is indeed a thing great, yea, infinitely great, for God to bestow the least crumb of children's bread on such dogs as we are in ourselves; and the more humble a person is that hopes God has bestowed such mercy on him, the more apt will he be to call it a great thing that he has met with, in this sense. But if by great things which they have experienced, they mean comparatively great spiritual experiences, or great compared with others' experiences, or beyond what is ordinary, which is evidently oftentimes the case; then for a person to say, I have met with great things, is the very same thing as to say, I am an eminent saint, and have more grace than ordinary. To have great experiences, if the experiences be true and worth telling, is the same thing as to have great grace: there is no true experience, but the exercise of grace; and exactly according to the degree of true experience, is the degree of grace and holiness. The persons that talk thus about their experiences, when they give an account of them, expect that others should admire them. Indeed they do not call it boasting to talk after this manner about their experiences, nor do they look upon it as any sign of pride ; because they say, they know that it was not they that did it, it was free grace, they are the great things that God has done for them, they would acknowledge the great mercy God has shown them, and not make light of it. But so it was with the Pharisee, Luke xviii. He in words gave God the glory of making him to difier from other men; God, I thank thee, says he, that I am not as other men*. Their verbally ascribing it to the grace of God, that they are holier than other saints, does not hinder their forwardness to think so highly of their holiness, being a sure evidence of the pride and vanity of their minds. If they were under the influence of an humble spirit, their attainments in religion would not be so apt to shine in their own eyes, nor would they be so much in admiring their own beauty. The Christians that are really the most eminent saints, and therefore have the most excellent experiences, and are greatest in the kingdom of heaven, humble themselves as a little child, Matth. xviii. 4. because they look on themselves as but little children in grace, and their attainments to be but the attainments of babes in Chtist. They are astonished at, and ashamed of the low degrees of their love, their thanksulness, and their little knowledge of God. Moses, when he had been conversing with God in the mount, and his face shone so bright in the eyes of others as to dazzle their eyes, wist not that his face shone. Some persons go by the name of high professors, and some will owon themselves to be high professors; but eminently humble saints that will shine brightest in heaven, are not at all apt to profess high. I do not believe that there is an eminent saint in the world that is a high professor. Such will be much more likely to profess themselves to be the least of all saints, and to think that every saint's attainments and experiences are higher than hist.

* Calvin in his Institutions, B. III. chap. xii. 5 7. speaking of this Pharisee, ohserves, “ That in his outward consession, he acknowjedges that the righteousness that he has is the gift of God: but (says he) because he trust that he is righteous, he goes away out of the presence of God, unacceptable and odious."

Such is the nature of grace, and of true spiritual light, that they naturally dispose the saints in the present state, to look upon their grace and goodness little, and their deformity great. And they that have the most grace and spiritual light, of any in this world, have most of this disposition. This will appear most clear and evident to any one that soberly and thorougbly weighs the nature and reason of things, and considers the things following.

That grace and holiness is worthy to be called little, which is little in comparison of what it ought to be ; and so it seems to

: one that is truly gracious. Such an one has his eye upon the rule of his duty; a conformity to that is what he aims at; it is what his soul reaches after; and it is by that he estimates and judges of what he does, and what he has. To a gracious soul, and especially to one eminently gracious, that holiness appears little, which is little compared with what it should be; little in comparison of that for which he sees infinite reason and obligation. If his holiness appears to him to be at a vast distance from this, it naturally appears despicable in his eyes, and not worthy to be mentioned as any beauty or amiableness in him. For the like reason as a hungry man naturally accounts that which is set before him, but a little food, a small matter, not worth mentioning, in comparison of his appetite. Or as the child of a great prince, who is jealous for the honour of his father, and beholds the respect which men shew him, naturally looks on that honour and respect very little, and not worthy to be regarded, which is


+ Luther, as his words are cited hy Rutherford, in his Display of the spiritual Antichrist, p. 143, 144, says thus, " So is the life of a Christian, that he that has begud, seems to himself to have nothing; but strives and presses forward, that he may apprehend. Whence Paul says, I count not myself to have apprehended. For indeed nothing is more pernicious to a believer, than that presumption, that he has already apprehended, and has no further need of seeking. Hence also many fall back, and pine away in spiritual security and slothfulness. So Bergard says. To sland still in God's wuy, is to go back. Wherefore this remains to him that has be. gun to be a Christian, to thiok that he is not yet a Christian, but to seek that he may be a Christian, that he may glory with Paul, I am not, but I desire to be ; a Christian not yet finished, but only in his beginnings. Therefore he is not a Christian; that is, he thal thinks himself a finished Christian, and is not sensible how he falls short. We reach alter heaven, but are not in heaven. Wo to him that is wholly renewed, that is, that thinks himsell to be so. That man without doubt, has never so much as begun to be renewed, nor did he ever taste what it is to be a Christian."

nothing in comparison of that which the dignity of his father requires.

The nature of true grace and spiritual light, opens to a person's view the infinite reason there is that he should be holy in a high degree. The more grace he has, the greater sense he has of the infinite excellency and glory of the divine Being, the infinite dignity of the person of Christ, and the boundless length and breadth, and depth and height, of the love of Christ to sinners. And as grace increases, the field opens more and more to a distant view, until the soul is swallowed up with the vastness of the object; the person is astonished to think how much it becomes him to love this God, and this glorious Redeemer who has so loved man, and how little he does love. And so the more he apprehends, the more the smallness of his grace and love appears strange and wonderful: and therefore is more ready to think that others are beyond him. Wondering at the littleness of his own grace, he can scarcely believe that so strange a thing happens to other saints. It is amazing to him, that one who is really a child of God, and who has actually received the saving benefits of the unspeakable love of Christ, should love no more.

He is apt to look upon it as a thing peculiar to himself, a strange instance; for he sees only the outside of other Christians, but he sees his own inside.

Here the reader may possibly object, that love to God is really increased in proportion as the knowledge of God is increased; and therefore how should an increase of knowledge in a saint, make his love appear less, in comparison of what is known? To which I answer, that although the love of God in the saints, be answerable to the degree of knowledge or sight of God, yet it is not in proportion to the object seen and known. The soul of a saint, by having something of God opened to sight, is convinced of much more than is seen. There is something seen, that is wonderful; and that sight brings with it a strong conviction of something vastly beyond, that is not immediately seen. So that the soul, at the same time, is astonished at its ignorance, and that it knows so little, as well as that it loves so little. And as the soul, in a spiritual view, is convinced of infinitely more in the object, yet beyond sight; so it is convinced of the capacity of the soul, of knowing vastly more, if clouds and darkness were but removed. Which causes the soul, in the enjoyment of a spiritual view, to complain greatly of spiritual ignorance and want of love, and long after more knowledge, and more love.

The true love of God in the most eminent saints in this world, is truly very little in comparison of what it ought to be. Because the highest love that ever any attain to in this life, is poor, cold, exceeding low, and not worthy to be named in comparison of VOL. V.


what our obligations appear to be, from the joint consideration of these two things; viz. 1. The reason God has given us to love him, in the manifestations he has made of his infinite glory, in his word and works, and particularly in the gospel of his Son, and what he has done for sinful man by him. And, 2. The capacity there is in the soul of man, by those intellectual faculties which God has given it, of seeing and understanding these reasons, which God has given us to love him. How small indeed is the love of the most eminent saint on earth, in comparison of what these things jointly considered do require! And of this, grace tends to convince men; and especially eminent grace: for grace is of the nature of light, and brings truth to view. And therefore he that bas much grace, apprehends much more than others, that great height to which his love ought to ascend; and he sees better than others, how little a way he has risen towards that height. And therefore, estimating his love by the whole height of his duty, hence it appears astonishingly little and low in his eyes.

And the eminent saint, having such a conviction of the high degree in which he ought to love God, is shewn, not only the littleness of his grace, but the greatness of his remaining corruption. In order to judge how much corruption or sin we have remaining in us, we must take our measure from that height to which the rule of our duty extends. The whole of the distance we are at froin that height, is sin: for failing of duty is sin; otherwise our duty is not our duty; and by how much the more we fall short of our duty, so much the more sin have we.

Sin is no other than disagreeableness, in a moral agent, to the law, or rule of his duty. And therefore the degree of sin is to be judged of by the rule: so much disagreeableness to the rule, so much sin, whether it be in defect or excess. Therefore if men, in their love to God, do not come up half way to that height which duty requires, then they have more corruption in their hearts than grace; because there is more goodness wanting than is there; and all that is wanting is sin. Sin is an abominable defect; and appears so to the saints, especially those that are eminent; it appears exceeding abominable to them, that Christ should be loved so little, and thanked so little for his dying love; it is in their eyes hateful ingratitude.

And then the increase of grace has a tendency another way, to cause the saints to think their deformity vastly more than their goodness. It not only tends to convince them that their corruption is much greater than their goodness, which is indeed the case ; but it also tends to cause the deformity that there is in the least sin, or the least degree of corruption, to appear so great, as vastly to outweigh all the beauty there is in their greatest holiness; for this also is indeed the case. For the least sin against an infinite God, has an infinite hatefulness or deformity in it; but the highest degree of holiness in a creature, has not an infinite loveliness in it: and therefore the loveliness of it is as nothing, in comparison of the deformity of the least sin. That every sin has infinite deformity and hatefulness in it, is most demonstrably evident; because what the evil, or iniquity, or hatefulness of sin consists in, is the violating of an obligation, or the being or doing contrary to what we should be or do, or are obliged to. And therefore by how much the greater the obligation is that is violated, so much the greater is the iniquity and hatefulness of the violation. But certainly our obligation to love and honour any being, is in some proportion to his loveliness and honourableness, or to his worthiness to be loved and honoured by us ; which is the same thing. We are surely under greater obligation to love a more lovely being, than a less lovely : and if a Being be infinitely lovely or worthy to be loved by us, then our obligations to love him, are infinitely great: and therefore, whatever is contrary to this love, has in it infinite iniquity, deformity, and unworthiness. But on the other hand, with respect to our holiness or love to God, there is not an infinite worthiness in that. The sin of the creature against God, is ill-deserving and hateful in proportion to the distance there is between God and the creature : the greatness of the object, and the meanness and inferiority of the subject, aggravate it. But it is the reverse with regard to the worthiness of the respect of the creature to God; it is worthless, and not worthy, in proportion to the meanness of the subject. So much the greater the distance between God and the creature, so much the less is the creature's respect worthy of God's notice or regard. The great degreee of superiority increases the obligation on the inferior to regard the superior; and so makes the want of regard more batesul: but the great degree of inferiority diminishes the worth of the regard of the inferior; because the more he is inferior—the less is he worthy of notice; the less he is the less is what he can offer worth; for he can offer no more than himself, in offering his best respect; and therefore as he is little, and little worth, so is his respect little worth. And the more a person has of true grace and spiritual light, the more will it appear thus to him; the more will be appear to himself infinitely deformed by reason of sin, and the less will the goodness that is in his grace, or good experience, appear in proportion to it. For indeed it is nothing to it; it is less than a drop to the ocean ; for finite bears no proportion at all to that which is infinite. But the more a person has of spiritual light, the more do things appear to him, in this respect, as they are indeed. Hence it most demonstrably appears, that true grace

« ElőzőTovább »