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1. When conscience is wasted and grown past feeling, having no remorse for sin; when it ceases to check, reprove, and smite for sin any more, the day of that sinner is at hand, his harvest is even come. The greatest violation of conscience is the greatest of sins; this was the case of the forlorn Gentiles, among whom Satan had such a plentiful harvest ; the patience of God suffered them to grow till their consciences were grown seared and past feeling (Eph. iv. 19). When a member is so mortified, that if you lance and cut it never so much, no fresh blood or quick flesh appears, nor doth the man feel any pain in all this, then it is time to cut it off.
2. When men give themselves over to the satisfaction of their lust, to commit sin with greediness, then they are grown to a maturity of sin; when men have slipt the reins of conscience, and rush headlong into all impiety, then the last sands of God's patience are running down. Thus Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner, gave themselves over to wickedness and strange sins; and then justice quickly trusses them up for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
3. That man is even ripe for hell, that is become a contriver of sin, a designer, a student in wickedness; one would think it strange, that any man should set his invention on work upon such a subject as sin is; that any should study to become a dexterous artist this way: and yet the Scripture frequently speaks of such, "whose bellies prepare deceit” (Job xv. 35), “who travail in pain to bring forth” this deformed birth (ver. 20), "who wink with their eyes" whilst plotting wickedness, as men use to do when they are most intent upon the study of any knotty problem (Prov. vi. 13). These have so much of hell already in them, that they are more than half in hell already.
4. He that of a forward professor is turned a bitter perse. cutor, is also within a few rounds of the top of the ladder; the
contempt of their light, the Lord hath already punished upon them in their obduracy and madness against the light. Reader, if thou be gone thus far, thou art almost gone beyond all hope of recovery.
Towards other sinners God usually exercises more patience, but with such he makes short work. When Judas turns traitor to his Lord, he is quickly sent to his own place. Such as are again entangled and overcome of those lusts they once seemed to have clean escaped, these bring upon themselves swift destruction, and their judgment lingers not (2 Pet. ii. 1, 3). 5. He that can endure no reproof or control in the way
of his sin, but derides all counsel, and, like a strong current, rages at and sweeps away all obstacles in his way, will quickly fall into the dead lake. “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Prov. xxix. 1). This is a death-spot, a hell-spot, wherever it appears. From this very symptom the prophet plainly predicted the approaching ruin of Amaziah, “I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened to my voice” (2 Chron. xxv. 16). He that will not be timely counselled, shall quickly be destroyed.
Lastly, when a man comes to glory in his sin, and boast of liis wickedness, then it is time to cut him down, “whose end is destruction, whose glory is in their shame" (Phil. iii. 19). This is a braving, a daring of God to His face ; and with whomsoever He bears long, to be sure these are none of them.
You see now what are signs of a full ripe sinner; and when it comes to this, either with a nation, or with a single person, then ruin is near (Joel iii. 13; Gen. xv. 16). It is in the filling up of the measure of sin, as in the filling of a vessel cast into the sea, which rolls from side to side, taking in the water by little and little, till it be full, and then down it sinks to the bottom.
Upon the Sight of many small Birds chirping about a dead
Hawk. Hearing a whole choir of birds chirping and twinking together, it engaged my curiosity a little to inquire into the occasion of that convocation; which mine eye quickly informed me of ; for I perceived a dead hawk in the bush about which they made such a noise, seeming to triumph at the death of their enemy; and I could not blame them to sing his knell, who, like a cannibal, was sent to feed upon their living bodies ; tearing them limb from limb, and scaring them with his frightful appearance. This bird, which, living, was so formidable, being dead, the poorest wren or titmouse fears not to chirp or hop over. This brings to my thoughts the base and ignoble ends of the greatest tyrants and greedy engrossers of the world, of whom, whilst living, men were more afraid than birds of a hawk; but, dead, become objects of contempt and
The death of such tyrants is both inglorious and unlamented : " When the wicked perish there is shouting" (Prov. xi. 10), which was exemplified to the life at the death of Nero, of whom the poet thus sings
When cruel Nero died, th' historian tells
Remarkable for contempt and shame have the ends of many bloody tyrants been : so Pompey the Great, of whom Claudian the poet sings
Nudus pascit aves; jacet en! qui possidet orbem
Birds eat his flesh; lo, now he cannot have,
For mine own part, I wish I may so order my conversation in the world, that I may live when I am dead in the affections
of the best, and leave an honourable testimony in the consciences of the worst; that I may oppress none, do good to all, and say when I die, as good Ambrose did, I am neither ashamed to live, nor afraid to die.
Upon the Sight of a Black-bird taking Sanctuary in a Bush
from a pursuing Hawk. When I saw how hardly the poor bird was put to it to save herself from her enemy, who hovered just over the bush in which she was fluttering and squeaking, I could not but hasten to relieve her,-pity and succour being a due debt to the distressed; which when I had done, the bird would not depart from the bush, though her enemy were gone. This act of kindness was abundantly repaid by this meditation, with which I returned to my walk : My soul, like this bird, was once distressed, pursued, yea, seized by Satan, who had certainly made a prey of it, had not Jesus Christ been a sanctuary to it in that hour of danger. How ready did I find Him to receive my poor soul into His protection! Then did He make good that sweet promise to my experience, "Those that come unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” It called to mind that pretty and pertinent story of the philosopher, who walking in the fields, a bird, pursued by a hawk flew into his bosom ; he took her out, and said, “ Poor bird, I will neither wrong thee, nor expose thee to thine enemy, since thou comest unto me for refuge.” So tender, and more than so, is the Lord Jesus to distressed souls that come unto Him. Blessed Jesus! how should I love and praise Thee, glorify and admire Thee, for that great salvation Thou hast wrought for me! If this bird had fallen into the claws of her enemy, she had been torn to pieces indeed and devoured, but then a few minutes had despatched her, and ended all her pain and misery; but had my soul fallen into the hand of Satan, there had been no end of its misery
Would not this scared bird be flushed out of the bush that secured her, though I had chased away her enemy? And wilt thou, my soul, ever .be enticed or scared from Christ thy refuge? Oh, let this for ever engage thee to keep close to Christ, and make me say with Ezra, And now, O Lord, since thou hast given me such a deliverance as this, should I again break thy commandments?
Upon the Sight of divers Linnets intermingling with a Flock
Methinks these birds do fitly resemble the gaudy courtiers and the plain peasants. How spruce and richly adorned with shining and various-coloured feathers, like scarlet richly laid with gold and silver lace, are those! “Fine feathers," saith our proverb, "make proud birds;" and yet the feathers of the sparrow are as useful and beneficial, both for warmth and flight, though not so gay and ornamental, as the others; and if both were stript out of their feathers, the sparrow would prove the better bird of the two; by which I see that the greatest worth doth not always lie under the finest clothes. And besides, God can make mean and homely garments as useful and beneficial to poor despised Christians as the rustling and shining garments of wanton gallants are to them; and when God shall strip men out of all external excellencies, these will be found to excel their glittering neighbours in true worth and excellency
Little would a man think such rich treasures of grace, wisdom, humility, &c., lay under some russet coats.
Sæpe sub attrita latitat sapientia veste.
That under silks that whistle, Who but he ? Whilst on the other side the heart of the wicked, as Solomon hath observed, is little worth, how much soever his clothes be