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Cleansing our Way IN YOUTH Press'd, As of the Highest Importance: And Observing the Word of GOD Recommended, As the Only Sufficient Means.

In a DISCOURSE Upon PSAL. CXIX. Ver. 9. Wherewith shall a Young Man Cleanse his Way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word.

By THOMAS FOXCROFT, M.A.

With a Recommendatory Preface, by the Reverend Mr. WADSWORTH, Pastor of the First Church of CHRIST in Boston.

BOSTON: in N. E. Printed by S. KNEELAND, for. S. GERRISH, and Sold at his Shop in Corn-Hill, near the Brick Meeting-House. 1719.

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A PREFACE.

AS 'tis Man's Sin, Shame and Misery to be estrang'd and alienated from God; so it's his duty, honour and interest to return to God, be acquainted with Him, conform'd to His Image and possess'd of His special favour in Christ. Men consider'd as Fallen & Apostate (as they derive from rebellious Adam) are running away from God, and posting on in the broad way to destruction; but the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the Devil, to reduce sinful Men, and bring them back to the only Author of their being and blessedness. He suffered, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. He gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us to Himself for a peculiar People zea­lous of good works. And His Holy Word, the Holy Scriptures are the grand Means or Instrument of purifying Sinners: they're able to make Men wise to Salvation, thro' Faith in Christ Jesus. The Scope and tendency of them is, to turn Men from darkness to light, from the power of Satan [Page] unto God. Sanctify them thro' thy truth, thy word is truth. The Sanctification of the Spirit, does not go without the Belief of the Truth. All therefore who enjoy the Word of God, should diligently Read, Hear, Study the same, meditating on it Day and Night: they should endeavour & pray that they may rightly understand it, and univer­sally and continually conform their hearts and lives unto it. All under the Gospel should do so, and the sooner they begin, and the more constant and vigorous they are in such a course, so much the better; so much the more 'twill be for God's Glory and their own Advantage. Young Ones therefore should be most speedy, hearty, and also unmoveable and diligent in conforming to God's holy revealed Will. A serious reading the fol­lowing Sermons, must needs be proper to move and quicken them to such a Life. They contain such strong Arguments, weighty Motives, lively and cogent Inculcations of Duty, plain representa­tions of the danger of careless sloth & negligence, and such suitable Directions; as that a serious, healty, attending to them, and regarding of them, must needs be very useful and profitable to all Young Persons whatsoever. Indeed a serious, de­liberate perusing of them, can't but be profitable to all Persons whatsoever, even the Oldest, and those that have made most proficiency in the practice of Piety: here they may find fresh oc­casion, to bewail their deficiences & short comings, as well as to praise the God of all Grace for the great things He has done for their Souls. They're profitable for Old Sinners, that by considering how they have trifled away their precious Opportu­nities, abus'd Divine Patience lengthen'd out to [Page] long-suffering, practically despis'd the Precepts, Promises, Threatnings of the Glorious God, and thereby render'd themselves grievously obnoxi­ous to His most terrible Vengeance; they may be mov'd and quicken'd, to the most speedy vigo­rous endeavours to get their peace made with God, before their near approaching Death over­takes them. They're profitable for those who have Young Ones under their Care, that they may be mov'd hereby to do their utmost for their spiritual good and benefit. But as these Sermons were more especially design'd, for the benefitting of Young Persons, so to such I would hea [...]tily recommend the serious reading of them, that thereby (thro' the Blessing of God) they m [...]y be enlightened, awaken'd, convinc'd of their sin, guilt, danger, and of their absolute need of Christ, of His Righteousness to justify them; of His Spirit of Grace to renew and sanctify them, and lead them in paths of righteousness for His Name sake. That the Laborious Endeavours of the Worthy Author of these Sermons, (My Fellow-Labourer in the Gospel, and in the same Church) may be follow'd with God's efficacious Blessing, & made instrumen­tal of spiritual saving Good to those who partake of them; is the Prayer of a mean unworthy Ser­vant of JESUS CHRIST,

BENJ. WADSWORTH.
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THE Author's EPISTLE TO THE READER.

THE Abounding of Iniquity in a Christian Land, is just matter of Lamentation, and is a daily Grief to such as have at heart the Concerns of God's Glory, and the best Interests of this People. And it is the un­questionable Duty of All, to endeavour in our several Stations, according to the Talent committed to us, to promote an happy Reformation.— And if the Rising Generation among us might be induced to Cleanse their Way, This wou'd be one glorious ste [...]nd afford a most hopeful prospect of the desir'd Blessing.—A serious view p [...]culiarly at the benefit of our Young People produced the subsequent DISCOURSE: which is the Substance of sundry Sermons, first delivered from the Pulpit in the Course of my Ministry about a Year & Half since, and more lately (at desire) in Sum repeated to a Society of Young Men, meeting privately for Religious Exercises on LORD's-Day-Evenings.— And at their repeated Request, (Not without the Sollicitation & Approbation of some worthy Friends, whose Judgment and Importunity not to hearken unto in such a Case should seem not altogether De­cent,) [Page] I have at length suffer'd this small Tract to appear abroad; n [...]t daring to run the Risque of incurring Guilt, by obstinately rejecting the pious desires of Any, and utterly refusing an Opportunity of doing Good, (which none should be backward to) tho' in never so inferior degree.— Indeed I con­fess, (what has been an objection of no little weight with me,) that the World is full of Elaborate Treatises on all Points of practical Divinity: and particularly the Subject of the following Composure has been al­ready handled by sundry superior Pens. And from imagining, that, after their Excelling Labours upon it, any new Light cou'd be added thereunto by the Essay of so poor a Scribe, I am abundantly checkt by an apprehension of my insufficiency.—But there are Multitudes of Readers, and many of them doubtless not owners of those Writings, and besides among them there is a great diversity of Genius, Incli­nation, & Relish; and hence a variety of Tracts on the same Head by different Hands is but convenient; according to that known saying of One of the Ancients, Utile est Plures Libros a Pluribus fieri. To have the same Argument treated divers ways is use [...]ul. In a Variety, 'tis probable, every one may find what will please and profit him.—Therefore with all due deference to the Excellent Writings of Others, I humbly offer th [...] ensuing Pages particularly to the Perusal of Young People, hoping they may be of some Service. And if this End be answer'd in any measure, I have enough to satisfy me, that I have done but my Duty in making Publick these few Sheets.—And I am (perhaps too) prone to think it savours of little less than Pride, to be invincibly averse to speaking to the World from the Press, in pursuance of our Office, when there is a probable [Page] Prospect of doing some Good, altho' our performances may come vastly short of others for Light and Force.

And it cannot be thought, but that in Discoursing on such a common Theme, I may have adopted some Hints from Others: and indeed sometimes I have chosen to speak my own sense in borrow'd Language: where I have taken this Liberty, the Reader may observe, I have constantly comma'd the same, or marked it thus (") unless possibly some few Senten­ces may have slipt me.—Many, I am very ap­prehensive are the defects in these few Papers: But the Performance▪ such as it is, (Humbly leaving the Event with GOD as to it's Entertainment & it's Success, & Earnestly begging that it may be servi­ceable to His Glory, & the Good of Souls,) I present it to you, relying on your Candour for the Allowance, you will easily discern it needs; & now requesting your Prayers for me, I commend you to God, & to the Word of His Grace, which is able to build you up & to give you an Inheritance among all them which are sanctify'd, through Faith that is in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Thomas Foxcroft.

ADVERTISEMENT.

I hope the Reader will Excuse Lesser Errors: and Correct what are more Gross, as follows;

PAge 9. Line 33. read it's offspring. p. 10. l. 7. r. understood. p. 27 l. 27. r. be sorted. p. 41. l. 15. r. tremble. p. 68. l. 8. for no r. now. p. 71. l. 6. r. if we die. & l. 7. blot out we, after or, if. p. 79. l. 14. r. temporary. p. 108. l. 5. r. v [...]tiates. p. 127. l. 26. r. operative. p. 150. Marg. bot. r. Collinges. p. 168. l. 11▪ We are in this respect dig­nify'd. p. 182. l. 22. r. in the day.

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Cleansing our Way in YOUTH Press'd, As of the Highest Importance▪ AND Observing the Word of GOD Recommended, As the Only Means.

PSAL. CXIX.9.

Wherewith shall a Young Man cleanse his Way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word.

THE Divinely Inspired Author of this long and copious Psalm was doubtless King David, the sweet Singer of Israel; The Matter of it is of the highest impor­tance; the Composition of it is most accurate and artificial; The Scope and Design of it is to adorn the Character, and celebrate the Glories of God's Word, to declare the Psalmists own great & long Experience of the admirable sweetness, and use­fulness of it, and to recommend it to every ones devout study, [...]rm [...]ief, & practical observation.

[Page 2]IN our Text, The Word o [...] God is prescrib'd and commended to Young Men, as the Rule and Means of Spiritual Purification. Wherewith shall a Young Man &c. This is call'd by some, The Young Man's Practical Catechism, set down by way of Question and Answer. Others indeed take the whole Verse to be one intire Question, standing thus, Where­with shall a Young Man cleanse his way, to take heed to thy Word? The Original will admit this Con­struction, and some Ancient Versions (as Mr. Shower on our Text observes) do countenance it. The sense (says He) accordingly is, "How shall Young Men be purged by Divine Grace, so as thereby to be qualify'd for Obedience to (the Word of) God. It is a kind of Prayer (in a Poetic strain) for that Grace, which is necessary to holy walking." So Cleansing the Way of Youth is considered as a Means to promote their practical conformity to God's holy Law. Psal. 119.101. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.

BUT most Interpreters understand the latter Clause to be distinct, and to come in by way of Reply to the former; so directing Youth to a careful observation of God's Word, as a necessary and useful means to rectify and cleanse their way. Psal, 119.11. Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.

WE may here observe, that the Word [thereto] is not in the Original, but is a Suppletive of the Translators, and I shall presume to leave it out.

THE Terms in the Text are all obvious and easy. By [a Young Man] is meant Youth Lite­rally, altho' some interpret it of a "Child of God, o [...] the New man, according to the Phrase of the Gospel"; Youth Indefinitely, all Persons in their [Page 3] Early Days, not any appropriate Sex or Indivi­dual; Youth Irrestrictively, It is not to be look'd upon as Exclusive of, or in contradistinction to other Ages; Elder and Younger are under the Direction of the same Rule, and the Obligation of the same Law.

BY [cleansing his way] is meant a rectifying his inward Principles and temper of mind, and a reforming his outward practice and tenor of Life, which are defiled by Sin; a recovering himself and cleansing his way from moral pollution, a breaking off from Sin, the unclean thing, which de­fileth a Man, a washing off this filth with the Tears of Repentance; purifying his Soul in obey­ing the Truth. There is indeed another Purging our Sins, which sounds the same with Pardon and Justification, He is faithful to forgive us our Sins and to cleanse us, &c. The Blood of Christ cleanseth from all Sin. But this belongs wholly unto God, (Who can forgive Sins, save God only?) and is not the Cleansing intended in our Text. The Clean­sing here spoken of relates to the work of Sancti­fication, and implies the Mortification of our Lasts, and the Reformation of our Lives. In this work we are subordinate Agents, working together with God and in the strength of his Grace. 'Twas Naamans pride and folly, when he came to [...]lisha to be cleansed from his Leprosy, He wou'd have had the Prophet do all, and Himself nothing; This is the error of the wicked; the Prophets direction is that, Go unto Jordan, wash thy self seven times in it, and thou shalt be clean.—Up and be doing and the Lord shall be with thee.

BY [thy Word] is meant the Oracles of God, even All Scripture that is given by Inspiration of [Page 4] God. Indeed the Writings of the Old Testament are here particularly refer'd to, these only, (and that but part of them) being extant in Davids time. But the rest of the Old-Testament, and the whole of the New-Testament, being Divinely inspir'd, and profitable to make Men wise unto Salvation, they are also to be considered as imply'd in the Word spoken of.

BY [taking heed] to the Word of God, is meant a diligent observing or keeping of it. This is the genuine import of the Original Word [Shamar.] It is variously translated; Sometimes to observe, Gen. 37.11. His Father observed the saying; So, Josh. 1.7. Be courageous, that thou mayst observe to do according to all the Law. Sometimes to take heed to, sometimes to keep; It is thus diffe­rently rendred in one and the same Verse. Psal. 39.1. I said, I will take heed to my ways,—I will keep my mouth. So, Dan. 7.28. I kept the matter in my heart. So in the Verse before our Text, I will keep thy Statutes,—and in 17 Verse— that I may live and keep thy Word. Again, Sometimes to preserve, Psal. 116.6. The Lord preserveth the simple. Again, to mark, Psal. 130.3. If thou shouldst mark iniquities—

IF Young Men wou'd Cleanse their way, they must take heed to God's Word, sollicitously study, critically observe, and seriously ponder it, care­fully apply it, and diligently conform to it.

THE General DOCTRINE from the Words, is This, Viz. THAT, For Young Men to take heed to the Word of God, is the most proper and effectual method to purify and preserve their way from sinful Pollutions.’

[Page 5]IN this DOCTRINE there are several Things supposed and asserted. As —

  • (1.) THE Way of Youth is defiled.
  • (2.) It greatly concerns Men in their Youth to get their Way Cleansed.
  • (3.) IF Young Men duly observe the Word of God, they take the most direct course to purify and secure their Way from sinful defile­ments.

PROP. I. The Way of Youth is defiled; and that in respect of Natural Corrupt on, and Actual Pollutions. Cleansing is an Act, which in its nature speaks the object impure, and implies a Change from loathsome defilement to delightful purity. The way of Youth is polluted, and needs a purifying Change. Here consider,

1. THE Humane Nature was Universally de­praved, and defiled upon the first Apostacy, and this Universal Corruption descends to the whole Natural P [...]sterity of Fallen Adam in all succeeding Genera­tions. It is a Truth too palpable and notorious to be disputed, that the Nature of Man is lamentably disrob'd of it's primitive unblemisht purity & per­fection, and is now cloath'd with a most shameful abiding pravity & pollution. The natural Consci­ence and daily Experience of every Man [...]re a Cloud of Witnesses: The Ordinance of [...]sm does evidently suppose it, and the unerring Ora­cles of God do plainly and peremptorily assert it. I need only mention two Places; Gen. 6.5. God saw, that every imagination of the thoughts of Mans heart was only evil continually. Here is a sad im­putation upon Man, His Heart is Evil, (his Nature corrupted,) the Thot's of his Heart are Evil, (The settled apprehensions, & inclinations of the Heart [Page 6] are by nature falsely byass'd, & greatly infected,) The Imagination of the Thot's of his Heart is Evil, (the careless rovings, as well as deliberate work­ings of the Mind are vicious and sinful,) Every Imagination is evil, is only evil, and that conti­nually. This is the Indictment exhibited against Man, & the Witness is infallible, unexceptionable. God saw it, — and God has said it, that God who judgeth righteous judgment, and whose Word is instead of a Thousand Witnesses, seeing it is im­possible for God to lie. God is an Eye-Witness, He saw it. It is said, Psal. 53.2. God looked down from Heaven upon the Children of Men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God: and it follows in the 3d ver. They are altogether become filthy; so in the 1st ver. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity. Men are by Nature corrupt, their noble Faculties are vitiated, and degenerated from their Original Constitution. The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint, there is no soundness in them, nothing but bruises and putrifying sores. Their wounds stink and are corrupt▪ They are all over an unclean thing, and as for their Nativity, in the day they were born, they were cast out in the open field to the loathing of [...] Persons, weltring in their own Blood, T [...] whole Spirit, Soul and Body filled with a loathsome Disease; They are altogether become filthy, or [...] & stinking, as it might be translated. Whatsoever e [...]ternal neatness, or spiritual purity some pretending Sinners may boast of, it is certain, their Nature is so overspread with abominations of desolation, that they are a loathsome stench in the Nostrils of the holy God, and an odious Spectacle to Angels. They are abominable and to [Page 7] every good work reprobate. Their whole Man is defiled, They are full of Sin against the Holy One of Israel, full of the abominable thing, which His Soul hateth. The rational Powers have lost their moral rectitude, simplicity and order, and are under a deplorable Metamorphosis, miserably dis­figur'd and degraded. The Understanding, the Eye of the Soul, has lost its Divine Light and Influence, and is benighted under a Vail of thick Clouds and Aegyptian darkness. The Will having lost its first governing principle and true native liberty, is contracted and confined to debasing and defiling objects, fastned & fetter'd in the most ignominious servitude, is impotent & repugnant to that which is Good, but strongly inclin'd to that which is Evil. The Affections & Passions have broke the restraints of Reason, & cast off the reins of the Divine Law, are impetuous, imperious, & rove with­out controll. The Memory, is corrupt & unfaithful shutting out and letting slip the Good, receiving and retaining the Evil, as a Sieve lets out the Flower, but keeps the Bran. The Conscience is defiled, and debaucht, This Monitor within, this Judge in the breast, does not faithfully do its Office, in accusing, and excusing condemning, and approving, &c. being blinded [...] ignorance, or brib'd by corrupt Affection [...] [...]he [...]our Appetites & Powers, which shou'd do [...]ce, mount the Throne, and usurp the D [...]. The Senses, which were to be Informers & [...]ends to the Soul, are now arm'd in opposition against it, and hold a treacherous correspondence with its Enemies: They frequently make false reports, and are guilty of many fatal mistakes; They are become Instruments of Sin and Satan, and by [Page 8] means of them, the Soul is often taken in the Snare of the Devil, wounded by his fiery Darts, and led Captive in the paths of the Destroyer. And which is the emphasis of this infamous misery, the Sinner is contented in it, and pleased with the bondage of Corruption.

NOW the Foundation of this deplorable Change in Mans Nature was laid in the first and grand Apostacy. The deadly poison of the first Sin has shed a virulent tincture, an impure taint into the blood of all Nations, and Persons on the face of the whole Earth. This doleful defilement and deformity was brought on our Nature by the first Transgression, which was a common guilt, & of universal influence, reaching all Mankind, and transmitting an unavoidable, and habitual stain to the whole humane Race. And this arises from the Relation, which we all bear to the first Sin­ner, i.e. Adam. We derive Original Sin, consider'd as a Disease, from him, naturally, as he was our common Parent: and consider'd as part of the Curse, meritoriously, as He was our common Repre­sentative.—Adam was the Protoplast, and the Root of humane Nature,Vid. Dr. Bates, Fol. p. 10 [...]. &c. The natural Principle and Fountain of all mankind; God [...]ormed Eve (the Mother [...]iving) of a Rib taken out of Adam, and [...]hem Twain into one Flesh by the Bond of [...]riage, and of that one Blood he hath made all Nations of Men, Act. 17.26. Now the Foun­tain being defiled by Sin, all the Streams must partake of the infection, so as that None can be pure who is born of a woman, Job 25.4. For Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one, Job. 14.4. Pure Waters do not issue from an impure [Page 9] Spring, no more do a pure Seed derive from im­pure Progenitors. This is as impossible, as to gather Grapes of Thorns, or Figs of Thistles. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruits, Mat. 7.18. Whatsoever is born of the flesh, is flesh, Joh. 3.6. Corruption and carnality is fast rooted and woven into the very Being of Man, and toge­ther with that descends to us by natural conse­quence▪ and necessary succession. We are born of the flesh, and of the flesh we reap corruption. With our natural Body, we receive from our Parents the Body of Sin and Death. Original Corruption is called the Body of Sin, because 'tis derived with our Bodies to us, and chiefly reigns in the members of the Body; and it is termed Flesh, partly, and principally because it is convey'd by carnal propagation. It is called the Old-Man, because 'tis primitively deriv'd from Adam, the First Man, and in the way of natural Generation devolves even upon latest Posterity. It is one immutable and eternal Rule in Nature, that Every Creature beget its like, and that not only in regard of the same Genus or Species, but also of the par­ticular Aff [...]ctions that are appropriate and prae­dominant. This is obvious in the various sorts of Animals in the World, they all hold the [...]stin­guishing complection of their princip [...]d "retain the vein of their Original, the [...]ty of their Extraction". Thus a Leopard does not only convey its general nature, (and so beget in­differently any Brute-Creature,) but also conveys its own peculiar properties, and eminent cha­racters, which make it Offspring like unto itself. So [...] Man conveys to his Posterity not meerly the humane Nature in general, but also the adven­titious [Page 10] qualities, and impressions, that eminently affect it. A sinful Man produces not only a Man, a rational Animal like himself; but a sinful Man, like himself, corrupt and depraved. Hence we are told, Gen. 5.3. That Adam begat a Son in his own Likeness, after his Image; and call'd his Name Seth. By this here is not to be understand barely a likeness in respect of natural frame, and external form; This is too trivial a Thing to be bro't in so solemnly as 'tis here, and besides, it should seem more proper to have made this remark at the Nativity of Cain, or Abel, the first born of Adam, rather than of Seth, betwen whom and them, many Births (no doubt) inter­ven'd: it must therefore be understood of the corruption of Adams Nature, and the aim of the Holy Ghost in this observation was to acquaint us with the Entail of this infection upon the na­tural Descendents of Adam; Hence, it was reserved 'till the birth of that Son, in whose Progeny the Species was to be continu'd, and the Covenant to be entail'd, and this was Seth, thro' whom the Line went down to Noah, who after the Flood (in which all the Old World perisht, except his Family, con­sisting of Eight Persons) was the Primogenitour of Mankind, and from whose Son Shem the Church of [...] was propagated, and the Promised Seed ca [...] [...]y lineal Descent. Of that Great and Holy M [...] Seth, 'tis observ'd, he was born in Sin, even as Cain, that wicked one, (the Sanctifying Grace of God alone making a difference) and that "this meaning of the words might not be over­look't, there is an emphatical repetition of the same thing; Adam begat a Son in his own Like­ness, after his Image". The Image wherein Seth [Page 11] was begotten, the Image of Adam, seems p [...]a [...]ly to be spoken of by way of Antithesis or opposition to the Image wherein Adam was created, the Image of God. The Divine Image chiefly consisted in knowledge, and true holiness, but he lost these moral qualities, & contracted the Reverse, which the Holy Ghost here calls his own Likeness; in this Image Seth is said to be begotten, intimating his receiving a corrupt Nature from Adam, and this being particularly observed of Seth, who was the common Progenitor of the whole succeeding Race of Mankind, intimates that the Contagion would spread, and the depravation, in which he himself was born, would be haereditary, and as a walking Pestilence hand down it's malignity from Father to Son, even to the End of the World.

AGAIN, Adam was the Moral Head of all Man­kind, descending from him by ordinary Genera­tion. He was our common Proxy or Deputy, and had a power to chuse & act, not only for himself, but for his universal Progeny. All Mankind were radically in him as their natural Original, and virtually in him as their Surety, Surrogate, or Vicegerent; By him they were all to stand, or in him to fall.

HERE we must note, that Adam tho' created in a state of Innocency, yet was not fixed in a state of absolute impeccability. Tho' perfect Ho [...]ess was a natural and concreate excellency, and he had an innate power necessarily consequent upon his primitive constitution, as well as superna­tural ability to have perform'd compleat obe­dience, and have prevented his Apostacy, yet it was such as properly belong'd to a rational free Agent, in a state of probation, and was no ways, [Page 12] inconsistent with that moral freedom of will, which put him into a state of mutability, and ex­posed him to the efficacy of sinful temptations, and render'd him capable of rewards & punishments.

AND accordingly it pleased God to treat him, as such, in a Faederal way; entering into a Co­venant with Adam, as standing in a publick capacity and personating all his Descendents, wherein He promised Life, and threatned Death. And besides the invariable moral Law, internal and subjective to his reasonable nature, it pleased God to make trial of Adams obedience by a par­ticular positive external Prohibition, in a matter of pure indifference antecedently to the Divine Precept, but becoming obligatory meerly by the will of the Lawgiver. This prohibition was, that he shou'd not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Gen. 2.16. And this special Command was of the same obligation, & guarded with the same Sanctions, as the Eternal Law of Creation. The giving of it, was a mark of Sovereign Dominion, and the observing of it would have been a reasonable Service, & most refin'd obedience.

BUT Adam (to the just astonishment of Heaven and Earth) thro' unaccountable carelesness was decoy'd by the insinuating Tempter into rebellion [...]ruin. Being drawn by Satans Lures, he strangely revolted from God, leap'd the boundaries of the Divine Law, and brake thro' all restraints and preservatives, and did voluntarily eat of the forbidden Fruit. Now this rebellious transgression in its nature contain'd a violation of the whole Law, an entire renunciation of God, & embracing the Creature as the chief Good, and Satan as the best Master. Hence the habit of Original righte­ousness [Page 13] was lost, & all moral excellencies effaced and extinguisht, and an universal permanent corruption and foul deformity introduced, by a judicial act of God as a part of the Curse, and punishment of the first Sin. And now this Ori­ginal corruption and degeneracy, consider'd as a punishment, is meritoriously derived from Adam, and "falls under the ordination of divine Justice". It is not only a fatal Legacy left us by our First Parents, but a Divine Curse entailed upon us. All Mankind were legally Parties in the faederal transaction with Adam in innocency, and were understood to be virtually Accomplices in his Rebellion; hence his transgression was not ap­propriate and meerly personal, but a common Guilt, a Sin of the whole Nature and universal Race; And the Punishment has a proportionable extent and adaquate comprehension. Hence Spiritual Death which is one part of the Curse, and the wages of Sin, is the unavoidable Lot of all the Children of Adam, thro' the righteous Judgment of God. Our First Parents sinned and are not, and we have born their iniquity; God visits the iniquity of the Father upon the Children from Generation to Generation. All the unhappy Descendents of Adam do taste the sowre fruits of his Apostacy, and inherit the foul impurity of his Nature; and that justly, without any breach upon the Laws of common Equity: For, That which is allowable and unrebukable in the Gods of the Earth, is much more so in the Great GOD of Heaven, whose Kingdom ruleth over all, and a Scepter of righteousness is the Scepter of His Kingdom. There can be no colour of pretence to impeach the Government of Injustice barely [Page 14] for permitting Children to suffer such Evils, as are but the punishment of their Fathers Sins, wisely and justly allotted to them by the Laws, which they are subject unto. The Publick Authority is not satisfy'd (for instance) with the punishment of Treason in the single Person of the Rebel alone, but his Estate is confiscated, his Dignities forfeited, his Blood stain'd, and nothing but ignominy and poverty descends to the uncon­senting Heirs, by virtue of some humane Consti­tution. And after this, what can we object, what room have we to dispute the Divine Justice in the communication of Original Sin, to the Posterity of Adam, since they, being in his Loins as their Parent, and in his Covenant as their Represen­tative, are interested in the guilt of his first Transgression? Being thus entitul'd to the Penalty, it is justly inflicted upon them. Therefore with the Apostle we must believe with our hearts, and confess with our mouths, That in Adam all die, By one Man Sin entred into the World, and Death by Sin; and so Death passed upon all Men, for that all have sinned. By the offence of one, judgment came upon all Men to condemnation, and by one Man's disobedience, many were made Sinners, 1 Cor. 15.22. Rom. 5.12, 18, 9. We must every one acknow­ledge with the Psalmist, (Psal. 51.5.) Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my Mother conceive me. All Mankind agree in their native pravity, "whatsoever difference there may be in their Climates, Colours", and outward Circumstances. This Spiritual Death not only reigned from Adam to Moses, but it is an Epidemical Plague, that reaches all Men to the latest period of the World.

[Page 15]2. THIS Original Corruption is the Seminary and Principle of all Actual Sins. This is the Womb that conceiveth vanity, & bringeth forth iniquity, Mat. 15.18, 9. Out of the heart, i.e. as depraved, pro­ceed evil tho'ts, murders, adulteries, and every evil work. 'Tis Lust in the heart that conceiveth and bringeth forth Sin, Jam. 1.15. All sinful tho'ts, words and deeds are the issue and product of our corrupt nature. They are the works of the Flesh, (Gal. 5.19.) All the Sins of Life take their rise, and derive their Original from the corruption within, as Streams from the Fountain, Fruit from the Tree, or Branches from the Root.

3. THIS Corruption stains and defiles every Age of Life. It is a principle that is always stirring, never still; a Fountain ever flowing, and foaming out impurities. It taints our very Conception, "It is interwoven with the whole Thread of Life"; There are always even in the most sanctified, while in this imperfect state, some unhappy Remains of the old Leaven. 'Tis as the fretting Leprosy that will never be purged out, 'till the walls of the House be pulled down▪ It is an early and permanent Disease; it begins with our very Being, and cleaves fast unto us. This is the Sin, that dwells in us, & the Evil that is always present with us, (Rom. 7.20, 1.) The Body of this Death is so inseparably chain'd to our Bodies of Flesh, that they take their first breath, and serch their last gasp together. There is no Period of Humane Life, wherein any can say, I am pure from Sin, (Prov. 20.9.) The root of bitterness shoots out, and the corrupt Tree brings forth fruit in every Season. No Age can lay claim to a priviledge in this Case. From the Infant of Days to the hoary Head, there is none exempt.

[Page 16]4. THE Age of Youth has it's peculiar and abun­dant pollutions. Hence we read of Youthful L [...]sts, (2 Tim. 2.22.) and of the Sins of our Youth, (Psal. 25.7.) The different Ages of Men have their divers Lusts and various Corruptions. The impure Streams run in distinct Channels, agreeable to the differing Complexions of Men in the several Stages of Life. Covetousness seems to be the more peculiar Lust of Old Age; Ambition the predomi­nant vice of Middle Age, and Sensuality the em­phatical blemish of wanton Youth. Yet these special Sins are not so appropriate, but that some­times they may all conspire in one Age, even as there is an universal collection of Lusts and the habit of all Sins in the corrupt Nature. And if we behold among the Youths, particularly; how notoriously do these black Characters meet in the first Scenes of Life▪ Here we see the Chil­dren of Pride, the First born of Hell, bloated with Ambition, vainly puff't up with swelling arro­gance, and walking in an empty shew; and there we behold the Sons of Perdition, thirsting after the wages of unrighteousness, and panting after the dust of the Earth; an heart have they exer­cised with covetous practices, steaming with Earthly desires, canker'd with impatient envy, or rack'd with vindictive malice: Here we see others, as natural brute Beasts, walking after the Flesh in the Lust of Uncleanness, having eyes full of Adultery, beguiling unstable Souls, and sport­ing themselves with their own deceivings, thro' much wantonness, lying securely in the embraces of the unclean Spirit; and there we behold the Children of Disobedience, the Lovers of Plea­sure in swarms, dissolving in Sense, & drowning [Page 17] in Epicurean luxury, overcharging themselves with Surfeiting and Drunkenness; They run wild and mad into all excess of Riot, into many foolish and hurtful lusts; They fit in the Seat of the Scornful and walk in the counsel of the Ungodly, They do evil with both hands earnestly, and weary themselves to commit iniquity; full of all subtilty and mischief are they, Sons of Belial, Enemies of all righteousness, who make a mock of Sin, and cease not to pervert and scoff at the right ways of the Lord, they bend their tongues like their bow for lyes, and their Mouth poureth out foolishness, they proceed from evil to evil, drinking in iniquity like water.

THERE is a Generation that have no sense of their Filth derived or contracted; They walk in the way of their own hearts, and In the fight of their own eyes; They are like the Swine that love to grovel in the dirt, and tumble in every filthy Kennel, They wallow in muddy sensuali­ties as their Element, without desires of Purifi­tion, and having no fear of God before them.

THERE is also a Generation, that are pure in their own eyes, and yet they are not cleansed to this day. They call themselves of the holy City, are come forth out of the waters of Judah, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth and righteousness. They make a fair shew in the flesh, keep the outside of the Cup clean, but broth of abominable things is in their Vessels. They have perhaps kept themselves from the pollutions of the Times, and attained some co­lourable appearances of Piety & Virtue by the help of commo [...] Grace, Christian Education & the like [...] or have reformed some Evil ways. The Drunkard [Page 18] is become Temperate; The Prophane is grown Precise, and wears a sanctimonious meen and air; The Prayerless has taken up the form of Godli­ness, &c. And hence they flatter themselves in their own eyes, and are ready to repeat the proud Pharisee's vain-glorious Speech, I thank God, I am not as other Men, unjust, filthy; When (Alas!) that God who has a bright prospect into the hid­den parts, knows that like him, they are but whited Walls, and really remain still in the state of un­renew'd nature. They think themselves secure of an interest in the Divine Favour, and expect to be forever bathing themselves in the fulness of Joy, when, Alas! They are ready to be ingulph'd in the whirlpool of Eternal Damnation.

PROP. II. IT greatly concerns Men in their Youth to get their Way Cleansed. This Proposition is grounded on the Psalmists great concern and sollicitous Enquiry, How Young Men might Cleanse their Way? Which shows the importance and necessity of it's being done. We may here Enquire into Two Things.

QUES. I. HOW are we to Cleanse our Way?

Ans. 1. UNIVERSALLY & Intirely. Thus we're exhorted, 2 Cor. 7.1. Let us cleanse our selves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. So, Jam. 4.8. Cleanse your hands, and purify your hearts, i.e. all external actions, and internal motions— Our Language should be purify'd; our Mouth a Well of Life, affording sweet and pure waters. No corrupt communication may proceed out of our Lips, but our Speech should be with Grace, good to the use of edifying, that it may manifest Grace in us that speak, and minister Grace unto others that hear, Eph. 4.29. —Yea, Our whole external Behaviour [Page 19] should be purify'd; we s [...]ould abandon every evil and false way, and become holy in all manner of conversation civil and religious; walking in all the Ordinances and Commandments of the Lord, in all duties Personal & Relative, blameless as the Children of Light.

AND above all, We shou'd see to it that the Spring of all be Cleansed, that we get a clean heart and a right spirit renewed within us. Pure Religion is founded in a pure Heart. We must purify our Souls in obeying the Truth—(1 Pet. 1.22.) If the Fountain be muddy all the Streams must needs partake of the infection. The Rule is, (Mat. 23.26.) Cleanse first that which is within, that the outside may be clean also. Unregenerate Mo­rality is but the Leaven of the Pharisees, which is vile Hypocrisy. We are still in the state of carnal nature, and are but painted Sepulchres, unless all the powers of our Souls are washed in the Laver of spiritual Regeneration. We must not only cast away our Filthy rags, and put off the Garment spotted by the flesh, and cleanse our selves from outward visible pollutions, but must disgorge all carnal Lusts (those sweet morsels) in our foul Stomachs, and must put on the beauties of true holiness, and be moulded into the Image of Hea­venly purity, else we are a loathsome stench, and abhorred spectacle to the Holy One of Israel. The way of the Heart, as well as the ways of the Lip and Life, is to be cleansed. Thus the work of self-purification must be Universal. The cleansing must be proportionable to the defilement; The Plaister as broad as the Sore. One filthy Lust, re­maining in it's power, will be as a dead fly in the precious ointment, and make all unsavory.

[Page 20] A. 2. CONSTANTLY and Perseveringly. It is a work of daily revolution, and perpetual du­ration. Undefiled Religion is attained gradually and by tract of time. Our brightest Graces, and best Duties have some alloy, some mixtures of impurity; and we contract much pollution in our daily walk through this defiling World, by unhappy falls and stumbles, and even they that are washed and made clean every whit, yet have need to wash their feet, (Joh. 13.10.) And it shou'd be the daily care even of the Regenerate, to be cleansing themselves from the remains of carna­lity, and pressing after a more perfect purity.

THUS "the Extent of this purifying is com­prehensive of the outward and inward Man, from sinful inclinations and vitious acts; and the Con­tinuance of it must be, 'till we are cleansed from every spot, and become glorious in Holiness". Progress and Perseverance in this work is an invariable Character of Sincerity, and "the Crown of Christianity". We read, (Job. 17.9.) The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that bath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger. We have not only that Precept, (Isai. 1.16, 7.) Wash ye, make you clean, cease to do evil, learn to do well: but also that, (1 Tim. 5.22.) Keep thy self pure;—Continue in the way of well doing. The days of our Purification indeed must run parallel with the days of Life.

QUES. II. WHY do's it concern Men in their Youth thus to Cleanse their Way? To clear this Head, let us consider the following Particulars.

Ans. I. Consider, THAT Cleansing our Way is a Work of absolute necessity and everlasting conse­quence. It is necessary in order to our acceptance with God here, and enjoyment of God hereafter. [Page 21] There is a firm and indissoluble connection be­tween Holiness and true Happiness, which consists in the favour & fruition of God, the Chief Good.

(1) THERE is a Legal Necessity of Cleansing our Ways. A Necessity from the indispensable obligation of a Divine Precept, and the inviola­ble constitution of the New Covenant. This is the will of God, even our Sanctification; God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness, (1 Thes. 4.3, 7.) This is prescrib'd and imposed, as the invariable Term of Salvation. Touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, (2 Cor. 6.17.) Follow holiness without which no man shall see the Lord, (Heb. 12.14.) And this is a wise and just Establishment, necessary to secure the honour of God's Government, to magnify his Law, and de­clare his righteousness. Who then may resist His Will?

Again, (2.) THERE is a Moral Necessity. A Necessity from the Nature and Reason of the thing. The Unclean Sinner (while such) is ab­solutely unfit for the Divine Favour, and utterly uncapable of Divine Blessedness. What fellowship can righteousness have with unrighteousness? What communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? (2 Cor. 6.14.) The happiness of Man lies in communion with God, and the enjoyment of Him. But now the Sinner and Ungodly are excluded from this happiness by a moral incapacity. H [...]w can Two walk together, except they be agreed? How can Two opposite tempers subsist together, without Eternal Jar­rings? Mutual Endearments, and happy Corres­pondence between one and another, are founded in a congruity of Natures, and a conformity of [Page 22] Inclinations. Unless then we are made Parta­kers of the Divine Nature, it is utterly impossible for us to enjoy God, or stand in His sight with any contentment or satisfaction. And were we translated in a state of polluted Nature into the immediate presence of God, in which is the ful­ness of Joy, it would be no better than an Hell unto us. The Entertainments of Heaven wou'd be nauseous and distasteful to us, not suiting the false relishes of vitiated Sense; The Employments of Heaven wou'd be a disagreeable and uneasy Task to ou [...] indisposed Powers. In a Word, The most irreconcileable contrarieties may as soon compromise or incorporate, as an unregenerate polluted Sinner obtain and enjoy the undefiled Inheritance in Light. Heaven moral (as one speaks) is an indispensable Qualification for Hea­ven local. Into Jerusalem, which is above, that Holy City, enters nothing that defileth, (Rev. 21.27.) Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, (Psal. 24.3, 4 — Psal. 15.1, 2.) Except a Man be born again he cannot see the King­d [...]m of God, (Joh. 3.3.) Consider this ye that forget God, and let no Man deceive you with vain words: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived, (1 Cor. 6.9,) The Cleansing of our Way is a matter (we see) of the highest Importance, and the last Ne­cessity; Holiness ought then to be the subject of our principal and most serious care, and the ob­ject of our most vigorous and early pursuits. This is the One Thing needful. Eternity depends upon it, an Eternity of weal or woe. A matter of this infinite concernment surely challenges our first [Page 23] and chief regards. The great Interests of Eternity claim and deserve a prior consideration and su­periour labour to secure them, than the low and little concernments of this transitory Life. How foolish then are they, how wildly do they act, who mispend the best of their Time in serving di­vers Lusts, and terminate the Cares of their blooming Youth on this perishing World, who mind Earthly things, and neglect the Great Salva­tion? But how wise are they, that Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, That make it their first and great care and endeavour to work out their own Salvation, That employ the first opportunities of Life to make their Calling and Election sure?—Who then among you is willing to consecrate his Service this Day unto the Lord? These things should quicken all from the womb of the Morning, even the beginning of their days, to devote the Dew of their Youth, their earliest affections to the Lord, and to begin betimes to Cleanse their ways. Is it not a work of the greatest weight and moment? What Business or Con­cern is there that may be set in opposition to, or stand in competition with it? Say not then, I pray thee have me excused, on any pretence whatsoever. The necessity and excellency of the work, speaks the unreasonableness and baseness of delays.

A. II. Consider, THIS Life is the only space, or season for the accomplishment of this Work. "This World is the great Laboratory for perfecting Souls for Heaven", the only state of prob [...]tion and preparation for Eternity. If ever we Cleanse our ways, it must be now. There is no wisdom, nor device in the Grave, whether we are going, (Eccl. 9. [Page 24] 10.) The Night cometh, wherein no man can work, (Joh. 9.4.) This is the day of Salvation, (2 Cor. 6.2.) They that go down into the pit cannot hope for the truth; the Living, the Living they shall praise thee, (Isai. 38.18, 9.) To him that is joyned to the Living, there is hope, To him only. — Death puts an irre­vocable period to the Day and Means of Grace, to the Strivings of the Holy Spirit, and the Offers of Salvation: It seals us up among the irrepa­rable Ruins of the Apostacy, and fixes us under an Eternal impossibility of Recovery. As the Tree falls, so it must lye. The Spirits in Prison, shall not come forth, until they have paid the utmost Farthing. They are bound in Chains of darkness, which cannot be broken; They are under a Yoke of Bondage, that can't be shaken off.

A. III. Consider, THE Work is Great, and the longest Life is not more than proportionable to it. Cleansing our Ways is not some light and easy Business, the work of an hour or a day. It is a Complication of great Services to be done, and of great Difficulties to be overcome. It is an hard work, many acts, many exercises are imply'd in it, enough to employ the whole Man in its best vigour, and to fill up the whole Life in its longest duration. In order to pure Religion, we must search and try our ways, and be much in Self-Examination, We must act Repentance towards God, and Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, which are laborious as well as constant Exercises; And we must lay out our selves in the work of Mortification and Reformation, the well-doing of which will require our utmost Industry, Vigilance, and Resolution, and challenge some Tract of Time. Solemn Resolutions are to be form'd and fixt, [Page 25] Knowledge to be digg'd for, strong Prejudices and Corruptions to be conquer'd, ill Customs to be re­nounc'd, subtil Temptations to be resisted, and strong oppositions to be encounter'd. Finally, Many and divers Duties to be put in practice, and acts of positive obedience performed, A large Field of work to be gone thorow, and many a weary step to be taken. We had need then enter into it be­times, rise early, take the wings of the Morning, and go forth to labour until the Night, rejoycing with the Sun to run our race. The Task is hard, and many holy Christians that have fear'd the Lord from their Youth, spent their Vigorous Age in this work, and continued in it, even unto Length of Days, have after all their Toil & long Labours, not counted themselves to have apprehended, neither to be already perfect, but have professed to reach towards things before, and confessed very humbling Remains of impurity both of Flesh & Spirit behind still to be cleansed away. They that begin soonest are but scarcely saved. We must confess then, that great is the guilt and folly of such as delay this most necessary and difficult work, flattering them­selves that they shall have Time enough hereafter. Most are apt to dream, they've a long Day before 'em, and so may safely give a loose for the pre­sent to their Youthful Lusts, and hope to do this work, at their Leisure, in more advanced Years:— But alas! the entire Life of Man is but a little space for such a Business of Eternal consequence, and Infinite difficulty. Not but that the Time allow'd is sufficient, if we had but wisdom to Husband our opportunities aright: yet it is not more than is requisite in order to do this work to the lest ad­vantage.—Is it not then most egregious folly [Page 26] to think of crowding that into a narr [...]w corner of our Day, which will take up the whole. O think of the greatness of your Work, and the shortness of your Day, and judge whether it be not time to begin, and folly to defer.

A. IV. Consider, Youth is the fittest and most advantagious Season to begin this workin. Consider, Now the work it self is really less, than it will be afterward. The work is always great and difficult, but by Age it grows upon us; more work is made for Self-Examination, Repentance, and Mortification. Sins are multiply'd, Corruptions are strengthned, the Understanding more darkned, the Heart more hardned thro' the deceitfulness of Sin, the sen­sual Appetites & Passions grown more headstrong by customary indulgence, the Cords of Iniquity twisted harder, the black Chains of Lust fastned and more difficult to be dissolved, the Conscience more defiled with dead works, deeper pollutions con­tracted, and more heavy loads of filth to be dis­burthen'd, when we have lain long soaking in our corrupt state; Spiritual Diseases more putrify'd and harder to be cured. By long and inveterate Custom Sin grows more natural to us, & we are re­duc'd almost to an impossibility of recovery. Hence the Scripture saith, (Jer. 13.23.) Can the Aethiopian change his skin, or the Leopard his spots? Then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. When ill Habits are obstinately r [...]oted by frequent and continu'd repetition of Sin, there is unspeaka­ble difficulty attending the extirpation of them. How hard and painful a work to repent of them and subdue them! In this Case we may very aptly apply those sayings of our Saviour, It is easier for a Camel to go through the eye of the Needle; [Page 27] Straight is the Gate; With Men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible! Thus the Work is made greater and more difficult by delays. Moreover, in Youth our advantages are greater; then we have special Helps, Opportunities and Conveniencies. If we now begin our work, we have in an ordinary way more Time before us to do it in. And now the Spirit of God is peculiar­ly striving with us; the Angel of the Lord most forward to come to the Pool, and move the Waters of healing; And Youth is the Age of Discipline, most capable of Instruction, most flexible to Convictions, most susceptible of Impressions. Now the Understanding is ordinarily most ready and perceptive, the Will most obsequious, the Affecti­ons and Passions most governable, the Memory most deeply receptive as well as strongly reten­tive, and all the Faculties of Life most apt and able for Service and Employment. For Youth is the Age of Business, (as well as tractableness,) the Morning of our day, the Excellency of our strength, the Spring of Life, most free and vigorous for La­bour, dispos'd to Action, and admirable at dis­patch. Now the Faculties of Soul and Body are in their prime, most capable of bearing the diffi­culties and doing the duties, that attend the work of Sanctification.—Is it not besotting folly then, to defer cleansing our ways, and let slip this Golden Opportunity, and make that the task of drooping Sickness, or supine tottering Age, which demands the most sanguine Efforts of sprightly Health and active Youth? But further, Youth is more under the checks of Conscience, and the restraints of Shame and Modesty, which are a good Barrier to secure us against Sin, and a mighty [Page 28] Help to reclaim us from it. And moreover, in Youth we have commonly fewer Incumbrances & less im­pediments to clog us in doing our work. Now we are not so enslav'd to the Prince of Darkness; the soul Spirit, that works in the Children of Disobedi­ence, has not ordinarily such a full possession of us, nor absolute dominion over us as yet, and now his Temptations have not so easy access, and his assaults may with less difficulty be warded off, by the discrete, vigilant and resolute Youth; And further, Now we are not ordinarily so far plung'd into the World; we are not so much ex­pos'd to the Cares of discouraging Want, nor the Snares of treacherous Affluence, nor the burries of perplexing Business. And by an Early Conver­sion and Consecration of our selves to God, we shall greatly forestall our tempting Adversaries, and save our selves many Conflicts, recover our selves from the Snare of the Devil, and escape the Corruptions that are in the World thro' Lust.

A. V. Consider, THE Time of Youth, the present Time, may, for ought we know, be the only Season allow'd us for this work. For,

1. THE Arrests of Death may soon irrecoverably terminate all our Opportunities. The Time is short, and very uncertain; Death will speedily, He may suddenly, serve the Execution upon us: And Death's Commission is not dated by Seniority; Mortality is not govern'd by the course of Nature, but the Ordination of Heaven. The warm Blood and vigour of healthful Youth is no protection against the King of Terrors. When the Decree brings forth, None can stay his hand, No Man hath power over his Spirit to retain it. How often do we see invincible Death making a Prey of the mighty, [Page 29] taking away Young Men in their full strength, break­ing the bars of Iron and the gates of Brass. The strongest Constitution and most unbroken Health of Body can't stand the dreadful Shock; neither will this secure from the danger of a sudden Disso­lution. Some unkindly Breath of Air may in an instant extinguish the light of Life, when it is like to burn a long while yet. Unnumber'd Dis­eases, we are subject to, that may speedily stop our breath; we know not but some fatal Distem­per is now latent in our Bodies, however hale and lusty we may seem, which will shortly break down the clayey Tabernable, and gather us again unto the Dust; and a Thousand Disasters, many unforeseen Casualties we are obnoxious to, any one of which may quickly dispatch our unwilling Souls into an awful Eternity, and in a moment bury us in despairful horror! And most surely they, Whose Life is among the Unclean, may ex­pect to Die in Youth, and not to Live out half their Days! By their Lusts and Vices they are hasten­ing their end, jogging the Glass, and preparing the Instruments of Death for themselves; and a Thousand to One if they are not snar'd in the work of their own hands, or snatcht away in an awful manner by some surprizing & unexpected Providence!

HOW Dangerous then are Delays of our Great Work! To depend on Hereafter is to "presume meerly on a remote possibility", and to hazard our Eternal safety on the most precarious bottom in the World, and if this sandy Foundation fail us, we sink into irretrievable Misery. Let us no longer then trifle away our pretious and hasty moments. Let us not flatter our selves with the [Page 30] uncertain reversion of so much as another Day to further Adjournment of our work, but even to Day, while it is called to Day, (This very Evening,) Let us everyone set about it, working out our Salva­tion with fear and trembling, and doing with might what our hands find to do, because the Night cometh, and we know not what shall be on the morrow. Boast not thy self of to morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. This Evening can't be too Early, because To-morrow-Morning may be too Late. In a Word, We can't begin too soon, nor make too quick dispatch. Be we as speedy & active as possible, the nimble sands of Time will run down faster than our work goes on, and ou [...] Glass will go nigh to run out, before we've finish'd our Christian Race. Consider this ye Sinners, and give ear, be not rebellious; for the Lord hath spoken, —Give Glory to the Lord your God before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark Mountains, and while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of Death, and make it gross dark­ness. But if ye will not hear, my Soul shall weep in secret places for your pride, and presumption, Mine Eye shall weep and run down with tears.

2. OR, Some Distemper may utterly bereave us of our Capacity for this work. We are incident to many things, that may fatally impair our rational Powers, and as much disenable us to all religious intents and purposes as Death it self. May not an Apoplexy, or, Lethargy, a Delirium or Stupor, suddenly seize us, that we shall become as 'twere Dead, while we Live? May we not be bewildred with Melancholy, or distracted with Madness? May we not be harrass't with tor­menting Pains, and restless Agonies, that shall [Page 31] utterly unhinge us, and unfit us for religious Du­ties? Or, may we not soon be thrown into a weak, shatter'd, languishing condition; be exercised with frequent faintings, be attended with a constant laxness of the Animal Spirits, and decays of bodi­ly strength, and be followed with the lingring forerunners of Death; so that our enfeebled Powers shall not be capable of bearing the earnest Care, nor doing the intense Work of Repentance, and we shall have but little or no force & freedom of mind left us to attend the Great Concerns of our Souls, and shall probably be debarr'd hereof, lest it shou'd prevent the Cure of our Bodies. These Considerations should startle us out of our secure and dilatory frame. We are all concerned in this Case. None can plead an exemption. Such Evils have surpriz'd Others that as little suspected any danger as we. What tho' we are Young, hearty and lusty? so were many of Them, yet they were taken in the snare, immediately stak'd down, and reserv'd in Chains to the day of Destruction. And now what claim have we to a priviledge from this awful Judgment? Let these things awaken us to make all sure and safe by a thorow Repentance, and Purification of our ways, while there re­mains a space and possibility.

3. OR, The Means of Grace may be taken away, and the Spirit of Grace withdraw from us, and forsake us for ever. Supposing Life and Health and Reason should be prolong'd, yet how know we, but that we shall be depriv'd of the Means of Holiness and helps to Salvation? The righte­ous God may cause the Sun to go down over His despised Prophets, call home His Embassadors, and make the Joyful Sound to cease; He may justly [Page 32] punish us with a Famine of the word of the Lord, remove his Candlestick, pull down his Tabernacle, and leave us to perish for lack of Vision. Or, if God continues the external Means, yet He may be provok'd to with-hold the influences of His Spirit; and so we shall receive the Grace of God in vain, and enjoy the Means but in Judgment. It is certain our special Opportunity of Grace may expire before the day of Life. As the Stalk may continue after the Flower be dropt off▪ As the Tree may stand a while, after 'tis past bearing Fruit. So a Sinner may out-live his particular Day of Grace, i. e. the Season of the Holy Spirits Motions, and Operations upon his Heart. Men may by ob­stinate resisting the Holy Ghost, and a resolved impenitency under the Gospel, provoke Him to cease striving with them, and give them over to the power of Satan and their own Lusts, & leave them under a moral impossibility of Repentance unto Life. ‘Our Day of Grace (says a Learned Divine) may have a much shorter period than our Lives;Dr. Sherlock. Disc. of Death, pag. 164, 9. Edit. 16. we may out-live the possibility of Repen­tance, God in His just & righteous Judgment may give up the Children of disobe­dience to a state of hardness and impenitence, and they may wander about in this World, as the Israelites did in the Wilderness, under an irreversible Doom and Sentence. And hence the Apostle to the Hebrews exhorts them, (Heb. 3.7, &c,) To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as your Fathers tempted me, with whom I was grieved, and so I sware in my wrath, they should not enter into my r [...]st.— But why to Day? Is it only because our Lives are uncertain, [Page 33] and we may die before to Morrow? No, but lest we provoke God to swear in his Wrath, that we shall not enter into rest. It shou'd engage us to a speedy Repentance, to consider, that we may provoke God to such a degree, that He may pronounce the final Sentence on us, That we shall never enter into Heaven; long before we leave this World.’

THE Day of God's Forbearance often survives the Day of His Mercy. Sometimes He endures with much long suffering the Vessels of Wrath; but frequently He cuts short His Work in Righteousness; and the brighter any One's Day of Grace is, (it's observed) 'tis usually the shorter. The Old World God spared an Hundred & Twenty Years, but Israel, whom He had favour'd above all the Fa­milies of the Earth, giving His Word unto Ja­cob, He endured their manners but Forty Years in the Wilderness. The Lord do's gradually with­draw His grieved Spirit and neglected Grace from rebellious Sinners, and finally abandons them to a reprobate sense, intumulates their forsaken Souls under judicial blindness and hardness in their frozen Grave; That is the fatal Sentence passed against them, Let him that is filthy, be filthy still, (Rev. 22.11.) Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, Thou shalt not be purged any more from thy filthiness, 'till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee, (Ezek. 24.13.) And then their Case is irremediable. And this may be the sad state of Multitudes in the World, who discern not their fearful doom. And this may very Early be the deplorable condition of Sinners. We have many instances hereof on Sacred Record. Cursed Cain was but of a few days, when he was driven out [Page 34] from the presence of the Lord. Scoffing Ishmael was cast out, when he was but about Twenty years of Age. Prophane Esau, who too soon took upon him the Gentleman, and devoted himself to recre­ation and sport, having once weary'd himself for very vanity in the violent pursuits of the Field, Sold his Birth-right to Jacob his Pious Brother, for a small refreshment, and so forfeited the Blessing, and was rejected; and this was when the B [...]ys were yet growing up, (Gen. 25.27.)— How many Young-Men think you were in Jerusalem, when Christ beholding that City, wept over it, & said, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes?

INDEED the Day of Grace, as the Day of Life, hath differing Periods; with some it is more permanent, with others more transient. With ma­ny we see it lasts no longer than the time of Youth. "And if these Golden Days be lost (says a Venera­ble Servant of God, whose Praise is in the Gospel,Dr. Increase Mather, in his Call to the Ri­sing Generation. Edit. 2. pag. 148. thro'out all the Churches; if the Days of Youth be lost,) probably thou wilt be undone for ever. I must needs tell you that f [...]r the most part it is so, that Men are either Converted in their Youth, or not at all. We read but of One that was call'd at the Eleventh hour. If a Tree do not blossom in the Spring, it is commonly dead all the Year after; So they that are not Converted in the Spring of their Age are rarely Converted at all. Now & then One is Converted in Old Age, but such Examples are exceeding rare; especially it is true with respect unto those that have in the Days of their Youth lived under the Means of Grace, heard [Page 35] many Sermons, experienced frequent Strivings of the Spirit of God with their hearts: if they remain Unconverted until the Days of their Youth are past and gone, the Lord usually giveth them up to judicial hardness of heart that they shall never be Converted, never Saved. Young Men think sadly of it in the fear of God". O hearken to this solemn warning, consider & improve it; Beware of Delays; Quench not the Spirit, Resist not alway the Holy Ghost, Do not at any time say unto Him, Go away and come again to Morrow, lest you Sin away the Influences of the Spirit; O do not this abominable thing which the Lord hates, lest the Spirit of the Lord depart from you, and an evil Spirit from the Lord trouble you. Be instructed, O Seed of Jacob, lest his Soul depart from you, lest be make you desolate; lest you un­happily incur the condemnation of Ephraim, He is joyned to Idols, let him alone.— O seek the Lord while he may be found, (Isai. 55.6.) They that seek him early shall find him, (Prov. 8.17.) But if thou for­sake him in the time of Youth, perhaps He will cast thee off for ever, (1 Chr. 28.9.) It is a bold and bloody adventure in sinful Youth, a dreadful risque they run, to forego the present Opportunity upon the false presumption of a mere convenient Season hereafter. We are all of Us probably within our limited Day of Grace: But how soon, how sud­denly our Sun may set, God only knows. The present time may be our last Opportunity; and to expect renew'd offers of Grace upon the least re­fusal or delay to accept, is not founded in any Di­vine Promise and is repugnant to the universal Tenor of the Divine Threatnings. We stand every moment upon the Brink of perdition, nigh unto Cursing; How know we, but that our Eternal [Page 36] concernments depend upon what we are this E­vening, this Instant a doing? How know we, but that the revolution of a few hours or minutes will irreversibly conclude our day of probation? — It is high time to awake unto Righteousness, to consi­der our ways and turn our feet unto God's testimonies. Young Men, my Brethren, hearken to the voice of God, and no longer harden your hearts against the impressions of His Grace, and the solemn Invita­tions of His Word, which speaks to you, to each of you, My Son, give me thy heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways, (Prov. 23.26.) Wash thy heart from thy wickedness, that thou mayest be saved, how long shall thy vain tho'ts lodge within thee? (Jer. 4.14.) Do this now my Son, and deliver thy self, Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eye-lids; if thou save not thy life to night, perhaps to morrow thou shalt be slain. Procrastination is infinitely dangerous. The least delay may cost us our Souls. Let us fear lest we c [...]me short, and look diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God, (Heb. 12.15.)

A. VI. Consider, TO begin this work in our Youth, is what the Great God requires of us, and is infinite­ly pleased with in us. God is our Creator, Pre­server, and Sovereign Ruler. We owe Him all possible Homage. We are under the most invio­lable Bonds of obedience to His revealed Will. Now God commandeth all men every where to repent, (Act. 17.30.) And by virtue of this general Precept we are obliged to repent immediately, without delay. It is a Maxim in Law, (as One in a certain place testifyeth) that where no day of Payment is limited, the Debt is presently due. The Debt of Repentance toward God is according to this just principle to be paid forthwith, tho' there were [Page 37] not any express and direct specification of the time of Youth. But we have the most plain and peremptory injunctions of Early Obedience. We are not left to our liberty as to the time, any more than as to the thing. He that has bidden us to repent and amend our ways, has also bid us do it now, betimes; and there is the same obligation upon us to take the Time, as to do the Work, He hath set us. Well then, Young Men are indis­pensably bound to regard and obey those Precepts, wherein they are positively and strictly com­manded to be sober & pious betimes: As, Psal 148.12, 3 Young Men, and Children, Let them praise the name of the Lord. So, Prov. 8.32, &c. Now hearken unto me, O ye Children; Hear instruction, and be wise. So, Eccl. 12.1. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. So, ver. 12, 3. And further, by these words of truth, my Son, be admonished of the vanity of the World, and the evil of Sin, and Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, Fear God & keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty and happiness of man. And to mention but one instance more; 2 Tim. 2— The Apostle exhorts Timothy and in him all other Young Men, in this wise, Flee youthful lusts, but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with all them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Thou therefore my Son, be strong in the Grace, that is in Christ Jesus. Study to shew thy self approved unto God. Thus Early Religion is enjoyned upon Us by the Commands of God. And as it is a necessary compliance with His Preceptive will, so it is most highly pleasing and infinitely delightful unto Him, which consideration should excite us to it. Behold, now is the accepted Time, now is the acceptable Year of the Lord. It was an [Page 38] Ordinance of Old, Exod. 22.29. Thou shalt not de­lay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, The first born thou shalt give unto me. The first-ripe Fruits (in kind) are ordinarily among Men most valued, and most eagerly embrac'd. The First-born is the pride of nature, the beginning of strength, and the ex­cellency of dignity. These God expected should be dedicated to Him, and that without delay: which under a Typical consideration do's plainly intimate, that Young Men should not delay to consecrate the First Fruits of their Time, the prime and best of their strength to the Lord. With such sacrifices God is well pleased, The Lord accepts them with a sweet savour. The kindnesses of our Youth (the Flower of Age) are what He takes infinite complacency in. The Blossoms of Early Piety how lovely, how fragrant are they to Him! The tender Plants that are growing up before the Lord, what a grateful and pleasant sight▪ The Delight of Heaven, and the Hope of Israel! Such as fear the Lord in their Youth are acceptable to God, and approved of Men. Good Men have no greater joy than to see their Children walking in the truth. There is joy in the presence of the Holy Angels over such. The Lord of Glory takes pleasure in them; His delights are with the Sons of Men. He was well pleased (in the days of His Flesh) with the Ho­sannahs of Children, and took particular notice of them, giving Glory to God, who Out of the mouths of Babes and Sucklings had perfected praise. He was pleased, to have Little Children come unto Him, and He took them up in His Arms and blessed them. As a good Shepherd He gathers the Lambs with His Arms, and carries them in His Bosom, the Seat of Love. What an affectionate Concern did He express, and [Page 39] what a compassionate Charge did He give to Peter, about the Lambs of the Flock? Of the Young Man in the Gospel which came to Him with some good inclinations, it is said, Jesus beheld him, and loved him. John, suppos'd to be the Youngest among the first Disciples, was emphatically The Disciple whom Jesus loved, which also leaned on His Breast at Sup­per, the Favourite place. Young Converts are pe­culiarly set as a Scal on His Heart, and as a Sig­net on His Right Hand. They are near and dear to Him, and pretious in His sight. The godly Young Man Daniel had that testimony, A Man Greatly Beloved. Prov. 8.17. I love them that love me, and those that seek me early shall find me. Such as honour Him with their First Love, are repay'd & crown'd with his special Love. The Kings favour is toward such a wise Servant. But such whose Childhood and Youth are vanity, who give themselves to Youthful Lusts, are the abhorred of the Lord, odious to the pure Eyes of His Holiness, and obnoxious to the severe Revenges of His Justice; and while they go on in their trespasses, the Wrath of God abides upon them. It is a base indignity; and most un­sufferable provocation to the Holy God, to deny Him the reasonable Service He requires of us, to misemploy the noble Powers we've receiv'd from Him, and yield them as instruments of unrighte­ousness unto Sin, to pervert His Gifts to His disho­nour, and practically to prefer Sin, Satan & the World (our great Enemies) to God and Christ our great Benefactor and only Saviour. This is high handed contempt of the Blessed God; and those simple and foolish Youths that offer this base and insolent affront to the God of all their Mercies, are the objects of His just displeasure, [Page 40] and holy indignation. God is angry with the wick­ed every day. He despiseth them that despise Him. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil. All the Attributes of God are arm'd with terror, and charg'd with vengeance against the workers of iniquity. If then we desire to be accepted and owned of God, we must now break off from our iniquities by Repentance. The awful tho't that while we continue impure and impenitent, we are under the wrath and curse of God, This shou'd rouse us out of our security; and the joyful tho't that by Early Religion we prove what is that good and acceptable will of God, and walk worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing, this shou'd encourage and quicken us now in the Days of our Youth to yield our members instruments of righteousness unto God. This is the will and pleasure of God, who has Sovereign Authority to determine the Time, who is infinitely Wise, Just and Good, and there­fore knows and chusest the best Time. Let God's Time be Our's. Every thing is beautiful in its sea­son, The work of the Day in it's Day. The Manna was to be gathered in the Morning, then it was sweet and agreeable, but if neglected, it became loathsome and distasteful.

A. VII. Consider, YOUNG Men that are Bap­tized, are under the most solemn Engagements now to Cleanse their Ways. Baptism is a standing Or­dinance of the Gospel, which All shou'd be Par­takers of; and none shou'd dare, as they wou'd not wrong their own Souls, to live in the contemp­tuous neglect of it. But I presume, that every one here present hath passed under [...]hat blessed Ordinance. If so, you are obliged then to Cleanse your Way, as you wou'd answer the Sacred Ends [Page 41] and Bonds of your devoted state, and act agreeably to your Character & Profession. Baptism is a Sign and Seal of the Covenant, which obliges to uni­versal purity. As many then as are Baptized into Jesus Christ, are Debtors to the whole Law of Faith. In Baptism we renounce all our Sins and Lusts, Earthly, Sensual, & Devilish; we profess and promise to live Godly in Christ Jesus, to walk according to God in the Spirit. If then we prostitute our selves to any [...]ase lust or wicked practice, and alienate our selves from the life of God, we retract our Baptismal Stipulation, we trample on the most sacred Vows, we reproach that worthy Name where­by we are called, and renounce our Interest in the blessed Promises. And what Man do's not trem­at the tho't of this prophane, treacherous, & impious dealing with God and our own Souls? Verily our Baptism will profit us nothing, without newness of Life. Baptism saves us, not by putting away the filth of the flesh, but by the answer of a good Conscience toward God, 1 Pet. 3.21. What will the outward washing with Water avail, without the inward washing of Regeneration. If we still walk after the Flesh, and wallow in filthy lusts, our Baptism will no ways be serviceable or beneficial to us; nay, it will [...]e a witness against us. He that is Bap­tized, and believeth not, is condemned already, condemned [...]ut [...]f his own mouth. Ungodly Christi­ans are Sinners above all Men. The Heathen World Sin at a cheaper rate than they. Double Guilt and an aggravated Ruin belong to such.

AND let not any think to [...]lude this Argu­ment by flattering [...]hemselves, It will be soon enough hereafter to think of fulfilling their Baptis­mal Engagements. O deceive not your selves by [Page 42] this vain pretence into sinful delays. The Bap­tismal Covenant binds to present and perpetual obedience. It is of the nature of an Espousal; where­upon one is oblig'd immediately to forsake all others, and be entirely devoted to her Husband. —The Promise in Baptism has the nature of a Vow. Therein we take the Oath of Allegiance to God, and bind our Souls with a Bond, professing to give our own selves to the Lord; & having open'd our mouth, we cannot go back, nor put off. The Rule is, (Eccl. 5.4.) When thou vowest a Vow unto God, de­fer not to pay it: for He hath no pleasure in fools; Pay that which thou hast vowed. Pay it fully, pay it presently. Consider this, hear and fear: Are you under the Bonds of Baptism? Then you have vow'd to God the Service of your Youth; and if you neglect to perform the Vow, you incurr the guilt of Perfidy, and the most abhorred Perjury. To vow and not to pay is a mocking of God, and lying to the Holy Ghost. And these Fools in Israel are an abomination unto the Lord. Take heed there­fore to your selves, lest ye forget the Covenant of the Lord your God; for the Lord your God is a con­suming Fire, even a jealous God, (Deut. 4.23, 4.) I beseech you, immediately come into that necessary and noble Resolution, (Exod. 15.2.) The Lord is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my Fa­ther's God, and I will exalt Him.

A. VIII. Consider, BY Cleansing our Way in our Youth, a present Tribute of peculiar Honour is paid to God, and the Foundation lay'd for illustrious Re­venues of Glory to His Great Name. The Earli­ness of our Repentance and Obedience is highly Honorary to God, as it intimates a peculiar sin­cerity, voluntariness, & fervency in our hatred of Sin, [Page 43] and love to God; an high Esteem of the Divine Laws, and the vigour of Grace in our Souls ena­bling us to break thro' the many difficulties & strong temptations of the Youthful Age, and in the face of alluring Pleasures, against the general stream of Custom and Example, &c. to amend our ways, and Exercise our selves unto Godliness, To give that the first of our Time, & the strength of our Days.— These things tend much to the honour of God. Their Singularity offers praise, such things in Youth are a pretious Rarity, which gives them a peculiar Charm & Beauty, and makes them more to the Praise of the Glory of His Grace. They are abun­dant also by many thanksgivings to God; whiles others beholding the good Conversation of such, Glo­rify God for their professed subjection to the Gospel of Christ, and for the exceeding Grace of God in them. The rising flourishing Plants are the bright Ornaments of the Garden of Christ at present, and they afford a prospect of yielding hereafter much fruit whereby our Heavenly Father is glorify'd. An Early Conversion prevents much dishonour, which otherwise wou'd be done to God by the iniquities of Youth, and upwards; and it also tends to bring much positive Honour to God, in a vigorous and long exercise of Grace and practice of Duty. The warmth and activity of Youth un­der the direction of a gracious principle within, renders us Vessels unto Honour peculiarly meet for our Masters use; we are at present more inclin'd to action, and more fitted for service, and we are like in an ordinary way to have a longer time of Labour, to contract a stronger disposition and affection to God's Glory, and to meet with better and greater Opportunities to promote His King­dom [Page 44] and Interest in the World than others. The sooner we rise in the Morning, the more Time we have before us, and the more work we shall probably get done by the Evening.

AND now has the Early Cleansing of our Ways such an Aspect upon the Glory of God? Surely then we are oblig'd by all the tyes of Duty, Justice, and Gratitude, forthwith to engage in this work, Giving Glory unto God. Not to do this, is the highest injustice, a robbing our rightful Lord of His due; and the blackest ingratitude, an un­worthy return to our Great Benefactor. And shall we thus requite the Lord? O foolish & unwise!

A. IX. Consider, GREAT, and manifold are the Advantages and Priviledges, which by Early Piety, we secure unto our selves. There are not only great Revenues of Glory accrueing from it unto God, but the richest Vintage of Good redounding unto us. It is both Glorious to God, and auspi­cious to Man. Lam. 3.27. It is good for a man, that he bear the yoke in his youth. The Yoke of Christ, if we take it upon us Early, we shall bear it more easily, more honourably, more profitably, and shall reap many happy advantages in Life, at Death, and in the Eternal World. Let me say here,

1. THE sooner we begin to Cleanse our Ways, we shall obtain the greater Honour. Pure Religion is a Crown of Glory to any one, and makes a Man more Excellent than his Neighbour; But it shines with a peculiar beauty and lustre in the ruddy Youth, and makes him more honourable even than his Brethren. There is an Excellency of Dignity in Early Religion, and Double Honour belongs unto it.

CONSIDER here, This Work puts real Ex­cellency upon us; hence the sooner we begin, the [Page 45] greater Degrees of Dignity we are like to arrive unto. This Employment do's Exalt, as well as Exer­cise, our reasonable Powers, It polishes & ennobles our best Faculties, and tends to the recovery of our degraded Nature from its present vile con­dition to it's pristine glory and perfection. Here by we put on the most bright and lasting Beauties, and cloath our selves with Honour. Hereby we attain the blessed End, for which we were created, the Glory of God; and hereby we are made Par­takers of the blessed Image, in which we were created: and inasmuch as it is thus perfective of our Nature it is really honourable True Holi­ness is true Honour. "Serious Piety sows the seeds of the most solid Greatness." An Heathen could say, Vertue is the only true Nobility. Hence the Apostle puts them together, (1 Thes. 4.4.) Possess your Vessel in Sanctification and Honour. The Holy of the Lord, Honourable,—are Characters, which God the infallible Judge of Excellency has inseperably connected, and what God hath joyned together, let no man put asunder. Holiness is the mark of distinction between the pretious and the vile. The Saints are the Excellent in the Earth, (Psal. 16.3.) And the Young Saints appear among them as Stars of the first Magnitude. They are the First-born among many Brethren, the most Precious Sons of Zion, in whom the Beauties of Holiness are most conspicuous, and are like to be most illustrious. The sooner we begin to purify our selves, the nearer approaches we are like to make to the per­fection of beauty, and the nearer conformity we shall attain to the most bright and blessed Being. The Work is Honourable and Glorious, and the more so, the sooner it is begun, and the longer 'tis continu'd in.

[Page 46]AGAIN, Consider, As the Work it self puts real Excellency on Us, so the early beginning of it mani­fests many Excellencies in Us, that are highly ho­nourable in all.—Is Sincerity honourable? This ho­nour have those that are Religious betimes. The Religion of such seems to be more chosen, free, willing and Cordial. They seem to be led by a ge­nerous and ingenuous Principle of Love to God and His ways; while others in the views of approach­ing Death and Hell are awed by the terrors of Conscience, and acted by the involuntary & servile principle of Fear.

AGAIN, Is Gratitude honourable? This honour also hath the Pious Young Man. A Principle of Gratitude is truly great and excellent in any. Now this appears with most lively Cha­racters in the Religious Young Man; Such an One gives an undoubted testimony of His thankful resentment & high esteem of the Divine Favours, He makes the speediest and noblest returns, even the service of his best days, and of the Years where­in He finds pleasure.

AGAIN, Is Courage & Magnanimity honourable? This honour also belongs to Early Penitents. It shews an admirable greatness of Soul and Forti­tude of mind in Young Men, (whose age is ordinari­ly inclin'd to softness and pleasure) to be able to withstand the Charms and despise the Smiles of an enticing World, to overcome the Temptations of a flattering Heart, and a tempting Devil, & mau­gre all the Discouragements that surround them▪ to break off from their Sins, and enter into Leag [...]e against the works of darkness & the powers of darkness, and bind themselves out to the ser­vice of God, resolving to keep His righteous Judg­ments; [Page 47] This, I say, shews signal vigour and valour of Mind, which is a Garland of Glory to pious Youth.

AGAIN, Is Wisdom, honourable? This honour is theirs also. They chuse the best of Ends, they are engag'd in the best and most necessary work, they improve the best of their Time and Strength in it, they embrace the first and fittest opportunity, They hereby prevent a great many dangers and evils, and take the best method to secure and pro­mote their highest Interest, They lay up in Store a good Foundation against the time to come, &c, All which are Characters and Expressions of true Wis­dom. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thy self. A wise man's heart discerneth time and judgment. He that gathereth in Summer is a wise Son. A good Understanding have they, that discern Things that differ, & approve things that are most excellent. — And how valuable, how honourable a thing is Wis­dom? In her left hand is Honour. The Wise men af­ter the flesh are the Men truly of high degree in the World. But now the Wisdom that is from above as much excelleth the Wisdom of this World, Light excelleth Darkness. The Wisdom of God is an Or­nament of Grace to venerable Old Age, and a Dia­dem of Beauty to amiable Youth. The Young Man's discretion maketh his face to shine. Who is as the wise Young Man? Who among the Sons of Men may be compared with him?

AGAIN, Consider, Early Religion is honourable, as it entitules & leads to many excellent and worthy Privileges. (1.) Such as are Religious betimes are ordinarily privileg'd with the Love & Esteem of Men. They obtain a good Name, which is better than pretious oyntment. To be sober, just, holy, temperate, is lovely, praise worthy, and of good Re­port.

[Page 48]GOOD People do affect & respect all, especial­ly Young Men, that do vertuously. Rom. 16.5, 7. Salute my well beloved Epenetus, who is the first-fruits of Achaia unto Christ. Salute Andronicus and Junia my Kinsmen, and my fellow Prisoners, who are of Note among (or with) the Apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Would you be of Note and Well beloved among the People of God, and in honour be prefer'd before others? Then be Religious betimes, and get into Christ before o­thers. It is one Article in the Character of a true Citizen of Sion (Psal. 15.4) In whose eyes a vile Person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. And the Royal Psalmist professes, as to Himself—(Psal. 119.63.) I am a Companion of all them that fear thee. (Psal. 16.3.) My Goodness extendeth to the Saints, the Excellent in whom is all my Delight. And there is that Divine Precept,—Be kindly affectioned one to another in the love of the Brethren, in honour preferring one another. (Rom. 12.10.) The Rich should condescend to Men of low [...]e, and the Elder should be ready to serve the Younger, they shou'd treat the Younger Men as Brethren. And such as truly fear God will be far from despising their Youth: Young Men that are sober minded, all sober People will esteem highly in love for their works sake.—Yea, they commend themselves to every Man's conscience. They are ac­cepted in the sight of all the People, a Delight to them that do well, a Terror to them that do ill. Sincere & undisguis'd Religion, even in the Young Man, carries with it such a Grandeur and Ma­jesty, that it extorts universal Respect, & strikes even the loose and prophane with a secret Venera­tion. It is said, (1 Sam. 18.) Saul was afraid of [Page 49] David, because he behaved himself wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. Mr. Henry Notes upon the place, "Those are truly great, and to be reverenc'd that have God with them. Men think the way to be fear'd, is to huff, and hector and threaten, which makes them fear'd by Fools only, but despis'd by the Wise & Good; whereas the way to be both fear'd and lov'd, fear'd by those to whom we wou'd wish to be a terror, and lov'd by those to whom we wou'd wish to be a delight, is to behave our selves wisely". Nebuchad­nezzar highly esteemed the lovely Young Man Daniel, in whom was the Spirit of the Holy God. Ahab stood in awe of Elias. Wicked Herod had a great value & veneration for John Baptist; Mar. 6.20. He­rod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and paid regard unto him. Holy Paul, his presence was awful, among the Soldiers, among the Mariners, and where ever he came. "The Image of God in Adam was a terror to the Beasts: and this Image repaired in the Saints, is awful to wicked Men: even the Unclean Spirit that possessed the Damosel at Philippi, could say of Paul and Silas, These are the Servants of the most High God." True Piety in the poorest Saint commands regard and reverence, even from the greatest a­mong the Ungodly. In this sense may that o [...] the Psalmist be understood, (Psal. 149.8, 9.) To bind their Kings with Chains, and their Nobles with Fet­ters of Iron, This honour have all his Saints. There are Scoffers indeed, Boasters, Despisers of those that are Good, who profess neither to fear G [...]d, nor reverence Man, who openly blaspheme Religion, throw contemt on the Godly, and caress their Brethren in iniquity. But the opinion of such (Be [Page 50] it real) is not to be minded, because they are blind and cannot see afar off, They have not eyes to distinguish between things that differ, nor hearts to approve things that excell: And their Say is not to be heeded, because they often prevaricate with their own Consciences, and give the lye to the inward sober sentiments of their Souls. And after all the floods of Reproaches which they have pour'd on Religion, it's beauty remains untarnisht. The Moon is not sully'd with the foul breath of the Dogs that bark at it.

THUS we see Good Understanding giveth favour in the sight of Man. Men will praise thee when thou dost well. To follow Righteousness is the way to be in reputation for wisdom and honour. And the earlier we begin, the more shall we be esteem'd while Living, and prais'd when Dead. One of the Philosophers once said of Virtue, It makes poor Men Wealthy, Old Men Happy, and Young Men Honorable. The Gracious Youth, his Name is Excellent, and his Memory Blessed. How do the celebrated Names of Abel, Enoch, Joseph, Samuel, David, Obadiah, Josiah, Daniel, John, Timothy, and others, shine in the Sacred Story? These all by their early Obedience obtained a good report, and being Dead are yet spoken of with honor. Their Works recorded praise them in the Gates, and at the mention of them, universal Posterity rise up and call them blessed. And now do not these things move you? — A Good Name is an Ornament of great Price, a Blessing of superlative worth & impor­tance, affording many valuable advantages to all, especially to Young Men; and Youth is the best opportunity for securing a fair and lasting repu­tation. Now it may be done to the best advantage. [Page 51] And if these Considerations will not prevail with you; Let me add another, even the Divine [...] re­cept which binds it as a Duty upon you. That sacred Injunction directed to Timothy do's [...]n­questionably reach and oblige you,—Let no Man despise thy Youth. q.d. Do nothing to stain & blemish thy Youth, and expose thy Name to the contemt of any one. Young Men are here call'd upon so to behave themselves in Word and Conversation, as to preserve an unsully'd lustre on their Cha­racter, and establish a durable interest in the good Opinion of others.

BUT further, (2.) There are many inestimable Privileges & Dignities, which they, that cleanse their way in their Youth, receive from God, who is the Fountain of Honor: It shall be for their ho­nor from the Lord God. Since thou wast pretious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, (Isai. 43.4.)

1. SUCH are invested with many Honours in the Life that now is.—They are admitted into the Glo­rious Liberty of the Sons of God. Civil Liberty is hono­rable as well a [...] [...]ightful, much more Spiritual Li­berty. The Saints are delivered from the Bondage of Corruption; The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made them free from the Law of Sin and Death; They are the Lords Freemen, free indeed. They also have the Privilege of the Divine Love and Favor, Presence and Communion. It is an honor to stand in the Kings Presence, to have His Ear, to be accepted in His sight, &c. Greater honor than this hath no Subject. Such honor have all the Servants of the King of Heaven. They have free access unto Him, gratious entertainment and fellowship with Him, the favour of His Ear, the smiles of His Face, the kisses of His Lips, the [Page 52] embraces of His Arms, & refreshing tastes of His Goodness. The high & lofty One dwells with them, ma­nifests Himself to them, so as He do's not to the world, lifts up the light of His countenance upon them, reveals His secret unto them, makes an everlasting co­venant with them, and satisfies them with good things, The secresy of His presence is their pavilion, and His banner over them is love. He also cloaths them in rich & royal Apparel, He puts on them the white Robes of Christ's Righteousness, the Garments of Salvation, and the Ornaments of Grace, which are in the sight of God of great price. And He puts mag­nificent Titles upon them, He adopts them into His Family and enrolls their Names among the First-born, calls them Children of the most High, the Brethren and Companions of Christ, and votes them His Favourites, the Heirs of His Love and Kingdom. He stiles them Kings and Priests to the Father, Friends of God, Servants of the Lord God Almighty, &c. the lowest of which sacred Epithets do's more adorn and exalt One; than the Names of the Great Ones of the Earth. He also Honors them with the peculiar care of His faithful Providence, with the Ministry of the holy Angels, and with the special Assistences of the Divine Spirit, the Spirit of Glory. He graves them upon the palms of His Hands, sets them as a Seal upon His Arm, & keeps them as His Jewels and peculiar Treasure. He guides them by His Father­ly Counsel, encourages them with His gracious Eye, leads them with His tender Hand, & upholds them with His Everlasting Arms underneath. He also fights their Battles for them, & crowns them with Victory over all their Enemies, Crucifies the Flesh and the World, and bruises Satan under their feet.

[Page 53]AND sometimes He exalts Pious Young Men to uncommon Grandeur in the World, causes the Glory of their House to increase, and makes them to ride on the high places of the Earth, As Job, Jo­seph, Moses, David, Daniel, and others. The Fa­vorite [...]Youths in the Kingdom of Grace, became the visible Dar [...]ings in the Kingdom of Provi­dence. It is sometimes seen, that the Evil bow before the Good, and the Wicked at the Gates of the Righteous. Behold, the Lord maketh them of the Synagogue of Satan to come and worship before their feet, and to know that He hath loved them.

AND further He sometimes dignifies them with great Usefulness in the World. He makes Pious Young Men to be for a Praise and a Name and a Glory unto Himself, and singular Blessings to their Generation, the strength and glory of [...] People, the very Breath of their Nostrils, their Crown and Riches. Sometimes He makes them the Pillars of the State, and sometimes He sets them for Burning and Shining Lights in the Church. Their Mouth is made a Well of Life to the World, and their Prayer as Salt unto the Earth, to purify and perpetuate it. By the blessing of the Upright the City is exalted. Judgments for their sake are kept off or remov'd, and Mercie [...] continu'd, restor'd or added, altho' a blind and wicked World is ignorant of them, and acknowlegeth them not.— Thus God Honors godly Young Men in the Days of their Life. And will none of these things move you?

2. GOD Honors such also at their Death. Then it pleases the Lord of Glory to bestow high Marks of distinction upon such. They dye in a [...]ed of Honor. Bright Beams of Glory enlighten [Page 54] the dark Valley of Death. It is said of David, who was godly betimes, that He dyed full of honor. God do's not then strip His Children of their Glory, nor lay their Honor in the dust. It is the Reproach and Curse of the Wicked, that their Glory shall not descend after them. But it is the Blessing of the Righteous, especially such as were so betimes, that their Rest is Glorious. The Glory of their Last Days is greater than of the Former. At their Death the Ministration of the Spirit is exceeding Glorious; then they receive more Ho­nor from Men; and then the Lord assigns them a most honorable Attendence, and those that were Pious betimes, a more honorable than others. He appoints them a special Guard out of the highest Order of the Blessed Angels. A bright Host of those Ministring Spirits, that flourish in Hea­ven with an Immortal Youth, are sent forth to minister unto these Heirs of Salvation, to encamp round about them, and be the Conv [...]y of their de­parting Spirits. Moreover, He translates them to a most Glorious Place, to the Regions of Light, and there He prefers them to the highest Seats of Honor, to a superiour Post & Station, to an exalted Office, and Employ, and furnishes them with the most bright & distinguishing Accomplishments, &c. Such is the Honor which the Great God puts at Death upon them that are godly betimes.

3 HE will put Illustrious Honor on such in the Great Day, the Day of the manifestation of the Sons of God. Then their Faith shall be found unto praise and glory and honor. Now it do's not appear what they shall be, but when Christ who is their Life shall appear, They shall be like Him and appear with Him in Glory, and be honored with many honors. [Page 55] In that Day of the restitution of all things, They shall receive the Adoption, and the Redemption of the Body. When the Wicked shall awake to shame and everlasting contemt, They shall have a blessed Resurrection to Honor & Praise, in the Day of Christ, who shall change their vile Body, and fashion it like unto His own glorious Body. And the Bodies of those shall hereafter be most conform'd to Him in that visible Glory, whose Souls have been here most conform'd to His invisible Image thro' Sancti­fication of the Spirit. Such shall in an eminent manner come unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. And further, In the Day of Judgment, (the Pretious and the Vile, the Clean and the Unclean being seperated) they shall be placed at the Right Hand of the King of Saints; and nearest to Him, — which speaks superior Re­spect. Moreover, They shall receive a most glorio [...]s Sentence, fill'd with all imaginable tokens of dignity and endearment; their smiling Judge will then own and bless them, honor & magnify 'em before the universal Consistory of Men & Angels. Furthermore, They shall then sit upon the Bench by the Judge, as Assessors with Him, approving, applauding, and giving their Voice in, the Sen­tence of Condemnation passed upon the World of the Ungodly, and the Spirits of Darkness, (accor­ding to our common interpretation of those Texts, Mat. 19.28.1 Cor. 6.2, 3.)

4. And finally, WHEN this awful Solemnity is over, a more joyful Scene will open, a Glory shall follow; then will the blessed Judge arise out of His Tribunal, and return in Triumph to His Everlasting Kingdom, and the Ransomed of the Lord shall make part of the shining Train that [Page 56] will follow Him; and they shall enter with Him the City of the Great God; there they shall be receiv'd into the Chambers of His immediate Presence; The Place where His Honor dwells shall be their Everlasting Habitation. The Kings Daugh­ter shall be brought unto the King in Raiment of needle-work and in Cloathing of wrought Gold, she shall enter into the Kings Palace, the Ivory Palaces which He hath prepared, She shall be presented as a chast Virgin unto God, be sweetly embrac'd and caress'd in the Arms of His Love, and receive an Euge from the Mouth of Blessing. Her Hus­band also he praiseth her, then Christ will emi­nently be an Honor to them that believe; Then the Royal Bridegroom will emphatically rejoyce over the Queen standing at his right hand in Gold of O­ [...]hir, as a Bride adorned for her Husband, sitting with Him on his Throne, beholding Him in his Beauty, and sharing with Him in His Glory. And then every Mouth shall be filled with the High Praises of the Lambs Wise. All the Heavenly Choir will rise up and call Her blessed, and every one speak of Her Glory, the Glory revealed in Her, & the whole Heaven shall ring with Congratulory Acclamations, welcoming of Her to Her Heavenly Fathers House, Her blessed Eternal Home. This Honour have the Saints, even all they who have done vertuously; but such as have excell'd, shall have a more Ex­cellent Glory. Indeed the meanest among all that shall be beautify'd with the Great Salvation, will be (as it's said of the Kings Daughter) all Glori­ous, dignify'd with an excellent Greatness and triumphant Glory; in comparison of which all the pomp and splendour of this present World is but an empty shew & a painted shadow. But those [Page 57] who have bro't most Honor to God, shall receive most Honor from Him. And those that have fear'd God from their Youth are of this happy Number. He will exalt the Horn of these, the praise of all His Saints, a People near unto Him, His peculiar Treasure; He will set them on high. Among the many Sons that He will bring to Glory, these shall be dignify'd with the weightiest Crowns, the most flourishing Laurels, the richest Mansions of Glory, the most splendid Entertainments, the brightest Visions and the nearest Views of the Eternal Majesty, &c. In a Word, Such shall re­ceive more abundant Honor in the Life that now is, and Glory exceeding abundant in that which is to come.

THIS, This shall be done to the Man, the Young-Man, whom the King delights to Honor. Thus the Wise inherit Glory, Riches of Glory. Thus, Young-Man, Pure Religion is Life unto thy Soul, and Grace unto thy neck, it shall promote thee, it shall bring thee to honor when thou dost embrace it, it shall give to thine Head an Ornament of Grace, a Crown of Glory shall it deliver thee.—By Humi­lity and the Fear of the Lord cometh Honor. O let Young Men be perswaded then so far to consult their own Honor, as now in the Days of their Youth to purify themselves. Be exhorted to put away Sin, which is a reproach and causeth shame; Be exhorted to follow Righteousness, which exalteth a Person or People, and in the ways of well doing seek for Glory and Honor.

THIS was the first Advantage of Early Reli­gion mentioned, It is most Honorable.

2. THE sooner we Cleanse our Ways, We shall obtain the more Pleasure, Comfort and Satisfaction. Our Work will be more easy to us at present (as [Page 58] we heard before) and will be more delightful to us afterwards, and greater will the Joy of our Sal­vation be, if we begin in Youth to Cleanse our Ways.

1. IF we begin Early to Cleanse our Ways, we are like to meet with greater Comfort than others, in the Days of our Life. Let me say here—

(1) OUR Work is like to be more easy and pleasant to us. The Work indeed implies hard Duty and laborious Service, therefore it is com­pared to entring in at a strait Gate, taking upon us a Yoke and bearing a Burden, &c. But if we accustom our selves to bear the Yoke in our Youth, it will afterwards sit more easy on our Necks, it will not gall and fret us: the Commands will not be grievous unto us. Custom will lighten the Burden and endear the Yoke. If we enter early into our Labours, we shall (by that time most others think of entering) come to esteem our Work not only a reasonable service, but perfect freedom, and with an enlarged heart to run the race set before us. And the longer we walk in the Paths of that Wisdom which is first pure, the more we shall find them by happy experience to be ways of pleasantness, and paths of peace. We shall find the hardest Duties of Christianity grow easy and pleasant. How severe and difficult soever Repen­tance, Mortification, enduring the Cross, & the like, may seem to Flesh and Blood, yet they will in time grow delightful to the Early Convert. How harsh and self-denying soever it may seem to others to forgive injuries and put up affronts, the Young Dis­ciple may by sincere and constant Prayers and Endeavours bring himself to take more pleasure in Christian Forbearance, and Forgiveness, than [Page 59] others do taste sweetness in Revenge. How hard soever & unpleasant it may be to others to submit to the Righteousness of Christ, and trust wholly and only in that for Pardon and Salvation, yet the Young Disciple will in the strength of Di­vine Grace by frequent acts of Faith unfeigned, be bro't at length (with Paul the Aged) to glory in the Cross of Christ, and to know nothing but Christ and Him crucify'd, willingly & firmly to confide in His Merits and highly to prize such his Confidence, as having great recompence of reward.

THUS, Use will take off from the difficulty of our Task, and bring us in time to go on with alacrity over the most wearisome stages of Duty. The Principle of Grace in the Saints do's so har­monize with their Work, as to incline them to it, and the longer they have possess'd and exercis'd this Principle, the more vig [...]rous and active it daily grows, which renders their work daily more and more natural. And finally, it becomes their Meat and Drink to do the Will of God. They taste a Divine Delight, and take an high Satis­faction in their Duty, which the carnal World have no sense nor relish of: and while others that began late are drudging & toiling, & driving heavily, those that began s [...]on are walking at liberty, and are in their Work as in their Element, rejoycing as a strong man to run a race, making Gods Statutes their Song, counting their Work their Wages.

(2) SUCH as begin Early have ordinarily more of the Comforts of the Holy Ghost. They are made to drink larger Draughts of the River of His Pleasures, He extends [...] unto them like a River, and glory like a flowing stream; as one whom his Mother comforteth, so are they comforted, their [Page 60] heart rejoyces and their bones flourish like an herb; Thus the hand of the Lord is known towards these his Servants. He gives them peace of Conscience and Joy in the Holy Ghost, and anoints them with the Oyl of Gladness above their Fellows. The Spirit applies His comforting influences to them, brigh­tens their Evidences of a good Work wro't in them, and gives 'em a satisfying sense of their Interest in the great and pretious Promises, and thus He creates in them a holy serenity and se­curity of mind.— They are filled with comfor­table reflections; when they review their past Life, at any time, This is their rejoycing, even the testimony of their Consciences, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God they have had their conversation in the world. And they are fill'd with pleasing tho'ts of the safety and felicity of their present state, The spirit witnessing with their spirits that they are the children of God, that they are passed from Death unto Life, &c. and also with refreshing Prospects of their future happiness, delighting their Souls with the abundance of their expected Glory.— They have the peace of God which passeth all under­standing, Joy which a stranger intermeddleth not with. Comforts which the smiles of the World cannot bestow, and which the frowns of the World cannot bereave us of. They have strong Consolation which makes them sing in the ways of the Lord, and gives them boldness in all their approaches to God in holy Duties. They have comforts that ballance and silence all their Griefs, that brighten their Days of Darkness, that sweeten their bitter Cups of Affliction, that temper their most fiery Trials, and afford them Light under Darkness, Ease un­der Pain, Joy under Sorrows, Contentment under [Page 61] Necessities, and Satisfaction in a Little of this World, 2 Cor. [...].10. As sorrowful, yet always re­rejoycing, as having nothing yet possessing all things. They see the Hand of Love over-ruling all things for their Good, which consideration accommodates their frame to their state, and attempers their mind to all Events of Providence. Thus holy David, who made the Lord his Trust from his Youth, cou'd say by happy experience, In the multitude of my (disquieting) tho'ts within me, thy comforts delight my soul. (Psal. 94.19.) Divine Consolation do's likewise sweeten the common Comforts of Life, and season all their Earthly Enjoyments. They taste the special Goodness of God in his ordinary Bounties, which gives them a peculiar relish and superadded suavity, turning water into wine. The Commands of God, they teach us how to abound, they direct the acquisition, enjoyment and im­provement of the good things of this World, so as to secure us the comfort of them and preserve us from the snares of 'em: But the Comforts of God they do further sublimate & refine the most pleasant enjoyments of this World, they give life & spirit and a more exquisite relish to them.

THUS it appears that Religion ministers to the tranquility, peace & pleasure of Life. How true and faithful are those sayings?—Great peace have they that love thy Law, and nothing shall offend them, (Psal. 119.165.) The work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assu­rance for ever, (Isai. 32.17.) True satisfaction is to be found only in pure Religion. Such lead the most quiet & peaceable lives, that live in all god­liness & honesty. None enjoy themselves like those that live godly in Christ Jesus. There is [Page 62] no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked, (Isai. 48.22) Either in the midst of laughter their heart is heavy, or afterward their mouth is filled with gravel. At best the pleasures of Sin are but jejune, and insi­pid, and of mirth it may be said, What doth it? These things will neither give ease to a wounded Spirit, or a pained Body, nor give security to a fearful Heart; and such as live in wantonness and pleasure on Earth, have a secret Worm gnawing in their Breasts, that eats out all Satisfaction, that often stings them, and speaks indignation and confusion to them, that "they spend their days like Men under the Sentence of Death, while the Execu­tion is suspended. And they that go on still in their trespasses, are multiplying the causes of grief and the grounds of terror, and do expose themselves to more severe Lashes of a guilty Conscience, and must expect more terrible Convulsions while they continue impenitent, and a more terrible Conver­sion, if ever they are bro't to Repentance. When Persons go on in Sin, adding iniquity to trans­gression, they are treasuring up Wrath against the day of Wrath, or storing up sorrow upon sorrow against the Day of Mercy, and if ever they are saved, it will be so as by Fire, it will be with fear, being pull'd with doleful shrieks out of the Fire. Their long course of Sin will cost them a sad and shameful Repentance, many tears and fears and desponding thot's, even as the pangs of Death, & the agonies of broken bones. Then will the Lord write bitter things against them, & make 'em to possess the iniquities of their youth. Then they shall be ashamed, yea even confounded, because they bear the reproach of their Youth: and it may be their hearts shall reproach them so long as they [Page 63] live, and they shall remember the Wormwood and the Gall, and feel the sting of Youthful Lusts, as a sword in their bones, and go mourning in bitterness of soul, walking in darkness and having no light, all the days of their remaining Pilgrimage on Earth.

NOW this is many times (if not always) pre­vented by an Early Conversion. Hereby Young Men remove sorr [...]w from their hearts, and put away evil from their flesh, and lay the foundation for abundance of peace in all their ensuing days. They secure lasting comfort & satisfaction to themselves. The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. They th [...] to the spirit, shall have the fruit of the spirit, [...] is love and peace. He that soweth to the flesh, shall reap thorns, vanity and vexation of spirit. Suffer then the Exhortation; In the morning of Youth sow your Seed, sow to your selves in righteousness, Break up your fallow ground, (cleanse your hearts from vile affections and filthy lusts, and apply yourselves to all works of Piety, Justice, Charity, & Sobriety,) for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come & rain righteousness upon you; ye have plow'd wickedness, and reaped iniquity, ye have eaten the fruit of lies, (Hos. 10.12, 3.) What fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? (Rom. 6.21.) For the end of these things is terror and confusion. Let the time past of your life suffice then to have been doing evil: Now learn to do well, and you will reap the peaceable fruits of righteousness. The Young Convert will in the diligent practice of Godliness spin out his Life in a golden thread of solid content­ment & satisfaction.

2. IF we Cleanse our Way in our Youth, we are like to have greater Comfort and Peace at our [Page 64] Death. Death is not far from any of us; Death is behind the Young Mans, back as well as before the Old Mans face. And it is a most solemn and tremendous thing to Dye, 'tis a dreadful shocking time to Nature, and a trying time to Grace: It is usually a dark and difficult hour with the Chil­dren of Men.— As to the Wicked and Ungodly, such as Dye in their Sins, whether Young or Old, it is their common lot to Die in distress and hor­ror. Indeed this is not the Case of every one without exception. It must be granted, that too [...]ny Die in a perfect indolency and stupidity thro' [...]oss ignorance, or in wretched security, thro' [...]mptive hopes and strong delusions: They perish with a lie in their right hand, and have no bands in their Death. They dye, e'en as they liv'd, tho'tless, sensless of their Sin and Misery, and fearless of their approaching Doom! Their Life (it may be) was full of Hal [...]yon-days, they had the Sun of Prosperity shining warm and bright upon them, They swam in the delights of sense, Things ran glib and smooth, they met with lit­tle or nothing to ruffle their tranquility or cloud their serenity; Peace, Peace was the joyful sound; Soul, Take thine case, eat, drink, and be merry, thou hast Goods laid up for many Years—were the pleasant notes they struck to themselves. Their Consciences were gage'd, their presumption strong, their security sottish! Thus they liv'd; and in like manner they die. Even when the bright Lamp of Life is burnt down and expiring, they have no dread of that black and dismal E­ternity that is advancing upon them. Tho' the glittering Sword of Divine Justice be brandisht over their Heads, tho' the Heralds of the Gospel [Page 65] proclame War, and cry out, Fire, Everlasting Fire over them, yet they are unmov'd, unaffected; they are undaunted at the very Gates of Hell and in the Suburbs of Destruction. They fence themselves with Iron, and their Brow is Brass. Let Mount Sinai smoak and flash, and the Law threaten and L [...]ghten as it will, it is but an amusement, not an amazement to them. They shut their Eyes and stop their Ears against any thing that might disturb them, and quietly sleep in the Embraces of Self-love. Their minds are steeled against the dint of Convictions, the warmest efforts will not fasten the Arrow [...] of sharp Rebuke in their brawny Con­science. The fiercest shower of fiery darts will not enter this rock, will not warm this frozen clod, Here they either break or cool. — Tho' it may be sometimes the sound of War is in their Ears, a dreadful sound, yet like a hollow sound in the Air, it soon languishes & vanishes. Tho' they may sometimes feel a spark of heat or see a gleam of light, and give a start as one in a Dream, yet they continue sleeping, & the Terrors of the Lord are but as a Vision of the Night, and as a Dream when one awakes. They are quiet from the fear of evil, & big with expectations of the Glory to be revealed, and it may be wait with a seeming impatience for the happy minute, when they shall excharge the pre­sent imperfect pleasures of Hope for the joys of full Fruition. They make Lyes their refuge, & Falshood their confidence. When passi [...]g into the Ocean of Eternity, They make a Bridge of their ow [...] shadow, and so plunge themselves into the Depths of Mise­ry. From hopes high a Heaven they fall as deep as Hell. A Clo [...]d of Delusion carrys them with transports of joy into the Den of perdition, and [Page 66] they are awakened from their pleasing dreams by the doleful and hideous Outcries of the Dam­ned.— Oh deplorable disappointment! Oh fa­tal presumption! — But this notwithstanding, how many are there, that have lived in heedless Security, and in a perpetual neglect of the Great Salvation, who at last lie down in sorrow, over­ [...]med with despairing Consternation, & with [...]eful a [...]stuations at the approach of ghastly Death, swallowed up in an abyss of confusion in the view of the Pale Horse and H [...]ll following. When [...]re Hypocrites are fasten'd to the Bed of Lan­guishing, bound with the cords of Affliction, and hang by a slender brittle thread over the Ever­lasting Burnings, Oh how is the pleasant Theatre now turn'd into a black and melancholy Scene! Where is the hope of the Hypocrite, when God taketh away his Soul? How are they bro't into D [...]solation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with Terrors. How are they struck with quivering horror at the prospect of that amazing Change that is hastening upon them? How do the sensual Joys of their careless unthinking health flee as a sha­dow, and vanish as the morning Cloud? their laughter issues in tears of Confusion, and their carnal mirth ends in heaviness, lamentation and black despair! Their Calm and seeming Sunshine is exchanged for an Horrible Tempest. Now the dark side of the Cloud is turned toward them. Killing Vexations succeed their false & flashy Sa­tisfactions. They have much sorrow and wrath with their Sickness, (Eccl. 5.17.) And they die in the bit­terness of their Soul. (Job. 21.25.) Destruction from God is now a Terror to them. Now the fiery indig­ [...]ation of that God, with whom is terrible Majesty, [Page 67] flashes in their [...]s, and the Law Thunders loud in their Ears: Now the deceiving Tempter puts off his smiling flattering Airs, and turns a Dire Tor­mentor, gnashes upon them & is busy to distract them with wrathful terrors: Now their hurtful Lusts rend and rage as so many waking Furies▪ Now their inflamed Conscience bites as a Serpent [...] stings like an Adder, takes hold on vengeance, and renders Tribulation to whom Tribulation is due. Now Conscience (which (it may be) they had by some unhappy Arts hitherto brib'd and baffled) speaks to their Confusion, accuses them, testifies against them, condemns and punishes them. Conscience looks over it's faithful records and draws up a black Indictment, reads it with a terri­ble Grin and Frown, and stabs at the repetition of their Guilts; It lashes the Deceiver, scourges the Drunkard, stones the Adulterer, wounds the Blas­phemer with the piercing Eccho of his prophane Oaths and Curses, strikes a mortal qualm on the harden'd Infidel, awfully surprizes the Hypocrites in Zion, musters up the most exasperating consi­derations, and impresses them on the awaken'd minds of Dying Rebels, so that they are like a trou­bled Sea, when it cannot rest, They are afflicted tos­sed with Tempests, and not comforted, they are troub­led on every side; without are fightings, within are fears, indignation and self revenge, all is in a tu­mult & fermentation. Clouds & Darkness gather about them, & the pains of Hell get hold upon them. And now in this day of distress, all Creature Com­forts take to themselves wings and flee away; Their refuges of lyes fail them at a time when help and comfort would be doubly welcome. Riches will not profit them in this Day of Wrath, [Page 68] Carnal Pleasures will not now divert or refresh them, neither will the most exalted Honors be a­ble to support their sinking minds, or sooth 'em into quietness. Now the World appears an injuri­ous and perfidious Cheat; Now Sin appears ex­ceeding Sinful, exceeding hurtful; Now Hell, which opens it's mouth wide upon them, appears the most Terrible of Terribles, exceeding dreadful. No No Arts of Oblivion can cancel the remembrance of their Sins, which strikes like a dagger to the heart; No soft Airs can lay the evil Spirit, nor palliating remedies subdue the an­guish of their bleeding miseries. They are driven away in their wickedness, and a Whirl-wind hurls them out of their place. Thus it is with the Ungodly, this is their common End.

BUT with the Godly it is not thus. The Day of their Death is often the Day of the gladness of their hearts, a lightsome hour, a Time of refreshment from the presence of the Lord. Indeed to some even of the Children of God Death is some­times awful and terrible, especially to such as have been too lax in their actual Preparations, and to such as are of a scrupulous and timorous tem­per, and to such whose Repentance was late, in the close of a sinful Life; To these, and the like, Death is not seldom a dark and difficult time. Youthful follies do often sit heavy on the Chil­dren of God in a dying Hour, and give dreadful alarums to their fear, and dreadful shakes to their hope, and they pass out of the World in a gloomy Cloud, fill'd with distressing doubts. But as to such as have from their Youth feared God & served Him faithfully, it is seldom knows that they die [...]ncomfortably. Pious Young Men, that are nip [...] [Page 69] in the Blossom, do often look Death in the face, with an unshaken Faith, with good hope, tran­quility and joy, satisfy'd with Life, and desiring to depart. And those Pious Young Men, that grow up into Trees of Righteousness, and bring forth fruit even to Old Age, such are ordinarily refreshed with strong Consolation in the Valley of the shadow of Death, and are full of holy longings to be transplanted into the Heavenly Paradice. Indeed sometimes the first apprehension of such an aw­ful and important Change, as Death, approach­ing, do's startle the best Christians, and throw 'em into no little concern, hurry and anxiety. But it is generally seen, that upon renewal of their Repentance and Faith, and a review of their past Experiences, &c. they soon revive, and recover. The Clouds scatter, and the Sun breaks forth upon them and shines with a new and surprizing glory and pleasancy. Tho' weeping may endure for a Night, yet joy cometh in th [...] Morning. Unto the upright there ariseth light in darkness, (Psal. 112.4.) Mark the perfect man and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace, (Psal. 37.37.) Such especially as have serv'd the Lord with all their strenth, and die in a good Old Age, do dye not only full of Years, but full of Comfort. Their Early Re­ligion then affords them an Harvest of substantial Comfort, which makes a Death-Bed easy to them. They have the Testimony of a good Conscience, which takes out the sting of Death, and the Earnest of the Spirit which takes off the terror of Death. They have hope in their Death, and finish their course with joy. They have many times such com­fortable reflections and joyful prospects, as re­fresh them greatly under the sorrows of Pain and [Page 70] Sickness, and ravish the Soul amidst the agonies of a dying Body, and the throws of reluc [...]g Nature.—And verily it is such an awful and difficult thing to die, that in such an hour to have an unreproaching Heart, and the full assurance of Faith, is a Cordial of unspeakeable worth, and all that a Man has wou'd he then give for it. True peace and comfort in the shades of Death is an abundant recompence for the labours of a whole Life. One sweet Transport then is such a seaso­nable Refreshment, as richly makes amends for all the pains that can possibly be taken in the work of Religion.—Oh that we had all of us hearts to believe and consider these things aright! Oh! cou'd we duly realize the unspeakable happiness of having Divine Comforts in our last Moments, Living Comforts in our dying Moments, when we most of all need Comfort, and when it will be most welcome, This cou'd not but very moving­ly recommend to us a Life of pure Religion, and quicken us now in the days of our Youth to turn our feet into the way of holiness. And cou'd we duly realize the unspeakable Agonies of an un­prepared convinced Sinner, when Death arrests him, it wou'd chill and damp the heats of Youthful Lusts, overcast the pleasures of Sin, and greatly embit­ [...]er them unto us. O Let us be often considering our Latter End, and think how awful Death will be to them, whose Life is among the unclean, and how joyful it will be to them, who are undefiled in the way. And let us now get Sprinkled from an evil Conscience in the Blood of Christ, and exercise our selves always to keep a Conscience void of offence, & then may we have confidence towards God; & let us continue in the ways of well doing, and hold fast the [Page 71] rejoycing of hope firm to the end. If we are religi­ous betimes, and give Diligence to make our Calling and Election sure, we may expect to live comfor­tably, and die triumphantly, having great boldness in the Faith, and being transported with Heavenly Visi [...]ns,—Or, if die not so, yet calmly & composedly, or, if we not so, yet safely & happily. If we do not de­part in Peace, nor pass off the Stage in Triumph, yet we shall have a safe passage thro' the darksome Valley, and be translated to the lightsome Re­gions of Joy. Tho' our "Souls may leave out Bodies with an unwilling shrug", tho' we may groan out our Souls with black and melancholy views, yet contrary to our fears, and beyond our hopes, our departed Spirits shall enter into Rest, into Joy, our Masters Joy. We shall be receiv'd into Paradice, a Place all calm and pleasant, bright and beautiful, adorned with the Presence of the Lamb, who is the Light thereof, and in whose Presence there are Rivers of pleasures for evermore. We shall be presented faultless & without spot be­fore His Face in Glory, and that with exceeding Joy. We shall rest from all our labours, griefs and temptations, lay aside our mourning weeds, and put off ou [...] melancholy Airs. All tears shall be wiped from our Eyes, sorrow and sighing shall flee away; all afflictive Evils vanish, all com­plaints cease, and inconceivable pleasures suc­ceed and ravish our happy Souls.

3. WE shall have boldness and joy in the Day of Judgment. When the Wicked shall awake to shame, and come trembling and astonish't before the Judg­ment-Seat, cover'd with confusion, fill'd with horror, and crying out to the Rocks and Mountains [Page 72] to fall on them and hide them from the wrathful face of Him that sitteth on the Throne. While the Wick­ed are in this wretched and dismal Case; on the contrary, The Righteous, and peculiarly those that were righteous betimes, shall hold up their heads with joy in the Day of Christ, when He shall appear they shall have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming, (1 Joh. 2.28.—4.17.) Think, with what smiling faces & ravish't hearts, we shall mount up to meet the Lord in the Air, with what transports we shall receive the Euge of our blessed Judge, with what triumphs we shall entertain the Congratulations of the holy Angels and our Fellow-Saints, and with what raptures of delight we shall shout forth our thank­ful Doxologies to the Great Redeemer, our judi­ciary sufferages to the Sentence past on the wick­ed World, and our Songs of holy exultation, glorying and triumph over Satan, and all our accursed Adversaries.

4. THINK, how, after the Judgment is ended, We shall make part of the happy Retinue, that will with our glorious Head mount up to the blessed Seats, above the visible Heavens, and make their Pub­lick Entry into the City of Peace; how with the ransomed of the Lord we shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy on our heads; and how we shall there obtain joy and gladness, even the fulness of joy, Joy unspeakable and full of Glory. In Heaven we shall enjoy the most pure & per­fect, sweet, solid and satisfying Pleasures. Plea­sures, that will infinitely outweigh the heaviest sorrows, pains and labors that may fatigue us in our pursuits thereof; Pleasures that will infi­nitely exceed the most transporting delights of [Page 73] this World: Pleasures that will infinitely out­bid our biggest expectations, and out-reach our present most rais'd conceptions: Pleasures that will never sower nor wither: Pleasures inde­fective and undecaying. — In Heaven we shall be admitted to the open Vision and full Fruition of God, our exceeding Joy: and there we shall emphatically rejoyce in Christ Jesus; there we shall most intimately solace our Souls in happy Communion with the Royal Bridegroom; There will be the utmost Heights of mutual affection, com­placency and endearing intercourse: and there we shall enjoy the delightful Society of the An­gels; and Just Men made perfect; and with them we shall joyn in admiring, adoring and magnify­ing our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, having our Hearts fill'd with Ecstasies of Gladness, and our mouths with chearful Songs of Praise. And in this happy State, Company and Employment, We shall spend an Eternity, a joyful Eternity, which is the Crown and Perfection of all. — Behold! This is the Recompence of the Just. The common Reward of all the Saints of the Lord is to Drink of this River of His Pleasures, & to Ban­quet with the King in His Royal Palace; but they who have serv'd Him the longest and the best here, shall drink the largest draughts of Heavenly satisfaction and refreshment hereafter. They shall be exceeding abundantly satisfy'd with all man­ner of pleasant fruits, with the feast of fat things, & the Wine of Consolation, when they shall sit down with Christ at His Table on the Mountain of Spices.

THUS we see how Early Religion tends to promote our peace and comfort in this World, and our joy and bliss in the next World. It is a [Page 74] never-failing Spring of the noblest, the most gene­rous and sublime Delights; which the sanctify'd Soul in this Life relishes a satisfaction in, that the whole confluence of Earthly comforts and the sweets of Sense cannot afford, nor the absence of them can ta [...]e away; and which the glorify'd [...]oul in the other Life will be fill'd with unknown Transports and Raptures in the complete enjoy­ment of.

AND now what a forceable Argument is this to engage Men in their Youth to cleanse their ways? Youth is the Age of Pleasure: Delight is the peculiar bait or temptation to draw and allure Young Men. Let the Pleasures of Religion then powerfully recommend unto them the practice of Religion. Hearken to the counsel of God by the wise Man; My Son forget not my l [...]w; but let thine heart keep my commandments: for length of days, and peace shall they add to thee. Bind them about thy neck, write them upon the table of thine heart. Get wisdom, get understanding, All her ways are ways of pleasantness, and happy is every one that retaineth her.

3. ANOTHER Advantage of cleansing our ways in Youth is, that it will be more for our in­terest, profit & benefit. The Apostle tells us, Godli­ness with contentment is great gain, 1 Tim. 6.6. So in the 4th Chapter, 8th. ver. Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.—Blessings are on the head of the just. In keeping of the Command­ments they have a great Reward, and after this an exceeding great Reward. Behold, the Righteous shall be recompenced in the Earth, and much more in the Holy Heaven. Let me say here briefly;

[Page 75]1. IF we cleanse our Way in Youth, We are like to obtain greater Blessings in this Life, both Secular and Spiritual.

(1) SECULAR and External Blessings. As Temperance has a natural tendency to secure our Health and Ease, and Humility to exalt us to Honor; so Frugality, Fidelity, Justice, and the like Virtues are the surest method to promote our outward Prosperity.—Art thou Poor and Low in this World? Religion will contribute to your Advancement. The diligent Hand maketh rich; and Religion tends to promote Industry: The Blessing of the Lord mak­eth Rich; and the promise of this, is only to the Righteous, to them who seek first the Kingdom of God, and seek this World after a Godly sort. Further, to be conscientious, upright, and honest, is the way to find favour and good under­standing in the sight of Men; By undisguis'd hu­mility and unaffected piety Men ingratiate them­selves with all thinking sober People; every one will be ready to pay respect to them, to put con­fidence in them, and put them into business and employment, &c. because they are true Men, the faithful in the Land. All which Articles conspire to promote the Poor among the Brethren. Or, art thou Rich in this Worlds Goods? Your Religion will still serve your temporal Interest, as it teaches you how to abound, directs & influences the enjoyment and improvement of your Estate, so as tends to se­cure and increase it. — And sometimes Good Men, especially such as have feared God from their Youth, have met with signal Prosperity▪ in the World, have been the visible Favorites of Pro­vidence, and remarkably distinguisht on outward accounts. We've many Instances on Scripture re­cord: [Page 76] Abraham, the Father of the faithful, was rich in Cattle, and in Silver & Gold, &c. So good Jacob; All that he did was made to prosper, and the Man increased exceedingly, and had much Cattle, & Maid-Servants and Men-Servants, and Camels &c. And was not Joseph exalted in the Land of his Affliction, made Lord of all Aegypt, and Possessor of the peculiar Treasures of Kings and Provinces? And was not Job rich in Substance, and the greatest of all the Men of the East? and did not David die in a good Old age, full of Riches?—Indeed it must be confest, this is not the standing and common Lot of the Righteous. No; Many that are the Holy of the Lord, are the Poor of this World. God do's not give to all his Children a rich abundance of outward Enjoyments, nor may any expect this but with great submission; yet all have the undoubted Se­curity of His inviolable Promise for a present sufficiency. Hence in the Inventory of the Believ­ers privileges (1 Cor. 3.22.) the Apostle inserts the World and Things present. They have a just Ti­tle to so much of the World as may be truly for their Advantage, and verily they shall not want a­ny thing, that their Heavenly Father knows they have need of, Mat. 6.32, 33. The Lord is a Sun & Shield, He will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. (Psal. 84.11.) Surely the Curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked; but he blesseth the habitation of the just. (Pro. 3.33.) The Tabernacle of the upright shall flou­rish, & in the house of the righteous is much Treasure: but in the revenue of the wicked is trouble, & vex­ation of Spirit. And better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great riches and trouble therewith. (Prov. 15.6, 16.)— How abject & obscure soever [Page 77] any of the Saints may be in their outward Cir­cumstances, tho' they are wretched and miserable and poor, and blind, and naked, yet they are rich & increased with Goods, & have need of nothing; they have the fear and favour of God, the Merchandize whereof is better than the Merchandize of Silver; & the gain thereof than fine Gold, more pretious than Rubies, and all things thou canst desire are not to [...] compared thereunto. Better is it to be of an humble Spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. (Pro. 16.19.) So, Pro. 9.18, 19, &c. Riches and honor are with me, (saith Wisdom) yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than Gold, and my revenue than choice Silver. I lead in the way of righteousness, that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance, and I will fill their treasure.— And when they are visited with di­stressing & afflictive dispensations, God is chaste [...]ing of them for their profit, Heb. 12.10. Tho' They sow in tears, they reap in joy, they reap the fruits of righteousness, which are vastly preferrible to the gain of this whole World. — But now as to the wicked, they are digging mischief for themselves; oftentimes the way of the wicked se­duceth them, and transgressors are snared by de­ceitful Works; "Sin opens the flood-gates for an Inundation of temporal Evils."— But tho' the Wicked sometimes prosper, it is but in judg­ment, and their Treasures profit not. Go to now ye rich Men, howl and weep for your Miseries that shall come upon you. Ye have heaped treasures toge­ther for the last days. Ye have lived in pleasure upon Earth; Ye have nourished your hearts as in a Day of Slaughter (Jam. 5.1, &c.) ‘God will curse your very Blessings, there will be poison infect­ing [Page 78] your most pleasant Cups, and all you out­ward success and prospe­rity will be only like [...]he Banquet of Old provided for the Persian Captive,The late Learned and Reverend Mr. Pemberton. Advi [...]e to a Son. pag. 16. reserv'd for Sacrifice, who was fed high, that he might bleed more freely, when he should fall a Victim to the Altar.’

( [...]) SPIRITUAL and Internal Blessings▪ Peace and [...] in the Soul are the true Riches. (Luk. 16.11.) Now if we are religious betimes, we are like to obtain a greater Stock of Divine Comforts, & more happy Experiences of Spiritual Consolation, (as we heard before.)—We shall also have Grace mul­tiplied to us, as well as Peace. If we begin early to cleanse our way, we shall in an ordinary course [...]r [...]ive to great degrees of Holiness, and extraordi­ [...]ry measures of Grace. To him that seeks shall be [...]iven, and to him that hath shall be added, He shall have abundance of Grace, and the gift of righteous­ness. Early obedience is like to grow unto emi­nent obedience.— It must be own'd, that such as are sincerely pious will persevere. There is no final Apostacy from real Grace: We have not so much as one Example hereof in the Sacred Story, neither do's the Doctrin of the Gospel countenance such an opinion, & it is against the whole stream of the Divine Promises. And God is faithful that hath promised, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Cor. 10.13.) Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit Sin; for his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. I have written unto you Young men, because ye are strong, and the [Page 79] word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. (1 Joh. 2.14. — 3.9.) I am con­fident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good w [...]rk in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1.6.) Such as are begotten again, are kept by the mighty powers of GOD thro' Faith unto Salvation. (1 Pet. 1.3.5.) This is the great security of the Saints, that they are kept by the power of God: & this consideration may establish their hearts against the fears of a final mis­carriage. ‘Provided we be sincere, (saith a Great Di­vine) He will not suffer us to be set upon by temp­tations that are too big for us. Or, in case of temporal falling,These are the Words of A. Bp. Tillot son. Fol. Vol. ad. pag. 314, 316, 317. the Providence and Goodness of God will give us the Grace and opportunity of recover­ing our selves from our fall by Repentance. For the Providence of God may sometimes, for wise ends and reasons, see it fit to leave good Men to their own frailty, and to faint and fall shamefully, & this sometimes in order to their more glorious Recovery, & the greater triumph o [...] their Faith and Constancy afterward; some­times to punish their vain Confidence in them­selves, as in the case of Peter, who declared more resolution, and bare it out with a greater confidence than any of the Disciples, when he said to our Saviour, Tho' all Men forsake thee, yet will not I; and yet after this He fell more shamefully than any of the rest, so as to deny His Master with horrid Oaths and Imprecations, and this, tho' our Saviour had pray'd particu­larly for Him, that his Faith might not fail. From which Instance we may learn, that God doth [Page 80] not engage Himself absolutely to secure good Men from falling, in case of a great temptation and trial; but if they be sincere, He will not permit them to fall finally, tho' He may suffer them to miscarry grievously for a time, to con­vince them of the vanity of their confidence in themselves and their own Strength. The Promise of God is not absolute, that good Men shall be preserv'd from falling; but that the Temptation shall have a happy Issue, and that they shall not finally miscarry. For Promises of this Nature are to be interpreted by us, and under­stood, as we do our Saviours Prayer for Peter be­fore his Fall, that his Faith should not fail finally; but tho' he fell through too much Confidence in Himself, He should thro' the grace of God assisting Him be enabled to recover by Repen­tance.’

INDEED it has sometimes been awfully seen, that Persons have declin'd from good beginnings, and their latter end has been worse than their be­ginning: But it must be said concerning such, They had not root in themselves, (Luk. 13.21.) They had only the external form of Godliness, & were destitute of any vital Principle within to perpetuate their Obedience, and by the just judg­ment of God for their hypocrisy and prevarica [...]tion were left to the lusts of their own heart, and the power of Satan. This was particularly the Case of Simon Magus. The Promise of God do's not engage him to prevent Hypocrites disco­vering themselves; but their guilt exposes them to his righteous Judgments.

AND on the other hand, it has been joyfully seen that such, whose hearts were right with God, [Page 81] and sound in His Statutes, have been stedfast in His Covenant, and continued in the ways of well-doing to the End. That of the Wise Man has often been exemplify'd, (Prov. 22.6.) Train up a Child in the way he shou'd go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it. How true is that Observation con­cerning the godly Man? (Psal. 1.3.) He shall be like a Tree planted by the rivers of water, that bring­eth forth fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither.

AND as the truly Religious will persevere; so they will improve in holiness. It is one Cha­racter of Sincerity, to reach forth to the things which are before, pressing toward the mark. Hence, such, as are sincerely religious in Youth, are like to make great proficiency in the Christian Life. They will be not only stedfast and immoveable, but al­ways abounding in the work of the Lord. The ten­der Plants early set in the Garden of Christ, shall grow up into Trees of righteousness; and the Branches of the Lord, which he makes strong for Himself, shall be as the fruitful Boughs of goodly Trees; they shall be fat & flourishing, and bring forth abundantly the fruits of holiness. They are like to bring forth more and better fruit than others. They will still bring forth fruit in Old Age; (Psal. 92.14.)— There is a spiteful and malicious Proverb in the World, that A Young Saint will prove an Old Devil: The Author of which was the Devil, the Father of lyes: It is a lye and the truth is not in it. "There is the greatest Fear, that a Young Devil will prove an Old Beelzebub. How many Young Saints have attained Mnason's wor­thy character, An Old Disciple? (Act. 21.16.) And how many, that were early Christians have in time come to be eminent Christians? Verily Saints in [Page 82] Youth are like to become Angels in Age. Obadiah fear'd the Lord betimes, and so came to fear him greatly, (1 Kin. 18.3.12.) Job even from his Youth walked in the ways of pure Religion, (Job 31.18.) and see how the Lord boasts of him, (Job 2.3.) Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the Earth, a perfect and an upright Man? and still he holdeth fast his integrity. Indeed in the whole Constellation of Scripture-Saints, none shine with a more radiant and conspicuous Glory than those who cleansed their way in Youth. The Time wou'd fail me to speak of Joseph, & Samuel, & Josiah, & David, & John, & Timothy, and others, who were all rich in Faith & good Works, & arriv'd to uncommon improvements in Grace and spiritual Experiences, having set up the gainful Trade of Godliness at their first setting out in the World. —As the Body of Sin & Death gathers strength by Age, and "Vices like ill weeds grow a pace, and if they once take to the Soil, it will be hard to kill 'em": even so, the principles of the Hea­venly Life, implanted in Youth, will deeply root and sweetly ripen with Age, and the powers of the New Man will come to excel in strength and influence. If we partake of the Divine Nature be­times, we shall grow to a greater spiritual sta­ture, receiving Grace for Grace, and going from strength to strength: we shall come to be almost complete & perfect men in Christ, when others are but as New-born Babes.—Perfection in Grace is attain'd by various steps of ascent, and degrees of growth, and the more speedy our beginning, the higher will our advances be and the greater our progress. Such as set out early in the Christian race, keep on steddily, and spend the vigor of [Page 83] active Youth in running it, are like to stretch a great way forward by that time their day declines, and to get far a head of others, who began late.

NOW that Early Religion is of such happy consequence in the present Life, shou'd be a prevailing Argument and Inducement to all Young People to get sanctify'd betimes.

2. IF we cleanse our ways in our Youth, we shall obtain richer Blessings in the Heavenly Places. Death is a most profitable Change to the Godly, (To them to die is gain, Phil. 1.21) And the Resur­rection also will bring unto them much gain, the Fruit they now bring forth shall then abound to their account.

IN this World the Saints have greater Riches than all the Treasures of Aegypt; but the most of their Estate lies in a better Country, even an Hea­venly. They have an House in Heaven, a Building not made with hands; They have an Inheritance in Light incorruptible and undefiled, They have Treasures in the Everlasting Kingdom, goodly Pearls of great price, and all kind of Riches, which are satisfying realities, better and more enduring sub­stance, incomparably superior to all the Wealth and Riches of this World which are but lying vanities. The Saints have a Title to the Unsear­chable Riches of Christ, (in competition with which they count every thing but loss,) they are joint-heirs with Christ, Heirs of God; they have God Himself, who is the Fountain of Blessedness, for the Portion of their Inheritance, and their exceeding great Reward. Now they have the earnest of the Inheritance in the Graces and Comforts of the Holy Ghost; Hereafter they shall receive the re­ward of the Inheritance, when the Time of refresh­ment [Page 84] and the redemption of the purchased p [...]ssession shall come. As an Heir, when come to Age, enters upon his Estate: so shall they upon the Eternal Inheritance, purchas'd for them by the pretious Blood of Christ, settled upon them by the Promises of God—a goodly heritage indeed, a very worthy Portion, unspeakably great, and invaluably rich! Who can declare the riches of the Glory of the In­heritance of the Saints? Eye hath not seen, nei­ther ear heard, neither have entred into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. We know in part, but how little a portion is heard? The happiness of Heaven is too big and bright a [...] Object for our present weak and imperfect powers to conceive or take a view of. It's enough to fix and fill our boundless de­sires, equal, yea transcendent to our wishes, and immortal as our Souls.

BEHOLD, ye Children of God, the end of your Faith, the hope which is laid up for you in Hea­ven! And consider, ye Sons of Men, the Prize of the high Calling of God in Christ Jesus. Consider, Young Men; Eternal Life is set before you; Lay hold on it. You are now upon Probation for the high perferments, the rich entertainments, and unperishing enjoyments of Heaven; you are Candidates for an incorruptible Crown, and for durable Riches, as well as Joy unspeakable.—Now can any one too soon secure a Title to this invisi­ble [...]nd invaluable Inheritance? Is not this our chief Interest? And is it not our great Wisdom to give the preference to the supreme Good, and to improve present advantages, the first opportuni­ties, to make haste and not d [...]lay, to settle our grand Concerns, and make sure work in a matter of the [Page 85] last consequence to us? If a Man has a price in his hands to make himself (as we speak) for this World, by a good Bargain, or the like, if he have no heart to it, will not all Mankind point at the Fool? He that is wise will be pr [...]fitable unto himself, and he that understands his way will with industrious care embrace and improve all fair opportunities to enrich himself. If a wealthy Friend should assure him Ten Thousand Pounds upon very easy and reasonable Conditions; wou'd he not hasten seasonably to fulfil them, and take all possible care to please and endear so generous a Bene­factor? Now this is our Case; The God of Heaven offers to us a Reward, infinitely preferrible to this whole World, upon the best security, if we will cleanse our ways, and serve before him in holiness, which is but our reasonable service. — It is the madness of folly then one moment to delay accep­ting the offer and complying with the terms. Consider; If we begin a life of pure Religion in our Youth, we secure the Reward, and make our Election sure, that we are safe and happy both living and dying. And, moreover, shou'd it please God we live on to more mature Years, or Old-Age, we are still greatening and encreasing our reward. If we continue to bring forth fruit, and grow in Grace, we are still laying up Treasures in Heaven; and when we have finisht our weary Pilgrimage here in a strange Land, we shall re­ceive the Kingdom, and by Inheritance obtain more excellent Riches in Glory. Great will be our Re­ward in Heaven, greater than others.— For our impartial Judge will proportion the Prize to the length of our Race, and the constancy and fidelity of our Service. He will give to ev'ry man [Page 86] according to his works, in respect of quantity as well as quality: He that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Hence, They that like Hana­niah, fear God above many, they that, like the A­postle, labour more abundantly, than they all, they that set out early in the way of God's Command­ments, that strive earnestly and endure to the end, such shall receive a far more exceeding, triumphant, and hyperbolical Reward.—And is not this a good reason why we shou'd cleanse our way and begin our great work in our Youth? O Let us aspire after the highest degrees of Glo­ry, and the largest share of the Heavenly Trea­sures. Let us set our Affections on things above, and let us set our aims high; high as Heaven, as the heights of Heaven. Let a generous & brave ambition, to be as holy, and as happy, as possible, possess and actuate us betimes, and influence us, now in our Early Days to purify our Soul in obey­ing the Truth, and apply our selves unto every Good Work, that if God lengthen out our Lives, and Opportunities, and afford us proportionable Assistences, we may come to be rich towards God, and to shine as Lights in the World: and when the Earthly House we at present tabernacle in shall be dissolv'd, we may be translated to a brigh­ter Orb, a better Country, and there we may inhe­rit a double Portion, and shine forth as the Sun, while others only glimmer as the Stars. O Let us give all diligence, begin soon and be abundant in the Work of the Lord, and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, if by any means we might attain unto the richest Inheritance among the Saints in Light. [Page 87] Let us fear, lest any of us should so much as seem to come short. Be diligent unto the coming of the Lord, that no Man take away thy Crown. Let not any mean temptation whatsoever induce us, any longer to neglect the Great Salvation, when every moments neglect will lessen the noble Prize, shou'd we at last obtain it. If ever we are brought to mind the things of our Peace, we shall very hea­vily reflect on the many pretious opportunities of getting and doing Good, which we have irre­trievably lost; and we shall blush and grieve in the prospect of those many degrees of Glory, we've forfeited, by out-sinning the days of Youth, our best days.—Thus I've been beseeching you by the mercies of God: But if I have not prevailed with you yet,—

LET me now perswade you by the Terrors of the Lord. If you are not fond of Heaven; it may be you are afraid of Hell. Hope of happiness, and Fear of misery are the powerful Springs of action, and the great Engines to move rational Creatures; and no passion of humane Nature has a more constraining and governing influence, than Fear. If therefore this bright prospect of Eternity has not allured you, I will now shift the Scene, change hands, and turn the gloomy side to affright you.

KNOW then, O Young Men, if you walk in the way of your own hearts, and in the sight of your own Eyes, and impenitently indulge Youthful Lusts, Know it, I say, that for all these things God will bring you into Judgment, and punish you with everlasting destruction. Whatever apprehensions dissolute Youths may now have about an invisible eternal state, However they may drown the pre­sent secret whispers, or louder clamours of a [Page 88] convinced Conscience, and stifle their presaging fears of an Evil Day to come, by the hurries or Business, by the noise of sensual riot, or flattering Company, or the stupifying opiate of infidel Sa­ducism; Tho' for the present they may bravely mock at fear, and securely laugh at Hell & Judg­ment, as only the poetical Fiction of some wild luxuriant Fancy, or the politic Invention of some aspiring humane power to awe the World; However they may resolve the secret rebukes and fears of a guilty mind into the impressions of a superstitious Education, & accordingly give them­selves up to the government of humor & passion, and pursue their ungodly Lusts with an affected and resolved blindness, and unbounded licence; yet let such remember, that as sure as this World had a Creator, so surely has Mankind a Judge; even the Lord God who is Almighty, and can call us to an account; He is just also and righte­ous, and cannot but do it; He is infinitely wise and knows how to do it? He is invariably true and faithful, and hath He said it & will He not do it? "If the Word of God be true and there be any weight in the reason of the Thing," we must all one Day appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and give up a strict Account; All Ages and Sizes of Men, Childhood and Youth not excepted, neither the Persons nor the Actions of Youth.— Even these shall be bro't into Judgment. Such as die Young shall surely come upon trial, as well as others; and the lusts and follies of blooming Youth must be recko [...]'d for at the Bar of God, as well as the Sins of riper Years, and withering Age. The Sins of one of Sixteen are cognizable before the flaming Tri [...]nal of Divine Justice, [Page 89] and just matter of Eternal Condemnation, even as the Sins of one of Sixty. There are many prophane and prodigal Youths, who tho' they are not sunk so low, as to deride the belief, and dispute the possibility or probability in general of their being Judg'd; yet there is reasonable ground of jealousy, that they are tainted with a corrupt expectation of an absolute indulgence for their juvenile follies, and flatter themselves that their Age will justify their present levity and indiscretion,Vid. Dr. Sherlock. Disc. of Judgment. Edit. 7. pag. 290, &c. that a gracious God, will take compassion on the weakness and giddiness of Youth, as He winked at the times of ignorance: And hence at present they presume to live as they list; they think they are now their own Masters, and live at a mad rate, and in wild extravagance. But let Young Men consider, that they (even as such) are accountable to God as well as others; they are now even in their imperfect beginnings the Subjects of Divine Government; reasonable Agents, capable of knowing the diffe­rences of good and evils, endow'd with a power of chusing & refusing, are under the jurisdiction and direction of the Divine Laws, and capable of being governed by them; and hence are respon­sible and liable to be judged for the keeping or breaking of them. But further, this may be ar­gu'd from the impartial Justice of the Nature of God, who without respect of Persons judgeth every man. (1 Pet. 1.17.) Young Men are equally subject to His Laws, and obnoxious to His Judgment with others: should the Judge then exempt Young Men, or the Age of Youth, from trial, (only for some particular circumstances or considerations, [Page 90] which do not at all touch the merit of the cause,) This would be Partiality and accepting of Persons, from which the Divine Nature is at an Eternal distance. But further, this Age is really and strictly more inexcusable, than any other: There are hardly any Temptations befall us in this stage of Life, but what are common to Men, or may be bal­lanc'd by the peculiar difficulties of another state. Nay Youth, before it is actually debauch'd, & native corruptions grown incorrigible, meets with the slightiest difficulties and the fewest temptations, and has the most powerful Checks, Restraints and Advantages of any Age, (as has been shew'd be­fore.) And now for Young Men to break thro' all th [...]se Obligations, & to Sin in the face of such diswasives, induces an heavy aggravation of their Guilt, and speaks 'em to be in danger of the Judg­ment; and as surely as God is immutably just and holy, their Youthful Lusts will not escape His righteous Censure.—Besides it would be an in­delible reproach to the Divine Wisdom to grant such an indulgence to Youth, and let the follies thereof escape with impunity. Can it become the wise Ruler of the World to act so repugnantly to the great ends of His Government, as to licence the villanies and frenzys of Youth? When this is the Age most flexible and governable; the Age of hopes and of leisure, and the critical Age which ordinarily determines the byass of the mind, and forms the character of our after-Life in this World. For God to loose the reins to this important Age, and not pre-engage it to his own Service, and antidote it against the tempting Lures of the God of this World, by the fears of Eternal Judgment, (which only can weaken the [Page 91] attraction of earthly Goods, and embitter the re­lish of fleshly Pleasures, and powerfully curb and cool voluptuous licentious Youths in their eager pursuits of carnal Satisfactions,) and for God to permit Satan to take the early possession of them, and lead 'em captive at his will, to ha­bituate 'em to evil practices and prejudice 'em against serious Religion, which prepossessions will "give law to riper Years", and render it infinitely difficult to reduce and reclaim them from the errors of their ways to the wisdom of the Just, This wou'd be of fatal tendency to strengthen the hands of the wicked One, and to lesson the Authority, blast the Designs, and cloud the Glory of the Divine Government. And there­fore the Judge of the whole Earth, who is God only wise, must be acquitted of an imputation, so absurd, & so full of abuse & indignity. And as sure as God is wise in heart, & mighty in strength, glori­ous in holiness, & just in all his doings towards the Children of Men, so surely may we expect, that God will judge and punish Youth, since it is so reaso­nable, expedient, and necessary.— Let none of us then go about now to banish the thots of Judg­ment, that we may securely live in carnal ease a [...]d wa [...]tonness, as if our Youth wou'd excuse our [...]ew [...]ness: But let us ever live under the aw­ful sense, and governing influence of a future reckoning. If thine heart be wise, O Young Man thou wilt be in the fear of the Lord all the day long, and there shall be a reward, for the Judge stand­eth at the do [...]r. But if thou hatest instruction and despisest reproof, and obeyest unrighteousness, doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy Soul doth not He know it? and [Page 92] shall not He render to every Man according to his works? Thou art inexcusable, O Man, whoever thou art▪ We are sure that the Judgment of God is according to truth against them, which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O Man, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the Riches of his forbearance, not knowing, that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness & impenitent heart, treasurest up to thy self wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render indignation and wrath, tribulation, and anguish unto every soul of man, that doth evil. Therefore hear now this, thou that dwellest carelesly, that art given to pleasures, Hearken, simple Young Man, that art surfeiting on the sickly satisfactions of Sense, and roving in the forbidden paths of Sin; look forward, look downward, and consider, What fruit thou art like to have of these things! the end where­of are the ways of Death. Consider what will be thy Lot, the Portion of thy measures from the Lord. Verily, if you go on to add iniquity to trans­gression, you are a Vessel of Wrath fitting for de­struction. And if you die in your Sins, Everlasting Burnings will be your Portion! If Death remove you in [...] guilty state, This shall you have of my hand, (saith the Lord,) you shall lie down in sorrow, and perish in your Corruption. When the slender thread of Life (the Silver Cord) shall be [...]ut asunder by the Sword of Justice, your unprepared Soul must drop into endless misery. Think not, O vain Man, that the Sinner and Ungodly shall inherit Eternal Life. I tell you nay; but except you repent in time, you shall perish wonderfully. The Word of God which endureth for ever hath told us, [Page 93] Rom. 8.13. If ye live after the flesh ye shall die; You shall die inevitably, die eternally.—If you die in Youth, and have not cleansed your ways, your guilty Soul shall be drag'd by the Unclean Spi­rit into the place of Him that knoweth not God, the den of Dragons▪ from whence there is no re­treat, nor reprieve: And where instead of the present forbidden mirth of Fools, & the forfeited joys of the Blessed, you must reap eternal sorrows and insupportable torments, and be broken to pieces with the agonies of a wounded Spirit. You sport and revel it now perhaps, glory in your shame, and brave it out in fool-hardy presumption: But let Destruction from God be a terror to you. O be perswaded no longer to harden your heart, lest ere long that Sentence of Death ring in your Ears, Depart, depart, ye cursed into Everlasting Fire; And Thou mourn at the last, and in enrag'd confusion make that bitter lamentation, — How have I hated instruction, and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers! Who can dwell with the de­v [...]uring Fire —and come to feel by unhappy expe­rience, that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

AND if God spare your Life yet longer in this World, and you continue to Old Age, and after all die impenitent, and are not not washed from your filth, and healed of your disease, do not imagine that the Holy Heaven is a Hospital to entertain the halt, the blind & corrupt; do not think that God will prostitute the glorious Im­mortality, and receive your expiring Soul, still thirsting after sensual satisfactions, but no longer capable to relish nor allow'd to enjoy them▪ I tell you nay ▪ But you shall be turned into Hell, [Page 94] the proper receptacle of them that forget God: Yea, you shall be thrust down to the lowest and hottest Hell, into the depths of Hell! O how dreadfully aggravated will your Damnation be by your continuance in Sin! The wages of every Sin is Eternal Death; and every Degree of Damna­tion is unsufferable: But a much sorer Punishment will some have than others. The Degrees of Misery, which the wicked shall be condemned to, shall correspond with the degrees of Wicked­ness which they are charged with. The Hypo­crites in heart heap up wrath by every days impe­nitence, They are but filling up their measure, and crouding their Ephah. The openly prostigate are by every days guilt piling up fuel for Hell-fire, to enrage its flames, and heat their Furnace seven times hotter; They are treasuring up heavy ag­gravations, and adding to the weight of their future Misery.

YOU then, that have made a Covenant with Death, and seem to be accelerating your own destruction, and taking Hell by force and vio­lence; Go on, Go on (I say) in the ways of Sin, take your fill of carnal pleasures, "give a loose to all your fire", never baulk your sensual appetites or passions, never stick at any thing to gratify the flesh, take your ease, eat, drink and be merry, never think of abandoning your selves to the mopish, melancholy life of Religion, never listen to the checks of Con­science, shut your eyes against the light of God's Word, and let nothing interrupt you in your sinful carriere; Rejoyce, O Young Men, in your Youth, and walk in the way of your own hearts: — But know ye, that for all these things, God will bring you into Judgment. Consider, O foolish wretches, consider, [Page 95] before it be too late, O consider, that all this will be but a glittering Prelude, a flourishing Preface to a miserable Eternity, (Ah, how miserable! Verily no wit nor words can fully declare, or conceive; nor tongue of Men nor Angels can say, how miserable your future state will be,) where the most doleful Tragedes and sad Scenes of gloomy horror shall incessantly harrass your guilty minds, full Vials of the burning wrath of God, Wrath to the uttermost, shall be pour'd into your capacious Souls; a rebuking Mind shall sting and wound you as a gnawing Worm in your bosoms, the remembrance of former Sins shall be as gall & poison, the iniquities of Youth and upwards shall sit heavy upon you, a burden too heavy; your ungrateful refusals of offer'd Mercy shall sink you into deeper misery, your many foolish and hurtful Lusts shall rend as so many wild domestic furies, and cast forth the rage of their wrath with flames of Fire; you'l be the scorn of Devils and the objects of their cruel hatred, They' [...] gnash their teeth and prey' upon you, bitterly taunt and triumph in your de­struction; and your Tempters to Sin and Com­panions in misery will be your perpetual Tor­mentors: "You that are now Partners in Sin, when you come to be sharers in Woe, as Tares bound in bundles for the Fire, you will be a ter­ror to one another". In a Word, you shall suffer the unrecoverable Less of ev'ry blessed Enjoyment, Earthly and Heavenly, of all Good real and ima­ginary: and Evil shall be present with you, all manner of Evil; All the Curses, written in the Book of the Law, shall come upon you in their perfection: — So that your complicated misery shall be [Page 96] intollerable, & you shall with bitter accents repete that despairing exclamation of cursed Cain,—My punishment is greater than I can bear! And all this is unavoidable and irretrievable. How shall we escape? When once your impenitent Souls are passed into Eternity, the impassible Gulph is fixed, the acceptable Year of the Lord is past, the Door is shut, you are then past hope and help. Hell has now clos'd its mouth upon you, and nothing can break in sunder the Bars of Iron, or burst the Gates of Brass; now the Com­passionate & Almighty Saviour of the World is become your Enemy; His Power is arm'd with Vengeance, and His M [...]rcy cloathed with Fury, and as a consuming Fire His jealousy burns a­gainst you, and will be continually discharging hot Thunderbolts upon you & dissolving in floods of Fire, and all the billows of His flaming wrath shall be rolling over you, and the smeak of your Torments be ascending up for ever and ever! — So that after the [...]most periods imaginable are spent in this unutterable unsufferable misery, it will then be but the beginning of sorrows; for there is an Everlasting Punishment, & an unknown never-expiring Eternity of Wrath yet to come, which is the very Emphasis, the killing Accent of Hell-Torments, and the Sting of the Second Death. And this the damned Sinner shall undoubtedly know; and his despairful prospects of Eternity, (that black and boundless Abyss!) shall continually fetch in new Terrors, give fresh wounds to his bleeding Soul, and exasperate the flames of his incensed Conscience.

AND now, my Son, by these things be Thou admonish­ed. Let Young Men be Warned to flee from the Wrath [Page 97] to come. Seeing ye look for such things, give dili­gence, that you may be found of your Judge in peace, without spot and blameless, that you may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, and worthy to escape all those Things, which shall come to pass, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty Angels, in flaming Fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punish'd with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power; when He shall come to be admired in all them that believe, to be glorify'd in the Salvation of His Saints, but to get to Him­self a Great Name in the Everlasting overthrow of His Enemies. O hearken to the Words of the Curse, and take the alarm, fear and fly from the Snares of Death: and hearken to the Words of Blessing, take the Invitation, and lay hold on Eternal Life.

SEE, I have set before you this Day Life and Good, and Death and Evil. I call Heaven and Earth to record this Day, that I have set before you Life and Death, Blessing and Cursing: Therefore chuse Life.— I have been offering you the most weighty and solemn Considerations to move you to cleanse your way in Youth. O Bring again to mind now, ye Transgressors; Hearken to me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness; Remember, and shew your selves Men. Let what has been said have a warm impression upon you, [...]ink deep into your Hearts, and produce the desired Effects. Hear, and your Souls shall live.

[Page 98]PROP. III. IF Young Men duly observe the Word of God, They take an effectual Method to cleanse, and keep, their way from sinful pollutions.

I have been shewing you, how much it concerns Young Men to cleanse their way; I am now come to tell you how this may be done; namely, by taking heed unto the Word of God. Observing God's Word is the only sufficient Means of Spi­ritual Purification.

I shall speak to this Head under two Articles. As, (1) The Word of God has a Cleansing Influence. (2) If we observe the Word of God, we shall experience it's Cleansing Virtue.

Artic. I. THE Word of God has a Cleansing In­fluence, or an efficacy to cleanse our Way.

TO clear this Head, Let us attend to the fol­lowing Particulars. — (1.) The Word was given to us for this End. (2.) It is excellently fitted for this End. (3) It is the Instrument, which the Sanctifying Spirit ordinarily makes use of.—

I. Consider; THE Word was given to us for this blessed End. The high and gracious design of God in giving us His Word was, that it might be a Well of Salvation to us, out of which to draw water with joy, living water, the water of puri­fication, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, from the pollutions of carnality and many foolish filthy Lusts, which drown the Soul in perdition. This Fountain was open'd for the Inhabitants of Jerusa­lem to wash in from all Sin, and from all Unclean­ness, that they may be sanctify'd and cleansed with the washing of water by the word, (Eph. 5.26.) This River was not created for us to s [...]ort our selves [Page 99] in & make the divertisement of a few idle hours, as Leviathan (the King over all the Children of Pride) sports himself in the hoary deep: but for us to wash our selves in; and that not only our Heads, (cleansing them from the defilements of Error,) and our Hands, (cleansing them from the impurities of open Vice,) but also our Hearts, purifying them from the defilements of Hypo­crisy, and secret Lusts,) and our Feet, (cleansing them from the dirt and pollution, they contract at any time by false steps and unwary slips, when running the way of God's Commandments,) yea, our whole Man, Spirit, Soul and Body, cleansing our selves from all filthiness of flesh and Spirit, perfecting holiness thro' the Word of Sanctifica­tion. Thus saith the Apostle, (2 Tim. 3.16, 7. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,—that the Man of God may be perfect, throughly furnisht unto all good works; and that foul Sinners may be transformed into Vessels of honor, sanctify'd and made meet for the Master's use. This is the great and good end, which God propounded in giving His Word. And Infinite Wisdom wou'd not have so done, if the Word had not an aspect upon, and some relation and proportion to that blessed End. Inasmuch then as the Word was given to us with this view, and upon this design, by the only Wise God, we may hence infer, that the Word has a proper influence to cleanse our ways. And if this End be not eventually obtained on All that enjoy the Word, it is owing to the Sinners contemp­tuous neglect of the Word, or resolved opposition to it, which converts the Sovereign Balsam into killing Poison: and is no ways owing to any weakness, or u [...]aptness in the Means. For in the next place▪

[Page 100]II. Consider, THE Word is in its own Nature (as a Means) excellently adapted and accommodated to this Design. It has a perfect aptitude and direct tendency to this E [...]d, and is every way calcu­lated to help us in the work of self-purification. Consider Two Things; It is full of Light, and it is full of Power.

(1.) IT is full of Light; both to detect, & to direct.

1. IT is full of detecting Light. It is a Light, which maketh manifest. It brings many hidden things out of Darkness, and illustrates many known things, elightening the Eyes, & making w [...]se the simple. (Psal. 19.7, 8.) It discovers to us the primitive purity, & innocence of humane Nature. It discovers to us its present depravation & pollution: It disco­vers the reality & original, the nature, extent, and various workings of corruption in Man; Hereby the Body of Sin is anatomized, The plague of our hearts and the evil of our ways made known unto us; It discovers all the secret spots and deformities of the Soul, and all the defilements and irregularities of the Life, and shews us how evil a thing and bitter it is, that we have forsaken God. And it discovers the Ground or meritori­ous Cause, and the Author or efficient Cause, of our Sanctification, together with the usual method, the appointed means, the absolute necessity, the possibility and glorious advantages, and different degrees, of Spiritual purification. It paints out the Sinner in his true colours, and exact features, and it draws the Saint in His full proportion and distinct complexion. So that whoso looketh into the perfect Law of Liberty, searching and trying his ways, may there beh [...]ld his own natural face as in a Glass; may discern what manner of Man he [Page 101] is, and what the way that he takes, whether it be the way of Sinners, or the path of the Just; and how far he is advanced: What are the evil ways that must be forsaken, and what are the right ways, that must be walked in. Which leads me to the next thing; That is,

2. THE Word is full of directing Light. It is profitable for instruction in righteousness, (2 Tim. 3.16.) It is useful to lead us into and guide us in the good way. It is a Light to our Eyes for disco­very, and a Lanthorn to our Feet for direction. It is the Wisdom of God, profitable to direct, to be desir'd to make one wise, able to make us wise unto Salvation, (2 Tim. 3.15)—All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and are naturally wandring on the mount of Cor­ruption and in the wilderness of Sin; We have gone from mountain to hill, and have forgotten our resting-place the Holy Hill of Zion, and know not the way thither; and we shou'd have wander'd endlesly in the Regions of the Shadow of Death, if the Day-Spring from on high had not visited us, and a sure word of Prophecy been given to us, which is as a [...] shining in a dark Place, a Light to our feet, and a Lamp to our paths, (Psal. 119.105.)

HERE Let me say concerning this Gloriuos Light,

1. IT directs our feet into the way of peace. It gives knowledge of Salvation, by the remission of Sins, thro' the tender mercy of our God, (Luk. 1.77.8, 9.) and the Righteousness of Christ therein re­vealed, from saith to faith, (Rom. 1.16.) Herein are made known to us the Things which belong to our Everlasting Peace: Herein we are directed to the God of Peace, as our End, and only satis­fying Portion; and to Christ, as the Way, which [Page 102] way of Peace, we had never known without the help of Divine Revelation. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks of Himself, as The Way, the Truth, and the Life, (Joh. 14.6.) The true way of Life, the living and true way. He is the Do [...]r where­by we enter into Peace, The new and living way into the holiest, which He hath consecrated for us thro' the Vail, that is to say, his flesh, (Heb. 10.2 [...].) This is the way of God, and No Man [...]ometh to the Father but by Christ, i.e. to God as a Father. This way of God is in His Word expounded to us perfectly. The Scriptures are they which testify of Christ, (Job. 5.39.) and they alone. The great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, Those faith­ful sayings, (worthy of all acceptation,) that Jesus Christ came into the World to save Sinners; & that we have peace with God thro' His Blood,— These Glorious Truths shine forth only in the Gospel. In all the admirable Volumes of the Celebrated Ethnick Philosophers, there is not the least hint, or tittle of Christ, and of Salvation thro' Him. "The work of Redemption is not engraven on the work of Creation, nor of Providence". Apostate Man's Salvation is not a Thing necessa­rily inferr'd from the Being and general Good­ness of God, of which He never left Himself with­out witness. (Act. 14.17.) The Heathen World had but a very weak and wavering apprehension of the Mercy of God. And the Method of this Salvation, is mysterious, and sublime, above the flight of humane reason, how highly soever ex­alted, and no doubt it was a surprize to the Angels of Light and the Spirits of Darkness, that the Only begotten Son of God shou'd assume our Nature and therein be obedient even to the cursed Death of the [Page 103] Cross; and that in Christ crucify'd God shou'd be reconciling the World unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses. This way of Reconciliation is above the ken of the most penetrating natural understand­ing, & is brought to Light only in the Gospel of Peace. And without this, it might have remain'd a se­cret for ever. Christ is the Light of the World, and the Word of God is the only Telescope to discover this great Luminary to the World. Flesh and Blood cou'd never have revealed Christ unto us, (Mat. 16.17.)

2. IT directs our feet into the Way of Holiness. The Word describes to us the good old Way, the way to Zion, and directs all our steps. Here is a sufficient directory for the whole Duty of Man. It propounds the right Principles, exact Mea­sures, and true Ends of Obedience.

GOOD Principles are essential to pure Reli­gion; such as Faith in Christ, the Fear & Love of God, Hope in His Mercy, &c. These are [...]cessary Ingredients of sincere Goodness, prescribed in the Word of God; concerning some of which the Philosophers of old knew nothing, and of the others they took but little notice.

WITHOUT Faith it is impossible to please God, (Heb. 11.6.) Whatsoever is not of Faith is Sin, (Rom. 14.23.) "By Faith Christians may derive a worthiness and virtue to their meanest performances,"—but with­out the vital efficacy of this Grace all their glitter­ing duties are but dead works, & lifeless shadows, unacceptable to God, and unavailable to Salva­tion. But now without the Scriptures, we shou'd be entirely at a loss, as to this super-natural Grace. Hence it is said, Joh. 20.31. These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ [Page 104] the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life thro' his name. The Object of Faith is only reveal'd in the Scripture, and so the ground of Faith depends on the Scripture. True Faith is built on the Testimony of God, and is resolv'd into the authority and veracity of God speaking in His Word. But how shall any one believe, without knowing the testimony that is given? How is it possible for any to believe aright con­cerning the Redeemer, either as to matter or manner, without revelation?—and this is to be found no where but in the written Word, or Bible, (Rom. 10.14, 17.) This is the alone adaequate Rule and Foundation of Faith; and that Faith (whatever it relates to) is not Divine, but mere­ly Humane, which arises barely from natural Light.

AGAIN, As to the Grace of filial Fear, we shou'd also be at a loss without the Scriptures. We may indeed be struck with a trembling horror, and servile dread of God, from some amazing displays of His terrible Greatness, and awful Holiness in the works of Creation and Providence; but that is no gratious passion, which is only tormenting to sense, and throws the mind into a storm and confusion It is only the Scriptures that bring to light those ingenuous considerations, that are proper and apt so to temper and purify this affection, as to render it an acceptable reverence, and godly fear.

AGAIN, As to the Grace of Love; in this we shou'd be very defective without the knowledge of the Scriptures. Love is the generous principle of willing obedience to God, the substance of univer­sal Religion, & the perfective character of moral Vertues. Now the writings of the wisest Heathen say [Page 105] little or nothing of this affection. The Scrip­tures only recommend, and enjoin this Principle; and they only furnish us with suitable and suffi­cient excitations to enliven and actuate it. Love has a great many incentives from the Goodness of God Essential, Creating, and Providential; But this Grace "never breaths like it self", 'till animated and warmed by motives of a superior strain. Unless the Love of God in Christ constrain us and inflame our affections, when we thus judge that Christ by the grace of God tasted Death for every man, our Love is not genuine, & true; but where is the Love of God in Christ revealed, save in the Scriptures?

Lastly, THE knowlege of the Scriptures is necessary to the constitution of a regular Hope. As Hope is the Anchor of the Soul, so the Pro­mises of God are the Basis of Hope; But these are revealed in the Scriptures only. It is th [...]n through comfort of the Scriptures that we have ho [...], (Rom. 15.4.) Without Scripture-foundation our Hope is nothing but Dream, and presumption, and a thing of nought.—Thus as to the Principles of Obedience.

AGAIN, As to the Parts of Duty, what a mi­serable loss shou'd be at without the conduct of Scripture-Light? The whole World indeed, even the People that [...]it in darkness, have some confus'd notion of a Supreme Being, are touch'd with some slight impressions of that homage we owe to God, from the dictates of natural rea­son: but they run into an unaccountable variety of the rankest Errors and Superstitions. Religion changes with every Air, and puts on a new face [...] every Climate, where the Light of God's [Page 106] Word does not shine. Every one walketh in the way of his God, in the way of his own heart, and in the sight of his own eyes. There are that follow after lying vanities, and do service to them, that are by nature no God's. (Gal. 4.8.) There are that know God, but glorify Him not as God, being vain in their imaginations. (Rom. 1.21.)

AS for the Positive Institutions of the Worship of God, (agreeable to what One observes) they re­sulting immediately from His arbitrary & absolute Will, Hence such as are strangers to the written Word, must undoubtedly be unacquainted with their nature, number, ends & uses. And for want of a careful regard to the Word of God, what fopperies and follies do such, as enjoy it, many times bring into the Worship of God? What vain Oblations do they offer, and what corrupt things do they Sacrifice to the Lord, who take their measures from a luxu­riant Invention, and not from divine Revelation?

AND then, as to those Duties that are Moral, of immutable reason, and perpetual obligation, the Word of God is a most necessary & sufficient Guide unto us. It gives us a complete System of natural Religion & moral Vertues, such as the best Masters of Morality in the Heathen World cou'd never afford. Their purest Ethicks were stain'd with impure mixtures, with corrupt Precepts, or false permissions; & the greatest Length that ever any attain'd by the help of their most excellent rules, was only a negative purity, moral honesty, and su­perficial civility, justice, kindness and honor; all which is vastly short of our just obligations. The School of Nature was never so illuminated, as to be able to teach us our universal Duty. But the Word of God "sets before us a Rule of Life [Page 107] pure and perspicuous, in nothing superfluous or defective, but comprehending the entire duty of Man". The Law of the Lord is perfect, (Psal. 19.7.) The Scripture contains all the Ordinances, and Com­mandments of the Lord. It tells us what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God; It shews us what is good, and what the Lord our God doth require of us, and that in it's full latitude, and extent. It describes all those works of Sobriety, (which more immediately respect the govern­ment of our selves) and all those works of Righ­teousness, and Charity, (which do principally respect our carriage towards our Neighbour (and all those works of Piety, (that chiefly respect our behaviour towards God) which general Heads comprize the sum of our Duty, and are the E­pitome of that Holiness, which is the appointed condition of Salvation. The Precepts of the Word extend to the whole Man, direct all the Powers of the Soul, and preside over the senses and members of the Body. They reach to all Cases, and Times, and instruct us how to behave our selves in every station and relation, in every state and condition of Life. The Word of God▪ prescribes the most perfect Law & consummate indefective Rule to order our Conversation by, that ever the World heard of. Blessed therefore are they, and highly favour'd of the Lord, unto whom He has written the great things of his Law.

AGAIN, The Word of God states the true Ends, which shou'd influence & governs us in all our acti­ons, in order to their rectitude. Purity of intention is a necessary qualification, yea, the very Life & Soul of a good work. And be an act never so specious and [Page 108] commendable for the substance and manner, un­less it be directed to a right end, the beauty of it is spoiled and the reward forfeited. A wrong end is a dead fly in the pretious ointment; This cor­rupts & vatiates our best performances. A great part of our Duty then lies in fixing right aims, and proposing regular ends. Now there are inferior and subordinate ends, as the real felicity of our own Souls, and the true Good of our Neighbours, and there is also a principal, or ultimate end, as the Glory of God, to which our actions shou'd be directed. Our duty is not perfect, unless we therein aspire after the Glory of God, as our su­preme end. Nothing is more reasonable, than that we do all for the Glory of God; seeing we derive all our powers and enjoyments from Him, we shou'd improve all for Him; "we do all by Him, therefore we shou'd do all to Him": Besides, this is the same end, which God Himself acts for; Hence it must needs be the best & highest, and challenges the priority of all other ends in our intentions.

NOW this noble [...]nd is no where prescribed, but in the Word of God. That enjoyns an habi­tual, and implicit designation of this in all our actions, and an actual or express intuition and volition of it in more weighty cases. See, Ma [...] 15.16. 1 Cor. 6.19, 20. 1 Pet. 4.11. 1 Cor. 10.31.— But where else is it propounded? As for the Pagan Philosophers, they were most notoriously deficient in this matter. In their most refined Morals, they never mentioned it. They chiefly recommended vertue, only as the way to honor and ease in the World, or a means of pleasure, and internal Peace; And the utmost pitch they [Page 109] ever came to, was to propose the reasonable­ness, the amiable rectitude and inherient excellency of virtue: But this is still too low and mean a motive. "For Vertue is but a Ray of the Deity", and we are not perfect in any good work, "unless it be finally referr'd to His Glory who is the Principle and Pattern of it". It is then the distinguishing character of God's Word, It's peculiar dignity above all humane Writings, that it directs our performances to the most wor­thy end, the Glory of God.— Thus the Word of God, directs us into the way of Holiness. It is a Light to the paths of righteousness, The way­faring Men, though fools, shall not err therein. (Isai. 35.8.) To enjoy the Word is then a great mercy and benefit to a People. What advantage hath the Christian? much every way: chiefly because that unto them are committed the Oracles of God, (Rom. 3.1, 2.) Psal. 147.19, 20. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation, and as for his judgments they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord.

THUS I've shewn, that the Word is full of Light, discovering what is necessary for us to know and believe, and directing us in what is necessary for us to do and practice, that we may be saved. And thus the Word operates objectively in the work of Sanctification.

(2.) THE Word is full of Energy, and Active Virtue. Thus, saith a Judicious and Learned Divine, Mr. Charnock, 2d. Vol. pag. 235, 6. ‘The Word seems to have an active force upon the Will, tho' the manner of it be very hard to conceive. 'Tis operative in the hand of [Page 110] God for Sanctification. The Petition of our Saviour, (Joh. 17.7.) Sanctify them thro' thy truth, thy word is truth, seems to intimate more than a bare objective relation to this work; it both shows us our spots, and cleanses 'em. It is a Seed: Seed tho' small, is active. 'Tis a Glass, that not only represents the Image of God, but by the Spirit changeth us into it, 2 Cor. 3.18. How powerful is that Word, which changeth a Beast into a Man, a Devil into an Angel, a Clod of Earth into a Star of Heaven! 'Tis above the power of all moral Philosophy, and the Political Government ef the best States. It's power ap­pears in the Subjects it hath been instrumental to change, (Hearts full of the filthiest lusts, have thereby been transform'd into Vessels of purity.) And in the suddenness of it's operation (How have Troops of unmaster'd Lusts fled at the Voice of the Gospel-Trumpet, like a Flock of frightned Birds, and left their long possessed Mansion!) and one part, one particle of the Word hath wrought wonders many times.— A single sentence, one plain Scripture has kill'd a Man's Sins, and erected an Heavenly Trophy in a Soul; which shews the power and effica­cious virtue of the Word, acting more vigorously than all humane Reason in the World. This the experience of every Age can testify. Tho' the Word be not a natural Instrument to work necessarily, yet it is liken'd to natural Instru­ments, which are active under the efficiency of the Agent, which manages them. And an Activity seems to be ascrib'd to it by Scripture-Meta­phors. A few of which if we now consider, they will clearly represent the effective influence [Page 111] and active power of the Word to Cleanse our Way.

THE Word is compared to Light; which is of an undefilable quality in it self, and a purifying influence as to other things: Hence it is call'd the refining pot of Nature; The World wou'd be an unwholesome Pest-house without it. Light and Purity go together. Where the Word truly irradiates the dark mind, it also purges the de­filed Conscience.

AGAIN, It is likened to an Hammer, (Jer. 23.29) The Word often breaks in pieces the hard hearts of Men, these rocks within us; it beats down the nest of filthy Lusts in the Soul: It drives home convictions, reproofs, & instructions in Righteousness, and fastens good impressions on the Conscience, as Nails in a sure place. Hence while Peter Preach'd his Hearers were pricked in their hearts, Act. 2.37.

AGAIN, It is likned unto Fire; (Jer. 20.9.— 23.29. Luk. 12.49.) This Holy Fire purifies the Soul, it consumes the stubble and chaff of Corruption, purges away the dross of Earthly affections, & re­fines the Gold, Silver & pretious stones of Grace and Sanctity, it warms the Soul, & softens it as wax, to receive an Heavenly impress; it enlivens the chill'd affections, & it unites the heart unto God.

AGAIN, It is compar'd to a Sword, (Heb. 4.13. Eph. 6.7.) By this the Captain of our Salvation, when here on Earth, kept off and vanquisht the unclean Spirit, saying, It is written—. By this we de­fend our selves against the strong Man armed, who meets us in our way, as a roaring Lion, and if 'twere not for this victorious Weapon, the least he'd do, wou'd be to throw us down, and worry us in the mire of carnal pollutions. Further, the Word, as a Sword, also is sharp, quick and [Page 112] powerful, it peirces deep, shows to the Sinner his inward unsoundness, touches him to the quick, and opens a passage for the putrid virulent hu­mours to issue forth.

AGAIN, The Word is compared to Honey; and that not only for it's sweet relish, but it's purging quality.

AGAIN, To Milk (Heb. 5.13. 1 Pet. 2.2.) which has a clarifying, cleansing property, apply'd out­wardly, and a restorative, corroborating vertue, taken inwardly: Even so the Commandment of the Lord is pure, the Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the Soul, (Psal. 19.7, 8.)

AGAIN, To Food; It is the Bread of Life, and Meat which perisheth not. The Christian that eateth thereof, that eateth to satisfy his Soul, shall walk, and not faint, so as to fall into the miryclay; shall run and not be weary, so as to sit down in the dirt, or stumble down, and be entangled again in the pollutions of the World.

AGAIN, To Leaven, (Mat. 13.33.) which works in a secret powerful manner, producing qualities like it self. Such an assimilating power there is in the Word. It is very pure, and when hid in the heart, it changes the foul qualities, & trans­forms us into the image of it's own purity.

LASTLY, To Water; This Holy Water serves to quench the fiery darts of the Unclean Spirit, and to wash away our defilements, and make us whiter than the Snow. Hence, 'tis said, (Joh▪ 15. [...].) Now are ye clean thro' the Word. So (1 Cor. 6.9, 11.) Some of you were the chief of Sinners, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctify'd.—So (Eph. 5.26.) That He might sanctify and cleanse us, with the washing of water, by the word. So the Waters in the Pro­phet's [Page 113] Vision, are to be taken in a mystical sense, to signify the Gospel of Christ, (Ezek. 47.) tho' in the Letter they may mean the Waters, that by Aqueducts, or Conduit-Pipes lay'd under ground, were convey'd from the Fountain Etam (as some observe) into the Temple for the cleansing of the Sacrifices, and for other Temple-uses.—

THE Word is particularly compared to Rain, (Deut. 32.2.) Showers of Rain serve (among other things) to cleanse our Streets; the sweeping streams carry off the filth and dirt, that we may walk and keep our feet clean. And so the small Rain lays the dust, and mightily befriends a pleasant walk or Journey. Even so the Waters of the Sanctu­ary sometimes come in an impetuous manner, and powerfully bear down our filthy Lusts and cleanse our ways: and sometimes the small droppings of the Word gently distill, and so lay our cor­ruptions, which otherwise the wind of Tempta­tion wou'd blow up to defile us, and to blind our eyes, and stop us in our course, or turn us out of the path, and run us upon boggs, and into sloughs and miles.—It might be further observed here, that Rain-water is the most cleansing, if we use it to wash our selves with; in this the Word is like unto it.

HITHERTO I have spoken of the Word only in it's general notion: We may now view the several more eminent Parts of it distinctly, which seem to be these, viz. Truths, Precepts, Threatnings, Promises, Histories, Examples, and consi­der how all and each do operate to purify the heart, and promote the Sanctification of the whole Man.

I. THE Doctrines of the Word have a cleansing [Page 114] efficacy. The Dogmatical, or Doctrinal part of Scripture, or those Truths, that are the ob­ject of Faith, have a rational tendency, and moral influence to promote our holy living. 'Twas the reproach of the Heathen Theology, that on many accounts it was the instrument of vice; it ascribed not only the weak passion, but odious vices of Men to the God's, representing Jupiter as an Adul­terer, Bacchus as a Drunkard, &c. And many of their sacred Mysteries, as well as solemn Ceremonies, (as one observes) were of such a Nature, that instead of refining and elevating, they rather corrupted and debased their Votaries, and immerst them in all those abominable pollutions, which sober Nature abhorr'd, and which render'd 'em more vile than than the filthiest Brutes. But now the Prin­ciples, and Truths, and Mysteries in the Word of God, have a proper influence towards the spi­ritualizing and purifying of us, and perfecting our Natures. The Apostle calls the Doctrine of the Gospel a Form of sound Words, (2 Tim. 1.3.) Whole­some Words, (1 Tim. 6.3.) i.e. pure and incorrupt in themselves, & tending to prevent spiritual distem­pers, or restore to the Soul it's spiritual health: and a Doctrine according to Godliness, i.e. tending to the advancement of practical Piety. So the Apostle styles it, (Tit. 1.1.) The Truth which is after Godliness, i. e. productive of Godliness. "Lusts grow from Error and Deceit; hence they are call'd Lusts of Deceit: and Holiness grows up from Truth; hence it is call'd, The Holiness of Truth. (Eph. 4.22.4.) This is the triumphal Chariot, wherein Christ rides Majestically to the conquest of Hearts. Psal. 45.4. And in thy Majesty ride prosperously, because of Truth or upon thy Truth". [Page 115] Hence, the Apostle calls the Doctrine of the Gospel c [...]r most holy Faith (Jud ver. 20.) as being the means of promoting holiness in us. So we read of being purify'd by Faith, and sanctify'd by Faith, (Act. 13.9.— [...].1 [...].) i.e. The Christian Doc­trine suitably entertain'd and apply'd by the be­lieving Soul. So we read, (Joh. 17.17, 19.) of being sanctify'd thro' the Truth, and of purifying our Souls in obeying the Truth, (1 Pet. 1.22.) [...].e. in subjecting our selves to the Truth of the Gospel. The A­postle tells us, (1 Tim. 1.5.) The end of the Command­ment [...] which some say signifies properly a Declaration) is Charity, out of a pure heart, and a good Conscience, and Faith unfeigned. All the Ar­ticles of the Creed are designed and adapted to lead us into the exercise of Godliness, & to make us Partakers of Holiness; to abstract us from material & sensible objects, and to cleanse us from our fleshly impurities. — Here we are led into the most just apprehensions of the Blessed God, His Nature, Perfections, and Works, so sublime, as to strike us into a reverential Awe of Him, and yet so endearing as to inflame our Love, and charm us into an imitation of His moral and imitable Excellencies. Here we have represented to us the dignity of the Divine Image, and our present capacity or susceptibleness of it, & this tends to fire us with a generous ambition of assimilation to God. Here we have an account of the guilt, and filth and misery of our natural estate, and this tends to check the tumor of pride and ar­rogance, and to make us low in our own Eyes: Here we are taught the vileness, deformity and malignity of Sin, that it is loathsome and pro­voking to God, and injurious to our own Souls, [Page 116] and this tends to incense us against Sin, and ex­cite our penitential sorrow for it: Here we have the infinite advantages, and ineffable beauties of holiness displayed, and this tends to enamour us with Religion: Here we are told the vanity of the World, which tends to take off our thot's and affections from things below: and here Life and Immortality are brought to Light, and the Glories of the future state emblazoned, which has a happy tendency to make us set our affections on Things above, and labour for the Meat which pe­risheth not; and here the Terrors of Death, and the Horrors of Hell beneath are set before us, which tends to quicken us to flee from the Wrath to come, and to lay hold on Eternal Life. And the great Gospel-Doctrines, that Jesus Christ came into the World to save Sinners, that He gave Himself to redeem us from all iniquity, and to destroy the works of the Devil, and to bring us into the Glo­rious Liberty of the Sons of God, &c. These Truths are a means to create in us an aver­sion and indignation against Sin, (which was the meritorious and procuring cause of Christ's Death and Sufferings, and which in the Cross of Christ appears so exceeding sinful, & exceeding hurtful,) and tends to excite our desires and endeavours to obtain that Sanctification of the Spirit, which is the blessed purchase of Christ's Death, and to get our Consciences purged from dead works by his Blood, and the Old Man in us crucify'd with Him, and the Body of Sin destroy'd by His Cross.—The Mystery of Christ is call'd the Mystery of God­liness, (1 Tim. 3.16.) partly and principally because it tends to encourage and enforce the practice of Piety. Hence the Apostle puts these two things [Page 117] together, growing in Grace, and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, (2 Pet. 3.18.) So (Chap. 1.2, 3.) He speaks of Grace being multiply'd thro' the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, and says, that all things are given to us, that per­tain to life and godliness, (i.e. that tend to cherish the life of Godliness, or promote holy Living) thro' the knowledge of Him that hath called us to Glory and Vertue. And in a Word, there is no Mystery in Scripture, that is like the Tree of Knowlege; only pleasant to the Eye, and a Tree to be desired to make one wise; but every mystery, if pursued in its just and genuine consequences, is to us as the Tree of Life, from whence we may gather the fruits of righteousness. There is no Doctrine of natural or revealed Religion so ab­struse and speculative, but some practical appli­cation may be made of it. Some Articles at first view indeed seem to be altogetheri sipid & barren, as to Piety and Devotion, and to receive their end in Theory; but "as the Licorish stick, at first, looks like any Weed, but chew it and you suck sweetness; so those Mysteries, that seem to be most contemplative & remote from practice", have a vein of Piety running thro' 'em and en­riching them, and a sacred vertue may be ex­tracted from 'em, to promote vital practical God­liness, & cherish the true spirit of Devotion. Hence we are said to adorn the Doctrine of God our Sa­viour in all things, (Tit. 2.10.12.) when thereby we are influenced to deny ungodliness & worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in the present world, and we blemish the Gospel, and give occasion for the way of truth to be evil spoken of, (2 Pet. 2.2.) when we do not hold the mystery of Faith in a pure Conscience.

[Page 118]SUCH is the Genius and transcendent Excel­lency of Scripture-truths, they tend to make us holy, working effectually in them that believe; (1 Thes. 2.13.) and they carry with them a peculiar at­tractive power to engage our belief of them. There is a visible stamp of Divinity upon them, and a mighty evidence, and force of reason & majesty shining in them; There is an unparallel'd strain of Rhetorick in the Word, (The Truth as it is in Jesus,) far above the art and insinuations of the most celebrated Orators. It sets off all it's faith­ful sayings, with an uncommon Life, with a charm­ing beauty, and agreeable simplicity & perspicuity, (which is voted by the best Masters of Oratory to be the truest Eloquence) so as to render them worthy of all acceptation, and to work the mind into a religious prostration and succumbency. Scripture-Truths come recommended with all the motives of credibility, and adorned with the Authority and majesty of God, and are wisely calculated to convey information to the Under­standing, and conviction to the Mind, to awe us into a belief of them, and to make good impressi­ons on the Conscience, and influence the practic Powers. Hence it is said, (Psal. 19.7.) The Doctrine of the Lord is perfect, restoring the Soul; [as the Margin of some of your Bibles renders it.]

II. THE Precepts of the Word have a cleansing efficacy. Consider here,

1. THEY oblige to the most exact and exalted purity. The Word of God gives us a most strict, as well as sure rule of Life. It has not only re­duc'd our "duty to a greater certainty, but rais'd it to a greater perfection", than any other Insti­tution in the World. The Gospel supplys the [Page 119] defects of the Jewish Law, and corrects the Er­rors of the Heathen Philosophy. It forbids all Sin of every denomination & degree; It strictly enjoins universal Holiness, and commands that we labour after the most critical & consummate obedience in all instances of duty. 'Tis true indeed, that personal complete obedience, as the Condition of the Covenant, or Term of Salvation, is not expected nor demanded under the Gospel, which makes allowance for our infirmities and short-comings; if that had remain'd, we must have perish't for ever: But notwithstanding, the Law, as a Rule, obliges without abating at all of it's bind­ing force, or contracting it's genuine extent.— There are not in the Word of God any impure indulgences, it gives no countenance to Sin in the least. It prohibits not only outward gross acts of pollution and sensuality; but all inward irre­gularity of thou't, and carnality of affection: It requires the real and internal mortification of every Lust, every favourite-Lust, without excep­tion. The Commandment is exceeding broad, Psal. 119.96. It reaches to the whole Man & to our whole behaviour under all circumstances: And the Law is spiritual, (Rom. 7.14.) exceeding spiritual, and very pure. It commands us to abandon every evil way, to stifle Sin in it's very first invisible conception in the heart, to fly the instruments or occasions of it, to abstain from all appearances of evil, and approaches to it: In a Word, whatso­ever looks like Sin, or leads unto it, is to be dreaded and avoided, as interfering with pure Religion: it forbids even a lustful tho't, and a covetous desire; it lays a restraint on the most re­tir'd motions of the Soul, and corrects those se­cret [Page 120] risings of rebellion within, in which the most inquiring Philosophers cou'd discern nothing of vitiosity or impurity. By the tenor of the Divine Law we are unclean, if we do not study to avoid even the least pollution in heart & life; "Yea, by the measures of the Gospel, we are unclean, unless we have active purities". We must follow after all positive substantial Holiness, and exer­cise real Grace, and not only so, but endeavour to excel in Vertue, and grow in Grace; and we must not only comply with all matters of abso­lute Duty, but whatsoever things are honest, or be­coming our Profession, lovely and of good report, desireable, commendable, and justly approved of Men, even these Things must be consider'd and drawn into practice. We must exercise our selves to have always Consciences void of offen [...]e both to­ward God, and toward Man, (Act. 24.16.) We must walk circumspectly, (Eph. 5.15.) accurately, exactly, unrebukably. We must endeavour to live in all good Conscience, and to walk in all the Ordinances and Commandments of the Lord, blameless, (Luk. 1.6.) We must ever follow that which is good both among our selves and to all Men, (1 Thes. 5.15.) and be perfect in every good work, (Heb. 13.21.) and stand complete in all the will of God, (Col. 4.12.) and be holy in all manner of conversation, (1 Pet. 1.15.) we must endeavour to walk worthy of the Lord, (1 Thes. 2.12.) we must strive and aim to recover our pri­mitive innocence, yea to attain Angelical Sanctity, yea a Divine Purity. Tho' we come short, yet we must follow after. (Phil. 3.12.) We must be Followers, Imitators, of God us dear Children, (Eph. 5.1.) We must aspire to be holy, as He who hath called us is holy, to purify our selves, even as Christ is pure, [Page 121] (1 Joh. 3.3.) and to be perfect, as our Heavenly Fa­ther is perfect, (Mar. 5.48.) We must press toward the work, (Phil. 3.14.) and be always abounding in the work of the Lord, (1 Cor. 15.58.) if by any means [...] may attain unto the resurrection of the Dead, the purity of the Resurrection state. — Unto such an height of holiness (we see) the Law of God ob­liges us. Well then might the Psalmist say, The Commandment of the Lord is pure, the Judgments of the Lord are righteous altogether: (Psal. 19.8, 9.) and surely they that walk according to this rule, must needs be blameless and harmless, and unrebukable in holiness, shining as Lights in the World. They that keep these Precepts diligently, must needs perfect holiness, and be remov'd from that which desileth and worketh abomination & that maketh a lye.

2. THE Precepts of the Word carry in them the highest Equiry and most evident Reason. They are founded in the Divine Nature, and are the visible Image of God's Holiness.—They are also commended to us by the Example of Christ; and require nothing of us, but what He who is the wisdom of God, tho't fit Himself to do.—And they are every way becoming the dignity and perfectly suited to the Nature and Condition of Man. They contain nothing, but what is entirely agreeable to the genuine dictates of natural Rea­son, and the regular inclinations of the humane Will, and what has ever been approv'd, consented to and conform'd to by the wisest and best of Men. Obedience to them is the exercise of our reasonable Powers, and the exaltation of our rational Nature. (The Law of God tends to the perfection of the [...]oul,Galai I [...]e The [...]l [...]gia, &c. pag. 179. as it orders and directs all [Page 122] the faculties, functions and operations [...]f it to their proper objects, and proper Ends:) And it does greatly consult and contribute to our present tranquility, as well as future felicity. Hence the Apostle calls the Law of God a perfect Law of Liberty, (Jam. 1.25.) And hence the Psalmist makes that profession, (Psal. 119.45.) I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy Pretepts. And hear how Moses challenges all the World to shew a Body of Laws so wise and equal, so honorable and good—Deut. 4.6, 8. What Nation is there so great or famous, that hath statutes and judgments so righ­teous, as all this Law which I set before you this day? Keep therefore and do them, for this is your wisdom, and for your good, (Deut. 10.13.) And hear how the Apostle magnifies the Law, telling us that the Commandment is holy, just and good, (Rom. 7.12.) that the obedience of Faith is a reasonable service, & that to prove the will of God, is to prove what is good, acceptable and perfect, (Rom. 12.1, 2.) And do we not read, (Isai. 46.8.) that to turn our feet unto God's Testimonies, is to shew our selves Men? When we keep the Commandments of God, we walk as Men, we act like reasonable Crea­tures: This is worthy the noble and exalted powers, which set Man above the common level of the visible Creation; and by this we attain the great end of our Being, and secure our high­est interests: whereas to violate the Divine Pre­cepts is to cross the design of our Creation, to prostitute our excellent Nature, and render our selves more vile and miserable than the Beasts that perish. Sin is a reproach, and Lust a hard Master: but the Service of God is the truest Freedom, and puts the noblest Character upon us. It is the [Page 123] employment of our best powers for the best ends. — Let none then charge God foolishly, as if His Ways were unequal, or traduce His Commandments as grievous Impositions. Verily all the wit of Angels and Men cou'd never have drawn up such a com­plete, unerring and unexceptionable System of Laws as those of God. Upon an exact calculati­on and due consideration of things we shall find, that the Divine Laws both moral and positive are the most wisely chosen, the most equitable, condescending & beneficent, the most excellently adapted to the nature and circumstances of Men, and so every way fitted to court our love, to capti­vate and engage every one's rational choice, and religious observation. They are faithful sayings and worthy of all acceptation. — More to be de­sired than Gold. They have no Pefect in them that shou'd demand any Additions, nor Error that shou'd call for Correction, nor Rigour that shou'd require Moderation: But they have such an undeniable fulness, purity, perspicuity and reasonableness, as challenges our observation, and must needs recommend them to all Men of impartial judg­ment & unprejudic'd reason.— And it is owing to the ignorance and malignity, pride and per­verseness of Men's hearts, if they live in the transgression and contempt of God's righteous Judgments. They are the froward in heart and the Fools in Israel that despise and break the Com­mandment. Such are at war with their own Consciences, and bid defiance to their own reason, and the avowed principles of Mankind. There is no judgment in their goings; Their way is their folly. Solomon gives Sinners their most proper and just character, when he so constantly styles them [Page 124] Fools.— The Godly Man alone is the truly wise Man. The wisdom that is from above is pure. The Fear of the Lord is the perfection of wisdom. A good understanding have all they, that keep his Command­ments. Let none then be wise above what is written. Let no one think himself too great a Philosopher to become a Saint; or too great a Master of Reason to become obedient to the Rules, and patient under the Restraints of the Law of God.

3. THE Precepts of the Word carry in them the most Sacred and Sovereign Authority. The Ma­jesty of God, the Great God, shines in them with the strongest light, which gives them the most awing and governing authority over the Con­sciences of Men, & on this depends their cleansing efficacy.—Under the notion of were Rules, the Precepts of the Word only direct us to cleanse our way; and consider'd as reasonable and good Rules they are apt to perswade: but consider'd as the will of God, our King and Judge, they carry with them a transcendent power and authority to oblige and constrain us to universal Purity.— Authority it is, that gives virtue and influence to any Rules or Constitutions. Long experience suffi­ciently testify, that dry rules and bare suasion are but of little significancy with a degenerate and ungovernable World; especially with Young Men, whose Reason is slender & weak, but their Passions big and strong, and impatient of any restraint. Look where we will, we find that the most whole­some Advice, unless cloathed with Authority, is but trampled upon and contemned. We see that the wisest Directions, tho' accompany'd with the warmest exhortations, and the most compassionate intreaties, nay tho' strengthned with the most [Page 125] conclusive reasonings and the most convincing expostulations, are but of small account with the generality, unless enforc'd by some Venerable Power. Now there is no Authority so [...]ful, so binding, and controlling, as that of God. And there are no Laws have such apparent signatures of Divinity upon them, as the Precepts of the Bible. They bear the most palpable and indelible impresses of a Divine Authority. Here are visible the bright footsteps of infinite Wisdom, Justice, Holiness and Goodness. The Precepts of the Word are an authentic Copy of the Divine Perfections and an uncounterfeit Instrument of God's revealed Will. They bear the royal Stamp, and carry in them such an uncontestible and irresistible Authority, as produces (at least) an intellectual veneration and submission in the most harden'd Rebels. Where the word of a King is, there is power. Surely every word that proceedeth out of the Mouth of God, the King of Kings, must come armed with un­controllable authority and majesty: and who is able to resist the wisdom and spirit of power, which breaths in His universal Law? Therein the great Lawgiver speaks to us as One having Authority. The Word of God is quick and powerful (vital and eperative) and sharper than any two edged Sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of Soul and Spirit, and of the joynts and ma [...] w [...]nd is dis­cerner of the thought & intents of the heart, (Heb. 4.12.) The Precepts of the Word pierce to the hid­den and most intimate parts of the Sinner, they go to the very Well Head & first springs of motion, and take cognizance of the most secret initial workings of Lust, & powerfully strike conviction into the brawny Conscience, breaking thro' all [Page 126] opposit [...]on, and "bind down a sense of guilt" on the mind, admonish, accuse and condemn even where the most accurate Precepts of Philosophy cou'd never reach, & where the strictest methods of humane Discipline have no influence. — Hence the Law of God is very justly call'd the royal Law, (Jam. 2.8.) It is the chief and sovereign Law, & it carries a most Kingly Power, Grandour and August Majesty, that when it speaks, every atten­tive mind cannot but hear the Voice of God, which strikes with awe & commands reverence. And this is the peculiar advantage of the Divine Law, which gives it superior influence above all other Laws. This magnifies it, and makes it ho­norable, and powerful. The dread Majesty of God, so conspicuous in the Divine Precepts, gives them a far more exceeding imperative authority and impressive power.

NOW (to conclude this Head) Do the Precepts of the Word aim at such high Purity, and do they carry in them such uncontestible Reason to re­commend them, & such uncontrollable Authority to enforce them: Then they are extremely fitted to make their own way into the hearts of Men; & where they find suitable entertainment, will be an efficacious means to cleanse our way. They are of such a nature and complexion, and so qualify'd, as that they are very apt to draw Men's regards, and win us over to the observance of them; and as many as walk according to these Rules, must needs be undefiled in the way, and without rebuke.

III. THE Threatnings of the Word have a cleansing efficacy. The wise Legislator has seen meet to annex a minatory Sanction to His Law; [Page 127] to be a Guardian of it's Authority and Honor, to be a Terror to Evil-Doers, and a dissuasive from Sin which is the Transgression of the Law. And the Divine Threatnings are every way fitted to subserve the designed end.

THIS I'll endeavour to clear under the following Conclusions. —

1. FEAR is a Passion, rooted in the Nature of Man. An Aversion to Misery is natural to every one. No Man is made without fear. — The Report of the Understanding is the Rule of the Will, in all regular motions of the Soul. What that represents as evil, and apprehends as future, this abhors and flies from. — Hence, The Threatnings of the Word which are messages of Evil to guilty Sinners, are a proper medium to use with them to restrain them from Sin, inasmuch as they address one of the Passions of humane Nature, and are a just Alarm to the Fears of Men.

2. FEAR is the most powerful Principle of Action. Hope & Fear are the two great springs of motion in humane nature. But Fear is the more violent and vigorous Passion, "Usually the fear of Evil more deeply and strongly affects, than the hope of Good". And Fear is also more easily touch't. It is easier of access, as well as more impetuous in exercise. It has a quicker, as well as deeper, resentment. Fear is a tender, a zealous, and restless Passion. When struck with an object, it is more speedy and pressing in its flight, than Hope, when drawn by an object, is in it's pursuit. "Therefore Laws are secur'd by Punishments, not by Rewards". Hence the Threatnings of the Word are a most suitable Argument to make im­pression [Page 128] on Mankind, in that they are apt to work upon one of the m [...]st powerful and active Passions of Humanity.

3. THE Divine Threatnings are completely fitted to be the most forceable excitations to Fear. They are every way excellently calculated to work powerfully, most powerfully, on the Fears of Men.

This will appear,

1. IF we consider the Cleanness and Plainness of them. They are as full and express as possible. They are not given in dark hints: But are drawn in the clearest Colours. We have fair warning, sufficient notice of our danger, & there is no room left for Doubts, that shou'd weaken the impression or lesson the terror of the Threatning. The Law of God Thunders out the dire Anathema, that, unless we stop our Ears, we cannot but hear the Words of the Curse: It lightens and flashes in our face, that unless we wilfully shut our Eyes, we cannot but see our fearful doom. — Now this is a great advantage to the Divine Threatnings. For the motive of Fear is an apparition of some Evil. And the clearer the report of danger is, so much the higher does our fear rise in proportion. Hence the Divine Threatnings, speaking so plainly, do speak the more sensibly, and the more effectu­ally reach the Fears of Men.

2. IF we consider the infallible and inflexible Truth of them. The Evils, they denounce, are undoubted Realities: and the Comminations themselves are plainly revealed, and are accom­pany'd with the strongest Motives of Credibility. They are delivered in the most preremptory Terms imaginable, and we've the highest assu­rances of their certainty. The God of Truth (whose [Page 129] words endure forever) has revealed them from Hea­ven, and hath added an Oath for confirmation, which is an end of all strife. Wherein God willing more abundantly to shew unto Sinners the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an Oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lye, we might have a strong perswasion, & that there might be no room to dispute or question the Execution of His Threatnings. How con­stantly are the Divine Menaces introduc'd with the solemn Preface—Thus saith the Lord— and, As I live, saith the Lord—? And how awfully do's the Lord swear in His Wrath against the obsti­nate Sinner, where He saith, As I live, surely mine Oath, that He hath despised, even it will I recompence on his own head.— And this is one great Advantage to the Divine Threatnings, and gives them great power over Men's Fears. For the just Object of Fear is Evil apprehended as fu­ture. The immediate ground of Fear is the ap­prehension of an approaching Evil. 'Tis the sense of danger, that moves fear: and the stronger the apprehension of an Evil is, the stronger is the passi­on against it. Hence the Divine Threatnings, giving us such full assurance and convincing evidence of the real futurity of the unseen Plagues & Punish­ments of the Wicked, must needs have a mighty force, to awaken and actuate the Fears of Sinners.

3. IF we consider the superlative Greatness and Extent of them. The Threatned Evils are great, exceeding great, beyond expression, and above all conception. The Threatnings address us with a most formidable scene of Miseries, such as Eye hath not seen, nor Ear heard of. Sinners are [Page 130] threaten'd with extreme and everlasting punish­ment, —a punishment, as intollerable as the Wisdom of God cou'd invent; as severe, as the Holiness of God cou'd excite Him unto; as heavy, as the Power of God can inflict; and who knoweth the Power of His Anger? Strong is the Lord that judgeth, mighty in strength, wise in heart, and glorious in holiness. —The Divine Threatnings denounce infinite Evils, the most dreadful & devouring, which the stout­est atlas must tremble & sink under, & the weight whereof the most hardy Sinner has not patience nor power to endure.—The Scripture represents to us the Everlasting Punishment under a variety of Names, that speak terror & amazement to every considering Soul. It is described by Death; by Slaughter; by Perdition and Destruction; by a Loss of the Soul; by a Destruction of Soul and Body in Hell; by Departing from God; by being cast into utter darkness; by Dwelling with devouring Fire and everlasting Burnings; and (which is the Sum of all) by abiding under the Wrath of God; and finally (which is the effect of all) by wailing and gnashing of teeth, and being in torments day & night, for ever and ever. The threatned Punishment in­comparably exceeds all the terrors of sense. The Sufferings of the present time, in their full Col­lection and highest Degree, are not worthy to be compared with the misery to be inflicted on the Damned. It is worse than Death; it infinitely outweighs the utmost evils we can imagine, and infinitely out-reaches our most unbounded fears. Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath, and in­finitely more, Psal. 90.11.— "One spark of God's Wrath firing the Conscience, is more ter­rible, than the most fearful Evils in the World", [Page 113] to affect, and excite the fears of Men. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The Damnation of Hell is infinitely terrible. The Sinners in Zion may well be afraid, and fear­fulness surprize the Hypocrite, when they think of the Fire and Brimestone, and the horrible Tem­pest, that will be the Portion of their Cup.—The expected Evil must be look'd upo [...] [...] great, pon­derous and powerful, and not (easily, at least) to be grapled with, in order to it's creating fear and causing fright. And the degree of Fear is ordinarily correspondent to the apprehended bigness and weight of the object. Therefore the Divine Threatnings which are charg'd with Evils of such an huge bulk and tremendous aspect, and which make so big a Thunder, must needs (if they be duly consider'd and attended to) work most prevalently on the passion of Fear, & raise it to the highest pitch. Destruction from God must needs be a Terror to us. Our flesh may well trem­ble for fear of it.

4. Consider, THE imminent danger Sinners are daily in of the Execution of the Divine Threat­nings upon them. The wicked & impenitent are every day obnoxious to revenging Justice. Black Clouds of Divine Wrath hover over their heads, and threaten bitter desolations; and who knows how soon Almighty Vengeance may like Thun­der surprize careless Sinners, and in a moment utterly consume them? When they are saying, peace and safety; then sudden destruction may come upon them, and overtake them as a thief, and they shall not escape, (1 Thes. 5.3, 4.) God in His long-suffer­ing waits to be gracious; but His patience will sooner or later have had its perfect work, & His [Page 132] Threatnings will surely one day have their com­plete accomplishment on rebellious Sinners. The Vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: tho' it tarry, it will surely come, it will not tarry, (Hab. 2.3.) And, for ought any one knows, the appointed time of forbearance may be just expiring; and the time of vengeance may be hast [...] upon him, even the sad time when Justice shall triumph in the sudden execution of the Curses, written against the Ungodly.— Hence, the Divine Threatnings must needs deep­ly touch the Spirits of every considering Sinner. For as the bigger the Evil, the greater the Terror: so the nigher an Evil approaches, the higher our dread rises in proportion. Apprehended nearness gives us a quicker and stronger resent­ment of danger. It is then a great advantage to the Divine Threatnings, that the Scripture leaves the particular time of their Execution uncertain, and in general represents it as near at hand, even at the Door. And it exposes the mad presumption of that evil Servant, that saith — My Lord delayeth his coming. It tells us the fearful danger there is in putting far from us the evil Day, and warns us not to flatter our selves with the vain hopes of a long indulgence; and exhorts us to flee from the wrath to come, and so much the more, because the day approacheth. The Word of God represents Sinners, as standing on the very brink of misery, as hanging over the mouth of the pit, and being in danger of Hell-fire.—And is not this matter of trembling consideration? What more fearful Lesson of horror cou'd be read to secure Sinners to awaken them? This redoubles the terror of the Threatning.—We read, that Sampson, when [Page 133] asleep in the embraces of his beloved Delilah, awoke immediately on that cry,—The Philistines be upon thee, Sampson. But that is a more dreadful sound, —The Wrath of God is upon thee, Sinner, and the pains of Hell, and the horrors of an Everlasting Darkness, are getting hold upon thee!—And surely if Men are not deaf, they can't sleep out these terrible Claps of Thunder, it must needs startle their Consciences, and put them in fear, chill their Lusts, and awaken very careful thot's how they may escape the impending Evils. "Do but believe, and you must tremble, were you a Devil". God hangs the Sinner over the flames of Hell, and causes the devouring Fire to sparkle and flash in his Eyes; and if this doth not daunt and scare him, what can God do more to terrify the audacious Wretch?

5. Consider; THE Divine Threatnings are pro­portioned to the Sinners Provocations. There is an exact harmony or correspondence between our Guilt and Doom. All the impenitent are under the condemning Sentence of the Law,—a Sentence big with frightful horrors. But some do not Sin under so easy circumstances as others, their Sins are loaded with peculiar aggravations; as being committed against clearer Light, more endearing Love, and stronger Bonds, longer con­tinu'd in, and oftner repeated, &c. Now as these things and the like, do enhance their Guilt, so they do entitle Sinners to a greater Damnation, and fill their Sentence with more heavy and ghasdy woes. By every Sin addition is made to the number of our deserved stripes, & the weight of our future punishment. And thus the sma [...] of a Rod gradually arises to the torment of [Page 134] a Scorpion.— And this Consideration adds to the terror of the Divine Threatnings, makes them to appear with a most grim and dreadful face, to speak in a whirlwind with the loudest and most moving accents, and to shoot their ar­rows with fiery indignation.

6. Consider; THE Threatnings are back'd with the most pathetical and powerful Expostulations. God, who is the God of Patience, spares the wick­ed, suspends the infliction of condign punishment, stretches out His Hand all the day to gain saying Rebels, and warns them of their danger, meets them in their mad carriere, sets the point of His glittering Sword against them, and the terrors of Death in battel-array before them to check their presumption, and offers all the dear dissuasives of Love to bank up their way, and with many compassionate Calls beseeches them to depart from the snares of Death, and with the tender sympathy of a Friend and Father He rea­sons the case with perishing Sinners,—O Genera­tion, ye have not obeyed my voice, why have ye done this? Wherefore say ye, we are Lords, we will not come unto thee? What iniquity do you find in me? Why will you contend with me? Who ever harden'd himself against Me and prosper'd? Cannot I do with you even as this Potter? Do ye provoke me to jea­sousy? Are ye stronger than I? Turn ye, turn ye [...] for why wi [...] ye die? Why shouldst thou destroy thy self? And He upbraids their folly, & laments their obstinacy, How long ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Fa­ther, thou art the guide of my Youth? Wee unto thee, wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be? How long will thy vain tho'ts ledge with­in [Page 135] thee? Circumcise your selves unto the Lord; lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong in the day that I shall deal with thee? And what will ye do in the day of visitation, when I shall blow upon you in my wrath? To whom will ye flee for help? And where will ye leave your glory?—Thus do's the Lord, who might instantly in Justice let fly at Sinners, mercifully stoop to debate with them, & to argue the case with bleeding bowels. And these gracious Expostulations and Expro­brations speak with the most piercing conviction to guilty self-destroying Souls. There is a pe­culiar emphasis in these solemn Appeals and affectionate Interrogations: They prick the Heart, and stab the Conscience; they are as so many pointed darts, or piercing stings.

THUS we see, that the Threatnings of the Word are every way a most powerful argument to excite the fears of Men; enough to shake the proudest Cedars, and strike the stoutest Sinners into trembling horror.—Which was the 3d Thing.

Pass we now to the Last Particular; which is.

4ly. FEAR is a very strong Dissuasive from Sin, and the ordinary initial Motive to Religion. It is the foundation of Repentance from dead works, and of Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Conviction of Guilt, and Fear of the Wrath of God, are the first steps to Conversion, and the ground-work of Reformation. Sinners generally will not be bro't to Repentance, nor entertain a serious tho't of Heaven, till they meet with a rough Sea, and an horrible Tempest; 'till they are stormed with [Page 136] black and dismal terrors, they will never quit the embraces of their beloved Lusts; 'Till tor­tur'd on the rack of a wounded Conscience, they will not confess & give glory to God; 'Till they are bro't to a sense of their danger & perishing condition, they will not be perswaded to repair to the Great Physician; 'Till stung with the ar­rows of God, they will not look to the brazen Serpent; they will not fly to the City of Re­fuge, 'till driven by the Avenger of Blood. Sin will not be a burthen, nor Christ pretious to them, 'till Destruction from God be a terror to 'em. But when the Divine Threatnings strike a dread upon the Conscience, and awaken an affecting sense of Danger, This tends to produce a flight from the ways of wickedness, & a disposition & application unto serious Godliness. The pressures of fear are a damp to the pleasures of Sin, and tend to make the bond of iniquity to be the gall of bitterness to us. Prevailing fear tends to embitter Sin and to cool the heat of Lust, to check the power of corruptions within, and to disarm, controll and conquer temptations with­out; For as the Wise Man observes, (Prov. 1.17.) Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird: perceiving the snare, it will fly the bait. And when Men know and feel the terrors of the Lord, This tends to put them upon working out their Salvation with fear & trembling. When they are afraid of his Judgment, this incline them to hearken to reproof, & and receive instruction, to learn righte­ousness, & break off from their sins by repentance. Solo­mon tells us, Pro. 166. By the fear of the Lord, Mende­part from Evil. So (Ch. 8.13.) The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. The Psalmist observes, (Ps. 19.9.) The fear [Page 137] the Lord is clean, (as in it's own nature, so) in it's effects. It is preliminary and introductory to pure Religion. It is a strong curb of restraint, to keep us back from the soul ways of Sin; and a sharp spur of constraint, to excite us to obedience, and quicken us in the way of righteousness. Fear will put the Sinner upon Expostulating, with tempted Joseph, — How can I do this great wick­edness, and sin against God?—and upon enquir­ing with the trembling Jaylor,—What must I do to be saved?— It will put the Sinner upon considering with the repenting Prodigal,—How many hired Servants of my Father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger: and upon resolving with him,—I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy Son; make me as one of thy hired Servants.— Repentance ordinarily takes it's first rise from a sense of the guilt, misery and danger of a natural state. Legal Terrors open the ear to the Spirit's discipline, and prepare the way of the Lord. When a Man sees Evil pursuing him, and his heart meditates terror, how willing will he be to hearken to any probable Methods of Escape, and how welcome the views of some sure Sanctuary at hand, to retreat unto? So, the Sinner, when warned of God, and mov'd with fear at the dreadful reports of Wrath in the Threat­nings of the Law, how does this dispose him to entertain the blessed reports of Mercy, and em­brace the offers of Life in the Promises of the Gospel? The Terrors of Everlasting Death pre­pare him to receive the glad Tidings of Salvation by Christ, and to fly for refuge to lay hold on the [Page 138] hope set before him. ‘The fear of Hell at first disposes us for the love of Heaven: to escape the one, we fly to the other. Were it not for the Torments of Hell,Dr. Bates, Fol. pag. 227. (which are more easily conceiv'd by us, whilst we are cloathed with Flesh, than Coelestial Joys, and therefore more strongly affect us) Heaven wou'd be neglected, and be as empty of Saints, as 'tis full of Glory. To awaken us out of the deep lethargy of sensual Lusts, (the most pleasant musick is ineffectual,) nothing less is requisite than cutting & scari­fying’. Sinners will "break thro' the hedge of the Law, unless they feel those wounding Thorns, the fearful Threatnings in it". The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, the first piece of the Armour of Light, the commencing essay of repentance, and initiative to holiness of Life. The Spirit of bondage to fear, which comes in by the application of the Threatnings, prepares the way for the Spirit of Adoption, which comes in by the application of the Promises. The Law is a Schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, (Gal. 3.24.) And when Legal Terrors are ballanc'd & brigh­ten'd with Evangelical Hopes, we shall rise to a blessed perfection in holiness. Fear alone is not of sufficient efficacy to cleanse our way: Hence God hath added many gracious Promises in His Word, to work upon us by the principle of Hope. Which leads me to another Head.

IV. THE Promises of the Word have a cleansing efficacy. It has pleased the Great Lawgiver to annex (not only a minatory, but also) a Promiss [...]ry Sancti­on to His Law, which is every way fitted to draw forth our Hope, to endear and sacilitate our [Page 139] duty, and excite to obedience. The great design and manifest tendency of the Divine Promises is to allure and engage us to cleanse our way. The Apostle Peter tells us, (2 Pet. 1, 4.) That they are given to us, that by these we might be partakers of the Divine Nature, i. e. transform'd into the image of Divine purity. And another Apostle uses them as an argument or incentive unto ho­liness, (Rom. 12.1, 2.) I beseech you by the mercies of God, that ye present your selves a living sacri­fice, holy, acceptable unto God; and be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renew­ing of your mind. So likewise (2 Cor. 7.1.) Having these promises, let us cleanse our selves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. q. d. Having such a price in our hands to get wisdom, the wisdom that is pure, having such a blessed motive and means to animate and assist, induce and enable us to cleanse our ways, as the Promises. Let us improve our happy advantage. — These Scriptures plainly show, that the end & office, & proper in­fluence of the Divine Promises is to make us pure and holy.—And this is the Point, which I am now to illustrate. And here a very large Field of Discourse opens before us: But I shall content my self with these following Hints.

(1.) THE Promises have a purifying influence upon us, from the kind & quality of the subject-matter, or Things offered in them. The Goods contained in the Promises are—

1. INFALLIBLY Real. They are not some illusory and imaginary Things, the shadows of a Dream, and the wild visions of luxuriant fancy that have no Being like the lying Vanities (which our deceitful Lusts do often promise us: but they [Page 140] are substantial realities, bro't to light by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who as He purchas'd them by His Death, so he has given assurance to all Men of the certainty and truth of them by his re­surrection from the Dead. Now this thought lays a sure foundation for Desire and Hope; & obliges us to cleanse our ways from a principle of self-love.

2. ABSOLUTELY Necessary. The Contents of the Divine Promises are not indifferent and insignificant matters, of little or no concern to us, which we may be without or enjoy, and our case be much the same: No; but they are of infinite weight and indispensable necessity, the true foundation of humane felicity, the One Thing needful, upon which our All depends; To miss of which is utter ruin, but the enjoyment is our making for ever.—Now this Consideration has a mighty tendency to kindle desires, & awaken endeavours to secure an interest in the blessed Promises.

3. SUPERLATIVELY Excellent. Hence the Promises are call'd exceeding great and pretious Promises. (2 Cor. 7.1.) The Blessings, treasur'd up in them, are the most sublime and valuable; Better than Thousands of Gold and Sil­ver; more sweet also than honey, and the honey-comb: unspeakably preferrible to the whole confluence of earthly Beatitudes; every way proportionable to our various necessities, equal to our cravings, and adaequate to our capacities, enough to satisfy our desires, satiate our hopes, and complete our happiness. Hence the Pro­mises are suited to attract our affection & tempt our ambition.—In every Man there is an un­quenchable [Page 141] thirst after felicity, altho' we pur­sue various objects according to our different resentments of happiness; and when the object is consider'd as attainable, this begets hope, and hope produces endeavour. Hope is an operative and industrious Principle; 'tis the grand incen­tive and instrument of active diligence; and it draws forth the practic Powers and invigorates our endeavours in proportion to the apprehended worth and importance of the desir'd Good. The greater and more excellent the object hoped for, the stronger influence will the hope of it have upon us, and the more powerfully will it wing and animate our endeavours, and draw us to use the means of obtaining it.— Now the Divine Promises engage the highest satisfactions, and propound the most desireable objects of Hope: and hence they must needs (if duly realiz'd and consider'd) have a very attractive influence on Men; for they address in the most powerful manner to the fundamental principle of self-love, which breeds insatiable Desires to promote our own happiness, and to the praedominant passion of Hope, which produces indefatigable Industry in the pursuit thereof. And those must be un­reasonable Men, and divested of humanity, whom a belief of the Promises of God hath no influence upon, to induce 'em to serious Religion, which entitles to the highest happiness.

4. SPIRITUAL and Rational. The Goods pre­sented in the Promises are not carnal but spiritual; They are not the sordid trash of this vain pe­rishing World, visible, material and sensual en­joyments, Provision for the flesh, only suited to pamper the Body: But they are ghostly, imma­terial, [Page 142] supernatural, Angelical felicities. They are Spiritual Blessings, and Heavenly Things, (Eph. 1.3.) Manna from Heaven, fitted to refresh and ravish, to feast and solace the Soul, the great Soul of Man.— Indeed the Body is not utterly overlook'd. The Promises secure external Ne­cessaries to the Godly in ordinary cases. Godli­ness hath the promise of the Life that now is, (1 Tim. 4.8.) So we read, (Mat. 6.33.) Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. What Things? We are told in the foregoing verse; All these Things which your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of. Bread to eat and Raiment to put on.— But this provision for the Body is made with a remote view to the Soul, to ease and accommo­date that. And the Capital Promises relate im­mediately to the Soul: These are spiritual, in that the Goods they tender are of a spiritual nature, and the Recipient is the Spirit of Man.

NOW this Spirituality of the Promises doth tend by a sort of natural efficacy to dispose and engage Men to walk not after the flesh but after the spirit. Hence the Apostle observes, (1 Joh. 3.3.) Every man that hath this hope in him, purifyeth him­self. If a Man have a firm belief of the Pro­mises, a realizing view of the spirituality of the Goods promised, and any hope to obtain them, he must needs be concerned to get his vitiated appetite purged and his carnal mind spiritualiz'd, that he may be a meet subject of these refin'd and immaculate fruitions.

THUS I've argued from the Nature & Quality of the Promises in general. I might now illustrate the Truth before us by an induction of Particu­lars; And say,—

[Page 143]1. THE Promise of Pardon does manifestly and mightlly tend to animate and excite us to cleanse our ways. By this Promise the great impediments & discouragements to Repentance are removed. Hereby our Unbelief is helped, and suspicious diffidence concerning God's reconcila­bleness to Sinners superseded. The uncovenanted Goodness of God wou'd have been but a very uncertain foundation of Hope, and a very weak inducement to Repentance. But now the Promise of Pardon is a firm ground of Hope, and an en­couraging motive to Repentance. And such a Promise the Word of God sets before us. The Gospel sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as a Pro­pitiation for Sin, and Preaches remission of Sins thro' his Blood; and it proclames the Name of God, the Lord, the Lord God, gracious and merci­ful, slow to anger, ready to forgive; and abounds with Promises of Pardon. Hence, the Gospel is call'd the Gospel of Peace, the Word of Reconcili­ation, &c.— Now by the Promise of Pardon, Sinners have their doubts resolved & their fears relieved touching the Divine Mercy: And this greatly tends ‘to overcome our guilty disaffecti­on to God. For while terrible apprehensions of the Deity possess the heart, 'tis frozen with a stony rigor, which the hope of Mercy only can dissolve’. Despair chills and cools all essays to repent, and hardens Men in the love and practice of Sin. A hopeless mind and a care­less temper are common Companions. Faith and Hope are the root and principle of Repentance and Obedience. The prospect of recovering the lost favour of God strongly invites Sinners to cleanse their ways. — Besides the Promise of [Page 144] Pardon is such an endearing expression of God's Love and Good-will unto self-ruin'd Man, as most powerfully leadeth to Repentance: This is a mighty dissuasive from Sin, and a forceable perswasive unto Duty. A believing view of the free Grace and rich mercy of God in the Redemp­tion by Christ, tends to beget in us kindly re­lentings and remorse for Sin, to warm & soften our hearts, and dissolve them into a current of penitential tears and religious affections.— To consider how we have forfeited the favour of God; To consider, that we may now obtain a Pardon, that the most heinous Sins, and the chief of Sinners may obtain mercy of the Lord; To consider, that God offers freely and irreversibly to bestow pardoning mercy on us, on us, who indis­pensably need it, and are infinitely unworthy of it,—surely, if there be any principle of Honor, any spark of ingenuity, or gratitude re­maining in us, we must be drawn by these hands of Love and perswaded by the Mercies of God to present our Bodies a living sacrifice, holy and ac­ceptable to God by Jesus Christ. What can be more welcome to a condemned Criminal than a Par­don? God offers this to an obnoxious World. Surely these glad Tidings of great joy shou'd not only check our desponding fears, but melt our congeal'd affections, excite in us Repentance towards God, ravish our love, and inspire our Souls with flaming desires, and firm resolutions, in all things to obey and please a God, so abun­dant in Goodness and plenteous in Mercy. And surely if the consideration of the Promise of Pardoning Mercy has not this effect upon us, we must be base and ungrateful to the last degree, [Page 145] and have hearts more insensible than the Rocks.

2. THE Promise of the Holy Spirit is another very engaging motive to cleanse our ways. The Word of God promises us the Spirit of Grace to be our Teacher, Guide, Sanctifier and Com­forter. And what good News must this needs be to a lost and disconsolate, perishing World, a World that lyes in wickedness, and in dark­ness! What a suitable and needful Blessing is the Spirit of God? Thro' the supply of the Spirit, we who are naturally without strength, shall be enabled to perfect holiness, and to work out our Salvation. But without the Divine Spirit we must have languisht in fruitless attempts, and perisht for ever in our corruption. There is no­thing else is able to revive and recover us out of our natural state of carnality. The most happy constitution of Body and the most excellent natural temper of mind, with the most perfect rules of living, the highest motives and the best patterns are not sufficient Restoratives. There is no principle of recovery in our degene­rate Nature, and as well may a dead Carcase revive and act of it self, or the lifeless Clay form it self into a Vessel of Honor, as Apostate Man by his own single efforts, or with the uni­versal confederacy of Creature aids, sanctify himself and perform obedience unto righteousness. If we have not some superior Power to help our infirmities, we must for ever despair of possessing our Vessel in sanctification and honor.— Now the Promise of God offers the Holy Spirit, whose Grace is sufficient for us, a perfect Salve for our impotence. So that the consideration of our own inability, or of the powerful opposition of [Page 146] our conspiring Adversaries, need not damp nor discourage our endeavours to do the will of God, and to make our calling and election sure. The Spirit, who is promis'd us, is a Spirit of might and power, of Wisdom and of Grace; every way more able and willing to help us, than our Ene­mies to hinder us.—Now to consider, that with­out supernatural influences we must necessarily and unavoidably perish; To consider, that the Divine Spirit is offer'd to us, and that by His effectual energy we shall be able to do all things, shall be fortify'd against all Difficulties, and furnisht unto all Duties; and by the power of His might we shall be enabled to purify our Souls in obeying the Truth unto the end.— What per­suasive considerations are these? What powerful incentives to provoke us to Good Works? What can tend more to elevate our drooping spirits, to enliven and actuate our diligence, and make us to excite and exert our selves (with a due dependence on the Holy Spirit) in the mortifi­cation of our Lusts, & the purification of our Lives?

3 THE Promise of Heaven is likewise a powerful motive to cleanse our way. This is the Promise, which God hath promised us, even Eternal Life (1 Joh. 2.25.) an happiness becoming His in­finite sufficiency to confer, and us to seek after: a pure and perfect Blessedness. "So glorious and attractive (says One) that if duly consider'd, no Man can possibly refuse it". — This Happi­ness is Great, Unsearchably Great. None can comprehend the just measure, the exact number, and weight of the Treasures and Glories of Hea­ven. They pass understanding. And this considera­tion tends to dash all enticements to Sin, and to [Page 147] animate us (against all intervening difficulties) in the pursuit of this glorious Prize.— And it is Holy, as well as Great: Pure and Spiritual. It is what Flesh and Blood cannot inherit. Our Bodies must be spiritualiz'd and our Souls pu­rify'd, in order to a capacity for and enjoyment of it. Now what a sovereign attractive must this consideration be unto holiness? And how will the serious contemplation of Heaven by a kind of natural influence spiritualize our tho'ts and purify our affections? They, that have a belief and hope of Heaven, will desire to anti­cipate their expected Blessedness; and therefore will the often looking at the things that are unseen and eternal: and by thus having their conversa­tion in Heaven, the Holy Heaven, by thus beholding the Glory of the Lord, they will be gradually changed into the same Image from glory to glory.

THUS we see in some measure, how the Promises have a cleansing efficacy in respect of the Subject-matter.

(2.) THE Promises have a cleansing efficacy from the Tenor and Manner of their Constitution and Proposal. Here it may suffice to say,

1. THEY are Deliver'd in the fullest and clearest Terms. "They are not wrapt up in Clouds and dark Aenigmatical Insinuations, wherein Men must exercise their Sagacity as well as their Faith". But they shine out with the clearest Light, and we all with open face behold in them, as in a Glass, the great Things, which God hath laid up for them that love him. Here the recom­pences of pure Religion lye fair & open to prospect. The Messages of Peace are most plain, express and explicit, & give us a true conception & full convic­tion [Page 148] of those glorious unseen Realities, of which such as enjoy not Gospel-revelation can have but very loose & obscure apprehensions. And this gives the Promises of the Word an attractive influence.

2. THEY are Confirmed with the most inviolable Securities. If the Promises were doubtful or uncertain, the encouragement to seek an interest in them wou'd be but weak and faint: But they are stable as the Ordinances of Heaven. They are ratify'd with the strongest assurances. They are sure Words of Prophecy, most evident and certain, proceeding out of the mouth of God, the God of Truth, and sealed by an Oath, to shew the immutability of his counsel, (Heb. 6.17.) Now this is an excellent character that must needs greatly recommend them to us, and beget us to a lively hope. This World's Goods are uncertain Riches: But the Blessings offered in the Promises are sure Mercies. And what more prossing incentive to Religion, than this? It is the Apostle's chosen Argument, (1 Cor. 15.58.) Therefore my beloved Brethren, Be ye stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.

3. THEY are altogether free, gracious and gra­tuitous. They are the pure result of free Grace and sovereign Mercy. As to the Blessings them­selves contained in the Promises, it is owing to the rich Love and mere Mercy of God, that they are obtainable. The Redemption by Christ was the production of free Good-will, and most vo­luntary self-moving Grace. God has shewn ex­ceeding riches of Grace in his kindness towards us by Christ Jesus, (Eph. 2.7.) God was under no ne­cessity, [Page 149] nor obligation to save Sinners. Nay, He might without any impeachment of His Justice have caused His fury to rest upon the whole race of sinful Man, and have punish'd as with swift destruction, and that without remedy, as He did the whole Crew of Apostate Angels, who immediately on their revolt were clapt in Chains, and are reserv'd as Prisoners of Justice unto the day of Perdition. Nay, the Righteousness & Holiness of God demanded this, and call'd for Vengeance to consume us utterly: But Mercy rejoyced over Judgment, and triumph'd over our Unworthiness, and provided a Saviour for us; in and thro' whom God is reconciling the World unto Himself, and magnifying His Mercy towards Penitent Sinners, without any detriment to His Justice, or defile­ment of His Purity. Here is Love, unmerited, unasked, unforced; Love without Example and beyond Expression! Love which we are as un­capable to conceive of, as we were unworthy to be the objects of! And surely this Love of God (if duly consider'd) must constrain us, must strongly and sweetly draw our hearts, & warm our cold affections, and kindle in our Souls a flaming Love; Love sincere and pure, which will be in us a perpetual spring of obedience, and a living principle of undefiled Religion. But, as the Love of God, His great and free Love, is seen in the Blessings procured for us and offered to us: So it is seen also in the Promises them­selves. It is a further instance of His Free Grace, that He shou'd make Promise of the Blessings unto us, That He shou'd not only invite us, but indent with us▪ and make an everlasting Covenant in all things well ordered and sure; Here is free [Page 150] and condescending Goodness. God might have ruled us in a way of arbitrary Sovereignty, and have offer'd His Blessings in a way of mere Bounty: But He has humbled Himself to enter into Bonds, and engage them to us by way of Contract, passing His Roya [...] Word, and confirming it with a so­lemn Oath, that we might have strong Conso­lation, and strong encouragement unto Duty.— What Riches of Goodness are here! What an obliging and endearing method of Grace is this! And how does the consideration of God's free and generous Goodness in His Promises tend to conquer the Sinners obstinacy, and melt him into grateful Resentments, and work up his heart to a kindly Repentance.

4. THEY are Conditional. Some indeed assert, that the Covenant of Grace is absolute and un­conditionate: but this is contrary to the univer­sal strain, and tends to subvert the whole design, of the inspired Scriptures. The Word of God in­violably connects the Precepts and Promises, Duties and Blessings. The latter are manifestly and unalterably entail'd upon the former.— As to the Promise of Pardon; how evident is it, that we can never receive it, unless we have Repentance towards God, and Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, a Faith which worketh by Love, and which purifyeth the heart?— Again, As to the Promise of the Spirit, if we wou'd obtain it, 'tis requir'd that we invite Him by Prayer, that we cherish His holy motions, conspire with Him in our endeavours, and improve the Means. "There is a common Grace (saith a famous Divine) which God deny­eth to no Man, Dr. John Colliges, of Provid. pag. 476. by vertue of [Page 151] which Men may Read, Hear, Pray, live a civil Life, leave gross and flagitious courses of Sin, and thou hast no reason to complain of God for not giving thee his special distinguishing Grace, while thou dost not do what in thee lyes to amend thy ways, and turn to God. Let us leave our disputing questions —and apply our selves to our own duty, and do what God commandeth us, for which we have encou­ragement enough. I dare assure thee, that God, nei­ther ever yet was, nor ever will be wanting in His further Grace unto those Souls, that have made a due improvement of His common Grace, & done what in them lay towards their own Salvation".— And to the same purpose speaks a very Aged and Judicious Divine among us; — "Sinners (saith he) can do more towards their own Conversion, Dr. Increase Mather. Awakening Truths, tending to Conver­sion. pag. 71, &c. And, Now or Never. pag. 93, &c. than they do or will do. They have power to avoid those things which are an hindrance of Conversion, and they have power to wait on God in the use of means, which has a tendency to pro­mote Conversion. And most certainly if Men im­prove their natural abilities as they ought to do, there will not one Sinner in all the reprobate World stand forth at the Day of Judgment, & say, Lord, Thou knowest, I did all that possibly I cou'd do; for the obtaining Grace, and for all that thou didst with­hold it from me. And as to such as do not give diligence to do what they can in order to obtain Grace, This their slothfulness is the death of their Souls. Prov. 21.25. The desire of the slothful kills him, for his hands refuse to labour. Prov. 13.4. But the Soul of the diligent shall be made fat".— We must exert our natural powers, we must use the means [Page 152] and be found in the way of Duty, and frame our doings to turn unto the Lord, (Heb. [...].4.) else it is presumption to expect special Grace, and depend on obtaining supernatural assistances. We must use well the advantages we at present enjoy, as ever we expect to have more and better given us. For so runs the Promise, (Luk. 19.26.) Unto every one which hath (improved what He has al­ready received,) shall be given (increase of Grace:) and from him that hath (i. e. improveth) not, even that be hath shall be taken from him.—Lastly, As to the Promise of Heaven and Eternal Life; How plainly and peremptorily are we told, that Except a Man be born again he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, and that only the pure in heart shall see God? It is not more certain that Christ is the only Saviour, than that He is the Author of Salvation to none but them that obey Him. These Considerations are of excellent efficacy to dash the vain presumption of careless Trans­gressors, to arm and antidote us against Temp­tations, to restrain from Sin and quicken unto Duty. ‘The Conditionality of the Promises is a circumstance, which gives life to all the rest, and makes them operative towards the produ­cing a good Life. It is a great advantage to the Promises, that God has linkt our hopes and our duty together. And indeed when we consider the infinite disproportion between the Reward and our Service; we must resolve, that he had no other design in making His Pro­mises Conditional, than to engage us by our Interest to that holiness unto which he saw our Inclinations did not bind us; that it was [Page 153] the Artifice of His Love to ensnare us into two Pelicities by proposing of one, to enforce us to take one Good in the way to another, Vertue in passage to Glory.

5. And Lastly. THE Promises are backt with the most moving Exhortations and Expostulations. The Great God, because He delights to shew mercy, descends to reason the case with secure Sinners, who forsake their own Mercies, and beseeches them to embrace His glorious Offers. Thus, (Isa. 55.1, 2, &c.) Ho, every one that thirsteth, Come ye to the waters, and be that hath no money: Come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfyeth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat that which is good, and let your Soul delight it self in fatness. Incline your ear and come unto me; hear and your Soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. So, (Isai. 1.18, 9.) Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord, tho' your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,— If ye be willing and obedient.— So also, (Prov. 1.22, 3.) How long will fools hate knowlege? Turn you at my reproof: Behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you. So likewise, (Hos. 10.12.) Sow to your selves in righteousness, reap in mercy: Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. And so, (2 Cor. 5.20 —6.1, 2.) Now then we are Ambassadors for Christ, as tho' God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye recon­ciled [Page 154] to God. As workers together with him we be­seech you, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith, Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of Salvation.— Let us fear, lest stighting the promise of entring into Rest, any of you shou'd seem to come short of it. How shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation? (Heb. 2.3.—4.1.) —Now what winning Oratory, what ravishing Suasion do these generous Invitatious, these condescending Intreaties, and convincing Ex­postulations carry in them? What an edge do they put on the Promises, and how strongly do they tend to perswade the Will, and inflame the affections, and engage us in the love and practice of that Holiness, without which we cannot in­herit the Blessed Hope? But Thus much for the Promises.

V. THE Histories in the Word have a clean­sing efficacy. A great part of the Bible is Histo­rical; giving us an account of many memorable matters of Fact, relating to past Actions of Men and Events of Providence. The Reading where­of must needs be very entertaining to all, and very edifying to them that will be at the pains, when they read, to reflect seriously and apply wisely. Of such a nature and tendency is the Account we have in Scripture, Of the Creation and Fall of Man; Of Judgments executed on the Wicked; Of Miscarriages of Good Men, and Chastisements inflicted on them therefor; Of great outward Afflictions, and inward Temptations, and Difficulties the Children of God have been exer­cised withal; Of the Conversion of great Sin­ners; [Page 155] Of the wonderful Appearances of God for His Church, This Subject is fully handled by a Worthy Writer, in a Treatise Entituled, Observa­tions on the Holy Scriptures. Chap. 2. To which I must re­fer the Reader. and for particular Saints in times of danger or distress.— The Narratives of those, and other things, which the Scriptures present us with, are very instructive and a most profitable improvement may be made of them. They have a very propitious aspect upon holy Living. They were written for our spiritual profit, & are good to the use of edifying, to minister Grace unto us. Thus the Apostle wit­nesses, (Rom. 15.4.) Whatsoever things were writ­ten aforetime, were written for our Learning. So, (1 Cor. 10.11.) All these things happen'd unto them for Ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. And agreably we are told, (2 Pet. 2.6. & Jude ver. 7.) That the Judgments executed on the wicked Sodomites are set forth for an example unto those that should after live ungodly. And on the other hand, the Apostle Paul tells us, (1 Tim. 1.16.) For this end I obtained mercy, that in me, the first or chief Sinner, Jesus Christ might shew sorth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him.

VI. THE Examples of pure Religion, upon Scrip­ture-record have a cleansing efficacy. Example is the most powerful attractive to Practice. It affords superior Light to direct, and carries in it a pe­culiar charm to perswade. Good Examples teach us our Duty with a much fuller emphasis, than bare Precepts. Example is most compendious, most pleasant & efficacious method of instruction. It is most informing and affecting. It speaks most [Page 156] convincingly and strikes us most sensibly. The holy Lives of the Saints are a silent and most effectual reproof of Sinners, and greatly tend to cover them with shame. And they are a liv­ing incentive to the Penitent; they tend to cherish their hopes, by representing their Duty as practicable, & they tend also to tempt their am­bition, & provoke them to a laudable Emulation.

NOW the Word of God furnishes us with the best and brightest Patterns of Holiness. There is the grand Example of Jesus Christ, which is eminently recommended to our regards. This is a most perfect, full, and infallible Example, affording complete, universal and unerring di­rection.—And it is also most obvious and fami­liar, excellently accommodated to our present imperfect state, and to the different circumstan­ces and capacities of Men, making our way straight before our face, and leading us in a plain path.— And it is cloathed with such respects, as can't but powerfully perswade us to imitation. 'Tis the Precedent of Him, who is our Sovereign; and carries a binding force with it, & challen­ges our conformity thereunto as matter of Duty. Again, It is the President of One, who is the Chief among Ten Thousand; and invites us to study a resemblance from the motive of Honour. And moreover, 'Tis the Example of Him, who is our compassionate Saviour, who subsisting in the former nature of God, thought it not usurpation to be al­together equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a Servant; and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto Death; & this to purchase Heaven and Happiness for us, (Sinners [Page 157] and Enemies against Him,) and to leave us an Example, to lead us in the way thereunto. Now what an endearing and unparallel'd instance of Condescension, Kindness and Mercy is here? And how shou'd we be induced from the in­genuous principles of Love and Gratitude to fol­low the steps, and imitate the virtues of our dearest Friend, and most generous Benefactor.

BUT further, besides the perfect Example of Christ, we have the Examples of the Saints; which tho' imperfect, yet are not superseded by the former: But also have their singular use in the Christian Life, even as the Stars are some­times profitable to direct as well as the Sun. Hence we are call'd upon, not only to look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our Faith, and to consider Him: but also to be Followers of them who thro' faith and patience inherit the Promises. And indeed, tho' the Example of Christ, in respect of it's perfect purity is more sure to direct us: yet on some accounts the Examples of the Saints (they being Men of like passions with us, of like moral infirmities, and not only in all points tempted like as we are, even as Christ was, but also, as He was not, sometimes overcome by the power of Temptations and overtaken with faults,) may seem more suited to encourage us. They seem to come nearer, and to be more equal and level to us. And for this reason, The Lives of many Holy Men are written and registred in the sacred Pages; And we are bidden to follow them as they followed Christ; to observe their Vertues and take Example by them, as well as to observe their Falls and take warning from them.

SO that, (we see) if there be any force in [Page 158] Example to tempt and allure us unto holy Liv­ing, the Word of God must needs have a very powerful influence upon us.

THUS I've (in some measure) made it appear, that the Word of God in it's own nature as a Means, is excellently fitted and greatly tends to purify our way: and have consider'd the whole Frame of the Word, and shewn how all the parts of it do admirably conspire and har­monize in promoting our Sanctification.— Which was the Second Thing. Pass we now to the Last Particular, which is—

III. THE Word is the chosen Instrument of the Holy Spirit, and is ordinarily accompany'd with His Influence. The Word has a perfect natural con­gruity and aptitude, & an instrumental causality, to cleanse and sanctify us. It has so much and no more in it self. But over and above what virtue the Word carries in it's own nature ab­stractly consider'd, there is an additional co­operating influence of the Divine Spirit. Indeed what Help we have by the Word itself is the fruit of the Spirit; but this is not the whole of the Spirit's influence in the work of Sanctification. Besides this, There is an internal agency of the Holy Spirit upon the Heart, a secret Divine Power, which accompanying the Word, gives life and efficacy thereunto.

THERE is a Common Grace, or general assist­ence of the Spirit, always attending the Word, and dispensed to all, tho' not in an equal degree, and proportion, which has a tendency to Con­version, and is sufficient to take off the idle pre­tence of spiritual impotence, and renders all those [Page 159] inexcusable, that under the Gospel remain carnal and disobedient. Hence such are said to receive the Grace of God in vain, and to resist the Holy Ghost.

AND there is a more Special Grace, or parti­cular Assistence, accompanying the Word unto the Souls of some, which worketh effectually in them, and these are ordinarily such as have im­proved former and lesser Assistences. Those who are humbly and diligently using the Means, praying for the Spirit, concurring with His holy Motions, and abandoning their evil ways, it is the usual method of the Spirit, to derive unto them higher and more peculiar Assistences, to create in them a clean heart, and make them Partakers of the Divine Nature, to make them perfect in every good work, to do the will of God, working in them that which is well pleasing in his sight. This is the standing method of the Spirit's proceeding with those, who enjoy the Means of Grace, from which He doth not ordi­narily vary. Indeed "the Apostle Paul, before his Conversion, was so far from being under any preparatory disposition, that he was employing his strength to destroy the Faith of Christ, at that time, when he was effectually call'd by him". But this is an extraordinarry instance, to shew the sovereignty and power of Divine Grace. And they that take encouragement from it to neglect and slight the use of Means, under a shew of waiting for the Spirit, and do magnify this, and nullify that, are Men of strange pre­sumption, and do cast a foul indignity on the wise appointments of Heaven, and offer violence to the establisht method of Grace.—The Word and Spirit (in ordinary cases) have a concomi­tant, [Page 160] tho' not equal, Agency in our Conversion and Sanctification; The Spirit as the Efficient, the Word as the Instrument. The Spirit ordi­narily works by and with the Word. Hence, we find Sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the Truth put together, (2 Thes. 2.13.) Hence, the Gos­pel is call'd, The Ministration of the Spirit, The Sword of the Spirit, The Law of the Spirit of Life, The Power of God unto Salvation. Hence, when the Gospel comes in power, it is said to come in the Holy Ghost, (1 Thes. 1.5.) Hence, The Saints are said to purify their Souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, (1 Pet. 1.22.) and to be the Epistle of Christ, ministred by the ministers of Christ, writ­ten not with Ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God; and beholding in the Word as in a glass the Glory of the Lord, to be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, (1 Cor. 3.3, 18.) Hence, The Apostle makes that appeal to the Galatians, Received ye the Spi­rit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of Faith? (Gal. 3.2.)—These Scriptures make it sufficiently evident, that the Word is the ordi­nary instrument of the sanctifying Spirit, and accompany'd with His sacred Presence. It is the Chariot in which He rides forth conquering and to conquer; The Wings, by which He descends into the Soul; the Channel in which He conveys the waters of Purification. And we have a gra­cious Promise, (Isai. 59.21.) that the Word and Spirit shall always be concomitant.

THUS I've somewhat largely Discours'd on the First Article propos'd to consideration, which was, that The Word of God has a cleansing influ­ence. I proceed now to say something very briefly to—

[Page 161]Artic. II. Which is this; namely, IF we take heed to the Word of God, we shall experience it's cleansing efficacy.

HERE I might premise; That, If ever we ex­pect the Word of God shou'd cleanse us, we must necessarily take heed unto it. The Word indeed is a means of Sanctification, & a most fit & powerful means; but we can never reap any saving benefit from it, without a due regard to it, & improvement of it. Therefore the Young Man in order to cleanse his way, is directed in our Text, to take heed to the Word of God. We must observe it strictly, as the Original imports. We must carefully mark it, and set our heart to it. We must search the Scriptures for knowlege, as for precious sub­stance, and must hide it in our hearts, and there pre­serve it as a Treasure. We must incline our ear to wisdom and apply our heart to understanding. We must meditate in the Law of God day and night, and have respect to all his ways. We must receive and reverence the Word, as the Word of God: We must acknowledge it's authority, yield our selves up to the power, and acquaint our selves with the contents of it. We must be much in con­versing with the Word Written, and frequent in attending on the Word Preacht: We must take heed also how we hear and how we read.

WE must take heed to the Truths of the Word, as the Standard of our Faith, and hold fast the form of sound words, in saith and love which is in Christ Jesus. So likewise we must take heed to the Precepts of the Word, as the Directory of our practice, and observe them as Sailors do the Compass whereby they steer; We must inform our selves of the Rule, and conform our selves [Page 162] unto it. Again, We must take heed to the Threatnings, to learn our danger and quicken us to avoid it, as the Traveller is circumspect and careful to spy and shun Praecipes, Sloughs and By-paths. Again, We must take heed to the Pro­mises, to learn our happiness, and animate us to pursue it, as the Racer locks to the Prize that is set before him: And further, we must take heed to the Examples in the Word to imitate them, as a Painter looks on the Object, as the Writer observes his Copy, or the Workman his Pattern. In short, We must take heed to the whole Word of God. We must set our hearts to all things whatsoever it testifies unto us, (Deut. 32.46.)

WE must take heed to the Design and Use of the holy Word, keep that in our eye, affect our hearts with it, and always use the means with serious views to the blessed End.

MOREOVER, We must take heed to the Spi­rit, by whose Inspiration the Word was written, and by whose Blessing it is succeeded; we must realize the necessity of His presence with the Word, we must implore His special Influence to accompany it, rely on His powerful Grace to render it efficacious, lay our Souls open there­unto, observe His workings in us, cherish con­victions, and improve every good impression He makes on us by the Word at any time.

AND if we thus take heed to the Word, we shall find it an effectual method to cleanse our way. This Truth is evident as from other Con­siderations, so especially from the Promise of God, and the Experience of the Saints.—The Promise is unto such. Thus we read, (1 Jam. 1.25.) Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [Page 163] therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. So, (Mar. 4.24.) Take heed to what ye hear: And unto you that hear shall more be given. So (Isai. 55.1.) Hear, and your Soul shall live. — These blessed Promises unto those that hear, or ob­serve and take heed to the Word, are a sufficient ground of assurance, that such shall not fail of the Grace of God.— And the universal Expe­rience of the Saints is an abundant confirmation of this Truth. 'Twas in this way they all escaped the pollutions of the world; they purify'd their Souls in obeying the Truth. To which of the Saints wilt thou turn? If we appeal to the Saints in Light, they will with one voice tell us, that by observing the Word of God they were made meet for their Inheritance. If we enquire of the Saints that are in the Earth, they will pro­fess with the Psalmist, By the Word I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. The Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against God. Salvation is far from the wicked, for they seek not his statutes. But my heart standeth in awe of his word. I have hoped for his salvation and done his commandments. I will never forget his precepts, for his word hath quicken'd me. I will walk at liberty, for I seek his precepts.

OBSERVING the Word is then a most sure and infallible method of cleansing. The Word of the Lord is try'd. It is a means, that never has fail'd such as have diligently improv'd it; and this is sufficient Argument, it never will. And as many as take heed unto the Word of God, must needs be undefiled in the way, and also do no ini­quity. Whosoever is born again, not of corruptible [Page 164] seed but incorruptible, by the word of God, he doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, (1 Pet. 1.23. & 1 Joh. 3.9. compa.)

THESE few Hints may suffice for this Last Article.

AND thus I've finisht the Doctrinal Handling of the Text, and in some sort cleared the Three Points propos'd to be spoken to; Namely, That the way of Youth is naturally defiled: That it great­ly concerns Persons in their Youth to get their way Cleansed: And Lastly, That if Young Men (or any others) duly observe the Word of God, they take a most direct and effectual method to cleanse, and keep, their way from sinful defilements.

AND now I proceed to make some brief APPLICATION of these Things distinctly.

USE. I. IS the way of Youth defiled, What ground of Self-abasement is here? How should this shame and humble us? How shou'd it correct the vanity and mortify the levity of Young Men, to consider their natural depravation & contracted defilements? Consider this, ye that forget God; and Be not high-minded, but be ye clothed with hu­mility. Pride not your selves in any Privileges of Birth or Education, in any accomplishments of Body or Mind, in any temporal enjoyments or external advantages of Life, and the like; for so long as your way is defiled, this tarnishes the glory of all, and sheds a fatal taint into all the Blessing you enjoy, renders your Persons odious in the Eyes of the Holy God, and exposes you to all the Curses which His infinite Wisdom can invent, or His infinite Power inflict, which is shame and terror enough. It is owing to igno­rance [Page 165] and inconsideration of these things, that so many Young Men, as well as others, are vainly p [...]fft up by their fleshly mind, and walk in the lust of Pride. They wou'd rate Themselves and their Accomplishments a little lower, did they but consider what black & filthy feet these proud Plumes walk upon; or what roots of bitterness they are, which bear these gawdy flowers, what corrupt Trees they are, which bear these painted fruits. Our original Corruption and actual Pol­lutions are sufficient matter of humiliation to us, and a just allay of swelling arrogance. We may well bemoan our selves as wretched Men, 'till we are deliver'd from the Body of this Death, however happy we may be as to Bodily or Men­tal Endowments, or Worldly Enjoyments. And we should temper the tho'ts of the one, by sui­table reflections on the other, to make us lowly in our own Eyes, and to keep us from thinking more highly of our selves, than we ought to think.

USE. II. DOES it greatly concern Men in their Youth to get their way cleansed? This might be improved —

1. TO detect the Folly, and show the Misery and Danger of all Young People, (and much more of Elder People) who contentedly abide in the state of polluted nature, and resolvedly go on in their ways of iniquity.

2. TO rebuke the madness and wickedness of those Sons of Belial, th [...]s [...] Children of the Devil, and Factors for Hell, who try to corrupt and defile [...]oung Persons: who not only do iniquity themselves, but also take pleasure in them that do the same, and take pains to hearten & harden deb [...]cht Youths in sin­ful [...]es, and by cursed Example sollicitation, or [Page 166] otherwise try to pervert the way of the innocent, and tempt them to practise wicked works with themselves, and so to betray them into the snare of the Devil, and the miseries of Hell.

3. TO move and quicken all to serious Self-Ex­amination, How they are spending, or have spent, their Youth, whether in the dangerous Omission, or diligent Prosecution, of so weighty a concern, as cleansing their way.

4. TO Lament and Mourn over the unhappy growth and prevalence of carnality in the rising Generation among us.

5. TO Exh [...]rt and Warn all lo [...]se and careless Young Men, with diligence and without delay to set about the great Work before them, even to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts.

6. TO Exhort and Excite Parents, Masters, Tutors, Guardians, and all such as have any inspection or influence over Young Ones, to a Zealous Concern, and Seasonable Endeavours to promote purity and holiness in them, by wholesome Instructions, and solemn Charges, by wise Reproofs, and autho­ritative Restraints, & due Corrections, by good Ex­amples, by fervent Prayers, &c. Unto the neglect of which vigilant Care over Youth, are very much owing the wickednesses of this Degenerate Day.

7. IT might further be improv'd, To commend and encourage those Young People, who are seriously and seduously engag'd in the important work of cleansing their way, as thro' the Grace of God there are some, however dissolute the present Time is.

8. TO shew how deeply indebted, and what b [...]nds of gratitude such are in, unto the God of all Grace, whom He has blessed with an early Conversion, and a pious Youth, while multitudes of others are pe­rishing [Page 167] in their chains of filth, and by Youthful lusts are ruin'd for ever.

THESE Things afford matter for a large Dis­course: But it is the Application of the Last Preposition, that I intend to speak most and yet but briefly unto. Let us therefore come to—

USE. III. IS the Word, if duly observed, such an effectual means to cleanse our way? Hence,

1. WE have one very good Argument for the Divinity of the Word. It is no mean Argument, that the Word Written is of Divine Inspiration, and the Word Preacht of Divine Institution, That they are instrumental of the most Divine Effects, the most Honorary to God, and Benefi­cial to Man; such Effects as all the Philosophy of the sagest humane Writers cou'd never pro­duce. By the Word, Dead Souls are quicken'd, Hard Hearts soften'd, Defiled Consciences purged, and the whole Spirit, Soul, and Body sanctify'd, turned from Darkness to Light, and from the power of Satan unto God.— Surely, Here is the Wisdom and the Power of God. These illustrious Effects and Triumphs of the Word, evidence it to be the Word of God, & not the Word of Man. And he must be strangely blind & stupid, that does not in these Things read it's Divine Authority and Original.

2. HENCE, It is an invaluable Privilege to enjoy the Word, & what bespeaks our thankful Praises. To have the Scriptures to search, and the Word Preached to hear, is a Great Favour of God; a Blessing that cannot be sufficiently valu'd. 'Tis the greatest outward Privilege. The Apostle declares the Jews of old had manifold peculiar Advantages in the enjoyment of the Divine Ora­cles. (Rom. 3.1, 2.) And our Saviour tells His [Page 168] Disciples, what a great Blessing they enjoy'd in the Gospel, how much greater than they of old; (Luk. 10.23, 4.) Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see. For I tell you, that many Pro­phets and Kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them. We that enjoy the Gospel, are highly favoured indeed. Unto such may well be apply'd that (in Deut. 32.29.) Happy art thou; who is like unto Thee, O People saved by the Lord? Dignify'd & blessed even above the darling Saints in the Old Testament-Times; how much more then above the Great Ones in the Earth, who have not the Word? Verily, To live under the Light of the Glorious Gospel, tho' in the meanest Cottage or Hovel, is a greater Happiness, a goodlier Heritage, than without it to live in King's Palaces and the high Places of the Earth. How then should we prize the Gos­pel, and be thankful for the Word of Life!

AND it is a Distinguishing Favour, as well as Great. For there be many Persons, yea Nations in the World, who have the same necessity and occasion for the Word as we, and we as they, and they are Originally no more unworthy than our selves, and as capable of the Benefits of the Gospel, and yet are destitute of the Word, and are left to the guidance of Nature's faint confused Light, and have no better Instructors than the Sun, Moon and Stars; while we have a more sure word of Prophecy, which is as a shining Light, and have Pastors and Teachers, to feed us with un­derstanding, and to teach us the good knowlege of the Lord. In this case we must say, (as in, Rom. 3.9.) What then? are we better than they? no, in n [...] [Page 169] wise. And as in Luk. 10.21. I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise, & hast revealed them unto babes: Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. The uncontrollable Liberty and unaccountable Sovereignty of God is to be seen and own'd in this conduct of Divine Providence. And surely a Favour, so incomparably great and ineffably gracious, as the Dispensation of the Gospel, is what challenges the highest gratitude. O Let us ever be fill'd with admiring th [...]t's and the most thankful resentments of the great and discrimi­nating Goodness of God unto us a giving us His Word. The Psalmist admonishes us of this our duty; Psal. 147.19, 20. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, He hath not dealt so with every Nation.— Praise ye the Lord.—And Let us adore the Pa­tience and Forbearance of God towards us, and His sovereign Grace, in continuing to us His Word, notwithstanding the visible contemt shown unto it by multitudes among us, and the innumerable Forfeitures we have made of this Privilege. There are many Places in the World, where the Word was once sent and prevailed mightily, but having abus'd their liberty, and rebell'd against the Light, The Candlestick was just­ly rem [...]d from them, and the fruitful Field is become an [...]owling Desert and a desolate Wilder­ness. And this also had long since been our mournful Doom, if God had dealt with us accor­ding to our just desert. Astonishing is the Patience of God towards a sinful Land!—And further, Many Persons, who once enjoy'd the warm Sun­shine of the Gospel, are laid in their cold Graves, and [...]ld up in the bottomless Pit, are gone [Page 170] beyond all hope and help, while we are spared. O the unmerited Goodness and wonderful Long-suffering of God us-ward! Surely, such distin­guishing Mercy deserves and demands special returns of Gratitude.

3. HENCE, We learn the Reason and Motive of that Opposition which the Word of God meets with from Satan. The Word of God is a Well of Salvation, a Fountain of Truth and Purity. It has a powerful Efficacy to turn Men from Dark­ness to Light, from Sin to Sanctity, and is able to make them wise unto Salvation. It instructs those, whom Satan wou'd have remain ignorant; it con­verts those whom He wou'd have abide in their Sins; it sanctifies those, whom He wou'd fain defile; and comforts those, whom He wou'd have to be disconsolate. And thus it crosses his designs, and thwarts his interests, clouds the glory and weakens the nerves of his Government, lessens the number of his Subjects, and threatens the the destruction of his Kingdom. — And this is the ground of his spite and spleen, malice and malignity against the Word. Hence it is, that the God of this World, whose Kingdom lyes in dark­ness & wickedness, sets himself to oppose the Gos­pel & blast the endeavours of Ministers, & by many subtil stratagems & with indefatigable industry labours to undermine and invalidate the Word, to bring it into contemt, to foment prejudices against it, and bar it's good Entertainment, to stifle Convictions and damp pious Affections kindled in any awaken'd Soul, and to enliven and enrage the Corruptions, that have been chill'd and cool'd, by the Word. That wicked One endeavours to rob us of the good Seed, to shake [Page 171] it out of our minds and memories: and to sow Tares instead of it. Mat. 13.19, 23.

4. SEE the madness and misery of those, who put from them the Word of Life. Such as [...]spise the Word & reject the Counsel of God, that, being weary of the Word and Ordinances, as too great a Charge & unprofitable Burden, or to obtain better Worldly Accomodations, do forsake Wisdom's Gates, and remove there Habitations into the dark Corners of the Land; or that being settled in such Places, sit easy and contented without the Gospel; or that, dwelling in a valley of Vision, either wholly or greatly neglect to read and hear the Word; Such do manifestly reproach the Wisdom of God and slight one of the greatest instances of His wonderful loving kindness towards them, and greatly provoke His wrath against them; & they despise and wrong their own Souls; & make them a Prey to every Adversery; they forfeit many happy advantages, & opportunities for securing their best & highest interest, they lose many preci­ous Benefits, more worth than a World; They seem to court misery & danger, to chuse Death, and to be invading their own destruction: and unless timely Repentance & Reformation prevent, they will have a much sorer Punishment, than such Hea­then as never had the Word sent unto them. And what amazing stupidity is here? What Fools are such, & how great Enemies to God & Themselves!

5. SEE what Adversaries to God and to Man­kind they are, that oppose the Spreading of the Gospel in the World. Who are for banishing the Holy Bible, which God has written to us, and the Sacred Officers which Christ hath set in His Church for the work of the Minister, out of [Page 172] the World; who wou [...]d hinder the Gospel of Christ, and have His Sanctuary be desolate, and are for having the Word, neither read nor heard;—what monsters of wickedness are such? Who are they, but The Children of the Devil? What are they doing, but Fighting against God, and Drowning Men in Perdition? They are doing the Lusts of their Father, the Devil; and the Everlasting Pu­nishment is like to be their wages. Unto such, how fitly may we apply the foul Character of Elymas the Sorcerer, given of him, when he with­stood the Apostles, and sought to turn away from the Faith Sergius Paulus, the Deputy, who de­sired to hear the Word of God,— O full of all subtilty & all mischief, thou child of the Devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? Behold now, the hand of the Lord (the wrath of God) is upon thee! Act. 13.7,—10.

6. HENCE, We infer the Stability, and Dura­tion of the Word and Ministry to the End of the World. Is the Word instrumental of such happy and illustrious Effects (as we've heard,) Do's it bring so much Glory to God, and Benefit to Man? Then we may be sure, that the Golden Candle­stick is fixt on perpetual Foundations, and will not be removed for ever. The Word is the stand­ing means of Grace in the Hand of the sanctify­ing Spirit; and so long as there will be need of the Sanctification of the Spirit, the Word will be profitable for instruction in righteousness. Now so long as the Word will be of use, we may de­pend on't, the Divine Spirit will secure it's con­tinuance. He will protect His own Inspirations and Instruments against the utmost Violence of [Page 173] Hell and Earth, and transmit the Oracles of God sale and pure to latest Posterity. Tho' Flesh, World, and Devil are united in restless attempts against the Word and Ministers of Christ, yet these shall survive all their impotent Fury, and nothing shall ever be able to put out the glorious Light, or still the joyful Sound.

7. IT is a happy Symptom, and bodes well to a People, when the Word is sent unto them. The Word is design'd and adapted to purify and pro­fit Souls: That is the great End and genuine Efficacy of it. Now the infinitely wise God is not wont to send the Means, where He do's not design the End, and produce the Effect in a greater or lesser measure. Hence is that of the Apostle, (2 Cor. 2.14, 5.) Now Thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place. If we read the sacred Story and trace the Pro­phets and Apostles and Primitive Preachers of the Word, we shall find that in all Places where the Report of the Gospel was heard, The Arm of the Lord was revealed, an effectual Door was open'd unto them of the Lord, and certain Men clave unto them and believed. We may therefore with safe­ty conclude, that, where God sends His Word and settles the Ordinances of His Kingdom among a People, it is with intentions of Mercy towards them, and tho' many may mock and blaspheme, yet some shall believe and turn unto the Lord.

8. HENCE, We are inform'd, what is to be look'd upon as true Evangelical Preaching. Namely, That, which, as to matter, is becoming sound Doctrine; and agreeable to the Oracles of God, and which, as to the method and manner, tends most to ad­vance [Page 174] the great Design of the Word, even the Conversion and Sanctification of Souls. Those are true Gospel-Ministers who speak forth the words of Truth, and declare the Counsel of God, His whole Counsel, who labour in the Word and Doctrine; who do not spend their Ministry on little matters of doubtful Disputation, or barren Speculation, but adapt it to the use of godly Edifying, and preach those substantial Truths, that are according to Godliness; who study to shew themselves approved unto God, Workmen that need not to be ashamed; rightly dividing the Word of Truth; but shun vain Bablings, and endeavour to commend themselves to every Man's Conscience in the sight of God; Not as pleasing Men, but seeking the profit of many, that they might be saved; whose Aim and Study is, to purify a peculiar People unto God, zealous of good Works, and who draw the Waters of the Sanctuary, which they dispense, out of the Well of Salvation, the Holy Scriptures.— These are Good Ministers of Jesus Christ, and in doing this, they take the best Method to save themselves, and those that hear them.

9. HENCE, A Learned and Faithful Ministry should be esteem'd and entertain'd, as a great Blessing. One great part of the Work of Ministers is, to explain, confirm and apply the Doctrines of the written Word, and to represent and urge the Duties and Motives of Religion, in the most plain and convincing manner they can, with the clearest Light and the warmest Zeal, to inform the Understanding and inflame the Affections of those that hear them. They are to Preach the Word, to be instant in season, and out of season, to reprove, rebuke with all authority, and exhort with [Page 175] a [...]ng suffering, and Doctrine, and to watch in all things, to watch for Souls, as they that must give account.—Now, how necessary, how suitable a Blessing to Mankind is the sacred Ministry! And how great a Benefit, when accompany'd with the Divine presence and influence! It has pleased God by the foolishness of Preaching to save many. And Faithful Ministers have the Promise of His Presence and Blessing to accompany them, even to the end of the World.—Surely then the Enjoy­ment of a Learned and Pious Ministry ought to be resented, as an invaluable Privilege, by a Person or People. And how great is the guilt and folly of those, who undervalue this holy and blessed Ordinance, and discard it from a pretence of the sufficiency of the written Word, or from any corrupt motive whatsoever? And how great is the injustice and impiety, the wickedness and baseness of those, that villify, abuse and discourage the Faithful Ministers of the Word, and endeavour to stop their mouths and break their hearts, by cruel Mockings, by insulting Cham-ism, by insolent Korah-ism, or by sacrilegious Niggardliness, and the like? And how little love to Christ or concern for His Interest may those pretend to, who can behold or hear of such unsufferable indignities, and not manifest any Tenderness or Resentment?— But how may it hearten and animate Faithful Mi­nisters under such unworthy Treatment, to con­sider, whose Servants they are, what Divine Work they are engag'd in, and what an exceeding great Reward is reserved for them in Heaven? And how wise and praise-worthy are such, as esteem Ministers highly in love for their works sake?

[Page 176]10. HENCE, We see, what Obligation lies on a Professing People to encourage the Means of Educa­tion. The Word Written and Preacht is the ordinary Medium of Conversion and Sanctifica­tion. Now in order to obtaining these Benefits by the Word, it is requisite, that Persons be diligent in Reading & Hearing of it; And in order to these, how expedient and necessary is it, that there be Schools of Learning; those of a Lower Character, for the instructing of Youth in Read­ing, and those of an Higher, for the more Liberal Education of such, as may be devoted to the Work of the Ministry? The Religious Concerns of a People demand the Publick Care and the common Regards of All towards the Means for Educating of Youth, especially to the Schools of the Prophets. These things must be up­held and encouraged, or else Religion will soon bid us farewell, our Glory fade away, and a Flood of Evils break in upon us. The rising Youth are the hopes of a People, and an instructed Seed, a godly Seed, are a Crown and an happy Omen to them. It stands them in hand therefore to promote and pursue all proper methods for the propagation of knowlege, purity, and good order among the rising Generation. And such as do this are to be commended, as truly wise & faithful to their own Interests, & doing that which has an eminent relation to the Honour of God. And so are they, who having at heart the Concerns of Posterity, are training up their Sons for Pro­phets, and taking a pious care for the succession of a Learned and Godly Ministry among them, which is of so great necessity, importance and advantage to Mankind.

[Page 177]11. HENCE, It should be the Care of Parents, and all Superiors of whatever character, to bring the Young People under their inspection, into an early acquaintance with, & affection to, God's Holy Word. Parents, Masters, Mistresses, and the like, have the Souls of their Young People in part com­mitted to their Charge, and it is their necessary Duty to bring them up in the Nurture and Admo­nition of the Lord. Since the Word is so profi­table to Souls, they should do their endeavour wisely and diligently, that the purifying Truths and holy Laws of God may be written on their minds with fair & lasting characters. They should begin early with them, Teach them to Read, Catechize 'em, Hear 'em read the Bible & other pious Books, Explain and Inculcate the Doctrines and Duties of Christianity, Giving them Line upon Line, and Precept upon Precept, here a little and there a little; and bring them to the House of God to attend the Publick Preaching of the Word, Endeavour to possess them with a just Veneration for the Word Preacht, Take an ac­count of the Sermon from them afterward, & press it upon them in the most solemn and pathetical manner to affect their Souls and incline their hearts to wisdom.— Thus to do, Superiors are bound by all the Tyes of Duty, Interest, Comfort and Honour. It is mentioned, (as One observes) not only to the praise of Young Timothy, but of Those that were concerned in his Education, that From a Child he knew the Holy Scriptures, which were able to make him wise to Salvation, thro' Faith which is in Christ Jesus.—And the Apostle John speaks of the Elect Lady with honour, rejoycing greatly, that he had found of her children walking in the Truth.

[Page 178]12. HENCE, We should all examine our selves and enquire, what improvement we have made of the Price, that is in our hands: What entertain­ment we have given to the Word of God; what influence it has had upon us; what benefit we've reaped from it. Let us make serious inquisition into this matter. To move hereunto, consider; This is an Enquiry of the last moment; of such consequence, that those must be charg'd with astonishing stupidity, who can live easily and calmly without endeavouring to get the impor­tant Case comfortably resolv'd. Again, consider; Multitudes, that enjoy the Word, do miss of the purifying and saving effects of it; They are planted by Rivers of Water, and fit under the droppings of the Sanctuary, and yet are perfect strangers to spiritual purity. To profit by the Word is not the common & infallible Lot of all that en­joy it. Further, Many deceive themselves with gross mistakes about this matter. They take up with a mer [...]e Orthodox Faith, which is but the Faith of Devils, instead of that Faith which puri­fyeth the heart: They take up with a transient delight in the Truth, and have not root in them­selves; As those, Mat. 13.20.-They rest in some partial reformation and seeming appearances of Grace. And with these things, and the like, they flatter themselves into ruin.

THESE Considerations should put us all upon speedy, diligent, and impartial Self-Examination, how the Case stands with our selves.

13. HENCE, We have one Rule for the Tryal of our spiritual State by. The holy Word of God being the ordinary instrument of Conversion and Sanctification, Hence, Such as apprehend them­selves [Page 179] to be Regenerate, in order to know the truth of their Conversion, must enquire, whether the Change, they conclude themselves to have experienced, were wrought by the Word or not. If the Word has had no influence in their ap­prehended Conversion, there is sad ground to supect the reality of it. They that are born of God, are begotten by the Gospel; they that are sanctify'd in Christ Jesus, are sanctify'd by the Truth, the word of Truth.—And such, as may have for­gotten by what means the first impression was made on their Souls, Such as drew in the breath of Life insensibly in Youth, should now enquire what conformity or correspondence there is between the frame of their Souls and the form of sound Words; shou'd see what characters or footsteps there are in them of the sanctifying Word of God, and whether they are chang'd into the image of it's purity. And if so, then they may be assured of the certainty of their Conver­sion, and that the Gospel is the power of God to their Salvation, altho' (it may be) they can't call to mind the particular Word, that was the means of their Conversion.

14. HENCE, We learn the great Reason and Occasion of Men's not profiting by the Word, to wit, because they don't duly observe and take heed unto it. If Men wou'd get their way cleansed, they must take heed to the Word. But the Gene­rality neglect, disregard, and dispise the Word. They take little or no care to get a good under­standing of it; they don't give due credit unto it; they take no pains to lay it up in their minds and charge their memories with it; They seldom or never meditate in God's Law; they are little [Page 180] or nothing affected with the Word: They don't re­verence & love & delight in it. The great Things of God's Law are counted & treated by them as a strange Thing. And now unto this neglect of, and dis­respect unto, the Word of God, is owing the Unprofitableness of many under the Gospel. The Word does not profit them, not being mixed with Faith, nor duly attended to.

THE Last Branch of the USE is an EXHORTA­TION. (1) To Sinners, (2) To Saints.

1. TO Sinners. O Let all, and particularly Young Men, that are yet in a state of carnal and polluted Nature, be perswaded to purify their Souls in obeying the Truth, and to cleanse their way by taking heed to God's Word.

TO move hereunto consider,—

1. THRO' the forbearance of God you have still an opportunity prolonged to you. God might justly before now have put an utter end to all possibi­lity of your Conversion and Salvation, and have appointed you your portion among the unclean Spirits in Prison: but thro' the riches of His Pa­tience you are yet spar'd, and your day of Grace lengthen'd out; the Spirit striving with you, and the Means of Grace continu'd to you. And O that this Goodness of God may lead you to Repentance, and His Long suffering may be Salvation to you!

2. Consider, GOD takes notice of your neglect and abuse of His Word, He resents it, and will one Day reckon with you for it. The Author of Salvation, who has purchas'd for you and bestow'd on you the spiritual Advantages you enjoy, has also made you Debtor in His Accompt-Book for all the Talents be trusted with you. He takes a Memorandum of your Privileges & Opportunities, and also of your [Page 181] Improvements; of your Receits & your Returns. He observes, how long you have enjoy'd the Means of Grace, What space for Repentance has been al­ow'd you, How many Sabbaths & Sermons, How many Calls & Warnings you have had. And He marks against you all your unfruitfulness, your im­penitence, unbelief, hardness of Heart, & unclean­ness of Way, your mispence of His Gifts, refusals of His Calls, & abuse of His Patience; He beholds your base & unworthy deportment under, and contemt of, your invaluable Liberties and Privi­leges, and His Soul is vexed from day to day with your filthy Conversation, your impurity of heart and life. And He will one Day strictly reckon and severely deal with you therefor. And what a miserable Account will you have to give up?

3. Consider, YOU are altogether defenceless and inexcusable. Gospel-Sinners are left without all excuse. You have no just Apology imaginable to make for your selves. You can't plead ignorance, either of the nature or necessity of this work of cleansing your Way; for your Duty in this mat­ter is fully asserted and explained. You cannot plead the impossibility of the Task, for Examples are set before you. Neither can want of sufficient motive and encouragement be pleaded, for an ex­ceeding great Reward is propounded & assured to you. Nor can you plead invincible impotence, for you have the Word, Ordinances & Ministers of Christ; the best Means & Helps, & you have the Almighty Spirit of God, whose Grace is sufficient for the Chief of Sinners, & nothing but a resolved neglect will prevent the enjoyment thereof. Nei­ther finally, can you plead want of Time & Leisure; [...] many, that have not liv'd longer under the [Page 182] Means than you, & have had equal incumbrances, impediments, & avocations, have yet given dili­gence to cleanse their way, & have perfected ho­liness in the fear of God.—All Pleas & Pretences then are utterly removed. You have no cloke for your sin, (Joh. 15.22.) How justly may God expostulate with you, as in Isa. 5.4. What cou'd have been done more unto my Vineyard, that I have not done in it? Where­fore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? How unworthy, how unaccountable & inexcusable is this?—The just Charge & Complaint lyes against you, (Joh. 6.40.) Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life. And, (Jer. 13.27.) Woe unto thee, wilt thou not be made clean? And, (Prov. 1.14.) I have called, & ye have re­fused, I have stretched out my hand, but ye have set at naught all my counsel, & did not choose the fear of the Lord.—Therefore thou art inexcusable, O Man, whosoever thou art. And your own Conscience will condemn & silence you; will bear witness against you, will stop your mouth & strike you speechless, in a day when God shall judge the secrets of Men by Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel.

4. Consider, YOUR Gospel Advantages, (if you perish at last) as they enhance your Sins now, so they will inflame your Sentence hereafter. Your Guilt is aggravated by your Gospel-Privileges. The provocation of your Sins, is increased from your living under the Gospel & Means of Grace. Your Sins are committed against the most shin­ing Light, & endearing Love, against all possible re­straints & preservatives, in contemt of the Word of the Kingdom & the Spirit of Holiness: which speaks much wilfulness, stubbornness and during presumption, & infinitely height [...] the malignity [Page 183] of your Sins, & the indignity of your offences. So that you are under a vastly heavier load of Guilt, than any of those who Sin without the Law.—And consequently you shall also receive an heavier Curse & greater Damnation. As many as have sin­ned without the Law, shall also perish without the Law, die without mercy, & every transgression receive a just recompence of reward: How then shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord? And of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall they be tho't worthy, who have trodden under foot the Son of God and have done despite unto the Spirit of Grace?—We read, Luk. 12.47, 8. That servant, which knew his Lord's Will and prepared not himself, neither did ac­cording to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But be, that knew not, & did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be re­quired: & to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. Gospel-Sinners are the Chief of Sinners, and therefore they will be the wretched Objects, on whom vindictive Justice shall have it's chief & most formidable Triumphs throughout the unknown Lengths of Eternity. Abused Mercy will be enraging oyl to the fire of God's indignation, & will add infi­nitely to the weight of their doom, & load it with killing aggravations. Mountains of Guilt & Filth lie upon them now, and a World of insupportable Woes & Miseries will be their Portion hereafter. Consider this ye that forget God; Consider, that by your impenitence of heart and impurity of life under the Gospel you are emimently treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. O Believe & Tremble; [Page 184] and think not to escape the righteous Judgment of God, without speedy Repentance & Reformation.

5. Consider, THERE is the utmost Danger of your final miscarrying, The World, the Flesh, & the Devil are all joyn'd in a malicious conspiracy to ruin you, & are acting with the utmost art & unwea­ried diligence in pursuit of their cursed designs against you. These Enemies of your Souls, & of all Righteousness, by a thousand wiles endeavour to render the Word of God of none effect unto you, to imprison the Truth in unrighteousness, & wrest the Scriptures to your destruction. They seek to harden you in unbelief, enmity & disobedience to the Law of God; To blind your Eyes, that the Light of the glorious Gospel shou'd not shine into your hearts; To prejudice you against the Truths and Precepts of Religion; To suppress every pious Thought, to damp every good inclination, & break every devout Resolution; To inspire vain thoughts and inflame corrupt affections, To entangle you in the pleasures of Sin and in the cares & snares of the World; & so to drown you in perdition.— This tells you that your Case is extreamly dan­gerous.—But further, you are in danger by the stroke of Death, which may soon irrecoverably seal up your hands, and period all your oppor­tunities of doing or getting Good. And moreover, You are in danger of Spiritual Judgments. You have received the Grace of God in vain; And who knows but that He may ere long bereave you of His dis­pised Word & Ordinances, or blast them to you; send a famine of the Means: or else of the Spirit, so that, tho' you may read the Letter, & hear the sound of the Word, yet you shall never smell it's sweet savour, nor feel it saving power, but ra­ther [Page 185] wax worse & worse under the Means, that should profit you?—O meditate much, ye Gospel-Despisers, on that awful Text, Isai. 6.9, 10. (a Text repeated no less than 6 or 7 times in the New-Testa­ment, to declare it's extraordinary importance & draw your attentive consideration,) & also on that, Mat. 3.10.—Meditate on these Texts. Me­ditate Terror, & Let your hearts tremble, lest there be written your mournful Case & fearful Doom.— But let not any humble contrite Soul pervert those Scriptures to his discouragement. Let them be improv'd to quicken you to work out your Salva­tion with fear & trembling, & give diligence lest any Man sail of the Grace of God.— This is the End of all the foregoing Considerations, And, Oh! that they may have this effect upon you. Seriously ponder them, & let 'em excite you to cleanse your way by observing the Word of God.

AND if this be the Desire & Resolution of your Soul, Let me for your encouragement add, that God is ready to assist you: and for your help let me offer these Hints by way of Direction.

1. MOURN over, & be afflicted for, all your past neglects & abuses of the Word. Consider what an evil & bitter thing it is, that you have been des­pising the Word, & breaking the Commandment. Consider what indignities you have been offering herein to the Blessed God, what affront to our gra­cious Saviour, what outrage against the Holy Spi­rit. Consider the ingratitude, the injustice, and many heinous aggravations of your past guilty deportment. And let your Soul be humbled in you, when you remember these things; spread your case before God, pour out your heart in peni­tent confessions of your great guilt, & ardent suppli­cations [Page 186] for Mercy to pardon, & Grace to help you.

2. FOR the Future improve this blessed Mean [...] of Grace, the Word of God, with all Diligence & Care.

1. BE frequent in the Duties of Reading and Hearing. Converse much with the Holy Scriptures ▪ and be often waiting on God in His Holy Sanctu­ary.—Imitate the noble Bereans in searching the Scriptures daily: and as the Kings of Israel were enjoyned, Read in this Book of the Law all the days of your life.—And further, (as the Apostle di­rects, Jam. 1.19.) Let every man also be swift to hear. Wait daily at Wisdom's Doors, in season & out of season. Seek for convenient opportunities of Hear­ing; embrace 'em readily; improve 'em diligently. If you neglect & omit any occasion needlesly and wilfully, perhaps you may then miss an accepta­ble Time & a good Day for your Souls.

2. ENTER on these Exercises with due Prepa­ration. Dismiss the cares of this World, & the pleasures of sense, which choke the Word, which stop your ears, shut your eyes, & harden your heart against it. Awaken & summon together your most serious Thoughts, & labour by holy musing to warm your Souls, and work 'em into the most solemn Frame. Come to the Word with a free spirit, with a good & honest heart, with humility, meekness & teachableness, suppressing all Pride and Passion, all Prejudices & Prepossessions with respect both to Doctrines & Persons. Come with the disposition of serious Learners, & not of cen­sorious Carpers.—Come also with sincere views and unfeigned aims at the great End of the Word. Let not Curiosity, Custom, Company, Reputation, Interest, or the clamours of a rebuking Conscience, or any corrupt motive, be your inducement to [Page 187] Read or Hear the Word at any time; But let a Desire to please & honour God, & profit your own Souls, be your governing principle. This is the End, which God propounds in giving us His Word; and this is answerable to the nature of the Word, and becoming the dignity of rational Creatures. And if you come with this good intention, you may hope that God will add His Blessing; but otherwise you have no ground for any such ex­pectation. And further, you must by previous Prayer invoke & engage the promised Assistences of the Holy Spirit. The preparation of the heart in Man is from the Lord, & from Him comes down the Blessing. God can put your Hearts into, and keep them in, a right Temper, & can teach you to profit. And He hath said, He will be enquired of by the House of Israel, to do this thing for them. Therefore ply the Throne of Grace, & Give your selves to Prayer, when you apply your selves to the Word of Grace, & give attendance to private Reading, or to Publick Hearing.

3. ATTEND Diligently, and with the whole bent of your Soul, when actually engag'd in these devout Exercises. Be not trifling, perfunctory, heedless, remiss, inadvertent. But experect, vigi­lant, earness, constantly & universally attentive. Beware of drowsy sloth, and sleepy negligence. Beware of a clouded Eye, a closed Ear, and a roving Mind. As ever you would profit by the Word, yield the most wakeful, steddy and lively atten­ [...]ion unto it. Consider, who speaks to you in the Word, even the Great God; Consider what is spoken to you, even Things of the greatest Con­cern; & let these tho'ts strike an awe upon your mind, & awaken you to give earnest heed unto the Word.

[Page 188]4. ENDEAVOUR to Apprehend readily. Be not slow of apprehension, & dull of bearing, a People of no understanding. But let him that readeth, and him that beareth, understand. Employ your best reason & consideration, & set your heart to know & understand the words of the Lord. We must read & hear with the Spirit & also with understanding.

5. BELIEVE freely & fully. Realize it, that the Scriptures are of Divine Inspiration, [...] yield a ready and firm assent unto the Truth of all you find written there. And the Word of Hearing, let that also be mixed with Faith, without which it cannot profit you. Whatsoever Doctrine the Mi­nisters of the Word preach unto you, if they speak according to the Law & the Testimony, you must re­ceive it not as the word of Man, but as it is indeed the word of God, & that without delay & without reluctance. Be not faithless, neither be slow of heart to believe. If you believe not our Report, you will not have the Arm of the Lord revealed to you.

6. RECEIVE the Word affectionately & submissively. Receive the Truth in the love of it. Esteem every Word of God highly in Love, as a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. Delight in the Truth after the inward Man. What is said, however it thwarts your Opinions, Lusts or Interests, Receive it with meekness. God will give Grace to the hum­ble, and the meek He will teach in His way.

7. APPLY faithfully and wisely. The neglect of prudent & impartial self-application is the ruin of multitudes. It is the misery & folly of not a few, they shift off what they read & hear upon others, & do not discern or consider it's relation to themselves, nor apply it to their own Souls. And it is the unhappiness of others, they apply all [Page 189] to themselves right or wrong, without discerning be [...]wixt things that differ, and so often pervert the Scriptures to their own destruction.—You must be ca [...]eful to avoid both these Errors. You must be vigilant to spy what touches & affects your own Condition, & readily take the Portion carved for you, whether it be an Instruction, Rebuke, Ad­vice or Consolation. Critically remark what points at your case, and with all impartiality take it home, and hide it in your heart. Judicious and serious Application is the Soul of Hearing and Reading, as well as of Preaching.

8. FORM suitable Resolutions, mixt with pious Ejaculations. Submit to every Word of God, and resolve on future conformity thereunto: and let that be the secret language of your Souls,—Good is the word of the Lord.—Teach me thy way O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: I believe, Lord, help mine unbelief.—Thou hast commanded us to keep thy Pre­cepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! I will run the way of thy com­mandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.— Let these in general be the pious breathings of your Souls under the Word. And moreover, form devout Resolves and Petitions agreeable to the Tenor and Quality of every particular Truth.

9. TREASURE up the Word in your Memories. Be not forgetful Hearers. Let the Word of God dwell in you richly. Hold fast the form of sound words, which you read; & keep in memory what is preached to you. This is your Duty, & will be much for your advantage every way, to enrich you with know­lege, to fortify you against Error & Sin, & to furnish you unto every good Thought Word and Work.

10. MEDITATE on the Word seriously and intensely. Digest what you hear & read, by d [...]vout After-consideration and close Reflection. Ponder upon it, and commune with your hearts about i [...] This will have a happy tendency not only to fasten it in your Memories, but also to fix and further its [Page 190] efficacy on your Souls, and to invigorate and perpetuate it's influence on your Lives. Better read one Chapter or hear one Sermon, and carefully ruminate upon it, than several in the neglect hereof. Meditation is the best Friend and Help to Knowlege & Grace. 1 Joh. 2.14. I have written unto you Young Men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you.—Therefore Give thy self to meditation, that thy profiting may appear to all. Dwell on the Word by After-thought, revolve it in your mind, press and urge it on your heart, and never leave till some warm impression be made, Some religious passion drawn into vigorous exercise.

11. FOLLOW the Word with earnest Supplications. Labour always fervently in Prayer, that God wou'd sanctify you thro' the Truth, & teach you to profit by his Word; That He wou'd write every Truth you hear or read, by the Finger of His Spirit on your heart, with deep and indelible Characters; that He wou'd seal instruction to you and make every Word an in­grafted Word.—And you will find it a most wise and be­neficial practice, to pray over, as well as think over, the Particulars of the Sermon you've heard, or the portion of Scripture you've read, especially if accommodated to your case. Repeat them not only to your selves, by Meditation; but also to God, by Supplication. Turn all into Prayer. Use your best skill to Form them into an Address to God. No Scripture is so Speculative and Doctrinal, but that it is also Practical and Devotional. — And when you Pray, Pray in Faith, relving on the efficacious Spirit, and meritorious Blood of Jesus Christ for Assistence and Acceptance.

12. WATCH against all that tends to damp & destroy the influence of the Word. Keep down Lust, which wars against the Soul, and rebells against the Light; which resists the Convictions and repels the Dictates of the Word. Take heed l [...]st you be harden'd thro' the deceitfulness of Sin.— Keep out the World; watch against the Inroads of Worldly Cares and Fears, and beware of sinful Company, and watch against Worldly Enticements & Satisfactions; all which tend to chill the influence and quench the efficacy of the Word.— And keep off the Tempter; who with many wiles and un­wearv'd labour seeks to choke the Word, and steal away that Good Thing that is committed to us, & to inspire vain Tho'ts & inkindle vile Affections & Desires in us. Stand therefore upon your guard, keep up a lively Care & holy Jealousy over your selves; Keep an eye upon the Enemy, Acquaint your selves with His Devices, Watch all his Motions, Resist him stedfastly; and Keep your hearts with all Diligence.

[Page 191]In the Last Place, [...]HERISH every good Motion begotten in you by the Word, & pursue ev'ry pious Inclination quickly into exercise. Carefully observe & preserve every Beam of Light and Spark of Fire, that drops in upon you. Study to maintain and improve every Heavenly Impression, & to nourish good Be­ginnings. Strike while the Iron is Hot. Take the first oppor­tunity, while your Heart is under the warm sense & influence of the Word, to answer the Call of God & obey that form of sound Doctrine, which is d [...]liver'd you. ‘The Primus Impetus (as One observes) affords a great advantage, if it be improved; Possibly in the vigour of it, you may overcome those great dif­ficulties & oppositions which have been too hard for you for­merly, & may otherwise give you imp [...]diment hereafter; and these being mastered, your pro [...]ress will be easier.’ Therefore immediately set your self to comply with every Direction of the Word, & presently reduce every gracious disposition into Act. Do's the Word convince you of any Error? Immediately retract the same. Do's it reprove you for any Sin? Immedi­ately forbear & repent of it. Do's it condemn you for any in­dulged Lust? Immediately set about the mortification of it. And whatsoever Grace or Duty has been recommended to you, Immediately come into the Exercise & Practice of it. Grieve not the Spirit by Delays. And [...]ee to it, that you endanger not your Souls by Partiality. Let your obedience to the Word be not only Speedy, but also Universal. Let all the Powers of your whole Man pay their homage to the Word; & let all the words of the whole Law receive your homage & regards, that you may be perfect & intire, wanting nothing. You know what was the Condemnation of the Young Man in the Gospel, — One Thing thou lackest—. Take heed lest you fall after the same Example of unbelief.

THUS much for the first Brach of the Exhortation. In the next place,—

2. I am to Address the Saints, or those that have felt the Divine power and efficacy of the purifying Word. Receive the Exhortation which speaks unto you in a few words.

1. LET God have the Praise and Glory of all the pu­rifying Effects of the Word. Eye and Adore the Hand of God, in the cleansing Efficacy of the Word upon you. Don't burn Incense to your own Drag, nor raise a Trophee to the power of Means, and the skill of Instruments. But Let him that gloryeth, glory in the Lord. Set the Crown on the Divine Efficiency, which worketh all in all. And magnify the Divine Mercy. See the exceeding Grace of God, in what He [Page 192] has done for your Soul; and pour out your thankful Praises.

2 WALK humbly in the sense of your remaining Impu­rities and Deficiencies. Give to GOD the Glory of His Grace; and take to your Self the shame of your imperfections. Consider your many defilements, and defects, and contrarieties to God's holy Word, mourn over 'em, blush for 'em, and Be not high-minded, but Fear. Rejoyce with Trembling.

3. HIGHLY Prize the Word, as one of your best Pri­vileges, and constantly improve it. It has been the Means under God of producing the most noble and excellent Effects in you; has translated you out of your natural state of Dark­ness, Uncleanness and Misery, into an Heavenly state of Light, Purity, and Peace. And surely this consideration shou'd strongly commend and endear it to you, as it did to the holy Psalmist, who said, (Psal. 119.140.) Thy Word is very pure: Therefore thy Servant loveth it.—Maintain a high Value for it, pay a great Regard unto it. Account the Enjoyment of it one of the most desireable Articles of your pr [...]sent hap­piness. Look on the Word as a Treasure, better than Thou­sand of Gold & Silver. Keep it in the midst of thine heart. Let it never depart out of thy mouth, nor from before thine eyes. Be much in meditation upon it. Be diligent in the improve­ment of it. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck, write th [...]m upon the table of thine heart.

4. STUDY to adorn the Doctrine of God your Saviour in all things. Let your conversation be as becometh the Gospel. Let your Actions be a continual Comment on the Word, & so a bright Ornament to your Profession. As you expe­rience the efficacy of it in your Hearts, let others observe the influence of it in your Lives. Let the Purity of the Word be visibly exemplify'd in your universal behaviour, and Holiness to the Lord be written on your whole Conduct. See that you walk circumspectly, giving no offence, giving no occasion to the Adversary to speak reproachfully, and to blaspheme the Name of God and His Doctrine. But let your Light so shine before Men, that others seeing your good works may be brought to glorify God in the day of visitation.

I Shall now shut up all with that of the Apostle, (Phil. 2.15, 16.) Be blameless and harmless, the Sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse Generation; among whom shine ye as Lights in the World: Holding forth the word of Life; that I may rejoyce in the Day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

AMEN.

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