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enlightened, Heb. vi. 4, and a Felix tremble under convictions, Acts xxiv. 25, and a Herod amend many things, Mark vi. 20. "Tis one thing to have sin alarmed only by convictions, and another to have it captivated and erucified by converting grace. Many, because they have been troubled in conscience for their sins, think well of their case; miserably mistaking conviction for conversion.— With these Cain might have passed for a convert, who ran up and down the world like a man distracted, under the rage of a guilty conscience, till with building and business he had wore it away, Gen. iv. 13, 14. Others think, that because they have given off their riotous courses, and are broken off from evil company, or some particular lust, and reduced to sobriety and civility, they are now no other than real converts; forgetting that there is a vast difference between being sanctified and civilized; and that many seek to enter into the kingdom of heaven, Luke xiii. 24, and are not far from it, Mark xii, 34, and arrive to the almost of Christianity, Acts xxvi. 28, and yet fall short at last. While conscience holds the whip over them, many will pray, hear, read, and forbear their delightful sins; but no sooner is this lion asleep, but they are at their vomit again. Who more religious than the Jews, when God's hand was upon them? Psal. lxxviii. 34, 35, but no sooner was the affliction over, but they forgot God, and shewed their religion to be a fit, ver. 36, 37. Thou mayest have disgorged a trouble'some sin, that will not sit in thy stomach, and
have escaped those gross pollutions of the world, and yet not have changed thy swinish nature all the while, 2 Pet. ii. 20, 22.
You may cast the lead out of the rude mass into the more comely proportion of a plant, and then into the shape of a beast, and thence into the form and features of a man; but all the while it is but lead still. So a man may pass through divers transmutations, from ignorance to knowledge, from profaneness to civility, thence to a form of religion; and all this while he is but carnal and unregenerate, while his nature remains unchanged.
Application. Hear then, O sinners, hear as you would live, so come and hear, Isa. lv. 3. Why would you so wilfully deceive yourselves, or build your hopes upon the sand? I know he shall find hard work of it, that goes to pluck away your hopes. It cannot but be ungrateful to you, and truly it is not pleasing to me. I set about it as a surgeon, when to cut off a putrified member from his well-beloved friend; which of force he must do, but with an aching heart, a pitiful eye, a trembling hand. But understand me, brethren, I am only taking down the ruinous house, (which will otherwise speedily fall of itself, and bury you in the rubbish) that I may build fair, and strong, and firm for ever. The hope of the wicked shall perish, if God be true of his word, Prov. xi. 7. And wert not thou better, O sinner, to let the word convince thee now in time, and let go thy self-deluding hopes, than to have death too late to open thine eyes, and find thyself in hell before thou art aware? I
should be a false and faithless shepherd, if I should not tell you, that you who have built your hopes upon no better grounds than these forementioned, are yet in your sins. Let your consciences speak; what is it that you have to plead for yourselves? Is it that you wear Christ's livery? that you bear his name? that you are of the visible church? that you have knowledge in the points of religion? are civ. ilized, perform religious duties, are just in your dealings, have been troubled in conscience for your sins? I tell you from the Lord, these pleas will never be accepted at God's bar. All this, though good in itself, will not prove you converted, and so will not suffice to your salvation. Oh look about you, and bethink yourselves of turning speedily and soundly. Set to praying, and to reading, and studying your own hearts; rest not, till God hath made thorough work with you; for you must be other men, or else you are lost men.
But if these be short of conversion, what shall I say of the profane sinner? It may be he will scarce cast his eyes, or lend his ears to this discourse. But if there be any such reading, or within hearing, he must know from the Lord that made him, that he is far from the kingdom of God. May a man be civilized, and not converted? Where then shall the drunkard, and glutton appear? May a man keep company with the wise virgins, and yet be shut out? shall not a companion of fools much more be destroyed? Prov. xiii. 20. May a man be true and just in his deal
ing, and yet not be justified of God? what then will become of thee, O wretched man, whose conscience tells thee thou art false in thy trade, and false to thy word, and makest thy advantage by a lying tongue? If men may be enlightened, and brought to the performance of holy duties, and yet go down to perdition for resting in them, and sitting down on this side of conversion; what will become of you, O miserable families, that live as without God in the world? and of you, 0 wretched sinners, with whom God is scarce in all your thoughts; that are so ignorant, that you cannot, or so careless, that you will not pray? O repent, and be converted! break off your sins by righteousness; away to Christ for pardoning and renewing grace; give up yourselves to him, to walk with him in holiness, or else you shall never see God. Oh that you would take the warnings of God! In his name I once more admonish you, Turn you at my reproof, Prov. i. 23, forsake the foolish and live, Prov. ix. 6. Be sober, righteous, godly, Tit. ii. 12. Wash your hands, ye sinners; purify your hearts, ye doubleminded, James iv. 8. Cease to do evil, learn to do well, Isa. i. 16, 17. But if you will on, you must die, Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
SHEWING POSITIVELY WHAT CONVERSION IS.
I MAY not leave you with your eyes half open, as he that saw men as trees walking, Mark viii. 24. The word is profitable for doctrine, as well as reproof, 2 Tim. iii. 16.And therefore having thus far conducted you by the shelves and rocks of so many dangerous mistakes, I would guide you at length into the harbour of truth.
Conversion then (in short) lies, in the thorough change both of the heart and life. I shall briefly describe it in its nature and cau
1. The author, it is the Spirit of God; and therefore it is called the sanctification of the Spirit, 2 Thess. ii. 18, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, Tit. iii. 5. Yet not excluding the other Persons in the Trinity for the apostle teacheth us, to bless the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for that he hath begotten us again, 1 Pet. i. 3, and Christ is said to give repentance to Israel, Acts v. 31, and is called the everlasting Father, Isa. ix. 6, and we his seed, and the children which God hath given him, Heb. iii. 13, Isa. liii. 10. O blessed birth! Seven cities contended for the birth of Homer: but the whole Trinity fathers the new creature. Yet is this work principally ascribed to the Holy Ghost, and so we are said to be born of the Spirit, John iii. 8.
So then it is a work above man's power.