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But tho' to enter therefore upon all the particular Devices of Satan whereby he leads Men into Sin, be a Work as needlefs as it would be infinite; yet fome general Remarks there are, which we may do well to make in order to our fecurity.
And ift. It is commonly the first step which the Devil takes towards the leading Men into Sin, to perfuade them to a Carelessnefs and Indiffe rence in their Duty. Whil'ft Men are Warm and Vigorous in the Practice of Piety, zealous of God's Honour, and fincere in the pursuance of what makes it; 'tis plain the Enemy can get but very little Advantage of us. But if inftead of this, we live only in a form of Godliness, and regard not the Power of it: If we are negligent and unconcerned for Religion, and take but little Notice of what it requires of us; We are then ready for the Tempter to make his Affault upon us: And 'twill be no hard matter to deceive that Man into the commiffion of Sin, who is already but very little affected with the Senfe of his Duty, nor takes any great Care for the fulfilling of it.
2dly, Another Device whereby the Devil often gets an Advantage of us, not only to hinder our Piety, but even to lead us into the greateft Violations of it, is by the Customs and Opinion of the World. I have before obferved what Slaves we are, the very best of us, to these Things. They Corrupt our Practice, and Debauch our very Reafon and Underftanding. And we may at this Day find many Things in the practice of Mankind, become the Praife and Accomplishment of a Gen
tleman, which, were we to examine them by the Rules of the Gofpel, would be feen to have no part in the Character of a Chriftian. And then I need not fay how fatally dangerous that must be to lead us into Sin, which is able fo far to deceive our very Confciences, as not to be thought to carry any Guilt or Shame in the Commiffion of it.
And thefe are fuch Devices whereby the Devil often times draws Men into Sin; I will add only two more, whereby, when once Men are engaged in a Course of Sin, he is wont to ftrengthen and confirm them in it: viz. ft. An unreasonable Hope of God's Mercy; And 2dly. A vain dependance on their own future Repentance: That is to fay, They Sin on now, in profpect of amendment hereafter; and then they make no doubt but that they fhall find Favour and Mercy with God, as well as other Sinners in the like Circumftances have done before them.
But, O God! what a defperate Reliance is this, whereon to venture all the Hopes and Glories of Eternity! For tell me, O Sinner! whoever thou art that thus projecteft a future Amendment, after thou haft taken thy fill of Pleasure, and art no longer able to pursue thy Sins and thy Debaucheries: What fecurity haft thou, that That God whom thou fo defpifeft fhall continue thy Life to thee, and give thee any fuch Time and Opportunity to Repent? Canft thou command the Sun that it fhould ftand ftill, and put a stop to thy Days, that thou may'it the more freely follow thy Revels and thy Delights? Or canft thou hope, when thou lyeft down on thy laft Bed, with Hezekiah, to add a new Series of Years to thy expiring Breath, by then lifting up thy prophane Heart, and thy de
ceitful Voice, to That God whom thou haft fo long continued to offend?
Nay, but couldft thou do this, and fo arrive to the time thou haft affigned for this Work; Art thou fure thou fhalt then be in a Capacity of fulfilling it? There is a time when there fhall be no more any Opportunity for Repentance, tho' we should have otherwife leifure enough for the accomplishing of it. And fure if any, fuch is the most likely to be that Seafon, which Wicked Men have lay'd out for their return to their Duty, in order to their going on for the prefent in their Evil Doings. Nor is there any Reason why that Man fhould expect Grace to repent at the laft, who all his Life long has neglected and defpifed the Offers of it.
I will not now fay how unfit a time that of Old Age and Sickness is for fo great an undertaking: When the Soul as well as Body is Feeble and Impotent; when the Memory is decay'd, the Reafon fails, and our Affections are dull, our Zeal is cold, and all our Thoughts taken up with the Horrors of Hell, and the Senfe of those Infirmities under which the Body Labours. But fure I am, all these Things ought to convince Men of the defperate Folly, and even Madness of fuch a Procraftination; and to engage them, whil'ft they have yet the time, to lay hold upon that Mercy, which it may be they fhall hereafter neither have Grace nor Opportunity to implore.
But I must not purfue thefe Things any further; nor fhall I make any Application of what I have already offered: But, without more enlargement, will conclude all with the Words of the Church.
See this more at large, Serm. VI, VII,
* O God, who_knoweft us to be fet in the midst of Jo many and great Dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our Nature we cannot always Stand upright: Grant to us fuch frength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Fefus Chrift our Lord. To whom, &c.
* Collect for the ivth Sunday after Epiphany.
Of Stedfaftness in Religion.
Preached before the Prince and Princefs of Denmark, August 5. 1688.
2 PE T. III. 17, 18.
Te therefore, Beloved, feeing ye know these Things before, beware, left ye alfo being led away with the Error of the Wicked, fall from your own Stedfaftness.
grow in Grace, and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jefus Chrift: To him be Glory, both now and for ever.
HESE Words are not only the Clofe of this Epiftle, but alfo the Application of all that the Apostle before had written in it. And for the Understanding of them, we must obferve, that the Defign of St. Peter, in this Addrefs to the Chriftians, difperfed abroad among the Jews, and now under