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(3.) And where you are already obliged by God's commands, whether you vow or not.
(4.) And where God hath made your consent to the obligation of necessity to salvation. He that intends to keep covenant, and knows that he must keep it, or be condemned, hath little reason to be loath to make it.
(5.) And for God's assistance, you have much more cause to expect it in the way of covenanting, which himself hath appointed you, than in the neglect of his appointed means.
Object. But I am afraid of breaking my vows again, and it is better to forbear them, than not to perform them.'
Answ. 1. This reason makes as much against the inward vow and resolution of the heart, so that by this rule you would never be Christians, for fear of falling away, and being
2. There is an absolute necessity of your resolving and covenanting, and of keeping your resolution, and covenants. And when it must be kept, or you are utterly undone, it is but a madness to refuse to make the covenant for fear of breaking it; for this is but to make choice of an easier place in hell, for fear of having a worse, if you should resolve for heaven, when as heaven is set open before you, and you thus wilfully cast away your hopes. Nay, your place in hell is not like to be the easier, when you thus deliberately and wilfully refuse the covenant.
3. Your resolutions and holy vows are means of God's appointment to keep you from breaking his imposed covenant. Is not a resolved, engaged, devoted Christian more likely to be accepted, and to persevere, than a waverer that saith, I dare not vow, for fear lest I perform not?'
In unnecessary matters, I had rather you were too backward to vow. Some will vow poverty, and some a single life, and some will vow that they will never drink wine or strong drink more; such vows as these may be good for some in cases of special necessity, as the last remedies of a dangerous disease; but they are not for all, nor rashly to be made. But the resolution and vow of cleaving unto God in faith and holy obedience, and of renouncing the flesh, the world, and the devil; this is for all, and must be made and kept by all, that will be saved.
2. Direct. And as I would have you second your resolution by a covenant with God, so I would advise you ordi
narily to go further, and openly profess the resolution and covenant that you have made. "For as with the heart men believe unto righteousness, so with the mouth confession is made unto salvation ;" Rom. x. 10. Christ will confess those that confess him, and disown, and be ashamed of those that are ashamed of him. When you have escaped the greatest misery in the world, and obtained the greatest mercy in the world, the greatness of it calleth you to acknowledge and give glory to God. Go to your old companions in sin, and tell them what God hath revealed to you, and done for you. Tell them, O sirs, I see now that which I never saw before! I wonder how I could venture so madly upon sin! and how I could make light of God, of Christ, of death, of judgment, and everlasting life. I have been hitherto your companion in sin, but I would not take the same course again for all the world. I see now there is a better portion hereafter to be obtained, which I was mindless of. I see now we were all this while making merry at the brink of hell, and there was but a step between us and death. Now I see that the course that we have taken is wicked and deceitful, and will not serve turn. If I serve the flesh, it will reward me but with rottenness. I will, therefore, hereafter, serve that God, that will certainly reward me with everlasting life. I beseech you, sirs, come away with me, and see and try what I have seen and tried. I have lived with you in sin, O now let us join together in repentance, and a holy life! I shall be glad of your company to heaven; but if you will not do it, take your course. For my part I am resolved, by the grace of God, I am fully resolved, to be from this day forward a new man, and never to join with you more in a fleshly and ungodly life. Never tempt me or persuade me to it, for I am resolved.'.
Thus if you will declare your resolutions to others, and seek to win them, you may possibly do them good; but however, you will be the deeper engaged to God yourselves.
Yea, though I would have no ostentation of conversion, nothing done rashly in public, nor without the advice of a faithful minister beforehand; yet with these cautions, I must say, that it is a shame that we hear no more in public of the conversion of sinners. As baptism is to be in public, that the congregation may witness your engagement, and pray for you, and rejoice at the receiving of a member; so the
solemn renewing of the same covenant by repentance after a wicked life, should ordinarily be in public, to give warning to others to avoid the sin, and to give God the honour, and to have the prayers of the church, and to satisfy them of our repentance, that they may have communion with us. The Papists do more offend (of the two) in so much confining confession and penitence to the priest's ear in secret, and not bringing it before the church, than they do in making a sacrament of it. I wonder that people should every day thrust into our hands their request to pray for them when they are sick, and that it is so rare a matter to have any to desire our prayers, for the pardon of all the sins of their natural, unconverted state.
I would here seriously advise all those that it concerneth, that when God hath shewed them so great a mercy as to convert them and make them new creatures, they would go to their faithful minister, and by his advice put up such a bill as this: 'Such a man, of this parish, having long lived in blindness, and deadness, and ungodliness, (and name the particular sins if they were publicly known) and being by the great mercy of God convinced of his sin and misery; and sustained with some hopes of mercy by the blood and merits of Jesus Christ, and being now resolved by the grace of God, to forsake this fleshly, worldly life, and to give up himself to Christ and holiness, doth earnestly entreat the church to pray for him, that his many and heinous sins may be all forgiven, and that God would again receive him into mercy, and that he may hold on in faith and holiness to the last, and never turn again to the course of his iniquity.'
And if the minister think it meet, refuse not to make yourselves an open confession of your former life of sin and misery, and to profess openly your resolution to walk with God for the time to come.
This course should be more ordinary with us; and if conversion itself were not so rare, or else so defective, that it doth too little quicken men to a sense of duty, and sin, and mercy; or so doubtful, and by slow degrees, and that it is scarce discerned by many that have it, were it not for some of these, more ordinary would it be, to the great rejoicing and benefit of the church.
The Conclusion. And now I have given you Directions. in the most great and necessary businesses of the world:
they are such as I have received of God, and if faithfully practised, will put your salvation past all hazard. But what they have done, or what they will do, I cannot tell, but must leave the issue to God and you. It is pity eternal glory should be lost, for want of yielding to so holy, and sweet, and reasonable a course. It is lamentable to observe, what ignorant, base, unworthy thoughts the most have of the very office of the Holy Ghost, who is the Sanctifier of all that God will save. The very name of regeneration and sanctification, is not understood by some, and is but matter of derision to others; and the most think that it is another kind of matter than indeed it is. To be baptized and come to church, and to say some cold and heartless prayers, and to forbear some gross, disgraceful sins, is all the sanctification that most are acquainted with; (and all have not this;) and thus they debase the work of the Holy Ghost. If a prince have built a sumptuous palace, and you will shew men a swinestye, and say, 'This is the palace that the prince hath been so long a building;' were not this to abuse him by contempt? If he built a navy, and you shew a man two or three pig-troughs, and say, 'These are the king's ships;' would he not take it for a scorn? Take heed of such dealing with the Holy Ghost. Remember what it is to believe in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and remember that you were baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: and do you not yet know why, nor know the meaning of your baptismal covenant? It is not only to believe that there are three persons in the Trinity, but to consent to the relations and duty to them, in respect to their several relations and works. If the Father had not created you, how could you have been men? The Lord of nature must be acknowledged as the End and Governor of nature, and accordingly obeyed: and this is to believe and be baptized into the name of the Father. If the Son had not redeemed you, you had been as the devils were, forsaken and given over to despair. The Purchaser, Procurer, and Author of grace, of pardon, and salvation, must be acknowledged to be such, and himself and his salvation accordingly accepted, and his terms submitted to: and this is to believe in the name of the Son; and in baptism we make profession hereof. And certainly the work of the Holy Ghost is as necessary to your salvation. Without the sanctifying work
of the Spirit, could you never be delivered from sin and satan, nor restored to God's image; and consequently could never be the members of Christ, nor have any saving benefit by his sufferings. Would you not think him unworthy to live, that would reproach the Father's work of nature, and say, That the whole creation is but some poor contemptible work! And would you not think him unworthy the name of a Christian, that had contemptible thoughts of the Son's redemption, as if we could be saved as well without a Saviour: or as if it were some poor and trivial commodity that Christ had purchased for us? I know you would confess the misery of that man, that believeth no better in the Father and the Son and how comes it to pass that you think not of your own misery, that believe no better in the Holy Ghost? Do not you debase the sanctifying office of the Holy Spirit, when you shew us your knowledge and parts, and outward duties and civility, and tell us that these are the works of sanctification? What! is sanctification but such a thing as this? Why, holiness is a new life and spirit in us; and these that you talk of, are but a few flowers that are stuck upon a corpse to keep it awhile from stinking among men, till death convey it to a burial in hell. O sirs, sanctification is another kind of matter than the forsaking of some of our fouler vices, and speaking well of a godly life; it is not the patching up of the old man, but the creating of a new I give you warning therefore from God, that think not basely of the Holy Ghost; and that you think no more to be saved without the sanctifying work of the Spirit, than without the redeeming work of the Son, or creation, government, or love of the Father. Sanctification must turn the very bent and stream of heart and life to God, to Christ, to heaven; it must mortify carnal self, and the world to you; it must make you a people devoted, consecrated, and resigned up to God, with all that you have: it must make all sin odious to you, and make God the love and desire of your souls; so that it must give you a new heart, a new end, a new master, a new law, and a new conversation. This is that noble, heavenly work which the Holy Ghost hath vouchsafed to make the business of his office; to slight and despise this, is to slight and despise the Holy Ghost: to refuse this, is to refuse the Holy Ghost, and not to believe in him: to be without this work, is to be without the