« ForrigeFortsæt »
dream, smoke; yea, every man in his "best estate is altogether vanity," as flourishing grass in the morning, cut down before evening. If you fall not by some force of outward casualty, you carry your bane lurking in your bosoms. Have you a lease of your lives, as Hezekiah had? You have little reason to boast yourselves of to-morrow, " for you little know what a pregnant day may bring forth," Prov. xxvii. 1. It may land thy soul in eternity! therefore despatch this main work at present.
(2.) The longer thou deferrest, the more difficulty wilt thou find; thy heart will be daily more "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Custom in sin will make conscience more brawny. A sickness may easily be cured at first, but when it gets into the nerves, and bones, or strikes to the heart, it becomes incurable; so it is with soul maladies. O what mischief may a thief do, if suffered to lodge one night in your house! Besides, the life or death of the soul may hang upon this point of time; it is often limited to a day, "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation."† Who can tell but God may say after this day, "My Spirit shall strive no more with them?" Gen. vi., 3. You may provoke God to withdraw; O, how many instances have we of thousands that have lost their day, and have been undone for ever.
3 Obj. If I become a new creature, there will be so much strictness and austerity in praying, reading, watching, and holy walking, that it will never be borne, it will make me melancholy and rob me of the joy and comfort of my life.
Answ. (1.) Though the possessor of the new creature lose sensual delights, which are madness, rather James iv. 14. Job vii. 7. + Heb. iii. 13. Jer. xiii. 23.
Psal. xxxix. 5. xc. 5, 6...
than true joy, Eccl. ii. 2: yet he may retain the lawful comforts of life. It is true, that he must lay aside lascivious jests, wanton songs, unlawful gaming, excessive drinking, blasphemous stage plays, and other things of a similiar description; but there is no real content in these, to a generous spirit, but they bring guilt and wrath; while the gracious soul may take as much, or more real pleasure in relations and worldly enjoyments, paying due attention to circumstances of time, measure, and freedom from scandal, as another man; nay, now he experiences the blessing of God in his enjoyments, as he hath a right to them in Christ, as they are freed from the curse, sweetened with God's love, helping him in God's service on his way towards heaven; and the new creature puts wisdom into the Christian, to set every thing in its place and order, so that he enjoys himself with more pleasure in a mean condition, than many wicked men in their abundance. (2.) A man hath never true solid joy and peace till he be a new creature; this, and this only forms the basis of strong consolation. Serious godliness is no such melancholy life, as the carnal world imagine. Suppose the Christian do labour, toil, and take pains in God's service; love oils the wheels of his soul, and he takes as much pleasure therein, as Jacob did for Rachel. God spices every step of his way, "Wisdom's ways are pleasantness." "The severest commands of God are not grievous," but delightful, "the Spirit helps his infirmities,"* enlarges his heart, he mounts up with wings as eagles; he is sure his profits will answer his pains; he that digs in a golden mine, is paid for every stroke he strikes; nay, there is a recompense at present, "in keeping thy commandments, there is great reward," Psal. xix. 11. You hear of the saint's sor
*. Frov. iii. 17. I John v. 3. Rom. viii, 26.
row for sin, grief for God's withdrawments, distress from Satan's assaults, but you see not his joy, "a stranger intermeddles not with it," Prov. xiv. 10; he hath comforts that none know, or can deprive him of; yea, he hath more comfort in his tears for sin, than a wicked man hath in gratifying his senses, and committing sin; in the midst of the carnal man's joy his heart is sad; in the midst of the Christian's sorrow for sin, his heart is oft full of joy; do but try a religious course, and you would not exchange it for the wicked's rant.
4 Obj. But if I leave my old companions, they will laugh me to scorn, I shall be accounted a fool, a dotard, an enthusiast, or a fanatic, all that is bad; and this I cannot brook, and indeed I know not how to discard and disoblige my old intimate comrades.
Answ. (1.) If owning God and saving your precious souls be a disobliging of them, they are better lost than found. Our friends are dear, but God is dearer; religion binds you to forsake your own people, and your father's house, Psal. xlv. 10: to hate father and mother, in comparison of, or standing in competition with Christ, Luke xiv. 26. And it is the best match you can make; you will not repent it, if to enjoy the society of genuine Christians you forego those syren songs of bewitching companions, which lead down to hell; if you forsake such incarnate devils, for the ministry of blessed angels; yea, if you renounce the devil for communion with a holy God, you will have little reason to be afraid or ashamed of such an exchange.
(2.) As for their hatred, scorn or reproach, read Isa. li. 7, 8, "Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings;" the tongue of such wicked villains is no slander; better be reviled than praised by some. Our Lord saith, "Woe be to you, when all
men speak well of you." When the Papists called Luther an apostate, he accounted himself a blessed apostate from the synagogue of Satan, to the church of God. And what if an Ishmael mock Isaac, or a Shimei rail at David, are they worse for lying tongues bespattering them? Bright stars may be called by ugly names, as bear, dragon, but they are bright still; so may you be. A heathen Seneca could say, and glory in it, they speak of evil of me, but they are evil men.* And is it not better to be reproached by bad men for being good, than to be condemned by God for being wicked? Doth not Christ "bid you rejoice and be exceeding glad?" Matt. v. 12. Surely you may wear these as trophies and badges of honour; so did Paul glory in Christ's cross, as an old soldier in his scars received in the wars for his prince; the Christians of old rejoiced that "they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ ;" they looked on that reproach as their greatest honour and ornament. You deserve not the name of Christian, if you will not bear a foul word from the foul mouths of men, for him who despised the shame for your sakes. If men clip your credit, to make it good weight with God, and rub your crown with dust, to make it brighter, you will be no loser; if you be "reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you."+
5 Obj. I see no such beauty or excellency in these puritans and precisians, who pretend to be new creatures; they are no better than their neighbours; all are sinners, and so are they; nay, I have seen them slip into scandalous sins, they are proud, and envious, and covetous; they are but a pack of hypocrites.
* Mala de me loquuntur, sed mali.
Galvi 17. Acts v. 41. Heb. xii. 2. 1 Pet. iv. 14.
Answ. (1.) Take heed of speaking evil of the persons and things that you know not: worldly people are not competent judges of God's children. These "are hidden ones," kings in disguise, "it doth not yet appear what they are or shall be." The king's daughter is all glorious within." "The life of saints is hid with Christ in God."* You know not what they do alone, much less do you know their consciences. Beware of rash judgment; you know neither their best nor their worst, there is a veil upon the face of their souls. There is a hidden man of the heart, which is invisible to the eyes of spectators; and if these gracious souls should open their experience to you, you would judge it a paradox, or a riddle, or mere enthusiasm. Wisdom is too high for a fool: the learned Nicodemus had odd and awkward conceptions of the new birth, John iii. 4. "The natural man knoweth not the things of the Spirit," 1 Cor. ii. 14. If you had new eyes, you would be fitter to judge of things that differ. Suspend your censures, call them not hypocrites, whom God will own for children: a blind man is not fit to judge of colours.
(2.) It is true, all are sinners, yet there is a vast difference of sinners. "Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin,” åμapríav ov Toɛi, doth not work sin, he makes not sinning his trade; his business is to walk in the ways of God, and "if he be overtaken with a fault," he discovers it, mourns for it, riseth out of his falls by repentance, he hates sin more, becomes more watchful and jealous of himself, prays, and desires strength from Christ, "to crucify the flesh." "Sin hath not dominion over him;"† but he makes progress in mortification: and ordinarily this child of * Psal. lxxxiii. 3. 1 John iii. 2. + 1 John iii. 9. Gal. vi. 1. v. 24.
Psal. xlv. 13. Col. iii. 3.
Rom. vi. 14.