Page images

there is a habit of praying, of meditating, of thanksgiving, of mercy, of chastity, of temperance, of diligence, &c. The acts would not vary as they do, if there were not a variety and disposition in these habits; which appear to us only in their acts. We must go against Scripture, reason, and the manifold hourly experience of ourselves, and all the Christians in the world, if we will say that all these graces and duties are equal in the habit in every Christian. How impotent are some in bridling a passion, or bridling the tongue, or in controling pride and self-esteem, or in denying the particular desires of their sense, who yet are ready at many other duties, and eminent in them. Great knowledge is too oft with too little charity or zeal; and great zeal and diligence often with as little knowledge. And so in many other instances.

So that if the potentiality of the radical graces of life, light and love, be or were equal, yet certainly proper and particular habits are not.

But here note further, 1. That no grace is strong where the radical graces, faith and love are weak: as no part of the body is strong, where the brain and heart are weak; yea, or the naturals, the stomach and liver.

2. The strength of faith and love is the principal means of strengthening all other graces; and of right performing all other duties.

3. Yet are they not alone a sufficient means, but other inferior graces and duties may be weak and neglected, where faith and love are strong; through particular obstructing causes. As some branches of the tree may perish when the root is sound; or some members may have an atrophy, though the brain and heart be not diseased.

4. That the three principles, life, light, and love, do most rarely keep any disproportion; and would never be disproportionable at all, if some things did not hinder the actings of one more than the other, or turn away the soul from the influences and impressions of the Spirit more as to one than to the rest.

2. Hence you may learn, That the image of God is much more clearly and perfectly imprinted in the holy Scriptures, than in any of our hearts. And that our religion, objectively considered, is much more perfect, than subjectively

in us.

In Scripture, and in the true doctrinal method our religion is entire, perfect and complete; but in us, it is confused, lame, and lamentably imperfect. The sectaries that here say, 'None of the Spirit's works are imperfect,' are not to be regarded : for so they may as well say, that there are no infants, diseased, lame, distracted, poor, or monsters in the world; because none of God's works are imperfect. All that is in God is God, and therefore perfect; and all that is done by God is perfect as to his ends, and as it is a part in the frame of his own means to that end which man understandeth not: but many things are imperfect in the receiving subject. If not, why should any man ever seek to be wiser or better than he was in his infancy, or at the worst.

3. Therefore we here see that the Spirit in the Scripture is the rule by which we must try the Spirit in ourselves, or any other. The fanatics or enthusiasts, who rail against us, for trying the Spirit by the Scriptures, when as the Spirit was the author of the Scriptures, do but rave in the dark, and know not what they say. For the essence of the Spirit is every where; and it is the effects of the Spirit in both which we must compare: The Spirit is never contrary to itself: and seeing it is the sunshine which we here call the sun, the question is but, where it shineth most? whether in the Scripture, or in our hearts ? The Spirit in the apostles indited the Scriptures, to be the rule of our faith and life unto the end; the Spirit in us doth teach and help us to understand and to obey those Scriptures. Was not the Spirit in a greater measure in the apostles than in us? Did it 'not work more completely, and unto more infallibility in their writing the Scriptures, than it doth in our understanding, and obeying them? Is not the seal perfect, when the impression is oft imperfect? Doth not the master write his copy more perfectly, than his scholar's imitation is, though he teach him, yea, and hold his hand ? He that knoweth not the religious distractions of this age, will blame me for troubling the reader with the confutation of such dreams : but so will not they that have seen and tasted their effects.

4. Hence we may learn that he that would know what the Christian religion is indeed (to the honour of God, or their own just information), must rather look into the Scripture to know it, than into believers. For though in be

lievers it be more discernible in the kind (as men's lives are more conspicuous than laws and precepts, and the impress than the seal, &c.), yet it is in the laws or Scriptures more complete and perfect, when in the best of Christians (much more in the most) it is broken, maimed, and confused.

5. This telleth us the reason why it is unsafe to make any men (popes, or councils, or the holiest pastors, or strictest people) the rule either of our faith or lives. Because they are all imperfect and discordant, when the Scripture is concordant and complete. He that is led by them, may err, when as the Scripture hath no error. And yet it is certain, that even the imperfect knowledge and grace of faithful pastors and companions, is of great use to those that are more imperfect than they, to teach them the Scriptures, which are more perfect than they all.

6. Hence we see why it is, that religion bringeth so much trouble, and so little comfort to the most, or too many that are in part religious; because it is lame and confused in them. Is it any wonder that a displaced bone is painful? Or that a disordered body is sick, and hath no great pleasure in life? Or that a disordered or maimed watch or clock, doth not go right? O what a life of pleasure should we live, if we were but such as the Scripture doth require ! and the religion in our hearts and lives were fully agreeable with the religion described in the word of God.

7. And hence we see why most true Christians are so querulous, and have always somewhat to complain of and lament; which the senseless, or self-justifying hypocrites overlook in themselves. No wonder if such diseased souls complain.

8. And hence we see why there is such diversity and divisions among believers, and such abundance of sects and parties, and contentions, and so little unity, peace, and, concord. And why all attempts for unity take so little in the church: because they have all such weakness, and distempers, and lameness, and confusedness, and great disproportions in their religion. Do you wonder why he liveth not in peace, and concord, and quietness with others, who hath no better agreement in himself ? And no more composedness and true peace at home? Men’s grace and parts are much unequal.

9. And hence we see why there are so many scandals among Christians, to the great dishonour of true Christianity, and the great hindrance of the conversion of the infidel, heathen and ungodly world. What wonder if some disorder, falsehood, and confusion appear without, in words and deeds, when there is so much ever dwelling in the mind ?

10. Lastly, Hence we may learn what to expect from particular persons, and what to look for also publicly, in the church, and in the world. He that knoweth not what man is, and what godly men are, but as well as I do, will hardly expect a concordant uniform building to be made of such discordant and uneven materials ; or that a set of strings, which are all, or almost all out of tune, should make any harmonious melody; or that a number of infants should constitute an army of valiant men; or that a company that can scarce spell, or read, should constitute a learned academy. God must make a change upon individual persons, if ever he will make a great change in the church. They must be more wise, and charitable, and peaceable Christians, who must make up that happy churchstate, and settle that amiable peace, and serve God in that concordant harmony as all of us desire, and some expect.


How to use Faith against particular Sins. The most that I have to say of this, is to be gathered from what went before, about sanctification in the general. And because I have been so much longer than I intended, you must bear with my necessary brevity in the rest.

Direct. 1. When temptation setteth actual sin before you, or inward sin keeps up within, look well on God and sin together.' Let faith see God's holiness and justice, and all that wisdom, goodness and power, which sin despiseth. And one such believing sight of God, is enough to make you look at sin, as at the devil himself; as the most ugly thing.

Direct. 2. •Set sin and the law of God together ;' and then it will appear to be exceeding sinful; and to be the

crooked fruit of the tempting serpent. You cannot know sin, but by the law; Rom. vii. 14, &c.

Direct. 3. Set sin before the cross of Christ :' Let faith sprinkle his blood upon it, and it will die and wither. See it still as that which killed your Lord; and that which pierced his side, and hanged him up in such contempt; and put the gall and vinegar into his mouth.

Direct. 4. Forget not the sorrows and fears of your conversion (if you are indeed converted): or (if not) at least the sorrows and fears which you must feel if ever you be converted.' God doth purposely cast us into grief and terrors, for our former sins, that it may make us the more careful to sin no more, lest worse befal us: If the pangs

of the new birth were sharp and grievous to you, why will you again renew the cause, and drink of those bitter waters? Remember what a mad and sad condition you were in while you lived according to the flesh, and how plainly you saw it when your eyes were opened? And would you be in the same condition again? Would you be unsanctified, and unjustified, and unpardoned, and unsaved ? Every wilful sin is a turning backward, toward the state of your former captivity and misery.

Direct. 5. When Satan sets the bait before you, let faith always set heaven and hell before you, and take altogether, the end with the beginning.' And think when you are tempted to lie, to steal, to deceive, to lust, to pride, to gulosity or drunkenness, &c. what men are now suffering for these same sins! And what all that are in hell and in heaven do think of them! Suppose a man offered you a cup of wine, and a friend telleth you, 'I saw him put poison into it, and therefore take heed what you do.' If the offerer were an enemy, you would hardly take it. The world, and the flesh, and the devil, are enemies: when they offer you the delights of sin, hear faith, and it will tell you, there is poison in it; there is sin, and hell, and God's displeasure in it.

Direct. 6. "Let faith keep you under the continual apprehensions of the Divine authority and rule; that as a child, a servant, a scholar, a subject, doth still know that he is not masterless, but one that must be ruled by the will or law of his superior; so may you always live with the yoke of Christ upon your necks, and his bridle in your

« PreviousContinue »