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spiritual, and heavenly professors, that will be drawing you to the observation of your own heart and life, and opening
the riches of the love of Christ, and winning up your affections to God and heaven: and be not the companions of inexperienced wranglers, that have no other religion, but a zeal for their opinions, and will endeavour rather to make you like satan, than like God, by possessing your minds with malice, and bitter thoughts of your brethren, and employing your tongues in reproaches, and vain strivings, and make you firebrands in the places where you live: neither be companions of them that hold the truth no deeper than opinion ; for though some such may be useful to you in their places, yet if you have not more edifying familiars, your danger will be very great, lest you should let go the life of religion, and take up with mere notions and formalities as they.
3. When you have considered that every truth of God is a message to your hearts, as well as to your heads, and hath a work of God to do upon them, look after that work; and when you have heard or read a truth, go down into your hearts, and see what it hath done there : and if you find not in your will, and resolutions, and affections the image and fruits of the truth you have heard, fetch it up again, and ruminate upon it, and do not think you have received it, or done with it, till this be done : yea, take it but as lost, and sinfully rejected, if it have not done you some good at the
4. Also be sure that you practise all practical truths, upon the first opportunity, as soon as you have heard them. Imprison them not in unrighteousness. Cast them not out in forgetfulness : use not a lecture of divinity as if it were a lesson of music, or a mere philosophical or historical dis
Read not the doctrine of salvation, and the promise of heaven, and the forewarnings of everlasting misery, as you read a common story, or a groundless conjecture in an almanack; but as a message from God, which tells you where
must dwell for ever, and as a direction sent from heaven, to teach you the way thither. Fall to work then, and practise what you know, if you would be Christians indeed. “ Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” For the opinionative hearer seeth but a slight appearance of the truth, as a man that looks on his face in a glass, which he quickly forgets ; but he that is
a sound believer and practiser, and not only an opinionative, forgetful hearer, is the man that shall be blessed in his deed ;" James i. 22–25. Opinion without practice, is building on the sand; but hearing, and sound believing, and doing, is building upon the rock, where the building will stand after all assaults ; Matt. vii. 26-28. An opinionist doth but seem to be religious, while he keeps his reigning sins, and therefore his religion is in vain; but the practical religion is the pure and undefiled religion ; James i. 26, 27. Hearty obedience will not only shew that your religion is deeper than mere opinion, but it will also advance it to a greater purity, and root it more deeply than it was before. A man that hath studied the art of navigation in his closet, may talk of it almost as well as he that hath been at sea ; but when he comes to practise it, he will find that he is far to seek ; but let this man go to sea, and join practice and experience to his theory, and then he may have a knowledge of the right kind. So, if a man that hath only read over military books, would be a true soldier; or a man that hath only studied physic, would be a true physician, what better way is there, than to fall to practice? And so you must, if you would have a religion that shall save your souls; and not only a religion that will furnish you with good opinions and expressions.
5. Moreover, if you would get above opinion, be still searching more and more after the evidences of the ancient fundamental truths that you have received; and lay open your hearts to the power of them. Think it not enough that you take the Christian religion for true, but labour after a clearer sight of its truth : for you may possibly upon some conjecture take it for a truth, by bare opinion, when as the sight of fuller evidences, and a full sight of those evidences might raise you from opinion to a working, saving faith.
6. Lastly, Take heed lest any thing be suffered to keep possession of your hearts, and so to confine the truth to your brain. When the world is kept up in life and power, and is nearest the heart, there is no room for the word there, but it must float upon the top, and swim in your opinion, because it can go no deeper, your lusts and profits having possession before it. The word can never go to the heart with unmortified men, but by casting your idols out of your hearts : nor will it take rooting in you, but by rooting out the world.
O sirs, if you knew the misery of a mere opinionist, you would sure be persuaded now to practise these Directions, that may raise you higher. An opinionist is a deceiver of himself, and oft of others : a troubler of the church, if he have any zeal for opinions, and hit (as usually he doth) on the wrong; and when his religion is right, he is wrong himself, being out of the way, even when he is in the right way, because he is not right in that way; for he doth but sit down in it, when he should travel in it. A runner shall not win the prize by being in the right way only, unless he make haste. The knowledge of the opinionist doth but serve to aggravate his sin, and cause him to be beaten with many stripes; but is not of force to sanctify his heart and life, and to save him, James ii. fully shews. Stick not therefore in an opinionative religiousness.
Direct. IX. My next Direction that your conversion may prove sound, is this, ' Acquaint your souls by faith with the glory of the everlasting kingdom, and see that you make it your portion and your end, and from thence let the rest of your endeavours be animated.'
No man can be a sound Christian, that knoweth not the ends and portion of a Christian. There is a great deal of difference between the desires of heaven in a sanctified man, and an unsanctified. The believer prizeth it above earth, and had rather be with God than here; (though death that stands in the way, may possibly have harder thoughts from him.) But to the ungodly, there is nothing seemeth more desirable than this world; and therefore he only chooseth heaven before hell, but not before earth; and therefore shall not have it upon such a choice. We hear of gold and silver mines in the Indies : if you offer a golden mountain there, to an Englishman that hath an estate and family here that are dear unto him, perhaps he will say, 'I am uncertain whether their golden mountains be not mere fictions to deceive men; and if it be true, that there are such things, yet it is a great way thither, and the seas are perilous; and I am well enough already where I am, and therefore let who will go thither for me, I will stay at home as long as I can.' But if this man must needs be banished out of England, and had his choice whether he would go to the golden islands, or to dig in a coalpit, or live in a wilderness, he would rather choose the better than the worse. So it is with an ungodly man's desires, in respect to this world, and that to come. If he could stay here, in fleshly pleasure for ever, he would ; because he looks at heaven as uncertain, and a great way off, and the passage seemeth to him more troublesome and dangerous than it is, and he is where he would be already : but when he sees that there is no staying here for ever, but death will have him away; he had rather go to heaven, than to hell, and therefore will be religious, as far as the flesh and the world will give him leave, lest he should be cast into hell, when he is taken from the earth.
But take an Englishman that is in poverty and reproach, and hath neither house nor land, nor friend to comfort him, and let him have the offer of a golden island, and a person of unquestionable skilfulness and fidelity, that will promise in short time to bring him safe thither; if he believe this person, and can put his trust in him, doubtless he will be gone and follow him over sea and land ; and though the passage may somewhat daunt him, yet the promised possession will carry him through all. So is it with the true Christian, he is dead to this world, and sees nothing here in which he can be happy; he is burdened and wearied with sin and suffering; he is firmly persuaded of the truth of the Gospel; and seeth by faith the world that is to flesh invisible; and believeth in Jesus Christ, who hath promised to convey him safely thither, and therefore he would go away; and though he love not death, the stormy passage, yet he will submit to it, having so sure a pilot, because he loves the life which through death he must pass into, and had rather be there than here.
Such as a man's principal end is, such is the man, and such is the course of his life. He that takes this world for his portion, and makes the felicity of it his end, is a carnal, worldly, unsanctified man, whatever good and godly actions may come in upon the bye. It is he, and only he, that is a sanctified believer, who looks on heaven as his only portion, and his sailing through the troublesome seas of this world, of purpose to come to that desired harbour; not loving these seas better than the land of rest, which he is sailing to; but patiently and painfully passing through them, because there is no other way to glory. As it is the desire of the land to which he is sailing, that moveth the mariner or passenger to do all that he doth in his voyage; and the de
sire of his home or journey's end, that moveth the traveller all the way; and the desire of seeing a perfect building that moveth the builder in every stroke of his work; so it must be the love of God, and the desire of everlasting blessedness, that must be the very engine to move the rest of the affections and endeavours of the saints, and must make men resolve on the necessary labour and patience of believers. Take off this weight, and all the motions of Christianity will
No man will be at labour and sufferings for nothing, if he can avoid them. It is a life of labour, though sweet to the spirit, yet tedious to the flesh, which Christianity doth
engage us in ; and there is much suffering to be undergone; and this to the very last, and to the denial of ourselves ; and if God require it, to the loss of all the comforts of the world : for no less than forsaking all that we have, will serve to make us Christ's disciples. And will any man do this for he knows not what? Will any man forsake all that he hath, unless it be for something better, which may be as sure to him as that he had, and
make him more happy? Look to it therefore, that you have right and believing thoughts of heaven, and that unfeignedly you take it for your home and happiness, and look not for any other portion. Till you see so much of the certainty and excellency of everlasting glory, as shall prevail with you to lay out your faithful labour for it, and to be at a point with all this world, as having laid up your treasure and hopes in the world to come, you have no ground to conclude that you are true Christian converts.
Seeing therefore, that it is heaven that is the very reason, the end, the life of all your religion, it follows, that you must necessarily understand somewhat of its excellency, and believe its certainty, and accordingly set your hearts upon it, and make the attainment of it your daily work and business in the world : this is to be a convert indeed.
Remember therefore first, what I told you before, wherein the nature of this blessedness doth consist. I will only name the essentials of it, that your apprehensions may be right, and forbear to say much, as being done already.
1. The first thing considerable in our everlasting blessedness, will be our personal perfection of the whole man; this is in order to the perfection of our everlasting operations and enjoyments. Our bodies shall be no more flesh and