mend what sin hath marred, put light in the understanding, power into the will, rectitude into the affections, make conscience do its office. O that corruption may be mortified, Satan cast out, a sound principle introduced, the soul renewed and everlastingly saved.
I commend these my poor labours into the hands of God, to use them as he sees good; and to you who have heard these sermons, and to others that shall take the pains to read them, whether the effect answer my pains and aims, or not, having delivered my conscience, with some degree of uprightness. In this labour of love, I am willing to take my leave of the world, and commend you, my brethren, to God, and “to the word of his grace,
which is able to” renew your hearts, and“ build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified,” Acts xx. 32; which is the daily prayer of,
poor watchman for your souls,
May 3rd. 1695.