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those who are remiss in a matter of so great concernment; and those who are grossly careless, and mind it not at all. · 1. To those who are remiss in a matter of such vast concernment; who mind the business of religion in some degree, but not so heartily and vigorously as a matter of such infinite consequence doth require and deserve.
And here I fear the very best are greatly defective; and so much the more to be blamed, by how much they are more convinced than others, of the necessity of a religious and holy life, and that without this no man shall ever be admitted into the mansions of the blessed. They believe likewise, that according to the degrees of every man's holiness and virtue in this life, will be the degrees of his happiness in the other; that he that fows Sparingly, Jhall reap sparingly; and he that sows plentifully, Jhall reap plentifully : and that the measure of every man's reward shall be according to his improvement of the talents that were committed to him.
But how little do men live under the power of these convictions ? And notwithstanding we are allured by the most glorious promises and hopes, and awed by the greateft fears, and urged by the most forcible argument in the world, the evident necessity of the thing ; yet how faintly do we run the race that is set before us? How frequently and how easily are we atopped or diverted in our Christian course by very little temptations? How cold, and how careless, and how inconstant are we in the ex. ercises of piety, and how defective in every part of our duty ? Did we act reasonably, and as men ose to do in matters of much less moment, we could not be so indif, ferent about a thing so necessary, so flight and careless in a matter of life and death, and upon which all eternity. doth depend.
Let us then shake off this Noth and security, and resolve to make that the great business of time, which is our great concernment to all eternity: and when we are immerfed in the cares and bufiness of this life, and trou. bled about many things, let this thought often come into our minds, that there is one thing needful, and which therefore deserves above all other things to be regarded by us.
2. There are another sort of persons, who are grossly careless of this one thing necesary, and do not seem to mind it at all; who go on securely in an evil course, as if either they had no fouls, or no concernment for them. I may say to these, as the maiter of the ship did to Jonah, when he was fast alleep in the atorm, What meanelt thou, O feeper? arife, and call upon thy God. When our souls are every moment in danger of linking, it is high time for us to awake out of sleep, to ply every oar, and to use all possible care and industry to save a thing so precious, froin a danger so threatening and so terrible.
We are apt enough to be sensible of the force of this argument of necessity in other cases, and very carefully to provide against the prelling necessities of this life, and how to avoid those great temporal evils of poverty and disgrace, of pain and suffering : but the great necessity of all, and that which is mainly incumbent upon us, is, to provide for eternity ; to secure the everlasting happiness, and to prevent the endless and insupportable inise, ries of another world. This, this is the one thing neceffary; and to this we ought to bend and apply all our care and endeavours. · If we would fairly compare the necessity of things, and wisely weigh the concernments of this life and the other in a juft and equal balance, we should be ashamed to misplace our diligence and industry as we do; to be." stow our best thoughts and time about these vain and perishing things, and to take no care about that better part which cannot be taken from us. Fond and vain men that we are, who are so solicitous how we shall pafs a few days in this world, but matter not what shall become of us for ever. • But, as careless as we are now about these things, time will come when we shall fadly lay them to heart, and when they will touch'us to the quick. When we come to lie upon a deathbed, if God shall be pleased to grant us then so much time and use of our reason, as to be able to recollect ourselves, we shall then be convinced how great a necessity there was of minding our fouls, and of the prodigious folly of neglecting them, and of our not being sensible of the value of them, till we are ready to despair of saving them.
But, blessed be God, this is not yet our case, though we know not how soon it may be. Let us then be wise, and consider these things in time, lest death and despair should overtake and oppress us at once. · You that are young, be pleased to consider, that this is the best opportunity of your lives, for the minding and doing of this work. You are now most capable of the best impressions, before the habits of vice have taken deep root, and your hearts be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. This is the acceptable time; this is the day of salvation.
And there is likewise a very weighty consideration to be urged upon those that are old, if there be any that are willing to own themselves so, that this is the last opportunity of their lives; and therefore they should lay hold of it, and improve it with all their might: for it will soon be palt; and when it is, nothing can call it back.
It is but a very little while before we shall all certainly be of this mind, that the best thing we could have done in this world, was to prepare for the other. Could I represent to you that invisible world which I am speaking of, you would all readily assent to this counsel, and would be glad to follow it, and put it speedily in practice. Do but then open your eyes, and look a little before you to the things which are not far off from a. ny of us, and to many of us may perhaps be much nearer than we are aware. Let us but judge of things now, as we shall all shortly judge of them : and let us live now, as after a few days we shall every one of us. wish with all our souls that we had lived, and be as serious, as if we were ready to step into the other world, and to enter upon that change, which death will quickly make in every one of us. Strange stupidity of men ! that a change, so near, so great, fo certain, should affect us so coldly, and be so little considered and provided for by us : that the things of time should move us so much, and the things of eternity so little. What will we do when this change comes, if we have made no preparation for it?
If we be Christians, and do verily believe the things which I am speaking of, and that, after a few days more.
are passed, death will come, and draw aside that thick vail of sense and security, which now hides these things from us; and shew us that fearful and amazing sight, which we are now so loth to think upon : I say, if we believe this, it is time for us to be wife and serious.
And happy that man, who, in the days of his health, hath retired himself from the noise and tumult of this world, and made that careful preparation for death and a better life, as may give him that constancy and firmness of spi-, rit, as to be able to bear the thoughts and approaches of his great change without amazement; and to have a mind almost equally poized between that strong inclination of nature, which makes us desirous to live, and that wiser dictate of reason and religion, which should make us willing and contented to die whenever God thinks fit.
Many of us do not now so clearly discern these things, because our eyes are dazzled with the false light and splendor of earthly felicity : but this assuredly is more worth than all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, to be able to possess our souls at such a time, and to be at perfect peace with our own minds, having our hearts fixed, trusting in God; to have our accounts made up, and estate of our immortal fouls as well settled and fe. cured, as, by the assistance of God's grace, human care and endeavour, though mixed with much human frailty, is able to do.
And if we be convinced of these things, we are utterly inexcufable, if we do not make this our first and great care, and prefer it to all other interests whatfoever. And to this end, we should resolutely disintangle ourselves from worldly cares and incumberances; at least so far, that we may have competent liberty and leisure to attend this great concernment, and to put our souls into a fit posture and preparation for another world : that when fickness and death shall come, we may not act our last part indecently and confusedly, and have a great deal of work to do, when we shall want both time and all other advantages to do it in; whereby our souls, when they will stand most in need of comfort and lupport, will unavoidably be left in a trembling
and disconfolate condition, and in an anxious doubtfulness of mind, what will become of them for ever.
To conclude : This care of religion.and our souls is a thing so necessary, that, in comparison of it, we are to neglect the very necesfaries of life. So our Lord teacheth us, Matth. vi.'31. 33. Take no thought, Saying, What shall we eat?? .or what shall we drink ? or wherewithal mall we be clothed ? But seek ye first the king doni of God, and his righteousness. The calls of God and religion are so very pressing and importunate, that they admit of no delay or excuse whatsoever. This our Saviour signifies to us, by denying the disciple, whom he had called to follow him, Icave to go and bury his father ; Let the dead (says he) bury their dead; but do thou follow me.
There is one thing nee lful, and that is the business of religion, and the care of our immortal souls; which, whatever else we neglect, should be carefully minded and regarded by every one of us. O that there were such a heart in us? O thut we were wise, that we understood this, that we would consider our latter end! Which God grant we may all do, in this our day, for his mercies fake, in Jesus Christ. To whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all 'honour and glory, now and ever. Amen.
S E R M O N XXXV.
Of the eternity of hell-torments. Preached before the Queen, at Whitehall, March 7. 1689-90.
MATTH. xxv. 46. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but
the righteous into life eternal.
Mong all the arguments to repentance and a good
life, those have the greatest force and power up
on the minds of men, which are fetched from another world, and from the final state of good and bad