Joseph Stennett.

The Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) online

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the curfe of it ? Is it not rather becaufe I
have weaken'd my body, and haften'd old
age by my vices, than becaufe I have defii'd
my foul, and enfeebled her powers by them ?
I feel in myfelf fome abhorrence and aver-
fion to the fins in which I formerly took
pleafure : but is this the effed; of the ficknefs
of my foul, or of the diftempers of my
body "^ ? Do I really loath my former difor-
ders, and is temperance my choice ? Is it
not rather the weaknefs of my appetite, and
the decay of my palate, that makes me ab-
fi:emious ? I delight not in fenfual mirth and
jollity as formerly : but may I not juftly
quefiiion, whether this does not more pro-
ceed from the weaknefs of my fancy, than
from the tendernefs of my confcience, and
the redtitude of my will ? I feem fomewhat
mortified to the things of the world : - but is

"■'[ i Cor, 7. 10. ' 1 " Mat. % 11.

2 not

Serm. II. of an early converjion, 83

not this rather a kind of natural than a mo-
ral death ? a dying to the world of neceffity
and not of choice ? Do I forfake it becaufe
'tis unworthy of my love ; and not rather
becaufe it has firil: forfaken me, and is inca-
pable of affording me its former pleafures,
now the evil days of old age have overtaken
me ? I find in my foul an earnefl defire
after holinefs : is it becaule I take delight in
pleafing God, or only becaufe T fear to fuffer
the weight of his difpleafure ? Is it becaufe
I have a mind to live a holy life, now when
the befl and almoft the whole of my time is
(pent 5 or only that I may die the death of the
righteous^ and that my laft end may be like
his ^ ? I am now willing to devote myfelf
to the fervice of God : but why have I not
done it long before, when I had time and
ftrength, and other advantages with which
to ferve him ? Is it not rather to ferve a turn
of my own, than to ferve him, that I offer
myfelf fo late to his fervice ? Have I not
reafon to doubt whether I am fincerely wil-
ling to chufe my bleffed lord, as my head
and ruler, as well as my fandluary and fa-
viour ? And whether I am willing to be
purified as well as redeem'd, to be fandtified
by his grace, as well as juflified by his righ-
teoufnefs ? '\the heart is deceitful abo've all
things^', and how fhall I be affur'd that I
do not deceive myfelf about the fafety of my
foul ?

!■ Numb, 23, 10. { ^ Jer. 17. 9.

G 2 Thefe

§4 ^/-^^ reafonabknefs and advantage^

Thefe and the like thoughts often occafion
great hefitations in the mind of an aged con-
vert, and make him doubt of the fincerity of
his heart, and of the fecurity of his ftate.

Whereas, on the other hand, he who af-
ter an initiation in the fervice of God in
youth, and a proficiency in it thro' the time
of his ftrength, is at laft arriv'd to a good
old age, may greatly folace himfelf in fcan-
ning over the marks and proofs of the truth
and reality of his converfion, which are great
and numerous.

He deeply mourn'd for fii;i at an age when
forrow and penfivenefs feem moft unfeafona-
ble in the judgment of the world ; and when
the warmth of the imagination and the
brisknefs of the fenfes difpofe moft to carnal
mirth : he loath'd fin, when it feem'd moft
charming, and deny'd himfelf its fenfual
pleafures, at an age when they have the
higheft guft J and when their evil confe-
quences almoft quite difappear, thro' their
great fuppofed diilance. He forfook the
world, when 'twas juft fpreading its charms
before him, and making its court to him af-
ter the moil: obliging manner. He hunger d
and thirjied after right coujhefs % at a time
when it had the moft aihidtion and bitternefs
attending it j and dedicated himfelf to God
then, when he had a large profped of hard
fervices and fufferings to undergo for his

* Mat. ^. 5. '

2 And

Scrm. II. of an early converjion, 85^

And accordingly his life fince his conver-
fion yields a multitude of inftances that prove
the fincerity of it. The proof of his faith
in God and of his love to him, has been like
that of gold and filver in the melting fur-
nace, amidft various temptations. He has
had occafion to give ample proofs of his fi-
delity to the captain of his Jahatio?i ^ by ha-
ving" long warr'd under his banner : and has
reafon to believe himfelf to have been truly
converted in his youth ; fince all the flatter-
ing fweets and pleafures of the world could
never feduce him, nor all the threatning
frowns and troubles of it terrify him into a
ehange of his refolution for the fervice of his
God. And his having held out fo long, gives
him hope that he fall hold out to the end " i
and fince he finds his faith has on it the cha-
ra. 68. , . -

" from

Serm. II. of an early converfioii. 95

" from them." So juft a thought had he
even then of the joy of a good confcience,
and the pleafure which the bare exped;ation
of future glory in heaven occafions, that he
thought it far out-ballanc'd the pleafures of
fin, which are but for a feafon. And thus
does religion triumph over her enemies, ex-
torting from their own mouths a plain ac-
knowledgment of what the plalmift aflures,
that happy is the people whofe God is the Lord ^.

Now it cannot be expected, that a late
convert fhould have an equal portion of this
hope and joy, with one that has fear'd the
Lord from his youth ^. The former is com-
monly exercis'd with greater and more fre-
quent doubts concerning his interefl in eter-
nal glory than the latter ; and the eye of his
faith is often too weak to read his evidences
for it ; becaufe, as we have {hewn before,
he is apt to queftion the truth of his regene-
ration, without which, he knows, no mart
can enter into the kingdom of heaven **. And
this makes him often thus reafon with him-
felf : Eye indeed hath not feen, nor ear heard^
neither have enter d into the heart of 7nan the
things which God hath prepared for them that
love him *" : but I fear I fliall fall (hort of the
glory of God, becaufe I queftion the fince-
rity of my love to him. Is not this fulnefs
of joy ^ referv'd for them that have naufeated


^ Pfal. 144. 15.

- " I Cor. 2. 9.

^ I Kings 18. 12.

d Pfal. 16. n.

b John 3. 3, 4, 5.

9 5 The reafojtablenefs and advantages

the pleafures of this world, with which I
have gkitted my fenfual appetite, even from
my infancy ? Are not thofe rivers of plea-
fure at the right hand of God, only to refrclli
his diligent fervants that have borne the bur-
den and heat of the 'day in labouring and fuf-
fering for him ? May not I, who have fpent
my days in vanity and iin, in rioting and
drunkennefs^ in cha^nbering and ivanto?ineJs ^,
and who now am incapacitated either to do
or fuffer much for God, juft at the period of
my days, juftly fear being excluded from the
participation of this blifs ? Is it likely that
thefe joys which are fo fpiritual and rehned,
will be poured into fuch a foul as mine, when
parted from this languifhing body, which
has been debauch'd and corrupted for fo
many years, with the bafe and fordid delights
of fm ? Or may I prefume to depofit this
vile and mouldering carcafs in the grave, in
hope of having it render'd a glorious body at
the refnrreBion of the jujl ^ ; when I have
thro' the befl of my time abus'd it to the
vileft purpofes of fenfuality and vice ? Shall
thefe eyes that have fo often httn full of adul-
tery s be admitted to fee the Lord in glory ?
And this tongue be tun'd to praife him with
facred anthems in heaven, which has fo long
lodg'd in it a world of iniquity '', and defecra-
ted his holy name by profane oaths and blaf-
phemies on earth ? That thefe feet that liave

* Rom. 13. 15. 1^2 Pet. 2. 14.

[ Luke 1414. , I ^ James j. f.


Serm. II. of an early converjion, 97

been fwift to attend the places of debau-
chery, and the affemblies of the ungodly ',
Ihall ftand within the gates of the heavenly
Jerifakm ^, and find a welcome place in the
general ajfembly and church of the frjl-borft,
which are ivritten in heaven ^ ^ Or that thefe
hands that have fo long been executing adts
of unrighteoufnefs here, fhall be eternally
lifted up with praifes, and employ'd in ap-
plauding the name and works of God there ?

May not I more reafonably be afraid, that
my foul {hould fall into the hands of the living
God "", than chearfuUy commit it to him ",
now my days are near expiring ? and juilly
apprehend that the expence of my time ia
wickednefs will be puniihed with an eternity
of mifery ? and that after I have fo long
walk'd in the ways of fin, I muft now at laffc
lie down in the grave in forrow " ? And O
how pungent is that forrow, while my trem-
bling foul looks into the confequences of fiich
a death ! for, if I die in my fins, not only
am I depriv'd of all this happinefs, which
I have been viewing at a diftance, but muft
fink into that abyfs of mifery, where a never-
dying worm P, and an unquenchable lake of fire '^
are the jull and dreadful rewards of a firiful

» Pral. r.'i, I n I Per. 4. 19

^ Plal. 122. 2. 1 ° Ifa. so. II

^ Heb. 12. 22, 23. "I P Mark 9. 44.

"' Heb. 10, 3 I. "11 Rev. 20. I4» I5'

Vol. I. H Thefe

9 8 The reafonablencfs and advantages

Thefe and fiich like jealoufies and fears,
carry fo fpeclous an appearance of reafon
with them, that without a more than com-
mon meafure of faith, they mull needs give
the foul a great deal of difquiet. And 'tis no
wonder if the righteous and holy God fuffer
the mind often to labour under thefe trou-
blefome thoughts, as a proper method both
to embitter fm to one that has been long ac-
cuftomed to indulge it, and to teilify for the
incouragement of holinefs, that he referves
fome peculiar rewards even in this life, for
them that have ferv'd him. with a peculiar
zeal and conftancy ; and that full ajfurance
of faith and hope *■, and a clear profped: of
thofe invifiblc things ^ ivhich he has laid up for
thofe that love him^ is a blefhng wherewith
he feldom crowns any but thofe who have
been for fome confiderable part of their lives,
gradually raifmg their afeBions, and fixing
them on things above \ habituating themfelves
to converfe in heaven, and fighting the good
fight of faith ^ that they might lay hold on eter-
nal life \ For fince God is pleas'd to propofe
rewards as motives to his fervice, 'tis natural
to conclude, that the confolating hope of
thefe rewards, which is alfo a reward itfelf,
docs ordinarily bear proportion to the time
and degree of our obedience : and therefore
he that has long devoted himfclf to the fer -
vice of God, as he has commonly a clearer

' Heb. lo. 22. Heb.6. ii. I ' Col. ^ i.

' Heb. II. r. T l Tim. 6. I2. '


Serm. II. of an early converjion, 99

Online LibraryJoseph StennettThe Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 28)