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Achitophel, 2 Sam. xvii. 14.
Not that it was good in itself, for it was as wicked counsel as ever was given: for he advifeth Abfalom to do a vile fact, to confirm himself in his rebellion against his father, and to remove the boundaries of good and evil; than which there is not a more defperate undertaking. For a man under pretence of power to controul the rule of right, the measures of heaven, is to divert things from their natures, and to change their natural courfe; which is as monftrous in morals as in naturals. The mind uncorrupted is a tender thing,. and fuffers moft by violence, and unnatural ufe. The fcripture speaks of hardness of heart, as a moft monftrous ftate, Jer. xiii. 23. Can the ethiopian change bis skin, or the leopard his fpots? These things are naturally impoffible. No more can one that hath abufed himself, and made havock of confcience, by accuftoming himself to do evil, learn to do well, without the especial grace and favour of God. The coming in of fin is like the coming in of water: it may be stopped by a little turf at the firft; but if it once find a way over, it breaks down all before it. It is much easier to retain innocence than to recovera man's felf. Ifa man will venture to do that which is not fit to be done, no body knows where he will end. The practice of iniquity makes men shameless and impudent; the devil is eafily let in, but hardly got out. Let us therefore take heed how we betray ourfelves, and give way to iniquity. Let us approve ourselves to our home-God. Confcience is always ready to speak to us; let our ear be always ready to hear what it hath to say, and be very care
ful never to depart from its counsel, in going against the fenfe of our own minds and judgment. When once a man hath confented to do that which is base and unworthy, as he hath made havock of his own. confcience, fo he hath broken his credit, which is a further fecurity, and great prefervative against evil.
IV. Before and after contracted evil habits, by frequent use and repeated acts of evil, is not alike,` as to the concerns of eternity. Men are more what they are used to, than what they are born to ; for custom is a second nature. Every man hath himself as be ufeth himself. When men lofe all government of themselves, they foon contract hardness and an injudicious mind; an undiscerning mind, or as it is rendred Rom. i. 28. A reprobate mind and confcience. The mind by abuse of itself, or grofs felf-neglect, may come to be as falt that hath loft its favour: fo the mind lofes its power of judging and difcerning, and of reproving and controuling. The apostle speaks of fome that had their confciences feared as with a hot iron, 1 Tim. iv. 2. by reafon whereof they lose all fense and judgment; and then 'tis no wonder that nothing will work upon them, because, as the apostle speaks, Eph. iv. 19. They are paft feeling ; which cafe is represented by the prophet, Ifa. vi. 9. Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, that they may not hear. And there is no place in all the fcripture fo often referred to as this place; it is referred to by all the evangelifts, and in the acts ofthe apostles, and in the epiftle to the Romans. And when this is the cafe, that men have grofly neglected or abused themselves, and brought themselves
by wicked practices into the love of fin and vice and diflike of goodness; then it comes to pass with them that feeing, they fee not, and do not perceive; and hearing, they hear, and do not understand. And this place is no less than fix times referred to in the new testament, as giving an account of this place of the prophet. We many times wonder to fee men act fo Contrary to all advice and counsel, to all soberjudgment, and to plain scripture, against the true interefts of their fouls, aud bodily health, to the confuming of their estates, ruin of their credits, to the undoing of their families; and all this without any. manner of profit or advantage; fo that a man may fay to them as the apostle, Gal. iii. 1. Who hath bewitched you? to see men run on so desperately, and to disclaim all rules of government, and to practife without any manner of confideration: not to be limited by right and justice, against all advice and counfel, against all threatnings too, having neither the fear of God, or regard to man : one would think they are befotted, and act like mad-men. But this. is the account: they have brought themselves into an unnatural eftate; and are not now as God brought them into the world, nor like to continue fo long here as they might have done. But as the wife man faith, Ecc. vii. 17. Be not overmuch wicked, neither be thou foolish, why shouldest thou die before thy time? for want of self-government the wicked are like to die before their time, and often by their own hands too. How fhall these men give an account of themselves, when they had a fairer allowance of time, and would not use it? How odious are those
that lay violent hands upon themfelves? the law doth not allow them the common place of burial. Now all intemperance is of the fame nature. Though men do not intend it, yet they take a course to shorten their days, and their fin goes before hand unto judgment. A man would think that rational nature fhould not be fo depraved; but that we have woful experience of it. Infomuch that the prophet, Jer. vi. 15. fays of fome, were they afhamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not ashamed, neither could they blush. All fhame is laid afide, and that which is the governor of man, conftituted by God, reafon and understanding is dethroned, and brutish sense set up in its ftead, and men give up themselves to paffion, malice, envy, fury, and revenge; and are infolent, arrogant, haughty, and unreasonable; whereas God made no fuch, nor ever brought any fuch order into the world. Thefe men came into the world upon the fame terms with other men; but they have made themselves such by abuse of themselves. And now they will tell you, they cannot do otherwife; they cannot; why? because they have contracted evil habits, by ill use, cuftom, and practice; and are not willing to be at the pains to work them off; which through the grace of God, and by a little violence to themselves at the beginning, they might effect,
V. The times of God's gracious vifitation in mercy and kindness to men's fouls; thefe are not like those times wherein God fuffers men to walk after their own ways. And to make this out I propofe three things." 1. That God is neither at first nor laft, wanting
David; when the fpirit of God was upon him, how doth he defy the armies of the aliens; but at another time, I fhall one day perish by the hand of Saul. A vaft difference there is, when we are under divine motion, and when not; and therefore every man ought when he is in a good disposition, and well affected, to follow thofe impreffions, for then that will be done which at another time will not be done.
VI. There is a vast difference between the flourifhing condition of life, health, and ftrength; and the hour of fickness, weakness and death. In the former there is the vigour of nature; in the latter 'tis enough for a man to bear his infirmities. The most we can then expect to do, is to bear up against the pangs of death, and dismal apprehenfions of it. And he is mad that hath a days work to do when he is going to bed. We see what great mischief came upon one's being late on his journey, Judg. xix. the Levite being overtaken in the night. We must know that the work of converfion is a fober, ferious and deliberate work, and ought not to be deferred to fickness and the hour of death, which is an hour of hafte, hurry and confufion. It is the greatest bufinefs of life, and of concernment to eternity; and fhall we prefer things that are trifles in comparison, and bestow all our time, and thoughts and care upon them, and leave that which is fundamental to the state of eternity to the last? especially confidering,
First, That no man is fure of warning, or of a moderate, leisurely fickness. Some drop down all on the fudden, and never have the ufe of reafon to