A CALL to the UNCONVERTED,
TO TURN and LIVE;
And accept of MERCY, while MERCY may be had;
as ever they will find MERCY,
in the Day of their EXTREMITY from the Living God.
by Richard Baxter
Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
Say to them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure
in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way
and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for,
why will ye die, O house of Israel?
T hath been
the astonishing wonder of many a man, as well as me, to
read in the holy Scripture, how few will be saved; and that the
greatest part, even of those that are called, will be everlastingly
shut out of the kingdom of heaven, and be tormented with the devils in
eternal fire. Infidels believe not this when they read it, and
therefore they must feel it. Those that do believe it are forced to cry
out with Paul, Rom. xi. 33, "O the depth of the riches both of the
wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and
his ways past finding out!" but nature itself doth teach us all to lay
the blame of evil works upon the doers, and therefore, when we see any
heinous thing done, a principle of justice doth provoke us to inquire
after him that did it, that the evil of the work may return the evil of
shame upon the author. If we saw a man killed and cut in pieces we
would presently ask, "Oh! who did this cruel deed?" If the town was
wilfully set on fire, you would ask, "what wicked wretch did this?" So
when we read that most will be firebrands of hell for ever, we must
needs think with ourselves, how comes this to pass? and who is it the fault of?
who is it that is so cruel as to be the cause of such a thing as
this? and we can meet with few that will own the guilt. It is indeed
confessed by all that Satan is the cause: but that doth not resolve the
doubt, because he is not the principal cause. He doth not force men to
sin, but tempt them to it; and leaves it to their own wills whether
they will do it or not: he doth not carry men to an alehouse and force
open their mouths, and pour in the drink; nor doth he hold them that
they cannot go to God's service; nor doth he force their hearts from
holy thoughts. It lieth therefore between God himself and the sinner;
one of them must needs be the principal cause of all this misery,
whichever it is; for there is no other to cast it upon; and God
disclaimeth it; he will not take it upon him: and the wicked disclaim
it usually, and they will not take it upon them. And this is the
controversy that is here managed in my text.
The Lord complaineth of the people; and the people think it is the
fault of God. The same controversy is handled, chap. xvii. ver. 25.
where they plainly say, "that the way of the Lord is not equal:" and
God saith, "it is their ways that are not equal." So here they say, in
verse 9, "If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine
away in them, how shall we then live?" As if they should say, if we
must die, and be miserable, how can we help it? as if it were not the fault of them,
but God. But God in my text doth clear himself of it, and
telleth them how they may help it if they will, and persuadeth them to
use means, and if they will not be persuaded, he lets them know that it
is the fault of themselves; and, if this will not satisfy them, he will not
therefore forbear to punish them. It is he that will be their judge,
and he will judge them according to their ways; they are no judges of
him or themselves, as wanting authority, and wisdom, and impartiality.
Nor is it the cavilling with God, that shall serve their turn, or save
them from the execution of justice, at which they murmur.
The words of this verse contain: 1. God's clearing of himself from the
blame of their destruction. This he doth not by disowning his judgments
and execution according to that law, or by giving them any hope that
the law shall not be executed; but by professing that it is not their
death that he takes pleasure in, but their returning rather, that they
may live: and this he confirmeth to them by his oath. 2. An express
exhortation to the wicked to return, wherein God doth not only command,
but persuade and condescend also to reason the case with them, why will
they die? The direct end of his exhortation is, that they may turn and
live. The secondary or reserved ends, upon supposition that this is not
attained, are these two: First, to convince them by the means which he
used, that it is not the fault of God if they be miserable. Secondly, to
convince them from their manifest wilfulness in rejecting all his
commands and persuasions, that it is the fault of themselves; and they
die, because they will die.
The substance of the text doth lie in these observations following.
Doct. 1. It is the unchangeable law of God, that wicked men must turn
Doct. 2. It is the promise of God, that the wicked shall live, if they
will but turn.
Doct. 3. God taketh pleasure in men's conversion and salvation; but not
in their death or damnation: he had rather they would return and live,
than go on and die.
Doct. 4. This is a most certain truth, which because God would not have
men to question, he hath confirmed it to them solemnly by his oath.
Doct. 5. The Lord doth redouble his commands and persuasions to the
wicked to turn
Doct. 6. The Lord condescendeth to reason the case with them, and
asketh the wicked, why they will die?
Doct. 7. If after all this the wicked will not turn, it is not the fault
of God that they perish, but of themselves; their own wilfulness is the
cause of their damnation; they therefore die, because they will die.
Having laid the text open before your eyes in these plain propositions,
I shall next speak somewhat of each of them in order, though briefly.
If you will believe God, believe this: there is but one of these two
ways for every wicked man, either conversion or damnation. I know the
wicked will hardly be persuaded either of the truth or equity of this.
No wonder if the guilty quarrel with the law. Few men are apt to
believe that which they would not have to be true, and fewer would have
that to be true, which they apprehend to be against them. But it is not
quarrelling with the law, or with the judge, that will save the
malefactor. Believing and regarding the law, might have prevented his
death; but denying and accusing it will but hasten it. If it were not
so, a hundred would bring their reason against the law, for one that
would bring his reason to the law. And men would rather give their
reasons, why they should not be punished, than to hear the commands and
reasons of their governors which require them to obey. The law was not
made for you to judge, but that you might be ruled and judged by it.
It is the unchangeable law of God, that wicked men must turn
But, if there be any so blind as to venture to question either the
truth or the justice of this law of God, I shall briefly give you that
evidence of both, which methinks should satisfy a reasonable man.
And first, if you doubt whether this be the word of God or not, besides
a hundred other texts, you may be satisfied by these few.--Matt. xviii.
5. "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little
children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven."--John iii. 3.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again he cannot
see the kingdom of God."--2 Cor. v. 17. "If any man be in Christ, he is
a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are
become new."--Col. iii. 9, 10. "Ye have put off the old man with his
deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge,
after the image of him that created him."--Heb. xii. 14. "Without
holiness no man shall see God."--Rom. viii. 8, 9. "So, then they that
are in the flesh cannot please God."--"Now if any man have not the
spirit of Christ, he is none of his."--Gal. vi. 45. "For in Christ
Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but a
new creature."--1 Pet. i. 3. "According to his abundant grace he hath
begotten us to a lively hope."--Verse 23. "Being born again not of
corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which
liveth and abideth for ever."--1 Pet. ii. 1, 2. "Wherefore laying aside
malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and evil speaking:
as new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow
thereby."--Psal. ix. 17. "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all
the nations that forget God."--Psal. xi. 5. "And the Lord loveth the
righteous, but the wicked his soul hateth."
As I need not stay to open these texts, which are so plain, so I think
I need not add any more of that multitude which speak the like. If thou
be a man that dost believe the word of God, here is already enough to
satisfy thee, that the wicked must be converted or condemned. You are
already brought so far, that you must either confess that this is true,
or say plainly you will not believe the word of God. And, if once you
come to that pass, there are but small hopes of you: look to yourselves
as well as you can, for, it is likely you will not be long out of hell.
You would be ready to fly in the face of him that should give you the
lie; and yet dare you give the lie to God? But if you tell God plainly
you will not believe him, blame him not if he never warn you more, or
if he forsake you, and give you up as hopeless. For to what purpose
should he warn you, if you will not believe him? Should he send an
angel from heaven to you, it seems you would not believe. For an angel
can speak but the word of God; and, if an angel should bring you any
other gospel, you are not to receive it, but to hold him accursed (Gal.
i. 8). And surely there is no angel to be believed before the Son of
God, who came from the Father to bring us this doctrine. If he be not
to be believed, then all the angels in heaven are not to be believed.
And if you stand on these terms with God, I shall leave you till he
deal with you in a more convincing way. God hath a voice that will make
you hear. Though he intreat you to hear the voice of his gospel, he
will make you hear the voice of his condemning sentence, without
intreaty. We cannot make you believe against your will; but God will
make you feel against your will.
But let us hear what reason you have, why you will not believe this
word of God, which tells us that the wicked must be converted or
condemned. I know your reason; it is because that you judge it unlikely
that God should be so unmerciful: you think it cruelty to damn men
everlastingly for so small a thing as a sinful life. And this leads us
to the second thing, which is, to justify the equity of God in his laws
And first, I think you will not deny but that it is most suitable to an
immortal soul to be ruled by laws that promise an eternal reward and
threaten an endless punishment. Otherwise the law should not be suited
to the nature of the subject, who will not be fully ruled by any lower
means than the hopes or fears of everlasting things: As it is in case
of temporal punishment; if a law were now made, that the most heinous
crimes shall be punished with a hundred years captivity, this might be
of some efficacy, as being equal to our lives. But, if there had been
no other penalties before the flood, when men lived eight or nine
hundred years, it would not have been sufficient, because men would
know that they might have so many hundred years impunity afterwards. So
it is in the present case.
2. I suppose that you will confess, that the promise of an endless and
inconceivable glory is not so unsuitable to the wisdom of God, or the
case of man. And why then should you not think so of the threatening of
an endless and unspeakable misery?
3. When you find it in the word of God that so it is, and so it will
be, do you think yourselves fit to contradict this word?--Will you call
your Maker to the bar, and examine his word upon the accusation or
falsehood? Will you set upon him, and judge him by the law of your
conceits? Are you wiser, and better, and more righteous than he? Must
the God of heaven come to you to learn wisdom? Must infinite wisdom
learn of folly? and infinite Holiness be corrected by a selfish sinner
that cannot keep himself an hour clean? Must the Almighty stand at the
bar of a worm? O! horrid arrogance of senseless dust! Shall every mole,
or clod, or dunghill, accuse the sun of darkness, and undertake to
illuminate the world? Where were you when the Almighty made these laws,
that he did not call you to his counsel? Surely he made them before you
were born, without desiring your advice! and you came into the world
too late to reverse them. If you could have done so great a work, you
should have stepped out of your nothingness, and have contradicted
Christ when he was on earth, or Moses before him, or have saved Adam
and his sinful progeny from the threatened death, that so there might
have been no need of Christ! And what if God withdraw his patience and
sustenation, and let you drop into hell while you are quarrelling with
his word?--Will you then believe that there is no hell?
4. If sin be such an evil that it requires the death of Christ for its
expiation, no wonder if it deserve our everlasting misery.
5. And if the sin of the devils deserved an endless torment, why not
also the sin of man?
6. And methinks you should perceive, that it is not possible for the
best of men, much less for the wicked, to be competent judges of the
desert of sin. Alas! We are both blind and partial. You can never know
fully the desert of sin till you fully know, the evil of sin: and you
can never fully know the evil of sin till you fully know, 1 The
excellency of the soul, which it deformeth: 2. And the excellency of
holiness, which it doth obliterate: 3. And the reason and excellency of
the glory, which it violateth: And 4. the excellency of the glory which
it doth despise: And, 5. the excellency and office of reason, which it
treadeth down: 6. No, nor till you know the infinite excellency,
almightiness and holiness, of that God, against whom it is committed.
When you fully know all these, you shall fully know the desert of sin.
Besides, you know that the offender is too partial to judge the law or
the proceedings of the judge. We judge by feeling, which blinds our
reason. We see, in common worldly things, that most men think the cause
is right which is their own; and that all is wrong that is done against
them; and let the most wise, or just impartial friends persuade them to
the contrary, and it is all in vain. There are few children but think
the father is unmerciful, or dealeth hardly with them, if he whip them.
There is scarce the vilest wretch, but thinketh the church doth wrong
him, if they excommunicate him; or scarce a thief or murderer that is
hanged, but would accuse the law and judge of cruelty, if that would
serve his turn.
7. Can you think that an unholy soul is fit for heaven? Alas! they
cannot love God there, nor do him any service which he can accept. They
are contrary to God; they loathe that which he most loveth; and love
that which he abhoreth: they are incapable of that imperfect communion
with him; which his saints do here partake of. How then can they live
in that perfect love of him, and full delight and communion with him,
which is the blessedness of heaven? You do not accuse yourselves of
unmercifulness, if you make not your enemy your bosom counsellor; and
yet you will blame the absolute Lord, the most wise and gracious
Sovereign of the world, if he condemn the unconverted to perpetual
USE.− I beseech you now, all that love your souls, that instead of
quarrelling with God, and with his word, you will presently stoop to
it, and use it for good. All you that are unconverted in this assembly,
take this as the undoubted truth of God; you must ere long be converted
or condemned; there is no other way, but to turn or die. When God that
cannot lie hath told you this; when you hear it from the Maker and
Judge of the world, it is time for him that hath ears to hear. By this
time you may see what you have to trust to. You are but dead and damned
men, except you will be converted. Should I tell you otherwise, I
should deceive you with a lie.--Should I hide this from you, I should
undo you, and be guilty of your blood, as the verses before my text
assure me: ver. 8. "When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shalt
surely die, if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way,
that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require
at thy hand."--You see then, though this be a rough and unwelcome
doctrine, it is such as we must preach, and you must hear. It is easier
to hear of hell than feel it. If your necessities did not require it,
we would not gall your tender ears with truths that seem so harsh and
grievous. Hell would not be so full, if people were but willing to know
their case, and to hear and think of it. The reason why so few escape
it is, because they strive not to enter in at the strait gate of
conversion, and go the narrow way of holiness while they have time; and
they strive not, because they are not awakened to a lively feeling of
the danger they are in; and they are not awakened, because they are
loathe to hear or think of it, and that is partly through foolish
tenderness and carnal self-love, and partly because they do not well
believe the word that threateneth it.--If you will not thoroughly
believe this truth, methinks the weight of it should force you to
remember it; and it should follow you, and give you no rest, till you
are converted. If you had but once heard this word, by the voice of an
angel, "Thou must be converted, or condemned; turn, or die" would it
not stick in your mind, and haunt you night and day, so that in your
sinning you would remember it, as if the voice were still in your ears,
"turn, or die!" O happy were your souls if it might thus work with you,
and never be forgotten or let you alone till it have driven home your
heart to God. But if you will cast it out by forgetfulness or unbelief,
how can it work to your conversion and salvation? But take this with
you to your sorrow, though you may put this out of your minds, you
cannot put it out of the Bible; but there it will stand as a settled
truth, which you shall experimentally know forever, that there is no
other way but, turn, or die.
O what is the matter then, that the hearts of sinners be not pierced
with such a weighty truth! A man would think now, that every
unconverted soul that hears these words should be pricked to the heart,
and think with themselves, this is my own case, and never be quiet till
they found themselves converted.--Believe it, Sirs, this drowsy
careless temper will not last long. Conversion and condemnation are
both of them awakening things. I can foretel it as truly as if I saw it
with my eyes, that either grace or hell will shortly bring these
matters to the quick, and make you say, "What have I done? what a
foolish wicked course have I taken?" The scornful and the stupid state
of sinners, will last but a little while, As soon as they either turn
or die, the presumptuous dream will be at an end, and then their wits
and feeling will return.
But I foresee there are two things that are likely to harden the
unconverted, and make me lose all my labour, except they can be taken
out of the way: and that is, the misunderstanding on those two words:
[the wicked] and [turn.] Some will think to themselves, it is true, the
wicked must turn or die; but what is that to me? I am not wicked,
though I am a sinner, as all men are. Others will think, "it is true
that we must turn from our evil ways; but I am turned long ago: I hope
this is not now to do." And thus, while wicked men think they are not
wicked, but are already converted, we lose all our labour in persuading
them to turn. I shall therefore, before I go any farther, tell you here
who are meant by the wicked, and who they are that must turn or die;
and also what is meant by turning, and who they are that are truly
converted. And this I have purposely reserved for this place,
preferring the method that fits my end.
And here you may observe, that, in the sense of the text, a wicked man
and a converted man are contraries. No man is a wicked man that is
converted, and no man is a converted man that is wicked; so that to be
a wicked man, and to be an unconverted man, is all one. And therefore
in opening one, we shall open both.
Before I can tell you what either wickedness or conversion is, I must
go to the bottom, and fetch up the matter from the beginning.
It pleased the great Creator of the world to make three sorts of living
creatures.--Angels he made pure spirits, without flesh, and therefore
he made them only for heaven, and not to dwell on earth. Beasts were
made flesh, without immortal souls, and therefore they were made only
for the earth, and not for heaven: Man is of a middle nature between
both, as partaking of both flesh and spirit, so is he made for earth,
but as his passage or way to heaven, and not that this should be his
home or happiness. The blessed state that man was made for was to
behold the glorious majesty of the Lord, and to praise him among his
holy angels; and to love him, and to be filled with his love forever.
And as this was the end that man was made for, so God did give him
means that were fitted to the attaining of it. These means were
principally two: First, the right disposition of the mind of man;
Secondly, the right ordering of his life. For the first, God suited the
disposition of man unto the end; giving him such knowledge of God as
was fit for his present state, and a heart inclined to God in holy
love. But yet he did not fix or confirm him in this condition; but,
having made him a free agent, he left him in the hands of his own free
will. For the second, God did that which belongeth to him: that is, he
gave man a perfect law, requiring him to continue in the love of God,
and perfectly to obey him. By the wilful breach of this law, man did
not only forfeit his hopes of everlasting life, but also turned his
heart from God, and fixed it on these lower fleshly things, and hereby
did blot out our spiritual image of God, from the soul: So that man did
both fall short of the glory of God, which was his end, and put himself
out of the way by which he should have attained it; and this both as to
the frame of his heart, and of his life. The holy inclination and love
of his soul to God, he lost, and instead of it, he contracted an
inclination and love to the pleasing of his flesh, or carnal self, by
earthly things; growing strange to God, and acquainted with the
creature: and the course of this life was suited to the inclination of
his heart; he lived to his carnal self, and not to God, he sought the
creature, for the pleasing of his flesh, instead of seeking to please
the Lord. With this nature, or corrupt inclination, we are all now born
into the world; for, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?"
Job xiv. 4. As a lion hath a fierce and cruel nature before it doth
devour; and an adder hath a venomous nature before she sting; so in our
infancy we have those sinful natures, or inclinations, before we think,
or speak, or do amiss: and hence springeth all the sin of our lives.
And not only so, but when God hath of his mercy provided us a remedy,
even the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of our souls, and bring us
back to God again, we naturally love our present state, and are loathe
to be brought out of it, and therefore are set against the means of our
recovery. And, though custom have taught us to thank Christ for his
good will, yet carnal self persuadeth us to refuse his remedies, and to
desire to be excused when we are commanded to take the medicines which
he offereth, and are called to forsake all and follow him to God and
I pray you read over this leaf again, and mark it: for in these few
words you have a true description of our natural state, and
consequently of a wicked man. For every man that is in this state of
corrupted nature is a wicked man, and in a state of death.
By this also you are prepared to understand what it is to be converted;
to which end you must farther know, that the mercy of God, not willing
that man should perish in his sin, provided a remedy, by causing his
Son to take our nature, and being in one person God and man, to become
a mediator between God and man; and, by dying for our sins on the
cross, to ransom us from the curse of God and the power of the devil:
and, having thus redeemed us, the Father has delivered us into his
hands as his own. Hereupon the Father and the Mediator do make a new
law and covenant for man: not like the first, which gave life to none
but the perfectly obedient, and condemned man for every sin; but Christ
hath made a law of grace, or a promise of pardon and everlasting life
to all, that, by true repentance and by faith in Christ, are converted
unto God. Like an act of oblivion which is made by a prince to a
company of rebels, on condition they lay down their arms and come in,
and be loyal subjects for the time to come.
But, because the Lord knoweth that the heart of man is grown so wicked,
that for all this men will not accept of the remedy, if they be left to
themselves; therefore that Holy Ghost hath undertaken it as his office,
to inspire the apostles, and seal up the scriptures by miracles and
wonders, and to illuminate and convert the sons of the elect.
So that by this much you see, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Ghost, have each their several works, which are eminently ascribed to
The Father's works were to create us, to rule us as his rational
creatures, by the law of nature, and judge us thereby, and in mercy to
provide us a Redeemer, when we were lost, and to send his Son, and
accept his ransom.
The works of the Son for us were these; to ransom and redeem us by his
sufferings and righteousness, to give out the promise or law of grace,
and rule and judge the world as their Redeemer, on terms of grace, and
to make intercession for us, that the benefit of his death may be
communicated; and to send the Holy Ghost, which the Father also doth by
the Son. The works of the Holy Ghost for us are these; to indite the
holy scriptures, by inspiring and guiding the prophets and apostles,
and sealing the word by his miraculous gifts and works; and the
illuminating and exciting the ordinary ministers of the gospel, and so
enabling them and helping them to publish that word; and, by the same
word, illuminating and converting the souls of men. So that, as you
could not have been reasonable creatures if the Father had not created
you; nor have had any access to God if the Son had not redeemed you; so
neither can you have a part in Christ, or be saved, except the Holy
Ghost do sanctify you.
So that by this time you may see the several causes of this work:-- The
Father sendeth his Son: the Son redeemeth us, and maketh the promise of
grace; the Holy Ghost inditeth and sealeth this gospel; the apostles
are the secretaries of the Spirit to write it; the preachers of the
gospel to proclaim it, and persuade men to obey it; and the Holy Ghost
doth make their preaching effectual, by opening the hearts of men to
entertain it; and all this to repair the image of God upon the soul,
and to set the heart upon God again, and take it off the creature and
carnal self to which it is revolted, and so turn the current of the
life into a heavenly course, which before was earthly, and all this by
the entertainment of Christ by Faith, who is the physician of the soul.
By what I have said, you may see what it is to be wicked, and what it
is to be converted; which I think will yet be plainer to you, if I
describe them as consisting of their several parts; and, for the first,
a wicked man may be known by these three things.
First, he is one who places his chief content on earth, and loveth the
creature more than God, and his fleshly prosperity above the heavenly
felicity: He favoureth the things of the flesh, but neither discerneth
nor savoureth the things of the spirit:--Though he will say, that
heaven is better than earth, yet doth not really so esteem it to
himself; if he might be sure of earth, he would let go heaven, and had
rather stay here than be removed thither. A life of perfect holiness,
in the sight of God, and in his love and praise for ever in heaven,
doth not find such liking, with his heart, as a life of health, and
wealth, and honour, here upon earth. And though he falsely profess that
he loveth God above all, yet indeed he never felt the power of divine
love within him, but his mind is more set on the world, or fleshly
pleasures than on God. In a word, whoever loveth earth above heaven,
and fleshly prosperity more than God, is a wicked unconverted man.
On the other hand, a converted man is illuminated to discern the
loveliness of God; and so far believeth the glory that is to be had
with God, that his heart is taken up to it, and set more upon it, than
any thing in this world. He had rather see the face of God, and live in
his everlasting love and praises, than have all the wealth or pleasures
of the world; he seeth that all things else are vanity, and nothing but
God can fill the soul, and therefore, let the world go which way it
will, he layeth up his treasures and hopes in heaven, and for that he
resolves to let go all. As the fire doth mount upwards, and the needle
that is touched with the loadstone still turneth to the north, so the
converted soul is inclined to God. Nothing else can satisfy him, nor
can he find any content and rest but in his love. In a word, all that
are converted do esteem and love God better than all the world; and the
heavenly felicity is dearer to them than their fleshly prosperity. The
proof of what I have said you may find in these places of scripture:
Phil. iii. 18, 21. Matt. vi. 19, 20, 21. Col. iii. 1, 2, 4, 5. Rom.
viii. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 18, 23. Psal. lxxiii. 25, 26.
Secondly, a wicked man is one that maketh it the principal business of
his life to prosper in the world, and attain his fleshly ends. And
though he may read and hear, and do much in the outward duties of
religion, and forbear disgraceful sins, yet this is all but the by, and
he never makes it the principal business of his life to please God, and
attain everlasting glory, and puts off God with the leavings of the
world, and gives him no more service than the flesh can spare; for he
will not part with all for heaven.
On the contrary, a converted man is one that makes it the principal
care and business of his life to please God, and to be saved, and takes
all the blessings of this life but as accommodations in his journey
towards another life, and useth the creature in subordination to God:
he loveth a holy life, and longeth to be more holy: he hath no sin but
what he hateth, and longeth, and prayeth, and striveth to be rid of.
The drift and bent of his life is for God; and, if he sin, it is
contrary to the very bent of his heart and life, and therefore he rises
again and lamenteth it, and dares not wilfully live in any known sin.
There is nothing in this world so dear to him but he can give it up to
God, and forsake it for him, and the hopes of glory.--All this you may
see in Col. iii. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Matt. vi. 20, 33. Luke xviii. 22, 23,
29. Luke xiv. 18, 24, 26, 27. Rom. viii. 13. Gal. v. 24. Luke xii. 21,
Thirdly, the soul of a wicked man did never truly discern and relish
the mystery of redemption, nor thankfu1ly entertain an offered Saviour;
nor is he taken up with the love of the Redeemer, nor willing to be
ruled by him as the physician of his soul, that he may be saved from
the guilt and power of his sins, and recovered unto God; but his heart
is insensible of this unspeakable benefit, and is quite against the
healing means by which he should be recovered. Though he may be willing
to be carnally religious, yet he never resigneth up his soul to Christ,
and to the motion and conduct of his word and spirit.
On the contrary, the converted soul having felt himself undone by sin,
and perceiving that he hath lost his peace with God, and hopes of
heaven, and is in danger of everlasting misery, doth thankfully
entertain the tidings of redemption, and, believing in the Lord Jesus
as his only Saviour, resigneth up himself to him for wisdom,
righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; he taketh Christ as the
life of his soul, and liveth by him, and useth him as a salve for every
sore, admiring the wisdom and love of God in this wonderful work of
man's redemption. In a word, Christ doth even dwell in his heart by
faith, and the life that he now liveth is by the faith of the Son of
God, that he hath loved him, and gave himself for him; yea, it is not
so much he that liveth, as Christ in him. For these, see Job i. 11, 12,
and iii. 20. John xv. 2, 3, 4. 1 Cor. i. 20, and ii. 2.
You see now in plain terms, from the word of God, who are the wicked
and who are the converted. Ignorant people think that if a man be no
swearer, nor curser, nor railer, nor drunkard, nor fornicator, nor
extortioner, nor wrong any body in their dealings, and if they come to
church, and say their prayers, receive the sacrament, and sometimes
extend their hands to the relief of the poor, these cannot be
unconverted men. Or if a man, that hath been guilty of drunkenness, or
swearing, or gaming, or the like vices, do but forbear them for the
time to come, they think that this is a converted man.--Others think,
if a man, that hath been an enemy and scorner at godliness, do but
approve it, and join himself with those that are godly, and be hated
for it by the wicked, as the godly are, that this must needs be a
converted man. And some are so foolish as to think that they are
converted by taking up some new opinion. And some think, if they have
but been affrighted by the fears of hell, and had conviction and
tortures of conscience, and thereupon have purposed and promised
amendment, and take up a life of civil behaviour and outward religion,
that this must needs be true conversion. And these are the poor deluded
souls that are like to lose the benefit of all our persuasions; and,
when they hear that the wicked must turn or die, they think that this
is not spoken to them; for they are not wicked, but are turned already.
And therefore it is that Christ told some of the rulers of the Jews who
were graver and civiler than the common people, that "publicans and
harlots go into the kingdom of Christ before them," Matt. xxi. 31. Not
that a harlot or gross sinner can be saved without conversion, but
because it was easier to make these gross sinners perceive their sin
and misery, and the necessity of a change, than the civiler sort delude
themselves by thinking that they are converted already, when they are
O sirs, conversion is another kind of work than most are aware of; it
is not a small matter to bring an earthly mind to heaven, and to shew
man the amiable excellencies of God, till he be taken up in such love
to him, that can never be quenched; to break the heart for sin, and
make him fly for refuge to Christ, and thankfully embrace him as the
life of his soul; to have the very drift and bent of the heart and life
changed; so that a man renounceth that which he took for felicity, and
placeth his felicity where he never did before, and liveth not to the
same end, and driveth not on the same design in the world, as he
formerly did: in a word, he that is in Christ is a new creature: "old
things are passed away, behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. v.
17). He hath a new understanding, a new will and resolution, new
sorrows, and desires, and love, and delight: new thoughts, new
speeches, new company, (if possible) and new conversation. Sin, that
was before a jesting matter with him, is now so odious and terrible to
him, that he flies from it as from death. The world, that was so lovely
in his eyes, doth now appear but as vanity and vexation: God, that was
before neglected, is now the only happiness of his soul; before he was
forgotten, and every lust preferred before him: but now he is set next
the heart, and all things must give place to him, and the heart is
taken up in the attendance and observance of him, and is grieved when
be hides his face, and never thinks itself well without him. Christ
himself, that was wont to be slightly thought of, is now his only hope
and refuge, and he liveth upon him as on his daily bread; he cannot
pray without him, nor rejoice without him, nor think, nor speak, nor
live without him.--Heaven itself, that before was looked upon but as a
tolerable reserve which he hoped might serve his turn better than hell,
when he could not stay any longer in the world, is now taken for his
home, the place of his only hope and rest, where he shall see, and
love, and praise that God that hath his heart already. Hell, that
before did seem but as a bug bear to frighten men from sin, doth now
appear to be a real misery, that is not to be ventured on, nor jested
with.--The works of holiness, which before he was weary of, and seemed
to be more ado than needs, are now both his recreation, and his
business, and the trade that he lives upon. The Bible, which was before
to him but almost as a common book, is now as the law of God, as a
letter written to him from heaven, and subscribed with the name or the
eternal Majesty; it is the rule of his thoughts, and words, and deeds;
the commands are binding, the threats are dreadful, and the promises of
it speak life to his soul. The godly, that seemed to him but like other
men, are now the excellentest and happiest on earth. And the wicked
that were his play-fellows, are now his grief; and he, that could laugh
at their sins, is readier now to weep for their sin and misery, Psalm
xvi. 3. and xv. 4. Phil. iii. 18. In short, he hath a new end in his
thoughts, and a new way in his endeavours, and therefore his heart and
life are new. Before, his carnal self was his end; and his pleasure and
worldly profits, and credit were his way; and now God and everlasting
glory are his end; and Christ, and the spirit, and word, and
ordinances, holiness to God, and righteousness, and mercy to men, these
are his way. Before, self was the chiefest ruler; to which the matters
of God and conscience must stoop and give place. And now God in Christ,
by the spirit, word and ministry, is that chief ruler, to whom both
self and all the matters of self must give place. So that this is not a
change in one, or two, or twenty points, but in the whole soul, and in
the very end and bent of the conversation. A man may step out of one
path into another, and yet have his face the same way, and be still
going towards the same place: But it is another matter to turn quite
back again, and take his journey the contrary way, to a contrary place.
So it is here: a man may turn from drunkenness to thriftiness, and
forsake his good fellowship, and other gross disgraceful sins, and set
upon some duties of religion, and yet be still going to the same end as
before, intending his carnal self above all, and giving it still the
government of his soul. But, when he is converted, this self is denied
and taken down, and God is set up, and his face is turned the contrary
way; and he, that before was addicted to himself, and lived to himself,
is now by sanctification devoted to God, and liveth unto God. Before,
he asked himself what he should do with his time, his parts, and his
estate, and for himself he used them; but now he asketh God what he
shall do with them, and useth them for him. Before, he would please God
so far as might stand with the pleasure of his flesh and carnal self,
but not to any great displeasure of them. But now he will please God,
let flesh and self be ever so much displeased. This is the great change
that God will make upon all that shall be saved.
You can say, that the Holy Ghost is our sanctifier; but do you know
what sanctification is? Why, this is that I have now opened to you; and
every man and woman in the world must have this, or be condemned to
everlasting misery. They must turn or die.
Do you believe all this, or do you not? Surely you dare not say, you do
not; for it is past a doubt or denial. These are not controversies,
where one learned pious man is of one mind, and another of another;
where one party saith this, and another saith that; every denomination
among us that deserve to be called Christians are all agreed in this
that I have said; and, if you will not believe the God of truth, and
that in a case where every party do believe him, you are utterly
But, if you do believe this, how comes it to pass that you live so
quietly in an unconverted state? Do you know that you are converted?
and can you find this wonderful change upon your souls? Have you been
thus born again, and made anew?--Are not these strange matters to many
of you? and such as you never felt upon yourselves? If you cannot tell
the day or week of your change, or the very sermon, that converted you,
yet, do you find that the work is done; that such a change indeed there
is, and that you have such hearts as before described? Alas! The most
do follow their worldly business, and little trouble their minds with
such thoughts: and, if they be but restrained from scandalous sins, and
can say, "I am no whoremonger, nor thief, nor curser, nor swearer, nor
tipler, nor extortioner; I go to church, and say my prayers;" they
think that this is true conversion, and they shall be saved as well as
any. Alas, this is foolish cheating of yourselves; this is too much
contempt of an endless glory, and too gross neglect of your immortal
souls.--Can you make so light of heaven and hell? Your corpse will
shortly lie in the dust, and angels or devils will presently seize upon
your souls, and every man and woman of you all will shortly be among
other company, and in another case than now you are; you will dwell in
those houses but a little longer, you will work in your shops but a
little longer; you will sit in these seats, and dwell on this earth,
but a little longer; you will see with those eyes, and hear with those
ears, and speak with those tongues, but a little longer; till the
resurrection day: and can you make shift to forget this? O what a place
will you be shortly in of joy or torment! O what a sight will you
shortly see in heaven or hell! O what thoughts will shortly fill your
hearts with unspeakable delight or horror! What work will you be
employed in; to praise the Lord with saints and angels, or to cry out
in fire unquenchable with devils! And should all this be forgotten? And
all this will be endless, and sealed up by an unchangeable decree;
ETERNITY, ETERNITY will be the measure of your joys or sorrows: And can
this be forgotten? And all this is true, most certainly true.--When you
have gone up and down a little longer, and slept and awaked a few times
more, you will be dead and gone, and find all true that now I tell you.
And yet can you now so much forget it? You shall then remember that you
heard this sermon, and that this day, from this place, you were
reminded of these things; and perceive them matters a thousand times
greater than either you or I could have conceived; and yet shall they
now be so much forgotten?
Beloved friends, if the Lord had not awakened me to believe and to lay
to heart these things myself, I should have remained in a dark and
selfish state, and have perished for ever: but, if he have truly made
me sensible of them, it will constrain me to compassionate you as well
as myself. If your eyes were so far opened as to see hell, and you saw
your neighbours, that were unconverted, dragged thither with hideous
cries, though they were such as you accounted honest people on earth,
and feared no such matter by themselves, such a sight would make you go
home and think of it; and think again, and make you warn all about you
as that damned worldling in Luke xvi. 28. would have had his brethren
warned, lest they come to that place of torment. Why, faith is a kind
of sight; it is the eye of the soul, the evidence of things not seen.
If 1 believe God, it is next to seeing; and therefore I beseech you
excuse me, if I be half as earnest with you about these matters as if I
had seen them. If I must die to-morrow, and it were in my power to come
again from another world, and tell you what I had seen, would you not
be willing to hear me? and would you not believe and regard what I
should tell you? If I might preach one sermon to you after I am dead,
and have seen what is done in the world to come, would you not have me
plainly speak the truth and would you not crowd to hear me? and would
you not lay it to heart? But this must not be; God hath his appointed
way of teaching you by scripture and ministers, and he will not humour
unbelievers so far as to send men from the dead to them, and to alter
his established way. If any man quarrel with the sun, God will not
humour him so far as to set up a clearer light. Friends, I beseech you,
regard me now as you would do if I should come from the dead to you;
for, I can give you as full assurance of the truth of what I say to you
as if I had been there and seen it with my eyes: For, it is possible
for one from the dead to deceive you; but Jesus Christ can never
deceive you: but Jesus Christ can never deceive you.--The word of God.
delivered in scripture, and sealed by the miracles and holy workings of
the Spirit, can never deceive you. Believe this, or believe nothing.
Believe and obey this, or you are undone. Now, as ever you believe the
word of God, and as ever you care for the salvation of your souls, let
me beg of you this reasonable request; and I beseech yon deny me not:
that you would, without any more delay, when you are gone from hence,
remember what you heard, and enter into an earnest search of your
hearts, and say to yourselves, "Is it so indeed? Must I turn or die?
Must I be converted or condemned? It is time for me then to look about
me, before it be too late. O why did not I look after this till now?
Why did I venturously post off so great a business? Was I awake, or in
my wits? O blessed God, what a mercy is it that thou didst not cut off
my life all this while, before I had any certain hope of eternal
life!--Well, God forbid that I should neglect this work any longer.
What state is my soul in? Am I converted, or am I not? Was ever such a
change or work done upon my soul? Have I been illuminated by the word
and spirit of the Lord to see the odiousness of sin, the need of a
Saviour, the love of Christ, and the excellencies of God and glory? Is
my heart broken or humbled within me for my former life? Have I
thankfully entertained my Saviour and Lord that offered himself with
pardon and life for my soul? Do I hate my former sinful life, and the
remnant of every sin that is in me? Do I fly from them as my deadly
enemies? Do I give up myself to a life of holiness and obedience to
God? Do I love and delight in it? Can I truly say that I am dead to the
world and carnal self, and that I live for God, and the glory which he
hath promised? Hath heaven more of my estimation and resolution than
earth? and is God the dearest and highest in my soul? Once, I am sure,
I lived principally to the world and flesh, and God had nothing but
some heartless services which the world could spare, and which were the
leavings of the flesh.--Is my heart now turned another way? Have I a
new design, and a new end, and a new train of holy affections? Have I
set my hopes and heart in heaven? And is it not the scope, and design,
and bent of my heart and life, to get well to heaven, and see the
glorious face of God, and live in his everlasting love and praise? And
when I sin, is it against the habitual bent and design of my heart? And
do I conquer all gross sins, and am I weary and willing to be rid of
mine infirmities? This is the state of a converted soul, and thus it
must be with me, or I must perish. Is it thus indeed with me, or is it
not? It is time to get this doubt resolved, before the dreadful judge
resolve it. I am not such a stranger to my own heart and life, but I
may somewhat perceive whether I am thus converted or not: if I be not,
it will do me no good to flatter my soul with false conceits and hopes.
I am resolved no more to deceive myself, but endeavour to know truly,
off or on, whether I be converted, yea or no: that, if I be, I may
rejoice in it; and glorify my gracious Lord, and comfortably go on till
I reach the crown: And If I am not, I may set myself to beg and seek
after the grace that should convert me, and may turn without any more
delay:--For, if I find in time that I am out of the way, by the help of
Christ I may turn and be recovered; but, if I stay till either my heart
be forsaken of God, in blindness or hardness, or till I be caught away
by death, it is then too late. There is no place for repentance and
conversion then: I know it must be now or never."
Sirs, this is my request to you, that you will but take your hearts to
task, and thus examine them, till you see, if it may be, whether you
are converted or not; and, if you cannot find it out by your own
endeavours, go to your ministers, if they be faithful and experienced
men, and desire their assistance. The matter is great, let not
bashfulness, nor carelessness hinder you. They are set over you to
advise you, for the saving of your soul, as physicians advise you for
the curing of your bodies. It undoes many thousands, that they think
they are in the way to salvation when they are not; and thinking that
they are converted, when it is no such thing. And then, when we call to
them to turn, they go away as they came, and think that this concerns
not them; for they are turned already, and hope they shall do well
enough in the way that they are in; at least if they do but pick the
fairest path, and avoid some of the foulest steps; when, alas! all this
while they live but to the world and flesh, and are strangers to God
and eternal life, and are quite out of the way to heaven. And all this
is much, because we cannot persuade them to a few serious thoughts of
their condition, and to spend a few hours in the examining of their
states. Is there not many a self-deceiving wretch that hears me this
day, that never bestowed one hour in all their lives to examine their
souls, and try whether they are truly converted or not?--O merciful
God, that will care for such wretches as care no more for themselves,
and that will do so much to save them from hell, and help them to
heaven, who will do so little for it themselves! If all that are in the
way to hell did but know it, they durst not continue in it. The
greatest hope that the devil hath of bringing you to damnation without
a rescue, is by keeping you blind-fold and ignorant of your state, and
making you believe that you may do well enough in the way that you are
in. If you knew that you were out of the way to heaven, and were lost
forever if you should die as you are; durst you sleep another night in
the state that you are in? durst you live another day in it? Could you
heartily laugh or be merry in such a state? What! and not know but you
may be snatched away to hell in an hour! Sure it would constrain you to
forsake your former company and course and to betake yourselves to the
ways of holiness and the communion of saints: Sure it would drive you
to cry to God for a new heart, and to seek help of those that are fit
to counsel you. There is none of you sure that cares not for being
damned. Well then, I beseech you presently make inquiry into your
hearts, and give them no rest till you find out your condition; that,
if it be good, you may rejoice in it, and go on; and, if it be bad, you
may presently look about you for recovery, as men that believe they
must turn or die. What say you, Sirs? Will you resolve, and promise, to
be at thus much labour for your own souls? Will you fall upon this
self-examination when you get home? Is my request unreasonable? Your
consciences know it is not.--Resolve on it, then, before you stir;
knowing how much it concerneth your souls. I beseech you, for the sake
of that God that doth command you, at whose bar you will shortly all
appear, that you do not deny me this reasonable request: for the sake
of souls that must turn or die, I beseech you deny me not; even but to
make it your business to understand your own conditions, and build upon
sure ground, and know, off and on, whether you are converted or not,
and venture not your souls on negligent security.
A TRUE description of those who are in a converted state has already
been given you; the change which conversion makes in the soul has also
been described; and the request is most earnestly repeated to you,
impartially and thoroughly to consider your condition: Rest not
satisfied, till you know whether you are indeed converted.
But perhaps you will say, what if we should find ourselves yet
unconverted, what shall we do then?--This question leadeth me to my
second doctrine, which will do much to the answering of it, to which I
The Lord here professeth that this is what he takes pleasure in, that
the wicked turn and live. Heaven is made as sure to the converted, as
hell is to the unconverted. Turn and live is as certain a truth as turn
or die. God was not bound to provide us a Saviour, nor open to us a
door of hope, nor call us to repent and turn when once we had cast
ourselves away by sin, but he hath freely done it to magnify his mercy.
Sinners, there are none of you shall have cause to go home and say I
preach despair to you. Do we use to shut up the door of mercy against
you? O that you would not shut it up against yourselves! Do we use to
tell you that God will have no mercy on you, though you turn and be
sanctified? When did you ever hear a preacher say such a word? You that
bark at preachers of the gospel, for desiring to keep you out of hell,
and say that they preach despair, tell me, if you can, when did you
ever hear any sober man say, that there is no hope for you, tho' you
repent and be converted? No, it is the contrary that we proclaim from
the Lord; and, whoever is born again, and by faith and repentance doth
become a new creature, shall certainly be saved: And so far are we from
persuading you to despair of this, that we persuade you not to make any
doubt of it. It is life, not death, that is the first part of our
message to you, our commission is to offer salvation, certain
salvation; a speedy, glorious, everlasting salvation, to everyone of
you; to the poorest beggar as well as the greatest Lord; to the worst
of you, even to drunkards, swearers, worldlings, thieves, yea, to the
despisers and reproachers of the holy way of salvation. We are
commanded by the Lord our master to offer you a pardon for all that is
past, if you will but now at last return and live: we are commanded to
beseech and intreat you to accept the offer and return; to tell you
what preparations are made by Christ; what mercy stays for you, what
patience waiteth on you, what thoughts of kindness God hath towards
you, and how happy, how certainly and unspeakably happy, you may be, if
you will.--We have indeed also a message of wrath and death, yea, of a
two-fold wrath and death; but neither of them is our principal message;
we must tell you of the wrath that is on you already, and the death
that you are born under, for the breach of the law of works; but this
is but to shew you the need of mercy, and to provoke you to esteem the
grace of the Redeemer. And we tell you nothing but the truth, which you
must know: For, who will seek out for physic, that knows not that he is
sick? Our telling you of your misery is not it that makes you
miserable, but drives you out to seek for mercy. It is you that have
brought this death upon yourselves. We tell you also of another death;
even remediless and much greater torment, that will fall on those that
will not be converted. But, as this is true, and must be told you, so
it is but the last and saddest part of our message. We are first to
offer you mercy if you will turn; and it is only those that will not
turn, nor hear the voice of mercy, to whom we must foretel damnation
to. Will you but cast away your transgressions, delay no longer, but
come away at the call of Christ, and be converted, and become new
creatures, and we have not a word of damning wrath or death to speak
against you.--I do here in the name of the Lord of life, proclaim to
you, all that hear me this day, to the greatest, the oldest sinner,
that you may have mercy and salvation, if you will but turn. There is
mercy in God, there is sufficiency in the satisfaction of Christ, the
promise is free, and full, and universal; you may have life, if you
will but turn. But then, as you love your souls, remember what turning
it is the scripture speaks of. It is not to mend the old house, but to
pull down all, and build a-new on Christ, the rock and sure foundation.
It is not to mend somewhat in a carnal course of life, but to mortify
the flesh, and live after the spirit. It is not to serve the flesh and
the world, in a more reformed way, without any scandalous disgraceful
sins, and with a certain kind of religiousness; but it is to change
your master, and your works, and end, and to set your face the contrary
way, and do all for the life that you never saw, and dedicate
yourselves and all you have to God. This is the change that must be
made, if you will live.
It is the promise of God, that the wicked shall live, if they
will but turn; unfeignedly and thoroughly turn.
Yourselves are witnesses now, that it is salvation, and not damnation,
that is the great doctrine I preach to you, and the first part of my
message to you. Accept of this, and we shall go no farther with you;
for we would not so much as affright or trouble you with the name of
damnation without necessity.
But if you will not be saved, there is no remedy, but damnation must
take place; for there is no middle place between the two, you must have
either life or death.
And we are not only to offer you life, but to shew you the grounds on
which we do it; and call you to believe that God doth mean indeed as he
speaks: that the promise is true, and extendeth conditionally to you,
as well as others: and that heaven is no fancy, but a true felicity.
If you ask, Where is your commission for this offer? Among a hundred
texts of scripture, I will shew it to you in these few:
First, you see it here in my text, and the following verses, and in the
18th of Ezekiel, as plain as can be spoken. And in 2 Cor. v. 17, 18,
19, 20, 21, you have the very sum of our commission. "If any man be in
Christ, he is a new creature; old things passed away, behold, all
things are become new. And all things are from God, who hath reconciled
us unto himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of
reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world
unto himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and hath committed
unto us the word of reconciliation: now then we are ambassadors for
Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's
stead, be ye reconciled unto God; for, he hath made him to be sin for
us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in
him." So Mark xvi. 15, 16. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the
gospel to all creature. He that believeth, (that is with such a
converting faith as is expressed) and is baptized, shall be saved: but
he that believeth not shall be damned." And Luke xxiv. 46, 47. "Thus it
behoved Christ to suffer, and rise from the dead the third day, and
that repentance, (which is conversion) and remission of sins should be
preached in his name among all nations." And Acts v. 30, 31. "The God
of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree: him
hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to
give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." And Acts xiii. 38,
39. "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through
this name is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and, by him,
all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could
not be justified by the law of Moses." And, lest you think this offer
is restrained to the Jews, see Gal. vi. 15. "For in Christ Jesus
neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new
creature." And Luke xiv. 17. "Come, for all things are now ready." and
ver. 23, 24.
You see by this time that we are commanded to offer life to you all,
and to tell you, from God, that if you will turn, you may live.
Here you may safely trust your souls; for the love of God is the
fountain of this offer, John iii. 16. and the blood of the Son of God
hath purchased it: The faithfulness and truth of God are engaged to
make the promise good; miracles have sealed up the truth of it;
preachers are sent through the world to proclaim it; the sacraments are
instituted and used for the solemn delivery of the mercy offered to
them that will accept it; and the spirit doth open the heart to
entertain it; and is itself the earnest of the full possession: So that
the truth of it is past controversy, that the worst of you all, and
every one of you, if you will but be converted, may be saved.
Indeed, if you will needs believe that you shall be saved without
conversion, then you believe a falsehood; and, if I should preach that
to you, I should preach a lie: This were not to believe God, but the
devil and your own deceitful hearts.--God hath his promise of life, and
the devil hath his promise of life: God's promise is, "return and
live:" The devil's promise is, "you shall live, whether you turn or
not."--The word of God is, as I have shewn you, "Except ye be
converted, and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the
kingdom of heaven," Matt. xviii. 3. "Except a man be born again, he
cannot enter into the kingdom of God," John iii. 3, 5. "Without
holiness none shall see God," Heb. xii. 14.--The devil's word is, "you
may be saved without being born again and converted; you may do well
enough without being holy; God doth but frighten you; he is more
merciful, than to do as he saith; he will be better to you than his
word."--And, alas! the greatest part of the world believe this word of
the devil before the word of God: just as our sin and misery came into
the world. God saith to our first parents, "if ye eat ye shall die:"
And the devil contradicted him and said, "Ye shall not die, if you do
but cry, God have mercy, at last, and give over the acts of sin when
you can practice it no longer." And this is the word that the world
believes.--O heinous wickedness, to believe the devil before God!
And yet that is not the worst; but blasphemously they call this a
believing and trusting in God, when they put him in the shape of Satan,
who was a liar from the beginning. And, when they believe that the word
of God is a lie, they call this a trusting God, and say they believe in
him, and trust in him for salvation. Where did ever God say, that the
unregenerate, unconverted, unsanctified, shall be saved? Shew such a
word in Scripture. I challenge you, if you can. Why this is the devil's
word, and to believe it is to believe the devil, and the sin that is
commonly called presumption. And do you call this a believing and
trusting God? There is every thing in the word of God to comfort and
strengthen the hearts of the sanctified: but not a word to strengthen
the hands of wickedness, nor to give men the least hope of being saved,
though they be never sanctified.
But, if you will turn, and come into the way of mercy, the mercy of the
Lord is ready to entertain you. Then trust God for salvation boldly;
for he is engaged by his word to save you. He will be a father to none
but his children, and he will save none but those that forsake the
world, the devil, and the flesh, and come into his family to be members
of his Son, and have communion with his saints. But, if they will not
come in, it is the fault of themselves. His doors are open, he keeps none
back. He never sent such a message as this to any of you, "It was now
too late; I will not receive thee though thou be converted."--He might
have done so, and done you no wrong: But he did not; he doth not to
this day: He is still ready to receive you, if you were but ready
unfeignedly, and with all your hearts, to turn. And the fulness of this
truth will yet more appear in the two following doctrines, which I
shall therefore next proceed to, before I make any farther application
I shall first teach you how to understand this, and then clear up the
truth of it to you.
God takes pleasure in men's conversion and salvation, but not
in their death or damnation: He had rather they would turn and live,
than go on and die.
And, for the first, you must observe these following things.
1. A simple willingness, or complacency, is the first act of the will,
following the simple apprehension of the undertaking, before it
proceedeth to compare things together. But the choosing act of the will
is a following act, and supposeth the comparing practical act of the
understanding. And these two acts may often be carried to contrary
objects without any fault at all in the person.
2. An unfeigned willingness may have divers degrees. Some things I am
so far willing of as that I will do all that lieth in my power to
accomplish them: and some things I am truly willing another should do,
when yet I will not do all that ever I am able to procure them, having
many reasons to dissuade me therefrom, though yet I will do all that
belongs me to do.
3. The will of a ruler, as such, is manifested in making and executing
laws; but the will of a man, in his simple natural capacity, or as
absolute Lord of his own, is manifested in desiring or resolving of
4. A ruler's will, as lawgiver, is first and principally that his laws
be obeyed, and not at all that the penalty be executed on any, but only
on supposition that they will not obey his laws. But a ruler's will, as
judge, supposeth the law already either kept or broken; and therefore
he resolveth on rewards or punishments accordingly.
Having given up these necessary distinctions, I shall next apply them
to the case in hand in these following propositions.
1. It is in the glass of the word and creatures that in this life we
must know God; and so, according to the nature of man, we ascribe to
him understanding and will, removing all the imperfections that we can,
because we are capable of no higher positive conceptions of him.
2. And, on the same grounds, we do (with the scripture) distinguish
between the acts of God's will, as diversified from the respects or the
objects, though as to God's essence they are all one.
3. And the bolder, because that, when we speak of Christ, we have the
more ground for it from human nature.
4. And thus we say, that the simple complacency, will, or love of God,
is to all that is naturally or morally good according to the nature and
degree of its goodness. And so he hath pleasure in the conversion and
salvation of all, which yet will never come to pass.
5. And God, a ruler and law-giver of the world, hath so far a practical
will for their salvation as to make them a free deed of gift of Christ
and life, and an act of oblivion for all their sin, if so be they will
not unthankfully reject it, and to command his messengers to offer this
gift to all the world, and persuade them to accept it. And so he doth
all that, as a lawgiver or promiser, belongs to him to do for their
6. But yet he resolveth, as lawgiver, that they that will not turn
shall die: And, as judge, when their day of grace is past, he will
execute that decree.
7. So, that he thus unfeignedly willeth the conversion of those that
will never be converted; but not as absolute Lord, with the fullest
efficacious resollution, nor as a thing which he resolveth shall
undoubtedly come to pass, or would engage all his power to accomplish.
It is in the power of a prince to set a guard upon a murderer, to see
that he shall not murder and be hanged: But, if upon good reason he
forbear this, and do but send to his subjects, and warn and intreat
them not to be murderers, I hope he may well say, that he would not
have them murder and be hanged: He takes no pleasure in it, but rather
that they forbear and live: And, if he do more for some, upon some
special reason, he is not found to do so by all. The king may well say
to all the murderers and felons in the land, "I have no pleasure in
your death, but rather that you would obey my laws and live: But, if
you will not, I have resolved for all this, that you shall die."--The
judge may truly say to the thief or murderer, "Alas, man, I have no
delight in your death: I had rather thou had kept the law and saved thy
life: but seeing thou hast not, I must condemn thee, or else I should
be unjust." So, though God have no pleasure in your damnation, and
therefore calls upon you to return and live; yet he hath pleasure in
the demonstration of his own justice, and the executing his laws; and
therefore he has for all this fully resolved, that, if you will not be
converted, you shall be condemned. If God were so much against the
death of the wicked as that he were resolved to do all that he can to
hinder it, then no man should be condemned; whereas Christ telleth you
that few will be saved. But so far God is against your damnation as
that he will teach you and warn you, and set before you life and death,
and offer you your choice, and command his ministers to intreat you not
to damn yourselves, but accept his mercy, and so to leave you without
excuse. But, if this will not do, and if still you be unconverted, he
professeth to you, he is resolved on your damnation, and hath commanded
us to say to you in his name, ver. 18, "O wicked man, thou shalt surely
die!" And Christ hath little less than sworn it over and over, with a
"Verily, verily, except you be converted, and born again, ye cannot
enter into the kingdom of heaven" Matt. xviii. 3. John iii. 3. Mark
that he said, you cannot. It is in vain to hope for it, and in vain to
dream that God is willing for it, for it is a thing that cannot be.
In a word, you see then the meaning of the text, that God, the great
law giver of the world, doth take no pleasure in the death of the
wicked, but rather that they turn and live; though yet he be resolved
that none shall live but those that turn, and, as a judge, even
delighteth in justice, and in manifesting his hatred of sin, though not
in the misery, which they have brought upon themselves, in itself
2. And for the proofs of the point, I shall be very brief in them,
because I suppose you easily believe it already.
1. The very gracious nature of God, proclaimed, Exod. xxxiv. 6. and xx.
6. and frequently elsewhere, may assure you of this, that he hath no
pleasure in your death.
2. If God had more pleasure in thy death than in your conversion and
life, he would not have so frequently commanded thee in his word, to
turn; he would not have made thee such promises of life, if thou wilt
but turn; he would not have persuaded thee to it by so many reasons.
The tenor of his gospel proves the point.
3. And his commission, that he had given to the ministers of the
gospel, doth fully prove it. If God had taken more pleasure in your
damnation than in thy conversion and salvation, he would never have
charged us to offer you mercy, and to teach you the way of life, both
publicly and privately; and to intreat and beseech you to turn and
live; to acquaint you with your sins, and foretel you of your danger,
and to do all that possibly we can for your conversion, and to continue
patiently so doing, though you should hate or abuse us for our pains.
Would God have done this, and appointed his ordinances for your good,
if he had taken pleasure in your death?
4. It is proved also by the course of his providence. If God had rather
you were damned than converted and saved, he would not second his word
with his works, and entice you by his daily kindness to himself, and
give you all the mercies of this life, which are his means to lead you
to repentance, Rom. ii. 4. and bring you so often under his rod to
force you to your wits. He would not set so many examples before your
eyes, no, nor wait on you so patiently as he doth, from day to day, and
year to year. These are no signs of one that taketh pleasure in your
death.--If this had been his delight, how easily could he have had thee
long ago in hell? How often before this could he have caught thee away
in the midst of thy sins, with a curse or oath, or lie in thy mouth, in
thy ignorance, and pride, and sensuality? When thou wast last in thy
drunkenness, or last deriding the ways of God, how easily could he have
stopped thy breath, and tamed thee with his plagues, and made thee
sober in another world? Alas! how small a matter is it for the Almighty
to rule the tongue of the profanest railer, and tie the hands of the
most malicious persecutor, or calm the fury of the bitterest of his
enemies, and make them know that they are but worms? If he should frown
upon thee, thou wouldst drop into thy grave. If he gave commission to
one of his angels to go and destroy ten thousand sinners, how quickly
would it be done. How easily can he lay thee upon the bed of
languishing, and make thee lie roaring there in pain, and make thee eat
the words of reproach which thou hast spoken against his servants, his
word, his worship, and his holy ways, and make thee send to beg their
prayers whom thou didst despise in your presumption! How easily can he
lay thy flesh under gripes and groans, and make it too weak to hold thy
soul, and make it more loathsome than the dung of the earth!--That
flesh which now must have what it loves, and must not be displeased
though God be displeased; and must be humored in meat, drinks, and
clothes, whatever God says to the contrary, how quickly would the
frowns of God consume it?--When thou wast passionately defending thy
sin, and quarrelling with them that would have drawn thee from it, and
shewing thy spleen against the reprover, and pleading for the works of
darkness; how easily could God have snatched thee away in a moment, and
set thee before his dreadful Majesty, where thou shouldest see ten
thousand times ten thousand glorious angels waiting on his throne? and
have called thee there to plead thy cause, and asked thee, "What hast
thou now to say against your Creator, his truth, his servants, or his
holy ways? Now plead thy cause, and make the best of it thou canst. Now
what canst thou say in excuse of thy sins? Now give account of thy
worldliness and fleshly life, of thy time, of all the mercies thou hast
had!" O how thy stubborn heart would have melted, and thy proud looks
be taken down, and thy countenance turned pale, and thy stout words
changed into speechless silence, or dreadful cries, if God had but set
you thus at his bar, and pleaded his own cause with thee, which thou
hast here so maliciously pleaded against! How easily can he at any time
say to thy guilty soul, "Come away, and live in that flesh no more till
the resurrection," and it cannot resist! A word of his mouth would take
off the poise of thy present life, and then all thy parts and powers
would stand still: And, if he say unto thee, "Live no longer, or live
in hell," thou couldest not disobey.
But God hath yet done none of this, but hath patiently forborne thee,
and mercifully upheld thee, and given thee that breath which thou didst
breathe out against him, and given those mercies which thou did
sacrifice to thy flesh, and afforded thee that provision, which thou
spentest to satisfy thy greedy throat; he gave thee every minute of
that time which thou didst waste in idleness, or drunkenness, or
worldliness: and doth not all his patience and mercy shew that he
desired not thy damnation? Can the candle burn without the oil? Can
your houses stand without the earth to bear them? As well can you live
one hour without the support of God. And why did he so long support thy
life, but to see when thou wouldest bethink thee of the folly of thy
ways, and return and live. Will any man purposely put arms into his
enemy's hands to resist him; or hold a candle to a murderer that is
killing his children, or to an idle servant that plays or sleeps the
while? Surely it is to see whether you will at last return and live,
that God hath so long waited on thee.
5. It is farther proved, by the suffering of his Son, that God taketh
no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Would he have ransomed them
from death at so dear a rate? Would he have astonished angels and men
by his condescension? Would God have dwelt in flesh, and have come in
the form of a servant, and have assumed humanity into one person with
the Godhead? And would Christ have lived a life of suffering, and died
a cursed death for sinners, if he had rather taken pleasure in their
death? Suppose you saw him but so busy in preaching, and healing of
them, as you find him in Mark iii. 21. or so long in fasting, as in
Matt. iv. or all night in prayer, as in Luke vi. 12. or praying with
the drops of blood trickling from him instead of sweat, as Luke xxii.
44. or suffering a cursed death upon the cross, and pouring out his
soul as a sacrifice for our sins: Would you have thought these the
signs of one that delighted in the death of the wicked?
And think not to extenuate it by saying, that it was only for his
elect: For, it was thy sin, and the sin of all the world, that lay upon
our Redeemer; and his sacrifice and satisfaction is sufficient for all,
and the fruits of it are offered to one as well as another: but it is
true, that it was never the intent of his mind to pardon and save any
that would not by faith and repentance be converted. If you had seen
and heard him weeping and bemoaning the state of disobedient,
impenitent people, Luke xiv. 41, 42. or complaining of their
stubbornness, as Matt. xxiii. 37. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft
would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathereth
her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Or, if you had seen
and heard him on the cross praying for his persecutors, "Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do," would you have suspected
that he had delighted in the death of the wicked, even of those that
perish by their wilful unbelief? When God hath so loved, (not only
loved, but so loved) the world, as to give His only-begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him, by an effectual faith, should not perish,
but have everlasting life; I think he hath hereby proved, against the
malice of men and devils, that he takes no pleasure in the death of the
wicked, but had rather that they would turn and live.
6. Lastly, if all this will not yet satisfy you, take his own word,
that knoweth best his own mind, or at least believe his oath: But this
leadeth me up to the fourth doctrine.
If you dare question his word, I hope you dare not question his oath.
As Christ hath solemnly protested that the unregenerate and unconverted
cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, Matt. xviii. 3. John iii. 3.
so God hath sworn that his pleasure is not in their death, but in their
conversion and life. And as the Apostle saith, Heb. vi. 13, 16, 17, 18.
Because he can swear by no greater than himself, he saith, "As I live,
&c." For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation
is to them an end of strife: wherein God, willing more abundantly to
shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel,
confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was
impossible for God to lie, "we might have a strong consolation, who
have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us, which we
have, as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast." If there be
any man that cannot reconcile this truth with the doctrine of
predestination, or the actual damnation of the wicked, that is his own
ignorance; he hath no pretence left to deny or question therefore the
truth of the point in hand; for this is confirmed by the oath of God,
and therefore must not be distorted to reduce it to other points; but
doubtful points must rather be reduced to it, and certain truths must
be believed to agree with it, though our shallow brains do hardly
discern the agreement.
The Lord hath confirmed to us by his oath, that he hath no
pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he turn and live;
that he may leave man no pretence to question the truth of it.
USE.− I do now intreat thee, if thou be an unconverted sinner that hearest
these words, that thou wouldest ponder a little on the forementioned
doctrines, and bethink thyself awhile who it is that takes pleasure in
your sin and damnation! Certainly it is not God: He hath sworn, for his
part, that he takes no pleasure in it. And I know it is not the
pleasing of him that you intend in it. You dare not say, that you
drink, and swear, and neglect holy duties, and quench the motion of the
Spirit, to please God. That were as if you should reproach the prince,
and break his laws, and seek his death, and say you did all this to
Who is it then that takes pleasure in your sin and death? Not any that
bear the image of God, for they must be like minded to him. God knows
it is small pleasure to your faithful teachers to see you serve your
deadly enemy, and madly venture your eternal state, and wilfully run
into the flames of hell. It is small pleasure to them to see upon your
souls (in the sad effects) such blindness, and hard-heartedness and
carelessness, and presumption; such wilfulness in evil, and such
unteachableness and stiffness against the ways of life and peace. They
know these are marks of death, and of the wrath of God, and they know
from the word of God what is like to be the end of them; and therefore
it is no more pleasure to them than to a tender physician to see the
plague-marks break out upon his patient. Alas! to foresee your
everlasting torments, and know not how to prevent them! To see how near
you are to hell, and we cannot make you believe it, and consider it! To
see how easily, how certainly you might escape, if we knew but how to
make you willing! How fair you are for everlasting salvation, if you
would but turn and do your best, and make it the care and business of
your lives! but you will not do it. If our lives lay on it, we cannot
persuade you to it: We study day and night what to say to you, that may
convince you and persuade you, and yet it is undone: We lay before you
the word of God, and shew you the very chapter and verse where it is
written, that you cannot be saved except you be converted, and yet we
leave the most of you as we find you:--We hope you will believe the
word of God, though you believe not us, and that you will regard it
when we shew you the plain scripture for it: but we hope in vain, and
labour in vain, as to any saving change upon your hearts. And do you
think that this is a pleasant thing to us? Many a time in secret prayer
we are fain to complain to God with sad hearts, "Alas! Lord, we have
spoken to them in thy name, but they little regard us: We have told
them what thou bidst us tell them concerning the danger of an
unconverted state, but they do not believe us; we have told them that
thou hast protested that "there is no peace to the wicked," Isaiah
xlviii. 22. and lvii. 21. but the worst of them all will scarcely
believe that they are wicked; we have shewn them thy word, where thou
hast said, "That if they live after the flesh they shall die;" Rom.
viii. 13. but they say, "They will believe in thee, when they will not
believe thee; that they will trust in thee, when they give no credit to
thy word; and when they have hope that the threatnings of thy words are
false, they will yet call this a hoping in God; and though we shew them
where thou hast said, that when a wicked man dieth all his hopes
perish, yet cannot we persuade them from their deceitful hopes," Prov.
xi. 7.--We tell them what a base unprofitable thing sin is; but they
love it, and therefore will not leave it.--We tell them how dear they
buy this pleasure, and that they must pay for it in everlasting
torment; and they bless themselves, and will not believe it; but will
do as the most do: and, because God is merciful, they will not believe
him, but will venture their souls, come of it what will. We tell them
how ready the Lord is to receive them; and this doth but make them
delay their repentance and be bolder in their sin.--Some of them say
they purpose to repent, but they are still the same; and some say they
do repent already, while yet they are not converted from their sins. We
exhort them, we intreat them, we offer them our help, but we cannot
prevail with them; but they that were drunkards are drunkards still;
and they that were voluptuous flesh-pleasing wretches are such still;
and they that were worldlings are worldlings still; and they that were
ignorant, and proud, and self-conceited, are so still.--Few of them
will see and confess their sin, and fewer will forsake it, but comfort
themselves that all men are sinners; as if there were no difference
between a converted sinner and an unconverted. Some of them will not
come near us when we are willing to instruct them, but think they have
enough already, and need not our instruction; and some of them will
give us the hearing, and do what they list; and most of them are like
dead men that cannot feel; so that, when we tell them of the matters of
everlasting consequence, we cannot get a word of it to their hearts. If
we do not obey them, and humour them in baptising the children of the
most obstinately wicked, and giving them the Lord's Supper, and doing
all that they would have us, though never so much against the word of
God, they will hate us, and rail at us; but if we beseech them but to
confess and forsake their sins, and save their souls, they will not do
it.--We tell them, if they will but turn, we will deny them none of the
ordinances of God, neither baptism to the children, nor the Lord's
Supper to themselves; but they will not hear us. They would have us
disobey God, and damn our own souls to please them, and yet they will
not turn and save their own souls to please God.--They are wiser in
their own eyes than all their teachers; they rage and are confident in
their own way, and, if we would never so fain, we cannot change them.
Lord, this is the case of our miserable neighbours, and we cannot help
it; we see them ready to drop into hell, and we cannot help it; we know
if they would unfeignedly turn they might be saved, but we cannot
persuade them; if we would beg it of them on our knees, we cannot
persuade them to it; if we would beg it of them with tears, we cannot
persuade them; and what more can we do?"
These are the secret complaints and moans that many a poor minister is
fain to make. And do you think that he hath any pleasure in this? Is it
a pleasure to him to see you go on in sin, and cannot stop you? To see
you so miserable, and cannot so much as make you sensible of it; to see
you merry, when you are not sure to be an hour out of hell? To think
what you must for ever suffer, because you will not turn? And to think
what an everlasting life of glory you wilfully despise and cast away?
What sadder thing can you bring to their hearts? And how can you devise
to grieve them more?
Who is it then that you pleasure by your sin and death? It is none of
your understanding godly friends. Alas, it is the grief of their souls
to see your misery; and they lament you many a time when you give them
little thanks for it, and when you have not hearts to lament
Who is it then that takes pleasure in your sin? It is none but the
three great enemies of God, whom you renounced in your baptism, and are
now turned falsely to serve.
1. The devil indeed takes pleasure in your sin and death; for this is
the very end of all his temptations. For this, he watches night and
day: you cannot devise to please him better than to go on in sin: how
glad is he when he sees thee going to the alehouse, or other sin and
when he heareth you curse, or swear, or rail? How glad is he when he
heareth thee revile the minister that would draw thee from thy sin, and
help to save thee? These are his delight.
2. The wicked are also delighted in it; for it is agreeable to their
3. But I know, for all this, that it is not the pleasing of the devil
that you intend, even when you please him; but it is your own flesh,
the greatest and most dangerous enemy, that you intend to please. It is
the flesh that would be pampered, that would be pleased in meat, and
drink, and clothing; that would be pleased in your company, and pleased
in applause and credit with the world, and pleased in sports, and
lusts, and idleness: this is the gulf that devoureth all. This is the
very god that you serve, for, the scripture saith of such, "that their
bellies are their gods," Phil. iii. 18.
But I beseech you stay a little and consider the business.
1. Quest. Should your flesh be pleased before your Maker? Will you
displease the Lord, and displease your teachers, and your godly
friends, and all to please your brutish appetites, or sensual desires?
Is not God worthy to be the ruler of your flesh? If he shall not rule
it, he will not save it; you cannot in reason expect that he should.
2. Quest. Your flesh is pleased with your sin; but is your conscience
pleased? doth not it grudge within you and tell you sometimes that all
is not well, and that your case is not so safe as you make it to be?
and should not your soul and conscience be pleased before your
3. Quest. But, is not your flesh preparing for its own displeasure
also? It loves the bait, but doth it love the hook? It loves the strong
drink and sweet morsels; it loves its ease, and sport, and merriment:
it loves to be rich, and well spoken of by men, and to be somebody in
the world: but doth it love the curse of God? Doth it love to stand
trembling before his bar, and to be judged to everlasting fire? Doth it
love to be tormented with the devils for ever?--Take all together: for
there is no separating sin and hell, but only by faith and true
conversion; if you will keep one you must have the other. If death and
hell be pleasant to you, no wonder then if you go on in sin; but, if
they are not (as I am sure they are not), then what if sin were never
so pleasant, is it worth the loss of life eternal? Is a little drink,
or meat, or ease; is the good word of sinners; are the riches of this
world to be valued above the joys of heaven? Or are they worth the
sufferings of eternal fire?
These questions should be considered before you go any farther, by
every man that hath reason to consider, and that believes he hath a
soul to save or lose.
Well, the Lord here sweareth that he hath no pleasure in your death,
but rather that you would turn and live; if yet you will go on and die
rather than turn; remember it was not to please God that you did it; it
was to please the world, and to please yourselves. And, if men will
damn themselves to please themselves, and run into endless torments for
delight, and have not the wit, the heart, the grace, to hearken to God
or man, that would reclaim them, what remedy? They must take what they
get by it, and repent it in another manner, when it is too late! Before
I proceed any further in the application, I shall come to the next
doctrine; which giveth me a fuller ground for it.
This doctrine is the application of the former, as by a use of
exhortation, and accordingly I shall handle it.
So earnest is God for the conversion of sinners, that he
doubleth his commands and exhortations with vehemency: "Turn ye, turn
ye, why will you die?"
Is there an unconverted sinner that heareth these vehement words of
God? Is there ever a man or woman in this assembly that is yet a
stranger to the renewing, sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost? It is a
happy assembly, if it be not so with the most. Hearken then to the
voice of your Maker, and turn to him by Christ without delay. Would you
know the will of God? Why this is his will, that you presently turn.
Shall the living God send so earnest a message to his creatures, and
should they not obey? Hearken then, all you that live after the flesh;
the Lord, that gave you thy breath and being, hath sent a message to
you from heaven; and this is his message, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will
ye die?" He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Shall the voice of
the eternal Majesty be neglected? If he do but terribly thunder, thou
art afraid. O but this word concerneth thy life or death everlasting.
It is both a command and an exhortation. As if he had said to thee, "I
charge thee, upon the allegiance that thou owest to me your Creator and
Redeemer, that thou renounce the flesh, the world, and the devil, and
turn to me that you mayest live. I condescend to intreat thee, as thou
lovest or fearest him that made thee: as thou lovest thine own life,
even thine everlasting life, Turn and live: as ever thou wouldst escape
eternal misery, "Turn, turn, for why wilt thou die?" And is there a
heart in man, in a reasonable creature, that can once refuse such a
message, such a command, such an exhortation as this? O what a thing
then is the heart of man!
Hearken then, all that love yourselves, and all that regard your own
salvation:--Here is the joyfullest message that ever was sent to the
ears of man, "Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?" You are not yet
shut up under desperation. Here is mercy offered you; turn, and you
shall have it. O with what joyful hearts should you receive these
tidings! I know this is not the first time that you have heard it; but
how have you regarded it, or how do you regard it now? Hear, all you
ignorant, careless sinners, the word of the Lord! Hear, all you
worldlings, you sensual flesh-pleasers; you gluttons, and drunkards,
and whoremongers, and swearers; you railers and backbiters, slanderers
and liars: "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?"
Hear, all ye that are void of the love of God, whose hearts are not
toward him, nor taken up with the hopes of glory, but set more by your
earthly prosperity and delights than by the joys of heaven; all you
that are religious but a little by the by, and give God no more than
your flesh can spare; that have not denied your carnal selves, and
forsaken all that you have for Christ, in the estimation and grounded
resolution of your souls, but have some one thing in the world so dear
to you that you cannot spare it for Christ, if he required it, but will
rather venture on his displeasure than forsake it; "Turn ye, turn ye,
why will ye die?"
If you never heard it, or observed it before, remember that you were
told it from the word of God this day, that if you will but turn, you
may live; and if you will not turn, you shall surely die.
What now will you do, Sirs? What is your resolution? Will you turn, or
will you not? Halt not any longer between two opinions: If the Lord be
God, follow him; if your flesh be God, then serve it still. If heaven
be better than earth and fleshly pleasures, come away then, and seek a
better country, and "lay up your treasure where rust and moths do not
corrupt, and thieves cannot break through and steal, and be awakened at
last with all your might to seek the kingdom that cannot be moved,"
Heb. xii. 28. and to employ your lives on a higher design, and turn the
stream of your cares and labours another way than formerly you have
done. But, if earth be better than heaven, or will do more for you, or
last you longer, then keep it, and make your best of it, and follow it
still. Are you resolved what to do? If you be not, I will set a few
more moving considerations before you, to see if reason will make you
Consider first, "What preparations mercy hath made for your salvation:"
and what pity it is that any man should be damned after all this. The
time was, when the flaming sword was in the way, and the curse of God's
law would have kept thee back if thou hadst been ever so willing to
turn to God: The time was when thyself, and all the friends that thou
hast in the world, could never have procured thee the pardon of thy
sins past, though thou hadst ever so much lamented and reformed them.
But Christ hath removed this impediment by the ransom of his blood. The
time was, that God was wholly unreconciled, as being not satisfied for
the violation of his law: but now he is so far satisfied and
reconciled, as that he hath made thee a free act of oblivion, and a
free deed of gift of Christ and life, and offereth it to thee, and
intreateth thee to accept it, and it may be thine, if thou wilt. "For
he was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and hath committed
to us the word of reconciliation," 2 Cor. v. 18, 19. Sinners, we too
are commanded to deliver this message to you all, as from the Lord,
"Come, for all things are ready," Luke xiv. 17. Are all things ready,
and are you unready? God is ready to entertain you, and pardon all that
you have done against him, if you will but come. As long as you have
sinned, as wilfully as you have sinned, he is ready to cast all behind
his back, if you will but come. Though you have been prodigals, and run
away from God, and have staid so long, he is ready even to meet you,
and embrace you in his arms, and rejoice in your conversion, if you
will but turn.--Even the earthly worldling and swinish drunkard will
find God ready to bid them welcome, if they will but come. Doth not
this turn thy heart within thee?--O sinner, if thou have a heart of
flesh, and not of stone in thee, methinks this should melt it. Shall
the infinite Majesty of Heaven even wait for thy returning, and be
ready to receive thee who have abused him, and forgotten him so long?
Shall he delight in thy conversion, that might at any time glorify his
justice in thy damnation, and yet doth it not melt thy heart within
thee, and art thou not yet ready to come in? Hast thou not as much
reason to be ready to come as God hath to invite thee and bid thee
But, that is not all: Christ hath done his part on the cross, and made
such way for thee to the Father, that on his account thou mayst be
welcome if thou wilt come. And yet art thou not ready?
A pardon is already expressly granted and offered thee in the gospel.
And yet art thou not ready?
The ministers of the gospel are ready to assist thee, to instruct thee;
they are ready to pray for thee, and to seal up thy pardon by the
administration of the holy sacrament; and yet art thou not ready?
All that fear God about thee are ready to rejoice in thy conversion,
and to receive thee into the communion of saints, and to give thee the
right hand of fellowship, yea, though thou hadst been one that had been
cast out of their society: they dare not but forgive where God
forgiveth, when it is manifest to them, by your confession and
amendment: they dare not so much as hit thee in the teeth with thy
former sins, because they know that God will not upbraid thee with
them. If thou hadst been ever so scandalous, if thou wouldst but
heartily be converted and come in, they would not refuse thee, let the
world say what they would against it. And, are all these ready to
receive thee, and yet art thou not ready to come in?
Yea, heaven itself is ready; the Lord will receive thee into the glory
of his saints, a vile brute as thou hast been: if thou wilt but be but
cleansed, thou mayst have a place before his throne; his angels will be
ready to guard thy soul to the place of joy, if thou do but unfeignedly
come in. And is God ready, the sacrifice of Christ ready, the promise
ready, and pardon ready?--Are ministers ready, and the people of God
ready, and heaven itself ready, and angels ready, and all these but
waiting for your conversion, and yet art thou not ready? What! not
ready to live, when you have been dead so long? Not ready to come to
thy right understanding, as the prodigal is said to come to himself,
Luke xv. 17. when thou hast been beside thyself so long? Not ready to
be saved, when thou art even ready to be condemned?--Art thou not ready
to lay hold on Christ, that would deliver thee, when thou art even
ready to drown and sink into damnation? Art thou not ready to be saved
from hell, when thou art even ready to be cast remedilessly into it?
Alas, man! dost thou know what thou dost? If thou die unconverted there
is no doubt to be made of your damnation, and thou art not sure to live
an hour: and yet are thou not ready to turn and to come in? O miserable
wretch! Hast thou not served the flesh and the devil long enough? Yet
hast thou not enough of sin? Is it so good to thee; or so profitable
for thee?--Dost thou know what it is, that thou wouldest yet have more
of it? Hast thou had so many calls, and so many mercies, and so many
blows, and so many examples? Hast thou seen so many laid in the grave,
and yet art thou not ready to let go thy sins, and come to Christ?
What! after so many convictions, and gripes of conscience, after so
many purposes and promises, are thou not yet ready to turn and live?--O
that thy eyes, thy heart, were opened, to know how fair an offer is now
made to thee! and what a joyful message it is we are sent on, to bid
you come, for all things are ready.
2. Consider also, what calls thou hast to turn and live. How many, how
loud, how earnest, how dreadful, and yet what encouraging, joyful
For the principal inviter is God himself. He, that commandeth heaven
and earth, commandeth thee to turn; and presently, without delay, to
turn: He commands the sun to run its course, and to rise upon thee
every morning; and though it be so glorious an creature, and many times
bigger than all the earth, yet it obeyeth him, and faileth not one
minute of its appointed time. He commandeth all the planets and orbs of
heaven, and they obey.--He commandeth the sea to ebb and flow, and the
whole creation to keep its course, and all obey him. The angels of
heaven obey his will, when he sends them to minister to such silly
worms as we on earth, Heb. i. 14.--And yet, if he command but a sinner
to turn, he will not obey him; he only thinks himself wiser than God,
and he cavils and pleads the cause of sin, and will not obey. If the
Lord Almighty say the word, the heavens and all therein obey him; but
if he call but a drunkard out of an alehouse, he will not obey; or if
he call a worldly fleshly sinner to deny himself; and mortify the
flesh, and set his heart on a better inheritance, he will not obey him.
If you had any love in thee, thou wouldst know the voice, and say, "Oh
this is my father's call! how can I find in my heart to disobey? For,
the sheep of Christ do know and hear his voice, and they follow him,
and he giveth them eternal life," John, x. 4. If thou hadst any
spiritual life and sense in thee, at least thou wouldst say, "This call
is the dreadful voice of God, and who dares disobey?"--For says the
prophet, Amos iii. 8. "The lion hath roared, who will not fear?" God is
not a man, that thou shouldst dally and play with him: remember what he
saith to Paul at his conversion, "It is hard for thee to kick against
the pricks," Acts ix. 5. Wilt thou yet go and despise his word, and
resist his Spirit, and stop thine ear against his call? Who is it that
will have the worst of this? Dost thou know whom thou disobeyest and
contendest with, and what thou art doing? It were a far wiser and
easier task for thee to contend with the thorns, and spurn them with
thy bare feet, and beat them with thy bare hands, or put thy head into
the burning fire. "Be not deceived, God will not be mocked," Gal. vi.
7. Whoever else be mocked, God will not: you had better play with the
fire in your thatch than with the fire of his burning wrath: "For our
God is a consuming fire," Heb. xii. 29. O how unmeet a match art thou
for God! "It is a fearful thing to fall into his hands," Heb. x. 31.
And therefore it is a fearful thing to contend with him, or resist him.
As you love your souls, take heed what you do. What will you say, if he
begin in wrath to plead with you? What will you do if he take you once
in hand? Will you not strive against his judgment, as now you do
against his grace? Saith the Lord, Isaiah xxvii. 4, 6. "Fury is not in
me;" that is, I delight not to destroy you: I do it, as it were.
unwillingly; but yet "Who would set the briars and thorns against me in
battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Oh let him
take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me, and he shall
make peace with me!"--It is an unequal combat for the briars and
stubble to make war with the fire.
And thus you see who it is that calleth you, that should move you to
hear this call, and turn; so consider also, by what instruments, and
how often, and how earnestly, he doth it.
1. Every leaf of the blessed book of God hath as it were a voice, and
calls unto thee, Turn and live; turn, or thou wilt die! How canst thou
open it, and read a leaf, or hear a chapter, and not perceive God bids
2. It is the voice of every sermon that thou hearest: For what else is
the scope and drift of all, but to call and persuade, and intreat thee
3. It is the voice of many a motion of the Spirit, that secretly speaks
over these words again, and urgeth thee to turn.
4. It is likely, sometimes, it is the voice of thy own conscience. Art
thou not sometimes convinced that all is not well with thee? And doth
not your conscience tell thee that you must be a new man, and take a
new course, and often call thee to return?
5. It is the voice of the gracious examples of the godly. When thou
seest them live a heavenly life, and fly from the sin which is your
delight, this really calls on thee to turn.
6. It is the voice of all the works of God. For, they also are God's
books, that teach thee this lesson, by shewing thee his greatness, and
wisdom, and goodness; and calling thee to observe them, and admire the
Creator, Psalm xix. 1, 2. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and
the firmament shewth his handy work; day unto day uttereth speech,
night unto night sheweth knowledge."--Every time the sun riseth upon
thee, it really calleth thee to turn; as if it should say, "What do I
travel and compass the world for, but to declare to men the glory of
their Maker, and to light them to do his work? And do I still find thee
doing the work of sin, and sleeping out thy life in negligence? Awake,
thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee
light," Ephes. v. 14. "The night is spent, the day is at hand; it is
now high time to awake out of sleep; let us therefore cast off the
works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk
honestly as in the day, not in rioting and in drunkenness, not in
chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put ye on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the
lusts thereof," Rom. xiii. 11, 12, 13, 14.--This text was the means of
7. It is the voice of every mercy thou dost possess. If thou couldst
but hear and understand them, they all cry out unto thee, turn. Why
doth the earth bear thee, but to seek and serve the Lord? Why doth it
afford thee its fruits, but to serve him? Why doth the air afford you
breath, but to serve him? Why do all the creatures serve thee with
their labours and their lives, but that thou mightst serve the Lord of
them and thee? Why doth he give thee time, and health, and strength,
but for to serve him? Why hast thou meat, and drink, and clothes, but
for his service? Hast thou any thing which thou hast not received? And,
if thou didst receive them, it is reason thou shouldst bethink thee,
from whom, and to what end and use, thou didst receive them. Didst thou
never cry to him for help in thy distress? And didst thou then
understand that it was thy part to turn and serve him if he would
deliver thee? He hath done his part, and spared thee yet longer, and
tried thee another and another year; and yet dost thou not turn? You
know the parable of the unfruitful figtree, Luke xiii. 6, 7, 8, 9. When
the Lord had said, "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" He was
intreated to try it one year longer, and then if it proved not
fruitful, to cut it down. Christ himself there makes the application
twice over, ver. 3 and 5. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise
perish." How many years hath God looked for the fruits of love and
holiness from thee, and hath found none, and yet hath spared thee. How
many a time, by thy wilful ignorance, and carelessness, and
disobedience, hast thou provoked justice to say, "Cut him down, why
cumbereth he the ground?" And yet mercy hath prevailed, and patience
hath forborne the fatal blow to this day. If thou hadst the
understanding of a man within thee, thou wouldst know that all this
calleth thee to turn.--"Dost thou think thou shalt still escape the
judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and
forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God
leadeth thee to repentance? But, after thy hardness and impenitent
heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and
revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every
man according to his deeds," Rom. ii. 3, 4, 5, 6.
8. Moreover, it is the voice or every affliction to call thee to make
haste and turn. Sickness and pain cry turn; and poverty, and loss of
friends, and every twig of the chastising rod cry turn; and yet wilt
thou not hearken to the call? These have come near thee, and made thee
feel, they have made thee groan, and can they not make thee turn?
9. The very frame of your nature and being itself, bespeaketh thy
return. Why hast thou reason, but to rule thy flesh, and serve thy
Lord? Why hast thou an understanding soul, but to learn and know his
will and do it? Why hast thou a heart within you that can love, and
fear, and desire, but that thou shouldst fear him, and love him, and
desire after him?
10. Yea, thine own engagements, by promise to the Lord, do call upon
thee to turn and serve him. Thou hast bound thyself to him by a
baptismal covenant, and renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil;
this thou hast confirmed by the profession of Christianity, and renewed
it at sacraments, and in times of affliction: And wilt thou promise and
vow, and never perform, and turn to God?
Lay all these together, now, and see what should be the issue. The holy
scripture calleth upon thee to turn; the ministers of Christ call upon
thee to turn; the Spirit cries turn; thy conscience cries turn; the
godly, by persuasions and example cry turn; the whole world, and all
the creatures therein, that are presented to thy consideration, cry
turn; the present forbearance of God, cries turn; all the mercies which
thou receivest cry turn; the rod of God's chastisement cries turn; thy
reason, and the frame of thy nature bespeaks thy turning; and so do all
your promises to God; and yet hast thou not resolved to turn?
11. Moreover, poor sinner! didst thou ever consider upon what terms
thou standst all this while with him that calleth on thee to turn? Thou
art his own, and owest him thyself and all thou hast, and may he not
command his own? Thou art his absolute servant, and should serve no
other master. Thou standest at his mercy, and thy life is in his hand;
and he has resolved to save thee upon no other terms; thou hast many
malicious spiritual enemies, that would be glad if God would but
forsake thee, and let them alone with thee, and leave thee to their
will; how quickly would they deal with thee in another manner? And thou
canst not be delivered from them but by turning unto God. Thou art
fallen under his wrath by your sin already; and thou knowest not how
long his patience will yet wait. Perhaps this is the last year; perhaps
the last day; his sword is even at thy heart while the word is in thine
ear; and if thou turn not, you are a dead and undone man. Were thy eyes
but open to see where thou standest, even upon the brink of hell, and
to see how many thousands are there already that did not turn, thou
wouldst see that it is time to look about thee.
Well, Sirs, look inwards now, and tell me how are your hearts affected
with those offers of the Lord? You hear what is his mind; he delighteth
not in your death; he calls to you, Turn, turn: It is a fearful sign if
all this move thee not, or if it do but half move thee; and much more
if it make thee more careless in your misery, because thou hearest of
the mercifulness of God. The working of the medicine will partly tell
us whether there be any hope of the cure. O what glad tidings would it
be to those, that are now in hell, if they had but such a message from
God! What a joyful word would it be to hear this, Turn and live.--Yea,
what a welcome word would it be to thyself, when thou hast felt that
wrath of God but an hour! or, if after a thousand or ten thousand years
torment thou couldst but hear such a word from God, Turn and live; and
yet wilt thou neglect it, and suffer us to return without our errand?
Behold, sinners, we are sent here as the messengers of the Lord, to set
before you life and death. What say you? Which of them will you choose?
Christ standeth, as it were, by thee, with heaven in the one hand, and
hell in the other, and offereth thee thy choice; which wilt thou
choose?--"The voice of the Lord makes the rocks to tremble," Psalm
xxvi. And is it nothing to hear him threaten thee, if thou wilt not
turn? Dost thou not understand and feel this voice, "Turn ye, turn ye,
why will you die?"--Why, it is the voice of love, of infinite love, of
thy best and kindest friend, as thou mightest easily perceive by the
motion; and yet canst thou neglect it? It is the voice or pity and
compassion. The Lord seeth whither thou art going better than thou
dost, which makes him call after thee, "Turn, turn." He seeth what will
become of thee if thou turn not. He thinketh with himself, "Ah this
poor sinner will cast himself into endless torments if he do not turn;
I must in justice deal with him according to my righteous law;" and
therefore he calleth after thee, Turn, turn, O sinner! If you did but
know the thousandth part as well as God doth, the danger that is near
you, and the misery that you are running into, we should have no more
need to call after you to turn.
Moreover, this voice that calls to thee, is the same that hath
prevailed with thousands already, and called all to heaven that are now
there: and they would not now, for a thousand worlds, that they had
made light of it, and not turned to God. Now what are they possessing
that turned at God's call? Now they perceive that it was indeed the
voice of love that meant them no more harm than their salvation. And,
if thou wilt obey the same call, thou shalt come to the same happiness.
There are millions that must for ever lament that they turned not; but
there is never a soul in heaven that is sorry that they are converted.
Well, Sirs, are you yet resolved, or are you not? Do I need to say any
more to you? What will you do? Will you turn or not? Speak, man, in thy
heart to God, though you speak not out to me; speak, lest he take your
silence for denial; speak quickly, lest he never make you the like
offer more. Speak resolvedly, and not waveringly, for he will have no
indifferents to be his followers. Say in thy heart now, without any
more delay, even before thou stir from hence, "By the grace of God I am
resolved presently to turn. And because I know my own insufficiency, I
am resolved to wait on God for his grace, and to follow him in his
ways, and forsake my former courses and companions and give up myself
to the guidance of the Lord."
You are not shut up in the darkness of heathenism, nor in the
desperation of the damned.--Life is before you; and you may have it on
reasonable terms, if you will; yea, on free cost, if you will accept
it. The way of God lieth plain before you; the church is open to you;
you may have Christ, and pardon, and holiness, if you will. What say
you? Will you, or will you not? If you say nay, or say nothing, and
still go on, God is witness, and this congregation is witness, and your
own consciences are witnesses, how fair an offer you had this day.
Remember, you might have had Christ, and would not. Remember, when you
have lost it, that you might have had eternal life as well as others,
and would not; and all because you would not turn.
IT has been explained, and proved, that God taketh pleasure in men's conversion and salvation,
but not in their death or damnation. He would rather they would turn and live, than go on and
die: "That he may leave man no pretence to doubt of it, the Lord hath confirmed it to us by his
oath. Yea, farther, so earnest is God for the conversion of sinners, that he doubleth his
commands and exhortations with vehemency, Turn ye, turn ye.
Having already illustrated and applied each of these points, let us come to the next doctrine, and
hear your reasons.
A strange disputation it is, both as to the controversy and as to the disputants.
The Lord condescends to reason the case with unconverted sinners, and to ask them why they will die.
1. The controversy or question, propounded to dispute of, is, "Why wicked men will damn
themselves?" Or, "Why they will rather die than turn?" Whether they have any sufficient reason
for so doing?
2. The disputants are God and man; the most holy God, and wicked unconverted sinners.
Is it not a strange thing, which God doth seem here to suppose, that any man should be willing to
die and be damned? Yea, that this should be the case of the wicked; that is, of the greatest part of
the world: But, you will say, this cannot be, for nature desireth the preservation and felicity of
itself, and the wicked are more selfish than others, and not less; and therefore how can any man
be willing to be damned? "To which I answer:
1. It is a certain truth that no man can be willing of any evil as evil, but only as it hath some
appearance of good; much less can any man be willing to be eternally tormented. Misery, as
such, is desired by none.
2. But yet, for all that, it is most true which God here teacheth us, that the cause, why the wicked
die and are damned, is, because, they will die and be damned. And this is true in several respects.
1. Because they will go the way that leads to hell, though they are told by God and man whither
it goes, and where it ends; and though God hath so often professed in his word, that if they hold
on in that way, they shall be condemned, and that they shall not be saved unless they turn, Isaiah
xlviii. 22. and lvii. 21. "There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked." Isaiah lix. 8. "The
way of peace they know not; there is no judgment in their goings; they have made them crooked
paths; whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace." They have the word and the oath of the
living God for it; that, if they will not turn, they shall not enter into his rest. "And yet wicked
they are, and wicked they will be, let God and man say what they will; fleshly they are, and
fleshly they will be, worldlings they are, and worldlings they will be; though God hath told them
that "the love of the world is enmity to God; and that if any man love the world, the love of the
Father is not in him," James 4. iv. 1 John ii. 15. So that, consequently, these men are willing to
be damned, though not directly; they are willing to walk in the way to hell, and love the certain
cause of their torment; though they be not willing of hell itself, and do not love the pain which they must endure.
Is not this the truth of your case, sinners? You would not burn in hell; but you will kindle the fire
by your sins, and cast yourselves into it; you would not be tormented with devils for ever, but
you will do that which will certainly procure it, in despite of all that can be said against it. It is
just as if you would say, "I will drink this poison, but you I will not die. I will cast myself
headlong from the top of a steeple, but yet I will not kill myself. "I will thrust this knife into my heart, but yet I will not take away my life. I will put
this fire into the thatch of my house, but yet I will not burn it." "Just so it is with wicked men;
they will be wicked, and they will live after the flesh and the world, and yet they would not be
damned. But do you not know that the means do lead to the end? and that God hath by his
righteous law concluded, that you must repent or perish? He, that will take poison, may as well
say plainly, "I will kill myself;" for it will prove no better in the end: Though perhaps he loved it
for the sweetness of the sugar that was mixt with it, and would not be persuaded that it was
poison, but that he might take it and do well enough; but it is not his conceits and confidence
that will save his life. So, if you will be drunkards, or fornicators, or worldlings, or live after the
flesh, you may as well say plainly, "We will be damned." for so you will be unless you turn.
Would you not rebuke the folly of a thief or murderer, that would say, "I will steal and kill, but I
shall not be hanged," when he knows that, if he do the one, the judge in justice will see that the
other be done? If he say, "I will steal and murder," he may as well say plainly, "I will be hanged."
So, if you will go on in a carnal life, you may as well say plainly, "We will go to hell."
2. Moreover, the wicked will not use those means, without which there is no hope of their
salvation. He that will not eat, may as well say plainly, he will not live, unless he can tell how to
live without meat; he that will not go his journey, may as well say plainly he will not come to the
end. He that falls into the water, and will not come out, nor suffer another to help him out, may
as well say plainly, he will be drowned. So if you be carnal and ungodly, and will not be
converted, nor use the means by which you should be converted, but think it more ado than
needs, you may as well say plainly, you will be damned. For if you have found out a way to be
saved without conversion, you have done that which was never done before.
3. Yes, this is not all; but the wicked are unwilling even to partake of salvation itself. Tho' they
may desire somewhat which they call by the name of heaven, yet heaven itself, considered in the
true nature of its felicity, they desire not; yea, their hearts are quite against it. Heaven is a state
of perfect holiness, and of continual love and praise to God and the wicked have no heart to this.
The imperfect love, and praise, and holiness, which is here to be attained, they have no mind of;
much less of that which is so much greater: The joys of heaven are of so pure and spiritual a
nature, that the heart of the wicked cannot desire them.
So that by this time you may see on what ground it is, that God supposeth that the wicked are
willing their own destruction; they will rather venture on certain misery than be converted; and
then, to quiet themselves in their sins, they will make themselves believe that they shall
2. And as this controversy is matter of wonder (that even men should be such enemies to
themselves, as wilfully to cast away their souls) so are the disputants too. That God should stoop
so low as thus to plead the case with man; and that men should be so strangely blind and
obstinate as to need all this in so plain a case; yea, and to resist all this, when their own salvation
lieth upon the issue!
No wonder that they will not hear us that are men, when they will not hear the Lord himself: As
God saith, Ezek. iii. 7, when He sent the prophet to the Israelites, "The house of Israel will not
hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and
hard-hearted" No wonder if they can plead against a minister, or a godly neighbour, when they
will plead against the Lord himself; even against the plainest passages of his word, and think that
they have reason on their side. When they weary the Lord with their words, they say, "Wherein
have we wearied Him?" Mal. ii. 17. The priests, that despised His name, durst ask, "Wherein
have we despised your name?" And when they polluted his altar, and made the temple of the
Lord contemptible they durst say, "Wherein have we polluted thee?" Mal. i. 6, 7. But "Wo unto
him, saith the Lord, that striveth with his Maker: Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the
earth: Shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, What makest thou?" Isaiah xlv. 9.
Quest. But why is it that God will reason the case with man?
Ans. 1. Because that man being a reasonable creature, is accordingly to be dealt with, and by
reason to be persuaded and overcome; God hath therefore endowed them with reason, that they
might use it for him. One would think a reasonable creature should not go against the clearest
and the greatest reason in the world, when it is set before him.
2. At least, men shall see that God did require nothing of them that was unreasonable, but that
whatever forbideth them, he hath all the right reason in the world on his side: And they have
good reason to obey him, but none to disobey. And thus even the damned shall be forced to
justify God, and confess that it was only reasonable that they should have turned to him; and
they shall be forced to condemn themselves, and confess that they had little reason to cast away
themselves by the neglecting of His grace in the day of their visitation.
USE.− Look up your best and strongest reasons, sinners, if you will make good your way: "You see now
with whom you have to deal. "What say thou, unconverted, sensual sinner? Darest thou venture
upon a dispute with God? Art thou able to confute him? Art thou ready to enter the lists? God
asketh thee, Why wilt thou die? Art thou furnished with a sufficient answer? Wilt thou undertake
to prove that God is mistaken, and that thou art in the right? O what an undertaking is that!
"Why, either he or you are mistaken, when he is for your conversion, and you are against it: He
calls upon you to turn, and you will not; He bids you do it presently, even to-day, while it is
called to-day, and you delay, and think it time enough hereafter. "He saith it must be a total
change, and you must be holy, and new creatures, and born again; and you think that less may
serve the turn, and that it is enough to patch up the old man, without becoming new. Who is in
the right now? God or you? God calleth on you to turn, and to live a holy life, and you will not;
by your disobedient lives it appears you will not. If you will, why do you not? Why have you not
done it all this while? And why do you not fall upon it yet? Your wills have the command of
your lives. We may certainly conclude that you are unwilling to turn, when you do not turn.
And, why will you not? Can you give any reason for it that is worthy to be called a reason?
I, that am but a worm, your fellow-creature, of a shallow capacity, dare challenge the wisest of
you all to reason the case with me, while I plead my Maker's cause; and I need not be
discouraged, when I know I plead but the cause that God pleadeth, and contend for him that will
have the best at last. Had I but these two general grounds against you, I am sure that you have no
good reason on your side.
1. I am sure it can be no good reason which is against the God of truth and reason. It cannot be
light that is contrary to the sun. There is no knowledge in any creature but what it has from God;
and therefore none can be wiser than God. It were fatal presumption for the highest angel to
compare with his Creator. What is it then for a lump of dirt, an ignorant sot, that knoweth not
himself, nor his own soul, that knoweth but little of the things which he seeth, yet that is more
ignorant than many of his neighbours, to set himself against the wisdom of the Lord? It is one of
the fullest discoveries of the horrible wickedness of carnal men, and the stark madness of such
as sin, that so silly a mole dare contradict his Maker, and call in question the word of God: Yea,
that those people in our parishes, that are so ignorant, that they cannot give us a reasonable
answer concerning the very principles of religion, are yet so wise in their own conceit, that they
dare question the plainest truths of God, yea, contradict them and cavil against them, when they
can scarce speak sense, and will believe them no farther than agreeth with their foolish wisdom.
2. And as I know that God must needs be in the right, so I know the case is so palpable and gross
which he pleadeth against, that no man can have reason for it. Is it possible that a man can have
any reason to break his master's laws? and reason to dishonor the Lord of glory? and reason to
abuse the Lord that bought him? Is it possible that a man can have any good reason to damn his
own immortal soul? "Mark the Lord's question, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" Is eternal
death a thing to be desired? Are you in love with hell? What reason have you wilfully to perish?
If you think you have reason to sin, should you not remember that "death is the wages of sin,"
Rom. vi. 23. and think whether you have any reason to undo yourselves, body and soul, for ever?
"You should not only ask whether you love the adder, but whether you love the sting? "It is such
a thing for a man to cast away his everlasting happiness, and to sin against God, that no good
reason can be given for it; but, the more anyone pleads for it, the madder he sheweth himself to
be. Had you a lordship or a kingdom offered you for every sin that you commit, it were not
reason, but madness, to accept it. Could you by every sin obtain the highest thing on earth that
flesh desireth, it were no considerable value to persuade you in reason to commit it. If it were to
please your greatest or dearest friends, or to obey the greatest prince on earth, or to save your
lives, or to escape the greatest earthly misery; all these are of no consideration to draw a man in
reason to the committing of one sin. If it were a right hand or a right eye that would hinder your
salvation, it is the gainfullest way to cast it away, rather than to go to hell to save it; for there is
no saving a part when you lose the whole. So exceedingly great are the matters of eternity, that
nothing in this world deserveth once to be named in comparison with them; nor can any earthly thing,
though it were life, or crowns, or kingdoms, be a reasonable excuse for the neglect of matters of such
high and everlasting consequence. A man can have no reason to cross his ultimate end.
Heaven is such a thing, that, if you lose it, nothing can supply the want, or make up the loss:
and hell its such a thing, that, if you suffer it, nothing can remove your misery, or give you ease and comfort.
And therefore nothing can be a valuable consideration to excuse you for neglecting your own salvation; for,
saith our Saviour, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark viii. 36.
O sirs, that you did but know what matters they are that we are now speaking to you of! The
saints in heaven have other kind of thoughts of these things. If the devil could come to them that
live in the sight and love of God, and should offer them a cup of ale, or a whore, or merry
company, or sport to entice them away from God and glory; I pray you tell me, how do you think
they would entertain the motion? Nay, or if he should offer them to be kings of the earth, do you
think this would entice them down from heaven? O with what hatred and holy scorn would they
disdain and reject the motion! And why should not you do so, that have heaven opened to your
faith, if you had but faith to see it? There is never a soul in hell but knows, by this time, that it
was a mad exchange to let go heaven for fleshly pleasure, and that it is not a little mirth, or
pleasure, or worldly riches, or honour, or the good will or word of men, that will quench hell
fire, or make him a saver that loseth his soul. Oh! if you had heard what I believe, if you had
seen what I believe, and that on the credit of the word of God, you would say there can be no
reason to warrant a man to damn his soul: you durst not sleep quietly another night, before you
had resolved to turn and live.
If you see a man put his hand in the fire till it burn off, you will marvel at it; but this is a thing
that a man may have a reason for; as Bishop Cranmer had when he burnt off his hand for
subscribing to Popery. If you see a man cut off a leg or arm, it is a sad sight; but this is a thing
that a man may have a good reason for; as many a man doth to save his life. If you see a man
give his body to be burnt to ashes, and to be tormented with racks, and refuse deliverance when
it is offered, that is a hard case to flesh and blood: but this a man may have good reason for; as
you may see in Heb. xi. 33, 34, 35, 36. and as many a hundred martyrs have done. But, for a man
to forsake the Lord that made Him, and to run into the fire of hell, when he is told of it, and
intreated to turn that he may be saved; this is a thing that can have no reason in the world, that is
reason indeed, to justify or excuse it. For heaven will pay for the loss of any thing that we can
lose to get it; but nothing can pay for the loss of heaven.
I beseech you now let this word come nearer to your hearts. As you are convinced that you have
no reason to destroy yourselves, so tell me what reason have you to refuse to turn, and live to
God? What reason hath the veriest worldling, or drunkard, or ignorant careless sinner of you all,
why you should not be as holy as any you know, and be as careful for your souls as any other?
Will not hell be as hot to you as to others? Should not your own souls be as dear to you as theirs
is them? Hath not God as much authority over you? Why then will you not become a sanctified
people as well as they?
O Sirs, when God bringeth the matter down to the very principles of nature, and shews that you
have no more reason to be ungodly than you have to damn your own souls! if yet you will not
understand and turn, it seems a desperate case that you are in. And now, either you have reason
for what you do, or you have not: if not, will you go against reason itself? Will you do that which
you have no reasons for? But, if you think you have, produce them, and make the best of your
matter. Reason the case a little with me, your fellow-creature, which is far easier than to reason
the case with God. Tell me, man, here before the Lord, as if thou wert to die this hour, why
shouldst thou not resolve to turn this day, before thou stir from the place thou standest in? What
reason hast thou to deny, or to delay? Hast thou any reason that satisfieth thine own conscience
for it? Or any that thou darest own and plead at the bar of God? If thou hast, let us hear them,
bring them forth, and make them good. But, alas! what poor stuff, what nonsense instead of
reasons, do we daily hear from ungodly men? But for their necessity, I should be ashamed to
Object. 1.One saith, "If none shall be saved but such converted and sanctified ones as you talk of, then
heaven would be but empty, then God help a great many!
Ans. What! it seems you think that God doth not know, or else that he is not to be believed!
Measure not all by yourselves; God hath thousands and millions of his sanctified ones; but yet
they are few in comparison of the world, as Christ himself hath told us, Matt. vii. 13, 14. Luke
xii. 32. It better beseems you to make that use of this truth which Christ teaches you: "Strive to
enter in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and
few there be that find it; but wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and
many there be that go in thereat." Luke xiii. 22, 23, 24. ""Fear not, little flock, (saith Christ to his
sanctified ones) for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom," Luke xii. 32.
Object. 2. I am sure if such as I go to hell, we shall have store of company.
Ans. And will that be any ease or comfort to you? Or do you think you may not have company
enough in heaven? Will you be undone for company? Or will you not believe that God will
execute his threatnings, because there be so many that are guilty? All these are silly
Object. 3. But all men are sinners, even the best of you all?
Ans. But all are not unconverted sinners. The godly live not in gross sins; and their very
infirmities are their grief and burden, which they daily long, and pray, and strive to be rid of. Sin
hath not dominion over them.
Object. 4. I do not see that professors are any better than other men; they will over-reach, and
oppress, and are as covetous as any.
Ans. Whatever hypocrites are, it is not so with those that are sanctified.
God hath thousands and tens of thousands that are otherwise; though the malicious world doth
accuse them of what they can never prove, and of that which never entered into their hearts. And
commonly they charge them with heart-sins, which none can see but God; because they can
charge them with no such wickedness in their lives as they are guilty of themselves.
Object. 5. But I am no whoremonger, nor drunkard, nor oppressor, and therefore why shouldest
thou call me to be converted?
Ans. As if you were not born after the flesh, and had not lived after the flesh, as well as others! Is
it not as great a sin as any of these, for a man to have an earthly mind, and to love the world
above God, and to have an unbelieving, unhumbled heart? Nay, let me tell you more; that many
persons, that avoid disgraceful sins are as fast glued to the world, and as much slaves to the
flesh, and as strange to God, and averse to heaven in their more civil discourse, as others are in
their more shameful and notorious sins.
Object. 6. But I mean nobody any harm, nor do any harm; and why then should God condemn
Ans. Is it no harm to neglect the Lord that made thee, and the work for which thou camest into
the world, and to prefer the creature before the Creator, and to neglect grace that is daily offered
thee? It is the depth of your sinfulness to be insensible of it; the dead feel not that they are dead.
If once thou wert made alive, thou wouldst see more amiss in thyself, and marvel at thyself for
making so light of it.
Object. 7. I think you would make men mad under pretence of converting them; it is enough to
rack the brains of sinful people, to muse so much on matters too high for them.
Ans. 1. Can you be madder than you are already? Or at least, can there be a more dangerous
madness than to neglect your everlasting welfare, and wilfully undo yourselves?
2. A man is never well in his wits till he be converted; he never knows God, nor knows sin, nor
knows Christ, nor knows the world, nor himself, nor what his business is on earth, so as to set
himself about it, till he be converted. "The scripture saith, "That the wicked are unreasonable
men," 2 Thess. iii. 2. and, "That the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God," 1 Cor. i. 20
and Luke xv. 17. It is said of the prodigal, that, "when he came to himself," he resolved to return.
"It is a wise world, when men will disobey God, and run to hell for fear of being out of their
3. What is there in the work that Christ calls you, that should drive a man out of his wits? Is it
the loving of God, and calling upon him, and comfortably thinking of the glory to come, and the
forsaking of our sins, and loving one another, and delighting ourselves in the service of God?
Are these such things as should make men mad?
4. And whereas you say that these matters are too high for us, you accuse
God himself for making this our work, and giving us his word, and commanding all that will be
blessed to meditate on it day and night. Are the matters which we are made for, and which we
live for, too high for us to meddle with? This is plainly to unman us, and to make brutes of us, as
if we were like them that must meddle with no higher matters than what belongs to flesh and
earth. If heaven be too high for you to think on and provide for, it will be too high for you ever to
5. If God should sometimes suffer any weak-headed persons to be distracted by thinking of
eternal things; this is because they misunderstand them, and run without a guide; and, of the two,
I had rather be in the case of such a one, than of the mad unconverted world, that take their
distraction to be their wisdom.
Object. 8. I do not thing that God cares so much what men think, or speak, or do, as to make so
great a matter of it.
Ans. It seems, then, you take the word of God to be false, and then what will you believe? But
your own reason might teach you better, if you believe not the scriptures: for you see God sets
not so light by us, but that he vouchsafeth to make us, and still preserveth us, and daily
upholdeth us, and provideth for us; and will any wise man make a curious frame for nothing?
Will you make or buy a clock or watch, and daily look at it, and not care whether it go true or
false? Surely, if you believe not a particular eye of Providence observing your hearts and lives,
you cannot believe or expect any particular Providence to observe your wants and troubles to
relieve you. And, if God had so little cared for you as you imagine, you would never have lived
till now; a hundred diseases would have striven which should first destroy you; yea, the devils
would have haunted you, and fetched you away alive, as the great fishes devour the less, and as
ravenous birds and beasts devour others. You cannot think that God made man for no end or use;
and, if he made him for any, it was sure for himself. And can you think he cares not whether his
ends be accomplished, and whether we do the work that we are made for?
Yea, by this atheistical objection you make God to have made and upholden all the world in
vain. For, what are all other lower creatures for, but for man? What doth the earth, but bear and
nourish us? and the beasts do serve us with their labours and lives: and so of the rest. And hath
God made so glorious a habitation, and set man to dwell in it, and made all his servants; and
now doth he look for nothing at his hands? nor care how he thinks, or speaks, or lives? This is
Object. 9. It was a better world when men did not make so much ado in religion.
Ans. 1. It hath ever been the custom to praise the times past. That world, that you speak of, was
wont to say, it was a better world in their forefathers' days, and so did they of their forefathers.
This is but an old custom, because we all feel the evil of our own times, but we see not that
which was before us.
2. Perhaps you speak as you think: worldlings think the world is at the best, when it is agreeable
to their minds, and when they have most mirth and worldly pleasure. And I doubt not but the
devil, as well as you, would say, that then it was a better world, for then he had more service and
less disturbance. But the world is at the best when God is most loved, regarded, and obeyed. And
how else will you know when the world is good or bad, but, by this?
Object. 10. There are so many ways and religions that we know not which to be of, and therefore
we will be even as we are.
Ans. Because there are many, will you be of that way that you may be sure is wrong? None are
farther out of the way than worldly, fleshly, unconverted sinners; for, they do not only err in this
or that opinion, but in the very scope and drift or their lives. If you were going a journey that
your life lay on, would you stop or turn again, because you met with some cross-ways, or
because you saw some travelers go the horse way, and some the foot way, and some perhaps
break over the hedge, yea, and some miss the way? or would you not rather be the more careful
to inquire the way? If you have some servants that know not how to do your work right, and
some that are unfaithful; would you take it well of any of the rest that would therefore be idle,
and do you no service, because they see their companions so bad?
Object. 11. I do not see that it goes any better with those that are so godly than with other men;
they are as poor, and in as much trouble as others.
Ans. And perhaps in much more, when God sees it meet. They take not earthly prosperity for
their wages; they have laid up their treasure and hopes in another world, or else they are not
Christians indeed; the less they have, the more is behind, and they are content to wait till then.
Object. 12. When you have said all that you can, I am resolved to hope well and trust in God,
and do as well as I can, and not make so much ado.
Ans. 1. Is that doing as well as you can, when you will not turn to God, but your heart is against
his holy and diligent service? It is as well as you will indeed, but that is your misery.
2. My desire is, that you should hope and trust in God: But, for what is it that you would hope? Is
it to be saved, if you turn and be sanctified? For this you have God's promise, and therefore hope
for it, and spare not. But if you hope to be saved, without conversion and a holy life, this is not to
hope in God, but in Satan, or yourselves; for God hath given you no such promise, but told you
the contrary; but it is Satan and self-love, that made you such promises, and raised you to such
hopes. "Well, if these and such as these, be all you have to say against conversion and a holy life,
your all is nothing, and worse than nothing: And if these, and such as these, seem reasons
sufficient to persuade you to forsake God, and cast yourselves into hell, the Lord deliver you
from such reasons, and from such blind understandings, and from such senseless hardened
hearts. Dare you stand to aver one of there reasons at the bar of God? Do you think it will then
serve your turn to say, "Lord, I did not turn, because I had so much to do in the world, or because I did
not like the lives of some professors; or because I saw men of so many minds?" "O how easily
will the light of that day shame such reasonings as these! Had you the world to look after? Let
the world which you served now pay you your wages, and save you if it can. Had you not a better
world to look after first? And were you not commanded, to 'seek first God's kingdom and
righteousness; and promised that other things should be added to you?" Matt. vi. 33. And were
ye not told, "that godliness was profitable to all things, having the promise of this life, and that
which is to come?" 1 Tim. iv. 8. Did the sins of the professors hinder you? You should rather
have been the more heedful, and learned by their falls to beware, and have been the more
careful, and not the more careless. It was the Scripture, and not their lives, that was your rule.
Did the many opinions of this world hinder you? Why the Scripture, that was your rule, did teach
you but one way, and that was the right way; if you had followed that, even in so much as was
plain and easy, you should never have miscarried. Will not such answers as these silence you? If
these will not, God hath those that will; when he asketh the man, Matt. xxii. 12. "Friend, how
comest thou in hither, not having on a wedding-garment?" That is, what dost thou in my church
among professed Christians, without a holy heart and life? What answer did he make? Why the
text saith, he was speechless; he had nothing to say. The clearness of the case, and the Majesty
of God, will then easily stop the mouths of the most confident of you, tho' you will not be put
down by any thing we can say to you now; but will make good your cause, be it ever so bad. I
know already, that never a reason that now you can give me will do you any good at last, when
your case must be opened before the Lord and all the world. Nay, I scarce think that your own
consciences are well satisfied with your reasons. For, if they are, it seems then you have not so
much as purposed to repent. But, if you purpose to repent, it seems you do not put much
confidence in your reasons which you bring against it. What say you, unconverted sinners? Have
you any good reasons to give, why you should not turn, and presently turn, with all your hearts?
Or will you go to hell in despite of reason itself? Bethink you what you do in time, for it will
shortly be too late to bethink you. "Can you find any fault with God, or his work, or his wages? Is
he a bad master? Is the devil, whom you serve, a better? Or is the flesh a better? Is there any
harm in a holy life? Is a life of worldliness and ungodliness better? Do you think in your
consciences, that it would do you any harm to be converted and live a holy life? What harm can
it do you? Is it harm to you to have the spirit of Christ within you? And to have a cleansed
purified Heart? If it be bad to be holy, why doth God say, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." 1 Pet. i. 15,
16. Lev. xx. 7. Is it evil to be like God? Is it not said, "that God made man in His own image?"
Why, this holiness is his image. This Adam lost, and this Christ by his word and Spirit would
restore to you, as he doth to all that he will save. Why were you baptized into the Holy Ghost?
and why do you baptize your children into the Holy Ghost as your sanctifier, if you will not be
sanctified by him, but think it hard for you to be sanctified? Tell me truly, as before the Lord,
tho' you are loathe to live a holy life, had you not rather die in the case of those that do so than of
others? If you were to die this day, had you not rather die in the case of a converted man than of
an unconverted? Of a holy and heavenly man than of a carnal earthily man? And would you not
say, as Balaam, Numb. xxiii. 10. "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his?"
And why will you not now be of the mind that you will be of then? First or last you must come to this,
either to be converted, or to wish you had been, when it is too late. But what is it that you are
afraid of losing if you turn? Is it your friends? you will but change them; God will be your friend,
and Christ, and the Spirit, will be your friend, and every Christian will be your friend.
You will get one friend that will stand you in more stead than all the friends in the world could have done.
The friends you lose would have but enticed you to hell; but could not have delivered you:
But the friend you get will save you from hell, and bring you to His own eternal rest.
Is it your pleasure that you are afraid of losing? You think you shall never have a merry day
again, if once you be converted. Alas! that you should think it a greater pleasure to live in foolish
sports and merriments, and please your flesh, than to live in the believing thoughts of glory, and
in the love of God, and in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, in which the state
of grace consisteth! Rom. xiv. 17. If it would be a greater pleasure for you to think of your lands
and inheritance (if you were lords of all the country) than it is for a child to play for pins: why
should it not be a greater joy to you to think of the kingdom of heaven being yours than of all the
riches or pleasures of the world? As it is but foolish childishness that makes children so delight
in toys that they would not leave them for all your land, so it is but foolish worldliness, and
fleshliness and wickedness, that make you so much delight in your houses, and lands, and meat,
and drink, and ease, and honour, as that you would not part with them for the heavenly delights.
But what will you do for pleasure when these are gone? Do you not think of that? When your
pleasures end in horror, and go out like a stinking snuff, the pleasures of the saints are then at
best. I have had myself but a little taste of the heavenly pleasures in the forethoughts of the
blessed approaching day, and in the present persuasions of the love of God in Christ; but I have
taken too deep a draught of earthily pleasures, so that you may see, if I be partial, it is on your
side; and yet I must profess, from that little experience, that there is no comparison. "There is
more joy to be had in a day, (if the sun of life shine clear upon us) in the state of holiness, than in
a whole life of sinful pleasures. I had "rather be a door-keeper in the house of God, than to dwell
in the tents of wickedness." (Psalm lxxxiv. 10). "A day in his courts is better than a thousand any
where else," Psalm lxxxiv. 13. The mirth of the wicked is like the laughter of a madman, that
knows not his own misery; and therefore Solomon saith of such laughter, "it is mad, and of
mirth, what doth it?" Eccles. ii. 2. and Eccles. vii. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. "It is better to go to the house of
mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay
it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; "for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is
made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the
house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than to hear the song of fools; for as
the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool." All the pleasure of fleshly
things is but like the scratching of a man that hath the itch; it is his disease that makes him desire
it; and a wise man had rather be without his pleasure than be troubled with his itch. Your loudest
laughter is but like that of a man that is tickled; he laughs when he hath no cause of joy.
Judge, as you are men, whether this be a wise man's part. It is but your carnal unsanctified nature
that makes a holy life seem grievous to you, and a course of sensuality seem more delightful. If
you will but turn, the Holy Ghost will give you another nature and inclination, and then it will be
more pleasant to you to be rid of your sin than now it is to keep it; and you will then say, that
you knew not what a comfortable life was till now, and that it was never well with you till God
and holiness were your delight.
Quest. But how it cometh to pass that men should be so unreasonable in the matters of salvation?
They have wit enough in other matters, what makes them so loathe to be converted, that there
should need so many words in so plain a case, and all will not do, but the most will live and die
Ans. To name them only in a few words, the causes are these:
1. Men are naturally in love with the earth and flesh, and their nature hath an enmity to God and
godliness, as the nature of a serpent hath to a man: And when all that we can say goeth against
an habitual inclination of their natures, no marvel if it little prevail.
2. They are in darkness, and know not the very things they hear. Like a man that was born blind,
and hears a high commendation of the light: But what will hearing do unless he sees it? They
know not what God is, nor what is the power of the cross of Christ, nor what the spirit of
holiness is, nor what it is to live in love by faith; they know not the certainty, and suitableness,
and excellency of the heavenly inheritance. They know not what conversion, and a holy mind
and conversation, are, even when they hear of them. They are in a mist of ignorance. They are
lost and bewildered in sin; like a man that hath lost himself in the night, and knows not where he
is, nor how to come to himself again till the day-light recover Him.
3. They are wilfully confident that they need no conversion, but some partial amendment; and
that they are in the way to heaven already, and are converted when they are not. And, if you meet
a man that is quite out of his way, you may long enough call on him to turn back again, if he will
not believe you that he is out of the way.
4. They are become slaves to their flesh, and drowned in the world to make provision for it.
Their lusts, and passions, and appetites, have distracted them, and got such a hand over them,
that they cannot tell how to deny them, or how to mind any thing else. So that the drunkard saith,
"I love a cup of good drink, and I cannot forbear it." The glutton saith, "I love good cheer, and I
cannot forbear." The fornicator saith, "I love to have my lust fulfilled, and I cannot forbear." And
the gamester loves to have his sports, and he cannot forbear. So that they are become even
captivated slaves to their flesh, and their very wilfulness is become an impotency; and what they
would not do, they say they cannot. And the worldling is so taken up with earthly things, that he
hath neither heart, nor mind, nor time, for heavenly; but, as in Pharaoh's dream, Gen. xli. 4. "The
lean kine did eat up the fat ones," so this lean and barren earth doth eat up all the thoughts of Heaven.
5. Some are so carried away by the stream of evil company, that they are possessed with hard
thoughts of a godly life, by hearing them speak against it; or at least they think they may venture
to do as they see most do, and so they hold on in their sinful ways; and when one is cut off and
cast into hell, and another snatched away from among them to the same condemnation, it doth
not much daunt them, because they see not whither they are gone. Poor wretches, they hold on in
their ungodliness, for all this; for they little know that their companions are now lamenting it in
torments. In Luke xvi. the rich man in hell would fain have had one to warn his five brethren,
lest they should come to that place of torment. It is like, he knew their minds and lives, and
knew that they were hastening thither, and little dreamed that he was there, yea, and would little
have believed one that should have told them so. I remember a passage that a gentleman yet
living told me that he saw upon a bridge over the Severn. A man was driving a flock of fat
lambs, and something meeting them, and hindering their passage, one of the lambs leaped upon
the wall of the bridge, and, his legs slipping from under him, he fell into the stream; the rest
seeing him, did one after one leap over the bridge, and were all, or almost all drowned. "Those
that were behind did little know what was become of them that were gone before, but thought
they might venture to follow their companions; but, as soon as ever they were over the wall, and
falling headlong, the case was altered. Even so it is with unconverted carnal men. One dieth by
them, and drops into hell, and another follows the same way; and yet they will go after them,
because they think not whither they are gone. Oh but when death hath once opened their eyes,
and they see what is on the other side of the wall, even in another world; then what would they
give to be where they were!
6. Moreover, they have a subtle malicious enemy, that is unseen of them, and plays his game in
the dark; and it is his principal business to hinder their conversion, and therefore to keep them
where they are, by persuading them not to believe the Scriptures, or not to trouble their minds
with these matters; or by persuading them to think ill of a godly life, or to think that it more ado
than needs, and that they may be saved without conversion, and without all this stir; and that
God is so merciful that he will not damn any such as they; or at least, that they may stay a little
longer, and take their pleasure, and follow the world a little longer yet, and then let it go, and
repent hereafter: And by such deluding cheats as these, the devil keeps the most in his captivity,
and leadeth them to his misery. These, and such like impediments as these, do keep so many
thousands unconverted, when God hath done so much, and Christ hath suffered so much, and
ministers have said so much for their conversion; when their reasons are silenced, and they are
not able to answer the Lord that calls after them, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" yet all
comes to nothing with the greatest part of them; and they leave us no more to do, after all, but to
sit down, and lament their wilful misery. Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
Say to them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that
the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for, why will ye
die, O house of Israel?
I HAVE now shewn you the reasonableness of God's commands, and the unreasonableness of
wicked men's disobedience. If nothing will serve their turn, but men will yet refuse to turn, we
are next to consider who is in fault if they be damned. And this brings me to the last doctrine;
If you will go to hell, what remedy? God here acquits himself of your blood; it shall not lie on
him if you be lost. A negligent minister may draw it upon him; and those that encourage you, or
hinder you not in sin, may draw it upon them; but be sure of it, it shall not lie upon God. Saith
the Lord, concerning his unprofitable vineyard, Isaiah v. 2, 3, 4. "Judge, I pray you, betwixt me
and my vineyard, what could have been done more to my vineyard: that I have not done in it?
When he had planted it in a fruitful soil, and fenced it, and gathered out the stones, and planted it
with the choicest vines," what should he have done more to it? He hath made you men, and
endowed you with reason; he hath furnished you with all external necessaries, he hath given you
a righteous perfect law: When you had broken it, and undone yourselves, he had pity on you, and
sent His Son by a miracle of condescending mercy to die for you, and be a sacrifice for your
sins; and he "was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." The Lord Jesus hath made you a
deed of gift of himself, and eternal life with him, on the condition you will but accept it and
return. He hath, on this reasonable condition, offered you the free pardon of all your sins; he hath
written this in his word, and sealed it by his Spirit, and sent it by his ministers; they have made
the offer to you, (many a time) and called you to accept it, and to turn to God. They have in his
name intreated you, and reasoned the case with you, and answered all your frivolous objections.
He hath long waited on you, and staid your leisure, and suffered you to abuse him to his face. He
hath mercifully sustained you in the midst of your sins; he hath compassed you about with all
sorts of mercies: he hath also intermixed afflictions to mind you of your folly, and call you to
your wits; and his spirit hath been often striving with your hearts, and saying there, "Turn,
sinner, turn to him that calleth thee: whither art thou going? What art thou doing? Dost thou
know what will be the end? How long wilt thou hate thy friends, and love thine enemies? When
will thou let go all, and turn, and deliver up thyself to God, and give thy Redeemer the
possession of thy soul? When shall it once be?" These pleadings have been used with thee: And
when thou hast delayed, thou hast been urged to make haste, and God hath called to thee,
"To-day, while it is called to-day, harden not thy heart: Why not now without any more delay?"
Life hath been set before you, the joys of heaven have been opened to you in the gospel; the
certainty of them have been manifested; the certainty of the everlasting torments of the damned
hath been declared to you. Unless you would have had a sight of heaven and hell, what could
you desire more? Christ hath been, as it were, set forth crucified before your eyes, Gal. iii.
That if, after all, these men will not turn, it is not the fault of God that they are
condemned, but themselves, even their own wilfulness. They die, because they will die; that is,
because they will not turn.
1. You have been a hundred times told that you are but lost men till you come unto him.
As oft you have been told of the evil of sin, of the vanity of the world, and all the pleasures
and wealth it can afford, or the shortness and uncertainty of your lives, and the endless duration
of the joy or torment of the life to come. All this, and more than this, have you been told,
and told again, even till you were weary of hearing it, and till you could
make the lighter of it, because you had so often heard it, like the smith's dog, that is brought by
custom to sleep under the noise of the hammers, and when the sparks do fly about his ears; and,
though all this have not converted you, yet you are alive, and might have mercy to this day, if
you had but hearts to entertain it. And, now let reason itself be the judge, whether it be the fault
of God or you, if after this you will be unconverted and be damned? If you die now, it is because
you will die. What should be said more to you? or what course should be taken that is more
likely to prevail? Are you able to say, and make it good, "We would fain have been converted,
and become new creatures, but we could not; we would fain have forsaken our sins, but could
not; we would have changed our company, and our thoughts, and our discourse, but we could
not." "Why could you not, if you would? What hindered you, but the wickedness of your hearts?
Who forced you to sin? or who held you back from duty? Had not you the same teaching, and
time, and liberty to be godly, as your godly neighbours had? Why then could not you have been
godly as well as they? Were the church-doors shut against you? or did you not keep away
yourselves? or sit and sleep, or hear as if you did not hear? Did God put in any exceptions
against you in his word, when he invited sinners to return; and when he promised mercy to those
that do return? Did he say, "I will pardon all that repent except thee?" Did he shut you out from
the liberty of his holy worship? Did he forbid you to pray to him any more than others? You
know he did not. God did not drive you away from him, but you forsook him, and ran away
yourselves. And when he called you to him, you would not come. "If God had excepted you out
of the general promise and offer of mercy, or had said to you, "Stand off; I will have nothing to
do with such as you; pray not to me, for I will not hear you; if you repent never so much, and cry
for mercy never so much, I will not regard you." "If God had left you nothing to trust to but
desperation, then you had had a fair excuse. You might have said, "To what end do I repent and
turn, when it will do no good?" "But this was not your case. You might have had Christ to be
your Lord and Saviour, as well as others, and you would not; because you felt not yourselves sick
enough for the physician, and because you could not spare your disease: In your hearts you said,
as those rebels, Luke xix. 14. "We will not have this man to reign over us" Christ "would have
gathered you under the wings of his salvation, and you would not" Matt. xxiii. 37. What desires
of your welfare did the Lord express in his holy word! With what compassion did he stand over
you, and say, "O that my people had hearkened unto ne, and that they had walked in my ways!"
Psalm lxxxi. 13. "O that there were such a heart in this people, that they would fear me, and keep
all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever!"
Deut. v. 20. "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their
latter end!" Deut. xxxiii. 29. He would have been your God, and done all for you that your souls
could well desire; but you loved the world and your flesh above him, and therefore you would
not hearken to him; though you complimented with him, and gave him high titles; yet, when it
came to the closing, "you would have none of him" Psalm lxxxi. 11, 12. "No marvel, then, if he gave you up
to your own lusts, and you walked in your own counsels." "He condescends to reason, and pleads
the case with you, and asketh you, "What is there in me or my service, that you should be so
much against me? What harm have I done thee, sinner? Have I deserved this unkind dealing at
thy hand? Many mercies have I shewen thee; for which of them dost thou thus despise me? Is it
I, or is it Satan, that is your enemy? Is it I, or is it thy carnal self that would undo thee? Is it a
holy life, or a life of sin that thou hast cause to fly from? If thou be undone, thou procurest this
to thyself, by forsaking me, the Lord, that would have saved thee," Jer. ii. 7. "Doeth not thy own
wickedness correct thee, and thy sin reprove thee, that thou mayest see that it is an evil and bitter
thing that thou hast forsaken me?" Jer. ii. 19. "What iniquity have you found in me, that you have
followed after vanity, and forsaken me?" Jer. ii. 5, 6. He calleth out as it were to the brutes, to
hear the controversy he hath against you. Micah vi. 3, 4, 5. "Hear, O ye mountains, the Lord's
controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth, for the Lord God hath a controversy with his
people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee, and wherein
have I wearied thee? Testify against me, for I brought you up out of Egypt, and redeemed thee,
&c." "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken it. I have nourished and
brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass
his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider! Ah, sinful nation, a
people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, &c." Isaiah i. 2, 3, 4. "Do you thus requite the
Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Is not he thy Father that bought thee? Hath he not made thee,
and established thee?" Deut. xxii. 6. When he saw that you forsook him, even for nothing, and
turned away from your Lord and life, to hunt after the chaff and feathers of the world, he told
you of your folly, and called you to a more profitable employment, Isaiah lv. 1, 2, 3. "Wherefore
do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth
not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in
fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: Hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an
everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. "Seek ye the Lord while he may
be found: Call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous
man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our
God, for he will abundantly pardon," ver. 6, 7. and so Isaiah i. 16, 17, 18. And, when you would
not hear, what complaints have you put him to, charging it on you as your wilfulness and
stubbournness! "Jer. ii. 13. "Be astonished: O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid! "For, my
people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and
hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." "Many a time hath Christ
proclaimed that free invitation to you, Rev. xxii. 17, "Let him that is athirst come; and
whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." But you put him to complain after all his
offers: "They will not come to me, that they may have life" John v. 40. He hath invited you to
feast with him in the kingdom of his grace, and you have had excuses from your grounds, and
your cattle, and your worldly business; and, when you would not come, you have said you could
not; and provoked him to resolve that you should never taste of his supper, Luke xiv. 15, 24.
And who is it the fault of now but yourselves? and what can we say is the chief cause of your damnation,
but your own wills? You will be damned. The whole case is laid open by Christ himself,
Prov. i. from the 20th to the end, "Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets,
she crieth in the chief place of concourse: How long, ye simple ones, will you love simplicity,
and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof;
behold I will pour out my spirit unto you, and I will make known my words unto you.
Because I have called and ye refused, I have stretched out my hands, and no man regarded,
but ye have set at nought all my counsel, would none of my reproofs; I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your fear cometh, when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind.
When distress and anguish come upon you, then shall they call on me, but I will not answer: They shall seek me
early, but they shall not find me. For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of
the Lord. They would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof: Therefore shall they eat
of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For, the away of the simple
shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth to me shall
dwell safely, and shall be quiet from the fear of evil." "I thought best to recite the whole text at
large to you, because it doth so fully show the cause of the destruction of the wicked. It is not
because God would not teach them, but because they would not learn. It is not because God
would not call them, but because they would not turn at His reproof. Their wilfulness is their undoing.
USE.− From what has been said, you may farther learn these following things:
1. From hence you may see, not only what blasphemy and impiety it is to lay the blame of men's
destruction upon God, but also, how unfit these wicked wretches are to bring in such a charge
against their Maker. They cry out upon God, and say, he gives them not grace, and his
threatnings are severe, and God forbid that all should be damned that be not converted and
sanctified: and they think it a hard measure that a short sin should have an endless suffering; and
if they be damned they say they cannot help it; when in the mean time they are busy about their
own destruction, even cutting the throat of their own souls, and will not be persuaded to hold
their hands. They think God were cruel if he should damn them; and yet they are so cruel to
themselves, that they will run into the fire of hell; when God hath told them it is a little before
them, and neither intreaties, nor threatnings, nor any thing that can be said, will stop them. We
see them almost undone; their careless, worldly, fleshly lives do tell us, that they are in the
power of the devil; we know, if they die before they are converted, all the world cannot save
them; and, knowing the uncertainty of their lives, we are afraid every day lest they drop into the
fire. And, therefore, we intreat them to pity their own souls, and not to undo themselves when
mercy is at hand, and they will not hear us. We intreat them to cast away their sin, and come to
Christ without delay, and to have some mercy on themselves, but they will have none. And yet
they think that God must be cruel if he condemn them. O wilful miserable sinners! It is not God
that is cruel to you; it is you that are cruel to yourselves. You are told that you must turn or burn,
and yet you turn not. You are told, that if you will needs keep your sins, you shall keep the curse
of God with them, and yet you will keep them. You are told that there is no way to happiness but
by holiness; and yet you will not be holy. What would you have God say more to you? What
would you have him do with his mercy? He offereth it to you, and you will not have it. You are
in the ditch of sin and misery, and he would give you his hand to help you out, and you refuse his
help: he would cleanse you of your sins, and you had rather keep them. You love your lust, and
love your gluttony, and sports, and drunkenness, and will not let them go. Would you have him
bring you to heaven whether you will or not? Or would you have him bring you and your sins to
heaven together? Why that is an impossibility: you may as well expect he should turn the sun
into darkness. What! an unsanctified fleshly heart to be in heaven! it cannot be. "There entereth
nothing that is unclean," Rev. xxi. 17. "For what communion hath light with darkness, or Christ
with Belial?" 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. "All the day long hath he stretched out his hands to a disobedient
and gainsaying people," Rom. x. 25. What will you do now? Will you cry to God for mercy?
Why God calleth upon you to have mercy upon yourselves, and you will not. Ministers see the
poisoned cup in the drunkard's hand, and tell him, there is poison in it, and desire him to have
mercy on his soul, and forbear; and he will not hear us: drink it he must and will; he loves it; and
therefore, though hell come next, he saith he cannot help it. What should one say to such men as
these? We tell the ungodly careless worldling, it is not such a life that will serve the turn, or ever
bring you to heaven. If a bear were at your back, you would mend your pace, and, when the curse
of God is at your back, and Satan and hell are at your back, will you not stir, but ask, What needs
all this ado? Is an immortal soul of no more worth? Oh! have mercy upon yourselves! But they
will have no mercy on themselves, nor once regard us. We tell them the end will be bitter. Who
can dwell with the everlasting fire? And yet they will have no mercy on themselves. And yet will
these poor wretches say, that God is more merciful than to condemn them, when it is themselves
that cruelly and unmercifully run upon condemnation; and if we should go to them, and intreat
them, we cannot stop them. If we should fall on our knees to them, we cannot stop them; but to
hell they will go, and yet will not believe that they are going thither. If we beg of them for the
sake of God that made them, and preserveth them; for the sake of Christ, that died for them; for
the sake of their own poor souls, to pity themselves, and go no farther in the way to hell, but
come to Christ while his arms are open, and enter into the state of life while the door stands
open, and now take mercy while mercy may be had; they will not be persuaded. If we should die
for it, we cannot so much as get them so much as now and then to consider with themselves of
the matter, and turn. And yet they can say, "I hope God will be merciful." Did you never consider
what he saith, Isaiah xxvii. 11. "It is a people of no understanding, therefore he that made them
will not have mercy on them; and he that formed them will shew them no favour" If another man
will not clothe you when you are naked, and feed you when you are hungry, you will say he is
unmerciful. If he should cast you into prison, or beat and torment you, you would say he is
unmerciful. And yet you will do a thousand times more against yourselves, even cast away both
soul and body for ever, and never complain of your own unmercifulness! Yea, and God, that
waited upon you all the while with his mercy, must be taken to be unmerciful, if he punish you
after all this. Unless the Holy God of heaven will give these wretches leave
to trample upon his Son's blood, and with the Jews, as it were, again to spit in his
face, and do despite to the spirit of grace, and make a jest of sin, and a mock at holiness, and set
more light by saving mercy than by the filth of their fleshly pleasures; and unless, after all this,
He will save them by the mercy which they cast away, and would none of, God himself must be
called unmerciful by them. "But he will be justified when he judgeth, and he will not stand or
fall at the bar of a sinful worm. "I know there are many particular cavils that are brought by them
against the Lord; but I shall not here stay to answer them particularly, having done it already in
my Treatise of Judgment, to which I shall refer them. Had the disputing part of the world been as
careful to avoid sin and destruction as they have been busy in searching after the cause of them,
and forward directly to impute them to God, they might have exercised their wits more
profitably, and have less wronged God, and sped better themselves. When so ugly a monster as
sin is within us, and so heavy a thing as punishment is on us, and so dreadful a thing as hell is
before us, one would think it would be an easy question, who is in the fault, whether God or man
be the principal or culpable cause? Some men are such favourable judges of themselves, that
they are proner to accuse the infinite perfection and goodness itself than their own hearts, and
imitate their first parents, that said, "The serpent tempted me, and the woman that thou gavest
me gave unto me, and I did eat;" "secretly implying that God was the cause. So say they, "the
understanding that thou gavest me was unable to discern; the will that thou gavest me was
unable to make a better choice; the objects which thou didst set before me did entice me; the
temptation which thou didst permit to assault me prevailed against me." And some are so loathe
to think that God can make a self-determinate creature, that they dare not deny him that which
they take to be his prerogative to be the determiner of the will in every sin, as the first efficient
immediate physical cause. "And many would be content to acquit God from so much causing of
evil, if they could but reconcile it with his being the chief cause of good: as if truths would be no
longer truths if we are unable to see them in their perfect order and coherence; because our
raveled wits cannot see them right together, nor assign each truth its proper place, we presume to
conclude that some must be cast away. This is the fruit of proud self-conceitedness; when men
receive not God's truth as a child his lesson, in a holy submission to the omniscience of our
teacher but as censurers that are too wise to learn.
Object. But we cannot convert ourselves till God convert us: we can do nothing without his
grace: It is not in him that willeth, nor in him that runneth, but in God that sheweth mercy.
Ans. God hath two degrees of mercy to shew; the mercy of conversion first, and the mercy of
salvation last: The latter he will give to none but those that will and run, and hath promised it to
them only. The former is to make them willing that are unwilling; and though your own
willingness and endeavours deserve not his grace, yet your wilful refusal deserveth that it should
be denied to you. Your disability is your very unwillingness itself which excuseth not your sin,
but maketh it the greater. You could turn if you were but truly willing; and, if your wills
themselves are so corrupted, that nothing but effectual grace will move them, you have the more
cause to seek for that grace, and yield to it, and do what you can in the use of
means, and not neglect it, or set yourself against it. Do what you are able first, and then
complain of God for denying you grace, if you have cause.
Object. But you seem to intimate all this while that man hath free will.
Ans. The dispute about free will is beyond your capacity; I shall therefore now trouble you with
no more but this about it. Your will is naturally a free, that is, a self-determining faculty, but it is
viciously inclined, and backward to do good; and therefore we see, by sad experience, that it
hath not a virtuous moral freedom. But that it is the wickedness of it which deserveth the
punishment. And I pray you let us not befool ourselves with opinions. Let the case be your own.
If you had an enemy so malicious that he falls upon you, and beats you every time he meets you,
and takes away the lives of your children, will you excuse him, because he saith, "I have not
free-will, it is my nature; I cannot choose, unless God gives me grace." If you have a servant that
robbeth you, will you take such an answer from him? Might not every thief and murderer, that is
hanged at the assize, give such an answer? "I have not free will; I cannot change my own heart!
What can I do without God's grace?" And shall they therefore be acquitted? If not, why then
should you think to be acquitted for a course of sin against the Lord?
2. From hence also you may observe these three things together: 1. What a subtle tempter Satan
is. 2. What a deceitful thing sin is. 3. What a foolish creature corrupted man is. A subtile tempter
indeed, that can persuade the greatest part of the world to go wilfully into everlasting fire, when
they have so many warnings and dissuasives as they have. A deceitful thing is sin indeed, that
can bewitch so many thousands to part with everlasting life, for a thing so base and utterly
unworthy! A foolish creature is man indeed, that will be cheated of his salvation for nothing,
yea, for a known nothing; and that by an enemy, and a known enemy. You would think it
impossible that any man in his wits should be persuaded, for a trifle, to cast himself into the fire,
or water, or into a coal-pit, to the destruction of his life. And yet men will be enticed to cast
themselves into hell. If your natural lives were in your own hands, that you should not die till
you should kill yourselves, how long would most of you live? And yet, when your everlasting
life is so far in your own hands, under God, that you cannot be undone till you undo yourselves,
how few of you will forbear your own undoing? Ah! what a silly thing is man! And what a
bewitching and befooling thing is sin!
3. From hence also you may learn, that it is no great wonder if wicked men be hinderers of
others in the way to heaven, and would have as many unconverted as they can, and would draw
them into sin and keep them in it! Can you expect that they should have mercy on others, that
have none upon themselves? and that they should so much stick to the destruction of others, that
stick not to destroy themselves? They do no worse by others than they do by themselves.
4. Lastly, You may hence learn, that the greatest enemy to man is himself; and the greatest
judgment in this life, that can befal him, is to be left to himself; that the great work that grace
hath to do, is to save us from ourselves; that the greatest accusations and complaints of men
should be against themselves; that the greatest work that we have to do ourselves, is
to resist ourselves; and the greatest enemy that we should daily pray, and watch, and strive
against, is our own carnal hearts and wills; and the greatest part of your work, if you will do
good to others, and help them to heaven, is to save them from themselves, even from their blind
understandings, and corrupted wills, and perverse affections, and violent passions, and unruly
senses. I only name all these for brevity sake; and leave them to your farther consideration.
WELL, Sirs, now we have found out the great delinquent and murderer of souls, (even men's
selves, their own wills) what remains but that you judge according to the evidence, and confess
this great iniquity before the Lord, and be humbled for it, and do so no more? To these three
ends distinctly, I shall add a few words more. "1. Farther to convince you. 2. To humble you.
And 3. To reform you, if there yet be any hope.
1. We know so much of the exceeding gracious nature or God, who is so willing to do good, and
delighteth to shew mercy, that we have no reason to suspect him of being the culpable cause of
our death, or to call him cruel: he hath made all good, and he preserveth and maintaineth all; the
eyes of all things do wait upon him, and he giveth them their meat in due season; he openeth his
hand, and satisfieth the desires of all the living, Psal. cxlv. 15, 16. He is not only "righteous in all
his ways (and therefore will deal justly) and holy in all his works, (and therefore not the author
of sin) but he is also good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." Psal. cxlv. 17,
19. But as for man, we know his mind is dark, his will perverse, his affections carry him so
headlong, that he is fitted by his folly and corruption to such a work as the destroying of himself.
If you saw a lamb lie killed in the way, would you sooner suspect the sheep, or the wolf to be the
author of it, if they both stand by? Or, if you see a house broken, and the people murdered,
would you sooner suspect the prince, or judge, that is wise and just, and had no need; or a known
thief or murderer? I say therefore as James i. 13, 14, 15. "Let no man say, when he is tempted,
that he is tempted of God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man,
(to draw him to sin) but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and
enticed. Then, when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, brings
forth death. You see here that sin is the offspring of your own concupiscence, and not to be
fathered on God; and that death is the offspring of your own sin, and the fruit which it will yield
you as soon as ripe. You have a treasure of evil in yourselves, as a spider hath of poison, from
whence you are bringing forth hurt to yourselves, and spinning such webs as entangle your own
souls. Your nature shews it is you that are the cause.
2. It is evident that you are your own destroyers, in that you are so ready to entertain any
temptation almost that is offered you. Satan is scarce readier to move you to any evil than you
are ready to hear and to do as he would have you. If he would tempt your understanding to error
and prejudice, you yield. If he would hinder you from good resolutions, it is soon done. If he
would cool any good desires or affections, it is soon done. If he would kindle any lust, or vile
affections and desires in you, it is soon done. If he will put you on to evil thoughts, or deeds, you
are so free, that he needs not rod or spur. If he would keep you from holy thoughts, and words,
and ways, a little doth it, you need no curb. You examine not his suggestions, nor resist them
with any resolution; nor cast them out as he casts them in, nor quench the sparks which he
endeavoureth to kindle; but you set in with him, and meet him half-way, and embrace his
notions, and tempt him to tempt you. And it is easy for him to catch such greedy fish that are
ranging for a bait, and will take the bare hook.
3. Your destruction is evidently of yourselves, in that you resist all that would help to save you,
and would do you good, or hinder you from undoing yourselves. God would help and save you
by his word, and you resist it; it is too strict for you. He would sanctify you by his Spirit, and you
resist and quench it. If any man reprove you for your sin, you fly in his face with evil words; and
if he would draw you to a holy life, and tell you of your present danger, you give him little
thanks, but either bid him look to himself, he shall not answer for you; or else, at best, you put
him off with heartless thank, and will not turn when you are persuaded. If ministers would
privately instruct and help you, you will not come to them; your unhumbled souls do feel but
little need of their help; if they would catechise you, you are too old to be catechised, though you
are not too old to be ignorant and unholy. Whatever they can say to you for your good, you are so
self-conceited and wise in your own eyes, (even in the depth of ignorance) that you will regard
nothing that agreeth not with your present conceits; but contradict your teachers, as if you were
wiser than they; you resist all that they can say to you, by your ignorance, unwilfulness, and
foolish cavils, and shifting evasions, and unthankful rejections; so that no good that is offered
can find any welcome acceptance and entertainment with you.
4. Moreover, it is apparent that you are self-destroyers, in that you draw the matter of your sin
and destruction even from the blessed God himself. You like not the contrivance of his wisdom;
you like not his justice, but take it for cruelty; you like not his holiness, but are ready to think he
is such a one as yourselves, Psalm i. 21. and make as light of sin as you do; you like not his truth,
but would have his threatnings, even his peremptory threatnings prove false. And his goodness,
which you seem most highly to approve, you partly resist, as it would lead you to repentance;
and partly abuse, to the strengthening of your sin, as if you might freely sin because God is
merciful, and because his grace doth so much abound.
5. Yea, you fetch destruction from the blessed Redeemer, and death from the Lord of life
himself! And nothing more emboldeneth you in sin, than that Christ hath died for you; as if now
the danger of death were over, and you might boldly venture: As if Christ were become a servant
to Satan and your sins, and must wait upon you while you are abusing him; and because he is
become the physician of souls, and is able to save to the utmost all that come to God by him, you
think he must suffer you to refuse his help, and throw away medicines, and must save you
whether you will come to God by him or not; so that a great part of your sins are occasioned by
your bold presumption upon the death of Christ; not considering that he came to redeem his
people from their sins, and to sanctify them a peculiar people to himself, and to confirm them in
holiness to the image of their heavenly Father, and to their head. Matt. i. 21. Tit. ii. 14. 1 Pet. i.
15, 16. "Col. iii. 10, 11. Phil. iii. 9, 10.
6. You also fetch your own destruction from all the providences and works of God. When you
think of his eternal fore-knowledge and decrees, it is to harden you in your sin, or possess your
minds with quarrelling thoughts, as if his decrees might spare you the labour of repentance and a
holy life, or else were the cause of sin and death. If he afflict you, you repine; if he prosper you,
you the more forget him, and are the more backwards to the thoughts of the life to come. If the
wicked prosper, you forget the end that will set all reckonings strait; and are ready to think it is
as good to be wicked as godly; and thus you draw your death from all.
7. And the like you do from all the creatures and mercies of God to you. He giveth them to you
as the tokens of his love, and furniture for his service, and you turn them against him, to the
pleasing of your flesh. You eat and drink to please your appetite, and not for the glory of God,
and to enable you to perform his work. Your clothes you abuse to pride. Your riches draw your
hearts from heaven, Phil. iii. 18. Your honours and applause do puff you up. If you have wealth
and strength, it makes you more secure, and forget your end. Yea, other men's mercies are
abused by you to your hurt. If you see their honours and dignity, you are provoked to envy them.
If you see their riches, you are ready to covet them. If you look upon beauty, you are stirred up to
lust. And it is well if godliness itself be not an eye sore to you.
8. The very gifts that God bestoweth on you, and the ordinances of grace which he hath
instituted for his church, you turn to sin. If you have better parts than others, you grow proud and
self-conceited. If you have but common gifts, you take them for special grace. You take the bare
hearing of your duty for so good a work, as if it would excuse you for not obeying it. Your
prayers are turned into sin, because you regard iniquity in your hearts, Psa. lxvi. 18. "And depart
not from iniquity when you call on the name of the Lord," 2 Tim. ii. 19. "Your prayers are
abominable, because you turn away your ear from hearing the law," Prov. xxviii. 9. and are more
ready to offer the sacrifice or fools (thinking you do God some special service) than to hear his
word and obey it,"Eccles. v.1.
9. Yea, the persons that you converse with, and all their actions, you make the occasions of your
sin and destruction. If they live in the fear of God, you hate them. "If they live ungodly, you
imitate them. If the wicked are many, you think you may the more boldly follow them. If the
godly be few, you are the more emboldened to despise them. If they walk exactly, you think they
are too precise: if one of them fall in a particular temptation, you stumble upon them, and turn
away from holiness, because that others are imperfectly holy; as if you were warranted to break
your necks, because some others have by heedlessness sprained a sinew or put out a bone. If a
hypocrite discover himself, you say, they are all alike, and think yourselves as honest. A
professor can scarce slip into any miscarriage, but, because he cuts his finger, you think you may
boldly cut your throats. If ministers deal plainly with you, you say they rail. If they speak gently
or coldly, you either sleep under them, or are little more affected than the seats you sit upon. If
any errors creep into the church, some greedily entertain them,
and others reproach the Christian doctrine for them, which is most against them.
And if we would draw you from any ancient rooted error, which can but plead two, or three, or
six, or seven hundred years custom, you are as much offended with a motion for reformation as
if you were to lose your life by it, and hold fast old errors, while you cry out against new ones.
Scarce a difference can arise among the ministers of the gospel, but you will fetch your own
death from it. And you will not hear, or at least not obey, the unquestionable doctrine of any of
those that jump not with your conceits. One will not hear a minister because he saith the Lord's
prayer; and another will not hear him because he doth not use it. One will not hear them that are
for Episcopacy; and another will not hear them that are against it. And, thus I might shew it you
in many other cases, how you turn all that come near you to your own destruction; so clear is it
that the ungodly are self-destroyers, and that their perdition is of themselves.
Methinks now, upon the consideration of what is said, and the review of your own ways, you
should bethink you what you have done, and be ashamed and deeply humbled to remember it. If
you be not, I pray you consider these following truths:
1. To be your own destroyers is to sin against the deepest principle in your natures, even the
principle of self-preservation. Every thing naturally desireth or inclineth to its own felicity,
welfare, or perfection. And will you set yourselves to your own destruction? When you are
commanded to love your neighbours as yourselves, it is supposed that you naturally love
yourselves. But if you love your neighbours no better than yourselves, it seems you would have
all the world be damned.
2. How extremely do you cross your own intentions! I know you intend not your own damnation,
even when you are procuring it. You think you are but doing good to yourselves, by gratifying
the desires of your flesh: but, alas! it is but as a draught of cold water in a burning fever, or as
the scratching of an itching wild-fire, which increaseth the disease and pain. If indeed you would
have pleasure, or profit, or honour, seek them where they are to be found, and do not hunt after
them in the way to hell.
3. What pity is it, that you should do that against yourselves which none else on earth or in hell
can do! If all the world were combined against you, or all the devils in hell were combined
against you, they could not destroy you without yourselves, nor make you sin but by your own
consent. And will you do that against yourselves which no one else can do? You have hateful
thoughts of the devil, because he is your enemy, and endeavoureth your destruction. And will
you be worse than devils to yourselves? Why thus it is with you, if you had hearts to understand
it, when you run into sin, and run from godliness, and refuse to turn at the call of God, you do
more against your own souls than men or devils could do besides. And, if you should set
yourselves and bend your wits to do yourselves the greatest mischief, you could not devise to do a greater.
4. You are false to the trust that God hath reposed in you. He hath much entrusted you with your
own salvation; and will you betray your trust? He hath set you with all diligence to keep your
hearts; and is this the keeping of them? Prov. iv. 23.
5. You do even forbid all others to pity you when you will have no pity on yourselves. "If you cry
to God in the day of your calamity, for mercy, mercy; what can you expect, but that he should
thrust you away, and say, "Nay, thou wouldst not have mercy on thyself: Who brought this upon
thee but thy own wilfulness?" And if your brethren see you everlastingly in misery, how shall
they pity you, that were your own destroyers, and would not be dissuaded?
6. It will everlastingly make you your own tormentors in hell to think on it, that you brought
yourselves wilfully to that misery. O what a torturing thought it will be for ever to think with
yourselves that this was your own doing! "That you were warned of this day, and warned again,
but it would not do! That you wilfully sinned, and wilfully turned away from God! That you had
time as well as others, but you abused it! That you had teachers as well as others, but you refused
their instructions! You had holy examples, but you did not imitate them. You were offered
Christ, and grace, and glory, as well as others; but you had more mind of your fleshly pleasure.
You had a price in your hands, but you had not a heart to lay it out, Prov. xvii. 16. "Can it chuse
but torment you to think of this your present folly? O that your eyes were open to see what you
have done in the wilful wronging of your own souls! and that you better understood these words
of God, Prov. viii. 33, 34, 35, 36. "Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not: Blessed is the
man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors: For whoso
findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain the favour of the Lord: But he that sinneth against me
wrongeth his own soul: All they that hate me love death."
And now I am come to the conclusion of this work, my heart is troubled to think how I shall
leave, lest after this the flesh should still deceive you, and the world and the devil should keep
you asleep, and I should leave you as I found you, till you awake in hell: Though in care of your
poor souls, I am afraid of this, as knowing the obstinacy of a carnal heart: yet I can say with the
prophet Jeremiah, xvii. 16. "I have not desired the woeful day, the Lord knoweth:" I have not,
with James and John, desired that "fire might come from heaven" to consume them that refused
Jesus Christ, (Luke ix. 54). but it is the preventing of the eternal fire that I have been all this
while endeavouring! And O that it had been a needless work! That God and conscience might
have been as willing to spare me this labour as some of you could have been! "Dear friends! I am
so loathe that you should die in everlasting fire, and be shut out of heaven, if it be possible to
prevent it, that I shall once more ask you, what do you now resolve? Will you turn, or die? I look
upon you as a physician on his patient, in a dangerous disease, that says to him, "Though you are
far gone, take but this medicine, and forbear but these few things that are hurtful to you, and I
dare warrant your life: but if you will not do this, you are but a dead man." "What would you
think of such a man, if the physician, and all the friends he hath, cannot persuade him to take
one medicine to save his life, or to forbear one or two poisonous things that would kill him?
"This is your case. As far as you are gone in sin, do but now turn and come to Christ, and take
his remedies, and your sou1s shall live: Cast up your deadly sins by repentance, and turn not to
the poisonous vomit any more, and you shall do well. But yet, if it were your bodies
that we had to deal with, we might partly know what to do for you:
Though you would not consent, yet you might be held or bound, while the medicine were poured
down your throats, and hurtful things might be kept from you: But about your souls it cannot be
so; we cannot convert you against your wills: There is no carrying madmen to heaven in fetters;
you may be condemned against your wills, because you sinned with your wills; but you cannot
be saved against your wills. The wisdom of God hath thought meet to lay men's salvation or
destruction exceedingly much upon the choice of their own wills; that no man shall come to
heaven, that chose not the way to heaven, and no man shall come to hell, but shall be forced to
say, "I have the thing I chose, my own will did bring me hither." "Now, if I could but get you to
be willing, to be thoroughly, and resolvedly, and habitually willing, the work were more than
half done. "And alas! must we lose our friends, and must they lose their God, their happiness,
their souls, for want of this? Oh! God forbid! It is a strange thing to me, that men are so inhuman
and stupid in the greatest matters, that in less things are very civil and courteous, and good
neighbours. For ought I know, I have the love of all, or almost all my neighbours, so far, that if I
should send to any man in the town, or parish, or country, and request a reasonable courtesy of
them, they would grant it me; and when I come to request of them the greatest matter in the
world, for themselves, and not for me, I can have nothing of many of them but a patient hearing.
I know not whether people think a man in the pulpit is in good sadness or not, and means as he
speaks; for I think I have few neighbours, but, if I were sitting familiarly with them, and telling
them what I have seen, or done, or known in the world, they would believe me, and regard what
I say: But when I tell them, from the infallible word of God, what they themselves shall see and
know in the world to come, they shew by their lives that they do either not believe it, or not
much regard it. If I met ever a one of them on the way, and told them, yonder is a coal-pit, or
there is a quicksand, or there are thieves lie in wait for you, I could persuade them to turn by:
But when I tell them that Satan lieth in wait for them, and that sin is poison to them, and that
hell is not a matter to be jested with, they go on as if they did not hear me. "Truly, neighbours, I
am in as good earnest with you in the pulpit as I am in any familiar discourse, and, if ever you
will regard me, I beseech you let it be here. I think there is never a man of you all, but, if my
own soul lay at your wills, you would be willing to save it, (though I cannot promise that you
would leave your sins for it.) If I come hungry or naked to one of your doors, would you not part
with more than a cup of drink to relieve me? I am confident you would; if it were to save my
life, I know you would (some of you) hazard your own. And yet, will you not be intreated to part
with your sensual pleasures for your own salvation? I profess to you, Sirs, I am as hearty a
beggar with you this day, for the saving of your own souls, as I would be for my own supply, if I
were forced to come begging to your own doors. And, therefore, if you would hear me then, hear
me now: if you would pity me then, be intreated now to pity yourselves. I do again beseech you,
as if it were on my bended knees, that you would hearken to your Redeemer, and turn, that you
may live. "All you that have lived in ignorance, carelessness, and presumption, to this day; all
you that have been drowned in the cares of the world, and have no mind of God and eternal
glory; all you that are enslaved to your fleshly desires of meats and drink, sports and lusts; and
all you that know not the necessity of holiness, and never were acquainted with
the sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost upon your souls; that never embraced your
blessed Redeemer by a lively faith, and with admiring and thankful apprehensions of his love;
and that never felt a higher estimation of God and heaven, and heartier love to them,
than your fleshly prosperity, and the things below: I earnestly beseech you,
not only for my sake, but for the Lord's sake, and for your souls' sake, that you go not one day
longer in your former condition, but look about you, and cry to God for converting grace, that
you may be made new creatures, and may escape the plagues that are a little before you. And if
ever you will do anything for me, grant me this request, to turn from your evil ways and live.
Deny me anything that ever I shall ask you for myself, if you will but grant me this. And if you
deny me this, I care not for any thing else that you would grant me. Nay, as ever you will do any
thing at the request of the Lord that made you and redeemed you, deny him not this; for if you
deny him this, he cares for nothing that you shall grant him. As ever you would have him hear
your prayers, and grant your requests, and do for you at the hour of death and day of judgment,
or in any of your extremities, deny not his request now in the day of your prosperity. O believe it,
death and judgment, and heaven and hell, are other matters when you come near them, than they
seem to carnal eyes afar off. "Well tho' I cannot hope so well of all, I will hope that some of you
are by this time purposing to turn and live, and that you are ready to say, "God forbid that we
should choose destruction by refusing conversion, as hitherto we have done."
If these be the thoughts and purposes of your hearts, I shall gladly give you direction what to do,
and that but briefly, that you may the easier remember it for your practice.
IF you will be converted and saved, labour to understand the necessity and true nature of
conversion; for what, and from what, and to what, and by what, it is that you must turn. Consider
in what a lamentable condition you are till the hour of your conversion, that you may feel it is
not a state to be rested in. You are under the guilt of all the sins that ever you committed; and
under the wrath of God, and the curse of his law; you are bond-slaves to the devil, and daily
employed in his work against the Lord, yourselves, and others; you are spiritually dead and
deformed, as being void of the holy life, and nature, and image of the Lord. You are unfit for any
holy work, and do nothing that is truly pleasing unto God. You are without any promise or
assurance of his protection, and live in continual danger of his justice, not knowing what hour
you may be snatched away to hell, and most certain to be damned if you die in that condition.
And nothing short of conversion can prevent it. Whatever civilities, or amendments, or virtues,
are short of true conversion, will never procure the saving of your souls. Keep the true sense of
this natural misery, and so of the necessity of conversion on your hearts.
And then you must understand what it is to be converted: it is to have a new heart or disposition,
and a new conversation.
Quest. 1. For what must we turn?
Ans. For these ends following, which you may attain: 1. You shall immediately be made living
members of Christ, and have an interest in him, and be renewed after the image of God, and be
adorned with all his graces, and quickened with a new and heavenly life, and saved from the
tyranny of Satan and the dominion of sin, and be justified from the curse of the law, and have the
pardon of all the sins of your whole lives, and be accepted of God, and made his sons, and have
liberty to call Him Father, and go to him by prayer, in all your needs, with a promise of
acceptance; you shall have the Holy Ghost to dwell in you, to sanctify and guide you; you shall
have part in the brotherhood, communion, and prayers of the saints; you shall be fitted for God's
service, and be freed from the dominion of sin, and be useful and a blessing to the place where
you live, and shall have the promise of this life, and that which is to come. You shall want
nothing that is truly good for you, and your necessary afflictions you will be enabled to bear; you
may have some taste of communion with God in the spirit, especially in all holy ordinances,
where God prepareth a feast for your souls; you shall be heirs of heaven while you live on earth,
and may foresee by faith the everlasting glory, and so may live and die in peace; and you shall
never be so low, but your happiness will be incomparably greater than your misery. "How
precious is every one of these blessings, which I do but briefly name, and which in this life you may receive.
And then, 2. At death your souls shall go to Christ, and at the day of judgment both soul and
body shall be justified and glorified, and enter into your Master's joy; where your happiness will
consist in these particulars:
1. You shall be perfected yourselves: "Your mortal bodies shall be made immortal, and the
corruptible shall put on incorruption: You shall no more be hungry, or thirsty, or weary, or sick;
nor shall you need to fear either shame, or sorrow, or death, or hell. Your souls shall be perfectly
freed from sin, and perfectly fitted for the knowledge, and love, and praises of the Lord.
2. Your employments shall be to behold your glorious Redeemer, with all your holy
fellow-citizens of heaven; and to see the glory of the most blessed God, and to love him
perfectly, and be beloved by him, and to praise him everlastingly.
3. Your glory will contribute to the glory of the New Jerusalem, the city of the living God; which
is more than to have a private felicity to yourselves.
4. Your glory will contribute to the glorifying of your Redeemer, who will everlastingly be
magnified and pleased in you that are the travail of his soul; and this is more than the glorifying of yourselves.
5. And the eternal Majesty, the living God, will be glorified in your glory; both as he is
magnified by your praises, and as he communicateth of his glory and goodness to you, and as he
is pleased in you, and in the accomplishment of his glorious work, in the glory of the New
Jerusalem, and of His Son. All this, the poorest beggar of you, that is converted, shall certainly and endlessly enjoy.
2. You see for what you must turn: next you must understand from what you must turn: And that
is, in a word, from your carnal self, which is the end of all the unconverted. From the flesh that
would be pleased before God, and would still be enticing you; from the world, that is the bait;
and from the devil, that is the angler for souls, and the deceiver. And so from all known and
3. Next you must know to what end you must turn: and that is, to God as your end, to Christ as
the way to the Father; to holiness, as the way appointed you by Christ; and to the use of all the
helps and means of grace afforded you by the Lord.
4. Lastly; you must know by what you must turn: And that is, by Christ, as the only Redeemer
and Intercessor; and by the Holy Ghost, as the sanctifier; and by the Word, as his instrument or
means; and by faith and repentance, as the means and duties on your part to be performed. All
this is of necessity.
If you will be converted and saved, be much in secret serious consideration.
Inconsiderateness undoes the world. Withdraw yourselves often into retired secrecy, and there
bethink you of the end why you were made; of the life you have lived; the time you have lost; the
sin you have committed; of the love and sufferings, and fulness of Christ; of the danger you are
in; of the nearness of death and judgment; of the certainty and excellency of the joys of heaven;
and of the certainty and terror of the torments of hell; and eternity of both; and of the necessity
of conversion and a holy life. Steep your hearts in such considerations as these.
If you will be converted and saved, attend upon the word of God, which is the
ordinary means. Read the scripture, or hear it read, and other holy writings that do apply it:
Constantly attend on the public preaching of the word. As God will lighten the world by the sun,
and not by himself alone without it, so will he convert and save men by his ministers, who are
the lights of the world, Acts xxvi. 17, 18. Matt. v. 14. When he had miraculously humbled Paul,
he sendeth him to Ananias, Acts ix. 10. And when he hath sent an angel to Cornelius, it was but
to bid him send for Peter, who is to tell him what he is to believe and do.
"Betake yourselves to God in a course of earnest constant prayer. Confess and lament
your former lives, and beg his grace to illuminate and convert you. Beseech him to pardon what
is past, and to give you his Spirit, and change your hearts and lives, and lead you in his ways, and
save you from temptations." And ply this work daily, and be not weary of it.
"Presently give over your known and wilful sins. Make a stand, and go that way no
farther." "Be drunk no more, but avoid the place and occasion of it. Cast away your lusts and
sinful pleasures with detestation, and rail no more; and, if you have wronged any, restore as
Zaccheus did. If you will commit again your old sins, what blessings can you expect on the
means for conversion?
"Presently, if possible, change your company, if it have
hitherto been bad." Not by forsaking your necessary relations, but your unnecessary sinful
companions, and join yourselves with those that fear the Lord, and inquire of them the way to
heaven. Acts ix. 19, 26. Psalm xv. 4.
"Deliver up yourselves to the Lord Jesus as the physician of your souls," that he may
pardon you by his blood, and sanctify you by his Spirit, by his word and ministers, the
instruments of the Spirit. He is the way, the truth, and the life; there is no coming to the Father
but by him, John xiv. 6. "Nor is there any other name under heaven by which you can be saved,"
Acts iv. 12. Study therefore His person and nature, and what he hath done and suffered for you,
and what he is to you, and what he will be, and how he is fitted to the full supply of all your
If you mean indeed to turn and live, "Do it speedily, without delay". If you be not
willing to turn to-day, you are not willing to do it at all. "Remember you are all this while in your
blood, under the guilt of many thousand sins, and under God's wrath, and you stand at the very
brink of hell; there is but a step between you and death. And this is not a case for a man that is
well in his wits to be quiet in. Up therefore presently, and fly as for your lives; as you would be
gone out of your house, if it were all on fire over your heads. "O if you did but know in what
continual danger you live in, and what daily unspeakable loss you do sustain, and what a safer
and sweeter life you might live, you would not stand trifling, but presently turn. Multitudes
miscarry that wilfully delay, when they are convinced that it must be done. Your lives are short
and uncertain; and, what a case are ye in, if you die before you thoroughly turn! You have staid
too long already, and wronged God too long; sin getteth strength and rooting while you delay.
Your conversion will grow more hard and doubtful. You have much to do, and therefore put not
all off to the last, lest God forsake you, and give you up to yourselves, and then you are undone
If you will turn and live, do it "unreservedly, absolutely, and universally." Think not
to capitulate with Christ, and divide your heart betwix him and the world, and to part with some
sins, and keep the rest; and to let that go that which your flesh can spare. This is but
self-deluding; you must in heart and resolution forsake all that you have, or else you cannot be
his disciples, Luke xiv. 26, 33. If you will not take God and heaven for your portion, and lay all
below at the feet of Christ, but you must needs also have your good things here, and have an
earthly portion, and God and glory are not enough for you, it is in vain to dream of salvation on
these terms, for it will not be. If you seem never so religious, if yet it is but a carnal
righteousness, and the flesh's prosperity, or pleasure, or safety, be still excepted in your
devotedness to God, this is as certain a way to death as open profaneness, tho' it may be more
If you will turn and live, do it "resolvedly," and stand not still deliberating, as if it
were a doubtful case. Stand not wavering, as if you were yet uncertain whether God or the flesh
be the better master; or whether heaven or hell be the better end; or whether sin or holiness is the
better way. But away with your former lusts, and presently, habitually, fixedly resolve. Be not
one day of one mind, and the next day of another; but be at a point with all the world, and
resolvedly give up yourselves, and all you have to God. Now while you are reading, or hearing this, resolve.
Before you sleep another night, resolve. Before you stir from the place, resolve.
Before Satan have time to take you off, resolve. You never turn indeed till you do resolve,
and that with a firm unchangeable resolution. "So much for the Directions.
And now I have done my part in this work, that you may turn to the call of God, and live; what
will become of it, I cannot tell: I have cast the seed at God's command, but it is not in my power
to give the increase. I can go no farther with my message: I cannot bring it to your hearts, nor
make it work; I cannot do your parts for you to entertain it and consider it; I cannot do God's
part, by opening your heart to cause you to entertain it; nor can I shew heaven or hell to your
eye-sight, nor give you new and tender hearts. If I knew what more to do for your conversion, I hope I should do it.
But O thou, that art the gracious Father of spirits, thou hast sworn thou delightest not in the
death of the wicked, but rather that they may turn and live; deny not thy blessing to those
persuasions and directions, and suffer not thine enemies to triumph in thy sight; and the great
deceiver of souls to prevail against thy Son, thy Spirit, and thy Word! O pity poor unconverted
sinners, that have no hearts to pity themselves: Command the blind to see, and the deaf to hear,
and the dead to live, and let not sin and death be able to resist thee. "Awaken the secure, resolve
the unresolved, confirm the wavering, and let the eyes of sinners, that read these lines, be next
employed in weeping over their sins; and bring them to themselves and to thy Son, before their
sins have brought them to perdition. If thou sayst but the word, these poor endeavours shall
prosper to the winning of many a soul, to their everlasting joy, and everlasting glory. Amen.