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of all that can be said of sinning; and of the goodness of God, and of the safety and sweetness of religion: and will you sin against so great experience? If your horse fall once into a quicksand, he will scarce be forced into it again. And will you be less wise?
7. What abundance of promises and covenants, which you have made to God, do you violate in your backsliding? How often in your fears, and dangers, and sicknesses, at sacraments and days of humiliation, have you bound yourselves afresh to God! And will you forget all these, and sin against them?
8. By what a multitude of mercies hath God obliged you? Mercies before your repentance, and mercies that drew you to repent, and mercies since? How mercifully hath he kept you out of hell? How mercifully hath he borne with you in all your sins? and maintained you while you provoked him? and pardoned all that you have done against him (if you were truly penitent believers)! How mercifully hath he taught you, and sanctified you, and comforted you; and plentifully provided for you? And yet do you forsake him, and return to folly? For which of all his mercies is it that you thus unworthily requite him? Can you remember how he hath dealt with you, and not be ashamed of your backslidings? Doth it not melt your heart to look back on his love, and to think of your ungrateful dealing?
9. Nay what a multitude of present mercies dost thou run away from? Doth not thy conscience tell thee, that it is safer and better for thee to be true to Christ, than to return to sin? Wilt thou take thy leave of thy God, and thy Redeemer, and thy Comforter? Wilt thou quit thy title to pardon and protection, and all the promises of grace? Wilt thou bid farewell to all the comforts of a saint? Dost thou not tremble to think of such a day? Thou forsakest all these when thou forsakest God.
10. Yea look before thee man, and consider what greater things are promised thee, than yet thou ever didst enjoy. Christ is conducting thee to eternal happiness, in the sight of God. And wilt thou forsake thy guide, and break away from him, and quit all thy hopes of everlasting life?
11. Consider for what it is, that thou art about to run h Mic. vi. 5-7.
so great a hazard? Is it not for some worldly gain or honour, or some fleshly pleasure, sport, or ease? And hast thou not known long ago what all these are? What have they done for thee? or what will they ever do? Can any thing in the world be more causeless and unreasonable, than thy forsaking God, and turning back from the way of holiness? Will the world or sin give more for thee, than God will? Or be better to thee here and hereafter? What wouldst thou have in God, or in thy Saviour, that thou thinkest wanting in him? Is it any thing that the world can make up? Which hath nothing itself but what is from him? What wrong hath God, or his service done thee, that thou shouldst now forsake him, and turn back? For thy soul's sake, man, think of some reasonable answer to such questions, before thou venture thyself upon a course, which thou hast found so bad and perilous heretofore! Let all the malice of earth or hell, say the worst it can against God and holiness, it shall never justify thy revolt!
12. Consider what abundance of labour and suffering, is all lost, if thou fall away from Christ. Is all thy hearing, and meditation, and prayer, come to this? Is all thy self-denial, and sufferings for Christ, and godliness, come to this? "Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.- Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of rewardi." You should have let Christ alone, if you would not follow him to the end: he is less foolish that sitteth still, than he that first tireth himself, and then turneth again. The idle beggar is not so foolish, as the husbandman that will plough and sow, and at last lose his crop for the want of the labour to reap it, and carry it home. Shall all thy pains and sufferings, be lost at last, for nothing?
13. God is not so forward to cast you off, who hath just cause: and why then should you be forward to turn from him? If he had, what had become of you long ago? Yea what abundant occasion have you given him, when he never gave you any at all? Thy sins have testified and cried
i Heb. x. 32-34.
against thee! Abused mercies have witnessed against thee! And yet he hath not cast thee off! Satan hath stood up before God to accuse thee; and glad he would be to see thee utterly forsaken of God, and yet he hath not utterly forsaken thee! Even while thou art forsaking him, he is protecting and supporting thee, and providing for thee! Did he forsake thee when thou wast in sickness, want, and danger? If he had, thou hadst not now been here. And wilt thou begin, and run away from him? What if Christ should offer thee a bill of divorce, and say, 'Seeing thou hast so little mind of me, or of my service, take thy course, and seek another master, I discharge thee from all thy relations to me; follow thy own way, and take what thou gettest by it.' Would this be welcome tidings to thee? Or durst thou accept of it, and be gone?
14. If thou do turn back for the pleasures of the flesh, or the preferments or profits of the world, thou wilt have less pleasure in them now, than thou hadst heretofore, or than the unconverted have. For they that sin in the dark, do not know their danger, and therefore sin not with so much terror, as thou wilt hereafter. Thou hast known the danger, thou hast confessed the folly; the reasons of God's Word will never be forgotten, nor thy conviction ever totally blotted out: thou wilt be remembering the ancient kindnesses of Christ, and thy former purposes, and promises, and ways; and thou wilt be thinking both of the days that are past, and the days that are to come, and foreseeing thy terrible account: so that thou wilt sin in such terrors, that thou wilt have a taste of hell in the very exercise of thy sin, and be tormented before the time. And will the world and sin, be worth the enjoying on such terms as these *?
15. Either thou hopest to recover from thy backsliding by a second repentance, or else thou purposest to go on.
* In the Vandals' persecution, Epidophorus an apostate, was the most cruel persecutor; at last it came to his turn to torment Mirita, that had baptized him, who spread before them all the linens in which he was baptized, saying, 'Hæc te accusabunt dum majestas venerit judicantis. Custodientur diligentia mea ad testimonium tuæ perditionis, ad mergendum te in abyssum putei sulphurantis. Hæc te acrius persequentur flammantem gehennam cum cæteris possidentem――. Quid facturus es miser cum servi patris familias ad cænam regiam congregare cœperint invitatos? Ligate eum manibus pedibusque, &c. Hæc et alia Merita dicente, igne conscientiæ ante ignem æternum obmutescens Epidophorus torrebatur. Victor Utic. p. 466.
If thou shouldst be so happy, as to be recovered, dost thou know with how much pain and terror it is like to be accomplished? When thou thinkest of thy backslidings, and what thou hast done in revolting after such convictions, and promises, and mercies, and experiences, thou wilt be very hardly kept from desperation. Thou wilt read such passages, as Heb. vi. 4-6. x. 26-29. with so much horror, that thou wilt hardly be persuaded that there is any hope: thou wilt be ready to think that thou hast sinned against the Holy Ghost, and that thou hast trampled under foot the blood of the covenant, and done despite to the Spirit of Grace. And thou wilt think, that there is no being twice born again! Or, if thou be restored to life, thou wilt hardly ever be restored to thy comforts here; if thy backsliding should be very great. But indeed, the danger is exceeding great, lest thou never be recovered at all, if once thou be "twice dead, and plucked up by the roots'. And lest God do finally forsake thee! And then how desperate will be thy case?
16. Is not the example of Backsliders very terrible, which God hath set up for the warning of his servants, as monuments of his wrath? Remember Lot's wife, saith Christ, to them that are about to lose their estates, or goods, or lives, by saving them? How frightful is the remembrance of a Cain, a Judas, a Saul, a Joash ", a Julian? How sad is it to hear but such a one as Spira, especially at his death, crying out of his backsliding in the horror of his soul? and to see such ready to make away with themselves?
17. Consider, that there is none that so much dishonoureth God as a backslider; others are supposed to sin in ignorance. But you do by your lives as bad as speak such blasphemy as this against the Lord: as if you should say,
I thought once that God had been the best master, and his servants the wisest and happiest men; and godliness the best and safest life: but now I have tried both, and I find by experience that the devil is a better master, and his servants are the happiest men, and the world and the flesh do give the truest contentment to the mind.' This is the plain blasphemy of your lives. And bethink thee how God should bear with this?
í Jude 6.
m Luke xvii. 32.
n 2 Chron. xxiv. 2.
18. There is none that so much hardeneth the wicked in his sin, and furthereth the damnation of souls, as the backslider: if you would but drive your sheep or cattle into a house, those that go in first, do draw the rest after them; but those that run out again, make all the rest afraid, and run away: one apostate that hath been noted for religion, and afterwards turneth off again, doth discourage many that would come in: for he doth, as it were, say to them by his practice, 'Keep off, and meddle not with a religious life; for I have tried it, and found that a life of worldliness and fleshliness, is better.' And people will think with themselves, 'Such a man hath tried a religious life, and he hath forsaken it again; and therefore he had some reason for it, and knew what he did.' "Woe to the world, because of offences; and woe to him, by whom the offence shall come °. How dreadful a thing is it to think that men's souls should lie in hell, and you be the cause of it? It were good for that man, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea P."
19. There is none that are so great a terror to weak Christians, as these backsliders. For they are thinking how far such went before they fell away; and those that think that true grace may be lost, are saying, 'Alas, how shall I stand, when such that were better and stronger than I have fallen away.' And those that think that true grace cannot be lost, are as much perplexed, and say, 'How far may an hypocrite go, that after falleth away! How piously did this man live! How sorrowfully did he repent! How blamelessly did he walk? How fervently and constantly did he pray! How savourily did he speak! How charitably and usefully did he live! And I that come far short of him, as far as I can discern, can have no assurance that I am sincere, till I am sure that I go further, than ever he did.' Woe to thee, that thus perplexest the consciences of the weak, and hinderest the comforts of believers.
20. Thou art the greatest grief to the faithful ministers of Christ. Thou canst not conceive what a wound it giveth to the heart and comforts of a minister, when he hath taken a great deal of pains for thy conversion, and after that rejoiced when he saw thee come to the flock of Christ; and after P Matt. xviii. 6, 7.
• Matt. xviii. 17.