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that were wont to stay together almost from morning till night in public worship and communion; spend it as the king's declaration requireth, which saith, Our purpose and resolution is, and shall be, to take care that the Lord's day be applied to holy exercises, without unnecessary divertise
2. And if yet there be any doubt in this, I refer you to the judgment of the church of England, expressed in the Homily of the Time and Place of Prayer. And for the time, the name, the antiquity, and authority, and the work itself, I desire you but to receive what is there delivered, not by any factious persons, but by the church. Do this, and we are agreed and satisfied. And I make it my request to the reader, to peruse both parts of that Homily, that he may know how far the church of England is from the loose conceits of the enemies of godliness: and if also you will read over the Homilies against the Peril of Idolatry, you will the more fully know the judgment of the church about the manner of God's worship. (Indeed the whole book is such as the people should be acquainted with.)
I have done my part to open to you the Necessity of SERIOUS DILIGENCE, and to call up the sluggish souls of sinners to mind the work of their salvation, and to do it SPEEDILY, and with all their MIGHT; I must now leave the success to God and you. What use you will make of it, and what you will be and do for the time to come, is a matter that more concerneth yourselves than me. If long speaking, or multitude of words, were the way to prevail with you, I should willingly speak here while my strength would endure, and lengthen out my exhortations yet sevenfold. But that is not the way: a little wearieth you: you love long feasts, and long visits, and plays, and sports, much better than long sermons, or books, or prayers. But it is no small grief to us, to leave you in a case of such importance, without some considerable hopes of your deliverance.
Sirs, the matter is now laid before you, and much in your own hands: it will not be so long! What will you now do? Have I convinced you now, that God and your
salvation are to be sought with all your might? If I have not, it is not for want of evidence in what is said, but for want of willingness in yourselves to know the truth: I have proved to you that it is a matter out of controversy, unless your lusts, and passions, and carnal interest will make a controversy of it. I beseech you tell me if you be of any religion at all, why are you not strict, and serious, and diligent, and mortified, and heavenly in that religion that you are of? Sure, you will not so far shame your own religion, whatever it be, as to say that your religion is not for mortification, holiness, heavenliness, self-denial, or that your religion alloweth you to be ambitious, covetous, gluttonous, drunken; to curse, and swear, and whore, and rail, and oppress the innocent: it is not religion, but diabolical, serpentine malignity that is for any of this.
It is wonderful to think, that learned men, and gentlemen, and men that pretend to reason and ingenuity, can quietly betray their souls to the devil upon such silly grounds, and do the evil that they have no more to say for, and neglect that duty that they have no more to say against, when they know they must do it NOW or NEVER! That while they confess that there is a God, and a life to come, a heaven and a heil, and that this life is purposely given us for preparation for eternity; while they confess that God is most wise, and holy, and good, and just, and that sin is the greatest evil, and that the word of God is true, they can yet make shift to quiet themselves in an unholy, sensual, careless life and that while they honour the apostles and martyrs, and saints that are dead and gone, they hate their successors and imitators, and the lives that they lived, and are inclined to make more martyrs by their malicious cruelty.
Alas, all this comes from the want of a sound belief of the things which they never saw; and the distance of those things, and the power of passion, and sensual objects and inclinations that hurry them away after present vanities, conquer reason, and rob them of their humanity; and by the noise of the company of sensual sinners, that harden and deafen one another, and by the just judgment of God forsaking those that would not know him, and leaving them to
the blindness and hardness of their hearts. But is there no remedy! O Thou, the Fountain of mercy and relief, vouchsafe these sinners a remedy! O Thou, the Saviour of lost mankind, have mercy upon those sinners in the depth of their security, presumption and misery! O Thou, the Illuminator and Sanctifier of souls, apply the remedy so dearly purchased! We are constrained oft to fear lest it be much long of us, that should more seriously preach the awakening truths of God unto men's hearts. And verily our consciences cannot but accuse us, that when we are most lively and serious, alas, we seem but almost to trifle, considering on what a message we come, and of what transcendent things we speak. But satan hath got his advantage upon our hearts, that should be instrumental to kindle theirs, as well as on theirs that should receive the truth. O that we could thirst more after their salvation! O that we could pray harder for it; and entreat them more earnestly; as those that were loath to take a denial from God or man. I must confess to you all with shame and sorrow, that I am even amazed to think of the hardness of my own heart that melteth no more in compassion to the miserable, and is no more earnest and importunate with sinners, when I am upon such a subject as this; and am telling them that it must be NOW or NEVER; and when the messenger of death within, and the fame of men's displeasure from without, doth tell me how likely it is that my time shall be but short, and that if I will say any thing that may reach the hearts of sinners, for aught I know, it must be NOW or NEVER. O what an obstinate, what a lamentable disease is this insensibility and hardness of heart! If I were sure this were the last sermon that ever I should preach, I find now my heart would shew its sluggishness, and rob poor souls of the serious fervour which is suitable to the subject and their case, and needful to the desired
But yet, poor sleepy sinners, hear us: though we speak not to you as men would do, that had seen heaven and hell, and were themselves in a perfectly awakened frame, yet hear us while we speak to you the words of truth, with some seriousness and compassionate desire of your salvation. O
look up to your God! Look out unto eternity: look inwardly upon your souls: look wisely upon your short and hasty time and then bethink you how the little remnant of your time should be employed; and what it is that most concerneth you to dispatch and secure before you die. Now you have sermons, and books, and warnings. It will not be so long. Preachers must have done. God threateneth them, and death threateneth them, and men threaten them, and it is you, it is you that are most severely threatened, and that are called on by God's warnings. "If any man have an ear to hear, let him hear." Now Now you have abundance of private helps, you have abundance of understanding, gracious companions; you have the Lord's days to spend in holy exercises, for the edification and solace of your souls; you have choice of sound and serious books; and blessed be God, you have the protection of a Christian and a Protestant king and magistracy. O what invaluable mercies are all these! O know your time, and use these with industry; and improve this harvest for your souls! For it will not be thus always. It must be NOW or NEVER.
You have yet time and leave to pray and cry to God in hope. Yet if you have hearts and tongues, he hath an hearing ear. The Spirit of grace is ready to assist you. It will not be thus always. The time is coming when the loudest cries will do no good. O pray, pray, pray, poor, needy, miserable sinners; for it must be NOW or NEVER.
You have yet health and strength, and bodies fit to serve your souls. It will not be so always. Languishing and pains, and death are coming. O use your health and strength for God; for it must be NOW or NEVER.
Yet there are some stirrings of conviction in your consciences. You find that all is not well with you; and you have some thoughts or purposes to repent and be new creatures. There is some hope in this, that yet God hath not quite forsaken you. O trifle not, and stifle not the convictions of your consciences, but hearken to the witness of God within you. It must be NOW or NEVER.
Would you not be loath to be left to the despairing case of many poor distressed souls, that cry out, O it is now too late! I fear my day of grace is past; God will not hear me now if I should call upon him; he hath forsaken me, and given me over to myself. It is too late to repent, too late to pray, too late to think of a new life; all is too late.' This case is sad. But yet many of these are in a safer and better case than they imagine, and are but frightened by the tempter, and it is not too late, while they cry out, 'It is too late.' But if you are left to cry in hell, It is too late,' alas, how long, and how doleful a cry and lamentation will it be!
O consider, poor sinner, that God knoweth the time and season of thy mercies. He giveth the spring and harvest in their season, and all his mercies in their seasons, and wilt thou not know thy time and season, for love and duty, and thanks to him?
Consider that God who hath commanded thee thy work, hath also appointed thee thy time. And this is his appointed time. To-day, therefore, hearken to his voice, and see that thou harden not thy heart. He that bids thee "repent and work out thy salvation with fear and trembling," doth also bid thee do it now. Obey him in the time, if thou wilt be indeed obedient. He best understandeth the fittest time. One would think to men that have lost so much already, and loitered so long, and are so lamentably behindhand, and stand so near the bar of God, and their everlasting state, there should be no need to say any more, to persuade them to be up and doing. I shall add but this: you are never like to have a better time. Take this, or the work will grow more difficult, more doubtful; if through the just judgment of God, it become not desperate. If all this will not serve, but still you will loiter till time be gone, what can your poor friends do but lament your misery! The Lord knows, if we knew what words, what pains, what cost would tend to your awakening, and conversion, and salvation, we should be glad to submit to it; and we hope we should not think our labours, or liberties, or our lives too dear to promote so blessed, and so necessary a work But if, when all is done, that