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them. And, (3.) To consider of the worth and necessity of the matter revealed in them, that your judgments may most highly esteem it. This is the sure laying the foundation in the head.
To these ends you should first learn some catechism, and be well acquainted with the principles of religion; and also be much in reading or hearing the holy Scripture, and inquiring of your teachers, and others that can help you; and see that you take your work before you, and step not higher till this be done. And then all other following truths, and duties, and promised benefits, must all be so learned as to be built upon this foundation, and joined to it, as receiving their life and strength from hence, and never looked upon as separated from this; nor as more excellent and necessary.
For want of learning well, and believing soundly these principles, essentials, or fundamentals of Christianity, some of our people can go no further, but stand all their days in their ignorance, at a nonplus: some of them go on in a blind profession, deceiving themselves by building upon the sand, and hold true doctrine by a false, unsound belief of it and when the floods and storms do beat upon their building it falls, and great is the fall thereof. With some of them it falls upon the first assault of any seducer that hath interest in them, or advantage on them; and abundance swallow up errors, because they never well understood, or firmly believed fundamental truths. With others of them, the building falls not until death, because they lived not under any shaking temptations. But it being but a perseverance in an unsound profession, will nevertheless be ineffectual to their salvation.
2. When you have thus laid the foundation in your understanding, be sure above all that it be firmly laid in your heart or will. Take heed lest you should prove false and unsteadfast in the holy covenant; and lest you should take in the word but into the surface of the soul, and not give it depth of earth and rooting; and lest you should come to Christ but as a servant upon trial, and make not an absolute resignation of yourselves to him: of which I warned you in the former Directions.
O this is it that makes our people fall so fast in a day of trial; some shrink in adversity; and some are enticed away by prosperity. Greatness and honour deceiveth one, and riches run away with another, and fleshly pleasure poisons a
third, and his conscience, religion, salvation, and all, he sacrificeth to his belly, and swalloweth it down his throat; and all the love, and goodness of God, the blood of Christ, the workings of the Spirit, the precepts and promises, and threatenings of the word, and the joy and torments which once they seemed to believe, all are forgotten, or have lost their force. And all because the foundation was not laid well at the first. But because this was the very business of the former Directions, I will dismiss it now.
Direct. II. Think not that all is done when once you are converted; but remember that the work of your Christianity then comes in, and must be as long as the time of your lives.'
Of this also I shall say but little, because it is the drift of all the moving considerations before-going. I doubt it is the undoing of many to imagine, that if once they are sanctified, they are so sure in the hands of Christ, that they have no more care to take, nor no more danger to be afraid of, and at last think that they have no more to do, as of necessity to salvation; and thus prove that indeed they were never sanctified. I confess, when a man is truly converted, the principal part of his danger is over; he is safe in the love and care of Christ, and none can take him out of his hands. But this is but part of the truth; the other part must be taken with it, or we deceive ourselves. There is still a great deal of work before us; and holiness is still the way to happiness; and much care and diligence is required at our hands. And it is no more certain that we shall be saved by Christ, than it is that we shall be kept in faith, and love, and holy obedience by him. It is as true that none can separate us from the love of God, and from a care to please him, and from a holy diligence in the work of our salvation, as that none can take us out of his hands, and bring us into a state of condemnation. He that is resolved to bring us to glory, is as much resolved to bring us to it by perseverance in holiness and diligent obedience; for he never decreeth one without the other; and he will never save us by any other
Indeed, when we are converted we have escaped many and grievous dangers; but yet there are many more before us, which we must by care and diligence escape. We are translated from death to life, but not from earth to heaven.
We have the life of grace, but yet we are short of the life of glory. And why have we the life of grace but to use it, and to live by it? Why came we into the vineyard but to work? And why came we into the army of Christ but to fight? Why came we into the race but to run for the prize? Or why turned we into the right way, but to travel in it? We never did God faithful service, till the day of our conversion, and then it is that we begin. And shall we be so sottish as to think we have done, when we have but begun? Now you begin to live that before were dead. Now you begin to wake that before were asleep. And, therefore, now you should begin to work that before did nothing, or rather a thousandfold worse than nothing. Work is the effect of life; it is the dead that lie still in darkness, and do nothing. If you had rather be alive than dead, you should rather delight in action than in idleness. It is now that you set to sea, and begin your voyage for the blessed land; many a storm, and wave, and tempest must you yet expect. Many a combat with temptations must you undergo; many a hearty prayer have you yet to pour forth. Many and many a duty to perform to God and man. Think not to have done your care and work, till you have done your lives. Whether you come in at the first hour or at the last, you work till night if you will receive your wages. And think not this a grievous doctrine. It is your privilege, it is your joy, your earthly happiness, that you may be so employed; that you that till now have lived like swine, or moles, or earthly vermin, may now take wing and fly to God, and walk in heaven, and talk with saints, and be guarded by angels; is this a life to be accounted grievous? Now you begin to come to yourselves; to understand what you have to do in the world; to live like men, that you may live like angels! And, therefore, now you should begin accordingly to bestir you. I would not have you retain the same measure of fears of God's displeasure, nor the same apprehensions of your misery, nor the doubts and perplexities of mind, which you were under at your first conversion; for these were occasioned by the passage in your change, and the weakness of your grace in that beginning, and your former folly made them necessary for a time. But I would have you retain your fear of sinning, and be much more in the love of God, and in his service, than you were at first.
Temptations will haunt you to the last hour of your lives. If, therefore, you would not fall by these temptations, you must watch and pray to the last. Give not over watching, till satan give over tempting and watching advantages against you. The promise is still but on condition that you persevere and abide in Christ, and continue rooted and steadfast in the faith, and overcome and be faithful to the death, as you may see in John xv. throughout. John viii. 31. Rev. ii. iii. Col. i. 22, 23. "Work out, therefore, your salvation with fear and trembling;" Phil. ii. 12. If you have begun resolvedly, proceed resolvedly. It is the undoing of men's souls to think that all the danger is over, and lose their apprehensions of it, when they are yet but in the way; when their care and holy fears abate, their watch goes down; the soul is laid open as a common wilderness, and made a prey to every lust. And, therefore, still know, your work is not done, till your life be done.
Direct. III. Be sure that you understand wherein your establishment and growth consisteth, that you may not miscarry by seeking somewhat else instead of it; nor think you have it when you have it not, or that you want it, when you have it, and so be needlessly disquieted about it.'
For your assistance in this, I shall further shew you wherein your confirmation and growth consisteth in its several parts, both as it is subjected or exercised in your understandings, your wills, and affections, and your conversations.
1. As holiness is in the understanding, it is commonly in Scripture called, light and knowledge, as comprehending the several parts. And confirmation and growth of this must consist in these seven following parts.
1. It is ordinary with new converted Christians, to see the great essential truths of the Christian profession, with a great imperfection as to the evidences that discover them. Either they see but some of the solid evidence, overlooking much more than they see; or, more usually, they receive the truth itself upon some low insufficient evidence at first, and then proceed to a kind of mixture, taking it upon some evidences that are valid and sufficient, and joining some that are invalid with them. But you must grow beyond this infancy of understanding; when you see greater and sounder evidences for the truth than you did before; and when you
see more of these solid evidences, and leave not out so many as you did; and when you lay smaller stress upon the smaller evidences, and none upon those that are invalid, and indeed no evidences, then are your understandings more confirmed in the truth, and this is a principal part of their growth. So we find the Samaritans of Sychar, "Many of them believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did." (This was the first faith upon a weaker evidence.) "And many more believed, because of his own words, and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world;" John iv. 39-42. Here is a notable confirmation and growth, by believing and knowing the same thing which they believed before; it was before believed on weaker evidence, and now upon stronger. Thus Nathaniel, by Philip's persuasion, was drawn to Christ, but when he perceived his omniscience, that he knew the heart and things that were distant, and out of the reach of common knowledge, he is confirmed, and saith, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel." And yet Christ telleth him, that there were far greater evidences yet to be revealed, which might beget a more confirmed, stronger faith. Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the figtree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these; verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man;" John i. 45. 49-51. There is not one Christian of many thousands, that at first hath a full sight of the solid evidences of the Christian doctrine; but must grow more and more in discerning those reasons for the truth which he believeth, which in the beginning he did not well discern. It is not the most confident belief that is always the strongest confirmed belief; but there must be sound grounds and evidence to support that confidence, or else the confidence may soon be shaken; and is not sound, even while it seems unshaken. And here young beginners must be forwarned of a most dangerous snare of the deceiver, because at first the truth itself is commonly received upon feeble and defective grounds or evidence. It is the custom of the devil and his deceiving instruments, to shew the young Christian the weakness of those grounds, and thence