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mercy with him in that day, who would sue to him for it no sooner, that they shall address themselves to the mountains and rocks, as being more pitiful and exorable than he, to hide them from the face of him that fitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: from the wrath of the Lamb, to signify unto us, that nothing is more terrible than meekness and patience, when they are thoroughly provoked, and turned into fury.

In such dreadful confusion shall all impenitent finners be, when they shall be furprised by that great and terrible day of the Lord: and the case of a dying finner, who would take no care in the time of his life and health to make preparation for another world, is not much more hopeful and comfortable.

For, alas ! how little is it that a sick and dying man can do in such a strait of time; in the midst of so much pain and weakness of body, and of such confusion and amazement of mind ? With what heart can he fet about so great a work, for which there is so little time with what face can he apply himself to God in this extremity, whom he hath so disdainfully neglected all the days of his life? and how can he have the confidence to hope that God will hear his cries, and regard his tears, that are forced froin him in this day of his necessity; when he is conscious to himself, that, in that long day of God's grace and patience, he turned a deaf ear to all his merciful invitations, and rejected the counsel of God against himself? In a word, how can he, who would not know, in that his day, the things which belonged to his peace, expect any other, but that they should now be for ever hid from his eyes, which are ready to be closed in utter darkness ?

I will not pronounce any thing concerning the impofsibility of a deathbed repentance : but I am sure that it is very difficult, and I believe very rare. We have but one example, that I know of, in the whole Bible, of the repentance of a dying sinner; I mean that of the penitent thief upon the cross : and the circumstances of his case are so peculiar and extraordinary, that I cannot see that it affords any ground of hope and encouragement to men in ordinary cases. We are not like to suffer in the company of the Son of God, and of the Saviour of the world : and if we could do so, it is not certain that we should behave ourselves towards him so well as the penitent thief did, and make so very good an end of so very bad a life.

And the parable in the text is so far from giving any encouragement to a deathbed repentance and preparation, that it rather represents their case as desperate, who put off their preparation to that time. How ineffectual all that the foolish virgins could do at that time did in the conclufion prove, is set forth to us at large in the parable. They wanted oil; but could neither borrow nor buy it, y 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. They would then fain have had it, and ran about to get it; but it was not to be obtained neither by intreaty nor for money. First, they apply themselves to the wife virgins, for a share in the overplus of their graces and virtues : Ý 8. The foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, Not so; left there be not enough for us and you. The wise virgins, it seems, knew of none they had to spare. And then they are represented as ironically sending the foolish virgins to some famous market where this oil was pretended to be sold; ♡ 9. Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And as dying and desperate persons are apt to catch at every twig, and when they can see no hopes of being saved, are apt to believe every one that will give them any; fo these foolish virgins follow the advice : y 10. And whilft they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready, went in with him to the marriage, and the door was fhut. And afterwards came also the other virgins, Saying, Lord, Lord,

pen to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

You see how little, or rather no encouragement at all, there is from any the least circumstance in this parable, for those who have delayed their preparation for another world, till they be overtaken by death or judgment, to hope by any thing that they can then do, by any importunity which they can then use, to gain admit sion into heaven. Let those consider this with fear and trembling, who forget God, and neglect religion all their lifetime, and yet feed themselves with vain hopes,

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by fome device or other, to be admitted into heaven at. last.

V. I observe, that there is no such thing as works of supererogation; that is, that no man can do more than needs, and than is his duty to do, by way of preparation for another world: for when the foolish virgins would have begged of the wise some oil for their lamps, y 8. the wise answered, v 9. Not fo; left there be not enough for us 'and you. It was only the foolish virgins that, in the time of their extremity, and when they were conscious that they wanted that which was absolutely necessary to qualify them for admission into heaven, who had entertained this idle conceit, that there might be an overplus of grace and merit in others sufficient to supply their want. But the wise knew not of any they had to spare; but fupposed all that they had done, or could possibly do, to be little enough to qualify them for the glorious reward of eternal life: Not so, (say they), picole, left at any time ; that is, left when there should be need and occasion, all that we have done, or could do, should be little enough for ourselves. And in this point they had been plainly inltructed by the bridegroom himself: But ye, when ye have done all, say, We are unprofitable servants ; and have done nothing but what was our duty to do. And

yet

this conceit of the foolish virgins, as absurd as it is, hath been taken up in good earnest by a grave matron, who gives out herself to be the mother and mistress of all churches, and the only infallible oracle of truth : I mean the church of Rome, whose avowed doetrine it is, That there are some persons so excellently. good, that they may do more than needs for their own salvation : and therefore, when they have done as much for themselves as in strict duty they are bound to do, and thereby have paid down a full and valuable confideration for heaven, and as much as in equal justice between God and man it is worth, that then they may go to work again for their friends, and begin a new score; and, from that time forward, may put the furplusage of their good works as a debt upon God, to be laid up in the publick treasury of the church, as so many bills of credit, which the Pope, by his pardons and indulgences,

may

may dispense, and place to whose account he pleases. And out of this bank, which is kept at Rome, those who never took care to have any righteousness of their own, may be fupplied at reasonable rates.

To which they have added a further supply of grace, if there should be any need of it, by the facrament of extreme unction, never heard of in the Christian church for many ages; but devised, as it were, on purpose to furnish such foolish virgins with oil, as are here described in the parable.

And thus, by one device or other, they have enervated the Christian religion to that degree, that it hath almost quite loft its true virtue and efficacy upon the hearts and lives of men : and instead of the real fruits of goodness and righteousness, it produceth little elfe but superstition and folly; or if it produce any real virtues, yet even the virtue of those virtues is in a great measure spoiled by their arrogant pretences of merit and fupererogation, and is rendered infignificant to themselves by their insolent carriage and behaviour towards God.

VI. and lastly, If we could suppose any persons to be so overgrown with goodness, as to have more than needs to qualify them for the reward of eternal life ; yet there can be no assigning and transferring of this overplus of grace and virtue from one man to another. For we fee that all the ways that could be thought on, of begging, or borrowing, or buying oil of others, did all prove ineffectual; because the thing is in its own nature impracticable, that one finner, who owes all that he hath, and much more, to God, should have any thing to spare wherewithal to merit for another.

Indeed our blessed Saviour hath merited us for all the reward of eternal life, upon the condition of faith, and repentance, and obedience : but the infinite merit of his obedience and sufferings will be of no benefit and advantage to us, if we ourselves be not really and inherente ly righteous. So St. John tells us, and warns us to beware of the contrary conceit: Liitle children, let no man deceive you : he that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

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If we do sincerely endeavour to please God, and to keep his commandments, in the general course of a holy and virtuous life, the merit of Christ's perfect obedience and sufferings will be available with God for the acceptance of our sincere, though but imperfect obedience. But if we take no care to be righteous and good ourselves, the perfect righteousness of Christ will do us no good; much less the imperfect righteousness of any other man who is a sinner himself. And the holiest man that ever was upon earth, can no more assign and make over his righteousness, or repentance, or any part of either, to anther that wants it, than a man can bequeath his wisdom or learning to his heir or his friend; no more than a fick man can be restored to health by virtue of the physick which another man hath taken.

Let no man therefore think of being good by a deputy, that cannot be contented to be happy and to be faved the same way; that is, to go to hell, and be tormented there in person, and to go to heaven, and be admitted into that place of bliss only by proxy. So that these good works with a hard name, and the making over the merit of them to others, have no manner of foundation either in scripture or reason, but are all mere fancy and fiction in divinity.

The inference from all this shall be, the application which our Saviour makes of this parable, y 13. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh: as if he had said, The design of this parable is, to instruct us, that we ought to be continually vigilant, and always upon our guard, and in a constant readiness and preparation to meet the bridegroom ; because we know not the time of his coming to judgment, nor yet, which will be of the same consequence and concernment to us, do any of us know the precise time of our own death. Either of these may happen at any time, and come when we least expect them. And therefore we should make the best and speediest provision that we can for another world, and should be continually upon our watch, and trimming our lamps, that we may not be surprised by either of these; neither by our own particular death, nor by the general judgment of the world; because the Son of man will come in a day when we

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