(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
~ 2 Corinthians 6:2, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 4:7
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
~ Hebrews 3:4-15
Conclusion to A Sure Guide to Heaven, by Joseph Alleine. 1671.
And now, beloved, let me know your mind. What do you intend to do? Will you go on and die, or will you turn and lay hold on eternal life? How long will you linger in Sodom? How long will you halt between two opinions? Have you not yet resolved whether Christ or Barabbas, whether bliss or torment, whether this vain and wretched world, or the paradise of God, be the better choice? Is it a disputable case whether the Abana and Pharpar of Damascus be better than all the streams of Eden; or whether the vile pool of sin is to be preferred before the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb? Can the world in good earnest do that for you which Christ can? Will it stand by you to eternity? Will pleasures, lands, titles, and treasures descend with you? If not, had you not need look after something that will? What do you mean to stand wavering? Shall I leave you at last, like Agrippa, only almost persuaded? You are for ever lost if left here; as good be not at all, as not altogether a Christian. How long will you rest in idle wishes and fruitless purposes? When will you come to a fixed, firm, and full resolve? Do you not see how Satan cheats you by tempting you to delay? How long has he drawn you on in the way of perdition!
Well, do not put me off with a dilatory answer; tell me not later. I must have your immediate consent. If you are not now resolved, while the Lord is treating with you and inviting you, much less likely are you to be later, when these impressions are worn off, and you are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Will you give me your hand? Will you set open the door and give the Lord Jesus the full and ready possession? Will you put your name unto His covenant? What do you resolve upon? If you still delay, my labour is lost, and all is likely to come to nothing. Come, cast in your lot; make your choice. `Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation; today, if you will hear His voice.’ Why should not this be the day from which you are able to date your happiness? Why should you venture a day longer in this dangerous and dreadful condition? What if God should this night require your soul? O that thou mightest know in this thy day the things that belong to thy peace, before they be hid from thine eyes! This is your day, and it is but a day. Others have had their day, and have received their doom; and now are you brought upon the stage of this world, here to act your part for your eternity. Remember, you are now upon your good behaviour for everlasting; if you do not make a wise choice now, you are undone for ever. What your present choice is, such must be your eternal condition.
And is it true indeed? Are life and death at your choice? Why, then, what hinders but that you should be happy? Nothing does or can hinder but your own wilful neglect or refusal. It was the saying of the eunuch to Philip, `See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptised?’ So I may say to you, `See, here is Christ, here is mercy, pardon, life; what hinders but that you should be pardoned and saved one of the martyrs, as he was praying at the stake, had his pardon set by him in a box, which indeed he rightly refused, because upon unworthy terms; but here the terms are most honourable and easy. O sinner, will you perish with your pardon by you? Do but henceforth give your consent to Christ, to renounce your sins, deny yourself, take up the yoke and the cross, and you carry the day. Christ is yours; pardon, peace, life, blessedness, are all yours. And is not this an offer worth embracing? Why should you hesitate or doubtfully dispute about the case? Is it not past controversy whether God be better than sin, and glory than vanity? Why should you for sake your own mercy, and sin against your own life? When will you shake off your sloth, and lay by your excuses? Boast not of tomorrow, you know not where you may lodge this night.
Now the Holy Spirit is striving with you. He will not always strive. Have you not felt your heart warmed by the Word, and been almost persuaded to leave off your sins and come to Christ? Have you not felt some motions in your mind, in which you have been warned of your danger, and told what your careless course would end in? It may be you are like young Samuel who, when the Lord called once and again, knew not the voice of the Lord, but these motions are the offers, and callings, and strivings of the Spirit. O take advantage of the tide, and know the day of your visitation.
Now the Lord Jesus stretches wide His arms to receive you. He beseeches you by us. How movingly, how meltingly, how compassionately He calls. The church is put into a sudden ecstasy at the sound of His voice, `the voice of my beloved’. O will you turn a deaf ear to His voice? Is it not the voice that breaks the cedars, and makes the mountains to skip like a calf; that shakes the wilderness, and divides the flames of fire? It is not Sinai’s thunder, but a soft and still voice. It is not the voice of Mount Ebal, a voice of cursing and terror, but the voice of Mount Gerizim, the voice of blessing and glad tidings of good things. It is not the voice of the trumpet nor the noise of war, but a message of peace from the King of peace. I may say to you, O sinner, as Martha to her sister, ‘The Master is come, and he calleth for thee.’ Now then, with Mary, arise quickly and come unto Him. How sweet are His invitations! He cries in the open concourse, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink’ (Jn vii 37). How bountiful is He! He excludes none. ‘Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely’ (Rev xxii 17). ‘Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine that I have mingled. Forsake the foolish and live’ (Prov ix 5-6). ‘Come unto me, take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find rest to your souls’ (Mt xi 28-29). ‘Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out’ (Jn vi 37). How does He bemoan the obstinate refuser! ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ (Mt xxiii 37). ‘Behold me, behold me: I have stretched out my hands all the day to a rebellious people’ (Is lxv 1-2). O be persuaded now at last to throw yourselves into the arms of His love.
Behold, O ye sons of men, the Lord Jesus has thrown open the prison, and now He comes to you by His ministers, and beseeches you to come out. If it were from a palace or paradise that Christ did call you, it were no wonder that you were unwilling; and yet how easily was Adam beguiled from it; but it is from your prison, from your chains, from the dungeon, from the darkness, that He calls you, and yet will you not come? He calls you unto liberty, and yet will you not hearken? His yoke is easy, His laws are liberty, His service is freedom, and whatever prejudice you may have against His ways, if God may be believed, you shall find them all pleasure and peace, and shall taste sweetness and joy unutterable, and take infinite delight and felicity in them (Prov iii 17; 1 Pet i 8; Ps cxix 103, 111, 165).
Beloved, I am loath to leave you. I cannot tell how to give you up. I am now ready to close, but I would see a covenant made between Christ and you before I end. What! shall I leave you at last as I found you? Have you read thus far, and not yet resolved to abandon all your sins and to close with Jesus Christ? Alas, what shall I say? What shall I do? Will you turn off all my importunity? Have I run in vain? Have I used so many arguments, and spent so much time to persuade you, and must I sit down at last in disappointment? But it is a small matter that you turn me off; you put a slight upon the God that made you; you reject the compassion and beseechings of a Saviour, and will be found resisters of the Holy Ghost, if you will not now be prevailed upon to repent and be converted.
Well, though I have called you long, and you have refused, I shall yet this once more lift up my voice like a trumpet, and cry from the highest places of the city before I conclude, with the miserable exclamation, ‘All is over!’ Once more I shall call after regardless sinners, that, if it be possible, I may awaken them; ‘O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord’ (Jer xxii 29). Unless you are resolved to die, lend your ears to the last calls of mercy. Behold, in the name of God, I make open proclamation to you, ‘Hearken unto me, O ye children; hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not’ (Prov viii 32-33).
‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfteth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear and come unto me; hear, your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David’ (Is Iv 1-3).
Ho, every one that is sick of any manner of disease or torment, or is possessed with an evil spirit, whether of pride, fury, lust, or covetousness, come ye to the Physician. Bring your sick. Lo, here is He that healeth all manner of sicknesses, and all manner of diseases, among the people (Mt iv 23-24).
Ho, every one that is in distress, gather yourselves unto Christ, and He will become a Captain over you. He will be your protection from the arrests of the law; He will save you from the hand of justice. Behold, He is an open sanctuary to you; He is a known refuge. Away with your sins and come in unto Him, lest the avenger of blood seize you, lest devouring wrath overtake you.
Ho, every blind and ignorant sinner, come and buy eye-salve, that you may see. Away with your excuses; you are for ever lost if you continue in this state. But accept Christ for your Prophet, and He will be a light unto you. Cry unto Him for knowledge, study His Word, take pains about religion, humble yourself before God, and He will teach you His way, and make you wise unto salvation. But if you will not follow Him, but sit down because you have but one talent, He will condemn you for a wicked and slothful servant (Mt xxv 24-26).
Ho, every profane sinner, come in and live. Return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy on you; be entreated. O return, come. You that have filled your mouth with oaths and execrations, all manner of sins and blasphemies shall be forgiven you, if you will but thoroughly turn unto Christ and come in. O unclean sinner, put away your whoredoms out of your sight, and your adulteries from between your breasts, and give yourself unto Christ, as a vessel of holiness, alone for His use; and then, `though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool’ (Lk vii 47; Is i 18, iv 7).
Hear, O ye drunkards, how long will you be drunk? Put away your wine. Though you have rolled in the filthiness of your sin, give yourselves unto Christ, to live soberly, righteously, and godly; embrace His righteousness; accept His government; and though you have been vile, He will wash you (Rev i 5).
Hear, O ye loose companions, whose delight is in vain and wicked society, to sport away your time in carnal mirth; come in at Wisdom’s call, and choose her and her ways, and you shall live (Prov ix 5-6).
Hear, O ye scorners, hear the word of the Lord. Though you make a sport at godliness and its professors, though you have made a scorn of Christ and His ways, yet even to you does He call, to gather you under the wings of His mercy. In a word, though you should be found among the worst of that black roll, yet upon your thorough conversion you shall be washed, you shall be sanctified, you shall be justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God (1 Cor vi 10, 11).
Ho, every formal professor, you that are but lukewarm and resting in the form of godliness. Give over your halting; be a true Christian; be zealous and repent; and then, though you have been an offence to Christ, you shall be the joy of His heart (Rev iii 16-20).
And now bear witness that mercy has been offered you. `I call heaven and earth to record against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that you may live’ (Deut xxx 19). I can only entreat you and warn you. I cannot otherwise compel you to be happy; if I could, I would. What answer will you send me with to my Master? Let me speak to you as Abraham’s servant to Nahor’s family, `And now if you will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me.’ O for such a happy answer as Rebecca gave them: `And they said, We will call the damsel, and inquire at her mouth. And they called Rebecca, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? and she said, I will go’ (Gen xxiv 49-58). O that I had this from you! Why should I, who agonise for your salvation, be your accuser? Why should the passionate pleadings of mercy be turned into horrid aggravations of your obstinacy and additions to your misery? Judge in yourselves; do you not think their condemnation will be doubly dreadful, that shall still go on in their sins, after all endeavours to recall them? Doubtless it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, yea, for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment, than for you! (Mt xi 22-24).
Beloved, if you have any pity for your perishing souls, close with the present offers of mercy. If the God that made you have any authority with you, obey His command and come in. If you are not the despisers of grace, and would not shut the doors of mercy against yourselves, repent and be converted. Let not heaven stand open for you in vain. Let not the Lord Jesus open His stores and bid you buy without money and without price in vain. Let not His Spirit and His ministers strive with you in vain, and leave you now at last unpersuaded, lest the sentence go forth against you, ‘The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire, the founder melteth in vain. Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord bath rejected them’ (Jer vi 29-30).
‘Father of spirits, take the heart in hand that is too hard for my weakness. Do not Thou end, though I have done. A word from Thy effectual power will do the work. O Thou, that hast the key of David, that openest and no man shutteth, open Thou this heart, as Thou didst Lydia’s, and let the King of Glory enter in, and make this soul Thy captive. Let not the tempter harden him in delays. Let him not stir from this place, nor take his eyes from these lines, till he resolve to forego his sins, and accept life on Thy self-denying terms. In Thy Name, O Lord God, did I go forth to these labours; in Thy name do I close them. Let not all the time they have cost be lost hours; let not all the thoughts of the heart, and all the pains that have been about them be lost labour. Lord, put Thy hand upon the heart of this reader, and send Thy Spirit, as once Thou didst Philip to join himself to the chariot of the eunuch while he was reading the Word. And though I should never know it while I live, yet I beseech Thee, O Lord God, let it be found at the last day that some souls are converted by these labours; and let some be able to stand forth and say that by these persuasions they were won unto Thee. Amen, Amen.’ Let him that readeth say, Amen.