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eternity. So miserable is the state of the death-bed penitent, that it is a mighty hazard whether ever he repent to purpose; and if he doth, it is ordinarily impossible to reap any comfortable assurance of it.

And now I expect that it will be objected against this discourse, that it savours of too much rigour and severity, because it represents the state of dying penitents so very near to desperate. To which I briefly answer, that if it were absolutely desperate, as I confess I think it very near so, yet doubtless the best way is to represent things as they are: for the nature of the thing is already fixed, and neither your opinion nor mine will alter it. Indeed, if I could recover a dying man, by telling him that he is not dying, it would be cruelty in me to pronounce him past recovery : and so, could I save the dying penitent by telling him that he is secure, I was very much to blame should I say his case is desperate. But, alas ! if it be so, it will be so, let me say what I please: so that in pronouncing that it is so, I only make him sensible of it a few moments sooner. I do but shew him what he must trust to, and what he will presently be convinced of by woful experience; and by ringing out a passing-bell to his departing soul, I do him this kindness at least, that he will not be in hell before he is aware of it.

And certainly this is some charity, though it be severe. But yet neither do I represent the case to be altogether desperate, though I must confess some very great and eminent divines have done so: for I have endeavoured to shew, that true repentance is not impossible on a death-bed, though extremely hazardous and difficult; so that still there is some hope, enough to encourage the sinner's utmost en

deavour, and keep his head above water; and for him to give up himself to despair, while there is any glimmering hope, is to enter into hell before his time; which is a degree of imprudence next to that he hath been already guilty of, in putting himself upon this dismal extremity. But supposing it had been represented as wholly desperate; yet this can occasion no man that hears me to despair, unless it be through his own default. For, God be praised, I am not now preaching to a sick or dying auditory : you are now well and in health, and have a space and season of repentance before you; which if you will but diligently improve, you prevent the fearful hazard whereunto a death-bed penitence exposes you. But if through your own neglect you should fall into it, and despair in it, who can you blame but yourselves for it? All that I aim at is to prevent your danger, by persuading you to repent betime: but if be so cruel to yourselves as to delay it till it is too late, and then despair overtake you, you may thank yourselves for it, that would take no warning. And therefore, to render this argument yet more effectual, I intend to represent to you the folly and wickedness of deferring our repentance to the last, and thereby to excite and provoke you to a speedy resolution of amendment; that so, when the Bridegroom comes, you may not, with these foolish virgins in my text, find the door of heaven shut against you; but that, having finished your work, you may be admitted with that good and profitable servant into the joy of your Master.

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I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she re

pented not. THE

person here spoken of is Jezebel, as you may see in the foregoing verse: but who this Jezebel was, is very much disputed by expositors. Epiphanius, and some that follow him, refer this title to those women heretics, Priscilla, Maximilla, and Quintilla, who followed Montanus, and about Commodus his reign took upon them to be prophetesses, and under that pretence propagated many monstrous heresies. But since it must be after St. John's time that those women were in the church of Thyatira ; and since St. John here speaks not prophetically of what should be, but historically of what already was, is it [not] supposable that these Montanist women should be the Jezebel here spoken of? Besides that, the character here given her doth not agree with that sect; for these Montanists were a very severe and strict sect, and that was the main motive which seduced Tertullian to it: whereas this Jezebel, or sect described by her name, is here accused of fornication and sacrificing to idols. So that it seems more probable, that by her is meant either the whole sect of the Gnostics, which, as all agree, was infamous for lewdness, uncleanness, and idolatry; or else some particular woman,who was an eminent patroness and ringleader of that party. And if he mean this latter, as it

seems most probable, by the distinction he makes between her and those that committed adultery with her, that is, her followers, then it is probable that he means Helena, the whore of Simon Magus, who was father of the Gnostics, whom he styled his apóty évvora, or first conception. And well might she be called Jezebel, since she so much resembled the wife of Ahab, called by that name, in her notorious whoredoms and idolatries: but yet in her he reprehends the whole sect, which was all involved with her in the same impenitence. So that it was equally true, both of her and her followers, that God gave them space to repent of their fornications, and they repented not: that is, God's patience waited on them, and gave them time to reform their lewd and infamous practices; but still they deferred and put it off, and, under all this forbearance, continued obstinate and impenitent. So that the design of the words is to represent the evil of men's putting off their repentance, when God in mercy forbears them, and gives them space enough to perform it. And how great an evil this is, I shall endeavour to represent

to you,

I. By shewing you the wickedness;
II. The absurdity; and,
III. The danger of it.

I. I shall shew you the wickedness of it, and that in these following particulars :

1. 'It is a profane mockery of God's patience. 2. It is an ungrateful undervaluing of his service. 3. It is an open contempt to his authority. 4. It is an impious presumption on his goodness. 5. It is an arrogant defiance of his displeasure. 1. To defer and put off our repentance, when God gives us space to repent, is a profane mockery of his patience. That he did not strike us dead upon our first sin, and consign us immediately to the chains of darkness, was purely the effect of his goodness. It was this that obliged him to try us a little longer, in hope that at last we might be prevailed with to consider our danger, and correct our folly, before it had determined us to an irreversible ruin. Whilst therefore we linger out the space of our repentance in delays, we sport and dally with the patience of God; we promise fair, and give it hope that it shall at last obtain its ends upon us; but when we come to performance, we baffle and disappoint it, and render all its past attendance ineffectual. For when the date of our former promise is expired, and God expects our performance, instead of that, we only give him new promises, and pay him with words instead of things; as if by our promises we only intended to raise in him an expectation of our repentance, that so we might have an opportunity to vex him with a disappointment. We promise we will repent hereafter, only to get leave to sin for the present; and so when that hereafter comes, we promise again, and only repeat the old delusion : as if we meant to tantalize his patience by proffering the golden fruit of our repentance, and snatching it away again, before he can lay hold of it. Now what a fearful wickedness is this, for men to put such tricks upon the Almighty, still to defer the payment of a debt that hath been so long due and so often demanded, and still to pay his demands with promises, and only feed his expectations with air ! As though we thought him bound to attend our leisure, and to give us credit to run deeper on score, upon the security of our

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