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has charged us upon pain of death to make known? Wouldst thou perish in ease and quietness, and have us to perish with thee, rather than to awake thee, or displease thee, by speaking the truth? Are these things true, or are they not? If they were not true, I would heartily join with you against any minister who should offer to preach them, and to frighten poor people when there is no cause. But if every word of these threatenings be the word of God, and if they be as true as thou livest and readest this, how great the folly that would not hear them and consider them! Is not this doctrine fit for thee to hear? Indeed, if thou wert past hope of escaping it, then it were vain to tell thee of hell; it might be better to let thee enjoy a few cheerful hours whilst thou mayest; but as long as thou art on this side of the grave, there is hope of thy recovery, and therefore all means must be used to awake thee from thy lethargy. Oh, that some Jonah would cry in your ears, "Yet a few days, and rebellious sinners shall be destroyed;" till you were brought to fall down on your knees in sackcloth and in ashes! Oh, that some John the Baptist would make proclamation, "Now is the axe laid to the root of the tree; every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire!" Oh, that some son of thunder, who could speak as Paul, till the hearers tremble, were now to warn you to flee from the wrath to come! Alas! as terribly as you think I speak, yet it is not the thousandth part of what thou must feel, if thou remain unconverted; for what heart can conceive, or what tongue can utter the agonies of those souls that are under the wrath of God?
REPREHENDING THE GENERAL NEGLECT OF THE HEAVENLY REST, AND EXCITING TO DILIGENCE IN SEEKING IT.
Reprehension of different Classes for their Neglect of the Heavenly Rest.
I COME now to the second use, which I shall make of this doctrine of rest. If there be so glorious a rest for the saints, why is there no more earnest seeking after it in the world? One would think that a man who but once heard of such unspeakable glory, and believed what he heard to be true, would be transported with the vehemency of his desires after it, and would almost forget to eat or drink, and would care for nothing else, and speak of and inquire after nothing else, but how to get assurance and possession of this treasure! And yet people who hear of it daily, and profess to believe it as a fundamental article of their creed, do as little mind it, or care or labour for it, and as much forget and disregard it, as if they had never heard of any such thing, or did not believe one word that they hear. I shall apply this more particularly to the reproof of four sorts of men.
I. This subject reproves worldly-minded men, who are so taken up in seeking the things below, that they have neither heart nor time to seek this rest. May I not well say to them, as Paul to the Galatians in another case, "Foolish sinners! who hath bewitched you?" Would not any man wonder, who has the spiritual use of reason, to see what insatiable pursuit of fleshly pleasures there is among men, whilst they look upon the praises of God, which is the joy of angels, as a tiresome burden! What unwearied diligence
is there in raising their posterity, in enlarging their possessions, in gathering a little silver or gold, while in the meantime their judgment is drawing near; and yet how it shall go with them then, or how they shall live eternally, never puts them to the trouble of an hour's serious consideration! What is the excellency of this earth, that it has so many suitors and admirers? What has it done for its lovers and friends, that it is so eagerly followed, and painfully sought after, while Christ and heaven stand by, and few regard them? Or, what will the world do for them for the time to come? The common entrance into it, is through anguish and sorrow. The journey through it, is with continual care, and labour, and grief. The passage out of it, is with the greatest sharpness and sadness of all. What, then, causes men so much to follow it? O sinful, unreasonable, bewitched men! Will mirth and pleasure stick close to you? Will gold and worldly glory prove fast friends to you in the time of your greatest need? Will they hear your cries in the day of your calamity? If a man should cry in the hour of death, "Oh, riches, or honour, now help us!" will they either answer or relieve you? Will they go along with you to another world, and bribe the judge, and bring you off clear, or purchase you a mansion among the blessed? Why, then, did the rich man want a drop of water to cool his tongue? Or, are the sweet morsels of present delight and honour, of more worth than the eternal rest? And will they recompense the loss of that enduring treasure? Ah, deceitful world! how often have we heard thy faithfulest servants complaining at last, "Oh, the world has deceived and undone me! It flattered me in my prosperity, but now it turns me off at death in my necessity! Ah, if I had as faithfully served Christ as I have served it, he would not thus have cast me off, nor have left me thus comfortless and hopeless in the depth of misery!" Thus, do the dearest friends and favourites of the world complain at last of its deceitfulness, or rather of their own self-deluding folly; and yet succeeding sinners will take no warning.
II. This subject reproves the profane, ungodly, presumptuous multitude, who will not be persuaded to be at so much pains for salvation, as to perform the common outward duties of religion. If they have the gospel preached in the town where they dwell, it may be they will give a hearing to it one part of the day, and stay at home the other. How few are there in a whole town who will either be at the cost or pains to procure a minister, or travel a few miles to hear abroad, though they will go many miles to the market for provisions for their bodies. The king of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment with them, and shall condemn them, for he repented at the preaching of Jonah; but when Jesus Christ sends his ambassadors to these men, they will scarcely go to hear them.
And though they know that the Scripture is the law of God, by which they must live, and by which they must be acquitted or condemned in judgment; and that it is the character of every blessed man to delight in this law, and to "meditate in it day and night," yet will they not be at the pains even to read a chapter once a day, nor to acquaint their families with the doctrine of salvation.
And though they are commanded to "pray without ceasing," to "pray always, and not to faint," to "continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving," yet will they not be brought to pray constantly with their families, or in secret. Or if they do any thing this way, it is usually but a running over a few formal words, which they have got on their tongue's end, as if they came on purpose to make a jest of prayer, and to mock God and their own souls. If they be in distress, or want any thing for their bodies, they want not words to make known their minds. Doubtless, if they felt the misery and necessities of their souls, they would be as forward to beg relief of God, in frequent, fervent, importunate, and constant prayer. Whereas now they invite God to be backward in giving, by their backwardness in asking; and to be weary of relieving them, by their being weary of begging; and to be seldom and short
in his favours, as they are seldom and short in their prayers; and to give them but common and outward favours, as they put up but common and outward requests. Do not these men judge themselves unworthy of heaven, who think it not worth their more constant and earnest requests? If it be not worth asking, it is worth nothing. And yet if one should go from house to house, through town and country, and inquire at every house as he went along, whether they do, morning and evening, call their family together, and earnestly and reverently seek the Lord in prayer, -how few would you find that constantly and conscientiously practise this duty! If every door were marked where they do not thus call upon God, that his wrath might be poured out upon that family, our towns would be as places overthrown by the plague, -the people being dead within, and the mark of judgment on the door without. I fear where one house would escape, there would be ten marked out for death. But especially if you could see what men do in their secret chambers, how few would you find in a whole town, that spend one quarter of an hour, morning and night, in earnest supplication to God for their souls!
III. This subject reproves formal professors of religion, who will attend to any outward duty, and take up the easier part of Christianity, but to the inward work, and more difficult part, they will never be persuaded. They will preach, or hear, or read, or talk of heaven, or pray in their families, and take part with the persons and causes that are good, and desire to be esteemed among the godly; but you can never bring them to the more spiritual and difficult duties, as to be frequent and fervent in secret prayer, to be conscientious in the duty of self-examination, to be constant in the excellent duty of meditation, to be heavenly-minded, to watch regularly over their heart, and words, and ways, to deny the bodily senses their delights, to mortify the flesh, and to make no provision to fulfil the lusts thereof, to love and heartily forgive an enemy, to prefer their brethren heartily before