Now the soul is oppressed with a weight of clay, and in drowsiness and obscurity; the great things of eternity are of little force to convince the conscience, or persuade the affections But then the soul shall work with the quickest activity; the mind shall, by an irresistible light, take a full view of all afflicting objects: the most stupid and unconcerned sinners shall then see and feel their ruined state; what a glorious felicity they have lost, what a misery they are plunged into, without any possibility of lessening it by false conceits, and receiving any relief by the error of imagination.
The delusion which is spread over the heart is rent asunder on a dying pillow. The flattery of professors, the self-deceit of the heart, the delusions of Satan, all which had buoyed up the soul with empty hopes, vanish into air at the approach of the king of terrors. One flash of eternal fire in the conscience dissolves the dream into which he had been cheated. The sparks of Tophet ordained of old, which “the breath of the Lord like a stream of brimstone does kindle” Isa 30:33, burn up the wood, hay, and stubble accumulated for years. The reality of death, the certainty of eternity, the stern justice of God, the impossibility of escape, the recollection of the past, the terror of the future, the clamor of a guilty conscience, rush in like a flood, and sweep away into despair all the refuge of lies so long sheltered in. Free-will snaps asunder, “as the thread of wax is broken when it touches the fire” Jud 16:9; human merit disappears, “like the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney” Ho 13:3; natural faith withers away “as the streams of brooks when it is hot are consumed out of their place” Job 6:17; and despair swallows up vain hopes, as “drought and heat consume the snow waters.” He who thought that he was a great Christian now finds that he is no Christian at all. He who fondly imagined himself on the road to heaven finds himself suddenly at the gates of hell. And now he learns that these doctrines are true which he either denied or held in unrighteousness. The iron gates of election, the deep impassable gulf of God’s decrees, the bronze bars of that reprobation which lie once disbelieved and fought against, but which is now borne witness to by his gnawing conscience, the irreversible purpose of Jehovah “to have mercy on whom He will have mercy,” and on them alone–all, all shut out hope, and drive the soul down fathoms deep into the agony of despair. “God now laughs at his calamity and mocks when his fear comes” Pr 1:26. He calls upon the Lord, but “He answers him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets” 1Sa 28:6. Thus, “he is brought into desolation as in a moment and is utterly consumed with terrors” Ps 73:19.
Whoso looks on the face of the generation this day, in respect of religion, may behold a lamentable decay in spirituals therein. Great things has God done for us again and again, not only of old, but of late: but alas! amidst all our repeated deliverances, we are like to pine away under spiritual plagues. O that on such solemn occasions we were stirred up to “strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.”
This is the text of a rare sermon by Thomas Prince preached in 1756. It is placed here for the instruction of those who suppose they are like Heman in Psalm 88. It was a funeral sermon for Edward Bromfield a Boston merchant.
They cannot be said truly to celebrate this time, who spend their time eating and drinking to excess. This is a season when persons are apt to indulge themselves in all manner of luxury: iniquity now abounds apace; nothing is scarcely to be seen but things of the greatest extravagance imaginable; not only for the necessities of the body, but to pamper it in lust, to feed its vices, to make it go on in sin, to be a means for gratifying our carnal appetite; and this is a means to make us forget the Lord of glory.
The original narration of this was 15 years ago, it was time for a new narration.
It will thus be seen that there are two chief dangers concerning which the preacher must be on his guard while endeavoring to expound this doctrine. First, while pressing the utter inability of the natural man to meet the just claims of God or even so much as perform a single spiritual duty, he must not overthrow or even weaken the equally evident fact of man’s moral responsibility. Second, in his zeal to leave unimpaired the moral agency and personal accountability of the sinner, he must not repudiate his total depravity and death in trespasses and sins. This is no easy task, and here as everywhere, the minister is made to feel his need of seeking wisdom from above.
Oh that young people would betimes manifest their concern for their own way, by paying a respect to their own consciences, getting them rightly informed concerning good and evil, sin and duty, —hearkening to their dictates, though they be but whispered, keeping them tender and afraid of sin, and keeping up their dominion over appetite and passion, and all the lusts of the flesh and of the eye Often call upon conscience to do its office, and do not only give it leave to deal faithfully with you, but charge it to do so; maintain the honour of the government in your own souls, and the due course of law, and suffer it not to be insulted, obstructed, or made despicable;
thus order is kept up in the soul, and its peace secured; and it is the greatest honor you can do yourselves, to maintain a value and veneration for your consciences.
Samuel Davies died 35 days after preaching this sermon at the age of just 37. ” Jeremiah 28:16
You must learn to think, to think seriously and solemnly upon your danger, and the necessity of a speedy escape. You must retire from the crowd, from talk, business, and amusement, and converse with yourselves alone in pensive solitude. You must learn to think seriously upon the most melancholy and alarming subjects: your present guilt and depravity, and your dreadful doom so near at hand, if you continue in your present condition.
The mind, fond of ease, and impatient of such mortifying and painful thoughts, will recoil, and fly off, and seek for refuge in every trifle! But you must arrest and confine it to these disagreeable subjects; you must force upon it this necessary discomfort—just as you may sometimes take bitter medicines when your health requires it. There is not any moroseness in this advice; no ill-natured design upon your pleasure and happiness. On the other hand, it is intended to procure you more pleasure and happiness than you can possibly obtain any other way! It is intended to prevent many sorrowful days and years, nay, a complete eternity of misery!