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3. And yet you have more room for joy, whilst yon consider where you must, and fhall shortly be. You are now in Christ, but io a sew days you fhall be -with Christ as well as io him; it is well now, but it will be better e'er long. Your sin is now fully pardoned, but not fully purged out of your fouls. Your persons are freed from guilt, but your hearts are not either freed from filth or grief: But in a little time you shall be absolutely and eternally freed from both. Your present condition is in heaven, compared with your former, and your future state will be in heaven indeed, compared with your present. "The ** path of the just is as the shining light, which ibineth more "and more unto the persect day," Prov. iv. 18.
II. But on the other fide, what meditation can be more startling and amazing to all the unregenerate, and christless world? Ponder it, thou poor christless, and unsanctified soul. Get thee out of the noise and clamour of this world, which makes such a continual din in thine ears, and consider how thou hangest over the mouth of hell itself, by the seeble threed which is spun every moment out of thy nostrils; as soon as that gives way, thou art gone for ever. What shift do you make to quiet your fears, and eat, drink, and labour with any pleasure? It is storied of Dionyfius the tyrant, that when Damocles would have flattered hin into a conceit of the persection of his happiness, as he was an absolute sovereign prince, and could do what he pleased with others, as his vassals; Dionyfius, to confute his sancy, caused him to be placed at a table richly furnished, and attended with the most curious mufic, but just over his head hanged a fharp and heavy sword by one single hair; which when Damocles saw, no meat would go down with him, but he earnestly begged for a discharge from that place. This is the lively emblem of the condition, thou unregenerate man.
There are three things in thy state, sadly opposed to the former state last described.
1. The state you were born in, was bad.
7. The state you are now in, is worse.
3. The state you fhall shortly be in, if you thus continue,
will be unspeakably worst of nil. The state you were born in, was a sad state; you were torn in sin, Psal. li. 5. and under wrath, Eph. ii. 3. The womb of nature cast yon forth into this world, defiled and condemned creatures.
2. The state you are in now, is much worse than that you were born in: for what have you been doing ever since you were born, but treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath \ Rom. ii. 5. For every sand of time which run out of the glass of God's patience towards you, a drop of wrath hath been running into the vials of his indignation against you. Oh! what a treasure of fin and wrath then, is laid up in so many years as you have. lived in sin! Every sin committed, every mercy abused, every call of God neglected, and slighted, adds still more and more,to this treasure.
. 3. It will be much worse shortly than it is now, except preventing, renewing grace step in betwixt you and that wrath, into which you are hastning so sast. It is sad to be under the sentence of condemnation, but unspeakably worse to be under the execution of that sentence. To be a Christlefs man is lamentable, but to be a hopelefs man is more lamentable. Fo"r though you be now without Chrrst, yet whilst the breath of lise is in your nostrils, you are not absolutely without hope: But when once that breath is gone, ail the world cannot save or help you. Your last breath and your last hope expire together. Though you be under God's damning sentence, yet that sentence, through the riches of forbearance, is not executed, but as soon as you die,' all that wrath which hanged over your heads, so many years, in the black clouds of God's threatenings, will pour down in a furious storm upon you, which will never break up whilst God is God. Oh t think, and think again, and let your thoughts think close to this sad and solemn lubject, there is but a breath betwixt you and hell.
Inser. 4. Doth Gcd maintain your life by breath? Let not that breath destroy your life, -which God gave to preserve it. .
No man can live without breath; and yet some might live longer than they do, if their breath were better employed. "Some men's throats have been cut by their own tongues/' as the * Arabian proverb intimates. Lise and. death (saith Solomon) are in the power of the tongue. Critics observe, that a -word and a plague grow upon the same root in the Hebrew tongue. It is certain, that some mens breath hath been •baneful poison, both to themselves and others. It was a word that cut off the lise of Adonijah, 1 Kings ii. 23. and thousands, since his day, have died upon the point of the same weapon. It is therefore wholesome advice that is given us, Pial. xxxiv. 12. " What man is he that desireth lise, and loveth many days, that he may see good; keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile." :
And the more evil the times are, the stricter guard we fheald Jceep upon our lips. "It is an evil time, the prudent will keep "silence," Amos v. 13. When wicked men watch to make a man an offender for a word, as it is, Isa. xxix. 20, 21. it behoves us to be upon our watch, that we ofsend not with our lips. It is good to keep, what is not save to trust. David was a deaf and dumb man, when in the company of wicked men, Psal. xxxviii. 13. he thought sllence then to be his prudence. It is better they should call you fools, than find you so.
Inser. 5. Employ not that breath to the dishonour of God, which -was first given, and is still graciously maintained.by him for your comfort and good.
It were better you had never breathed at all, than to spend your breath in prosane oaths, or foolish and idle chat, whereby, at once, you wound the name of God, draw guilt upon your own fouls, and help on the ruin of others. That is a startling text, Mat. xii. 36. " But I say unto you, that every idle word "that men fhall speak, they shall give an acount thereof in the "day of judgment."
To give an account, is here, by a metalepfis of the antecedent for the consequent, put for punishment in hell-fire, without an intervening change of heart, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.
Aud there is more evil in this abuse of our breath, than we can easily discern, especially upon two accounts; (1.) Because it is a (in most frequently committed, and seldom repented of. The intercourse betwixt the heart and tongue is quick, and the sense of the evil as easily and quickly passeth away. (2.) Because the poisonous, and malignant influence thereof abides and continues long after: our words may mischief others, not only a long time after they are spoken, but a long time after the tongue that spake them is turned to dust. How many years may a foolish, or filthy word, a prophane scoff, an atheistical expression, stick ia the minds of them that heard them, after the speaker's death: A word spoken is physically transient, and pasted away with the breath that delivered it; but morally, it is permanent: For as to its moral efficacy, no more is required, but its objective existence in the minds and thoughts of them that once heard it: And, upon that very ground, Suarez argues for a general judgment, after men have past at death their particular judgment; because (saith he) long after that, abundance of good and evil will be done in this world by the dead, in the persons of others that over-live them. For look, as it was said of Abel, that being dead, he yet speaketh; so It may be said of Julias, Porphyry, and multitudes of scoffing Atheists, that being dead they yet speak. Gh therefore get a sanctified heart to season your breath, that it may minister grace to the hearers.
Inser. 6. Let your breath promote the spiritual life of others, as "well as maintain the natural life in yourselves.
Though the maintaining of your natural lise be one end why God gave you breath, yet it is not the only, or principal end of it. Your breath must be food to others, as well as lise to you t Prov. x. 21. "The lips of the righteous seed many." It will be comfortable to resign that breath to God at death, which hath been instrumental to his glory in this lise. It was no low encomium Christ gave of the church, when he said, Cant. iv. 11. "Thy lips, oh my spouse, drop as the honey-comb, honey '* and milk are under thy tongue." Sweet, wholsome, and pleasant words, drop from her lips. They drop (saith Christ) as the honey-comb. Some drops ever and anon sall actually, and others hang, at the same time, prepared and ready to sall. Such a prepared and habitual disposition should every Christian continually have. Your words may slick upon mens hearts to their edification and salvation, when you are in your grave?. Your tongues may now sow that precious seed, which may spring' up to the praise of God, though you may not live to reap the comfort of it in this world, John iv. 36, 37. 'Tis a rich expence of your breath, to bring but one soul to God, and yet God hath used the breath of one, as his instrument, to save, cdify, and comfort the souls of thousands, Pro*. xi. 30. "The "fruit of the righteous is a tree of Ifse, aud he that winneth *' souls is wise." The good Lord make all his people wile iu this.
Surely, whether we consider the invaluable worth and preciousaess of souls, the benefits you have had from the breath of others yourselves, the innate property of grace, where-ever it is, to disfuse and communicate itself, how short a time you have to breathe, and how comfortable i: will be, when you breathe your last, to remember how it hath been employed for God, all this should open your lips, td counsel, reprove, aud comfort others, as often as opportunity is minislred.
Did Christ spend his blood for our souls, and shall not we spend our breath for them! Oh! let our lips dispense knowledge. If you will not spend your breath for God, how will yon spend your blood for him? Jf you will not speak for him, I doubt you will not die for him. Away with a sullen reservedness, away with unprofitable chat; all subjects of discourse are sot fit for a Christian's lips. Tis a grave admonition God once gave his people by the pea of a faithful * minister. . "You rsaf "rue (faith he) the opportunities you have loft. Here lay a "poor wretch with one foot in hell, would he not have started "back, if he had had light to discover his danger? Well, you "are now together, something you must say; the same breath "would serve for a compassionate admonition, as for a com"placent impertinency, which will redound to neither of your V advantages. You part, the man dies, and in the midst of "hell cries out against you, one word of yours might have "saved me; you had me in your reach, you might have told "me my danger; you forbore, I hardened l the Lord reward "your negligence."
Infer. 7. If breath be the tie betwixt soul and body, How are •we concerned to improve, and draw forth the precious breath of ministers and Christians, whilst it is yet in their nostrils?
The breath of many ministers is judiciously stopt already, their breath serves to little other use than to preserve their own lives; it will be stopt ere long by death, and then those excellent treasures of gifts and graces, wherewith they are richly furnished, will begone out of your reach, never to be further useful to your souls. You should do by them therefore (as one aptly speaks) as scholars do by some choice book they have borrowed, and must return in a sew days to the owner: They diligently read it night and day, and carefully transcribe the most useful and excellent notes they can find in it, that they may make them their own, when the book is called out of their hands.
But alas! we rather.divert, than draw forth these excellencies that are in them. You may yet converse with them, and greatly benefit yourselves by these converses; but (as one speaks) by the stream of your impertinent talk that season is neglected: Afterwards you see your lack of your knowledge-, but then the instrument is removed. How must it gall an awakened Jew, to think what discourse he had with Jesus Christ! Is it lawful to give tribute to Ctesar? Why do not thy disciples fast? Oh! had i nothing else to enquire of the Lord Jesus? Would it not have been more pertinent to have asked, What shall I do to be saved > But he is gone, and I dead in my fins. How many persons have we sent away, that had a word of wisdom in their hearts, having only learnt from them what a clock it is, what weather, or what news; forgetting to ask our own hearts, what is all this to us: aud to enquire of them things worthy
* Mr. West*