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less, and be beloved again with the greatest of his love? I mean, by partaking of the greatest effects of it, and the fullest sense of his everlasting favour. Remember this, and sure it will persuade thee to gird up thy loins, and run as for the incorruptible crown, and press on to the mark for the price of the high calling, and not to sit down with weak beginnings, especially when the way is so sweet as well as the end; and the greatest holiness hath here also the greatest spiritual reward; and is attended with the greatest peace and joy (in the ordinary course of God's dispensations). And when all the knocks, and falls, and cries of Christians in this life, proceed from the childish weakness of their spirits and almost all the woes and calamities that attend us, our shames, our pains, our contentions and divisions, and the lamentable difficulty (that seems an impossibility) of healing them, or preventing more, all is from the corruptions that are the companions of our weakness. And could we but grow up to a manhood of understanding, humility, meekness, self-denial, and the love of God in Christ, and of one another, we might then have some hope of the cure of all. Alas! that men that are so sensible of the difference between a weak body and a strong, a sick and a sound, a child and a man, an idiot and a man of wisdom, though all of them have human nature, should yet be so little sensible of the great difference between a weak Christian and a strong, a sick and a sound (comparatively sound), a childish and a manly, wise, confirmed Christian! Did you well know the difference, you would shew us that you make a greater matter of it.
And now, Christian reader, I entreat thee soberly to consider of these twenty motives, whether they do not shew thee reason enough to move thee to look after higher things, and not to stay in an infancy of holiness. It is a blessed mercy I confess, that God hath given thee a true conversion, and the smallest measure of the heavenly life. I do not move thee to undervalue it. Nay, I am blaming thee for undervaluing it. For if thou didst not undervalue it, thou wouldst earnestly desire more. Thou hast cause to bless God to all eternity, and to all eternity thou shalt bless him, for making thee a new creature, even a living member of his Son. And I know that thy condition is unspeakably better than the greatest prince's or emperor's upon the earth, that is void of
holiness. I know that thou hast still ground of exceeding consolation. I am not taking thy comforts from thee. know God despiseth not the day of small things: and that Christ will not "quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed," nor cast off the poorest infants of his family, or lose any one of the lambs of his flock. But yet for all this I must tell thee, that there is a great deal of difference in excellency, and strength, and comfort, and happiness, between one sanctified person and another. And if thou be so apt to be over-covetous of worldly riches, where God forbiddeth it, and limiteth thy desires, and where there is no such necessity or excellency to entice thee, why shouldst thou not cherish that holy covetousness which God expressly commandeth thee? "Covet earnestly the best gifts;" and which he hath promised a blessing to. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled;" Matt. v. 6. This is not spoken of them that have no righteousness, but of them that have it, and fain would have more. For 1. There is no such promise made to any that are short of saving faith. It is not any common grace that God makes this promise to, but a special grace. And 2. It is evident that no man can thus hunger and thirst after righteousness without righteousness; for even this hungering and thirsting is a degree of true sanctification. You would not take up with a cottage or smoky cabin if you could have a palace; nor with dry bread if you could lawfully have plenty; nor with a torn or threadbare coat, if you could have better; nor with a poor, laborious, toilsome life, in disgrace, and the reproach of men, if you could have honour, and ease, and abundance. And yet will you take up with so poor a stock of holiness, and so dark a mind, and small a measure of heavenly light, and so cold a love to God and glory, and so barren and common a kind of life? God hath commanded you, "That having food and raiment, you should therewith be content;" but he never commanded you that being once converted and made an infant in grace, you should therewith be content. So content you must be as not to murmur; but not so content as not to desire more.
You can see the difference, I doubt not, in others, between a little grace and more: 0 that you would but see this for yourselves! If you have a froward wife, or husband,
or child, that hath a harsh and passionate nature, and hath so much grace only as to lament this when they are calmed, and to strive against it, but not to forbear the often exercise of it; though such a nature may be pardoned to the penitent, yet it may prove such a thorn in your own side, and such a smoke or continual dropping in your house, as will make you weary of it. I have oft known men that had wives of so much folly, and passion, and unruliness of tongue, that yet they hoped had some saving grace, that made them weary of their lives, and wish that they had met with a gentle nature. And methinks you should know that corruption in yourselves is much more dangerous and hurtful to you than any that can be in wife or husband; and should be much more offensive, and wearisome, and grievous to you. It is a desperate sign of a bad heart, that can bear with corruption in themselves, and cannot bear with it in wife or husband, or those that do them wrong by their corruptions. If weakness of grace do leave your nearest friends thus liable to wrong and abuse you, and this trouble you; consider that your own weakness leaves you liable to far greater and ofter offences against God, and this should trouble you much more.
Let me give you another instance: if you have a pastor that is truly godly, and yet is so weak that he can scarce speak with any understanding or life the message that he should deliver, and withal is indiscreet, and as scandalous as will stand with grace; what good is this man like to do for all his godliness? At least you will soon see a lamentable difference between such an one and a judicious, convincing, holy, heavenly, powerful, and unspotted man. O what a blessing is one to the place, and the other may be a grievous judgment, and you would be ready to run away from his ministry. Why, sirs, if there be so great a difference between pastor and pastor, where both have grace, methinks you should see what a difference there is also between people and people, even where all have grace. truly poor ministers find this to their sorrow in their people, as well as you can find it in them. Some ministers have a staid, confirmed, judicious, humble, meek, self-denying, teachable, peaceable, and experienced people: and these walk comfortably, and guide them peaceably, and labour with them cheerfully; and O what beauty and glory is upon
such assemblies, and what order, and growth, and comfort is among them! But, alas! how many ministers have a flock (even of those that we hope are godly) that grieve them by their levity, or weary them by their unteachable ignorance or self-conceitedness, or hinder their labours by errors and quarrels, and perverse opposition to the truths which they do not understand? So that there is a great difference between people and people that are godly.
Brethren, it is far from the desire of my heart, to cast any unjust dishonour upon saints, much less to dishonour the graces of God in them. No, I take it rather for an honour to that immortal spark, that it can live among its enemies and not be conquered, and in the waters of corruption, and not be quenched. But yet I must take up a just complaint, that few of us answer the cost of our redemption and the provisions of God; or are near such a people as our receivings or professions require we should be. It is one of the most grievous thoughts that ever came to my heart, to observe how the lives of the greatest part of professors do tend to dishonour the power and worth of grace in the eyes of the world, and that the ungodly should see that grace doth make no greater a difference, and do no more upon us than it doth. Yea, it is a sore temptation oftentimes to believers, to see that grace doth no more in the most; but that so many are still a shame to their profession.
I must confess that I once thought more highly of professors as to the measure of their grace, than experience now will suffer me to think. Little did I think that they had been so unstable, so light, so ignorant, so giddy, as to follow almost any that do but whistle them. What a dreadful sight it is to see, how quickly the most odious heresies do infect and destroy even multitudes of them, and that in a moment, as soon as they appear! The grossest mists of the bottomlesspit are presently admired as the light of God.
If a church-divider do but arise, how quickly doth he get disciples.
If a Papist have but opportunity, he will lightly catch some as oft as he doth cast his net. If he cannot prevail barefaced, it is but putting on the visor of some other sect.
Even the odious heresies of the Quakers themselves, and their railings, which an honest pagan would abhor, do presently find entertainment with professors; and let the matter
or manner be never so senseless, yet is it accepted if it be but zealously put off. O who would have thought that our people that seemed godly should be so greedy of the devil's baits as to catch at any thing, yea, and to devour the bare hooks! O who would have thought that so many that seemed lovers of God, would so readily believe every deceiver that speaks against him, if he can but do it with a pious pretence.
Yea, if Seekers themselves do but cast in their objections, how many of our people are presently at a loss, and their faith is muddied, and they are to seek for a ministry, and to seek for a church, and to seek for ordinances, and to seek for a Scripture, even for the Gospel itself; and therefore it is like they are to seek for a Christ, or to seek for a religion, if not to seek for God, and for a heaven.
O sad day! that ever these things should come to pass, and that we are forced to utter them, having no possibility of concealing them from the world. Were these men confirmed and stablished in the faith? Were these men rooted and built up in Christ? Alas, sirs, if any deceivers come among us, how few of our people are able to withstand them, and defend the truth of God against them! But they are caught up by the devil's falconer, as the poor chickens by the kite, except those that fly under the wings of a judicious, settled minister.
If an Anabaptist assault their baptism, how few of them can defend it. And, silly souls, when they find themselves nonplused, they suspect not their own unfurnished understandings, or inexperienced, unsettled hearts, but suspect the truth of God, and suspect their teachers, be they never so far beyond them in knowledge and holiness; as if their teachers had misled them, whenever these unprofitable infants are thus stalled.
If a Papist be to plead his cause with them, how few have we that can answer them!
If an infidel should oppose the Scripture, or Christ himself, how few among us are able to defend them, and solidly give proof either of the truth of Scripture, or of the faith that they do profess!
And this is not all (though it is a heart-breaking case) but even in their practice, alas! what remissness and what corruptions do appear! How few in secret do keep any