Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER X.

The practical Directions to live by Faith, a Life of Holiness

or Love.

Direct. 1. • TAKE Jesus Christ as a Teacher sent from heaven; the best and surest revealer of God and his will unto mankind.'

All the books of philosophers are sapless and empty, in comparison of the teaching of Jesus Christ; they are but inquiries into the nature of the creatures, and the lowest things, most impertinent to our happiness or duty; or if they rise up to God, it is but with dark and unpractical conjectures, for the most part of them; and the rest do but grope and fumble in obscurity. And their learning is mostly but useless speculations, and striving about words and sciences, falsely so called, which little tend to godly edifying. It is Christ who is made wisdom to us, as being himself the Wisdom of God. If you knew but where to hear an angel, you would all prefer him before Aristotle, or Plato, or Cartesius, 'or Gassendus ; how much more the Son himself? He is the true light, to lighten every man that will not serve the prince of darkness. Christians were first called Christ's disciples; and therefore to learn of him the true knowledge of God, is the work of every true believer ; John xvii. 3. Acts iii. 23. John viii. 43, 47. x. 3, 27. xii. 47. xiv. 24. Matt. xvii. 5.

Direct. 2. • Remember that Christ's way of teaching is, - 1. By his word ; 2. His ministers ; 3. And his Spirit conjunct; and the place for his disciples is in his church.'

1. His Gospel written is his book which must be taught

2. His ministers' office is to teach it us. 3. His Spirit is inwardly to illuminate us that we may understand it. And he that will despise or neglect either the Scripture ministry or Spirit, is never like to learn of Christ.

Direct. 3. 'Look on the Lord Jesus, and the work of man's redemption by him, as the great designed revelation of the Father's love and goodness ; even as the fabric of the world is set up to be the glass or revelation (eminently) of his greatness.'

Therefore as you choose your book for the sake of the

us.

c

science or subject which you would learn ; so let this be the designed, studied, constant use which you make of Christ, to see and admire in him the Father's love. When you read your grammar, if one ask you why? you will say it is to learn the language which it teacheth; and he that readeth law-books, or philosophy, or medicine, it is to learn law, philosophy, or physic; so whenever you read the Gospel, meditate on Christ, or hear his word ; if you are asked, why you do it? be able to say, I do it to learn the love of God, which is no where else in the world to be learned so well.' No wonder if hypocrites have learned to mortify Scripture, sermons, prayers, and all other means of grace; yea all the world which should teach them God; and to learn the letters and not the sense : but it is most pitiful that they should thus mortify Christ himself to them; and should gaze on the glass, and never take much notice of the face even of the love of God which he is set up to declare.

Direct. 4. • Therefore congest all the great discoveries of this love, and set them all together in order; and make them your daily study, and abhor all doctrines or suggestions from men or devils, which tend to disgrace, diminish or hide this revealed love of God in Christ.'

Think of the grand design itself; the reconciling and saving of lost mankind : think of the gracious nature of Christ; of his wonderful condescension in his incarnation; in his life and doctrine; in his sufferings and death ; in his miracles and gifts : think of his merciful covenant and promises; of all his benefits given to his church; and all the privileges of his saints ; of pardon and peace; of his Spirit of holiness; of preservation and provision; of resurrection and justification, and of the life of glory which we shall live for ever. And if the faith which looketh on all these cannot yet warm your hearts with love, nor engage them in thankful obedience to your Redeemer, certainly it is no true and lively faith.

But you must not think narrowly and seldom of these mercies; nor hearken to the devil or the doctrine of any mistaken teachers, that would represent God's love as veiled or eclipsed; or show you nothing but wrath and flames. That which Christ principally came to reveal, the devil principally striveth to conceal, even the love of God to sin

ners; that so that which Christ principally came to work in us, the devil might principally labour to destroy; and that is, our love to him that hath so loved us.

Direct. 5. Take heed of all the Antinomian doctrines before recited, which, to extol the empty name and image of free grace, do destroy the true principles and motives of holiness and obedience.

Direct. 6. • Exercise your faith upon all the holy Scriptures, precepts, promises and threatenings, and not on one of them alone. For when God hath appointed all conjunctly for this work, you are unlike to have his blessing, or the effect, if

you will lay by most of his remedies.' Direct. 7. • Take not that for holiness and good works, which is no such thing; but either mau's inventions, or some common gifts of God.'

It greatly deludeth the world, to take up a wrong desscription or character of holiness in their minds. As, 1. The papists take it for holiness, to be very observant in their adoration of the supposed transubstantiated hosts; to use their relics, pilgrimages, crossings, prayers to saints and angels, anointings, candles, images, observation of meats and days, penance, auricular confession, praying by numbers and hours on their beds, &c.; they think their idle ceremonies are holiness, and that their hurtful austerities, and self-afflictings (by rising in the night, when they might pray as long before they go to bed, and by wbipping themselves) to be very meritorious parts of religion. And their vows of renouncing marriage and propriety, and of absolute obedience, to be a state of perfection.

2. Others think that holiness consisteth much in being rebaptized, and in censuring the parish-churches and ministers as null, and in withdrawing from their communion; and in avoiding forms of prayers, &c.

3. And others (or the same) think that more of it consisteth in the gifts of utterance, in praying, and preaching, than indeed it doth ; and that those only are godly, that can pray without book in their families, or at other times), and that are most in private meetings; and none but they.

4. And some think that the greatest parts of godliness, are the spirit of bondage to fear; and the shedding of tears for sin; or finding that they were under terror, before they had any spiritual peace and comfort; or being able to

tell at what sermon, or time, or in what order, and by what means they were converted.

It is of exceeding great consequence, to have a right apprehension of the nature of holiness, and to escape all false conceits, thereof. But I shall not now stand further to : describe it, because I have done it in many books, especially in my " Reasons of the Christian Religion," and in my" A Saint or a Brute," and in a treatise only of the subject, called “ The Character of a Sound Christian.”

Direct. 8. 'Let all God's attributes be orderly and deeply. printed in your minds ; (as I have directed in my book, called “ The Divine Life;") for it is that which must most immediately form his image on you. To know God in Christ is life eternal;' John xvii. 3.

Direct. 9. • Never separate reward from duty, but in every religious or obedient action, still see it as connext with heaven. The means is no means but for the end ; and must never be used but with special respect unto the end. Remember in reading, hearing, praying, meditating, in the duties of your callings and relations, and in all acts of charity and obedience, that, all this is for heaven. It will make you niend your pace,

if

you think believingly whither you are going;' Heb. xi.

Direct. 10. • Yet watch most carefully against all proud self-esteeming thoughts of proper merit as obliging God; or as if you were better than indeed you are. For pride is the most pernicious vermin that can breed in gifts or in good works. And the better you are indeed, the more humble you will be, and apt to think others better than yourself.

Direct. 11. .So also in every temptation to sin, let faith see heaven open, and take the temptation in its proper sense, q.d. [Take this pleasure instead of God : sell thy part in heaven for this preferment or commodity: cast away thy soul for this sensual delight.] This is the true meaning of every temptation to sin, and only faith can understand it. The devil easily prevaileth, when heaven is forgotten and out of sight; and pleasure, commodity, credit and preferment, seem a great matter, and can do much, till heaven be set in the balance against them; and then they are nothing, and can do nothing; Phil. iji. 7--9. Heb. xii. 1-3. 2 Cor. iv. 16. 17.

Direct. 12. .Let. faith also see God always present.,

Men dare do any thing when they think they are behind his back ; even truants and eye-servants will do well under the master's eye. Faith seeing him that is invisible (Heb. xi.) is it that sanctifieth heart and life. As the attributes of God are the seal which must make his image on us ; so the apprehension of his presence setteth them on, and keepeth our faculties awake.?

Direct. 13. Be sure that faith makes God's acceptance your full reward, and set you above the opinion of man.'

Not in self-conceitedness, and pride of your self-sufficiency, to set light by the judgment of other men : (that is a heinous sin of itself, and doubled when it is done upon pretence of living upon God alone.) But that really you live so much to God alone, as that all men seem as nothing to you; and

and their opinion of you, as a blast of wind, in regard of any felicity of your own, which might be placed in their love or praise; though as a means to God's service, and their own good, you must please all men to their edification, and become all things to all men, to win them to God; Gal. i. 10, 11. Rom. xv. 1, 2. Prov. xi. 30. 1 Cor. ix. 22. X. 33. Yea, and study to please your governors as: your duty; Titus ii. 9. But as manpleasing is the hypocrité's work and wages; so must the pleasing of God be ours, though all the world should be displeased; Matt. vi. 1-3, 5, 6, &c. 2 Tim. ii. 4. 1.Cor. vii. 32. 1 Thess. iv. I. 2 Cor. v. 8, 9. 1 Thess. ii. 4. 1 John iii. 22.

Direct. 14. Let the constant work of faith be, to take you off from the life of sense, by mortifying all the concu- : piscence of the flesh, and overpowering all the objects of sense.'

The nearness of things sensible, and the violence and unreasonableness of the senses and appetite, do necessitate faith to be a conflicting grace. Its use is to illuminate, elevate and corroborate reason, and help it to maintain its authority and government. The life of a believer is but a conquering warfare between faith and sense, and between things unseen, and the things that are seen. Therefore it is said, that they that are in the flesh cannot please God; because the flesh being the predominant principle in them, they most savour and mind the things of the flesh; and therefore they can do more with them, than the things of the Spirit can do, when both are set before them; Rom. viii. 5–8.

« PreviousContinue »