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gard the thoughts or words of men, as you did before? Though it is only the believer that truly honoureth his rulers, (for none else honour them for God, but use them for themselves) yet wonder not if he fear not much the face of man, and be no admirer of worldly greatness, when he seeth what they will be, as well as what they are. Would not usurpers have been less feared, if all could have foreseen their fall! Even common reason can foresee, that shortly you will all be dust. Methinks I foresee your ghastly paleness, your loathsome blackness, and your habitation in the dark. And who can much envy, or desire the advancements that have such an end? One sight of God would blast all the glory of the world, that is now the bait for man's perdition.
Quest. 6. Would temptations be as powerful as now they are, if you did but see the things you hear of? Could all the beauty or pleasures in the world entice you to filthiness or sensuality, if you saw Gód over you, and judgment before you, and saw what damned souls now suffer, and what believers now enjoy? Could you be persuaded by any company or recreation, to waste your precions time in vain, with such things in your eye? I am confident you would abhor the motion; and entertain temptations to the most honoured, gainful, pleasant sin, as now you would do a motion to cut your own throats, or leap into a coal-pit, or thrust your head into a burning oven. Why then doth not faith thus shame temptations, if indeed you do believe these things? Will you say, it is your weakness, you cannot choose, or that it is your nature to be lustful, revengeful, sensual, and you cannot overcome it; but if you had a sight of heaven and hell, you could then resist'; you cannot now because you will
; not; but did you see that which would make you willing, your power would appear. The sight of a judge or gallows can restrain men. The sight of a person whom you reverence, can restrain the exercise of your disgraceful sins; much more would the sight of heaven and hell. If you were but dying, you would shake the head at him that would then tempt you to the committing of your former sins. And is not a lively, foreseeing faith as effectual ?
Quest. 7. Had you seen what you say you do believe, you would not so much stick at sufferings, nor make so great a matter of it, to be reproached, slandered, imprisoned, or condemned by man, when God and your salvation command
your patience. A sight of hell would make you think it worse than madness, to run thither to escape the wrath of man, or any sufferings on earth ; Rom. viii. 18.
Quest. 8. And O bow such a sight would advance the Redeemer, and his grace, and promises, and word, and ordinances in your esteem! It would quicken your desires, and make you fly to Christ for life, as a drowning man to that which may support him. How sweetly then would you relish the name, the word, the ways of Christ, which now
. seem dry and common things!
Quest. 9. Could you live as merrily, and sleep as quietly in a negligent uncertainty of your salvation, if you had seen these things, as now you do? Could you live at heart's ease, while you
know not where you shall be to-morrow, or must live for ever? Oh no! were heaven and hell but seen before you, your consciences would be more busy in putting such questions, Am I regenerate, sanctified, reconciled, justified,
I or not? than any the most zealous minister is now.
Quest. 10. I will put to you but one question more. If we saw God, and heaven, and hell before us, do you think it would not effectually reconcile our differences, and heal our unbrotherly exasperations and divisions ? Would it not hold the hands that itch to be using violence, against those that are not in all things of their minds? What abundance of vain controversies would it reconcile! As the coming in
! of the master doth part the fray among the schoolboys ; so the sight of God would frighten us from contentious or uncharitable violence. This would teach us how to preach and pray better than a storm at sea can do, which yet doth it better than some in prosperity will learn. Did we see what we preach of, it would drive us out of our man-pleasing, self-seeking, sleepy strain, as the cudgel drives the beggar from his canting, and the breaking loose of the bear did teach the affected cripple to find his legs and cast away his crutches. I would desire no better outward help to end our controversies about indifferent modes of worship, than a sight of the things of which we speak. This would excite such a serious frame of soul, as would not suffer religion to evaporate into formality, nor dwindle into affectation, compliment and ceremony. Nor should we dare to beat our fellow servants, and thrust them out of the vineyard, and say, you shall not preach, or pray, or live, but upon these or
those unnecessary terms. But the sense of our own frailty, and fear of a severe disquisition of our failings, would make us compassionate to others, and content that necessaries be the matter of our unity, necessaries of our liberty, and both of charity.
If sight in all these ten particulars would do so much, should not faith do much, if you verily believe the things
you see not?
Alas! corrupted reason is asleep (with men that seem wise in other things,) till it be awakened by faith or sight. And sleeping reason is unserviceable as folly. It doth no work: it avoids no danger. A doctor that is asleep, can defend the truth no better than a waking child. But reason will be reason, and conscience will be conscience, when the dust is blown out of men's eyes, and sight and feeling have awakened, and so recovered their understandings; or faith more seasonable and happily awakened them.
And 0 that now we might all consent to addict ourselves to the life of faith : and,
1. That we live not too much on visibles. 2. That we live on things invisible.
(1.) One would think that worldliness is a disease that carrieth with it a cure for itself; and that the rational nature should be loath to love at so dear a rate, and to labour for so poor a recompence. It is pity that Gehazi's leprosy and Judah's death should no more prevent a succession of Gehazis and Judahs in all generations. Our Lord went before us most eminently in a contempt of earth : “his kingdom was not of this world.”. No men are more unlike him than the worldlings. I know necessity is the pretence; but it is the dropsy of covetousness that causeth the thirst which they call necessity: and therefore the cure is ‘non addere opibus, sed imminuere cupiditatem. The disease must not be fed but healed. Satis est divitiarum non amplius velle.' It hath lately been a controversy, whether this be not the golden age? That it is ætas ferrea' we have felt; our demonstrations are undeniable: that it is 'ætas aurata,' we have sufficient proof: and while gold is the god that rules the most, we will not deny it to be 'ætas aurea,' in the poet's sense,
“ Aurea nunc vere sunt secula : plurimus auro
This prevalency of things seen, against things unseen, is the idolatry of the world; the subversion of nature ; the
e perversion of our faculties and actions ; making the soul a drudge to flesh, and God to be used as a servant to the world. It destroyeth piety, justice and charity. It turneth jus ' by perversion into 'vis;' or by reversion into 'sui.' No wonder then if it be the rain of societies, when
“Gens sine justitiâ, sine remige navis in unda.” It can possess even Demosthenes with a squinancy, if there be but an Harpalus to bring him the infection. It can make a judicature to be as Plutarch called that of Rome,' doeßūv ywoav,' 'impiorum regionem ;' contrary to Cicero's description of Sulpitius, who was, 'magis justitiæ quam juris con
, sultus, et ad facilitatem æquitatemque omnia contulit; nec maluit litium actiones constituere, quam controversias tollere.' In a word, if you live by sense and not by faith, on things present, and not on things unseen, you go backward ; you stand on your heads and turn your heels against heaven; you cause the beast to ride the man; and by turning all things upside down, will turn yourselves into confusion.
(2.) Consider that it is the unseen things that are only great and necessary, that are worthy of a man, and answer the excellency of our nature, and the ends of our lives, and all our mercies. All other things are inconsiderable toys, except as they are dignified by their relation to these. Whether a man step into eternity from a palace or a prison, a lordship or a Lazarus state, is little to be regarded. All men in the world, whose designs and business take up with any thing short of heaven, are in the main of one condition, and are but in several degrees and forms in the school of folly. If the intendment of your lives fall short of God, it matters not much what it is you seek, as to any great diffe
If lesser children play for pins, and bigger boys for points and pence, and aged children for lands and money, for titles of honour and command, what difference is there between these in point of wisdom and felicity? But that the little ones have more innocent delights, and at a cheaper rate than the aged have, without the vexatious cares and dangers that attend more grave and serious dotage. As holiness to the Lord is written upon all that is faithfully referred to his will and glory; so vanity and sin is written upon all that is but made provision for the flesh, and hath no higher end than self. To go to hell with greater stir, and attendance, and repute, with greater pomp and pleasure than the poor, is a poor consolation, a pitiful felicity.
(3.) Faith is the wisdom of the soul; and unbelief and sensuality are its blindness, folly and brutishness. How short is the knowledge of the wisest unbelievers! They know not much of what is past ; (and less they would know if histories were not of more credit with them than the word of God;) but, alas! how little do they know of what is to come! Sense tells them where they are, and what they are now doing, but it tells them not where they shall be tomorrow. But faith can tell a true believer, what will be when this world is ended, and where he shall live to all eternity, and what he shall be doing, what thoughts he shall be thinking, what affections shall be the temper and employment of his soul; what he shall see, and feel, and enjoy ; and with what company he shall converse for ever. If the pretenders to astrological prediction, could but foretel the changes of men's lives, and the time and manner of their deaths, what resort would be to them! And how wise would they be esteemed! But what is all this to the infallible
predictions of the All-knowing God, that hath given us a prospect into another world, and shewed us what will be for ever, more certainly than you know what a day may bring forth.
So necessary is foreknowledge in the common affairs of men, that, without it the actions of the world would be but mad, tumultuary confusion. What would you think of that
. man's understanding, or how would you value the employ
, ments of his life, that looked no further in all his actions, than the present hour, and saw no more than the things in hand? What would you call him that so spends the day, as one that knoweth not there will be any night: and so passed the night, as one that looked not for the day? That knew not in the spring there would be an harvest, or in the summer that there would be any winter, or in youth that there would be age or death? The silly brutes that have no foreknowledge, are furnished with an instinct that supplieth the want of it, and also have the help of man's foreknowledge, or else their kind would be soon extinct. The bees labour in summer, as if they foresaw the winter's need. And can that man be wise, that foreseeth not his everlasting state?