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again, are again in extreme peril of death, their hearts are full of amazement, and they make many promises and vows; yet being recovered, they again soon forget all, and return to sin and folly. Such things are enough to convince us, that if the word of God be not sufficient to convince men and make them break off their sins, no external means would be sufficient.
Perhaps some may yet be ready to think, that if sinners should see hell, and hear the cries of the damned, that would be effectual, though nothing else would. But if we duly consider the matter, we shall see reason to think, that it would not have so great a tendency to turn men from sin, as the word of God. Such a thing would doubtless be effectual to terrify and affright men, and probably to death. Such a mean is not at all suitable to our nature and state in the world. If it should not fright men to death, it would not have so great a tendency to make them diligently use means for their salvation as the warnings of scripture. It would probably drive them to despair; or so take away their spirits that they would have no heart to seek God.Instead of driving them to God, it would probably make them hate him the more. It would make them more like devils; and set them a blaspheming as the damned do. For while the hearts of men are filled with natural darkness, they cannot see the glory of the divine justice appearing in such extreme
Therefore the means which God hath instituted for us, are doubtless the best, and most conducive to lead men to repentance and salvation. They are doubtless far better than any other which we can devise.
2. Hence we learn the dreadful hardness of men's hearts, since the word of God hath no more influence upon them, and they are no more moved and wrought upon by those means which infinite wisdom hath provided. The warnings of the word of God are, as you have heard, better and more powerful means than if one should rise from the dead to warn us, and tell us our danger, and the dreadfulness of the wrath of God. You have also heard, that if these means will not answer the end of awakening and leading sinners to repentance, no other will; neither the working of miracles, nor the hearing of God speak with an audible voice from heaven, nor any thing else. Yet, how few are there who are effectually wrought upon by the word of God! They are very thinly sown; there is but here and there one.
When we read how the children of Israel conducted themselves in the wilderness, how often they murmured and offended; we are ready to wonder at the hardness of their hearts. And when we read the history of Christ, and how the Jews hated and rejected him, notwithstanding his many miracles; we are
ready to wonder how they could be so hard-hearted. But we have as much reason to wonder at ourselves, for we have naturally the same sort of hearts that they had; and sinners in these days manifest a hardness of heart as much to be wondered at, in that they are not influenced by the word of God; for they who will not hear Moses and the prophets, Jesus Christ and his apostles, neither would be persuaded, if one should rise from the dead, or if an angel should come from heaven.
The best means of awakening and conversion, are plentifully enjoyed by us, much more plentifully in several respects, than they were by those who had only Moses and the prophets. In the first place, we have divine truth more fully revealed in the Bible than they had then. Light now shines abundantly clear. Gospel truth is revealed, not in types and shadows, but plainly. Heaven and hell are much more clearly and expressly made known. We are told, that the glory of that revelation was no glory in comparison with the revelation of the gospel.
Again, we have a greater plenty of Bibles than they had under the dispensation of Moses and the prophets. Then there was no such thing as printing, and Bibles were scarce things.They seldom had any Bibles, any where else but in their synagogues. But now we have them in our houses; we can look into them when we please. Besides, Christ hath appointed the gospel-ministry, by which we have the word of God explained and enforced every week.' Yet how little influence hath the word of God to bring men to repentance!
Let this strike conviction into those who never yet have found any such effect by the word of God. Though you are convinced of nothing else, yet you have abundant reason to be convinced, that your hearts are as hard as a stone, and that you are exceedingly stupid and sottish.
3. Hence we may learn how justly and fairly God deals with He gives us the best means of awakening and reclaiming us from our sins; better than if he had sent one from the dead to warn us. He gives us those means which are most suited to our nature and circumstances. He gives sinners abundant warning before he punishes them. What could he have done more than he hath done? We can devise or imagine no sort of warning which would have been better than what God hath given us. How justly, therefore, are ungodly men punished; how inexcusable will they be !
4. Let all make use of the means which God hath instituted. They are the best and only means by which we may expect to obtain salvation. We shall be most inexcusable, therefore, if we neglect them. Let us attend to the word of God, read and hear it carefully, consider it thoroughly, and daily walk by it. Let us be diligent in this work. The word of God
is a great price put into our hands to get wisdom and eternal salvation; let us, therefore, improve it while we have it, as we know not how soon we may be deprived of it; lest Christ say to us, as in Luke xix. 42: "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."
HYPOCRITES DEFICIENT IN THE DUTY OF PRAYER.
JOB XXVII. 10.
Will he always call upon God?
CONCERNING these words, I would observe,
1. Who it is that is here spoken of, viz. the hypocrite; as you may see, if you take the two preceding verses with the verse of the text. "For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him? Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?" Job's three friends, in their speeches to him, insisted much upon it, that he was an hypocrite. But Job, in this chapter, asserts his sincerity and integrity, and shows how different his own behaviour had been from that of hypocrites. Particularly he declares his steadfast and immoveable resolution of persevering and holding out in the ways of religion and righteousness to the end; as you may see in the six first verses. In the text, he shows how contrary to this steadfastness and perseverance the character of the hypocrite is, who is not wont thus to hold out in religion.
2. We may observe what duty of religion it is, with respect to which the hypocrite is deciphered in the text, and that is the duty of prayer, or calling upon God.
3. Here is something supposed of the hypocrite relating to this duty, viz. That he may continue in it for a while; he may call upon God for a season.
4. Something asserted, viz. That it is not the manner of hypocrites to continue always in this duty. Will he always call upon God? It is in the form of an interrogation, but the words have the force of a strong assertion, that however the
* Dated, June 1740.
hypocrite may call upon God for a season, yet he will not always continue in it.
However hypocrites may continue for a season in the duty of prayer, yet it is their manner, after a while, in a great measure to leave it off.
In speaking upon this doctrine, I shall show,
I. How hypocrites often continue for a season to call upon God.
II. How it is their manner, after a while, in a great measure to leave off the practice of this duty.
III. Give some reasons why this is the manner of hypocrites.
I. I would show how hypocrites often continue for a season in the duty of prayer.
1. They do so for a while after they have received common illuminations and affections. While they are under awakenings, they may through fear of hell call upon God, and attend very constantly upon the duty of secret prayer. And after they have had some melting affections, having their hearts much moved with the goodness of God, or with some affecting encouragements, and false joy and comfort; while these impressions last, they continue to call upon God in the duty of secret prayer.
2. After they have obtained a hope, and have made profession of their good estate, they often continue for a while in the duty of secret prayer. For a while they are affected with their hope: they think that God hath delivered them out of a natural condition, and given them an interest in Christ, thus introducing them into a state of safety from that eternal misery which they lately feared. With this supposed kindness of God to them, they are much affected, and often find in themselves for a while a kind of love to God, excited by his supposed love to them. Now, while this affection towards God continues, the duties of religion seem pleasant to them; it is even with some delight that they approach to God in their closets; and for the present it may be, they think of no other than continuing to call upon God as long as they live.
Yea, they may continue in the duty of secret prayer for a while after the liveliness of their affections is past, through the influence of their former intentions. They intended to continue seeking God always; and now suddenly to leave off, would be too shocking to their own minds. And the force of their own preconceived notions, viz. That godly persons continue in religion, may have some effect. Therefore, though they have no