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One cannot wonder to see parents in great trouble for the loss of their children; but then should not this natural affection lead them to endeavour that their children may be happy when they die? And yet that is impossible, if you breed them up without the fear of God. All the hope you can have is, that some time or other they may repent. But little do you know what goes to true repentance, and especially for sins of uncleanness; they are so bewitching, when once people have fallen into evil courses, that it is very hard to forsake them. Besides, it is not every one who changes his course of life that truly repents him of his faults. If the heart is not changed, there is no conversion. So that it is much to be feared, that very many, whom we hope well of, do never truly repent, must never go to heaven. And how far parents are answerable for this, their own consciences will tell them. And indeed it is no wonder that these sins are so very common. It is plain, young people do not know their duty, nor the dangers they are exposed to. We must use the very rigour of the law to force them to come to be instructed. As for shame, how should that restrain them, when even many of the gravest of our people make no more than a jest of these sins when they come to be openly censured? They speak of them before their children and servants, as if there were no more in them than doing penance. And when the Church, by this discipline, as the last remedy, hopes to recover them to a sense of their errors, what pains will they take to avoid her censures, or to have them mitigated Add to all this, how very many families are there, in which there is not the least sign of religion; where they never pray to God for His blessing; where they never give Him thanks for His mercies; where they never beg His grace for themselves or for their children? Will any body expect that such people should resist temptations? If one must speak the plain truth, the devil is the master of such families, and they must do what he would have them to do; they must be thieves, or whoremongers, or sabbathbreakers, or murderers, or any thing which will make them truly his servants, and bring them to him when they die.
I now come to consider the two cases which I proposed at the beginning; that is to say, The case of such as have fallen into these sins, and are not sensible of the sad condition they are in ; and the case of those that, being convinced of their danger, desire to be restored to God’s favour. In speaking to these particular cases, I shall now only add what I think may be proper to awaken you to a due care of yourselves. And first; know for certain, that it will be your own fault purely, if ever you shall be so unhappy as to fall into any of these vices. For, when God commands us to be chaste, and to avoid fornication and all uncleanness, He will enable us to do so, if we are not wanting on our part. God knows all our weaknesses; He knows what temptations we are like to meet with ; He knows what we can do ourselves, and what we ought to do, towards preserving our innocence; He knows that we shall want His grace; He has therefore bid us ask sincerely, and we shall have all the assistance that is needful for us. But then He commands us to be careful of ourselves; to live soberly; to keep out of the way of temptations as much as may be; and especially to avoid idleness and evil company; and then He will hear our prayers, and deliver us from the evil which we fear, and which we pray to be delivered from. And as you hope to keep yourselves pure from these foul crimes, keep a strict watch over your hearts. It is the heart which is the fountain of all evil, as our Saviour has told us; and lewd thoughts and desires will produce lewd actions, if not resisted and cast out. “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” If people make a mock of these sins, think you thus with yourself: these people do not consider, that fornicators and adulterers cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. If they did, it would certainly turn their laughter into sorrow and mourning. If, to avoid fornication, you purpose to marry, remember, that “a prudent wife is from the Lord.” And if so, you must pray to God to direct you, or never expect a happy
People go together without thoughts of God, and God leaves them to their own wilful choices. And what can one expect to follow, but hatred, strife, separation, and, too often, adultery’ To conclude: let this be seriously thought of; that all sins, and especially the sins of fornication and adultery, and such foul crimes, will meet with a due reward, one time or other. If you sin against the Lord, your sin will surely find you out. ob. 32. There is no hiding your crimes from God; no blotting them out of His remembrance; no escaping His severe justice; He can bring evils upon you, when you least expect them; come upon you like an armed man, not to be resisted; deprive you of the dearest blessings of your life, and make you “to possess the iniquities of your youth.” Job 13. 26. Be persuaded, therefore, good christians, to prevent your own misery; avoid temptations; mortify your corrupt affections, pray earnestly for grace, and grieve not the Holy Spirit by which you are sanctified; and you will escape all these evils, and, what is worse than all these, eternal death. And do Thou, O God, rebuke the spirit of impurity that is gone out amongst us; preserve all those that are yet undefiled from all filthiness of flesh and spirit; make us all watchful over ourselves, and of those sins that do most easily beset us; that keeping ourselves pure, as Thy servants ought to be, we may, when we come to die, be admitted into the paradise of God, where no impure thing can enter. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen, Amen.
THE CAUSES AND THE REMEDIES OF MEN'S NEGLECTING THE
O Lord and Master, suffer me not to forget my duty, both to save myself and them that hear me. Bless, I beseech Thee, this instruction, that both I and my flock may be thoroughly awakened by it; that we may so pass the remainder of our days to Thy honour, as to be always in that state in which we desire to be found at Thy coming ; that we may not think of death with fear, but with the hopes of good servants, who humbly expect to be rewarded by Thee, O Jesus. Amen.
LUKE xiii. 8, 9.
See Matt. Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and
21. 19 ; Luke 12. 36.
dung it; and if it bear fruit, well; and is not, then after that thou shall cut it down.
I will read you the whole parable, that you may better understand the words I have made choice of for your present instruction.
“A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree and find none ; cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground 2 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I dig about it, and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”
I take it for granted, that not one who hears (and understands) me, but knows the meaning and intent of this parable. And can I read, or can you hear, these words, without having some such thoughts as these in your hearts? ‘I have, by the favour of God, had some time of trial, in order to mend my corrupt nature, and to recommend myself to His favour, by good works, and fruits worthy of a place in the life He has given me; it very much concerns me, therefore, to consider what use I have made of my past time, and how I purpose to spend the remainder of my days; lest it should be determined in the decrees of God, That this is to be the last year I am to live.” We see plainly, by this parable, that we are not sent into the world for nothing, no more than trees, which are designed for fruit, are suffered to grow, unless they are likely to bear fruit. And the most careless observer cannot but take notice of the great patience of God, who bears with His fruitless creatures, one year after another, while there is any hope that they will answer the end of their being sent into the world. And whoever is meant by this dresser of the vineyard, one cannot but admire His great charity, who can have so much compassion for those who have so little concern for themselves. In the next place, you cannot but observe, that there is a determinate time, when God, the Lord of the vineyard, will bear no longer with His unfruitful creatures, after all the necessary methods and pains have been made use of to mend their nature, and to make them bear fruit answerable to amendment of life. Lastly; the most thoughtless Christian cannot but take notice of the punishment of God's abused patience: “cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” Would to God you would now join with me in making the best use of this very instructive parable; that we may not let one year after another pass over our heads without considering, that a few years will certainly, and even a few days may, put an end to our time of trial; and that then “the [John 9.4.] night cometh, when no man can work.” Now, a work every soul of us have upon our hands,--a work that must be done before we die, or it had been better for us that we never had been born. And yet, when one looks into the world, one would be tempted to conclude, that few Christians know, and fewer consider this, or that they