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est velociter de incendio sarcina, priusquam flammis supervenientibus concremetur. Nemo diu tutus est, periculo proximus,” saith St. Cyprian; “ No man is safe long, that is so near to danger;" for suddenly the change will come, in which the judge shall be called to judgment, and no man to plead for him, unless a good conscience be his advocate; and the rich shall be naked as a condemned criminal to execution ; and there shall be no regard of princes or of nobles, and the differences of men's account shall be forgotten, and no distinction remaining but of good or bad, sheep and goats, blessed and accursed souls. Among the wonders of the day of judgment, our blessed Saviour reckons it, that men shall be marrying and giving in marriage, γαμούντες και εκγαμίζοντες, marrying and cross-marrying, that is, raising families and lasting greatness and huge estates; when the world is to end so quickly, and the gains of a rich purchase so very a trifle, but no trifling danger; a thing that can give no security to our souls, but much hazards and a great charge. More reasonable it is, that we despise the world and lay up for heaven, that we heap up treasures by giving alms, and make friends of unrighteous mammon; but at no hand to enter into a state of life, that is all the way a hazard to the main interest, and at the best, an increase of the particular charge. Every de gree of riches, every degree of greatness, every ambitious employment, every great fortune, every eminency above our brother, is a charge to the accounts of the last day. He that lives temperately and charitably, whose employment is religion, whose affections are fear and love, whose desires are after heaven, and do not dwell below; that man can long and pray for the hastening of the coming of the day of the Lord. He that does not really desire and long for that day, either is in a very ill condition, or does not understand that he is in a good. I will not be so severe in this meditation as to forbid any man to laugh, that believes himself shall be called to so severe a judgment; yet St. Jerome said it, “Coram cælo et terra rationem reddemus totius nostræ vitæ; et tu rides? Heaven and earth shall see all the follies and baseness of thy life : and dost thou laugh ?” That we may, but we have not reason to laugh loudly and frequently if we consider things wisely, and as we are concerned: but if we do, yet “præsentis temporis ita est agenda lætitia, ut
sequentis judicii amaritudo nunquam recedat a memoria :so laugh here that you may not forget your danger, lest you weep for ever.” He that thinks most seriously and most frequently of this fearful appearance, will find that it is better staying for his joys till this sentence be past; for then he shall perceive, whether he hath reason or no.
In the mean time wonder not, that God, who loves mankind so well, should punish him so severely: for therefore the evil fall into an accursed portion, because they despised that which God most loves, his Son and his mercies, his graces and his Holy Spirit ; and they that do all this, have cause to complain of nothing but their own follies; and they shall feel the accursed consequents then, when they shall see the Judge sit above them, angry and severe, inexorable and terrible; under them, an intolerable hell; within them, their consciences clamorous and diseased: without them, all the world on fire; on the right hand, those men glorified whom they persecuted or despised: on the left hand, the devils accusing; for this is the day of the Lord's terror, and who is able to abide it?
Seu vigilo intentus studiis, seu dormio, semper
THE RETURN OF PRAYERS ; OR, THE CONDITIONS OF
A PREVAILING PRAYER.
Now we know that God heareth not sinners ; but if any man be
a worshipper of God, and doth his will, him he heareth.John ix. 31.
I know not which is the greater wonder, either that prayer, which is a duty so easy and facile, so ready and apted to the powers, and skill, and opportunities, of every man, should have so great effects, and be productive of such mighty blessings ; or, that we should be so unwilling to use so easy an instrument of procuring so much good. The first declares
God's goodness, but this publishes man's folly and weakness, who finds in himself so much difficulty to perform a condition so easy and full of advantage. But the order of this felicity is knotted like the foldings of a serpent; all those parts of easiness, which invite us to the duty, are become like the joints of a bulrush, not bendings, but consolidations and stiffenings: the very facility becomes its objection, and in every of its stages, we make or find a huge uneasiness. At first, we do not know what to ask; and when we do, then we find difficulty to bring our will to desire it; and when that is instructed and kept in awe, it mingles interest, and confounds the purposes ; and when it is forced to ask honestly and severely, then it wills so coldly, that God hates the prayer; and if it desires fervently, it sometimes turns that into passion, and that passion breaks into murmurs or unquietness; or, if that be avoided, the indifference cools into death, or the fire burns violently and is quickly spent ; our desires are dull as a rock, or fugitive as lightning; either we ask ill things earnestly, or good things remissly ; we either court our own danger, or are not zealous for our real safety: or, if we be right in our matter, or earnest in our affections, and lasting in our abode, yet we miss in the manner; and either we ask for evil ends, or without religious and awful apprehensions; or we rest in the words and signification of the prayer, and never take care to pass on to action; or else we sacrifice in the company of Korah, being partners of a schism, or a rebellion in religion; or we bring unhallowed censers, our hearts send up to God an unholy smoke, a cloud from the fires of lust; and either the flames of lust or rage, of wine or revenge, kindle the beast that is laid upon the
the altar; or we bring swine's flesh, or a dog's neck; whereas God never accepts or delights in a prayer, unless it be for a holy thing, to a lawful end, presented unto him upon the wings of zeal and love, or religious sorrow, or religious joy ; by sanctified lips, and pure hands, and a sincere heart. It must be the prayer of a gracious man; and he is only gracious before God, and acceptable and effective in his prayer, whose life is holy, and whose prayer is holy; for both these are necessary ingredients to the constitution of a prevailing prayer : there is a holiness peculiar to the man, and a holiness peculiar to the prayer, that must adorn
the prayer, before it can be united to the intercession of the holy Jesus, in which union alone our prayers can be prevailing.
« God heareth not sinners.” -So the blind man in the text, and confidently, “ this we know :" he had reason, indeed, for his confidence; it was a proverbial saying, and every where recorded in their Scriptures, which were read in the synagogues every sabbath-day. “ For what is the hope of the hypocrite ? (saith Job) Will God hear his cry, when trouble cometh upon him ?"* No, he will not. 66 For if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,” said David ; and so said the Spirit of the Lord by the son of David : “ When distress and anguish come upon you, then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.”! And Isaiah, “ When you spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.” And again, “ When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they will offer burnt-offerings and oblations, I will not accept them. For they have loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the Lord will not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins."|| Upon these and many other authorities, it grew into a proverb; “ Deus non exaudit peccatores.” It was a known case, and an established rule in religion ; “ Wicked persons are neither fit to pray for themselves, nor for others.”
Which proposition let us first consider in the sense of that purpose, which the blind man spoke it in, and then in the utmost extent of it, as its analogy and equal reason go forth upon us and our necessities. The man was cured of his blindness, and being examined concerning him that did it, named and gloried in his physician: but the spiteful pharisees bid him give glory to God, and defy the minister; for God indeed was good, but he wrought that cure by a wicked hand.-No, says he, this is impossible. If this man were a sinner and a false prophet (for in that instance the accusation was intended), God would not hear his prayer, and work
• Job xxxvii. 9.
+ Psalm Ixvi. 18. Prov. i. 28. § Isa. i. 15. Vide etiam. Ps. xxxiv. 6. Micah iii. 4. 1 Pet. iii. 12.
miracles by him in verification of a lie.--A false prophet could not work true miracles; this hath received its diminution, when the case was changed; for at that time, when Christ preached, miracles were the only or the great verification of any new revelation; and, therefore, it proceeding from an almighty God, must needs be the testimony of a Divine truth; and if it could have been brought for a lie, there could not then have been sufficient instruction given to mankind, to prevent their belief of false prophets and lying doctrines. But when Christ proved his doctrine by miracles, that no enemy of his did ever do so great before or after him; then he also told, that, after him, his friends should do greater, and his enemies should do some, but they were fewer, and very inconsiderable; and, therefore, could have in them no unavoidable cause of deception, because they were discovered by a prophecy, and caution was given against them by him that did greater miracles, and yet ought to have been believed, if he had done but one; because against him there had been no caution, but many prophecies creating such expectations concerning him, which he verified by his great works. So that, in this sense of working miracles, though it was infinitely true that the blind man said, then when he said it, yet after that the case was altered ; and sinners, magicians, astrologers, witches, heretics, simoniacs, and wicked persons of other instances, have done miracles, and God hath heard sinners, and wrought his own works by their hands, or suffered the devil to do his works under their pretences; and many, at the day of judgment, shall plead that they have done miracles in Christ's name, and yet they shall be rejected; Christ knows them not, and their portion shall be with dogs, and goats, and unbelievers.
There is, in this case, only this difference; that they who do miracles in opposition to Christ, do them by the power of the devil, to whom it is permitted to do such things, which we think miracles; and that is all one as though they were: but the danger of them is none at all, but to them that will not believe him that did greater miracles, and prophesied of these less, and gave warning of their attending danger, and was confirmed to be a true teacher by voices from heaven and by the resurrection of his body after a three days' burial: so that to these the proposition still remains