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I hope therefore thou wilt peruse so short a discourse, and art not unwilling to do it in such a manner, as to grow acquainted with, and be persuaded to thy great duty, and, which is inseparable from it, thy greatest advantage. And that thou mayest not fail thereof, is the design of the following directions.
1. Pray in the name of Christ, as thou art and shalt be enabled, for the more effectual assistances of the Holy Spirit. Such is the corruption of our nature, that it utterly disables us to make a saving use of outward means, without inward aids. Unless the Spirit, by his powerful operations, work thee into a serious teachable temper, set home the attempts of God's messengers, and give them an efficacy far beyond their own, the most concerning truths, and weightiest arguments can never be so represented and enforced, as to overcome thy sensual, worldly inclinations, rescue thee from the dominion of sin and satan, and bring thee back to God. Thou must therefore pray, and that with becoming apprehensions of the great God, due regard to the gracious Mediator, deep shame and sorrow for the sins thou confessest, ardent desires of all the grace thou beggest, and faithful improvements of such measures as thou hast already received. And if thou thus askest, with fervent importunity, and persevering constancy, thou wilt undoubtedly find that God bude thee not seek his face in vain ; as our Lord warrants us to argue, Luke xi. If a man will not deny a friend what he is
importunate for, and if a father will grant his son what he asks and wants, much more will thy heavenly Father give thee the Holy Spirit for all needful purposes, to produce all those effects in thee that are truly necessary for thine eternal salvation.
2. Consider seriously what thou readest, and work it on thy soul as far as thou art concerned therein. Medicines for the body will operate, though they are not thought of; but spiritual remedies for the mind require its co-operation with them: the clearest explications, fullest proofs, and strongest motives about matters of nearest and greatest concernment, will not do the soul any good, unless by thinking it apply them, and extract their virtue; nor will the Spirit heal its lamentable diseases, if his influences be not answered with suitable endeavours. Work then as he works in and with thee; take into most serious consideration whatever is apt to promote thy recovery; lay those things closest to heart, which are likeliest to cure the hardness thereof; inculcate and urge them, and withal cry mightily unto him, who is able and no less willing to help thee, till thou feelest his gentle force, and comest to a conquering resolution, that thou must and wilt do as thou art advised; till thou dost not only assent to the course proposed, as fit to be taken, but art steadily determined, that it is best for thee, that it is absolutely necessary, and must effectually be prosecut ed; that by the grace of God thou wilt thoroughly change thy heart and life, and so
escape from the greatest evil, and make sure of the chiefest good.
3. When thou hast seriously considered and resolved, proceed presently to practice, with all thy might, and without the least delay. 'Tis commonly a work of some time to alter the temper of the soul, and change the course of the life; and according to God's usual methods, the longer thou hast been accustomed to do evil, the more time and pains will be requisite to break the force of stubborn lusts, to weaken and subdue vicious habits, and to gain those of grace and goodness; to travel back the way thou hast gone wrong, and to get out of it, into the path of life. "Tis well then if there be days enough before thee to do the one thing needful. To be sure, thou art not certain of an hour to spare; the loss of so small a part may prove the loss of all. Besides, if thou puttest off thy reformation, though but for a little while, 'tis a sign thou dost not really intend it at all for thou purposest, against_conviction, to add sin to sin at present; and how can that consist with an hearty design of growing good afterward? Delude not therefore thyself with such a desperate cheat, but imitate the royal Psalmist; when thou hast thought on thy ways, turn thy feet unto God's testimonies: make haste, and delay not to keep his commandments.
4. Remember that conversion unto God is but the beginning of thy duty, that thou must afterwards obey him all the days of thy life, and that there is no other way to preserve an
interest in his favour, and a right to the great expressions thereof. They are the largest and last discoveries of divine grace, that teach thee to deny ungodliness, and worldly lusts; to live soberly, righteously and godly in this pres ent world; and, so doing, to look for the blessed object of thy hope they plainly enough warn thee against drawing back unto perdition; they threaten a final rejection, if thou deniest thy Saviour in words or works; and they oft direct and command thee to seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, by patient continuance in well doing; to be faithful unto death, whatever it cost thee, that thy Lord may give thee a crown of life. These may seem hard sayings, but they contain nothing like a reasonable discouragement. There is misery more than enough in hell, to necessitate a prevention by any temporary labours, wants and sufferings; and an abundantly sufficient happiness in heaven, to encourage a stedfast perseverance in the work of the Lord, though it were more harsh and grievous than sinners imagine. And even at present, religion is not without a reward; yea, thou wilt find it, if thou triest as thou shouldst, a reward to itself: when the main difficulties at first are over, thy duty will grow daily easier; it will have many pleasures mixed with it, and become at length itself the greatest: it will not abridge thy appetites of any desirable gratifications, but give them a new delicious relish of the fountain from which they flow instead of the girds and twinges of a bad conscience, and dread of an after-reckoning, it will settle
peace within, and fill thee with comfortable reflections and joyful hopes; and a loving, thankful, praising obedience, will, by degrees, become thy sweetest employment. Therein thou mayest draw still nearer to God, delight thyself in him, and receive from him the desires of thine heart thou mayest walk always in the light of his countenance, and feed on his loving kindness, which is better than life.
In short, before thou ascendest to heaven, thou mayest be in a heaven on earth, and find, by happy experience, that the way to have all thou canst wish hereafter, is to be, and do, what is best for thyself here..