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How many more persons would have been SERM. saved than there are, if it were not for that XXIV. one prevailing lust or temptation, which they never can bring themselves to part with, that one sin which they found out several excuses to retain ; which they palliated and disguised, and made a thousand useless pretences to bring it under the notion of infirmity, and within the conditions of pardon? But all in vain, there was but one effectual way of dealing with it, and that was what our Saviour here proposes ; namely, though it were as dear to them as their limbs to cut it off and cast it from them, it had been much better for them to have done so, than to be shut out of the kingdom of God, and cast into that fire which shall never be quenched. That one fin, for which alone they hoped to be dispensed with, was their trial for heaven, it was by conquering that very temptation that they were to escape damnation: They had resolution enough to do every thing else for heaven ; and so far they did well; but one thing more they lacked, that which was in a more especial manner their way of trial ; and for want of that one thing all the rest of their religion is but hypocrisy, and all their labour lost.
VII. The last inference I shall make from these words is, that the happiness of heaven and the misery of hell torments are a motive of obedience strong enough to prevail with men to preserve their virtue and innocence in the most difficult cases whatsoever; they are
Ser m. able to make us undergo the greatest hardXXIV. ships, and quit the greatest pleasures of this
life in order to the practice of virtue and holiness: For if we weigh the matter rightly we shall certainly conclude with our Saviour, that it is better to part with
finful pleasures whatsoever, than lose heaven and suffer eternal misery for it; and if we consider this motive enough, it could never fail to work its effects upon us.
So that men have nothing more to do but to persuade themselves that they have such an interest at stake, to be thoroughly convinced of the truth and certainty of it.
Nor is it enough that people barely believe the rewards and punishments of another life; for even of those who'yield a hearty afsent to the truth of these things, how few are there that are wrought up by them? Because they do not ponder and consider them enough, so as to make them ever present to their minds, till their hearts are deeply affected with them, and that they are as feelingly touched by the thoughts and mention of them, as they are by any present danger that threatens the body. If men would do this, nothing could possibly influence our hopes and our fears more powerfully, insomuch that no one perfon whatever who thinks of them enough could ever miscarry.
The word of God is quick and powerful, · and the terrors of the Lord are of sufficient force to persuade men ; if they will fet their minds that way, and yield themselves to be SER M. persuaded; otherwise these motives will lose XXIV. all their virtue and efficacy, and be in respecto of us as if there were no such things. Now nothing can induce more to the making of us do this, than those two considerations the text suggests to us.
I. First that misery, everlasting misery, is the sure and necessary consequence of unrepented guilt, for the custom or habit of any sin, like a spreading gangrene
of our limbs, if it be not cut off and forsaken, proceeds till at last it becomes incurable and brings certain death. Every wilful sin you are guilty of and persist in, forfeits heaven and puts you into a Itate of damnation: And besides, nothing can be a greater evidence of that everlasting sting and horror of conscience, than the remorse which ever accompanies guilt in this world; for no man would have any regret at the committal of a sin, if it were not for something within, that suggests a future vengeance, that tells him they who do such things shall have no inheritance in the kingdom of God, and that the wicked and all that forget God shall be turned into hell. And,
II. That the one or the other of these two things must unavoidably be the final condition of every man; there is no middle state, eternal happiness, or everlasting misery, must be your lot; and therefore expect one or the other, and reckon upon it as your inheritance for ever. It would astonish most of us if we
Serm. knew how soon it would be determined ; and XXIV. that we shall be sealed up irreversibly to one w of them : The day will come as surely, as if it were to-morrow; perhaps there may
be but a few hours between, when you must either enter into the kingdom of God, or else be cast into hell fire, which shall never be quenched.
And therefore God of his mercy grant, that we may lay this to heart in time; that we may never come into that place of torment, where there is nothing but weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth to all eternity,
For our conversation is in heaven, from whence
also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus
HESE words of St. Paul have a pecu-SERM.
liar force and significancy in the ori- XXV. ginal, which cannot be easily expressed in any other language. And it is
And it is very observable, that whenever he does but touch upon this subject, of the change our bodies are to undergo at the last day, he is warmed in an inftant; his stile swells, and he can hardly speak of it but in rapture. In the 15th of his i Cor. where he enlarges upon it, he outdoes himself; and is carried on to a height of eloquence,