Can we prevent the judgment of God?

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Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
More from the Sibbes sermon, "The Church's Visitation". On the other thread, where he focused on why judgments come against the Church, someone asked if Sibbes offered any cure or remedy? Here is that portion of his sermon [the headers in all caps are my addition]:

Question: What course shall we take to prevent the judgment of God, and keep it from us?

Ans. Of the means to prevent and escape God's judgments.

REPENT
1. Labour to meet God by speedy repentance, before any decree be preemptorily come forth against us. And yet there is hope to prevail; for, blessed be God, as we have many things to fear, so we have many things to encourage us unto God with comfort. We have enjoyed a succession of gracious princes that have maintained the truth of God amongst us; we have many godly magistrates and ministers, together with the ordinances, and many other experiences of God's love vouchsafed unto us. We have yet time to seek the Lord. Let us not defer till the very time of judgment come upon us; for that is but self-love.

Note. Assure thyself thus much, thou canst have no more comfort in troubles and afflictions when they do come, than thou hast care to prevent them before they come; answerable to our care in preventing now, will be our comfort then.

Therefore if we would be hid in the day of God's wrath; if we would have God to set his mark upon us, and write us in his book of remembrance, and to gather us when he 'makes up his jewels,' Mal. iii. 16; if we would have him to own us then, look to it now, get now into Christ, be provided now of a sound profession of religion, and that will be as an ark to shelter us in the evil day. What we know let us do, and then we shall be built on a rock, that if waves or anything come, we shall not be stirred.

Usually God in dangerous times leaveth some ground of hope, which worketh differently with men. Such as are carnal, grow presumptuous hereupon; but the godly are drawn nearer to God upon any appearance of encouragement; the good things they enjoy from God, work in them a more earnest desire to please him.

It is the custom of the Spirit of God to make doubtful, imperfect, and as it were half promises, to keep his people still under some hope; whence we read of these and such like phrases in Scripture, 'It may be God will shew mercy,' Amos v. 15; and 'who knoweth whether he will hear us?' &c. Joel ii. 14.

CONFIRM
2. Again, examine and try, upon what ground thou professest religion, whether it will hold water or no, and stand thee in stead when evil times shall come. Beloved, it nearly concerns us all, seriously to consider and narrowly to search upon what grounds we venture our lives and souls; try our graces, our knowledge, repentance, faith, love, &c., of what metal they are. Those that have coin, bring it to the touchstone, and if it prove counterfeit they presently reject it and will have none of it. O that we had this wisdom for matters of eternity! If men would search and plough up their own hearts, they would not need the ploughing of God's enemies. We should not need God's judgments, if we would judge ourselves. The church complained that the enemies had made long furrows on her back, but if she had ploughed herself, she had saved the enemies that labour, Ps. cxxix. 3.

BE FRUITFUL
3. Before any judgment comes, let us store up the fruits of a holy life; every day be doing something; do that now, which may comfort thee then; store up comforts against the evil day. When the 'night is come, we cannot work,' John ix. 4. Let us therefore 'walk while we have the light,' John xii. 35; let us look about us and do what good we can 'whilst we have time,' as the apostle saith, 1 Cor. vii. 29. The time will come ere long that thou wilt wish, O that I had such means of doing good as I have had! but then it will be too late; then that whereby thou shouldst do good, will be in thy enemies hands; and therefore, while we have time, let us be doing and receiving all the good we can.

MOURN
4. Again, if we would have God to shield us, and be an hiding-place in the worst times, let us mourn for our own sins and the sins of the times wherein we live. Let us keep ourselves unspotted of the sins of the world; let us now bring sticks to the common fire; let us not make the times worse for us, but better, that the times and places we live in may bless God for us.
And let us not only mourn for the sins of the times, but labour also to repress them all we can, and stand in the gap, endeavouring by our prayers and tears to stop God's judgments.

[EDIT: There is a long tradition of teaching among the Puritans on this doctrine of mourning over the sins of our times. William Jenkin's "How Ought We to Bewail the Sins of the Places Where We Live" is one of the better treatments. [Morning Exercises at Cripplegate, iii. 110-128. My interest in these threads is Why does error, even great error, arise in the Church, and how should we seek to get things back to their proper place? All the church discipline in the world won't correct the root of the problem, if the hearts of the people are cold before the Lord.]

ESTEEM THE TREASURE WE HAVE
5. And we should set a high price upon that religion and the blessings of God which we do enjoy, lest we force God to take them from us; and so we come to know that, by the want of it, which we did not value when we possessed it. Oh, let us esteem the treasure of the gospel at a higher rate than ever we have done. We see how it is slighted by most of the world; how they shake the blessed truths of God, and call them into question, being indifferent for any religion. Is this our proficiency, beloved? It behoves us to store up all the sanctified knowledge we can, and to take heed we yield not to any, that would either weaken our judgment in religion, or our affections to the best things. We should, every one in his place, labour to stop dissensions in this kind, and knit our hearts together as one man in unity and concord. Factions have always fractions going with them. Unity makes strong, but division weakeneth any people. Even Satan's kingdom, Mat. xii. 25, 26, divided against itself, cannot stand.

[extract from "The Church's Visitation", by Richard Sibbes, in his Works, I.381-382.]
 
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