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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
should see what a difference there is also between people and people, even where all have grace. For 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 thein 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
constant watch upon their hearts, and fear and abhor the approach of an evil thought! Nay, how few are they that do not leave their fancy almost common, and ordinarily even feed on covetous, proud, malicious, or lustful thoughts, and make no great matter of it, but live in it from day to day ! How few do keep up life and constancy in secret prayer or meditation! How few are the families where the cause, and worship, and government of Christ are kept up in life and honour, and where all is not dissolved into a little weary, disordered, heartless performance ! Look into our congregations, and judge but by their
very looks, and carriage, and gestures, how many even of those that we think the best, do so much as seem to be earnest and serious in prayer and praise, when the church is upon that work! Though it be the highest and noblest part of worship, and should be done with all the heart and might, and with a participation of a kind of angelical reverence, devotion and spirituality ; and if it were so, we should see it by some of the signs of reverence and affection : yet, alas ! when we think the best of them should be striving with God, or rapt up in his praises, they do but hear us pray as they hear us preach, and think they have done fair to give us the hearing. They sit on their seats in prayer, or use some crooked, leaning gesture, perhaps looking up and down about them, perhaps half asleep; but few of them with eyes, and hands, and hearts lifted up to heaven, do behave themselves as if they believed that they had so nearly to do with God. I know reverent gestures may easily be counterfeited ; but that shews that they are good, when hypocrites think them a fit cover for hypocrisy, for they use not to borrow credit from evil, but from some good to be a cover to the evil : and it leaveth the neglects of the godly more inexcusable, when they will not go so far herein as hypocrites themselves, nor by their behaviour in a public ordinance, so much as seem to be seriously employed with God.
And if we try the graces or obedience of professors, alas, how small shall we find them in the inost! How little are most acquainted with the life of faith! How little do they admire the Redeemer and his blessed work! How unacquainted are they with the daily use and high improvement of a Saviour, for access to God, and support and corroboration of the soul, and for conveyance of daily supplies of
grace, and help against our spiritual enemies ! How few are they that can rejoice in tribulation, persecution, and bodily distresses, because of the hopes laid up in heaven; and that can live upon a promise, and comfortably wait on God for the accomplishment! How few that live as men that are content with God alone, and can cheerfully leave their flesh, and credit, and worldly estate to his disposal, and be content to want or suffer when he sees it good for them! What repinings and troubles possess our minds if the flesh be not provided for, and if God do but cross us in these worldly things; as if we had made our bargain with him for the flesh, and for this world, and had not taken him alone for our portion? How few can use prosperity in riches, and health and reputation, with a mortified, weaned, heavenly mind ! Nay, how few are there that do not live much to the pleasure of the flesh, and pamper it as indulgently under the appearance of temperance and religion, as others do in grosser ways! Do but try the godly themselves by plain and faithful reproof of their corruptions, and see how many of them you will find, that will not excuse them and take part with the enemy, and be offended with you for your
' close reproof. If any of them be overtaken with a scandalous fault, and the pastors of the church shall call them to open confession, and expression of repentance, though you would little think a penitent man should once stick at this, and refuse to do any thing that he can do, to repair the honour of God and his profession, and to save the souls of others whom he hath endangered, yet how many will you find, that will add a wilful obstinacy to their scandal, and will deliberately refuse so great, and clear, and necessary a duty: so great is the interest of self and flesh in them, and consequently so little of Christ, that they will live in impenitency in the eye of the church, and venture on the high displeasure of God, come on it what will, and resist the advice of their best, and wisest, and most impartial friends, rather than they will so far deny themselves as to make such a free and faithful confession. They are many of them so much for holy discipline, 'that they are ready to fall out with church and ministers, and to be gone to a purer society, be*' cause it is not exercised: but on whom? On others only, and not upon them. When they need discipline themselves, how impatient are they of it, and how do they abhor it, and