December 10, 2008

Oliver Heywood (1630–1702) on God's Cordial Wish

1. Some absolutely and resolutely refuse to enter into any covenant engagement with God, and have no heart to take the terms thereof into consideration: of this sort were those that being invited to the marriage feast made light of it, they would not take it into their thoughts, but went away; they did not think it worth consideration, but turned their backs on it, and put it quite out of their minds, just as Esau did with his birth-right, when he had got his belly full of bread and pottage of lentiles; the text saith, "he did eat and drink, and rose up and went his way," thus Esau despised his birth-right: just so do many now-a-days, let them but have the husks of worldly delights, they dismiss thoughts of God; most men have neither time nor inclination to consider whether heaven or hell be better, whether it be safer to have the eternal God to be their friend or enemy, whether the enjoyment of God or separation from him be more eligible, or titter to be chosen: no, this is the farthest from their thoughts. Poor sinner, canst thou find time for worldly business, and insignificant trifles? Thou art never weary of collecting toys, but canst thou got no time day or night to ruminate on God, Christ, pardon, or heaven? What hast thou thy rational soul for? Is eternity nothing in thy account? Shall gospel commodities be always accounted refuse-wares, so that thou wilt not so much as turn aside to ask of what use they are? what are they good for? or what rate are they at ? Base ingratitude! when God in the ministry of the word presents gospel commodities with greatest advantage, and tells you, you shall have them freely without money or price, will you still turn a deaf ear? will you still scorn the offer, and imagine that the thoughts of heaven will make you melancholy? must God complain of you as of his ancient people, "my people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me ?" May not such a complaint from the eternal God break a heart of adamant? it is as if God should say, I have made them the fairest offers that ever were presented to a rational creature, I treated them as friends, gave them glorious deliverances, and precious ordinances, I answered their prayers, and bade them still farther open their mouths wide and I would fill them, yet nothing would prevail, they would none of me; I urged my suit with fresh arguments, and sighed out my cordial wish, Oh that my people would have hearkened unto me! I would have done so and so for them; did ever suitor woo more pathetically; yet all this will not do, Israel would none of me; well, let them go and seek a better husband. I have spoken and done fair in the judgment of impartial arbitrators; nay, I dare appeal to themselves, what could have been done more to them: well, it seems I must not be heard, I have given them up to their heart's lust, and they walk in their own counsels, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be, there is no remedy, since they refuse the remedy which I have prescribed, "they have chosen their own ways—I also will choose their delusions;" let them now go their own length, and be snared in the work of their own hands.
Oliver Heywood, "Address to Persons of Different Descriptions Commencing with Unconverted Sinners," in The Whole Works of the Rev. Oliver Heywood (Idle: Printed by J. Vint, 1826), 4:206–207.


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