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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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profpeft of future blifs, and of the fecurity
of his interefl: in it ; fo to advance his joy flill
to a higher point, he has reafon to exped: a
diftinguifliing reward in the celeftial glory ;
that if he has ferv'd his Lord much in his
church, which is his kingdom on earthy he
fhall not be the leaji in the kingdo?n of heaven " :
for tho he has no ground to hope to be rewarded
for his works on the account of debt, becaufe
when he has done his beft he is but a?2 unpro-
fitable fervant" y yet, fince God himfelf has
promifed it, he may beheve, that he {hall be
rewarded according to his works, on the ac-
count of grace ^. Thus as the early convert
looks back upon all the fufferings he has en-
dured for the fake of his divine mafter with
comfort, as o?i waters that are paft away "^ j fo
the thoughts of thefe raife both his defire and
expeftation earneftly to look for a diflinguifh-
ing recompence of future glory.

And how unexprelTible is that joy which
a holy man feels, when the eye of faith can
with a great degree of ftrength penetrate,
and with equal fteadinefs contemplate the
unfeen glories of the heavenly ftate, as firmly
interefted therein ! What joy does the early
convert often tafte, efpecially toward the
clofe of his days, when he approaches the
m^rk y of his long deiire and hope > when he
conliders that as he has been long labouring

" Mat. 5.19. I * Job II. 16.

" Luke 17. 10. y Phil. 3. n, 14.

^ Mat. 16. i7.

H 2 to



100 The rcajunabknefs and advantages

to increafe in the knowledge of God, he
ihall fuddenlyyt'^ him as he is j and that as he
has been long endeavouring after a confor-
mity to him, he fliall not only fee him, but
be like him too ^ : tha.t as all the powers of
his foul have been dedicated to his lervice, fo
they fliall be in a little time intirely fiU'd with
his glory, and incefTantly employ'd in his
praife j and as the members of his body have
been fellow-fervants * of righteoufnefs with
the faculties of his foul, fo their refin'd matter
and elegant form^ at the refurredlion fhall ren-
der them fit to become their partners in glory.

Thus have we made it evident, that the
time of our youth is in many refped:s the beft
and fitted for the great work of remembring
our maker, and of engaging in his fervice ;
and this, even upon the fuppofition of our
being fure of obtaining an opportunity of re-
penting in old age, tho we fhould not reform
before.

But we have farther to (hew, that as the
time of youth is the bed, fo it may be, and
is moft likely to be the only feafon wherein
it will be poflible for us to devote ourfelves to
our creator, or wherein our fervice will be
acceptable to him : which gives us the clear-
eft proof of all, of the danger and folly of
neglecfling to confecrate to him the morning
of our days. But the confideration of this,
we Ihall refer to another difcourfe.

^ I John }. z. I *> I Cor. 15. 41, 45, 44.

* Rom. 6. 15. - I

I . The



( loi )



The reajonahlenefs and advan-
tages of an early converjion to
God demonjirated.

SERMON III.



EccLES. xii. I.

Remember now thy creator in the days of
thy youths while the evil days come not,
nor the years draw nigh^ when thou floalt
fay, I have no f leaf ire in them.

O the difadvantages of delaying
converfion till the evil days of old
age, and the advantages of devo-
ting one's felf to the fervice of
God in youth, on which w^ehave
already infifled, we have this one farther con^-
fideration to add, viz. That
' 4. Our eternal intereft is extremely ha-
zarded by deferring converfion to old age,
and beft fecur'd by an early change. For,




H3



(••)



I02 The reafonahlenefs and ad-vantages

(i.) We are always uncertain of future
time for the accomplifhment of this impor-
tant work. Our time is at the difpofal of our
maker, and he has not entrufted our lavifli
hands with the whole ilock of this precious
treafure, but only fuffers it to run thro' them
by moments ; fo that we can recal no paft,
nor can we command any future time : 'tis
therefore our buiinefs to improve the prefenr,
being ignorant how long the divine bounty
will continue our time in this world. Upon
this account the wife man inftrudts us well,
not to hoaji ourfelves of to 7mrrow^ feeing "coe
hnm-v not what a day may bring forth " : and
the prophet Ifaiah reprehends the folly of
thofe that incourage one another to go on in
finful excelTes, by profanely promifmg them-
felves, that to morrow fhould he as the pre/hit
day^ and much more abundant ^. The apoftle
James alfo (hews the vanity of fuch foolifh
prefumptions : Go to now^ fa)is he, ye that
fay^ to day^ or to morrow, we will go into fiich
a city, and continue there a year^ and buy and
fell^ and get gain ; whereas you know not what
fhall he on the morrow : for what is your life ?
it is even a vapour, that appear eth for a little
time, and then vanipeth away : for that ye
ought to fay, if the Lord will, we Jhall live,
and do this or that ^.

And experience, as well as fcripturc, af-
fures us, that every ?nan walks in a vainfiew ^ ;

< Prov. 27. 1. j "^ James 4. 13, 14, 15^.

* Ifa. 56. 12. I ' Pfal. ^9. 6.

and



Serm. III. of an early converjion. 103

and that maUy in this refped, even at his bejl
ejlate is altogether vanity ^ : that fome die in
their full ftrength^ being wholly at eafe and
quiet \ their breafts being full of milk, and their
bones moifiend 'with marrow : as others die in
the bitter nefs of their fouls, and never eat with
pleajure : that they lie down alike in the duft,
and the wojins cover them ^. 'Tis evident to
every one's obfervation that youth does not
exempt us from death, nor infure us to any
farther portion of time than what we at pre-
fent enjoy : but on the contrary, that the far
greater number of mankind go early to the
grave ; and for owe that reaches to old age,
a multitude fall Ihort of it.

Nor is it, an uncommon thing for perfons
of the moft vigorous and hardy conftitution
of body to be fuddenly Ihatch'd away into the
other world by fome violent difeafe, or other-
wife : for we are obnoxious to fo many fatal
ftrokes, and fo frail is the texture of our
earthly tabernacles, that fome of the leaft
and moft contemptible things in the world
are capable of giving them a mortal Ihock ;
and the very pores of the skin fometimes
prove breaches wide enough for the king of
terrors to enter *.

This is well enough known, and often e-
nough thought on by the generality of men,
tp engage them to ufe precautions to fecure
themfelves or their ppfterity, as much as they

s Ver. $. - M Job 18. 14.

^ Job 21. 23, 24,2^. I

H 4 can.



1 04 The rcafonablencfs and advantages

can, from the prejudice their temporal affairs
might otherwife receive from fudden death.
And the rate at which an eftate for life is
ufually valued, fufficiently fliews, that to
fuch purpofes as thefe men need not be taught
to know their end^ 'and the meafurc of their
days what it is, that they 7nay know how frail
they are '^.

And if there be no comparifon between
earth and heaven, between the uncertain
wealth of this v>rorld and the durable riches
of the other, between this life and that which
is to come ; then 'tis infinitely more impru-
dent for a man to ncGflecl: bVit for a moment,
to make bis calling ajid election fare ', what-
ever future time here his youth and ftrength
may feem to promife, than for him carelefly
to luffer the fecurity of his temporal ellate to
depend merely on the uncertain life of ano-
ther man, when he need not put it to that
hazard ; or to expofe his poflerity to poverty
and mifery, by omitting to make due provi-
iion for them againft his own mortality,
when he has a fair opportunity of doing it.

'Tis folly and madncfs to leave that un-
done to day, which muft be done at one time
or other, or elfe we are ruin'd for ever, and
which may, for ought we know, be impolTi-
ble to be perform'd to morrow ; to neglcd:
to improve the prefent time in doing that on
which our eternal blifs depends, when the
precious opportunity of doing it may the

k Pfal. 39. 4. ^ I ' 2 Pet. I. 10.-

next



Serm. III. of au early converjion, 105

next moment by fudden death or fome ftupi-
fying difeafe become irreparable.

Even the impious atheift, and the profane
epicure make fpeedy provifion for the fiejhy to
fulfil the liifis thereof "", from the confidera-
tion of the fliortnefs and uncertainty of their
time in this world ; and feek to gratify and
indulge their fenfes to day, becaufe they are
not fure of doing it to morrow. Let us eat
and drink^ fay they, for to morrow we fhall
die " : and they have fo far reafon on their
fide, in that they ad: in conformity to their
principles, becaufe their hope is only in this
life, and they profefs not to exped: another.
How unaccountably ftupid then are they,
who tho they believe there is a future ftate
after this life, and tho they know that they
Jhall die °, and that they know not how foon,
yet in their vain imaginations put the evil day
of death afar off^, and defer from time to
time the great work of laying up treafure in
heaven "J, till the feafon of doing it is irre-
triev^ibly loft ! And in vain is fo precious a
talent as time put into the hands of fuch fools,
who have no heart to improve it \

If the wife man argues rightly when he
excites to diligence even in the ordinary af-
fairs of this life, becaufe of the fpeedy ap-
proach of death, this reafon infinitely multi-
plies its force when apply'd to our prefent



"" Rom. 13, 14.

" ira.22. 13. iCor. 15. 32.

» Ecc]. 9. 5.



P Amos 6. 3. Ezek. 12.27.
1 Mat. 19. 21.
' Prov. 17. 16.

purpofe,



1 0(5 The reafonablenefs and advantages

purpofe, and may therefore moft fitly be ufed
to ftir us up to an early and diligent im-
provement of the time of youth in the fer-
vice of God : Whatfoever thy hand jindeth to
do^ fays he, do it with thy might -, for there is
no work^ nor device^-nor knoivledge, nor nvifdotn
in the grave^ whither thou goejl ^ — For man
alfo knoweth not his time : as the Jijhes that are
taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are
caught in the jhare j fo are the fins of men
fnared in an evil time, when it falleth fuddenly
upon them ^ 'Tis therefore our prudence and
intereft to work while it is day, feeeing we
know not how foon the night may come upon
us, wherein no man can work ". But farther,

(2.) If our time were in our own hands,
as it is in the hand of God ^, fo that we
could extend it many years beyond the ordi-
nary courfe of life ; or if we had the certain
fore-knowledge "^ of the limits which the Al-
mighty has fix'd to our days -, if we knew the
number of our months ^, and any of us could
read ourfelves antient in the book of the di-
vine decrees, this could by no means juftify
or excufe our negligence, if we fhould there-
upon prefume to delay our converfion till to-
wards the clofe of our time, becaufe of the
uncertainty of the continuance of the day of
God's patience and grace. For as the days of
our lives are uncertain, lb is the day of grace



C Ecd. 9. 10.


V Pfnl. 5T. 15


» Vcr. li.


« Job 7. I.


• John 9. 4.


" Job 14. S.



too



Serm. III. of an early converfion, 107

too ; and as thofe are very fhort, fo this may
be much {horter, and we may foon out-live
the time of our viftation ^ from heaven, and
fo the things that belong to our peace, may be
finally hidden from our eyes ^.

It is infinite mercy in the great and holy
God to give a wretched finner one finile, one
fingle offer of reconciliation ; and 'tis great
ingratitude and folly in a guilty creature but
once to refufe to hearken to fb gracious a
call. But what words can exprefs the good-
nefs and condefcenfion of the Almighty to a
miferable worm, when he importunately re-
peats the terms of peace to invite, nay to be-
feech him to be reco?iciled to him ^ / And how
provoking mufl the guilt of that finner be,
who, after all this kindnefs of God toward
him, flops his ears at his counfel, like the
deaf adder that will not hearken to the ijoice of
charmers, charming iiever fo wifely ^ I And
therefore it is not to be wondred at, if his
abufed patience and mercy be turn'd into in-
dignation and wrath. And thus it often
comes to pafs, becaufe men receive not the love
of the truth, that they might be faved , God
fends the?n Jirong delufion, that they fjould be-
lieve a lye, and that they all may be damned,
who believe not the truth, but have pleafure in
unrighteoufnefs \ And the word of God, in-
ftead of being the favour of life unto life, be-

y Luke 19.44. V^ P^aJ- ';8«4. i

'^ Ver. 42. pc 2 ThefT. 2. I©, ii, 12.

* i Cor. 5. io. I

comes



I o8 The reafonableJtefs and advantages

comes the favour of death unto death to them ''.
Thus the righteous God fets his face againft
them that fliffen their nech againft him %
and hardens their hearts in judgment, who
themfehes have harden d them againft the
offers of mercy *. 'If the decUning church of
•Ephefus was threaten'dwith the removal of
her candleftick ^, in cafe flie refus'd to heark-
en to the voice of our Saviour, when he cail'd
her to repentance ; how juftly may every im-
penitent linner fear the fpeedy ending of the
day of grace to him ? And if at one fermon
of the apolf le Paul's, as fome of the Jews his
auditors were converted, fo others of them
were judicially fealed up in hardnefs of hearty
and blindnefs of mind ^, the moft dreadful pu-
nilliment on this fide hell ; and the gofpel,
which they had rejected and defpifed, was
fuddenly fnatch'd from them to be carried to
the ignorant heathen ; is it not ftill to be
fear'd, that they who defer to yield them-
felves to the obedience of faith \ when the
glad tidings of falvation have been again and
again publiflied to them, may utterly fall
J/:o?'t of happinefs by this their obftinacy and
unbelief '^ .^ And if profafie EfaUy ivho for
one morfel of meat fold his birth-right ^ was af-
terwards rejeStedy when he would ha'-je inhe-
rited the blefing^ and found no place of repen-



'' 2 . 9.





tance^



Serm. III. of an early converfion, io$l

tance^ tho he fought it carefully with tears ' ;
how juftly may God re]e(ft them, who have
often refifted the fpirit of grace ^ ^ and fuffer
them to mourn at lajl " without pity in their
greateft diftrefs, who have often grievd the
holy fpirit " in gratifying their finfnl inclina-
tions ? And feeing he has laid hh fpirit fall
not always f rive with mefi p, who knov/s how
foon he may fut up his tender inercies in dif-
pleafure "^ againft thofe that have long rebel I'd
againft him j and /w^^r in his wrath that they
{hall ne'uer enter into his refl "^ .? how foon he
may accomplifh that terrible threatning he
has pronounc'd againft the impenitent, He
that hardens his neck^ being often reprovd,
fall fuddenly be deftroyd^ and that without
remedy '' .^

(3.) There is not only a poffibility or a
bare likelihood of the expiration of the day
of grace, to thofe that fpend the beft of their
time in rebellion againft their maker, before
they arrive at old age ; but on the contrary,
there is only a poffibility and no likelihood,
that the holy Spirit fliould continue to ftrive
with them at the winding up of their days,
who thro' the greateft part of their time have
refifted his counfels and motions. And "'tis
not only reafon that furniflies us with proofs
of this from the fovereignty and juftice of



• Heb. II. 16, 17.
•" Aas 7. ^i.
" Prov. 5. II.
« Eph. 4. 30.



P Gen. G. 3. ,

^ Pfal. 77. 9,

' Pfal. 95.11. Heb. 3. 18.

'" Prov. i?. I.

God,



1 1 o The reafonablenefs and advantages

God, confider'd with the great aggravations
of impenitence under the means of grace, or
the threatnings in the holy fcripture that
plainly include this danger, as appears from
the laft head infilled on ; but experience con-
firms this, and evinces that w^hat our Saviour
fays of rich men, may with as much reafon
and force be applied to old finners, namely,
that // is eafier for a camel to pafs thro' the eye
of a nee die J than for fuch to enter into the
kingdom of heaven \ And if this faying feem
fevere to any in refpedl of thefe laft, as it did
to the difciples of Chrift in regard of the
other \ it cannot juftly be 'Ibftned with any
farther addition than that which our Saviour
fubjoin'd, to qualify his words in the firft cafe,
i)iz. that 7iothing is impofible with God ". It is
a thing pofTible, becaufe all things are fo to
God, but very unlikely, and not to be often
expedted ; and when at any time it comes to
pals, God may be faid to make a ftep out of
the ordinary method of the difpenfation of
his grace, fomewhat like that he makes,
when he works a miracle in the fphere of
nature. In this matter, I fay, one may fafe-
ly appeal to experience. Let any one that is
acquainted with a confiderable number of
pious and aged perfons, ask each ot them
from what time he dates his convcrfion ;
and for one that has had that happy change .
wrought on his foul lince he became old, he

« Mat. 1 9. 24. I " Ver. 26.

» Ver. 25. I . -

iliall



Scrm. III. of an early converfwn. 1 1 1

(hall find many that turn d to God in the
ftrength and verdure of their youth.

And can there be a greater inflance given
then of the deccitftibiefs of Jin '^, and of the be-
witching power it has over the common fenfe
and reafon of mankind, than we have in the
vain promifes of repentance in old age, with
which fo many flatter themfelves, and by
which they feem to hope to render God pro-
pitious to them ? Is any kind of folly fo great
in its degree, or fo dangerous in its confe-
quences as this j for mortals to lull them-
felves alleep in fin, and fing a ftupifying re-
quiet?! to their fouls, while they hang on the
brink of eternal perdition, when their vain
hope has merely this uncertain foundation,
that there is a bare poflibility, that their old
age may be accepted of God, tho they fpend
their youth in finning againft him ! What an
unparallel'd prefumption, for a man to neg-
led: to make provifion for his everlafting blifs
at prefent, only becaufe it is not abfolutely
impoflible that he may do it in time to come !
To refufe the prefent improvement of the
time of grace God is now pleas'd to allow
him, becaufe the divine goodnefs can afford
him the like advantage hereafter j tho it' is
very improbable that he will grant it to fo
prefumptuous a criminal ! Will any man fall
without fear upon the point of his fword, be-
caufe 'tis poflible he may not receive a mor-
tal wound by it ? Is any man fo mad as to

* Heb. 3. I J.

2 poilbn



i 1 2 The rc^fonablenefi and nd'vantagcs

poilbn himfelf with the moft fubtle venom,
becaufe he thinks there is fomc poflibiUty of
his obtaining an antidote ? Or will any one
in his wits carefully fuffer his body to lan-
guifli under a violent difeafe, without feek-
ing for cure till his ftrength is almofl: quite ex-
haufted, and he's ready to expire, thinking
himfelf fecure enough of recovery, becaufe it
is not utterly impofiiblc, that a man may be
reftor'd to health when almoll reduc'd to the
lafl gafp by violent ficknefs ? No — men are
more careful of their bodies than to hazard
them at this rate, how carelefs foever they
are of their fouls : they are. prudent in the
affairs of this life, but adl after the moft ab-
furd and improvident manner about the great
concerns of the world to come.

But whether we will ad: reafonably or not,
■what has been argued does abundantly de-
monftrate that it is both highly reafonable
and advantageous for young perfons to de-
vote themfelves to the fervice of their creator
in the days of their youth ; and that it is as
dangerous as it is unreafonable ro defer that
important work to the days of old age, which
are very uncertain, in that we know not whe-
ther we ihall attain them or not j and, if we
do, will prove fo evil, if this great bufinefs of
our lives be till then negle£ted, that we fhall
have occafion to complain that we have no
pleajure in them.

I fliall now endeavour to improve the things
I have infifted on, by way of application :

And



Serm. III. of an early converjlon. 115

And {hall addrefs myfelf,

1. To thofe who are advanc'd in years.

2. To thofe who have not yet exceeded
the days of youth.

Firfi^ As for you v/ho are advanc'd in
years :

What has been faid mufl needs offer you
an occafion to inquire of your own confcien-
ces, whether you have dedicated yourfelves
to the fervice of God or not j whether you
have yet remembred your creator in the fenfe
of our text, and are truly converted to him.

I. If you have not fo remembred him,
confider,

(i.) How extremely dangerous your cafe
is. Can you be fecure on the very brink of
deftrucflion \ furely it is more than high time
for you to awake y, leji you Jleep the Jleep of
death ^ It will be a miracle of grace, if ever
you be recover d out of the fnare of the devi!^
who have bee ft fo long led captive by him at his
will''. It has been your great folly to defer
to lay up in fore for yourfelves a good founda-
tion againfi the time to come '', till now ; but
your folly in deferring it longer will flill in-
creafe together with your guilt and danger :
of which if you are fenfible, feek immedi-
ately to efcape ; fly from the wrath to come %
which is,haftening toward you ; for tho you
may carelefly flumber, your daynnation flum-

^ Rom. 13. IX. -j ^ 1 Tim. i?. i j.

Pfal. 15. 3. h Mat. 5. 7»



1-



1 Tim. z. iC»

Vol L ' I ben



1 14 The rcafoiiablencfs and advantages

Bcrs not '\ but will foon overtake you, if you
do not Ipeedily awake to right eon fnefs % and
to the ferious remembrance of your creator ;
for the wicked Jh all be turjied into hell^ and all
the nations that forget God ^. If any of you
have vainly flatter'd yourfelves all your days
with the prefumptuous thoughts of having,
ftill time enough before you for the great
work of your converfion ; let me warn and
exhort every fuch perfon, in the words of the
apoftle Peter to Simon Magus, Repent of this
thy wickednefs, and pray Gody if perhaps the
thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee :
for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bit-
ternefs^ and in the bond of iniquity ^. And to
day^ while it is called to day^ remember your
maker, left any of you be farther harden d
thro the deceitfulnefs of fin ^\

(2.) If you are convinced of the folly and
finfulnefs ■ ^f your negled, do not abfolutely
conclude, 'tis now too late to obtain mercy,
nor continue that neglec^^ by defpair, in
which you have long perfifted by prelump-
tion. As you cannot fet limits to the juftice
of God, fo neither can you meafure'his long-
fuffering and goodnefs : therefore you ought
not now to '^d,'^]^ his mercies are quite gone for
ever, and he will be favourable no 7nore \ En-
courage yourfelves to turn to God, and to
rely on his mercy, at leafl: with the fame ar- .

^ 2 Pet. 2. ^ M Afts %. 22,. 23.




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 9 of 28)