Use First. It reproves those that are so far from providing for the evil day, that they will not suffer any thoughts of that day to stay with them. They are as unwilling to be led into a discourse of this subject, as a child to carried into the dark, and there left. It is a death to them to think of death, or that which leads to it. As some foolishly think [that] they must needs die presently when they have made their will, so these think they hasten that sorrowful day by musing on it. The meditation of it is no more welcome to them, than the company of Moses was to Pharaoh. Therefore they say to it as he to Moses, ‘Get thee from me, and let me see thy face no more.’ The fear of it makes them to butcher and make away all those thoughts which conscience stirs up concerning it. And at last they get such a mastery of their consciences, that they arrive at a kind of atheism. It is as rare to have them think or speak of such matters, as to see a fly busy in winter. Nothing now but what is frolic and jocund is entertained by them. If any such thoughts come as prophesy mirth and carnal content, these, as right with their hearts, are taken up into the chariot to sit with them, but all other are commanded to go behind. Alas, poor-spirited wretches! something might be said for you, if this evil day of death and judgement were such entia rationis—fictions of the imagination, as had no foundation or being but what our fancies give them. Such troubles there are in the world, which have all their evil from our thoughts. When we are disquieted with the scorns and reproaches of men, did we but not think of them, they were nothing. But thy banishing the thoughts of this evil day from thy mind, will be a poor short relief. Thou canst neither hinder its coming, nor take away its sting when it comes, by thy slighting it. Thou art like a passenger in a ship, asleep or awake thou art going thy voyage. Thou dost but like that silly bird, that puts her head into a reed, and then thinks see is safe from the fowler, because she sees him not. Thou art a fair mark for God’s vengeance; he sees thee, and is taking his aim at thee, when thou seest not him. Yea, thou puttest thyself under an inevitable necessity of perishing, by not thinking of this day. The first step to our safety, is consideration of our danger.
Use Second. It reproves those who, if they think of the evil day, yet [do] so [only as so] far off, that it is to little purpose. They will be sure to set it at such a distance from them, as shall take away the force of the meditation, that it shall not strike them down in the deep sense and fear of it. That cannon which, if we stood at the mouth of it, would shatter limb from limb, will not so much as scare them that get out of its reach. The further we put the evil day, the weaker impression it makes on us. It is true, say sinners, it cannot be helped. We owe a debt to nature; it must be paid. Sickness will come, and death follow on that, and judgment brings up the rear of both. But, alas! they look not for these guests yet, they prophesy of these things a great while hence to come. Many a fair day they hope will intervene. Thus men are very kind to themselves. First, they wish it may be long before it comes, and then, because they would have it so, they are bold to promise themselves it shall be so; and when once they have made this promise, no wonder if they then live after the rate of their vain hopes, putting off the stating of their accounts, till the winter evening of old age, when they shall not have such allurements to gad abroad from the pleasures of this life. O then they will do great matters to fit them for the evil day. Bold man! who gave thee leave to cut out such large thongs of that time which is not thine but God’s? Who makes the lease, the tenant or the landlord? or dost thou forget thou farmest thy life, and art not an owner? This is the device of Satan, to make you delay; whereas a present expectation of the evil day would not let you sit still unprepared. O why do you let your souls from their work, make them idle and rest from their burdens, by telling them of long life, while death chops in upon you unawares? O what shame will your whorish hearts be put to—that now say, your husband is gone afar off, you may fill yourselves with loves—if he should come before he is looked for, and find you in bed with lusts? And let me tell you, sudden destruction is threatened, especially to secure ones. Read that scripture where it is denounced against that sort of sinners, who please themselves with their Lord’s delaying his coming, [declaring] that ‘the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour he is not aware of,’ Matt. 24:48,50,51. Indeed God must go out of his ordinary road of dealing with sinners, if such escape a sudden ruin. One is bold to challenge any to show a precedent in Scripture of any that are branded for security, that some remarkable, yea, sudden judgement did not surprise. [In the case of those in] Sodom, how soon after a sunshine morning the heavens thicken, and bury them in a few hours, by a storm of fire, in their own ashes? Careless Laish is cut off before they almost think of it. Agag, when he saw the clouds of his fears break, and fair weather was in his countenance, they return immediately upon him, and shut him up in death, he is presently hewn in pieces. Amalek [is] slaughtered by David, before the triumph of their late victory was cold. Nebuchadnezzar is strutting himself in his palace with this bravado in his mouth, ‘Is not this great Babylon that I have built?’ Dan. 4:30; and before he can get the words out of his throat, there is another voice falling from heaven, saying, ‘O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken, the kingdom is departed from thee.’ And, ‘the same hour was the thing fulfilled,’ ver. 32,33, and he sent to graze with the beasts. Dives blesses himself for many years, and within a few hours the pillow is plucked from under his head, and you hear no more of him till out of hell he roar; yea, a whole world, few persons excepted, [is] drowned, and they ‘knew not till the day the flood came and swept them all away,’ Matt. 24:39. And who art thou, O man, that promisest thyself an exemption, when kings, cities, a whole world, have been ruined after this sort?