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be too late ; but let it be likewise granted, Serm.IV. that a late Repentance is very
seldom in this Sense sincere. If the Man were reinstated in his former Health, Ease possibly might recant the Vows, that were made in Pain, as null and void.
2dly, As you are to avoid evil Habits, be sure betimes to acquire good Habits, as the neceffary Qualifications for Heaven. Some seem to think, that Religion consists in some broken disjointed Acts of Piety : But let them not deceive themselves : True Religion consists in the inward Frame of the Mind, in the standing Bent of the Inclinations, in settled Habits of Piety constantly residing in the Breast, and, as often as there is Opportunity, breaking forth into outward Acts. Thus a Man shall think himself devout, if he now and then occasionally says his Prayers, and frequents the public Worship; though he often absents himself upon every Night Occasion, upon no Occasion at all. But let him not deceive himself: If he were really devout, he would have a Relish for Acts of Piety, his Heart would cleave stedfastly unto God: and then he would not neglect private or public Prayers upon frivolous Pretences. Thus again a Man Thall think himself cha
Serm.IV. ritable, because he now and then performs
occasional transient Acts of Charity : But he alone is a charitable Man, who loves Mercy and Charity, and sheweth that he loves them, by the main Tenor and Current of his Actions; who, with a strong Benevolence of Soul, is glad to relieve proper Objects of Charity when he can ; and fincerely sorry when he cannot. · And very Sorrows of the Charitable give more substantial Satisfaction than the Joys of the Selfish. For Compassion for the Distressed (a Sorrow of which the charitable are most susceptible) gives them to understand, that the habitual Disposition of their Mindis right; And he, who does not feel that lovely Difposition within, must want a Pleasure, the Absence of which no other Pleasure can counterbalance. He is a thoroughly good Man, who has often tried and found his Virtue genuine, and clear of all Oftentation; who, instead of boasting or complaining, loves to conceal the Good he does, and the Ills he suffers; who thinks that Happiness scarce any at all, which is folitary and uncommunicated; as Paradise was no Paradise to Adam, till he had a Partner of it. Till we have acquired an habitually-good Bent of Temper, we have not acquired those Qualifications, which
are the main Ground-work and Foundation SERM.IV. of our future Happiness: We are not meet to be Partakers of the Inheritance of the Saints in Light.
Therefore, 3dly, Let us all consider, that our future Misery or Happiness depends upon our present Behaviour. Our Happiness in Manhood depends upon those early Accomplishments, which we have acquired in our younger Years. If that proper SeedTime of Life be neglected, we must expect no Harvest in the Autumn of it. Just so our Felicity in another Life must be owing to the Preparations we make for it here. And what we must be to all Eternity, will be the Consequence of what we have been in this World.
There is a certain Fool-bardiness prevailing among us in relation to a future State. Men live as carelessly or profligately, as if they never were to depart this Life; and then depart this Life with as much Stupidity and Hardness of Heart, as if they never were to live again. They rush unprepared into the Presence of the just, the holy Legislator of the whole World, as inconsiderately and audaciously, as the Horse russes to the Battle, a Creature not capable of being frighted with Consequences, because incapable of
Serm.IV. reflecting upon them. God, say they, is
all Goodness; and therefore they dare to be what he must necessarily hate, the very
Reverse of Him – all Wickedness: Not confidering, that the Goodness of God should lead them to Repentance. For God cannot love a Nature directly and habitually contrary to his; and cannot but love what is in some degree conformable to his Holiness and Purity. Now what he loves must be for happy; and what he hates for ever miserable. Let Men think or say, what they will, to the contrary; it is Goodness which ought to make every immoral Agent afraid, a determined, impartial, universal Goodness in a Being, who, because he is infinitely Good, will inflict every deserved Evil, which is productive of a prepollent Good; and will inflict none, but what is productive of such; who will consult the universal Interest, and not that of a few incurable Members of the whole stupendous Body of the Universe.
Such Men would do well to reflect, that Men even here in the natural Course of Things bring upon themselves such ill Habits of Body, and Miseries of all kinds, that they can never extricate themselves from, as long as they live. The Course
of Nature is so established, that Death alone Serm.IV. sometimes puts a Period to those Ills, which they have plunged themselves into by their Follies and Vices : If they were to live for ever, they would be probably miserable for ever, by the ill Consequences of their Sins, which take place in a natural Way. Now whatever comes to pats by the settled Course of Nature, is as much done by him, who appointed the Course of Things, and foresaw every Consequence that would arise from every Manner of Acting; as if he had immediately inflicted the Punishment himself. And as the same God, who appointed the Nature of Things here, is the God of the other World as well as this; may not something like this come to pass in that other State ? May not the Impenitent be for ever lamenting those Ills, which no Prudence can redress, no Patience make supportable, and no Time put a Period to ?
I cannot conclude this Head, without withing, that all of us may believe the Doctrine which I have here inculcated, to be true ; and that this Belief, with the Concurrence of other Motives, may have that Effect, that none of us may feel it to be so.