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and misery of those, that go far towards Christianity, and yet fall short.
V. THOUGH THESE PROFESSORS MAY HOVER BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH IN THEIR LIVES, YET THEY SHALL NOT HOVER BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL IN THÉIR DEATHS.
No: the half Christian shall be as infallibly and as certainly cast into hell, as those who were altogether wicked. Here, it may be, thou art neither godly nor profane; but, hereafter, thou must be either saved or damned. There is none, as the Papists picture Erasmus, that hang between heaven and hell. Whoever thou art, thou must be either in a state of nature or of grace; and, accordingly, shall thy estate then be for ever, either a state of salvation among the saints, or else a state of damnation with the unregenerate. Though thou art never so lofty and sublime a professor, yet the same hell, that holds the profane, must eternally hereafter hold thee too, if, through thine own wilful negligence, thou stop any where short of true grace. If the Almost Christians could, by their glittering profession, gain a cooler hell; if they could get, I say, but a cooler place in hell: if their profession could gain you this; if it could procure you purgatory for venial sins, or the moderate punishment which the Papists call Limbus Patrum, then you had some show of reason to rest where you are: but, when the same hell and the same everlasting fire must be the portion of those, who have proceeded so far, and yet fall short; as well as the portion of the vilest wretch, whom they have now as far exceeded in goodness, as the holiest saint alive exceeds them; it is the very height of folly and madness, to sit down any where short of true grace, unless they are fully resolved to sit down no where short of hell.
vi. It will be the insupportable aggravation of these men's just and everlasting condemnation, for them to lie grating upon this sad reflection in hell, THAT ONCE THEY WERE NEAR TO HEAVEN, BUT LOST IT THROUGH THEIR OWN WILFUL DEFAULT.
It will be the aggravation, I say, of these men's just and everlasting condemnation, to make this doleful and furious reflection upon themselves in hell, that once they were in a very hopeful state, that they were once near to heaven, but lost it through their own wilful default. When they shall lie in hell, and from thence give a sad and ghastly look up to the glory of the saints in heaven, oh how will it pierce their souls to think, that they were once near to that blessed estate, though now there be an infinite and unpassable gulf between them and that blessed inheritance, which the saints enjoy in heaven! Thus will they reflect upon themselves : “ Though now there be an unpassable gulf between me and heaven; yet, once, there was but a step or two that parted us. Had I mortified but one lust more, had I opposed one temptation more, had I put up but one fervent prayer more; possibly, I might now have been in heaven : but, O my cursed, cursed folly, when I was at the very gate and threshold of heaven, that even then I should stop; and, after the relinquishment of my luśts, and after all my progress in the ways of holiness, to return again to the commission of those sins, in which I had formerly lived; when I had already gone through the hardest and most difficult
of religion, then to break off my course! what is this, but procuring for myself this damnation, which I now suffer, and must suffer for ever? Oh, that light, that once I enjoyed, how it thickens this everlasting darkness! Oh, those tastes that I once had of the powers of the world to come, and relished so much sweetness in, how do they now embitter this cup
of fury and trembling, that I must for ever drink of! Oh, those heavenly gifts, that once I had, do now' but increase these hellish torments; and the sight of heaven, which I have had, now discovers to me what I have lost; nay, what I have wilfully thrown away through mine own sloth and negligence. Oh, how strange is mine apostacy! after I had gone so great a way towards Christianity, rather than I would move one step further, I chose to lie here in this hell for ever burning and consuming !" Oh, what sad and tormenting thoughts will these be! how will they fret and gnaw the souls of those wretches, with eternal anguish and insupportable torments ! Thus you have seen in these particulars, somewhat discovered
of the desperate folly and madness, and misery also, that men are guilty of, that do proceed so far as to be almost, and yet will not be persuaded to be altogether Christians.
NATURE, CORRUPTION, AND RENEWING,
ACTS xxiv. 16. HEREIN DO I EXERCISE MYSELF, TO HAVE ALWAYS A CONSCIENCE
VOID OF OFFENCE TOWARD GOD AND TOWARD MEN.
INTRODUCTION. In this chapter, St. Paul gives an account to Felix of the general course and demeanour of his former life ; being accused by Tertullian, a flattering orator, as one who was profane and seditious. After that he had purged himself in sundry particulars, he comes, in the text, to shew, that he was far from those crimes that were laid to his charge; having made it his constant exercise, all his life-time, to keep a good conscience.
The words have little or no difficulty in them: and, therefore, instead of giving you an elaborate exposition, I shall only run them over with a brief Paraphrase.
Herein do I exercise myself: that is, I make it my constant care and employment, to have always a conscience void of offence : that is, to keep my conscience clear, that it may not justly accuse me of any offence done either against God or against men: that is, I labour conscientiously to practise, as well the duties of the Second, as the duties of the First Table; to be just towards men, as well as to be religious towards God; knowing, that the one without the other, to be without offence towards