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ledge? You may have a bad servant that yet is skilful
Labour, therefore, to be well acquainted with the grounds and reasons, and nature of your religion. The clearer your light is, the warmer and livelier your hearts will be. Illumination is the first part of sanctification. The head is the passage to the heart. O if you did but thoroughly know what sin is, and what a life it is to serve the flesh, and what the end of this will prove, with what detestation would you cast it away! If you did thoroughly know what a life of holiness is, how speedily would you choose it. If you did truly know what God is ; how infinitely powerful and wise, and good ; how holy, and just, and true; and what title he hath to you, and authority over you; and what an eternal portion he would be to you, how is it possible that you could prefer the dirt of the world before him, or delay any longer to return unto him? If you did but truly know what Christ
is, and what he hath done and suffered for you, and what that pardon, and grace, and glory are which he hath purchased for you, and offereth to you, and how sure his promise is by which it is offered, it is not possible that you should refuse to entertain him, or delay to give up your souls unto him. Do you think a man that truly knows what heaven is, and what hell is, can still be in doubt whether he should turn or not? Alas! sirs, if God would but open your eyes, to see where you are, and what you are doing, you would run as for your lives, and quickly change your minds and ways. You would no more stay in your carnal state, than you would stay in a house that were falling down on your heads, or in a ship that you perceived sinking under you, or on the sands when you see the tide coming towards you.
you did but see your chamber full of devils this night, you would not stand to ask whether you should be gone. And sure then if you knew how the devils are about you, how they deceive you, and rule you, and wait to drag you away to hell, you would never stay a night longer willingly in such a state. While men understand not what the Gospel means, nor what a minister saith to them, no wonder if they regard them not, but continue in their sin. If you see a bear or a mad dog making towards a man, and tell him of it, and call to him to be gone, if he be a man of another language, and do not understand you, he will make never the more haste; but if he understand and believe you, he will away. If people think that ministers are in jest with them, or that they are uncertain of what they say, no marvel if they hear us in jest, or as men that believe not what they hear. But if you knew that your lives lay on it, yea, your everlasting life, would you not regard it, and look about you? Now you stand deliberating and questioning the business whether you should turn, and let go sin, or no. But if you knew that you must certainly have hell with it, if you keep it, methinks your doubt should quickly be resolved, and you
should be loath to give another night's lodging to so chargeable and dangerous a guest. Now when we persuade you to holiness of life, you will demur on it, as if there were some doubtfulness in the matter. But if you knew the nature and end of holiness, you would soon be out of doubt; and if you knew but how much happier you might be with God, you would never stick at the parting with your most
delightful sins. As the Jews rejected Christ, and preferred a murderer before him, and cried out 'Crucify him, and all because they did not know him (1 Cor. ii. 8. John viii. 9. i. 10. Acts xiii. 27.), so you let Christ knock and call, and offer you salvation, and you stand questioning whether you should obey his call, and whether you should not prefer your lusts before him; and all because you know him not, nor the grace and glory which he tendereth to you. When men understand not the reasons of God, that should prevail with them, no wonder if they part not with that which is as dear to them as their lives. But when once they know the reasons of Christianity, those moving, weighty, undeniable reasons, that are fetched from God, and heaven, and hell, they will then stand questioning the matter no longer ; but they will resign up all, even life itself. All this I speak of a spiritual, powerful, and a practical knowledge, and not of every swimming opinion and conceit.
Study, therefore, what God is, and what he is to you, and what he would be to you. Study what sin is, and what the damnation is which it deserveth. Study what Christ is, and hath done and suffered for you, and what he is willing to do, if you neglect him not. Study what the world is, and what is the utmost that sin will do for you. Study what the everlasting glory is which you may have with God, if you lose it not by your folly. And study what faith is, and what repentance is, and what love and joy, and a holy and heavenly life are, and how little reason you have to be afraid of them. If this understanding have but deeply possessed you, it will bias your hearts, and make you resolved, settled converts.
Whereas, if you seem to turn and scarce know why, and seem to take up a Christian life before you are thoroughly possessed with the nature, grounds, and reasons of it, no marvel if you are quickly lost again in the dark, and if every caviller that you meet with can nonplus you, and make you stagger, and call in question all that you have done, and ravel all your work; or if you do but run from one party to another, and follow every one that tells you a fair tale, and never know what to fix
way, and when you are out.
The apprehensions of the mind do move the whole man. Wisdom is the guide and stay of the soul. Sinning is doing
foolishly, 2 Sam. xxiv. 10. And sinners are fools ; Prov. i. 22. Psal. lxxv. 4. Their mirth is but the mirth of fools, and their song the song of fools ; Eccl. vii. 4. 5. Yea, the best of their services, while they refuse to hear and obey, is but the sacrifice of fools ; Eccl. v. l. And such are not fit for the house of God; “for God hath no pleasure in fools ;" Eccl. v. 4. He hath need to have his wits about him, and know what he doth that will be the servant of the God of heaven, and escape the deceits of a subtle devil, and get to heaven through so many difficulties as are before him. Above all getting, therefore, get wisdom.
Direct. II. If you would not have the work of your conversion miscarry, when you understand what is offered you, , then search the Scriptures daily, to see whether those things be so or not.
So did the Bereang, Acts xvii. 11.; and the text saith, that, therefore, they believed. We come not to cheat and deceive you; and, therefore, we desire not that you should take any thing from us, but what we can prove to you from the word of God to be certainly true. We desire not to lead you in the dark, but by the light to lead you out of darkness; and, therefore, we refuse not to submit all our doctrine to an equal trial. Though we would not have you wrong your souls by an unjust distrust of us, yet would we not desire you to take these great and mighty things merely upon our words; for then
your faith will be in man; and then no marvel if it be weak, and ineffectual, and quickly shaken. If you trust a man to-day, you may distrust him to-morrow; and if one man be of greatest credit with you this year, perhaps another of a contrary mind may be of more credit with you the next year. And, therefore, we desire no further to be believed by you, than is necessary to lead you up to God, and to help you to understand that word which you must believe. Our desire, therefore, is, that you search the Scripture, and try whether the things that we tell you be the truth. The word will never work on you to purpose
you hear God in it, and perceive that it is he, and not man only, that speaks to you. When you hear none speaking to you but the minister, no marvel if you dare despise him; for he is a frail and silly man like yourselves ; when you think that the doctrine which we preach to you is merely of our own
devising, and the conjecture of our own brain, no marvel if you set light by it, and will not let go all that you have, at the persuasion of a preacher. But when you have searched the Scripture, and find that it is the word of the God of heaven, dare you despise it then? When you there find that we said no more than we are commanded, and God that hath spoken this word will stand to it, then sure it will go nearer you, and you will consider of it, and make light of it no more. If we offered you bad wares, we should desire a dark shop; and if our gold were light or bad, we would not call for the balance and the touchstone. But when we are sure the things that we speak are true, we desire nothing more than trial. Beauty and comeliness hath no advantage of loathsome deformity, when they are both together in the dark, but the light will shew the difference. Error may be a loser by the light; and, therefore, shuns it; John iii. 19-21. But truth is a gainer by it, and therefore seeks it. Let Papists hide the Scriptures from the people, and forbid the reading of them in a tongue which they understand, and teach them to speak to God they know not what; we dare not do so, nor do we desire it.
Our doctrine will not go off well in the dark; and, therefore, we call you to the law and to the testimony, and desire you to take our words into the light, and see whether they be according to the word of the Lord. Nothing troubleth us more than that we cannot persuade our hearers to this trial. Some of them are so hardened in their sin and misery, that they will not be at so much labour as to open their Bibles, and try whether we say true or not. Some of them will not trouble their minds with the thoughts of it. “God is not in all their thoughts ;" Psal. x.4. And some are already too wise to learn; and they will not so long abate their confidence of their former opinions; though, poor souls, their ignorance doth threaten their damnation. Andsome are so engaged in a sinful party, that their companions will not give them leave to make so much question of the way that they are in; and some will scarce take the Scripture for the rule by which they must try and be tried, but look more to custom, and the will of those in power over them. And most are unwilling to try, because they are unwilling to know the truth, and cannot endure to find themselves miserable, nor see the sin which they would not leave, nor