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that is amiss; but love those best that most highly applaud you. 14. When the renewing of your repentance is grown a lifeless, cursory work; when in preparation for the Lord's day, or Sacrament, or other occasions, you call yourselves to no considerable account, or make no greater a matter of the sins which you find on your account, than if you were almost reconciled to them. 15. When you grow more uncharitable and censorious to brethren that differ from you in tolerable points; and less tender of the names or welfare of others, and love not your neighbours as yourselves, and do not as you would be done by. 16. When you grow less compassionate to the ungodly world, and less regardful of the common interest of the universal church, and of Jesus Christ throughout the earth, and grow more narrow, private spirited, and confine your care to yourselves, or to your party. 17. When the hopes of heaven, and the love of God, cannot content you, but you are thirsty after some worldly contentment, and grow eager in your desires, and the world groweth more sweet to you, and more amiable in your eyes. 18. When sense, and appetite, and fleshly pleasure are grown more powerful with you, and you make a great matter of them, and cannot deny them, without a great deal of striving and regret, as if you had done some great exploit, if you live not like a beast. 19. When you are more proud and impatient, and are less able to bear disesteem, and slighting, and injuries from men, or poverty, or sufferings for Christ; and make a greater matter of your losses, and crosses, or wrongs, than beseemeth one that is dead to the flesh, and to the world. 20. Lastly, when you had rather dwell on earth than be in heaven; and are more unwilling to think of death, or to prepare for it, end expect it, and are less in love with the coming of Christ, and are ready to say of this sinful life in flesh, it is good to be here. All these are signs of a declining state, though yet you are not come to apostacy,
But the signs of a mortal, damnable state indeed, are found in these following degrees: 1. When a man had rather have worldly prosperity, than the favour and fruition of God in heaven. 2. When the interest of the flesh can do more with him, than the interest of God and his soul, and doth more rule and dispose of his heart and life. 3.
When he had rather live in sensuality, than in holiness: and had rather have leave to live as he list, than have a Christ and Holy Spirit to sanctify and cure him; or, at least, will not be cured on the terms proposed in the Gospel. 4. When he loveth not the means that would recover him (as such). The nearer you come to this, the more dangerous is your case.
And these following signs, are therefore of a very dangerous signification. 1. When the pleasure of sinful prosperity and delights, doth so far overtop the pleasures of holiness, that you are under trouble and weariness in holy duties, and at ease and mérry, when you have your sinful delights. 2. When no persuasion of a minister or a friend, can bring you so thoroughly to repent of your open, scandalous sins, as to take shame to yourselves in a free confession of them (even in the open assembly, if you are justly called to it), to condemn yourselves, and give warning to others, and glorify the most holy God: but you will not believe that any such disgraceful confession is your duty, because you will not do it. 3. When you cannot bring your hearts to a full resolution to let go your sin; but though conscience worry and condemn you for it, you do but slightly purpose hereafter to amend, but will not presently resolve. 4. When you will not be persuaded to consent to the necessary, effectual means of your recovery; as to abstain from the bait, and temptation, and occasion of sin, Many a drunkard hath told me, he was willing to be reformed; but when I have desired them then to consent to drink no wine or ale, for so many months, and to keep out of the place, and to commit the government of themselves for so many months to their wives, or some other friend that liveth with them, and to drink nothing but what they give them; they would not consent to any of this, and so shewed the hypocrisy of their professed willingness to amend. 5. When sin becometh easy, and the conscience groweth patient with it, and quiet under it. 6. When the judgment taketh part with it, and the tongue will plead for it, and justify or extenuate it, instead of repenting of it.
These are dangerous signs of an impenitent, unpardoned, miserable soul. And the man is in a dangerous way to this, 1. When he hath plunged himself into such engagements to
sin, that he cannot leave it, but it will cost him very dear: as it will be his shame to confess it, or his undoing in the world to forsake it, or a great deal of cost and labour must be lost, which his ambitious or covetous projects have cost him: it will be hard breaking over so great difficulties. 2. When God letteth him alone in sin, and prospereth him in it, or doth not much disturb him or afflict him. This also is a dangerous case.
By all this you may perceive, that those are no signs of a backsliding state, which some poor Christians are afraid are such. As, 1. When poverty necessitateth them to lay out more of their time, and thoughts, and words about the labours of their callings, than some richer persons do. 2. When age or sickness causeth their memories to decay; so that they cannot remember a sermon as well as heretofore. 3. When age or sickness taketh off the quickness and vigour of their spirits; so that they have not the lively affections in prayer, or holy conference, or meditation, or reading, or hearing, as formerly they had. But (though they are as much as ever resolved for God, against sin and vanity, yet) they are colder and duller, and have less zeal, and fervency, and delight in holy exercises. 4. When age, or weakness, or melancholy, hath decayed or confounded their imaginations, and ravelled their thoughts, so that they cannot order them, and command them, as formerly they could. 5. And when age or melancholy hath weakened their parts and gifts; so that they are of slower understandings, and more unable in prayer, or preaching, or conference to express themselves than heretofore. All these are but bodily changes, and such hindrances of the soul as depend thereon, and not to be taken for signs of a soul that declineth in holiness, and is less accepted of God.
Direct. 11. When you know the marks of a backslider, come into the light, and be willing to know yourselves, whether this be your condition, or not, and do not foolishly cover your disease.' Inquire whether it be with you as in former times, when the light of God did shine upon you, and you delighted in his ways: when you hated sin, and loved holiness; and were glad of the company of the heirs of life: when the Word of God was pleasant to you; and when you poured out your souls to him in prayer and
thanksgivings: when you were glad of the Lord's day, and were quickened and confirmed under the teaching and exhortation of his ministers: when you took worldly wealth and pleasures, as childish toys and fooleries, in comparison of the content of holy souls: when you hungered and thirsted after Christ and righteousness; and had rather have been in heaven to enjoy your God, and be free from sinning, than to enjoy all the pleasures and prosperity of this world. And when it was your daily business to prepare for death, and to live in expectation of the everlasting rest, which Christ hath promised. If this were once your case, inquire whether it be so still? Or, what alterations are made upon your hearts and lives?
Direct. 111. If you find yourselves in a backsliding case, by all means endeavour the awakening of your souls, by the serious consideration of the danger and misery of such a state.' To which end I shall here set some such awakening thoughts before you (for security is your greatest danger).
1. Consider that to fall back from God, was the sin of the devils. "They are angels that kept not their first estate, but left their own habitations, and are now reserved in chains under darkness, to the judgment of the great day a." And shall they entice you into their own condemnation?
2. It was the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve, to revolt from God, and lose their holiness. And is there any sin that we should more carefully avoid, than that which all the world hath so much suffered by? Every one of the creatures that you look on, and every pain and misery you feel, doth mind you of that sin, and call to you to take heed by the warning of your first parents, that you suffer not your hearts to be drawn from God.
3. It is a part of hell that you are choosing upon earth. Depart from me ye cursed "," is the sentence on the damned. And will you damn yourselves by departing from God, and that when he calleth you and obligeth you to him? To be separated from God, is one half of the misery of the damned.
4. You are drawing back towards the case that you were in, in the days of your unconverted state. And what a state
a Jude 6.
b Matt. xxv. 41. vii. 23.
of darkness, and folly, and delusion, and sin, and misery, was that? If it were good or tolerable, why turned you from it? And, why did you so lament it? And, why did you so earnestly cry out for deliverance? But if it were as bad as you then apprehended it to be, why do you again turn towards it? Would you be again in the case you were? Would you perish in it? Or, would you have all those heart-breakings and terrors to pass through again? May I not say to you, as Paul to the Galatians? "O foolish sinners! who hath bewitched you, that you are so soon turned back? Who have seen that of sin, and of God, and of Christ, and of heaven, and of hell, as you have done?
5. Yea, it is a far more doleful state that you are drawing towards, than that which you were in before. For the guilt of an apostate is much greater than if he had never known the truth. And his recovery is more difficult, and of smaller hope: because he is "twice dead and plucked up by the rootd." "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning for it had been better for them, not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." For if we sin wilfully (by apostacy) after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries f." I know this speaketh only of total apostacy from Christ (such being worthy of far sorer punishment, than he that despiseth Moses's law ). But it is a terrible thing to draw towards so desperate a state. A habit is easier introduced upon a negation than a privation; in him that never had it, than in him that hath totally lost it.
6. What abundance of experience do you sin against in your backsliding? You have had experience of the evil of sin, and of the smart of repentance, and of the deceitfulness
e 2 Pet. ii. 20-22.
c Gal. iii. 1-4. Heb. x. 26, 27.
d Jude 12.
* Ver. 28, 29.