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SERM. ever, a man in nature and state altogether like ourXLVI. selves; of the mournful looks and habits, of all the
sad pomps and solemnities attending man unto his long home, by minding him of his own frail condition, affect with some serious, some honest, some wise thoughts? And if we be reasonable men, we may every day supply the need of such occasions, by representing to ourselves the necessity of our soon returning to the dust; dressing in thought our own hearses, and celebrating our own funerals; by living under the continual apprehension and sense of our transitory and uncertain condition; dying daily, or becoming already dead unto this world. The doing which effectually being the gift of God, and an especial work of his grace, let us of him humbly implore it, saying after the holy prophet, Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Amen.
THE DANGER AND MISCHIEF OF DELAYING
Psalm cxix. 60. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. THIS Psalm (no less excellent in virtue than large sERM. in bulk) containeth manifold reflections upon the na- XLVIII. ture, the properties, the adjuncts and effects of God's law; many sprightly ejaculations about it, (conceived in different forms of speech ; some in way of petition, some of thanksgiving, some of resolution, some of assertion or aphorism;) many useful directions, many zealous exhortations to the observance of it; the which are not ranged in any strict order, but (like a variety of fair flowers and wholesome herbs in a wide field) do with a grateful confusion lie dispersed as they freely did spring up in the heart, or were suggested by the devout spirit of him who indited the Psalm ; whence no coherence of sentences being designed, we may consider any one of them absolutely, or singly by itself.
Among them, that which I have picked out for the subject of my discourse, implieth an excellent rule of practice, authorized by the Psalmist's example: it is propounded in way of devotion or immediate address to God; unto whose infallible knowledge his conscience maketh an appeal concerning his practice; not as boasting thereof, but as praising God for it, unto whose gracious instruction and suc
agimus semper, no
SERM. cour he frequently doth ascribe all his performances : XLVIII.
- but the manner of propounding I shall not insist
upon; the rule itself is, that speedily, without any procrastination or delay, we should apply ourselves to the observance of God's commandments; the practice of which rule it shall be my endeavour to recommend and press.
It is a common practice of men that are engaged in bad courses, which their own conscience discerneth and disapproveth, to adjourn the reformation of their lives to a further time, so indulging themselves in the present commission of sin, that yet they would
seem to purpose and promise themselves hereafter to Victuros repent and take up? : few resolve to persist finally
ec in an evil way, or despair of being one day reclaimed ; vivimus but immediately and effectually to set upon it, many Manil. 4. deem unseasonable or needless; it will, they presume,
be soon enough to begin to-morrow, or next day, a month or a year hence, when they shall find more commodious opportunity, or shall prove better disposed
thereto : in the mean-time with Solomon's sluggard, Prov.vi. 10. Yet, say they, a little sleep, a little slumber, a little
folding of the hands : let us but neglect this duty, let us but satisfy this appetite, let us but enjoy this bout of pleasure ; hereafter, God willing, we mean to be more careful, we hope that we shall become more sober: so, like bad debtors, when our conscience dunneth us, we always mean, we always promise to pay; if she will stay a while, she shall, we tell her, be satisfied; or, like vain spendthrifts, we see our estate fly, yet presume that it will hold out, and at length we shall reserve enough for our use. Eis
a Recognosce singulos, considera universos, nullius non vita spec. tat in crastinum ; non enim vivunt, sed victuri sunt. Sen. Ep. 45.
avprov tà orovdaña, Let serious business stay till the SERM. morrow, was a saying that cost dear to him who *LV said it; yet we in our greatest concerns follow him. Plut. in Pe
But how fallacious, how dangerous, and how mis- Non est, chievous this manner of proceeding is; how much sapientisdibetter and more advisable it is, after the example
caampie Mart. i. 16. propounded in our text, speedily to betake ourselves unto the discharge of our debt and duty to God, the following considerations will plainly declare.
1. We may consider, that the observance of God's commandments (an observance of them proceeding from an habitual disposition of mind, in a constant tenor of practice) is our indispensable duty, our main concernment, our only way to happiness; the necessary condition of our attaining salvation; that alone which can procure God's love and favour toward us; that unto which all real blessings here, and all bliss hereafter, are inseparably annexed : Fear God, and Eccl.xii.13. keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man ; (the whole duty, the whole design, the whole perfection, the sum of our wisdom, and our happiness.) If thou wilt enter into life, keep the com- Matt. xix. mandments: The righteous Lord loveth righteous-Psal. xi. %. ness ; his countenance doth behold the upright : Prov. xv:2 God will render to every man according to his works : these are oracles indubitably clear, and infal- Matt. v. 18. libly certain; these are immovable terms of justice be-17.
Luke xvi. tween God and man, which never will, never can be Ps. relaxed; being grounded on the immutable nature of God, and eternal reason of things : if God had not decreed, if he had not said these things, they would yet assuredly be true; for it is a foul contradiction to reason, that a man ever should please God without obeying him; it is a gross absurdity in nature,
SERM. that a man should be happy without being good ; XLVII. wherefore all the wit in the world cannot devise a
way, all the authority upon earth (yea, I dare say, even in heaven itself) cannot establish a condition, beside faithful observance of God's law, that can save, or make us happy : from it there can be no valid dispensation, without it there can be no effectual absolution, for it there can be no acceptable commutation; nor, in defect thereof, will any faith, any profession, any trick or pretence whatever, avail or signify any thing: whatever expedient to supply its room superstition, mistake, craft, or presumption may recommend, we shall, relying thereon, be certainly deluded. If therefore we mean to be saved, (and are we so wild as not to mean it?) if we do not renounce felicity, (and do we not then renounce our wits ?) to become virtuous, to proceed in a course of obedience, is a work that necessarily must be performed: and why then should we not instantly undertake it? wherefore do we demur or stick at it? how can we at all rest quiet, while an affair of so vast importance lieth upon our hands, or until our mind be freed of all uncertainty and suspense about it? Were a probable way suggested to us of acquiring great wealth, honour, or pleasure, should we not quickly run about it? could we contentedly sleep, till we had brought the business to a sure or hopeful issue? and why with less expedition or urgency should we pursue the certain means of our present security and comfort, of our final salvation and happiness? In doing so, are we not strangely inconsistent with ourselves ?
Again, disobedience is the certain road to perdition; that which involveth us in guilt and condem