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4. The presumptuous sinner, whose answer will be that, Deut. xxix. 19. “I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart.” There are some who have a heart of adamant, and put on a forehead of brass, that nothing of this sort can affect them. Let the messengers of the Lord be saying what they will, they will be doing. They will have their course, and persuade themselves all shall be well. To such I would say, as vers. 20, 21. “The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot put his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him unto evil, out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant, that are written in this book of the law.” See Is. xxviii. 16. and downwards.
5. The slothful sinner, whose answer will be that of Felix to Paul, Acts xxiv. 25. “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” They are convinced that they must repent, and resolve to do it, but not yet. Young folk put it off to old age; old folk delay it till a death-bed. Every one puts it off from time to time. But O sirs what certainty have yo of an hour, much less of a year? How many are there that never see old age ? How many drop into eternity ere ever they are aware ?
6. Lastly, the convinced sinner, who being awakened, says, “ What shall I do to be saved ?" For which reason I shall,
III. Show you the great hinderances of repentance. And,
1. Thoughtlessness is a great hinderance of it: Jer. viii. 6. "I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done ? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.” Men do not consider their souls' state, case, and way. They sleep away their time carelessly without due reflection; and therefore their spiritnal state goes to wreck and they pine away in their iniquity, and are not aware of the same.
2. The love and cares of the world are great hinderances of repentance, Luke viii. 14. These take up men's hearts so, as that they have neither heart nor hand for the case of their souls. How many are there, whom the world keeps in a constant hurry all their life long, that they never come to consider their way till death stare them in the face?
3. Prejudices against religion and seriousness are great hinderances of repentance. Some see no profit in it; but “godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is,
and of that which is to come,” 1 Tim. iv. 8. Some see no pleasure in it; but “wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace,” Prov. iii. 17. Some think that it is needless to be at all that pains, for less will serve : but, alas ! they do not consider what a holy jealous God the Lord is, and how many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
4. Presumption is a great hinderance of repentance, Deut. xxix. 19. They hope still all shall be well, however they take their liberty in a sinful course. They abuse the mercy of God as a screen to their lusts; not remembering that he will by no means clear the guilty.
5. Unbelief, the not embracing of Christ, and apprehending the mercy of God in him, is likewise a great impediment in the way of repentance. And,
6. Lastly, Slothfulness, whereby the business is still put off from time to time.
IV. I shall give directions in order to your obtaining repentance. Supposing what I have said before of the way to gain repentance by believing, I offer further these following directious.
1. Labour to see sin in its own colours, what an evil thing it is. Jer. ii. 19. What makes us to cleave to sin, is false apprehensions we have about it. To see it in itself would be a means to make us fly from it. For this end consider,
1st, The majesty of God offended by sin. Ignorance of God is the mother of impenitency, Acts xvii. 30.
2dly, The obligations we lie under to serve him, which by sin we trample upon.
3dly, The wrath of God that abides impenitent sinners. 4thly, The good things our unrepented-of sins deprive us of.
Lastly, The many evils which are bred by our sin against the honour of God, our own and our neighbour's true interest.
2. Be much in the thoughts of death. Consider how short and uncertain your time is. Hopes of long life bring many into a hopeless case.
And who knows when he may have oatlived his day of grace, when the moment comes that God shall say, “ My Spirit shall not strive any more with this man, for that he also is flesh ?”
3. Dwell on the thoughts of a judgment to come, where ye shall be made to give an account of yourselves.
4. Meditate on the sufferings of Christ.
5. Pray for repentance and believingly seek and long for the Lord's giving the new heart, according to his promise, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I
will give you an heart of flesh.” Ver. 32. “Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you : be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel."
6. Lastly, What ye do, do quickly. The sooner you begin, the easier will the work be.
Take the three following marks of true repentance.
1. Sorrow for sin, as offensive to a good and gracious God, Zech. xii. 10,
2. Hatred of sin, as the most abominable thing, Rev. ii. 6. This will bo, 1. universal, against all known sin ; 2. constant, without intermission ; 3. implacable, without réconciliation; and, 4. vehement, without tolerating it.
3. A fixed purpose and desire of eschewing sin, and following duty; guarding against present sins, and the occasions of these we are in bazard of; honestly endeavouring after it in the use of means, and labouring to remove the hinderances to a holy life.
THE DANGER OF DELAYING REPENTANCE.
Prov. vi. 10, 11.
So shall thy poverty come as one that travaileth, and thy want as an
I HAVE been pressing sinners to repentance from the former text, and I hope by this time all of you may be convinced of the necessity of it. But, alas ! delays in this matter kills their ten thousands. Men put off the work from time to time, till time be gone, and they are surprised into ruin, as we may learn from this text. Where,
1. We have the sluggard's picture drawn in reference to his eternal concerns ; which is the main thing here aimed at.
He is one that puts off his great work from time to time, “ Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep."
In the 6th verso the slothful sinner is set to school to learn a lesson of the emmet; which though she has not the advantages that he has, yet has so much natural sagacity, as to provide for winter, in the time of summer and harvest, when meat is to be got. In the 9th verse there is a rousing call to the sinner to follow that example. But behold how he entertains it; as a person that is loath to arise, he begs “a little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep."
Here is, 1st, Something supposed; and that is threefold.
(1.) The sleeper convinced that he has slept, and neglected his work. There are many who see themselves wrong, yet have no heart to endeavour to get right. They are convinced that their great work is far behind, yet have no heart to stir to set it forward.
(2.) The sleeper convinced that he must awake, and set to liis work. Slothful sinners may see that the case they are in, is not a case they would venture to die in : they see that it is necessary to turn over a new leaf, to mind their salvation at another rate than they have done, or are doing.
(3.) The sleeper resolved to awake, and mind his business. He would fain sleep, but he does not design to sleep long, to sleep always. No; he designs but a little sleep, if ye will believe him, and afterwards to awake; though, poor soul, he does not consider that he is sleeping within the sea-mark, and may be swallowed up ere he awake out of his little sleep.
2dly, Something expressed; and that is threefold too,
(2.) A delay craved : “ Yet a little sleep,” &c. He is not thinking never to waken, never to repent, but only he cannot think on doing it as yet. However long a sleep he has taken in sin, yet he must have more. For as men, the more they sleep, the more they would sleep; so the more they continue in sin, the more they would continue. And the more they put off repentance, they are the more unfit for it.
(2.) The quantity of this delay: it is but a little in the sluggard's conceit. Though the Spirit of the Lord be grieved and wearied with waiting on his awakening, yet he thinks that all is but little. If the sluggard considered that his whole time is but little in comjarison of eternity, the least time he spends in his sleep would appear very great. But, alas ! he considers it not.
(3.) The mighty concern he is in for this delay. Though his ruin be wrapt up in it, he is fond of it, his heart is set upon it; and he pleads for it, as a starving man for bread. Ease is sweet to him; and so he speaks, “A little sleep, a little slumber.” There are three things here which he craves, each less than the other; which shews how loathe he is to bestir himself. (1.) “ A little sleep;” not a dead sleep, but a moderate one. (2.) If that cannot be granted, let him have but "a little slumber;" a napping, as it were, a middle betwixt sleeping and waking. (3.) If he cannot get that, yet he would have “a folding of the hands to sleep;" (Heb.) to lie a-bed. Let him but lie still loitering, and embracing his sweet self, and not presently be obliged to rise to put hand to work. Love to folded hands goes deep with him.
Observe, how the hearts of sinners are glued to their sins, and carnal security. When conscience begins to draw them out of their bed of sloth, they will not yield, they will dispute every foot of ground with it. And they will take very little ere they want all. O were we as nice in the point of our salvation, as in the state of blindness, in the point of our ruin, how happy might we be ?
2. We have the fatal issue of this course. Delays are dangerous, but most of all in matters of eternal concern. The issue of these delays is, the man is ruined, he never awakes till it is out of time. His little sleep, &c. spends all his little time, and throws him out quite unprovided into a long eternity. Here consider,
1st, What ruin comes upon him: Poverty and want. It is held forth under these notions, to answer to the provision the ants make for themselves. They provide for themselves in summer and harvest: so that when the winter comes, when they cannot stir out of their holes, they live on the provision they have laid in. There is a winter abiding us, a time wherein no man can work, when there will be no access to God's grace and favour. Death brings in this. This time is our summer and harvest, wherein matters may be secured for eternity: but, alas ! the sluggard sleeps in working time; and so when it is over, he must starve and perish for ever.
2dly, How this ruin comes upon him. It comes on,
(1.) Swiftly and speedily. So the word rendered one that travaileth, imports : one that walketh vigorously, as a man in a haste upon the road. Though the sinner lies at ease on his bed of sloth, yet his ruin hasteth on apace, 2 Pet. ii. 3. The sun stands not still, though the sluggard's work goes slowly on. Every breath he fetches in his spiritual sleep, draws his destruction a step nearer.
(2.) Silently and surprisingly; "Thy poverty shall come as one that travaileth.” If we send one on an errand, we will be looking for him again at the time appointed; but we know nothing of the traveller, till he come at us. So ruin comes on the delaying sinner ere he is aware ; destruction is at his bedside ere he is awakened, Prov. xxix. 1.
(3.) Irresistibly: “Thy want shall come as an armed man;" (Heb.) a man of a buckler, who may hurt thee; but not thou him, for his buckler defends him. Were this traveller unarmed, the danger were not so great; or were the party attacked watching, and armed too, he might possibly come off safe. But alas! the poor man is naked, and sleeping too; how then can he make his part good against his enemy? He cannot; he must fall a sacrifice to his own sloth. Which brings me to consider,