The VI. Sermon.
EZEK. xviii. 31.
SInce the Devil was turned out of Heaven, all his care and counsels have been employed to keep us from coming thither; and finding Gods love very forward and encreasing towards us, he hath set us upon all ways of enmity and opposition against him. [ D] The first warlike exploit he put us upon, was the building of Babel, when man having fortified him∣self, and the arm of flesh grown stout, began to reproach and chal∣lenge, and even assault the God of Heaven. But the success of that boldness cost so dear, that we have ever since been discouraged from such open proud attempts. Our malice and despight hath kept in some∣what more close and secretly, hath retired and setled in the Soul; the inward man hath ever since erected its Babel; proud and high [ E] imaginations out-bidding Heaven and God. These were a long while forged in the Brain, when instead of the acknowledgment of one true God, all Monsters of Atheism filled the understanding, sometimes with a multitude and shole of gods; sometimes deprived it quite, and left it utterly void of any: But now at last, the Devil and all the Atheism in the World, being at last exorcised and banished out of the Brain, by the evidence and power of truth, hath like the Legion, Luk. viii. which being cast out of the man, had leave to enter the Swine, [ F] fixt violently, and taken possession, and intrenched it self in the brutish bestial part, the Affections. All the swellings, and tumors, and ulcers, that ever shewed themselves in any portion of the circum∣ference, are now retired into the center: All the Atheism or Heresie that ever soared or floated in the Brain, or surface of the Soul, is now sunk Page 77 [ A] into the heart; and there the Devil is seated at ease, there to set up and fortifie, and contemn God for ever. So that in brief, the issue of all is this, There is an infinite opposition and thwarting, a profest com∣bate and bandying of forces betwixt the will of Man, and the Will of God; God doing, in a kind, his best on one side, & Man on the other. God wonderfully willing and desirous that we should live; man most perversly wilful to his own destruction. This is a truth of a most dis∣mal importance, that concerns you to be instructed in, and will not [ B] be more powerfully enforced on you from any place of Scripture, than the Text which I have read to you, Why will ye die? It is God speaks it, and with an infinite emphasis and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to note his pass∣ion and affectionateness in desiring our good, and willing that we should live.
And then secondly, Why will ye die? Mans resoluteness and stubborn wretchlesness towards his own ruine, rushing or tumbling as in a praecipice violently to Hell, like the swine, which formerly our [ C] Wills were resembled to,*Luk. viii. 33. running full speed down a steep place into the Lake. And these are like to prove the parts of my ensuing discourse; First, Gods willingness that we should be saved, Secondly, Mans wilfulness toward his own damnation. And of these plainly to your hearts, not your ears; not so much to advance your knowledg, which though it could be raised to the tallest pitch, might yet possibly bear thee company to Hell: but rather to encrease your zeal, to work someone good inclination in you, to perswade you to be [ D] content to suffer your selves to be saved; to be but so tame, as to be taken by Heaven, that now even besieges you. And with my affecti∣onate Prayers for success to this design, I will presume of your ears and patience, and begin first with the first, God's Willingness that we should live.
Why will ye die?
Amongst all other prejudices and mis-conceits that our phansie can [ E] entertain of God, I conceive not any so frequent or injurious to his At∣tributes, as to imagine him to deal double with Mankind in his Word; seriously to will one thing, and to make shew of another; to deliver himself in one phrase, and reserve himself in another. It were an unnecessary, officious undertaking to go about to be God's Advocate, to apologize for him, to vindicate his actions, or in Job's phrase, to accept the person of God. Our proceedings will be more Christian, if we take for a ground or principle, that scorns to be beholding to an Artist [ F] for a proof, that every word of God is an argument of his Will; every action an interpreter of his Word. So that howsoever he reveals himself, either in his Scripture, or his Works, so certainly he wisheth and intends to us in his secret Counsels. Every protestation of his love, every indignation at our stubbornness, every mercy confer'd on us, and that not insidiously, but with an intent to do us good, are Page 78 but wayes and methods to express his Will: are but rays, and emissi∣ons, [ A] and gleams of that eternal Love, which he exhibits to the World. Now there is no way to demonstrate this willingness of God that we should live, à priori, or by anything either in God or us, preexistent as the cause of it, unless it be his love, which yet is rather its genus than its cause, somewhat of larger extent, though otherwise coinci∣dent with it. The more vulgar powerful convincing way, is to en∣force it to your hearts by its effects, and those divers and familiar: some few of which we will insist on. [ B]
And first,* and principally, The sending of his Son; 1 Joh. iv. 9. In this was manifest the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the World, that we might live through him. Mark God's love to us in sending his Son, that we might live through him; His love, the cause of his Mission; this Mission, the manifestation and argument of that love; and that we live, the end of both. Had God been any way enclined to rigor or severity, there had needed no great skill, no artificial contrivance for a fair plausible execution of it; It [ C] had been but passing us by, the taking no notice of us, the leaving of us in our blood,* Ezek. xvi. and then Hell had presently opened its mouth upon us. We were all cast out in the open field to the loathing of our persons, in the day that we were born, Ezek. xvi. 5. ready for all the Vultures infernal to fix on,* that hideous Old Testament,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Eccles. xiv. 12. The Testament of Hell, or in the mercifullest constru∣ction, the Covenant of Grace had passed on us, naturally then (what infidelity now makes us) condemned already; our damnation seal'd [ D] to us with our life, born to no other inheritance, but Hell; as if the Devil had out of policy faln before Adam, or rather descended, and that in post,*like lightning, Luk. x. 18. left if his journey from Heaven, had been to have been performed after, some other Creature should have intercepted him of his prey. But God's Bowels were enlarged a∣bove the size, wider than either the covetous gates of Hell, or that hor∣rid yawning head that is all mouth. 'Twas not within the Devil's skill to fear, or suspect what a way of mercy and deliverance God had [ E] found out for us. Somewhat he understood by the event, the decay of his Prophetick Arts, becoming now his Oracle; and even his silence growing vocal to him: But all this could not declare the Mystery at large; when Christ was born, he would have been rid of him betimes, musters all his forces, Pharisees and People, Herods and Pilots, Rome and Jerusalem, and all the friends he had in the World, to make away with him; and yet when he was just come to the push, to the con∣summation of his plot, he was afraid to act it; as in the Epistle ascribed [ F] to Ignatius the Martyr,* and directed to the Philippians, 'tis observed, that whilst he was at a pretty distance, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the De∣vil hastned the structure of Christs Cross, as much as he could; set Judas and all the Artificers of Hell about the Work, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, but when all was even ready, Christ for the Cross, and the Cross for Page 79 [ A] Christ; then he began to put in demurs; shews Judas an Halter, frights Pilate's Wife in a dream, she could not sleep in quiet for him; and in sum, uses all means possible to prevent Christs Crucifixion. Yet this, saith Ignatius, not out of any repentance, or regret of Con∣science, but only being started with the foresight of his own ruine by this means: Christ's suffering being in effect the destruction of his Kingdom, his death our Triumph over Hell, and his Cross our Trophy. By this you may discern what a Miracle of God's love was this giving [ B] of his Son; the conceiving of which was above the Devil's reach, and wherein he was providentially engaged, and (if we may so speak) 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, carried blindfold by God, to be an Instrument of his own ruine, and in a kind, be a Co-worker of our Salvation. Not to enlarge or expatiate upon Circumstances; Man being thus involved in a necessity of damnation, & no remedy within the sphere, either of his power or conceit left to rescue him; (nay, as some have been so bold to say, that God himself had no other means, besides this in his [ C] Store-house of Miracles, to save us, without intrenching on some one of his Attributes) for God then to find out a course that we could never prompt him to, being sollicited to it by nothing in us, but our sins and misery, and without any interposition, any further consultation or de∣mur, to part with a piece of himself, to redeem us; Brachium Domini, The Arm of the Lord,* as Isaiah calls our Saviour, Isa. liii. Nay, to send down his very Bowels amongst us, to witness his compassion; to satisfie for us by his own death, and attach himself for our liberty; to undergo [ D] such hard conditions, rather than be forced to a cheap severity; and that he might appear to love his Enemies, to hate his Son: In brief, to fulfil the Work without any aid required from us, and make Sal∣vation ready to our hands, as Manna is called in the sixth of Wisdom,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Bread baked, and sent down ready from Heaven, Wisd. xvi. 20. to drop it in our mouths, and exact nothing of us, but to accept of it: this is an act of love and singleness, that all the malice we carry about us knows not how to suspect: so far from [ E] possibility of a treacherous intent, or double dealing, that if I were an Heathen, nay a Devil, I would bestow no other appellation on the Christians God, than what the Author of the Book of Wisdom doth so often, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the friend, or the lover of Souls. But this is a vulgar, though precious subject, and therefore I shall no longer insist on it. Only before I leave it, would I could see the effect of it exprest in our Souls, as well as acknowledged in our looks, your hearts ravished as thorowly as your brains convinc'd; your breasts as open to value [ F] and receive this superlative mercy, as your tongues to confess it; then could I triumph over Hell and death, and scoff them out of countenance; then should the Devil be reduced to his old pittance, confined to an empty corner of the World; and suffer as much by the solitariness, as darkness of his abode; all his engines and arts of tor∣ment should be busied upon himself, and his whole exercise to curse Page 80Christ for ever, that hath thus deprived him of Associates But alas! [ A] we are too sollicitous in the Devil's behalf, careful to furnish him with Companions, to keep him warm in the midst of fire; 'tis to be feared, we shall at last thrust him out of his Inheritance. 'Tis a pro∣bable argument that God desires our Salvation, because that Hell where∣soever it is, (whether at the Center of the Earth, or Concave of the Moon) must needs be far less than Heaven; and that makes us so be∣siege the gate, as if we feared weshould find no room there. We begin our journey betimes, left we should be forestall'd, and had rather ven∣ture [ B] a throng or crowd in Hell, than to expect that glorious liberty of the Sons of God. 'Tis to be feared, that at the day of Judgment, when each Body comes to accompany its Soul in torment, Hell must be let out, and enlarge its territories, to receive its Guests. Beloved, there is not a Creature here that hath reason to doubt, but Christ was sent to die for him, and by that death hath purchased his right to life. Only do but come in, do but suffer your selves to live, and Christ to have died; do not uncrucifie Christ by crucifying him again by your [ C] unbelief; do not disclaim the Salvation, that even claims right and title to you; and then the Angels shall be as full of joy to see you in Heaven, as God is willing, nay desirous to bring you thither; and Christ as ready to bestow that Inheritance upon you at his second coming, as at his first to purchase it. Nothing but Infidelity restrains Christs sufferings, and confines them to a few. Were but this one Devil cast out of the World, I should be straight of Origens Religion, and preach unto you Universal Catholick Salvation. [ D]
A second Argument of God's good meaning towards us of his wil∣lingness that we should live, is the calling of the Gentiles, the dispatch∣ing of Posts & Heralds over the whole ignorant Heathen World, and giving them notice of this treasure of Christs blood. Do but observe what a degree of prophaneness, & unnatural abominations the Gen∣tile World was then arrived to, as you may read in all their stories; and in the first to the Romans, how well grown, and ripe for the Devil, Christ found them; all of them damnably Superstitious and Idolatrous [ E] in their Worship; damnably unclean in their lives; nay, engaged for ever in this rode of damnation, by a Law they had made; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, never to entertain any new Laws,* or Religion: not to innovate, though it were to get Salvation, as besides their own Histories, may be gathered out of Act. xvii. 18. And lastly, consider how they were hook'd in by the Devil, to joyn in crucifying of Christ, that they might be guilty of that blood which might otherwise have saved them, and then you will find no argument to perswade you 'twas possible, that [ F] God should have any design of mercy on them. Peter was so resolv'd of the point, that the whole succession of the Gentiles should be damned, that God could scarce perswade him to go and Preach to one of them,*Act. x. He was fain to be cast into a Trance, and see a Vision about it; and for all that, he is much troubled about Page 81 [ A] the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, their prophaneness and uncleanness, that they were not fit for an Apostle to defile himself about their Con∣version.
And this was the general opinion of all the Jews; they of the Cir∣cumcision were astonished at the news,* Act. x. 45. Nay this is it that the Angels wondred at so, when they saw it wrought at the Church by Pauls Ministery; never dreaming it possible, till it was effected, as may appear,*Eph. iii. 10. This was the Mystery which from the begin∣ning [ B] of the World had been hid in God,* V. 9. One of God's Cabinet Counsels, a Mercy decreed in secret, that no Creature ever wist of, till it was performed.
And in this behalf are we all (being lineally descended from the Gentiles) bound over to an infinite measure both of humiliation and gratitude, for our deliverance from the guilt and reign of that second original sin, that Heathenism of our Ancestors, and Catholick damna∣tion, that Sixteen hundred years ago we were allinvolv'd in. Beloved, [ C] we were long ago set right again, and the obligation lies heavy upon us, to shew this change to have been wrought in us to some purpose; to prove our selves Christians in grain, so fixed and established, that all the Devils in Hell shall not be able to reduce us again to that abhorred condition. If we that are thus called out, shall fall back after so much Gospel to Heathen practices, and set up Shrines and Altars in our hearts to every poor delight that our sottishness can call a God; if we are not called out of their sins, as well as out of their ignorance; [ D] then have we advanced but the further toward Hell; we are still but Heathen Gospellers; our Christian Infidelity and practical Atheism, will but help to charge their guilt upon us, and damn us the deeper for being Christians. Do but examine your selves on this one Interro∣gatory, whether this calling the Gentiles hath found any effect in your hearts, any influence on your lives; whether your Conversations are not still as Heathenish as ever? If you have no other grounds or mo∣tives to embrace the Gospel, but only because you are born within the [ E] pale of the Church, no other evidences of your Discipleship, but your livery; then God is little beholding to you for your service, The same motives would have served to have made you Turks, if it had been your chance to have been born amongst them: and now all that fair Christian outside is not thank-worthy. 'Tis but your good for∣tune, that you are not now at the same work with the old Gentiles, or present Indians, a worshipping either Jupiter, or the Sun! 'Twas a shrewd speech of Clemens, that the life of every unregenerate Man, [ F] is an Heathen-life; and the sins of unsanctified Men, are Heathen∣sins; and the estate of a Libertine Christian, an Heathen estate: and unless our resolutions and practices are consonant to our profession of Christ, we are all still Heathens; and the Lord make us sensible of this our Condition.
Page 82 The third, and in sum, the powerfullest Argument to prove God's [ A] willingness that we should live, is, that he hath bestowed his spirit upon us; that as soon as he called up the Son, he sent the Comforter. This may seem to be the main business that Christ ascended to Heaven a∣bout; so that a Man would guess from the xvi.* Chapter of St. John and Vers. 7. that if it had not been for that, Christ had tarried amongst us till this time; but that it was more expedient to send the Spirit to speak those things powerfully to our hearts, which often and in vain had been sounded in our ears. 'Tis a fancy of the Paracelsians, that [ B] if we could suck out the lives and spirits of other Creatures, as we feed on their flesh, we should never die: their lives would nourish and transubstantiate into our lives, their spirit increase our spirits, and so our lives grow with our years, & the older we were, by consequence the fuller of life; and so no difficulty to become Immortal. Thus hath God dealt with us; first sent his Son, his Incarnate Son, his own Flesh, to feed, and nourish us; and for all this, we die daily: he hath now given us his own very Life, and incorporeous Essence, a piece of [ C] pure God, his very Spirit to feed upon, and digest, that if it be possible we might live. There is not a vein in our Souls, unless it be quite pin'd and shrivel'd up, but hath some blood produced in it by that holy nou∣rishment; every breath that ever we have breathed toward Heaven, hath been thus inspired; besides those louder Voices of God, either sounding in his Word, or thundring in his Judgments: there is his calm, soft voice of Inspiration, like the Night Vision of old, which stole in upon the mind, mingled with sleep, and gentle slumber. He [ D] draws not out into the Field, or meets us as an Enemy; but entraps us by surprize, and disarms us in our quarters, by a Spiritual Stratagem conquers at unawares, and even betrays, and circumvents, and cheats us into Heaven. That precept of Pythagoras,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, To worship at the noise and whistling of the wind, had sense, and divinity in it, that Iamblicus that cites it never dreamt of; that every sound and whispering of this Spirit, which rustles either about our ears, or in our hearts, (as the Philosopher saith, Tecum est, [ E] intus est) when it breaths, and blows within us, the stoutest faculty of our Souls, the proudest piece of flesh about us should bow down, and worship. Concerning the manner of the Spirits working, I am not, I need not to dispute. Thus far it will be seasonable and profitable for you to know, that many other Illuminations and holy Graces are to be imputed to Gods Spirit, besides that by which we are effectually con∣verted. God speaks to us many times, when we answer him not, and shines about our eyes, when we either wink, or sleep. Our many sud∣den [ F] short-winded Ejaculations toward Heaven, our frequent, but weak inclinations to good, our ephemerous wishes, that no man can distinguish from true piety, but by their sudden death; our every-day resolutions of obedience, whilestwe continue in sin are arguments that God's Spirit hath shined on us, though the warmth that it produced Page 83 [ A] be soon chill'd with the damp it meets with in us. For example, there is no doubt, beloved, but the Spirit of God accompanies his Word, as at this time, to your ears; if you will but open at its knock, and re∣ceive, and entertain it in your hearts, it shall prove unto you accord∣ing to its most glorious attribute, Rom. i. The power of God unto sal∣vation: But if you will refuse it, your stubborness may repel and frustrate God's Work, but not annihilate it; though you will not be saved by it, it is God's still, and so shall continue to witness against you [ B] at the day of doom. Every word that was every darted from that Spirit, as a beam or javelin of that piercing Sun, every atome of that flaming Sword, as the word is phrased, shall not, though it be rebated, va∣nish: the day of vengeance shall instruct your Souls, that it was sent from God, and since it was once refused, hath been kept in store, not to upbraid, but damn you.
Many other petty occasions the Spirit ordinarily takes to put off the Cloud, and open his Face towards us: nay, it were not a ground∣less [ C] doubt, whether he do not always shine, and the cloud be only in our hearts, which makes us think the Sun is gone down, or quite extinct, if at any time we feel not his rays within us. Beloved, there be many things amongst us, that single fire can do nothing upon; they are of such a stubborn, frozen nature, there must be some material thing for the fire to consist in, a sharp iron, red hot, that may bore, as well as burn or else there is small hopes of conquering them. Many men are so hardned and congealed in sin, that the ordinary beam of [ D] the Spirit cannot hope to melt them; the fire must come consubstan∣tiate with some solid instrument, some sound, corpulent, piercing judgment, or else it will be very unlikely to thrive. True it is, the Spirit is an omnipotent Agent, which can so invisibly infuse and insinuate its vertue through the inward man, that the whole most enraged adversary shall presently fall to the earth, Act. ix. the whole carnal man lie prostrate, and the sinner be without delay converted; and this is a Miracle which I desire from my heart, might be present∣ly [ E] shewed upon every Soul here present.
But that which is to my present purpose, is only this, That God hath also other manners and ways of working, which are truly to be said to have descended from Heaven, though they are not so successful as to bring us thither; other more calm, and less boysterous influen∣ces, which if they were received into an honest heart, might prove semen immortalitatis, and in time encrease, and grow up to immor∣tality.
[ F] There is no such encumbrance to trash us in our Christian Progress as a fancy that some men get possessed with; that if they are elected, they shall be called and saved in spight of their teeth; every man ex∣pecting an extraordinary call, because Saul met with one; and per∣haps running the more fiercely, because Saul was then called, when he was most violent in his full speed of malice against Christians.
Page 84 In this behalf, all that I desire of you is, First, to consider, that [ A] though our regeneration be a miracle, yet there are degrees of miracles, and thou hast no reason to expect, that the greatest and strongest mi∣racle in the world, shall in the highest degree be shewed in thy Salva∣tion. Who art thou, that God should take such extraordinary pains with thee?
Secondly, To resolve, that many precious rays and beams of the Spirit, though when they enter, they come with power; yet through our neglect, may prove transitory, pass by that heart which is not [ B] open for them.
And then thirdly, You will easily be convinced, that no duty concerns us all so strictly, as to observe, as near as we can, when thus the Spirit, appears to us; to collect and muster up the most lively, quick-sighted, sprightfullest of our faculties: and with all the per∣spectives that spiritual Opticks can furnish us with, to lay wait for every glance and glimpse of its fire or light. We have ways in nature, to apprehend the beams of the Sun, be they never so weak and languish∣ing, [ C] and by uniting them into a burning Glass, to turn them into afire. Oh that we were as witty and sagacious in our spiritual estate! then it were easie for those sparks which we so often either contemn or stifle, to thrive within us, and at least, break forth into a flame.
In brief, Incogitancy and inobservance of Gods seasons, supine numbness, and negligence in spiritual affairs, may on good grounds be resolved on, as the main or sole cause of our final impenitence and con∣demnation; it being just with God, to take those away in a sleep who [ D] thus walked in a dream, and at last to refuse them, whom he hath so long sollicited. He that hath scorned or wasted his inheritance, can∣not complain if he dies a bankrupt; nor he that hath spent his candle at play, count it hard usage, that he is fain to go to bed darkling. It were easie to multiply arguments on this theme, & from every minute of our lives, to discern some pawn and evidence of Gods fatherly will and desire that we should live. Let it suffice, that we have been large, if not abundant in these three chief ones: First, The giving of [ E] his Son to the World. Secondly, Dispatching the Gospel to the Gentiles. And lastly, The sending of his Spirit. We come now to a view of the opposite trenches, which lie pitched at the Gates of Hell▪ obstinate and peremptory to besiege, and take it: Mans resolvedness and wilfulness to die, my second part.
Why will you die?
There is no one conceit that engages us so deep, to continue in [ F] sin, that keeps us from repentance, and hinders any seasonable Re∣formation of our wicked lives, as a perswasion, that God's will is a cause of all events. Though we are not so blasphemous as to ven∣ture to define God the Author of sin; yet we are generally inclined for Page 85 [ A] a fancy, that because all things depend on God's decree, whatsoever we have done, could not be otherwise; all our care could not have cut off one sin from the Catalogue. And so being resolved, that when we thus sinned, we could not chuse, we can scarce tell how to repent for such necessary fatal misdemeanors; the same excuses which we have for having sinned formerly, we have for continuing still, and so are generally better prepared for Apologies than Reformation. Beloved, it will certainly much conduce to our edification, instead of this specu∣lation [ B] (whose grounds or truth, I will not now examine) to fix this practical theorem in our hearts, that the will of man is the principal cause of all our evil, that death either as it is the punishment of sin, eternal death, or as it is the sin it self, a privation of the life of grace, spiritual death, is wholly to be imputed to our wilful will. It is a Pro∣bleme in Aristotle, why some Creatures are longer in conceiving and bringing forth than others, and the sensiblest reason he gives for it, is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the hardness of the Womb, which is like dry earth, [ C] that will not presently give any nourishment to either seed or plant; and so is it in the spiritual conception, and production of Christ, that is, of life in us: The hardness and toughness of the heart, the womb where he is to be born, that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that dry Earth, in the Philoso∣phers; or that way-side, or at best stony ground in Christs phrase, is the only stop and delay in begetting of life within us, the only cause of either barrenness or hard travail in the Spirit. Be the brain never so soft and pliable, never so waxy and capable of impressions; yet if the [ D] heart be but carnal, if it have any thing much of that lust of the flesh, 1 John ii. 15.* in its composition, it will be hard for the spiritual life to be conceived in that man. For Faith, the only means by which Christ lives and dwells in us,*Ephes. iii. 17. is to be seated in the heart, i. e. the will and affections, according to the express words, That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. So that, be your brains never so swel∣led and puft up with perswasions of Christ our Saviour, be they so big that they are ready to ly-in, and travail of Christ, as Jove's did of Mi∣nerva [ E] in the Poem; yet if the heart have not joyned in the concepti∣on, if the seed sown have not taken root and drawn nourishment from the will, it is but an aerial or phantastical birth, or indeed rather a dis∣ease or tympany; nay, though it come to some proof, and afterward extend and increase in limbs and proportions never so speciously, yet if it be only in the brain, neither is this to be accounted solid nourishment & augmentation, but such as a Camaelion may be thought to have, that feeds on air, and it self is little better, and in sum, not [ F] growth but swellings.
So then if the will, either by nature, or custom of sinning, by fa∣miliarity and acquaintance, making them dote on sensual objects, otherwise unamiable; by business and worldly ambitious thoughts, great enemies to faith; or by pride and contentment, both very inci∣dent to noble Personages and great Wits, to Courtiers and Scholars:Page 86 In brief, if this Will, the stronger and more active part of the Soul, re∣main [ A] carnal, either in indulgence to many, or, which is the snare of judicious men in chief, of some one prime sin, then cannot all the faith in the world, bring that man to Heaven, it may work so much miracle as Simon Magus is said to have done, who undertook to raise the dead, give motion to the head, make the eyes look up or the tongue speak; but the lower part of the man, and that the heaviest, will by no charm or spell be brought to stir, but weigh & sink even into Hell, will still be carcass and corruption;*Damnation is his birth-right, Ecclus. xx. 25. [ B] And it is impossible, though not absolutely, yet ex hypothesi, the second Covenant being now sealed, even for God himself, to save him or give him life. It is not David's Musick, that exorcised and quieted Saul's evil spirit, nor Pythagoras's Spondees that tamed a man, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉set him right in his wits for ever, that can work any effect on a fleshy heart: So that Chrysostom would not wonder at the voice that cried, O Altar, Altar, hear the voice of the Lord, because Jeroboam's heart was harder than that; nor will I find fault with Bonaventure that made a solemn [ C] prayer for a stony heart, as if it were more likely to receive impressi∣on, than that which he had already of flesh.
It were long to insist on the wilfulness of our fleshy hearts, how they make a faction within themselves, and bandy faculties for the Devil; how when grace and life appear, and make proffer of them∣selves, all the carnal affections, like them in the Gospel, Joyn all with one consent to make excuses;* nothing in our whole lives we are so solli∣citous for, as to get off fairly, to have made a cleanly Apology to the in∣vitations [ D] of God's Spirit, and yet for a need rather than go, we will venture to be unmannerly: We have all married a Wife, espoused our selves to some amiable delight or other; we cannot, we will not come. The Devil is wiser in his generation than we, he knows the price and value of a Soul & will pay any rate for it, rather than lose his market; he will give all the riches in the world, rather than miss. And we at how low a rate do we prize it? it is the cheapest commodity we carry about us. The beggarliest content under Heaven, is fair, is rich enough [ E] to be given in exchange for the Soul. Spiritus non ponderat, saith the Philosopher; the Soul being a spirit, when we put it into the balance, weighs nothing; nay, more than so, it is lighter than vanity, lighter than nothing, i. e. it doth not only weigh nothing, but even lifts up the scale it is put into, when nothing is weighed against it. How many sins, how many vanities, how many idols, i. e. in the Scripture phrase, how many nothings be there in the world, each of which will outweigh and preponderate the Soul? [ F]
It were tedious to observe and describe the several ways that our devillish sagacity hath found out to speed our selves to damnation, to make quicker dispatch in that unhappy rode, than ever Elias his fiery Chariot could do toward Heaven, Our daily practice is too full of arguments, almost every minute of our lives, as it is an example, so is Page 87 [ A] it a proof of it: Our pains will be employed to better purpose, if we leave that as a worn, beaten, common place, and, betake our selves to a more necessary Theme, a close of Exhortation.
And that shall be by way of Treaty, as an Ambassador sent from God, that you will lay down your arms, that you will be content to be friends with God, and accept of fair terms of composition, which are, That as you have thus long been enemies to God, proclaiming hostili∣ty, [ B] & perpetually opposing every merciful will of his by that wilfulness; so now being likely to fall into his hands, you will prevent that ruine, you will come in; and whilst it is not too late, submit your selves, that you may not be forced as Rebels and outlaws, but submit as Servants. This perhaps may be your last parley for peace, and if you stand out, the battery will begin suddenly, and with it the horrendum est, Heb. x. 31. It is a fearful, hideous thing to fall into the hands of the living God: All that remains upon our wilful holding out, may be (the doom of A∣postates [ C] from Christianity) a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation that shall devour the adversaries, Vers. 27. And me∣thinks the very emphasis in my Text, notes as much; Why will you die? As if we were just now falling into the pit, and there were but one minute betwixt this time of our jollity, and our everlasting hell. Do but lay this one circumstance to your hearts, do but suppose your selves on a Bed of sickness, laid at with a violent burning Fever, such a one as shall finally consume the whole world; as it were battered [ D] with thundering and lightning, and besieged with fire, where the next throw or plunge of thy disease, may possibly separate thy soul from thy body, and the mouth of Hell just then open and yawning at thee; and then suppose there were one only minute, wherein a serious resigning up thy self to God, might recover you to Heaven. O then what power and energy! what force and strong efficacy, would there be in this voice from God, Why will you die? I am resolved, that heart that were truly sensible of it, that were prepared seasonably by all these [ E] circumstances to receive it, would find such inward vigor and spirit from it, that it would strike death dead in that one minute; this ultimus conatus, this last spring and plunge, would do more than a thousand heartless heaves in a lingring sickness, and perhaps over∣come, and quit the danger.
And therefore let me beseech you to represent this condition to your selves, and not any longer be flattered or couzened in a slow se∣curity: To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. If you [ F] let it alone till this day come in earnest, you may then perhaps heave in vain, labour and struggle, and not have breath enough to send up one sigh toward Heaven. The hour of our death we are wont to call Tempus improbabilitatis, a very improbable inch of time to build our Heaven in; as after death is impossibilitatis, a time wherein it is impos∣sible to recover us from Hell. If nothing were required to make us Page 88Saints, but outward performances; if true repentance were but to [ A] groan, and Faith but to cry, Lord, Lord; we could not promise our selves, that at our last hour we should be sufficient for that; perhaps a Lethargy may be our fate, and then, what life or spirits even for that? perhaps a Fever may send us away raving, in no case to name God, but only in oaths and curses; and then it were hideous to tell you, what a Bethlehem we should be carried to: But when that which must save us must be a work of the Soul, and a gift of God, how can we promise our selves, that God will be so merciful, whom we have till then con∣temned, [ B] or our souls then capable of any holy impression, having been so long frozen in sin, and petrified even into Adamant? Beloved, as a man may come to such an estate of grace here, that he may be most sure he shall not fall, as St. Paul in likelihood was, when he resolved that nothing could separate him: So may a man be engaged so far in sin, that there is no rescuing from the Devil. There is an irreversible estate in evil, as well as good, and perhaps I may have arrived to that be∣fore my hour of death; for I believe Pharaoh was come to it, Exod. [ C] ix. 34. after the seventh Plague hardning his heart; and then I say, it is possible, that thou that hitherto hast gone on in habituate, stupid, customary rebellions, mayest be now at this minute, arrived to this pitch, That if thou run on one pace farther, thou art engaged for ever past recovery. And therefore at this minute, in the strength of your age and lusts, this speech may be as seasonable, as if death were seizing on you, Why will you die? At what time soever thou repent∣est, God will have mercy; but this may be the last instant wherein [ D] thou canst repent, the next sin may benumb or fear thy heart, that even the pangs of death shall come on thee insensibly; that the rest of thy life shall be a sleep, or lethargy, and thou lie stupid in it, till thou findest thy self awake in flames. Oh, if thou shouldst pass away in such a sleep! Again, I cannot tell you whether a death-bed re∣pentance shall save you, or no. The Spouse sought Christ on her bed, but found him not, Cant. iii. 1. The last of Ecclesiastes would make a man suspect,* that remembring God when our feeble impotent [ E] age comes on us, would stand us in little stead. Read it, for it is a most learned powerful Chapter. This I am sure of, God hath chosen to himself,*a people Zealous of good works, Tit. ii. 14. And they that find not some of this holy fire alive within them, till their Souls are going out, have little cause to think themselves of God's election: So that perhaps there is something in it,* that Matth. iii. 8. the Exhorta∣tion, bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, is exprest by a tense that ordinarily signifies time past, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, have brought forth fruits. [ F] It will not be enough upon an exigence, when there is no way but one with me, to be inclinable to any good works, to resolve to live well, when I expect to die. I must have done this, and more too in my life, if I expect any true comfort at my death. There is not any point we err more familiarly in, and easily, than our spiritual condition;Page 89 [ A] what is likely to become of us after death? Any slight phansie that Christ died for us in particular, we take for a Faith that will be sure to save us.
Now there is no way to preserve our selves from this Error, but to measure our Faith and Hopes by our Obedience; that if we sincerely obey God, then are we true believers: And this cannot well be done by any that begins not till he is on his death-bed; be his inclinations to good then never so strong, his faith in Christ never [ B] so lusty; yet how knows he, whether it is only fear of death, and a conviction, that in spight of his teeth, he must now sin no longer, that hath wrought these inclinations, produced this faith in him?
Many a sick man resolves strongly to take the Physicians dose, in hope that it will cure him; yet when he comes to taste its bitter∣ness, will rather die than take it. If he that on his death-bed hath made his solemnest, severest Vows, should but recover to a possibi∣lity [ C] of enjoying those delights which now have given him over, I much fear his fiercest resolutions would be soon out-dated. Such in∣clinations that either hover in the Brain only, or float on the Sur∣face of the Heart, are but like those wavering, temporary thoughts, Jam. i. 6. Like a wave of the Sea, driven by the wind and tost; they have no firmness or stable consistence in the Soul; it will be hard to build Heaven on so slight a foundation.
All this I have said, not to discourage any tender, languishing [ D] Soul, but by representing the horrors of death to you now in health, to instruct you in the doctrine of Mortality betimes, so to speed and hasten your Repentance: Now, as if to morrow would be too late, as if there were but a small Isthmus or inch of ground between your present mirth and jollity, and your everlasting earnest.
To gather up all on the Clue: Christ is now offered to you as a Jesus: The times and sins of your Heathenism and unbelief, God winketh at,*Acts xvii. 30. The Spirit proclaims all this by the Word [ E] to your hearts; and now (God knows if ever again) commands all men every where to repent.
Oh that there were such a Spirit in our hearts, such a zeal to our eternal bliss, and indignation at Hell; that we would give one heave and spring before we die; that we would but answer those invitati∣ons of mercy, those desires of God, that we should live with an incli∣nation, with a breath, with a sigh toward Heaven.
Briefly, if there be any strong, violent, boisterous Devil within [ F] us, that keeps possession of our hearts against God; if the lower sen∣sual part of our Soul; if an habit of sin, i. e. a combination or legion of Devils, will not be over-topped by reason or grace in our hearts; if a major part of our carnal faculties be still canvasing for Hell; if for all our endeavors and pains it may appear to us, that this kind of evil spirit will not be cast out, save only by Fasting and Prayer:Page 90 Then have we yet that remedy left, First, To fast and pine, and [ A] keep him weak within, by denying him all foreign, fresh Provision, all new occasions of sin, and the like, and so to block, and in time, starve him up: And then secondly, To pray that God will second and fortifie our endeavours; that he will force, and rend, and ravish this carnal Devil out of us; that he will subdue our wills to his will; that he will prepare and make ready life for us, and us for life; that he will prevent us by his grace here, and accomplish us with his glory hereafter. [ A]
Now to him, &c.