and give it a bill of divorce; sin is too dear to him, for him to be willing for that: Wickedness is sweet in his mouth: and therefore he hides it under his tongue; he spares it, and forsakes it not; but keeps it still within his mouth, Job xx. 12, 13. Herein chiefly consists she straitness of the gate, and the narrowness of the way that leads to life; on account of which, carnal men will not go in thereat, viz. that it is a way of utterly denying and finally renouncing all ungodliness, and so a way of self-denial or self-renunciation.

Many natural men, under the means used, and God's strivings with them, do by their sins as Pharaoh did by his pride and covetousness; these he gratified by keeping the children of Isreal in bondage, when God strove with him to let the people go. When God's hand pressed Pharaoh sore, and he was exercised with fears of God's future wrath, he entertained some thoughts of letting the people go, and promised he would do it; but from time to time he broke his promises, when he saw there was respite. When God filled Egypt with thunder and lightning, and the fire ran along the ground, then Pharaoh is brought to confess his sin with seeming humility, and to have a great resolution to let the people go, Exod. ix. 27, 28. And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked: entreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer. So sinners are sometimes by thunders and lightnings, and great terrors of the law, brought to a seeming work of humiliation, and to an appearance of parting with their sins; but are no more thoroughly brought to a disposition to dismiss them, than Pharaoh was to let the people go. Pharaoh in the struggle between his conscience and his lusts, was for contriving that God might be served, and he too enjoy his lusts, that were gratified by the slavery of the people. Moses insisted that Israel's God should be served: Pharaoh was willing to consent to that; but would have it done without his parting with the people: Go sacrifice to your God in the land, says he, Exod. viii. 25. So, many sinners are for contriving to serve God, and enjoy their lusts too. Moses objected against complying with Pharaoh's proposal, because serving God, and yet continuing in Egypt under their task-masters, did not agree together, and were inconsistent. After this Pharaoh consented to let the people go, provided they would not go far away he was not willing to part with them finally, and therefore would have them within reach. So do many hypocrites with respect to their sins. Afterwards Pharaoh consented to let the men go, if they would leave the women and children, Exod. x. 8-10. And then after that, when God's hand was yet harder

upon him, he consented that they should go, even women and children, as well as men, provided they would leave their cattle behind but he was not willing to let them go, and all that they had, Exod. x. 24. So it oftentimes is with sinners; they are willing to part with some of their sins, but not all; they are brought to part with the more gross acts of sin, but not to part with their lusts, in lesser indulgencies of them. Whereas we must part with all our sins, little and great; and all that belongs to them, men, women, children, and cattle: they must all be let go. with their young, and with their old, with their sons, and with their daughters, with their flocks, and with their herds, there must not be an hoof left behind: as Moses told Pharaoh, with respect to the children of Israel. At last, when it came to extremity, Pharaoh consented to let the people all go, and all that they had; but he was not stedfastly of that mind; he soon repented, and pursued after them again. The reason was, that those lusts of pride and covetousness, which were gratified by Pharaoh's dominion over the people, and the gains of their service, were never really mortified in him, but only violently restrained. And thus, he being guilty of backsliding, after his seeming compliance with God's commands, was destroyed without remedy. Thus there may be a forced parting with ways of disobedience to the commands of God, that may seem to be universal, as to what appears for a little season but because it is a mere force, without the mortification of the inward principle of sin, they will not persevere in it; but will return as the dog to his vomit; and so bring on themselves dreadful and remediless destruction. There were many false disciples in Christ's time, that followed him for a while; but none of them followed him to the end; some on one occasion, and some on another, went back and walked no more with him*.


"The counterfeit and common grace of foolish virgins, after some time of glorious profession, will certainly go out and be quite spent. It consumes in the using, and shining, and burning.-Men that have been niost forward, decay; their gifts decay, life decays.--It is so, after some time of profession: for at first, it ra ther grows than decays and withers; but afterward they have enough of it, it withers and dies.--The Spirit of God comes upon many hypocrites, in abundant and plentiful measure of awakening grace; it comes upon them, as it did upon Balaam, and as it is in overflowing waters, which spread far, and grow very deep and fill many empty places.--Though it doth come upon them so, yet it doth never rest within, so as to dwell there, to take up an eternal mansion for himself.--Hence it doth decay by little and little; until at last it is quite gone. As ponds filled with rain-water, which comes upon them; not spring water, that riseth up within them it dries up by little and little, until quite dry."--Shephard's Parable, Part II. p. 58, 59.


"Some men may apprehend Christ, neither out of fear of misery, nor only to preserve some sin; but God lets in light and heat of the blessed beams of the glorious gospel of the Son of God: and therefore there is mercy, rich, free, sweet, for damned, great, vile sinners: Good Lord, saith the soul, what a sweet ministry, word, God, and gospel is this! and there rests. This was the frame of the stony. ground; which heard the word, and received it with joy, and for a time believed. And this is the case of thousands, that are much affected with the promise and

From what has been said, it is manifest, that Christian practice, or a holy life, is a great and distinguishing sign of true and saving grace. But I may go further, and assert, that it is the chief of all the signs of grace, both as an evidence of the sincerity of professors UNTO OTHERS, and also to their OWN CONSCIENCE. But then it is necessary that this be rightly taken, and that it be well understood and observed, in what sense and manner Christian practice is the greatest sign of grace. Therefore, to set this matter in a clear light, I will endeavour particularly and distinctly to prove, that Christian practice is the principal sign by which Christians are to judge, both of their own and others' sincerity of godliness; withal observing some things that are needful to be particutarly noted, in order to a right understanding of this



Christian practice or holy life, is a manifestation and sign of the sincerity of a professing Christian, to the eye of his neighbours and brethren.

And that this is the chief sign of grace in this respect, is very evident from the word of God. Christ, who knew best how to give us rules to judge of others, has repeated, and inculcated the rule, that we should know them by their fruits; Matth. vii. 16. Ye shall know them by their fruits. And then, after arguing the point, and giving clear reasons why men's fruits must be the chief evidence of what sort they are, in the following verses, he closes by repeating the assertion; ver. 20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Again chap. xii. 33. Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt.-As much as to say, it is a very absurd thing, for any to suppose that the tree is good, and yet the fruit bad; that the tree is of one sort, and the fruit of another; for the proper evidence of the nature of the tree is its fruit. Nothing else can be intended by that last clause in the verse, For the tree is known by its fruit, than that the tree is chiefly known by its fruit, that this is mercy of Christ, and hang upon free grace for a time: but as it is with sweet smells in a room, they continue not long; or as flowers, they grow old and withered, and then fall. In time of temptation, lust, and world, and sloth, is more sweet than Christ, and all his gospel is."--Shepherd's Parable, Part II. p. 168.

"Never any carnal heart. but some root of bitterness did grow up at last in this soil."-Shepherd's Parable, Part II. p. 195.

"We shall see in experience: take the best professors living; though they may come, as they and others judged, to the Lord, and follow the Lord; yet they will in time depart. The Spirit never was given effectually to draw them; nor yet to keep them."--Shepherd's Parable, Part I. p. 205.

[blocks in formation]

the main and most proper diagnostic by which one tree is distinguished from another. So Luke vi. 44. Every tree is known by his own fruit. Christ no where says, Ye shall know the tree by its leaves or flowers; or ye shall know men by their talk, by the good story they tell of their experiences, by the manner and air of their speaking, or emphasis and pathos of expression; or ye shall know them by their speaking feelingly, or by abundance of talk, or by many tears and affectionate expressions, or by the affections ye feel in your hearts towards them: but by their fruits shall ye know them; the tree is known by its fruit; every tree is known by its own fruit. And as this is the evidence that Christ has directed us mainly to look at in others, in judging of them, so it is the evidence that Christ has mainly directed us to give to others, whereby they may judge of us; Matth. v. 16. Let your light so shine before men, that others seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in heaven. Here Christ directs us to manifest our godliness to others. Godliness is as it were a light that shines in the soul: Christ directs that this light should not only shine within, but that it should shine out before men, that they may see it. But which way shall this be? It is by our good works. Christ doth not say, that others hearing your good words, your good story, or your pathetical expressions; but that others seeing your good WORKS, may glorify your Father which is in heaven. Doubtless when Christ gives us a rule how to make our light shine, that others may have evidence of it, his rule is the best. And the apostles mention a Christian practice, as the principal ground of their esteem of persons as true Christians. As the apostle Paul, in the 6th chapter of Hebrews. There the apostle, in the beginning of the chapter, speaks of persons who have great common illuminations, who have been enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the pow ers of the world to come, who afterwards fall away, and are like barren ground, that is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned : and then he immediately adds in the 9th verse, (expressing his charity for the Christian Hebrews, as having that saving grace, which is better than all these common illuminations) But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation though we thus speak. And then in the next verse, he tells them what was the reason he had such good thoughts of them; he does not say, that it was because they had given him a good account of a work of God upon their souls, and talked very experimentally; but it was their work, and labour of love; for God is not unrighteous, to forget your work, and labour of love, which ye have shewed towards his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And the same apostle speaks of

faithfully serving God in practice, as the proper proof to others of men's loving Christ above all, and preferring his honour to their private interest, Phil. ii. 21, 22. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's: but ye know the proof of him, that as a son with the father, he hath served me in the gospel. So the apostle John expresses the same, as the ground of his good opinion of Gaius, 3 John 3-6. For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee. But how did the brethren testify of the truth that was in Gaius? and how did the apostle judge of the truth that was in him? it was not be- . cause they testified that he had given them a good account of the steps of his experiences, and talked like one that felt what he said, and had the very language of a Christian: but they testified, that he walked in the truth: as it follows, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth. Beloved, thou dost faithfully whatsoever thou dost to the brethren and to strangers: which have borne witness of thy charity before the church. Thus the apostle explains what the brethren had borne witness of, when they came and testified of his walking in the truth. And the apostle seems in this same place, to give it as a rule to Gaius how he should judge of others. In verse 10, he mentions one Diotrephes, that did not conduct himself well, and led away others after him; and then in the 11th verse, he directs Gaius to beware of such, and not to follow them: and gives him a rule whereby he may know them, exactly agreeable to that rule Christ had given before, by their fruits ye shall know them, says the apostle, Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doth good, is of God: but he that doth evil, hath not seen God. And I would further observe, that the apostle James, expressly comparing that way of shewing others our faith and Christianity by our practice or works, with other ways of shewing our faith without works, or not by works, does plainly and abundantly prefer the former; Jam. ii. 18. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. A manifestation of our faith without works, or in a way diverse from works, is a manifestation of it in words, whereby a man professes faith. As the apostle says, ver. 14. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man SAY he hath faith ?—Therefore here are two ways of manifesting to our neighbour what is in our hearts; one by what we say, and the other by what we do. But the apostle abundantly prefers the latter as best evidence. Now certainly all accounts we give of ourselves in words, our saying that we have faith, and that we are converted; telling the manner how we came to have faith, the steps by which it was wrought, and the discoveries and experiences that accompanied

« ElőzőTovább »