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But alas! This is the greatest Instance of all of our Inconsideration. And instead of repassing in this Manner every Day upon our A&tions, I fear there are many who go on whole Weeks, and Months, and Years, withour ever thinking at all of it; as if it were enough to practise this Duty by the same Proportions which some of our modern Cafuifts have prescribed for that other of the
Love of God; some of which have thought it ne'cessary to be done only upon Sundays and Holy-days ; others not above once a Tear; some once in Five Years; others at any one Time in our whole. Lives; and Lastly, others never at all, either Living or Dying.
But tho' there be then no Time fo proper as the present, for the doing of that which cannot without the greatest Danger be deferr'd the least Moment; yet some Seasons there are, which seem more especially to invite us to it.... . . Thus ist, if old Age be crept upon us, or any Sickness or Danger threaten us with a speedy Appearance before God's Tribunal; this ought certainly at the same Time that it admonishes us of the Shortness of our present Life, to call us to an immediate providing for the next.
2. Tho' the Hand of God be not just upon us, yet if we see his Arm lifted up to strike ; if we have fome just Cause to apprehend' any Evils or Affiations likely to come upon us : Much more if our Country and our Church be in Danger for the Iniquity of her Children and People within her; this also may be another Time that seems on Purpose mark'd out to call us to consideration; to think upon our Ways, and how to prevent both our own, and the publick Desolation.
But now, 3dly, If these Evils are not merely apprehended," but are atually upon us; so that we already have begun to bear the Punishment of our Sins, and may have just Cause to apprehend yet more dreadful Effects of them; this certainly ought yet more strongly to engage us to such a Consideration
In such Circumstances as these, the worst of Men naturally become Religious. God himself could say
of the Rebellious Ifraelites, That in their Hof. y. 15. Afflictions_they would seek bim early.
And the Prophet observed of all Men in general, That when God's Judg
ments are in the Earth, then the lxba. bitants of the World will learn Righteousness.
I will only add, 4thly, And with Reference to the approaching Season; That as the Time of Lent has in all Ages of the Church been lookd upon as a Season proper for the Business of Repentance; so certainly we cannot better prepare for it, than by the Pra&tice of this great Preliminary Duty of Con, sideration, without which it will be impossible for us ever to discharge it as we ought to do. And however the Godly Primitive Discipline of Publick Confefron and Penance, has for the Hardness of our Hearts, been of late laid aside among us; yet ought we not therefore to be ever the less, nay, rather we Thould be the more careful to examine our own
Souls, and call our Ways to RememSee the Com- brance, and by our Private Dilimination used on Afhwednes
gence, make some Supply of what
And to the End' I may the better enforce this Practice, which upon all these Accounts seem so very proper for us, I will now finally Clofe all,
IVthly, With some Motives that may serve to stir
us up to the fulfilling of our Duty, in fo great and necessary a Part of it.
I have already observed in the beginning of this Discourse, That 'tis the want of Consideration that is really the last universal Cause of all our Sins. And I have just nown shewn, Thar till it be removed, it will be impossible for us to repent of them. :· And sure then one would think that nothing more need be faid, to engage any fober Man to the Pra&tice of it.
But I must now go yet farther: For to compleat our Obligation to so necessary a Practice, Inconfideration is not only to be charged as the Cause of all our Evils, but the Corrupter of our Good too: It spoils our very Virtues; insomuch, that were it poffible for the unthinking Man to fulfil every Command, and not deviate in the least Degree from the Rules of his Duty, all would be in yain; his Inconfideration alone would ruin him, and his Virtues themselves lose by it, not only their Praise, but their very Nature too: Would become at most, but mere indifferent Actions, neither worthy in theinselves, nor deserving of any Reward for the fulfilling of them.
God Almighty, who has given us our Understandings and our Wills on purpose for his Service, re, quires the Concurrence of them in all our Actions that are intended for that Purpose. His Service mult be reasonable, or it would not be accepted. He is not to be pleased with what we do by Chance;
where his Glory is not designed, he looks upon it, that neither is it advancedAnd that Good which is done without considering, is but a mere Natural Action, deserves as little Praise as a Plant for grows ing, or a Stone for falling down to its Center, and we may as reasonably expect to see one of these promoted to Heaven for fo doing, as the unthinking Man be judged worthy of it, for any Thing he
But, zdly, This Incogitancy does not only render us thus obnoxious to God, but it exposes us to the Censures of Men too: It does not only deprive us of all our Pretences to Piety, but even to common Wisdom and Discretion.
He that never confiders in any Thing, all the World will say is a Fool; and sure I may well add, That he who considers only in little Things, and never thinks in those that are of the highest Impor. tance, is not so wise as he should be. But to pretend to be Christians, and to desire Salvation, and yet never reflect what it is to be the one, or how we are to live that we may attain the other; this is certainly such a Combination of Folly and Impiety, that were not Sin as great an Enemy to Reason, as it is to Religion, 'twere impossible that any Man should ever be guilty of it.
And now, when so many Engagements concur to recommend this Duty, that 'tis impoffible for us to approve our selves either to God or Man without it, what shall I say more to stir you up to the Pra&tice of it?
I am, methinks, unwilling so far to comply with 'the Melancholly Apprehenfions of very many, and those not altogether without just Grounds too, as to defire you to think, whether our Circumstances at
this Time, be not such as may well engage us in the Literal Import of our Text, to be Wise, and consider our latter End, for ought I know, the final End of our felves, and our Religion, if we do not by a Ipeedy Repentance reverse that Judgment which God seems ready to pronounce against us for our Incogitancy. I will rather clofe all with a more excellent Engagement; Blessed be God, who has made this a Duty as pleasing as it is necessary; as apt to incite our Practice, as 'tis fit to be practised by us. For certainly to Consider these Things, after all the frightful Ideas Men are apt to entertain of it, is not only one of the most useful, but one of the most pleafing Things in the whole world.
Let me appeal to the Experience of those Pious Souls, who by a due Performance of this Exercise, · have their Conversation already in Heaven; are ele
vated above the little Passions and Interests that engage the bufy Part of Mankind in so much Labour and Vanity. Who live in this World, as if they were not of it; Free and Quiet in the midst of its Disturbances; still the same in every Estate; who love nothing but God and their Duty, fear nothing but to Sin against him, nor desire any Thing but to be Disolved, and to be with him. Whose wellgrounded Hopes already secure them of their future Reward; and a Good Conscience fo fully justifies them, that neither Death, nor Hell it self, not any Evils of this Life, or any Terrors of the other, are able to disturb the Peace and Calm that is within them.
O happy State! The blessed Effect of a serious and frequent Consideration! Where is the Sinner that can pretend to say, he has ever found in any of his ways of Wickedness, a Pleasure comparable to