Use Third. This reproves those who—much against their will, and by reason of an awakened conscience, that is ever pinching of them, and preaching on Paul’s text before Felix to them, till it makes them tremble as he did—think indeed often of this evil day; yet such is the power of lust in their hearts, that it makes them spur on, notwithstanding all the rebukes conscience gives them, and affrighting thoughts they have of the evil day, yet they continue in their old trade of sin desperately. These wretches are the objects of our saddest pity. The secure sinner, that has broke prison from his conscience, is like a strong-brained drunkard, he swallows down his sin, as the other doth his drink, with pleasure, and is not stirred at all. But here is a man that is stomach-sick, as I may say, his conscience is oft disgorging his sweet draughts, and yet he will sin, though with pain and anguish. O consider, poor wretches, what you do! Instead of arming yourselves against the evil day, you arm the evil day against yourselves; you are sticking the bed with pins and needles, on which you must ere long be laid; you are throwing billets into that fiery furnace, wherein at last you shall be cast; and all this in spite of your consciences, which yet God mercifully sets in your way, that the prickings of them may be a hedge of thorns, to keep thee from the pursuit of thy lusts. Know therefore, if thou wilt go on, that as thy conscience takes from the pleasure of thy sin at present, so it will add to the horror of thy torment hereafter.
Use Fourth. It reproves those who, though they are not so violent and outrageous in sin, [as] to make them stink above ground in the nostrils above others, yet rest in an unarmed condition. They do not fly to Christ for covering and shelter against the day of storm and tempest, and the reason is, they have a lie in their right hand, they feed on ashes, and a deceived heart carries them aside from seeking after Christ. It would make one tremble to see how confident many are with their false hopes and self-confidences. Daring to come up—as Korah with his censer, as undauntedly as Moses himself—even to the mouth of the grave, till on a sudden they are swallowed up with destruction, and sent to be undeceived in hell, who would not be beaten from their refuges of lies here. Whoever thou art, O man, and whatever thou hast to glory in, were it the most saint-like conversation that ever any lived on earth, yet if this be thy shelter against the evil day, thou will perish. No salvation when the flood comes, but Christ; yea, being in Christ, hanging on the outside of the ark by a specious profession, will not save. Methinks I see how those of the old world ran for their lives, some to this hill, and others to that high tree, and how the waves pursued them, till at last they were swept into the devouring flood. Such will your end be, that turn any other way for help than to Christ; yet the ark waits on you, yea, comes up close to your gate to take you in. Noah did not put forth his hand more willingly to take in the dove, than Christ doth to receive those who fly to him for refuge. O reject not your own mercies for lying vanity.
Use Fifth. Let it put thee upon the inquiry, whoever thou art, whether thou beest in a posture of defence for this evil day. Ask thy soul soberly and solemnly, ‘Art thou provided for this day, this evil day?’ how couldst thou part with what that will take away, and welcome what it will certainly bring? Death comes with a voider to carry away all thy carnal enjoyments, and to bring thee up a reckoning for them. O canst thou take thy leave of the one, and with peace and confidence read the other? Will it not affright thee to have thy health and strength turned into faintness and feebleness, thy sweet nights of rest into waking eyes and restless tossings up and down, thy voice that has so often chanted to the viol, to be now acquainted with no other tune but sighs and groans? O how canst thou look upon thy sweet and dear relations with thoughts of removing from them? yea, behold the instrument, as it were, whetting, that shall give the fatal stroke to sever soul and body? Think that thou wert now half dead in thy members that are most remote from the fountain of life, and death to have but a few moments’ journey before it arrive to thy heart, and so beat thy last breath out of thy body. Possibly the inevitable necessity of these do make thee to harden thyself against them. This might indeed, in some heathen, that is not resolved whether there be another world or no, help a little to blunt the edge of that terror, which otherwise would cut deeper in his amazed heart; but if thou believest another world, and that judgment which stands at death’s back, ready to allot thee thy unchangeable state in bliss or misery, surely thou canst not relieve thy awakened conscience with such a poor cordial. O therefore think what answer thou meanest to give unto the great God at thy appearing before him, when he shall ask thee, ‘What thou canst say, why the sentence of eternal damnation should not then be pronounced against thee?’ Truly we deal unfaithfully with our own souls, if we bring not our thoughts to this issue. If now you should ask how you should provide against the evil day, so that you may stand before that dreadful bar, and live so in the meantime that you might not be under a slavish bondage through the fearful expectation of it, take it in a few directions.
- If ever you would have a blessed issue of this evil day, so as to stand in judgement before the great God, rest not till thou hast got into a covenant-relation with Christ. Dying David’s living comfort was drawn from the covenant God had made with him—this was all his desire, and all his salvation. How canst thou put thy head into the other world without horror, if thou hast not solid ground that Christ will own thee for his? Heaven hath its heirs, and so hath hell. The heirs of heaven are such as are in covenant with God. The foundation of it was laid in a covenant, and all the mansions there are prepared for a people in covenant with him: ‘Gather my saints together that have made a covenant with me.’ But how mayest thou get into this covenant-relation? First break thy covenant with sin. Thou art by nature a covenant-servant to sin and Satan. May be thou hast not expressly in words, and formally, as witches, sealed this covenant, yet virtually, as thou hast done the work of Satan, and been at the command of thy lusts, accepting the reward of unrighteousness—the pleasure and carnal advantages they have paid thee in for the same—therein thou hast declared thyself to be so. Now if ever thou wilt be taken into covenant with God, break this. A covenant with hell and heaven cannot stand together.