Billeder på siden

change, when you had rather live a worldly, ungodly life, if it were not for the fear of punishment.'

I shall speak but little of this, because I touched upon it before, when I told you that Christ must have your hearts, and because it is but a consectary of the last, or contained in it. But yet I think it best to present it here distinctly to your consideration, because a slavish kind of religiousness, doth deceive so many, and because the life of grace is here expressed. I deny not but holy fear is exceeding useful to us; even a fear of the threatenings and judgments of God. But yet I must tell you, that in fear there is much more that is common to the unsanctified, than there is in love, desire, and delight. Though "the fear of the Lord be the beginning of wisdom," it is love that is the perfection; and that fear is not filial, and of the right strain, if love be not its companion. Fear of punishment shews that you love your natural selves; but it shews not that you love God, and are truehearted to him. The devils fear and tremble, but they do not love. It is love, and not fear that is the bias, the inclination, and (as I may say) the nature of the will of man. By his love it is that you must know what the man is. The philosopher saith, "Such as a man is, such is his end," which is all one as to say, Such as a man is, such is his love." You may fear a thing at the same time when you hate it; and it is too common to have some hatred mixed with fear. You may be as much against God and his holy ways, when fear only drives you to some kind of religiousness, as others are that scarce meddle with religion at all. The first thing that God looks at, is what you would do; and the next is, what you do. If you do it, but had rather leave it undone, you lose your reward, and God will take it as if you had not done it for it was not you that did it, if you did it not from love; but it was fear that dwelleth in you. God takes men's hearty desires and will, instead of the deed, where they have not power to fulfil them but he never took the bare deed instead of the will. A blockish kind of worship, consisting in outward actions, without the heart, is fit to be given to a wooden god, a senseless idol; but the true and living God abhors it. He is a Spirit, and will be worshipped in spirit and in truth; such worshippers he seeketh, and such he will accept; John iv. 23, 24. A beggar will be glad of your alms, though you leave it with an ill will, because he needeth it:


but God hath no need of you, nor of your service, and therefore think not that he will accept you on such terms. That people worship God in vain, that draw near him with their mouth, and honour him with their lips, while their heart is far from him; Matt. xv. 8, 9. A man's heart is where his love is, rather than where his fear is. If you should lie still upon your knees, or in the holy assembly; if you should be the strictest observer of the ordinances on the Lord's days, and yet had such hearts in you, as had rather let all these alone, if it were not for fear of punishment; it will all be disregarded, and reckoned to you according to your wills, as if it had never been done by you at all. It is love that must win love, or make you fit for love to entertain. If you give your goods to the poor, or your bodies to be burned in a cause that in itself is good, and yet have not love, it availeth nothing; 1 Cor. xiii. 1-3.5. You will not think your wife hath conjugal affection that loveth another man better than you, and had rather be gone from you, if she could live without you. It is an unnatural son that loves not his father, but had rather be from him, than with him. If God called you to a bestial drudgery or slavery, he would then look but for your work, and not care much whether you be willing or unwilling. If your ox draw your plough, and your horse carry his burden, you care not much whether it be willingly or unwillingly. Or if it be an enemy that you have to deal with, you will look for no more than a forced submission, or that he be disabled from doing you hurt. But this is not your case: it is a state of friendship that the Gospel calls you to, you must be nigh to God, his children, and the members of his Son, espoused to him by the dearest, strongest bonds and do you think that it is possible that this should be done without your wills and affections? If you can be content with the portion of a slave and an enemy, then do your task, and deny God your affections: but if you look for the entertainment and portion of a friend, a child, a spouse, you must bring the heart of a friend, and of a child, and of a spouse. Fear may do good by driving you to the use of means, and taking out of your hands the things by which you would do yourselves a mischief: it may prepare you for saving grace, and when you are sanctified, it will prove a necessary servant of love, to keep you in awe, and save you from temptations. But love is the ruling affection


in the sanctified, and fear is therefore necessary, because of the present imperfection of love, and because of the variety of temptations that here beset us. Think not therefore that you are savingly renewed, till God have your very hearts. When you do but believe and tremble, it is better than to be unbelieving, and stupid, and secure; but you are not true Christians till you believe and love. We use to fly from that we fear, and therefore do apprehend it to be evil to us. We avoid the presence and company of those that we are afraid of, but we draw nigh them that we love, and delight in their company. We fear an enemy; we love a friend. We fear the devil naturally, but we do not love him. It is love that is that affection of the soul that entertaineth God as God, even as good; though that love must be accompanied with a filial fear, even a dread and reverence of his majesty and greatness, and a fear of displeasing him. If you should toil out yourselves in religious duties, with a heart that had rather forbear them, if you durst, you have not the heart of God's children in your breasts. The magistrate can frighten men to the congregation and outward worship. You may lock a man in the church, that had rather be away: and will any man think that this makes him acceptable to God? You may keep a thief from stealing by prison and irons, but this makes him not accepted with God as a true man. You may cure a man of cursing, and swearing, and railing, and idle and ribald talking, even in a minute of an hour, by cutting off his tongue; but will God accept him ever the more, as long as he has a heart that would do it if he could? There are abundance of people at this day that are kept from abusing the Lord's day, and from swearing, and stealing, yea, and from laying violent hands on all about them that are godly, and this by the law of men, and the fear of present punishment. And do you think that these are therefore innocent or acceptable with God? By this account you may make the devil a saint, when he is chained up from doing mischief. You may as well say that the lion is become a lamb, when he is shut up in his den; or that a mastiff dog is become harmless and gentle, when he is muzzled. Believe it, sirs, you are never Christians till you see that in God that wins your hearts to him, so that you would not change your master for any in the world; and till you see that in the hopes of everlasting glory, that you would not change it for any

thing else that can be imagined by the heart of man; and till you see that goodness in a heavenly life, that you had rather live it than any life in the world. You are not converted to God indeed, till you had rather live in holiness, than in sin, if you had your freest choice; and till you would gladly be the strictest, holiest person that you know in the world; and long after more and more of it, and fain would reach perfection itself: for though we cannot be perfect here, yet no man is upright that desireth not to be perfect. For he that loveth holiness, as holiness, must needs love the greatest measure of holiness, with the greatest love. This is it that maketh sound converts to be so constant and faithful with God. A man is forward and ready to a work that he loves, when he draws back from it, as if it were a mischief, that hath no mind to do it. A man is hardly kept from the persons, and places, and employments that he loves: but a little will withdraw him from that which he loveth not. Why is it that we have so much ado to take off a drunkard from his companions and his lusts, but because he loves them better than temperance and gracious company? And why can we so hardly draw the lustful wretch from his filthy lusts, or the glutton, or the idle, sensual person from his needless or excessive recreations, but because they love them? And why is it that you cannot draw the worldling from his covetousness, but he parteth with his money almost as hardly as with his blood, but because he loveth it? And therefore what wonder if temptations be resisted, and the fairest baits of the world despised by him, that is truly in love with God? No wonder if nothing can turn back that man from the way to heaven, that is in love both with heaven and with the way. No wonder if that man stick close to Christ, and never forsake a holy life, that tasteth the sweetness of it, and feels it to do him good, and had rather go that way than any in the world. There is no true Christian but can say with David, that " a day in God's courts is better than a thousand; and he had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents (yea, or the palaces) of wickedness." Do but mark those professors that prove apostates, and forsake the way of godliness which they seemed to embrace, and see whether they be not such as either took up some bare opinions and outward duties upon a flash of superficial illumina

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

tion, or else such as were frightened into a course of religion, and so went on from duty to duty, for fear of being damned, when all the while their hearts were more another way, and they had rather have been excused. These hypocrites are they that are disputing so oft the obligations to their duty, and asking, How do you prove that it is a duty to pray in my family, or a duty to observe the Lord's day, or to come constantly to the congregation, or to use the communion of the godly in private meetings, or to repeat sermons, or sing psalms, and the like?' Intimating that they are as birds in a cage, or hens in a pen, that are boring to get out, and had rather be at liberty. If it were not for the fear of the law of God that is upon them, they had rather let all these duties alone, or take them up but now and then at an idle time, when satan and the flesh will give them leave. If a feast be prepared and spread before them, a good stomach will not stand to ask, 'How can you prove it my duty to eat?' but perhaps the sick that loath it may do so. If the cup be before the drunkard, he doth not stand on these terms, ' How do you prove it my duty now to drink this cup and the other cup.' No, if he might have but leave, he would drink on, without any questioning whether it be a duty. If the gamester, or the whoremonger, might but be sure that he should escape the punishment, he would never stick at the want of a precept, and ask, 'Is it my duty?' If there were but a gift of twenty pounds a man to be given to all the poor of the town, yea, and to all the people in general, I do not think I should meet with many people in the town that would draw back and say, 'What word of God commandeth me to take it? Or, How can you prove that it is my duty?' And, why is all this, but because they have an inward love to the thing; and love will carry a man to that which seemeth good for him, without any command or threatening. If these ungodly wretches had one spark of spiritual life within them, and any taste and feeling of the matters that concern their own salvation, instead of asking, How can you prove that I must pray with my family, or that I must keep the Lord's day, or that I must converse with the godly, and live a holy life?' they would be readier to say, 'How can you prove that I may not pray with my family, and that I may not sanctify the Lord's day, and that I may not have communion with the saints in holiness? Seeing so great a mercy is of


« ForrigeFortsæt »