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have angered him, they imagine they have also done a great deal to pacify him.
If they be not as yet converted, and it be necessary that they should experience any other conversion, in order to their salvation, they hope that their orderly and strict lives will move God to give them converting grace. They hope, that surely God will not see those, that live as they do, go to hell. Thus they flatter themselves, as those (Luke xviii. 9,) “that trusted in themselves that they were righteous.'
4. Some make the advantages under which they live an occasion of self-flattery. They flatter themselves, that they
, live in a place where the gospel is powerfully preached, and among a religious people, where many have been converted ; and they think it will be much easier for them to be saved on that account. Thus they abuse the grace of God to their destruction ; they do that which the scriptures call despising the riches of God's goodness ; Rom. ii. 4. “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ?"
Some flatter themselves, that they are born of godly parents, who are dear to God, who have often and earnestly prayed for them, and hope that their prayers will be beard; and that encourages them to go on in the way of neglecting their souls. The Jews had great dependence upon this, that they were the children of Abraham ; John viii. 33, they make their boast,“ We be Abraham's seedy” and in verse 39, “Abraham is our father."
5. Some flatter themselves with their own intentions. They intend to give themselves liberty for a while longer, and then to reform. Though now they neglect their souls, and are going on in sin, yet they intend, ere long, to bestir themselves, to leave off their sins, and to set themselves to seek God. They hear that there is great encouragement for those who earnestly seek God, that they shall find him. So they intend to do; they propose to seek with a great deal of earnestness. They are told, that there are many who seek to enter the kingdom of heaven, who shall not be able; but they intend, not only to seek, but to strive. However, for the present, they allow themselves in their ease, sloth, and pleasure, minding only earthly things.
Or, if they should be seized with some mortal distemper, and should draw near to the grave, before the time which they lay out in their minds for reformation, they think how earnestly they would pray and cry to God for mercy: and, as they hear God is a merciful God, who taketh no delight in the death of sinners, they hence flatter themselves that they shall move God to have pity on them.
There are but few sinners, knowing themselves to be such, who have not intentions of future repentance and reformation; but few who do not flatter themselves, that they shall in good earnest seek God some time or other. Hell is full of good intenders, who never proved to be true performers : Acts xxiv. 25.“ Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient sca
6. There are some who flatter themselves, that they do, and have done, a great deal for their salvation, and therefore hope they shall obtain ; when indeed they neither do what they ought to do, nor what they might do even in their present state of unregeneracy; nor are they in any likely way to be converted. They think they are striving, when they actually neg. lect many moral and some instituted duties ; nor do they exert themselves as if it were for their lives, they are not violent for the kingdom of heaven.
There are doubtless many such ; many are concerned, and are seeking, and do many things, and think that they are in a very fair way to obtain the kingdom of God; yet there is great danger that they will prove at last to be some of the foolish virgins, and be found without oil in their vessels.
7. Some hope by their strivings to obtain salvation of themselves. They have a secret imagination, that they shall by degrees, work in themselves sorrow and repentance of sin, and love towards God and Jesus Christ. Their striving is not so much an earnest seeking to God, as a striving to do themselves that which is the work of God. Many who are now seeking have this imagination; they labour, read, pray, hear sermons, and go to private meetings, with the view of making themselves holy, and of working in themselves holy affections.
Many who only project and design to turn to God bcreafter, are apt to think that it is an easy thing to be converted; that it is a thing which will be in their own power at any time, when they shall earnestly set themselves to it.
8. Some sinners flatter themselves, that they are already converted. They sit down and rest in a false hope, persuading themselves that all their sins are pardoned: that God loves them; that they shall go to heaven when they die; and that they need trouble themselves no more : Rev. ii. 17.“ Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
Sinners very generally go on flattering themselves in some or other of these ways, till their punishment actually overtakes them. These are the baits by which Satan catches souls, and draws them into his spare. They are such self-flatteries as these that keep men from seeing their danger, and that make
them go on securely, “as the bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life."
Those that flatter themselves with hopes of living a great while longer in the world, very commonly continue to do so till death comes. Death comes upon them when they expect it not; they look upon it as a great way off when there is but a step between. They thought not of dying at that time, nor at any time near it. When they were young they proposed to live a good while longer; and if they happen to live till middle age, they still maintain the same thought, that they are not yet near death, and so that thought goes along with them as long as they live, or till they are just about to die.
Men often have a dependence on their own righteousness, and as long as they live are never brought off from it. Multitudes uphold themselves with their own intentions, till all their prospects are dashed in pieces by death. . They put off the work which they have to do till such a time ; and when that comes, they put it off to another time; until death, which cannot be put off, overtakes them. There are many also that hold a false hope, a persuasion that they belong to God; and as long as they live, by all the marks and signs which are given of a true convert they never will be persuaded to let go their hope, till it is rent from them by death.
Thus men commonly uphold themselves, and make themselves easy, till hell-fire makes them uneasy. Everlasting ruin comes upon them as a snare, and all their hopes are at once cut off, and turned into everlasting despair : 1 Thess. v. 3. “ When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child ; and they shall not escape.
The subject applied.
1. Hence we learn one reason why there are but few saved, and why so many perish from under the gospel. All men know that they must die, and all that sit under the light of the gospel have been told many a time, that after this there is another world ; that there are but two states in that other world--a state of eternal happiness, and a state of eternal misery—that there is but one way of escaping the misery and obtaiping the blessedness of eternity, which is by obtaining an interest in Christ, through faith in him; and that this life is the only opportunity of obtaining an interest in Christ. Yet men are so much given to flatter themselves in those ways which we
have mentioned, that there are but few that seasonably take care of their salvation. Indeed they cannot but be in some measure concerned about their souls; yet they flatter themselves with one thing or other, so that they are kept steadily and uninterruptedly going on in the broad way to destruction.
2. Hence.we may learn the reason why awakening truths of scripture, and awakening sermons, make no more impression upon men. It is in itself a wonderful and surprising thing, that
a Gods denunciations of eternal misery, and threatenings of casting sinners into the lake that burneth with tire and brimstone for ever and ever, do not affect them, do not startle them. The truth is, they flatter themselves, by such means as we have mentioned, that this dreadful misery is not for them; that they shall escape it, though multitudes of others are involved in it. They take not these threatenings to themselves; they seem to think that they do not belong to them.
How many are there, who, for all the awakening sermons they have heard, are yet secure in sin! and who, altough they are sensible that they are in a Christless condition, and are still going on in sin, yet intend to go to heaven, and expect that by some means or other they shall arrive there. They are often told, that God is very angry with them : yet they think God is a very merciful God, and they shall be able to pacify him. If they be told how uncertain life is, that doth not awaken them, because they flatter themselves with long life. If they be told how dangerous it is to delay the business of religion, they promise themselves, that they will hereafter engage in it with more earnestness than others, and so obtain the end, the salvation of their souls. Others, when they are told that many shall seek who shall not be able to obtain, think, surely, that they, having done so much for salvation, shall not be denied.
3. Let every sinner examine, whether he do not flatter himself in some of those ways which have been mentioned. What is it in your own minds which makes you think it is safe for you to delay turning to God? What is it that encourages you to run such a venture as you do, by delaying this necessary work? Is it that you hope there is no such state as heaven or hell, and have a suspicion that there is no God? Is it this that makes you secure? or is it that you are not much afraid but that you shall have opportunity enough a great while hence to mind such things? Is it an intention of a future seeking at a more convenient season ? and are you persuaded that God will hearken to you then, after you shall have so long turned a deaf ear to his commands and gracious invitations? Are you encouraged to commit sin, because you hope to repent of it? Are you encouraged by the mercy of God to be bis
enemies ? and do you resolve still to provoke him to anger, because you think he is easily pacified ?
Or do you think that your conversion is in your own power, and that you can turn to God when you please? Is it because you have been born of godly parents, that you are so secure? or do you imagine that you are in a fair way to be converted? Do you think that what you have done in religion will engage God to pity you, and that he never can have the heart to condemn one who has lived in so orderly a manner ? or do you think that you are indeed converted already ? and doth that encourage you to take a liberty in sinning? Or are you secure, because you are so stupid as to think nothing about these things? Do you let these concerns wholly alone, and scarcely ever think at all how it will be with you after you are dead ?-Certainly it must be one or more of these things which keeps you in your security, and encourages you to go on in sin. Examine, therefore, and see which of them it is.
4. Be persuaded to leave off thus flattering yourselves in your own eyes. You are here informed, that those who do as you do, commonly continue so doing till their punishment actually comes upon them. Thereby you may be convinced of the vanity of all such flatteries. Be afraid of that which you are sure is the devil's bait : “Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird.” Prov. i. 17.
You are not only told in the scriptures, that sinners are generally thus allured to hell,
but your reason may convince you that it is so. For doubtless other sinners have as much ground to hope an escape of punishment as you ; and it is evident, that they generally do hope to escape. Men under the gospel almost universally think they shall not go to hell; if it were otherwise, they could have no peace or comfort in the world. Yet what multitudes have we reason to conclude go down from under the preaching of the gospel to the pit of destruction! Now, this is surely enough to convince any sober prudent person, of the folly of such flattery, and of the folly of every one that doth not immediately set about this great work with his might. If you could have access to the damned, you would hear many of them curse themselves, for thus flattering themselves while they lived in this world; and you would have the same doctrine preached to you by their wailings and yellings which is now delivered to you.
If your temptation to security be unbelief of the fundamental doctrines of religion, such as the being of God, of another world, and an eternal judgment, you may consider, that though that makes you secure at present, yet it will not do always, it will not stand by you when you come to die. The fool often in health saith, There is no God; but when he comes to die, he cannot rest in any such supposition. Then he is