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followers of Christ, under a cloak of high sanctity and zeal and boldness for Christ! And it is a remarkable instance of the weakness of the human mind, and how much too cunning the devil is for us!
The grand defence of this way of talking is, that they say no more than what is true; they only speak the truth without mincing the matter ; and that true Christians that have a great sight of the evil of sin, and acquaintance with their own hearts know it to be true, and therefore will not be offended to hear such harsh expressions made use of concerning them and their sins ; it is only (say they) hy.pocrites, or cold and dead Christians, that are provoked and feel their enmity rise on such an occasion.
But it is a grand mistake to think that we may commonly use concerning one another all such language as represents the worst of each other, according to strict truth. It is real. ly true that every kind of sin, and every degree of it, is devilish and from hell, and is cursed, hellish, and condemned or damned : And if persons had a full sight of their hearts they would think no terms too bad for them ; they would look like beasts, like serpents, and like devils to themselves ; they would be at a loss for language to express what they see in themselves, the worst terms they could think of would seem as it were faint to represent what they see in themselves. But shall a child therefore, from time to time, use such language concerning an excellent and eminently holy father or mother, as that the devil is in them, that they have such and such devilish, cursed dispositions, that they commit every day hundreds of hellish, damned acts, and that they are cursed dogs, hell hounds, and devils ? And shall the meanest of the people be justified, in commonly using such language concerning the most excellent magistrates, or their most eminent ministers? I hope nobody has gone to this height : But the same pretences of boldness, plain heartedness, and declared war against sin, will as well justify these things as the things they are actually made use of to justify. If we proceed in such a manner, on such principles as these, what a face will be introduced upon the church of Christ, the little beloved flock of that gentle shepherd the Lamb of God? What a sound shall we bring into the house of God, into the family of his dear little children? How far off shall we soon banish that lovely appearance of humility, sweetness, gentle, ness, mutual honor, benevolence, complacence, and ar esteem of others above themselves, which ought to clothe the child. ren of God all over? Not but that Christians should watch over one another, and in any wise reprove one another, and be much in it and do it plainly and faithfully ; but it does not thence follow that dear brethren in the family of God, in rebuking one another, should use worse language than Michael the archangel durst use when rebuking the devil himself.
Christians that are but fellow worms ought at least to treat one another with as much humility and gentleness as Christ that is infinitely above them treats them. But how did Christ treat his disciples when they were so cold towards him and so regardless of him, at the time when his soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and he in a dismal agony was crying and sweating blood for them, and they would not watch with him, and allow him the comfort of their company one hour in his great distress, though he once and again desired it of them ? One would think that then was a proper time if ever to have reproved them for a devilish, hellish, cursed and damned slothfulness and deadness. But after what manner does Christ reprove them? Behold his astonishing gentleness ! Says he, What, could ye not watch with me one hour ? The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. And how did he treat Peter when he was ashamed of his master, while he was made a mocking stock and a spitting stock for him ? Why he looked upon him with a look of love, and melted his heart.
And though we read that Christ once turned and said unto Peter, on a certain occasion, get thee behind me Satan ; and this may seem like an instance of harshness and severity in reproving Peter ; yet I humbly conceive that this is by many taken wrong, and that this is indeed no instance of Christ's severity in his treatment of Peter, but on the contrary, of his wonderful gentlencss and grace, distinguishing between Peter . and the devil in him, not laying the blame of what Peter had then said, or imputing it to him, but to the devil that influenced him. Christ saw the devil then present, secretly influencing Peter to do the part of a tempter to his master; and therefore Christ turned him about to Peter, in whom the devil then was, and spake to the devil and rebuked him. Thus the grace of Christ does not behold iniquity in his people, imputes not what is amiss in them to them, but to sin that dwells in them, and to Satan that influences them. But to return,
Spiritual pride often disposes persons to singularity in external appearance, to affect a singular way of speaking, to use a different sort of dialect from others, or to be singular in voice, or air of countenance or behavior : But he that is an eminently humble Christian, though he will be firm to his duty, however singular he is in it ; he will go in the way that leads to heaven alone, though all the world forsakes him ; yet he delights not in singularity for singularity's sake, he does not affect to set up himself to be viewed and observed as one distinguished, as desiring to be accounted better than others, or despising their company, or an union and conformity to them; but on the contrary is disposed to become all things to all men, and to yield to others, and conform to them and please them, in every thing but sin. Spiritual pride commonly occasions a certain stiffness and inflexibility
persons, in their own judgment and their own ways ; whereas the eminently humble person, though he be inflexible in his duty, and in those things wherein God's honor is concerned ; and with regard to temptation to those things he apprehends to be sinful, though in never so small a degree, he is not at all of a yieldable spirit, but is like a brazen wall ; yet in other things he is of a pliable disposition, not disposed to set up his own opinion, or his own will; he is ready to pay deference to others' opinions, and loves to comply with their inclinations, and has a heart that is tender and flexible like a little child.
Spiritual pride disposes (persons to affect separation, to stand at a distance from others, as better than they, and loves the shew and appearance of the distinction : But on the contrary, the eminently humble Christian is ready to look uport himself as not worthy that others should be united to him, to think himself more brutish than any man, and worthy to be cast out of human society, and especially unworthy of the society of God's children ; and though he will not be a com. panion with one that is visibly Christ's enemy, and delights most in the company of lively Christians, will choose such for his companions, and will be most intimate with them, and does not at all delight to spend away much time in the company of those that seem to relish no conversation but about worldly things; yet he does not love the appearance of an open sepa. ration from visible Christians, as being a kind of distinct company from them, that are one visible company with him by Christ's appointment, and will as muc has possible shun all ap. pearances of a superiority, or distinguishing himself as better than others : His universal benevolence delights in the appearance of union with his fellow creatures, and will maintain it as much as lie possibly can, without giving open counfenance to iniquity, or wounding his own soul ; and herein he follows the example of his meck and lowly Redeemer, who did not keep up such a separation and distance as the Pharisees, but frecly eat with publicans and sinners, that he might win them.
The eminently humble Christian is as it were clothed with lowliness, mildness, meekness, gentleness of spirit and be havior, and with a soft, sweet, condescending, winning air and deportment; these things are just like garments to him, he is clothed all over with them. 1 Pet. v. 5. 6 And be clothed with humility." Col. iii. 12. “ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, hum. bleness of mind, meekness, long suffering.
Pure Christian homility has no such thing as roughness, or contempt, or fierceness or bitterness in its nature ; it makes a person like a little child, harmless and innocent, and that none need to be afraid of; or like a lamb destitute of all bitterness, wrath, anger, and clamor, agreeable to Eph. ir. 31.
With such a spirit as this ought especially zealous rinisters of the gospel to be clothed, and those that God is licas" éd to improve as instruments in his hands of promoting his work : They ought indeed to be thorough in preaching the word of God, without mincing the matter at all; in handling the sword of the Spirit, as the ministers of the Lord of Hosts, they ought not to be mild and gentle ; they are not to be gentle and moderate in searching and awakening the conscience, but should be sons of thunder : The word of God, which is in itself sharper than any two edged sword, ought not to be sheathed by its ministers, but so used that its sharp edges may have their full effect, even to the dividing asunder soul and spirit, joints and marrow ; (provided they do it without judging particular persons, leaving it to conscience and the Spirit of God to make the particular application :) But all their conversation should savor of nothing but lowliness and good will, love and pity to all mankind; so that such a spirit should be like a sweet odor diffused around them wherever they go, or like a light shining about them, their faces should, as it were shine with it ; they should be like lions to guilty consciences, but like lambs to men's persons. This would have no tendency to prevent the awakening of men's consciences, but on the contrary would have a very great tendency to awaken them ; it would make way for the sharp sword to enter ; it would remove the obstacles, and make a naked breast for the arrow. Yea, the amiable, Christ like conversation of such ministers, in itself would terrify the consciences of men, as well as their terrible preaching ; both would cooperate one with another, to subdue the hard, and bring down the proud heart. If there had been, constantly and universally observable such a behavior as this in itinerant preachers, it would have terrified the consciences of sinners, ten times as much as all the invectives, and the censorious talk there has been concerning particular persons, for their opposition, hypocrisy, delusion, pharisaism, &c. These things in general have rather slupified sinners' consciences ; they take them up, and make use of them as a shield, wherewith to defend themselves from the sharp arrows of the word, that are shot by these preachers : The enemies of the present work have been glad of these things with all their hearts. Many of the most bitter VOL. III.