Flavel, Fountain of Life, File 32.
( ...continued from File 31)
Sermon 32. The third of Christ's last Words upon the Cross, 
Luke 23:43 
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be 
with me in paradise. 
In this scripture you have the third excellent saying of Christ upon 
the cross, expressing the riches of free grace to the penitent 
thief; a man that had spent his life in wickedness, and for his 
wickedness was now to lose his life. His practice had been vile and 
profane, but now his heart was broken for it; he proves a convert, 
yea, the first fruits of the blood of the cross. In the former verse 
he manifests his faith, "Lord, remember me, when thou comest into 
thy kingdom. In this Christ manifests his pardon and gracious 
acceptance of him; "Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be 
with me in paradise." In which promise are considerable, the matter 
of it, the person to whom it is made, the time set for its 
performance, and the confirmation of it for his full satisfaction. 
    First, The matter or substance of the promise made by Christ, 
viz. That he shall be with him in paradise. By paradise he means 
heaven itself, which is here shadowed to us by a place of delight 
and pleasure. This is the receptacle of gracious souls, when 
separated from their bodies. And that paradise signifies heaven 
itself, and not a third place, as some of the fathers fondly 
imagine, is evident from 2 Cor. 12: 2, 4. where the apostle calls 
the same place by the names of the third heaven, and the paradise. 
This is the place of blessedness designed for the people of God. So 
you find, Rev. 2: 7. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of 
the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God;" 
i.e. to have the fullest and most intimate communion with Jesus 
Christ in heaven. And this is the substance of Christ's promise to 
the thief: Thou, i.e. thou in spirit, or thou in the noblest part, 
thy soul which here bears the image of the whole person; "Thou shalt 
be with me in paradise." 
    Secondly, The person to whom Christ makes this excellent and 
glorious promise: it was to one that had lived lewdly and profanely; 
a very vile and wretched man, in all the former part of his time, 
and, for his wickedness, now justly under condemnation; yea, to one 
that had reviled Christ, after that sentence was executed on him. 
However, now at last the Lord gave him a penitent believing heart. 
Now, almost at the last gasp, he is soundly, in an extraordinary way 
converted; and, being converted, he owns and professes Christ amidst 
all the shame and reproach of his death; vindicates his innocence, 
and humbly supplicates for mercy; "Lord, remember me when thou 
comest into thy kingdom." 
    Thirdly, The set time for the performance of this gracious 
promise: Today, this very day, shalt thou be with me in glory: Not 
after the resurrection, but immediately from the time of thy 
dissolution, thou shalt enjoy blessedness. And here I cannot but 
detect the cheat of those that deny an immediate state of glory to 
believers after death; who, (to the end this scripture might not 
stand in full opposition to their, as uncomfortable, as unsound 
opinion), loose the whole frame of it, by drawing one pin, yea, by 
transposing but a comma, putting it at the word day, which should be 
at the word thee; and so reading it thus, "Verily I say unto thee 
to-day," referring the word "day" to the time that Christ made the 
promise, and not to the time of its performance. But if such a 
liberty as this be yielded, what may not men make the scriptures 
speak? There can be no doubt, but Christ, in this expression, fixes 
the time for his happiness; "To-day thou shalt be with me. 
    Fourthly, and lastly, You have here the confirmation and seal 
of this most comfortable promise to him, with Christ's solemn 
asseveration; "Verily I say unto thee." Higher security cannot be 
given. I that am able to perform what I promise, and have not out 
promised myself; for heaven and the glory thereof, are mine: I that 
am faithful and true to my promises, and have never forfeited my 
credit with any; I say it, I solemnly confirm it; "Verily I say unto 
thee, to-day thou shalt be with me in paradise." Hence we have three 
plain obvious truths, for our instruction and consolation. 
    Doct. 1. That there is a future eternal state, into which souls 
    pass at death. 
    Doct. 2. That all believers are, at their death, immediately 
    received into a state of glory and eternal happiness. 
    Doct. 3. That God may, though he seldom does, prepare men for 
    this glory, immediately before their dissolution by death. 
    These are the useful truths resulting from this remarkable word 
of Christ to the penitent thief. We will consider and improve them 
in the order proposed. 
    Doct. 1. That there is a future eternal state, into which souls 
    pass at death. 
    This is a principal foundation-stone to the hopes and happiness 
of souls. And seeing our hopes must needs be as their foundation and 
ground work is, I shall briefly establish this truth by these five 
arguments. The being of a God evinces it. The scriptures of truth 
plainly reveal it. The consciences of all men have presentiments of 
it. The incarnation and death of Christ is but a vanity without it; 
and the immortality of human souls plainly discovers it. 
    Arg. 1. The being of a God undeniably evinces a future state 
for human souls after this life. For, if there be a God who rules 
the world which he has made, he must rule it by rewards and 
punishments, equally and righteously distributed to good and bad; 
putting a difference betwixt the obedient and disobedient. the 
righteous and the wicked. To make a species of creatures capable of 
a moral government, and not to rule them at all, is to make them in 
vain, and is inconsistent with his glory, which is the last end of 
all things. To rule them, but not suitably to their natures, 
consists not with that infinite wisdom from which their beings 
proceeded, and by which their workings are ruled and ordered. To 
rule them, in a way suitably to their natures, viz. by rewards and 
punishments, mid not to perform, or execute them at all, is utterly 
incongruous with the veracity and truth of him that cannot lie: this 
were to impose the greatest cheat in the world upon men, and can 
never proceed from the holy and true God. So then, as he has made a 
rational sort of creatures, capable of moral government by rewards 
and punishments; so he rules them in that way which is suitable to 
their natures, promising "it shall be well with the righteous, and 
ill with the wicked." These promises and threatening can be no 
cheat, merely intended to scare and fright, where there is no 
danger, or encourage where there is no real benefit; but what he 
promises, or threatens, must be accomplished, and every word of God 
take place and be fulfilled. But it is evident that no such 
distinction is made by the providence of God (at least ordinarily 
and generally) in this life; but all things coins alike to all; and 
as with the righteous, so with the wicked. Yea, here it goes ill 
with them that fear God; they are oppressed; they receive their evil 
things, and wicked men their good; therefore we conclude, the 
righteous Judge of the whole earth, will, in another world, 
recompense to every one according as his work shall be. 
    Arg. 2. Secondly, And as the very being of God evinces it, so 
the scriptures of truth plainly reveal it. These scriptures are the 
pandect, or system of the laws, for the government of man; which the 
wise and holy Ruler of the world has enacted and ordained for that 
purpose. And in them we find promises made to the righteous, of a 
full reward for all their obedience, patience, and sufferings in the 
next life or world to come; and threatening, made against the 
wicked, of eternal wrath and anguish, as the just recommence of 
their sin in hell for ever, Rom. 2: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. "Thou 
treasures up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and 
revelation of the righteous judgement of God; who will render to 
every man according to his deeds: to them who, by patient 
continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honour, and 
immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and 
obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 
tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that does evil, &c." 
So 2 Thess. 1: 4, 5, 6, 7. "So that we ourselves glory in you, in 
the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your 
persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: which is (a manifest 
token) of the righteous judgement of God, that ye may be counted 
worthy of the kingdom of God for which ye also suffer; seeing it is 
a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that 
trouble you: and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord 
Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, &c." To these 
plain testimonies, multitudes might be added, if it were needful. 
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but these words shall never pass 
    Arg. 3. Thirdly, As the scriptures reveal it, so the 
consciences of all men have borne presentiments of it. Where is the 
man whose conscience never felt any impressions of hope, or fear, 
from a future world? If it is said, these may be but the effects and 
force of discourse, or education; we have read such things in the 
scriptures, or have heard it by preachers; and so raise up to 
ourselves hopes and fears about it. I demand, how the consciences of 
the Heathens, who have neither scriptures nor preachers, came to be 
impressed with these things? Does not the apostle tell us, Rom. 2: 
15. "That their consciences in the mean while work upon these 
things?" their thoughts, with reference to a future state, accuse, 
or else excuse, i.e. their hearts are cheered and encouraged by the 
good they do, and terrified with fears about the evils they commit. 
Whereas, if there were no such things, conscience would neither 
accuse nor excuse for good or evil done in this world. 
    Arg. 4. Fourthly, The incarnation and death of Christ, are but 
vanity without it. What did he propose to himself, or what benefit 
have we by his coming, if there be no such future state? Did he take 
our nature, and suffer such terrible things in it for nothing! If 
you say, Christians have much comfort from it in this life: I 
answer, the comforts they have are raised by faith and expectation 
of the happiness to be enjoyed, as the purchase of his blood, in 
heaven. And if there be no such heaven to which they are appointed, 
no hell from which they are redeemed, they do but comfort themselves 
with a fable, and bless themselves with a thing of nought: their 
comfort is no greater than the comfort of a beggar, that dreams he 
is a king, and when he awakes, finds himself a beggar still. Surely 
the ends of Christ's death were to deliver us from the wrath to 
come, 1 Thess. 1: 10. not from an imaginary, but a real hell, to 
bring us to God, 1 Pet. 3: 18. to be the author of eternal salvation 
to them that obey him, Heb. 5: 9. 
    Arg. 5. Fifthly and lastly, The immortality of human souls, 
puts it beyond all doubt. The soul of man, vastly differs from that 
of a beast, which is but a material form, and so wholly depending 
on, that it must need perish with matter. But it is not so with 
ours: Ours are reasonable spirits, that can live and act in a 
separated state from the body, Eccles. 3: 21. "Who knoweth the 
spirit of man, that goes upward; and the spirit of a beast, that 
goes downward to the earth?" For if a man dispute whether man be 
rational, this his very disputing it proves him to be so: so our 
disputes, hopes, fears, and apprehensions of eternity, prove our 
souls immortal, and capable of that state. 
    Inference 1. Is there an eternal state, into which souls pass 
after this life? How precious then is present time, upon the 
improvement whereof that state depends. O what a huge weight has God 
hanged upon a small wire! God has set us here in a state of trial: 
"According as we improve these few hours, so will it fare with us to 
all eternity." Every day, every hour, nay, every moment of your 
present time has an influence into your eternity. Do you believe 
this? What! and yet squander away precious time so carelessly, so 
vainly! How do these things consist? When Seneca heard one promise 
to spend a week with a friend that invited him, to recreate himself 
with him; he told him, he admired he should make such a rash 
promise! What (said he) cast away so considerable a part of your 
life? How can you do it? Surely, our prodigality in the expense of 
time, argues we have but little sense of great eternity. 
    Inference 2. How rational are all the difficulties, and 
severities of religion, which serve to promote and secure a future 
eternal happiness? So vast is the disproportion betwixt time and 
eternity, things seen, and not seen as yet, the present vanishing, 
and future permanent state, that he can never be justly reputed a 
wise man, that will not let go the best enjoyment he has on earth, 
if it stand in the way of his eternal happiness. Nor can that man 
ever escape the just censure of notorious folly, who, for the 
gratifying of his appetite and present accommodation of his flesh, 
lets go an eternal glory in heaven. Darius repented heartily that he 
lost a kingdom for a draught of water; O, said he, "for how short a 
pleasure have I sold a kingdom!" It was Moses' choice, and his 
choice argued his wisdom, he chose rather "to suffer afflictions 
with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which 
are but for a season," Heb. 11: 25. Men do not account him a fool, 
that will adventure a penny, upon a probability to gain ten thousand 
pounds. But sure the disproportion betwixt time and eternity is much 
    Inf. 3. If there certainly be such an eternal state into which 
souls pass immediately after death; How great a change then does 
death make upon every man and upon every man and woman? O what a 
serious thing is it to die! It is your passage out of the swift 
river of time, into the boundless and bottomless ocean of eternity. 
You that now converse with sensible objects, with men and women like 
yourselves, enter then into the world of spirits. You that now see 
the continual revolutions of days and nights, passing away one after 
another, will then be fixed in a perpetual NOW. O what a serious 
thing is death! You throw a cast for eternity when you die. If you 
were to cast a die for your natural life, O! how would your hand 
shake with fear, how it would fall! But what is that to this? 
    The souls of men are, as it were, asleep now in their bodies; 
at death they awake, and find themselves in the world of realities. 
Let this teach you, both how to carry yourselves towards dying 
persons when you visit them; and to make every day some provision 
for that hour yourselves. Be serious, be plain, be faithful with 
others that are stepping into eternity; be so with your own souls 
every day. O remember what a long word, what an amazing thing 
eternity is! especially considering, 
    Doct. 2. That all believers are, at their death, immediately 
    received into a state of glory and eternal happiness. 
    This day shalt thou be with me. 
    This the Atheist denies: He thinks he shall die, and therefore 
resolves to live as the beasts that perish. Beryllus, and some 
others after him, taught, that there was indeed a future state of 
happiness and misery for souls, but that they pass not into it 
immediately upon death and separation from the body, but shall sleep 
till the resurrection, and then awake and enter into it. But is not 
that soul asleep, or worse, that dreams of a sleeping soul till the 
resurrection? Are souls so wounded and prejudiced by their 
separation from the body, that they cannot subsist or act separate 
from it? Or have they found any such conceit in the scriptures? Not 
at all. The scriptures take notice of no such interval; but plainly 
enough denies it, 2 Cor. 5: 8. "We are confident, I say, and willing 
rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord." Mark 
it, no sooner parted from the body, but present with the Lord. So 
Phil. 1: 23. "I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, which 
is far better." If his soul was to sleep till the resurrection, how 
was it far better to be dissolved, than to live? Sure Paul's state 
in the body had been far better than his state after deaths if this 
were so; for here he enjoyed much sweet communion with God by faith, 
but then he should enjoy nothing. 
    To confirm this dream, they urge, John 14: 3. "If I go away, I 
will come attain, and receive you to myself". As if the time of 
Christ's receiving his people to himself, should not come, until his 
second coming at the end of the world. But though he will then 
collect all believers into one body, and present them solemnly to 
his Father; yet that hinders not, but he may, as indeed he does, 
receive every particular believing soul to himself at death, by the 
ministry of angels. And if not, how is it that when Christ comes to 
judgement, he is attended with ten thousand of his saints, that 
shall follow him when he comes from heaven? Jude 14. You see then 
the scripture puts no interval betwixt the dissolution of a saint, 
and his glorification: It speaks of the saints that are dead, as 
already with the Lord: And the wicked that are dead, as already in 
hell, calling them spirits in prison, 1 Pet. 3: 19, 20. assuring us, 
that Judas went presently to his own place, Acts 1: 25. And to that 
sense, is the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Luke 16: 22. 
    But let us weigh these four things more particularly, for our 
full satisfaction in this point. 
    Arg. 1. First, Why should the happiness of believers be 
deferred, since they are immediately capable of enjoying it, as soon 
as separated from the body? Alas, the soul is so far from being 
assisted by the body (as it is now) for the enjoyment of God; that 
it is either clogged or hindered by it: So speaks the apostle, 2 
Cor. 5: 6, 8. "Whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from 
the Lord;" i.e. our bodies prejudice our souls, obstruct and hinder 
the fulness and freedom of their communion: When we part from the 
body, we go home to the Lord! then the soul is escaped as a bird out 
of a cage or snare. Here I am prevented by an excellent pen, which 
has judiciously opened this point: To whose excellent observations I 
only add this; That if the entanglements, snares, and prejudices of 
the soul are so great and many in its embodied estate, that it 
cannot so freely dilate itself and take in the comforts of God by 
communion with him, then surely the laying aside of that clog, or 
the freeing of the soul from that burden, can be no bar to its 
greater happiness, which it enjoys in its separated state. 
    Arg. 2. Secondly, Why should the happiness and glory of the 
soul be deferred, unless God had some farther preparative work to do 
upon it, before it be fit to be admitted into glory? But surely, 
here is no such work wrought upon it after its separation by death: 
all that is done of that kind, is done here. When the compositum is 
dissolved, all means, duties, and ordinances are ceased. The working 
day is then ended, and night comes, when no man can work, John 9: 3. 
To that purpose are those words of Solomon, Eccles. 9: 10. 
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; for 
there is no wisdom, nor knowledge, nor device in the grave whither 
thou goest." So that our glorification is not deferred, in order to 
our fuller preparation for glory. If we are not fit when we die, we 
can never be fit: all is done upon us that ever was intended to be 
done; for they are called, Heb. 12: 23. the spirits of the just made 
    Arg. 3. Thirdly, Again, Why should our salvation slumber, when 
the damnation of the wicked does not slumber? God defers not their 
misery; and surely he will not defer our glory. If he be quick with 
his enemies, he will not be slow and dilatory with his friends. It 
cannot be imagined, but he is as much inclined to acts of favour to 
his children, as to acts of justice to his enemies; these are 
presently damned, Jude, ver. 7. Acts 1: 25. 1 Pet. 3: 19, 20. And 
what reason why believers, yea, every believer, as well as this in 
the text, should not be, that very day in which they die, with 
Christ in glory? 
    Arg. 4. Fourthly, and lastly, How do such delays consist with 
Christ's ardent desires to have his people with him where he is, and 
with the vehement longings of their souls to be with Christ? You may 
see those reflected flames of love and desire of mutual enjoyment 
betwixt the bridegroom and his spouse in Rev. 22: 17, 20. Delays 
make their hearts sick: the expectation and faith in which the 
saints die, is to be satisfied then; and surely God will not deceive 
them. I deny not but their glory will be more complete when the 
body, their absent friend, is reunited, and made to share with them 
in their happiness; yet that hinders not, but meanwhile the soul may 
enjoy its glory, whilst the body takes its rest, and sleeps in the 
    Inference 1. Are believers immediately with God after their 
dissolution? Then how surprisingly glorious will heaven be to 
believers! Not that they are in it before they think of it, or are 
fitted for it; no, they have spent many thoughts upon it before, and 
been long preparing for it; but the suddenness and greatness of the 
change is amazing to our thoughts. For a soul to be now here in the 
body, conversing with men, living among sensible objects, and within 
a few moments to be with the Lord; this hour on earth, the next in 
the third heaven; now viewing this world, and anon standing among an 
innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of the just made 
perfect: O what a change is this! What! but wink, and see God! 
Commend thy soul to Christ, and be transferred in the arms of angels 
into the invisible world, the world of spirits! To live as angels of 
God? To live without eating, drinking. sleeping! To be lifted up 
from a bed of sickness to a throne of glory! To leave a sinful, 
troublesome world, a sick and pained body, and be in a moment 
perfectly cured, and feel thyself perfectly well, and free from all 
troubles and distempers! You cannot think what this will be! Who can 
tell what sights, what apprehensions, what thoughts, what frames 
believing souls have, before the bodies they left are removed from 
the eyes of their dear surviving friends! 
    Inf. 2. Are believers immediately with God after their 
dissolution? Where then shall the unbelievers be, and in what state 
will they find themselves immediately after death has closed their 
eyes? Ah! what will the case of them be that go the other way? 
    To be plucked out of house and body, from among friends and 
comforts, and thrust into endless miseries, into the dark vault of 
hell, never to see the light of this world any more; never to see a 
comfortable sight; never to hear a joyful sound; never to know the 
meaning of rest, peace, or delight any more. O what a change is 
here! To exchange the smiles and honours of men, for the frowns and 
fury of God; to be clothed with flames, and drink the pure unmixed 
wrath of God, who were but a few days since clothed in silks, and 
filled with the sweet of the creature! How is the state of things 
altered with them! It was the lamentable cry of poor Adrian, when he 
felt death approaching: "O my poor wandering soul! alas! whither art 
thou going! Where must thou lodge this night! Thou shalt never jest 
more, never be merry more!" 
    Your term in your houses and bodies is out, and there is 
another habitation provided for you; but it is a dismal one! When a 
saint dies, heaven above is as it were moved to receive and 
entertain him; at his coming, he is received into everlasting 
habitations, into the inheritance of the saints in light. When an 
unbeliever dies, we may say of him alluding to Isa. 14: 9. "Hell 
from beneath is moved for him, to meet him at his coming; ii 
stirreth up the dead for him." No more sports, nor plays, nor cups 
of wine, nor beds of pleasure: the more of these you enjoyed here, 
the more intolerable will this change be to you. If saints are 
immediately with God, others must be immediately with Satan. 
    Inf. 3. How little cause have they to fear death, who shall be 
with God so soon after their death? Some there are that tremble at 
the thoughts of death; that cannot endure to hear its name 
mentioned; they would rather stoop to any misery here, yea, to any 
sin, than die, because they are afraid of the exchange. But you that 
are interested in Christ, need not do so; you can lose nothing by 
the exchange: the words Death, Grave, and Eternity, should have 
another kind of sound in your ears, and make contrary impressions 
upon your hearts. If your earthly tabernacles cast you out, you 
shall not be found naked; you have "a building of God, a house not 
made with hands, eternal in the heavens;" and it is but a step out 
of this into that. O what fair, sweet, and lovely thoughts should 
you have of that great and last change! But what speak I of your 
fearlessness of death? Your duty lies much higher than that far. 
    Inf. 3. If believers are immediately with God, after their 
dissolution, then it is their duty to long for that dissolution, and 
cast many a longing look towards their graves. So did Paul, I desire 
to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, which is far better. The 
advantages of this exchange are unspeakable: You have gold for 
brass; wine for water; substance for shadow: solid glory for very 
vanity. Oh! if the dust of this earth were but once blown out of 
your eyes, that you might see the divine glory, how weary would you 
be to live? How willing to die; But then be sure your title be sound 
and good: leave not so great a concernment to the last; for, though 
it is confessed, God may do that in an hour, that never was done all 
your days, yet it is not common; which brings to our third and last 
    Doct. 3. That God may, though he seldom does, prepare men for 
    glory immediately before their dissolution by death. 
    There is one parable, and no more, that speaks of some that 
were called at the last hour, Matt. 20: 9, 10. And there is this one 
instance in the text, and no more, that gives us an account of a 
person so called. We acknowledge God may do it, his grace is his 
own, he may dispense it how and where he pleaseth: we must always 
salve divine prerogative. Who shall fix bounds, or put limits to 
free grace, but God himself, whose it is? If he do not ordinarily 
show such mercies to dying sinners (as indeed he does not); yet it 
is not because he cannot, but because he will not; not because their 
hearts are so hardened by long custom in sin, that his grace cannot 
break them, but because he most justly withholds that grace from 
them. When blessed Mr. Bilney, the martyr, heard a minister 
preaching thus: O thou old sinner, thou hast lain these fifty years 
rotting in thy sin, dost thou think now to be saved? That the blood 
of Christ shall save thee? O, said Mr. Bilney, what preaching of 
Christ is this? If I had heard no other preaching than this, what 
had become of me? No, no, old sinners, or young sinners, great or 
small sinners, are not to be beaten off from Christ, but encouraged 
to repentance and faith; for who knows but the bowels of mercy may 
yearn at last upon one that has all along rejected it? This thief 
was as unlikely ever to receive mercy, but a few hours before he 
died, as any person in the world could be. 
    But surely this is no encouragement to neglect the present 
seasons of mercy, because God may show mercy hereafter; or to 
neglect the ordinary, because God sometimes manifests his grace in 
ways extraordinary. Many, I know, have hardened themselves in ways 
of sin, by this example of mercy. But what God did at this time, for 
this man, cannot be expected to be done ordinarily for us, and the 
reasons thereof are: 
    Reason 1. First, Because God has vouchsafed us the ordinary and 
standing means of grace, which this sinner had not; and therefore we 
cannot expect such extraordinary and unusual conversion as he had. 
This poor creature never heard in all likelihood, one sermon 
preached by Christ, or any of his apostles: He lived the life of a 
highwayman, and concerned not himself about religion. But we have 
Christ preached freely, and constantly in our assemblies: We have 
line upon line, precept upon precept: and when God affords the 
ordinary preaching of the gospel, he does not use to work wonders. 
When Israel was in the wilderness, then God gave them bread from 
heaven, and clave the rocks to give them drink; but when they came 
to Canaan, where they had the ordinary means of subsistence, the 
manna ceased. 
    Reason 2. Secondly, Such a conversion as this, may not be 
ordinarily expected by any man, because such a time as that will 
never come again: it is possible, if Christ where to die again, and 
thou to be crucified with him, thou mightest receive thy conversion 
in such a miraculous and extraordinary way; but Christ dies no more; 
such a day as that will never come again. 
    Mr. Fenner, in his excellent discourse upon this point, tells 
us, That as this was an extraordinary time, Christ being now to be 
installed in his kingdom, and crowned with glory and honour; so 
extraordinary things were now done; as when kings are crowned, the 
streets are richly hanged, the conduits run with wine, great 
malefactors are then pardoned, for then they show their munificence 
and bounty; it is the day of the gladness of their hearts. But let a 
man come at another time to the conduits, he shall find no wine, but 
ordinary water there. Let a man be in the jail at another time, and 
he may be hanged; veer, and have no reason but to expect and prepare 
for it. What Christ did now for this man, was at an extraordinary 
    Reason 3. Thirdly, Such a conversion as this may not ordinarily 
be expected; for as such a time will never come again, so there will 
never be the like reason for such a conversion any more: Christ 
converted him upon the cross, to give an instance of his divine 
power at that time, when it was almost wholly clouded: Look, as in 
that day the divinity of Christ brake forth in several miracles, as 
the preternatural eclipse of the sun, the great earthquake, the 
rending of the rocks and vail of the temple; so in the conversion of 
this man in such an extraordinary way, and all, to give evidence of 
the divinity of Christ, and prove him to be the Son of God whom they 
crucified; but that is now sufficiently confirmed, and there will be 
no more occasion for miracles to evidence it. 
    Reason 4. Fourthly. None has reason to expect the like 
conversion, that enjoys the ordinary means; because, though in this 
convert we have a pattern of what free grace can do, yet, as divines 
pertinently observe, it is a pattern without a promise; God has not 
added any promise to it, that ever he will do it for any other; and 
where we have not a promise to encourage our hope, our hope can 
signify but little to us. 
    Inference 1. Let those that have found mercy in the evening of 
their life, admire the extraordinary race that therein has appeared 
to them. O that ever God should accept the bran, when Satan has had 
the flour of thy days! The fore-mentioned reverend author tells us 
of one Marcus Caius Victorius, a very aged man in the primitive 
times, who was converted from Heathenism to Christianity in his old 
age. This man came to Simplicianus, a minister, and told him, he 
heartily owned and embraced the Christian faith. But neither he nor 
the church would trust him for a long time; and the reason was, the 
unusualness of a conversion at such an age. But after he had given 
them good evidence of the reality thereof, there were acclamations 
and singing of Psalms, the people every where crying, Marcus Caius 
Victorius is become a Christian. This was written for a wonder! Oh! 
if God have wrought such wondrous salvation for any of you, what 
cause have you to do more for him than others! What! to pluck you 
out of hell when one foot was in! To appear to you at last, when so 
hardened by long custom in sin, that one might say, "Can the 
Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Oh! what riches 
of mercy halve appeared to you! 
    Inf. 2. Let this convince and startle such, as even to their 
gray hairs, remain in an unconverted state, who are where they were 
when they first came into the world, yea, rather further off by 
    Bethink yourselves, ye that are full of days, and full of sin, 
whose time is almost done, and your great work not begun: who have 
but a few sands more in the upper part of the glass to run down, and 
then your conversion will be impossible; your sun is setting; your 
night is coming; the shadows of the evening, are stretched out upon 
you; you have one foot in the grave, and the other in hell. O think, 
if all sense and tenderness be not withered up as well as natural 
verdure; think with yourselves how sad a case you are in: God may do 
wonders, but they are not seen every day, then they would cease to 
be wondered at. O strive, strive, while you have a little time, and 
a few helps and means more; strive to get that work accomplished now 
that was never done yet; defer it no longer, you have done so too 
much already. 
    It may be (to use Seneca's expression) you have been these 
sixty, seventy, or eighty years, beginning to live, about to change 
your tactics; but hitherto you still continue the same. Do not you 
see how Satan has gulled, and cheated you with vain purposes, till 
he has brought you to the very brink of the grave and hell? O it is 
time now to make a stand, and pause a little where you are, and to 
what he has brought you. The Lord at last give you an eye to see, 
and an heart to consider. 
    Inf. 3. Lastly, Let this be a call and caution to al young ones 
to begin with God betime, and take heed of delays till the last, so 
as many thousands have done before them to their eternal ruin. Now 
is your time, if you desire to be in Christ; if you have any sense 
of the weight and worth of eternal things upon your hearts: I know 
your age is voluptuous, and delights not the serious thoughts of 
death and eternity: you are more inclined to mind your pleasures, 
and leave these grave and serious matters to old age: but let me 
persuade you against that, by these considerations. 
    First, O set to the business of religion now, because this is 
the moulding age. Now your hearts are tender, and your affections 
flowing: now is the time when you are most likely to be wrought 
    Secondly, Now, because this is the freest part of your time. It 
is in the morning of your life, as in the morning of the day: if a 
man have any business to be done, let him take the morning for it; 
for in the after part of the day a hurry of business comes on, so 
that you either forget it, or want opportunity for it. 
    Thirdly, Now, because your life is immediately uncertain; you 
are not certain that ever you shall attain the years of your 
fathers: there are graves in the church-yard just of your length; 
and souls of all sorts and sizes in Golgotha, as the Jews proverb 
    Fourthly, Now, because God wil1 not spare you because you are 
but young sinners, little sinners, if you die Christless. If you are 
not; as you think, old enough to mind Christ, surely, if you die 
Christless, you are old enough to be damned: there is the small 
spray, as well as great logs in the fire of hell. 
    Fifthly, Now, because your life will be the more eminently 
useful, and serviceable to God, when you know him betimes, and begin 
with him early. Austin repented, and so have many thousands since, 
that he began so late, and knew God no sooner. 
    Sixthly, Now, because your life will be the sweeter to you, 
when the morning of it is dedicated to the Lord. The first fruits 
sanctify the whole harvest: this will have a sweet influence into 
all your days, whatever changes, straits, or troubles you may 
afterwards meet with. 

(continued in file 33...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: flafn-32.txt