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the fleshly appetite. If ever we expect to win the port of glory, we must be as diligent and careful as seamen are, to take every gale, that blows directly or obliquely to set them forward ia their voyage. The note from hence is this;
Doct. That the -wisdom if a Christian is eminently discovered in saving and improving all opportunities in this world, for that world which is to come.
God hangs the great things of eternity upon the small wires of times and seasons in this world: that may be done, or neglected in a day, which may be the ground-work of joy or sorrow to all eternity. There is a nick of opportunity which gives both success and sacility to the great and weighty assairs of the soul as well as body; to come before it, is to seek the bird before it be hatched; and to come after it, is to seek it when it is fled. There is a twofold season, or opportunity of salvation.
1. One was Christ's season for the purchase of it. . .
2. The other is ours for the application of it.
1. Christ had a season assigned him for the impetration and purchale of our salvation; so you hear his Father bespeaking him, Isa. xlix. 8. "Thus saith the Lord, in an acceptable time "have I heard thee, and in the day of salvation have I helped "thee," TVJ'D in tempore opportuno veluntatis, vel placito. It was the wisdom of the Lord Jesus Christ to set in with the Father's time, to comply with his season: and it became a day of salvation, because it was the acceptable time which Christ took for it.
2. Men have their seasons and opportunities for the application of Christ, and his benefits, to their own souls: 2 Cor. vi. 1, 2. " We then as workers together with God, beseech you '* also, that you receive not the grace of God in vain; for he "saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of "salvation have I succoured thee. Behold, now is the accepted "time, now is the day of salvation." He exhorts the Corinthians not to dally or trifle any longer in the great concerns of their salvation; for now, saith he, is your day. Christ had his day to purchase it, and he procured a day also for you to apply i% and this is that day: you enjoy it, you live under it: that golden day is now running: O! see that you frustrate not the design thereof, by receiving the gospel-grace in vain.
Now two things^ concur to make a fit season of salvation to the souls of men.
1. The external means and instruments.
2. The agency of the Spirit internally by, or with those external means. .: * tliTc
1. Men have a season of salvation, when God sends the means •ad instruments of salvation among them. When the gospel is powerfully preached among a people, there'is a door opened to them; 2 Cor. ii. it. " When I came to Troas to preach tbc "gospel, a door was opened to me of the Lord." God as it were unlocks the door of heaven by the preaching of the gospel: Souls have then an opportunity to step in and be saved.
t. But yet it is not a -wide and effectual door (as the apostle phrases it, i Cor. xvi. o.) till the Spirit of God joins with, and works upon the heart by those external means and instruments; as the waters of the pool of Bethesda had no inherent senarive virtue in themselves, until the angel of the Lord descended and troubled them: but both together make a blessed season for the souls of men, Then he stands at the door, and knocks, by convictions and persuasions, Rev. iii. 20. strives with men, as he did with, the old world by the ministry of Noah, Gen. vi. 3. Now the door of opportunity is indeed opened; but this will not always last; there is a time when the Spirit ceases to strive, and when the door isshut, Luke xiii 25.
There is a season, when by the fresh impressions some ordinance or providence of God, mens hearts are awakened, and their afsections stirred. It is now with the fouls of men as it is with fruit trees in the spring, when they put forth blofsoms; if they Jcnit and set, fruit follows, if they be nipt and blasted, no fruit can be expected. For all convictions and mot'ions of the affections are to grace, much the lame thing as blofsoms are to fruit, which are but the rudiments thereof,sruiTus tmper/etlus et ordinahilis, somewhat in order to it; and look as that isa critical and hazardous season to trees, so is this to souls. I do not fay it is in the power of any soul to make the work of the Spirit effectual and abiding, by adding his endeavours to the Spirit's motions; for then conversion wonld not be the free and arbitrary act of the Spirit, as in Job iii. 8. neither would souls be born of God, but of the will of man, contrary to John i. 13, And yet it is not to be thought or said, that mens endeavours and strivings are altogether vain, needless, and insignificant; because, though they cannot make God's grace effectual, his grace can make them effectual; they are our duty, and God can bless them to our great advantage. Now there are, among others, five remarkable essays, efforts, or sirivitigs of a foul under the , impression and hand of the Spirit, that greatly tend to the fixing, settling, and securing of that great work on the soul; and it is seldom known any soul iniscatiies in whom these things ars found.
I.Deep, serious, and fixed consideration: which lets conviction deep into the Ibul, and settles it, and roots it fast in the heart, Psai cxix. 50. "I thought on my ways, and turned my seer "onto thy testimonies." There are close and anxious debates in those fouls in whom convictions prosper to full conversion: they sit alone, and think close to their great and eternal concerns: they carry their thoughts back to the evils of their lise past, then smite on the thigh, and cry, What have I done? They rua their thoughts forward into ettrnity, and that to a great depth, and then cry, "What (hill I do to be laved?" They deliberate and weigh, in their most advisey thoughts, what is to be done, and that speedily, for escaping wrath to come; thus they fix those tender, weak and hazardous motions, which die away in' multitudes of fouls; and, in the loss of them, the seasons of salvation are also lost.
2. The first stirrings and motions of the Spirit, upon m hearts, do then become a season of salvation to them, when they are accompanied with spiritual, servent, and frequent prayer: so it was with Paul, Acts ix. 11. "Behold he prayeth." It isa good sign when souls get alone, and efsect privacy and retirement, to pour out their sears, sorrows, and requests unto God. It is. in the espousals of a soul to Christ, as it is in other marriages; a third person may make the motion, and bring the parties together, but they only betwixt themselves must conclude and agree the matter. Prayer is the first breath which the new creature draws in, and the last (ordinarily) it breaths out in this world. This nourishes and maturates those weak, tender, and first motions after God, and brings them to some consistence and fixedness in the soul.
3. Then do those motions of the Spirit on mens hearts make a season of salvation to them, when they remain and settle in the heart, and are in them per modum quietis, by way of rest and abode, following the man from place to place, from day to day; so that whatever unpleasing diversions the necessities and incumbrances of this world at any time give, yet still they return again' npon the heart, and will not vanish, or sufser any longer suspension: but in others, who lose their blessed advantage and season, it is quite contrary; James i 23, 24. "They are as one that "seeth his naturatface in a glass, and goeth away and forgetteth "what manner of man he was:" He sees some spot on his face, or disorder in his band, which he purposeth to correct; but, by one occurrence or another, he forgets what he saw in the glass, and so goes all the day with his spot upon him. This was an evaaid-light purpose, which cams to nothing for want of a present execution; just so it is with many in reserence to their
great concerns: but if the impteffion abide in its strength, if ic
return, and follow the foul, and will not let it be quiet, it is
like then to prosper, and prove the time of mercy indeed to such
4. An anxious sollicitude, and inquisitiveness, about the means and ways of salvation, speaks an efsectual door of sal vation to be set open to the souls of men, Acts ii. 37. and xvi. 30. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Men and brethren, what "shall we, do?" q. d. we are in a miserable condition; oh you the ministers of Christ, instruct, counsel, and shew us what course to take: Is there no balm in Gilead? no door of hope in this valley of Achor? Alas! we are not able to dwell with our own sears, terrors, and presages of wrath to come. Oh for a messenger, one among a thousand, to teach us the way of salvation. Thus the Lord rivets and fixes those motions in some
TM '1851s, that vanish like a morning mist, or dew.
5. Lastly, That which secures and completes this work, is the execution of those purposes and convictions, by falling, without delay, to the work of faith and repentance in good earnest, dallying no more with so great a concern, standing no longer at shall I? shall 1? when mean while time flies away, and opportunities may be lost: but bring their thoughts and debates to peremptory resolution, as the Lepers at Samaria did; and seeing themselves shut up to one only door of hope, there they resolve to take their station, lying at the seet of Jesus Christ, and casting their poor burdened souls upon him, whatever be the issue. When the Spirit of God ripens the first motions to this, and carries them through that critical season thus far, there is an effectual door of opportunity opened indeed; this is an acceptable time, a day of salvation: but oh! how many thousands miscarry in this season, and like trees removed from one soil to another, die in the removal!
But certainly, it is the most solemn and important concern of every foul to watch upon all these seasons of salvation, when God comes nigh to them by convictions and motions of his Spirit; and to put the lame value upon these things that they do upon their souls, and the salvation of them. This is the door of hope set open, a fresh gale to carry you home to your port of glory. Salvation is now come nigh to your souls; there is but a little betwixt you and blessedness. Wife and happy is that soul which knows and improves its season. To persuade and press men to discern and improve such seasons as these, is the principal work of the preachers of the gospel, and that special work to which 1 now address myself, in the following motives and arguments.
Arg. 1. And first, who, that hath the free exercise of reasIon, and the sense of a future eternal estate, would carelessly neglect any season of salvation, whilst he seeth all the rational world so carefully attending, and watching all opportunities to promote, and secure their lower concerns, and designs for the present lise?
fs not the laving a man's soul as weighty a concern, as the getting of an estate? You cannot but observe how careful merchants are, to nick- the opportunity which protniseth them a good turn; how do poor scameft look out for a wind, to waft them to their port, and industriously shift their sails, to improve every flaw that may set them on their voyage; how many miles tradesmen will travel to be in season at a sair, to put off, or purchase goods, to their advantage: No entertainments, recreations, or importunities of friends, can prevaiT with any of these, to lose a day, on which thfir business depends; all things must give way to their business; they all understand their seasons, and will not be diverted. But, alas! what childish toys are all these, compared with their salvation! what is the loss of a little money, to the loss of a man's soul? If a man's lise depended upon his being at such a place, by such a precise hour, sure he would not over-steep his time that morning; and had he but the least sear of coming too late, every stroke of the clock would strike to his heart; and yet remissaess, and carelessness, in such a case as this, is infinitely more excusable, than in the matter of salvation. Certainly the sollicitude, and care of all the world for the interests thereof, yea, your own diligence, and circumspection in temporal things, will be an uncontroulable, and confounding selfconviction to you in the day of your account, and leave you without plea, or apology, for your supine neglects of the seasons of salvation.
Arg. 2. The consideration of the uncertainty, and flippery ■ature of these spiritual seasons, must awaken in us all care, and diligence to secure, and improve them: This nick of opportunity is tempus labile, a slippery season; it is but short it* itself, and very uncertain: "To day, whilst it is said to day *' fsaith the apostle) if ye will hear hts voice," Heb. iii. 15. q. d. You have now a short, uncertain, but most precious, and valeable season for your souls, lay hold on it, whilst it is called to-day ,. for, if this season. be let slip, the time to come is called