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gour soul's case ; that you may go to the ground of the matter, and get it rectified.
Secondly, It is a proper means for the recovery of backsliders, that they may remember whence they are fallen, and repent, and do the first works, Rev. ii. 5. There are not a few, who some time a day blossomed fair, in hopeful beginnings of religion, who are now withered. Their bones are dried, and there is no sap of that kind in them now: and by their finning against light, they have provoked God to depart from them, so as there is no sap in ordinances, nor in providences, to them, neither : but these are all, as it were, blasted to them, and they are left in the unhappy case of the vineyard, Ila. v. 6. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain. upon it. And some are not only withered, but are become noisom in their life and conversation : they have not only lost any life of religion they sometimes seemed to have, but their lusts are become rampant in them, as given up to vile affections defiling the very outward man. It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and, The Sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire, 2 Pet. ii, 22.
O backsliders, your case is a fearful one: Heb. X. 38. If any man draw back, my foul shall have no pleaJure in him. What mind ye to do with it? Will ye continue in it, to your eternal ruin? Oh! no, pity your own souls. There is hope in Israel concerning this thing, as bad as it is. Perhaps your heart tells you, that your cafe is now gone on too far, to be mended: but it is not so; that is but a satanical sugo gestion. God's word says otherwise : Jer. iii. i. Though thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord. Ifa. liv. 6. I have called thee as- a wife of youth, when thou waft refused, faith thy God. Wherefore, O backslider, bestir thyself to anfwer the Lord's call, and remem
ber that some devils go not out but by prayer and fasting, Marth. xvii. 22. Try this method then for your recovery : try it, as you would not be guilty of wilful dying of your disease, Que heavenly Father kindly meets returning prodigals: the returning backslider will be treated by him as a dear fon, a pleasant child, Jer. xxxi. 20. Return ye then, and he will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, Joel ii. 25. And as yet, your bones fball Aourish like an herb, Ila. lxvi. 14.
Thirdly, It is a proper means to prevent relapses, and to keep one's spiritual cafe right, when once it is right. Frequent stating of accounts, keeps mat ters clear, which otherwise might come to be pere plexed, and involved. And the case which, being on the decline, is taken in time, is easily righted, in comparison of that which has long run on: even as when Christ raised to life the young man of Nain, whom they were carrying out to the grave, he only touched the bier, and said, Young man, I say unto thee arise, Luke vit. 14.; but he wept and groaned once and again at the raising of Lazarus, who had been four days dead, John xi. 33, 35, 38. The unhealthy and fickly disposition of the souls of men, by. reason of the remains of corruption that are always in the best, while here, makes the occasional per. formance of extraordinary duties now and then necessary, over and above the course of their ordinary and stated devotions.
Fourthly, It is a proper means of preparation for a time of trial. It is a piece of Chriftian prudence to forsee the evil, and hide one's self, while the fire ple pass on, and are punished, Prov. xxii. 3. When God is threatening a land with his judgments, it be. comes the inhabitants to take the alarm, and prepare to meet their God : and personal and family fafts are proper expedients for that end ; since they who in sinning times figh and cry for all the abominations,
done in the midft thereof, stand fair to receive the mark for special favour in suffering times, Ezek. ix. 4. For all the leffer strokes and deliverances these nations have met with of Jate years, it is, alas! visible to fober men of whatever denomination, that we are not thereby reformed, nor duly convinced of, far less humbled under, the causes of God's flaming controversy with us. And while there is a God to judge on the earth, we can have no reason to think that a generation chargeable with the guilt which we are chargeable with, is in safery with such a load upon them; but that either God will, by an unordi. nary pouring out of his Spirit, awaken, humble, and make the land to mourn; or else, by some rousing stroke of judgment, will vindicate his own honour, injured to a pitch that our fathers arrived not at. And the less appearance there is of the former, there is the greater appearance of the latter. However, we seem to have no such: security against it, as to render it unfeasonable to keep personal and family fasts in that view; that we may mourn over our own fins, and the sins of the nations, and may folemnly commit ourselves and our families to the divine grace, mercy, and protection, whatever may be the occurrences of providence in our day. None know what dark steps may be between them and the grave; and therefore it cannot be an unwife course, timely to take God in Christ for our guide thro' the mountains of darkness, for our protector in all dangers and for our supporter and helper in the midst of trouble.
Lastly, It is a proper means to get matters clear for eternity, and so to make us a fafe and comfort, able passage out of this world. It was David's un. speakable comfort on his death-bed, that he could fay of the God unto whom his spirit was about to return, He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. Jacob, being an old man
and a dying, comfortably reflected on the place and time, where and when, in the days of his youth, he had remarkable communion with God, received the blessing, and vowed the vow, Gen. xlviii. 3. with chap. xxxviii. 10, -23. Would one be in a condition to look death in the face ? to pass safely and comfortably to the other world? there is not a more feasible means to reach it than this. Therefore,
1. Ye who are under doubts and fears, complaining, that ye can never reach clear evidences for heaven, this memorial is for you, No wonder they walk in tl.e dark, who will not be at so much pains to get light into their state. The obtaining of such light, might of itself be'a: fufficient ground for fuch an exercile. Clear evidences for heaven are such an unspeakable comfort, and so hard to raise up amidst so much corruption of heart and life, that it is not at all strange, they require something beyond the ordinary course of devotion and application, to obtain the same. And this is a most feasible means for that purpose: for after one has got his soul humbled by a review of his sins, hath poured out his heart before the Lord in folemn confession of sin, and personally entered into, or renewed covenant with God, by taking hold of God's covenant of grace ; if he mall then take the matter in hand, and examine himself as to the evidences, of saving grace in him, they will then be as likely to appear clearly as ever.
2. Ye whio are, one way or other, getting waraings of approaching death, this memorial is for you. Do you observe your equals in years, or younger than you, carried off by death? Have you been at any time rescued from imminent danger of your life arising from some accident, or unforeseen occurrence ? Are you now and then visited with sickness? Do you perceive your strength begin to fail, the pins of your tabernacle begin to be loosed? These
and the like are loud providential calls to you to prepare for the other world. And preparation for that world, is sufficient to found a call unto such extraordinary devotion : a prospect of approaching death, may well be allowed to call one to set some time apart, in order to prepare for it. Preparation for death is work to be done in time of health: and why should it be delayed, since you fee that death is approaching? How unreasonable is it for men, to leave that work to the sick bed, where they will have enough ado to die, or may be deprived of their judgment, if they do at all get a sick-bed, and be not suddenly snatched away, ere they or their friends are aware? No, Sirs; ye know that death is coming : therefore while ye are able, set some time apart for that very end, to prepare for it, and to state matters clearly for eternity: otherwise ye are cruel to your own souls, by your negligence, making of death a leap in the dark into the other world.
3. Lastly, All without exception, who believe a heaven and a hell, this memorial is for you. The eternal state is not a matter to venture upon at random. If you do really believe a life to come, ye cannot reasonably think, that this is too much to make a suitable preparation for it. Their hearts are certainly more stout than holy, who, amidit so many instances of mortality, as the world is still affording, are not thereby excited to set their own souls case in order, with an eye to death's coming about to their own door and thus to set some time apart for that end, is little enough in a case of such vast importance.