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only, of the whole number insected with it escaped, it is no great encouragement that you (hall make the second. O think, and think again, how mauy thousands, now on earth, have been labouring, and striving, forty or fifty years together, to make their calling and eleflionsure t and yet, to this day, it is not so suie as they would have it: they are afraid, after all, time will fail them for finishing, and you think it is too early for beginning so great a work.
3. Others have begun sooner than you, and finished the great, and main work, bttore you have done any thing. Abijah was very young, scarce got out of his childhood, "when the graceof "God was found in him," 1 Kings xir. 13. The fear of God was in Obadiah, when but a youth, 1 Kings xviii. 12. Timothy was not only a Christian, but a preacher of the gospel, "in the mor"ning of his lise," 2 Tim. iii. 15. What have you to plead for yourtelves, which they had not i Or what arguments, and motives to Godliness had they which you have not? You shall be judge6 per pares, by thole ot your own age, and size; their serioulnela shall condemn your vanity.
4 The morning of your lite is the flower of your time, the freshest, and fittest of all your lise for your great work; now your heaits are tender, and impressive, jour affections flowing, and tractable, your heads clear of distracting c.ires, and hurries of busineis, which come on, afterwards, in thick successions: '* Remember, now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, whilst: "the evil Jays come not," Ecclel. xii. 1.2. Isa man has an important busineis to do, he will take the morning for it, knowing if that be slipped, a crowd, and hurry of buliness will come on afterwards, to distract:, and hinder him. I presume, it all the converts in the world were examined in this point, it would be found, that at least ten to one were wrought upon in their youth; that is the moulding age.
5. and if this proper hopeful season be elapsed, it is very unlikely that ever you be wrought upon afterwards: how thin, and rare in the world, are the instances, and examples of conversion, in old age! long-continued customs in fin, harden the heart, fix the will, and root the habits of vice so deep in the soul, that there is no altering of them; your ears then are so accustomed to the lounds of the word, that Christ andyfo, heaven and hell, foul and eternity, have lost their awful sound, and esficacy with you. Bur it is a question only to be decided by the event, Whether ever you shall attain to the years of your fathers. It' is not the tprightiy vigour of your youth that can secure you from deuth. What a madnels, then, is it, to put your souls, arid eternal happiness, upon such a blind adventure? What if your presumption of so many fair, and proper opportunities hereafter, fail you, as it hath failed millions, who had as rational, and hopeful a prospect of them a? you can have; where are you then? And if you should have more time, and means, than you do presume upon, are you sure you hearts will be as flexible, and impressive, as now they are? O beware of this fin of vain presumption, to which the generality of the damned owe their everlasting ruin!
The eighth -way of lofng the soul, opened. VIII. The eighth way of ruining the precious foul, is, bj drinking in the principles of Atheism, and living without God in the world.
Atheism slabs the soul to death at one stroke, and puts it quite out of the way of salvation; other sinners are worse than beasts, but Atheists are worse than devils, tor they believe, and tremble;. these banish God out of their thoughts, and, what they can, out of the world, living as without Cod in the -world, Eph. ii. ia. It is a fin that quencheth all religion in the loul. He that assents not to the being of a God, destroys the foundation of all religious' worship; he cannot sear, love, or obey him, whose being he believes not .• this sin strikes at die lise of God, and destroys the lise of the soul.
Some are Atheistsrin opinion, but multitudes are so in practice: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God," Psal. xiv. 1. though he hath engraven his narne upon every creature, and written it upon the table of their own hearts; yet they will not read it': or if they have a flight, fluctuating notion, or a secret suspicion of a Deity, yet they neither acknowledge his presence, nor his providence. Fingunt Deum talent qui nee viJet, nee punit, i. e. They make such a God who neither lees nor punishes. They fay, "How doth God know? Can he judge "through the dark csouds? Thick clouds are a covering to "him, that he seeth not," Job xxii. 14.
Others prosess to believe his being, but their lives daily give their lips the lie; for they give no evidence in practice, of his sear, love or dependance on him: if they believe his being, they plainly shew they value not his favour, delight not in his presence, love not his ways, or people; but lie down and rise, eat and drink, live and die without the worship, or acknowledgment of him, except so much as the law of the country, or custom of the place extorts from them. These dregs of time produce abundance of Atheists, of both sorts; many ridicule, »nd hiss religion out of all companies into which they come, and others lire down all lenle of religion; they customarily attend, indeed, on the external duties of it, hear the word; bat when the greatest, and most important duties are urged upon them, their inward thought is, This is the preacher's calling, and the man must fay something to fill up his hour, and get his living. If they dare not put their thoughts into words, and call the gospel Fabula Chri/ii, the fable of Christ, as a wicked Pope once did; or lay of hell, and the dreadful sufferings of the damned, as Galderinus the Jesuit did, Tune r.redam cum illtte venero; I will believe it when I see it: yet their, hearts, and lives, we of the fame complexion with thete men's words: they do cot heartily afTeat to the truth of the gofpel which they hear, add though bare assent would not save them, yet their assent) or non-assent, will certainly damn them, except the Lord heal their understandings, and hearts, by the light and lise of rein gion. To this last fort I shall offer a sew things.
The eight way to hell j but up by six naeighty conJukratitM.
1. You that attend upon the ordinances; but believe them no more than so many devised fables, Bor heartily assent to the truth of what you hear; know assuredly, that the word (hall sever do your souls good, it can never come to your hearts and affections in its regenerating and sanctifying efficacy, whilst it is stopt and obstructed in your understandings ia the acts of assent. And thus you may fit down under* the best ordinances all.your lives, and be no more the better for them, than the rocks are for the showers of rain that fall upon them; Heb. iv. a. "The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed *' with faith in them that heard it." This is Satan's chief strength and fastness, wherein he trnsteth; he sears no argument, whilst he can maintain his post: the devil hath no surer prisoner than the Atheist; there's no escaping out of his possession and power, whilst this bolt of unbelief is shut home in the mind or understanding. An onbelieved truth never converted or saved one foul from the beginning of the world, nor never fliall to rhe end of it. Those bodies that have the Boulema, or dog-appetite, whatever they eat, it affords them no nourish* raent or satisfaction, they thrive not with the best fare: just so it is with your souls, no duties, no ordinances can possibly do them good; as in argumentation, no conclusion, be it never so regularly drawn, and strongly inserred, is of any force to him that denies principles.
2. If you assent not to the truth of the gospel, you not only tnake God speak to your souls in vain, which is fatal to them; but you also make God a liar, which is the greatest affront a creature can put upon his Maker; 1 John v. 10. " He that be** lieveth not God, hath made him a liar." Vile dust, darest thou rise up against the God that made thee, and give him the He? An affront which thy sellow creature cannot put up, or bear at thy hands. Darest thou at once stab his honour, and thy own soul 1 Are not the things that chou lookcst on as romances and goldea dreams, a mere artifice, neatly contrived to cheat and awe the world? Are they not all built upon the veracity of God, which is the*firmest foundation and greatest security in the .worlds Hath he not intermingled, for our satisfaction, not only frequent assertions, but his asseverations and oath to put all beyond doubt? and yet dare any of you lift up your ignorant jblind understandings against all this, and give him the lie i Surely the wrath of God stull smoke against every soul of man that doth so, and his own bitter, lamentable, doleful experience shall be his conviction shortly, except he repent.
3. Dare any of you give the thoughts of your hearts as certain conclusions under your hands, and stand by them to the last, and venture all upon them.
Wretched Atheist! bethink thy self, pause a while, examine thine own breast; whatever thy vile atheistical thoughts sometimes are, is there not at other times a sear of the contrary? A jealousy that all these things which thou deiidest and sportest thy wicked fancy with, may, and will prove true at last? When thou readest, or hearest that text, John iii. 18. "He that be"lieveth not is condemned already;" his mittimus is already made for hell: doth not thy conscience give thee a secret gird, like a stitch in thy side? Dare you venture all upon this issue, that if those things you find in the word be true, you will stand to the hazard of them? If that be a truth, Markxvi. 16. "He that "believeth not (hall be damned," you will be content to be damned? Or if, Rom. viiL 13. be a truth, That " they who "live after the flelh shall die," you will run the hazard, and bear the penalty of eternal death? If Heb. xii. 14. prove true, That " withr it holiness no man shall see God," you will be content to be banished from his presence for evermore? Speak your hearts in this matter, and tell us, don't you live betwixt atheistical surmises, that all these are but cunning artifices, and sears that at last they will prove the greatest verities?
4. Hath not God given you all the satisfaction you can reasonably desire, of the undoubted truth and certainty of this world? What would you have, which you have not already? Would you have a voice from heaven? the scriptures you read, or hear are a more sure word than such a voice would be, 1 Pet. i. 19.'Or would you have a messenger from hell? He that bc« lieveth not the written word, neither would believe " if Onc "should rise from the dead," Luke xvi. 31. View the Innate characters of the scriptpre, is it not altogether pure and holy, full of divine wisdom and awful majesty, and in every respect, such as evidencethits author to be the wise, holy, and just God, who scarcheth the hearts and reins? Look upon the seals and confirmations of it; hath not God confirmed it by divers miracles from heaven, a seal which neither men or deviis could counterseit? And do not you see the blessing and power of God accompanying it in the conversion and wonderful change of men's hearts and lives, which can be done by no other hand than God's? Say not, the miracles, which confirm the gospel, are but uncertain traditions, and except you yourselves see them wrought, you cannot believe them. There are a thousand things which you do believe, though you never saw them; and what you require for your satisfaction, every man may require the fame for his; and so Christ must live again in all parts of this world, and repeat his miracles over and over, in all ages, to satisfy the unreasonable incredulity of those that question their truth, after the fullest confirmation and seal hath been given, that is capable to be given, or the heart of man can desire should be given; and if all this should be done, you might be as far from believing, as now you are; for many of those that saw and heard .the things wrought by Christ, contradicted and blasphemed, and so might you.
5. Satan, who undermines your assent to these things, is forced to give his own: he that tempts you to look on them as fables, himself knows, and is convinced that they are realities; "The *' devils also believe and tremble," James ii. 19. they know and seel the truth of these things, though it be their great design, and interest, to shake your assent to them: they know Christ is the Son of God, and that there will be a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, and that there are torments prepared for themselves, and all whom they seduce from God, Matth. viii. 29. If you ungod God, you must unman yourselves; yea, not only make yourselves less than men, but worse than devils.
6. In a word, let thy own heart, O Atheist, be judge, whether these be real doubts still sticking in your minds, after you have done all that becomes men to do for satisfaction in such importrant cases? Or whether they be not such principles as you willingly foment and nourish in your hearts, as a protection to 7our sensual lusts, whose pleasures you would fain have, without in